“We’re done praying now”

ImageJamie has a new super cute habit. He loves to pray. We sit down at the table and he holds his hands out and says “pway pway pway”. He then directs one of us to do the praying and bows his head. At the end he yells an excited “awmin”.

Friends, it’s super cute. But he doesn’t just do it once. About 3 minutes later, he asks again. A few minutes after that, again. And it will be a regular call throughout the meal.

And we find ourselves saying some surprising things,

Jamie, we’re done praying now.


Jamie, eat your french fries, then we’ll pray.

Put that on the list with a multitude of other things I never thought I’d say.

Today, I have a few moments alone. Brandon needed to run some errands and volunteered to take Jamie with him. (I tried to hide my excitement when he told me this morning). So I made some coffee, made myself breakfast and settled down on the couch. Never mind the cleaning that needs to get done or the mounds of laundry calling my name, I’M ALONE. This is a moment that canNOT be wasted.

I’m teaching a Children’s Ministry class at Oauchita (my alma mater) this fall. I have a fabulous group of 10 students who are excited to be there and are eager to explore what it means to work with children. Seriously, they’re awesome.

Currently we’re taking time to explore what the Bible has to tell us about how we should think of children or, more specifically, how God thinks of them. It’s been a fun exercise to pore over the scriptures and start to develop a Theology of Children.

And Deuteronomy has come up a lot. Why? Because children are mentioned a lot. I won’t go into specifics in this post (though I’m planning one for later this week), but I would encourage you to read it.

All that to say, I’ve decided to spend this semester reading Deuteronomy in my personal devotions.

And today I am struck by this:

In the first few chapters of the book, Moses is reminding the people of their unfaithfulness. Even after God had led them out of Egypt and worked miraculously in their lives (I mean He led them by a cloud and fire), at the first sign of trouble, they doubted that He could lead them into the Promised Land.

And, friends, this gets me every. time.

When God brought Jamie into our family, He did it in a miraculous, incredible, beyond-our-expectations kind of way. I’d like to think that I’m not like the Israelites. I’d like to think, that after being present for such a miraculous series of events, I would trust him wholeheartedly every time.

But it’s simply not true.

Through all the major events that have happened in the last 18 months, I have found worry to come much easier than trust.

And now, as we prayerfully consider starting the adoption process again, I (most definitely) find myself doubting. I get stalled in this in-between time, and (if I’m not careful) I find myself focusing on the hurdles ahead instead of the God who is guiding us.

But then He lovingly echoes his goodness. His sovereignty. His provision. His majesty. His faithfulness. His incredible way of doing miraculous things that are beyond my expectations. And I am (once again) amazed at his faithfulness to me despite my unfaithfulness.

And you know one of the ways He reminds me? With a little boy who is eager to pray all the time.

And I find myself thinking that maybe Jamie has it just right. Maybe his call for prayer is one I should really heed. I mean, we worship a pretty awesome God who honors those prayers.

Now, back to the quiet…

So, apparrently I don’t like change…

…. actually, my parents would probably be the first to say that I’ve never liked change. I prefer my home, my favorite restaurants, a job that I am secure in. Good friends.

Here’s the trick: I want to like it. I sometimes crave it. I get bored by the mundane. Then it happens and I sort of freak out.

Temporarily. Because one thing about TCK’s: we adapt fairly quickly to a new environment.

And all of that is fairly general and maybe not true. So let’s unpack it, shall we? Here are two true statements:

“I like change.”

Brandon will tell you that I am always thinking about changing things about myself or my environment. In the first few years of our marriage, anytime he left town I changed either my hair or our living room (on more than a few occasions, both). I got bored with how things were. Once Jamie came along, nap time was frequently filled with me scooting stuff around in the living room. (Maybe that’s why he sleeps so well).

“I like to leave.”

I feel lost when I’m stuck in the same place all the time. I’m actually sort of ashamed by how little I have used my passport in the last few years. So, I’m not even going to tell you the number. But I crave travel and new experiences.

So if the two statements above are true, why does this move have me freaking out? Well, the truth is, I only like change and excitement when it happens within a comfortable environment.

And the trick with a move to a new place is it means new friends, new home, new patterns, new grocery store, new favorite restaurants, etc. Combine with the fact that I am not a (mostly) full-time stay-at-home mom, and we’re living in a temporary apartment and I think my mind is sort of freaking out.

Or it was. This week I’ve started to feel some normalcy. How do I know? Well, I rearranged the kitchen counter today (I don’t have a whole lot of options for redecorating right now). Yesterday, after the grocery shopping, I tried a different way home.

It’s baby steps people.

But, luckily I’m taking those steps with a pretty cool baby and a husband that rocks my socks off.

Confession time over. Time to go look at a house we might buy.



What better picture to illustrate friendship?

I left behind some pretty awesome friends. The type that cry with you, laugh with you, go to Ikea or the outlet mall or the arboretum with you just so you can get out of the house. The kind that help you pick out a dress for your brother’s wedding, or show up to CE work-day (not because they love sorting markers but because they love you).

These were friends who let me share in their children’s lives, even before I had one of my own. And they were friends who would schedule play-dates at the drop of the hat to re-establish sanity.

When Brandon and I grieved multiple close-call adoptions, these were the friends who brought meals over. They listened. They cried.

When I was pretty sure I couldn’t function any longer, these were friends who rearranged their schedules to have breakfast, coffee, or just a phone call.

Seriously, these people are wonderful.

When we received the call about Jamie, these were the friends who leapt into action. They pestered me until I finished baby registries so they could shop. They cried with me in Target and brought me baby blankets. They supplied everything we would need to welcome a baby home. In less than 72 hours. Seriously. Everything from diapers, clothes, toys, blankets, detergent, bottles, meals for weeks after we brought him home… Absolutely. Everything.

And these were the people who came over to visit our new little man. They brought books. They brought their children. They brought diaper genies and onesies. They were as eager as grandparents to hold him, to tell him how much he was waited for. How much he was already loved.

You understand what I mean, right?

They babysat at a moment’s notice. They brought by surprise (freshly baked) gluten-free treats. They helped us move. Three times. They didn’t flinch when Jamie covered them in spit-up. (well, maybe they flinched a little). And when I was having a hard time figuring out the work / mom / wife / balance, it was these friends who volunteered to bring us a meal every week. And not just any meal, a gourmet meal.

They welcomed us into their homes for lunch or dinner. They got together really early every other Thursday with my husband.They lent us baby gates, saws, any tool we might want. They sent us cards, poems, thoughts, encouragements. They knitted us blankets and other items.

They read and even commented on our blogs.

They prayed. Oh, how they prayed.

They provided for our financial needs on more than one occasion. They gave generously towards our adoption costs.

They went to Alfies with us. They let me order for them at Asian restaurants. They heartily enjoyed Brandon’s redneck tales.

One of the things I love about my parents is that they always had good friends. And these friends became honorary Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. Even when they moved away, they still were a part of my life.

This move has brought us closer to family (and they’re pretty great, too). And it’s brought us closer to some very dear friends (you know, the kind who let you eat pork chops anyway you want). And we’re already building new relationships that we are so excited about.

But I’m so excited about Jamie knowing all the people who welcomed his birth with such excitement. Near and far. They are each and all a part of his story. And we are so thankful.

And what about this little gem? Jamie has many female admirers.

New Beginnings

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. And I’ve been struggling for days over what to write. I’ve decided I’m not going to write about the Zimmerman trial, even though it has been weighing heavily on my heart. For a thoughtful response you can see these entries: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2013/07/why-im-encouraged-after-trayvon-martin.html OR http://brandonjobrien.com/?p=870

I’m not going to write about my usually happy toddler who is being terrorized by molars and is therefore turning the terror on innocent bystanders.

I’m not even going to write about how annoyed I get over complete strangers who read my husband’s blog and then feel the need to comment, not about the post, but about dear husband’s integrity. No, I wont write about that.

And I wont bore you with the weather. (though it is stinkin’ hot. Seriously).

Instead I thought I’d talk about our move. I know, you’re probably thinking those other topics sound far more interesting (except for the weather, that one’s never interesting). But I promise I’ll make this worth it. Seriously.

It would probably surprise you to know that this move to Conway was first suggested by me. This past Christmas we were here visiting family. After a lovely visit with dear friends to their church, I felt an overwhelming sense that this was not only a place we could afford to live, but was a place we could flourish. That, perhaps, this was the place God had been preparing us for. I know, it surprised me, too. So we talked in the car as we drove to each family stop. We talked when we got back and by mid-January we had made the decision.

You see, we had been feeling for quite some time that God was preparing us to leave Wheaton. We loved our 7 1/2 years there, but we just couldn’t shake that this was not permanent. But, when you’re husband’s a freelancer, it’s not a job that takes him to another city. It’s a family decision.

So in mid-January I told my pastor of our decision and we prepared to leave. We knew it would take quite a bit of coordination to make this move possible, so we gave ourselves 6 months to get all the details squared away. In February I told the rest of the staff. In March we announced it to the church. People were more gracious and encouraging than we could have asked for and most definitely more than we deserved. They generously expressed their sadness at our leaving, and their hope for what this next stage might bring.

We began to get more and more excited about what would come next. And we became more and more sad at what we were leaving behind. Bitter. Sweet. We had been blessed by a church family that welcomed us and enfolded us almost immediately. I had served on staff for 6 years and we had been members for just over 7. Brandon had been a deacon for the last several years. This family had walked with us through an incredibly hard four years as we waited for our first child. They had cried with us as we shared of our infertility. They rejoiced with us when we moved forward with adoption. They even got frustrated along with us as the process took longer than any of us expected. They wept with us at each close call that didn’t bring our baby. And they came around us with the great joy when we welcomed our James David home. Every time I dress him or see him play with his toys I am reminded of the generosity of this community. Friends, we are truly, truly blessed.

But God was calling us on. So, just over a week ago we packed up our belongings (again with the help of our community), we said goodbye to dear friends and we drove 13 hours to Conway.

Brandon was in the truck with the cat. I was in the car with the toddler. We joked beforehand that it was a toss up over whose trip would prove most difficult. Well, friends, I definitely won that battle. But we made it.

And it’s all sort of surreal. I have had my freakout moments over how much I miss our dear friends. It’s kind of hard to go from constant contact (text, email, phone calls) to almost nothing. I didn’t handle it so well.

After over 3 weeks of frequent babysitters and a house increasingly full of boxes, Jamie was struggling to adjust. We had lots of tears, tantrums and just plain crankiness.

And that’s the hard. But you want to know the good? We were greeted at our temporary apartment by family who helped unload those things we needed immediately. Then the next day a group met Brandon at the storage place to unload our entire truck. They were done within 30 minutes. Several came over to the apartment to help me unpack a few things. We had lunch with dear friends who now live just over an hour away. And we had dinner that night with new friends.

Within a week of being here we had met a whole host of people and Brandon has even spoken briefly at an evening Worship service. We have had dinner with another family and have several more appointments this week with new and old friends.

We are overwhelmed by God’s great provision. I’m still adjusting. Brandon is still adjusting. Jamie is still teething. But God is also still faithful. We are not only making it but we are thriving.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t know yet exactly what our lives will look like long term. We’re looking for a long term place to live (and have a few encouraging leads) and we’re figuring out how this balance of life, ministry, publishing and academics really works. And I still have a class to plan for.

And, on our good days, we’re loving it. But, as much as we felt God leading us to this new place, we still miss the old. But, honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We know that it is such a blessing to have loved a community so deeply. I don’t think I would want to leave any other way.

And with that, I will make you this promise: I will blog at least once a week. You may not need it. But I do.

And now to change a dirty diaper.

When words fail me….

…. there’s always His. Be encouraged by this today, friends.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Romans 8:18-30

What are your thoughts?

“You are very special. But don’t get cocky.”

These are the words of encouragement I recently received from my dear daddy. And I’m serious about the encouraging part. One of the things I deeply appreciate about my parents is that they were very encouraging and proud of me. But they weren’t enamored. They showed by their words and their actions that they truly thought I could do great things, but that didn’t mean I could do anything and everything.

Take for example volleyball. This is a somewhat notorious example in my family of Amy’s limitations. In the ninth grade I decided to try out. And I made the JV team. Some would think this was a sign of my great skill. It wasn’t. I made the team only because I wasn’t the worst person who decided to try out (don’t underestimate the power of needing a 12th player)… and I had a fairly consistent serve (even if it was underhanded). Following in the steps of my brothers who were athletically dispositioned, I think everyone expected at least moderate success.

But after an incredibly embarrassing season (which resulted in my getting hit in the head with the ball, during a game on more than one occassion), it was clear to everyone that volleyball was not my sport. After one especially painful game (volleyballs hurt), my father very gently said “Amy, you don’t have to play sports if you don’t want to.” These were the words I needed to hear. And I didn’t feel belittled. In fact, the only cruelty I could accuse my parents of is that they made me finish the season… embarrassing games and all. Packers are honest, but we’re not quitters.

Now I am completely confidant that had I decided to continue with volleyball my parents would have supported me in said endeavour. But fortunately for all of us, I decided to quit. It’s a good thing, too. This girl was simply not made for that particular sport.

So then came singing. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always loved to sing. There are stories of me as a young girl standing on top of a table serenading family and friends. I sang in church on multiple occassions and I was always in choirs, even making it onto my high school’s top madrigal and show choir. This is where my talents were best used.

But I wasn’t perfect. Anyone who has heard me sing (or has sung with me) will tell you that my voice is far from perfect. I frequently miss notes and have the hardest time singing harmony. This meant that while singing was my favorite activity, I had to work hard at it.

And my parents, once again, supported that hard work. They encouraged me with my singing, but they also encouraged me to take lessons to enhance my talent. I took voice lessons throughout high school and benefitted from it greatly.

You see my parents could have told the world about their daughter’s awesome talent. I could have thought as highly about myself to audition for shows like American Idol or such… but I knew that my talent, while special, was not unique. I knew that my voice was pleasant and I knew that with hard work I could be very, very good. But I also knew that very, very good did not mean perfection. And I also knew that I could enjoy something and even succeed at something without being the best at it.

And this has helped me significantly in life. Failure doesn’t phase me because I know that I’m not perfect. I expect to fail at some things and it’s okay. I don’t feel like I am an unimportant person or the victim of an unfair world who doesn’t recognize my talent. No, my parents taught me that potential failure is no reason not to try something and it’s certainly no reason not to work hard at it. I may be special, but I’m just not perfect.

As a child of the One True God, I am special. Scripture is pretty clear on that. But I am special because the Father first loved me… because Jesus Christ has accepted me as His own… because the Holy Spirit is working in me to transform me into the image of Christ.

And, thank goodness, that this has absolutely nothing to do with my great talent or ability. I’d definitely be in trouble.

I am special, but I have absolutely no reason to be cocky.

The end.

Hot spot Results!

Well this has been a busy week, so blog posts have been limited. But I was able to tackle my pantry and refrigerator! Unfortunately, I didn’t take many good before pictures… I was just so pumped to clean! 🙂

But here is what I have:

Cleaning out the refrigerator before…

Here’s the refrigerator afterwards… I’m pretty happy with it!

However, the freezer was the MAJOR problem. Here it is before….

Proof that Brandon helped me with the whole project…. Real men clean!

And after…. this I LOVE!

Finally, here’s an after picture of the pantry. It really wasn’t so bad before, but needed a little spoof.

Looking forward to being back to my blogging schedule next week!

Hot Spot #2 Revealed… tackling the paper clutter!

It’s time to tackle the paper… and this is a big problem in our house! It’s not that we try to stay disorganized. In fact, we sort the mail regularly but between bills, student loans, Time Magazine, etc… it can get out of hand… in a hurry!

This also means doing our taxes, which will be good. We have our tax information safely guarded on my desk… but time gets a way from us during the week.

So here we go with the paper pile… stay tuned for pictures on Friday!

Oh, and my Lenten project this year is to re-read Celebration of Discipline. I’m excited and will be writing a  special Discipline post each Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Happy Monday!

Show Choir dresses and cheerleading uniforms…

I have been meaning to post for quite a while… for most of this week in fact (not to mention last week) and am FINALLY getting around to it!

For those of you who may remember, a few weeks ago I posted a link to “Project Simplify” through Simplemom.net. Basically, for the next 6 weeks Simple Mom readers are joining together to simplify their home, on “hot-spot” at a time. For the next 6 weeks (starting this past Monday, March 7), a new challenge will be posted each Monday for everyone to work on throughout the week. Then on Friday we all post before and after shots on our blogs for everyone to look at.

Well this week the Hot Spot is…. (drum roll, please…)

…the bedroom closet.

For us, this wasn’t so hard. Primarily because we spent significant time this summer sorting through our closet. But it’s amazing what can happen in a few months. This is what we started with:

Here is Brandon leaving for work with two LARGE bags of clothes to donate. (That’s right, we followed instructions and got them out of the house RIGHT away!)

please disregard the huge pile of laundry on chair. The goal was to clean the closet, not finish the laundry! (And you’ll be glad to know, I folded said laundry later that evening!)

So, after Brandon left I got to go through a box of old stuff…

Yes, this is my 5th grade cheerleading uniform and my high school show choir dress… they seem to be about the same height… I was apparently a pretty tall 5th grader….

And yes, I did try on the dress….

And yes it still fit… fortunately these dresses are made with lots of elastic… and fortunately I wore shorts under this dress while dancing… 🙂

So here is our closet now…

Cleaner, right? I couldn’t get a good pictures of the sides, but we definitely simplified our clothing!

Oh, and our cat got desperate later on to sit in his favorite chair. He was very glad when I folded the laundry.

(please note, the O’Briens do not typically have piles of laundry in their living room. This was from earlier in the day… just to clarify!)

Stay tuned on Monday to hear what the next hot spot will be. I PROMISE I will link to it from here on Monday and will then post my pictures later in the week! Join me in project simplify! To find out more information, click here.

Thanks, friends!

Know My Heart?

Search me O God and know my heart,

Try me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

I love Birthdays. And lucky for me, I celebrated one yesterday. I love the surprise gifts, the fun meals out, the celebration… perhaps even being the center of attention.

For the past 10 years (or so) I have done one particular thing every birthday morning… read Psalm 139. Why this Psalm? When I was in 5th grade my teacher had us memorize this whole chapter. What I so admire about her method (even more so now that I work with kids) is that she took us through it slowly. We memorized a few verses at a time… then we journalled about them, rehearsed them, talked about them with our friends… we knew them well before we ever moved on. It took us a LONG time to memorize the whole passage, but I have never forgotten it.

And these last 2 verses (quoted above) are increasingly sweet.

Search me… know my heart.

My heart is a mixture of emotion. As we wait for our child, I find myself yearning for the hope that God offers, for the comfort that only He gives, for the fulfillment of our desires that only He can offer… yet I also find myself easily tempted by bitterness, anger, envy. To know my heart is to see the good, the bad and the ugly.

Try me… know my anxious thoughts.

My anxious thoughts have been in abundance lately. When will our baby come? When will freelance checks come in? What if I don’t get enough volunteers? What if my cell phone isn’t near me when the agency calls? What if I am not prepared for a baby? Did I choose the right Sunday School curriculum? Did I buy the right car seat?

See if there is any offensive way.

Anxiety will come. Ugly thoughts will come. Lord, please point out these things… identify them… bring them to mind… let me see them… Forgive me for them.

And lead me in the way ever lasting.

But let me have hope. This is why these verses are so sweet. If we ask him, God will expose the secrets of our hearts, he will expose our anxious thoughts, he will point out the offensive stuff in us…

But ultimately He will give us hope. I am saved by the grace of his son… which means I have an everlasting hope. My heart is not perfect, but He’s working on it. My thoughts are sometimes out of control, but He’s molding them. My actions are too often offensive, but He’s changing me into his image.

And his change, his healing, his grace is everlasting. It is good.

What a wonderful God we serve. Amen and Amen.