New Seasons

“There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every activity under heaven …”

Eccelsiastes 3:1

My Tuesday mornings look a lot different than they have in the past. For so long, I worked full time and then part time and then more than full time as a stay-at-home mom. All of my days include laundry and cooking and cleaning and bathing kids and doing homework and reading stories and discipline and a whole lot of prayer and for patience. On a typical day when you walk into my house you will find this at some point:

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Suddenly this fall though there is more time for reading and running errands and finding out what I choose to do when I have the option. Now my Tuesday mornings look more like this:

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I have been a little sad that the season of life that I’ve been in for the past ten years has come to an end. There is no longer a baby or a toddler scampering through the house, no diapers to change, no baby blue or pale pink laundry to do. The sweet baby smell has long since left my home, the crib is disassembled, the high chair stored, the stroller is put away. Being a mom has given definition to my life in a way that nothing else ever has, and it will continue to but in different ways.

I am unusual in that the middle of the night wakings and feedings and the blur of the early months of mothering a new baby never bothered me. Exhaustion was a normal part of each day, but it was good because it was earned by investing in the lives of my own children. I’ve mourned that what I know to do as a mom is no longer a need. I have to learn how to be and how to love and nurture in this season of parenting school aged kids. As I threw away the training toilets a few months ago, I had my first glimpse into how this newness could be a good thing.

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So in order to mark this new season, I am doing things big today. I am splurging on a muffin instead of fruit or oatmeal, and I am not even making the low calorie version of what I want. I’m talking about all the buttery goodness and crumble topping crunch of a bakery muffin. I may even eat the whole thing.

This day has been a long time coming, and I’m really not sure what to do with it, except write — I must write.

I used to hate that life is always described in seasons. It frustrated me when I was stuck in a challenging season, that it wouldn’t just end because I had decided I was over it. And when I’m in a good one, I find myself holding onto it tightly, willing that it should never end. And when the end is inevitable, I search for something to fill its void — something big or exciting or life changing, in hopes that it will be bigger and better and more satisfying than what I am losing.

So this summer I was set to go back to school, but like I’ve mentioned a few times I’ve felt prompted to slow down; that my idea of finishing a master’s in nursing before I turn 40 was my idea, but not necessarily the right or best idea.

For years Matt has been telling me that he’d like for me to have at least six months to take things slowly (as much as is possible while caring for four kids) — to not do anything extra, but to just be me and to discover what excites and energizes me in this season of life, because if I really stop and ask myself what it is, I find I talk around the question without landing on an answer. So this July when I told Matt that I thought I should hold off at least a semester before going back to school, he was fully supportive.

We had already registered Mary Elena for preschool two mornings a week to make some space for me to take classes, and so here I am on a Tuesday morning, all four kids in school, and I’m alone for the first time in a long time, and I’m celebrating.

I’m celebrating the time to pursue a dream, pushing aside the sadness of the end of the baby season of my life, and I’m embracing this newness — thankful that it is never too late to explore a passion.

“Who would ever have thought I’d write? I mean, if I didn’t have all this free time …”

~ Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

So I’m rejoicing and writing — it’s what I went to college for in the first place, but taking the time to put pen to paper and etch out the words that swirl in my mind feels strangely foreign. Dreaming and creating  …

It feels completely odd that I am sitting in cafe on a Tuesday morning with a pen and a moleskin, alone, and yet if I think back fifteen years this is exactly what I thought I’d be doing at this moment in my life.

Someone just asked me what I do for a living, and I told him “I raise my four kids.” So while I once thought writing would be my career, it is not what I spend most of my time doing, but it is life giving and I’m learning that’s enough.

So today I will celebrate — dreams and the gift of time, the privilege of provision for my kids in their amazing schools, a husband who encourages me to rediscover myself, a God who made me just the way I am and knows how I think in narration and pending dialogues. A God who knew I’d be sitting here, on this day before I ever came up with the idea.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.

Psalm 139:2-5

I am embracing my 36th year as one of pursuing only what gives life and enables me to serve my family, friends, and community well. Pushing aside the fear that this may all amount to nothing, I am writing and as I write I will celebrate and eat every last morsel of my (full fat) muffin.

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My Hiding Place

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest in you …

St. Augustine

 

I was twelve, a seventh grader which is an awkward time for any girl. It was February and the church that my Dad worked at could no longer afford a music pastor. Looking back I realize that my parents did what they had to do. They had to provide for their four children, and my Dad was offered a job, but it meant moving from San Diego to Denver. Of all the times I moved growing up, this one was the most difficult. In California, I belonged. I had friends that went to my school and my church, and I was really discovering who I was … and then we moved.

When our lives were turned upside down, I always wanted to be helpful (I am a great packer) and to help get settled no matter where we were unpacking (though often the boxes were the recipients of my silent tears), and if there is one thing that I learned at a young age, it is how important family is. So even though we moved hundreds of miles away, we had a home, my parents had jobs, we were in the best school district, but ultimately what mattered is that we were together.

The counselor at my middle school arranged my schedule so that it coordinated exactly with one girl, who became my “buddy.” In theory this is genius. It afforded me a group of friends immediately on my first day of seventh grade at Campus Middle School, but what began so perfectly, went horribly wrong about three weeks after we moved to Denver.

I’ll never know what the cause was, but I do remember showing up for school one day and trying to talk to one of my new friends, and being completely shocked when she just walked away. That wasn’t the end of it though. Class after class, mean girl after mean girl, lunch after lunch, I found myself completely alone. I spent my breaks and lunch in the bathroom or the library from February until the end of the year in the middle of June.

When I thought I could get away with it, I would head to the bus stop early and hide in the snow behind  the big pine trees waiting for the bus to pass, and then go home to announce that I’d missed the bus. On good days, my mom would just let me stay home. On bad days, she’d have time to drop me off at school before heading to work.

Seventh grade was such a painful period in my life.

***

It seemed we were always on the move when I was growing up. Whether by choice or the leading of God or the decisions of others, our family moved between every eighteen months and three years. When I was very young, I didn’t realize the impact this would have on me as I grew and began to make decisions of my own, nor did I understand the unsettledness it created in my little heart.

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I’ve mentioned before that I ended up on anti-depressants by the age of six. My depression worked its way out through anxiety and an overactive imagination, feeling like there was danger lurking around every corner. These days I still fight that anxiety, though through prayer and deep breaths and calming down before responding, I am living more than I’m fearing.

But there are times when Matt is working late and the kids are in bed, my mind wanders and I remember …

Crying myself to sleep in a new room, holding a teddy bear I received when I was just five and had left the only home I’d ever known.

Praying that someone would request to room with me at camp and later on at retreats …

Being left out of parties in high school …

Never being asked to homecoming …

The call I received the summer after my junior year of high school from a group of girls who had always left me out of almost everything, and they called to see if I wanted to hang out, but it turned out to be a joke — and I hid in my room, hurt and angry because they had done this only weeks after I had found out we were moving on, but we didn’t know where we were going and the only certainty was that I would graduate from a school where I’d only go for part of my senior year.

And then struggling and failing to find a place of belonging three months into my senior year of high school, and hiding by only taking the classes I had to take in order to graduate.

When I started over in Texas between my first two years of college, I was determined to reclaim the me that I had been before all the hurt and shame I experienced in seventh grade. What a place of healing that was for me. For the first time in years, I felt complete freedom to be 100% me. And in that time I met and married my husband and I finally found my place.

There are times when I still feel like I don’t have a landing spot or a place of belonging — being on the outside whether real or imagined became part of my inner life somewhere in the middle of attending fifteen schools before graduating high school. My memories are speckled with different images in living color of times when I just didn’t belong. Now I’ve lived in the same area for thirteen years and I’ve gone to the same church for twelve years, and while that is such a gift of grace for this well seasoned mover, staying put doesn’t guarantee immunity from loneliness.

Almost seven years ago, I went through the most isolating time of my life. On March 21, 2009 I began to miscarry our third baby. I was almost nine weeks pregnant and there was absolutely nothing they could do, and I hadn’t done anything wrong. There were no answers to why, only speculation and even when I was surrounded by people, I was always completely alone.

All my fears came rushing to the surface and I plummeted into depression that couldn’t be reversed by another baby, because it wouldn’t be that baby. I felt broken and battered and like the one thing I knew I could do well had been taken away from me. On top of that, it was as though Matt wasn’t grieving. It seemed my loss was just my loss and it began to define me.

Suddenly it was difficult to be with my friends who had just had babies. Two of my friends found out they were pregnant in the days after my miscarriage and didn’t want to tell me. Another friend became pregnant shortly afterward, and my sister delivered her third baby a few months later. The months of my greatest loneliness were filled with parties of the baby shower variety, hospital visits where I’d hold babies drinking in their newness while trying to hold myself together, and making meals for families that were growing, while mine had just gotten smaller.

I would sit on the front row of church and just cry during worship or the message, and I wanted to be present but I was drowning on my own. Though I became pregnant six months after my miscarriage, it did not end my sadness or my loneliness; it increased my fears. I found myself reciting this Psalm over and over again to quiet my spirit and reassure my mind of what my heart was still trying to believe.

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:1,2, HCSB

And in the months and the years that followed losing our third baby, I’ve whispered these words countless times. On flights when fear has overtaken me, during a labor induced panic attack with Nicholas, while receiving the ever feared spinal in an unexpected c-section delivery with Mary Elena, when I count four heads and still feel like one is missing, in the middle of the night when I couldn’t calm my heart, while trying to settle a crying baby, as prayers laced with anxiety as I’ve held fevered kids, croupy babies, or a kid in the middle of a seizure.

What I now realize is that whether I am surrounded by friends or family or in a silent living room alone — when I feel completely known and loved by a friend or when my texts, calls or emails go unanswered — when my kids are loving spending quality time with me or they are disappointed with me — when my husband is fully engaged and present or when he is busy with work or distracted by the news, my belonging is not contingent on my circumstances. I belong because I have been chosen.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:4-5, The Message

What I know now, I wish I could go back and tell a fearful five year old girl trying to adjust to a new home and a baby sister  —

Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you …

Isaiah 41:10, HCSB

What I know now, I wish I could whisper to the twelve year old hiding in the pine trees trying to miss her bus —

For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory. 

Psalm 32:7

And what I first cried, willing myself to believe, I can now say with confidence; no matter what the storm around or within me may be, I know this to be true:

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net,
from the destructive plague.
 He will cover you with His feathers;
you will take refuge under His wings.
His faithfulness will be a protective shield.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
 the plague that stalks in darkness,
or the pestilence that ravages at noon …
Because you have made the Lord—my refuge,
the Most High—your dwelling place,
 no harm will come to you;
no plague will come near your tent.
For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:1-11, HCSB

How thankful I am that in Him, moments of isolation no longer define who we are. I am excited to be writing this year with an amazing and diverse group of women. Please read what my dear friend Allison has to say about belonging and then click through the rest of the blogs.

 

 Hiding Place, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, 1992


 

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Miracles in the Mundane

When we first got home from our family trip, I was determined to take my sweet Texas time … to really learn, as Dallas Willard said, to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” in Los Angeles. I am finding that is easier said than done.

There is an internal rush within me even when I close the doors and should be secluded from the hurry. Truly slowing down is more than just a decision and maybe for me, the only reason I accomplish this in Texas is because I have nothing that I really have to do.

Now that I’m home I’m realizing that hurry isn’t a switch. I can’t turn it off or on to suit the occasion. Taking my sweet Texas time at home in California is a decision I am trying to make moment by moment.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to our pastor before church about how much slower life is in Texas, and being a native Californian, he asked “Do you think it’s Texas, or vacation?” Like Matt and me, he and his wife talk about what is different on vacation — what do we give up when we get home and why do we give it up? And how do we hold onto it?

And what is it?

For me, it is placing relationship over accomplishment; relishing the quiet moments of ordinary, understanding that miracles happen in the mundane everyday; it is laughing at myself when I make mistakes instead of grumbling over the time I wasted when I didn’t get it right the first time.

So I have to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life.

This weekend I was confronted with hurry several times. When you have four kids it is bound to happen, and if I don’t seize it, hurry will control my life.

I’m learning that to remove this rush from my days, I have to remain true to the things that give rhythm to my life — to our home and our family. We live completely isolated from all our relatives. My kids don’t have things like a weekly meal at their grandparents’ house that they look forward to; they don’t play with cousins regularly. They don’t even have a home that has been theirs for the whole of their lives, but they do have traditions.

When Matt was first starting out in vocational ministry, I was a full time teacher and mother, and we were blessed to live on the high school campus where I taught. Wednesday evenings, Matt was at work and I was at home with a tiny Lucas. Those were special times. I would make home-made mac and cheese and we would read extra books and sing extra songs and cuddle a little longer before bed.

When I was pregnant with Bethany, I would pick Lucas up from the babysitter, and we would drive through Jack ‘n the Box and get a milkshake to split, head over to the church and eat with Daddy and the student ministry volunteers, and then enjoy worship before going up to Matt’s office to rock and sing until Luke fell asleep.

As we had more children and Matt’s position changed and changed again at the church, our traditions have evolved. When Matt worked Sunday evenings, snack night replaced dinner as we watched a movie before bed. As the kids got older and hungrier Sunday became pizza and salad night, and to this day on Sunday afternoon you will find me making pizza dough and preparing toppings, toasting home made croutons and whisking up my favorite salad dressing.

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We now have Mexican food on Tuesdays, slow cooker meals on Wednesdays, Kids’ Choice (and take out for the parents for in-house date night) on Thursdays, Pasta Bowl Fridays, Homemade muffins on Saturday mornings, and Pizza and Salad Night on Sundays, not to mention the meals and special events that signal the beginning of holiday season for the kids.

Routine helps me plan.

Rhythms help us slow down.

I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada, eating fried rice, and drinking a “brown cow” every Saturday night, but until a couple years ago we never did anything like that with our family. So I decided that during college football season, we would watch the Texas A & M game, enjoy a fun meal , and we would whoop and gig ’em every Saturday afternoon.

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This weekend, I took a vote and the kids decided on calzones to go with our Aggie festivities. Now if you’ve ever been with young kids and invited them to help in your kitchen, this is a recipe for slowing down.

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I spent a lot of time on Saturday getting all the fillings ready, and as the game was winding (disappointingly) down, I called the kids into the dining room and we made our own calzones.

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The Aggies lost the game, but something about joining together in cheering on a common cause … about the jumping and dancing at the high points, and the “you’ve got to be kidding me” at the low points, brings us together. There is something so valuable about getting all the have to’s done early in the day, so that we can just be in the afternoon. It refreshes and satisfies and builds community right within our home.

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Then Sunday came and we rushed to get ready for the morning. We got back from church and I made and served lunch. I got the dishes done and made coffee and tried slowing down, but there were kids demanding things and being impatient and there was an exhausted pastor willing himself to nap on the sofa, and there was a mama in her room, trying to pretend none of it was happening.

As the afternoon was blowing up, I was so tempted to just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches … to take a break, thinking it would be better to just get something in the kids’ stomachs and get them in bed, than to take time for tradition. But as Matt took the kids out to play, I felt a gentle nudge — if peace was going to re-enter this home, it needed to begin in me.

I can’t help but notice that God is a celebratory God. “Celebrate a festival in My honor three times a year” (Exodus 23:14, HCSB).  Right from the beginning, He has his children work festivals into their calendar.

Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine at a wedding …

During His last supper He likens Himself to bread and wine …

Our food, our celebrations, our traditions, they aren’t just what they seem. Food doesn’t just nourish our bodies. A call to celebrate isn’t happenstance. Our traditions are not accidental. When we slow down and we recognize His provision and when we notice His creativity in the variety of food He made, we recognize His very presence and love in what we are eating.

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When we celebrate, whether a holiday or a birthday or for the sole purpose of getting together with friends, we see that we were made for community by a God that didn’t want us to be alone (Genesis 2:18). When we take the time to practice traditions, to create dependable rhythms, we become a little more like a Maker who did and made all things good, and then He rested (Genesis 2:3).

What if the very food we make and eat is a call to slow down … to ruthlessly eliminate hurry in something so vital to living?

So I vacuumed a little and I prayed and asked God to help me slow down — to realize that eating dinner late as a family and upholding our little pizza/movie night tradition would be more valuable because of relationship than just finishing the task of eating and getting kids in bed.

I lit a candle and turned on some worship music and began making pizza dough, knowing it would take an hour to rise, but asked God to speak to me in that hour. And God — the God who made the universe and made me and made you — He knows me.

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He knows that when I slice tomatoes as thinly as I can, chiffonade basil, mince garlic or grate mozzarella cheese (and taste a few shreds here and there), when I toss bread crumbs with olive oil and salt and pepper and let the heat of the oven create croutons, that I will meet Him there. As I slow down in the kitchen and take in all the aromas, the magic of a sauté pan, as I emulsify salad dressing with a whisk, He speaks to me.

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As a mom, I very often have moments of exhaustion. I can live in a state of “I have to get this done!” But I can also choose to slow down; to make sitting with my kids while watching a cartoon during Sunday night dinner more important than getting the dishes done.

When I choose tradition over obligation, when I choose relationship over accomplishment, not only do I slow down, but we win and I think our relational God is honored.

The kids reentered the home much calmer than they left and exclaimed “It smells great in here!”

And then I talked to my kids who thought I was in too much of a tizzy to make pizza, and I explained what God had been whispering to my heart for the last hour … through His Word and His Spirit and the lyrics of the music I was listening to. Sometimes we just need to slow down.

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What I thought was too much work on this particular Sunday night was just the thing we needed to bring our life and home and spirits back into order. As the pizza was baking, we bathed the kids and got them ready for bed. I chose a movie and spread out a blanket for them to sit on and we settled in and down.

Traditions look different in every home and family, but it is no accident that God called his people to slow down, to celebrate, to hold festivals that would bring rhythm to our lives.

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Take a deep breath in and ask God where He might be calling you to slow down. In my experience, it is often in the areas that cause us to feel rushed that God is trying to speak.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

 

The Voice of God, 4HIM, Benson Music Group, Inc. 1992

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Sunshine, Brown Sugar and Chili Peppers

Before we became parents, I had a dream that I had a baby girl with her Daddy’s olive complexion, dark brown eyes and full, deep pink lips, and her name was Bethany. Matt really was convinced that we’d never have a girl because he comes from a family of three boys and his mom comes from a family of six boys and one girl, but when we had our second baby, I knew that she was my Bethany.

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She was round and cuddly, and loved for me to keep her with me at all times in a sling. She was pretty content, especially when she had her pacifier. I was in mommy-heaven. When Lucas was born, I loved him immediately, but our lives were different then, and not working wasn’t an option. Bethany arrived and I loved her, but I also fell in love with being a mom. That is what I told the head of my school, when I asked if it would be possible to continue teaching, but part time. “Teaching is great, and I need to work, but I love being a mom and I love my kids and I need to be with them more often.”

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And so I began working part time. Once Lucas got used to the idea that Bethany wasn’t going anywhere, they were best buddies. I don’t know what it is like to have a child who is content to sit and play quietly, because  my kids have been active from the time they could crawl. Every last one of them is a climber, and so they kept me busy. Every night I was exhausted from working (just one class shy of full time) and from spending my afternoons and evenings with my kiddos, but it was the best kind of exhaustion.

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During Bethany’s first year, we also discovered that my thyroid had been thrown off by pregnancy, and I spiraled into a deep depression that took months to come out of. In my heart I knew how much I loved my husband and my kids, but my emotions overpowered my mind and I struggled to make it through each day without a meltdown. That year, I had more time outs than my kids did.

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When I look back on that very dark time, I am grateful that it happened when my kids were so young, because they will not remember how I sad I was. I am also grateful for a husband who loved me unconditionally and who always put me and the kids first, as we navigated our way through this dark night of the soul with counseling, scripture, worship, date nights, and my life group. What I regret about those months, is that while I still loved my children, I was incapable of bonding with my sweet girl the way that I have with my other children.

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There are behaviors and attitudes that are deeply ingrained in her, because I wasn’t able to recognize them and address them when she was a toddler.

Matt always tells Bethany that when God was making her he used sunshine, brown sugar and a little bit of chili peppers. At her best, she is strong and determined and gifted and caring and gentle and funny and kind. At her worst, she is strong willed, driven without regard to consequence, loud, controlling and spiteful.

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Beth and I are in a season, where we just do not understand each other. At school, she gives her all socially and academically, and I’ve been surprised to hear her teacher describe her as quiet, but when she gets home, she is demanding and bossy and has difficulty listening and more than a little trouble being kind.

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When she is the best version of herself, I see so much of me in her, but what I’m coming to realize is that when she’s at her worst, she is like a miniature unfiltered me. It is hard to realize that the ugly internal parts of you are on display when your child is throwing a fit.

I’ve been more than a little frustrated with her, and I’ve been loud and demanding and sometimes no matter how hard I try to be loving and kind, I feel myself bite my bottom lip and my teeth clench as I begin telling her what she needs to do and how she needs to change. I am asking her to change what she is doing, by doing exactly what she is doing, and it’s not working.

But this morning I read this:

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the houses of this city and the palaces of Judah’s kings, the ones torn down for defense against the siege ramps and the sword: … I have hidden My face from this city because of all their evil.  Yet I will certainly bring health and healing to it and will indeed heal them. I will let them experience the abundance of peace and truth. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and of Israel and will rebuild them as in former times.  I will purify them from all the wrongs they have committed against Me, and I will forgive all the wrongs they have committed against Me, rebelling against Me.  This city will bear on My behalf a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, who will hear of all the good I will do for them. They will tremble with awe because of all the good and all the peace I will bring about for them.

Jeremiah 33:4-9, HCSB

Although this is about Judah, it sure sounds a lot like hearts and relationships that are broken. What God is showing me, is that this behavior and the way Bethany and I are just missing each other — it’s a heart issue, and as much I’d like to blame it on her, I’ve hardened my heart, first as a defense against the pain that results when anyone is unkind to another person, but over time, it’s become my default, and the spiritual heart is not compartmentalized the way the physical heart is. I cannot have one area of my heart hard … it will spread.

A friend who knows how Bethany and I are struggling suggested that if I look back at old pictures of her, that my heart might become softer toward her; that as I see her for who she is and not what she is doing, I might be drawn toward her in love. So this morning I am praying and I am writing and I am looking at pictures, and I am seeing my Bethany Jordan, made of sunshine and brown sugar and I’m forgetting the sting of the chili peppers and I am noticing all the spice and the zest that they add to our lives.

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Looking at old pictures … I think that must be what God has to do with me sometimes. Maybe he has a big photo album filled with all his favorite memories of me and maybe he has a stack of old home videos of me in all my best moments, and when loving me is hard to do, He pulls out those pictures and videos, and He thinks “oh yeah, that’s my Lindsey. She’s amazing.”

And I want my heart for Bethany to be like the heart of the Father. I am looking at all these precious pictures of my baby girl that I dreamed about years before she was ever even thought of, and I am thanking God for this amazing daughter He gave me … for the gifts of her curiosity, her courage, her faith, for the great big sister she is, her love of math, her desire to excel, the way she researches how to do something until she can do it herself, her heart of worship, her strength, her tenacity, and how much fun she is. All the other stuff, that’s pliable — it will take prayer and it will take patience, but today is not the end of her story.

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I love how that passage in Jeremiah 33 begins,

The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who forms it to establish it, Yahweh is His name, says this:  Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.

Jeremiah 33:2

I’m at a crossroads in my parenting of Bethany and I have to make a choice. I can choose to go down the road of discontent and complacency, accepting that all the hard edges of her define who she is or I can choose to look to the One who made her, who knows exactly how she ticks and why, and I can trust that He sees the bigger picture.

Bethany across the Jordan

When I look at Bethany, I can get distracted by her imperfections, but when He looks at her, He sees a world changer. There are days when it is completely incomprehensible to me that my children will ever learn to pick up their socks off the floor, let alone change the world, but today I am determining to make the practice of calling to God in moments of anger or disappointment, and I’m asking him to show me the things that I don’t know; how to love and parent the person she’s becoming — the girl he’s called her to be; How to parent into the joy and peace He’s calling us into.

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The heart of the Father has always been filled with grace … grace for our little mistakes and grace in life altering failures. How can I expect perfection and first time obedience from her, when that’s never been what He’s demanded of me.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 145:8, AMP

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Living on Love and Oatmeal

We moved to Pasadena thirteen years ago in August. Matt was starting graduate school and we had been married just one month. Before we moved, we didn’t know what our new apartment looked like or where it was, but we had a floor plan, and we drew a life size chalk outline of our tiny house on my in-laws’ driveway, and placed all our hand-me-down furniture in the appropriate rooms so that we would not bring too much.

We had visited Fuller Seminary during Spring Break of our senior year of college. Arriving in the middle of the night, in the aftermath of September 11th, Pasadena seemed like a scary place to me, but once the sun came up and we visited campus, sat through classes, toured married student housing, and walked around Old Town, I began to love the city.

The following weekend we visited another school in the rural south, convinced that was where God was leading us, but as we sat in guest housing after we had thoroughly experienced Wilmore, Kentucky, we both wrote on a piece of paper the name of the school we thought we were supposed to go to. Shock of all shocks, we were in agreement. We made our first huge decision as a family.

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We finished our classes, graduated from college, got married, honeymooned in New York City, and less than a month later we loaded our little Corolla, following a Penske truck, and drove from Texas to California … the place we would call home for the next three years, or so we thought.

As we drove away, Matt’s Dad said “He always takes care of the big things! Jesus, be with you.”

We used directions printed from mapquest to find our little apartment on August 21, 2002. When we pulled up to that big brown house on Ford Place, right across the street from the building where Matt would take most of his classes, I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude. In fact, I was out of the car as soon as it stopped and was jumping and skipping down the sidewalk in front of our apartment. That moment is such a vivid memory that I recall the smells and how shockingly huge the palm tree in the front yard was, what I was wearing and the tears that pooled in my eyes. When we had visited in the Spring, I had told Matt that if I could live anywhere, that would be the place, but we were told that it was only for single students.

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So surprised that God heard me and provided what I longed for, I walked into that teeny 500 square foot apartment and I swear no house has ever been more beautiful. Sure it only had one closet in the entire place (which could be accessed in the living room or from the kitchen behind the refrigerator), smelled a little musty, had cheap carpet that stained bare feet, and the bathroom and bedroom were on opposite sides of the apartment, but it was just perfect for Matt and I.

We filled that place with furniture and boxes and wedding gifts, and then friends from Texas who had decided to move to Pasadena and Fuller without us knowing, invited us over to their cute little home and we had dinner.

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After dinner we drove onto Ford Place and parked in our tiny little spot (beside the dumpster for our building), and walked through the back door of our home. We were so young and excited that it didn’t matter that we had just driven 1700 miles or unloaded an entire truck of our belongings, we were ready to make this place ours. This day, this home was everything I had dreamed it would be, except it was hot.

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I discovered that when my husband is hot, he is not the happy, laid back person he is normally. When we got into bed that night, I scooted right next to him, and was promptly told to move to my side of the bed, because “It’s hoT!” The next morning, I rolled over and started talking to wake him up, and was told through sign language that he wouldn’t be talking until he got his coffee. I think he showered two or three times that first full day in our house.

And it was hot and we didn’t have air conditioning, and for a guy that was born and raised in Texas, that is just ridiculous. At least in September, I thought, it would cool down, and I would get the man back that I had fallen in love with and married. Little did we know that September is the hottest month in LA county.

September rolled around and we were miserable, and even though I hadn’t found a job, we decided that — to save our marriage — we needed to spend some wedding gift money and get a window air conditioning unit. We were shocked that they were sold out at every store. After weeks, my brother-in-law finally found a co-worker who had a seriously old unit, and he bought it for us for $5. Matt and he installed it, and it blasted cold air. Of all the air conditioners we would buy in the next several years, that one held up the best and cooled significantly better and more quickly than the others.

That year I struggled to find a job. We had decided not to take out any loans, and were grateful for the work study job Matt had gotten in our first week in Pasadena, but I learned quickly that my GPA didn’t matter when interviewing. School had already started, and California had just decided not to offer the emergency teaching credentials that I had counted on. I worked several retail jobs and odd jobs here and there, and we made it.

We like to say we lived on love and oatmeal that first year. We did. We were constantly provided for in unexpected ways, from the fact that our apartment was the only one in the entire building that had electricity included in the rent (which meant Matt could stay cool), to a check from my grandmother right before Christmas, making it possible to pay rent, buy groceries, and get a couple little gifts for each other, to a twenty-five cent an hour raise at one of my retail jobs, to the fact that we got down to thirty five cents in our bank account once, but we never went completely without.

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We walked everywhere to save money on gas and just when we were almost at the end of ourselves and our resources, I got a temporary teaching job. It was an hour and a half away, but it provided for our needs and I looked forward to leaving the house at 5:30 every morning.

In the first year of our marriage, I learned what it means to live by faith. We could no longer rely on our parents to provide for our needs, and we were no longer a part of their church or their community, but we had each other and we had our faith in God.

When I look back on that time, I am amazed at a God who knows me so well, that he knew the joy that would come from living and making memories in that apartment in the big brown house on Fuller’s campus.

He knew that we would laugh about squeezing between the fridge and the closet door to get our clothes.

He knew that every afternoon there would be a distinct smell that mysteriously filled the space between our living room and our bedroom, and we would jokingly say that our house smelled like old man.

He knew that alone, on the floor beside our bed, I would discover that marriage did not live up to my expectations and I would learn how to give grace to the man made just for me who has always shown me nothing but grace, and that love really does cover a multitude of sins.

He knew that we had fallen in love with the ideal, dating version of each other, but that we would find in each other things to love that we didn’t know existed.

God knew that Matt would break many of our dishes in our old ceramic kitchen sink and that friends would send us a package of plastic dishes, and we’d laugh.

He knew that we’d learn to appreciate the simple things in life in those days. Things like clean sheets or a new toothbrush or pack of gum.

He knew we would pack that little space with other young married couples and that we would support, encourage and do life together.

He knew we would grieve over broken marriages in that group and we would resolve to let love win in ours.

He knew that we would discover one Sunday morning before church that we were going to have our first baby. He knew all the joys and fears and frustrations that would come as my body and mood changed.

He knew that home would be filled with an imperfect love that we couldn’t fashion on our own.

Before we ever met, God knew that we needed to experience what it really means to trust, and He gave us those first couple really hard years of our marriage for that.

We learned that even when we fail, there is a laying down of yourself that is really a necessity in a relationship built on love. And we do. Even now, we let each other down with silly things and big things and misunderstandings and carelessness, and we continue to choose love.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because it has been an incredibly hot summer. In so many ways it has reminded me of our first summer here. Life looks a lot different than it did thirteen years ago, but the truths I learned when we had little more than love and a really hot apartment have lasted.

Last weekend, I woke up to rain. It was glorious. We don’t get rain very often in this area, and it was exactly what we needed; a respite from the heat and nourishment for the grass and plants.

As it rained, I went out on my front porch and just smelled the air, and I remembered that our needs are known by God better than we know them ourselves. We long and we grasp for the things that we think will satisfy, but they don’t.

I never would have chosen to spend the first two years of our marriage, barely having enough to pay our bills and eat, but that was His plan.

Without having to trust that my basic needs would be provided for when there were just two of us, I would never have known I could trust him to take care of the big things.

Every day I am learning what it means to be content, and what I learned back then about myself remains true — I have a wandering heart. I want to chase after the things or the behaviors or the events or the friendships that I think will satisfy me, but they always fall short.

Like rain refreshed us hot Californians last weekend and helped the dead grass grow, like a sweet note and a toothbrush from Texas encouraged me when we sometimes couldn’t buy our own, God knows our soul needs and He satisfies us with His love in a way things never can.

And I remain forever grateful that

… The Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11 (AMP)

copyright: Laura Hackett, Forerunner Music, 2012

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Taste and See

Growing up, I loved adventure and exploring. The world was a different place and I would roam grassy fields, picking flowers, living in my imagination. We’d toboggan through apple orchards, never worrying that we could hit a tree. Getting “too close” to the pond  beside my grandparents’ house was something I did often. I loved to swim and to run as fast as I could, and was convinced I could do anything. At age five, I ran away and just knew I could make it on my own (you know, at the corner store where there was plenty of candy and a playground across the street).

My confidence made me dream big and live large and loud. I was sixteen the first time I went to Europe. The thrill of exploring old cities with friends and meeting new people and being Jesus to those who may have never heard His name was immense.

There’s another side of me — one I buried as a teenager, that often rears its ugly head in adulthood. The same little girl who could do anything, also clung to her daddy in fear, at the bottom of Niagra Falls on the Maid of the Mist; and when looking up at the Canadian Rockies said “If I went up there, I would fall.”

The two — the explorer and the timid child have been trying to co-exist for a long time. I love the adventurer and I want to tell my fearful self to get over it. Fear can do nothing but hold me back. These days, the adventures and the worries are different in form, but they are ever present.

When I comfort a child back to sleep, I pray I would not pass on my fear — that it would have no stronghold in our kids’ lives. That they would “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that He “has not given us a spirit of fear …” and that we can trust Him (Psalm 34:8, 2 Timothy 1:7).

As a mother it is my constant challenge to not parent out of fear and to open my children’s eyes to the wonder of the world around them, but sometimes their independence and fearlessness frightens me. I am keenly aware of the worst case scenario in any given situation, but I am learning to let those thoughts work themselves out internally.

We recently discovered that Mary Elena (our baby, who is now three) loves the thrill of a rollercoaster — high speeds and steep, sudden drops. She just barely reaches the height requirement for these rides, but once in her seat, she’s all in … all thirty-six inches of her. As we went on her favorite rides at Disneyland, she’d throw her hands in the air and laugh until the end of the ride, when she’d declare the experience “totally awesome!” The drop on Splash Mountain is over fifty feet and the speed is forty miles an hour, in a log without seatbelts, and she squealed in delight and wanted to go again. My little dare devil!

Our five year old, Nicholas, loves to swim. He’s in and completely under, oblivious to the perils of the water. Up until last week, he’d only gone swimming in small groups of either close friends or family. Now that he swims, I’ve been less nervous about taking all four of my kids to a pool on my own, but last week we went to a party and there were few places he could touch the bottom of the pool. Even so, he was in and he was swimming — until he wasn’t. So I jumped in, fully dressed — in one of my favorite outfits of the summer with accessories and shoes still on, surrounded only by people I don’t know — and lifted him out. When I asked him what happened he said “I just forgot to swim.” As full as that pool and yard was, when he was in trouble his eyes found me, and even if they hadn’t, my eyes were on him. That’s what a mama does.


As I spend time with my kids, I realize that the part of me that anticipates danger is a positive thing if I direct it and use it well. That part of me remains vigilant so that my kids can have their adventures. My arms are around them as theirs let go, wildly waving in excitement; my eyes are on them when the waters overtake them, and my hands reach down to lift them up; my prayers surround them when we’re apart.


In this new season of parenting when my kids are grasping for independence, it would be easy to think that the hard part of my job is over, but then I’m reminded that I am still being guided ever so gently by One I cannot see (Isaiah 40:11). And His eyes, His mind and His heart are on me and for me; That He created a world of places and ideas for adventuring and He wants us to taste and see that He is good.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
(Psalm 139:7-12, The Message)
In the fear, in the adventure, He is there.


I am excited to write with an amazing and diverse group of women this year. Read what Susan has to say about adventure unlimited, and then click through the rest of the blogs.
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Mourning Into Dancing

You did it: you changed wild lament
    into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
    and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
    I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.
Psalm 30:11-12
 
It has been a full summer. Yesterday, as I was looking over some paperwork I was reminded of what this time of year last year and the fall was like for our family. We were all feeling so beaten up. I was living with unexplained pain. Our kids were transitioning to a new school. We were trying to understand our son more and exploring possible reasons that may play a part in how challenging every day life can be for him. We had lost approval for speech therapy for our other son, and he was still struggling to be understood. And our extended families were also experiencing stress that we felt keenly. Not least of these, my sister-in-law was in a battle with cancer that was about to end and change our lives forever. If I’m honest, I found myself constantly questioning the goodness of God.
 
We are far from having all the answers to all that made life hard last year, and yet as I look back on the past two months, I realize how far we’ve been carried
 
In the thirteen years that we’ve been married, Matt and I have experienced high highs, and the lowest of lows. We’ve moved away from all our family, worked plenty for-now jobs, not known how we were going to afford to eat as we worked Matt’s way through graduate school, lost grandparents, an uncle, suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage, experienced and bore the pain of the struggles of our siblings and parents. We’ve loved being married and hated being married. We’ve looked at each other more than once and asked “What are we doing here?” We’ve been blessed with four children, Matt’s job, our amazing church community, a love that perseveres through the hard times and embraces always, God’s constant provision, supportive families, the generosity of strangers and faithful friends.
 
What I’m [finally] realizing is that I’m not doing this life alone. I’m not even making it through the day alone. The broken parts of my life, the darkness in me — they are not being healed because of my efforts.
 
“He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.” 
Colossians 1:17 HCSB
 
Isn’t that just like Him? And if I never experienced the heartaches of this life, I would never be drawn to Him, nor would I notice the stunning beauty of the world and the people around me. 
 
In the last two months, I have gained two sisters-in-law. I have participated in and witnessed both their weddings, with tears of joy streaming down my face, not only because weddings do that to me, but because these weddings — I know the stories behind them — are evidence of a loving God, working “all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
 
My brother-in-law who lost his first wife to cancer is still healing — we all are.
 
My other brother-in-law reached his lowest years ago and has been doing healing of his own.
 
When I look at their lives, what they’ve been through, what they’ve lost and I remember their faces as they said their vows to my new sisters, I know there is a God. A good God.  And He is working all things …
 
When I think of the stunning beauty of the two brides, as they pledged their love to men that they know — brokenness and darkness, strength and passion melded together, I see evidence of a loving God. And He is working all things …
 
When I look at Josh and Trakena and Joey and Rachel, I am blown away by the faithfulness of a God who does not want man to be alone. He is faithful. He is for us. And He is working all things …
 
A pledge to love someone in the highs and lows, for better for worse, in sickness and in health — that is no small thing. When I witness the joining of two lives at a wedding, I am reminded of a God that comes close. A God who laid down His life, to save mine. A good God who sees my mourning and breaks through with gladness and joy. A loving God, who does not want us to do life alone, but calls us into community. A faithful God, who sees our brokenness, and says “Watch what I can do!”
 
As Joey and Rachel’s wedding was winding down, the DJ called everyone on the floor for a line dance. Erin, Matt’s cousin, was encouraging me to join in, and I just said “I can’t dance.” Erin said “The way I see it, is everyone who I’m going to see again has already formed their opinion of me. So it doesn’t matter what I look like.” I was thinking good Erin, now you go dance. I’ll stay here. Then she said “Lindsey, I’ve already formed my opinion of you, and I like you. Let’s dance!” And I did. It was a blast! But as I reflect on that evening and that moment, I know that is also God’s heart for me, for you. “I like you. Let’s dance!”
 
He is the God of Job and the God of the Psalms. So today, as I muddle through the ins and outs of life, as I consider all the unanswered questions, I choose to dwell on the goodness, the love and the faithfulness of a God who constantly turns mourning into dancing, because He likes me. He likes you and He invites us into a life where mourning may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
 
 
 
 
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Take Your Sweet Texas Time

Others are sown among thorns;
these are the ones who hear the word, 
but the worries of this age, 
the seduction of wealth, 
and the desires for other things
enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
 Mark 4:18,19 HCSB
 
We just got back from nearly four weeks in Texas spent mostly on JMJ Ranch, my in-laws’ home and land. Once I am there, life immediately slows down and there is a deep, deep peace. It is rustic and romantic. There are cows and horses and soon there will be chickens. In every way, life on the ranch is different from our life in Los Angeles.


All year long, I’m holding my breath. With every unexpected turn of the road in parenting, I tell myself a break is on the way. Each time I rush out to the car to run another errand, to pick up kids, to play my role in the hustle and bustle of the city, I am subconsciously hoping for a slower existence.
 
A week before we began our eastward trek, I told my friend “I am a better version of myself in Texas … a better wife and mother, calmer, less worried, more comfortable with myself. I trust easier, I love deeper. I am slower, deliberate, more relaxed. I am closer to the person I want to be.” It is true that everyone is different on vacation and it really isn’t fair to compare your everyday self to who you are when most of your responsibilities fade, and yet there is a deep desire to be the Texas Lindsey in California.


Leading up to our departure, Matt and I created a playlist of favorite country songs as we revved up for our trip. (This is the only time of year when he indulges my love of country music.) The closer we got to the ranch, the more I “serenaded” him with the words from a favorite song.
 
I wanna walk and not run
I wanna skip and not fall
I wanna look at the horizon 
And not see a building standing tall
I wanna be the only one 
For miles and miles
Except for maybe you
And your simple smile
Oh, it sounds good to me
 
Cowboy, take me away
Fly this girl as high as you can
Into the wild blue
Set me free, oh I pray
Closer to heaven above 
And closer to you


And it’s not that I don’t love my life. I love this adventure we started on thirteen years ago, the children we’ve been blessed with, the home we’ve made, the church and friends we love — it is all grace. It is just that there are things that are done better in Texas that I want to be part of my reality in Los Angeles.
 
If I want to live well in the place God has called me — if I want to be the person He created me to be, the best version of myself where He has placed me, provided for me, commissioned me, than I have to learn to be my Texas self here.
I love the bumper sticker that says “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as quick as I could.” There is an enchantment in and for Texas. I admit it drove me crazy the first time Matt launched into what can only be described as a Texas Pride monologue, but I had lived there less than a year and we’d been dating a month at best, and it had yet to capture my heart.
 
Then as a college student I was required to take a Texas history class and it was during that semester that I fell in love with both history and Texas. I mean seriously, only Texas has existed under six flags, and that is only the beginning of its charm.
 
Oh, Texas.


I have so many memories from our trip this summer, but one that I will always remember is when in the middle of a conversation, my father-in-law said “Just let him take his sweet Texas time.” A few days later as we were driving out of Texas, Matt read to me an account of John Ortberg asking Dallas Willard what is needed to be spiritually healthy, and his response resonated with me.
“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
 
I worry that in this season of my life, with four kids, a husband in full time ministry, in a city with no family, with my (impossible to attain) shadow mission of becoming super mom; in a world and a culture where achievement, possessions and image reign, that I might lose myself — that I will become so preoccupied with my outward life, that my heart gets lost in the shuffle.
 
So as I return to real life, I am determined to slow down … to know that life isn’t about reaching a destination, but like a good road trip, it is about the journey. It’s as much about the music and the snacks, the conversations and the company. Yes, there is an end goal, but how much sweeter life would be if we allowed ourselves to slow down, to be distracted and amazed at the unexpected.
How many times and in what ways does God speak to us and we’re so blinded by the world around us and by what we think we want, that we fail to see Him and the ways He longs to satisfy our soul hunger?
 
“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.'” Jeremiah 2:25, MSG
It is impossible for me to spend hours silently fishing, lost in prayer everyday like I can on the ranch. I can’t walk out into open fields with only the sound of crickets, birds and cows for company. There are so many buildings in Los Angeles and rainstorms are so few, that I will not hear His voice often in crashing thunder or feel His breath as the rushing wind forces an afternoon rain across the pasture, but He is all around and if I slow down I will find Him.

He speaks in the silence of the morning when I’m the only one awake. He is present in the belly laughs of my kids. He breathes peace when I respond and not react to a sibling conflict. I feel His presence as I set aside the press, and take the time to mince garlic with a sharp knife. I can’t deny His goodness when I splash wine into a sauté pan and that glorious aroma fills my senses.

As I come home, I am determined to take my sweet Texas time, knowing I will find God there.
 
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Box of Darkness

They will have no fear of bad news; 
their hearts are steadfast, 
trusting in the Lord.
Psalm 112:7

 This Fall.  It held so much promise and potential. The evening of September 2nd, found me packing lunches in anticipation of the start of a new school year. A year where my kids would go to school and be in classes, learning under teachers that I had prayed for the moment we knew they would be in school. Of course there was the nervous anticipation as well. Had I prepared them well enough? Would they fit in? Are they going to succeed? But all in all, the beginning of school went without a hitch and we were on our way. Until we weren’t.

Life has a way of slowing us down — slowing me down. I get so caught up with the routine and meeting expectations (hopefully surpassing expectations), so I need life to do that and when it does I am shocked.

One week after school started, I was on a plane to Texas without my kids and with Matt and my brother-in-law and his future wife. After a year and half of praying and believing for healing, we had to do the hard work of trusting God’s plan for Tiffany as he took her Home.

Our sweet Bethany is an achiever, but after visiting with the doctor it seems she was, maybe still is, experiencing some anxiety over her entrance to second grade.  She’s had almost an allergic reaction to this period of transition but curiously she outwardly thrives.

And our precious Lucas? Well, school hit him and me like an unwelcome wake-up call and we’ve been challenged to figure out exactly what makes him tick. Socially all is well, but that kid is a d.r.e.a.m.e.r, and every period represents some random thought that he follows down a rabbit hole and forgets to capitalize the beginning and punctuate the ending of the trail.

Oh, my heart.  To see your children struggle and to be grieving in the midst of it, that is a duty of adulthood I was not expecting.

There are these moments that seem so laden with darkness, you fear suffocation and I’m there. I experience that heightened heart beat and quicker breathing accompanied by a flutter in my stomach as I try to figure out how are we going to do this life.

I get tired of talking about seasons of life because I find myself wondering if Spring will ever come. Just when I think we’re going to get a bit ahead there is a new twist in the plot and I’m physically raising an eyebrow and audibly saying, “Huh.”

This is the Fall of hellos and goodbyes, of transitions and take out as I basically quit making dinner in order to tediously encourage fourth grade homework 26 years after I did it myself.  This is the season of one sickness circulating multiple times through the family and bed wetting and sheet changing and then the stomach bug and the three days where I did laundry 18 hours a day and still had six loads left to do. It is a time of busyness and traveling and loneliness.

And in the middle of all this dark that threatens annihilation with its density, I realize that without it I couldn’t see the light.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant:
if we did not sometimes taste of adversity,
prosperity would not be so welcome.
― Anne Bradstreet

When we made our quick trip to Texas and had to leave behind four kids, we had these incredible friends who took our kiddos in and loved them, kept them safe and worked through their various quirks and schedules in the first week of school. Friends who didn’t just provide beds, food and supervision but who told stories and played games and included our four in their family-life. We had another friend bring reprieve through playdates and doing preschool drop off and pick up, and yet another who picked our oldest up from school and got to know them and made memories over frozen yogurt. We were surrounded by the prayers of an amazing group of women who had also been praying for Tiffany since her first diagnosis and encouraged me with calls and texts while I was processing and trying to figure out exactly how to grieve.  A staff of friends who encouraged us on our way and gave immeasurable support in this unchartered territory.

And those kids who were struggling to adjust to school? How grateful I am for the extra love they received from the teachers that God prepared for them. How incredible it’s been to see how well they know B and L already, and how they are on Team Price for the win, partnering with us as we figure out this new place of parenting.

What a gift it was to be completely present and mostly undistracted to grieve the loss of the sister-in-law that I thought I’d have years to really know. To grieve the loss of a dream of sisterhood. To mourn the loss of one I had prayed for first to come into our lives and second that her life would be spared. And in this season where sadness comes in waves, I am grateful that I knew Tiffany for three years and that the mark she left on me and our family is one I wouldn’t get rid of to spare the pain, because Tiffany could light up a room and truly lived.

And on the evenings when the three younger kids are undoing all the cleaning I’ve spent my day doing and I’m trying to explain the ins and outs of common core math to an uninterested fourth grader who’s swishing water in his mouth, and I lose it and demand through clenched teeth that he focus and fill in the right bubble … when I have to get off my high parenting horse and apologize for being harsh and impatient, the light pierces even that darkness. He says to me, “You don’t have to say sorry. I think you’re the most patient person.” And I’m humbled, because those prayers that God would grow patience in me (but please, oh, please don’t give me cause to be patient) are being answered, and my 9 year old sees the work He is beginning in me and grants a forgiveness I don’t deserve.

In the hours of tending to the sick and wondering who’s going to catch it next and as I carry the lysol can around and boil water to disinfect; as I cry in my laundry room over the mounds of germ induced laundry and I wonder how I will ever finish, and why me, Lord — even in the darkness of the grime and gross I find the light.  It comes in songs and psalms and breath prayers.

In Matt’s absence and long hours and on the evenings when he’s home but still working it suddenly and completely hits me and it’s blinding. And he’s confused and wonders how I’ve never really thought of it before. That man I started dating when we were both really still kids? He may travel the world, but he’s never leaving me. It is grace and it is light.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

― Mary Oliver

I can get so caught up in wishing for the Spring and Summer of life that I fail to see the beauty in my Fall. It is forever constant and is always there, that Light that spoke the light into being and we miss it when we focus on the darkness and not the beauty in the ugly.

It’s the living and loving that happens in the little moments, whether many or few.

It’s the mourning and rejoicing and the promise of eternal life and sweet reunion.

It’s the intricate workings of each of our children molded and purposed for His plan.

It’s the ability to be fully present.

It’s His gentle work and His still small voice and their presence in my kids’ lives.

It’s the hard work of mothering, both loving and fierce — vigilant and relentless.

It’s the revealing of His covenant of Love in the comfort of marriage.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
― Albert Camus
 

Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, 
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, o’er troubled sea
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
 
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
– Joseph H Gilmore

Join us as we explore darkness this month. Start with Allie at A Hopeful Place and follow the links.

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Disappointments and Thunderstorms

“Disappointments are to the soul what thunderstorms are to the air.” 
~ Friedrich von Schiller

I’ve spent the past few weeks in Texas, which has been a breath of fresh air for this girl, her kids and husband.  It is great to be with family — wonderful to look out on land with not a building in sight.  What a gift to be able to walk the dog, hands phone-free because I’m just on this glorious stretch of land in east Texas — a haven of safety.  To allow my kids to go off and explore on their own and not worry.
After a year when nothing seemed to go my way, this time away has been a quiet reprieve.

Texas is a place like no other.  From the huge baked potatoes to high school football; from animal print to southern hospitality, when you’ve truly lived in Texas, you love Texas.

I remember moving here as a twenty year old, taking a year off of school to live with my family again, and being completely startled by many things — the size of the cockroaches and how they take flight, the confusing configuration of feeder roads whose absence I now realize is one of the major deficits of Los Angeles, Texas pride, and the thunderstorms.

The first time I experienced a Texas thunderstorm was in the middle of the night, and even as a young adult the crash and subsequent roll of the thunder was so startling that I ran into my parents’ room.  I had never heard anything like it.  As a college student walking across campus, it didn’t matter the size of the umbrella, if it rained between classes, I was soaked from head to foot for the rest of the day.

A storm can be anticipated or it can explode on the scene taking you off guard.  There have been several times on this trip where flashlights and candles are pulled out as lights begin to flicker and a storm rolls in.

I. love. it.

Probably because I can remember only a handful of times it has rained in Los Angeles since we moved there twelve years ago.  Rain, thunder and lightening have become a novelty. I love the anticipation and nervous excitement, the preparation or lack there of, the crash of the thunder and the flare of lightening, the immediate cool down and decrease in humidity, the way plans change or get a little more interesting in the face of the weather, and the way everything looks greener after the rain. But what can bring life and energy can also cause devastation.

When we arrived on JMJ ranch three weeks ago there was a tree that had been virtually destroyed in a storm. It had crashed into a fence and created more than a day’s worth of work — from cutting it down, to chopping it up, stacking the wood, and mending the fence.

The rain storms, the tree, this year and this trip have my mind racing with what-ifs and why nots and the pains of life … How the chopping, cutting, throwing, stacking and mending sent my now city-boy husband into days of discomfort, all because of a storm.

Like I said, I absolutely love Texas and every time we are here it is difficult to leave. This time, the night before our departure I decided to stay behind with the kids for a couple weeks while Matt gets back to work.  We both knew that this decision was right for the whole family, and yet as I was separating our suitcase into two and dropping Matt at the airport yesterday, I got a familiar knot in my throat and hot tears in my eyes, because even though it’s only for a matter of days, when you’ve made a life with someone it becomes inconceivable that you should ever be apart. For us, that’s what love is: Joy in each other’s company. Happiness in memories. Pain in absence.

My older kids had the opportunity to spend a couple days on the ranch just with Papa Price. About twenty-four hours into the separation of kids from parents, I got a phone call that Lucas had been stung by a yellow-jacket.  Lucas is very allergic to bees; within minutes he goes into anaphylactic shock. When your child is in danger, you want to be with him to bring comfort and search out all the help you can — a parent is a warrior, but two hours away, worry was quickly setting in. Luckily, we discovered Lucas is not allergic to all stings, because one antihistimine and an icepack later, he was fine.  Never have I been more acutely aware of the space between us, as I tried to care for him one phone conversation at a time. There is pain in distance.

As I raise my kids and they reach milestones and grasp for more independence, I realize that my life as a mother will be filled with moments of holding on and forcing myself to let go as they become the people they were created to be and reach for the dreams of their hearts. There is pain in growth.

In little and big ways, our lives are filled with pain.

Matt’s Memaw is ninety-three years old. Over the past fourteen years I’ve experienced her as an amazing cook, welcomer, reminiscer and story-teller, faithful wife, advocate of her children and grandchildren, grieving widow, grieving mother, but always a joy finder.  On this visit, I’ve noticed her pain as she realizes that she can no longer do the things that used to be easy, to host and serve, to hoist grandkids on her lap, to walk unassisted.  There is pain in aging.

My sister-in-law Tiffany will turn thirty-seven in a few weeks.  A year and a half ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  Despite many prayers and rounds of chemotherapy the cancer has spread and the doctors don’t have much hope.  Tiffany is living in a lot of pain right now, but through all of the ups and downs of her journey, she has chosen hope and clings to faith — hope and faith for healing, yes, but more than that.  She hopes and places her faith in her God.  Because when bodies fail, there is pain.

“Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” 
— Babcock

It’s strange that in nature, I can experience a storm and anticipate the greater good, and yet when storm clouds come my way in life, I get so quickly thrown off course and flounder and wonder and doubt.

And yet, just as thunderstorms can cause fear and destruction while bringing relief and life, so disappointments can cause pain and suffering while increasing our faith and making us strong in ways we didn’t know possible.

“When darkness seems to win we know that pain reminds this heart that this is not our home.”
(Blessings, Laura Story)

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
(Hebrews 13:14, NLT)

How grateful we can be that in the midst of a world where trouble seems to take up residence in the most unlikely of places, we are eternal beings, not created for a fallen world, but for a world of perfection, where sin and pain and death cannot reside.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
(Blessings, Laura Story)

Start with Susan and follow the links as we talk about pain this month.

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