Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Beginnings

As I sit here in a moment of quiet and type this with only one hand (my 7th-grade typing teacher would be appalled) my other arm envelops my newest wonder...a sweet 8-pound-4-ounce girl and a delight to my heart. Perhaps I'm just a slow learner but even the third time around I am amazed at how much love our hearts are truly capable of. We can be a selfish, arrogant lot and yet when it comes down to it our hearts were designed by Love Himself...and it seems He has created them with hidden spaces to be found and filled as He brings gifts (like my precious children) into our lives.

Perhaps in a future post I will share more detail, but the last few weeks of my pregnancy I struggled
Tired Baby, Tired Daddy
with doubt and anger and frustration at all the unknowns around labor and delivery and what our family would look like with our new addition. I was anxious and moody and worried and then...she was born. And as they placed her warm, squirmy body on my chest I was reminded of how big God is and how often my perspective is so small. Over the course of 9-and-a-half months God created this amazing human being right inside of my own body...and once she was done being formed and grown in my womb she was released into the world.

It reminds me of some impressionist art I saw at a gallery a long time ago. When you stood close-up the colors were beautiful but you couldn't always tell what they were supposed to be--they looked almost blurry. When you stepped back, however, it was clear that each stroke of the brush and choice of pallet was intentional and, when seen as a whole, created a breathtaking masterpiece.

How like life. Just like Jesus' friend Martha, who got caught up in her to-do list and wasn't able to see the beauty right under her nose, we get anxious and worried about many things...and we often miss the big picture. May we learn (and re-learn) to trust in the goodness of God, no matter our circumstances. And may we purpose to seek out the joy and love that is hidden deep within our hearts, waiting to be found.


 From my heart to yours~

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fear(Less)

I should be cleaning and organizing because I have a million things to do before my precious third-born makes her debut. I have baby clothes strewn throughout the house and the nursery looks more like an oversize closet than a safe haven but I take comfort in the fact that she won't care about anything except boobs, a clean butt, and comforting arms for quite some time. Though there's a long list of things I should be doing,  I had to stop for a minute and write this post because it has been on my mind all day and I feel like if I don't get it out I might just burst! (Or maybe that's just the baby...who knows really). ;)

Friends, our world is a hot mess. Likely it's no less messy than it has been for thousands of years but since there are so many things that hit close to home (literally and figuratively) these days it feels messier, if you get what I'm saying? It feels rocky and unstable and though I'm not prone to a doom-and-gloom kind of outlook on life there are days when I look around and wonder what all this crazy is leading up to. And yet in the midst of all the chaos and hatred and the unknowns, I hear God's reminder that He is in control. Now I'm not one to propose that God is orchestrating the chaos, but rather that in the midst of our own choices to seek vengeance and hatred and one-upsmanship He resides. For me there is such hope in that. There is hope in the fact that though chaos reigns in our world it does not have to reign in our hearts. Fear is knocking at the door of our homes, but it can't get through our door unless we invite it in. I desire to raise children who live out love in a world full of hatred, but they won't learn how to do that if I live a life closed off to the outside and cloaked in fear. It can be a daily battle and I'm sure that as time goes by it will only be more so. Because of this, I know I need to purpose myself to live each day out of the depths of God's grace and love--knowing that if I'm not intentional about that, my mind and heart can be hijacked by all the what-if's.

How about this...what if instead of dwelling on all the things that could go wrong, we instead ask God what He wants us to do today--right now--to be His hands and feet in our world? What if instead of hiding or griping we moved into a position of believing He is capable of big things in our hearts and lives, as well as in the hearts and lives of our children, even in the midst of our chaotic world? How would that shake up our paradigm? How would that rock our worlds? I desire to raise bold children who will stand up for what is right and and kneel down to the One who is good. I don't want half-hearted children who cow to whatever somebody tells them they should think or do. I also don't want angry, hateful children who are looking for the worst in those around them. I want children who see hope and light even in the midst of darkness, and who grab a hold of whatever remnants of good they see and run with it.

I recently read the book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and learned an amazing true story about the
bravery of the Danish people during the time of the Holocaust. In April of 1940 the Nazi armies invaded Denmark and Norway, and though both countries had declared neutrality in the war, they were no match for the Nazi's military might and had no choice but to surrender. For the next three years Denmark was occupied by the Nazis and lived under their authority. They did so peaceably for quite some time. Then, in October of 1943 the Nazis began arresting Danish Jews. The Danish government was informed by a German spy of a plan to arrest and relocate all the Jews in Denmark. Upon hearing this, the ordinary citizens of Denmark banded together to help nearly all the Jews in Denmark (numbering around 7,000) escape to the safe shores of unoccupied Sweden via fishing boats. The Danish people showed remarkable bravery and courage standing up for what was right in the midst of brutality and possible execution. They smuggled nearly 7,000 of their own countrymen onto boats in the cover of darkness over the next three weeks, and risked their lives (and in some cases gave up their lives) to do what they believed to be the right thing. The living out of their ideals did not end there. Of the approximate 7,000 Danish Jews, 481 did not make it to the safety of Sweden. They were among those who were found out and arrested or who were too old or sick to make the journey. These Jews were sent to a ghetto in Czechoslovakia and were tirelessly advocated for by their Danish countrymen, until their eventual release to the Swedish Red Cross in April of 1945. The Danes never forgot their brothers and they never gave up.

I realize this is a long story but honestly, every time I think of it, I get chills. Something in me rises up and makes me long to be a mama who raises kids like this. I want my kids to do the right thing even when it is scary and they don't know what it will cost them. I want my kids to lay down their lives for those whose voices have been stolen, and to advocate and protect the weak. I want to raise kids who live wholeheartedly for God through loving others and living with integrity and intentionality. May we, as parents, learn to live these things out ourselves first, and may we have the bravery to raise a generation of children who don't live lives of self-protection, but of selflessness, generosity, and love.


Blessings to you and yours~



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Meditations on Squash Bugs and Parenting

You guys...there is an all out war going on in my backyard this summer between me and the squash bugs. They have banded together on a mission to try and kill my plants and I am not having it. I always thought I was a bit of a peace-loving hippy but these suckers have made me realize that I have some sadist in me as well. I'm not a big bug-killer usually. My rule is simple...if you are in my house I have the right to squash you, if you are in your house (outside) I will leave you alone (unless you are a yellow-jacket hive in my backyard, in which case all bets are off). I even get stressed watching my kids handle bugs because I don't want them to hurt the little guys! Anyways, all that has changed since Invasion of the Squash Bugs 2016.

Last year I didn't make too big a deal about them because they seemed harmless enough...until my beautiful pumpkin plant budding with the promise of autumn splendor withered into a sad clump of misery before fall had even officially hit. (Moment of silence). Not. This. Year. This year it is game on. You guys, I look like a crazy person out there every evening scouring the leaves for these suckers and gleefully throwing them into a bucket of water whenever I find one. It has almost become a sick game...the way some people like to squeeze acne (so gross) and I just can't stop. All I can say is, if I lose the war it won't be for lack of zeal or commitment because I am pretty sure I am currently in the running for Master Squash Bug Assassin this year. Seriously, I've probably killed close to 100 of those things by now.

On another note, Baby #3 is due in about five weeks and you'd think by this time around I'd be ready for it and feel like a pro but wow, I am freaking out you guys. I don't know if you ever feel like you have your stuff together again after having kids. At least I haven't so far. This time around my anxieties tend towards the logistics of it all. Not so much "How do I take care of this tiny thing?" or even "Will I ever sleep again?" but more "How will I be a good mama to the kids currently running around like banshees while I am sleep-deprived and trying to provide for a newborn?" "Will our kids ever work into being able to share a room and not stay up too late and get up too early?" and "How in the world am I going to homeschool my oldest for the first time while also appeasing an easily-bored two-year-old and an I'm-hungry-RIGHT-NOW-MOM newborn?

It feels crazy...heck, it is crazy. But it also feels right and good. Does that even make sense? And I know it will all work out, I know we'll find a new normal in our house and it will be a chaotic beautiful mess and I will be broken and blessed and pushed to the max. And maybe that's why I'm so intent on eradicating squash bugs from my yard right now. Not because it really makes much difference in the world but because it's something I can manage and there is a rationalized outcome. With kids, especially little ones, nothing seems rational or organized. And each time around I have to re-learn to be okay with that. To find the glory in the mundane and the messy. One thing I've learned in my few-years-that-seem-like-forever as a mama (you know what I'm talking about) is this: The more you submit to the beautiful mess, the more joy there is to be found. Pushing back and wishing for more order or time or sleep is fruitless in these early years and only creates discord and anger. Accepting the grace of this slower, more mundane season of parenting allows for beauty to blossom in unexpected places. May beauty blossom for us all in whatever season we are in, and may we give it the space it needs to wrap itself around our hearts and pull us into it's embrace.

Blessings to you my friend!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Can't Pour Out What Hasn't Been Poured In

So I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this morning (At Home With Sally) and Sally asked an intriguing question that has stuck with me all day. She asked, "Are you a person of resource?" What she meant in the context of the discussion was, are you a person who, when people come to you with needs of a kind word or encouraging thought or perhaps a word of wisdom, are able to provide that? I want to be that kind of person, friends. But as I've been pondering this statement I have also been weighing out my own heart and realizing that in order to be that kind of person I have to have my life spotlighted on the One who is wise and discerning and kind. I can't pour out what hasn't been poured in.

My husband has a bit of an obsession with iced tea in the summertime. As in, he will drink an entire pitcher before lunchtime and then wonder where it all went. Sometimes when I want to be kind and pour him a glass of tea, and there's nothing but the dregs left on the bottom, I will fill that cup as full-up of ice as I possibly can and then maybe add a little bit of water so that it will at least give the illusion that he has more than a few sips to swallow. But when the pitcher is empty it doesn't really matter how much I want to pour him a glass of refreshing iced tea. It is, at best, weak and unsatisfying because that is what happens when you let the pitcher run empty.

It's the same way with our souls. When we don't keep them filled they simply cannot provide the life and thirst-quenching hope that we desire to offer up to others. It has been a bit of a season like that for me the past several months. In a slow progression away from the things that really matter--the things that fill me up and keep me satisfied--I have become dissatisfied with life, and in turn, have only theoretical backwash to offer up to others. (Apologies for the gross analogy...I have a toddler and a preschooler so backwash, boogers, and poop are part of our daily discussions!) ;) But seriously, why would I ever want to have only that to offer up to others? My longing is to be a place and a person who refreshes weary souls, not somebody who sucks life out of those around me!

So what do we do when we find ourselves in this place of emptiness and lack? Three things come to mind for myself, and they have been objects of my pursuit as I seek to be filled up once again. First, though it goes without saying, we must purpose to drink of the Living Water. Jesus is the only one who can bring the dead to life again and coincidentally he is also the one who turned plain ol' water into the best-tasting wine anybody had ever had. So I'd say it's a safe bet he is the best place to start when we are needing a little kick to our dry bones as well. Second, we must make time for the things that bring us life. We were made to be creators and innovators and I find that it is often when we become stagnate in our pursuits towards creativity and innovation that we become dry. Perhaps reading, writing, beautifying your home, or bringing a garden to life are passions of yours. Maybe travel or photography or becoming the best you can at some new endeavor is what sparks life back into your soul. Whatever it looks like, seek out the beautiful and it will return beauty to your desert places. Lastly, we must make time for rest. Taking care of our bodies and souls is not a selfish thing to do. When we eat good things, give our bodies the rest they need, and purpose to live active and productive lives we don't just feel better, we live better and more fully and we oftentimes unwittingly inspire others to do the same.

So for those of you out there who are dry and weary, take heart. It won't be like this forever and sometimes it is us choosing to put one foot in front of the other on the hard days that will help us work our way to the oasis that will quench our thirst and restore our lives. One prayer. One thankful thought. One act of kindness. One choice to be present in the lives of our loved ones even when we'd rather be checked-out. If you, like me, want to be a person of resource...one who others can depend on for a kind word or thoughtful insight...than let's purpose together to work on filling ourselves up so that we are ready to offer up refreshment when another weary traveler comes our way.

Blessings to you my friend!