Monday, December 17, 2012

Bucket Filling

My son's preschool teacher shared a precious book with us a little over a month ago: Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.  Ever since then, bucket-filling has consumed our common vocabulary.

Lily, my three-year-old, will give me a peck on the cheek and whisper, "that filled your bucket, Mommy."  Gunnar, the almost-five-year-old in the house, will pick up his toys without asking and ask, "did I fill your bucket, Mommy?!?"  (The unequivocal answer is YES!)

Here's a picture of the two little munchkin's, because I can't resist:

The conversation goes both ways.  Both kids make sure to tell me what I can do to fill their buckets.  (If you're a parent, or if you've ever been around a kid at all, you can probably imagine how these conversations go....)

Yesterday, the four of us were having a rare moment at home alone together (Justin has been traveling like crazy for work).  We were giggling and laughing and generally bucket-filling.  In the midst of it all, Gunnar said in his loudest, most dramatic voice,

"My bucket is a GOLIATH-SIZED bucket!"

Justin and I belly-laughed at that.  He hit the nail on the head (as usual...I seriously think that kid's prophetic; he is so insightful).  Sometimes it does seem like we are pouring into a black hole.  He needs and wants and needs and wants....

Yes, this is sort of a toddler thing, but it's also a Gunnar thing.  Especially when his dad is suddenly en absentia after being home almost non-stop for seven months (thanks to unemployment).  The transition has been really hard on the little guy, so his neediness has been at an all-time high.  It's easy to feel overwhelmed, and like nothing I do is ever good enough.

But, today, after yesterday's pronouncement, I had a revelation: It's not the big things; it's the little things that make the difference.

In other words, I don't have to create this huge, over-the-top gesture to fill my son's rather large bucket.  In fact, when I try to pull that off, it inevitably backfires (either because I'm so stressed from the effort or because, quite simply, it's not what he wants...or needs).

No, I need to do the little things.  Consistently.  Every day.  And if I'm consistent enough, his bucket will never be empty.

I think this is how God calls us to live, and, large bucket or small, how we're all made.  We all need consistent, small acts of love, all the time.  The big gestures are wonderful, of course, but it's the small moments that make the biggest difference.

I'm thankful that God graciously gave me that insight today, lest I get overwhelmed with ol' Goliath.  And I'm thankful He gave it to me during Advent, the season of (among other things) giving (also known as: bucket-filling).  I want to work on my consistency in the small things, the daily acts, and now's as good a time as ever to start.*

Linking up with the community at Soli Deo Gloria today, but before I go, one last note....

*I couldn't leave this post without relating a quick story.  I started chatting with the newby at my local Starbucks today.  She told me that, when she was training in Seattle, someone had paid for the person behind them in the drive-thru.  "Cool," I thought.  She went on: "yea, it was cool, but what was even cooler was that the chain literally went on for something-like twenty cars!"

That blew me away.  The power of the little things.  You never know what impact your one, small act will make!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Digging Down the Layers

I'm not a patient person.  Maybe some of you are, but I, my friends, am not.  Most definitely.

I've known this about myself for a while.  I knew it when I got married, nearly seven years ago.  But during that first year of marriage, that was the year I actively began to pray about it.

I know, I know, some of you are laughing right now.  You're thinking back to your first year of marriage and empathizing.  Marriage is an adjustment, to say the least.  But that's not why I began to pray for patience (although the marriage-adjustment-thing certainly helped me remember to pray consistently!).

I began to intentionally ask God to turn me into a patient person when I realized I married a slow mover.

Do you know any slow movers?  Or, better yet, do you know any fast movers?  I, until a few years ago, was most definitely a fast mover.  And I couldn't have married a slower mover if I tried.

Let me give you some examples:

I would wake up on a typical day (prior to my transformation from fast to medium-slow), and my mind would fly ninety-nine miles per hour.  My to-do list would be outlined and categorized before my feet hit the floor.  By eight a.m. I would have completed quiet time (check), breakfast (check), dishes (check), laundry (check), letting the dogs out (check), scrolling through the morning news (check), checking and responding to emails (check), dressing for work (check), all while watching the latest, greatest morning show (have to keep up with social stuff - check).  My husband, bless him, would still be asleep.

I would talk so fast that he would literally ask me to slow down so that he could understand me.  He would talk so slowly that I would literally tap my foot while I waited for him to get his thoughts out.

If he asked me a question, I would have the answer before he had the second word out of his mouth, and I often interrupted him (I know, annoying).  If I asked him a question, I would have to suffer through at least one full minute of silence while I waited for him to formulate his response.  (You should have seen could probably see the steam coming from my ears as I tried, unsuccessfully, to be patient.  It drove me crazy to have to wait!)

Why am I writing about this today?  Because, today, strangely enough, none of these things bother me at all.  I am far less productive and move much more slowly than he does.  (Funny what having a debilitating illness does to a might slow you down, but at least it gives you perspective!)  I barely think about how different we he takes a slower pace than I do.  That's because he doesn't - not anymore.  I've changed.  I'm much more 'his pace' - in thought, word, and deed.  In fact, in many ways, I'm a slower mover than him (and I love this pace, by the way!).

So what made me remember how it used to be?

I had a moment.  You know, one of those moments.  It was with my daughter.  I can't even remember the details right now, but I know it happened some time last week.  I know I was ridiculously impatient, and I know it hurt her. 

I also know that nothing - nothing - is worth the look on her face when she felt hurt by my impatience.  Whatever I was in a hurry for - getting some errand done or answering a phone call or whatever - it wasn't worth it.

As I felt the pang of the fruit of my impatience, I thought to myself: "oh no, here I go again; and I thought I had come so far."

Then God gave me a picture.  He showed me a shovel digging deeper, deeper into the very soil that is my foundation...the place where seeds are planted and nurtured and grown. 

For the most part the soil was rich and fertile, but it had a few hard spots that had to be broken up.  It had a few rocks that needed to be removed.  It had a few leftover roots and weeds, all broken and dead, that needed to be hauled away.

"We're digging down the layers," He said, reminding me that transformation is a process.  Think of it as a digging process or a round-the-mountain process - whichever picture helps you the most.  Either way, transformation involves revisiting.  Going back to a place you've been before does not mean you've failed, moved backwards.  It does mean you've made progress - enough progress to make it around the mountain back to the same spot, only you're a little higher this time, or, a little deeper.

Either way, you've come a long way.

Linking up with my SDG girls.  Go ahead, take a look and see what this awesome community is all about!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent, Endings & My Book

Last Sunday one of our Bishops came to visit.  She was there to preside over baptisms, confirmations, and receptions.  She also had the privilege of preaching on the first Sunday of Advent.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar, Advent is the first season in the Church year.  The first Sunday is like New Year's Day in the Episcopal Church.  The focus of Advent is Jesus' coming birth, of course, but it is more than that.  It's about hope, and expectation, and longings fulfilled.  At its core, Advent is about the goodness of God to His people, about the fact that He loved us so much, He sent His only Son to live among us (John 3:16).)

I'm going to be honest here - I only half-listened to the sermon.  My husband and I are more-than-normal exhausted.  It took everything we had to drag ourselves to church.  We did it for the kids.  (I'm just being honest.)  It's not that we don't value church - we do.  But we also value sleep.

So there I was, sitting in the pew, trying to stay awake and pay attention.  Phrases kept drifting in and out of my conscious mind.  Something about beginnings and endings and intentionality and living in faith.

At some point, her point began to register with me.  She was talking about the chosen readings for the day, in particular the Gospel reading from Luke.  It's a pretty bleak passage with which to start Advent.  I mean, you'd expect to hear some shiny, happy passage about babies and angels, right?  Not so, she said.  In Advent, in the Church, in this journey called faith, we often start at the ending, rather than the beginning, for it is when we know the ending before we start that we can keep the faith after we begin.

In other words, it's in the assurance of things hoped for where we find the faith to continue walking daily, even when the path seems dark and the journey wearisome.  Knowing the end of the story gives us the grace to live intentionally today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.

As I sat and listened to Bishop Harrison, I nodded and registered and silently agreed, knowing I would gnaw internally on her words for a while until they revealed some deeper flavor, some nugget of wisdom for which my tired brain searched.

And today, I got a taste of how God might use her words to impact my life.  Not in some major, deeply meaningful way, like I expected.  Nope.  That's not always how God works.  Sometimes He's profoundly practical.

Today, as I sat down to my novel, I heard Him say, "begin at the end."

I tried to make it more complicated than it needed to be.  I perked up in my chair and began praying, asking God to explain the deeper meaning behind His words.  I was looking for some wise insight, something profound.  It quickly became clear to me that He was being literal.  I simply needed to begin writing the last chapter of my book.

I hope you're smiling here, because I was.  Isn't it awesome that we serve a god like that?  A god who cares about the very mundane details of our processes?  I'm in danger of getting stuck in my writing process.  He knows that.  So He encourages me.  Tangibly.  Practically.  I have a place to go now - to the end.  Something I never would have thought to do.

But I'll bet you that, as I write the end before I have finished the beginning, the middle will be all that much more rich for it.

So are there places in your life where you need to be reminded of the ending, the hope to which you cling, the point toward which you navigate?  Are there places where you need to simply let Him speak practically, specifically and "chill out" a little on the deeper meaning of things?

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today. 

(P.S.  For more info on Advent, including some ideas for ways to celebrate, click here.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dizzying Thoughts

"It's all in your head."

The voice threatens to overwhelm, to defeat my paltry effort at activity today, today when I am most definitely dragging, using every ounce of energy to pull myself - stroke by stroke - across the pool.

The dizziness comes.  I must stop, I think, as I move - pull, kick, glide - down the lane.

I begin to resent, to let the already negative energy I've been battling all morning take me even further down the rabbit hole.

I hate this.  I've only just begun.  How could I need to stop so soon?  Why won't my body cooperate?  I don't like the message it's sending me.

"It's all in your head."

The words come again, but, this time, there is only a shadow of the former darkness.  I can still see the face of the one who used to tell me that as a child.  He meant well.  He was trying to toughen me up, to teach me to push through mental battles and succeed in spite of weakness, limitation.  He wanted me to learn strength.

I continue to swim, even when I know I shouldn't.  I'm succumbing to the old lesson, the "push through" lesson, the "don't listen to yourself" lesson.

Then, the voice comes again, but it is softer, gentler, different yet the same.

"It's all in your head."

It is in my head - the message, the trigger, the flashing light I need to see before I move past the point of no return.

I am dizzy; therefore, I must stop exercising, whether I want to or not.

But it's more than that; somewhere along my journey I have had to learn how to flip a switch inside my head, to turn my thoughts over on themselves so that a new way of thinking comes out on top.

As I swim, I think: "thank you, God.  Thank you that it's all in my head.  My thoughts do matter, and I need to listen to them."

So I go gentler, move slower, think softer thoughts toward myself, my abilities, my limitations, my weakness.

I think...I can't push through, and I shouldn't.  The lesson here is to listen, to honor, to obey the voice inside me that is a gift from my Maker, to embrace my weakness.  To give up rather than go on.

The lessons of my youth were meant well.  Everyone wants their children to be ready for what will come (and we all know that pain, challenge, stress will come).  But they were ill-conceived, missing the key point.

I can not push through; there simply isn't enough strength there.  And if I try to force the issue - whatever the issue may be - on my own strength I will ultimately do much more damage than if I had never tried at all.

It's when I embrace that holy truth that I live a much fuller life, a much rounder one, more complete, more perfect.  I am, eventually, able to go farther and do more than I ever was, not because of my own strength but because of the strength of the One who binds me.

I'm not saying I'll be able to swim a triatholon any time soon, if ever.  Who knows?  But I am saying that I'll be able to keep swimming, one arm in front of the other, legs kicking behind, because I chose to stop today. 

If I had "pushed through" and hurt myself in the process, it would have taken me weeks to recover (trust me, I've tried that...many times, actually).  Instead, by treating myself kindly and honoring my ability to know myself, I will swim again, maybe even tomorrow.  If not tomorrow, then definitely the day after. 

My recovery time is shortened because I no longer fight to succeed in spite of weakness.  I let myself be weak and don't deride myself for my limits, even when it's hard, even when I want to. 

I repent.  I say "thank you" when I want to complain.  I trust that He knows even when I don't understand.  I float when I can't stroke until the energy comes back again and I move forward.  This is a good feeling.  Good in my bones, good in my muscles, and, yes, good in my thoughts.

After all, it is all in my head.

What messages do you need to "flip" upside-down today?  How do you need to "go gentler" with yourself?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How badly do you want it?

This post could also be titled, "careful what you wish for."

My husband, my dear, sweet, amazing husband, is working tonight.  Like he has every night recently, even on Sundays, his one day off per week.

Tonight was supposed to be our date night, but he got stuck at work.  He hasn't seen the kids for three days because work has pulled him out of town.  When he is in town, he works nights, so he rarely sees them anyway.  He and I see eachother in the morning, when I'm leaving to take the kids to school, a kiss on the cheek as I walk out the door.

Am I complaining?  Maybe.  Just a little.  If I'm honest.  But I'm also just sharing.  Because I'm so proud of him.

He's willing to make the hard sacrifices in the short term to get where we want to be, as a family, in the long term.  That's what love is (sacrificial).  And that's what a husband does (provide).  Even when it's hard.  Even when it hurts.

I have to be honest: we've had a love/hate relationship with money since we got married.  At times, we didn't think it mattered, so we ignored it.  At other times, we loved having it and spent it like crazy (trips to Vegas anyone?).  At still other times, we've had none, and I do mean none, and we've had to learn how to appreciate it for what it is:

A gift.  And a tool.

We've also had an ambivalent relationship to 'provision'.  At times, we've felt like it's our job to 'get her done'.  At other times, we felt like God would provide no matter what we did or did not do.  At still other times, times like now, we know it's both more, and less, complicated than that.

Now, after nearly a year of unemployment and living in the absolute hardest circumstances either of us have ever experienced, we are both so grateful for work.  Any work.  Even work that keeps us apart.

Our journey has humbled us tremendously.  We no longer treat money with disrespect.  Nor do we seek after it as if it is the goal.  We have grown up.  We want money because of what it can do for us, and what we can do with it.

In the last year we have been given countless gifts.  The neighbor who showed up with groceries when we weren't sure how we were going to pay our mortgage, much less buy food.  The friends who wrote checks to cover medical expenses so I could stay healthy and thrive, not just survive, during this season of being uninsured.  Parents who came to our aid through gifts and short-term work.  Anonymous church parishioners who asked our priests to give to a church family that needed it, without ever knowing our names or telling us theirs. 

Looking back, it's surprising that we were as poor as we were.  Why?  Because we lived life to the fullest.  Truly.  Every single thing we needed, and many things that we simply wanted, showed up at exactly the right moment.  If you had been watching from the outside, you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you we were on food stamps, and CHIP, and unemployment, all because we couldn't find work and had to rely on help from strangers in order to survive.

Along the way, our hearts changed.  We learned how to trust the One who truly provides (every good and perfect gift comes from Him, the Father of Lights...James 1:17).  Now, when I think about the bills to be paid or the expenses I know are coming, I don't fixate on how to find a way.  I don't look for what I can do or what Justin can do.  Instead, I truly know, with all of myself, that we will have what we need.  And worrying isn't going to change that fact one bit.  All I have to do is ask (Matthew 6:33).

That doesn't mean we don't work or try.  I do my best to be a Proverbs 31 mom.  I try to manage our household with precision and efficiency, but also with balance, choosing the occasional splurge as an act of faith that I don't have to stockpile in order to be okay.  Justin goes to work.  I work from home in the nooks and crannies of my day, doing odd jobs here and there.  We do our part, making ourselves ready and available to be a vessel of whatever gifts He chooses to give us.

Does that mean we weren't 'doing our part' during the unemployment season?  No.  It's not that black or white.  You can't say "welfare is wrong" or "self-sufficiency is good".  Both have their places, their shades of grey.  Though we certainly would have preferred to be working and providing for our family on our own, we wouldn't have been changed if we had done.

We wouldn't know - like we do now - that all of our hard work matters not if it's not for the One who created labor in the first place (Genesis 4:2). 

Everything we have, everything we are, is because of Him.  If I need something, He will provide it (Matthew 6:25-34).  There is no reason to worry.

There is no reason to worry.

There is no reason to worry.

I can imagine that many of you are hearing "but..." inside your own head right now.  Yes, circumstances don't always agree with what we know to be true.  That's the deal.  Our circumstances might never change, but our perspectives will.  If we let Him change them.  I promise you that.  If you give yourself over completely to Him, choosing to believe even when you don't have faith, He. will. show. up.

And if we do let Him change our perspectives, our circumstances won't matter as much.  We'll find joy in whatever moment in which we find ourselves.

So what will you believe in? Facts and experiences you can't control or promises you can trust?

I've never understood a certain verse from Scripture.  In fact, every time I read it - which is often - it sort of makes me angry.  It goes like this:

"The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing."
Psalm 34:10
"How can that be true?" I think to myself.  I know many people who seek the Lord but who, from our limited perspective anyway, seem to be lacking in lots of good things.  Food, only have to look abroad, or down the street, or next door, or in your own house, to know that not everyone is taken care of in the way that I would want, or you would want, or we would want.
But I'm not God, am I?  I don't see everything clearly. 
I still don't understand it all, but I can tell you this...I'm thankful for this season of poverty and lack. 
I'm thankful that I had to wonder how we would feed our kids and cry out to God with everything I had.  I'm thankful that I had to confess our situation to our neighbors, shattering any delusion of pride or plenty.  I'm thankful that I got to experience life from a different perspective, one I've heretofore only witnessed as an outside observer, sympathetic and condescending, even when I wasn't meaning to be.
I'm thankful that I had to get to the end of myself, again, in a way I never thought possible, because it's there that I once again found God.  And now I know Him far better.  What's more, I trust Him in ways I could never have imagined trusting.  I don't need to understand as much anymore; I simply need to believe.
So yes, the lions may go hungry, but they will also lack no. good. thing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Childlike Faith

Forgive me. 

I'm going to use rather common metaphors to illustrate some revelations God has been slowly working into my consciousness.  I hate over-used imagery, but it's what He's doing so here it is.

This morning, my three-year-old daughter Lilian strolled into my bedroom at 5:30.

Did you catch that?  5:30.  In the morning!

We normally wake up around 7 so I was, naturally, concerned.  What in the blankety-blank could she want at such an ungodly hour?

It turns out her need for me was legitimate.  There was a potty issue and a "my back hurts" issue and who knows what else.  It was pre-dawn, people; I had a hard time focusing.  Needless to say, I tended to her needs with bleary eyes and then pulled her into bed with me, shushing her so that she wouldn't wake up Big Brother (down the hall) or Daddy (one pillow over).  I informed her of the task at hand in one simple word: "sleep."

She's three, and she was up, so sleep was most definitely not her top priority.  But being with me was.  When I tried to get her to go back to her own bed, being way too tired to get up and carry her there myself, she politely refused, opting instead to snuggle under Mommy & Daddy's covers and pretend to sleep just so that she could be near us.

I drifted in and out of consciousness for the next thirty minutes until I finally rolled my you-know-what out of bed, but in my half-awake state I noticed one, simple thing.

My daughter has to be touching me.

Constantly.  Preferably with as much of her body as she can.  Arms, legs, fingertips, noses, name it, she crushed it up against me.  I was tickled, patted, snuggled, held, get the picture.  When I turned away from her (I was tired people!  Cut me some slack!), she would immediately snuggle up close and throw her arms around me, her tiny limb barely making over my mountain of a profile.

Even in my tired state, I thought, "that's pretty adorable."

And I also thought: "she sure knows how to get her needs met, doesn't she?"

This is something I've often thought about Lily.  If she needs something, she goes and gets it.  If she can't, then she'll either figure it out or find someone who can help her. 

Gunnar, my four-year-old son, also has no problem expressing his needs and wants.  He's just a little more dependent when it comes to getting them met.  He wants Mommy to do it for him, more often than not (thought that's changing as he gets older), but not Lily.  She's been like this since she was a baby.  A laid back, low key, get-her-done type of gal.  I really like that about her.

While I've reflected on this aspect of her personality a lot, I had yet to extrapolate to a greater truth.  Until this morning.  In the pre-dawn hours.  In my half-awake state.  In that moment, it hit me:

Children never apologize for their needs or wants.

And they never hesitate to ask me to meet or fulfill them.

Obviously, this made me think of God.  Am I that childlike with my Father?  Do I do whatever it takes to get close to Him, snuggling into the nooks and crannies of His frame with unashamed abandon?

But more than thinking of God, Lily's snuggles made me think of my human relationships.  It takes trust to put your needs and wants out there, to feel safe enough to express them without fearing reprisal.

My children don't think I'll make fun of them or deny them out of spite.  They expect me to take care of them.  What's more, they expect me to want to.

Do I expect the same of the people that love me, the people I love?  Am I willing to be so open that I am not self-conscious in how I relate to them?

I know I'm not.  I'm way too afraid.  What will they think of me?  Will they hate me, find me needy and annoying, think I'm self-centered, and, ultimately, grow so weary of taking care of me that they leave, in the name of something big and adult like 'boundaries'?*

Or will they - will I - love with abandon in a way that makes me go to the Lord to find the energy I need to give to those who need it?

I'm in a process with this.  Not sure exactly where I'll land, if anywhere.  It will probably continue to be a process.  But I know this morning's tangible picture of Lily smashed up against my backside with her arm thrown over my shoulder won't soon leave me.  When the time comes, and I really need it, will I be able to smash myself up against a friend or family member, giving and receiving love with all of myself?  I can only hope so.

*Just a quick note to clarify: I definitely believe in boundaries.  We need to be able to self-love in order to love outwardly.  But I also think we often put up too many roadblocks to authenticity and that, sometimes, we could use a little abandon where the boundary walls have become too thick.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today, because it's Tuesday.  :)

Ramblings & What Not


I'm supposed to write a post today.

Let me explain that: technically, I should write a post every Monday or Tuesday, so that it will be ready for my weekly link-up with the online community called Soli Deo Gloria.  Somehow, I never quite 'get her done' that early in the week, so here I am.

Furthermore, I'm "supposed" to write a post today because that's where I hear God leading.  I sat down with Him this morning, at my computer, as I do every Tuesday and Thursday, ready to work on my novel.  No.  Eager to work on my novel.  I'm loving the flow right now and can't wait to get to it whenever I have a spare moment.

(Side note: for those of you keeping track, I'm on revision two of my first novel.  I've written it, revised it, gotten feedback, and now I'm revising again.  This is the best iteration yet.  I really like it!  Woo-hoo!  Feel free to give a little cheer in my honor.)

So, back to my point, I sat down, ready to go, and heard the Lord say, "write a post."

Ugh, I thought. 

"About what?" I asked.  No clear answer, just the same voice I hear saying in my head, "write a post."

Now I realize that it's rather brave of me, if I do say so myself, to put out there, for the entire blog world to read, that I hear voices in my head.  (And what's more, I sometimes listen to them....)  But, I figure we all hear voices; we just don't normally talk about it out loud, to other people, who might think you're, you know, unbalanced.

Don't worry, I'm definitely unbalanced.  You don't have to wonder about it; I can just about guarantee it. 

That might be where I am, but it's not where I'm going.  I'm in a lifelong journey toward balance, a journey that involves seasons of pendulum swings, settled equilibrium, steps forward, leaps backward.  If I were to claim that I've achieved it, I'd be lieing.  I'm closer than I was but not as close as I can be.  How's that for clarity?

I seek balance because I truly believe that that's where God lives.  Some wouldn't agree with me.  They'd point out how radical Jesus was (is), and they'd be right as well.  They'd interpret the word 'balance' to mean compromise, 'tolerance' as relativism, and 'grace' as giving in.  We're supposed to fight for truth and justice, after all. 

Like I said, there are aspects of those interpretations that I agree with.  As Christians, we are called to stand up for something greater and not apologize for it.  But we can't pretend to understand it completely, to understand Him or this journey called Christen-dom.

Since we don't know everything, can't know everything, we have to be open to other ideas, interpretations.  We need to be genuinely sensitive to other perspectives, allowing for the possibility that we might not see the whole picture.  And we need to be willing to meet in the middle in order to function as a whole body, not a fractured one.

I guess when I talk about balance I'm not just referring to support, where beams must be placed strategically on all sides of a structure in order to make it stand upright.  And I'm not just referencing that 'happy place' between anger and euphoria, where one can receive what the world gives without becoming controlled by it. 

I'm speaking about a space of grace where not everything has to fit together and have its place.  A space where I can serve a radical, fierce God and a God that pulls me toward tolerance and grace.  A lover and a fighter all rolled into one. 

Ultimately, I'm talking about a place where I do not have to understand.  Where questions can go unanswered.  Where the unknown can remain unknown and I can be okay with it. 

Balance is a fluid place.   Like a tree that bends in the wind, we have to be willing to move in order to be able to stand.

In this space, faith prevails and grace abides.

So I don't have to know what to write about, exactly; I just have to write.

Where's your balance?  What does God call you toward that helps hold you upright in good times and bad?  Can you remain in a space of incongruities and simply let it be?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Yoga

I'm back.  I know, I've missed you too.  But, to be honest, I've stayed away on purpose.  There have been a few posts here and there, of course, just to let you know I'm alive, but I haven't been present.  Not really.  I've been avoiding you.  There.  I said it.  And that's the truth.


I'll tell you.  Since round-about July I've felt this little tug on my heart, the Holy Spirit gently pulling at the edges of me to do something I absolutely, positively do not want to do.  And since I didn't want to go where He is calling me, I simply avoided the issue altogether.  (You can't relate, can you?)

What was the tug?




There are things I don't talk about.  Things from my past that I, honestly, don't know how to talk about.  Not yet.  But I come here and I write and I of myself.  I package my pain and hide the truly awful parts behind the only sort-of embarrassing moments.  I let you see what I want you to see in a way that I know will impress.  You'll say, "wow, thank you for sharing," or, "thank you for being so vulnerable." 

I am being vulnerable, truthfully I am, but there's more.  There's more that I don't want to share.  There's more that is so painful, still, that I can't even go there inside my own head, much less in this completely public forum called a blog.

Last weekend I went to a retreat.  The Soli Deo Gloria retreat put on by my dear friend Jennifer Ferguson.  We're a community of female bloggers that link up every Tuesday.  Some of us also meet "boots on the ground" at Jen's Bible Study Monday mornings at St. Luke's on the Lake, Austin, Texas.  Some of us are just friends who became part of this group because another friend invited us.  Our purpose is to serve Christ and encourage one another.

The retreat blew me away, and I highly recommend that you join us - online, at church, or at our next gathering.  It's amazing what happens when we retreat, when we leave the noise of our lives and create a space to meet with God.  He loves community.  He loves vulnerability.  He loves to use us to help one another.  ("As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."  Proverbs 27:17)  If we stay in our hiddenness, we remain dull.

On Saturday afternoon at the retreat a wonderful woman from Ignite came in to lead us in a yoga class.  She led us through a series of postures, half of which help you physically open your chest to make room for your heart.  She kept saying, "lift your heart". 

I kept thinking, "I can't lift my heart to you, God, if I remain closed."  There has to be a willingness to become vulnerable for there to be space to reach for Him.

Interestingly enough, it's these poses in yoga that are the 'energetic' poses.  As I bent my head, shoulders, chest backwards, imagining my heart connected by a string to the ceiling above me, I could feel energy pulsing throughout my body.  It's when I let go and exposed my vulnerable place that strength coursed through me.

So, I will keep meeting you here.  I will try to be as authentic as possible, bringing all of myself into this space.  I'm sure it won't look pretty at times, I'm sure I will "fail" and be less than authentic, but I'll keep trying.  And I know that He will honor it, just as He does whenever we choose to trust in Him. 

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria this week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting Schooled



I'm all giddy with excitement today.  The kids are happily installed at their new preschool, and I'm alone - truly alone - for the first time in months.

Not that my husband didn't give me reprieves over the summer, for he certainly did.  There's a difference, though, in routine.  In knowing that they're where they're supposed to be, and I have no pressure to make it back in time to relieve my other half.

We prayed and prayed and prayed before putting them in preschool.  They've been in preschool or mom's day out since they were months old, but this year I particularly evaluated the choice.  I'm a stay-at-home mom.  We had already told last year's school we weren't coming back because we thought we were moving cities (which we aren't, by the way).  My husband is currently looking for work.  So, shouldn't they stay home full-time?

Logically, I thought the answer was yes.  Money is tight, and my heart is - has always been - to be their primary everything (including educator).  The decision was simple, hardly a decision at all.  But then I prayed.  And the unexpected popped into my brain.  St. Michael's.

Hmmm, I thought, what did you say?

St. Michael's, came the answer (as it would continue to come for many weeks of praying after that first day in late July).

St. Michael's is our church.  It's wonderful, and the preschool has an amazing reputation.  Beyond that, the preschool's approach to learning seems to be prefect for our son, in particular.  But, the school is relatively expensive, and it also happens to be thirty minutes away from our house.  One way.

So, more money on school that isn't necessary, and more money on gas, and less time for mommy to write, and am I abandoning my duty as a mom by putting them in school?  These are the thoughts that had me waffling on the decision for some weeks.  So, I asked again, what did you say?

Isn't it funny that God works like this?  I'm sharing this story because (a) I'm so excited that school has started again I can't help talking about it!  And, (b) there's a salient point here.

God sees the big picture; we don't.

God has the plan; we don't.

God tells us the next step; we need to take it.

I don't completely understand why we're at a new place - a place that seems totally beyond us, as if it's off the side of where we're standing instead of directly in front of us on the path we thought we were walking.  It will take a giant leap to get from where we are to this new spot over to the right.  A giant leap of faith, that is, because the rest, after all, is just details.

I don't quite get it, but, I also don't need to understand.  Because, I know God.  I know that He knows.  I find such confidence and, yes, JOY in that knowledge, that hope.  There are treasures here, in this new place, that He knows we will discover along the way.  That's part of my excitement as well.  We have left one season behind and started another, and that's always a fun adventure.

So, here's to new beginnings!  May yours be filled with the joy of discovery as well.  En-joy.

Linking up with my friends at Soli Deo Gloria today.  This is the last week to secure a discounted hotel room for the October retreat.  Don't forget!  We're going to have a great time, and you are invited!!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Eat well"

It must be the Lord.  I ran into a dear friend at the grocery store this morning.  We swapped stories about health struggles.  It turns out that (a) we both walk with them in our families daily; and (b) we both approach them via a mixture of western medicine & alternative approaches.  I was deeply encouraged to find another person who understands what my family has been going through in a real, true way.

Then, I happened over to a blog I've started following and read this:

Her story could be my own, except that I'm still trying to implement many of the changes she's already made.  I'm so grateful for this blogging friend.  She spurs me on.

So, in two ways today I am reminded of what the Lord said to me when I was at my lowest and conventional medicine was not helping.  

Quite simply, He said: "eat well."

I am reminded that I must keep seeking, keep experimenting, keep refining my approach.

I am reminded how the most complicated of unknown places often has the most simple way of becoming clear.  

The "real food" or "whole food" or "clean" eating movement is, ultimately, about decluttering.  It's about ending up where we should have started from all along.  It's about cleaning out the pantry of our motives - all those impetuses that move us forward - until what's left is pure, white, clean.  It's about laying down what we want or crave and picking up what we need.  It's about letting go of entitlement and instead choosing holy desire, which is where real fulfillment takes place.  

Once we've changed what drives us we'll change what we want.  And then, we can begin filling up those pantry shelves with real, life-sustaining food that will lead us to honor God not only with our lips, but with our bodies as well.

This is easier said than done.  It is, most definitely, a process.  A year and a half after that word - "eat well" - I'm not even close to being fully obedient.

But I'm trying.  I'm engaging.  And I'm so, so thankful He has called me here.

My prayer for you is that you don't have to face a health crisis to start making changes that will move you toward greater health.  My prayer for you is that you will experience conviction without crisis.  My prayer for you is for wholeness and integration in all areas of your life - the physical and metaphysical.

No matter how you get there, my prayer is that you - and we, all of us in this nation, actually - do get there...that we arrive at the conclusion that we cannot keep poisoning ourselves with food that is actually non-food...that we will, as a nation, shift toward local, sustainable, whole, not because it's trendy but because it's Godly.

That we will collectively choose what we actually hunger for and make a daily effort to "eat well."

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Only Hope

We suddenly find ourselves in a precarious situation in my household.  There has been surprising news, an unexpected turn of events, and disappointment.  The details are irrelevant.  The salient point can be found in the present.  We are, in a word, unstable.

As I lamented our instability last week, whining a bit to the Lord, I did what I always do when things seem to go awry: I pulled out my journal and my Bible.  "I have nowhere to go but to you," I thought. 

"But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you."  Psalm 39:7

As I went to Him, He reminded me that He had led me to this verse several times over the last few weeks.  The Word has certainly come alive in me this week; as plans are cut short and the future seems so uncertain, I can cling to this verse, this truth.

During the previous season of unemployment, an eight month period which ended in May, one lesson kept coming up over and over again.  "Live in the present."  It was as if God was waiting for us to finally get it, to truly live out Matthew 6:25-34.  I don't know if that stands up theologically, but I can tell you with certainty that was our experience.  He moved us from a place of worry about the future to peace in the present.  Our circumstances did not change until our understanding did, our perception, our belief.

And today?  After a week where our present has been shaken, yet again?  There is still peace (praise God!) because I look for Him, and find Him, in the present.  "I have nowhere to go but you" - my current mantra - can be rephrased as:

"There is absolutely nothing I can do about my situation."

- or - 

"I am powerless but you are powerful."

- or -

"You are my only hope."

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria tonight.  There's an exciting giveaway at Jen's place - be sure to check it out! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Ramblings

I've been away.  I miss ya'll.  So here I am, back and full of random thoughts....

It rained here again today (Austin, Texas is home).  It has officially rained every day this week.  In Austin.  In July.  I've lived here almost my whole life, and I can't remember the last time this happened.  Sunny summer storms.  It's beautiful, life-giving, refreshing.  And we need it.  Praise God for this provision.

I am busy at work on my novel this month (and working at Arbonne, and playing with the kids, and keeping the house).  I started writing it in February of 2011, finished the first draft in February 2012, and now I'm halfway through my first round of revisions.  By the time I finished the first draft I was so tired of it I could barely stand to read it. 

I gave it some space for about a month.  You know, room for both of us to breathe.  Much to my surprise and delight, when I went back to it I felt much better about it.  I actually liked it again and looked forward to entering the world of my beloved characters.  Since the 'season of space' we've had many wonderful days together.  They teach me as I inform them.  We form a healthy symbiosis in this habitat called writing. 

(For those of you who have asked for more details: the novel is a young adult fantasy fiction work.  It follows the lives of three protagonists: Tris, Iliana and Lara.  They live in the Empire of Mellock, where the Chief Elder has created an oppressive rule that keeps him at the center of everything.  He lives for power.  Masquerading as a benevolent leader, the Chief Elder holds the citizenry under his spell.  Only the three Chosen Ones and their friends in the Underground Resistance know the truth, and only they can fulfill the Prophecy to set humanity free.)

(Yes, it's the first book in a series....)

The rain has stopped, as quickly as it began.  An un-forecasted surprise for this Friday the 13th.  I'm glad it came.  The world is greener for it.

Did I mention that today is Friday Fun Day?  This is a tradition we started last spring, when my husband was unemployed.  He would spend all week looking for jobs for 10-12 hours/day.  The stress and tension of that life-space was affecting all of us, so, in a moment of divine inspiration, I decided that Fridays needed to be our Family Fun Days.

My husband started work last May - praise God! - but the tradition continues.  Today we went to the Austin Children's Museum:

Lily putting shingles on a roof...she loves building and moving; she's my busy bee

Gunnar and Lily learning about volume - the challenge is to fill up different containers with dried peas using a measuring cup, but before you do, you're supposed to guess which container will hold the most peas (or the greatest volume)

We had so much fun together today.  I was reminded that I have been too busy this week.  I have forgotten what it means to be a mommy.  I have forgotten my first love, my greatest calling (besides being a wife, of course).  I need to play with my kids.  Not drag them through errand after errand, not park them in front of the TV while I clean the house, not tell them to go play with eachother while I chat on the phone to friends....  Those choices are valid and must happen too, of course, but only sometimes.  The majority of my time should be spent on the floor, getting down and dirty with my toddler and preschooler.  That should be my default choice, not my last resort.

What prevents me from doing this?  Anxiety.  I get stressed out about all the things I need to get done.  Selfishness.  I put my needs first. 

But today I was reminded...when I put all of that stuff on a shelf, the anxiety dissipates.  I am so much more at rest when I choose to meet them on their level, to engage with what they want, to let them lead sometimes.

And, of course, when I'm operating out of rest (or an internal sabbath place), I ultimately get so much more done.  It all works out, whatever the 'it' of the day is....

Okay, I'm done rambling.  The sun has emerged from the passing storm cloud.  It's time to get back to my novel while the kids sleep.  I'm signing off now.

With love and affection for my blog friends, Jenny

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kid Lit

I'm still on a post writer's conference high.  The images and words from last weekend are swirling around in my head, heart, subconsciousness.  I love it.

I'm not ready to write yet.  Too much in there.  It needs to percolate before it can bubble over.

BUT, I miss ya'll, so I'm throwing something out into cyberspace.  Here it is:

What's your all-time favorite picture book, and why?

For more developed pontifications on life and God, visit Soli Deo Gloria!  Linking up with those lovely folks today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Watering the Garden

Let me first say, I miss ya'll!  I've tried to post several times in the last few weeks, but I'm always derailed by something (technical difficulties, the need to devote time to the novel, know, the usual).  But, here I am, and I'm so happy to be back.

I have a backlog of blog posts that are rolling around in my head, so forgive me if this is slightly incoherent.  Here goes....

I recently decided to volunteer at church by watering our garden once a week.  Let me give you some background here...I desperately want a garden.  I've tried to grow all sorts of stuff over the years: succulents, potted florals, vegetables.  Let's just say, my thumb is far from green.  Everything I try to grow dies a withered, dehydrated death.  My problem?  I always forget to water.

So, when I signed up to water, it was a leap of faith of sorts, backed by a sincere desire and decision to commit.  [When someone else is counting on me, I take things more seriously (sad to say).] 

Here's a picture of the garden with the Texas Hill Country in the background:

I love my church.  Some wonderful members decided we needed to grow an organic garden in order to augment our food bank.  So, not only do we have the only food bank in our church's neighborhood (a wealthy part of town...our food bank is almost always running low, ironically), we now have a thriving organic garden to go with it!  I love being part of a community, don't you? 

I never would have thought of this, never would have known how to make it happen, never would have been able to get these fruits to grow, and certainly never would have watered on my own every day. 

(For those of you who are interested, we split the watering seven ways - each taking one day/week - and we all check on the garden as we can.  We harvest once/month and deliver bags of fresh, organic produce to a sister Episcopal church in a poorer neighborhood in our city for their "neighbor to neighbor" food delivery program.  Here's a link to my church as well, just for kicks: St. Michael's Episcopal Austin.  If you want more info on doing this at your church, you could email Alice Hall.)

Back to my story.  I started watering mid-May.  These pictures are from my first week in the garden.  I haven't had my phone with me to take pictures since, but I sure do wish I had. 

The garden is thriving!  The tomato plants are literally pulling their trellises to the ground, they are so heavy with fruit.  The squash (the picture above) are trailing lush, gorgeous vines that overflow the bed.  In one week, the squash went from about the size of my first to the size of my two-year-old's head.  It was incredible!  The tomatoes went from the size of a quarter to the size of my fist.  It's awesome what consistent watering can do!

Since I've never spent any time in a real garden, I was amazed.  On my second Sunday, I ran back into church and dragged my whole family into the garden, showing them the peas, peppers, radishes, onions, mustard, leafy greens, and more.  They humored me as I discovered new delights under the foliage, wide-eyed and childlike.  I was so excited, so amazed, so...innocent.

Have you ever noticed how that happens?  How the discovery of unexpected gifts can delight and, ultimately, lead to childlike-ness?  Maybe not on the outside.  Maybe we receive a gift and act all cool and tough or...polite.  But deep down, if we'll allow ourselves to feel it, we're amazed when we are loved like that.  Amazed to see gifts literally unfolding right before our eyes.  Amazed that it's possible, that it's happening, that we're experiencing it.  It opens up a path into the childlike places in us, the places that never go away, no matter how old we become.

So, what have you watered today?  What places in your heart need those unexpected gifts - the kind that you don't believe are possible in your life, on your watch?  Where are the dry, withered, dehydrated places that God wants to bless, to flourish? 

I encourage you: spend a little time in your garden today and ask the Lord of the Harvest to send His rain. 

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria - stop by.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why is it always God, God, God?

About a week ago I tried to institute a new family tradition: communal Bible story reading followed by circle prayer time before night-nights.  My kids have outgrown their previous, more baby-ish routines, and it's gotten a little too hectic trying to do one routine with each kid, soooooo...this is the new plan.  For now.  We'll see how it goes.

Any-who, we were a few days into this plan, all four of us snuggled on the couch reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible (which I highly recommend), when my four-year-old son sighed and said:

"Mom, why is it always God, God, God?"  (Can't you just hear the exasperation in his voice?)

His question was completely straight-faced, but my husband and I couldn't help ourselves: we burst out laughing.  He laughed along with us but repeated himself, insistent:

"I mean, all over this book, it's God this and God that.  Where are all the superheroes?"

We answered in between our chuckles:

"It's the Bible - it's God's book.  So of course, God will be all over it."

"What do you mean, 'where are the superheroes?'  This whole book is full of superheroes!"

(And on and on....)

We laughed our way into bed, making comments to ourselves about the funny things kids say and so on.

But yet, the question has haunted me.  I can't get it out of my mind.

Why is it always God,  God, God?

You see, my son begs to read this Bible every night.  He sits enraptured, completely engrossed as I read the stories of God's redemption plan. 

Let me paint you a picture: he's a four-year-old who never stops moving, and yet, he sits perfectly still - and quiet, I might add - all the way to the end of the story.  (My two-year-old still climbs all over me during the process, but that's a different story.)

So why, when he begs for it, even asks me awesome questions each night when I'm finished reading, does he also get tired of the story and want to make it go away?

It's like a person who is holding out one arm, palm faced up and out in a "don't come near me" manner, while the other arm is bent at the elbow, its hand waving you closer.

This is the picture I've had as my son's question has echoed in my mind all week.

Another question - my own - follows: "why do we do that?  why do we push and pull against God like that?"

Because we all do it, don't we?  We all want Him, want His presence, His fruit, His glory, yet we also push Him away.  We make choices that place ourselves first, not Him.  We whine and complain when He asks us to do the hard things.  We get bored with Him, wanting something more exciting, like ______ (insert your distraction of choice...mine can sometimes be as simple as mind-numbing TV, honestly).

So I've been thinking about this all week, wondering if I want Him as much as I think I do.

But I've also been thinking about the way Gunnar keeps asking, and we keep reading, and he keeps listening.

No matter what we do or don't do, you see, it is always God, God, God. 

And we'll never stop hungering for that, will we?

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria - check it out!  There are some real treasures over at Jen's place.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm Alive

Yesterday at church our priest built his sermon around this central idea:

"Don't ask the question: 'what does the world need?'  Ask the question: 'what will it take for me to come alive?'  Because what the world needs is people who are alive."

He was weaving together the lectionary passages that talk about the Holy Spirit's active presence in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

I don't have a lot to say, really.  I just wanted to share what hit me as a profound thought:

"Don't ask the question: 'what does the world need?' Ask the question: 'what will it take for me to come alive?' Because what the world needs is people who are alive."

So, what will it take for you to come alive?

And, are you asking the right question?

Linking up with Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Right Path

This has been a big week.  Justin started his new job today (can I get a whoop, whoop!?!).  I'm into week three of my new job (selling Arbonne products, which I love - let me know if you want some!).  My kids have two weeks of preschool left before the (gasp) summer.  And I signed up for an agent consultation at the Texas Writers' League's Agents Conference.

Most importantly, however, I've been feeling good.  Great, actually.  My doctor added a second prescription, which seems to be really helping.

That's why it was a big bummer when I fainted last night.

No, that's an understatement.  I didn't just faint.  I was down and out.  (We almost went to the hospital - it was that bad.)

Then, this morning, during his first hours on the new job, Justin got the call that his beloved grandmother is dying. 

Needless to say, after dealing with a relatively major emergency last night and then getting a call about his grandmother this morning, we were...shall we say?...derailed.

The good news?  We've walked with God long enough to realize that this sometimes happens.  When you're walking on the path God has clearly made possible for you, the s*%t sometimes hits the fan (pardon the expression).

So here we are, walking the walk and loving it.  There's resistance, yes, distraction, yes, but there's also peace, perseverance, and, ultimately, great, great fulfillment.

I'm looking forward to seeing where our feet take us in this new season.  And I have to say, whatever comes: bring it on.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  I hear it's quite the party this week!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Best Birthday Ever...And It's Not Even My Birthday Yet

I turn 35 this Friday.  The celebrations began early.  They've been spread-out but low-key.  I can honestly say this has been the best birthday ever (and, already).  Why?  Because I've let go of control.

My typical birthday MO is to freak out ahead of time, pre-determine that there's no way the people who love me will fulfill my expectations, freak out some more, and decide to meet my own needs before anyone even has a chance to try.  Then, I normally get mad at those around me because they didn't meet my needs, and I had to do everything.  Like I always do.

I know...awesome.  What can I say?  I'm cool like that.

My birthday modis operandi is a microcosm of all my junk.  Lovely.

This year, however, it's been great.  People have asked me what I want.  I've told them.  And then, I've let it go.

And you know what?

It's all worked out.

All by itself.

With very little help from me.  And certainly without me controlling the whole process.

The result has been joy-filled, peaceful.  I've found every mini-celebration pleasurable, enjoyable.  It's been really nice.

And really easy.

And, I've gotten everything I wanted.  Every dream fulfilled, every desire met.  Already.  Before we've even gotten to the big day.

I wonder what analogy we could draw from that. I wonder what God is trying to show me through this significant shift in Jenny Roan Forgey's modis operandi.  I wonder what the future will hold.

I can tell you one thing for sure: I have no need to know, to plan, to control.  I have a lot of hope for the future, and great peace about it.  Whatever comes will come.  God will always be God, and He will always meet me where I am. 

I can trust that He fulfills my heart's desires, sometimes even earlier than expected.

And that's all I need to know.

Linking up with the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria, my blogging home away from home.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Slow Shattering

As I journal today I realize...this is a cycle repeated, a process reborn, relived, recycled.  I am where I was before, and it is good.

The previous decade was about men...romantic love...a savior in the form of some Prince Charming ideal.  This decade is about money...the belief that it saves...the hope that it will provide.

The thought occurs: how many of us (women in particular) live these cycles?  How many of us grow up waiting for, searching for, longing for these particular idols to save us?

I took my two-year-old daughter to see Beauty and the Beast in the theater last week.  And so it begins, the indoctrination.  Teaching her that she will be saved one day, romantically, by a prince who longs to do nothing but make her happy.

We left the theater and my husband was disgusted.  I teased him, telling him that he was supposed to be like the prince, his every desire focused on wooing me.  I said in my best flirty voice, "come on, honey; that's what I grew up longing for, won't you be my prince?"  He looked at me with a sad seriousness and angry determination: "we will not teach our daughter to long for that."

He's right, of course.  The Hollywood-ideal is untrue, both practically and spiritually.  Romance is not the point and love is not flowery in the end.  It is service...make-your-knees-bleed, get down and dirty, serve one another, that's what love is, making the hard choices no matter what you feel like doing, choosing eachother again and again because you have committed - before God and man - to love in both word and deed.  Love is hard, yes, but also so, so good.

There is a Prince, of course, a true Prince, the Prince of Peace.  He's whom I need to serve, not these idols of romance and money.  I write in my journal: "I will not depend on _____ to provide for us (our house selling, a job coming name it); I will depend on you."

It's confusing.  I mean, it seems logical to look to a job for money, right?, and to money for provision.  We need money to live.

Or, do we?

We've lived five months with next-to-no money, and, in many ways, we've lived a fuller life than we have in the previous five years of marriage.

My understanding is challenged, my preconceptions altered.  I decide to shift my stance just slightly and bow in a different direction, toward Christ Himself. 

It's in that subtle shift of directional thinking that I find Peace.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I have a picture in my head.  It's of my four-year-old son clinging to my leg in one of those "mommy, don't go!" moments.  We don't have them often anymore, but they do still happen.  He wraps his entire body around me, and I absolutely can...not...move until I disentangle myself.

[You should know something at this point: he's not little.  He weighs 52 pounds and is 45" tall.  (Yes, he just turned four in February!)  He has some heft, and he is very, very strong (future linebacker, anyone?).  So, when he wraps himself around me like a car around a lightpole, it's really quite a thing.  I have to brace myself not to fall over right there on the spot.]

And if he's feeling scared or insecure in any way...well, you can forget about it.  I usually just find a way to get to the ground without sitting on his head and let him curl up in my arms for a minute.  (He is definitely a "physical touch" love language kind of dude...if he needs comfort, it's all about holding him.)  This can get tricky if I'm holding a bag of groceries, but, well, the things we do for love, right?

And that's what this is all about.  I might be in a hurry, embarrassed, annoyed, impatient, or whatever, when my little guy decides he just...plain...needs me, but the only response is love.  If I can get past the fruit (the whiny, clingy, needy behavior), I can get to the root: he needs me to love him in that moment.  He needs me to speak to his heart.

Once I see that, I can fill him up. 

But that's not why I've been walking around with this picture in my head.  Nope, that would be too easy.

It would be too easy to stop at the part that is all about him.  It would be too easy to stop just short of reflecting on how I could stand to learn from his behavior.

So I've been thinking.  And seeing.  And pondering. 

Do I cling enough?

Do I cry out to God, giving him all the mixed-up, coming-out-sideways emotions in whatever way they choose to come out in the moment, not really caring about how He's going to respond because all I know is I need Him?

Do I throw myself at His feet and hold on for dear life, especially when I feel insecure about what's happening around me?

Do I put myself under His shadow, letting His tall frame cover over me?

In short, when I most need to, do I cling?

Life has been a little challenging lately.  A few weeks ago my husband and I felt like we got a glimpse of the promised land - that God was taking us out of a really challenging season and releasing us into a place flowing with milk and honey.

But then all of a sudden we couldn't see it anymore.  Everything fell apart.  Everything got hard.  We began to doubt.  Had we heard God at all?  What were we doing?  Why is this suddenly so hard - does that mean we're doing the wrong thing? 

The world was spinning, and I began to spin right along with it.  To my shame, I reacted the way the Israelites did in the desert: with grumbling and outright yelling at God.  I did not react with the faith of Joshua when I saw the giants before me (see Numbers).  Unfortunately, I got bitter.

And then my four-year-old teaches me a lesson.  He gives me a picture of clinging. 

I want to get better at it.  I want to run to God, not because of what He has or has not promised, has or has not delivered on.  I want to run to God because there's absolutely nowhere else for me to run.  I want to cling to Him because there is no one I trust more. 

I want to believe that He is my greatest source of safety, comfort, love, and act like it by clinging to Him instead of waving my fist in the air, blaming Him for whatever's happening or not happening in the moment.

I'm so thankful for my children (for all children, really, but I am partial to my own, I admit!).  They teach me such invaluable lessons.

The next time one of yours has your leg in a wrestling hold and all you want to do is die of embarrassment, remember the picture they're giving you.  Receive it as a gift.  Use it to examine your own level of clinginess.  Are you there yet, in that unembarrassed, full-flung, completely out-of-control place that is reserved especially for parents?  Do you treat your Heavenly Father that way?

I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it, lowering my fist and opening my arms for a good, firm cling.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


So, if you know me, or if you've read me for a while, you know that I like to swim.  It's actually the only form of exercise I can do at the moment that doesn't completely send me into the toilet energy-wise.  I can crank a little bit and feel stronger, rather than trashed, when I'm in the pool.  This, I like-y.

Obviously, today's post was born in the pool.  Swimming always gives me perspective.  I get my head on straight in there.  For my best friend, Jen, this happens while running (often, not always).  For my husband, this happens when he gets to do something fun.  For me, I need the pool, watching the lane line pass by, listening to my breathing as I blow it out, stretching the stroke and feeling my muscles expand, contract, reach, pull, expand, contract.  I love it.

Last week - in the, ahem, pool - I had this thought:

"I'm so much stronger than I used to be."

Then came my second thought:

"Wow, I could have totally looked at that differently."

Then came my third thought:

"It's all about perspective, isn't it?"

Here's the basic gist of how that comes together.  In May 2010 I became very, very sick.  So sick that by November 2010 I was barely functional.  Sleep-walking, I would call it.  I had absolutely no energy.  I took long, "she's totally passed out" naps during the day.  I would sit on the couch and watch my toddlers play, helpless to join in the fun.  I couldn't cook, clean, work.  I could barely lift my arms, much less think straight or remember things.  I fell asleep every night by 8 and would wake up feeling like I hadn't slept.  And through it all, the weird symptom that's been going on since 2007 kept rearing its ugly head.  In other words, I kept fainting.

By January 2011 my PCP figured out that my body produces (basically) no cortisol, a hormone that's essential for all life functions.  By March 2011, thanks to a team that included my primary doctor, my naturopathic doctor, and my endocrinologist, I had a plan as to how to get better.  As most of you know, that plan included everything from drugs to diet changes to lifestyle changes (no stressors allowed!).

I started feeling better.  I would have good days and bad days but, slowly, I got stronger.  The change was minimal, however, and kind of depressing, especially since I kept fainting.

It wasn't until this past Christmas that things seemed to shift significantly.  For whatever reason (I believe it's because I removed a major psychological stressor from my life), I suddenly started to feel significantly better.  I no longer needed afternoon naps.  In fact, when I would lay down to take one, I actually couldn't fall asleep.  Overall I felt less fatigued and had more energy, more mental clarity, more memory recall. 

Occasionally I found myself running - yes, I did say running - with my four- and two-year-old, chasing them through the house or around the backyard. 

I kept fainting.  I'm still fainting.  But, it's been six weeks now, and I'm much, much better in all other respects.  So, when I was swimming, and I cranked through a workout that would have left me utterly ravished only three months earlier, I noticed.

I took note of the change and thanked God for it.

I did not think: "dang, I still can't _____ (insert goal here)" or "geez, I wish I could _____ (insert dream here)."

I chose a different perspective.  One of thanksgiving.  And in the moment, I was even thankful for that choice.  Because that's all it is, friends, a choice.

Today, my friend Jen texted me with Numbers 13-14:9.  She said she thought I was supposed to read it.  I did and smiled to myself.  There are many things in that passage that are relevant to where I'm at, but the one phrase that rang through my mind - again - was this:

"It's all about perspective, isn't it?"

So, I invite you to choose to see well this day.  I know you will be thankful for it.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.  Be sure to check out all these other awesome ladies.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raising Godly Friends

Last Sunday I was catching up on old blog posts when I came across a post on friendship, written by a dear friend of mine.  It stirred up so many "to be processed later when I have more time" places in me that I thought I would share it with my friends for the Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday linkup.

Here's a teaser with a link to her site...enjoy!


I used to love hanging out with my friends. Elementary school, Junior High, High School, College are years filled with fun moments of riding bikes, watching movies, sharing pizza, and lots of time sitting in a den or park just sharing our hearts. How I love my friends.

In those same years, I can remember the feelings of insecurity, competitiveness, petty disagreements, and pretty small sighted values, including, the newest band, the clothes du jour, and the way to get around the tethers of our families.

Friends can meet a deep need to feel connected to another soul. There can be laughter, hope, encouragement, acceptance, and a sense of knowing and being known.

They can likewise, create a lowest common denominator experience, where fun withers into friction or worse, unfavorable foci's. Where group think removes conscience or at least lulls participants into homogeneous agreement to not make waves.

For more, click here.

And don't forget to stop by the link-up...Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Working it Out

Transition is a tricky thing.  I feel off-balance, which makes me annoyed.  Very annoyed, actually, and kind of a pill to be around.

I asked my husband if he needed my help this morning (you know, trying to pack our house with his arm in a sling might be a little challenging).  His response?

"I need you to go do whatever you need to do in order to recharge" (my paraphrase).

In other words, get the grumpies out.

I'm trying.  I promise, I'm trying.  But they don't seem to want to go away.  It's been weeks now.  At first, I blamed it on stress, then sickness, then fatigue.  I'm running out of places to look, so, this morning, I looked inward.

Am I in sin? I asked God.  Why can I not find a place of peace or joy?

Sometimes (I know this from experience) He will answer that first question with a 'yes', pointing out the sin and giving an opportunity for repentance.  I was hoping for that, in a way.  It would have been easier than this weird no-man's land I'm wandering through.  But instead, I heard one word: "attack."

I think this transition is important.  I think God is reordering some things (see Upside Down and Inside Out).  And I think, somebody doesn't like it.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; ...."  John 10:10, NIV

So, the question becomes, how do I respond? 

In my youth I would have taken on the enemy head-on, focusing a lot of myself on the battle.  Now, I don't, I simply don't have the energy for that.  There's something very liberating about that realization/admission.

It's not about me, my understanding of truth, my ability to fight it out.

It's about Him.  Who He is and how He is and what place He holds in my life.

The second part of that verse in John holds the key: "...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

My life is because He has come.  My life will be full (of joy, of peace) because of His presence in it.  So, instead of focusing on the enemy, on the battle, I'm focusing on Him.  Gritting my teeth and grinding it out by reading Scripture and praying and taking thoughts captive, turning my eyes from one view of the world to another as the storm passes overhead, hunkering down in the darkness while waiting for the light.

As I do, I thank God that none of this depends on my strength.  Sometimes He calls us to stand beside Him and engage in the fight.  But other times (more times, I think), He waits for us to lay down in submission and let Him. So, I submit, I bow down, I wait.  As a friend pointed out this morning, Psalm 130 is the order of the day during this transition.  Amen, come Lord Jesus.