Hope Rises

It was just about the time the rooster crows.  My alarm beckoned me out of warm flannel sheets and I headed straight for a quick shower.  I’d come home at dusk from sitting at the hospital with my grandpa.  My body and heart were still tired.  But duty called.  Rylee woke herself at the same time but headed straight out to check on the latest goat mama due.  Just as I was pumping shampoo she burst into the bathroom.  “Babies born in the night, mama, hurry….this one, it’s not doing good.”  I grabbed a towel and shot out of the shower to find her holding a terribly limp and freezing cold tiny baby goat.  It was hardly breathing.  Tiny nostrils flared ever so slightly.  It did not move.  I wrapped it in my bath towel and ran for clothing and the heater.  We rubbed its little fuzzy body and held her close.

We woke two more (human) kids and took turns rubbing and warming and hoping.  Too cold to even shiver, she just laid there at our mercy.  She’d been born fourth.  Mama had obviously attended well to the first three babies and they were licked clean and placed proper under the heat lamp that was there for an impromptu night birth just like this one.  But one hadn’t made it there.  Had been left for dead by the door to the pen on the cold ground.

The morning chores were quickly stacking up, goats to milk, bottles to feed to the older babies, three more babies to check on outside, kids hungry for breakfast, coffee to be had.  I’m fairly sure I offered everyone tortillas for breakfast and a kind husband made me coffee.  Rylee whispered, “can we call her Hope?”.  I smiled my yes and knew that even if she wouldn’t make it, she still ought to be named.  We brought her downstairs and held her close and dropped milk into her weak mouth and hoped she would be strong enough to swallow.

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Everyone sort of held their breath.  Slowly her eyes opened.  Nearly every pair of hands loved on her, quietly willing her to live.  Cautious optimism brimmed.  All eyes on Hope.

Hope is the stalwart strength that draws us up to face another day.  Hope is believing that your invisible sacrifice of love is being poured out into something worthwhile regardless of the payoff or lack-thereof.  Hope is trying again when you want to give up.  Hope is living out your promises and defying all odds in the process.  Hope is believing greater things than we can imagine are in progress, seen and unseen.

Hope is acknowledging what might yet be.

Her official registered farm name will be “Little Foot MM Hope Rises”.  Long name for such a little thing.  It’s true.  But it couldn’t be more fitting.

Broken pieces and forgiveness

It’s a perfectly normal rainy fall Thursday.  Kids plugging away at school work.  Mom realizing we’re nearly out of coffee which is a pretty big crisis.  At least a dozen other staples are at a near gone level as well.  My efforts to stretch out Costco trips has probably been taken a bit too far.  I head for the door and promise a treat for the ones who have to stay home.  I bring one son with me since he’s my best muscle help, loves loading and unloading and scouting for our list items.  I run back in and ask a daughter to come too, she declines and says she wants to do math instead.  When I get outside, the car is one resounding sob.  A precious little book that had been carefully tucked away, one with stamped pages collected from geocaching with Dad, it had been found.  By an unruly four year old brother.  And every page scribbled and drawn on.  Deemed a total loss.  Pages were ripped out in frustration and the little books pages were strewn everywhere.  “It was so SPECIAL!!” he’s weeping and I tell him I’m sorry and I know we can replace it or fix it or make it better.  The brother says sorry but its a four-year-old sorry and it doesn’t heal or help.  At all.

We depart despite the trauma and get out to the main road.  I’ve answered a call from my mother and am catching up a bit with her when I hear a loud crash in my van.  I look back.  The back window is missing.  I’m driving down a super steep hill.  I pull safely to the side.  I get out and look for clues.  I’m completely baffled.  And more than a little scared.  The not knowing what is happening.  It’s an awful feeling.  I look inside the hole where my window used to be.  There is a harmless looking grocery sack.  Nothing else.  I look closer without cutting myself.  There is a rock much bigger than my fist in the bag.  And other various beach treasures that had been collected somewhere and left in the van.  A rock big enough to shatter my window into hundreds of little pieces.

He meets my gaze.  He stammers and mumbles about not knowing what was in the bag.  In his feeling-deeply moment, he probably didn’t, its true.  He was overwhelmed with feeling and he tossed the bag back without a second thought.  I look long at him.  I don’t ask why.  He’s just now calculating what he has done.  And a new tide of emotion rushes in.  Fear.  Unchecked remorse.  An unbearable sense of “why in the world did I do this?”.  I watch him and I silently get my keys and get back in the van.  I dial our treasured car repair man, I’m more than lip quivering at this point, I tell him what happened and ask him to help me.  He gives me a number of a man who does just this and I call him before we even reach the house.  Of course he can fix it he tell me, and my tears cover my phone.   I find Audrey and hold her so tight it hurts.  The bag of rocks flew over her seat.  If she’d come when I invited her to, she would have been directly in its haphazard path.  The “what if…” catches in my throat and I can’t breathe or speak or cry or move.

The road is covered with glass.  I’m not the sort who can just leave it there.  So I pick up a dustpan and broom and drive back to the street where it broke.  He watches for cars, blazing over the hill at 40 mph and alerts me to their coming while I kneel on the asphalt and sweep one shard after another into a pan.  He holds the bag as I dump load after load in.  He is shaking.  The rain begins.  I give him my sweater and crouch on the road in a tee shirt quickly soaking.   I consciously breathe in and out and I hear the truth ringing in my head, in my heart.

Jesus meets me right here.  On the road.  In damp jeans with my tattered heart.  Picking up the mess of someone else’s wrong choice.  It’s more than a whisper, it’s the clearest thing ever.  This.  This is what I do for you all the time.  I pick up the pieces.  I enter in to your mess, even if it is risky.  And I love you there.  I offer you forgiveness.  Grace.  And I never stop.  You can’t outrun my unrelenting love for you.  And you get to extend it.  Right now.  In this moment.  With your own son.  

He keeps saying softly, “I’m so sorry mom”.  I finish sweeping and turn to him.  I wrap him up in the rain.  I hold him for a long time on the sidewalk. I speak life and forgiveness and love.  In a season when I feel like I’m messing up a fair bit, every day, can’t get anything “just right”…I get the chance to do this.  This one thing right.  To respond the way God responds to my (daily) mess.  To practice what it looks like to say:

Yep.  You did quite a thing here.  Epic poor choice.  But here I am.  My love for you won’t stop, won’t quit.  I choose to love you in this moment.  You are forgiven.

I can hardly get my body into the house when we return.  My legs won’t stop shaking.  My insides quiver.  The kids sit quiet and make lunch for each other.  I bring them to the computer, show them this video.  We talk forgiveness.  How God offers it.  Freely.  Unceasingly.  In the purest, most genuine way.  How this is what makes the way of Jesus a different path.  A radical one.  And I pray silent for another chance to show them.  To forgive fully and to love well.

 

What every tween girl needs to know

She’s almost twelve.  This lovely, sweet oldest child of mine.  She is leaps and bounds more delightful than my 12 year old counterpart.  I think of my twelve year old self and shudder.  My poor parents.  But that’s another story.  I have to write down this story from today before I forget because it matters too much not to remember…

Dear precious daughter,

I don’t want you to forget, so I’m writing you this letter.  It might not have seemed like the sort of day you need to remember.  But you’ve got to trust me and know that my thirty-five years have left me knowing more each year how only a few things in life actually matter.  It started a Monday like any other.  But with some changes in the girl dynamics of the co-op we attend every week.  You need to know, I saw you.  I saw you hold back and make room for someone new.  I saw you watch things all shift and everyone struggle to find their place.  You probably think I didn’t notice.  You probably felt like it seemed silly how deeply you felt the change and how hard it was, how hard it is when things go from something comfortable and familiar to something different and new and all in one day.  Daughter, it isn’t silly and your ability to feel deep things, is a God-given wonder.  You may question that in years to come.  I surely have.  You’ll have to learn to trust that it is part of your intentional, purposeful design.  You will get to figure out for yourself that no slew of emotions, no amount of irrational, hormonal talk is too much for God to handle.  I will drive you nuts sometimes and I won’t say the right thing.  I may make you wonder if I really ever was young once in my trying-to-be-wise mother speak.

My mama heart hurt as I stood back, knowing you girls would all need to find your way today.  You were gracious and good.  But I saw your heart and it was sad, I knew.  At lunch time I got a text from a friend asking you for a sleepover, tonight, a school night.  The rule-following mother in me wanted to say “no way, it’s a school night!”.  But the tender hearted, receiver-of-God’s-extravagent-love mother knew the only answer was yes.  So I shot a one-word text back, “yes”, until I had a break and could write more.  We drove home in quiet.  You walked into the kitchen and I wrapped my arms around you.  I held your head close and whispered these words I want you never to forget…

God loves you so much girl.  He cares about every. tiny. detail.  He saw your day and he knows it wasn’t easy.  Your heart matters to him.

So much so that he has gifted you a sleepover this very night with your beloved friend, I told you.  I felt your tears on my cheek as the words soaked in.  Mine joined yours and I held you tight.  It’s true.  You’ll wonder and doubt if it is and that’s okay.  The emotions, the complicated, beautiful mystery of being a woman can feel like a burden not a blessing some days, months, years.  You will feel what seems at times too much, too deeply and relationships will dizzy your heart and mind.  Things that were once one way will be another.  Friends will disappoint and disagree.  Imperfect people will say or do things that break your heart.  It is the way of a broken humankind in radical need of a perfect, saving One.

As you got in the car tonight with your sweet friend, I looked up to the fickle sky.  I grinned.  The dark, rainy sky had met the sun.  And over the trees full of flaming autumn leaves sat a perfect, brilliant rainbow.  It took my breathe away.  The promises of God wrapped up in one physicial reminder that He knew we would always need.  We would need to know

He

is

always

here.

It felt like it was just for you as you drove down the road literally right under the rainbow as I watched from the front porch.  It is in the grey places of pain and loss and change that we get to see the rainbow beauty.   So precious one, remember today, this plain ordinary Monday where the God of the universe reached down into your life and showed you a glimpse of His heart for you.  Oh how He loves you, I said quietly as you walked away.  And He does.  Sometimes it will be quiet and hidden and small.  Then sometimes it will be magnificent and unmistakable.  He will show you a million different ways as you journey through life.  And I’ll be right here, praying you can see and feel His incredible, beyond words love for your one-of-a-kind self.

Life with you in it is such a gift.

All my love,

your Mama

Update – Missions Mondays recipe

I found my recipe to share with you!  If you want the full story, scroll down two posts to read the original Missions Monday post.  Here is the way I make the meal packets:

1 cup brown short grain rice

1/2 cup brown lentils

3T chicken broth powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

a pinch of salt

Store in glass jar or ziploc bag.

With each packet, these are the cooking instructions – for our family of 8 we make two at a time:

Put 1 Tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan.

Dump in “meal mix” (whole bag), saute for a minute on low/medium heat

to warm and awaken the spices.

Add 3 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil,

cover, turn to low, simmer 45-50 minutes until most all water is absorbed.

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Mission Mondays at our home

We’d waited and prayed for a long while for something new for our beloved brother-in-law to open up.  His and my sisters’ heart for the marginalized and orphaned has only grown these past few years.  So when he was asked to come on board with Children of the Nations, a non-profit that we already knew and loved, we could not have been more thrilled.  And we wanted to be behind them in this faith venture in every way.  As we talked about how to support them, knowing we already had our “give”  dollars going several different directions, I sat down and talked with our kids.  I told them how much an average dinner cost me to cook for our family of eight.

We talked about the Children of the Nations (COTN) meal packing events that we’d attended several times.  Their faces lit up as usual and they bantered about how much fun it is to pack meals packs.  COTN hosts these events to raise awareness and give people here on wealthy American soil an opportunity to do more than simply write a check.  They are high energy and always fun.  They’ve provided a fantastic conversation starter for our family multiple times to talk about how we can do more to share the love of Christ in tangible ways.  I asked our kids, what do you guys think about eating the COTN meal – lentils, spice, chicken and rice – one night a week to free up some grocery funds.    They said a quick and hearty yes.  I perfected my own rendition of the COTN meal pack.  My kids were the testers, telling me to STOP and not make any changes once the ratio was right.

So began Mission Mondays at our house.  For no other reason than it was catchy so we picked Monday.  The kids actually offered to eat the meal twice a week.  I told them we’d start with one so we didn’t tire of it.  But then quickly caught myself.  Because the very real reality of the meal packs is that the recipients of the very simple food are content, dare I say crazy thankful for the food being provided for them.  They would pale at a glimpse inside my organized pantry, well stocked for an emergency and a half dozen constantly hungry kids.  And my kids, truth be told, sometimes don’t “feel like” eating anything in said pantry.  Which is the double blessing of this weekly simple meal.  It is a continual reminder of the bounty we live within.  The basic comforts like grocery stores on every corner full of fresh food and a dizzying amount of culinary options.

Our Monday night table discussion centers around someone we know serving somewhere in the world.  It’s no organized sort of thing.  Just hearts that want to be aware and tuned in to the heart of God that beats for the orphans, widows and the poor.  I always fight the urge to provide side dishes to the lentils and rice and simply serve the dish alone and everyone gets perfectly fed and full eating it.

…fast forward a bit to July this summer….we hosted a creation camp here at the house for a wonderful group of kids, all sorts of kids.  It was one of those hallowed things you get to do and it almost pushes you over the top but when its over you can hardly catch your breath and you know, just know, that it was holy and beautiful and not to be missed.  We have this crazy awesome, so-not-in-the-box pastor who came to play guitar and lead singing (and hang up tarps in the pouring rain!):

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On our last day of creation camp, I talked about how we were created to reflect God to others, that we get to reflect his image and how completely incredible that is.  Part of that is having the responsibility to be generous givers and ones who love others well, especially those in need.  So I shared with them about COTN and the meals they bring and hope that a simple meal is to children who are starving.  We then headed inside to prepare meal packets for everyone to take home with them so they could, maybe, start their own traditions and perhaps set aside some of their extra to share and give in some way.  At one point there were 52 people inside the walls of our house.  It was, literally, the only rainy week the entire summer.  So our outdoor on the lawn activity all had to happen inside and cozy!  It was insane.  And so loud.  And incredible.  I hope and pray that this is one little way we can be mindful of the things that matter.

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Grace upon grace

He left the dinner table quietly, no big to-do.  Just abandoned his favorite piece of meat to sit there and get cold.  When there are seven people at the table, too many of them talking at once, its easy for the easily overwhelmed to want some space.  We keep trying to use the metaphor of a car and when too many cars go at once you have one giant wreck.  Same sort of thing with dinner conversation – but its not sinking in too well.  We’re a work in progress.  I quickly cleaned my plate, not taking the time to be thankful for this beautiful roasted chicken that we raised ourselves or the crunchy cucumbers that grew just outside the back window despite my dismal lack of weeding and forgetting to water them half the time.

I run upstairs and peek inside his door.  He’s laying on the floor with pillows.  I ask him why he left and what’s wrong.  Its been another bad day – he tells me.  I fight the urge to list all the reasons why it was actually a great day…we painted the barn, we got a new goat, and so on.  I listen.  It’s just always another bad day.  I ask what makes it not good instead of disagreeing with him.  I lay down on the floor and wait.  He thinks about it.  Because I do what I don’t want to do and I get in trouble, again.  And my heart hurts and I slowly explain that he’s not the only one.  He may well be one of few boys his age who is so tremendously, keenly aware of this.  I tell him that his mama laying on the carpet there struggles the very same way.

Why? He asks.  He wants to know why its so hard to not get upset when things don’t go how he expects.  Why its so hard to respond well.  And before he gets one step further and thinks he’s the only one this is hard for, I lay it out real clear.  I want to love you well, love you perfectly, never let you down, never get mad at the wrong moment in the wrong way, lead you in wisdom and lavish you with grace, I tell him.  But I mess up all the time, I’m never going to get it just right and there are plenty of days where I feel exactly the same way…its another bad day and I can’t get anything right.  He turns his head and looks at me and sizes me up like ten year olds sure can and he’s hearing every word.  I hope beyond hope that he actually hears my heart oozing through my words and knows that I mean it.

The verse I read this week in John and got tripped up on and can’t seem to read past but can only read again, and again, is this:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. – John 1:16

Just a few words, but honestly I can’t get to chapter 2.  If the way of Jesus is grace upon grace then my way at home with these half a dozen kids is meant to reflect that.  And this year here has been tough and I’m bone tired from not one solid night of sleep in just about exactly a year and I wonder where the grace went some days and how I could love so insufficiently when the love God gives is so complete and perfect and enough.  He loves me well.  Every single day.  His patience with my imperfection and inadequacy is chock full of grace while at the same time beckoning me forward with his truth.

We talk about grace on the floor of his room and we both cry as we realize the common ground of our faults and how much we want to grow.  We pray.  And he sits with his head on my shoulder for a long time.  Hoping, even if tenuously so, that this year will be a more gracious one.

Beautiful redemption

It’s been almost three weeks and I can just now sit down to put words to this story.  Sometimes it takes time to digest something enough to put it to paper.

They bounded in the back door from camping, my three sons, the first Saturday in August.  It had been quiet without their boisterous selves for nearly 24 hours.  But they’d had a mission: Daddy Cousin Campout 2014.  It was the third year running and not to be missed.  The first night was all boys (our three and my sisters’ one) and the second was a trade, all the girls (our two and my sisters’ one).

The first words out of their mouth in the kitchen were loud and crashed over me.  Something about a train and Caleb and running and Finn screaming.  I told them that wasn’t funny, not to joke about it but they assured me it was no joke.  I looked to the Daddy for confirmation that they were indeed serious and he nodded yes, that he had waited until they were home to tell me and that it wasn’t something to share over text or phone.

There was a flurry of activity and the girls were whisked away for their adventure and I was left with my boys.  Tired and dirty and eager to tell the story.  Over and over again.  Like their little minds needed to say it out loud to process the reality of it.  I sat down and gave them my full attention as they relayed the story.

They’d arrived at camp the night before.  The two dads set up the tent and the boys asked for coins to put on the train tracks they’d discovered near their camp site.  They said yes and the boys went to place the pennies on the tracks.  While they were there, Caleb “looked up and saw three lights coming” so he hollered for them to run down the rocky slope to the trees.  The train approach was around a bend, so the sound from afar to warn of its impending arrival was buffered until it was very close.

The three oldest boys ran down the slope away from the tracks.  The conductor saw my children immediately and started blowing the whistle to clear the tracks, to run.  Which they were doing, except for Finn.  He was scared spitless.  He was paralyzed with fear.  He stood there screaming while the other three boys ran.  When Caleb reached the bottom, he looked up to see his brother at the track.  Without hesitation he ran back up the little hill and grabbed 37 pound three year old Finn and toted him down the rocks.  He only made it halfway down before the train was upon them, so he stopped and they hid under a large rock until it passed.  That’s when the daddies arrived.  They’d come running in an instant when they heard the whistle.

But the stark clear reality was that if Caleb had not moved so swiftly, so bravely…the result could have been catastrophic.

As each day passed they processed a bit more, Caleb told me days later “You know what is so strange mom?  When I picked up Finn, he felt light, like holding a baby.  And usually he is so heavy we can barely lift him!”.  I cried as I explained how God does that, gives strength or ability beyond explanation in certain situations.

Finn would wake up and go to sleep wanting to tell the story, the same succinct unchanging story each time.  How Caleb saw him, how Caleb ran up the hill, how the train was so loud, how scared he was and how they hid under the rock.

Last week Caleb came down stairs well after bed time, to find me in the kitchen an hour after I’d gone to bed.  He asked why I couldn’t sleep.  I told him the honest truth that every night when I laid down I replayed the whole event in my mind and then it would take me hours to go to sleep.  His lip quivered as he listened to me tell him again, “thank you for saving Finn”.  And we stood in the kitchen wrapped up in a big hug weeping for a very long while.

I am proud of my son.  The same son who a year ago nearly to the day made one poor judgment call and stabbed a steak knife into the grass after dinner just to see how far it would go.  A decision that would cost him dearly.  The tendon severed in his finger which would require hours of surgery to repair…“it’s like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube” the surgeon said.   A cast from fingertip to shoulder for the last precious weeks of summer, including the state fair and the first month of school.  It was months of a sort of sad frustration that he wore, knowing exactly how he’d wound up where he was.  It was days of him getting the mail and seeing bill after bill and asking “is this from my surgery too?”.  I can’t honestly put words to how it broke him, the whole thing.  It was devastating and he felt the weight of it so deeply.  It took a solid six months before he began to find his way forward.

The beautiful, stunning redemptive nature of it all was not lost on me.  As I told the story to a friend and we choked tears through the phone she whispered it’s almost exactly a year after his surgery.  And it was.  We don’t get the luxury of being privy to the secret ways of God.  We don’t get to know how he plans to work and shape and rescue us.  We simply get a choice.  To trust who he is and to believe he will work all things for good.

Like my mom did, when she heard our husbands were taking the kids camping at this particular campground.  She and my dad had scoped it out three years ago for a potential family camping trip.  They quickly deemed it unfit for a bunch of small kids.  But we didn’t know that, we simply ended up camping elsewhere that year.  So when she got word about the campground selection, she went to the Lord in prayer, asked him what to do before telling us it wasn’t a good choice.  He simply directed her to pray.  And pray she did.  She prayed her grandma heart out as our kids headed out for their weekend.  She prayed fervently for God’s protection and silently believed that the God she loved would watch over her precious grandchildren.

He did.  And in so doing, he gave our son this story that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.  A story of courage and bravery and heroism really, in my book at least.  A story that I will not forget, nor will my children forget, ever.

 

Pressing on

She picks pieces of clover and sits while I talk.  Her wordless tears had told me that all she wanted was to stand at the fence next to the goats.  So I set her there and turn over a water bucket and sit down.  As she chews grass I pour out my full, raw heart.  Earlier today, when I looked at the calendar my heart started to panic.  I’m not prone to panic.  Or worry.  But it feels like suddenly two thirds of summer is gone and I don’t know what happened.  Well, I do.  June happened – septic pump failure/back up, ruined floors, repairs and the week at a motel and so on.  Life happened.

There are so many moving parts and so much love and much talking and bursting LIFE in this home.  Every day.  And the sum total of laundry and hungry tummies and shoes left everywhere, its staggering some days.  But those are superficial, really.  It’s the deeper things that I’m spilling out with quiet tears on the lawn next to the pasture at dusk.  It’s a quiet prayer for peace.  It’s a plea for wisdom for hard choices.  It’s a tender request that says please take care of my heart. 

New things are on the horizon for our homeschool plans and schedule for fall.  And there are areas of life that aren’t working well and need a course correction.   But new is hard.  With a half a dozen kids in the mix, two of whom have required great lengths of attention this past year, it is easy to feel daunted.  Even for me who usually feels courageous and optimistic.

I say it all out loud again, as she plays in the grass.  She watches a bumble bee and reaches toward it as it escapes her chubby, too-slow fingers.  She fingers the clover again and does what she does most of the time…

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She smiles at me while holding my leg.  Her life is simple and marvelous and her every need is met.  She abides in love, she is covered with love from every angle.  All the time.  And my heart catches a bit just thinking about it.  The sibling issues and family challenges, I could probably sum up a good deal of the root of them in that one thought.  Not abiding in love for one another.  And the sting that comes quickly is, I see my part in it.  My weary heart that’s stood up under much heartache and struggle this past year.  A heart that hasn’t always been able to abide in love the way I’d like.  The mama sets the tone for the home, at least for the bulk of the days when most of our day together is spent with me at the helm.

No matter how far we get, we aren’t “there”.  No matter how much we grow and change, we’re not done.  Thank goodness.  But in certain seasons, it can feel discouraging.  I read this tonight on the front porch in the dark and said out loud “YES” as it resonates so deeply as to the bigger picture at hand:

Thank God for everything up to this point, but do not stop here.  Press on into the deep things of God.  Insist upon tasting the profounder mysteries of redemption.  Keep your feet on the ground, but let your heart soar as high as it will.  Refuse to be average or to surrender to the chill of your spiritual environment. – A. W. Tozer “The Root of the Righteous”

I’ve struggled to welcome the God I love into this imperfect and sometimes chaotic place this year.  I’ve wanted to come in an orderly fashion, quiet and early with perfectly brewed coffee and a warm blanket.  The season hasn’t been very orderly and certainly not quiet.  There has been much coffee but not sipped slowly during prayer, gulped instead before it was cold so that I could see straight enough to make breakfast.

God doesn’t want orderly.  He just wants everything.  He wants all of my heart.   It’s okay if I come with hair that’s still in yesterdays’ pony tail, teeth that aren’t brushed and a to-do list twenty things long and a heart that feels defeated or not enough.  He wants me to remember this truth in the darkest, longest day:

Not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted him.  -A. W. Tozer “The Root of the Righteous”

He hasn’t.  And I know this.  So when I wonder how to move forward, when I ask what can give so I can gain a little bit of margin in my life, when I dare to hope for breatkthrough in the places I need it desperately and wonder how we’ll all fare at something new this year…He wants me to remember.

He has never failed me.  He is always (more than) enough.

 

 

Coming to terms

I’d intended to write a cute post about how we came around to renaming our blog “A Place For Little Feet”.  About the plethora of little feet that surround our life here, be they animal or human, there are many.  But this post is all I could come up with and it may not be cute but it’s honest and honest is all I have to offer right now….

Last Wednesday found this mama of six in a mess of a kitchen trying to uncover some counter to make lunch for the hungry.  There wasn’t a square inch available.  Of the counter or of the mama.  There were dishes and the various random somethings that inevitably get left out when eight people live in a home together and live a full, big life together.  And there was the heart worn thin from ragged survival-mode days that take more than you think they do.  The cumulative total effect of a year that was harder than the past several on many levels finally coming to be counted.  Like it was time to pay the piper and the debt is always more than you think it is right?

Somehow, I’d been trying to keep up with my five-kid life pace despite having now six.  Trying to fit in, accomplish, DO everything I deemed necessary and good and crucial whilst the reality of the half a dozen sweet things that call me mom was in the clouds and posed no limitations.  Never mind the well-meaning “Well, I guess once you have a few, it really doesn’t make a difference adding more right?”.  Words like that rang in my mind as the months ticked by and I kept doing and kept keeping up with my (many) friends who have two or three children.  I made sure to say yes whenever it was humanly possible and worked hard to make all the moving parts of our life somehow keep moving.

Where things got off course, I don’t really know.  Well, I have some ideas but that really is a whole other post.  Though Liberty is a sweet thing of a baby, has been from Day 1, she is still a person.  She requires attention and care and mental/physical energy.  She is absolutely, unequivocally a profound gift that we are incredibly thankful to have been given and wouldn’t trade for anything.  But to operate without any adjustments when someone new joins the family, is foolish.  No matter how much like super mom you might feel like.   When my wise friend (and mother of eight) up yonder says things like “I just don’t know how you’re keeping up with this pace….” I should do a little inventory and assess just how we are keeping it up.  Instead, we just kept on going.

Until last week when we were one day away from going on vacation and I said I couldn’t go.  Friends, if you get to the point you can’t handle going on vacation (albeit with the entire extended family which, though crazy fun, also requires a certain ability to function) then perhaps you can’t handle your normal life either.  That same day I was in my (disastrously messy) kitchen a woman walked into my backyard.  Not living in a neighborhood but out in the country this was highly unusual.  I looked closer through the window and recognized her from church.  I walked out on the deck and said as calm of a hello as I could muster and asked what she was doing here.  She smiled and said she was here for the meeting, the VBS planning meeting that I’d offered to host.  She walked into my lived in, things-all-over living room and I just tried to keep breathing.  The fact that I was hosting a meeting and hadn’t a clue, was again evidence of the debt and the time had come for some re-evaluating.  She told me how coming in to my house in this condition was like a warm hug, because how often her own house looked the same.  I silently wished I could just have given her an actual, real warm hug instead of endure sitting through the meeting wondering how I was functioning this poorly.

I called my husband at work and told him I could not possibly go on vacation.  He graciously offered to take our five oldest with him and left me at home for a couple of days.  I would join him if I was able.  And I had serious doubts about just what I was able to do.  I had been trying to keep up with too much for too long.  Something had to give.  And the reality was, something had given.  Me.  Every day of the week, every hour of the night, living, breathing, giving.  To a degree that was far beyond was was intended for any person, whether they have six children, a slew of animals and all sorts of people with needs (and brokenness) interwoven into their life…or not.

About at that point, I read this post.  I sat shaking my head at my computer, which I only sit at every few days even, no time to read.  Planned neglect.  It sounded strange, how could neglect be a good thing, but then it all made perfect sense.  I’d said yes to so much good and tried to be faithful to so many great things and needs that I’d missed out on doing the very best things excellently.  My kids paid a price, as did I.  The mom they had two years ago was more focused, more intentional, most aware of her own need and thus more dependent on grace to come through.  The mom and dad they had two years ago did not have their hands in so many different things and they loved each other patiently, kindly.  They did a few things and did them well.

There are so many great things.  But we weren’t created to do them all.  We were made with limitations and needs that God alone can meet.  We were designed each to give and love in certain circles and to learn how to say yes and when to say no.  I do know this, but I absolutely have not practiced it.  The pie was sliced in so many pieces that the ones who matter the most, who are my first calling if my priorities are right, got less than best.  My practical husband who often has short, simple and clear wise answers to life’s challenges heard my heart last week and agreed with my “state of the union” assessment.  And he knew better than to give a quick easy answer.  When a significant course correction is in order, there isn’t a quick and easy five steps today and we’ll be good to go tomorrow sort of way forward.

So, I guess that’s all today, just coming to terms here with the reality of my life with all these little feet.  And its a beautiful reality.  A treasured, blessed one for certain.  One I need to make count every day, in the all the right ways.

When the family tree is tipping

I glanced up while feeding the baby today at the one of only two walls in my home that bear any semblance of “home decorating” and had to smirk.  Somehow in the chaos that has ensued here this past week, the tree painting on the family wall was all askew:

family tree

It seemed fitting.  Saturday evening after what we thought was “a quick stomach bug” had ended, our friends came over to buy some hay.  As Chris stood in the hall with his buddy Mark, he said perfectly calmly, “Hey, you’d better move over, you’re gonna get wet.”  In a quick second, the craziness of what was happening clicked and he jumped into action, grabbing towels, calling for reinforcements, etc.  We eventually had to turn the whole house water off to stop the flooding down the hallway.  Simultaneously, I was outside, in the pasture overseeing goats and milking and such, musing about castration methods with my friend Sam.  Rylee ran up to me and said “I don’t feel good” and promptly lost her dinner just shy of my boots.  As I walked her inside, I heard the calls for help and towels and got wind of the “water emergency”.  Um, yes, turns out the septic pump quitting and the subsequent “backing up” that happens, it indeed quite a crisis.

By the next morning, we realized our floors were buckling and we needed to call insurance, which we’ve never done so that was a whole new thing to figure out.  They sent people out immediately to put up industrial fans to dry the floor and walls and rip out anything damaged.  While I’m rinsing out throw up bowls (without running water), there are all these workers in our house.  And the extra fun fact here?  Though it was a weekend day, my hubby was filling in for our pastor who was on vacation….so he absolutely had to go to church.  He apologetically departed and went to Safeway with a bottle of shampoo and washed his hair in the bathroom there so that he didn’t have to preach with serious bedhead.  Initially, a good part of our downstairs was sequestered off with thick plastic and full of the big fans, but by this afternoon it looked like this:

floors

Imagine fans so loud you can’t hear if someone is throwing up in the next room or calling Mom for help…seriously, they were loud.  We went for a drive a few days ago to get a break and though all seemed okay, before we made it home someone was throwing up in the van.  This went on for a couple days and by today, despite the continual stomach issues people were having (as in:  “Mom, gross, help…Finn was playing on the deck but he just threw up all his chocolate cookies and the dog is eating it” and “Babe, I know you just got to work but I feel like I’m dying, you gotta come home right now”) we had to get out of here.  We went “hiking” for a couple hours on a trail nearby and breathed deep the fresh, quiet air.  It was therapeutic and wonderful even if it ended with me carrying an 8 month old on my back and a 35 pound three year old on the front.

The vintage, cutesy sign I bought for our anniversary was suddenly more than an art piece, it was us. 

together

It was the way we shift into action in the midst of crisis and the way we both try to be gracious even though we feel like we’re about to snap.  How he stayed up hours one night to do dishes and clean counters just so there was one space that didn’t look like this (after the clean up crew came and emptied out a closet into our schoolroom):

office

This is real life.  It’s where the family tree either puts down deeper roots and survives the storm or topples over and gives up.  We might have been blown around a bit this week.  For sure.  There were moments that left me feeling one step from crazy.  But then as I’m weeding the garden and digging out the cat poo that is infiltrating my spinach, Finn says to Audrey, “Guess what? I like ants.  I found an ant and I put it in my pants and its in there.  Right now.  I have an ant in my pull-up!”.  Really, honestly?  I laughed a lot.  I told and retold the stories and made them seem like entertainment because the alternative, the sitting around in a puddle of tears, just doesn’t work so well.

My parents are in blistering heat halfway around the world sharing hope and love and LIFE with people who can’t imagine my fuss over losing a bathroom for a week or three.  They’d be thrilled just to have a toilet.  As I sweat it out in my laundry room next to the fans doing their (loud) work, I think of my mom who can’t stand hot weather, laying that down to go where God called, even if its 118 degrees.  As I swish out yet another throw up bowl, I’m keenly aware that there is an incredible hospital an hour away from here chock full of children who would give anything to just have a bad bug for a week.  They just want to live.  Perspective is everything.  It’s true.

So, for the record, we’re still standing folks.  A bit bruised and weary but the fact remains:

We’re in this together.