Looking back to summer

Yesterday it seemed like the sun might set at 3:30 in the afternoon, the sky was black and ominous and promised showers but it was bone dry outside.  I nuzzled a soft baby head and felt a pang of nostalgia wash over me.  It feels like summer just ended last week, then our daughter was born and here I am knee deep in dark, wet days.  Some quick math tell me Liberty is almost 10 weeks old so I must be off somewhere…oh how my mind wants to cheat and steal when it comes to time.

Just before the actual sunset, spectacular beams of light burst through the trees and lit up our patch of land.  The sky was still so dark.  But somehow light was finding its way through.  It was so dramatic and so stunning, I made the kids come outside and see it before the light disappeared.  Writing about it makes me think of sweet friends who we were privileged to share life with last year at church and in our home group.  They abruptly moved to Arizona in August in pursuit of treatments that might help Bryan’s aggressive melanoma.  The road they are walking, at just freshly past 30 years old and with two young kids, makes my face pale.  Talk about darkness in the light of day.  Talk about needing light to burst through and find its way.  Talk about wanting to steal time.  Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why things like that happen.  It is anything but fair.

My reaction to thinking about them yet again is twofold…first prayers for the miracles they need.  And second is calculating all that lies around me – a sacred, precious, puking mess.  Three days in with a wicked stomach virus that has completely taken over.  As I sat with Finn yesterday on my lap, killing time until bedtime by watching tractor movies on youtube, I breathed his smell in deep.  I rested my weary head on his sweaty neck and remembered the highlight of his summer as he chatters on about each John Deere he sees on the screen.  It was this:

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He could sit on my lap and stare at that picture for ten minutes.  And believe me, there isn’t much that keeps him busy for ten minutes!  Its been two and a half months and he still asks every time we drive that directions, “Can we go to the fair mama?”.  I thought doing the fair, nine months pregnant, with five other children might just do me in.  And it may have come close.  But oh the happy in his voice when he talks about it, remembers with me, the insane crazy fun we had practically living at the fairgrounds for six straight days.

Bedtime finally came and we did the same heartbreaking routine every night these days:

Mama (at his bedside): Finn, what song should I sing with you?

Finn:  No, I don’t want you to go mama, I want to sleep WITH you.

Mama:  How about I pick a song?  (I do, and I start to sing)

Finn (big brown eyes brimming with sadness): Oh mama, no, please don’t leave me.

Over and over again.  If I start to cry, like I did tonight, I leave sooner than later because there is a baby to feed and other kids that need tucking in.  I promise him that I’ll see him in the morning and that when the sun comes up, I will be there.  And I think again of our friends in Arizona and how much I want their sun to come up and their too-long-night to be over.  Every single day – even our puke-filled ones or the ones where all your kids are in hysterics at the grocery checkout or the ones where all your life’s efforts don’t seem to count for anything or any other kind of less than lovely day – is such a tender gift.  To be prized, tucked away and treasured.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, today is what we have.

The older woman

I’m only thirty five.  I feel like I’m still in my twenties though truth be told I love this age and I love this decade of my life more than any of the ones prior.  My twenties were awfully insecure for me.  No doubt I missed out on a good many things just because I was too worried about what someone thought to “just do it” or “just say it”.

These days, increasingly, someone asks a question or seeks advice about something and it catches me off guard.  My first blush response is usually (in my head at least) “I have no idea – I’m not qualified to answer that”.  And then I usually say something (out loud) that hopefully sounds like “I may not be qualified but I’m at least willing to try to help”.

Last year I got off the phone with someone and told my husband in disbelief:

I’m the older woman.  How can that be?!

I’m not sure how it happened, how I got to be thirty five and have six children over a ten year span and be married to the same (amazing) man for almost 15 years.  Well, of course I sort of know how most of that happened.  But the point is I still feel like the young, inexperienced, not-excellent-at-anything mother.  And regardless of anything redeeming I’m able to share with anyone, anywhere – I really need a still-older-than-me woman to beckon me down this path.

Last month I thought to myself “How does any mother make it without a Mrs. Nelson?”.  She’s a teacher at our homeschool co-op.  She had my two older sons in class last year, dealt graciously with the one who can be challenging and has my two middle ones this year.  Last year she spoke just a few kind words about my son that told me she gets it, she gets him and she sees good things in him despite his difficulties.  I can’t explain what that meant to me.  She affirmed who he was; his nature-loving, quiet, bright, book-devouring self.  I remember the tears the day I realized she saw great things when all I could see in that moment was a mess.  She spoke life.  She invited herself over this summer and I could hardly believe she’d want to come spend an afternoon over her break from school on my front porch but she did.  She engaged all of my children that day in the most delightful way.  It was such a gift to me.

When Caleb hurt his hand and had surgery she was quick to offer to come help at the Fair with kids and goats and anything.  It totally blessed me.  She came and she helped in the most practical ways.  She gently, firmly corrected my five year old who grabbed kettle corn out of her bag without asking.  She somehow did that with such grace that I didn’t feel judged for my daughter being a little bit rude, only thankful for the kind correction.  Mrs. Nelson continues to give me little pep talks and words of encouragement along the way and truly, some days, they hold me up in ways nothing else quite could.  And it makes me wonder, over and again, how people survive the arduous, un-glamorous, largely-without-thanks but most incredible privilege of motherhood if they don’t have a few good cheerleaders who are further down the road than they are.

In the same regard, we have Suzanne.  She texts me spur of the moment and says “can I bring you coffee?”.  She has a long lunch some days of the week.  Why anyone would stop by our crazy house on their lunch hour I have no idea.  And we don’t exactly live in the city or on anyone’s way anywhere.  So for someone to pop by with coffee is most unusual.  And most wonderful.  Her stay is always short and she makes sure to “check in” with each of my children.  Her genuine interest in their goings on is totally precious.  She is one of those people you meet and think “too good to be true, too sweet to be real?”.  But she’s the real thing.  She wrote me these words a while back that I come back to over and again (her email is tucked in my ‘special’ folder):

 Full of tender mercy & love, fiercely devoted to your family- that is how I see you.

Heaven knows as mothers we sure don’t see ourselves in a lovely light every day, most days probably.  I’d been discouraged and sad and unable to see past my failure of the moment when she wrote me that note.  It literally infused hope just when I needed it.  We often need someone else to tell us how they see us because what we see isn’t always an accurate picture.

The most lovely thing is as they cheer me on, I am inspired to do the same with the mama’s who are coming along after me.  It’s beautiful.  I’m fairly sure it’s the way life is supposed to work and part of how we were mysteriously, intricately, lovingly created by a gracious God to abide in community with others.

The little things

Finn’s dripping mouth from finding the runaway dark chocolate covered espresso beans that fell under the counter.  As if the boy needed more energy…

His crazy delight in chasing dust particles in the gleaming morning sunshine that somehow still streams in despite what must be the dirtiest windows ever!

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Kyler: “Oh mom, guess what Finn loves?  He loves it when I put baby spiders all over his naked belly!”  (I instruct the removal of dozens of newly hatched miniscule spider babes from the rotund belly of my beloved two year old – but even ten minutes later I am pulling the itsy bitsy’s out of his hair…)

Caleb: “Want to see my new friend?”  (he raises his arm and shows me the beautiful yellow moth that he’s “trained” to hang out on his arm – then explains that he’s classified this one using his butterfly and moth field guide)

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The snickers’ fairy from church.  The sweet lady who I have not even met, who is part of the long line of amazing people who’ve helped with meals during this challenging stretch….how could she have known my penchant for Snicker’s or that putting them into a “salad” might just feel like my birthday came two days early?!

The exceeding relief that comes from crossing “trim goat hooves” off the to-do list, even if it’s 7 weeks overdue.

How Rylee delights in playing vet (but not really playing, because she truly does such a great job!) and doing excellent work treating bloat in one goat with a little homemade remedy.

The book Rylee is writing for her little sister’s birthday on Sunday.  All on her own accord.  Sweetest thing in the world.

The privilege of sitting for coffee and meeting someone who is bravely, tirelessly standing up for the unborn’s right to life in America and around the world.

Kyler listening to me pray this morning, patiently waiting in the chair next to me for my amen…”Mom, you’re thankful for too many things!”.

When life is too much

I find it abundantly ironic that in the ‘draft’ folder for my blog, from about one month ago,  there is a blog titled:

Road signs of ‘too much’

It is blank.

Not a single word written about the given topic.  Obviously there was a bit of “too much” even then or I wouldn’t have felt apt to write about it.  And obviously the too much was too, too much because I didn’t write about it.  Or anything else for um, how long since my last post?

Perhaps you thought this was an “on purpose blog break”.  Well, no.  I would like to say there was great intentionality in my not writing.  But it’s so much less lovely than that.  It was more like a barreling freight train of one thing after another.

It was too many early (and I mean early!) morning wake ups with Finn thinking that the rooster’s crow was actually meant to beckon him out of bed.

It was drives to co-op/church/grocery/, teaching classes, keeping on top of kid schoolwork, chores and projects and all end of year things.

It was my sister in the hospital for a 5 days and the wanting answers to hard questions and not being able to understand why.

It was the list of the little things that only grows and never diminishes and stares me in the face every single morning like a bad report card.

It was losing any reasonable sense of rhythm or routine and being too many steps behind before my feet even hit the floor every day.

It was the ever present fact that seven people here need to eat every day, many times, and they need appropriate clothing to wear and the young ones were created with daily need to be nurtured, cared for and loved.

It was the giving without end and not stopping to see the writing on the wall.

So it truly is no wonder that once the kids caught a cold virus and I succumbed as well, my body would give me up.  It’s as if it said, “we can only handle one of you, so we choose baby and you’ll have to fend for yourself”.

It started out innocently enough, a fever, cough, sinus congestion.  I took all the herbal goodies I give the kids and expected a full recovery the next morning.  When our pastor announced I was home sick from church and would anyone like to help with meals I thought that was WAY overboard.  If I’d been there in person I’m sure I’d have mustered the gusto to say “oh no, we’re good, we’ll be fine, someone else must need it more!”.

Humble pie my friends, a giant serving.  Monday rolled in and I could not see past the pressure in my head and the pain in my ears and the burning in my throat.  The fact that kids weren’t well either made survival more doable.  Lots of couch time and resting and I tried driving to do something I deemed “imperative” but prayed all the way home my failing body would get us all home in one piece.  It would be almost a week before I felt well enough to even drive again.

Kids began to mend and I sat on the couch unable to even lift my head for more than five minutes.  Eyes half glued shut from symptoms of complete immune failure.  Unceasing pain from my eyelids to my toes, which until now I never knew could ache.  A fever that wouldn’t break for six days. Broken blood vessels in my cheeks, nose, inside my ears and an eye half bloody from all the trauma.  I have never been so sick I could not think or read or properly respond to people.  I could not think myself well or will myself strong enough to heal.  Everything felt like it just quit.  And entirely without my permission.

The fact I would asked my mother to drive all the way out to our house, drive me and my five children to a doctor almost an hour away from here speaks to my diminished state.  I sat sobbing in a doctor’s office, whom I’d never seen before, trying to explain to him my stamina and strength so he would understand how completely incapacitated I was.  He gave me something but it wasn’t strong and said no to my begging requests for more intervention, he was confident it was viral and my body would eventually “turn back on” and conquer it.

8 days was the sum total, in bed or on the couch directing life and children and living helpless, dependent on the kindness and care of all sorts of people.  And when I felt the fog begin to lift and I could sit upright and think with actual words, my mind trailed back.  To weeks and weeks of no margin, of no rest.

I sat outside once I was well enough, in the hammock (that never gets used, because there’s never time to lazy away in a hammock…) holding a book about rest.  My mind said I should be reading it but the rest of me still refused.  All it could do was note the dozens of shades of green in the trees in our yard.  Listen to the birds all fluttering in their spring time flurry.  Watch the kids play in the sprinkler.  Be thankful my eyes could open without pain and see all the loveliness.  Say yes to popsicles and yes to most things because saying no was too much still.  And they’d been such troopers.

Just when I thought they weren’t onto quite how ill I was, Kyler blurted out at dinner one night “Mama, I sure hope the baby in your belly doesn’t die because you’re so, so sick.”  I explained the incredible design and how the body can take good care of baby even when mama isn’t well.  He was mostly relieved, but still skeptical.  We all breathed easier last night when we got to see little 14 ounce baby sweetness on the ultrasound monitor.  Most darling tiny hands and feet and nose and everything.

I’m still waking up, but doing it as slowly as I can.  Fairly certain that this was not without purpose and I’ve some things yet to learn about how to be me, how to live this life of mine in a way that can keep going, keep growing.  I don’t want to miss any of it.  Being a spectator to my own life for over a week was so much less than wonderful.  But the observations and takeaways can change me, they need to change me.

The gift of time

Just over a month ago I rather impulsively rented a house not too far from here for a weekend’s respite.  I was feeling so pressed in on, so weary and desperate for some room to breathe.  The pull of homeschool and all the rest of life weighs heavy around March or so every year.  We aren’t finished yet but the daily grind has been grinding for quite some time.  So I suppose ground down sums up how I felt quite nicely.

Chris was gracious in the face of my declaration that I needed a break.  He knows how hard I work and he is faithfully, relentlessly and sacrificially giving of himself the minute he walks in the door from work every day.  Truth be told, he probably could use a break too.  But he didn’t say a word, simply “yes”.  If I’d had the sense, I’d have done better planning little bits of time here and there to rest throughout the year thus far, but I didn’t, so that was that.

I said more than once, almost apologetically, “I just need to think in full sentences for more than five minutes, to truly R-E-S-T.”  Honestly I wanted more than anything to have dedicated time set apart for my cup to be refilled so that I could continue giving at this capacity.  The level of output motherhood requires is far beyond anything I could have imagined.  And I’m in this for the long, very long, lifelong, haul.  The only way I can do that with any measure of grace and sanity is listening to my heart when it feels this way.

Up until the week before I wasn’t sure if any friends would join me while I was away, but three did, and it was such a gift.  We ventured around quaint Coupeville on Whidbey Island and conversed and rested.  I’ve been holding out on posting because I have some really fun photos too but the computer isn’t working right now on the photo-front.

My takeaway from the weekend is tough to hone down into one thing.  But learning to listen to my heart/body/mind and knowing when I’m over the top and absolutely need to step back a bit from life so that I can keep going, it’s worth doing.  The payoff for everyone in my life but especially my family is so great.  In leaving and listening, I was actually loving them well.  Strange, but true.

In my dreams I came home, rested, refreshed mama who tossed her head at the shenanigans of her children and magically got the house in tip top shape.  But alas, when I woke up today, people still complained about breakfast options, someone spilled milk (and cried loudly about it!) before I’d even had my coffee, Finn still woke up WAY too early, there is stuff from the trip stuffed in the back of the van and the floor is in terrible need of a mopping.  Since it’s spring break I thought I’d give a try at the old “stay in my pajamas till after lunchtime”.  But sadly, that only left me wanting to live under a fuzzy green blanket on the couch and not talk to anyone.  Which really works poorly when there are five people who look to me for direction on a minute to minute basis!

*I finally got some of my friend Shauna’s pictures to load at least!*
Quaint really is the right word, don’t you think?

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The only one

It’s six o’clock in the morning and my alarm goes off.  I hit the snooze but only twice.  I’d gone to bed the night before thinking “Easter is in four days and we haven’t even done an amazing craft project or talked deep about the meaning of this, the most holy day in all our faith”.  Right as I will myself out of bed to do some thinking, preparing, praying on the matter I hear a banging so loud that Chris leaps out of bed running.  Sounds like someone is taking a hammer to our front door.  He quickly realizes its Finn.  Pounding on his door from the inside with his little two year old fist and a plastic baseball bat.  He’s learned to climb out of his crib, strip himself naked, turn on the lights in his room and then perch precariously on his toy tool bench so he can peek out the window down our street.  Every morning.  But usually he hollers or taps softly.  And usually at a decent hour.  Just not today.

My attitude goes down a few notches as I face the prospect of finding peace and quiet with a precocious little man by my side.  I coarsely tell him that I’m really quite unhappy he is awake at this hour and his brown saucer eyes just look at me and smile.  He wants a cheese stick.  I want coffee and quiet.  I wonder if TV would keep him busy for a few minutes.  Not a chance.

While I make coffee, Finn finds his way into the laundry room, grabs two cans of Guinness left over from St Patrick’s day and hands them to me. “Need this.  Now.” he states emphatically.  I smirk just a little and say “um, no.  those aren’t yours.”  But he is two.  And two doesn’t lend itself well to sharing or being told no, especially before the sun is up.

I try to put on a tractor movie.  It’s the first time I’ve ever even attempted to occupy him with TV.  Totally fail.  He screams when I leave.  I offer him an orange.  He takes it and I go to finish with the coffee.  I come back and he shoots me an angry glare.  “Squeeze oranges.  Hmph.” he says while avoiding eye contact.  I look down and he’s squeezed a (very) juicy orange all over his shirt, pants, carpet, shoes and the couch.  Just to spite me I’m quite sure.

I lose my cool.  Tell him we don’t have a working washer at the moment and would he like to clean the carpet and wipe off the couch.  He crumbles and whimpers and says “oh, sorry mama” and helps me scrub the floor.  My contemplative morning in quiet is long gone.  I settle for sitting next to him while he eats, at the counter in the kitchen.  The words of Ezekiel sit on the page and I try to focus and soak in some piece of bread that will feed my soul this Thursday before Easter.

It is lament and prophecy one after another, depressing and weighty.  Words blur and I wonder if God could possibly say anything to my annoyed but tender and heavily burdened heart this morning.  There are so many broken pieces around me and so many questions that aren’t being answered in the way I want.  I give it one more chapter.  I get to chapter 34.

My eyes well up…this may not be an “Easter” passage but it’s the glimpse of God’s heart I need right now, this very minute.  He paints this gentle but oh-so-strong picture of his sheep and I hang on every word:

I myself will search for my sheep
I will seek out my sheep and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness
I will feed them with good pasture
They shall lie down in good grazing land
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep
I myself will make them lie down
I WILL SEEK THE LOST
I will bring back the strayed
I will bind up the injured
I will strengthen the weak
I will rescue my flock

Not a passive word in the lot.  Not I might or I could.  But I will.  And this shaky heart of mine that’s worn plain thin today needs to hear the I WILL.  I need to hear that He intends to feed my heart with good things, to strengthen me in my weakness and make me lie down when I need it.  He will bind up the places that are broken, how many times have I watched Him do just that?

And when I start to wonder what does this have to do with Easter, with the greatest sacrifice ever made it becomes clear in an instant – Jesus was the means of the rescue.  Long after those words were penned by a prophet, He came and lived those words so we could see.  He made a way for me to come.  To find my way to the cross and leave my burdens there, my bad choices, my deepest secrets and my gaping heart wounds.  To find new life and freedom that only comes from laying my own life down.

We never did a stellar project that drove home the holiday today.  But we lived and breathed together.  They watched me hurt and wiped my tears for a situation that’s so beyond my control but so near to my heart.  I talked soft to Audrey as her tremendously empathetic self wrapped little arms around me this morning, I told her “I just want to fix it, I want to make her well.  We keep asking and God isn’t doing what we’re asking.  And that’s so hard.”  Her response to me is one I hope I never, ever forget – in her tiny voice, so matter-of-fact, she looked up at me and said:

You can’t mama, there’s only one who can, you know?
It’s Jesus.

And that’s the simple truth.  He’s the rescue.  He’s the one who WILL step in and bring back lost ones, bind up broken ones.  That’s the bread for my soul today and tomorrow and the next day.

Farm baby

It’s been exactly one year since we moved out here. Since I told the kids this bedtime story.  To the big yellow house at the end of the road.  The one I’d bookmarked as a “dream” on my computer that for a year I would compare every other house to and come up lacking.  The one with space for kids to run and gardens to grow and goats to graze.  The one with the “revolving” front door that welcomes a couple dozen people on a weekly basis.  Not into perfection or Martha Stewart life but into our mess.   On our knees as we scrubbed blueberries out of the off-white carpet two weeks ago, he said to me with a smile “You know, not too many places could withstand this…”.  True.  But that’s our life in a picture….loving people and blueberry stained carpet instead of pristine spaces and no one to share them with.

I don’t know when I won’t drive down our county road and not marvel at the mountains God moved to get us here.  Hopefully never.  Forgetting the goodness is a such critical piece of what makes me forget to be thankful.

There have been countless “firsts” here.  Today was our first farm picnic next to a big John Deere tractor:

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And the first time we watched posts get slammed into the ground for our fence:

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As well as the first time I caught all five of our kids on a tractor…

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But the favorite first of all is this one:

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First farm baby, due mid-September!

The day Charlie ate my Bible

It was Fajita Friday.  I had emailed my mom requesting Taco Friday (since it was already Wednesday when I asked for the impromptu convening of our extended family over Mexican food) but she said Taco Friday didn’t sound nearly as fun as Taco Tuesday and since it was Friday she would have to rename it Fajita Friday.  I was happy to oblige especially if it meant seeing my sisters and parents.

We managed to leave the house 20 minutes early and still somehow got to dinner 30 minutes late.  Friday night traffic was dismal.  But then there were cousins and fajitas and all was wonderful.  We left before anyone had a giant meltdown and no one broke anything.

I shoved our front door open, loaded with random bags and a purse and two sweatshirts and various other things we did the inevitable dump on the floor, run to the bathroom, throw on jammies, grab a quick snack, pretend to brush our teeth….all the required happenings when we get home past bed time.  It was then I noticed the school room door was shut.  That was odd, it’s always open with the baby gate shut.

Timidly, I nudged the door open.  My hand covered my mouth without thinking and I walked away.  Our 10 month old (60 pound) teenager of a dog, Charlie had been locked (by a child who shall remain nameless) in the school room for several hours.  He is never left unattended inside the home.  And he had been very bored.  Obviously.  I beckoned Caleb to come see, the carpet was barely visible through the carnage.

The day after...
The day after…

As Caleb and I peered in over the baby gate unwilling to even enter the mess, I saw for just a fraction of a second what looked to be the empty cover of my Bible surrounded by shreds of paper in all directions.  My head spun around and the rest of me followed running up the stairs in a desperate plea for back-up.

I shut myself in my bedroom while everyone inspected the dismal situation of our “older kids and adults only” school room.  The room where I tuck myself on the short, squat couch every morning in the dark and give my day, my life, my everything to Jesus and trust that He’ll meet me there.

The weeping that ensued was unlike tears I have shed for several years.  While you may wonder why I was completely out of my mind over a book that I can replace at my leisure you must first understand that it was not just a book.  For the first time in my life, over this past season, that brown soft book with paper thin pages has been more alive than I have ever known it to be.  I’ve wondered why that is, having grown up with it always near and hearing it every Sunday.  But the wondering hasn’t answered any questions and I’ve simply resolved that maybe it is only my desperate need for it to BE alive that it finally is.  I don’t really know.

My kids walked timidly toward my bed and even upon their entrance I couldn’t pull myself together one iota.  They whispered quiet words, they so sensed the sacred.  Indeed, it was the sacrilege of seeing the words of the title page “the Holy Bible” ripped and wrinkled and lying in a heap of what only looked like trash, that so undid me.  But far beyond that was the reality that I’d purchased that specific, one column Bible so I could write in the margins, bought special pens that wouldn’t leach through the fragile paper.

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And write I had.  Every insight that God spoke to my heart all those dark mornings, every verse that inspired awe or the like was carefully underlined, the major themes I was seeing emerge were circled in a special color.  I choked out what I could to a glassy eyed daughter who rested her hand on my back,

Those words, that book, it is life to me.

Hence the sting so deep.  It wasn’t replaceable.  It cannot be bought.  It has come at a price that I’ve paid morning after morning fighting the strong urge to stay in my warm bed but getting up anyway because I was learning there was something I needed more than sleep, something that would seep into the marrow of my life and not leave me unchanged.

An hour passed before I could catch my breath.  Fajitas were a distant memory and my sleeves were soaked with mascara and tears.  It had so completely caught me off guard.  It was happy low-key Friday one minute and the next minute the whole evening had unraveled.  Even a year ago I would have been bummed and felt bad but my reaction would never have been even close to similar.

This train of thought started me down the “well then, why couldn’t this have happened last year and my new Bible been spared along with all my tenderly penned words?”.  That train never takes me anywhere good, so I hopped off quick.  Upon further thought, maybe my takeaway is simply this…

Perhaps those words that are life are meant to be written on my heart instead.   And my guess is that if I come back and start over with fresh, new, un-chewed pages…He will still have things to show me that will change my life.

I am counting on it.  That is my life theme this season.  Counting on God to do all I can’t, fill in where I lack so much, to do impossible things in the lives of people I love so deeply, to come through for me in my great need for Him.  He does not disappoint.  He does not fail to come through.  For that I am exceedingly grateful.

Being okay with imperfect

By the time Thursday rolls around I’m a little weary.  I might have skipped washing my hair so I could sleep in till 6:10 a day.  Or two.  My days begin promptly at 6:00 AM and don’t end until kids are in bed at 8:30.  And goodness knows a whole lot happens in those 15 hours every day of the week.

It’s not like we sit around in our pajamas all weekend but there is something very lovely about having Daddy here to share in life with us.  He even gives the kids Sunday morning off their farm chore duties.  Pretty awesome (even if his real reason might just be that he loves it when we get to church on time!).  The “doing it all together” instead of just me makes me slow just a bit.  So getting to the Friday finish line, having taught, shuttled, directed, cooked and trained my way through the week feels like a feat.  Every single week.

Which brings me back to Thursday….I had just taught a room of 9 and 10 year olds at our literature co-op.  I don’t know why but I’d been so nervous about it (I think it had something to do with not wanting to embarrass my kids who were in the class).  So nervous that I sweated through my nice shirt and had to run to the van at break to get a jacket.  Classy.

We made it home and I hoisted the brute of a two year old out of the van and tucked him in for a nap.  I made a promise of a good snack and a movie (with the ulterior motive of wanting an hour long nap).  Just as I was about to fall onto the couch in my less-than-fresh clothes, someone yelled “It’s Miss Vicki walking up the drive!”.   Miss Vicki is our Children’s Pastor at church. Yes, we had a meeting scheduled and no I did not remember it.

There was a puzzle undone on the floor.  The counter was covered with stuff of all sorts.  The need for a vacuum was high.  I remembered my shirt issue just as the doorbell rang.  I opened the door with a big smile and invited her in.  The kids took over chatting and I excused myself upstairs.  A clean shirt.  Some perfume.  Lip gloss for good measure.  Who was I kidding?  Lip gloss?  Had I seen my own downstairs?  Like lip gloss would fix it!

She is a gracious woman.  She moved a sweatshirt from the couch and sat down.  We talked and dreamed about a tea party for all the girls and moms at church.  I exuberantly offered to host it here.  And I did explain, “Really, my house can be clean and tea-beautiful, I promise!”.  I hoped she believed me.

There was a time just a few years ago I would have DIED to have this day play out.  And I would read blog after blog about people with more kids than me with perfectly laid out days and systems in place at every moment that ensured no chaos.  Ever.  But that’s not us.  And finally, wonderfully, that’s okay with me.  I’m learning to simply do what I do:

Smile big.  And invite people in….to my heart, my life, my mess.

So whoever you are and whatever you do, just be you.  People don’t need perfect.  People really just need love.

What if we weren’t meant to “have it all” (part 1)

When we lived (happily, most of the time) on a food stamp income, money matters were more simple in some ways because there was just food/shelter/car/somehow make it till the next paycheck.  We watched God provide for our needs in amazing ways and we never were without basic needs.  Those around us observed and saw the needs, simply helped meet them if they were able.  It was beautiful.

We have always made giving a priority whether we had little or a lot.  We’ve seen it modeled in people we love and respect (and not to mention in Acts as we read about the early church) and believe it’s part of life.

It isn’t us the giver, that are so awesome for giving.  I truly believe that we are simply intended to be the conduit for what doesn’t belong to us anyway. Which when you look at it that way, it shouldn’t be hard to pass it on to a place where the need is great. There is profound joy to be had in giving your time to someone in need, your hands to help with work, your cooking skills to someone who is ill, your clothes to someone who needs them, your food to fill someone else’s pantry.   If we didn’t choose to give, to share, WE would be missing out as well as the ones we are able to bless.

Last year as I pondered what extra activities to add on to our weekly schedule, I was so tempted to do the music classes that we’d done in previous years (on a full scholarship).  I knew I could make it work in the activity budget.  I emailed, I got all the info.  We could do it, so we should do it was my train of thought.  But as it came time to actually write the (large) check, for four kids to do these (stellar) classes, I had this overwhelming sense that just because we could do it actually didn’t mean we should.

I felt a little lame writing to say we wouldn’t be registering the kids after all.  But something in my heart told me that although the classes would be fun and delightful for our kids, that perhaps there was something far more meaningful that money was intended for.  So instead of music classes we added to our brood of Compassion children

To try and communicate how this investment is such a treasure to our family or how richly blessed we feel to get to write back and forth with these five sweet children in Kenya, Guatemala and India and get letters back from them that say things like “I send you and your children a kiss and a big hug”.  Sponsorship is a bigger deal to these children than I’m sure I can even imagine.  They are steps away from crisis and hunger.  Closer than I’ll probably be all my life.

There is no judgement intended here, only a heart that wanted to share a little piece of our story.  This perspective continues to permeate my thinking and is part of the way God is showing me, showing all of us, how the gospel can be lived out in our life in this land of plenty.