Overheard theology

This morning…

Audrey: “Did you know God never, ever, ever, ever-?”

(I listened intently to learn what God never, ever did)

Kyler: “colors.  I know.  He never ever colors.”

Audrey: “But he rode on a donkey!”

Rylee: “Yeah, a wild donkey, unbroken.  Totally untrained.  He did.”

Audrey: “That is so hilarious Rylee.”

Mama:  “How do you know God never colors?”

Audrey:  “I just do.  He can’t color.  He needs to protect us.  So he can’t.”

(love this matter-of-fact-ness)

Mama:  “Well, how do you know he rode on a wild donkey?”

Audrey:  “I’m not sure, but I think we read it in the Bible or something.  That’s how I know he protects us.  We read it mama.”

Kyler (leave it to the brother to think of this!):  “Yeah, he protects us all the time from people trying to steal and snatch us.  He does.”

Joy and anguish (part 2)

Don’t ask me why but I felt like these two posts had to be separate – though forever intertwined for me.  In some strange way it seemed like if they were written together then a piece of my grief might stain the perfectly incredible gift this baby girl is for my friend Kimberly.

Friday morning I got kids dressed, did morning chores and school work best as my completely distracted self was able.  Besides my sheer delight in the arrival of this pink bundle I also had the sharp pang of worry tucked inside.  My first OB appointment had been on Wednesday.  I wasn’t worried when they didn’t hear a heartbeat, perhaps too early?  But just to be safe I’d have an ultrasound Friday afternoon.  I was close to 12 weeks along and that would give us the answers to put any fears to rest.

My sister offered to come to the appointment and I said no, I’d go alone, I was feeling strong and tough.  I changed my mind a little while later and said that would be good to have her.  She brought her sweet new baby Luke with her and sat and waited.  Waited while I went upstairs with a kind, motherly-type ultrasound technician who put her arm on my shoulder when I started to tear up as she asked me questions.  Waited while I watched the screen and knew right away there was no flutter like there should be.  The tears quietly found their way back around my ears and neck and onto the table where I half-listened.  I gathered myself and headed downstairs.  When I opened the door all I could think was I so glad she would be on the other side and what if I had come alone? 

I shook my head no in silent response to her hopeful face.  She lifted her warm newborn up to me and I snuggled him right in while she gathered her things.  We walked out without words and parted at our cars.  But not before sharing tears spilling over baby Luke’s little face about the baby that we wouldn’t know in late spring after all.

Anguish is the only word and what a mama has to go through in the days that come after news like that is only anguish too.  When I pulled in at home the one I love ran out to meet me and I met his hopeful face with only tears.  Too hard to say it out loud over and over.

The thoughts all mixed up right together “Kim is holding her GIRL baby this very minute”  and “I’m not going to hold a new baby just before summer comes”.  The amount of emotion can’t possibly be expressed in words.  Tears from absolute joy and absolute sadness at the very same moment.

My headstrong, practical self decided that physically what was to come would likely render me unable to make the hour and a half drive to see my friend and her new babe (and I could not have been more right about that).  So shortly after supper I hopped in the car and journeyed north.  I had not uttered a word about my ultrasound that afternoon.  I wept most of the drive in the dark, pouring rain and kept fingering the bag full of soft, scrumptious, PINK clothing I was bringing to her hospital room.

I caught my breath, deemed myself presentable and ran/walked right to her door.  Oh I thought my heart would just burst so great was the delight in my heart to see this mother of six sons with her beloved new daughter.

The next almost two hours we sat, we marveled together, I happily held and soaked in her sweet tiny self until visiting hours were long over and the nurse kicked me out.  There was pink everywhere.  It was just as I’d imagined it would be.  EVERYONE would go crazy stocking them with all-things-girl in no time at all.  I listened to the story and scarcely took my eyes off the wee one in my arms.  It was time to go.

I’d made it this far, I was going to make it out that door without my heartache laying a finger on her perfect day.  Then she said “I’m so glad your appointment went well on Wednesday.”  And I started to quiver.  And eyes welled up and I said “Well, not quite everything went so well, I didn’t want to tell you and….”  Then all the words that I didn’t want to come out of my mouth came right out and she lifted her sore, freshly post-partum self out of her half-reclined bed and wrapped love around me as I held her little girl.  We cried all over her pink self.

The complete, breathtaking joy of that day and that girl-gift was, is, like a blanket over my own loss.  Holding two newborns, both in their own rights an absolute surprise to their mamas, the same day that I found out we wouldn’t meet ours…literally the gift that was is almost too much.  Too wonderful if that’s even possible.

This is real life.  This is anguish and joy all mixed right up together so its hard to define what tears are the happy ones and which ones are sad.  The power of choosing to give thanks in the midst of these sorts of days is power that literally changes life, lifts the head, heals the heart.  God is so, deeply, completely good.  Even this week.  Every week.

Joy and anguish (part 1)

A week ago Wednesday my Bible study group discussion centered around joy and anguish.  Wonderful conversation ensued after we watched the lesson on DVD.  I thought about all the times in my life that had held both, there were many.  I bottled up the lesson in my mind and moved on with my week.

Then came Thursday.

My beloved friend of over two decades who has walked through nearly all my joys and heartaches by my side was in labor for the seventh time.  She has beheld six amazing, precious sons these past six times she has labored.  She has counted herself blessed.  And anyone that knows her would agree, blessed indeed.

After six sons your odds of more of the same are high.  So she packed her blue clothes and blue blankets and anticipated (though they had opted to not know the gender) the arrival of her seventh son.  And I clung tight to my phone to get the word that she and her baby were delivered, safely, soundly.  I wrote these paraphrased words from the book of Isaiah to her that day she headed to the hospital:

She will cry out to the Lord because of her great need, and He will send her a Savior, a CHAMPION and He will DELIVER her.  Thus the Lord will make Himself known to her and she will know Him that day. Isaiah 19:20-21

So I waited.  Waited all day to see how God had made Himself known to her yet again, through the absolute miracle of giving birth.  Waited into the night without the word.  Went to sleep dreaming about her holding a tiny new person.  Woke up at 5:45 AM to this text:

Philips girl born at 27 minutes after midnight…

There was more but I quit reading right about there.  My eyes popped open and I started to cry.  I shook my husband awake and said over and over “It’s a GIRL baby!  It’s a GIRL baby!” with shaking hands I texted back and sat in bed weeping with absolute, total joy for my friend.  She has one sister.  I have only sisters as well.  And for her to be gifted with a daughter to love and a little sister for all her precious boys to love, oh it was almost too much!  I thought I would absolutely burst with happiness for her.  Rarely, almost never in my life have I been so overcome with delight, so thrilled for someone else, ever.

So then I was awake for the day.  After the shock wore off (a bit) I wandered down to my chair and sat spilling over with gratitude for my sweet friend, for her new daughter, for so many things.

And my Wednesday night study topic was about to get dumped out right into my lap.  I just didn’t know…

I can so I should?

Upon the recommendation of a dear new friend I read the book “Seven” by Jen Hatmaker over the summer.  It was a well written, fast read but it cut to the heart of issues that most of us could stand to ponder a bit.  While one could get hung up on the blatant and seemingly extreme wealth of the author (and the fact she is a pastor’s wife), the reality is that she really put herself on the line sharing the (very nitty gritty) details of God transforming her heart and life.  And in the process the lives of her friends and church were also gravely impacted – no doubt that is awesome.

Jen goes through seven areas where the average American lives in great excess.  The areas she deals with are clothes, shopping, waste, food, stress, media and possessions.  The way she pares things down is in limiting each to seven things one month at a time for seven consecutive months.  It’s downright funny sometimes and others times a little bit nauseating simply because the reality of how many shirts are in HER closet makes me think how many are in MY closet and do I really want to think about that?  Maybe.

One pervasive thought that came to the surface over the summer was the “I can” so “I should” mentality.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to even think that way.  But it seems to come out of no where.  It is crazy hard to live in a country where affluence and comfort reign (even among those who would say they have a tight budget).  The reality of our American lifestyle compared with nearly the rest of the world is that it’s seeped in a relentless pursuit of more.  Usually the ‘more’ is beyond our means and put on credit.

Even for us personally, living free from revolving consumer debt (by simple dedication to living WITHIN our current means – a radically weird thought) and living a simple life on many levels, there is still room for the “I can so I should” train of thought.  With the holidays on the way I am trying hard to keep asking myself if the can must translate into the doing/buying/whatever…the big question I am asking though is this:

If I say no to ______, then is there something more meaningful or more helpful that I can invest my time, energy, resources and heart into.

This question has been translating itself out in my life before I could actually verbalize it.  The result of it is thinking longer, harder about where any extra goes.  Not at all just financially but every sort.  Extra heart energy.  Extra food.  Extra words at the end of the day to write into a card.  Extra time.  Now you might be thinking if you know me that there couldn’t possibly be ANY extra in my life that is brimming with life.  On the contrary my friends, the mysterious thing that happens to a life poured out for Jesus and for people is somehow there is always enough.  I feel like I’m a living, breathing example of the loaves and fishes, but in person-form not food!

There is no explanation for that other than me asking and Him giving.  He loves that.  He loves to meet my needs and even exceed them so I can bring dinner to someone on short notice, write a letter to a friend, spend extra minutes on my knees for something I know deeply matters to God’s heart, lay on the floor to build something with a little person or set a lovely table that I know my husband will enjoy.  Little things yes.  And of course there are things that don’t make the cut on my daily list of “I hope to….” – you might be appalled to know how long its been since I mopped my kitchen floor.  But isn’t it marvelous how the small things of the heart are actually the big things of life?

If you haven’t asked yourself lately if all your ‘can do’ things are the ‘should do’ things that are meant to fill your life up….try it.  Might be a powerful thing to think about before we are thrust into the throws of the holiday season!

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.


Someday my couch will have all its cushions on it and it will not perpetually look like this:

Someday my kitchen counters will actually feel smooth when I run my hands across them, they might actually be clean for more than 5 minutes.

Someday there will not be a giant pile of dirties next to my washer, there will be no muddy little people to accumulate said dirties.

Someday there will be quiet and calm here.

Someday the kids bathroom won’t smell like pee.

Someday I will have the time to sit and drink whole cups of coffee before they are cold.

Someday there won’t be a shoe around every single corner or permanent marker art on my wood floor.

Someday I won’t shop at Costco anymore or buy 500 pounds of beef at one time.

Someday I will (maybe) think about my outfits, my style and actually wear something not from Costco or the Goodwill – and it will stay clean on me for the whole day.

Someday I won’t find my hairbrush in the toilet because there will be no one here who would think to put it there.

Someday I will go for long walks, have time for daily Pilates and have time to exercise.

Someday I might drive a small, zippy, efficient vehicle.

Someday I will go weeks without uttering phrases like “show kindness please” and “take the craziness outside”.

Every season at least once, I ponder what my days will look like in a few years time.  How this place will change and how different the issues and challenges will be that we each face.  This season of training many littles is exhausting.  But I am foolish to think that someday I won’t miss the loud, chaotic, crazy LOVE that spills from this home.  Oh yes, love will still live here.  But it won’t look the same, sound the same or feel quite the same as having my brood here, under my roof.  So every morning I wake up and remind myself to live in the moment that is today – my chance to impact and imprint upon real, live people is today.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Honestly every day I am ridiculously thankful for my present, for my today.  From the outside looking in I know it may seem nuts, this life, this way that we walk.  And that’s okay.  I would not trade it for any convenience, any comfort, any dose of ‘easy’.  The riches are immeasurable,