Scandalous

I’m sitting here stroking the letters on my laptop, knowing what my heart longs to share, praying for this message to be translated properly into words.

Because what I long to say isn’t easy to share.  It even feels downright scandalous today.

But isn’t that as it should be?  God calls us to that which registers as scandalously radical to the world.  The path is not an easy one for people pleasers like me.

I did the responsible thing.  With plenty of time before the deadline, I registered our Elizabeth for ballet.  Because I heard it often from other mamas there and saw it myself, how talented she is.  A natural little ballerina.  A natural grace about her that has always been.  We looked forward to watching her perform in recitals over the years as her grace and ability matured.

When making such decisions I feel as though the weight of the world is on me as many mamas do, thinking of all the future implications of either adding an activity to a child’s schedule or withholding.  I don’t want her to miss out on one thing God has for her.  The mere thought of it is suffocating.

114

Nor do I buy the lie that a full schedule makes a complete life, though I did once.  This hurrying around from one activity to another, this busyness has become a sort of idol today.  We say it is for our kids and often believe it’s for their good, but as Ann Voskamp says, “the hurry hurts the kids.  All our rushing ends in nothing.”

I’ve made the mistake plenty of times.  I see the extracurricular activities as good (and they often are) and so I’ve signed up, without giving thought to what it will cost our family, without seeking the Lord’s will.  Sometimes we need to say no to that which is good so we can say yes to something so much better.

011

Why are we afraid?  Afraid to live slow enough so that there’s time for kids to be bored and imaginations to flow, time for us to have heart talks over a random baking session, time to gaze curiously at the path of the beetle, time for mud pies and long books read by that sunny window, time to knit and build a fort, time to soar like the wind on our bikes, time to snuggle up under the stars and discuss the greatness of God, time to pray together, time to laugh, time to love.

It almost feels scandalous.

023

010

“To make the time to love because what else in the world is time for?”  ~Ann

Those who live simply live richly.

007

I felt God’s gentle tug to pray this through.  Dan and I had talked about it.  How we knew God was calling us to run from assuming, from blindly swimming along with the flow, and to seek His will in these decisions.

To hear His heart before committing.  Then surrender.  Then bask in the freedom it brings.  Oh the peace!

We crawl into bed, hands held tight, once again praying and waiting for a response.  My mind flutters around from one distraction to another as minutes pass.  Then I study Dan’s face, as I often do at these moments, trying to discern if He is hearing anything.  I detect a curve at the edge of his mouth and he looks at me knowing what I’m up to.   I know by the light in his eyes that He has seen or heard something.  And I bite my lip, eagerly awaiting as a child at Christmas.

He saw a large thriving tree.  Then he saw someone mercilessly chopping it down.  He had wondered why, asking God to interpret.  Then he heard the Lord say that for Ellie to attend ballet last year was good and healthy.  She learned far more than just ballet, and was stretched in many ways.  And if that ‘tree’ is taken down now it can be used in building upon.   A healthy thing.  But if that tree is to remain then it would begin to deteriorate, to rot.

The answer is clear.  To remain in ballet would not be what is best.  We don’t know why nor do we need to.

We smile.  Tears fill our eyes as we’re not only grateful for an answer, but we’re touched.  Touched that this God who stretches out the universe has once again answered one of our seemingly insignificant questions as we’ve sought Him together.  Touched that He loves our little girl more than we ever could, sees the beginning from the end and knows how it will affect her heart.  The peace floods us both and we rest in God’s guidance, falling in love with God all over again.

How thankful we are that God is not some distant being, leaving us on our own to make these decisions.  No, He is this ever present lover of our souls who knows the number of hairs on our head and is always at work within us.

002

“Sometimes doing the most important thing eternally – doesn’t look like you are doing anything noticeably.” – Ann

It’s another Saturday and like most Saturdays, we’re all here together, playing and working alongside each other.  There’s a breeze rustling the tall shady oak trees and I hear her laugh as she swings, tossing her golden head back and flying forward.  Joy that cannot be contained as we smile wide and our spirits soar.

And there’s this satisfaction that dives right into the deep places in which I’ve desperately needed his peace.  And this peace flows and I can’t wipe the smile off.  Peace because we have this ever present God who guides those who seek Him.  And I can rest knowing we’re doing what’s best for her, because we don’t want her to miss out on one thing God has for her.

003

“In quietness and rest shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

“Simple living anchors a child’s soul and prepares the heart to know God.” ~ Sally Clarkson (and you thought it would be Ann)  🙂

005

disclaimer:  Please understand that I’m not saying all extracurricular activities should be avoided.  We have our son in fencing as well as all kids in Choir and AWANA on Wednesday nights.  However, I do believe we should seek God’s guidance rather than just jumping in.  There, living intentionally, we will find peace and meaning.

Christmas Ponderings

I admit I’m a bit uncomfortable writing this.

DSC_0044

But this season I pondered how we celebrate Christmas.  I toiled over it sometimes to the point of agonizing over it, my spirit unsettled at the way our culture (and I do mean Christians) celebrate the coming of our Savior, the miracle of this God cloaking himself in skin and living and breathing among us.

DSC_0039

Does this indulging in buying as much as we can for each member of the family glorify God on His birthday?  Is that what He wants for His birthday?

I haven’t been alone in these thoughts this season.  I had several girlfriends write me or call me, asking my opinions on Christmas.

God with us.  God moving in our hearts, whispering in our midst.

DSC_0045

I love the exchanging of gifts.  All the learning to give.  However I am uncomfortable with how it has become the focus, and the amount given.  Whose birthday is it anyway, I would continually ask myself.

The thought came to me, let’s make the main gift of Christmas to Him.   The focus of our giving.  “When you give to the least of these, you have given to Me.”

DSC_0035

So the first gift of Christmas is for Jesus.  I wrapped up this tree to represent the money we sent to assist in bringing children out of slavery, the tree representing life.  A reminder to pray for these kids whenever we see the tree and a symbol of the gift we give to Jesus.

DSC_0048

So Christmas Eve after the feasting and the worship-filled carols around the piano, the first gift of Christmas is opened by my firstborn.  He explains to all the family gathered around what it stands for and why we give.  To hear him give his heartfelt account of it all is the best gift I could receive.  And I know God is smiling at our meager attempt to love Him.

DSC_0036

I certainly don’t think there’s one right way to do Christmas.  But I know I don’t ever want our family to blindly march on to the beat of the culture’s drum, oblivious to what God is calling us to, and missing out on the joy, this abundant life that springs from it.

So we gather around each evening in December, light a candle, and the kids unwrap a hope-filled Christmas book for us to share in.  Oh the anticipation to see which book it will be!  (Many are on loan from a precious friend).

DSC_0054

DSC_0050

When admiring the glow of the lights from our tree we discuss all the wondrous symbolism there.  The tree representing the cross He gave His all on, the lights representing the one true Light, the always green fir tree representing eternal life, and then there’s the fruit and the candy canes and the star on top of it all, a rich illustration.

DSCN5322

We fill our home with cinnamon and spruce candles burning,  choral and instrumental Christmas music, and the aroma of pies baking in hopes of creating memories we will savor for years to come.

DSC_0042

But most of all, we long for the way in which we celebrate to point to Him, to lavish love on Him, to bring a smile.  It is, after all, His birthday.

Please, dear friends, leave a comment as to how you make your Christmas about Christ.  I hope ours will look a little more like Him each year, so I would love to hear your ideas.

Growing Aware

I’m not usually aware of it the second it begins.  But it slices right to the core of me.  It stomps and spits all over a beautiful day and leaves me bewildered as to how we got here.

And mere minutes ago I was deliriously happy at the thought of us side by side all day.

Our tone toward each other.   Without the words changing, our tone slaps in the face or evokes love.

And I step away not knowing what to think.  Get alone with God to bring some clarity.   And I’m hurt and angry about what could have been but what happened instead.  How all the beauty that is between us is strangled.

All this when there was such unity in our decisions, laughter shared, arms wrapped around each other tight, and a firm kiss mere minutes before?

It doesn’t happen very often, but too often nonetheless.  Our tone polluting the air and driving arrows straight to the others heart.  A shadow of the dark, dangerous places we ventured to in the past.

I’m aware of the damage that a tone or sarcasm can do to a soul, to relationships, and I know.

I know that we will not allow it to define our family.

As I am praying I see a picture of a ‘tone’ chart.  We prop up this white board on the aged piano and put a mark under our name anytime a demeaning tone or insulting sarcasm is used and will continue to for 21 days.  The whole family involved because it has not only been an issue between husband and me, but brothers as well.

We decide to do whatever it takes to disable our habit and protect and nurture what we have.

Rewards to those who do well!  Awareness to those who don’t.

9 days (with almost all of us together everyday) is behind us now and it’s waking us all up to what it looks like.  To what loving each other in all situations looks like.

Big brother had several marks beside his name the first day.  He’s had none since.  Years of trying different ways to get it through to him (when it comes to speaking to his younger brother), and we just began recording it on this board, and now he gets it.

Our 6 year old daughter, who excels in patience and love, has had only one mark and she put it there herself, insisting she had earned it.  No surprise.  We can all learn something from her gentle ways.   She is by far the winner thus far.

Husband and I have had more than we care to admit.  Not between each other but it has surfaced when speaking to the kids.  When we allow that frustration to build.

The first time I let out a harsh tone was toward our sweet Ellie and I didn’t realize it until I saw that look in her eyes.  My heart melted in that second.

It wasn’t a yell, but it wreaked of frustration.  I was shocked that it slipped out even on such high alert.

I wish I could say I have it down now.  I have certainly improved, almost always catching it before it slips out, however this with great struggle and focus.

That large white board in the center of the home with those ugly marks doesn’t allow me to forget.  The thought of my marriage and our children’s hearts drive me onward.

From the dark dining room I look over at my beloved sitting on the couch with all the kids wrapped around him.  He meets my eyes quickly, a flash of love and an inkling of a smile.

Imperfect we are.  But we’re in this together, doing whatever it takes to keep our family in step with Him.

And we rely on this God who takes messed up people like us and does something beautiful.  He’s this ever present, never stopping, always working in us God.

And I smile back at Husband, twinkle in my eye, fully confident in the story God is weaving.

 
always counting the ways He loves..  some taken from my journal:

6)  how Ellie’s eyes lit up when she saw her ballet recital costume

9) Quinn and Ellie happily playing ‘house’ together in the laundry room, for days

13) a pastor who regularly seeks out time with Husband

14) a cat sleeping under the Christmas tree

25) the boys sound effects as they fly their planes around the house

33) laughter from the bathtub

37) Gav, Ellie, and I soaring all over the property on our horses (otherwise known as

our bikes)

My Heart Overflows

Before I publish the post I’ve been working on, I wanted to share some of the kisses from God in my life, some of the things currently making my heart radiate joy:

the first egg from the young hen coop..  oh how eagerly we have looked forward to it

the wonder of that first leaf pile of the season

family gathered around cracking pecans from a friend

the peace that permeates this place

the touches of scarlet

moments of childhood magic in the new tree house (yes, Gavin dressed himself :))

and a family to gather around the table, full of thankful hearts, full to the brim with His love

The Fight

We planted it this summer to no avail.  How eagerly I had awaited the bursting forth of fresh green.  I got on my knees, and stared at that dirt as if knowing I was there, expectant, would breathe life into it.

A blanket of grass to roll around on, to cushion bare feet racing and dancing, to hide Easter eggs in, to coat our yard in that lovely life color of green.  To elevate our yard from the abandoned look to one that is a cherished part of family life.

I step outside, smile at the warmth of the sunshine on my shoulders.  Then the large expanse of weeds with random spots of bare earth fills my gaze.  I let out a long sigh.

Yea, it’s grass, but it’s the foundation of our outdoor life, and the view from all my windows and I wonder if it will ever really feel like our yard.

And the frustration of how S.L.O.W.L.Y. our projects have gone around here (despite our best efforts) rises from inside of me, mixes with rage, and births a discontent monster who begins to take over my countenance.

A glimmer of light catches my eye as I spot several pieces of glass.  Since we moved here we have been picking up the pieces, thinking we’ve finally got it all until it rains and more broken glass pops up around our land.  A reminder of the alcoholic who lived here before us.

I thought about how he lived here among such glory, these oak trees, these rolling hills, this blue sky, with the cardinals by the kitchen window and the family of cottontails on the edge of the forest, the deer tracks by the pond, nothing but nature in every direction.  Only the sounds of birds and the gentle breeze swaying the branches.

And yet he missed it somehow.  I shook my head at it.  At how he polluted the beauty, left piles of whiskey bottles lying over much of the 11 acres.   Carelessly corrupting it all.

I added the glass to the garbage bin.   And, oh, if only it was that easy to get rid of my discontented self, my frustration over expectations.  To just throw it away.

Standing by the bin, it hits me.  I’m no different.

Some days my heart soars as I soak up the God that surrounds me, and I’m filled to bursting with thankfulness, overwhelming joy as I feel God’s touch.  Giggles from the kids as they jump on the trampoline.  The brilliant red of the apple bobbing.  The feel of Quinn’s chubby hand around my neck.  The smell of pumpkin muffins.  The tender smile of my beloved.   The way he gazes at our Elizabeth as if it’s the first time he’s ever looked at her.

But all too often I allow my thoughts to dwell on the things I want to change and wonder if they’re ever. going. to. happen.  Grass.  Kitchen remodel.  A barn built.  Adding on to the house and finally having more than one bathroom and more than one closet!

And my words spew filth over this beautiful land when I allow frustration to boil from my unrealistic expectations.  And joy doesn’t stand a chance.  And I miss out on living.

I latch the garbage bin and look up to see a boy happily trotting along with his hero.  And I whisper thanks to a God who provides moments like these.   And in the next breath I apologize for my discontent heart.

I’m well aware that this will be a battle.  When the bills are piled high, when the kids are snapping at each other, when I feel like I’m drowning in my responsibilities, when sickness looms.  It will come down to a choice as to what I will focus on.

I’m learning that ‘rejoicing in the Lord always’ is only possible through the channel of a thankful heart.  A heart that is still enough to see.

Here I go..

I really don’t have anything worthwhile to say.  I’ve told God this repeatedly as I’ve felt the gentle but persistent tug to begin a blog over the last couple years.  A couple friends and a loving husband called me on it.  Told me it’s time.  Made it a choice of obedience.

I’ve used endless excuses.  There are so many better writers out there..  No one will read it..  I’m really just a mess.  After she told me I needed to begin writing now, I told my prophetic friend that creating a blog would be something I’d consider if I had a laptop.  That would enable me to sit and write with the kids in eyesight.  Right then and there she went to asking God to provide one.  I thought, well this will be interesting.  Cause we sure don’t have the money for it, so let’s see if God moves.

Less than 2 months later, here I am, typing on my brand new laptop.  A large, unexpected check came in the mail not long after she prayed that prayer.  And our computer had started to show signs of dying.  When the check arrived Dan, with that tender gleam in his eye, said, “there’s your laptop babe.”

I smiled and swallowed hard, feeling a bit of pressure.  And I’ve never been one for working under pressure.   I tend to want to run and hide rather than conquer when things loom large.

But here I am.  Only because I know that His strength can rise through my weakness.  Only because I know that if He truly wants me to write, then He will give me the words to say.  Because, again, I have nothing worthwhile to say apart from Him.

I invite you, my friend, to follow the story God is weaving in our lives.  He is at work as we’ve never felt before.  Although it will often be messy and raw, I want to share the ponderings of my heart with you.  What God is saying and revealing to us.  The struggles.  The joys.

Subscribe and you won’t miss a post.  I promise I won’t inundate your inbox!  I will not be posting daily or even close to that.  (You may recall I home school 3 kids and help run a farm).  🙂