Monday, January 4, 2016

found


As I turn the corner to walk up the stairs with an armload of laundry, I glimpse a small flash of color. My youngest beams up at me as she inches into the tight space between the stationary desk and the stairwell. I know this game well. Feigning confusion, I look wildly around with a worried expression, 
"Where is Ray Ray? I can't find her!" 
With a triumphant smile, my toddler begins to shuffle out of the space. 
"There she is!" I say, meeting her grin with one of my own. 

We have made a home in NoVa these last five months. Though the pictures have not all made it up on the walls, the house looks settled. My heart, however, is not. I know that every transition is different. I can remember back to places where, even after three years, I was still not at home. This was a dark time. Other postings have left sweet memories of fellowship and close knit community. Still others left me feeling like I was not fully understood or known.

I realize that, in these places, how important it is for me to be known. Understood. 

I want to be found. 

In this season, I feel as if I am stuck in an anonymous place. I know this is not the truth. To be honest, it is during these times that I pray for God's perspective on my life, my situation. If I believe He is sovereign in all circumstances, regardless of whether or not I am in close friendship with others or active in using my gifts, then I can be confident that He is sovereign when my situation feels stuck. 

At heart, I am impatient. My vision is myopic. I need the touch of the Father's hand to restore my vision- Lord, give me your eyes to see... 

To see Your goodness, 
To see Your provision,
To see Your abundance,

To believe that You have 

found me,
know me,
understand me,

And that is enough.




Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas tree musings....


Even after we had cut the cords that bound the Christmas evergreen, its boughs remained closely wrapped to its trunk.
"It's not a very big tree," observed my third child skeptically, as she rolled around on the carpet in front of the tree. "I thought it would be bigger."
"Don't worry, honey," I assured her, glancing up at the seven foot pole with limbs. "It just needs some time and some coaxing."
After a small crisis involving our old Christmas tree stand leaking water all over our hardwood floors, a trip to Walmart and a new, giant plastic stand, the tree appeared to be relaxing a bit. I was not. Dinner was late. My husband was still working on his second (and last!) paper before Christmas break. The floors beneath the trees were draped with water-soaked towels. And my vision of decorating the tree this year amid joyful tones of Christmas songs and peaceful, cozy feelings disintegrated. My one consolation was getting Cafe Rio takeout.
It's funny how easily it is to be bound up in things that you are so used to feeling and believing. So accustomed to my self-made prison. That even when my chains are gone, I function within the same self- fabricated limitations.
I can't.
I won't.
It's too much.
It's too dangerous.
I won't know what to do. 

Fear. Anxiety. Worry. Disappointment. Anger. All of these cords that, without Christ in my life, would still have the power to keep me down. But the Good News of Christmas is that because of the Baby born a King, who lived to die, and whose death literally slashed the chains of sin worldwide, I am alive. I am free.


"He has sent me to 
bind up the 
brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty 
to the captives,
and the opening of 
the prison to
those who are 
bound..."
Isaiah 61:1b**

Our tree now has lights. The decorating process has been slow this year, but there is progress! And its boughs, with a little coaxing and a few days time have spread out fully. This is our first REAL Christmas tree in over ten years and it is probably the most perfectly symmetrical tree that we have ever bought (way to go, Costco!). 
This advent, I want to let go of the things which bind me. It is for freedom that Christ has set me free. Not for small talking. Shadow walking. Sidelines sitting. I can't, but He can. And He did. 

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

**On this day, I remember my friend JoAnne, who told me once to go into an empty room and let myself laugh outloud, for no reason except to just laugh. We are all oaks, tender saplings, for the display of His splendor. Miss you, my wise, funny, beautiful friend!

soli deo gloria


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Renewal of Thanksgiving


Years ago, after reading Ann Voskamps One Thousand Gifts, I began, like many others, a gratitude journal. Pen in hand and moleskin journal splayed across my lap, I'd eagerly pen in my five items a day. 
The sunshine. 
The soft cheek of my newborn. 
Flowers.
Rain. 
Clean clothes. 
The smell of basil.

Since then, I have almost made it to 1,000 gifts in one journal, started another paper list, then ditched both for a Gratitude Journal on my iphone. I've also ditched numbering and have allowed myself the grace of not feeling guilty if I don't make entries every day. 

What I have realized is that when I am not actively stopping to make these entries, my attitude tends to slide downward. Having these nightly or even weekly moments to stop and deliberately turn my thoughts towards what I am thankful for at that moment helps me to regain my footing. 

But it's not enough. 

What I discovered with my "1,000 gifts" lists is that in addition to being thankful for the gifts, I needed to re-focus my heart on the Giver. Above the laundry, the flowers, the soft cheeks of my baby was the One who has made my heart clean from sin forever, Whose glory is like the sweetest smelling fragrance and the One who makes all things new. Recognizing Him in all of these gifts strengthens my faith and trust in Him and enables me to remember why He is Lord of my life and worthy of my worship and devotion. Worthy of my heart.

So I am thankful, today, 
....for the sunset outside our window, splashing colors of lavender, deep pink and gold across an undeserving sky, that the God of the universe is one whose beauty, goodness, and truth are unparalleled.

....for the baby doll laying on the computer desk next to me, that my God has knit into the hearts of my girls a nurturing spirit, even at the tender age of one. Our Father God knows how to comfort and nurture us in any and every situation.

....for the dishes being washed in my sink by my older daughter. She is learning how to restore order to the chaos of meal clean-up. She was made in the image of God, the One who restores order and makes things right in a chaotic world. 

solo dei gloria

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Inside Out




Last weekend, our family watched the Pixar/Disney movie,  Inside Out. What a keeper. It is one of Pixar/Disney's most thoughtful and humorous films. The characters, aptly named Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Distrust, interact with one another as they each "drive" Riley, the eleven year old girl whose life has just been turned "inside out" with a cross country move. Besides the fact that our family "gets" the whole process of moving, I thought that the depictions of how our thoughts and memories are processed, recalled and forgotten was both funny and profound. (Though not totally accurate).

One of the most poignant insights that the movie uncovered was that Joy needed Sadness. For the first part of the film, Joy was continually trying to curtail Sadness from touching anything on or around Riley's "dashboard." Then when Sadness began touching memories and making them "sad," Joy even placed Sadness in box and in her singsong way, told her to stay there. What Joy realizes, as the movie progresses, is that the joy attached to several "core" memories (ones that helped build Riley's personality) was only possible because sadness came first. It opened up Riley to comfort from her parents and affirmation from her hockey team, which in turn led to joy being the core memory.

I don't need anyone to give me permission to feel sad. As a melancholy personality, I have in the past tried hard not to be sad and to just "be joyful." Be happy. This approach has led to frustration and disappointment-- just "being happy" doesn't work.

Yet the reality of life is that we now live in a sinful world that is groaning to be made right, to be made whole again. We are broken. We are empty in ourselves. And when Christ is not at the center, all things at first glance seem to  shimmer but then fade away when we try to hold them too close. But we were not meant to stay here.

But what if I was not seeing it clearly-- that instead of sadness and joy being polar opposites and sadness something to be avoided or stepped out of-- what if God intended us to step through sadness to joy. That in certain circumstances, true joy could only come or be properly experienced if a redeemed sadness were experienced. I say "redeemed" because in God's original plan in the garden, there was no reason or room for sadness-- sadness implies that something is broken, empty, or missing. What could be missing from a perfect relationship with a Perfect Creator?

Christ wept tears and sweated blood in Gethsemane and was a man of sorrows. But in Hebrews, it says that "for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross scorning its shame." The pain, sadness and brokenness was only temporary. But the joy secured is eternal. I want to experience my own brokenness so that I can receive the comfort of a Savior who can completely sympathize with my weakness. I want to engage to the extent that my faith allows in the brokenness of this world, so that by the Grace of God I can be His light and love even in spite of my weakness. 

Joy is a gift. From. God. I cannot create it, but I can position myself in the sufferings of a sinful world to appropriate it as I do the air I breathe. "Rejoice always," Paul exhorts the church in Thessalonica. I will rejoice, in my sadness, through my sadness, when He is before me. 


And on that day they offered great sacrifices, 

rejoicing because God had given them great joy.

Nehemiah 12:43

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A True Autumn


 The trees outside our home turned to gold and flame red and, to the delight of my kids, carpeted our sidewalk with a layer that crunches underfoot. The experience of a true autumn has not been a part of our family's history with kids until now, with balmy, mild transitional seasons in Florida, Jordan, then Florida again. Thanksgivings in the seventies, with green grass, palm trees, and flamingo yard ornaments doesn't give the experience that a brisk, November day with a chill in the air laced with burning wood and the smell of damp, fallen leaves does. 

We are in a new home. Again. And together. I review all of the transitions that we have lived through in the last year and a half- making an overseas return back to the States, settling into two households continents apart, weathering a season of separation, then selling a home, coming back together again, moving to another state, buying another home, and settling into a new community. Did we just do that...really? I am again amazed at God's grace. 

The seasons in Northern Virginia are distinct, each one set apart from the other by dramatic changes in the foliage, in temperature and in driving conditions (can't wait to venture out in the snow, woohoo!). That life moves in seasons has been both an encouragement to me (in difficult seasons- 'This too shall pass!') and challenging to me (I am entering into another one of these seasons!). After several crazy busy seasons, this one has unfolded in mute colors, quiet days at home and a seeming slow connection to our community. 

Autumn has two distinct meanings for me. One is time of change and, not to be morbid, a time to die. Our annuals on the front porch have a few more weeks until they fold, our lawn has become a collecting plate for leaves of all shapes and colors. The trees are becoming skeletal (is that a word?) The other meaning for me, which is one I want to dwell on this month, is a preparation rest. Winter is a time when everything in the natural world, at least on the outside, is at rest. 

After living life in constant motion, taking on roles of both parents, for a time, I find it hard to give up certain actions that have become second nature to me. Not because they are good for me, but because they worked. But what worked in one season is not necessarily going to work in another. And I realize that the ability to move at the pace I did last year was God given- for that season. But now, my body and heart and mind need rest. 

Does this resonate for you?

Why is it so hard for women, mothers, to allow for seasons of rest? In my productive, driven mindset, I want to continue accomplishing, contributing, producing-- in outward ways that give me that sense of quick fulfillment. Yet more and more, my body and my heart are giving me warning signs that I need to slow down. These are three major ways I know I need to get more rest:

1. Even when I am getting a good night's sleep, I feel like my body is dragging and I have to push continually even to get the basics done.

2. I am quick to snap at the kids over small issues and am continually irritable and grouchy.

3. I have lost enthusiasm and energy for even things that are good for me, that usually bring joy- for example, reading my bible, going out for a walk or meeting with friends.

In preparation for their winter's rest, trees drop their leaves and enter into a state of dormancy which is vital to their later growth in the spring. From a little digging around the web, I found this quotation on trees which I think has broader meaning: 

It is possible to force a tree to evade dormancy if you keep it inside and with a stable temperature and light pattern. However, this is usually bad for the tree. It's natural for trees to go through dormancy cycles, and the lifespan of the plant is dramatically increased if the tree is not allowed to go dormant for a few months. Trees have winter dormancy for a reason, and it's best to just let them run their course as nature intended. 

(Eileen Campbell, "How Do Trees Survive Winter?" Mother Nature Network, January 13, 2012

how to trees survive winter

Ok, so we obviously cannot go "dormant" as moms for very long without things going into pandemonium, but there have to be some ways I can care for myself and allow for rest, especially after an unusually busy season. 

Some ways I have thought of that I want to allow pause in my day (and this is a work in progress):

-- "Three Things" I learned this from my Mary Kay mentor, Ginger, when I sold their products for a short time. She said to write down three goals you have for the following day-- if you that is all you can handle, stop there. If you have more energy, write three things in the areas of spiritual growth, exercise, home, etc. Right now, I have only energy for three things: email Sara, call Doctor's office, hang pictures...etc.

-- Lay down for a short nap in the afternoon. My friend Rebecca tries to do this every day if she can. And she has older kids. No matter what the ages, we all need a pause! And laying down means the kids also need to be having their own quiet times. This is a way of teaching them the discipline of rest. 

-- Asking God to order my priorities each day. I have a natural inclination to be in control. I am not. When I let God determine my steps, I am entrusting myself to the One who knows when to push and when to pause. I often don't know the difference and end up spinning my wheels. This is the last but probably most important thing I want to start applying today. 

God specially designed the natural world with seasons that are different and which lovingly protect and care for each animal, flower and plant. He made us likewise, intending that we allow Him to lead us into the seasons with His perspective, His purposes and His power. 




Friday, August 29, 2014

one month in...

     We have arrived at the one month marking point in our year, hurrah! I have a few minutes to tap out a short update on the last several weeks and it is absolute bliss to have this margin of quiet. Not that I don't love my children-- it's just that my introspective side gets starved quite frequently these days and I am realizing that even ten minutes to pause and sit in the quiet, is nourishing.
     I have so much to be thankful for-- and I want to begin my update with thanks-- and gratitude-- for how God so perfectly meets our needs. Here are the highlights:
  •      The shipment that came in with spots of mold and mildew came back the second time with little or no residual smell or damage. The company has been very generous in reimbursing for the slipcovers and has sent repairmen to fix damage to an antique piece and even set up our bunk beds-- that is a HUGE job!
  •       We've had help from friends, their husbands, and neighbors in setting up our office desk, media network/internet, crib and other projects that would have been difficult for me to handle on my own. This has been a major burden lifter.
  •      I am seeing how handy and capable my son has become, and am so grateful for his help in both hard jobs and caring for our little peanut. He also has a great sense of humor that reminds me of my hubbie and reminds me of the importance of laughter.
  •      Meeting the family of one of my husband's college classmates who he hadn't seen in twenty years. They met first in Amman last year and we realized we'd be overlapping this year in Florida. His wife is an amazing, godly woman and fast friend, fellow prayer walker and someone who understands from experience the season we are in. We will be doing a bible study together (we both love Beth Moore :)) with another friend....
  •        Who I met in my last two weeks in Amman, whose husband is working there this year. She is a believer and homeschools her five children. We do dinners together and spend weekends finding fun things to do in Tampa. I am thankful for her joyful perspective.
  •      Children who are stepping up to fill in helping with household chores now that we don't have a "Queeny" to help forty hours a week- ah, what a pampering last three years I had :) My kids are taking on new responsibilities with a good attitude (most of the time).
  •      So grateful for Face Time- being able to talk "face to face" with my best friend every day, sharing moments and watching the kids interacting with him has made the distance seem a bit smaller. He is watching our little girl grow and change-- and there are so many changes during the first year! A big praise was when she stopped wrinkling her brow at him on the IPad and started smiling and cooing at her daddy!
  •      Grace for my homeschool year-- I am learning daily to be okay with being "behind" in starting my year, making decisions and deciding on curriculum because I have had major life changes to get adjusted to in these last few months. God is good, He knows what we all need.
  •      Visits from family-- my mom in law, my sister and niece, and then my parents next month...these visits are sweet and help move the time forward. One of my goals for this year was to reconnect with family and friends after being so distant these last three years. I am so thankful for the ability to also reconnect with friends over the phone, as well as to connect via skype with dear friends in Amman!
  •       All of the boxes are unpacked! I am still organizing and nothing is hung on the walls yet, but to be unpacked in a month is fabulous. I am still figuring out where everything needs to go and sorting through things to donate, but our house is now feeling like a home.
  •      Reconnecting with friends here...I had a birthday party with Lydia in early August and invited all of the moms and their kids who we knew back when we lived here last. One of the ladies said that they had not all gotten together since the last time I was here! Praise God for this renewed fellowship!
  •      Florida is so green and everything is growing here. This is so good for my heart, after a few years of sand and brown. I still hope to have time when I am more settled to plant flowers and other plants. . . 

Now that the dust has settled, I realize that the challenge in this time will be the longevity of separation. We are in for a marathon, not just a sprint! But I am confident of His provision daily, for His grace to cover over all of the balls I drop daily, and for strength to do what needs to be accomplished. I just need wisdom to know what that is, and discernment to let lay what is not important.

Baby is crying now, so I will close.

soli deo gloria--

Monday, June 2, 2014

on my fortieth birthday

I walked into the kitchen after a night of baby wakings to see her frying an egg in a pan. Two slices of blueberry morning cake sat on a white glass plate, compliments of our embassy's welcome kit. We are making a home these days of a household kit, a suitcase each of clothing and several ziplocs full of favorite toys. Books are read on the kindle and we are using up the rest of our art supplies.

I am always amazed at how little one can live on, especially after accumulating three years of stuff-- clothing, toys, books, things...and then slowly weeding through it during the course of the last several months. Sifting out all that is peripheral, prayerfully giving away items to friends who might find use and value in these things.

And on this morning, my eldest daughter fries an egg and mixes together a fruit salad to celebrate my birthday. On a day when our life here in Jordan is coming to a close and a new chapter is beginning, I am both rejoicing and grieving. The ache, that familiar hollow feeling, grows as our time closes and I realize I don't want to let go. I have a full life here-- rich friendships, role in the homeschool community, a busy social life...and yet what I know to be true is that all of this has shifted and changed in preparation for us leaving-- things are different. And to hold on would be to deny God's perfect plans for me, for our family. To let go will be to open myself to the hope and the future He will unfold in these next weeks and months (Jeremiah 29:11-13). This is what I want and these are the promises that I want to hold onto with all my heart. That He who began a good work in us will continue it...

Abba, take this life of mine, it was Yours all along. Help me to let go of what was so that I can receive You, Your good purposes for us. This timing, though different than what I would plan, is perfect. Your ways are higher than ours. Set my heart on You and on the fullness of life in You. Come and fill this empty ache, this sadness and loneliness. Take it and fill me with Your Spirit of comfort and peace, of joy. You are good and Your ways are good.  You love us and all Your ways are loving towards us.