His order… not mine

This last week was a disaster.  I literally had no idea what I was doing from one moment to the next, and when I did remember what was next, I would literally forget.

There was something about the holiday Monday coupled with ANOTHER road trip that made everything wonky.  I had no meal plan, no cleaning plan, no laundry plan, NO PLAN.  I completely forgot a play date with a friend and her girls… her grace was refreshing, and we made it there…just very late.

I kept telling Ross that I was trying to figure out my rhythm. (I’m pretty sure he was ready to write a new song for me.) I really needed to find my rhythm, though.  We’ve entered into a new season from preschool drop off time at 9:00 am to real school drop off at 8:00 am for the oldest.  The middle still has preschool 2 days a week at the preschool time. The youngest is still napping, but no one is sure when at this point because she has to fit into the rhythm.  My newest work schedule (which changes often) affects two weekdays instead of one. Ross is taking the oldest to school the mornings after I work, but the oldest desperately wants time with me and struggles that she doesn’t see me until she gets out of school.  So I am trying to plan nap time around making space to spend time with her when she gets home. AND MY HEAD IS SPINNING.

On top of all of these logistical, practical rhythms of life, my heart rhythms are struggling too.  After a long stint with myopathy, I’ve gained weight and can’t seem to get it to budge.  My parents are moving across the ocean in less than a month, and everyone is pre-grieving at some level. My youngest turned two this weekend. (My mama heart has finally caught up with that reality…no more babies over here…) We are spending a lot of time adulting and having adult conversations about future, money, investing (what?!?!?) and all the things. The Lord is moving in our hearts about church and communing with the saints.  And we just need a breath.  Even as I write this, my body is yearning for a deep breath.

I have found over the years that I need a system.  For years I have done laundry on one day, cleaned bathrooms and floors on another day, washed sheets and towels on another, and done the girls laundry on another day ~ the same day every week. This system works for me and gives me a rhythm to my day.  If I don’t workout first thing in the morning, it is super difficult for me to do it any other time of day. Since working two weekdays, though, I’ve had to be willing to move that at a little because school drop off has to be first thing after waking up from my 4.5 hours of sleep.  I also have a huge desire for everything to be done before I leave the house (i.e. bed made, clothes and makeup on, house fairly picked up, etc.) However, the reality of that means getting up much earlier and takes me getting used to a whole new plan…system…rhythm.  Honestly, the plan is what brings me freedom even though it doesn’t sound like it.  The system helps me to have space and freedom to hear and move with the Holy Spirit.  It creates space because I know where my space is each week, and then I can ask the Lord how to use that space.  It’s been discipline for me.

But, just like everything else in this world that is not Jesus Himself, systems and disciplines can become our idol. My rhythms and my systems are great for creating space and helping me function in this broken world.  However, I prayed for two sisters today, and over both of them, I felt the Lord speak.  All these systems and rules will fall and all that will remain is the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  If this is true (and it is true), then we must be able to move in a rhythm that does not stifle, squelch or supersede the Holy Spirit and His ultimate plan for our days, hours and moments.

Systems and rhythms ~ plans ~ are not bad. Like many things in this world, though, (all things outside of Jesus), they must be held loosely and surrendered often to His authority.  God is not a god of chaos, and He orchestrates order in all of creation. What we must remember is that His order is His divine, perfect, sovereign, and complete way.  We are NOT Him or the Holy Spirit.  Our ways must be laid down for the glory of the Lord!

So I am sitting with Him today asking Him what He thinks the new rhythm should look like.  I am inviting Him to orchestrate the order and the space.  The pressure is off. He’s got this, and it’s gonna be good.

The Eclipse of Glory

He came in with four pair of eclipse glasses after what was supposed to be a quick trip to Lowe’s.

“SO…We should totally drive to see the Total Solar Eclipse.”

“We should? What day is on?” thinking in my head that I’m not super interested in seeing this phenomenon, but he seems excited, almost giddy.

“It’s like a once in a lifetime experience…and it’s covering the whole United States. It would be amazing…”

“Yeah, we could probably do that” thinking that we should do more spontaneous, fun experiences. What day?”

“August 21st.”

“That’s a Monday, and I work. And it’s the first day of school for Emilynn. We can’t go.”

Thus the beginning of many, many conversations about experiencing the eclipse. Ross was determined to make it happen.  There were several side conversations over dinner or the random morning bathroom conversation. All of them ended with me saying, “But it’s Emilynn’s first day of school…” Even Emilynn’s kindergarten teacher let me know that she was Team Ross…It’s a great experience and what is the first day of first grade compared to seeing the total solar eclipse.  Ross advocated for himself on our vacation with his mom telling me stories of him seeing an eclipse as a seven year old and witnessing Haley’s Comet.

When we finally had the serious talk that needed to happen to either kill this idea or bring it to life, Ross asked me if I could get off of work.  We found out that I was actually already moved off that day due some scheduling needs for my team.  Fate. A sign. Ross was convinced it must be Jesus.  So that conversation brought it to life, and we booked a hotel in Kansas City with credit card points.  We talked about driving the 9 hours there and back and being back in time for school on Tuesday.

Much to my dismay, my oldest didn’t blink an eye at the news of missing the first day.  I spent the next several weeks in denial.  Ross would most certainly see the error of his ways…a cross-country trip with a 2, 4, and 6 year old in two days, two very late nights, multiple reports of the dangers of viewing the eclipse (especially with children), the first week of school, if-y weather reports and ridiculous traffic reports…I mean, this really just didn’t seem like the most logical decision.  Guys are supposed to be logical, right?

The weekend finally arrived.  My closest friends were Team Ashley and shared my mommy heart and thought processes. I attempted to gain sympathy at work from co-workers and didn’t get very far. We were going, and I was either going to choose joy or frustration and anxiety.

Our bases were covered.  At Meet the Teacher we let Emilynn’s teacher know she was going to be out.  I spent Saturday making road trip books for the girls, packing a special snack basket, organizing and cleaning the car, charging all of the electronics for sanity, and trying everything to GET EXCITED!

We got up early on Sunday morning and headed out.  We had an uneventful drive up to Kansas City.  We bribed the girls all along the way with the pool that awaited them at the hotel.  They were so excited.  We pulled into the hotel and a feeling came over me…Something wasn’t right.  Ross came back with a long face and the look of “be prepared for what I am about to tell you.”

“They lost our reservation didn’t they?” I said convinced that we had no where to stay…

Ross went on to tell me that someone broke a glass in the coveted pool and that it was closed for the night at least.

OMG. Mama bear rose to the occasion.  “You go in there and tell them to get on their handy-dandy computer and move us to another (insert hotel name here) that has a working pool!!”

About 15 minutes later, I decided to insert myself into Ross’ conversation at the front desk.  Because for 15 minutes I kept the girls tears, whines and complete depths of despair at bay and I was OVER IT.

The lady proceeded to tell me it is actually not as simple as switching us to another hotel.  I looked at my watch realizing that we really should be heading to bed soon anyway. Just forget it.

“Can we swim in the bathtub, Mom?”  “Absolutely, girls. Sure.”

The next bump of the trip came when I got up the next morning to call the school and let them know that Emilynn was going to be absent.  I read the handbook and this was the process….Just not on the first day of school as it turns out. I was met with an unkind office worker letting me know that my daughter would lose her place in the program she was in and may not be with the teacher she had met the Wednesday night before.  After FREAKING out, I talked with another lady who was able to calm my fears. Emilynn was a “no-show” and had to sit with me, her delinquent mom, on the bench outside the office on Tuesday morning, but she did in fact get back in her class and program. Navigating this whole public school realm has been a bit of a learning curve…sometimes I feel like I’m failing…

After my blood pressure went down from that phone call and my anger towards my husband (whose fault ALL of this was), we proceeded to check out so that we could drive to the little town where we would watch the eclipse.  We walked outside to dark, thundering clouds and a bit of a downpour.   My blood pressure shot back up. Deep breaths. “This better be good!”

We drove east to the town while the clouds followed us the whole way.  We kept driving east and then south and decided to end up at a park we scoped out in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.  We were tired, but excited.  We picnicked and got settled watching the moon come across the sun.  People were thrilled.  We became a little park family as we all waited together and watched as dusk fell at noon.  We began hearing crickets and birds singing nighttime songs.  The temperature began to drop and the breeze picked up.  As the sliver of the sun disappeared, our glasses came off and a roar of cheers overtook ~ cheers from all of over the city.  It was unbelievable and glorious.  Tears began to roll down my cheeks…

That day I wasn’t certain why I cried.  Maybe I was crying because the morning had been so hard and I needed sleep.  Maybe I was crying because we had a 9 hour drive (at least) ahead and this was the moment.  Maybe I was crying because the roar of the people all gathered together was a taste of what Heaven will sound like.

 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 2 Corinthians 3:10-11

While I was tired, I think that my tears were holy tears.  Glory is a gift, but it’s not without a cost. Choosing glory, fostering glory, waiting for glory all take a huge amount of glorious sanctification.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

There is so much glory yet to be seen and experienced.  Ross and I talked on the way home a lot about the eclipse.  We talked about how darkness can never truly eclipse light…The corona of the sun that was left shining was so bright and pure. We talked about beholding glory here as a picture of what is to come.  We talked about the intricate ways that the Lord set this world into motion and the ways He chooses to display Himself through it. We knew, no matter what, we had tasted glory.

We call it the Marriage Eclipse of 2017. Marriage eclipsed every ounce of denial, every frustrated thought, every moment I was convinced we would all regret this crazy endeavor.  Glory remained, as it often does when we die to ourselves.  

Just a few days after the Total Solar Eclipse, Hurricane Harvey struck landfall and devastated cities and towns all over the coastal region of Texas and Houston.  Again, we have watched a natural phenomenon (unfortunately, a disastrous one) bring the multitude of people together. In the moments of the sun disappearing and a great cloud of witnesses cheering, Heaven touched the earth.  And now, in the midst of heartache, fear, and unfathomable aftermath, we once again see Heaven touching earth.  He is indeed an amazing God, and He is most amazing in and through His witnesses. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1, 2

First Grade Jitters

As parents there are endless choices and decisions to be made.  It starts with what you feed your children, moves on to what you are expose them to and eventually you have to decide how you will educate them.

There were unexpected tears at the end of Kindergarten last year ~ not from my oldest daughter but from me.  First grade starts tomorrow, and the jitters have come and gone for weeks.  We are headed into the public school realm, and I’m not sure which way is up or down.

Fortunately, there are so many that have gone before me.  A sweet friend has a daughter my oldest’s age, and her daughter did kindergarten last year at this school.  I have never been so grateful to have had someone go before me.  The amount of Voxer messages I’ve sent her with questions is embarrassing.

Part of our decision just doesn’t make sense. The school we chose is not in our neighborhood.  We have a great neighborhood school less than 3 minutes away. The school we chose is public not private. Many of our friends are doing a private co-op Classical Conversations school where they will see their kiddos 3 days more than I will see mine.  The school we chose is Title I, and our feeder school is not. However, my daughter was accepted into the applied learning program at the school we chose. There are smaller classrooms in this program with more freedom in the learning environment. It is beautifully diverse and represents unity that my heart longs for.  I fully believe it is where we are supposed to be…yet I have some real jitters.

Will my daughter make new friends? Will she be safe? Does her teacher love to teach and can’t wait for this next year? Will I connect with other moms and feel connected to the school?

A few weeks ago my sweet friend (the one that has gone before me) asked me if I would be interested in helping her with a teacher luncheon for the PTO committee she was heading up.  I’ve known up to this point that I was going to have to be intentional and put myself out there this year to be involved in my daughter’s education. For whatever reason, though (like I’ve mentioned before), I tend to crumble when building relationships with other parents.  I have an instinct to lay low… I don’t want to compete or compare AT ALL about anything. So I knew when she asked me to help it was the perfect opportunity to put myself out there, and I needed to respond eagerly. It is my desire to be more engaged with school, but navigating all the other people, their thoughts and expectations, feels vulnerable and overwhelming. Serving in this capacity is my passion, though…this is a place of comfort for me.  I love a good theme, decorations, and making something feel special.  A teacher luncheon was the perfect place to start and get my feet wet.

The luncheon went great, and my friend did a fabulous job (and worked her tail off!).  I met lots of other moms and PTO members and made some fun connections.  It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought.  The highlight was meeting the new principal, who immediately stood and hugged me upon introductions. Her spirit was precious, and she is most certainly a light. My spirit was able to breathe a sigh of relief…

We’ve bought school supplies. (My oldest shares my JOY and importance of this event.) Uniforms are organized and have been modeled. 🙂 I’ve helped with a teacher luncheon. I’ve filled out a volunteer application for the school. We have met our teacher whose spirit is also precious. My excitement and anxiety reminds me of childhood. I want my girl to have a fabulous year, and yet I have very little control over what and how that happens.

But I do know that God is with her all the time ~ the Holy Spirit resides with her. He cares deeply about her and ALL the children at that school. I want wherever we are and whatever we choose to be a place of sanctuary and sanctification.  As I move through this parenting journey, I find myself caring more about the heart of my child than I anticipated. Yes, I want her to be successful and have skills that take her through this life with opportunities that use her giftings and bless others. But at the end of the day, I want her to love people well, put others before herself, and find the value of other people no matter what.  Straight A’s, top of the class, and perfect attendance are far secondary to my girls having Jesus-eyes.

My heart still feels jittery and anxious, but I am realizing part of that is my heart dying to my ideals and expectations. The jitters are actually sanctification. Motherhood challenges and changes me more than I could have ever expected or projected. I am not the same woman my husband married 10 years ago, and I’m not the same parent I was when I started this gig 6 years ago. I am grateful.

Here’s to first grade! (And all the other beginnings for everyone!) God is with us. God is with our kids. God is moving. May we move with Him. My prayer for this school year for my daughter is that she is part of bringing the Kingdom to Earth.  May she be an instrument of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and a LOT of self-control. 🙂

P.S. There is more to this story that will come next week. Part of my anxiety is centered around the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017… Talk about dying to yourself…

10 years, Baby! and a whole lot of whittling…

My six-year-old talks about the New Earth daily.  While we have tried hard to drive eternity home in her heart, we find ourselves often having to remind her that the Kingdom is coming in and through Jesus-followers.  She has a part in bringing the New Earth here.

E: “Mama, don’t you want to go to the New Earth now…like today…”

(She often goes here when things get hard.)

Me: “No, Em. I actually kind of like it here. I believe that you and me being here together right now was always part of God’s plan. Remember, we are here {for now} so that we can be a part of the Kingdom coming now.”

E: “Yeah. I guess.”

She is often disappointed by the things of this world. Just the other day she reminded me once again that there would be no hospitals, no police officers and no firefighters in the New Earth. “You and Daddy won’t have a job, Mommy.”  AMEN, sister!

I don’t know if other families talk about Heaven and eternity as often as we do, but it’s a daily (sometimes multiple times a day) conversation over here.  There is a longing for Kingdom, but we are indeed here {for now}.


Several years ago I saw this incredible couple in the Target parking lot.  (This story was always going to be in my book, but I’m going to tell you part of it now.) They were probably in their mid-eighties.  They parked and walked in hand in hand.  I remember telling the Lord that I wanted to grow old like that.  I want that to be my story.  I want to live as long as possible with my husband right next to me. I want us to experience life and death simultaneously, really. I’ve wrestled with that moment off and on for years now.  What is God’s will? Will that be my story?  There are so many other ways that story could go.

Ross and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on the 4th. I have always thought that marrying upped the risk factor of life by a ton and having kids is just about the riskiest thing you could ever do in life.  The amount of love and life poured out for other people is overwhelmingly scary and risky.  If my heart spends too much time thinking about it, I will cry myself to sleep.  But how does the saying go? “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  I don’t know…the jury is still out. (just kidding)  But it’s HARD on my heart.

The night Ross and I went on our first date, it was unlike any first date ever. I cleared the air and broke the ice at the dinner table by asking Ross his intentions. There was much at stake for me in even being there, and I wasn’t messing around. He clearly stated that he wanted to date to me. The night was full of deep, full, and giddy conversation.  I left that night knowing that I was going to marry him. We hugged goodbye and the Holy Spirit fell. We both lost our breath and knew that this was the beginning of a holy journey.

Ten years later, it has been just that. A holy journey. Sanctification is ultimately always producing something beautiful.  But it would be foolish to say that it always looks or feels beautiful.  It reminds me of whittling wood.  You know something is happening…the finished product will be a masterpiece; but the shavings and the in-between state are uncomfortable and frustrating at times.  The difference in today and ten years ago is that I feel like I have a vision for the masterpiece.  I used to have no idea what the hell was happening.  It used to feel like sharpening a pencil over and over again and it keeps breaking and the lead falls out.  (I HATE THAT!)  In the beginning marriage felt like we were traveling the same mountain road, dying there and getting back up and traveling it again.  It was exhausting, and I could not have told you that for sure a masterpiece was being produced. Again, it felt like a crappy pencil. But now, I feel like I have tasted and seen the masterpiece, and it is good.  I could literally whittle all day.  Bring on the whittling!

Honestly, I’ve simply learned to savor and hold tight the moments.  I feel like, when I take a moment to breathe, every moment with Ross is a holy moment.  It is righteous, sanctifying, and beautiful. And it’s sobering to think that the moments don’t last forever…

We spent our 10th anniversary on our last full day in Lake Tahoe.  It began with a melt down from our girlies that lasted all morning and consequently made us late to lunch and missing beach time with the family.  It was hard. It still brings tears to my eyes. Whittling is hard work and now we have added other pieces to the masterpiece that have to be whittled too. But there was something deeply peaceful and holy about those moments.  I wasn’t disappointed that we spent our anniversary morning like that, just sad at the intensity of brokenness in the here and now.  I was honestly honored that the Lord chose us for this risky business of parenting and grateful that we could do it together that day.  Deeply grateful that I’m not alone in it.

When I told my six-year-old that I kind of like it here, I do.  These moments are making masterpieces.  We are all a work in progress and I can’t think of four people (and a dog) that I would rather be in process with.  Cheers to 10 years, 1 dog, 3 girls and a LOT of whittling!!!

He is indeed making diamonds out of us.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9OEe6INe1k

 

 

 

Calling on Daddy

It felt like a scene from a movie or an intense medical drama. It wasn’t a romantic scene or even a little hope-filled. It was the scene of trauma, heartbreak, and fear. It felt heavy and sad, and everyone was just moving around me as I took it all in.

 

I am a child life specialist in the ER at my local children’s hospital. My job is to prepare and support patients and families throughout their healthcare experience. I also provide emotional support to patients and families through trauma, grief and bereavement. Everyday people ask me how I can do what I do. I always answer that I can’t do my job outside of knowing Jesus. I am in the midst of some of the thinnest moments where eternity mingles with the here and now ~ the Kingdom coming. I have a front row seat to His glory every shift I work. I get to see the holy moments when laughter breaks in through tears, when the beauty of the moment is realized in spite of the pain, when Eternity is comforting and makes more sense than the hardest experience. I witness these moments.

 

Yet some days, my front row seat can be so very uncomfortable. This precious little guy rolled through the door after being hit by a car. His mom and dad were not far behind him. He was awake and alert but definitely struggling. I stood by the mom and dad with my hands on their shoulders explaining what was happening and what we were doing to help their precious little man. Then I hear a sweet, “Mama? Daddy?” I made my way to the head of the bed, leaving the mom and dad to cope alone while I reassured this little guy that his mom and dad were there and were not leaving him. Things went from bad to worse as the medical team struggled to keep him stable. Before I knew it, I was the reporter of pain and responsiveness; he was no longer responding to pain. He had JUST been calling for his mom and dad. The trauma surgeon made his way in to perform one last option. They stabilized the little guy and rolled him out to get pictures of his body and make a plan.

 

I stood in the room with trash, medical equipment, and needles all over the floor. My chest was tight, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I looked down the hall and saw the nurses rolling the crash cart into the CT room. I knew this was a grave situation, and the possibilities of us saving this little guy were disappearing quickly. The lump in my throat is still there as I write this.

 

We weren’t able to save this precious little boy that night, and all I could do was pick up the trash and needles covering the floor and talk to Jesus.

 

It is a humbling experience to witness these stories, to see the doctors, nurses, and medics mourn, to watch the family crumble. All I can do is call on Him ~ Daddy, come. I must call on Him on behalf of the patients, the families, and my co-workers. Holy Spirit come, be near. Early on in my career, these events would ruin me, and it was difficult to see Jesus or His glory in any of these experiences. Now I know and believe He is with us in every moment. My job is to call on the Holy Spirit, ask for His mercy, pray for a miracle, and surrender to His almighty ways.

 

I have learned not only in my job but also in marriage and motherhood, even in the surrender, He is always near. We must acknowledge His glorious presence. He is not unaware of the moments or watching from afar. He is intimately present and aware of all our moments. Just like the mom and dad who never left their little man’s side, He is indeed always with us.

 

Father God, may we KNOW your nearness and feel your touch even in the most difficult and desperate moments. May we call on You in everything. Thank you for never leaving us.

Deeper Still

 

I was standing at the edge of the diving board looking down.  Five feet to hit the water and another 11.5 feet of water. My heart was beating fast.  My family was lined up sitting on the wall watching with anticipation. “Oh gosh, I hate diving boards!” I exclaimed.

My 6-year-old and 4-year-old had just finished their 5 ceremonial end-of-the-pool-time jumps and begged for one extra.  Here I was seriously about to back up and get off the diving board, and my girls could not get enough.  I had a moment of asking myself what was wrong with me?  I jump off the dock at Lake Tahoe every year, and it’s cold and much higher than our neighborhood pool’s diving board.  But I was really hating every minute of being on that diving board.  “Go, Mommy!!!” was echoing in my ears.  I had to jump.  OH MY GOSH…Fine.

I jump and get water up my nose and in my ears and ugh. I climb out, and we round-up the troops.  “Why didn’t you want to jump, babe?” my husband asks (who had just finished flipping and diving himself and been the leader of the peer pressure).  “I just don’t always love that deep water…I’ve had some bad water experiences.  That’s why I want the girls to feel totally comfortable in all water, but I want them to be safe. I want them to swim well.”  We pack up, take a picture and head out.  Once we’re out to the van I ask him, “You don’t ever get nervous at the end of a diving board right before you jump?”  “No, why would I get nervous? I can swim…”

“I can swim, too,” I thought. So what was wrong with me?


Sometimes this walk with Jesus can feel a little like swimming in the HUGE neighborhood pool.

The beauty of the shallow water is that our feet can touch the bottom.  We can move around freely, but it’s safe.  We choose what participation level we prefer.  We can keep our heads out of the water lest we mess up our mommy top-knot.  We also have more control in the shallow end. This looks like control over the littles that are just learning the deeper waters.  I don’t totally trust them, and I’m a bit of a helicopter mom.  I control best in the shallow waters where I can also keep my footing.  I know how to swim, but these little people need me to hang back with them while they discover their freedom.

My oldest has the water skills to survive given trouble, but I am often worried about her endurance.  If she keeps doggy-paddling in deeper water, she will eventually run out of steam.  I find myself often yelling, “SWIM! Put your head in the water and swim!”  My middle has NO fear or respect for the deeper water.  She just knows she loves it, but she truly a maniac in the water…yet she has far better form than her sister.  When she actually swims, it is beautiful. Then there’s the littlest.  She has just met the requirements to graduate out of a seat floaty into puddle jumpers.  She was crawling out of her seat floaty, ready for more freedom; but for several days, the puddle jumpers provided a bit too much freedom for her little body and heart to handle.  It took her time to adjust to the deeper water even with her safety floats secured. Yet now she is convinced she could do ANYTHING with those puddle jumpers on.

Swimming has felt like knowing Jesus lately.  When we really know how to swim, freedom is tangible.  There are some disciplines that are important to swimming.  We must put our heads under the water at some point and learn how to come up to get a breath.  Kicking is ESSENTIAL to moving through the water.  Like my husband taught just this week, we should blow out when we hit the water. Yet, when we are not practicing these disciplines, we develop bad habits and form.  The spiritual disciplines of prayer, confession, solitude, worship, etc, are essential to walking with Jesus. Without practicing these disciplines, we can completely miss Jesus.  They are how we discover Him and enter into relationship with Him.

Much like my oldest, some of us know how to swim, but somewhere along the way we learned some unhealthy practices.  Depending on where and what our background is, these certain additions to the Gospel can seem helpful, but often end up being the very practices that burn us out of ministry and make us want to run from faith all together.  These practices are often known as religion.  Doggy-paddling, while still keeping you alive in the water, will be the very thing that wears us out to the point of no return.  If you do these practices too long, they become second nature.  You begin to feel like you can’t “swim” without doing these things when in reality they have become your crutch, and you have completely forgotten how to swim.  The Gospel is no longer primary.  Your bad habits are taking over in the water leaving you utterly exhausted.

Similar to my middle love, there are those with a lack of respect for what is required in deeper water.  These people just jump in to this Christian life with glitter eyes believing that all will be better in Jesus.  They flee their secular life and jump in with a faith that is very attractive and beautiful…yet very, very scary.  They heard the Gospel, they accepted the Gospel and that is all they really needed. They tend to think discipline will seriously hold them back from following God whole-heartedly.  And these people often ignore the discipline so much that, even though they know how to swim (and honestly they know how to swim beautifully), they miss Jesus because they are so distracted by their freedom.

Then there are those who are like my littlest that believe, within the safety of some truth, they really can explore all the deep waters.  These people sadly have never experienced the Gospel at all.  They don’t know how to swim, but their flotation device of morals and good deeds is keeping them afloat. They have no real freedom.  Some can explore more depth, but often (like most neighborhood pools), you can’t jump off the diving board into the deepest waters with a flotation device on.  It’s pertinent that you know how to swim. The floatation device provides a false sense of security.  When jumping into deeper waters, it could truly fail you. Morals and good deeds will eventually run out or you will mess up, but with Jesus, there is a steady Source that will never leave you.

As I stood there on the edge of the diving board, the deep waters just seemed like too much.  But like my husband had reminded me, I know how to swim.  I do know how to swim, but over the years I’ve developed bad habits, had bad experiences, and forgotten that I actually know how to swim.  I know Jesus. I know His Truths, and I have relationship with Him.  As I exercise the spiritual disciplines, I can trust in my freedom that Jesus is WITH me.

Not only do I not need to fear the deeper water, I have been invited to fully experience it.  

He is calling us deeper still.

Process to Peace

I was leaving a Voxer message for my dad while trudging through Costco with just my littlest love in the cart. I was about to wrap up my thoughts on surrender and hanging in the tension.  I just finished telling Dad that Jesus just hung there on the cross, and that I believe, while the ascension is primary to the Gospel, the Cross is the most sacred part.  Jesus hung there.

Then I saw her ~ this precious little girl around 8 or 9 years old.  She had a look of sheer horror on her face.  She was whispering to herself, “Granny, where are you? Please help me find you, Granny.  Where are you?”  Her face was all that was distorted at this point but her fear was visibly rising.  She was looking all around and beginning to pick up her pace.  I tried to stop her in the midst of the Voxer to my dad.  She wouldn’t stop.  I put down my phone and looked around for the whomever this girl could possibly be missing.  I started asking Holy Spirit to help me help this little girl.

I saw a random woman walking out of the cold room with her hands full of grapes, lettuce and other large items.  She didn’t appear to be missing anything or looking for anyone, but the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask.  “Ma’am, do you have a grand-daughter with you today?”  “Yes, I do.”  At this point the little girl was in an all out sprint in the bread and wine section.  All the people surrounding saw her and a few of the intuitive ones were beginning to put the pieces together.  “She is looking for you and she is pretty scared.  She went this way…”

I began to look for her pushing my basket leading the grandma.  Someone said she ran back towards us but on the other side.  I dashed away from the basket hoping to catch her because Grandma had her hands full.  I realized I darted away from my littlest.  I turned around and this precious grandad is standing next to the basket.  “I thought I should probably stand next to her so she wouldn’t be alone.” “Yes! Thank you!”

At this point the grandma and little girl were reunited in a huge embrace.  My heart was racing, and I spent the rest of my Costco trip blinking back tears and swallowing the lump in my throat.  I could feel her fear deep in my bones.  I know what it’s like to be lost.


Peace is a gift.  You know this if you have ever been without it.  It’s a deep feeling.  It is unexplainable when it’s from Him. Peace that passes understanding.  I have definitely had peace bestowed instantaneously in a time of chaos, but often my experience is that peace involves a process.

We have been in a space lately where we have felt no peace in regards to one part of our lives.  Our hearts have been jumbled and heavy and at times numb.  We had a moment just recently where were sitting together in church.  Just getting to sit together is a part of the process because for over 9 months one of us has been out of the sanctuary with our littlest. Ross looked at me, and I looked at him.  We were feeling the same thing ~ peace.  We were a little confused because peace has been such a foreign feeling, and we were beginning to think that we were never know this peace again in this space. There was a sigh of relief in the moment, a breath of Heaven touching our souls.  We didn’t say anything in the moment, but the minute we got in the front seat of the van, we looked again at each other. “I felt peace today,” he said.  “Me too. Deep peace.”  We really didn’t have much else to say other than to acknowledge its presence. We were grateful, but cautious.  Our hearts have been grieving, and grieving hearts are cautious.

I have felt like that little girl in Costco so often in the last year.  I have been composed just begging the Lord to show His face. “Where are you, Lord? Help me find you, Lord.” I have been the one in a panicked, full-out sprint looking for Him and grasping at all the places He could be.  I have ignored the help and comfort along the way that may get me back to Him.  I have been completely unaware of the community that is surrounding the others that are a part of my process (like the grandfather that stood next to my basket with my littlest).  And now that I’ve found Him, my heart is beating so fast from my panic, that I can’t believe that he is there and really meeting me.  It’s hard to believe I’ve found Him.  And if I really have found Him, will I ever lose Him again?

This is grief.  It’s a process.  You aren’t sure where you will land once the peace is found again, but you know the cycle to be so intense that you can’t imagine that you will ever let this happen again.  Then you remember we are in this world; in this world, you will have troubles.

I teach and talk to people about grief a lot.  A little while back, a dear sister shared this particular image with me about grief.  It is by far the most accurate image I’ve seen.

 

Grief is just this.  It is not linear.  The moments loop around, and you can experience them over and over sometimes.  This process can be quick just like the little girl in Costco, but this process can also take much, much longer.  Honestly, life is just one big grieving process if you think about it, but He is promised to us. He is here, and there is more.  Eternity and perfect peace are coming in full.  Just like that Grandma was there the whole time, He is always with us.  Peace is here.  It’s just a process to experience it.

I am embracing the process, believing that the process is just as holy as the peace itself.

2 Corinthians 5:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

Expect That

I rushed around the house gathering all the things.  We were headed to the pool, and I feel like the preparation is a bit endless at times.  I finally put my own swimsuit on and called the girls to the bathroom.  This day we were putting their hair up so they could actually see where they were swimming.  And then I saw them. The most disgusting, icky, anxiety-producing, tiny bugs in her hair.  I thought I was going to throw up, scream, and freak out all at the exact same time.  I may have.  No mom wants to be here. I dashed around the house trying to gather myself and figure out what I needed to do, searched my phone for undeniable confirmation, tried calling my husband for moral support (never works when you need it); all the while I’m scratching my own head uncontrollably and trying to keep my heebie geebies at bay. UGH!

To spare you all the details, the house was turned upside down. I spent my entire day washing EVERYTHING I owned in the hottest water possible, and in between I eradicated those little suckers one by one in my daughter’s hair (THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I MAY HAVE EVER DONE!). I treated all of us (except the baby).  My mom came over and performed hair-ectomies.  We conquered these little beasts with every fiber of our beings.

We didn’t make it to the pool.  Yes, the pool will be there the next day and the next and the next, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  I actually had a moment of wanting to ignore/pretend that the little beasts did not exist…because this wasn’t how the day was supposed to go.  I really was very angry.  No part of me wanted to surrender to THIS change of plans. Seriously.

I thought a lot that day in between my angry outbursts, a tearful phone call to my mom, and endless paranoia.  Expectations for my day were ruined.  Expectations for the summer felt a little bruised, and I’ve completely forgotten what I expected and dreamed about for the year.

Expectations, assumptions, even dreams and desires can all get a little jumbled and distorted in this world ~ broken world. Having children has absolutely ruined any idealistic expectations I’ve ever had.  I don’t say this harshly. Honestly, I am grateful.  I am an idealist at my very core and sanctification is necessary in this area. Valuing how things ought to be in the perfect world comes naturally to me. Some ideals are shared among the general public ~ ideally you wouldn’t have a car wreck, have to work, break a bone, burn your finger, miss a sale, pick bugs out of your daughter’s hair, etc, etc, etc.  I have my own personal ideals too.  A cup of coffee alone in the quiet of my home, a wrap-around porch, a made bed everyday, children getting toys out one at a time, quiet time and exercise before my children rise, date night every week with my husband, eating a peaceful dinner as a family, being a meal-planner extraordinaire, being a gentler mom, etc, etc, etc. (See, I’m an idealist.) Some expectations can’t be qualified as even ideal…they are lofty and unattainable ~ children never fighting, no spills in my house, clean floors, world peace just to name a few.

I have a tendency for my ideal expectations of others to expect that they not sinners or even just DIFFERENT than me. While Christ’s blood washes us clean and makes us righteous, we are only human, and we still reside in a broken world. AND we are also all DIFFERENT. Others are definitely going to destroy our expectations simply because they are living and functioning in this same broken world differently than us.  We will inevitably disappoint others, and others will disappoint us.  I have learned over the years to truly meet people where they are at.  This may mean that I need to ask a few questions to understand where they sit, but expecting them to be where I am is ridiculous and dishonoring. While this lesson began in my dating life, it has continued through friendship, marriage, and motherhood.  Expecting everyone to be exactly where I am is in that category of unattainable expectations.  Yet, it’s where I camped for many years.  It was not only life-sucking but also incredibly degrading to others and unfair.  Trying to get others to sit in my same perspective, life, convictions destroyed and bruised many friendships.  I am grateful for many that walked through this season with me and still call me “friend” on the other side.

Realistic expectations are hard.  It means that we have to set aside our ideals and look at circumstances and people for how and who they really are.  This can feel just as life-sucking sometimes, but I have found that it is indeed the opposite.  When we take a moment to step back and see things for how they really are and accept that, we are able to give freedom to circumstances and to others that allows life to happen and Jesus to reign.  I would venture to say that our expectations of circumstances and others and our fight to meet them often represses the work of the Spirit and what Jesus would like to do.  Our expectations put Him in a box that He was never intended to fit in.  When I choose to be in the moment and expect only what they moment is offering, Jesus will indeed meet with me in that moment.

Choosing to be in the real moment is an invitation for the Lord. JESUS becomes the realistic expectation, and He then guides your heart.  Grace (Jesus Himself) can then be given to others and to the circumstance.

In The Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren quotes Dallas Dillard when he profoundly writes in The Divine Conspiracy, “God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.”

Jesus can touch me and move through me and bless me when I can be in the moment of picking tiny, disgusting bugs out of my daughter’s hair instead of still hustling to make my ideal pool day happen.  The thing with ideal expectations is we end up hustling to attain them and all the while missing what is REALLY happening.  Often we don’t only miss the real, we rally against it. Realistic expectations are only hard because you have to be okay with the real world, the real moment, the real person.  You have to have the faith to believe that His intention was always to meet you in the real not in the ideal.

This moment is the real.  This is the moment that you can expect something.

What is the moment or the person offering? Expect that.

Page Turner

I am in the middle of writing a book all about story, so I am a little timid about sharing thoughts about story here.  I’m new to this “formal” author gig, and I’m learning things every day. Craft, proposals, and pitches are words I’m soaking in lately.  I’ve been working on a pitch for my book or what most call an elevator synopsis, and it’s not as easy as you might think.  I don’t want to give too much away (and this is not my pitch), but the book is about my story and your story and how all stories are for His glory.  And while I would like to stay away from writing much about story and glory, the recent events of my story have got my heart in all kinds of knots.

This year’s chapter of my story has proven to be a page turner, and we still have more plot twists coming soon.  I’m tempted to skip ahead. That’s the funny part about life though; you don’t get to skip ahead.  I’ve spent the better part of adulthood learning to be okay with some hard parts of my story.  I’ve come to know deep in my soul and my spirit that all parts are indeed beautiful and glorious.  It used to take getting on the other side of the story and several years of processing for me to be able to see the beauty, but my perspective has changed. I sit in a much different place than ever before.

When I used to spend time wondering and fretting about the next season or how to move on from a hard season, now I sit KNOWING that the Lord will be near and His glory will come ~ His beauty and goodness will shine through. This I know. Don’t get me wrong. The unknown is still anxiety producing and often confusing; but what is known is far more essential and beautiful.

So when I think about what is written in this last chapter and what will be written in the months to come, I am confident my God is near me.  He knows and has always known.

This year has been full of surprises for me and my people. I started a new schedule (which will be changing again). I never dreamed that Ross would have a new job or that I would have 2 months plus of severe myopathy.  I never considered how deeply my family would be affected by all of it (a house full of intensely emotional little women). It never occurred to me that we would be struggling with the way we meet with the Lord and His Bride.  That is just this year so far. (He wrote other stories during other years that are still unfathomable to me some days.)  This Fall will bring some more plot twists that I honestly would not have hand-picked to be a part of my story.

But this I know ~  I love and trust my Author and He is good.  He has never failed, never forsaken, never hurt.  He is full of love, goodness, beauty, kindness.

I’m pretty sure that no one get to dictate most of their story.  And I know from experience that when you try to write it yourself, He will do a red-pen lettering job that will embarrass you to your core.  (If you have never had someone take a red pen to your writing, it’s worth the brutal experience.)

There’s something else in all of this that is really important.  Not only are you a poor author of your own story, you are also a poor author of other’s story.  Their story has glory and goodness, too.  Their story is intricately woven into His glory too. I am so much more comfortable with other’s stories than ever before.  I feel little need to intervene. (Side Note: Remind me I wrote this when I have teenage daughters. Every time I say something like this, I think about having teenage girls and I want to take it all back.) I feel little need to influence anyone’s story further than what the Holy Spirit leads.  This is HUGE growth for me.  I spent most of my college years trying to write my own story; I then felt the need to control other’s so that mine would work out as I planned.  BIG fail. HUGE.  The Lord was mighty and kind to make it all beautiful, but I sure hurt a lot of people along the way.  The days are sad when I think about the parts of their story I wrote that ended up being some of their hardest parts.

I am much more content allowing Him to write this story than I’ve ever been.  Enduring pain and watching my family endure life with me is not a chapter I ever want to read again, but I know Him to be faithful and good.  The intimacy we have all known with Him and one another is something I could never craft on my own. Just thinking of the next plot twists make my heart ache, but I know that there is a story being written far beyond my own understanding.  It’s not just my story either. One of the most humbling heartaches is knowing that the Lord is writing your children’s story as He writes yours.  I wish I could spare them some of the plot lines and twists, but their story is being written by the same award-winning, best-selling Author.

I think I’ve decided that being present in the story may matter the most. Isn’t presence what produces intimacy? When I think about Paul and all of the affliction that he suffered, I am always struck with how present he was not only with the story but also with the Lord.  Have you ever driven home and not remembered how you got there until something scary happened or read a book so fast that you’re not sure what you just read until you get to a really good part or hard part?  Yeah, I’m not doing that any more.  I’m showing up for this story.  I am embracing it as much as I know how.  ‘Cause I know the Author, and He’s the best in the business.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Is there a part of your story that has been made beautiful by the best-selling Author of life?  If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your story.

Kindergarten Tears

We took a couple of pictures this morning, finished wrapping up teachers gifts, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer on the way to school like we have done every morning this year.  The girls wanted to play on the playground before school.  I told them that we could play after school. Another mom heard me and said, “We have to say yes on the last day.” She has said “yes” a lot more than me this year.  I’ve hurried my girls past her and her little boy more times than I would like to count as she said yes to play and I said, “We need to go.”

My oldest doesn’t love transition. She likes to be prepared for everything. But, if I was going to be honest, she gets it from her mama.  Today was the last day of kindergarten. We chose a sweet Kindergarten that is a part of an early learning program here in town. It is four days a week from 9am – 2pm, but she is totally ready for 1st grade. I loved that she wasn’t gone every day, all day.  Neither of us were ready for that. However, she begged me for months to consider Stay and Play.  This gives them an extra hour of play at school.  I told her she could do it for one day a week the last month of school.  The last Stay and Play was Tuesday, and today was the last day. I wasn’t prepared.

The last week or so I’ve been feeling like the Lord was finally gentling something in my spirit.  Like I said in my last blog, I’ve been waiting for six years.  There is a grief that is coming with this gentling, though.

I wasn’t prepared for the tears that flowed as I stood on that playground.

I cried for all the times I was hurried and overwhelmed.  All the times I said “no” to playing.

I cried tears of gratefulness for the teachers that have loved my little girl this year.  They have seen the BEST in her.  I cried for all the times I’ve missed it.  I also cried for the way these teachers have taught me.  They have taught me to chill out, and they’ve reminded me as I have wrangled all three of my beauties that I will miss it. Today I really understood what they meant.   I cried for my gratefulness of the preschool teachers that have walked with me at another little ELC and continue to. They prepared me for Kindergarten and continue to love me well and give me grace.

I cried for the guardedness I feel towards the other moms ~ all my insecurities.  I’ve wondered for years why I feel so vulnerable with other moms.  I have been so fearful of not being liked or accepted or understood. I cried thankfulness of the other moms that have pushed past my boundaries this year and made me feel loved. I cried because I wish still that I had tried harder and not kept a distance.

I cried behind my dollar floral sunglasses for all the distractions I have surrendered to just to cope. Netflix, Facebook and all the other junk I waste my time doing.  I cried because the days really are long and the years really are short.  You really don’t get these days back.  I cried because it’s taken me six years to take that breath and see that.

I cried because I will miss that place and those people.  I cried because my daughter will miss her friends and teachers, and I remember hating that feeling.  I cried because it all went so fast.

I cried because you never know if what you are doing in parenting is the right thing, but we have a God who always knows.  Thank you, Jesus, that you KNOW.

Last night Ross and I were talking about parenting.  A walk and scooter ride turned into a lesson for my oldest last night. I told him that lately I find myself asking, “In the end, what do I want them to know and walk away with?”  This morning one of my writing friends posted on Instagram about her latest blog.  Her youngest is graduating, and she posted the same question: “What do I really want them to know?”

In the end, I want them to all know that Jesus is the only true way and that He is always with them.  I want them to know that following Him will always be for their good and His glory. I’m glad this is what her teachers wanted her to know this year also.  I feel like this is a stake in the ground for her and for me.

I finished my second year of kindergarten today.  I feel like a little girl all over again.  I feel vulnerable and sad and full of emotion.  I really hate good-byes, and I still hate change.  I also feel proud.  I’ve learned a lot…more than I ever thought.

There’s been a lot of tears this year.  Tears from a precious kindergartener and tears from her mama more than once ~ some days walking away from her kindergarten room.  But today’s kindergarten tears are not cried in vain.  There is deep purpose in these tears today.