Busy Monday

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A word about Mondays. Mondays are dubbed Busy Mondays at my house. It is the only day I go to work, outside the home, all day, and someone else is in charge of my kids. I have to be prepared to teach about 40 students, from grade 3-12. Monday’s activities dominate about half of my weekend on average. This weekend it took a little more effort. Most Mondays, I come home pretty tired, but I still have some gumption to make a simple dinner for my family, clean up, and exercise. Not today though.

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Daylight Savings Time sucks the life out of us today. We meet my in-laws at a restaurant and it’s almost dark. Eden doesn’t like her food and curls up in a ball in the booth. We are all tired. Once we are home, I do the few chores that I see around the house. Then I decide it’s time to talk to my husband.

The conversation, I thought, starts innocently enough. I am sure that there is something stressing him out. The conversation ends, two hours later, with less peace than it began with. We are so tired. All I wanted, was to connect away from the busy. Have a few more words than “hi” and “bye”. I worry we are losing our grasp on finding that touch stone. I feel I am needy and he is moody. I’m not at peace, he goes to bed.

So what do I do when I feel no peace, but I am also glad this conflict came to light? I have faith that tomorrow will have new mercies. I will pray for my husband and bless him, not complain to God. I will have faith that peace will come.

Awake

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Hi everyone. It’s NaBloPoMo. I have been wanting to blog again, so I’m going to take on this challenge. Be prepared for, well, something.

It’s been over a year since I blogged last. Oh dear. It’s been a tough one. I am thankful for the mercies that have been given us. But, I have felt the struggle of sin and death in the world more this year that most. Social media doesn’t help. Things like Ebola, the shooting of reservists here in Chattanooga, marriages dissolving, cancer, surgeries, illnesses, accidents and disease. What is left, I am full of great anxiety about it all. I would love to say that I found a solution. A magic way to breathe through it. Maybe even a happy pill. Nope.

I will say that the Bible is the best, most life-giving, most honest, most soul-food ever. It is not a calming breath at the end of yoga. It’s not a happy pill that helps you sleep. It is the truth. The truth is not something that solves all your problems, but it is not transient or needing refills. It is there in the middle of the night. It is there when all we have is the eternal, it is there. So I have started a habit ever since this past winter when my anxiety level was through the roof. Bible verses on index cards. I carried them in my back pocket. I posted them on the IG. I’d stick them next to my bowl of cereal. I’d prop them up against the bathroom mirror. The Bible. Here’s a taste. See ya tomorrow.

Arise and shine. #biblecards #isaiah #fall

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Covenant, blessing, generational blessing. I am so blessed because my grandparents prayed for me. #biblecards

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Food that my spirit needs #biblecards

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15 dinner

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This summer there were some of us that celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After trials, and turns of this life, we all sit together and reflect on this 15 years. We were all young. We are all friends. We made it a point to spend one evening this summer to gather and celebrate 15.

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The first 15 years are new. We grow up together, and learn to be adults. We have child, after child, and celebrate them all. We go to more weddings, and see more babies. We work crappy jobs, then get better jobs. We go back to school, we buy houses and cars. We send our little ones to their first day of school. Then there are sicknesses, and tragedy, death and sacrifice. Then, there are marriages around us that fall apart. Some heal, some do not. We see friends learn to love Jesus, and friends reject that love that they once knew. Happy things and sad things, we join together and remember them all.

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As we talked about those first years, before we were all married, when we thought we were the most clever folks around, we laughed and felt that young again. At this 15 year mark, I would not go back, except perhaps to hire a better wedding photographer and to let go of bitterness toward people a little bit sooner. I will stand here at the 15 year mark and know that Joel and I are here by the grace of God. Anything on this earth can fail. But because of God’s amazing grace, and the Holy Spirit moving and active in our world, we are still married. We have children, and they are healthy and strong and wonderful.

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There are my fellow 15ers. They are also still together by that same grace. When Linda and I talked about this idea, she whole-heartedly agreed with me that 15 years was so important. It’s not just a potluck, or a quick hang out around a bonfire (although those things are nice), it’s a 15 year anniversary dinner. We couldn’t shoot for all the stars, but we want to make it nice. So we did our best. We strung lights, and planned a nice meal. We had amazingly cozy and lovely floral arrangements. We were given an amazingly cool and happy night. And we laughed.

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We had a fun and wonderful menu:

Appetizers of Antipasto and Bruschetta. Drinks included a Sparkling Cherry Lemonade and Mint Tea. We had an amazing salad of Blackberries, Walnuts, and Arugula. Main Course involved Roasted Veggies, Blanched Asparagus with Sesame and Smoked Prime Rib. Dessert floored us all with Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes and Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate dipped Strawberries and Coconut Macaroons.

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There is a trend to have these slow, fabulously home cooked meals with others who desire the same things, the same connection, the same patience with the things that matter. People pay for this experience. The thing that seems a little off, to me, is that it is something people are trying to conjure up. Intimacy and patience with life is not something you can just buy a ticket to. It is earned. It takes time and love for those you are joining with. It takes knowledge of those you invite, and joy to celebrate with them. A joy that is deeper than the cool food you get to eat, and the fancy ingredients they contain. No matter how special your alcoholic drink may be, it won’t bring you those kinfolk you desire.

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I’m titilated by the beauty of the photographs of these artisan meals. It all looks so perfect. The pictures I took of our dinner, and those Linda took (and she’s better at it than I am) they blow me away. I feel so blessed to have been such a small part of our honoring God with our 15 years. The pictures are lovely, and I pour over them again and again because I feel so blessed. Even the blurry ones. There aren’t nearly enough moments caught by the camera. At the same time, the moments I want to truly be present in, they have very few photos. I knew that I wanted to be there, with my loved ones, not Instagramming the life out of it. The best images are those I show through the gift of giving it. To hear my friends say,”I have never been to anything like this before.” That makes my gift-giving heart so glad.

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I am thankful. Thankful for the years, the joys and sorrows. I am thankful for the relationships and how far back they go. I am thankful for my home, my family, and my five senses to take in the beauty that they all are. I am thankful that I can rejoice with my friends as they rejoice and mourn as they mourn. I am thankful for being a grown up, and not holding back, but instead being honest and being able to sit with those who agree and can say, “Amen” when I testify to the Gift that is 15 years. Here’s to another 15, and another after that. God and his bounty are rich, and may our hearts be full of the celebration that is rich also. Thanks to all who made it happen. It is a gift to my heart. It is so beautiful.

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The times, the stages

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My Tessa’s portrait. I struggled pretty hard for this one. There just came a point that I said, “It will get finished”. I have moved on, but not very far. I guess that’s ok, because I am not in a stage where I am making a lot of art. It will come when I’m ready. I feel it will burst open like a dam, a strong steady stream of energy and creativity all together. I look forward to it. Until then, I sit in a dormant state, wondering what it is that keeps me from enjoying the completion of this piece. Maybe because I haven’t reached the next stage. Like the seasons, when winter drags on too long, or summer won’t give way to fall, I wait for that true bit of evidence. I know it’s coming, and that will have to be ok.

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Fierce little blondie bird. She is definitely unique. The baby who cries out her drama because she might get more pity. The sneaky sneak who eats the hidden chocolate, draws on the wall, watches TV on the found iphone without anyone knowing. Rascal. The batting of eyelashes, the curling up in bed with us, the backwards shirts and shoes. I try to enjoy this last bit of small child essence in my home. She will be a grade schooler in the fall, and I will have a third child to truly homeschool. The battle of young parenthood is waning, the season is passing. New challenges lay ahead.

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I captured this. My daughter in the climax of her childhood. To be nine. She’s so smart, so thoughtful, so fun-loving. It’s the saturated beauty of nine. Shortly after this picture was taken we cut her hair off. She was bubbling and proud of her shoulder length bob. She is my friend and partner in our exploration of ideas. I know she will argue with me, but I hope she never hides herself from me. She is a seed that is sprouting, and I want to hold it in my hands and enjoy each millimeter that it grows.

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Homeschooling. I have had a love hate relationship with it this year. I have felt the sting of isolation and I have questioned all of my choices. I have cursed my faults, and my children’s flaws. Then, there is a day when you get everyone to agree to do something together. Reading outside, for example, is one of the most rewarding things for me as a homeschooling mama. It is so simple, but to get everyone to agree to it sometimes takes every ounce of my fortitude. Then they read, and whatever it is, their voice reading the words is like the music I hummed to myself when I stroked my pregnant belly. It’s a bit hypnotic, I wish I could bottle it and pop it open after I’ve had to scold someone, or listen to the din of their goofy banter a little too long. It is a gift. I am thankful for my children’s ability to read and their voices. Then, there is a day when I am doing laps around my house, for seemingly unimportant reasons, to serve each one of there cries for assistance. I want the silence then. If we can go back, to the day we read about beetles and butterflies in the warmth of the new spring days, I will feel the reward and take up that load again for another school year.

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I thought that the 100% pure energy, babbling and loud boy would never ease up and become something more mellow. How many times Joel and I had to play “ninja” when we were so exhausted. Today I have a boy who is almost my height. I do not need to bend over to hug him, and ever so often I have this 5 ft tall child sobbing in my chest. He feels so deeply. He knows his short comings. He feels his sin. He is a first child, but he blows so many holes in that theory. He struggles to learn sometimes. He does not have a work horse mentality. But when it comes to people he can go all night. I am praying for that outlet to show up that uses so many of his gifts, until then, he will love on every small child, old man, teenager, babysitter, teacher, secretary, cashier, and friend of mine who crosses his path. I try to stop myself and not bully him out of the conversation, after all, he is as tall as we are! There is no looking over him, no tugging on apron strings!  He has charming, funny things to say. He will always keep me on my toes

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And what a stage of growth we are all in. I watch my boy become closer to being a teenager and I get concerned. I see girls his age becoming curvier and I tell myself,”they are all still children, give them attention and make them feel important” The stage I am in is one similar to the path my children are growing. They teach me things about myself. I have always believed that children develop at the pace you are ready to see them change. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but as I walk through the zoo or down sidewalks of the busy downtown areas with my crew, I know the freedom of their freedom. No strollers, carriers, or highchairs, we are 5 fully functional people. Well most of the time. Tess still needs a boost to the sink. It makes me breathe a sigh of relief, and it makes me sad. No more simple troubles, things now get trickier. I try to not take pride in that struggle. One day, nah, everyday, we are all in the same boat.

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A mysteriously beautiful, elaborate boat that has ample room for pleasure and pain. Hop on and enjoy the times.

Important

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When I am feeling so overwhelmed by all the bad that comes in and out of my life, I feel like I am the screw up, that nothing I am doing is helping anyone in my life. In fact, I am making it worse. My husband, my children, my friends, they all would be better off without me trying to help them. Now, this of course is a lie. It’s not true at all. It’s something I believe because I see so many things failing in my immediate circumstances. I can’t see the whole picture and how I am an important part of it. And that I have the capacity to do good. We are not good, so how can I believe that I am? It’s the Holy Spirit, that is all. Because, I can do a lot of crap all by myself that truly is no good without the love of God working through me.

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I have encountered a lot of hurt, and some straight up bad stuff recently. People around me who have so much hurt, that there is no carefully constructed phrase that will make things hurt less. I remember when my friend lost her baby a couple years ago, I had no idea what to do. She is such a strong person, such a strong personality, that I didn’t want to be some coddling, cooing girlfriend whom she had never met before. I’m the friend who sat around the table with her debating things, hashing out ideas, complaining about getting older. Just being the strong personalities we are. When her community surrounded her in her grief, I saw folks craft those loving phrases, bring flowers, gifts, and meals. They offered playdates for her big kids, and showered love. These things are all good. I wanted to be her friend in a way that united us and brought a sense of normal (even though nothing ever could be). I brought my kids over to play with hers and I brought a buncha doughnuts. Evil, gooey, love from the bakery across the bridge. And we talked. Normal, it can never be in that state of grief. But can I tell you, I have no idea. Absolutely none.

The pain of losing a parent, betrayal by a spouse, caring for a chronically ill family member, suddenly becoming a single parent, giving birth to your still born baby, being a child of divorce, being abandoned, sexual molestation. I have no idea what any of these things truly feel like. I have only been there, next to those I love, as they go through the muck, the fire, the pain. I feel guilty for not knowing. But in this world, there will always be that knowledge. Pain.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
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I have only lived 37 years. I have had my heart broken many times. But for all that breaking, I also am full of thanksgiving. I am thankful for the prayers of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. My great-aunt who never married, and drove me bonkers with her pestering, she prayed for me. I feel like I have been living with a cloud of witnesses calling out on my behalf. Maybe that’s a reason that 37 years have seen less than some. Still, what can I give when I have not been in the shoes of those who now suffer? You know what, it doesn’t matter. Haven’t I learned my lesson? It’s not about me, so I cry out to God and I pray and I believe in my naive way that “everything’s gonna get better!” Actually, it’s more like, “No, no way, this can’t be happening.” Creation groans for the Lord, and so do I.

For those who are living in a personal hell of pain from sickness, abandonment, exhaustion, victimization, betrayal, I want to say that you are important. Your best efforts are really, truly, enough. For those who need you and love you, you are strength, light, hope, love. Don’t believe that you are less. Those children, parents, friends, spouses, they know you aren’t perfect. There are tears, and screams, and long never-ending sighs, but you are doing a great job. The Lord God is our perfect Father and he looks at us purified in the blood of Jesus and He holds us so gently in His hands. He does not grow weary, even though you do. He will make a way through the fire, the water, the hell, and you will be that vessel, all glued back together, that can hold everything once again. He heals, restores, builds up, and loves.

I may not always feel important. But I hope this word reaches someone who needs it. I often tell new mommies, “You are doing a great job.” That’s all I wanted to know. To all who need untethered encouragement. Here it is.

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Are You Lonely Too?

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Most nights I am home. I am doing dishes, cleaning house, doing laundry. Joel and I put the kids to bed, give hugs and kisses and then we exhale and, hopefully, I get to sit on the couch and watch something fun on TV before I fall asleep. Joel usually falls asleep half an hour or more before I do. Most nights, it’s totally relaxing. It’s normal and it decompresses my day. But then, my extroverted side gets board some days.

Since I homeschool my kids now, seeing other adults can be a challenge. At work, we are all busy managing other children. Other homeschooling moms have all their own schedules and older or younger children to manage. I mean, really, all moms, no matter how we school our children, we are all busy. Soccer, drama, choir, girl scouts, doctor’s appointments, naps, church, family. It’s exhausting. I have made a personal choice to limit those things. I also have very little family in town. I get lonely. Are you lonely too? I see my mom twice a week. I am fulfilled by my job. But I get lonely. There’s something wrong when I have so many women whom I love to be with, and I’m pretty confident that they like to be with me too. Why don’t we see each other? Why aren’t we desperate to be with our friends? I run through all the things that we are in charge of and the many different things we go to, and I’m not surprised. It doesn’t help the fact that I’m lonely sometimes.

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I have been saying that I need to “be the friend I want to have”. This method should bring friends closer to me, or help me make new ones. Right? This motto backed up on me last week. I was letting the loneliness take over my will to reach out. I became tired of reaching out. I mean, why isn’t anyone else reaching out? There are many reasons and it would make this post too long. But nevertheless, I must keep reaching out. Someone has to do it. Everyone needs that life line to make you realize, “Yes, I am lonely, and I will battle my dirty house another time. I will drink some tea and wake myself up so I can spend another 2 hours awake and with friends. I will gamble with my awkwardness, my blabber-mouth (or painful silence), my inadequacies to be with people. To be with people that I love and that God loves. It is important. Stop being selfish y’all! It is so easy to do the normal stuff, do something different!

I believe that God gave us our mountain home so that we can have people over more. I take that to heart. I will invite people over, again and again. Every time I feel lonely I will decide to reach out. It’s really hard. But there are plenty of evenings when I can curl up and troll Pinterest or read one of my goofy graphic novels. Netflix will not disappear. I have lots of cute clothes I hardly ever wear because I don’t GO OUT! Let’s go out, friends. Let’s invite others out. Send me a text, I’m probably, almost always, available.
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Breakthrough

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This just happens to be what is happening in my small first world. First world problems. Medical science can’t fix all, our bodies still die. Even if it’s a twelve year old’s body. Lord God. We need breakthrough.

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The Lord cares. He has a plan. Sorrow, trouble and sin are in this world, but the Lord has written His plan down and He has answers.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

I believe this. We have studied Ancient History for the past year in our home schooling curriculum. A lot of this study has been the Bible and the prophets. The prophet Jeremiah lived through trying times. He watches his people being persecuted by a foreign land and he knows God’s heart for His people and it breaks. It was broken. He had to take away their freedom, even their identity. The people of God were eventually stripped of their Promised Land, driven away to Babylon. They were made slaves, and treated with cruelty. The Babylonians were mean folks. It took Nebuchanezzar four tries to completely conquer Jerusalem, and other prophets cried out to God and man about the plans that the Lord had for His people. I believe that His plans remain, to bring us all to Him even when we have heartbreak and pain and we see things crumble beneath us. We see and hear prophecies, and we choose to not believe them, we chose instead to live as victims of circumstances and become buffeted by the enemies plans.

But, Jesus loves us. We are weak, and He is strong.

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I must say, I have never been comfortable as an intercessor. I like the idea of long prayer meetings, but I, like my children get wiggly and impatient at them. But I see that my role during these storms in my world is to be an intercessor. I pray when I wash dishes, when I drive, when I do my kick-boxing workout (which is a really good way to make fighting through something physical all about the spiritual instead). I pray with my children, we talk about what we can, and I do a lot of staring out the window. I’m really not that deep, I just have to stare out the window. It’s a form of center for me. God has given me a gift. That gift is out my windows. The days that carry bad news, or days that are unbearably long, there is a bit of a reprieve out those windows, even on the greyest winter days. The light shines through the empty branches. Birds bop from branch to branch and back and forth from the bird feeder. The shapes that surround these woods are from Him. So I find I am brought to those places of prayer, worship and knowledge of God in what is around me. I joke with Joel that I’d lose my mind if we didn’t live in the woods, but I do believe that these days, I don’t think I could be more thankful for this gift. He cares about our needs. He will do as He has promised.

I also can never get enough of Isaiah (the 40’s especially)

The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Isaiah 41:17-20