Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reclaiming my life by laying it down

We could probably debate for hours about who has the most crazy busy schedule.

It's not like we're bragging, but it somehow seems to justify the impossible trench we have dug ourselves into. I realized this fall that I had just dug deeper than I could handle. The details aren't important, but you likely relate all too well to how it happens:

A simple "yes"
A renewed commitment to something you've "always" done
Can't say "no" to that
"Well, we could use the money"
Another thing that will only take an hour now and then
Overestimating the time saved in anticipated changes
Unavoidable disruptions
Sporadic Illness
Unexpected changes
Bumpy transitions
New parenting phases

and on, and on. Little by little, bit by bit, life piles on. And we let it.

I prayed through every decision, I thought. I sought my husband's counsel. I acted out of my family's best interests, and yet I found myself drowning. Struggling to even grab a single breath as I missed deadlines, delivered sub-par work, and neglected areas I thought were non-negotiables.

Almost every morning you would still find me crying out to God, often literally, to help me carry this. That I knew I couldn't do it on my own. That I needed His strength to help me carry all He called me to.

I. Couldn't. Do. It. Not on my own, not in God's strength, not in this lifetime. It was absolutely too much.

So God began to teach. In the midst of it all, he continually drew my thoughts back to Him. We walked through Job together, we spent hours in prayer together. We wrestled as I had never wrestled before. He taught by speaking gently through my own words to Him and continued as I read Scripture.

And so I begin to follow afresh. Some things need to be surrendered, rejected, let go. Pruning is hard, painful even. Tough decisions, more prayer. Calm assurance that it's ok to say 'no' and change a previous answer.

Only what God wants in my life should be left. Not a schedule packed to the gills.

Time for what's important. Snuggly reading times, giggly dance-parties, outdoor discoveries, talks with teens over lattes, adventures with littles in blanket forts. Living out my faith in the everydayness of motherhood.

Those things get squeezed out in the hustle and bustle. And they are some of the most important things in this season of life. Can't miss them. Not one more season.

These days will be gone so quickly. Nothing can bring them back or slow them down. Drawing the line, and looking ahead with anticipation.




Sunday, December 20, 2015

Elizabeth's story

Hello, my name is Elizabeth, wife of Zecharaiah. We have a small home in the hill country of Judea. First, let me tell you a little about me, and then I will tell you a little about why you should know me. My husband and I have waited for years to have a child. Never did God choose to bless us with a baby of our own. I am well past the age when a woman can have a child, and yet, now of all times, God has chosen to give us a son. A beautiful healthy baby boy! Nothing is impossible with God. We were told of his coming by an angel, the angel Gabriel himself. He spoke to my husband and said we would have a baby even in our old age. And, we should name him John. After Zechariah heard from the angel he could not speak, not a word,  until John was born and he wrote that his name would indeed be ‘John.’ That was the talk of the countryside for a while!

Before John’s birth, when I was yet expecting, I had a visitor. A young woman, my relative. Now, her, I am sure you know. She is young, about 15. She came to visit me, and stayed with me for a few months. She also was pregnant at that time. Hers also was not an ordinary pregnancy. Just as Zechariah had been visited by the angel Gabriel, so was this young girl. You know her now, don’t you? Yes, Mary. She had never been with a man, had no husband, and yet the angel said she would have a baby. How can that be? He said the child was there of the Holy Spirit. This would be the King that we had waited for from almost the beginning of time, from Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden of Eden.


All my life I waited for this promise, this prophecy to be fulfilled. I am not a student of the Law and the Prophets, what you call the Old Testament, but I know the promise of a savior. I want to share with you some of the prophecies that we have held to, longed for, for many generations. These are just some of the promises of God, spoken in the Old Testament, and then they came true in your New Testament. This savior would come from a woman, descended from Abraham. The prophet Micah told us he would be born in Bethlehem, in Genesis we read he would belong to the family of Judah, an heir to David’s throne. Somehow he would come out of Egypt, according to Hosea, and yet be called a Nazarene. He would be presented with gifts, come as a king riding on a donkey, and on and on. God gave us many promises all throughout the Bible so we could recognize this promised Messiah who it says will take our sins as a sacrificial lamb. Does that mean no more sacrifices in the temple? I can’t understand all of that, yet, but Mary has been told that this baby is to be the One. He will be called the Son of the Most High. To think that small baby growing inside of her is God Himself.

When Mary arrived on my doorstep and I heard her greeting, my own baby, not yet born, jumped within me. I suddenly felt filled of the Holy Spirit and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary rejoiced as well and worshiped God who had chosen her. I know that through the rest of time people will know her and recognize her special role as the mother of Jesus.

She stayed with me for a few months, until the time that my baby, John was born. He too was prophesied about, he is to prepare the way for his younger cousin, the Messiah. He will be a voice calling in the wilderness, “prepare ye the way of the Lord.” He will call to repentance the people of Israel and point the way to the Savior, the King of Kings.

But, now let me tell you of the birth of Mary’s little boy, Jesus Christ, the Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the baby, born in a manger.
The ruler of this day, Caesar Augustus (the stories I could tell about him!), required everyone to go to their home town to register for a census. Poor Mary! She is soon to be married to Joseph. He was so confused when he heard she was expecting a baby. He knew it was not his baby, and he almost sent her away quietly until an angel appeared to him and said this angel was indeed from God. So, trusting, but still unsure of what this all meant, Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem, the city of David, Joseph’s family town. Imagine that journey, expecting a child any day.

Well, they did arrive in Bethlehem, along with hundreds of other people. All there for the census, and no room in a hotel left for Joseph and Mary. They ended up in the stables, basically a dark, dirty cave they kept the animals in to keep them out of the weather and away from the guests. Of course, while there, Mary’s time came to give birth. Joseph didn’t know what to do. There, in a strange town, away from their home and neighbors. But, you know God is in control. Everything was fine. Mary delivered a healthy, baby boy. Her first born son. They wrapped him in cloths. He was beautiful, a healthy cry, amazing. Where to put him to rest? Well, the only thing available was the feeding trough for the animals, a manger. At the time of his birth angels appeared to shepherds in the field watching their sheep in the still of the night. I can tell you, they aren’t used to getting heavenly visitors. Is it obvious yet that this is not an ordinary baby? An angel delivered the birth announcement. He said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds got up right away and went to find the baby and they told everyone about it.
The shepherds were not the only ones who traveled to see Jesus. Wise men saw a star celebrating his birth and traveled a great distance to see him. They brought expensive gifts and worshiped him as well.

I still don’t understand it all. How can this baby be the promised Messiah, the Savior, the Lamb of God that will take away the sin of the world? What part will my little John play in this amazing story? What I do know is that God has given us the greatest gift, that we could spend our lifetime learning about. In Jesus Christ we have a life lived out on earth of how God would actually live when faced with tempting situations, with bad days, with false accusers. I pray that my story will make you want to know more about this baby born of my relative, Mary. Read His story and think about God’s greatest gift during this Christmas season.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first of many good-byes

Something just doesn't feel right. Even when a good-bye is the best thing, the timely thing, it cannot feel completely right.

An almost empty room. empty shelves, sheetless bed - the same mattress we bought for his first "big boy" bed at 2 years of age.

The memories well up. Odd ones, random ones, peppering the day. . .

Your obsession with "Hoppa-doppas" (helicopters)

The brightest smile in the room.

Figuring out on your own how to count by tens to 100 before kindergarten, while still struggling to tie a secure knot in your shoe.

A dozen big brothers five days a week.

Proud big brother in the hospital greeting sibling after sibling, after sibling.

Cubs colored rubber bands on braces.

Baseball games, all star tournaments, lots of frozen burritos as we rushed out the door.

Forts in the great room.

Learning patience with siblings.

Swimming in the summers whenever you possibly could.

A math brain I could never out-teach.

Owning your faith.

Struggling to find your life direction with college a few years away.

Pouring out skills and gifts for God.

First job, and an even better second job.

Saving every penny.

Determined to meet every goal set.

Independently driven.

Remembering the times that you pulled and we pushed, the times you questioned and we encouraged, you hesitated and we prompted,

. . . and somewhere along the way you took it all and ran with it following decisively as God directed you better than we ever could have.

And we just watch and marvel at the man you have become.



Friday, April 3, 2015

The Silver Lining


Looking for joy in the times of challenge. Cultivating that grateful heart.

It's a lifelong process and one that progresses at the rate of rock climbing rather than strides on a treadmill.

And yet, as God teaches, and opens my eyes more each day, the gratitude springs up in unexpected places.

Grateful this week for . . .

  • Free antibiotics at Meijer pharmacy
  • A simple ear infection and clear lungs
  • Flexible older kids that can wait while I drop them here and there and drive back and forth to get everyone where they need to be, usually for longer than they need to be there
  • A letter for 17% off that arrives the day before we take our car in for $2k worth of repairs
  • Sleep, in uninterrupted chunks of time
  • The quiet snuggles of a fevery child
  • Spring break for many around us so the doctor had lots of appointments available
  • A steady job that provides insurance and income for our family
  • Daily homeschool flexibility that allows school to somehow stay on track despite fevers and earaches and meetings and schedules and red-eyes and energy-zapping illness

And, above all, thankful for a Savior that endured the cross on my behalf, not looking at the pain and agony of the moment, but lifting His eyes to the greater prize, the greater love, the greater purpose, He finished well.

As my not-much-longer-to-be four year old says, "Happy Great Friday!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why I homeschool

Although the calendar says March, the winter doldrums still hold us firmly in their grasp. Snow everywhere, very few days over freezing, and everyday -- school, school, and more school.

Now and then I dream of a "free" day. Rush around like mad for an hour or so and shuttle kids out the door to school. Then, settle into a truly quiet devotional time. A couple hours of cleaning, run some errands, prep an amazing dinner and then warmly greet my children with a plate of fresh home-baked goodies as they return. Seems like such a carefree existence, but I know I'm looking through rose colored glasses.

Then I am reminded of all I would lose in that scenario, and I need to remember the cost so I stay the course.

So, here are the first of literally thousands of reasons why I homeschool:

Academic excellence. No class of 30 students, or even 15, can come close to the one-on-one time that my kids get each day. Specifically tailored to where they are and the pace they learn at. The bar set as high as they can reach, no higher and no lower.

Spiritual excellence. Even a Christian school can have teachers that vary in their theology or their depth of spiritual insight. I don't know every answer, but we dig them out together as needed along with that constant reminder that God's Word is the ultimate authority and has the final say in everything.

Social excellence. A room full of junior highers makes me cringe. Their expressions, their clothing, their topics of conversation, their standards, etc., etc. Is that really the ideal learning environment? My kids see enough of it during a couple hours of youth group to feed our conversations the rest of the week. I'm sure there will be moments of social awkwardness here and there, but overall, they have greater opportunity, adult-mentored not peer-mentored, to gain understanding of social propriety. 

Psychological excellence. Okay, no studies that I know of prove this, but I find this interesting subtlety in the typical homeschool personality. A kind of confidence, maybe at times bordering on naivete, but a free-ness to be whoever they truly are. As they spend their days in a loving home, they have a freedom of expression unknown in a roomful or hallwayful of kids ready to deem them "uncool" or "weird." They'll learn soon enough and a little more gradually that some behaviors are unacceptable to their peers, but in the meantime they stay young a little longer, explore life a little deeper, and enjoy a little more freely.

Familial excellence. I'll be the first to admit that my kids probably fight with each other a little more since they are around each other 24/7. However, at the end of the day we know each other. We talk, text (yes, even while in the same house), laugh, interact, ask, listen, argue, learn, cry, grow, and eat together all day long, pretty much everyday. There is no amount of quality time that can trump the quantity of time that we have together.

I feel better already. A little less hypnotized by that dreamy image of traditional school. And I have just scratched the surface of the many, many reasons that I homeschool.

Why do you homeschool?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Called to Follow

Funny how we judge ourselves so harshly. Held to some impossibly high standard that would topple even the most perfect. Elizabeth faithfully followed God, but yet grappled with the barrenness of her womb. I know some modern day Elizabeths. She was not made great because she gave birth to John the Baptist, it was just one way that God honored her faithfulness.

I've wrestled with that though. So many godly friends and family members that muddle through never ending infertility.  Yet, children are a blessing, so why doesn't God bless them? He has blessed me in that way, and I feel so undeserving, sometimes guilty as I talk to those that He has not blessed in that way.

In that way.

"That" way varies from season to season. Sometimes I see only the material blessings in people's lives, while mine lacks that. Sometimes I view only someone's new baby while we pray for another. Sometimes I lock in on the success of ministry for others while I turn down another serving opportunity because of sick children. Sometimes I fixate on another family's godly children while I suit up for the same battle of disciplining our strong-willed child. Rather than see the blessings, I see the lumps in the clay where God continues to shape me.

That's they key. We see a blessing withheld, but He has merely poured out elsewhere.

He took away her shame, but He had not put it there.

The shame we bring on ourselves. I've done it, often. Stumbling under the weight of unmet expectations and unrealized goals. Goals that I thought I needed to reach to prove my worth, spiritual or otherwise.

Once again, God wiped my worry and self-doubt clean today using this beautiful devotional blog that I've started following recently, Love God Greatly.

Instead of seeing my weakness as a downfall, I can see it as a trademark that God is at work. Just as they said about Elizabeth, "Nothing is impossible with God." It takes my human shortcomings to allow His glory to shine through and His clear work of redemption and transformation to get the credit. 

His plan for my life continues, not what I thought it would be 20 years ago or even 10 years ago, and yet uniquely mine, a masterpiece crafted with good works, His, not mine.

As I cherished this renewed perspective today, I received an email that pressed deeper His message for me today --  the simple daily following of my Savior as a wife and mom, that is my highest call right now. Regarding our oldest son the email said, "He is such a committed volunteer in our ministry and his skill set at his age is off the charts."

Words a mother needs to hear now and then to remind me of the blessings as I'm distracted while I look for God to bless me in "that" way. 





What blessings are you missing that God has already poured out?  
Praying we all open our eyes a little wider to God already at work.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jesus' consistency, our random responses

John 18 and Luke 22 pressed out my thoughts today . . . 

Peter, so like me I have to chuckle at times.

Jesus says, "I am He."

Peter (what was he thinking?) lunges with his sword drawn and slices the ear of the nearest bystander. I'm sure the High Priest's servant was posing the greatest threat to Jesus at the time.

Irrational. Not well thought out. Emotional response in the wake of Christ's level headed interaction.

Christ had surrendered already. Not in defeat, but in submission. Did Satan think he had won?

Looking back at Christ's words exchanged with Judas and 600 or so of his closest friends, His holiness is magnified in this dark moment.

"Whom do you seek?"

"I AM"

"So, if you seek me, let these men go." Is there any doubt who was really in charge?

"Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

He had already wrestled. It wasn't an easy surrender, but He lay down His will fully to do what needed to be done to save me.

Remember what Peter had been doing? Remember Christ's warning? Peter fell asleep. Christ said, "Don't" twice. His reason -- pray so you don't fall into temptation.

What Peter needed to set him straight was time in wrestling then surrendered pray.

I'd rather sleep, or lay in bed worrying. How much sense does that make?

Wrestle, surrender. Follow in peace. Of course, that doesn't mean the road ahead offers smooth passage. The cross lay just around the corner for Jesus Christ.

Peter still floundered. "No, I don't know Him." Cursing. Denying. Emotionally distraught confused.

I can't imagine watching the world I had lived and loved for three miraculous years seemingly fall apart.

Later he would wrestle. With Christ's questions on the beach. With his own guilt.

And, God still used him, powerfully. A broken pot like me. An irrational human that gets stuck in the here and now.

Father God, help me to wrestle with You and surrender instead of worrying and reacting. Thank you for your forgiving love and using even me. ~Amen