Tuesday, November 26, 2013


In light of one of the most celebrated American holidays, my mind is cued into what is coming. Gathering of family...the ones you don't see enough of and the ones you see too much of and the ones who walk with you through life and the ones who don't really know you. Indulging in food...the perfectly roasted turkey and the gollups of mashed potatoes and the whipped topping on top of pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce that always leaves a stain. The football games, too...filled bellies sprawled out on couches and carpets while men snore between plays and children giggle as they find a new friend in that cousin they chase around the house. And women gather where they always gather. In the kitchen, together again. Sinks full of dishes and coffee being poured.

And on this day as families and friends gather for these predictable moments a word of thanks often gets squeezed into the day, just as predictable as the people there, the food being eaten, and the football watching that happens.

Thanksgiving...a word of thanks, a moment spoken for all we see through the hurried eyes. Family. Friends. Health. Faith. And sometimes even football.

I love what thanksgiving represents in so many ways. I love family time. I love big meals shared together. I love my boys watching football. I love giving thanks. But my hurried ways have been shaken in my recent years...and thanksgiving has become more of a thanks-giving. Thanks giving...not your one day out of the year celebration, but an every day offering that involves more then the basic family, friends, faith, and football gratitude.

During one of my most difficult seasons of life, I felt really called to slow down and learn how to really say thanks. A habit of thanks giving can change a heart. It can change a life, really. As I ached inside, I let the hurt slowly be released in the way I started to say thank you. In what I saw, when I slowed down. And I counted. All of it. And it really started to add up.

18. soft puppies
101. my swing
210. courageous friends
315. 5 year old boy
498. a hug
577. chatting with Grandma
641. a heartbeat
796. watermelon
895. a calm mind
933. good husbands
987. painted boys
1000. change

And there is more. More written down and more coming. It never stops. Unlike the one day of Thanksgiving, thanks giving keeps going...and going. Slow is the only way to live a life of full thanks giving and in the rush of our days passing by, one must see slow enough to not miss what is being offered each and every day.

So I look forward to what Thanksgiving will bring to my life. But I truly live breathing the habit of thanks giving. Alive and awake to what is being given to fill me up on His grace, His love for me, His thanks giving to my life. And in return, as I count these gifts and say thank you, I know that I must pass the main dish and offer that same grace to those gathering around my table of life.

I will gather in a few days and enjoy an all American Thanksgiving meal with loved ones. I will say thank you for family and friends and health and football. And I will mean it. But when the day is over, I know that my thanks offering will lead me into the next year when I gather again for the very same meal and the very same faces and the very same routine of what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like. For me, thanks giving happens every day. And when it doesn't, I know my life will be a few portions short of being full. Thanks giving...counting what I see, sharing what feeds me. Filling a life.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

the best gift givers

Walking through the department store I see the signs of the holidays already out shining and glittery to catch all the eyes of the consumers coming in to just grab some diapers or a gallon of milk. What they usually walk out with though is a cart full of Christmas add-on's that never seem to stop finding their way into our homes. I love glitter and Christmas galore as much as the next festive person. Don't get me wrong. I indulge in the spirit of Christmas and get carried away with traditions as my children get older and look forward to them every year. I get excited when the calendar flips and says it is the day after Thanksgiving so we can go tree hunting and put a freshly cut fir in our house. I have a love/hate relationship with hanging the lights outside and getting some Christmas cards in the mail. But I also get a little burnt out on finding what should really be under our tree each year. Under our trees and in our hearts.

I spend 363 days a year trying to control the "stuff" in my house. I watch my kids play with 25% of the things they get as gifts. If you are reading this and have been a gift giver to my children, please don't take this the wrong way. We are so grateful for such gifts...my boys love having a fun new toy. But the buzz usually only lasts a short time and soon that latest action figure or Tonka truck quickly finds it way to the back of the shelf too soon forgotten. What stays fresh in front of my children's eye sight though is this...  time. Not the hour hand clicking by second by second, but the minutes spent with them. The undistracted time spent gifting them with love...and laughter...and action...and patience...and joy...and an experience. A gift that they tuck into their heart and can't open on Christmas morning, but all year through. This gift of time is not found in the glitter and the lights as you roam the stores looking for the perfect gift. It's found right where you are already. You are here. So give your time to the ones who matter the most.

A mountain of gifts under the tree doesn't make me feel more loved. Doesn't make me think "this is Christmas". I gather my children will look back some day and think the same thing. They won't remember the gifts they opened from a box, but rather the gifts they participated in through their childhood. The time they spent opening the gift of sharing a life together.

In a culture where companies hit the black this time of year, but people's souls dip into the red, why wouldn't we invest in something more for our hearts? Instead of spending every other day of the year trying to keep up with the stuff that consumes our homes, why not keep up with the little feet running ahead of us and walk along-side the bodies that need a hand, not another thing to fill them up? Wouldn't we benefit from spending our resources on a place that leaves an imprint on someones life, rather then leaves a debt to be paid in our mailbox every month? Can we see past the glitz and black Friday's deals and holiday shopping lists and really look into the souls that we are trying to buy the perfect gift for? Can we find the  time to really give what is needed, rather than give what will be forgotten as soon as that tree comes down?

I am slowly being lured into the Christmas tradition of giving less in the eyes of my culture, but in doing so...giving so much more in the eyes of those on my gift buying list. I will be playing Christmas music soon, watering a freshly cut tree in my home everyday, baking little stars and jingle bells, placing coins in the red buckets, attending parties, and most of all... I hope I will be making the time to give the gifts that really matter. Won't you join me? I have always loved giving gifts. But the best gift givers in my life are those who have given me their time. I want to keep that tradition more then any other this time of year...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

it is good

Driving down the highway is one of my favorite things this time of year. Through the back-roads and along the flat Iowa land. A mid-west girl at heart, I suppose. And a little bit of country. While the height of the mountains and the never ending ocean lines take my breath away...it's the Octobers and the pink skies and the tree lines in Iowa that make me feel at home, make me feel like I'm alive, make me feel like there is truly something more then this life, and makes me see the creative eye of our Creator. Who can stand next to the colors of fall and deny a great source of beauty given to us year after year, season after season?

If you are able...and if you are willing...then stop and really look. See the greatness that starts well below the earth and reaches up to the skies declaring it's beauty...it's glory of nature. It is meant to take your breath away. The beauty that hangs from the branches and blows with the breezes of this time of year whisper... how great thou art. How great are these things that were created for us. You and me. For this world, this time, this creation. When you see the beauty that comes with this time of year and you stop to let it leave an imprint on your heart, you speak a small word of thanks for such a sight, such a piece of grace. Looking at such things helps me see our Creator and praise His works. For He is mighty and creates such beautiful things.

And what if... what if...when you looked at the October sky line in the middle of the Mid-west or wherever you are and let that place in your heart that needs reassurance be filled up? Filled with His undeniable truth that He creates beautiful things. He does. We can see it all around us. In our back-yards, in the long car rides, walking out our front doors, and across towns and country sides.

Then what if...what if you saw those fall branches and knew that He not only creates beautiful things, but He creates beautiful people too?

Today I look outside and I am humbled. Humbled that when I stop and admire the reds, yellows, and oranges  and everything in-between out my window that He also created even more...even better then this.

He created ...me...and YOU.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

The way we see the colors of fall is maybe just a glimpse of how He sees us. Yes, looking at you...looking at me. He made us for more. He made us in His image. And said it was all very good. That feeling you get when you breath in the fall air and appreciate the beauty across the trees... He feels that for you. For me. 

We are image makers, you and I. Deep down inside each of us is a beauty, a piece of art, that He wants to show the world. Because when people pass by, He wants them to stop and look... just the way we do when we see this time of year unfold around us. Live today believing that you were made with a purpose, a reason to live out the true colors of your season. Breath taking worthy for all those looking your way and a soul declaring His praise as you let your beauty touch the world. 

Go ahead and look today. Turn off the screens and tune out the noises that tell you any different. Don't miss today. Don't miss this season. Don't miss how YOU were made to be beautiful. In His image, and you are very good. Just...the...way...you...are.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

who are you chasing?

I walked them to school on a crisp fall morning and knew there wouldn't be too many of these left. Mornings that left time for walking instead of driving, Mother Nature that begged us to come outside, and a boy who wanted to spend his minutes before school with his Mama instead of running off to be with friends.

 I look back and remember this day...the tiredness that was in my bones at that time and the weariness that was in my heart...and it slightly comes back to me. Like it is sitting on my shoulders again and I remember how hard it was just to stand up and keep moving. If I close my eyes I can go back there for just a moment. To throw clothes on and find a smile for them and keep moving. I had all I had asked for...I should feel joy. This stroll before school should feel...happy. Then why did I just feel like crying? So why was it so hard to find the joy in the moment?

I had married the man and had the house and the American dream of 2.5 kids...I had a new baby boy and I pushed him that early school morning and chased the idea of what a good mom was supposed to do. But I didn't feel good. I didn't feel mom worthy. I didn't feel Him holding my hand as I grasped theirs.

I don't know if it was the sun peeking out through the trees that line the school street or the wind kissing my face or the three boys filling the air with their God given voices that day... but it was His I heard over it all. I pushed and walked and looked...and there I saw them. My children. The ones I wanted to get dressed for and find that smile for and tell the world that I was overly joy filled to be right here with them. And then like a whisper His words filled my morning and I saw my kids for the first time in a way I had never really looked before...

Love Me more than them.

I was in the middle of my dream life and couldn't find the happy ever after that was supposed to follow... I was chasing them, loving them...not Him.

I was fighting to be my best for them. I was living to make them happy. I was running after a dream that was never going to come to life. Not the way I was doing it. Not the way He intended it.

I think it is easy, us mothers chasing the heart of our children...when really, we need to chase after the One who made them. Because He is the reason we find joy, receive grace, and we get to feel it when we're living for Him. Our children will never fill those hard to reach places the way only He can. We can be the best mom ever and still feel that brokenness that comes with ignoring His grace for our lives. Oh, don't get me wrong... I am still pushing strollers and holding crying babies and spending fall mornings with my bunch and pouring most of my  physical self into them. But I see them different now...I see Him before them. I try to chase His heart, instead of winning over my kids each day... And in doing so, I usually find I fill theirs much better after I've found Him first.

Today I sat and watched the snow come down over the October colors that filled my yard and I remembered that fall morning two years ago... I remembered that even though my hands would brush tears away and hold hands and feed mouths and hold on a little longer to one more story...these days are full of joy. Joy that shows up because I have started loving not only them in the way I care for them, but I love the One who brushes my tears away and holds my hand and fills my hunger and always holds me... just a little longer... Joy that can be found in the hard places when we're chasing Him before everyone and everything else.

Because He loved first, so we could love. And He lived first, so we can live. Look up before you kneel down today... and remember that He loves them more then you do, He loves you more then you let Him, and you can love from those hard to reach places if you can chase after His heart first.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

if we could only see past the storms

I drove by this remarkable tree the other day and was so caught by it's new beauty that I came back later just to snap it's glory reaching up to the skies again. This tree, in my town...on a busy street...where people drive by and walk by and run by and bike by...is a glimpse we probably all take for granted. This landmark tree has stood here for as long as I have been here. Carefully crafted tree trunk and once upon a time, large... stand the test of time branches sat on top of it. A few years ago a nasty wind brought the limbs tumbling down and I remember wondering if the home owners would save the trunk. Would see the beauty still rooted deep in the ground and give it a chance to be nurtured...and grow...and stand tall again. 

Often times it is what sits below the surface that decides if we stand or fall. The place our roots dig deep into, this is where we find strength...or we don't. 

It's what we don't see that makes a person stand tall, even amongst the strongest winds. And it is what we don't see that makes a person break. Because on the outside whether the biggest tree or just you, roots are planted some where...and storms come. And some will stay. And some will fall.


And as we walk a journey through the most beautiful days and we walk through some of our biggest storms, we must choose to be planted some place. Sometimes He asks us to let go, break free of something that was once beautiful...and start new. Be broken to be beautiful again.

It is hard to see such a beautiful thing fall down. It is hard to accept that something could be made better, if only we would open our hands to the strong winds passing and keep our roots in place while we let the best of us fall down. But as a tree loses a piece of it's beauty one by one, we too must let the old trickle off so something new can be started. 


 And sometimes it feels like the very best of us has been stripped away...and we linger a bit longer on what was... trying to pick up what we used to be, instead of seeing what we could be.

 You may have to plant a whole new tree. And trees take time. You may have to cut off what you think is the best part of those big beautiful branches. You may have to face the storm and let it break what needs to be broken...

Because if you don't give in to the pruning that comes with life, you will never see from here...

 See that no matter how big or small or beautiful or broken you are...

 That something wonderful can come from a little nurturing, from roots growing in the right places so that the thick trunks of life can still stand...and be beautiful again, even after the best pieces are taken. But remember, new beauty takes time to grow... and you just might look one day and see it is finally blooming again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

every mom needs a friend

Today is one of my dearest friend's birthdays. And it just got me to thinking about how life is just so much sweeter with friends. Not just see ya at the ball fields friends or the see you on Sunday morning friends or the thanks for the Christmas card friends. But the kind of friends who not only see you at the ball fields, but show up with snacks for the team when it was your turn to bring them and you forgot and guess who you can call still on their way to grab snacks for 10 little stinky and sweaty 9 year olds. Or that friend who calls you to see where you've been when you haven't made it to church for 4 weeks in a row and well, she was counting and not to judge, but only noticed because she really cares about what is keeping you from church these days. And how can she help you get back? Or the friend whose Christmas card comes in the mail...or not at all...and you still know everything about their last year even though you didn't get the Christmas card letter update. There are friends. And then there are friends.

You know, motherhood is one of those things in life that is just much better with friends. Those kind of friends who you call last minute and they notice when you are gone and they know every little and big event from your last 365 days. And even better, they still LIKE you. In a lonely world and a do-it-all by yourself culture, motherhood is one area I would suggest having some real friends.

If you pray for anything for yourself during the motherhood years, pray for a real friend or two. Because we all need a friend who knows our good days and our bad days. We all need a friend who we can call when we're excited about life and when we are drowning in life. We needs friends who go to bat for us and cheer us on. We need friends who do the inconvenient for us and hold the flash-light for us when we just can't see through the fog...or the dark. We need friends who laugh at our bad jokes and tell you when to laugh something off, it's not such a big deal after all. We need friends who tell us what we really look like in skinny jeans and when we've cut our hair way too short. And please don't ever wear that shirt again if you don't want to look like your mother. We need friends who you call up last minute for dinner plans in the back-yard of nothing more then hot-dogs over a fire and marshmallows for the sides. And friends who drive miles to get the one thing you need and can't ask anyone else for. We need friends who give us God's word for a breath of fresh air and His grace when we've screwed up. In motherhood, every single one of us needs a friend.

So today I smile in my heart for the friends I have been so very blessed with. The real, gut wrenching truth filled, Jesus loving, and grace giving friends. Motherhood could very well swallow me whole some days... and it's nice to know that I've got a gal or two just a phone call away, ready to throw me back out for some more because they believe in me...sometimes when I don't believe in myself. Today I am thankful for friendship and motherhood and the real part of relationships that makes this life journey such an adventure. And every time one of my friends celebrates another year, I am right behind them cheering the loudest. Fearfully and wonderfully made they are. Humbly and blissfully I know it. Happy Birthday, friend :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

here I am

I wasn't sure how to write this post. Or if I should. Or when I should. But now is as good a time as ever and I told myself this blog would be a honest place where I could just be me. So here I am.

Life with four kids has been everything and nothing I thought it would be. If that is possible? But I find myself marveling at what God has placed in our care for now and also wondering some days how in the world He trusts us with these 4 little people. I mean, there is major potential to screw them up!  Some days are easier than others, but mostly I am trying to keep my purpose at the forefront of my days and living from that place. It puts most things in a much better perspective when I do!

Adding that fourth bundle of joy brought many things and with her addition brought the fruit basket upset of how we've done life here the last couple years. And it should. Roles would change, people would change, sleeping would change, routines would change, and so on. If there is anything you can count on with a new human coming to your home, it is the act of change being consistent! So with change in the air around here we are just trying to breeze through just where we should all land when this transition is said and done. Just in time for the next change probably!

Most know that for the last 9 years I have done child-care out of my home in some way, shape, or form. With the recent family changes, this just came to a place where it was very hard to juggle both child-care and the speed at which our 4 kids needed something from me. We knew something would have to give and for a short time, my rock-star husband picked up a side job of driving taxi to pay the bills around here while I finished out my pregnancy, had a baby, and helped said family of six transition to new life. Whew. It got a little crazy for awhile :) But we are still standing! I hated sending my already tired husband out though on Saturday nights when he had already worked a very full time job for the week and trying to help him recover from a night of no sleep for days after was not fun. I knew this could not go on forever. But money needed to be made up some where else then...

Here is where my new journey starts. Shortly after Carson was born, a friend of mine handed me a Spark. I was sleep-deprived, exhausted in every way, and living in a fog. What Spark did for me was awesome. I was drinking at least a pot of coffee a day at that time and by the end of the day my gut felt so heavy and ick. I knew it was too much caffeine and I didn't have energy or the sustained mental focus that I deeply craved to function well at home. I can honestly say Spark was great. I even shared it with some other mom-friends and thought how did I not know about this until my third kid!?!? So I enjoyed Spark for a year or so and then decided to look into their vitamins. "Their" is Advocare and I didn't know much about them at the time, other then they produced and sold me my favorite mommy drink!

As I browsed the Advocare website looking at what else they had to offer for products, I stumbled upon their different ways to get a discount. I liked Spark. I wanted to try their vitamins. I was interested in their body cleanse. I wanted a discount. And I wanted to make a few hundred dollars a month to get my husband out of the weekend taxi driving gig. So I called up my Spark giving friend.

My Spark giving friend met me at a park, our kids played, and she explained how Advocare helps people feel better in the health and wellness area. I was very interested in knowing more about the 24 Day Challenge Advocare offered and I was curious how to get my best discount. She filled me in and I came home and shared with Dave that night just what Advocare could possibly do for us... better health, better discount, possible pay check.

I sat on what I learned for a couple days. I wasn't sure I could "sell" stuff. Actually, I knew I couldn't. I am a horrible sales person and hate the business side of that. But I love helping people. And what I learned in the last year and a half was that having a body that felt good could not happen if you didn't have a heart that felt good. And I started to wonder if God was leading me towards a way to help both others through a way of caring not only for their bodies better, but feeding their hearts in a way that would let them really live a full life. Years ago I took a strengths test and Belief was my number one strength. I took the same test a few years ago and it was my number one strength again. To this day, I can not stay with a project or a ministry or job or a purpose in life if it doesn't line up with my beliefs. I get bored, uninterested, and fizzle out very quickly. I know this about myself. So if I decided to step into Advocare, would I be able to do it in a way that was both healing for people's bodies and for their souls? Could I be in the Advocare world in a way that would let me flow from my place of belief? There is a lot of hurting people when it comes to their view of themselves, how they care for themselves, and the way they let their hearts lead them away from His love and grace instead of closer. After spending a chunk of time trying to help my body be healthy for the purpose of better living, I learned that what my heart was doing during that time frame was just as important. And perhaps He is calling me to pay that forward now. To share with others, through Advocare, that healing can happen well when done for both health and heart.

I make no claims to know much about all this, other then through personal experience and His leading. I typically step back when big changes come and when new things get hard, I often like to step away and try to make things go back to "normal". But I have learned to embrace change. I'm practicing it daily. And I think where He has called me, I just need to stand up and say "Here I am". Use me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

table service

When I found out we were having another baby last summer one of my first thoughts were...we will need a new table. Now, that may seem weird to some, but to others it makes sense. You see, we would be bumping our family alone up to six and that is what fit around our then current dining room table. The place we dwelled for most meals morning, noon, and night and the place we called home when it was time for a variety of other things too. 6 chairs. 6 of us. One would think that is perfect. Not me. It's not enough.

So when baby #4 arrived my thoughts had already well entertained just how to fit a bigger table into our home. Because not only did the six of us need a place to gather and share food and thoughts and fun...but as always, my table needed space for the friends and family that we so often love to gather with us. The little friends and the big friends and the grandmas and grandpas and neighbors and cousins and aunts and uncles and anyone else who may show up or need a meal with a family of six. I grew up knowing that food was always plenty for whoever happened to stop by and there was always room for "just one more". And I plan to keep the tradition of "table service" in my home too. I am thrilled to have a table with more then 6 seating standing in the biggest room of our home today... the biggest room used to put people across from each other instead of away from each other and used to mute out the screens of all kinds and see the real faces of real people. What a celebration to bring in new. But what is a celebration of a new table without a farewell to the old...

So here it is...

Dear New Table Family,

I am surprised at the emotions I had when it came time to say goodbye to that old table of ours. I guess I probably shouldn't have been, as that new table of yours has many memories carved into it...some literally. I hope it will bring you as much joy as it did us for so many years.

It's a good one, I tell ya. It knows how to gather the loud ones and bring them to a quiet level where yummy things can nurture their bodies and gentle ones can nurture their souls. That table and those chairs can remind us that we are connected and what we share across that table is nothing compared to what we share around it.

It is a place that can handle daily do-overs. It makes a great spot for breaking the ice or letting the elephant in the room or whichever hard topic is on the tip of your tongue that day. That table has had many do-overs happen at it and it knows a do-over is sometimes all the grace a person needs to try again and succeed this time.

Lots of milk will get spilled on it I'm sure... but remember, it's just milk and whoever cried about spilled milk? No need to when gathered around that table...it knows all too well that spilled milk just means able bodies are learning new things and we all need to spill a bit in life before we figure it out.

You'll probably put a burnt something or other on it some night, but don't worry....that table knows that too. Knows that when you come to it feeling burnt out at the end of the day, to just look across the table. There sits your best friend. And they know that burnt out moment doesn't define who you are. We all need a place to land at the end of our days and those chairs can hold a lot. So just bring it to the table and hand it over...all the crusty hard edges that only He can clean up.

And don't forget the sweet things. Christmas cookies and pie crusts and birthday cakes and You are Special plates and corn freezing...celebrate it all. Around that table. It loves a good celebration...whether you are blessing a little one or baking for the neighbors or eating a harvest full of garden. Be thankful for all the sweet things, but mostly the sweet ones placed around your table.

Now that table does come with a few scratches. But those scratches are scars of what has happened before you. And every scar has a story that at one time was a deep wound. But wounds heal and that table will still work just the same it did from day one. Sometimes better because sometimes we know how to live better after a few wounds. So let wounds be wounds and be willing to let the scars left behind remind you He is not done with us yet.

The nice thing about that table is it cleans up well. So get messy. Let the kids get messy. Let that table get messy. Because each day is a new morning to come back...a clean start. Gather your people messy and all and let that place be a new beginning...as many times as you need it.

I couldn't be happier with the new family that old table found. I know it will be well loved, well used, well gathered around... See deeply into all those that gather around your new table. And remember grace is a way to live, not just what you say every time you sit down there.

Enjoy! I pray that table serves you for years to come...

Monday, July 15, 2013

for this time...and the next

How does a gal put onto page just how a heart transforms during seasonal changes? I have been sitting on this post and these verses for many weeks now and I can't quite seem to gather all my heart is hearing from this view. When winter winds begin to blow warm and the blooming from recent rains have made a new something emerge beautifully from the rich ground? When time keeps changing and the scenery around us never stays one way or another for too long? So many seasons in this life, yet not one defines me more then another...or maybe one does?

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There is truth in the seasons. Truth that tells a story to our heart of grace...and love...and joy. And sometimes pain. Truth speaks louder then anything. But sometimes we are too noisy to hear it. But over and over, I sense this need to keep giving and keep taking. Give outwardly and give to myself...time and patience and love and grace. And to take in the same way...from others...from myself.

The give and take way of life leads me through so many seasons of birth, death, healing, war, the dancing and the mourning...the keeping and the saying goodbye. And in each season I somehow want to keep my arms open to accept that moment's bread of life. When it feels beautiful to hold my new baby in my arms or open that unanimous check that came to us in the mail or hear a friend's voice on the other side when you've had a hard day. A really hard day. And also when it feels terrible...when you watch your friend's say goodbye to baby boys and your neighbor loses her mate of 50 some years and you don't know how to reach out to your child or you find yourself in a hole of sadness that you just can't climb out of or you watch life leave your body before it ever laid in your arms. Take it...eat it...let each piece feed your soul. 

My days are filled with all of these things. They blend together and each new morning is another gift to give and take away. In all the times He presents us with I know his truth is on the surface and my eyes are fixed on Him... the ultimate giver and taker of all things. Blessed is He. Blessed are those that let Him feed their soul... this time and the next.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

to fully celebrate, I must first give thanks

Mother's Day is around the corner and this year I can't help but feel gracefully humbled to celebrate such a day. Not just because I have wonderful mother's all around me, whom I celebrate in my heart a little bit every day of the year...but because I am given the chance to carry such a title of my own. And at this moment I want to give thanks to two people... the One who wove this crazy life together for me and the man who have made me what I am today. For it all has started here and they see me in my most beautiful moments as a mom and at my darkest and ugliest moments in the very same role. And they choose to still love me.

In the days of nursing babies and mopping floors and washing the 6th load of laundry...of the day, and reading stories and pushing swings and airing up bikes and traveling to and from with a van full of kids and making meals and cleaning up meals and doing homework and teaching numbers and memorizing verses and baking cookies and sending cards to grandmas and pulling weeds and wiping tears and controlling...well, chaos...in all of this are two people whom met in an old church van and fell in love on the streets of Chicago in the middle of a college mission trip and decided early on to make a go at this relationship thing. They made plans for what is now today and it seems those plans have in many ways happened and in many ways been pushed to the side for new plans to be walked into.

But early on in that budding relationship between me and the man I get to call husband, I knew being a mother was a part of it. And he knew it too. And so here we are...that boy who started loving me on dark Chicago streets while we reached out to the homeless together and made me into a mother just a few years later. It's been everything and more and also nothing I knew it could be. I know I am not the same person I was for my best supporting role husband and these days it is easy to forget where we started or which way we are even going. But too often I lay my head down at night with a swelling heart of thankfulness to him for helping make me who I am today, too tired to climb back out and tell him, thank you for this place in our journey together...mother to this over-flowing house full of kids...good and bad days...messy and beautiful...exhausting and fulfilling all in the same breath.

I know we are trudging through the swampy little years with too many bills and not enough money and too many needs and not enough time and long days and short nights and a routine that feels a little boring for my spontaneous husband, yet so rewarding at the end of the day anyways. And in these muddy waters much goes unsaid...

... words like...

I love you. Thanks for taking out the garbage. Thanks for working your job that stresses your mind and wears out your body and never is quite done at the end of the work day. You are a great dad. No, make that a super awesome dad. Thanks for reading to our boys. I love when you pray with our family. You're looking good in those old blue jeans and white t-shirt by the way. I'm sure glad you are funny. We need that around here. Thanks for knowing when I need a minute to myself. Thanks for hugging our kids. Thanks for sitting through church with kids who barely listen, but need to see their dad worship and bow his head to pray and listen to His truth. Thanks for being a good friend. The kind that goes back to help a pal because its the right thing to do. Thanks for honoring your parents. I love watching you run super fast and impress our boys, even at 35. Thanks for taking care of us...all of us, financially...1 wife, 4 kids, 2 dogs, and 5 hens. Yup, we're a lot. I know we.are.a lot....and growing. Thanks for building tree forts and basketball courts and riding bikes and going to games and playing catch and cheering from the sides and playing peek-a-boo. Yes, you grown adult man...thank you for holding our babies. And sometimes just holding me too when it gets to be too much for me to stand alone. Thanks for fixing things around our home and washing the dishes. I know you are tired, but thanks for staying here...with us and this crazy life and being the Dad so I can be the Mom. I love being the mom to your kids. And I love that you love Jesus and have this crazy strong inner strength to do the right thing in so many places in your life. And thanks for forgiving me and moving forward when I mess up, even when I mess up real bad. You are my best friend and even though I feel like this wild life of ours right now doesn't allow much time for us to spend time together or chat together or laugh and cry together the way best friends do, I am so glad it's you who comes in and kisses me goodnight at the end of our days. You plan the best family vacations and pull off the best surprises for me and I know it's how you tell us "I love you". Thank you for being that for me. So many things each week as we flip the calendar and keep moving forward I find myself counting the blessing you are to me...the grace you pour my way. And I should tell you more...lots more...thank you. I love you and thanks for making me a mama. It fills my heart in ways I can not explain.

Happy Mother's Day to me, only thanks to you...and Him. The one we keep thanking together for this crazy life of kids and parenting and fatherhood and motherhood. I wouldn't be here without either of you in the way I am today and this Mother's Day I am celebrating being here by the grace of God and the grace shown from the love of a man I get to call husband...who has made me a mama. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When winter is long and you just need spring

I don't think I am the only one who has said out loud a time or two..."it's just been a long winter". I found myself saying this over and over and hearing this just the same from so many. And after our last snow fall, that came in March, when spring was supposed to be here...I started to wonder about that final covering of snow all over the earth and wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was exactly what we needed?

For the days were long with little ones cooped up inside and it seemed that we were all maybe a little tired of being crammed together all day in our little cozy home and that what could we all possibly do with yet another....long...wintery...cold...day.  Doesn't the winter in our lives, the seasons of the heart, the ones where it is snowing all around us and we can't walk outside much to breathe fresh air, seem a bit too long too? Some winter seasons I have wondered myself if God would help me step into spring sooner then later. Please take away the blowing winds and the freezing temps and the hills of snow piling up on my heart. But looking back...a good hard winter is just what I need some days. Some seasons. As cold as it is and as long as the days seem and as short as the days feel with no sunlight...those winter days are just as fruitful as the ones that follow in the spring.

Winter seasons for the heart bring days of being covered by the thick, cold, wet stuff that makes us freeze where we are and requires stillness in a hard place, a place where others can't come themselves as the drifts are too big for anyone else to see over, much less step through and this wintery place seems long and cold and dark and lonely. And we wonder to ourselves...will it ever be spring again? 

While the winter seems long, it is only one season amongst many really, and perhaps we should just trust that He has us right where we need to be. That the hard winter days must come before we recognize what spring is really all about. And to deliver a spring with no melting of the snow and no gradual step down into warmer days would only make one forget those cold winter days...the ones He walked us through and the ones that are leaving a cold, but humble and knowing and grateful imprint on our heart. We need winter days. We wouldn't need spring the way we do without them.

I walked outside last week to see winter slowly moving away from us...
 The signs of a long, cold, hard freezing winter were still around and the way it slowly is melting away tells me that the earth needed that final covering of frozen water to fill itself after a long drought. And that maybe, just maybe, once again we needed a few more weeks of winter. To hydrate us. To prepare our roots for what is to grow and what is to come...
 And the winter was just long enough that in the same day I can breathe in new fresh spring air, but still feel the winter frozeness crunch under my feet and I know that the two seasons are meant to go hand in hand...a slow move to the next so that we do not forget what spring is all about and just where we are coming from after a long cold winter.

 As we see the signs of winter melt away at it's own pace and in the same day see the dirty marked cold stuff turn into clear, flowing, streams of living water for the earth, we can trust that the long winters He places us in are just as needed and glorifying as the beautiful showers of spring that always follow...and they do follow.

For there is no real spring without the foundation of a good winter to prepare the earth, as He does with our hearts, and to remember that He is just as much in the winter places of our life as He is in the days of sunshine and tulips and new life. And our winters really aren't any longer then our springs... they just often times take the biggest pieces of our hearts with them. But only to melt away and grow into something beautiful...something planted long before the first snow ever even fell. I think spring is here to stay, but only as it slowly lets go of winters hand. And our roots will be thankful for that slow hand off...as will the following harvest.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Back-seat or back-yard?

As a mom, if you haven't found yourself filling the driver's seat of your van regularly as you transfer one kid or another to this or that...then count this gift as you thoroughly enjoy those days of choosing how your little one's spend their days, uninterrupted naps, eating snacks and meals at the table with you, and laying them down at night knowing you spent the best of their hours with them. That transition of having my children home every day with me and then moving towards a school schedule and slowly adding activities has been one that I have had to really walk gently into as I learn to let go, but not let our culture of "busyness" steal too much of my boy's childhood. Each year I really have to consider what we are going to participate in, how it will affect that person and ultimately the family, and what is a long term investment worth making now. It would be easy to get swept up in a sport for every season, an art class for every category, a music lesson for every instrument, a foreign language session from every country, a church activity from multiple resources, and anything that falls in between. All of these activities are wonderful, don't get me wrong. Simply great areas to plug a child into at one time or another if that is their given interest, talent, or strength. But too much of good things, can be a bad thing.

I have found myself driving down the road and as I look in the rear-view mirror I see three boys interacting. Sometimes they are laughing, sometimes they are arguing, sometimes they are eating, sometimes they are begging to stay home. And sometimes I wonder if all this running to and from is really worth it? We have stumbled upon some things that just are and have been worth it. And we have learned some things just are not. To live simply, which is one thing I want for this growing family...we say no a little more then we say yes. But our yes's are big and we make them count. Because as I look at my boy's from the driver's seat I hope they will come to learn that we each were made uniquely and we will spend some time devoted to encouraging that in each of us...but the relationship they are building right now, as young siblings, is not one I want solely created from the back-seat together. But more the back-yard kind of relationship I hope will carry them well into their old adult lives.

That back-yard relationship I hope my boys build on is one that is unstructured...loose and natural. It happens not in the back-seat of our van but out back in the yard and running through the house and down at the park and hiking through the woods and riding bikes around the block until sunset and sitting across from each other around the dinner table. Riding side by side in the back-seat will be a part of their days, but it won't over-take them. And this is a tough culture to make that happen. Some seasons I will just be in the driver's seat position as the siblings tag along... but most of my years as I play Mama to this crew I hope to make drivable from my own back porch and in my kitchen and on my living room floor just an arms lengths away from the sibling crew that I truly hope will grow up together and stay together, rather then grow away from each other.Back-seat brothers or back-yard brothers? I hope they too find the most enjoyable childhood side by side running through the grass and not side by side the back of our van.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

together we are enough

Last week I sat in a room full of mama's who had each woke that day with the very best intentions to love their children and their husband with every breath they take. As I sat, I see myself in so many faces and yet I barely know many of these women. We sit and we listen and we talk and many days we laugh or cry during this time too. We are all so different, yet one thing ties us together...the children we have committed to during their little years.  I have sat amongst this circle for almost 9 years through different seasons of having my own babies and this commitment, this desire to give these little years all our heart for the purpose of bringing up God's kingdom has never changed. It rings true for many of us. As these women have gathered rooms have changed, teachers have changed, children have changed, and faces in those chairs have changed...but the hearts all beat the same and for the same Lord and his calling for these little years.

As the years have gone by many themes seem to linger year after year. Many lessons I have learned through the hearts of these gals and I have found a safe place to feel the way I feel.  And as I have brought one and then two and then three and soon to be four little ones from my womb and into this circle of similar souls doing the same thing, I have watched as we each have walked a path of trying to be just who God made us in a world that screams at us to be everything. It is in that place of trying to be everything that so many of us come each week and sit in our chairs feeling a bit like we just haven't done enough to be who God made us to be. And in the last year I have personally stared that question in the face and asked myself...just what is enough?

It was no coincidence that after weeks of sick boys and missing this weekly gathering of similar mama's that I found my way back when the teacher for the day started off with the same question...only following with the assurance that after years in her own walk as a mama that surely, we are all enough...just the way we are.  A theme my own heart has entertained for some time now.

In this last year as I started to ask myself the questions of am I doing enough and how much can I do and what am I supposed to do and should I do this or should I be doing that? ...it is here where I started to let myself feel like not enough and turn to the One who says...I made you to be only who you are...to do what only you were made for and nothing more. As I started to believe this Truth that I don't have to be everything I started to feel free to be...just me. And thats all. So my list of what I should be or might be started to become a bit more balanced and it felt so good. And it was freeing. I started to believe I was enough...just the way I was.

In this place of needing to be enough I have found much peace in knowing that not everything must be done by me. I look around that room of women all bringing up their little ones and am thankful that some of them serve on the PTA and some of them head up church committees and some of them organize play-dates and some of them bake home-made goodies for their kid's classrooms and some of them plant beautiful gardens and some of them do fun art projects and some of them read 10 books a day to their kids and some of them home-school and some of them run marathons and some of them work part time and some of them memorize scripture and some of them sing in the worship band and some of them teach VBS classes and some of them play piano and some of them travel all the time with their kids  and some of them sew their kids costumes each year and so many other things too... and the beauty I have found in this last year as I keep walking along this path of motherhood is that I finally feel fine knowing I am not made to do everything. Because God made me to just do a hand full of things and do them well. Knowing He made all of us to do just a few things...not everything...gives me peace as I can sit next to these other gals knowing they were made for many of these things that I can not do while I focus on doing the things that God gave just me for this time.

So I look around this room full of mothers with little ones and smile inside knowing that together, we are enough for this world and for our Creator. I hope we can walk away to our own homes feeling His encouragement to just do what we were made for today. To not listen to each other and feel less because of what every other mother is doing, but to feel like enough as we sit together each year and know we are doing what has been put on our own hearts, our own lists...written by our Creator for each of us. And I promise everything will not be on all our lists. Find your own lists today, know it is okay to cross things off because God already made another heart to fill that role somewhere and it doesn't always have to be you. God made me for my children and to walk in these little years in a way that nobody else can. He has done the same for all of you. So let that be enough...today and everyday. As we gather, our intentions are all similar, but our assignments from Him all look very different. To be enough, we must give everything to Him and only take back what He hands to us... which in His eyes...is everything.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Come...sit with me

Another year is here. Another new beginning. I like new years. Some years I am sad to see it go, other years I can't wait to flip the calendar pages for a chance to start over, and other years I just roll right into the new one not much different from the day before. As I look back at 2012 the best word to describe my year is "stretch-marks". And not the kind left over from my post-pregnancy days. The kind that you can not see on me, but the ones you feel if you were to look into my heart. For 2012 was my year to stretch...far and wide...and it left many marks.

I spent much of my last year feeling the pull God was asking from me to teach me, mold me, make me more of His...and less of mine.  In many ways I feel like I slipped out of my old skin and into new, barely able to recognize some parts of who I had become along the way and oh so thankful for the chance to do better, to be better. I allowed myself the freedom to not be many things and in the process was freed to be just me in many ways I didn't know I was capable of.

So like many new years I look back and think forward for what is to come. I like to have places in my life that I am working on to better myself and often the month of January finds me scribbling some new goals down some where and making plans to plant those new goals into my every day life. Not your typical lose weight and eat better resolutions, but life growing goals that can affect me and the people around me. If you look back here, a year ago,  I had put in front of me a whole list of new goals. Those goals were good things and some of them I worked on and some of them I did nothing about except think about them. I made those goals in what I might call my Martha days. In my Martha days, I was much like Martha from the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. I spent a lot of time preparing, planning, and trying to be ready. For what? Everything. My list of things to get done seemed pages thick and the Martha in me didn't take many breaks to be much like Mary.

In the last year, especially the last 6 months, I have grown more into a Mary. For when Jesus came calling, Mary stopped everything and sat at his feet, while Martha spent time preparing for His presence. Oh, how I have been Martha so many times. I've rose early with good intentions to be with Jesus and found I could get so much more done in my laundry room before the littles woke and skipped my good intentions of meeting with my Lord. I have let myself get lost in some tunes in the car while I drive instead of turning off the noise and talking to my Savior. The one who waits for me, always. I have put my Bible by my bed to read through before I close my eyes, only to have the TV call my name while I stared away more of His time. I have let my pages of "to-do's" get checked off as I told myself when it was done...then....later...when I had time...would I sit at Jesus feet. Sigh...the Martha in me has won so many times. But in the last year, the Mary in me as been so drawn to lead my days and start my ways. And if I could sit with Mary and Martha all those years ago, I am almost sure Mary would have felt more ready for her days then Martha did, even though she was the planned one.

So in this new year, 2013, I am not making a list of new goals. I have laid before me the only thing I want to stay with me for all the years to come. To be with Jesus.  Not just first thing in the morning or in my mom van by myself or as I lay my head down on my pillow. I want to open His word, as I have this last year, and drink in His living water. I want to be more like Mary and ignore the preparations around me enough to give Jesus my undivided attention. I want to let His word feed my soul and lead my life...in a way I never have before. For my eyes see clearer when I have let His truth write the ways of this world to me. This year, as I turn the pages of my calendar, I leave all the lists that should be done...and in time will be...but I am telling my heart one thing...Be with Him. Sit at His feet. Drink in His living water. Let truth shine light on my ways of this new year. And so here I go... into a new year with no plans other then to find Him along the way each day and make Him wait no more while I work away. For I have been weary and it is not only time to sit, but it is time to let Him show me just what is so important to get done each day. I will sit at His feet... I will open my eyes... I will be willing when He says He is ready for me. This year and every year, I hope. Won't you join me?