Thursday, July 17, 2014

the death of motherhood

When I became a mother nobody told me about the death that would come with my new life. Nobody told me I would lose all of myself in the trenches of babies and childhoods. Nobody told me I would give all the best of me, only to find the worst of me. Nobody told me how desperate a small breathing human can make a Mama or how broken she can become while building up children for the Kingdom. Nobody told me…maybe because nobody could?

There is no story that will settle in our hearts enough to tell us how it is. We must walk the trenches of motherhood on our own to find the Truth that lies between the building and breaking of one’s old self…for the birth of our new one.

We give and they take…and we die a bit more.

We hold and they let go…and we die a bit more.

We walk and they run ahead…and we die a bit more.

We feed them and starve ourselves…and we die a bit more.

We chase and they run away…and we die a bit more.

We speak and they ignore…and we die a bit more.

We watch and they look away…and we die a bit more.

We cry and they don’t hear us…and we die a bit more.

And after all of our living and breathing and fighting for who we thought we were…we finally just declare death. We lay down our life. All of it.

And by doing so…we declare victory. We pick up our new life, alive and running. This thing called Motherhood is like a sickness that will not end in death when we can breathe this very life through His glory.  

We must lay down our life to gain the one He has planned for us. We must keep giving. For life happens when we die, so somebody else can live. We must keep holding. For life happens when we don’t let go. We must keep walking. For life happens when we are on the path with them. We must keep feeding them…and ourselves. For life happens when we offer the bread of life and take it, too. We must keep chasing. For love can be caught and there is life in that place. We must keep speaking. For life comes from the words of our hearts. We must keep watching. For our view offers life to the unsure and unworthy. We must keep crying. For we find our life when we cry out for Him.

In many ways…motherhood is the death of me. But in the ashes burns a new me. One that couldn’t be seen, until I found life in the place where I laid mine down.  This thing called motherhood… it does not end in death. But by dieing through this journey, I have new life. I have handed mine over to Him time and time again…and each time He hands back another piece of me to be used for His Glory. For the glory of His children. My children. Our children. We gain life, when we die for Him. And we become life-giving Mothers. Risen for Him.

Monday, June 23, 2014

For the day after it rains...

Days and days ago I found myself in a down-pour of life that left me drowning. Soaking wet and weighted down with the storm I was carrying around on my shoulders. Even when it stopped raining... I couldn't find a dry spot to land.

Living knee deep in flood waters can slow a person down. It's when the waters rise too fast and we find ourselves barely keeping our noses above the water line that we start to drown. The first drops of rain are never enough to scare us away. To send us looking for dry land or an umbrella or a boat to keep around... just in case. No, the first few drops usually just get our toes wet and if we've come prepared for wet feet...well, a person can surely walk around the puddles and get to where we are going.

But days ago I didn't notice the puddles pooling around me and soon my toes weren't just wet, but I was walking unsteadily against a current that was working hard to pull me under. And under I went a time or two. Enough to make me hold my breath and hope someone would come with that boat or that life-jacket or even a hand to pull me out for just another breath of air while I stumbled to set my feet on solid ground again.

Even in those muddy, thick...take me down and drown me waters...every so often someone would hold on to me. They'd grab my hand and let me breathe and back in I would go. Swimming, trudging water, drowning, and floating away down a river of hard days...doubt...discouragement...dangerous days that often left me uncertain of my next. It's really hard to see clearly when the flood waters have surrounded us and we don't climb into the boat while our souls are rebuilt.

The rain does stop.

The waters go down.

Dry land can be seen again.

We can not plant our feet on solid ground if we don't stop struggling to swim and notice when the sun comes back out. See that by using our strength to stake our new spot on the little piece of dry land, instead of using it all to just simply keep our heads above water...will better help us survive until its safe to go back.

It's what we do the day after it rains that matters. We can't predict the rain anymore then we can count our days here. Storms come and we find ourselves in deep waters. And we respond and live in a way that finds us surviving instead of outlasting the downpour that has drenched us.

The day after... I've done it so differently in the past. I've panicked. I've refused the life boat. I've looked away from the little island of dry land that could get me through another day well, instead of just getting through a day.

Just a few days ago, I knew the water was rising. Once upon a probably would have taken me with it. But after you drown a few times, you learn that when the rains can jump in that boat and head to dry land. You can stick all your people in that boat with you and point them to safety. You can prepare a place to hang out until the waters go back down and you can all head back home. You can grab that hand reaching out to help you to shore and know it comes as welcome as the sun in the sky after a heavy rain. You can quit swimming. You can float with assurance that your life is always going to find itself in a storm or two along the way. And you can choose to ride it out from the safety of even one little dry piece left over.

When the waters rise, we quickly realize what really matters. We grab what we really need. We save what has value. We carry with us what will carry us on after this day. The day after it rains, we should start with just that. Do what matters today. Grab onto what will make today better. Save what will change our tomorrow. Carry what needs to be held until you can head back once the water is gone. The day after it rains is for drying out...not drowning. Look for the boat before you are too deep to see the shore.

Monday, June 9, 2014

ahead, beside, or behind

It's the beginning of summer. That nudging promise I made back in January is slowly shifting from my narrow focus and drifting some place back to the side of life. Remember when the new year started and we all made new years resolutions or goals or promises or whatever you call them when the calendar says January 1? I remember. Sort of. Most days, some days. It may have been the long winter days that left me time to linger on that new imprint left on my heart...but as the days grew in hours of sunshine and time spent outdoors, I have let life distract me from His teaching to my soul.

Sometimes we see a dream for our-self and it is the people around us that show us how to get there. I wouldn't be surprised if someday when we all are standing before the King that I will look over and see my own people. My cheering section. My bleacher buddies. Because no matter what we set out to reach in life, most every time somebody is walking ahead of me, beside me, or is right behind me. And I almost always can just look up and find a place I can fill in.

Back in the cold Iowa days I took on the journey to find out what wearing love could like for me. It's been no small New Years goal... but perhaps more of a life long journey. New days, new years, new seasons, new places in life... I've yet to find a moment that is not showing me to wear love in a new way. A better way. Penciled in my notebook is pages of where...and why... but it is the how that I have struggled to write in. The "how" often keeps us from finishing the journey. We don't always know how to do what He calls us to. And lately I've learned that sometimes I just need to look around more and watch... For that hand full of people in front, besides, and behind me is usually some where on the how spectrum of doing great things in this life. Wearing love can only be great. He commands it and He models it and He teaches it. Many of my hurdles in life could be leveled if I could only learn the how more often of simply wearing love.

With the gentle summer breeze blowing in after a long cold winter, I have the windows open as well as my eyes. I see those around me. So many of them. Loving in deep, real, honest, and kind ways. I am encouraged to keep writing in the how-to's of this recent life-size dream to wear love well on my journey. I see so much good when I really look up and watch the hearts living close to me. I am inspired to love big and lead just the same. When the imprint fades, I simply only need to look around... for I can not deny the beauty that shines off the many people I'm living with.

I yearn to wear love as my best accessory in life. I'm blessed to borrow it from willing souls. I'm honored to share it as the days go by and the seasons change and the new years pass by. Today I'm reminded to wear love, for wherever I go somebody has already dressed the part. What a colorful life of good people He has created. Look for those around you today. Let them lead you, lead those following you, and brave the journey to love right where you are.

Friday, June 6, 2014

#FMFparty :: Hands

Trying a little something new here. As a reader and writer, I have several authors I love to follow around on social media and through my amazon cart. One of my newest favorites is a Mama...just like most of us. She recently released "Surprised by Motherhood" which you can buy here. Lisa-Jo Baker also hosts a little flash mob, but in writing style, each Friday. It sounds fun and challenging and I'm gonna dance with it this Friday! (Oh, and I would recommend her new book! I loved it and read through it very quickly!!)

If the hands of time could tell their story at the end of my day, I'm not sure I'd like what I sometimes see. We all wake up with the same amount of hours to use in a day. As mothers, we wonder how the hours in the day can be so long while the hours that make the year go always turn so fast. The truth is...I know the dailyness of diapers and dinner and dishes take up my time. I dress the babes and before I know it I'm already warming up the oven for that time of the day when we gather around saying grace and sharing a meal. Those hands move fast, but I take them slow so as not to miss the magic that happens in simply doing this life called motherhood. And some place between the morning and the night I lose some of those moments that tick away with the turning hands that never sleep...

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

If I had to guess, something is stealing your time. We've each been given the hours of a day to live life. To watch the hands of time turn in a way that brings Him glory. We start our day and end our day with moments worthy of His calling for each of us. Even as Mama's we can take the dirty and the do again's and the draining minutes of our day and make them count as our clocks turn and our calendars flip over to new years. The hands of time can tell a story of honor...and strength...and humility...and love...and discipline...and grace...and surrender. Our hands can show our homes that the minutes count and the people matter and what we do is accounted for. the palm of our hands when we choose for Him. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

when grace is born

It wasn't the first time I saw a yes. Two pink lines. A plus sign. Positive. There is a new life coming.

But it was the first time I felt grace come alive in me, born at that moment when I learned I was given a gift for no particular reason... other then that I was loved. Beloved...precious, dearly loved, cherished, treasured, adored. He chose me.

Before the Truth that came with knowing I was a worthy life-carrier, the lie that I was not worthy had woven around my heart. I had struggled for many days to come out of the fog that was leading my life as I breathed day in and day out to be everything I could not live up to. In all my ways as His child, I was lost... losing myself through the trenches of motherhood and womanhood and scared I may not have anything to offer. A heart so in love with my season of life, but so broken to live it.

My seasons were changing and sometimes winter's are long and hard and cold. Some where at the bottom of my worst days, I started to find my best parts. Where roots had grown, branches had sprouted...and blossoms were waiting to bloom. But I found myself buried under layers of winter and the thawing process to spring was long. Lonely. Lifeless. But every tear, cry, and whimper worth it.

So like many winters, I started to prepare for spring. I cleaned out. I sorted.  I planted. I pruned. I prepared.  I paused. I prayed. Some place in all that cleaning and caring, I gave away myself to something new. Something possible. Something alive and each of us. Grace. Spring after winters and life after death. I found it in my ugliest places and came back out with a beautiful new life. The same beautiful that is in each of us. His beauty. His art. His hand in our lives.

The thing is... I am not worthy. None of us are. But I am loved. All of us are. And before I saw the yes, the two pink lines, the positive...I did not know the depth of His love. I did not believe that I just may have a story to tell all of my own... a simple, yet beloved life to share. I did not believe that in my trenches of this season of life that God could use me. Would use me. I felt broken and unworthy and unqualified. He showed me He could use me in all my pieces and put together a beautiful life...a real story...with a willing soul. When I saw that I could give life even from my most dead days, I met grace. I found life. She came through the form of a baby girl and I've carried her in my heart the way Jesus holds us in His hands. Gently and tenderly and always. Spring after winter. Life after death.

From those cold days, I've trusted that no matter where the seasons take me... I have a source of life that can always bloom. I have a life that is made for Him and from Him. Even in the trenches, we have something to offer. Thanksgiving.

He chooses us. You... Me... yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He gives grace to His beloved and we live it through thanksgiving. Today I count them again... my gifts. I offer thanks and I trust I can do even the smallest things for His glory. So very thankful for that baby girl that speaks life today and celebrates one year and reminds me that we are each chosen. We are each beloved. We are each here to write a story... His story.

Happy 1st Birthday, Savannah Grace...

Friday, May 9, 2014

When you're expecting...Mother's Day.

When Mother's Day arrives in just a couple days it is easy to head into it with the best expectations. Whether you are a time with the kids or a time without the kids gal, expectations will be what meets you first thing in the morning when you open your eyes to Mothers Day. It's almost as if the day changes what happens the other 364 days of the year. Surely, today...Mother's Day...will be different. 

The day we become mothers we not only deliver our children, but we give birth to His plan for us to become more like Him... by loving them. Being a mother is the closest thing to understanding God's gift to us... a son. A sacrifice. A send forth of the best of us. Even when we're the worst. 

And for 364 days of the year we love in ways we didn't know we could...until we were mothers. So when Mothers Day arrives, we expect those we've died for to show us just how much all this trying and holding and giving away and molding and making and forcing and bending and lifting and carrying and running and bearing to be noticed. To be seen. To be felt. We want to be known. I want to be known. 

Someplace between birthing day and this Mother's Day coming up, we have exchanged the pains of labor for the pain of giving ourselves away. Some days we've given until we have nothing left. We've broken off more than can be repaired just yet. And we hurt to become more like Him. On Mother's Day, we expect them to see. How very much we are breaking as we find our way as a mother.

In all the days that we live as mother's, these souls that we carry on our backs are really carrying much of my weight. They take and I give and I know this pull between us is me not only giving them what they need...but giving me what I need, too. All those stretch marks that come with growing babies actually leaves scars on my heart from growing me along the way.  I've been my worst version of myself as a mother. I've been my best version of myself as a mother. For all the moments that make up a year I have given until I've broken. Mother's fix things though. When I have broken, it has only made me stronger. And I give again. Better. Stronger. More like Him, less like me. 

I have woken up before on Mothers Day with great expectations. In this season though, I wake up simply grateful to be...a mother. For all the giving of my time, my energy, my heart, my sleep and my first bites of pizza... I would do it all again to be their mother. I have labored far long after the delivery room and for every day of the year around Mother's Day, I am forever grateful for what my children have made of me. 

This Mother's Day, I am not expecting. I am doing what us mother's always do... give. Give to your kids. Give to your husband. Give to your own Mama's and the gal down the street who gives as if she is your own Mother. Give to the ones who want to be mothers, but can't. Give to the Mom's who nobody sees. Give to the women who have mothered your own along the way. Give to the hearts that have carried the souls, but no child here to show for it. Give to the Mother's who can't give themselves. Be a mom. Give.

What we should love about Mother's Day is that we simply love being a Mom. Expect nothing more. Because we work for an audience of one, no matter how many children call us Mom. We give for reasons that shouldn't need flowers and dinners out and fancy watches. We mother for Him. And to Him we matter. We're seen. We're loved and known. 

Wake up Sunday morning expecting to love, just like all the other 364 days of the year. Our best gifts simply call us "mom". 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

simplify to love

Ever feel like you want to do something, but you can't...because you have "too much stuff to do"? I have too often wanted to do a few somethings, but didn't because my "to do's" were piled so high I just felt paralyzed by it all. So instead I did nothing. When I continually heard over and over to clothe myself with love, I knew it was a "something" I couldn't ignore. But the depth that came with that little task overwhelmed me.  I needed to break it up into a bunch of smaller pieces. I decided to start in small areas in my life and work my way through my list of places I could wear love better around in my life. Oh boy, there are many...

One of the first places that made my list and where I wanted to wear my home. 

I wasn't sure where or how to start here, but I knew that the things of my home often kept me from loving the people of my home.

I have been a slave to the things of this world too many times. I fall into a cycle of confusing my needs with my wants. It usually finishes with me being empty in the heart area and full in my responsibilities area. A closer look will show you that by buying, collecting, consuming, hoarding, having, and getting things will actually only empty a home. Not fill it. Home is where the heart is after all. When you walk through my front door, I want you to feel full of life...full of love...full of time to sit and be home with us here. And I don't have time enough to even open my door and let people in when I am spending all my time trying to keep my home up. 

Realizing I was a slave to my things felt ick. Really ick. Especially when I knew that too often I had spent time either gathering things for my home or organizing my things in my, sorting, picking up, cleaning more, and keeping track of what filled our life. Things. Stuff. And then as if a light-bulb went off...

I realized life would be lived better and I could love better if I had less to take care oversee. 

This is where my deep desire to simplify my home started. I wanted home to be manageable in a way that gave life to the ones in it and not pulled away from their soul when they settled here. To breathe life and love into people in my home meant one thing. Simplify.

Simplify what surrounded us. Simplify what we did here. Simplify how we lived here. Simplify what we used here. Simplified the stuff so we could surrender to love in a way that He calls us... love. Just love. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Winters are dang long in the Mid-west. But just because I'm stuck indoors doesn't mean I have to sit my days away. Of course, with 4 children, there is no sitting anyways... but I like to think that I would be motivated to clean out even if I didn't have 4 kids or long winter days to survive. Yes, I said survive. Once the New Year rolled around, I had only one new goal on my plate. It seems in more places then not, less is more. Even new years resolutions. Giving myself one, instead of ten, seemed attainable. I am a goal oriented gal anyways, so I was giving it all I this one goal...Wear love. More on that specific topic another day, but for today...and a few postings...I am going to pen through what my heart has learned as I simplified around here as I've been challenged to wear love daily.

What does simplifying have to do with wearing love? Everything. I think.

What does wear love even mean? I'm still figuring that out.

I keep having Colossians 3:14 grace my presence. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

And on January 1st, along with the rest of the world, I made a new year resolution. I landed on one simple, yet not, goal for myself...

So began my journey to clothe myself in love and simplify so I could. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

home is where the hearts is

Ten years today feels like a million yesterdays. Ten years ago today I met my other half, with a baby boy in my arms, to sign away what felt like everything we had and left with a set of keys to call our own. Not only did we hold that set of keys in our hands, but a handful of dreams as well. We had plans and a new home and a new baby and life was looking to be in our favor that day...ten years ago. We had a set of keys to unlock our new home and the plans we made would now follow. Ten years ago, that's what we thought. I thought.

When you get the keys to life, you tend to think you know what stands behind the door. As if those golden keys that open a door can actually tell you which way to go once you get inside.

We stood upon our new home and set our plans into action. And what we found was this...

We can kick and scream to make our plans work... or we can bend down to His plans and unlock the only door that will lead us home.

Many are the plans in our hearts. Many were the plans we brought with us that day ten years ago. And many, many times...we've had to close the door to our ways and open the door to His.

We bought our home here and brought so many expectations with us. Dreams and ideas of how we thought life was supposed to look...supposed to happen...supposed to be. What I found in all those supposed to be places was a lot of heartache. A lot of insecurities when our plans didn't happen in our ways and in our time. A lot of fear. A lot of pride. A lot of brokenness.

The beautiful thing about brokenness is that it is only broken...not dead. Broken dreams and broken plans only leave room for something better to be discovered. More often then not, the broken things of life end up better then before. Just don't stay in the broken places once you've realized it's broke... you're broke. I was broke. Take that key to life and turn it, open it, live in it. And rebuild. Broken plans always close one door, but the door that opens for you is always the way to go...

Ten years ago I couldn't set down the dreams in my hands very well. What stood behind the door when I unlocked it was one room. One dwelling place. It doesn't matter how many other doors lead away from this one room... the Truth is... they all lead back to Him.

No matter which door you decide to go through, take the key of Life...take the brokenness and rebuild and dwell in His house. Our ways are His ways when we invite Him in to our dwelling place. Our homes, our hearts... Our lives. Broken, but always being rebuilt as He unlocks a little more of Him and a little less of us. Home, truly where the heart is.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

10 things my 10 year old taught me

My 10 year old son walked up the stairs this morning and if I hadn't known better, I could have sworn he grew over night. To all the people who told me this the days after he was were right. It goes way too fast. Looking at him today makes me look at the days behind us and in the replays in my head I have some things that stand out.

So for today, with so many things I could write about as my firstborn turns ten... I've found a top-ish 10 list of what I've been learning as a first time parent up to this point. That first one always makes you feel like a beginner with each new stage, no matter how many follow after. In 10 years, he has grown so much... but so have I.

1.) It really does go fast. Choose wisely as you never know what or if tomorrow will come. Little people become big people and all those extra books read, dishes left dirty, games played, snuggle sessions after naps, laundry left piled up, walks through the woods, committee's left unattended, and snack times under the trees matter. When you can, choose them. Choose wisely, as these years aren't refunded. You can not get them back. It's a once in a lifetime gig. And it really does go fast.

2.) There are no perfect parents. No perfect kids. But I am the perfect mom for my kids. Once you can accept that what and how you do things in your home will be different from everybody else, you will be much more confident to just be the mom God created you to be for your kids. Cheer yourself on in the way you were made. Cheer your friends on in the way they were made. And be a mom from that place instead of the Mom always keeping score.

3.) Celebrate when you can. Life is full of hard things and a little celebration goes a long way for the heart tanks. Celebrate in big and small ways. A trip to the ice-cream store can speak volumes just as much as a trip to the Metro-dome. Just don't get caught up in what isn't going well and remember to celebrate what is going well. There is always good to be seen in the eyes of a mother.

4.) Manners and people matter. Don't let your kids get away with the chance to learn how to use both as young ones. How to use manners and how to treat people goes hand in hand. Teach it, be it. Please, thank you, I'm sorry, how can I help you, excuse me, and please and thank you (yes, again!). A simple word goes a long way as we learn to live with others. Speak kindly and treat each other respectfully. I wish I would have molded this more when my 10 year old was little. Manners and people...This goes for us Moms too.

5.) Eating well and sleeping well can alter an entire day. Many moments of chaos, drama, and tears can be avoided by simply having a consistent eating and sleeping routine. Eat real, good foods to set your children up for success physically and set solid sleep patterns that allow for comfort, stillness, and recovery. This applies to us Mama's, too. I always deal with life better when I'm fed and have slept!

6.) It's okay to ask for help. I wish I would have learned this much earlier then I did on the new parent journey. Nobody can do everything on their own and if they try they will end up wound up, worn down, and wiped out. Asking for help isn't a weakness. It's honesty. It's truth. We're not meant to do this life alone, so just ask people to be a part of it. Chances are... they need some help too.

7.)  One of the best things I ever did was listen to Elizabeth George's advice and found a mentor.  I prayed about and looked around my community of people.  I looked for someone who was a little ahead of me on the journey, seemed similar to me in personality, and loved Jesus in the way she lived her life. I found the guts to invite this gal to coffee and ask her to be a mentor to me for awhile. Well, that "awhile" is still happening and I've been blessed beyond years through this friendship. She is real with me, she prays for me, she encourages me, she's honest with me, she loves on me, she reminds me that Jesus loves me when I forget. Having a mentor is a beautiful gift as a Mom. Being a mentor is life-giving when it seems right, pay it forward if you can. Let the wise lead you and don't be too busy to not encourage those behind you.

8.) Pray often and about everything. Anything related to your kids needs prayer. Trust me on this. Praying first can conquer much pride, worry, stress, uncertainties, fear, and must I go on? Prayer gives you a foot in the door on every situation. The time you spend in prayer before anything,  sets your heart up for the tools to know how to handle a situation. You may not have the answers, but when we pray we show up with Him. Doing things with Him always gets done better then without Him. Pray often and when you can't...ask a friend to pray for you.

9.) Speaking of friends...If you haven't found one yet, pray for one. I'm serious. Motherhood can get lonely if you don't have your girlfriends along for the ride too. There are a lot of therapy bills avoided by simply hanging out with your friends! And a lot of chocolate consumed. The ones who really know you, watch out for you, celebrate your victories and cry with you when you fail. The friends who show up, who really pray for you, want you to do well, believe in you, laugh with you, laugh at you, stay up late for you, watch your kids for you, bring you meals when you're sick, pick up that sweater for you just because it was on clearance and looks just like you, text you, call you, meet you at the hospital, or wait for you in the parking lot. Whatever it is going on with you, chances are these few friends you've invested in during this journey are a part of it in some way. So give your heart away to a few gals who will give theirs back to you. It's a beautiful cycle of give and take that mama's need for this marathon called motherhood. It's vulnerable and risk-taking, but the chances are God will answer a few prayers and lead you to your nest of ladies who probably need you as much as you need them. God's pretty awesome like that.

10.) I laugh at my first year version of myself. And cry for her, too. Of many things I've learned in 10 years, this one could have saved a lot of burnt-out blow-ups and crying sessions in my closet. Are you ready? Take a break. Send the kids to said friends from above or your parents or the neighbors. Give yourself time to step out of the role as mom and step into the role as God's child. I don't know what fuels you up... a good run, a walk through the park, hike in the woods, coffee at Starbucks, a pedicure, a dinner out with friends, or whatever your heart needs... But give yourself a break. Mothering until you have nothing left to give or worse...until you have nothing but negativity to give... does nobody any good. Give yourself space to breathe and be filled up. You will step back into the game with your shoes tied, uniform on, and game face ready by doing so.

Oh, these lessons I've learned mostly came painfully for me. I suppose that is why they stand out. I've come a long way in 10 years. I've got a much longer way to go. My 10 year old keeps giving me more reasons to let go and I'm firmly trying to hold on... not to him, but to Who has led this path to this place on the journey so far. In all the lessons and learning and letting go, He remains the only constant thing. Through the days of our children, He uses them as a tool to mold me more and more each year. One decade down. Breathing deep...heading back in...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

first things first

It wasn't until I slowed to the day that I noticed the old hearts still hanging. Drooping and barely hanging on. Maybe because they'd been up for so long or been hung on or been blown down.The sick children, the busy at his job husband and the laundry and the sick Mama, the dishes and the homework and the... 
it all left the hearts still hanging. Hanging by a nail, hanging all alone, hanging left to the side. Forgotten.

 I saw the ashes and counted the days... 46. Only 46 days until I let the truth of what happened the day He rose settle in my heart. I've got hearts left behind still dragging from yesterday and it's time to look ahead to what comes after the hearts have been hung. We bake the rolls and we meet the early sun to remember the one Son who never left us forgotten. He hung the heart of each of us, of me. Hanging there by a nail...His heart for mine. I wonder why I waited so long to just...lay my heart down

It's so very easy to let the things in front of me, decide what is going to happen inside of me. I let the sick kids, busy husband, mountains of laundry, and the daily grimes linger in my heart longer then I let Him linger. When I put my heart up there, it was my stake in the ground of life that I intended to live from that place. And when my place blew in with an everyday storm of a mess...I walked away and left my heart hanging by itself. 

Solo hearts never weather very long by themselves. Suddenly they are broken, bitter, battered pieces that need swept up and pieced back together. I'm better to lay my heart down first...first thing when I wake, first thing when I break bread, first thing when we come and when we go. First things always lead the way. Lead a life.

I took my droopy, dusty hearts from last month down yesterday. I knew I had left more then the felt red pieces hanging by themselves for too long. The days get messy here. The life is beautiful, but it's got enough in it to leave a heart hanging solo. I took those old crimson hearts down and headed to the Truth. I had lived through a small storm in the season of storms and more than once I went in solo. In 46 days I am reminded that solo is something I was never intended to do. Forgotten is anything but who I am.

When I leave my heart hanging to the side, by itself, forgotten for who it was created...I don't see the ashes. I don't feel the grace like rain, that always comes down during a storm. I don't know the song to which my heart can sing. I can't touch what I won't look at. 

Too often forgotten, but never too late...I'm laying my heart down today. Again.  First things first.

Monday, March 3, 2014

a heart for home

What did you want to be when you were little? By the time I reached high-school, I couldn't exactly remember what I'd said as a child...but I remembered what I enjoyed doing. I loved to play "mom" and "make home". Even as a young girl naming my dolls and rearranging my doll-house with accessories, I knew what I loved. But some where along the road to growing up and choosing a real job, I gave less thought to what came naturally and was wonderful to me. For the real world taught me that was just "play".

The beautiful thing with getting married is you finally get to create your own home. I didn't know how excited I would be until the groom and I walked the furniture store to choose our first living room set...a gift from his father. I was just over taken with the gift to get something new and was so in love with my groom, that I let him pick. Black end tables. Tan and black couches. Looking back, it would explain my husband's and my first ever real fight as a married couple. Obviously, how to decorate the home would be it. I hate black, but didn't figure it out until I ended my married days relaxing in what I considered depressingly dark and gloomy rooms. I didn't realize it back then, but I had this deep inner fire to just create home...  Home as in this safe, comfortable, reflective of me place. As I realized my husband's desire for his very own safe, comfortable, and reflective of him home, I became aware that home isn't just about what I love. It's more about what makes the people who dwell in it feel loved, safe, home.

That early on first fight with my first ever home dweller taught me this simple truth...

Making a house a home is a matter of the heart.

It wasn't so much about what I liked and what he liked, but our hearts making space for each other in a way that spoke home to both of us. I could learn to like black couches once I realized how happy it made him...and that my heart wanted him to feel happy in our home. Houses need couches and tables and chairs...but not as much as they need heart. In my make believe worlds as a young child, the one thing that was consistent over and over is that I created what made me happy...what made me feel good...what let my heart beat to a rhythm that I didn't even realize was beating simply because it was so perfectly working as it was created to do. When there is nothing at stake, I really think we will do what we were created to be... but aside from childhood dreams and playing, it gets way too risky and way too scary in the not-so-make-believe world. 

Today my house holds six of us. And some days, we hold even more. Whether it be the people who sleep here or the people who visit here...I want them to feel at home. That young child desire to create what makes me feel happy carries on in my grown-up play today. The stakes are a little higher, but my house is a space that is worth the risk to put a little heart into our home. Picking out and making the perfect pieces to accommodate our nest is a joy to me...a reflection of how I was made and I've finally given myself permission to be as I was created.  Its the heart part that I constantly have to tweak, train, and try again at. 

How I take care of the place is not near as important as how I take care of the people in it. Sure, the things that surround us speaks volumes to the heart... cleanliness verses clutter, order verses chaos, comfort verses discontent. But what the heart says to each other is what builds a home. Words can break, steal, destroy, ruin, and kill a home. I want my home to breathe life into my dweller's hearts. I want to create home that offers cleanliness to a broken spirit, comfort to the heart, and order to the lives that need to spend their days finding refuge in the simple place they call home. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

make yes count

Hey worn out Mama's... sit down. Pause for a moment and look ahead with me. Way ahead past these long days and short years... Are you coming with me? I'm sitting here looking at the day before my first child leaves our home. The day before he launches out into that big world all by himself and leaves not only a room empty in our home, but in my heart too. In the fast pace that life moves, that day will be here probably sooner then later.

That day will come when all our efforts to get our children to the starting line of their new life is our today. It will be just that...just another day. Packing, last meals at home, sibling exchanges, and maybe something special...or maybe something just simple to say here you are, you've made it...both you and I.

My oldest hits double digits in just a few weeks. My youngest is still in her newborn year. And some where in-between all these days with these little ones, I've almost forgotten to look ahead... To see that these days come to an end.

So come sit with me... Breath deep... and what do you see?

I want to see a day that is filled with knowing and trust and confidence and love and purpose. Looking ahead only makes me look back. It's been a beautifully, messy decade being this guys Mama. In the season of firstborn's I've found I am walking ahead blind most days. And when I look to his final day here, I hope I can look back and know I was there. To know we are at the next step in life and while it may be sad for me, it will be a day I've prepared for, trenched through for, and chosen for. A day I've said yes to long before it arrives.

This life wants to move fast. This world wants to make me run a pace that won't let me stay where I am for very long. And as I look ahead I want to know I stayed here as long as I could. Made my minutes count. So I say no. And I say yes. And what I say yes to, means I say no to something or someone else. And when I say no...I say yes even louder to another.

I'm often days a worn out, run the race of parenting Mama. But even in these days, I know they are numbered. I know that day will come when it will be his last here. I want to live today, knowing that when I say yes and when I say will be for what is ahead of us. Oh Mama's, lets choose for tomorrow. Choose what will land us confidently to that last day home with our firsts...our last days with each of them here. Choose to be here today, so that he spends his final day at home knowing he's ready, it's time, it's been a good journey. We're right where we're supposed to be. Let your yes's count for us, count for them...count for a life that is full.

I'm looking ahead hoping that I choose to live today for his tomorrows. A purpose filled life that keeps me in these little moments that mold a life. Many lives. I want to say yes today to his life, so when that final day comes...I can yes to his first day away from my home.

This isn't a say yes to staying home all the time with your children post. This is a say yes to being there, all there when you have the chance. The ways of this world want to distract us and doubt us and demand of us. But lets be Mama's that devote. Say yes to devoting all of ourselves when we are present. Say no to what wants to steal our time. And say yes to being ready for that final day.

Breathe deep... jump back in the rat race of today... and say yes. Yes to today, this moment, these people... for last days will come all too soon. Baby boy's turn 10 and before long we're making final favorite meals and packing up the mini van to move them out...  Breathing deep. Saying yes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

what should I wear?

If you ever wondered if there was someone out to get you, it's true. And if you're maybe have experienced a few people out and after your heart. A wooing boy who catches you and becomes your husband. A friend who was relentless to make a connection with you and loves you even after she really knows you. A loving God who created you and wants you to come home. A selfish spirit who wants you for his own evil plans. All of these are true for me. And some days, I'm not careful of who I hand my heart over to.

The battle that happens within is often left unspoken of. But it is one I know is there. I see it when I look at myself, feel it when I breathe, and it follows me...everywhere.

From my first awake minutes of the day and through the hours that build a week and as the pages turn into the new year...I feel the pull between good and evil to chase me down. The battles that fill my heart might not be yours, might wear different clothes...but it is what breaks your soul that gives the one fighting for it a place to sit on your heart. 

Mine wears a mask of anxiety. A feeling like nobody hears my gasps for air. That there is no clear road out of the tunnel of fog. That the pages in the book never get written and my life might go on purposeless. A battle between being who I have to be and who I was made to be. A place that leaves me jittery and shaken and unsure.

Maybe you wear something else when you look in the mirror?

If it weren't for the promise I know is true in my heart, my mind would give into the ugliness that wants to cover me. The promise of It dresses me up like a girl headed to the ball. I don't always feel like that girl though. Some days the ragged old, worn out, hand me downs get left on me. And as hard as I try to take it off, I can't seem to find anything else to wear. Nobody wants to wear the left-overs everyday. Nobody wants to hand their heart over when they feel ugly.

I try to start small. I slowly replace one piece with another...

Truth to listen to. Space to breathe. Lights to lead the way. A sounding cry. A piece of me written down. Lived out. Wings to fly.

And before long, I have a beautiful attire covering me again. A honest view to live through. When the feelings of anxiety want to dress me, I remind myself that I have some beautiful accessories hanging in my closet. Maybe you do too? Maybe you don't know they are there? Maybe you don't know what they are?

 Somebody is always fighting to be there when we look in the mirror and see ourselves. Someone is always out to get me, to get us. I know my heart is being chased after.  I'd dress for the occasion, but I don't always realize the chase is on. I live and I do life and sometimes I just find myself wearing the mask of anxiety...again and again. If being clothed in His love for my life would just stay hanging on me, I'd throw the mask away... But I don't always wear what I should.

So for today, I write to say that I have been spoken for. So thank you very much to all those pursuing my heart, but I've given mine away and He has dressed me at this moment to wear the only thing that I seem to forget over and over.... His perfect love. His perfect grace.

And the mask of anxiety comes off... My soul breaks, He fills it this time. He wins. For today.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

jumping into summer

The temperature is a whopping 4 today. That's right. Four. Just one number, one digit, one shivering walk to the end of the driveway to pull my garbage cart back. I piled the layers on and walked fast, sure to skip the step of wondering what I look like while completing the task because when it's a single digit temperature outside nobody cares what you look like. The only caring is if you are staying least warm enough that not everything hurts while you meet the blast of cold waiting just outside the door. And what else does one think of while facing the bitter cold to conquer the mountainous task of pulling up the garbage cart? Two words. Summer. Sun.

I ran wildly while my ski mask covered my face and my mittens were thick enough the Eskimos could borrow them. I thought about all I put on to finish a job that was necessary. And dreamed about summer. With summer comes putting on a few less layers and double digit temperatures and plenty of pool days. Ahhh, I can't wait for pool days. Can't wait because I am surely not the only one ready to see warmer days... but can't wait because I made a promise that I can't wait to keep.

I wanted to pull a picture up to share, but it is tucked away some place where I can't fetch it. It didn't make Instagram or my facebook status or get tweeted or added to icloud. So I apologize, but it's a picture for only me. It is a picture planted on my heart and one that will stay. In the middle of a hot season and sunny days with warm breezes I spent my time at the pool like many Mama's do, watching their kids splash away the lazy days of summer.

I watched from the side and my heart smiled with all the joy my boys found from the coolness of the pool water. My boys, small and timeless in that very moment. When they caught my eye and asked me to come in, the time seemed to be moving again and I worried too much of what I would look like if I were to join them...instead of what I would feel like when I didn't. I saw them. Really saw them. Big brown eyes, hair slicked back wet from the under water flips, sun shining off their foreheads and tan backs. The deep giggle of my 5 year old and the twinkle in my 9 year olds squinting goggle covered eyes. And they saw me. Not my post-baby thighs or my left-over stomach rolls from 4 kids. Not my not so toned arms or drooping nursing breasts. Just me. Mom. They invited me. begged me even. Come in, jump in. The simplest of me and the whole of me. Slightly covered to hide my insecurities, yet totally naked to the same ones. Afraid of what somebody might see.

With the bitter cold bite of a breeze on my face, I am thinking about that summer day. Thinking that what my heart caught on tape has left a memory that can't be deleted. I finish the cold task of the day, with no care in the world what I look like while I do it. And I dream of summer knowing that this cold day will soon be it's own memory and I'll be staring in the face again of those big brown eyes, a year older...and me, a year wiser. There are not enough days during our children's years to worry too much about what we look like to the rest of the world. It's what we look like in their eyes. I said no once. I won't do it again. So bring on summer already. Not only is it dang cold outside, but I've got a whole new empty file on my heart to fill with my kids on those hot summer days... this time from more then the side. I'm jumping in. The only eyes that matter are the ones who invited me in with them in the first place.

I'm still thawing out from my garbage cart run. Cheers to summer days. And swim suit weather.
Are we there yet?

Friday, January 31, 2014

left-over love

All week I've been following Compassion bloggers as they traveled to Uganda to meet sponsored children, connect with their organization across the globe, and bring awareness to fighting the need for helping so many little ones all across the world. Sponsors did everything from laugh to cry to smile to hug to shake hands to handing over all their emotions in one greeting... In one small moment, they let love steal the show, and just reacted to the hands and faces they have written letters to and supported financially for months and years on end. In all those small deposits made out of their bank accounts and all those hand written notes mailed miles away to each other...they finally met in a place where love had more then a name on a picture, but a face. A warm set of hands. A big wide grin peeking up through awkward first glances.

What was left...a lot of love. For the child, for the place, for the journey. If you think sponsoring a child is an empty cause... just ask a person who has made the rare trip to meet their chosen one.

Some times, there is a child we never meet. A child we learn to love from the very start of meeting, but never really get to hold. Does it mean that love doesn't exist? Or never happens? I don't think so. The journey to love a new child is always different for each beating heart. But love is recognized no matter what continent you find yourself on.

Between my children are a couple more I never met. At least not in person. While learning to love a new creation and making room in my heart for one more, I also learned to say goodbye. It's hard to look at the beautiful pictures of the smiling faces of all those innocent young ones miles away from me in Uganda. Hard because I know the truth. That deep inside those smiling faces is a little soul that started days before they arrived in the place they now grow up in. They were very uniquely knit together, in their mothers womb, with a great purpose. They started small and tiny and their value comes from being enough in His eyes. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Their mothers held them. Love them. Maybe we could too?

These children we never meet, still take some of our heart. Whether it is the child you held for only a brief moment as he left your safe little womb too early of an arrival... too late to not take a piece of your heart. Or a child you see across a screen and know you have some love left to share. To help another mother. When I realized I had already loved a little life that I would never really hold here, I felt my love for a child was still there. Empty arms, but a full heart. So I found Rebecca. Rebecca was born to another woman miles away from me and chances are we may never, ever meet. I may never know what she really looks like when she greets me or how she laughs or if she smiles much. But I know she is loved. When I had a lot of love left-over, I decided to give her some of it. To use it for good. Little did I know how much loving her a little, would teach me to love even more.

For many years now we have sponsored Rebecca. Her letters come and my growing boys know her face. Hear her written words. See that we are making room to send some love to someone just as uniquely woven together as them. It changes lives really... hers, ours. And all because I had some left-over love that needed a place to go. Sharing love, wearing love... it makes saying hello and saying goodbye that much sweeter.

Might you have some left-over love for another one today? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

perspective came today

We've spent the day doing what I like to call "kidcation". Aka: vacation with all four of our kids. It's a little different from vacation, but just as important and memory making. We come back to the Dells every winter, alongside my hubs sister and her family. We swim, slide, and sleep the week away. And never once have I thought much about our source of entertainment. But today I started my (very) early morning (hence, kidcation...not vacation) seeing the sponsor of a child hold his sponsored child's hand and carry her water for her. I saw the small case of drinking water for her day and thought about the abundance of water that we would spend the day playing in. Perspective sometimes hits hard.

A little truth Uganda, the inadequate water supply has people collecting contaminated water from the streets when it is raining, and from rivers and springs that surround the camps, leading to an increase of water-related illnesses. The lack of safe drinking water leads to various diseases...some that end in death. Perspective,hits again...

We swam away most of the morning. It was wonderful and fun and memory making. But I couldn't help but notice the running water moving all around us. I started counting. I count my gifts these days and how fresh, clean PLAYING water hadn't made the list yet is humbling to me. Perspective keeps coming.

When we came back to our room I drank clean, cold water right out of the fridge door. I know the health benefits of drinking my water every day. I consciously make sure I get my 60-80 ounces in every day. I fill my kids water bottles up and send them off to school with a supply of the liquid that keeps them healthy and moving and their body clean. Clean drinking water. Could I go without it? What would I do to get it? Perspective sends another wave.

(photo by Mike Varel, Compassion Blogger trip to Uganda)
I have asked myself what could I possibly do to help another Mama's child have clean drinking water. The problem seems bigger then life. I'm not sure where to start. But for today, I am letting perspective have a place in my heart... I am opening my eyes to the real truth about children all around the world. Some splashing at water-parks, which I count on my gift list...some holding the hand of their sponsor, which I count again... and most waiting for perspective to land on somebody's heart and offer a cup of cold water themselves.... maybe that's you?

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matthew 10:42

Monday, January 27, 2014

Uganda & the Wisconsin Dells?

I am super new to following along with Compassion. As in this is my first gig, kind of new. How fun to join the Compassion blogging team just as they fly off to their 5th anniversary Uganda this year! Having kids old enough to understand that there is another world of people some where else is beautiful. We're comfortably sitting in a 4 bedroom presidential suite (my hubby's latest ebay gem of a find) in the heart of the well visited Wisconsin Dells...while Compassion bloggers have just landed in Uganda and are probably anything but comfortable. This is where I love technology. From our family vacation, I can keep a real perspective on life as we follow along in a place very different from ours.

So, as my kids first asked...Where in the world is UGANDA? Well, right here kids...

We will be following along here, at this blog. And you can come back my blog for a recap, too. They have an amazing photographer, Mike Varel. And I will be posting on pinterest, twitter, and facebook. Chances are you might find me cheering Compassion on this week!

We've sponsored Rebecca from Mozambique, Africa for many years. I'd love to share our experience with you about that for our family. And if you feel led to sponsor a child of your own... Uganda is a great place to link arms with....just click over here to Compassion to do so.

For today though, we now know for sure where Uganda is. Starting there is a great beginning...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


So it is no surprise that I love kids...and if it is, then we must be strangers. And my heart beats big for kids in places that can't be taken care of. I used to plug into Food for the Hungry a bunch. A great ministry serving all around the world and truly changing lives. I love FFH. Our church still partners with them and we sponsor a child through them. My kids write to Rebecca and over the years they have seen her grow from a little girl to a teenager still trying to get through school and keep her younger siblings fed in Africa. The relationship between a sponsored child and her sponsors is so very special, and so very life changing.

I knew after a couple kids of my own here though, that I would need to hand over the details of organizing child sponsorship at our church. At the time we had over 200 kids sponsored and as my plate grew at home I knew my hands could not serve both my family and these kids and their sponsor families well. I handed over the reigns with a little bit of a heavy heart. Luckily, the Food for the Hungry details went into one of my best friend's hands and she also has a huge heart for the same cause and does a better job with it then I ever did. God takes care of things so well when we let Him lead our actions.

While my own home has doubled in numbers since those earlier days with FFH, my heart has still been drawn deeply to kids all around the world. My sister in law clued me in on an opportunity to blog for Compassion. It took me opening the email, reading the requirements, and a quick prayer as I linked over to the Compassion website to know this was a perfect match for me. I had goose-bumps, tears, and the instant knowing that this was something I could do in this season. No, I do not get paid. No, I do not get free anything. I simply get to bring awareness to a place that needs attention and to people who could make a difference in a child's life. Maybe that's you?

So in the coming months you will from time to time see me writing about what Compassion is doing around the world. I hope you'll join me in praying for this ministry and maybe even sponsor a child. It's a great place to send some of your resources and get a small, tiny glimpse of what is happening across your world. I may be home these days, and yes, my hands may be extremely full. But my heart is fuller with the season of life I am in and the kids Compassion is helping has a spot all of its own.