DOOR_five minute friday

DSCN0618

Every morning for the last two weeks when my feet hit the living room floor, by eyes lift up and search out the front house windows.

My forsythia bush in the front corner of our front lawn sits just in eye view, and each day it gets brighter and denser.

From mellow yellow bits vibrating out of brown sticks

to

vivid yellow, plush and snagging the eye immediately.

It’s more stimulating than starbucks { and that is saying something}.

Like an i.v. hook up of sanguine to drip into and flush through my brain.

If you think about it:

it is stange

yet

universally agreed upon

that bright colors are especially potent in their ability to stimulate positive feelings and hope.

My forsythia bush, for the last 14 years we have lived in this house, is my sign post:

ITS OVER.

Ta-Da!

It makes me happy, and I forget how everything in my life is so freakin annoying!

I don’t know a single woman who does not have the persistent itch of something they need to get through right now, and then it will be better.

Its okay.

We are programmed to look forward to Spring.

If only the sign post of:

“hey over here, this is the way” was as so obvious as my forsythia.

We are taught and we believe that:

“God is in all, through all, and works all things together as good”

Any yet,

_____________________________ {fill in the blank}.

“Lord I believe, but help my unbelief”.

So I took out my camera to take a picture of my forsythia bush, because that is what bloggers do.

It’s so resplendent bright however, zooming in spot on would just create a yellow blur of zig-zag branches and pointed petals.

So I macro zoomed on a

single

tiny

insignificant

stubborn

green

shoot of life.

Growing sideways {not what it is supposed to do}

out of a

rusted

cracked

weather worn

dull colored

pot

that someone else was going to throw away, but was rescued.

The effect was magnificent.

The forsythia bush became glory in the not too far removed landscape.

I’m so restless for the next.

And to a certain point I know I will always will be.

It’s me.

And I want easy obvious picture perfect signs.

But the way to resplendent glory

{which is always summed up in:God’s perfect personal plan to redeem}

is seeing, sensing, focusing on tiny verdant life, not even going in the “right” direction, categorized by many as weeds, but in drawing no attention to itself; it points the way.

The door is sometimes a crack.

the door is a crack

Stop.

Linking up with the delightful crowd at Kate place for Five Minute Friday.

Its the first of May: May Day!

Resurrect the old British tradition of leaving flowers at someone’s door anonymously  {its even more fun to ring the bell and run}.

Kids love to do this because it feels like an obnoxious prank that mom says is okay.

Cheers.

 

new laundry {how we hide behind our labels}

DSCN0606

Girl number three started soccer this Spring.

For the last two years she has been asking to join a soccer league and for two years I have replied, without remorse, under no uncertain terms:

NO.

The reason I, {we} have replied “NO” under no uncertain terms are as followed:

1.   we don’t like sports leagues because of how intrusive the schedules are on family time

2.   it seems a waste of time because kicking/throwing a ball in a certain direction is not a needed life skill, does not increase knowledge, is not creative, and this  household puts a high value on those things

3.  in observing this trend in other families we slowly developed a Pharisaic approach to parenting; we drew that line in the sand and smugly stood on the other side relieved that we had figured it out, and how could the rest be so dumb

 

So, we went to the library, not the athletic fields.

Our girls were enrolled in music, art, and dance, not tee-ball, soft ball, or soccer.

And only one girl at a time, for short seasons.

And it was probably the right thing for our household.

Because I was throwing up pregnant, getting up in the middle of the night, and chasing strong willed toddlers with a baby on my hip pretty much for close to ten years straight. {Four children in seven years, nine months of sickness for every pregnancy, and stay at home mom}. The chances are very high that twice a week tee ball practice with a game every weekend for two or three of my girls, then doing it all over again for the fall sports, would of drove me completely off the deep end, that I was dangerously teetering on.

Then suddenly, the dynamics in our home began to change.

The “big girls” are a teen and tweener.

The “little ones” are in school all day, and like to hang out with each other more than me.

I do not have children attached to my body all day.

So what now?

In all the ups and downs of our family expanding and shifting through stages and Tim and I, blurry eyed, trying to stay one step ahead, one thing has remained constant:

our unshakable knowing of our need to seek God.

And He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. {Hebrews 11:6}.

What He gives is Himself, in the form of counsel and grace at every bend.

And as my children grew to not physically needing me;

i.e.; mauling me and climbing on my lap and sneaking into bed two, three, times a night, and putting my arms around them for twenty minutes for a scrap that is barely visible {beautiful, beautiful times}

He kept speaking over me, in my desperation, to finally “get a life and be a mom”, that what they really need now is my presence, they need my shepherding.

I have no idea how to do that practically.

Because that does not fit into a category, or a parenting philosophy.

And there are lots of conversation with my face in the pillow of:

“wait a second God, wasn’t that You who told me to start ministry work, and to get a part time job, and oh crap I think I am doing to have a panic attack because I just signed up for summer classes, and now I am feeling convicted and stressed about how I am parenting!”

My confident, rock solid title of: stay at home mom, parent-centered, purposeful family time household, no longer drapes neatly over my daughters, making them safe, and making me feel good about myself. Because I seem to living a contradiction of beliefs, that I was 100 percent sure were Spirit led.

I work outside the home and we do sports!

But what plays like a tape recorder over and over again is this:

They are coming into their own, and all I really care about is that when they cross the thresh hold of adult are they going to willingly follow Christ, whose way is narrow.

   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I really following Christ, whose way is narrow?

Or am I marching into the broad box of titles that has Leah smack in the middle:

stay at home mom

evangelical

social conservative

parent-centered home.

And it’s not that I did it wrong, or that I am wrong in my beliefs. Honestly, if I had to do things over again, I would not change any of the broad strokes of my life.

But no ones gets to do it over again, do they?

We just keep moving forward. And my moving forward can not hide behind self righteous titles, even if those titles represented God’s perfect will in my life.

I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I just feel this restless pulling inside of me.

Like one bright thread of wool tugging and tugging till the whole garment comes unraveled.

I can’t stop thinking about the words of Isaiah speaking of Christ:

He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. and the bruised reed he shall not break. {Isaiah 42:2,3}

And I have swallowed long enough the religion of angry loud mouth, and wounding people who believe differently than me.

And just as I have no idea how to shepherd my children with my presence but start to find a life outside of the role of mother only, I have no idea how to stand for The Truth of God’s Word which is good and kind and life giving, and not steamroll over already hurt, and feeling-condemned people.

And so I guess this post, read by only a handful, most of the time by people I don’t even know, has become a confession to whomever may be reading:

I’m so sorry for judging the mom who puts her children in day care. God is not disappointed or mad at you.

I’m so sorry that I and the church have treated homosexuals like they are a disease to avoid, and not a human being whom God loves. I would gladly sit across the table and share a meal with you, not to debate with, but be human with.

I am so sorry that my first response is to get red in the face angry over and think of good comebacks, that are more like daggers, when people post their beliefs online of evolution and mock creationists. I should of been on my face in sorrow, then turned to prayer, that a human being thinks that they are a detached accident not a loved creation. Jesus said to rejoice when we are mocked by others for His sake. This response should of been automatic for those in my own family.

And so, this household of ours is changing. Because Tim and I are changing.

The change in us is bigger than different stages of parenting.

It is even bigger than our personal growth as believers, as people.

It is something that is stirring in the entire body of The Church universal.

The Bride of Christ getting off those dirty rags of self-righteousness and being made beautiful in Christ. New laundry, not hiding behind our stances.

Because we are part of the greatest paradox and contradiction of the ages:

Jesus: Man of Sorrows and Conquering King.

DSCN0603

This is being posted with the Five Minute Friday link up over at Kate’s blog.

I apologize that I did not stick to the usual format.

I was not going to link up today because all I could think about was her soccer uniform hanging up to dry and that seemed to have nothing to do with today’s word prompt of “hide”. But as  I began to write, for my own post, it came full circle, as things often do.

So there you go.

Happy Friday

&

Cheers.

 

 

white easter_#tell his story

DSCN0378

“Not what I expected”.

Try saying it out loud and I bet your voice dips a smidgen lower and drips a little at the end with cynicism.

We woke today, this Resurrection Sunday, this high day on the Christian calendar, to snow.

A white Easter.

The snow continued and piled and the wind picked up speed and we scrambled for knit tights to go with bright dresses for church.

Just yesterday with the temperatures high and the sun shining the girls and I did chalk drawings on our long stretch of blacktop drive way. I drew a rough sketch of a pink tulip and circled around it, in my messy handwriting, Jesus Is Forever Spring.

Hmmm. Today I am not feeling so sanguine and poetic.

This week for Spring break my husband and I went to NYC. We left a day and half early because I got sick.

And so it seems expectations are a dangerous thing.

One could argue that to play it safe, to guard and preserve yourself from further deflating harm, a wise man would just stop looking forward to things. Life is after all, not a perpetual candy shop-that’s for kiddies. Because there is, after all, something so smugly adult about putting on a good face and just making peace with a world full of disappointments.

There is something so rightly Christian about not attaching yourself and just put a stop to being happy over tangible things in this world, because it just distracts you from the eternal, the spiritual.

I know some people like that and quite frankly, the are horrible people to be around. So that can’t be it.

We had a guest speaker for service today, as we have had for the last three months with our church currently being without a Pastor. He preached on Resurrection Miracle, and my eyes kept drifting to the snow coming down sideways and piling up out the narrow slats of the sanctuary windows.

And all of a sudden, it was right there:

The Struggle.

Not so much to listen to the sermon and stop staring out the window.

Rather, to not allow present circumstances to permeate my spiritual faith.

We know the scriptures by rote.

But we react like everyone else.

But for good reason:

Our world is on a spinning axis.

Our bodies flux to hormones, enzymes, chemicals, adrenalin.

Our minds tilt to the reaction of past experiences, learned patterns, and a constant inundation of emotions, a good many, not even conscious.

And so here I am, on a white cold Easter, on the heels of get-a-way vacation that sucked, and its whispering over me what I truly need isn’t

a perfect romantic weekend,

or green buds swelling under sunny warm skies,

{though both are wonderful gifts I have enjoyed and will again}.

No, I am white-knuckled desperate for something, someone, constant and lasting.

No beginning. No end. Too big to neatly analyze and put into a tidy labeled box.

If I can believe, then recognize, then proceed in THAT-

the suckiness won’t go away, those mild irritations to the devastating news will still find its mark-

but it will not be the ultimate reality.

For a month I keep getting this image whenever I wrestle in prayer of a great river, which is also a song over us all.

It puts into context those old words “when peace like river…”

And as abstract and weird as that may seem, in those whirling moments when I am trying to put the world in some sort of order that makes sense, it allows me to relax my shoulders and exhale.

And my stance changes:

not brimming with self-confidence and knowing it all;

it makes me see clearer and be thankful.

Awareness of the unseen trinity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit who are good and in control,  bring into sharp focus those things and people right in front of me, who are good and I don’t need to control.

My last post was about my fractionated mind that I can’t keep neat and orderly anymore, and knowing I need Christ to heal the fissure cracks from the inside, however He may do so. Today I read in Isaiah 64 God’s message and promise to come down flowing like fire and water for those who wait. 

We don’t wait like a sour puss, bemoaning the woes, we wait dogged determined to be filled up with Gratitude. It is the only accepted stance for those who have been transformed, put right, and made whole on the inside. Even though logically and put on paper it does not make sense.

It coaxes the invisible to invade the visible.

Here are a few digital gratitudes from this white Easter weekend.

DSCN0347

frying fat

large quantities of caffeine

hunks in aprons

DSCN0341

paper hats sent home from kindergarten teachers {bless you}

the shirt says it all

chocolate bunnies mauled to oblivion in less than 24 hours

DSCN0365

undaunted daffodils

snow that always eventually melts

DSCN0351

Our tradition of hiding not a Single basket,

but Scads of candy

all over the house

on Saturday morning not Sunday.

 Cheers.

Linking up, two days after Easter (because it takes me forever to get one post completed) with writer and great encourager Jennifer Dukes Lee at #tellhisstory blog link up

BREAK_five minute friday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I started this blog over three years ago, naming it Many Slices, because I saw my life as a divided whole; and really it was, and is.

Child of God

Wife

Mother

Switcher of loads of laundry

Homework helper

Ministry leader

Writer

Needer of community

Needer of solitude

These neat little labels I give myself:

they are stacking up

spilling over

getting complicated

I try to reshuffle them into neat laminated categories

“Wait I am an introvert, but I am called to lead…”

“Wait I am a Wife first, but I have four daughters who are much more persistent…”

ect. ect.

I find myself trying to operate out of a halved brain.

This halved brain keeps fracturing in jagged pieces.

Most days my life does not resemble neat tidy symmetrical pieces of a lovely pie.

It looks like the crumbs left on the floor after a party with everyone too freakin tired to clean up afterward.

At least on the inside.

That is what I feel.

On the outside I still look stellar.

And it is not even all the time.

It sneaks up on me at odd times and I feel a strange disconnect with everyone important in my life.

This morning, an hour before I went on the blog, I prayed:

“Jesus You said You were healing balm” { I know its in the Bible somewhere…possibly Old Testament prophetic metaphor? I don’t know but I said it anyway }.

“I need my mind healed of all these fractionated pieces I keep trying to keep in rotation…because it is not working”

I know we woman always must wear many hats.

I know part of the promise of having the power of Christ is “I can do all things”. {Philippians 4}

But I don’t know how to do it outwardly, and then maintain a wholeness of  mental peace inwardly.

I do not know how to be praying for 13 millions persecuted Christians, and little girls being sex trafficked and abortion doctors one moment, and then switch gears and help my one daughter with math, then gently but sternly direct my youngest to calm down for the 5th time before bedtime, and then finish a conversation with my husband about his day, the next moment.

Because they both matter incredibly.

But they operate in such different extreme spheres.

I get the need to have a broken spirit, or  “poor in spirit”,

Jesus says we are blessed for having one; in fact it is imperative. {Matthew 5}

But I don’t think we are called for a broken mind.

Because it is said of Jesus that: He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed. {Isaiah 53}

And so there it is:

I do what Christians have always done from the beginning, I wait in hope.

The whole point of the break, is to give room for the heal, after all.

Stop.

fill the cracksLinking up this trying-to-feel-like-spring-Friday with Kate for another installment of Five Minute Friday.

Cheers.

Creativity

DSCN0335I am going to “surprise the tuna salad”* out of my number one reader today: My husband, and do a post all about him.

*thank you Mo Williams- author of the Pigeon Books- for your awesome expression.

Nine years ago we put on an addition because our family was swelling to five, and no one wanted to buy our little, slightly out-dated, adorable, cape cod cottage. With the extra square footage, 900 plus square feet, built nearly entirely by said ” number one reader” above, I got a lovely sewing room in the deal. Complete with French doors that allowed my adoring family to look in, and me to keep them out.

Then I stopped sewing.

However, we are advocates of creativity, and while we may deny our four children things like buying their clothes at the mall, video games during the the week, and Cheez-it crackers products {they kinda hate me over that one}, we DO buy them copious amounts of craft and art supplies, and allow them to make a hideous mess with it, often.

So, the sewing room turned into “craft room”; dominated by the little people.

Which is another way of saying it was always disgusting and cluttered and the floors we meticulously restored and then checked- destroyed.

Then, the babe got older, and yet another room, the “toy room” was no longer needed.

We considered making the toy room the craft room and using the French door room as a space for the big guy. Then, as quickly as you can turn around, I decided to home school my big girls for two years.

We needed a home school room of course.

Then, they went back to school.

This little room with beautiful French doors and sad destroyed hard wood floors hosted a lot of cool stuff and creative endeavors.

However, the big guy in the house:

The only one without estrogen-fueled emotional issues, still had all his crap in our old, drafty garage.

Until now.

DSCN0328

{yep. that is a princess guitar you see propped in the corner..there is no escaping pink}

During our long, seemingly endless, upstate New York winter, this room has been renamed and re-purposed again as a music room.

Tax return money afforded some sound equipment and this gave way to Tim trying out his vocal cords.

He has been playing around with learning the fundamentals of the old vintage style  “tube amps”, which are the mechanical method of sound amplification, circa 1968 and earlier.

We all know that the hipsters are making old school cool again, so to buy a vintage tube amp…which means 60 years or older…cost a pretty penny.

None of our pennies are very pretty.

Our pennies are more like the ugly red-headed step-child.

So what did he do?

He sold a child {we have lots}.

No, not really.

Fully operating tube amps may be costly, but when one starts to look around, one realizes that there are modifiable ones out there, a plenty.

Think, buying old funky curtains at Salvo, to get vintage fabric (that cost about 20 bucks a yard these days at a specialty shop) for a few bucks, and them cutting out the good fabric yourself, to then make your own vintage sewing piece.

Except Tim bought two old small organs that did not work, on Craigslist.

A little homework,

A little tearing apart,

A little applied electrical know how,

And voila!

Vintage amp.

For his new creative music room.

Every single one of us-

because we are made in the image of The Creator

has a need to be creative.

The range of what “creative” is wide and varied and often leads you to surprising bunny trails.

Like picking up how to play an instrument in your 30s, that leads to another instrument, that leads to singing on the worship team at church, that leads to recording music, that leads to how to make your own vintage amp.

This process, I am convinced, is just what stressed, weary, responsible, adults, in a hurry up, rushed, modern world, need.

Needs that are not being met deflate our soul, our inner man.

Creativity, in solitude, is a human need to fill us up again.

It stills the inner, when our outer is flying in many directions, responding to other necessary needs.

But it seems odd and indulgent.

Something reserved, surely, for professionals who earn money for their time.

I am reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea.

Am so enjoying her deep insightful words describing what it is to be human.

Writing on modern whirlwind pressures (and this was published seventy years ago!) and the need for solitude I underlined the following passage:

The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. How inexplicable it seems. Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets time aside for a business appointment, a trip to the hair dresser, or social engagement, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot because that is my time to be alone; one is considered rude, egotistical, and strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect, when one has to apologize for it, make excuses or hide the fact that one practices it- like a secret vice!

Solitude is needed for spiritual awareness and growth.

And there is something set apart-a scratching at something deep and profound-like connecting to God, the creator, when we create, by ourselves.

It spills over.

Tim is happier.

His brain is being engaged in a new way, which science has proven slows down the aging process.

No matter how “pointless”

how it does not “make you money”

forcing yourself to close the door and do something creative is a discipline that pays off in surprising ways.

And in an obvious, tangible, take the easy short cut, materialistic world,

don’t be surprised if a lot of people don’t get it.

sing

Cheers.

PLAN_five minute friday

cropped-p4190116.jpg

Our 15-year anniversary is this July.

We planned on going away to NYC for four days {our longest trip away from the kids yet} to celebrate.

Yet, on Wednesday we booked a snug little room on the upper, upper West Side for the last week in March, in other words in about two weeks!

Because come March, every March, I need a plan.

The lethargic sameness of winter comes to a breaking point.

Then, the clocks spring forward.

That faint dull circle, more of a yellow smear in gray clouds, begins to wax strong and its rays actually warm my upturned face, instead of just making me squint.

Like sap rising, I feel the influx of something buried and waiting begin to rise in me.

I remember how much we love Summer here in upstate NY.

We now have a pool.

The girls breed bunnies.

The vegetable and herb garden gets enlarged each May, as we ignore our shrinking square footage of grass.

We live on our deck and rarely have dinner before 7pm.

We take day trips to Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell University, and the unofficial “little Vermont” of New York, often.

I remembered that we always plan to do less {no kids activities, sports, music, horses, or every camps}.

Tim rarely works Fridays in the long months of Summer.

So we changed our plan.

Because it is very obvious:

We need that cool paradox of having the wide space of being alone in a busy cramped city of millions, together, right now.

It will only be my third visit; the second with just Tim, but there is something about New York City I adore.

When we return the calender will say April and Spring Gardening Plans can start in earnest.

A plan, nothing life changing or critical, but light and pleasurable, can make all the difference.

Sun shine
&
Pavement

sun shine timStop.

Linking up with Kate for another installment of Five Minute Friday.

Cheers.

Slices Abroad_COMPASSION

So I started this series of mine quite awhile ago.

This Slices Abroad thing.

This getting over myself

which is the crux of the Christian faith.

I have so many emotions

such an array of deep  theological ideas

packaged in such simple life

in such a simple person

I don’t know where to start,

so I find myself letting it lay.

Except it does not stay still and neat and polite, does it?

But really, ever single writer is just a teller of stories when it is all said and done.

So here is just a simple true story that illustrates something that is deeper than  any of us can really comprehend.

************************************************************************************************************************************

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was just another cold weekend in February.

February in upstate New York.

There was nothing to do.

There was no money to entertain ourselves with retail distractions and eating out.

It was in the negatives again, so sending the children out to play was out of the question.

And I was feeling guilty.

Guilty because this past Christmas, the first Christmas I found myself working, retail, I was so stressed, so Bah Humbug, about “American Christmas.” I never got around to making the time and budgeting the money to send a Christmas letter and give an extra twenty bucks for a Christmas gift for our sponsor sons we support, something we usually do every November.

Luis in Columbia.

Kokou in Togo.

Prince in Rwanda.

Those are our sponsor sons.

And I, rich Christian American,  didn’t acknowledge them on the world wide celebration of our Savior’s birthday.

But the hope of Christmas is fully redeemed in the resurrection of Easter, right?

So, on this particular bitter, bored, broke, Saturday in February I was hoping to redeem myself with the hope of Easter wrapped up in a photo shoot with bunnies in a bucket.

bunny in a bucket

Sponsor kids love, love getting letters.

Photographs with letter are the icing on the cake.

Photos with cute bunnies and even cuter girls?

creme da la creme

basket head

I announced in true authoritative Mama fashion for the big girls to get the bunnies from their outside pens and bring them inside, and ” everyone brush your hair and take those slobby pajamas off” because I had suddenly decided to orchestrate an Easter photo shoot.

{It’s moments like these I love being a Mother. Only a Mother could so suddenly demand such varied, random, immediate actions and get results}.

Baskets were hulled down from icy attics.

Colorful quilts were laid down on cleared floors.

Marching orders set and I took pictures.

The four girls plus our ever present neighbor girl were allowed to haul out paints and brushes and the good water color paper to make Easter cards.

I wrote three letters. Pretty much identical, destined to land in Columbia, Togo, and Rwanda in about six weeks.

I always include a  scripture, not planned, but whatever seems right at the moment.

Writing a letter to children of a different nationality, of a different culture, that needs to be translated is a little bit…what is the word for it?…stifling?…if you think about it too long.

Rather complicated

time consuming

and does it really matter?

The first introduction letter is easy.

But what do you say after you the preliminaries are covered?

It’s like that awkward pause in small talk;  but continents apart.

But I have learned, as in polite unsure conversation, to dig down and continue anyway.

Because everything is not about me, and my comfort level, and my perception, in my contained perfect little slice of life.

I trust in the bigness of this world, the seven billion people who populate it, overseen by an even bigger God, expressed in the grandness of Christ on the cross then Christ leaving the tomb, and the power that came to perfect completion in the tongues of Holy Spirit fire that fell on Pentecost.

Over two years in, we still write. In starts and stutters with months and months between communicating.

I am always surprised at what words come out when the family gathers with pens, paper, crayons, envelops, Bible and postage stamps.

{No small feat for a family of six with four of its members under the age 14. Nor is it a quick crammed in to-do list requirement.}

More surprising still:

That Saturday with the bunnies, prompted with guilt, it brought genuine joy, despite the fact that, to quote my husband I “turn into Stalin” when I take family photos.

Seriously, I am not friendly…”get out of the picture now!”…”why are you making that face you look constipated”!…Tim, no one gives a crap about your hair just get in here and DON’T slouch” !

It was what our family needed.

More than white American guilt and regimented Christian good works, that Saturday afternoon, purposely altered to not go about doing what we normally do, to send three some 100- word- letters to children half way around the world, wishing Happy Easter, and trying to explain why we have a rabbit in a pastel bucket, and my militant photo shoot,  all of it, in all our human folly and lack, reminded me of the great truth:

Getting your eyes off yourself is the best way to feel better.

And when it is done in:

The Name of Christ,

Spurred by the Love of God,

Finely tuned by The Prompting of The Holy Spirit

we became part of something more lasting than the feel good high of “paying it forward”.

It is truly partaking in the active work of Christ’s work and goodness in a world that to me often feels stagnant and hopelessly broken.

But because there is something of Jesus Himself-

when we take time

do something ridiculous

press toward something not easily grasped

for something that gives no tangible fruit,

ALL for the LEAST.

These three sponsor sons of ours.

We hope to have four within the next few years.

Four sponsor sons to a make a gender equivalent for our four biological daughters.

collage Easter sponsor

It has changed our, and our children’s lives.

April is Compassion’s month of Sponsor advocacy.

We sponsored Prince last year through World Help, because of the prompting of blogger and writer Emily Wiergna, who on a Compassion sponsored trip to visit her own sponsor child, followed the Spirit’s leading to form an all but unprecedented mother sponsorship non-profit. Their line is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphan’s by equipping today’s mothers”.

I really don’t talk about our sponsor boys that much.

Misplaced “let your good works be done is secret”?

But it has been such an enormous part of my maturing faith, of understanding my own unhappiness with the bland experience of American church culture, that it is silly to NOT talk to about it. And if I come off as “judge-y “or “preachy” to you, well that is really not my problem because it certainly is not my intent.

Considering praying and then clicking on the

Compassion

or

World Help

or

Lulu Tree links,

and be prepared to be surprised.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cheers

VISIT_five minute friday

DSCN0084The sun is high and bright and completely uninhabited

and yet

it still reads in the negatives on my phone.

And so I stay inside.

There is always something to do after all

and the audible waves of quiet that waft around when there are no children with in these walls is such a welcome sound.

The wood stove glows hot and radiates red and orange comfort, even in a circle of dusty ash.

But there is no denying these long winter months, a welcome respite in some ways, directly after the crazy retail chaos of Christmas:

It isolates.

The lack of exchange of words, eye contact, relating of what is going on, and how we feel about this life, affects me.

I liken it a tangle ball of yarn:

my thoughts

that loop around

hook and weave

my emotions.

A visit,

person to person,

eyeball to eyeball

word to word

has some sort of power to untangle and bust out knots inside of me that I did not know were clogging up the works in my mind.

Even if it is with people I am not well acquainted with, and nothing serious is discussed.

Even those quick exchanges {usually about the weather!} in miserable gray frigidness at bus stops with my daughter as we wait, bundled like Eskimos on rock salt and ice, for the arrival of the bus, melt that hard yet droopy weight in me that comes at the end of every February.

Visit

it is the opposite of

isolation.

And it does not even have to be lengthy, deep, and with someone you know well.

It is just human.

Stop.

Linking up with Kate for another installment of Five Minute Friday.

The online equivalent of The Body Visiting.

Cheers.

Watch and Pray

DSCN0241  Middle school:

the two words deliver hefty punches with immediate images.

Heavy and tedious.

Like a backpack bulging, slung over, with dreaded algebra homework lurking within.

For females, the image evoke scenes of social awkwardness, screaming insecurities that we alone can hear, but are sure the whole wide world can spot when we walk into a room.

With these images resurfacing in my own memory bank as my two oldest rounded out the last years of elementary school, I decided to do a two year stint of homeschooling with my two oldest daughters.

My oldest for grades 6th and 7th.

My second oldest for grades 5th and 6th, together.

Based almost entirely on a prompting that it would be good for them.

Good for us.

Not a sheltering, per so, but a shoring up.

A deliberate reminding of who they are and how God sees them. What is true in this world. How to think and process and use logic. To laugh and tell excessive jokes based on the USA show Psych!

To learn how to bake bread and do the laundry properly, and breed bunnies for profit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the most part, I loved it. We grew closer. We would have days where the discussions would go for hours. They received a top notch education, and I realized how much I still love the academic.

But then once again, life shifted, as life does.

I started working part time just in the evenings. I did not think it would have the slightest impact on my teaching during the day. I never schooled in the evening, after all.

But it did.

Work was good for me, for us as a family. The frenzy of Christmas came in all its retail and madness and I could barely function from the stress of it. Six months left in the school year, and plans to put the girls back in public school come the following fall, as was the plan for the beginning, started to not look like a good idea.

Not for me. Not for them. Not for us as a family. Something had to give.

My second oldest went back to the snug confines of an elementary classroom down the street in the New Year.  Where they still pass out cupcakes on their birthday and jump rope at recess. My oldest went to the big impersonal middle school across town that every 7th grader in the entire district attend.

Dropping her off at middle school that first day and walking away down a shiny floored hallway, while she practiced her locker number for the ninth time was unbelievably hard.

Sad panicky tears.

I can’t even concretely articulate why. Part sadness of how grown up she is now; in middle school. Part panic of how harsh these children, desperately trying to play the part of worldly adult, are.

But weeks prior to me walking away with tears we went in together for a visit. I had never even set foot in the school before that day.  We walked into the front office and were directed back to the guidance counselor’s office. Crossing over the thresh hold of the lobby into the offices I immediately was struck that the atmosphere of the staff was positive and in control. The counselor was frank and upbeat. I exhaled fully for the first time that day.

The school does have issues.

There are multiple fights in the hallway which my daughter has accidentally been jostled near and nearly struck.

Children casually drop the F-bomb in their conversations amongst each other like Barney giving out hugs, and the teachers do not say a word.

From the way she describes it, walking down the hallways and going to the girls bathroom is bit like trying to navigate the island in Lord of the Flies.

I drilled her everyday those first couple weeks with specifics and would give her no rest until I received specific answers.

Most of the teachers had control of the classrooms. This accounts why she was so taken aback at “how mean they are”. Zero tolerance of pulling crap.

“Good” I said.

She is there to be educated, after all.

I still do not like it, but I am not afraid of it.

I keep praying for one good Christian friend so they can “sharpen each other” like the Bible says believers need to have.

She went to the IF:Gathering conference with me a few weekends past, even though it was not a “teen thing” but a “woman thing”.

I don’t buy the whole teen culture needing a “teen friendly” God.

She is in the world and has to make the choice herself not to be in it by treading softly with integrity down rough hallways and graffiti bathrooms, leaving just a slight imprint where ever she goes; an impression of something strangely set apart and whole, often without saying a word.

That is what I pray.

No amount of youth geared church activities or a ten step strategy on how to be a good teen Christian will neatly achieve that. However, as abstract as it is, every time I pray for my oldest, that is what I see.

So that is what I keep praying.

I brought her to the  IF: Gathering as part of her birthday present since that week she and I had our 13th and 35th birthday, respectively.

I booked us a hotel even though it was ten minutes away. With a pool of course because swimming in an 85 degree pool in February is too good to pass up. People were surprised I would bring a 13 year old to the event. I explained it in terms of this:

In the Hebrew faith when a boy turns 13 they have a Bar Mitzvah.

A coming into manhood that includes his faith walk.

I ancient times, it was around this age he would start to learn directly In The Temple.

That idea would not let me go: Female gentile Bar Mitzvah?

So my daughters do church with us.

Yes they go downstairs during the sermon, but only every other week.

I brought her to IF: Gathering, because I felt it was relevant not for just woman in church, but The Church. I want her to live out being The Church; not just a moral teen with a crash test course in Apologetic 101.

Like it or not, middle school aged children are throw in adult situations and problems, see the ugliness of adult sin.

Let’s give them adult faith.

Let them be around adult women simply talking about their faith and their testimony in a fallen world.

It is what The Church has always done.

Why have we made it so complicated, by making it so curtailed?

We have taken away the beauty and power of the Body coming together and being real and simple.

And so every morning I watch from the art room window in our house to see her stand alone, cold winter morning breath billing around her uncovered head, because she refuses to wear a hat, as she waits for the big yellow bus to cart her away.

And I feel torn.

She has to walk her faith herself, but I can’t just throw her to the wolves and hope for the best, can I?

Our children are inundated with sexual images every time they connect to wifi.

They hear adult crude language pretty much as soon as they leave the confines of their home from peers and social outlets.

We worry if they will to be able to stand for their faith in the public school when it comes to the origin of life, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, why believing in Christ alone is not the same as religious intolerance; something most adults have trouble doing, including myself.

Then we exclude our youth from participating in the beauty of the body blending together in corporate worship, so they can go downstairs for “teen jam” worship.

Prayer group is for old ladies with too many hours to fill.

If they hear a sermon it has to dumbed down and entertaining, with excessive culture euphemisms so they “can relate” and “not  get bored or confused”. Which by the way always comes off as contrived and lame.

I believe my generation stands as grim testament that taking kids out of the world into a secluded G-rated,smiley-face-Jesus-world, does not work.

As more and more parents of my generation are, with ringing hands and jelly knees and acid stomach, feel led to allow our precious fledglings out of the nest to awkwardly test their wings in a world that is not holy but harsh, let us do some other things different too.

Let’s not buy a teen devotional Bible for them. Blow off the dust on the simple one sitting on the bookshelf, and open it up when they have questions.

Let’s not be satisfied with youth group leaders making The Word relevant.

Let’s not be guilted into ordering another family devotion that someone at church recommends, that is so cookie cutter and prepared that all you have to do is read a paragraph and tell them to turn to a Bible passage and ask “what do you think about that verse” {Because it says in parenthesis to ask your kid that} while everyone squirms in awkward silence, hoping this will be over soon.

Homeschooling showed me how much children, teens, want to listen to what their parents’ think or believe about something.

They want to figure it out, and are okay, if not immediately comforted or informed, if you cannot answer a question about your faith.

The Lord has spoke very clearly to me as I wrestle with just what I need to do and exactly how I need to love my children as they grow up. It was very, very simple:

“Let them know you see them and that you believe in them”.

We as a family, do not set aside family devotion times.

We just don’t. Sometimes I feel bad about it, but it never, ever, feels natural. I did with just the girls when we were homeschooling, and that was great. One of the best things to come out of our home schooling. But the whole family in our loud, crashing evenings, with dinner seldom on before 7pm?…not gonna happen.

I’m sure there are many, many families that do, and it’s a precious and meaningful time.

I just can’t bring myself to do it.

However, being available for them, by our family purposely doing less running around stuff, including church activities, does not exactly come natural either. It most definitely is not fun or the least bit warm and fuzzy most days, because being home a lot with noisy, emotional, bickering four daughters, leaves me so tired and cranky I feel like being a mother is the most unsuited job for me possibly.

Seriously.

But I have four daughters aged 13 to 6, and they are my responsibility. I always love them. However,  I need God’s grace, and Him showing me how much He not only loves, but likes me, to like them in turn.

Seriously.

The exact sentiment applies to our marriage.

So every day, after day, after day, I not only do dishes and laundry, and homework, and run to horse riding and piano lessons, and work a few evenings a week too, but I show up fully for them.

To listen and counsel,  and answer question, and listen and listen some more mainly.

It is never planned, or curtailed to a lesson format.

It is full of fights, and yelling and throwing things and crappy apologies followed sometimes by genuine tearful apologies {from both the girls and myself}.

Tim and I, we live out our life and our faith with four moody gangly girls in the midst of it.

And when these girls walk out the door, with stuffed backpacks, skinny jeans, and still not wearing a sensible hat to be carted away where I cannot follow, I watch them shuffle out

and

I pray.

to pray

Cheers.

The Inconvenience Of Snow

inconvience of snowWe refuse to buy or borrow a snow blower.

Call it stubborn pride in doing hard things with your own muscle and sweat

or

stupidity.

Because with four kids in three different schools, two work schedules, two-thousand plus square feet of house to clean and organize in attempt to keep from imploding in stuff, and three meals for six people to plan and prepare; a lot from scratch these days, an hour of more of moving snow from one patch to another is not very practical.

It is inconvenient actually, because I never plan on shoveling our long narrow driving, again!

For the first time in my life, after purchasing my annual daily planner notebook at Barnes and Noble at 50% off in January, I am actually using it! My days are a whirlwind of schedules and “don’t forgets” that grows longer as the children get older, in a brain that gets more forgetful as I Get Older.

So no.

Bundle up in multiple layers, spending about ten minutes looking for our one pair of warm gloves and Tim’s woolen boot socks, then get painfully frigid , to slowly warm up then cook in a sweaty murky soup of gross under my puffy unattractive layers, while I do tedious manual labor, that will not even get the particular desired result I am aiming for (a snow-free driveway)

never makes it on any of my lists.

Lists scratched on paper, or spinning in my brain.

But it keeps snowing, a lot. So I have been doing that a lot.

Yet, in all this inconvenience, I have noticed something:

One, I always feel better after shoveling.

Two, it is the only time this month I have got sunshine, chilly rays that they are, on my face. The only time I have actually exercised.

Which accounts for why I feel better of course.

These past 30 kid-free days, with all four in school now, has given way to several unexpected conversations; time spent one-to-one, face to face with other women.

It was never convenient.

There was always something left to do. And it truly bothers me on how the laundry is still wrinkled in a basket, the floors are still gross, and that funky mystery smell is still coming from underneath the bathroom sink. And I need to take care of it.

Of course.

However.

I decided that with the luxury of all those supposed “free days” that it would be sad waste of my redeemed, blood-purchased life to spend asking myself “what would Martha Stewart do?”

A nice looking organized home is my gift to my family, because it creates a calm atmosphere.

But it is not my chief aim.

Being creative, and purposely carving out times of complete silence and solitude are needs for my intuitive and introverted brain that I have been gifted with.

But having my life meticulously fitted for ME is not, or should not be, my chief aim.

Perfectionism and selfishness go together as natural as fish n chips. I oughta’ know.

So let me be inconvenienced.

With another six inches piled up in the driveway

or

a friend who I know I must spend time and speak with.

Each and every time, much to my surprise, I walk away with the blessed gift of good physical and spiritual health.

Cheers.

inconvience of snow #2