there are many things that could be said

claims that might seem plainly true

hopes lie in dust, and hurt rubs raw

this life, that’s being lived for You

heartache lies and steals peace

eyes deceive by fettered sight

though here there seems to be no sun

as though day, You light the blackest night.

so, I’ll proclaim that You are good

and stand upon this Rock I’ve found

when crashing waves would overthrow

still this life won’t tumble down

I’ll lift Your Name above these trials

Your banner, wave through every war

Your faithfulness will be my shield

Your Word, my trust forevermore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfulness, or an attempt anyway

from Nov. 15

Thankful…

…for my seven-year old who looked at me the other day, and said you are the greatest person ever.  I love you, Mommy.

…for my four year old who still tells me almost daily that I’m beautiful and nice and that he loves me.

…for my husband who takes the lion’s share of getting up with fussy/sick children in the middle of the night, and then still gets up early to provide for our family

…for the help my children give around the house

…for my littlest girl who still wakes up smiling many mornings.

…for the most adorable 2-year old ever.  I might be biased.

…for vegetables, and a digestive system that (I think) has finally learned to like them.

…for 20 lbs each of potatoes and carrots from our garden

…that I don’t have to put my kids on a bus every morning to take them away for long hours

…for the presence of the Lord with me, even when life is hard

…for music.  I love music.  I love singing (though some might contend that my singing does not qualify as music).  I love listening to my kids practice piano.  I love playing my clarinet.  I love hearing birds chirping.  I love listening to worship music while I do just about anything.  I love listening to other people perform almost any kind of music.

…for the sky…for blue skies and storm clouds and starry nights and dazzlingly bright sunrises and breathtakingly beautiful sunsets.

 

from November 16

thankful…

…for flannel sheets

…for the neighbor lady who prayed to receive Jesus in church this morning.  Honestly surprising, but so exciting.  I sometimes forget the amazing things God can do, and the reality that every heart is desperate for Him alone.

…warm slippers

…half a year with our littlest girl

…dressing my kids up in matching clothes.  Tim thinks it’s strange, but it is honestly fun for me, and relieving to have some guide to go by when grabbing clothes for the day.

 

from Nov. 19

Thankful…

…for the pretty snowfall this afternoon.  I’m not exactly ready for winter, but I’m glad I can at least see the beauty in it.

…for a 6 straight hours of sleep last night.  It’s been a while.

…for my kids.  They work hard and do a good job at many things.  I probably don’t tell them that enough.

…for books that direct my eyes to the Lord.  They are surprisingly few and far between, in my experience, but so helpful in getting my gaze off me.

…for my bulb syringe (nasal aspirator?) that has been extremely useful the past few days of dealing with a very congested baby girl.

…for our washer and dryer.  While I don’t love our particular washer and dryer, and often find myself unable to figure out what in the world makes people like front loaders, I am glad that we don’t have to go elsewhere to tackle our 15+ loads of laundry every week.

…for the library.  It has only been in the past year or so of homeschooling that I have made use of this resource that is literally in my backyard…I previously had some notion that I needed to purchase every book I used for school…and it has been such a stress reliever.  Even better?  Interlibrary loan and online requesting and renewal.  I almost feel like I’m cheating at something.

 

from Nov. 24

Thankful…

…for the insurance company finally agreeing to reimburse for the money we paid the midwife for prenatal care

…for peace about my mother-in-law moving here.  Still not excitement.  Still not joy.  Still not expectation for it to be free of conflict.  But peace.  I’ll take it.

…for a rearranged hallway upstairs (it’s a big hallway).  I like it much better now.

…for warm weather.

…for fresh eggs.

 

from Dec. 15

Thankful…

…for long, hot showers

…for internet recipes

…for a baby that has finally stopped wiggling and fussing and pulling my hair, and is now snuggled close, asleep

…for a two-year old that did not fight me at nap-time today

…for Tim’s interview tomorrow

…for pretty Christmas mugs

…that tomorrow is another day to try again

 

 

Where to find wisdom

The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple —Psalm 19:7b

Tim had been seeking a rate increase at his job.  Just four days before being told he would be out of a job, he had been told by his manager that a rate increase was most likely going to go through, that it was just a matter of getting through the formality of budget approvals.

A few days ago, while reviewing our budget for the next couple months, Tim discovered a typo that means that after taxes are paid at the end of January, our bank account will be $4000 less than we had anticipated.

This morning, the batteries on our vehicle died.  Even though Tim had gotten them checked just a couple weeks ago to make sure they weren’t going.  Even though he just last night cleaned the terminals to help with charging.

Despite trying to do everything right, things are going wrong.  I want to say everything is going wrong, but as Tim is quick to point out, there are many things that could be far worse.  It’s just hard to see, sometimes.

But God promises to supply all of our needs.  God says not to worry – that we are more valuable than the birds of the air that are fed by His hand though they neither sow nor store up for themselves.  He told the Israelites to give back to Him the tithe on all they have and to test Him…test Him!…and see if He would not throw open the windows of heaven and pour out an overflowing blessing.  He says to simply seek Him and His righteousness first,  and everything else will be added unto us.  God says He will make all things work for our good.

The testimony of the Lord is sure.  Certain.  Trustworthy.  Faithful.  Though I try to be wise in my understanding of circumstances, and analyze and worry and try to find some logical answer…some likely solution…it is the simplicity of trusting God’s promises that will prove wise in the end.  No matter what life might be screaming at me about our need or the seriousness of our current predicament, it is the unchanging truth of God’s Word that must always stand.  It has to.  It just does.

Reminders, again

Sometimes…most of the time…I feel so far from capable.  Even before I read the perfect posts or see the perfect photos or have the rest of the world loudly, clearly condemning me for just not being good enough, I see it.  When I strain with all I am to try to gain some kind of right perspective on these December days that are supposed to be about celebration and thankfulness and awe, and end up feeling inept because I still can’t find the good, I wonder what’s wrong with me.  When I try to explain to my children why it matters so much that God became man, and my words fall flat and they just stare at me with blank faces, I feel defeated.  When I look around our house and see messes and clutter and…unfinished-ness…even though I tried to deck the halls and create some semblance peace and beauty and warmth, I want to just give up.  When I realize that there are only three weeks left until Christmas and I have barely begun to buy gifts, there’s that voice whispering over and over and over…you’re a failure.

And you know what?  I am a failure.  We all are.  Maybe my efforts result in more obvious failure than the efforts of others, but nobody in the history of humanity has gotten it all right, except One.  I can be tempted to think that God cares that my house doesn’t look beautiful or that the laundry isn’t put away or that I might not get the perfect gift for my child.  I am, at times, even convinced that my inadequacies in Bible teaching will handicap my children in their ability to believe and follow after God.  I see my sins and my weaknesses and everything wrong with me and think God must be so disappointed.  Until He reminds me, again, of why Jesus came.  He saw all that I would be long before I was.  He knew the futility of my striving, of humanity’s striving.  And rather than being disappointed, rather than expecting some kind of vain attempt at pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, rather than giving up on us – on me – He put Himself in the gap left by every failure, every selfishness, every squandered opportunity, because He loved, and loves, anyway.

I doubt that I will ever be able to come across as picture-perfect, despite the unfortunate reality that I will probably try time and time again.  It’s unlikely that anyone will ever look at me, at my life, and think I have everything figured out.  My kids will most certainly grow up with a front-row seat to (and, hopefully, first-hand experience of) God’s undeserved favor being poured out on a sin-stained life.  But God won’t ever be surprised by all that I am and all that I’m not.  He won’t be comparing me or condemning me.  He will be with me, right here, all-sufficient to present this life to Himself as holy, acceptable, and perfect.

God, help

I have moments when I think I might hyperventilate.  I breathe deeply, trying to get a grip, and I exhale out the prayer – God, help.  Over and over since Tuesday, when Tim was told he would be out of work come January 1st, those two words have been all I can think to say.

I tell myself I’m overreacting, but then I think of these six little ones whose lives very literally depend on provision that is not there yet, and I panic a little.  I don’t understand this.  At all.  I know there are worse situations we could be in, but this seems pretty bad. 

No job.  And in a place where Tim’s otherwise quite marketable skills and experience just seem to not be needed.  And in a house that isn’t really in saleable condition, even if we wanted to leave.  And with little money in the bank.  And, honestly – selfishly – facing what in any scenario promises to be a huge disruption to life as usual around here.

One thing I have long known about myself is my innate need to be able to have expectations, and for those expectations to be met.  It’s why I set such low expectations for myself and others in many circumstances, because not knowing what to expect drives me crazy, and disappointed expectations devastate me.  Here, now, I feel like I am being crushed by the weight of both having been hugely let down and not having any clue what life will look like in a month, or three, or six.

It is making me even more aware of how little faith I have for provision, which I think is possibly at its lowest point ever.  The only hope I find for the future is not in a God who I confidently trust to meet our every need, but in whatever tangible options seem available.  Really, sadly, there is barely a flicker of faith in any of my considerations about what life will hold.

I worry that this means God won’t work in our situation, because to say I am doubting as I ask for His help is an understatement, to say the least.  I am double-minded at best, and I honestly don’t know that I will readily attribute to Him any provision that does come.

But maybe – maybe – He will recognize the deep desire I have to trust Him.  Maybe He will see that I know how desperately we need Him, even as I search frantically for some kind of just-in-case safety net.  Maybe He will have mercy on me as I acknowledge that my faith is pitifully small and weak, but throw myself at His feet anyway.  This is the extent of my hope right now.  God help, please.

This week

Monday mornings are notoriously bad for me.  The thoughts of what needs to be accomplished in any given week tend to overwhelm me before I even get started.  This week is Thanksgiving.  This Monday greeted me with all of the usual stresses, plus a few more.  I could delineate them.  I could explain precisely why I was overwhelmed this morning.  They all ran through my head countless times before I really even got my day going.  I was afraid of what this day, this week, would look like.  I noted to myself, rather cynically, how it would be this week of Thanksgiving that I find especially undoing to any sense of thankfulness that I might otherwise feel.

But I prayed.  Really, desperately, prayed for a different perspective.  Being grateful is a struggle for me on my best days, and I know that it wears on my soul – having only problems constantly filling my vision – and it robs me, and those around me, of peace and joy and hope.  I know it does.

And today, I didn’t want to be okay with it.  I wanted to find some way…or, rather, I needed God to help me see some way…to change my outlook.  At first, there was a gentle admonishment to see my problems in light of the struggles many other people face.  Um, yeah, petty might begin to describe my issues.  Then, there were reminders of provision – recent, tangible ways that God has brought peace and hope in the midst of what I felt were hopeless circumstances.  And there was Psalm 91 – my random opening-my-Bible-and-hoping-God-will-show-me-something act of desperation this morning – where I was reminded that God’s provision, protection and deliverance often come in the midst of difficulty and distress.

I want to be a thankful person.  Not in the sense of trying to wring some kind of good out of something obviously bad, but in the sense of knowing that I have a God who can get me through the bad, who can bring victory in spite of circumstances, who can save me from the snares that life may put in my path.  I want to be a hopeful person, to be able to recognize, confidently, that there is an all-powerful God who is going to take the worst pieces of these days and work them together for my good.

I’m sure it’s a process.  But today, He helped me see past myself, past circumstances, past fears, to glimpse His face, to adjust my perspective, to have hope, to realize how much in Him I have to be thankful for.

6 months, or the blink of an eye

It’s been six months since our happy, smiley Isabelle was born.  Realizing it’s been six months doesn’t phase me much, but then when I think that it’s been half a year, I’m taken aback.  Maybe because life has been only, well, life.  No holidays or special occasions.  No finished school years or new endeavors.  Just the everyday that somehow slips by in a blur of normalcy.

And we end up here – with memories and moments and changes that all tell me that the newborn days really are over, but a heart that feels like this sweet girl in my arms should still be content to just sleep long hours, with head close to my heartbeat.  Instead, she wants to go.  Nevermind that she can’t take herself anywhere yet.  But she can (and does) grab at anything within leaning and reaching distance.    Her legs and arms move non-stop, as if the motion alone might be enough to will her to that amazing spot across the room she can’t stop staring at.

She talks in her own adorable but completely incoherent baby babble whether there’s anyone around to listen, or not.  She puts most things in her mouth, but by far her favorite are her ring and middle fingers, stuck in at once with her index finger and pinky splayed out beside her mouth…a pose which is kind of quirky but incredibly cute all the same.

She certainly isn’t an always-content baby, but she does love to smile at people, and she loves to have people smile at her.  She is very particular about having completely undivided attention.  Try reading a sibling a book while holding her and she’ll be sure to express her disapproval.  It still surprises me how quickly these little ones gain understanding and try to impose their will on a situation.

Nonetheless, I am aware of how fast these days are going, and I desperately want to communicate to her that in this house of loud and demanding others, that she is valuable and precious and so, so loved…and that it’s okay for her requests of undivided attention – that merely require me looking at her and nobody else for a few minutes – to be heeded with the same seriousness as if they were requests for more tangible needs.

So we sit, and we smile, and we dance, and I let her wipe her spit covered hands on my face and get my hair tangled up in her fingers, and I remind myself of how quickly these days are going and how much I will miss them when they’re gone.

It’s funny, sometimes, the places that pride shows up.  Unexpected.  Maybe carrying even more sting than usual because some of those places are areas where we think we’ve really got God’s Word in our hearts, areas we’ve considered secure, solid, able to stand against whatever attacks might come.

In this case, this time, it’s in the area of provision.  Worry about provision isn’t recent, for me, but I am recognizing more and more that pride is the source of that worry.  Because for a long time, I thought God and I had an understanding – we would be faithful in giving, we would (ostensibly, anyway) hold loosely to our material possessions, we would prioritize God’s working in our lives and the lives of our children over monetary gain, and God would always make sure we had enough money in the bank to never fear for provision or want for more.  I thought it was a fair deal.  I became comfortable with it.  I began to think I had this whole faith-for-provision thing nailed.down.

I would have espoused my philosophy as biblical truth, and while it may be in some contexts, it wasn’t really in mine.  Because my faith ends at the point our bank account drops below a certain figure.  My faith turns to fear whenever our income doesn’t quite meet our projected outflow.  And when that still, small voice asks the question but do you have enough right now?, I don’t want to answer yes.  When our bills are all paid, but there isn’t extra, I feel like God’s not keeping His end of the bargain.

Because didn’t we put Him first?  All the times that Tim turned down jobs paying more because they promised a 60 hour work week, or days and weeks away from home, we were choosing to reject material wealth so that we could honor God in our family.  We thought (or maybe just I thought) that meant God wouldn’t let things get hard.  I thought we would never be in the position of looking at the future and just having to trust that God would make a way where we weren’t seeing one.

You know, like having faith

Believing when we can’t see.

It seems like the refrain of my life these days.  I don’t like it, honestly.  I want a break.   I want to breathe a sigh of relief at seeing something work out right.  But God doesn’t seem too interested in what I want.  He’s not content to let me continue on with misplaced faith and a prideful heart.  I’m sure I’ll be thankful someday.  But right now I just want to kick and scream about how unfair life is.  Obviously, God’s work in this area is far from done.

I sit here with a squirmy four month old.  My kids are [mostly] folding laundry.  And this is how most of my days have been going lately.  Me, holding my girl who does not like to be put down – or really even let me do anything else while holding her, my kids doing the lion’s share of the household chores.  I get to the end of my days and feel guilty.  Shouldn’t I be able to accomplish something other than just keeping a baby content throughout the day?  I mean, yes, she naps and I get some basics done, but not much.  She is not a fan of the Ergo, and there are limited things I can do one-armed…especially given her growing propensity to throw her weight around.  So, this is where I end up – feeling like I need to make excuses, wondering if my kids have too much responsibility, failing to get some things done that really should get done.  I sometimes wish I cared enough to put pictures on this blog.  I think I would like to show all of the imperfection.  But, really?  I’m embarrassed by it.  The messy table, the potato peels on the kitchen floor, shoes everywhere, toilets that were supposedly cleaned, but actually weren’t.  They all scream at me that I’m making the wrong choice, to sit here with my baby.  And it’s ludicrous.  As horrible as I am at maintaining order and cleanliness, I have somehow bought the lie that the work necessary to accomplish those things is a more noble, more godly effort than the, perhaps less taxing, effort of just being there for this little one snuggled in my arms.

(from 10/2/2014)

A year and a half ago, or so, God told me you’ll have to go back to [church in] Madrid.  I said I didn’t want to.  He said I needed to trust Him.  I asked why.  He gave me an answer.  I said I was going to wait until Tim brought it up.  He said fine.  Even though it wasn’t technically leaving the church in Potsdam, it sort of was.  It had been a hard decision to begin with, whether to stay in Madrid, or to attend the new location in Potsdam.  There wasn’t clarity one way or the other.  But, in the end, it seemed our hearts were more drawn to Potsdam, so that’s where we went.  As much as we knew how, we served.  We prayed.  We showed up, which may not mean much to some people, but the point is – church was a priority, over sickness, over schedules, over everything else in life.  It was far from ideal, though I think idealism carries with it a lot of unwarranted expectations, anyhow.  We never really fit.  Which, I guess, isn’t so much of a criticism as it is just a statement of reality.  I mean, we wanted to fit.  So much so.  But since my desire to belong has never quite been able to overcome my desperate wish that I could just be invisible in groups of people, going out of my way to converse rarely happened and was easily discouraged, and, after a while, seemed kind of pointless.  Nonetheless, I became fairly certain that there was a reason to be there, and not somewhere else.  For praying, mostly…which, for me, is pretty much the only thing I’ve ever felt certain God has called me to do.  So, when God said we would have to leave, and go to a church that, while not bad in any regard, I had otherwise sensed no leading to be at, I hoped I’d heard wrong.

But over the course of the next year, there were circumstances that made Tim think that maybe we should switch to Madrid.  I never mentioned what God had said to me until Tim brought up the possibility.  Even then, I was careful to say that I might have heard wrong, and I don’t know that what I had heard influenced Tim much in his decision, other than to make me willing to support him in whatever decision he made.  That decision, eventually, was that we should go to Madrid.  It wasn’t a forever decision, but a for now decision.  In all honesty, neither of us saw it as a good fit – we both held out hope for God to move in such a way that we would be able to revisit our reasons at some point and possibly see that they had become moot points.  But at that moment, Madrid was the choice.  Whether it’s coincidence or causal that my relationship with God seemed to take a nosedive over the next few months, I’m not entirely certain…maybe a bit of each.  But I found myself  overcome by apathy.  I attended Sunday morning services, but I couldn’t sing or pray, not anything more than what little I could muster to try to hide the ache in my heart.  I just couldn’t find God.  I was vacillating between searching with all my heart, and running away as fast as I could from a God I, occasionally, felt certain had abandoned me.  I think the worst of it is over now.  I think I’m pretty firmly standing on the searching with all my heart ground right now.  And I think I’ve learned something (maybe more than one something) valuable over the past several months, and that is this:  the only thing that really matters is God.  I have spent a good portion of my adult life praying for God to help me form strong, godly friendships.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  I’m certain it is something that is often declared to be a necessity of a growing walk with Christ.  Having never had anything of the sort, save for my relationship with my husband, I would get incredibly discouraged at feeling left out, overlooked, neglected and forgotten all.the.time.  Until we started attending Madrid.  People are friendlier – actually talking to me, and even occasionally offering to hold my baby (seems silly, right?  but as much as everybody always seems to want to hold everyone else’s babes, nobody has ever offered to hold mine).  I haven’t felt totally isolated.  But the truth is that none of it matters to me.  I’m not trying to sound callous or heartless or ungrateful, but I would give up every conversation in a millisecond to feel the nearness of God.  I would gladly spend this lifetime feeling invisible if I at least had the knowledge that God sees, and loves, and uses me.  Don’t get me wrong – it would be great to have it all.  But if it’s one or the other?  There’s only one option.  I’ll take Jesus every time.

(from 9/22/2014)