our girl

Okay…yes…we have more than one now.  But 11 years ago today, she came into the world as our first girl, and remained our only girl for 6 more years.  Raising her has been nothing like raising her brothers, partly because she’s a girl, but mostly because she is entirely unique in her personality, her perspectives, her strengths and her weaknesses.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how she can be totally unconcerned for whether she has spelled a word correctly, and I remain baffled by her ability to understand the mechanics of things.  She has considerable talent in art and math (quite a combination, huh?) but both can be limited at times by lack of attention and carelessness.  She loves girly things (anything that sparkles or shimmers or ruffles), but wants to be stronger and faster and better at everything than her brothers.  She gets easily distracted from almost any chore, but when she does apply herself, can be extremely detailed and thorough.

And now, she’s entering her “pre-teen” years.  There’s more tears, more attitude, more wonderings of what-part-of-left-field-did-that-just-come-from?  But there’s also a greater interest in just being near me, which I am trying my best to not take for granted.  She is learning patience with her little sisters, too, and I find her randomly snuggled up to them, reading books or quietly playing.  She has a fairly new-found love of baking, and continues to work on developing her skills with the sewing machine.  And I see, albeit sometimes more slowly than I’d like, character traits taking shape in her that I’ve long worried could never be.

This girl of mine continues to be my greatest challenge, but also the catalyst God most uses to humble, and shape, and teach me.  I know that doesn’t evoke much of the sappy sentiment that I so often think should be all that my thoughts of my children evoke.  But she is a gift.  She is precious to me.  I am so very thankful for her – for the unique and wonderful person she is, and for the ways I am forced to my knees (sometimes in petition, sometimes in repentance) because of her.  It is truly with great joy that we celebrate these 11 years that she has been our girl.

I was watching a tv show recently where one of the characters had a nervous breakdown.  Life was overwhelming and the character was losing control of it all…felt like he had to be in control of it all, but wasn’t.

And all I could think as I watched it was I am so thankful for Jesus I am so thankful I don’t have to manage this life on my own.  I am so thankful that when life is overwhelming, I have Someone I can run to who will never lose control of it all.  How can anyone survive without Him?

This past year and a half has been more than I’ve felt like I could bear at times.  Sometimes, my running to God hasn’t looked like it “should”.  My faith has had many moments of faltering.  And I’m sure others have dealt with much harder things than I have.  But whether I just need to find a little shoe when we need to head out the door, or I feel like life is caving in on me, I know that He is there to hear my cry.  I know that His hands are holding me, no matter what.  Even just a few moments on my knees gives me strength to stand.

He is life.  The source and the sustenance.  Nothing can compare.

our teenager

Caedmon is 13 today.  And, yes, I’m more than a little taken aback by the fact that our little guy is now a teenager.  I almost broke down when it hit me as I was walking through Walmart the other day.  I got teary-eyed and suddenly wanted to buy anything I could find to make his day special.  I mostly restrained myself with reminders that “stuff” isn’t really the best way to communicate love, but that momentary perspective shift from the everyday myopia of just addressing whatever the day brings, to the recognition (not for the first time) of how thankful I am for Caedmon and how much I like him, has stayed with me.  He’s really an amazing kid.  He is so genuine, so smart, so funny.  He takes on so many responsibilities without complaint.  He has such an earnest desire to know the Lord and to honor Him in his days.

Yeah, there’s plenty of less-than-perfect in the kid, but for thirteen?  He’s got a lot figured out.

I’m glad for his birthday this year if only for the fact that it forces me to pause and reflect on just how much of a blessing I have in this son of mine.

how I do a project

Last week I decided I was going to start a house project “on my own”.  Our upstairs bathroom – which has been on the re-do docket for years now, but always gets shelved because of more pressing projects – has had wallpaper peeling off for years, and a serious mold issue caused by lack of ventilation, but made worse by the wallpaper.  So, I decided that I would remove the wallpaper and paint.

Tim is in the middle of his own project of redoing a bedroom, but I wanted to find some way to be productive and I convinced myself that this wouldn’t be too bad.  I insisted to him that I could do it all by myself – that since the wallpaper was literally falling off the walls, that must mean that it would be a breeze.  He remained skeptical (with good reason), but I pushed forward in my uncharacteristic optimism.  My willingness to stupidly ignore the fact that, in this house, wallpaper was always used to cover problems is something I will chalk up to the fact that this is the first window of time I’ve had this pregnancy when I’ve felt capable of accomplishing something beyond life’s everyday priorities and I didn’t want to squander it.

But I was dumb.

For some reason, the areas where the wallpaper had peeled off already only had one layer of wallpaper, but the walls I had left to do had three layers…layers that did not want to peel off.  I also discovered, when I took off the gross white laminated board that was covering the lower half of the wall, that not only was the plaster underneath cracked and bowed, but someone along the way had cut out a chunk of the plaster and lath to put in a two by four to hold the wall-mounted sink.  Plus the wall was slathered with thick brown adhesive that did not respond well to my scraping.  I felt like a fool.

So, Tim stepped in to rescue me.  With his far superior upper body strength, as well as the inspiration to try a razor-blade scraper on the wall instead of the putty knives and vinegar-water solution I had been using with limited success, he managed to take wallpaper and brown crud off with ease.  I insisted, though, that I could manage now that I saw that the razor worked.  Knowing that I was definitely going to need his help with repairing the plaster (his preference over just covering it over with wainscoting and calling it a day), I didn’t want him to take any more of his time to work on this project that I had quite vehemently claimed I could do myself.

So the next day, I set about scraping.  And I got most of it done…with just the high edges of the wall, and some stubborn sections that seemed like they would come off more easily with sanding.  But that night, my elbow…which I had injured almost two years ago, but hasn’t bothered me in months…hurt so much that I couldn’t sleep.  So much for doing any more scraping…or sanding…or anything else that might require me to exert force with my right arm.  Ugh.

Actually, I did try to sand with my left arm today, briefly.  Until Tim interrupted me and basically said that it was just pointless for me to do with my left arm that which he could accomplish with an orbital sander in a fraction of the time (I wasn’t going to attempt the orbital sander myself because, well, I’m very non-ambidextrous, and my right arm would be too strained by it…really, I feel pathetic even writing that).  I did argue with Tim for a minute…but finally just asked if there was something I could take off his plate to compensate.

So now, I’ll be helping with taxes.

Elijah is seven

Yesterday was our Buddy’s birthday.

He is tall and strong and articulate.

When I’m reading aloud to the kids, he often interrupts to ask what words mean.

His volume is naturally very loud.

He is very easily distracted, but can do most tasks exceptionally well if he really applies himself.

He likes to style his hair in the morning, and insists on tucking in his shirts and wearing his socks pulled up as high as they’ll go…and he doesn’t care if someone thinks he looks like a dork, ’cause he likes how he looks.

He told us this year, just matter-of-factly as we were talking to him about receiving Jesus as Savior, that he has already believed in Jesus as his Lord.  And we asked him questions to find out if he really understood what it meant, and he did.  No wrestling or angst, just a calm decisiveness.

He still gives me hugs often…usually when he notices that I’m bummed about something and without a word just wraps his arms around me.

He loves baseball, and animals, and the “color” black.

He’s just seven, and he has areas that we’re working on, and there are times when I still need to remind myself to no expect as much from him as from the older kids, but he is growing and learning and contributing more and more to the daily running of things.  He is precious and smart and capable and funny and so many intangible things that make my heart full, and inexpressibly grateful to have him as my son.

I love this kid.  So much.

 

this Christmas

Christmas.

I know it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it never really is for me.  And it definitely isn’t this year.  I’m trying, mostly so it can still be special for my kids, but this year has left me pretty faithless and pretty hopeless, and I can’t help but face this celebration with a lot of heartache, and more than a little cynicism.

I know it sounds terrible for me to say that.  It’s part of why this blog has been mostly silent lately.  I’m afraid of being judged for admitting that I just can’t see God in any of this – for being angry at how silent He has been through this whole mess.  I’m afraid that some people will say it’s somehow proof that we’re wrong – this sense that God is not being our defender or helper when we have most needed Him to be.  But I mostly just don’t care anymore what anyone else thinks.

Yes, a whole lot of our hope and trust was misplaced.  And now, though everyone wants to just say move on and get over it, we struggle to even see an alternate path to go down.  We trusted people who proved untrustworthy.  For more than six years – crucial years in establishing a sense of home and relationships and faith in our children – we invested our lives in things that have now been stripped from us.  Every week, at least, I find myself searching real estate listings – sometimes not too far away, sometimes hundreds of miles away – because here doesn’t seem to be possible any more. The problem is, for all we’ve already lost, we have to lose more if we leave, with nothing anywhere that really makes us believe we could ever find a safe place to call home.

And it’s hard to find hope in any of it.  It’s hard to believe in a good and faithful God.  It’s hard to rejoice in anything so intangible like the significance of Christ’s coming when everything else in life feels like we’re fighting losing battles.  It’s not that there haven’t been lessons, I’m just finding that what we’re learning doesn’t seem to be valuable enough to justify the cost.

So about all I can do right now is not run away.  I can do my best to say the right things and do the right things and grasp at whatever fleeting hope there is in my heart that God has a plan for all of this that will be for our good in the end.  Not much of an advent lesson, but maybe – in some small way – it is.

another song

Because I can’t seem to come up with my own words these days, and because this song was good for my melancholy soul today…

Endless Hallelujah by Matt Redman

When I stand before Your throne
Dressed in glory not my own
What a joy I’ll sing of on that day
No more tears or broken dreams
Forgotten is the minor key
Everything as it was meant to be

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will singing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

I will see You as You are
Love You with unsinning heart
And see how much You paid to bring me home
Not till then, Lord, shall I know
Not till then, how much I owe
Everything I am before Your throne

And we will worship, worship
Forever in Your presence we will sing
We will worship, worship You
An endless hallelujah to the King

No more tears, no more shame
No more sin or sorrow ever known again
No more fears, no more pain
We will see You face to face
See You face to face

An endless hallelujah to the King
We’ll sing an endless hallelujah to the King

an oldie

This Jars of Clay song has been stuck in my head for days.  I’m not sure why…I haven’t heard it for ages.  But I thought I’d share it here just because…

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icharus
I collide 

With a world I try so hard
To leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
To give and die 

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce
The skin of one who loves
More deeply than the ocean
More abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache 

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch
The blood and water flow 

To love you, take my world apart
To need you, I am on my knees
To love you, take my world apart
To need you, broken on my knees 

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst the remains of life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me 

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need
And what I believe
Are worlds apart
And I pray 

On my knees 

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remains
More and more I need you now
I owe you more each passing hour
Battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
Wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin-soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
And serve the ones that I despise
Speak the words I can’t deny
Watch the world I used to love
Fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
Wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
So steal my heart and take my pain
Take the selfish, take the weak
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
Take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray,and I pray, and I pray
Take my world apart
Worlds apart

 

 


seven is my favorite number

At the end of April we will be adding another little one to our family.

Not “planned”, but not a surprise either.  We didn’t know how to make the decision, so we left the decision in God’s hands, and this is where we are.

For me, “this” is spending just about all day, every day, on the couch for the past 3 weeks.  It’s been the worst pregnancy since Caedmon in this regard and it has me completely worn out.

But, while there are things that are not getting done as well as I would like, the perspective these days are giving me is valuable.

The perspective that I am so blessed to have children who know how to cook and clean and generally look after themselves…and to have a husband who works from home, who takes on every extra task without a hint of complaint, who takes care of me so well.

And the perspective that this pregnancy is giving me about what it means to be a living sacrifice…literally laying my life down these days for the baby growing in my womb…feeling the effects of age and past pregnancies and increasingly poor sleep…recognizing the less-than-desirable condition my body will be in at the end of this all…and acknowledging that this baby is worth it.

Still, I wouldn’t mind a reprieve at some point in the next seven months.

four years of Ava Grace

The thing that first comes to mind when I want to describe Ava is that she loves hugs.  And it’s not just a superficial thing for her, but something that meets her deepest emotional needs.

If she’s been scolded, she asks for a  hug.

If she doesn’t feel good, she asks for a hug.

If she has been praised for something she asks for a  hug.

If she’s scared, hurt, or faced with doing something she doesn’t want to do…hugs are her answer.

If you smile at her from across the room, she will dash with arms wide and fling herself at you with abandon.

Sure, there are other things about Ava that are precious beyond words, but the hug thing kind of gives the best picture of who she is almost all of the time.  She’s such a priceless gift and we are so thankful to be able to celebrate her four years today.