he’s nine today

Our Bug is nine today.  But, don’t tell him I called him that publicly.  Apparently, he’s not a fan of his nickname anymore (cue tears).  I haven’t really heeded his preference, though, but thankfully, I seem to get a pass.  Everyone else gets a scowl.

He’s definitely moving out of little boy territory.  This tough  kid who has always been a little on the huskier side and snuggly and sweet, is now tall and lanky, and not as interested in sitting close, and not so quick to tell me I’m beautiful…among other things.

This has been a rough year for this sensitive son of mine, and it shows – tears come to my eyes just thinking about it – and I think his defense is to internalize and push away and just not notice much of the good around him.  I wish I could say that I’ve figured out how to make everything better for him, but I haven’t.  It’s a process, I guess.

In the meantime, he is still our goofball, who tries so hard to make jokes out of everything.  He is our athlete – the only one of our kids who comes close to beating me in a sprint (okay, I know that beating me doesn’t necessarily make him an “athlete”, but you know, comparatively).  He’s great at math and great with tools.  He’s still observant and still tenderhearted.  He can make waffles and scrambled eggs like a pro, and will eat whatever he’s given without hesitation, even though he would “rather not eat” most foods.

So, we’re here at his ninth birthday and I’m thankful it’s only nine and not nineteen.  I’m thankful for a another nine years (at least) of opportunity to remind him of how precious he is, of how capable he is, of how God sees him, and of how he should see himself.  I’m thankful that there’s refining happening in him even now and that we get to help him through these things, and to teach him to run to God for help, and to give him big bear hugs even when he pretends to not want them.  I’m just so, so thankful for Nathanael today.  I treasure this boy, and the privilege it is to be his mom.

our end of summer

We started school today.

I know it’s a little early, but we’re taking a week off in September and I didn’t want to start on Nathanael’s birthday (one week from today).  Plus, I’m tired of the endless quandaries of what can I do???.  And I want to feel like summer might actually be wrapping up.  And I want my hopes of finishing up the school year by the end of May to have a possibility of not being in vain.  So we started today, bumps and roadblocks and bad attitudes, and all.

I want to make excuses for why this summer hasn’t been “productive” by most people’s standards.  I cringe at the list of projects that never got touched.  I feel a bit hopeless that some of them will ever get done.  But what I’ve been realizing these past couple months is that I don’t have to live up to someone else’s standard – and that the standard we have set for ourselves and our families doesn’t give project completion high priority.

So, our house projects are mostly untouched…except for Tim making a large dent in framing and drywalling an area in the attic for kids to have as a rec-room.  Instead, we decided to get pigs, because our twelve-year old wanted to buy one and raise it for meat.  So while Caedmon researched and made phone calls about piglet prices and breeds, feed costs and pasture needs, Tim researched and planned how to keep 2 pigs on our property a few miles down the road that had a well, but little else.  So shed-building and fence-building and solar panel-installing and electricity converting and feed-hopper building all took precedence for weeks – so that we could help Caedmon pursue this small dream of his, which we chose to prioritize over house projects.

And there were other things.  A gymnastics camp for Bethany, and VBS.  A visit from my sister and her family, and a visit from my parents and another sister.  A trip to an amusement park and a night at the drive-in.  Swimming lessons and weed-pulling and ice-cream eating (which can consume quite a lot of time when the summer is as hot as this one’s been).  DIY car repairs and a ton of curriculum researching.

I know it doesn’t necessarily sound like much, but in truth, I’m not cut out for hyper-productivity.  Most times, it comes with a cost that is just too high.  So this summer has also been moments of purposing to pull my littlest girl close with a stack of books.  It has been kneeling on the floor doing puzzles with my Ava Grace.  It has been saying yes to making funnel cakes and running around in the rain (what little we’ve had).  It has been trying harder to inspect chores.  It has just been trying desperately to not let the little things fall to the wayside.

And here we are.  Not where I’d thought we would be at the start of the new school year, but that’s okay.

 

learning slowly

Some days, I still feel the tightness in my throat, the weight in my heart, and the tears that threaten to spill over into an otherwise ordinary day.

I’ve never been good at forgiving and forgetting.  I’ve never been good at really loving people.  I’ve known this for a long time.  It’s even on a list in front of my Bible – things I pray for myself – in all caps, flanked by stars…to LOVE PEOPLE, because I know I don’t have it figured out.

And this is where God has been pressing me these many months.

Because, sometimes, I want to forgive, to love, to move on.  But sometimes I really don’t.  When someone purposely and without repentance hurts my family, hurts me, I’m convinced to the depths of my being that I should never, ever love or forgive them again.

Except I’m wrong.  I do know that.

When Jesus hung on the cross, surrounded by all sorts of people who, at best, had no idea what He was doing, and at worst, felt He deserved all that was coming to Him, His heart toward them was forgiveness.  He loved those people who drove the nails into Him.  He loved those disciples who never really got it.  He loved the accusers and the mockers and the ones who had no greater concern than whether they could walk away with some dead man’s clothes.

And I’m supposed to be like Jesus…or at least try to be.

But I don’t know how.  I just really don’t know how.

So, when these days come when the hurt feels moments old instead of months old, I sometimes give voice to all the worst feelings that still plague my soul.  And my husband gently rebukes me and reminds me of what my heart should be, even as I insist it’s impossible.  Then, slowly through the hours, the Holy Spirit works and softens the hard places again, and adjusts my perspective – even if only in seemingly small measure – to the point where grace can permeate my thoughts and I get just a glimpse of God’s heart.

It’s been a season of two steps forward and one step back…or maybe closer to almost two steps back, if I’m being honest…but God is faithfully digging deeper wells in my heart in this and other areas.  He is stretching my faith and reminding me more that this life of mine is completely and only for Him and His glory, and I don’t get to decide what that looks like.  Only He does.

 

 

These lyrics reaching into the hard places in my soul today, and so many other days….

(from Times, by Tenth Avenue North)

I hear You say
My love is over
It’s underneath
It’s inside
It’s in between

The times that you doubt me
When you can’t feel
The times that you question
Is this for real

The times you’re broken
The times that you mend
The times you hate me
And the times that you bend

Well my love is over
It’s underneath
It’s inside
It’s in between

The times that you’re healing
And when your heart breaks
The times that you feel like you’ve fallen from grace

The times you’re hurting
The times that you heal
The times you go hungry and are tempted to steal

In times of confusion
In chaos and pain
I’m there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame

I’m there through your heart-ache
I’m there in the storm
My love I will keep you by my power alone

I don’t care where you’ve fallen or where you have been
I’ll never forsake you
My love never ends
It never ends, mmmm

Tim, at thirty-eight

It’s said often enough that the proof of what “fruit” is growing in a person’s life is what comes out when they are pressed.  Tim has had a lot of pressing happening in his life the past couple years.  And while it wouldn’t be entirely true to say that only good has come out – he is only human, after all, and the past couple years have been hard on so many levels – I have seen time and time again Tim’s heart for the Lord, and his heart for our children, and his heart for me, win out over any temptation to respond with a bad attitude.

When he’s the most worn out, he still serves.

When he’s deeply hurt, he doesn’t try to wound in return.

When the future is uncertain, he continues to hold loosely to what he has.

When efforts fail, he tries again.

When I cry on his shoulder, day after day sometimes, he carries my burdens, and lightens my load, and reminds me of what is most important.

His life is lived as a sacrifice, and sometimes that’s most clearly seen in the moments when I know that his every word, his every action, is life being poured out – not from an overflow of what’s been poured into him – but from a well that has been tapped dry, that has been drawn on so much that there seems to be nothing left.  The loving gestures, the patience, the diligence, the service – these are still what comes out when he’s scraping at the last dregs in the bottom of his well.  This is who he is when life is at its best and when life is at its hardest.

I am privileged to be his wife.

 

weeding and watering

We’ve had quite a stretch now with no rain.  Add to that the high temperatures, and the need for watering anything that you want to grow becomes a necessity.  While my wonderful husband has been faithfully watering most of our garden areas, as well as some newly planted grass, our shady little patch of asparagus – that is in the midst of yielding fistfuls of its tender green stalks each day – has been forgotten.

I wasn’t aware of this, so this afternoon, as I was harvesting some of its bounty (not actually recommended to be done in the afternoon, but this is how it happens, sometimes) when I noticed a blanket of small weeds covering the entire patch, I immediately prepared to take care of the invaders.  I sat down with my gardening rake and proceeded to try to loosen the soil so that I could easily pull the weeds out, roots and all.  After several attempts to drive the tines of the rake into the dirt, I realized I had a problem.  The ground was packed solid and the rake was hardly disturbing anything beyond the very top layer of dry dirt.  I tried for a few minutes with the rake and with my hands too loosen the dirt and pull out the weeds, but not only was it slow going, the weeds were just not getting loose enough and were breaking before the roots could be pulled free.  The ground needed water before the weeds could be removed.

As often happens in my garden, God began impressing on my heart a lesson in this example of weeds and water.  I’m very quick to identify “weeds” in life – sin, weakness, insufficiency, ignorance – and these need to be addressed, without a doubt.  But the flip side of this scenario is that the ground that’s growing both the good and the bad suffers without water.  A life that isn’t being poured into is more likely to hold tightly to all that is within it – unyielding, unworkable, closed up tight to a gardener’s hands.  In these cases, as bad as the weeds may look – and as illogical as it may sometimes seem to water the ground that is harboring all these unwanted roots – in the long run, it is absolutely necessary to be able to properly weed a garden, to pull out the whole root,  and to help the good fruit to flourish.

And this was a challenge to me today, especially in regard to my children.  They need water first and foremost.  They need me to pour out my life for them in love and grace, patience and kindness.  Sometimes this might, for a moment, seem to let the “weeds” flourish.  Maybe they’ll take advantage, maybe bad behavior will be overlooked at times.  But, as a softening takes place in their hearts.  As the life-giving water of the Spirit saturates our interactions and loosens the hardened places, then the roots that have grown deep in their souls can be pulled up with gentleness and thoroughness and minimal heartache.  It’s clear there must be a balance.  Neither weeding nor watering is alone enough.  But there is an order.

First, water. 

First, pour out love and compassion.

First, forgive.

First, serve.

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

our Sweetpea at 2

She has the biggest, most unabashed smile.

From her first weeks with us, she has worn her heart on her sleeve.  If she’s proud, or curious, or annoyed, or excited, or amused, or overflowing with affection, one look at her face gives it all away.  And she never holds anything back.  She approaches life with abandon, fully making the most of every opportunity. – whether that opportunity is grabbing her sister’s doll, or getting into kitchen cupboards, or “freeing” Ava from the confines of her socks and hair-ties (because Isabelle can’t stand either of those things, so it must be the case that Ava doesn’t like them either, right?).

She is at once both incredibly nurturing and quite a bully.  She consoles her siblings when they’re crying, has fed Ava her food (expertly spooning chili from a bowl into her sister’s mouth at only 18 months), and cleans up messes made by her and others.  She also bites, pinches, pulls hair, tackles, kicks and screams the loudest of screams when she doesn’t get her way.

She is tenacious and focused.  She loves books…her favorite right now is A Good Day.  She is very fond of food.  She still almost never sleeps through the night.  She likes to be tossed into the air, and responds by saying ‘gain, ‘gain [again] over and over.  She is learning her colors.  She loves her siblings and several times a day goes through the list of everyone’s names, and always asks for those who aren’t in her immediate vicinity.  When I fold laundry, she stands close and says who each item belongs to as it gets folded.  She runs everywhere, she climbs on everything.  She’s had more bruised and cut lips than all of her brothers and sisters put together, by a long shot.  She loves everyone else’s shoes.

Isabelle is a joy and a challenge.  I still can’t get enough of just staring into her smiling face.  I’m so thankful for her and the beautiful gift she is to us.  And today, as we celebrate her two years of life, we also look forward to the years she has ahead, filled with destiny and promise.  Happiest of birthdays to you, precious girl.

 

sixteen years

I’m sure I heard it a few times early on in marriage that the first years were the hardest.  And when I heard that, I figured if that was the case, then marriage was going to be a cake walk.  Not that we never had disagreements, or things to work through, but – really? – marriage was never something I considered hard during the first ten years or so.

The past few years, though?  Marriage has been hard.  Not I can’t stand this person kind of hard – I love my husband and, even in our worst moments, can’t imagine my life without him…but how do we do this? kind of hard.  In the midst of what have been some difficult circumstances in life, being married means we don’t get to walk things out only our own way.

When he’s hurting and I’m hurting, when I really need to be encouraged and protected and told everything is going to be okay…and when he needs the same thing…and yet neither of us feels like we have anything to give, any hope or comfort to offer – this is where preferring one another really becomes a struggle.  We try and we fail often and we repent and and we forgive and we recognize - this person across from me is as broken as I am.

And when we encounter problem after problem, and we both have ideas about what the right solution is, and we butt heads and we get frustrated and we pray for wisdom and often still end up on completely different pages, it can be hard to not just walk away from the conversation.  But we learn to persist, we learn to wait on the Lord for an answer.  And I find myself prompted more and more by the Lord to let my husband lead…and when I forcefully resist and argue that I’m right, I see clearly the painful truth that I have far to go in really being the helper and support I should be.

These things are not ruining us – I’m sure they will be beneficial in the long run – but it’s hard to walk through them.  It’s hard to see insufficiency and weakness and sin nature come to the surface -  in me and in him – and still have a proper perspective.  It’s hard, when our emotions and mental strength are spent to still be affectionate and compassionate and fully present with one another.

I’m no less thankful for my husband, no less in love with him than when life is easier.  But we’re learning more what love really is.  We’re learning more about laying our lives down for one another.  We’re learning more about grace and patience and forgiveness.  We’re learning more about empathy.  And I expect that, years from now, we’ll look back on these days as a time of growth for us and we’ll see how God used everything for our good and His glory.

 

what is ultimate

I read this blog post today and really appreciated the position and explanation regarding pastoral authority.  It was biblical, well-founded and fair.

I have read a lot on this topic lately, and have found two extremes that both tend to deviate from or ignore biblical truth in the matter.  While I firmly believe that God calls men to, and empowers them in, the role of pastor to those in the Church, they are not sinless.  While Christians are to honor, respect, and obey their leaders – in as much as they are walking in biblical truth – our broader obligation is to strive to keep all the standards set forth in the Word of God, even if a pastor wrongly opposes us.  While a pastor’s role includes bringing rebuke for sin, it also includes extending grace when sin is not the underlying cause of a disagreement.

Really, what it comes down to is that every Christian needs to keep God’s Word as the ultimate authority.  Never raising any philosophy of man to the level of inerrant truth, or applying it as a standard for determining righteous living. Choosing love when an issue isn’t biblically black and white.  Humbly recognizing that we are all fallible and in need of correction at times.  Allowing the end to justify the means only when the means are biblically supported.

I don’t write this because I think I have it all figured out.  I know that my heart is in constant need of realignment with God’s Word.  I know I have failed at times in my response to authority, pastoral and otherwise.  But I think it is important to acknowledge what Jesus said is most important – to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength – and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This should be our frame of reference for every doctrine and philosophy that we adopt.

rest

Rest.

When I feel overwhelmed by life, when my heart just won’t stop hurting, when I only ever see my failings, when I want to do something to fix what’s broken…and I seek the Lord for help, this is the answer I keep getting.

Rest.

It confounds me, honestly.  My guess is it has nothing to do with physical rest…at least, not most of the time…but I have no idea how to rest my soul.  I have no idea how to not feel responsible for finding a solution to every problem in life.  I have no idea how to trust God to handle those things I don’t understand.  I have no idea how to let go of my deepest longings, my most tightly held hopes, and believe that He truly has tomorrow in His hands.

Still, this one word that He’s been speaking to my heart over and over again brings a comfort I’m not sure any other answer could.  It’s my loving Father, seeing my weakness, recognizing my weariness, and speaking to what is likely my greatest need in these days – reminding me that I don’t have to carry this load, that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, that He knows me and He loves me.

Sometimes I forget that I am His.  I’m thankful that He is faithful to remind me that I don’t have to - in fact, I can’t – do any of this on my own.