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.

my choice, always

I choose You, God…

…when everything is hard and it seems like it would be easier to not try anymore

…when I can stand by who I know You to be – who your Word says You are – or I can run after acceptance that depends on me putting others above You

…when You tell me to love and forgive and it seems so unfair and makes no sense and I really just want to never let go of this hurt.

…when Your promise to work everything for my good seems to be in direct contradiction to life’s circumstances

…when I can’t figure things out and You want me to trust You anyway

I choose You, God, because…

…Your love is better than life, always

…Your ways are higher than my ways, and Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts

…this light and momentary affliction is working for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory

…it is worth it to count as loss everything that I thought was gain that I might gain Christ and be found in Him

…Your steadfast love never ceases and Your mercies never come to an end – great is Your faithfulness.

…nothing can separate me from the love of Christ

…You are worthy of my praise, You are worthy of my thanksgiving, You are worthy of my obedience, You are worthy of my life.

a good day

The truth is, I don’t have many good days.

Surprising, right?

But today has been a good day so far.  I didn’t wake up to back pain, but got up at 6:30 anyway (I know, sounds late to a lot of people, but it’s early for me).  I went for a walk/run (probably more of the walk, less of the run).  I made a phone call I had been putting off, just ’cause silly things like making doctor’s appointments usually fill me with anxiety.  My heart isn’t heavy like it has been so much lately.

There’s almost…joy.

I hesitate to say that.  I hesitate to think it, even.  I don’t know why, but I think it has something to do with always wanting to keep my expectations ridiculously low so that I’m less likely to be disappointed.  Yet, even in the face of my obvious push-back to biblical truth in this area, God has poured life into my soul today.

I’m thankful.

real life

Baseball has started. We have four kids signed up, which means 2 kids have practice each night, Monday-Thursday.  We’re only one week into it and I’m already exhausted.  It’s going to be a long two months.

Today I really wanted a burger for lunch, but I made myself a black bean and veggie burrito instead because the scale hasn’t been my friend lately.  This afternoon, though, I made orange-glazed cinnamon rolls for a snack.  That’s what my willpower looks like.

I told Tim yesterday that I feel like I’m shriveling up from the inside out – just empty, dry, hopeless.  This weight in my heart never goes away, and just seems to be heavier as time goes on…my spirit grieving more over hurt and loss and seeing no way back.

My kids’ cold-weather clothes got swapped for their warm-weather clothes this week, but I keep wondering if I missed something, because it was almost painless.  Bins even got put back where they go (usually this takes weeks or months).  I guess I underestimate how capable my kids are in helping with such endeavors.

We’re shrinking our vegetable garden this year.  Maybe that will mean we can keep up with weeding.

With the exception of giving birth, and one half-day I spent at jury duty, I haven’t been anywhere without children for more than three hours, or so, since Caedmon was born.  Sometimes I feel worn down.  But, I rarely wish I could be away from my kids for longer than a few hours.  I really don’t know the good or bad of any of it.  I’m tired, though.

May is coming.  May is hectic.  I always dread it, honestly.  But, for the first time ever, I am way ahead on my mom’s Mother’s Day gift.  Like, I’m ready to mail it.  Small, but it offers a small amount of relief.  Now, just three more Mother’s Day gifts, two anniversaries (PLUS ours), 7 or 8 (?) birthdays within our extended family.  And a new baby nephew due to be born.  And baseball.  And gardening.  And finishing up a school year.  And house projects.  And…maybe I’ll find a hole to crawl into until May is over.  It sounds more appealing.

 

made to be a pack-mule

So I should be folding laundry right now.  But I’m tired…like, legitimately tired (as opposed to most days, when I’m tired for no good reason at all).  It’s legitimate because we got a delivery of construction material delivered and dropped on our driveway and front sidewalk yesterday.

The exact numbers were:

30 sheets of 5/8″ plywood

24 sheets of 1/2″ plywood

72 2×6″ x 8′ boards

24 2×6″ x 10′ boards

63 2×8″ x 14′ boards

72 2×8″ x 8′ boards

12 2×8″ x 10′ boards

4 2×8″ x 12′ boards

26 5/8″ 4×10 sheets of drywall

All of it had to come in the house.  Tim brought all of the drywall and thicker plywood in by himself (one sheet of that drywall weighs 88 lbs(!)…not to mention how insanely awkward it is to carry a 4′x10′ sheet of anything by yourself).  He also pitched in with a few of the other boards here and there, single-handedly got all of the 10′ 2×6′s from the front hall into the attic (and with just a little help from me got the 14′ 2×8′s into the back of the second story), but the kids and I did the rest.  Okay, so I know it doesn’t seem like I did much compared to what Tim did (I think he, literally, did a ton more work than me, at least)…but a solid three hours of fairly heavy lifting was much more of a workout than I have been used to lately, so now I’m sitting.

To be honest, I really enjoyed the work.  I like to say that I was built to be a pack-mule, and yesterday just confirmed that.  ‘Cause I really can’t stand exercise that doesn’t have a point.  I get bored super-easily.  But yesterday…even though I was exhausted early on…I was able to push myself because it was accomplishing something.

Plus, I think the truth is that I was made for heavy-lifting.  I bemoan my size a lot (much to my husband’s annoyance).  I get frustrated that even if I were in great shape, it’s not possible for me to be smaller than a size 10 .  I get mad at God for not making me small and feminine and graceful (sounds petty, but it’s completely true).  But if I were all those things that I often wish I could be, I wouldn’t be as much the helper that my husband needs and values.  I know that my husband was thankful yesterday that he didn’t have to move all of that wood by himself.  I know that he was thankful that he didn’t have to worry about me being too fragile.  I know that he was thankful that I could lift the 40 lb boards from the first floor up to him in the second floor, fifty times over.  My husband is glad that I’m “sturdy” even if it means I’m not what the world considers feminine.

And this is a line of reasoning that plays out in a dozen different ways most days.  Who I am is not who I want to be, because who I am is not who someone else says I should be, but who I am is who God made me to be and there is a reason for me being the way I am.  It happens with homeschooling my kids.  It happens with keeping my home.  It happens with the food I make and the furniture I buy and the way I communicate and the fact that I don’t walk around with a smile on my face all day.

The world and the Church and articles I read and people I talk to can all have very definitive ideas of what is right and wrong in so many areas.  And I am susceptible to believing it all.  I really am.  I want a standard.  I think everybody wants a standard.  But we enter damaging territory when establish any absolute standard that is something other than what we find in the Word of God.  We were created to be different in so many ways, and we were created to be absolute in relatively few.  It’s not a new lesson for me, but it’s one that is constantly under attack, so I need reminders. 

I can be who He made me and trust that He can use it for His glory.

As hard as it is to walk out, there is freedom and a simplicity in that truth.

home

It’s not where I want to be.

And, honestly, I still think it’s not where we’re meant to stay.

But this is how I am seeing God’s provision these days.

In unknown songs that make it harder to enter in at first, but don’t carry with them any painful familiarity…anointed worship that helps me remember to just focus on Jesus.  In a crowd of mostly new faces, where I can be okay – for now – just being anonymous.  In so many things different that awaken long-lost conviction and raise challenges to sometimes dust-covered ideals.   In preaching that stirs passion for the Lord, and passion for His Church, and passion for the lost.

In many ways, it hurts to think of calling this home. 

But I know God is here.  And anywhere He is, I can be home.

 

life still happens

Sometimes I have days…

…when I’m burdened all day to pray for things I can’t change and wish I could ignore.

…when I actually get more than 10000 steps on my Fitbit.

…when the bacon-wrapped pork loin for dinner is so yummy and I’m reminded why these pounds don’t come off.

…when my second-smallest girl tells me at least a dozen times that her nose hurts, and I can’t get her to drink much of anything, and I feel so bad that I can’t make this rotten cold leave her alone.

…when my heart aches so much that I can’t stop doing, just because I need to have distraction to keep from falling apart.

…when I try to catch up on correcting schoolwork and wonder, again, if I’m completely messing up at this homeschooling thing.

…when I realize that my milk supply has finally stopped and I am officially neither nursing nor pregnant for the first time in almost 13 years.

…when the whole day happens to the soundtrack of worship music mingled with demolition.

…when I notice that someone has turned the page on the calendar for me, and it’s April, and for maybe the first time ever, I wish Spring hadn’t come so quickly.