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.

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