Monday, July 18, 2016

At the Still Center

{It has been way too long. Summer is so wonderful, such a necessary time of stepping back and soaking in and I need it, this break. Sharing a post I wrote back in the Spring and never posted, because it's still true -- and sending you all love from here.}




My dear friend gave me a ride to and from Girl's Night this week and, because it had been too long since we last had a private conversation, we spent the drive catching up. Questions about life and work and how are you, really? floated between us as the car splashed through springtime puddles on the warmest night of the year so far.

I shared the frustration I felt whenever I was asked about my husband's current job because yes, it was a relief he had one but for many reasons, no, we aren't out of crisis mode. Before I ever make it to the explanation point, the inquirer is already turning away, satisfied that this chapter has already been tied up neatly. Because that feels good to believe. No one likes an unresolved tale. We all want to hear the happy ending - even if it's not true. It's comforting. Comfortable.

Our difficulties ending would be nice. They haven't.

Thankful as we are that he has work, it is a 30 minute drive away with our one car - often longer during the evening commute. It also frankly cannot be a forever situation for other reasons, mostly financial. Our crisis isn't over. Every day, struggles still loom before us like a massive wave and, at best, we're just treading water.

She understood. "It's like saying the roof's fixed when you put up a tarp to keep the water out. It's a bandaid." Yeah. It's just like that. Things aren't fixed. Not by a long shot.

All that said, there's a curious joy that has found me in the past few weeks. My hard headed plodding of "just do the next right thing" has helped keep us buoyant in a way. We plan the kids' birthdays. We do school and the kids are doing so well. I revamp the chore chart and we seem to have found a really nice groove here. Rhythm and (loose) organization and setting things in their proper places when the bigger things of life seem to sway unpredictably is unbelievably comforting. I cling to the joy small things bring. Staying on top of laundry. Making beds. Daily prayers and read alouds and baking birthday cakes.

So we're not done. Our struggles are not fixed, secure, or ended. But at the still center there is still that spark of joy. It is a loving and gentle God that gives us the ability to find pleasure in small things.

The more I think of it, the more I realize that buoyancy may just be a spiritual gift, showered upon us mere mortals for such a time as this. Struggles and unknowns and upturned plans are the norm, not the exception in a life like ours. As our children grow and begin their own lives and we hold space for them, this truth will only multiply. Being able to float along may just be the key to thriving with joy. Not just for today, but for a lifetime.

So I keep counting the gifts because they keep being revealed to me. And although there's just a tarp over our heads shielding us from whatever unknowns are coming along next, we are safe at the still center. Warmed with a peace that passes all understanding.

A work in progress.


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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Accepting the Unknown



It's one of those hot, overcast summer days. The baby is down for a nap up in my bed. The big kids scattered here and there around the neighborhood and the littles went with my husband to pick up a pinata for a birthday celebration later on. I'm running the laundry (always) and cleaning up the kitchen for what feels like the umpteenth time today. I crack open the window above the sink, hoping for a little cross breeze.

Tomorrow my brother and his family move out of state for a medical fellowship, and just like that this blessed time is over. The time we will look back on with a special fondness. When our yards connected and our kids melded into one big pack, when we could stop in for coffee or borrow a cup of sugar. A lovely communal time that seemed like it would go on forever, even though we knew it wouldn't. It was something special, a good gift from our heavenly Father, and one we will never forget. As sad as it is to see them go and to start to navigate new changes, today all I have is gratitude...and hope.

Hope, because God does give us such good gifts. Such amazing things that stretch beyond our reasoning, things that we might not even know to ask for. My life has been sprinkled with these sparkling jewels of grace, pointing me toward a love that is so unfathomably deep, it's bottomless.

So many things, people, experiences, moments have come and gone, and I think I'm finally turning over a new leaf. For so many years, I feared the unknown. What if something bad happens? I wanted to know in advance, to prepare, to be ready to spring into action, to have a plan. What if something good happens? I didn't want to miss it, to be all set to savor and acknowledge and be all in. If I could have asked for anything, being all knowing may have been high on my list of desired traits.

 But these days, I'm seeing the wisdom God has in keeping us a little bit in the dark. Requiring us to trust Him to direct our steps. I think for a while I saw myself as kind of a co-director. Me and God, working this out together, a cooperative effort. But as these years tick on by and this life is woven one strand at a time, He's gently teaching me to relax my grip. Admit my fears, doubts and feeble human comprehension, and turn it over to Him instead.

It isn't easy. There are still those moments of sheer panic and white knuckling, those days when I feel so bogged down with the details that I can hardly stand. That's what happens when you fight the losing battle of control. You sacrifice your peace, your joy, your sanity.

God knows the desires of my heart. He knows my fears and failings, hopes and dreams better than I ever could. He loves me more than I love myself and His abundant life is just waiting for me, life a gift each morning. Because He knows it all, I don't need to. I can just live this day, this hour, these normal life moments as the mere mortal I am, trusting Him to direct the show.

Like a breeze cutting through the pressing humidity in the longest day of the year, it feels a little bit like freedom slicing right on through.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Building a Sensational Summer

                   


Summer Camp. Hot days at the lake. Dripping ice cream cones. Bike rides. S'mores. When you live in the Midwest, you may have a slight issue with idolizing summer. And who really can blame us? It's cold and nasty for so long that the 12 weeks of summer are that much more important. I tend to approach them anxiously, not wanting to be over-scheduled but also not wanting to miss out on what makes summer so special.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of summertime goals. Things I'd like to see happen on at least a weekly or biweekly basis. Something that gives the summer intention without being overly structured, giving ample time to the lazy boredom that is so necessary to spark some imaginative growth. Our bigger kids have camp and VBS, service project weeks and some other trips scheduled, so that fills things out nicely for them and also gives me a chance to focus on the little ones.

We have one car and my husband's job has a long-ish commute, making dropping him off and picking him up quite a commitment. This is the first summer I've had to work within those parameters and, to be honest, I haven't been very happy about it. When friends text to see if I can meet them at the park this afternoon, the answer is always going to be no. And that can be incredibly frustrating. While my natural inclination is to be as open and available to whatever whim comes our way, I can't operate that way this year. But with my hopes for the summer listed out, I can begin brainstorming ways to make them happen.

 This is what I came up with. What would you add?

Weekly:

Visit Water. This can be a pool or one of the millions of lakes we have or maybe even just a park with a good play stream or splash pad.

Visit a Park. I like parks especially with trails, usually nothing more than 2 miles. Hoping to do this after dinner during the week.

Go to the Library. I'm trying to get my kids to read for an hour a day. New material is a must.

Be creative. Tie dye. Finger paints. Messy things that can be done outside.

Play with friends. Inviting people over to play with us or meeting them out somewhere.

Biweekly:

Have a Backyard Bonfire. I love this as much as the kids.

Go on a date. Self explanatory.

Group Kid Activity. I'd like to take small groups of my kids out. Maybe just the big girls, or the oldest two/middles on some adventures. Thinking of canoeing/paddle boating or other things that are tough with little ones around.

Visit a Museum. For us this is usually the big outdoor museum nearby, but could also work with indoor options when it is extra hot or rainy.

Invite friends over for dinner. I'm not great at this, but I want to be better and summer is as good a time as any to work on hospitality.

With a little big of intention, building a sensational summer. Living this little life to the absolute fullest and being so grateful for every moment.





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