Friday, December 29, 2017

Clearing A Way



The wipers scrape hopefully across the windshield, dramatically flailing while I push the button, hard. Uh oh. I try it again, just to be sure. Again they spring to action, whipping wildly back and forth. Nada. Out of washer fluid. The dirty sludge sprayed on my windshield remains. "Can you even see what you're doing?!" My 12 year old daughter beside me squints. "Barely," I respond, teeth gritted.

******

It's been 6 long, scary, dark and desperate months since I last dared tap out words in this space. In that amount of time, I've watched my world change in such a way that I hardly recognize it, or myself. Each time I thought I'd reached rock bottom, bloodied fingers scraping seemingly immovable obstacles, more of life seemed to crumble.

I look back on these pages and remember the days of baking bread and blocking wool and warm afternoons in the sunshine pushing my babies on the swings. I remember the hard a bit softer, I'm sure, and the bright much shinier, but that is the nature of hindsight. Now I'm tossed into the world of searching for daycare, looking for Mama-friendly work, navigating the world of "real school" that I am woefully ignorant in and spending hours a week driving carpool. All of it is outside of my experience. All of it feels like some colossal mistake. So much is continuing to unfold in our lives, changing and challenging each one of us in ways we feel unprepared for.

Still, at the very center, a spark. A knowledge that leads to a choice. And a choice that leads to radical action.

This year, I know God is calling me to deeper gratitude, all encompassing faith, more complete reliance. This year, I know that beauty might be harder to spot but God is still in this, with me, each step of the way. Not my way, no, not at all. Not according to my plans or dreams or hopes, really. But His way - can I trust it's really best?

He is still at work, even here, even with me, even in this family. There isn't a moment, a challenge, a fear He doesn't hold; own. It's dark and it's cold and I'm afraid I've lost my way and my vision is blurred and I'm so far off course I could never possibly find my way back, but maybe that's the goal here? Never back. Always forward. Allowing Him to lead me through places I have never been, choosing to trust that He's got it, all of it. Setting aside my pride and my preconceived notions of what my life should look like, and letting Him lead instead.

It's really all I have left.

*****

Dinah leans over the hood of the car. "I think it goes there," she points. Together we fill it up, blowing our frigid fingers at intervals before slamming the hood shut and hopping in the car. Inside, she nods and again I press. Nothing. Again? No. Heart sinking with the thought that something might really be wrong, I lean my forehead on the icy cold steering wheel. "Maybe it just needs a few tries? Do it again," she says.

Once more, then. A sparkling spray and we're clear. And just like that, I can see where to go, what to do, and how to get there.

****

Some gratitude for my new life:

~Wonderful schools where my children are happy, learning and safe.

~A community of families who help them get there.

~Moments each day with each one of my precious people

~A family committed to supporting and helping when and where they can

~A flexible work situation

~Weekly worship, which feeds my soul

~A warm home, a working vehicle, all needs met

~Grace, forgiveness, redemption.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spark Light



Last week a friend of mine lost and buried a beloved daughter to her struggle with depression. There hasn't been a day since that they haven't been on my mind.

As a mother with a kid heading to high school in the fall, I am just now becoming acquainted with the idea that my little ones, they're growing up and away from me. Their struggles are no longer the sort that are played out in front of me, like when they were little and any heartache could be solved with a cuddle or nap. It can be tempting to think that "I'm fine" really means just that. But I know better.

I vividly remember my life as a teen. Despite being a happy kid in a wonderful family, I had my own bouts with anxiety and confusion. Emotions that seemed insurmountable at the time. I still have those moments today. It's natural and normal, but, like a toddler's tantrum, it requires a constructive response. A message that is consistent and true.

How many times have I walked through life assuming people in my life know how I feel about them without verbalizing it at all? How often have I, on the other side, just needed a simple reminder? Someone to notice. Someone to care.

As someone who is wired for affirmation, I've often felt embarrassed by my need for encouragement. As if requiring a reminder made me some monster egomaniac. I no longer believe that. People are made to be love and to receive love. And while there are a variety of ways that that plays out depending on temperament and personality, none is more virtuous than another. It all comes down to connection.

It's not enough to say I didn't know you needed that. We all need it. We all know it. We know that it isn't always enough to know intellectually that we are unconditionally loved. We need to hear it. To be reminded over and over and over again.

It seems overly simplistic. Stupidly so.

Be love. Spark light. Stop looking around for your mission field and remember that the people in your life right now, today? They are your purpose. Your challenge. Your responsibility. Be committed to that.

If you need help, find someone, anyone, tell them, ask for it. This struggle against darkness and pain is best fought with people on your side. We belong to each other.

Hey, you. You're a miracle, God breathed, made for love, unique and gifted, infused with purpose for glory and good. Your life matters. Your heart matters. Your struggles matter. Your quiet and desperate moments, your sparks of joy - they touch the world around you, even when you are so sure that no one sees.

You are too precious to be lost.




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Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Summer Family - 5 Daily Goals



Summer break is fast approaching. I'm already waking up to popsicle requests and the littles have taken to wearing bathing suits all day long. We can hardly contain our excitement at having the big kids home during the day again. There is new sand in the sandbox, a sprinkler set up. We're locked and loaded and ready to go for it.

Still, shifting seasons and learning new skills and lifestyle has me more than a little upside down. Just barely did we get into a groove with the school year and now it's nearly over. Facing down having 7 kids back in the house all day every day is always daunting, but adjusting back after time spent apart is sure to bring with it additional challenges. Despite our normal camps and weeks where this child or that is off on an adventure, we will have plenty of time here, altogether. With ages ranging from high school to toddler, thing are bound to be a bit chaotic. I need a plan.

I took some time to contemplate our family needs this season, pausing to evaluate personal goals, to craft an intentional vision. What do I need for my health - mental and physical - so I can be the best mom I can be? What do my children need, given their variety of stages?

I came up with five daily goals to give our days some shape and intention while also leaving lots of room for the breezy, lazy summer vacation we all need. Goals that are easily customizable and accessible for everyone to participate in, regardless of age. Some can be stacked, hitting the mark with more than one category - baking with mom, working with a friend, meditating during a workout - while others are more stand alone. The main idea is to keep moving forward, to make the most of our time together and to focus on the things that matter to us most.


Work. Help out at home. Volunteer. Find satisfaction through effort.

Rest. Unplug. Be bored. Close your eyes. Meditate. Nap. Pray.

Create. Build. Draw. Knit. Cook. Paint. Write.

Commune. Focus on relationships. Invite friends over. Prioritize one on one time. Family or solo devotions.

Move. Dance. Run, Stretch, Lift. Bike. Skate. Hike.

Grow. Learn something new. Read. Explore. Have conversations about faith, life, future.

There is bound to be plenty of time left over for fun at the pool, a metric ton of popsicles, staying up late to catch fireflies and more screen time than I would prefer. In short, a magical childhood summer. Which sounds just about right.


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