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Living It

(I wrote this several months back. It’s funny how a few months can change you. Refine you. Teach you. Today, my girls don’t nap and I still wipe up crumbs and fold underwear. I rush out the back door several times throughout this day and coax our car’s engine to ignore the cold, while still trying to find a time to bare the Christmas tree…. But they smile over silly, little things, their daddy-given dimples lighting me up. And I feel it. Yes. This is it.)

 

I remember how tired I was. Newborn baby in the sling, resting against my chest, and the two-year-old running wild in the milk aisle. I can still feel my tight hand-grip on the grocery cart and how I wrestled, trying to keep both it and my out-of-reach daughter in line, while trying not to wake the babe. It was dreary cold out. I was worn thin.

 

My eyes met those of an elderly woman who seemed to be surveying us in that milk aisle. I was too frazzled to make small talk.

 

But do you know what she had the gall to come up and say to me?

 

“Honey, enjoy every minute. This is the best time of your life.”

 

Now I’m not usually the type of girl who gets riled very easily. But just then, I really wanted to screech, “How can you be so cruel to say that me right now? Don’t you know I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks? That my body is literally worn out? That my husband and I have barely had time to look each other in the eyes?! That I’m here in the milk aisle just trying survive this grocery trip and you say these are the best moments of my life?!?!” I don’t even remember what I actually said to the woman, but I was too tired to scream, so instead, I muffled my soul’s unbelief and gave the typical Southern smile and probably said something about how, yeah, I was trying to savor the moments.

 

To be honest, the woman’s words stuck like unwanted syrup on the outside of a glass syrup bottle, and until recently, still conjured up a twinge of panic whenever they surfaced to mind.

 

What if she’s right? This??? This could be the best time of my life?

 

Because my days are merely filled with wiping bottoms and folding underwear, sweeping floors and serving PB and J’s on Winnie-the-Pooh plates.

 

But recently, I picked up Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart. Whether or not you side with her husband in his politics, it is hard for anyone to deny that the former first lady has lived an intriguing life . . . doing things, visiting places, meeting world leaders and attending spectacular events that few of us will ever have the opportunity to experience.

 

And do you know what she wrote? After serving as the First Lady of the United States of America for two terms and having lived probably the most exciting time of her life, she reminisces on the first few months of parenting their twin girls:

Every morning before dawn, George would get up to make the coffee, as he had done from the start of our marriage; then he would go get the girls and carry them into our bed. We’d each hold a baby and drink our coffee while they drank their bottles, with the morning news droning quietly in the background. The start of the day was reserved for just the four of us. Those early mornings were some of the sweetest times in our lives.

 

My breath catches as I read her words.

 

That’s what I am living. Feeding hungry little tummies. Sipping coffee. Living side-by-side with the man I love. The words of the Wal-Mart lady wash over me and I realize her words just may be true.

 

And I wonder.

 

What if I lived every moment like it just might be the ______-est moment of my life?

 

Maybe every moment in our lives is *THE* something. The sweetest time. The busiest time. The most exciting time. The most difficult time. The craziest vacation. The most intimate Christmas. The stupidest recipe mistake. The wisest parenting moment. The tastiest dinner. The most hilarious date. The funniest Monday.

How will I embrace it?

Hope and Stay

Sometimes discontent and discouragement come barging in through all your long-closed (or so you thought), barricaded doors and they tear you down and they beat you up and your bruises affect the way you love. And you wonder how these not-so-very-nice guests ever came in at all til you realize that you secretly invited them in. And of course, they eagerly and voraciously took you up on your whispered invitation.

 

Light the candles, wipe the counters, fill up every corner of your house with vicarious worship via Pandora. Some days you have to fight the discontent, the ugly, ungrateful, peering-over-the-fence heart with every dusty weapon you can possibly pull out from your arsenal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

It can’t go on like this. It has to stop.

 

Just to be still in all He’s given. In all He’s giving. In all this right-here, around-me beauty.

#729 matches aflame

#730 flickering light, reflecting in the dirty panes

#731 mulled cider, pumpkin spice

#732 golden leaf, fluttering in the cold wind, clinging to the life it knows

#733 letting go

#734 The solid Rock on which I can stand

#735 my neediness and how He can fill it, if I just wait and seek

#736 two little girls pretend-fighting over whose mama I am

#737 clean tubs

#738 sweet, though unnecessary, thank-you notes

#739 truth-filled lyrics

#740 not getting everything I want, when I want it

#741 waiting for his leading

#742 that He knows how to live the in-between

#743 new words

#744 honesty and forgiveness

#745 a reflection, realizing what I’ve been

#746 a Helper, to restore

#747 surrounded family

#748 learning to truly love

#749 that I have One I can follow

Why I Thought I’d Failed the Counting

If you’re a regular around here, you know that my Multitude Mondays have been a little . . . ummm . . . lacking. I haven’t even been able to put my finger on why, but I just. couldn’t. do. it. I couldn’t formally count. I’ve found little things to be oh, so thankful for over this course of thanking-silence, but I just couldn’t come to this space and actually number them one by one. I thought I had failed the counting.

 

Looking back over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I’d failed. But it WAS that I was being ungrateful. While there have been AMAZING blessings in our lives over the last few months (and I’ve been extremely thankful for those), I was silently resentful toward God because of my perception that He’s been holding out on me. You see there’s something I’ve wanted for a long, long time.

 

Our own home. You’ve heard me speak of it before.  This quest to stop renting, to buy our own house, one where we could settle and make our own home . . . life . . . became my greatest want. I lived and breathed it.

 

I could think of hardly anything else. And although, yes, I can’t deny it, I’ve grown weary of our, ahem, vintage bathrooms and linoleum parquet, it hasn’t been so much the house that I’ve been so desperate for. It was the feeling of certainty. The assurance that we were free to plant good, solid, long-reaching family roots. Yes, for me, but even more so for our daughters.

 

And while I knew in my head that a house could never provide true security or certainty, inside my heart was pinned to the floor with the suffocating, relentless, false weight that we had to have this house to make us a truly rooted family.

 

We’ve been working toward it. We’ve looked at enough houses that I feel pretty bad for our realtor. 🙂 I have every zip code in the area memorized. If you showed me a picture of a house anywhere in our hometown (in our price range), I could probably quote you the listing price (Isn’t that pathetic?! I’m thinking maybe I should become a realtor?). But we just weren’t finding the one.

 

Then, Jonathan and I jointly decided to make a large family purchase and much of our savings needed to be put toward it. We decided this together. I watched him write the check.

 

But, I grieved. Because I knew, this was putting our home on hold. Just on hold, mind you. I guess a friend was right in dubbing it the “death of a vision” because for a few days, I was in tears. I had a hard time functioning.

 

But I am so thankful. That God wrestled me to the ground and one by one, released my fingers’ death grip on my self-made idol. He pulled my hip and rescued me from my false footing…. And in pleading with him to “bless me” with what I thought I wanted or needed to provide our security, He blessed me with something else . . .

 

Release from a misplaced passion.

 

A freeing demolition of my self-elevated idol.

 

Because it was an idol. When He didn’t seem to be giving me what I wanted, or thought we needed, I doubted His goodness. Even more than doubting His goodness, I doubted His good work in me. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, or if He wasn’t pleased with me or if I didn’t deserve a home.

 

Writing this even now feels so silly. So American. So often, I’ve reminisced over shacks I’ve touched in Peru. Dirt floors. Children drinking water in which I could see things floating. Women begging on street corners, holding borrowed babies, hoping to make a dollar or two. And here I’ve been in a nice home, in truly the best neighborhood I could ever imagine, and in a beautiful community — all gifts the Lord has freely given me — and I’ve wanted to throw it all away.

 

For something I could call mine.

 

Do I still want that house? You bet. But in the meantime, He’s teaching me to trust Him. To be content, right where He has me. To be used. Right. where. He. has. me. And He gently opens my eyes to the truth that I can’t be truly thankful for the “smaller” gifts He gives . . . the birds chirping in the trees, little pitter-pats down our long hallway, mocha frappuccinnos . . . if I’m also resentful that He hasn’t given me something greater. And neither can I be truly thankful for the greater gifts, if I’m flippant in my gratefulness for the smaller. He says to give thanks in everything. Yes, and now I know why. Because there is no distinction in what He’s given or what He’s not given. He gives good gifts. And what He withholds is also His goodness.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I have tasted Him. In this refuge.

 

Again . . . taking up the count . . .

#614 His withholdings.

#615 Because He is a good Father and knows how to give good gifts to His children.

#616 What He gives is good.

#617 What He doesn’t give is good.

#618 That He rescues me from myself.

#619 That He loves, even me.

 

Giving thanks in all

The Now Beauty

Earlier this week, I write of letting go and cradling close.

 

The next day, I take a pen in my hand and write out my plans for our future. A list of ideas, of pros and cons. The list is made, I lay down the pen and nod my head in satisfaction. I text my husband and let him know I have things on my mind.

 

I immediately regret it. I feel like a hypocrite.

 

I am hypocrite. My husband hears me talk repeatedly this week of being broken. Of God breaking me. I wrote of it. And already I am back to my not-so-old ways.

 

It’s really not funny . . . but is sort of is. I can’t help but smile ironically at my human ways. That I could so quickly forget that I laid my will to rest.

 

But I leave the list on the dining room table, proud to show it to the man who lives life with me, thinking he might like my thoughts anyway. I go back later to wipe off bread crumbs and gather crayons and little-girl-drawings. It’s then that I laugh . . . sheepish.

 

 

The Abundant-Life-Giver sends a gentle message so obvious, that I simply have to stop and fully take it in. I bought that pen on a whim just last week. I had picked up birthday cards on the way to a party and grabbed a pen in the checkout, just to have something to write with in the car. I had never even read its words.

 

He keeps me on path. And I see, ah yes. The daily dying. The daily letting go. The daily opening of my clenched hands that He may fill them with whatever He so desires. That I may abundantly live in the present. It is not a simple, one-time sort of thing.

 

When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story. Paul tells us to ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2). Thanksgiving helps us to be grace-centered, seeing all of life as a gift. It looks at how God’s past blessings impact our lives. Watchfulness alerts us to the unfolding drama in the present. It looks for God’s present working as it unfolds into future grace.”

~Taken from A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. “Future Grace” is John Piper’s language.

 

I am learning to be watchful. To look for what He is doing in the seeming everyday moments.

 

 

I look for Him in the beauty of now.

 

 

This Present Grace.

 

 

Tucked in the Cleft

I have hinted in previous posts about our family’s current state of limbo. I am not trying to be vague, but rather, quiet, as we seek the Lord for our lives, in basically, every aspect of our lives. We sense Him leading, calling us out of something, to something, but we don’t know where, or how, or what.

 

I’m sure you’ve been there too? Personally, I feel a bit like we’re treading water in the middle of a huge lake and can’t see what direction to swim because of the dense, dark fog. For all we know, we could be right next to the shoreline and not even know it. It feels like He is purposefully keeping us in the middle of the lake. Right now? He’s apparently calling us to wait. And I know He can be trusted and that He has a plan, but honestly, I’m ready for the fog to lift, or a confirmed direction to begin some progressive strokes.

 

I needed to hear these words again today, which I heard here at (in)courage (by Ann Voskamp):

 

Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in the cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent…. But maybe this is true reality: It is in the dark that God is passing by…. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look.

Then we look back and see His back.


 

 

Oh, I needed these words today. Because isn’t this just what I asked of Him? That He would not send us somewhere that He has not already gone before?

 

May we be in His shadow.

Like Moses,

I want to see His back.

Maybe Now

I remember how tired I was. Newborn baby in the sling, resting against my chest, and the two-year-old running wild in the milk aisle. I can still feel my tight hand-grip on the grocery cart and how I wrestled, trying to keep both it and my out-of-reach daughter in line, while trying not to wake the babe. It was dreary cold out. I was worn thin.

 

My eyes met those of an elderly woman who seemed to be surveying us in that milk aisle. I was too frazzled to make small talk.

 

But do you know what she had the gall to come up and say to me?

“Honey, enjoy every minute. This is the best time of your life.”

 

Now I’m not usually the type of girl who gets riled very easily. But just then, I really wanted to screech, “How can you be so cruel to say that me right now? Don’t you know I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks? That my body is literally worn out? That my husband and I have barely had time to look each other in the eyes?! That I’m here in the milk aisle just trying survive this grocery trip and you say these are the best moments of my life?!?!” I don’t even remember what I actually said to the woman, but I was too tired to scream, so instead, I muffled my soul’s unbelief and gave the typical Southern smile and probably said something about how, yeah, I was trying to savor the moments.

 

To be honest, the woman’s words stuck like unwanted syrup on the outside of a glass syrup bottle, and until recently, still conjured up a twinge of panic whenever they surfaced to mind.

 

What if she’s right? This??? This could be the best time of my life?

 

Because my days are merely filled with wiping bottoms and folding underwear, sweeping floors and serving PB and J’s on Winnie the Pooh plates.

 

But recently, I picked up Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart. Whether or not you side with her husband in his politics, it is hard for anyone to deny that the former first lady has lived an intriguing life . . . doing things, visiting places, meeting world leaders and attending spectacular events that few of us will ever have the opportunity to experience.

 

And do you know what she wrote? After serving as the First Lady of the United States of America for two terms and having lived probably the most exciting time of her life, she reminisces on the first few months of parenting their twin girls:

 

Every morning before dawn, George would get up to make the coffee, as he had done from the start of our marriage; then he would go get the girls and carry them into our bed. We’d each hold a baby and drink our coffee while they drank their bottles, with the morning news droning quietly in the background. The start of the day was reserved for just the four of us. Those early mornings were some of the sweetest times in our lives.

 

My breath catches as I read her words.

 

That’s what I am living. Feeding hungry little tummies. Sipping coffee. Living side-by-side with the man I love. The words of the Wal-Mart lady wash over me and I realize her words just may be true.

 

And I wonder.

 

What if I lived every moment like it just might be the ______-est moment of my life?

 

Maybe every moment in our lives is *THE* something. The sweetest time. The busiest time. The most exciting time. The most difficult time. The craziest vacation. The most intimate Christmas. The stupidest recipe mistake. The wisest parenting moment. The tastiest dinner. The most hilarious date. The funniest Monday.

 

How will I embrace it?

 

Taking the time to count those little moments that make up all of *my* time, my story, my one, all-or-nothing chance at life on this earth….

 

#207 a room of sharing mamas and learning mamas-to-be, an honor to sit, listen, watch and pray

#208 that He is Sovereign – even when I don’t understand His plan in the giving and taking

#209 grace in the seeing, the seeking help, the beginning of healing

#210 a small affirmation

#211 sisters-in-law and sisters-in-law-to-be . . . little pieces of hearts known

#212 a brother’s love, brimming beneath the calm surface

#213 drawings, drawings, drawings

#214 the little one’s grasp of a crayon

#215 baby friendships blossoming from their mamas’ years’ worth of shared phone calls, get-togethers, funerals, weddings and pregnancies

#216 spontaneous sister-dates

#217 that we were made to cleave

#218 flexibility and her learning

#219 the missing of the one I love on a Monday

#220 that he misses me too

#221 hearing him play with her and watching her love tank fill

#222 that heart-stopping moment that she grabbed my face just to kiss me

#223 a shared journey

#224 that every moment is full of possibility

#225 that maybe, just maybe, I could right now be living the very best time of my life

 

 

Let me embrace. Let me anticipate. Let me find.

He is here.

In this moment.

And the next.

 

 

Joining the gift-thankers

Joy in the Nesting

Anyone who may be reading this will probably laugh at me, but I *finally* feel like the post-holiday, can’t-find-my-groove slump is actually dissipating. January’s been a month of snowstorms and sickness so any sense of normalcy has been nearly non-existent.

 

I’m not complaining (today). I promise. 🙂 Just stating a fact. I’m just reveling in the refreshing feeling of climbing out of the rubble and brushing the dust off my shoulders.

 

So, today is just a day of trying to be faithful in the little things. Trying to love and care for a home that is not our own while learning that any house where we’re all together *is* our home. Today, I’m discovering wide-eyed wonder over things like the superpowers of a Magic Eraser or actually seeing the bottom of our clothes’ hamper. Or even the authority my voice can carry (while inwardly shaking in my boots) over a HUGE, bear-like, neighborhood dog who decided to terrorize the girls and me while we were innocently trying to enjoy today’s beautiful, spring-like weather. 🙂

 

While half the house is momentarily bright and shiny clean, the other half still needs desperate tending. But I’m steadily tidying our little nest, while trying to keep the girls feeling loved and nestled under my wings. I know that come Monday, the house will already need re-mopping and de-cluttering, but right now, I’m savoring the joy of gearing up for another weekend of us all being together and spending time with friends.

 

And the fact that I’m savoring the joy? That’s pure grace.

 

Pure grace.

 

My prayer for you and me today…

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

Eyes Shining

Another snow day here in the southern state of Georgia. The second of its kind in two weeks! Being a girl with a mix of Floridian, Georgian and Tennessean blood, I am thoroughly enjoying all of the breathtaking amounts of snow we’ve been getting here lately!

 

Our small corner of the world is overlayed with a veil of white, and all the week’s worth of unearthed  what-ifs – past, present and future – are hushed.

 

Like the comfort of a warm blanket and a cozy fire on a day splashed all white, the knowledge that His goodness covers all, brings peace to the past, and quiet-calm for the future.

 

No more words.

 

Like a little girl – hands clasped, eyes shining – I can only take in the beauty of all He has done and all He is making us….

 

Just thanks:

#132 hot water on sore muscles

#133 the grace-filled end of babyhood

#134 coupon-savings . . . however small

#135 dinner candles lit for hot dogs and mac n’ cheese =D

#136 little, baby-friends

#137 words of encouragement via a text

#138 the daily gathering of a budding artist’s watercolors and crayon drawings

#139 a call to nestle

#140 watching grown brothers enjoy one another’s company

#141 a spontaneous date and a babysitter’s willingness at the last-minute

#142 that I get to be his wife

#143 A stone church echoing, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood

#144 friends – back together after a holiday hiatus

#145 that I see him coming alive

#146 hot cocoa together

#147 9 inches of  snowflake upon snowflake!

Joining the Gratitude Community….

Maybe the Way to Rewrite Your Past, is to Simply Turn the Page

2011. Twen-ty-e-lev-en. I like the way it slips off the tongue, like a smooth wine suspends in the mouth. I think I’m going to like this year. At least, I have an unexplained, insistent hope for it.

 

After certain little girls had eyelashes to cheek, their little chests bobbing softly in the night, the hubby and I had one of those talks that will live on in the memory. One of those talks where the gate of honesty is unlatched and its hinges rotate to wide-open. We talked of dreams, some new, some that have been buried deep, assumed to be impossible. We talked of our life story and how we wish we could go back and rewrite so many of its chapters. We talked a lot about  “what-ifs”. What if this hadn’t happened, or what if we had made this decision, or what if so-and-so hadn’t done such-and-such, or what if the timing had been just a tad different, or what if, what if, what if?

 

I’m not really sure what to do with the what-ifs.

 

I don’t think you can stash them away in hopes that they’ll be forgotten. I think they’d always lurk at your door and barge in when least invited.

 

I think that maybe we have to look them straight in the face. Unblinkingly. And we either have to come to grips with the fact that things happened a certain way, or we have to ask God to redeem them through us. Or maybe both?

 

We don’t have the power to change the past, but we do have the power to change the present and the future. And even more than that, we know One who either wrote our past to lead up to a certain future, or He allowed our past and is in the process of working it out for good. Either way, I refuse to let the what-ifs paralyze us.

 

And while I struggle in understanding the ideas of free will verses God-ordained-destiny and wondering how they package up -nicely and neatly – I know that I can trust Him. As C.S. Lewis said about Aslan, God is not always safe. He does not always allow things to be as I would wish them to be. But, he is good. And I believe that with all my heart.

 

Maybe we need to stop dwelling on the what-ifs of the past, and begin thinking about the what-ifs of the present.

 

What if God is calling us to do this? What if God wants us to do that? What if He’s paving the way for this?

 

What if????

 

And our eyes open wide as the what-ifs of the past give way to new roads for our future.

 

So, as 2011 begins, I am more thankful than ever for my life. And I don’t just mean my living and breathing and moving body and mind. I mean that I am thankful for the story He is writing and that I am a part of it. And so are you, my friend.

 

So are you.

 

Fresh thanks….

#115 no fear in honesty with him or from him

#116 awakened dreams at the beginning of a new year

#117 while viewing Tangled at the theater, at the part where Rapunzel escapes the tower for the first time, hearing Firefly  frantically and loudly say , “But her mama said ‘no’!” =D

#118 a little girl asleep in their daddy’s arms

#119 laughing with girlfriends

#120 brand new, fluffy, blue and white pillows

#121 one last hurrah

#122  falling in love with where we are

#123 bath-crayon drawings

#124 Dove’s love for bears

#125 a rock garden of Christmas lights

#126 time alone

#127 that I miss seeing the red buckets

#128 lingering, simply to cuddle

#129 fresh motivation

#130 that there is One who knows our what-ifs, past and present

#131 that He closes doors and opens windows

Hiding

I’ve found myself counting down the days to Mondays. Every day last week, I was wishing it was Monday so that I could list my thanks!

 

But Monday came today and I was grumpy and weary and didn’t feel like giving thanks. Snow fell here in the South yesterday, and all is calm and everyone is bundled indoors. And while the snow days usually bring a sense of peace and stillness to this crazy heart of mine, it only brought discontentment, weariness and restlessness today. In efforts to save my sanity, a brown Amazon box was opened and one of the girls’ Christmas gifts made it’s debut 12 days early. I now sit staring at a Megaland tent, complete with tunnels, doorways, 50 balls, all in primary colors, taking up my living room space. It’s much bigger than I ever dreamed it’d be!

 

And today I just wanted to go sit in the middle of that tent and hide for a bit. To still this weariness and the “everything is meaningless” mentality that crept in with the bitter December wind.

 

Because why should I keep washing clothes, and sweeping crumbs, and chasing away the same old insecurities, and fighting the same ol’ marriage battles, when they just keep piling right on in on top of me?

 

But there is a God who brings life to the ends of us. And the strivings we try to keep safely hidden in our own quarantined spaces, He does not leave alone. He quietly opens the flap and motions us toward real shelter under His wings. He breathes warmth onto our frozen cloaks of pretense and painful, but healthy, growth begins to sprout.

 

He holds my hand and helps me give thanks:

 

#48 new baby words

 

#49 a houseful of the effects of life with a family!

 

#50 early Christmas!

 

#51 a beautiful washer and dryer that someone just gave to us

 

#52 fresh snow

 

#53 down-feather

 

#54 a shared dinner with friends

 

#55 a beautiful Christmas concert

 

#56 greenery and red bows lacing the music

 

#57 an impromptu shopping trip

 

#58 a friend who cries at the drop of a hat =D

 

#59 homemade pizza

 

#60 movie night on the pullout couch

 

#61 Monday kept on the mind

 

#62 that he loves me and is still glad he married me, despite myself

 

#63 life-giving words about a day that occurred six years ago

 

#64 a love that will not let me go

 

And just like that, the burdens are lifting. =D