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Thoughts from a Girl in the Woods

We pull into the driveway after a busy day right in the middle of a hectic few weeks. Our yard looks like a jungle. I sigh, somewhat despairingly, somewhat longingly,

“I have got to spend some time in our yard,” I say.

Firefly pipes right up.

“So you can get a breath, Mama?”

I smile, a bit startled at her astuteness, realizing that yes, subconsciously, that is what I wanted. Just to catch a breath.

Yes,” I reply. “A very, deep breath.”

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The wildlife in my backyard does not encroach upon my habitat, but we sit right in the middle of theirs. An intimidating, Tennessee version of a rainforest, lives just off our deck. We stand at the windows and watch the deer graze. Their ears perk at our murmuring and we are the ones behind the glass and they observe us like we are the tourist attraction. Today, the butterflies, flutter and float, sipping from the second butterfly bush blooms of the summer. The birds finally discover that their long-deserted birdhouse is once again filled with seed and they eat and flit, excited, I think, to tell their friends. I can hear the birds’ grapevine for myself, the trees full of extra chirping and whistling. I linger outside, just wanting to soak in all the life.

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And the sweet hustle and bustle of life being given more life.Image

I realize that my daughter is right: life does beg for more life in one form or another. When God created each living thing on this earth by His spoken word, it was good. When He actually breathed His life into the nose of Adam, His very breath was inhaled by human lungs, forever to be breathed in and out, in and out. And when we are most exhaled, the most drained, the most fatigued, whether by responsibility or relationship, what we are most craving is more life. Fresh breath to inhale. And then to exhale.

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When my children are most driving me crazy and when I most want my own space and most want them just to please be quiet, what I’m really wanting is perfect, tidy relationship. What they are usually wanting, is simply more of me.

More life.

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Perhaps it is the same in most relationships. When relationship seems most dead and most impeded by whatever, and we most want to walk away, maybe what we’re most desiring is just the strength for someone to enter in. To breathe life or to have life breathed into us.

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Maybe it’s never too late. Maybe God gives us second summer blooms, or seed in our deserted birdhouses. Maybe where we thought no life was, there’s still a space for possibility. Maybe we just need to revisit.

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Maybe we’ll find something there….

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Processing Freedom and Grace

I don’t write this post for any sympathy or empathetic comments. I write it because I know I’m not alone and maybe you and I can process together??

 

It’s been one of those kind of weeks. The kind where you’re just left depleted and you feel there’s nothing left to give. Your very soul is raw and sore . . . the kind of sore you’d imagine from a deep surgical incision. You’ve received somewhat alarming news, your toddler just doesn’t *get* how to pee in the potty and you’ve cleaned carpets and sofas and several pairs of underwear a day. You get your feelings deeply hurt in a creep-up-on-you sort of way and you feel like the doormat whose “Welcome” was stomped on the way through the door. Your life feels like it’s been hijacked and how do you get off this plane ride and regain control? Where do your boundaries lie, and more importantly, where do your *loyalties* lie and how much do you push yourself to keep on giving, or how do you find the strength to just say, “no” ?

 

Familiar words seep through and begin to fill:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Oh. Oh yeah. Just pray. So I do.

 

I sit Dove-turned-Pixie on the bathroom counter and cut little toenails straight across. I knock glass and it falls, straight into the sink, shattering open. It’s my favorite perfume and it all washes right down the same drain where I spit my toothpaste. I want to cry. Perfume’s expensive and this one in particular was a Christmas present and I can’t believe it was me and not two-year-old Pixie who breaks the bottle.

 

The irony is not lost on me. The perfume’s name is Amazing Grace.  I walk into the bathroom a few minutes later and I can smell its sweetness, resting in the air. But not because I released it slowly, spritzing it on my neck and wrists. It was violated. Violently spilled down porcelain and now it’s gone.

 

And I realize, I’ve been literally shattering myself down the drain, trying to be that Grace. I try hard to be the bottle itself. I try to give it all away til there’s nothing left in me to give and I feel emptied way too fast. I know this is not a rare feeling. I think it’s one of Woman’s most beautiful strengths and one of her strongest vices – trying to be all and fill all and love all.

No one else has depleted me. I’ve depleted myself. There’s only One who has already violently poured down Grace – and rather than wasted disaster, it was perfect rescue. The rest of us, we’re finite, and grace has to first be poured on us before we can share it with anyone else. I can only bestow little grace-spritzes from the Source. It seems obvious, but how hard I, Woman, fight it:

 

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

 

 

I sniff the remaining scent of Amazing Grace and I shed a few tears. Not because of the lost perfume (well, okay, yes, mostly because of the perfume), but because He gently shows me that Freedom does not come from complete self-sacrifice or giving your life away to every person’s needs. There *is* joy and freedom in those things, if we’re doing those things for all the right reasons, but otherwise we’re imprisoning ourselves to everyone’s whims.

 

No, freedom comes from allowing Him to be the Grace toward all we love. And if we’re lucky, we get to spritz some grace too.

Suddenly

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I feel like a different person. Maybe it’s the (almost) summer weather. Maybe it’s the new house. Maybe it’s God working on me. Maybe it’s all of the above. But suddenly, my kids are taking naps at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and bedtimes, naturally, have been pushed back until 9:30 or (gasp!!!!) 10 and I don’t. care. In fact, I’m thrilled. All of a sudden, I’m realizing that I’ve been trying to fit my kids into my own ideal schedule for the day, and we were always *fighting* to make that schedule actually happen.

 

“C’mon, kids! Chop, chop! Time for lunch! Time for naps. And I don’t care that you just woke up from a nap 3 hours ago, it’s 8:00 and it’s time for bed! Spit spot!”

 

Yep. That was me. And I’m not really sure why. And yes, they’re up later in the evenings now, but they’re actually going to sleep when they’re tucked into bed and I’m not all stressed out that they’re still fidgeting in their beds while the hubby and I are trying to catch our latest flick on Netflix. And instead, they’re *sleeping* in in the mornings. I’m actually getting a shower in the mornings, and working in the yard and even sometimes getting a “quiet” time in before the stairs ever even creak with little, sleeper-pajama’d feet. In the evenings, when I would have normally been “forcing” her to sleep, Firefly now rides her new bike as her buzzing namesakes blink around her.

 

Suddenly, I feel much more in tune with what we need and not with what I thought I wanted us to need. And yes, we’re still busy and there are still chores and obligations and responsibilities. But in the midst, I feel my heart yearning and I go with it. I play in the dirt and clean out flowerbeds and actually revel in earthworms and bumblebees. I need a really deep, afternoon breath and I stop in front of my picture windows and just stand in the stillness. A butterfly flits by and sips. The majestic, spotted hawk glides on the wind, wings beating strong through the trees. And all of a sudden, I realize that I’m drinking small sips of satisfaction in my God again.

What They’re Teaching Me

I listen to my girls, in the other room, unwinding from a busy day of play and readying for another night of dreams. I sit in the room next to theirs. Sit in awe and thankfulness, wondering how two such little people teach me so much about life. About myself. About God.

 

They teach me just how human I am. And how this girl who always thought she was so laid-back, so forgiving, so patient, is really just one wrong word or wrong move away from a few more-than-snappy words. They also teach me just how vulnerable my heart is in love and just how easily something happening to those I love would completely shatter my heart. Yes, they stretch my patience limits, but they also enlarge my love with their every growth spurt, new word, or new display of personality.

 

They teach me that one moment of fun and togetherness, and just loving one another’s company, is more important than all the tasks and to-do lists I could write and check off in a lifetime.

They teach me that it doesn’t matter how small you are or how big or vast your journey or surroundings are. Just explore and enjoy and know that all is well in God’s hands. Fear has no place  in the adventuring seeker. Just trust in Him and everything He’s given, opened wide before you.

 

 

They teach me that you never know what you might have inadvertently left behind you, just might become someone’s greatest heart treasure.

 

 

And searching for long-lost provisions, with hands full of questions, underneath what might be considered traditional boundaries is more than okay in the presence of the Father of all surety.

 

 

And running.

 

Just running – headlong into what you once feared because it was unknown. You might just find that it is above your fears, above all you thought scary in its unfamiliarity, might just be what draws your full spectrum of life together. And there, hanging in the balance of the unknown, under the Light Constant, what was invisible becomes visible.

 

So, I try. Just to be a little child.

Loving Love Himself

How to love Him?

 

How to truly love Him?

 

I feel I can’t love Him apart from what He’s done for me. I love Him because of His grace toward me. I love Him because He rescues me. I love Him because He makes me whole. I love Him because of His goodness to me. His provision. His redemptive power.

 

But how do I love Him for just being Him? Can I love Him apart from myself?

 

I feel defeated. Because how can I give my life to a God as a returning gift for what He’s done, when I’m really just hoping (and knowing) that He’ll give me more life? (Luke 6:38) It all feels so selfish.

 

How do I, just a Georgian housewife, who cooks in the kitchen in her bare feet and spins the washer for another round, and empties out the sink only for it to be filled again, how does little me love a God like Him? I try to picture Him. The God who spoke and flung the stars on their ebony backdrop and spun red-hot planets like tops on a table and raised up sunken mountains in the waters deep and dotted this whirling globe with teeming life? I picture Him then and He feels so utterly majestic, so awe-inspiringly powerful and I know that I could never come close to a God like that. How do you love Someone who is so completely Other?

 

And then I picture Him. That God. Coming to a slobber-smeared, dirty manger, surrounded by the aroma of hay. His only sound, a whimper. I picture Him beckoning little children onto His lap and telling stories to those gathered round and that aura of peace and wonder that surely must have infused the very air around Him. How He came to rescue anyone who wants to be rescued and I know. I could love a Man like that.

 

But how do I love Him just because He is? And I think . . . “If I was just a better Christian….” But it doesn’t matter what gaps are left to fill, what “If I was justs” need to be met, when the I AM is completing you. Does He not come, not only to bridge the gap to righteousness, but to bridge every. single. gap? Maybe, if God is love, and we want to love that God who’s love, maybe, just maybe, true love has already begun its work. And in His time, He’s transforming us . . . us made in His image . . . and maybe someday He’ll equate our names with Love too. And maybe then, when we are truly one with Love Himself, the fullness of that love will entirely expunge any thought of how much we want to love Him. Because love will have finally made its match and there will be no give and take. Just Love in all its Completeness.

 

But it will all be because of Him and His work in us.

So I ask myself again,

How do I love a God like Him?

Whimsy Prayers and Fleet-Footed Answers

There have been times in my life, really the majority of my life, where money was tight. I grew up the oldest of eight children, so you can imagine that I grew up on hand-me-downs and learned not to ask for much. But He still always provided through our hard-working father and through people who truly loved our larger-than-average family and I never wanted for necessities. I grew up and Jonathan and I walked down the aisle, arrived home all giddy from our honeymoon and suddenly panicked because we thought we didn’t have anything left in our newly joined bank account. We thanked God as we found $500 automatically deposited from my one-week-behind nursing paycheck. Our first week home, together, and we breathed thanks to the Provider of all things.

 

Then we were DINKS. You know? Dual Income, No Kids. So, we went to the movies a lot and ate out way too often. But 2 years passed, and oops, we were going to have a baby! We saved, saved, saved every penny we could so that I could stay home with our baby girl when she arrived. She came and I stayed home and we survived on one income while simultaneously trying to become debt-free (that ‘s a whole other story!). We didn’t buy things like fabric softener or extra snacks. We stayed home from the movies and my daughter wore wonderful hand-me-downs (I’ll *always* love hand-me-downs!). I learned as a fairly new wife and mother that there are a lot of things we think that we need to run a household, but really don’t. But now, our season has changed and God has provided. Now the fabric softener makes it into our grocery cart, but still rarely actually goes in with wash. 🙂

 

Before, there were things I thought we needed, but learned we didn’t. Now there are things we don’t need, but have anyway.

 

A girl can get lazy in asking her Provider to provide when He’s already providing more than she’s used to.

But I’m about to dare you.

Low on our priority list of “needs” has been a children’s table for our girls.  With two little budding artists and no current kitchen table, the only place the girls have had to draw is at the dining room table (which the littlest one has a tendency to crawl on top of -gulp-), or the kitchen floor (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, a linoleum parquet and creates little rub-on indentions into their artwork -grin-).  So the girls are often in the dining room, eating or drawing alone, while I’ve gone about making the morning coffee or unloading the dishwasher. Either that, or their guilt-ridden mother has placed two little, good-natured girls in front of their breakfasts and they’ve eaten their cheerios off the kitchen floor (Out of a bowl, out of a bowl!) .  So, for awhile now, I’ve been on a rather low-key hunt for a children’s table, but I just hadn’t found a good price on one and with each morning that passed, I was a little bit saddened that my children were left eating in the other room.

(Side note: Do you really think the girls cared about this?!)

Could I just have gone out and bought a table? Sure! But as I’m sure you know, there are lots of purchases in this young-parenting season of life and a children’s table was pretty much at the bottom of my priority list.

But one day I just casually told God that I’d really like to find a table for the girls. Would He help me find one? Of course, my caveat slipped in and I added something about how, of course, He knows what we truly need, so you know. Whatever. 🙂

Yesterday, one of the young neighbor girls knocked at our front door. We greeted each other with smiles and she said,

“My mom and I were just wondering if you could use a little table for your girls? I’ve outgrown mine and we can’t find a place for it in the house and we just thought your girls might be able to use it.”

You better believe I snatched that table right up! And I can’t tell you how THANKFUL I am for that little table. Yes, because now we have a nice little nook for the girls to eat and draw, but even more because it was simply God’s gift to me. How often do I not ask Him for things simply because I can just go out and do it, buy it, or manage it myself?

But I’ve asked for things on whims and He whizzes right in and in His non-fumbling way, just gives. 

There are some really large things looming in my life and I’ve been knocking on His door about them for quite some time. It is easy to grow weary. Apathetic. But when He answers our “little” prayers, He gives us the gift of hope. It is almost more humbling. That He the Master and Creator of the Universe would supply something so insignificant to one who merely asked on a whimsy.

So, I dare you. I dare myself.

Let’s ask and just see what he does.

Because He dared us first.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

 

So today, I am thankful. That God hears my “just-talking-out-loud” prayers. That He shows me He’s our Provider in all things. He gives me courage and builds my faith.

 

And I ask for more.

 

#620 summer sunlight, drying the wooden, freshly hosed highchair

 

#621 sidelong, wry smiles over their heads while watching “movies” that only little girls would want to watch

 

#622 homemade pizza

 

#623 unexpected lunch with a friend

 

#624 the way she loves us and the way we all love her

 

#625 long, hot baths

 

#626 the way words stir the soul

 

#627 day-in, day-out, just being with them

 

#628 barefoot girls, running to welcome their daddy home

 

#629 lemonade

 

#630 cucumber blooms (finally!)

 

#631 fresh, flavorful, local tomatoes

 

#632 hence, lots of homemade salsa

 

#633 this messy house

 

#634 celebrating new babies with old friends

 

#635 our littlest one’s initiated night out

 

#636 spontaneity

 

#637 rocks, ages old, right here

 

#638 coffee with a friend and having to be hinted at by the staff to leave

 

#639 Target runs

 

#640 sitting down, playing the keys

 

#641 giving myself grace, which is really HIS grace to me

 

#642 making it through his hard-working week

 

#643 a new, just-for-them table

 

#644 that HE HEARD! that little, barely spoken prayer

 

#645 that He’s just so unexpected

 

#646 How He must love to delight His children

 

#647 and how He must be hearing those big prayers too

 

#648 fuel for hope

Click here to read of more thankfulness!

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