Friday, January 29, 2010

What Am I Waiting For?

I've put too many things on hold. My mental tape mechanically warbles the phrase, "When we find a house . . . ." And I fill in the blank. When we find a house, then I'll get back into a routine. When we find a house, then I'll be able to focus on character issues with the children. When we find a house, then I'll be organized, patient and amazingly productive. (Oh, just you wait and see!)

When we find a house . . . .

But my real home is not here. Not on this earth. Which means that even when we do find a house, I'll still have the same issues to deal with. Because my new creation self will still struggle against my weak human nature. My children will not automatically incline themselves toward attentiveness and orderliness the minute the moving van pulls away. The amazing habits which I wish to develop in myself will not suddenly descend upon me. Having four walls to call my own will not instantly make me more like Christ.

Because there's nothing magical about a house.

The magic is in the home. And a home is something that I already have. I have a home in the presence of my heavenly Father, and so does the rest of my family. For doesn't home mean safety, warmth and love? I have that. Doesn't home mean acceptance, forgiveness and peace? I have that. And doesn't home mean hope? Oh, boy do I have that.

So what on earth am I waiting for? I can be more like Christ today. I can model patience for my children right now. I can pray without ceasing as I watch them struggle to make wise choices. And I can even ask the Lord to help me create a routine that will be helpful in the mean time.

Sure, a house will be nice. But a home to go with it? Well now, that's even better.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Not the Only One

It happened twice in one week. Twice I heard the words -- the exact same words both times -- that have left me thinking, wondering, how to best relate to others with transparent love. Both conversations centered on revealing personal shortcomings and frustrations, sharing openly my daily struggles. And in both conversations the dear friends with whom I spoke sighed deeply and with relief said, "I'm so glad to hear you say that . . . ."

For don't we all need to know that we're not the only one? Not the only one who has trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Not the only one who reads books and blogs and feels inadequate? Not the only one who habitually runs late? Not the only one who isn't organic enough? Not the only one who wants to wring necks when kids argue while reciting memory verses about love?

When I know I'm not the only one, I feel a camaraderie that erases guilt and strengthens friendships. When I'm transparent, pretense fades and hearts are opened.

It's easy to slip into the habit of discussing successes. And success stories can definitely be inspiring and helpful. But when it's only the triumphs that are revealed, our friends see only a partial truth. Constant -- and yes, even well-meaning -- success stories can be very discouraging when we come home at the end of the day and find ourselves alone with the kids feeling tired, frustrated, frumpy and anything but successful.

But there's something fascinating about revealing shortcomings. It shouldn't surprise me, because I know that it is in our weaknesses that His power is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9) -- but when we lay ourselves bare before one another, healing and strength take root, and friendships deepen. We see each other as real human beings who love and hurt and rise and fall, as human beings who desperately need the success of Jesus in order to survive each day.

In so doing, we embrace each other more deeply, because we know that we're journeying together. We learn from each other, and if we listen carefully and speak truthfully, we'll see that real strength comes from exalting the work of the Holy Spirit in our otherwise humanly weak lives. And as that truth is revealed, we can honestly say to one another, "I'm so glad to hear you say that."
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010


If I'm very attentive, very quiet, sometimes I catch a brief, fleeting glimpse of heaven. I glimpsed it today. It revealed itself just after touring a potential rental home with my Dad. Little Miss Avery Kate joined us, reveling in the thrilling combination of stocking feet and a spacious, vacant house. After chatting with the landlord and watching Avery's lime green feet zip yet another time in and out of each room, we prepared to leave. Dad suggested that he might walk home, since it was only a few blocks away. I glanced at Avery, "Do you want to walk with Papa?" She jumped and smiled. Yes.

As I drove away, I opened the window and shouted, "See you at home!" And then I saw it. I glanced in my rear view mirror and caught a glimmer of the holy. My father, walking hand-in-hand with my daughter. He with his hat and jacket, she with her wild hair and shiny black boots. He keeping a slower, steady gait in order that she might skip merrily, unrushed by his side. He looking down with love in his eyes, she looking up with adoration in hers. I crested the hill, eyes glistening, and they disappeared from view.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Be Still, My Soul

The kids have been hearing about Haiti for several weeks now. Daddy was scheduled to fly down on a video project at the end of the month, meeting with missionaries Bruce and Cindy McMartin who work with seminary students in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

Last week I filled out the new school schedule. Up next in science? Earthquakes. We checked out books and watched videos, talking about the small tremors that I have experienced in my lifetime, and what to do in case of an earthquake.

Then, suddenly, the two topics violently collided.

. Earthquake.

And they both became so much more real. These were real lives, real damage with unbelievable hurt and loss. We were so thankful to hear that Bruce and Cindy are okay, but much of their school has collapsed and the surrounding damage is overwhelming. The death toll rises.

This morning we gathered around the laptop to look through pictures of the devastation. Avery grabbed the globe and said, "Let's find Haiti." We looked and we ached. Tears fell. And we prayed.

It seemed appropriate that in the early quiet of this morning I should chance to hear this gentle strain whispered into the void:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Would you pray for Haiti today, too?
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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Good

There's nothing fun about being sick. As I lay on the couch trying to ignore the aches but failing miserably, Bethie came skipping up to my side. Her face was lifted just a bit hopefully as she asked, "Mommy? Is this the kind of sickness you get when you have a baby in your tummy?" I smiled. "No, sweetie. This is just plain old yucky sick," I answered. "Oh," she said. "Because I was hoping it was a baby. I could help you change it's diaper, and hold it . . . ." her voice trailed off, dreamlike, as she pirouetted before me. And she skipped merrily away after asking if I needed anything.

I thought about sickness and baby sickness. At least with a baby, it's all worth it in the end. There's a goal, something -- someone -- that reminds you of why it's okay to feel miserable. But with just plain old yucky sick, where is the good?

Surprisingly, the good is there. I just have to know where to find it. The good is in the daughter who offers to read to her mama while she rests. The good is in the four-year-old who says, "Mama? Do you want to play Uno with me?" and proceeds to painstakingly shuffle the huge deck and lay seven cards on mama's blanketed lap. The good is in the son who helps his little sister build a train track when mama can't. And the good is in the young, wiggly son who runs errands, delivering water and ibuprofen.

The good is in my own mama who makes a steaming pot of chicken noodle soup, and my father who peeks into my room to make sure I'm okay. And the good is in my husband who keeps the hot water bottle coming and tends to the children, even though he, too, has just been sick.

Although I would never choose to be sick, I do choose to find the good. Which just about makes it worthwhile, after all.
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How to Really Make Monday Mornings Memorable

They had browned to perfection. I pulled the fluffy cinnamon rolls from the oven and proudly set them to cool on the stove top. Glancing at the clock, I saw that we were right on schedule. Our first day back to school -- I wanted it to be special and memorable, so I put in the extra time to make a treat.

The children began to spill into the kitchen, eyes aglow at the thought of devouring maybe even two cinnamon rolls. My parents faithfully continued their workout video in the adjoining room, although hungry glances toward the hot, gooey rolls suggested that they just might need to have a sample.

I began to serve the children, each one hovering near the stove to request specific corners and middles. As Jamie joined us, I inwardly chided myself for not starting the hot water to boil. The cinnamon roll preparation had distracted me. I usually like to have the water all ready for his coffee when he comes up. But no matter. He gave me his casual good morning smile and flipped on the burner.

I joined the children at the table, pleased that the cinnamon rolls appeared to be a hit (based on the silent, steady devouring that was taking place before me). As I lifted my fork, I suddenly heard a terrible, popping crash. I whipped my head around just in time to see the pan of cinnamon rolls burst into pieces.

I froze. My cinnamon rolls. Jamie, not frozen, quickly ran over to turn off the burner. It was not the tea kettle burner that had been switched on high. It was the burner under the cinnamon rolls. I pulled myself together and jumped up to help. Dad and Mom dropped their weights and sprang into action.

Pyrex shards were everywhere. We carefully began to collect the pieces, ordering the barefooted children to stay put. I glanced pathetically at the rolls, wondering if they could be salvaged. But my exploded plank of cinnamon rolls was balancing on a few remaining pieces of blackened glass. There was clearly no saving them. Glass not only covered the entire range and surrounding counter tops, but a few pieces had even melted into the rug in front of the sink. It was a mess.

I mourned the loss of my cinnamon rolls and the inconvenient delay in everyone's morning. But it wasn't until later that evening that the greater truth really hit me. My mom and I, recounting the event, shuddered to think of what could have been. Miraculously, no one had been standing near the pan. The potential for serious injury was frightening in retrospect. We had been scraping melted glass from the floor and counter, even pulling up a few embedded pieces. What if a child had been nearby, still selecting his cinnamon roll? We praised God for faithfully keeping his hedge of protection around our family that morning.

Tuesday dawned with renewed hope and enthusiasm. I think my dad was still pining for the elusive cinnamon roll, and I do plan to make them again sometime soon. But this time as I glanced at the clock to make sure we were on track for our school day, I was stirring a trustworthy pot of oatmeal. And yes, we started school on time.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

What I Really Need

There's something sobering about cramming one's personal belongings into a storage unit and paying for it to sit there. As Jamie wedged my wooden rocking chair between bookcases and bunk beds, I felt like a pioneer wife advising her husband on how to maximize space in the covered wagon. But as we brought down the metal door and clasped the padlock, I reminded myself that it's all just . . . stuff. To be perfectly honest, if I never saw any of it again nothing terrible would happen. Sure, I would miss my grandmother's china and other sentimental items. Dozens of books are calling to me and I plan to rescue them at the first opportunity. But everything we need is outside the cold metal door. Everything I need is with me.

We're entering our third month as pilgrims. During that time, I've been forced to focus on simplicity. I don't have my sewing table, I don't have my craft corner. I don't have the impulse to paint the walls because they're not my walls. I don't feel the need to add more furniture or dishes to my collection because we'd just have to cram it into storage anyway. I don't have a reason to pester my husband about laying hens or a row of birch trees for the back yard. And that's okay.

Because when I strip away the extras, I'm left with living. It's almost like camping. I cook. I do the laundry. I clean. I do the laundry. I teach the children. I do the laundry. I read to my children the books that have sat on our bookshelves for years. And, of course, I do the laundry.

But as I live, I find that I have more time to listen. I listen to my children. I listen to my husband. I listen to my parents (bless them and their open home!). And more importantly, I'm learning to listen to the Lord. My steps are baby steps, to be sure. I still stamp my feet and throw tantrums. But when I calm my spirit, I can hear.

I can hear the words that He speaks to my heart as I slowly attempt to commit small portions of Scripture to memory with my children. Again, baby steps, but I'm learning. We let words like "Dear friends, let us love one another" become part of our minds. And the simplicity of living reveals the truth about what's really important.

I know that someday I'll get to paint a wall again, and perhaps someday I'll even gather eggs from my very own hens and sit under the shade of my own birch trees. But for now, I want my heart to feel at peace with quiet simplicity. I'm not distracted by paint chips and dish patterns. For even when it's all stripped away, I know that I still have everything I need. So as I pile my children onto my lap for another chapter of Five Little Peppers, I'll quietly give thanks for one more opportunity to experience peace and contentment in the sufficiency of my heavenly Father.
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