One Year Later

This week, Facebook memories have reminded me that the older kids were at camp a year ago. Evie and I were having fun together, and Matt was sick on the couch. That wouldn’t be particularly memorable if I didn’t know what was coming next.

Matt had committed to play in the Waverly Worship Band for Revibe a year ago, and he was too sick to make the last practice. This year, I am playing piano in the same band, and our last practice was last night. Memories are swirling in my mind as I remember the days when I was not aware of the gravity of his illness.

As I recall the events of a year ago, I feel like I was floating through the days, not really, fully there but just floating above, watching it all happen. I had to take care of basic things like finding people to watch the kids so I could be at the hospital. So many friends and church family stepped in and fed us, took care of our yard work. I don’t know how many people can say their pastor has mowed their lawn, but we can. That’s just a tiny yet huge way we were loved and carried through that season.

I think if I was floating above the circumstances, it’s because of the hundreds of prayers sent up that carried me. I will never forget dropping off my kids with my friend Steph on Monday morning, not know what I would find when I entered Matt’s room that day. She held me and prayed with me, and it still fills me with peace as I remember that simple moment in her house that stands out to me so beautifully.

If I seem aloof this week, my mind really is somewhere else. God provides so well for His children. It’s been a challenging year for our family, and I end almost every night with this song on the TV before I go to bed.

“If He dresses the lilies // with beauty and splendor // how much more will He clothe you // how much more will He clothe you // if He watches over // every sparrow // how much more does He love you // how much more does He love you…Jireh, You are enough // Jireh, You are enough // and I will be content in every circumstance // Jireh, You are enough”

He is enough. He was enough for me last year. He is enough for us now. He is enough.

Home

We made an offer on a house a few weeks ago. It’s not a big deal for some, but it is a pretty big deal for us. When my husband bought our house, we were still dating, and I was only involved enough to say, “Yes, I would be happy to live here with you,” as any in-love girlfriend would say.

We have lived in that same house for 16 years now. The “new house” shininess wore off early for me. I have learned a lot in the process of living in a home I don’t love. A LOT. I could fill books with what I have learned by living here. But that’s not the topic for today.

A few years ago, my husband realized that he didn’t enjoy living in the project house his creative mind had once envisioned as nothing short of amazing. I have no doubt his dreams and pictures and drawings would turn out to be fabulous. However, when some dreams come crashing into real life, they find themselves crushed under the weight of responsibility, marriage, children, and work. We agreed together that our goal is to move out of this house and find something that can better meet both our needs and fit our growing family as well. (Growing in age, not number. No more babies here, which is both sad and a relief.)

In the calm and craziness of 2020, my husband saw a house on the market that interested him. I had stopped looking at that point. It was becoming more depressing than hope-giving, so I quit. I had no idea he was looking, but he ended up mentioning it. We arranged a tour, and we’re surprised by how much we both liked it. BOTH. I don’t know how it works in your marriage, but we don’t often agree on a home. I’m of the “get me out of here into anything else” school of thought, and he is more of the “could I live here the rest of my life” guy. Just a bit different we are.

Before we were able to get our home ready to list, that house sold. I occasionally drove by (it’s completely out of the way), remembering the dreams that were born as we walked through and wondering if another home could hold the same dreams.

A few weeks ago on a Thursday night, a text popped up that this home was once again for sale. My mind was spinning as I drove home to tell my husband. We checked into it, and offers were due on Monday morning at 10 AM. So I spent the weekend applying and getting a pre-approval so we could make an offer.

We placed our offer on Monday morning. Late that afternoon, I heard from our realtor that we didn’t get the house. It wasn’t our price but the conditions of the sale for which we were rejected. We are disappointed. We trust God, but it’s definitely not easy to see what He is doing right now.

I haven’t gotten into any real details here, but let me just say this isn’t the only area of waiting and uncertainty in our lives. We have prayed for a long time for a home and for some other big things that have yet to resolve. Every day is an exercise in trust, in faith that He will provide in His way and His time.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:6-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I used to sing “Cast All My Cares” to my kids every night; now only my youngest will request it. We will cast our cares, throw them out like casting a fishing rod. We don’t have to hang on to them. Many times we can’t do anything about the things that make us anxious, anyway. So we cast them onto Him. He is more than able to take them and give back to us His peace and comfort.

Only One Life ‘Twill Soon Be Past

Matt and I watched “American Sniper” last week. I forgot how hard it was to see the effects of war on the soldiers. The PTSD, the struggles with reentry, and the weight they will always carry is all a heavy burden put upon our service men and women. Spoiler…it’s an older movie, but just in case…Chris Kyle (the movie’s subject) is killed by another soldier returned home who he was trying to help. It was tragic and sad and terrible to see all he endured only to lose his life at a young age.

As the movie ended, real life footage was shown as they transported his body in Texas. The roads and bridges were lined with people and American flags. It was a sight to behold. I watched it, and the line from and old poem popped into my mind: “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I knew there was a line before that but I couldn’t recall the exact wording, so I looked it up. The full poem is long, but these two lines are repeated at the end of each stanza:

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” (poem by C.T. Studd)

The line just repeated over and over in my mind as I watched this young 30 something man’s body being laid to rest. “Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Death and grief have been near in the past few months, and I find myself more and more cognizant of the short time I have on this earth. I don’t know why this poem dropped into my mind and heart after the movie. I certainly didn’t feel as though he had wasted his life. Yet I couldn’t let go of this sentiment.

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I believe it. But do I live like it? Today, right now, only what’s done for Christ will last. Jesus said that if we care for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, even strangers, that we do it for him. You don’t have to spend your days on the street corner preaching the good news or handing out tracts for everyone passing by in order to live your life for Jesus. (Unless God calls you go do that – if He does, then obey!) Serve the least of these as the Bible describes it: your children, the poor, the homeless, the elderly. I bet you can find someone to show the love of Jesus today who desperately needs it.

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

The Best, Favorite, Most Epic Ever

Foam party at the local library – he didn’t want to leave!

Jack is such a fun kid to parent. He loves life, and I love seeing it all through his eyes. We have learned that, no matter what the event, when Jack gets to go to a birthday party or fun event at the library or a museum or whatever it might be, we can pretty much predict what he will say when he gets home.

“Did you have a good time today, Jack?”

“Oh yeah, it was the best day ever!”

Or the best party ever, the best hotel ever, the best day of my life…anything along those lines. Matt and I get to look at each other and smile, knowing that our boy had a great time and nothing got in the way of his enjoyment that day.

I am thankful that I get to be Jack’s mom. He reminds me to live in the moment. He reminds me to find joy in the big and small things. He fills my heart with joy. ❤️

Cruise Ship or Battle Ship?

Easy. Comfortable. Convenient. I tend to get frustrated when my world is composed less of these and more of their opposites. Hard. Uncomfortable. Inconvenient. The challenges of this world should not surprise me. I know the words of Jesus in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.”

Tribulation is defined as “a state of great trouble or suffering.” [dictionary.com] Some says are full of great trouble. Some seasons seem to be filled with back-to-back troubles. You barely get through one trouble and on its heels you see the next one right behind it. I am tempted to think this is just my life. But when I listen closely, when I live near to others in community, I learn that it is far more widespread.

The mom who just posted her sunny poolside photo spent last night crying in bed. The family who jetted off to some lovely location of which I could only dream is grieving the loss of a family member. The friend who got a promotion at work is also struggling through behavioral issues with her child. We see a pretty picture, but behind it lies a story filled with the same trouble and suffering I know all too well.

I can get lulled into a false sense that this world owes me something. I can even begin to think that God has forgotten me; surely He doesn’t intend for me to endure so much tribulation in this world? Surely He wants to make my life easier? That is the cruise ship mindset that sneaks up on me, and it is dangerous to the heart and mind of a follower of Jesus. My friend, we are at war.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are at war. We who count ourselves as followers of Jesus are in a war that takes place against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” [Ephesians 6:12 ESV] The temptations this world offers draw us in with our senses: we see them, hear them, smell them, feel them, taste them. The spiritual war that takes place in heavenly places requires us to be attuned to our spiritual sense.

You and I are tempted by the easy, the comfortable, by what is easily seen and touched and heard. Our Father is calling us up to the spiritual realm to wage war on this earth for the souls of those who hang in the balance. I am ashamed of how often I settle for earthly comfort, how I seek it out and neglect my responsibility to fight for souls, for freedom, for healing, for breakthrough that all happens in a world I cannot yet see.

My flesh longs to reside on a cruise ship, to be served and to live a life of ease and comfort. However, any amount of time I spend serving that fleshly desire is time I am neglecting to spend in the battle.

Do you want to spend more time fighting spiritual battles than you do now? Do you desire to know God in a way that opens your eyes to the spiritual battles of those around you? We fight a common enemy even though our battles may look vastly different. We fight a common enemy, and we serve the God who wins in the end. Let’s focus on linking arms, raising our spiritual weapons, and fighting together for the things that will matter for eternity. Are you with me?

New Adventures

Today our sixth grader graduates from the only school she has ever known. We toured the middle school this week and participated in a Step Up Day where the other sixth graders at the school also walked through a day as a seventh grader. Changing classes every period will be different for all of them. Crowded hallways will be very different for my girl.

Isabella’s class has essentially been together since kindergarten, and they are like brothers and sisters to each other. It is hard for her at the moment to conceive of the adventure before her. It feels unknown, a little scary, definitely uncomfortable. I experienced these same feelings as an eighth grader starting a non-traditional school, as a tenth grader moving from a small private school to a huge public school, as a 17 1/2 year old moving six hours away from her parents and family.

There are so many transitions in those school years and more that come through life and jobs and marriage and children. Sometimes it feels like things change every time you get comfortable with where they are. My sweet daughter is just beginning to experience the life changes that will come. I want her to learn the comforting fact that the God who created her and knows her better than she knows herself can be trusted. She can rely on Him to meet her every need through this big change in her life. She can depend on Him to meet her every need through every change in her life, big and small. I am still working on learning this lesson as life hasn’t stopped throwing curveballs my way yet. 🙂 I believe we keep learning how to trust our God more and more, in new and deeper ways as we grow in our faith.

I am so thankful that I can point her to the One who will be there for her without fail. I am by her side, but I am human. I am with her as much as my flesh will allow, but He is with her when it’s not possible for me to be there. As we celebrate this accomplishment and prepare for the future, I know there is no better lesson I could instill deep in her heart.

Congratulations, Isabella!! You make us proud, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭56:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Summer Is Coming and Time Keeps Ticking

My Kindergartener six years ago when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Six years ago, this sweet girl was finishing kindergarten. Today, she has one week left until sixth grade graduation.

Six years ago, my youngest was 9 months old. Today, she is about to finish first grade.

Six years ago, I was a stay at home mom with three little ones. Today, I have two part-time jobs and flexibility to drop them off and pick them up from school every day.

Six years ago, I was dreading summer. I got comfortable with having two kids at home most of the day. I was scared of the weeks and weeks stretching before me that all three kids would be home with me all day. Every day. I was overwhelmed at the prospect of SOMUCHTIME.

Every summer since then, I have experienced a similar anxiety as summer inches closer and the school year draws to a close. I did my best to get out of the house with the kids, to not always be stuck in those four walls and the one acre of space we call home. I need breaks, and it was good to go and do things, enjoying the weather and the freedom of summer with no coats/hats/boots. But taking three kids anywhere is…stressful. Intense. Mind meltingly loud and crazy. So sometimes I avoided it and just stayed home. Which was also mind meltingly loud and crazy, to be honest.

I survived those six summers. This year, as the school year nears its end and summer stretches out in front of us, I find myself irrationally calm about it all. One thing I recall from last summer is that it went by so quickly. It wasn’t easy (can we just not revisit spring/summer 2020, please?). But it was gone in a flash. I have enough summers under my belt to now realize that this one will feel the same way. I know it won’t likely be easier, but I know from experience that it will be short.

Time is ticking, it’s flying by me, and every time I try to grab it, slow it down, take a pause, it’s too fast for me. I can’t control it, but I can appreciate it while it is here. I feel like I’m getting closer to that point. I am grateful to have time in the summer to spend with my kids while they still want to hang out with me.

Just remind me of this post in about mid-July, okay?

Tough and Tender

I remember being told in Bible college that a life of ministry would require a tough skin and a tender heart. It’s pretty applicable for all of life, actually. I have heard it said that, as we age, we become more of what we already are. The kind person becomes kinder, the wise person becomes wiser. The cranky person becomes crankier, and the hardened heart becomes harder. Without the hope of Jesus who changes hearts, I can see how this is true.

When I think of tough and tender, I’m reminded of a good medium rare steak. To get a good crust on a steak, high heat is required. I have found that those times of high heat in my life, the really challenging circumstances and seasons have actually softened me inside. There are times when I respond wrong, and that grief over my sun and repentance that follows softens my heart toward other sinners. It has kept me humble and reminded me that there is always more to the story than what we can see. I also find compassion for others experiencing similar circumstances. My brokenness has given me deep compassion for others who are broken as well.

The toughness comes when I see what God has brought me through. That thing I didn’t think I would survive? I survived it. I’m still standing, and by His grace, I will survive the current one as well. I’m still not as tough as I want to be. I don’t want to be hurt by the little things, I want to find my identity in Him and not in the opinions of others. I am still working on these things. I have not yet arrived, but I press on.

Do you let the circumstances of life soften you inside? Are you growing more compassionate and caring toward others? Do you seek to know God and walk in Him so that you have a tough skin toward things that would seek to harm you or distract you from your focus? Today I am praying that you will seek both the toughness and the tenderness we need as followers of Jesus.

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:10-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

More Than a Mom

I didn’t realize how easy it would be to place my worth in my mothering skills, essentially handing this small child control of how I feel about myself based on her behavior that day. It snuck up on me, this assigning of my own value to my ability to “make” this child do what I wanted her to do.

And so it began. It seems that many moms are given a compliant firstborn child, one who lives to please Mom and follow the rules. This was not my experience, and so it became easy to compare my firstborn to those of my friends around me, other kids at church, the kids at the park and the store. As they sat sweetly in the shopping cart at Target, my child screamed, protesting the forced confinement to a seatbelt and crying as though I had done the most awful thing she could imagine.

It was a hard switch for me, spending my days as a children’s pastor, beloved by kids and parents alike, to spending my days as mom with no accolades and lots of frustration. A couple of years later when my son was born, there was an easier stretch of time because he was such a great baby and toddler. I finally realized that the behavior of my oldest wasn’t completely due to parenting, but also included the influence of her own personality and choices. The experience of having a second child with a very different personality was very eye-opening for me. I honestly don’t think I knew how much my own self-worth was based upon what I perceived to be my success or failure as a mother until my second was born.

My third child was born a few years after the second. Three weeks after she was born, my oldest went to kindergarten. This was when the full weight of finding my self-worth in my “performance” as a mom came to bear on my soul. I was looking forward to sending her to school, to having time with the baby and having someone else take care of her for a few hours. Unfortunately, it was not the blissful experience I was expecting. I quickly discovered that my phone would ring with each misbehavior. I came to dread my phone ringing. Anxiety would fill my heart when I saw the school on my caller ID. They were so kind and gracious with her and with us, but it could not negate the fact that I felt like the worst mother on the planet who could not figure out how to get her child to behave.

The stress and depression was intense, and coupled with post-partum depression, it was a very sad and hard season for me. I found that it was hard work to untangle my value and worth from my identity as a mom. God was using these challenging times to shine a spotlight on my soul.

My awesome, spirited, independent kids

I was so frustrated that I couldn’t just read a book and fix it or follow a three step plan to make everything better. I am honestly still in this battle to find my value in who God has made me, who God says I am. It is hard work, but I know it is worth the effort. When I live out of my value in Christ, I am less likely to ride the roller coaster of finding my worth in my kids and their behavior or choices that day.

I find myself jumping into the conversation when I hear a mom say something like, “I can’t believe their kid did that. They must not care at all about his behavior.” I am so quick to remind them that a child is his own person, and he often makes choices against what his parents have taught him. Toddlers, teenagers, and everything in between are testing boundaries and seeking independence. Let’s offer grace to parents who are struggling with a challenging season of parenting. Let us remind the mom next door of her worth and value because she is made in the image of God.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV
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Rain or Shine

A few weeks ago, we had an amazing 70 degree day. I was talking to Matt after dinner, and I asked him a question.

“When it’s sunny and warm, do you feel almost giddy? Like over the top, crazy happy inside just because of the sun and warmth? Because I felt SO good today. I couldn’t believe how happy it made me to feel the warm air and sunshine!”

He agreed, which kind of surprised me. I figured it was just me, that he would say it was great but not as great as I described it. But he said he felt just as amazing that day. Then I wondered: does that mean people who live in warmer climates with sunnier skies feel this happy all the time? I lived about 8 hours south of here for 7 years. It was a much milder climate, but I don’t remember quite having this feeling.

My friend who recently moved to Florida was visiting, so I asked her. She said living there makes a huge difference for her husband, but it isn’t as impactful for her. I was on the phone with another friend last week, and I asked her the same question. She said that we probably have this feeling because of the full range of weather we experience. We get enough cold and snow during the winter, that when the sun and warm air arrives, we can’t help but feel ecstatic.

I think she is right. If we didn’t have the cold temperatures and gray skies of winter, we wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine and warmth as much as we do. I believe this is true in the story of our lives as well. When we face hard times and dark days, the joy that comes when we experience blessings is increased. The depth of sorrow is mirrored in the height of joy.

Some people don’t like winter. It isn’t my favorite thing. But after 20 years of living here, I can say that I am grateful for the range of seasons we experience. I love that it makes me so thankful for a beautiful spring day. I love that it reminds me of the way God works in our lives. Winter doesn’t last forever. Spring is on its way.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬