Thursday, June 28, 2012

we interrupt this program to bring you...

on monday my thursday looked different.  

as i glanced over our weekly schedule i saw thursday with my regularly scheduled morning meeting and then a slot of time reserved for catching up on emails and other 'office work'.  i noted that it was the first day of 'summer kid swap' with my dear friend susan {who also happens to live in my neighborhood and have 2 of the most adorable girls whom my kids could we not kid swap?!}.  i noted that our library books were due so the kids and i would be making a trip over to our local branch.  i remembered that lucy and i had tickets to go see 'beauty and the beast' uptown that evening {yay!}.

the first thing to change was the meeting...cancelled.  wow - suddenly i had some morning time freed up and i would be A-L-O-N-E while the kids were over at susan's.  i immediately jotted down a new to-do list of things that i have been needing to accomplish in our house since we moved in 8 months ago.  as soon as i got the kids dropped off i hit the ground running - my major cleaning/organizing binge began!  

two hours in i get 'the nudge'...the one that whispers to my heart - aren't you forgetting something?  as clear as day i hear my God inviting me to sit down with him...encouraging me that perhaps he is changing the trajectory of my day for a reason...perhaps life in general needs a little interruption.  my eyes literally dart back and forth between the to-do list and the Bible sitting side-by-side on my kitchen counter.  i can bend time and space - i hear him whisper - and so i choose words...not deeds.

twenty minutes into my quiet time i sit with tears on my cheeks and a spirit refreshed by living water.  words like these will do that to you...

for you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.  you surround me with songs of victory.  the Lord says - i will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  i will advise you and watch over you...unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. 
~from psalm 32

i read and i pray and i am made new and then...the phone rings.  lucy is sick.  i leave both Bible and to-do list on the counter and rush out to get her.  i carry that burning hot bundle of sorrow out to the car and consider how my day is again broadway performance tonight.  amazingly, feelings of regret and disappointment are immediately replaced with a sense of freedom.  freedom in following a plan rather than writing it.  freedom in knowing this day is being scripted by someone other than me.

i bring them two little monkeys {one significantly less playful than usual}.  i cuddle them up on the couch and turn on pbs kids {with shows like wild kratts and curious george, who needs cable?!}.  i experience a rare time of actually enjoying the cuddling and t.v. time without intermingled feelings of guilt.  {guilt over not getting busy on that to-do list.  guilt over letting my kids watch t.v. instead of having an amazing educational activity for them to engage in.  anybody with me?  any other guilt-ridden sisters out there??}  
i consider this - she's sick...what else can she do but lay down and watch t.v. and rest?  she's asking me to hold her...she never asks me to hold could i do anything else?  all that familiar guilt is removed and i find myself just being in the moment instead of anticipating my next move.  i can't believe that it takes something like this to allow me to actually enjoy my day without feeling like i'm 'falling short'...not doing enough.

i like it when my regularly scheduled program is interrupted for breaking news.  the reason?  i hate to say it but i think it's because it gives me permission to 'slack off' a bit.  and by 'slack off' i mean not spending the entire day from sun-up to sundown on my feet running around taking care of business and forcing my mind and body to work overtime plowing through a to-do list that will never be completed.  hmmm...that didn't sound very healthy, did it?  in fact - i'm sure it's not healthy.  but somehow i convince myself that it's the expectation i must meet...a 'filled to the brim', non-stop, get-r-done pace {all the while maintaining a smile on my face}.

so if you're like me and you need permission to relax and enjoy your life {rather than micro-managing it} have have permission.  

because right there in those grace words i read this morning was the promise of a 'hiding place' {which means it's ok to hide sometimes} and of 'victory' {which means we'll accomplish what is most important for us to accomplish despite the state of our to-do list} and of guidance {which means, as much as we like to be in charge, it's okay for us to sometimes take a passive role in life}, and...don't miss this one...

unfailing love

you may ask...what's the expectation for me?  it's simple...


trust in the One who is advising and watching over us...even when we are too busy to notice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

the survival game

after finishing a lunch of left-over pasta, fresh tomatoes from my neighbor's garden, and an oatmeal raisin cookie, i sat down on my comfy leather couch with my laptop, thinking of all the things i need to get accomplished today.  if i'm completely honest i was feeling slightly burdened.  i didn't make it far down my to-do list before getting sidetracked...and realizing that my burdens pale in comparison to those of others.  

there was a message in my inbox inviting me to try and survive on $1.25 a day.  one dollar and 25 cents.  that wouldn't have even covered the cost of my cookie at great harvest.  and at that rate it would take me years to be able to afford even a salvaged couch at a yard sale.

i took the challenge.

it opened my eyes.

like you, i have heard the statistics that a quarter of the world's population lives in extreme poverty...defined as less than $1.25 a day.  and like some of you i have traveled to parts of the world where many of these people live.  but there was something about being faced with the real-life choices these people have to make everyday that shed new light on the plight of the poor.
during my trips to haiti one thing i noticed was the almost stoic and hardened disposition of the haitian women.  after playing the survive 125 game i think i may have a better understanding of why.  
during this game i had to make decisions about whether to vaccinate my youngest child or let the rest of them eat that week, whether to let my child skip school to make the trip for fresh water or subject my whole family to the diseases swimming in the dirty slum water, whether to allow my daughter to earn much-needed wages at a local factory or protect her from potential sex traffickers...

even though it was just a game, i allowed myself to apply the situations and choices to my own life and i slowly found my own heart hardening in order to protect myself and my family.  in the survival game there is no room for emotional decision-making...every choice is life or death.

in the midst of all the hunger and corruption and heartbreak that this game threw at me there was at one point a pop-up window notifying me that my son {whom i had just had to pull from school  because i couldn't afford the uniform} had been sponsored by compassion and would be re-enrolled.  i felt genuine hope...and for me...this was just a game...

for divya patel {a single mother of four living in india and working as a brick-maker} and millions of others...they don't just play a game of survival - they live it every day...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

hello thoughts

NOTE: over the 30 minute period I spent writing this post in my parents’ 2-bedroom condo in Clemson, lucy got out of bed 4 times with ‘itchy legs’ and not being able to ‘smell baby’ while sucking her thumb {a.k.a a stuffy nose}.  I alternated between writing this and rubbing her back.  Just as I was getting her settled joey came in from golf camp with his already infected eye looking even worse.  After giving that a little bit of attention he sat down and turned on the t.v. filling a once quiet room with noise.  I actually considered picking up my computer and moving into the bathroom since it was the only peaceful spot at that point…but sitting on a cold hard toilet with my computer on my lap seemed even more distracting than the t.v.  and high maintenance 4 year old.  Goodness gracious.  I think you’ll find the irony in all of that when you read my words and wonder today…

Hello thoughts…there you are.  We haven’t been alone together in so long.  I’ve missed you.  I’m sorry I haven’t been able to hear you very well over all the noise.  These little ones demand a lot of my attention…especially on a no-nap day.  And then there’s my day job…and a summer of golf camps and recruiting for joey…and this house that just won’t clean itself no matter how much I plead…and the garden…and friends in crisis…and those lists {they just keep getting longer}…and my family keeps requesting that I feed them three meals a day {plus snacks} every. single. day.

Do you ever feel like your life is speeding forward at breakneck speed and as you push the pedal to the floor you catch glimpses out of the corners of your eyes of all the things that you are passing right by?  Every day I have an idea of something I’d like to write about…some thoughts I’d like to pluck out and spend some time holding up to the light.  Something I can examine and analyze and bend and mold until it can stand alone and say something to the world.  Some days my thoughts just have to sit and wait in a dark corner.

This has been a fast-paced couple of weeks for our family.  Summer has sprinted off the start line.  I’m ready for her to settle into a nice steady jog.  I miss being alone with my thoughts.  Without them I am disconnected from myself and if I keep that up too long my edges begin to unravel and suddenly that’s not the only disconnect I’m feeling.  I meet my thoughts in writing.  Where do you meet yours?  In music, in art, in your garden, in the kitchen while whipping up a gourmet meal?  or maybe you’re one of those crazy people who loves being alone with a mop or a sponge scrubbing your house clean {if that’s you…please come to my house}.

There are seasons in life when our own thoughts get crowded out…it happens.  Things have to be done…important things.  But don’t keep it up too long.  Don’t keep pushing your thoughts back into their dark corner because your heart and your mind need light to grow.  Thoughts that aren’t nurtured and fertilized with creativity will eventually wither away…and where does that leave us?  Forgotten thoughts.  Forgotten selves.  All those little morsels of promise wasted.  We can’t capture every one but we must keep grabbing onto them when we can…giving them air to breathe and a chance at life.

Share a thought…any thought…with me today…

Friday, June 8, 2012

:: beauty ::

i am a hunter of beauty and i move slow and i keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and i could be an expert on the life full...
i hunger to taste life.

ann voskamp...a hunter of beauty...indeed.  those words of hers...that story...has done so much to help me develop my own hunter heart.  one that finds beauty in the good day, bad day, everyday.  even when the clouds settle in for a while.

a few days ago i wrote about the clouds...they finally lifted and we'd never been so happy to see the sun...
we could have had a week full of sunshine and never appreciated them as much as that one was beautiful.
every little piece of beach time became sacred...wherever we could squeeze it from the day...
with an abundance of sun i would have never been so quick to follow my toddler's cue to hit the beach in our pj's before 7am during a little window of dry time...
...this would have never happened...
 ...i'm so glad it did...
and with a week full of sunshine we would have plopped ourselves on a beach chair to 'relax' and never received such complete restoration of spirit as we found here...
brookgreen of my favorite places in all the world...seriously {i'm not just being dramatic}.  why do i not make time for this every summer when i am only fifteen minutes away.
you would never imagine that just south of one of the most touristy and commercialized places on the east coast there is this sanctuary full of art, poetry, nature, perfectly and naturally woven together.  

with every step i took in that place i felt myself being filled up.  
all i kept thinking was - beauty.  everywhere i  
beauty that brings peace and inspiration all at once...rushing over you.  even under a sky heavy with gray i felt light as a feather floating through a technicolor dream land.

so this week the clouds inspired me to hunt for beauty...and i certainly found it.  
giving thanks for the clouds...always...

what unexpected beauty have you found lately?  or do you need a rainy day to get you hunting?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

when the clouds won't go away

beach week rained out.

that's the headline for my life right now.  and for a sun-worshipper like me...
this is tragic.  
every summer our family kicks off the summer with a week at the beach.  every year we see a few clouds...maybe a sprinkle here and there...but the sun always prevails.  we always head home with skin a few shades darker and the happy, satisfied feeling that pure vitamin d injected into your pores leaves you with.  this year stinks is different.  we have been here for 3 days and have spent a total of about 75 minutes on the beach {one hour of which was me and oliver in our pj's at 6:30 a.m. before the daily downpour began}.  
{little did they know that this was 1 of only 15 minutes they would spend on the beach all day}
as i write i feel like i am surrounded by gray and any trace of color has been removed from the world.  and so i write...seeking some vibrancy...

some of our best friends are in the middle of an adoption journey.  it has been {like many stories of adoption} a roller coaster ride.  recently they lost a referral for a precious african beauty who was to be their first daughter in a house full of boys.  the clouds moved in...the colors began to fade.  my friend jenn has shared her heartache during this season with beautiful honesty. there are days when the sun breaks through for a moment and pours light into the darkness but for much of their days there has been a heaviness that has settled in around them.

i was talking with jenn's husband, kenny, last week and was struck by a comment he made.  he told me that God keeps reminding him that he was called to this process.  when he sat in a convention center overflowing with pastors from all over the country a few years ago his heart was pierced for the plight of orphans around the world.  in that moment God called him...not to a specific child...not to a specific country - but to the process of adoption.  it was a calling that his wife received many years before and that they would finally step into together.

as i listened to kenny talk about the ups and downs that this journey has taken his family on i heard a steady resolve amidst the chronic uncertainty that they face.  i am committed to the process...whatever it may be.  

process :: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end

God holds our very lives in his hands.  the minutes, hours, days, years...they are crafted together by steady, loving hands.  He makes no mistakes {when it comes to the weather or adoption}.  He can be trusted {with our vacations and our families}.  

He orders our steps that we might reach a particular end.

and so we move forward...even when we don't know the forecast for tomorrow.  because when all of our tomorrows come to an end and the process is finished - we will be complete...possessing a perfect, enduring, unchanging faith in Christ.  and completeness doesn't come from a series of hundreds of sunny, happy days all strung together.  completeness comes from sunshine mixed with rain...and sometimes storms that bring hurricane-force winds tearing apart our hearts and flooding our eyes full of tears.

the rain has forced me inside this week...not just inside the beach house but inside my heart.  God knew there was work to be done there and that it couldn't be done frolicking care-free on the sand.  He loves me too much to just let me be...i'm still in process...and in that process - i, like my friends kenny and jenn, choose joy.

dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  so let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 
james 1:2-4

if this truth from james is an encouragement to you check out this great message from my pastor  

how have your cloudy days revealed - {1} who God is and {2} who you are?