Thursday, May 30, 2013

what you need when times are good or bad...happy or sad

i am.
grateful.
to be part of a kingdom that is not shaken...despite both our wildly unpredictable behaviors and our content neglect.
i am grateful to submit to the authority of a king who is good and just and never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

i've learned there is danger in contentment as much as there is danger in crisis.

lately i've found major crises few and far between...i've experienced relatively smooth sailing.  that's not to say i haven't had to deal with a 3-year-old calling me names 
or a 5-year-old who broke every candle in my kitchen with one toss of a ball 
or excessive amounts of laundry that i can't seem to find time to tackle 
or imperfect people doing annoying things...
but there hasn't been anything to really shake me to the core...you know what i mean?  nothing that i feel i can't quickly recover from.

during these seasons it's easy to be content.
and content we should be...
with our situation...with what we have or don't have.

but...{you knew there was going to be a 'but'}
i step into the danger zone when i become content with myself.  
content that maybe i have finally become 'good enough'.  
content that i have all my bases covered for the moment.
content that i have not completely messed up anything that needs to be fixed.  
this kind of contentment isn't really contentment at all...it's pride wearing a pretty mask.

my behavior begins to shift during these times.
my prayers become less desperate.  
my need to seek wisdom from others is overlooked.  
i'm reading and writing completely for pleasure instead of pursuit...

and there i find myself lulled right to sleep on top of a ticking time bomb.

God...help me to test and examine my ways that i might return to you...

if we're not daily returning we're retreating.  

we are falling further and further away.  down, down, down we go into the depths of this world.  whether it's the crisis we are facing or the contentment we are embracing we sink down deep.  we begin to forget who we are and what we were supposed to be doing here in the first place...we get swallowed up by the world.

and so i lift my heart and hands back up to you, my sovereign King...

in both the easy-going and the hard-fought seasons of life there is a need for us to be lifted back up. 
yesterday i had my gentle, yet firm reminder.  


why be lifted?
why get still and quiet and down on our knees?
why not just allow ourselves to fall into the current of this world and be carried away wherever the waters might flow?

i found the answer here...


lift up your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet...strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

am i striving for peace with EVERYONE?
and the bigger question - am i striving for holiness?
in other words...am i striving for moral and spiritual excellence through my complete dedication and submission to God?
if i'm not - i'm obstructing someone's view...of the one thing i would want them to see...Him.  
wow...that's disturbing. 

i work for a church.  we are in the business of helping people see God.  even if i didn't work for a church i would still be in that business.  the last thing i would ever want to do is get in the way of that...but that's exactly what i do if i am not personally striving for holiness every. single. day.

achieving - no.
striving - yes.

and striving for holiness must begin with the lifting...the returning...from the depths of this world to the heights of his heavenly kingdom...the one that is never shaken.  my wobbly, unsteady legs that always seem to get tripped up need solid ground beneath them if they will ever stand firm.

i texted my pastor a couple of days ago and when he texted me back later he apologized for the delay saying he had been on a prayer walk.  when was the last time you took a prayer walk?  for me...never.  but my heart leapt at the idea...and i have one planned for tonight.  it's just one way of returning...of not getting swallowed up...of seeking holiness
so that i might not keep others from seeing Him.

how are you striving for holiness?  how are you ensuring that no one fails to receive the grace of God?  we can all use one another's encouragement on this most important of journeys.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

where to go when you're all dressed up {or not}

have you ever been all dressed up with no place to go?
that's me today.

as the mama of two little ones, yoga pants are my best friend.  if i know i'm going out in public i may even brush my hair and throw on a pair of jeans and a cute top.  once or twice a week i usually have an opportunity to get out in the real world with real grown-ups...that's when i get all dressed up.  by 'all dressed up' i mean i put on a sundress, blow-dry my hair, and put something besides flip-flops on my feet.

i had a meeting scheduled with some ladies today so i thought i would use it as my excuse to get 'all dressed up' this week.

just as i was dropping my kids off at camp i got a message letting me know that the meeting was cancelled.

all dressed up with no place to go.

i immediately started going down my mental to-do list to determine what i would fill in the free hours with.  but it just didn't seem right to clean out the pantry or cage my tomatoes or scrub toilets in my cute outfit.  i remembered that i needed a new pair of sunglasses since i had lost mine again {which is why i never spend more than $10 on them}...so i decided to stop by the store.  shopping seemed like a good thing to do in flats and a sundress.  

when i pulled into the parking lot i noticed the store didn't open for 20 more minutes.  because i don't like to waste time i parked my car and pulled out my computer bag with plans to get a couple of things accomplished.  when i opened my bag i found a video that i had shoved down in there intending to review it when i had some time.  i realized i happened to have some time...and the title on the cover spoke aloud to me like a firm, but kind invitation...
and so i watched and listened as lisa chan told me exactly what i should do with my 'all dressed up and no place to go' self.  i recognized her words as truth and chose to obey.

i went home and brushed off my martha spirit and got down on the ground like mary...a position that encourages me to lift my eyes up and listen.

i lost my little satin flats and spent almost an hour in my backyard lifting and listening...
so as it turns out...i really did have somewhere to go today.  and even though jesus welcomes me in my yoga pants with no make-up on...i'm glad i got dressed up for him today.

tomorrow i will share what i learned.

in the meantime, whatever outfit you're in today, i hope you will find time to be still.  not in front of the t.v.  not with facebook in your face.  not while running through your to-do list. 
i know...it's ridiculous how hard that is to do, isn't it??  but do it.  
get away from the noise.
get by yourself.
get still.
get quiet.
i promise you will get something precious and sacred in return.

Monday, May 27, 2013

living the dream {reason to homeschool no. 3}

smooth river rocks felt under splashing feet.
treasured snails gently poked and prodded and brought along for the journey.
tiny frog eggs discovered.
bird songs heard.
leaves collected.
this was our day...our perfect school day.
what i am about to say will be a bold statement for someone who is just beginning her homeschool journey but i'm going to claim it like a promise...
there is a dreaminess to homeschooling.

there is also a certain amount of drudgery - i'm sure.  any lofty pursuit presents us with challenges and requires hard work.  i am prepared for those moments...


...but i am counting on the other ones.  

the 'dreamy' ones in which we
:: follow rabbit trails, that lead us to pour over atlases and picture books and globes that transport us to faraway places.
:: get our hands dirty digging in the earth to plant gardens and uncover worms.
:: linger long over classic works of literature and art, and then dip our own brushes into wet colors that are brought to life with the stroke of our hands.
:: sit quietly in the grass, anticipating the chipmunk that makes his home in a hole in our front yard...pondering his little world right under our feet.
:: experience other cultures by reading their stories, cooking their foods, and visiting their lands.

i dream of thousands of moments in which we sing and dance and write and draw and discover and travel and read and create...moments in which we learn.


if learning looks like that i'm hoping my kids will never let it end...this ongoing education of life.  

i'm hoping that the prospect of opening up a book won't be a pain but a privilege.  
i'm hoping they won't force knowledge into their heads in an effort to pass a test but will ravenously drink it up to quench the thirst of their sharp minds.
i'm hoping the idea of school would not deaden their souls but instead bring to it great delight.

we have chosen a charlotte mason style of homeschooling and it's because she said things like this...


...the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses... 


and this...


great artists, whether they be poets or painters, builders or musicians, have the power of expressing and showing to the rest of us some part of the wonderful visions imagination has revealed to them. but the reason why we enjoy their pictures, their poems, or their tales, is because imagination does the same sort of thing for all of us... 


and this...


it is well we should recognize that the business of education is with us all our lives, that we must always go on increasing our knowledge...

it is no small part of education to have seen much beauty, to recognize it when we see it, and to keep ourselves humble in its presence.

and, of course, this...


let the mother go out to play!


amen.


{this is part three of my weekly series on homeschooling}

Thursday, May 23, 2013

for a daughter's birthday {or any day}

it was the only comment on the entire preschool evaluation form...
wants to tell the teacher stories during calendar time.

a string of 'yes'es lined the page indicating she was on track in all areas of development but then there was this comment.  


the way the teacher noted it aloud and then sat silently staring at me made me uncomfortable.  i don't like people pointing out my flaws or the flaws of my kids.  i know we have them i just don't like it when someone calls us out on them.  i got the feeling that this might possibly be a problem in her eyes...this storytelling.  


i know, i know.  i'm sure it wasn't the storytelling per se that she disproved of...it was probably the timing of the stories that was bothersome.  i'm sure there was a perfectly good lesson that was interrupted in the process...

...but i had to smile.

two years ago lucy's teacher told me 8 weeks into the school year that lucy didn't talk at all in class.  my mouth dropped to the floor because she was a motor mouth at home.  it was anxiety that was keeping her quiet back then but now she's comfortable.  now they tell me she talks too much.  and i'm grateful...because i think opening your mouth and letting a little bit of yourself come out is better than sitting nervous in a corner keeping all your words unspoken.

this child of mine was without hair for the first two and a half years of her life but i can scarcely remember a time when she was without words.  she weaves them one to another as stories and breathes melody into them as songs 
every. single. day.

you have to be brave to tell stories and sing songs out loud.  my lucy is brave...just like the one who stepped into a wardrobe and followed a lion.  


today marks 5 years of brave living for my girl...there's no telling where the words will take her from here.  


i've been reading a lot of posts for mothers of daughters lately.  i love emily's list and ann's prayer and angie's observation...


and most of all i keep coming back to this song that made me think of lucy when i first heard it {and then made me cry when i actually saw the video that goes along with it}.


and so i wish for her this year that she would have more stories to tell and songs to sing...

baby girl...i just want to see you be brave...

say what you want to say and let the words fall out...honestly...


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the oklahoma tornado post {and what i find most compelling about times of crisis}

there is a quiet little corner behind my closet door where i go to pray.  last night i let my knees fall, my eyes close and my hands open as i wrestled with God through what happened in oklahoma yesterday.

one article i read quoted a spokesperson from the mayor's office as saying - please send us your prayers.

regardless of our spiritual beliefs, certain situations demand that we seek help beyond ourselves.  i find that compelling.
we may never be able to explain why certain devastating events occur at certain times, impacting certain people but i believe that what c.s. lewis said may be true...
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

this doesn't necessarily indicate that God causes pain - though He could {and would} if it would ultimately lead to what is best for us.
it does indicate that God is with us in our pain.  he is close to the brokenhearted.  he binds them up.  many of us meet Him for the first time in those dark places where His light is gleaming bright.  and despite the pain we are changed forever...for the better.

and so i pour my prayers out at times like these.

as i spoke aloud my words last night i knew they were heard by a God who holds everything together even when it feels like everything is falling apart.  i thanked Him for the gift of feeling safe and sound inside of my home while others lay scared and broken outside of theirs.

i was reminded that during these times when i find myself on solid ground i have a duty to rise up and stand firm for those whose legs are shaking and whose ground feels as though it is crumbling beneath their feet.

and for those who can't let their guard down...those who keep looking over their shoulder in fear of what might come next...for them i can be vulnerable on my knees with my head bent down in vulnerable submission.

for those who feel weak my prayers must be strong.

and as my words rose in boldness i pleaded with God to use His megaphone to speak His promises, His truth, His mercy, His love to the people who need it most today...just as He did for me on the dark days when we first met.


I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
 and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me 
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him 
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps 
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
 I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil 
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
 and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, 
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
 and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
 and saves the crushed in spirit.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

brothers and sisters {reason to homeschool no. 2}

to the outside world, we all grow old.  but not to brothers and sisters.  we know each other as we always were.  we know each other's hearts.  we live outside the touch of time.
{clara ortega}

{this little series started HERE}

remember how on my blog i'm the boss of me?  that's why my monday homeschool post is being posted on wednesday...i'm not a very good boss.

this post can pretty much exclusively be communicated via pictures.  the grandparents are going to love this...








i want my kids to be friends.
not just people who live under the same roof and pass one another to and from their respective lives...
friends.

do my kids get along?
sometimes.
do my kids duke it out?
sometimes.
do my kids like each other?
sometimes.
do my kids love each other?
every day.  all the time.

whether they are shoving or hugging, singing or shouting, my kids would always tell you that they love each other and usually they would claim the other one as their best friend.  i don't think that happens by accident.

for friendship to grow seeds must be sown.  seeds of patience, understanding, kindness, laughter, service,  joy, love...all of which must be planted deep in the garden of time.  in a way i guess this reason for homeschooling overlaps with the first...i want my kids to have time together to develop friendship.

we can always learn to love each other better and that's the most important lesson in the education of my family.



Friday, May 10, 2013

the balancing act {my mother's day message}

how do you balance everything?!?!

it's the question i get asked most often as a mom.
it's also one of the biggest lessons i have learned since having children.

5 years ago when we were preparing for the birth of our first child - life was full.  i laugh at myself when i consider my naivety in thinking i would just add kids into the mix...no big deal.  as if they would just be one more ingredient in this life that i was cooking up.

it didn't take me long to figure out that i wasn't going to add lucy to any existing dish.  she was going to demand a culinary creation of her own and it seemed she would settle for nothing less than being the main course.  one by one the other parts of my life became something i might nibble on every now and then but mostly they never made it onto my plate.  it was then that God began to shift my view of balance and lead me to the freedom found not in doing a little bit of everything but in doing a lot with the big things.  

some of the most profound lessons i have learned about balance have been found in a somewhat unlikely place...the life of a man who lived over 2000 years ago and changed a nation by building a wall.  

his name was nehemiah.

this sunday i will share the lessons i have learned from the life of nehemiah and how they apply to anyone who is trying to figure out this balancing act of life.  if you are looking for somewhere to spend this mother's day sunday i would love for you to join us at new charlotte!



Monday, May 6, 2013

time and time again {reason to homeschool no. 1}

note :: as with all of my commentary on homeschooling these words reflect only what i believe to be best for my family today.  i would never claim to know what is best for everyone else or even what will be best for my family in the future.  

having said that...let's begin my 'why homeschool?' list {in no particular order}.  here's #1...

i like being with my kids.  
do i sometimes lock myself in the bathroom so that i can have 5 minutes alone?  yes.  
do i take full advantage of family and friends who want to hang out with my kids so that i can do something non-mommy related?  absolutely.  
but the longer i'm a mom the more i realize that if i want to really influence my kids and build deep relationships with them we need time together.

here's what i fear next year would look like if i didn't homeschool lucy...  

take her to school at 8am.  
get her home from school at 3:30pm.  
let her rest {because she still takes a nap a few times a week and i have a feeling 7+ hours of school will do her in}.
by this time i may have 30 minutes tops before we get into the dinner/bedtime routine or i leave for work {i usually work 1-2 nights per week}.
repeat monday through friday.

i'm not ready to give up that time with her.


don't get me wrong.  when other people say - i couldn't wait for my kids to start school so that i could get those 7 hours a day all to myself! - i can see the appeal...really, i can.  i mean...i have lots of things i like to do when i have time alone.  


but i knew what i was getting into when i became a mom.  i knew these little monkeys would seriously interfere with my personal time and as frustrating as that can sometimes be...it's worth the sacrifice.  during this season i really believe that there is no more valuable use of my time than being a mom and a wife and setting the foundation for our little family.


so my reason to homeschool no. 1 is simply this...


time.


time to laugh.

cry.
learn.
play.
teach.
make messes.
clean them up.
love.
break up fights.
pray.
dance.
sing.
time to really see each other.

i need time to accomplish all the things i want to accomplish with my kids right now.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

seeing the unseen {and the 15 minute tea party}

{the apostle paul}

paul knew what it meant to suffer affliction - much of it i wouldn't consider light or momentary.  stuff like imprisonment and people plotting his death.  

you may not be in a literal prison with bars and locks but maybe there is something that has you feeling trapped...unable to walk through life in freedom.  and even if you haven't had someone sending you threatening letters you may feel a sense of impending doom because something or someone in your life is suffocating you.

at the moment i have a prayer list full of real people who are struggling with real affliction - cancer, miscarriages, divorce, depression...the list goes on.  i am thankful not to be in a season of deep suffering. but... i have been there before and my heart breaks for those around me who are fighting for air and for freedom.
ever since that eyeball post several months ago i have had a greater awareness about what my own eyes are focused on.  they so naturally wander to the dishes piled up in the sink or the temper tantrum being thrown on my floor or the unfinished work spilling out of my computer bag.  i'm so preoccupied with the work that i am doing {and often failing at} that i miss the eternal work that God is doing in all the unseen places.  and let's be honest - there are too many times that i look hard into that little pandora's box in my hand that holds endless posts and pictures and tweets...all keeping my eyes away from what's real.

he has set eternity in our hearts so i'm guessing that's where we'll find the unseen...floating like diamonds in the waters of our hearts, reflecting the light of jesus in a dark world.  and so i look deep in the eyes of my children and my husband and all the others who cross my path each day...looking for what's shining deep inside.  i try desperately to carve out moments to peer into my own heart and unearth the places where an eternal glow is being cultivated.

whether your affliction comes and goes or has set in for a while, i pray you will miraculously find it to be 'light' and 'momentary'.  whatever has got you out of breath or completely out of commission i pray it will fade into the background as the eternal glow of what God is doing in your life becomes more visible.  and maybe together we can agree to leave pandora's box closed for a while so that real life moments won't be stolen right out from under us.

this morning i took 15 minutes to put together a tea party with lucy.  i didn't let my eyes stop on the dishes or the laundry or the unfinished work.  instead i met her gaze over and over as i felt myself falling into that place that will not fade away...