Summer Break

2013

 

A few weeks ago, I was praying with my faithful friends, the two women I’ve been praying with for about the past ten years.

I had shared with them how much I wanted this summer to be one to remember.  How I wanted to make strong, good, happy memories with my six and with my nieces and nephew.  How I wanted lots of time to just BE with John and lots of time to just be alive.

They were praying into that and over me and then one of them began to bless us with an Extravagant Summer.

It was a wonderful blessing, bursting with promise and brimming with life.

I told John about it and we began to pray into to.

Then we began to talk about what it would look like.

We have a lot of summer plans.  We want to do a lot of fun things.  We’ve already taken one trip to the mountains and had some really good times there.  We have a couple of other trips planned too.

But what about the day to day?  What will that look like?

Well, I began to hear in my heart that I needed to take a technology break.  Step away from these keys and truly be in every moment.  Limit my computer time to only checking email and messages one or two times a day.  Close the doors on Facebook for the summer, save up my blogs for the fall and really, really be in the moments.  We’re going to quit just turning on the tv or going to the computer for games and get outside, play a board game, make crafts, learn to cook something new, see what happens!

I’ve been thinking so much about this mama, how she’s made it her life’s work to be a hands free, fully focused mama.  She’s got some good stuff on her page.

And it’s not that technology is bad.  It’s just that having both hands and both eyes in the game is better.  A season of concentrated experience, concentrated love, concentrated focus can only be good, right?

I’m going to miss you, dear Readers.  I will be back on Labor Day or maybe a little bit after to tell you how our summer went.  And I’ll be checking my email if you want to stay in touch.

Have a great summer!  Make it extravagant!  Love well!  LIVE!

 

 

Happy Graduation, Aubrey!

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Today, Aubrey graduates from high school.

I am thinking of the moment I first held her and couldn’t believe her black hair!  Sweet little butterball of peace and love…that quiet baby turned into a wild and nutty toddler not unlike her sister Claire.

Aubrey was a funny little kid.  She loved Pocahontas 2 and animals (not unlike her sister Lila) and Littlest Pet Shop.  She “taught” herself to do Irish step dancing and would exhibit her skills whenever asked.  She was always loving and sweet.

In elementary school, she started writing these little poems about Jesus with drawings included.  I have the notebook they are in and I treasure it.  She’s still a very gifted writer.

Late in middle school , she discovered theatre and has loved it ever since.  I’ve seen her make some amazing friends through drama and we have loved watching her perform.

Aubrey is always one who will jump and help out without even being asked.  She is great with her little sisters.  She happily serves the children at church and is always there for her friends.  She is a lovely young woman.

Aubrey and I are a lot alike but her sense of humor leaves me in the dust!  She is so funny.

What I love most about Aubrey is how much she loves Jesus and how hard she loves her people.  Aubrey knows what it means to love well and that is part of everything she does.  She is going to change the world.

I’m so proud of her.

This is a scary part of the motherhood journey.  It’s kind of the moment they step out of childhood and tentatively into adulthood.  And like any new thing, being a grown up takes practice.  Aubrey will do well, I know but she’s going to have to make some mistakes along the way.

We all do.  And it’s how we learn.

This is the time, though, that we stop and just watch and see our hard work pay off, see our child come into their own.

Today, I have two adult children and I just can’t believe the years have flown by so fast.  That’s one thing I just have to say, the days sometimes crawl by slowly but the years fly.  My 9lb. 11oz. black haired baby girl is a tall, blonde gorgeous young woman.  She will walk across a stage today, out of childhood and into adulthood.

I’m confident that I will cry.

Mercy

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This morning I was thinking about the Lord’s mercy and how He gives it so freely and we give it reluctantly and with closed fists.

Mercy is hard.

But we have to practice mercy if we’re going to practice gratitude.  We have to practice mercy if we’re going to love well.  We have to remember mercy and remember how He pours it out on us.

This morning, I was thinking about mercy with eyes bleary and tired.  I drank the coffee my loving, merciful husband made me and still I felt so sleepy.  I thought sadly, “But we’re out of k cups.”

I go to the kitchen and here is what I find:

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Just a little wink of mercy.

Look for winks of mercy today.

This Is My Sacrifice

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“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”  Hebrews 13:15

I got to thinking about this yesterday.  What it would mean to really offer up a sacrifice of praise.  Why it’s a sacrifice.

I got to thinking about how my favorite times are times with eyes closed and hands heldd high and songs lifted alongside the corporate body of believers.  I got to thinking about how I put that worship music on and sing my heart out while I’m doing dishes or baking bread.  Sweet incense swirling around His throne.

Doesn’t feel much like a sacrifice of praise.  Feels like a gift He’s given me.

But that little song stayed on my mind….”We bring a sacrifice of praise…into the house of the Lord…”

And maybe yes, the singing, the songs, the music, the eyes closed and hands lifted high, the dancing across the kitchen…that’s a gift.  It lifts my head and my heart, yes, it is a good gift.

But what about the others ways we praise?

When we give our money…not knowing how we’ll cover bills and groceries, but we give the way Jesus taught us to give.  Giving sacrificially and joyfully.  That hurts sometimes.  It’s a sacrifice of praise.

When we offer forgiveness to someone who isn’t even sorry…to someone who has broken our heart…when we do that…that’s a sacrifice of praise and it hurts.  It costs.

When we whisper our broken thanks…when we worship even though everything is a mess…when we are thankful and content in the midst of circumstances…that hurts and it costs and it is hard.  It’s a sacrifice of praise.

When we do what’s right even though it is decidedly NOT what we want to do.  It costs.  A piece of us dies and it hurts.  But we do it as a sacrifice of praise.

We bring these sacrifices to the altar.  In Old Testament times, they brought lambs and doves and had to slaughter them for a sacrifice.  I am grateful we don’t have to do that and I’m sure it wasn’t fun…but did it cost like these sacrifices?

These sacrifices are gifts from our deepest selves.  We give them wholly…when we’re doing well.  We hold them back when we’re not.  The good news…there isn’t a time limit.

God is always waiting for us to bring our sacrifice.  Even at the eleventh hour.  Even after weeks, months or years of holding it back.

He waits.

He is patient.

Bring a sacrifice to Him today.  A sacrifice of generosity, of obedience, of gratitude.

Zephaniah 3:17

Last night was one of those motherhood nights that make you want to hand in your minivan and find a new line of work.

The girls were sent upstairs to tidy their room, then the plan was to have ice cream, read bedtime stories and get to bed.  Well, time went by, the room didn’t get clean and bedtime arrived.

I’ve just finished reading the book, “Have a New Kid by Friday” which is all about consequences.  One of the major points is “A doesn’t happen until B does.”  So, that meant that if the room tidy didn’t happen, neither did ice cream.

Now, it has been suggested that I am sometimes a bit of a pushover and I’m not going to deny it.  But being a pushover has, in the case of some strong willed little ladies, taught my daughters how to manipulate me for their own agendas.  We are, after all, born sinners in need of grace and a savior and in the case of children, in need of training up.  I had to step up my training efforts.

You can imagine, I’m sure, what happened when I said no ice cream.  I had thought to still do stories, since reading is important and it’s part of the routine but both of these girls came UNGLUED.  UNHINGED.

Screaming the likes of which I’ve never heard.  “You’re a mean mom!  You’re supposed to feed your kids!  You promised!”

My instinct was to also become unglued and unhinged but I bit it back, took some deep breaths and calmly said, “You had a choice.  You chose to play instead of tidying your room,” which, for the record, was about ten minutes worth of mess,  “And now you’re going to have to go to bed.”

I was proud of how I handled it.  I got them to bed with no screaming from me, plenty of screaming from them and I was in my room watching Hulu Plus and eating crackers and cheese in no time.  I patted myself on the back.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock on the door.

I opened it to find a sweet little paci face with a sheepish smile and the words, “I’m scared, Mommy.  I need to sleep in your bed.”

I ushered her back to her bed.

Back to my room and back to tv.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock at the door and that same little lady was standing there.

I ushered her back to bed, Super Nanny style.

Approximately 2.5 minutes later, there was a knock at the door and I’ll bet you can guess who it was.

I ushered her back to bed, Super Nanny style and she went bananas.

I mean screaming the likes of which I hadn’t heard…well, since I’d first tried to put them to bed.  Carrying on, thrashing around, ugly words, ear splitting shrieks.

Lila said, “It’s kind of hard to sleep when she’s making all that noise.”

I said, “Let’s pray.”  And Lila agreed, probably as much for the chance to get out of bed as any other reason.  She joined me on the bottom bunk and Claire screeched, “I don’t wanna pway!”

We ignored her and prayed for peace and calm and Lila curled into my lap like a little cat, already over the bedtime drama.

Lila went back up to her bed and I hugged Claire who did not want to be hugged.  I began to sing over her and hold her tight, hoping that the Holy Spirit all intertwined in the words of the song would calm her down.  I sang through “Beautiful Mercy” and “Like a Lion” and then “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and then back through all three again.  Praying all the while that the Holy Spirit would descend and blanket her in peace.

And after a while, there was peace.

The bedtime drama began at 8:00 and was finally over at close to 10:00.

Claire has a fierceness.  She is independent and stubborn and strong.  She knows what she wants and gets very stuck on wanting what she wants.  She is rebellious and short tempered.  She is just like me.

I held her last night and sang over her and thought about God and how often He has to hold me down and sing over me until I calm.  I thought about how I sometimes just don’t wanna pway.  I just don’t want to do anything but rage.

I learn so much about God from my children.  So much about love.  So much about mercy.  So much about God as Father.

I was having a grown up tantrum in the kitchen a couple of nights ago while John cooked tacos.  Raging about things not going my way, crying about things not being fair, sulking and storming.  He tried to reassure and I didn’t want to hear it.

I am so much like Claire.

And eventually, God held me and sang over me and quieted my soul.

And I felt better.

This morning, Claire wakes up with a smile on her face and a happy heart.  I watch her talk to Nora.  I see that she loves as fiercely as she rages.  The baby laughs at her sister.  I pray that the day is one filled with peace and in this moment there is only peace.

The morning goes on and the dog is stealing food from the table and this child hits another child and the tantrums go on (most likely because she didn’t get enough sleep) and Claire spits at me and the dog is in the trash and it’s another day in the life.  But the strength of that moment of beauty carries me through.  I will watch for these little moments as the day goes on because these are the moments that help us to survive.

These little moments where God sings over us.

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Watch for your moments today.

Community

Music comes through the door and lightly shakes me awake.  It is 6:20am and my body aches from a busy weekend and too many late nights in a row.

But I smile because I have all these joyful memories from the past couple of days and I think to myself that I can’t wait to write.  This is progress, not a swimming to the surface but a gentle floating upward of surrender.

A surrender to Jesus and His healing and a surrender to acceptance.  It takes time to recover.  It takes time to feel better in my heart, mind, body, soul and strength.  It takes work but not striving.

The medicine to my soul this weekend was community.

And community is what moves my heart to write this morning so early.

I’m blessed in community and have always been.  Beginning with the community of a large and very loving family.  A family that will loan you anything, celebrate every baby you have (even while shaking their heads at the NUMBER of babies you have!), dance at your wedding, laugh with you, cry with you and just be present with you.  These are the people who show up at the hospital and wait until you’re okay.  They are the ones who remember your kids’ birthdays and your birthdays and who say, “Remember when…” a lot.  They are my first community.

All the kids in attendance!

Claire and Uncle David, who looks suspiciously like Pappy

And then I think about when my older kids were small and I had this handful of amazing friends that I did life in the motherhood trenches with every single day.  These women are still my friends and I still love them.  We got each other through those hard years of figuring out how to raise kids well, of learning how to be wives and those years that we were still growing up.

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I’m in the midst of good community even now.  We saw it when I was in the hospital, when I was recovering, when Nora was still in the hospital.  Such an outpouring of love and service to our family and we are still reeling with gratitude.

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Yesterday we celebrated a family that we love.  A family that, more than a decade and a half ago, moved from Texas to Virginia to plant a church.  A church that changed my life forever.  A church that taught me worlds about community.  That family now, all these years later, is moving from Virginia to Texas to plant a church.  We gathered to bless and to celebrate and it was glorious to be in the midst of that community again.

I was a young mother of three.  They were six, four and not quite two when we came to Hope Community Church.  Mercy, I knew almost nothing about living for Jesus.  I knew almost nothing about being real.  And I really didn’t know that God really, really loved me right where I was, just as I was.  I had spent a lot of time trying to redeem myself…a lot of time trying to work my way into His good graces.  At Hope I learned that love set me free for real and I was living in His good graces.  Twelve years I was there, twelve years of an action packed life.  We walked through much together- a hurricane, a very sick sister, a divorce, a remarriage, babies, hard times and good times.  It was in the midst of this community that I learned what it felt like to be fully accepted, to be delighted in, to be appreciated and used (in the good way).   I fell in love with a million sweet babies.  I served in a million different places: restoration ministry, Shadrach’s coffeehouse, children’s ministry, first contact, women’s ministry, house of prayer, a writing group, community groups.  I came to deeply value family and children.  I learned that God had tooled my heart to serve children, to teach them.  I learned that God made me to sing.  I learned that God wanted to use me to pray for others, to hear their deepest hearts and respond.  I learned that I am hopeless at organization and administration work.  I learned to not shy away from my gifts and talents but to use them for His glory.  I learned the importance of drawing others in.  I learned humility when I fell down, when I stumbled and when this community helped me stand up again.

What a good, good gift.

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Those days gone by…the good, the bad, the glorious and the ugly.  I wouldn’t trade them.

And it was good to be in the midst of that community yesterday.

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What I want to say to you today is this:  Never underestimate the value of community.  The value of drawing near in a group.  When you’re right in the middle of your every day, day to day, crazy life…you might not realize what you’re learning.  You might not even notice how He’s shaping you, how He’s using your community to change you.

God has been faithful to me, faithful to keep me rooted in family and friends.  Community is part of how He has loved me well.  Blessing me with people who love well, people who are real, people who are doing their best to figure it all out.

And oh, I’m going to miss those nine precious people we celebrated yesterday.  They were and are vital to my community, to my family and to my heart.  How grateful I am that I’ll spend eternity with them…and in the meantime, how grateful I am for facebook and iphones and texting and facetime.

I love you, Hales.  So grateful for your presence in my life these last fourteen years.  So looking forward to what’s to come.

10-06-12 Chris 40th BD Party (93)