Wednesday, October 14, 2015

K.I.S.S. the Son

Sometimes I complicate things. Most times.

Adding, adding, adding when what I need to be doing is pausing, pausing, removing.

"Be STILL and know that I Am God."

My thoughts: relentless. My tasks: endless. My energy: boundless.  <<<That last one is sarcasm folks. To the contrary, I often feel sapped even before the day begins!

But then God.....

Maybe you've heard that before. XYZ was happening but then God stepped into the situation and changed it somehow. I feel tired and unprepared but then I spend my morning with God. Then I am ready to conquer the piles and the chores and the noise. Lysa Terkeurst says it, "Exchange whispers with God before exchanging shouts with the world." 

That is what I am learning through this journey I have been on. When I start to feel something isn't quite right, when I pause to look and listen, He moves me into a space with less and more. When He called me to homeschooling, I was called to more work and less rushing. More of my kiddos, less time for me.

I didn't want to give up my spot in the leader's circle at BSF. It was not only where I grew spiritually but where my friends were and my purpose. It is where I learned how to deal with little humans and, even more, to love them. There that I would find my passion for teaching and for children. I clung to Bible Study Fellowship with this tight fist when I saw that God was moving me away.... I knew His reason (at least what He had revealed to me) and I agreed with Him, but I just wanted to be a leader still.

BSF Retreat 2014

See, He was calling me to homeschool my children. To teach my own children and learn with my own children and love them through their learning like no one else ever could. I tearfully obeyed but I wrestled with Him for a year and struggled through a class that I did not really enjoy or much participate in. I was stubbornly holding on to this really good thing. BSF is still my spiritual inflection point. However, God had something else for us....

Today is usually our CC day. CC stands for Classical Conversations. This community and curriculum that is just a gift from God. I get to learn these facts all over again, some that I learned before and some that I honestly don't remember ever having heard of! I loved school and learning when I was growing up so I have been amazed at how much I just didn't get in my early years that this curriculum is giving. I get to go do life with other homeschooling mamas and God, in all His amazing grace, gave me a new purpose! I am a tutor for our community on Wednesdays and so my passion for teaching and for children, which are the main reasons I held so tightly to my children's leader position, is fulfilled there each week. I teach 10-12 year olds rather than babies and preschoolers. This is broadening my experience with and knowledge of children. Who knew??? (Don't answer that!)

The kids and I have this week off from Classical Conversations so we have been reviewing the last 6 weeks of memorization. I got an idea from another CC mama on FB to make invertebrates out of model clay and so I set the kids to work. They were going to make all 8 of the major ones out of the clay. Super simple.

It was then that I had an epiphany. Here are my kiddos, barefoot in their very own backyard, reinforcing their knowledge with a fun and simple activity. They stayed outside for an hour! They loved it and I got to watch them learn through play and creativity. I actually didn't expect their end results to be so detailed! My daughter even did her favorite YouTube video star: Stampy cat. So I asked myself, why do I complicate everything?

Why do I believe the lie that rushing around is somehow better than this slow life? Why do I doubt His plan and begin to get anxious that they are somehow missing something and that I can somehow offer it? My mind swirls and complicates things when I begin to look around me at the world rather than focus on my God.

"Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

I do this because sometimes I believe lies. I complicate things and try to add things when it is in the simple, the slow, the still that I begin to know God. He is not in the rushed pace or the stress or the extra worksheets. He is not in the noise and the hustle and the world. He is right here, in my backyard. With my barefoot kiddos and my doggy under the table. He is in the sky and the trees and the birds and all His creation. He is in me! In these small souls and in their clay arthropods. This day helped me to remember that as I make space for the real living and the real treasures, to just K.I.S.S. the Son. That is: Keeping It Simple, Sweetie! All to the glory of Christ!!

Nighty night! <3

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Today's Treasure

It's been a long day.

In the middle of a huge project at home, Sunday school, baseball game, and a meeting. I also slept through an appointment. Again.

I'm stretched thin and spread out and much is self-induced. Each day I thank God for my breath and these blessings and ask for the grace and energy to do it all again.

As I walk into our home after my meeting, my hubby is just putting the kids to bed. I haven't really hung out with him all weekend and I can't wait to get to our cozy spot on the couch and find our next Netflix treasure. I go in to kiss the littles goodnight.

My son has his normal question, "What are we doing tomorrow?" 

Being homeschoolers, the answer to that question is usually different but sometimes the same. I smile and inform him that tomorrow we have a field trip. These are much more prevalent for us now and we look forward to them. My answer is followed by his head popping off of his pillow and him asking loads more questions. I love these night talks. His personality shines and his baby ways reemerge. My big man child, now almost my height, changes somehow in that bed of his. I can lay down next to him and talk and talk and listen and listen. It's something that just doesn't happen the same way in the daytime. Tonight, however, I still have another little to kiss goodnight.....

She's already bouncing. She could hear brother laughing when I tickled him and she was waiting for her turn. How did I get so lucky? How can I deserve these four eyes and 20 fingers just waiting to curl around my neck? Such are the blessings of God, undeserved.

And she has a normal question too, "Can you lay with me?"

I remember my hubby, waiting for me in living room. I miss him. I want to be with him finally but here she is, smiling, hopeful, and then I remember how I answered last night's question, "I will lay with you tomorrow night." So I lay down. She can hardly contain herself and she cannot stop talking. I convince her to turn around and lay down by telling her I'll scratch her back. We lie there in the night and she compares my back scratching to daddy's back scratching. I pray over her and the tears of overwhelming joy and thankfulness flow.

This moment. This time. This is what I desire. To be in the moment. These passing twinklings that are so tiny and so seemingly insignificant but that are the life-blood of our love and our Jesus. The big showing up in the small. The getting to pray for her future and hear her thoughts. I am tired, yes. But choosing to spend these ten minutes, here with her, are worth the loss of anything else for this instant. I can't say that I always take these moments but I am grateful that tonight I did. And I am learning to make space and time for the treasure of today.

P.S. Happy birthday to my amazing sister, Lindsay. You are the best auntie that my kiddos could hope for. We love you!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ode To Randy

Your smile and laughter lingers here...

The way you grinned from ear to ear.

This feeling like it isn't real.

It's something I don't want to feel.

I want it all to be a dream.

I want to stop the inner scream.

This thing that says it isn't fair and shakes a fist up in the air.

Life isn't fair.

Death isn't fair.

But, Randy, you were so very rare!!

You were rare in the bestest of ways.

That youthful soul that plays and plays.

Those awful shirts that you made look dope!

The nights we spent at Club Metro.

** Just your laugh. That laugh. **

What a happy sound to hear,

That always put joy in the hearers ear.

Oh, I'm sure some times got you down

But here, it was rare to see you frown.

It's proof, you know, that God is here

When He shows up in people that we hold dear.

We grasp a glorious glimpse of God

Whenever we revel in the beautifully odd

And so I thank our Lord above

Who shows us mercy, grace, and love.

He gives to us and takes away

and you, sweet Randy, help us to say

"Life is too short, let's love one another.

Let's live in the moment and love like our brother."

For knowing you was to have a friend

and we are fools who believe it won't end

So now I sit and receive the gift

Of  knowing that all things eventually shift

Of op'ning my hands to receive what will come

Of enjoying each day be it rain or in sun

and by doing so trust that the great God above

Gave Randy to us to show us His love.

I am grateful for having known you, Randy. You are and will forever be so so missed. This seems like a terrible injustice but I have to believe in a God Who is always good. I know He had a great purpose for you. I know He blessed many through you. I am so sad for us who knew you and for this world but I am happy for you that you are in a better place, surely making them laugh...... I am glad that you are no longer sick. Never again will you cry or hunger or feel pain, loneliness, or sadness. Until we meet again, my friend..... I love you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Between the Valentine's Days

Valentine's Day. Oh, how I love hearts and roses and pinks and reds and love!! I love Love! 

I am such a sucker for romance. I have been known to feel every emotion felt in The Notebook right along with them. That and so many more......

I have always had this notion for Valentine's Day. Being a girl with divorced parents, I really didn't know what a healthy relationship looked like. Needless to say, I ran headfirst into all the wrong ones. In the wrong ways. Valentine's Day didn't mean much to me in those years but, after I got married, I couldn't have known how much emphasis I would place on this one day.

It had to be perfect. Of course perfect meant cards and flowers and candlelit dinners and red. Lots of red! My poor husband never saw it coming. The pressure. The stress, financial and mental. The ugliness when it wasn't "perfect." Wasn't this supposed to be the best day of the year for us? This day was all about us and our love! What could be more important?

Fast forward eleven and a half years and I can tell you what is more important.

More important are the daily sacrifices. More important are the words whispered in dark rooms only to each other on the days between the Valentine's Days. The love that we cultivate everyday when we overlook the socks on the floor or the (huge) shoe that we just tripped over or the missing travel coffee mugs when you really need one! The time we get together and the time we give to each other and the blessing we are to one another. These things are infinitely more important than all of the artificial, material things we think we need or, even worse, deserve. 

Don't get me wrong. I still love those things! I love being surprised and wooed by my husband. I love being thought of in those ways. It means even more now because I know how busy he is and how much pressure our men face everyday. But it isn't expected or required any more. If we decide not to buy each other something and we really don't. That is not going to change how I feel about him. I couldn't say that before. I placed so much value on the things, the outward, that I neglected what was right in front of me. This man, giving his everyday and taking on task after task to care for his family. This man who puts up with this "pita" wife and still plays with my hair at night. Who remembers the chore I forgot and does it. Who fills up my gas tank!! (That's a fave one.) All these things. And I took it for granted and I am so grateful that we made it through to a better place. Only through perseverance and prayer, but that is another story!

Now, my man, he loves Love too. He just isn't as excited about it as I am, you know? Oh, I'm sure he's jumping up and down inside when I give him cut out hearts with sweet nothings scrawled on them. I just can't tell. But, as calm as he looks, for sure he's over the moon. ;0)

So, the conclusion that I have come to about Valentine's Day is that it is really a big hoax. I know that sounds dramatic but hear me out. I am a scientific gal. I have realized that I look for patterns in everything and I allow those patterns to guide my logic and decision making. Case in point: 11 years of Valentine's Days. I have observed that things are abundantly over-priced come V-Day. I have noticed that things are abundantly over-crowded come V-Day. Businesses are so overwhelmed, they are below satisfactory at what they do. Restaurant kitchens are scrambling to keep up, the card you want has no envelope to fit it, the babysitter is charging more and the theater is packed. I love people. I do. But, you know what I'm getting at.

This was my husband and I last Valentine's Day weekend. Strange, no red. Anyway, my sweet man knows that I love me some horses so he set this up for us to do. I was excited! I asked my sister to babysit and it was going to be great!

We set out to the ranch. Our ride was at noon. Did I mention we live in California? It is hot here most of the time but last February was particularly toasty. Twelve o'clock, noon. The rides were scheduled back to back. We had to be right on time. My sister was late to take the kids. Stress. The horses were sweaty from their previous ride. How romantic.

My man's horse looks a little too small for him but that little horse left me and my big ol' slow poke in the dust. Literally. So we spent an hour in the hot sun, on sweaty horses, in a straight line behind a trail guide that would not stop talking. Seriously. She talked my husband's ear off and I did not get to ride with them because my horse couldn't keep up. Lol. We were supposed to relax afterward with a glass of champagne. We opted to go get lunch instead. The best part is that those rides usually cost $40. On Valentine's weekend, they call it the Sweetheart Ride and charge $150! I laugh so hard when I think about it now but, truthfully, that was the nail in the coffin of Valentine's Day outings for us. This was actually the day after Valentine's.

We had the right idea when we spent the night before that, Valentine's Day, at home with our sweet kiddos. (The boy in the black shirt is a sweet church friend.)

Last year my kids went to public school, so after school we made these strawberries and gave some to our neighbor. We had a yummy, festive dinner and enjoyed a quiet night at home together. No crowds, no frantic waitresses, no over-priced venues. Just my sweet family. Talking about the true meaning of love. Remembering that everyday is Valentine's Day.

Everyday is a chance to show love and live it. To love Christ and show Him to others. To remember that love is an action word. It requires doing something and we get to be the ones to do it. We get to live aware of the richness in Christ and we get to share it! We can do that in so many ways but the best one is just sacrificial love. A love that sees and serves in sincerity. A love that mimics Christ's.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

So don't be fooled by the facebook and instagram pictures that look like this one:

That picture was the best thing that came from that ride.

Live in the everyday. Live in the moment. Laugh at the holidays that aren't quite picture perfect and love your man anyway..... for who he is and what he does between the Valentine's Days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Prune This Soul

Sometimes I sit in the garden. These rare, precious moments when everything is still and I have a second to absorb it all....

We moved here last January. Rushed but hopeful and looking forward to a new beginning. The house is quaint and cozy. The yard is humongous. It just stretches on and on with trees and space. The most striking of all of the trees is the avocado tree. She expands her arms to cover an enormous length of yard and she bears beautiful, delicious fruit. How I long to be as fruitful as she....

Beyond this is the back backyard. A forgotten and run-down, tree trunk-filled, barren land that sat empty for 10 years. Many looking at this neglected yard might (and did) see something useless; something requiring much too much time and effort. My husband saw potential. His eyes lit up at the possibility of a new task. This awesome, God-given gift of gardening. I really don't believe that any other hobby on earth so reflects God's purposes for man quite like gardening. It makes sense. Adam was placed in the garden to work it. God saw that it was good. We were given this deserted field to work it. We can see that it is good

My man spent weeks back there, sweating away. Carrying log after log until they were stacked neatly along the side of the old garage. Most of them had to be dug out of the dirt in order to be moved. How much am I like these old logs? Clinging to the dirt and mud, buried in it. How much like the overlooked yard? Requiring much too much work to be what and who I should be. But, like my husband with our garden, God sees what I can be. God stooped low and made Himself like me. He found pleasure in it! He wooed me and I welcomed Him in and isn't that when the work begins? Slowly and gently He prepares His garden. My husband did the same. Methodically and continuously he worked. He toiled and tilled and planted and watered. God, in His infinite grace and constant lavishing of gifts, blessed the work of his hands. Those seeds grew!! So incredibly fast and full of life. This back backyard is no longer forgotten.

And isn't it the same with me? With my heart? I read it this morning:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

My Father is the gardener. 

Gardening seems simple. It is not. We put in a lot of work. We were amazed by the return. I attributed most of the growth to the fact that the land had been virtually unused for a decade. I also find my man to be blessed by God so I thought that this was just another one of the many gifts from God to my hubby. I have no doubt that those things played a part in the amazing growth but I noticed something else. These plants were so fickle! One day they looked great and the next day, they were falling over. This was frustrating and puzzling to me and so I began to do what most of us do whenever we want to know more about something: I Googled. To my complete surprise, there were whole articles on pruning ONE type of produce! Multiple articles even! Tomatoes are pruned and watered one way while artichokes and pumpkins are trimmed and hydrated in a completely different manner. I realize that this may be obvious to some but, to me, this was a revelation! I began at once reading about all the different shearing I should be doing to our garden and promptly passed that info along to my husband. (I delegate things really well! ;0) Besides, this was his hobby, I was helping with it...) Our growing garden grew tall and is anything but simple.....

And so, sitting in the garden, I felt my Father speak to my heart. These verses came to mind and I realized that pruning is trimming back. Pruning is cutting. Not to hurt. Never to hurt but always to grow. Always to make room for the branches in me that bear fruit. And even though His intention is not to hurt, sometimes it does. Only for as long as it needs to. He wastes nothing. He is never purposeless. He grows me and enables me to be more fruitful. This growth cannot be done apart from Christ. Christ in me is His Spirit in me and His Spirit enables me to bear spiritual fruit. And these fruits are to be apparent in each believer. Just as pumpkins and oranges are pruned differently so also each believer is pruned differently. The Father cuts off branches in me that do not bear fruit and those branches are not the same branches that He needs to cut off in others. Either way, He makes space in hearts and lives for the best, most abundant fruit. This is something that I can be sure of. I have discovered it. I have witnessed in my own life and in the lives of those around me, who abide in Christ, an abundance that is beyond comprehension. An abundance of love. An abundance of joy. An abundance of peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) An abundance of spiritual fruit that cannot be obtained outside of Christ and in gardens that, by human logic, should be fruitless. The Father is The Gardener. Nothing that He cultivates is useless. No one who abides in Christ is forgotten. On the contrary, I am already clean because of the Word He spoke to me. In me. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Thus, I realize that perching in the garden, pondering my Lord, is exactly where I should be. Soaking it all in, these unique and cherished bits in time.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Forgetful Soul

Why am I so forgetful? 

Why does my soul wrestle for my way and burn with anger when it does not come? 

Who am I that I should even ever have my way? 

Girls are memorizing James. Yes, five chapters. It's crazy. The way the Word implants and sinks into souls. My soul. Turns my head, this stubborn head, and helps me remember. What is important? What is good, pure, true? It's all there, in the Word. And as I writhe in my soul-tantrum, because I want what I want, the Word comes to me soft and Spirit-filled, "The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:20)  

Thank You, Jesus. 

And ouch. He reminds me (again.) that I am not focused correctly. Whenever I am looking through my flesh-eyes rather than my Spirit-eyes, I am dying. I am literally focused on death and dead-things and so much chaos that it rises and overwhelms and overcomes. But I have more in my arsenal. By Grace my Sword grows each year and so He whispers again, but from Romans this time, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) 

Thank You, Jesus. 

And I can remember why I do this crazy thing. Why I spend hours reading and memorizing Scripture. 

Because when my evil flesh rises up within me or when spiritual evil rises up around me, I have a weapon with which to fight the darkness. I have a Sword that will not be overcome. I do not need cower in fear of death, evil, persecution, depression, discontentment, or any other thing that is not from Christ. He supports me, He uplifts me, He reminds me. We are committing James to memory. We are committing the Bible to memory. One by one, each verse, each chapter, each book. It is crazy. This implanted Word.

So, as I ponder these things today, my anger at the uncontrollable subsides. I am not in control. That is okay. I cannot change some things. That is okay. More than okay, they can be the beautiful things that drive me to my knees and into His throne room:

My husband will not see my way. God, unite our paths and desires! 

My children will not obey. God, give me grace with them! (For, am I always obedient?) 

My friends do not visit or call. Father, help me to be that friend that does! 

Whatever I am struggling with, I know I need just bring it to Him. I can take these seemingly uncontrollable things and place them in the hands of the One Who controls the universe. I do not need to fight for my way. He wills my way. I can trust that He will take care of my path and lead me to the best place possible. These things I know but remembering them in the moment, this is the challenge. Realizing that, then and there, I can stop and give thanks for it all. This is the key. Ann Voskamp says it, "All is grace," and He reminds me in each moment. It. Is. True. 

So, Father, help me to remember, I pray. Help my soul not to wrestle for my way but, rather, to yield to Yours. Not to burn with anger at the uncontrollable, but to thank You for the gift that the uncontrollable surely is. Help me to strive for Your Way, knowing that it is infinitely better than mine. Remembering the words of the prophet, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, whose thoughts are fixed on You!" (Isaiah 26:3) 

And thank You for reminding this forgetful soul.....again.