Underprepared and Living To Tell the Story

I am a preparer. I like organization, and I like things to run smoothly. I am also a parent of four rowdy children, which means I am constantly and forever being forced to slow my roll and accept that my life will not be organized for the next 20-ish years.

And given the spacing of my children, I will likely have grandchildren by the time I send my final child out on her own, so the idea of me being organized ever is almost laughable.

I also just threw up a little in my mouth at the idea of myself as a grandparent. In my mind, I AM STILL IN COLLEGE!

All of that is a lead-in to the fact that the walls of my home are caving in on me, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day for me to get ahead of all the crazy. I’m trying to embrace the season of now. I really am. I am trying to let it go.

Idina Menzel gave me the chorus of my days

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Tomorrow night we will welcome “K” back into our home. We truly cannot wait to have her back with us. When we first got the email saying she could return, I felt a surge of panic. Because of her age, it took a long time to confirm whether or not she would be able to return, so we were told only on Thanksgiving that she would be coming.

SO LITTLE TIME TO PREPARE!

I’m still not prepared, and Idina and I are singing our tune hourly. Let it go! Let it go!! Turn away and slam that door!

I haven’t slammed any literal doors…today. But I have let go of a few expectations. The first is that I will have a clean house. I won’t. It’s just not going to happen. This place is a bit of a pit, and the amount of work needed to get it into the shape I would prefer it be in is more time than I have between now and tomorrow.

I’d need a couple of clones and a few stiff drinks.

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I’m getting done what needs to be done to make this a sweet time for our family. I got “K’s” room ready, and I’ve moved Sloan’s clothes into Landon’s room. I’ve got all my Christmas shopping done, and I have a loose plan of what we’re going to do between now and Monday when we fly to Arkansas.

I’m going to consider all of that a Christmas win, and let go of the desire to completely declutter all living spaces inside this house. When I get in this sort of a tizzy about the clutter, I end up doing foolish things – like accidentally giving Tia’s beloved Lovey Bear to Goodwill.

Which I did a few months ago and she hasn’t let me forget it.

A couple of nights ago, I actually dreamed that woodland creatures came into my home and cleaned it out for me. There was a bunny, a fox, a few birds, and a pack of mice, and they organized the whole house from top to bottom.

I woke up from this dream both happy, and a little confused. Clearly I’m a little out of my mind these days, yes? And the truth is, if that actually happened in real life, I would FREAK out, not for the obvious reason of woodland creatures cleaning my home, but because I am so ridiculously terrified of both mice and bunnies.

(The bunny thing is strange, I admit, but they do, in fact, scare me. They’re so unpredictable, and they stare at you with their beady little eyes like they’re going to pounce on your face at any moment. My children have been informed that we will never have a bunny…ever.)

So the house won’t be perfect, but we are preparing room in our hearts for another memorable Christmas. That will have to be good enough for now.

Because bunnies aren’t allowed, no matter how well they might be able to organize a closet.

Am I the only one who goes a little crazy when life feels out of control? Does anybody else feel this way…or dream of animals cleaning for them? Anyone? Anyone? 

Good

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The blend of familiar chords filled the room, and I closed my eyes. It had been a long few days, and I felt the weight of life squeezing my throat tight. I was tired, my eyes so heavy, the knot in my neck pulling my head slightly to the side.

“Joy to the World, the Lord is Come. Let earth receive her King!”

The melody washed over and through me, and I didn’t sing. I just listened. I was too weary to add my own voice, so I just let the song envelope me.

Christmas songs bring comfort. They are so familiar, and they carry with them years of memories, of happy times and joy filled moments. In a season of weary fatigue, the words and the melody felt like rest.

This Christmas will be a different one for our family. A bittersweet Christmas, indeed. The cancer of a loved one forces us to take it slower this year – to cherish the moments more sweetly – to look for the miracle of healing because that’s all we have left.

I believe He can speak life and health back into my father-in-law’s body.

I trust Him to be good whether or not He does.

We also have the awesome privilege of bringing our sweet “K” back to us for Christmas. How mysterious God is to ordain these two events in such a way. How awesome is His power to dictate that we should feel both immense joy, and desperate sadness, all at the same time.

“Let every heart. Prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing.”

I’ve written about Love before, and I’ve pondered the beauty of suffering. Walking in faith is easy sometimes. It’s easy to say “I believe” in the face of great joy and peace. But when the soul cries out without the promise of an answer, faith becomes a wrestling match.

Like Jacob with the angel, I tussle with my Savior. I call Him Sovereign, and I question His actions. I praise His goodness, and lament His silence. I waver, then accept, then waver, then accept.

“He rules the world with truth and grace. And makes the nations prove. The glories of His righteousness.”

When the wrestling is finished, I hobble away, and still His Love pulls me back. You don’t wrestle with the Savior and come away unscathed. But the scathing is like a healing – the fire burning away the parts of me that cling to this world, the selfish pieces of my heart that seem so firmly attached to the things I can see and understand.

I don’t understand cancer, and I can’t see the glory of heaven. I doubt, and I question, and I wish that pain wasn’t so…painful. I open my eyes and look at the Christmas decorations up front, and it hits me that the story of Christmas has to be true. If it isn’t, then what is the point of my wrestling?

I battle because I want to believe, and the wrestling points me to Christ every. single. time.

This Christmas will be bittersweet as we cling to the One who came to earth as a humble infant. He was the One they prophesied about for hundreds of years. He was born in a manger, and His birth set into motion a life that pointed to a Creator. He would grow into a man who died on a tree so that I might live.

So that our family could have hope in the face of uncertainty. So that we could hope for a miracle, take comfort in the knowledge of heaven, and cling to peace when life feels foggy.

“And wonders of His Love.”

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He tugged on my sleeve and motioned me down. I leaned over, and his lips pressed against my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. He’s the one with the freckled face – the one who is asking a lot of questions, and seeking for the answers. I felt his hot breath, and my heart leapt with a fierce love.

“Is Jesus real?” he whispered. I glanced at his big, blue eyes, so full of wonder and hope, and the lump in my throat dissolved. There are so many things I don’t know – so many questions that feel unanswered. But not this one. The answer to this question is Joy to the world.

I lean down and press my mouth against his ear, and he pulls his shoulder up with a tickled grin.

“Yes,” I breath. One syllable, filled with conviction.

He grabs my hand and smiles, his nose inches from mine. “Good,” he whispers.

And I nod, because he’s right.

It is good.

 

Man in the Mirror: A Philosophical Smack Down

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“Why isn’t anyone commenting on my blog?!”

I hear this question at least once a day now that Sloan has his own blog. He’s written all of two posts in the two weeks since he started it, and he’s learning how to manage his expectations.

Welcome to blogging, son.

Yesterday after breakfast, he asked if he could check his blog. In general, our rule is no technology in the mornings before school, but I caved because we were out of coffee, and I can’t be expected to uphold any semblance of order in my home without some sort of stimulant.

He sat in front of the computer and stared at the screen, shaking his head in clear consternation. I peeked over his shoulder and fought off a grin. He had 15 comments on the last post, but most of them were back and forth between him and a friend.

“You have to put more content up on the blog,” I informed him. “After about 24 hours, people generally quit coming to your blog. It’s not supposed to be a chat board. You just need to put up a new post and bring people to it.”

That’s when Lee stepped in.

“Son,” he said, his voice getting a little deeper as though he had a great nugget of knowledge to offer. “I’m going to give you a bit of wisdom from the great philosopher of the ’80′s and ’90′s. He was a man who gave the world much. His name…was Michael Jackson.

This is when I stopped making school lunches and turned, eyebrow raised, to listen where this conversation was going.

Lee leaned down, putting his elbows on the table so he was eye level with Sloan.

“Mr. Jackson said something important. He said, ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to make a change.’ If you want to make a change in this world, start with yourself,” he put his hand over Sloan’s heart.

“If you want to make the world a better place, just look at yourself and make the change, son,” he said. His voice emphatic. Meanwhile I’m about to wet my pants laughing.

“Don’t worry about how people respond to your blog posts, or what they say. You just make the change and tell the stories. Let that be what your blog is about.”

Sloan nodded, his face laced with both awe and amusement. He was trying to discern whether or not his dad was serious. For the record, Lee was (mostly) serious.

Lee stood up and turned to me, his eyes wide. “Man, that was good stuff right there. Did you see what I did? I was on fire. That was awesome! Wiggety Wack!”

This is my life. My crazy, hilarious, at times baffling, life.

Raising Confident Girls in a Fast Paced World

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She marched out onto the floor and stood at attention, and I was in awe.

I don’t know why my daughter’s confidence still shocks me, but it does every time. When she steps onto the mat, she is so sure of herself. Though she’s nervous, and she doesn’t always execute every move perfectly, she possesses a confidence in her abilities that seems so beyond her eight years.

A large part of her determined attitude is simply what she was programmed with at birth. From the day she arrived, she has been strong willed, stubborn, and brave. As a toddler, just barely able to walk, I’d find her in all manner of places and positions.

I’d walk into the kitchen and find her on top of the counter, no chair in sight, and she’d smile like, “Look at this awesome thing I did.”

I’d look out the kitchen window and see her sitting on top of the basketball goal…nine feet in the air…over asphalt…and she’d stare at me like, “Yeah? What of it?”

This is who she is, this daughter of mine. She’s gifted and brave. But she’s also a little girl, and so vulnerable to being swept up in the tide of a world that waits to tell her she isn’t good enough – that she should be better, prettier, faster, stronger, and smarter if she wants to be noticed.

In this fast paced world, we as parents have a monumental task ahead of us. How do we raise confident children in a society that is buzzing around us at lightening speed? Even more specifically, how do we raise confident young women in a world that values beauty over brains – a world that says a woman’s worth only travels as far as her accomplishments take her?

Raising confident girls requires so much more than simply telling them to “Reach for the stars.” We should tread carefully when we tell our daughters that they can do anything they want with a little hard work and perseverance.

Too much of that message and we’re bound to set them up for some disappointment.

 

I want my girls to walk confidently toward their passions and to work diligently within their skill sets. I want them to step on the mats of life and not think about the chatter around them, because there will be chatter. In a world that is constantly moving, constantly changing, always telling them they aren’t enough, I long for them to know that their worth is far more valuable than what they see in the mirror.

My goal is not to raise girls who think they can do whatever they set their mind to. It would be unfair to set them up for that kind of failure.

Instead, I want my girls to know that they can accomplish whatever it is the Lord has purposed for them to do.

I want them to walk confidently in the path that the Lord lays before them, and to embrace each challenge as a gift. And more than anything, I want them to chase after God. I want them to pursue Him, and as they do so if it leads them to a high powered position in the corporate world, then that’s wonderful.

If it leads them to become stay at home moms, that’s wonderful. If it leads them to the mission field, to the sports arena, to the classroom, to fame or to obscurity – that’s wonderful.

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My message to my girls will always be, “Seek the Lord above all things.” Beyond that, I will point them in the direction of their natural bent and pray that the Lord grant them the success that He has purposed for them. Raising a confident girl isn’t about telling her she can do whatever she sets her mind to do. There’s no Jiminey Cricket standing by waiting to grant her heart’s desire with the wish of a star.

I don’t want my girls to have confidence in their abilities – I want them to have confidence in the Lord.

This is my prayer, and as I pray, I will forever be on the sidelines cheering them on, marveling at their talents, and praising God that I get to be their mom.

Hope Is Slow – #GivingTuesday

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It’s been two and a half years since I boarded a plane to Tanzania. Two and a half years since I walked through the red dirt and cried, the images of abject poverty almost too much for my heart to comprehend.

It’s been two and a half years since a spunky toddler with a big, wide grin led me by hand with such confidence through the rocky streets that I knew she must frequently walk those paths alone.

Two and a half years ago, a little boy named Moses taught me the meaning of pridethe good kind of pride.

Two and a half years ago, I learned that Hope is Slow, and that is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson the Lord has taught me. I’m still grasping hold of what that means even today. Hope is so very slow, and I get weary in the waiting, but God in His Mercy is not bound by my impatient timeframe.

Hope may be slow, but it is alive.

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The work that Compassion International does worldwide is humbling. I’ve seen firsthand the impact this ministry has on communities, the hope they are bringing to families living in poverty, and I have wept.

Hope is Slow.

Today, Compassion is participating in #GivingTuesday, and together you and I can help spread Hope. In this season of giving, when our hearts are soft and pliable, let’s join together and make a difference.

Today we have the opportunity to raise $25,000 so that Compassion can build a Child Survival Program in India. Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 infant deaths worldwide occur in India?

I didn’t know that either.

Hope is Slow. 

Over 2 million children under the age of 5 die each year in India. In the small community of Gujarat, where many of the mothers are teenagers, most do not have the resources needed to provide for their children.

Today we can change the lives of an entire community. We can reverse the trend of hopelessness, of illness, and of childhood death. Opening a Child Survival Program in Gujarat means:

- training and preparation for young moms to help care for their babies

- helping mothers learn to read and write

- giving children a safe place to learn and grow

- ensuring lifesaving medical care for babies and moms

- proclaiming the hope of God to families living in poverty

Today, as we step away from the blessing of Thanksgiving, and move into the beauty of Christmas, we have the chance to bind together and offer Hope. We can wrap it in love, and breath new life into a community that wonders if Hope is real.

It is real, friends, and it is actively moving through willing hearts across the ocean, and into the arms of young mothers who are more accustomed with fear than they are of Hope.

Will you join with us today? Your donation, no matter the amount, will change a life. Together, in just one day, we can make a huge difference. 

Changing the world is entirely possible. Like Hope, Change is Slow. It takes time and patience, and a lot of faith.

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Won’t you be a part today? Will you give back according to the abundance of your riches? Will you place your stake in the sand today and declare that there is no place for hopelessness in this world?

To donate to Compassion International’s #GivingTuesday campaign to build a Child Survival Program in Gujart, India, click this link.

After you’ve donated, take a moment to share this on your social media channels. Help us spread the word so that we can link arms with others, and together we can make a huge impact.

Thank you, my friends, for being a part of a movement of Hope. You made a difference today. A big one.

Hope may be Slow, but it is Alive.