Dear Future Daughter-in-Law

Yesterday was  Liam’s 6th birthday. SIXTH! I feel that I should launch a complaint against Father Time for being so sneaky with the whole slipping-calendar-years-past-me-without-notice bit. Due to some scheduling craziness, I didn’t see him until right before his party last night and while looking at one of those “on this day” type apps for my Facebook account, I was reminded of this article. I wrote it for our church’s women’s ministry newsletter several years ago and it seemed the appropriate time to share it here.

I tweaked this letter a bit from the original because in the passing years, my thoughts on the topic of marriage have changed. It’s less black and white than I once believed it to be… we are humans, each with different personalities and what works for my marriage may not work for someone else’s. But the main point I hope to get across that although there are differences, they should be cause for celebration, not comparison.

To my future daughter-in-law

Though I do not yet know you, I know that God does. I know that He is right now shaping you into the woman you will be for my son. Right now, he is my sweet, precious little baby but someday, he will be your husband. I am doing my best to raise him to be a godly young man for you; to train him to be the best he can be. 

I pray for you as you grow up. I pray that you have a deep love for God and for people. I pray you love my son more than life itself. I pray that some one somewhere teaches you how to be a godly, feminine woman. 

I want you to know that being a godly wife and mother isn’t about your personality; it’s about your heart. I have spent years struggling with my feelings on how to go about being a godly woman since I have such a strong, independent personality. I honestly believe that God uses a spirit like mine if I am willing to let Him. Just because I am independent doesn’t mean that I have to be in charge. If you are like this submitting to your husband will be the greatest challenge in your marriage, but also the most rewarding one. 

We live in a world where the successes in marriage and family are not applauded as much as being a “strong, independent, conquering” woman. You don’t have to be a feminist to be an individual woman, but you also don’t have to be a wimp to be feminine. Don’t ever allow someone to tell you that you are wasting your life by wanting to stay at home with your children. If you chose to work outside the home, then cherish those moments you have with your husband and your children, and don’t allow someone to say you aren’t enough. Don’t spend your free time being busy just because everyone else says you have to be.

In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel outlines what an excellent wife looks like. She’s tender, not weak. She knows how to manage her home, but she isn’t bossy or overbearing. The woman being described is one who has learned to balance the management of a household and family gracefully. Her children know that she disciplines out of love, not control. She has learned to be a supportive wife and a caring mother. Did you catch that? She has learned. She didn’t walk up the wedding aisle and was instantly perfect and a role model. It takes time to learn how to be “excellent”, but it’s not out of reach.

The road to being a godly wife and mother can be long. It takes experience and discipline to reach your goal. It’s a challenge worth taking everyday. I pray that as you read this letter you know how much I love you and welcome you into my family.

Faithfulness on Friday

On this Friday morning, I’m sitting outside while the breeze blows my devotional off the table repeatedly and the kids play. It’s going to be another hot one today and I have to laugh at the times I thought that for sure I’d be able to survive without the air on until July. Ha. The best laid plans, right?image

I ordered the Study on the book of Hosea from Kristen and so far have really enjoyed it. When I’m done with that, I’ll start the one from She Reads Truth on Hosea. What can I say? When I find something I’m interested in, I tend to soak up every word on the topic.

This morning as I put laundry in the washer, I was thinking about my life in the last 10 years. I’ve had to repeatedly filled out health history forms recently and so I’ve had plenty of time to review decisions and choices and simple products of time. And as we have nailed now causes for why my body is on a suicide mission, I’ve considered how we often ignore other ways we destroy ourselves.

Sure. There disease is everywhere we look. It’s in bodies as the result of irresponsiblity and the result of genetics. It comes because we cannot prevent every possible interaction of bacteria or viruses. Disease is just a part of living. But we so often forget the diseases of our souls.

This morning, I couldn’t help but think back over the last 10 years and realize that while my body has not improved, the diseases of comparison and inferiority and insecurity and bitterness have been treated and healed in my life. And while my physical symptoms have lately caused me to spend more days than I care to admit laying on the couch, exhausted and ill, bitterness has not reared it’s ugly head.

Perhaps, it’s because I’ve learned more about the sovereignty of God. Perhaps, I’ve accepted that I live in a fallen world and sometimes, that nature just does it’s own thing. Perhaps, I’ve finally realized how loved we are and that if we can just accept the love offered, we can spend our time celebrating the 1,000+ blessings in our life inspite of the hardships.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; GREAT is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Maybe you already know this. Maybe accepting that you are loved and even when things are horrid, He is still good, is not a challenge… or one you can easily usurp. Perhaps, I’m just slow in this realization. Regardless, as I thought over my life and where I am right now, I couldn’t help but feel so grateful. Grateful that in spite of how I feel, I know He. Is. Good.

The quiet of Tuesday

On Tuesdays, I am alone. Matt works late and I purposely choose to keep my Tuesdays empty. I rarely answer my phone and the kids and I hunker down in the quiet. Tuesdays call for quiet in my opinion.

For our family, Wednesday is typically the busiest day of the week, with Thursday following shortly behind. Tuesday has become my fortress. We read and create and play. I skip the laundry and don’t cook. Tuesday is for me.

I rearranged the dining room this afternoon. It’s summer and I want to face the yard while I sew. There are baby quilts to be made and Christmas gifts to begin. I know. It’s June. But when the Fall comes and I start school up again in full force, I won’t have the time to sit and sew for hours. I learned that lesson last year as I frantically scrambled to finish those last few stitches. 

This morning, I overheard Liam telling Matt that on Tuesday, we do nothing. Maybe nothing compared to other families, but our nothing today involved hours of imaginative play, the creation of a 3-d art project for my grandmother, Liam choosing books all on his own to read to us at bedtime, and my trimming the tree out front so I can see the wren box from my desk.

Tuesday is my ordinary day. As Emily Freeman says, “Tuesday gives me permission to be unremarkable.” I appreciate the ordinary. I appreciate this permission to just exist and celebrate that simple fact. For in this world where I feel the constant pressure to improve and achieve and do more, Tuesday brings comfort in the settled quiet.

Wednesday has enough for three days of activity, but for tonight, I shall curl up on my couch, watching Anne of Avonlea and sewing. Tuesdays are ordinary and Tuesdays are for me.

Graduation

My youngest brother graduated from high school on Sunday. And that morning I just couldn’t grasp the passage of time. He’s been a part of our lives for almost 17 years and yet it seems like yesterday he toddled in through our door for the very first time.

Because I’m so much older than him and having the advantage of being the sibling and not the parent, I’ve gotten to cherish his life for him and not experience the hardships like one responsible for the outcome of his development. Toddlers are hard. Elementary aged children are begging for balance between still wanting to curl up with their lovey and keep up with their peers. Preteens are dramatic. Teenagers are moody and hormonal. And if you can only focus on these hallmarks of development, it becomes difficult to cherish the moments.

Of all the advice I got prior to having children, I wish that had more prominent. I wish more people had been willing to acknowledge how difficult life is and yet how much beauty can be found in the midst of the hard. Instead, I was given endless commentaries on diapers and feeding and discipline, but no one really told me that I’d never get any of those moments back.

Watching him walk across the stage and get that diploma was one of the most special moments of my life. I wished I could have frozen that moment for a while and just soaked it up. I’m not sad the moment is over, I’m just realizing even more so how quickly life passes by.

I’m so grateful for the moments I get to experience… and my thoughts turned to his birth mother. I wished I could have shared this with her. I wish I could have told her how wonderfully he turned out. How handsome he is. I wished she could have seen his soccer accomplishments. Of course I wish these moments for the mother he and I share, but she got to see so much in the years she was alive. Birth mama only got him for 8 days. And I wonder if in those 8 days, she was able to soak up enough of him?

I came home and hugged my own babies a little tighter. The moments will pass quickly between now and the day when each one walks across the graduation stage. Until then, I plan to soak in as much as I can of not only my babies, but my brother. I can’t wait to watch their lives unfold!

On Detoxing from the Quick Yes

In the last week, I’ve been on a sugar detox. Dietary changes were needed, and by default, 90% of my sugar intake for the day was also cut. Detox is not fun. I have had all sorts of symptoms and drama stemming from this change. Nausea, shaking, irritability… I was actually embarrassed to realize how dedicated to sugar by body had become!

It’s been a week now and I feel much better overall. I’m feeling like the changes that were made are actually going to benefit my life and not just leave me a miserable shell of my hungry self. So, you know, little victories. In this week (because one challenge wasn’t enough apparently) I’ve also taken the time to begin detoxing from busy.

You know what I mean, the attitude of “Well, if I’m going to be here, I may as well be involved.” The attitude that tells you if you aren’t participating, you’re lazy. And entitled. And selfish. This attitude is soon accompanied by her sister, Guilt. She reminds you repeatedly of all the times you’ve failed your children, friends, family, etc. in the name of healthy boundaries.

And when that happens, I almost always fold. I give up on the detox and go right back to where I was. Miserable and tired and on the verge of resentment. You’d think that after years of starting and stopping this trend, I’d learn not to give up so quickly, but nope. Before 7am today, I received an email asking me for info I did not have. Usually, I’d email the correct person, wait for the response (which I wouldn’t get quickly), forward the response to the original person and play email ping pong for another series of questions and answers before getting frustrated with the situation I created and wind up stressed out.

This morning, I typed out a response saying I’d find out the information for this family before my eye caught sight of the book A Circle of Quiet. I just stopped mid-type and looked at the book. In that moment, I realized that instead of protecting the quiet I’ve been working to cultivate, I’d be ripping a big old hole in the circle! I deleted my email, forwarded on the appropriate person’s info and wished the family a lovely summer. Done and Done.

I mean. Can we just talk about this for a minute? We laud busy. We say with awe in our voices that we cannot understand how She-Who-Does-It-All does it all and still has great hair. But we don’t stop for a moment to consider that perhaps she, too, is standing on the verge of a Quick Yes Detox. We tell her we can’t imagine how she does it all as we pile another task on her plate. And when she says she can’t, we act like she just shot a puppy.

What can we do? I don’t know. I don’t know beyond practicing a Slow Response. I only know that I need to take a step back and think before I commit. Changes take time… the Quick Yes is more than a habit, it’s a lifestyle for many of us, so we cannot rely on our change to take hold within that neat 21 day period. And while we are practicing a season of Slow Response, we need to practice extending grace to not only ourselves, but those around us.

Every person you meet is in the midst of a detox. It may not be the same as yours, but they still require your grace. Just as you need someone to respect your boundaries, the mom with the perfect hair is crying out for the same. So while detox makes us all a little cranky, grace can soothe that beast. Maybe not quite as well as a bowl of ice cream, but in case you’re detoxing from Eating Your Feelings, I’ll suggest grace instead.

**There are affiliate links for the book embedded in my post. Any earnings from these links simply continue to fund my reading habits!**

Because Summer Reading is Upon Us!

I sat down with my school planner this morning and calculated the completion of Kindergarten (and by default, my first year as an official homeschool Mama). Two more weeks people, two. more. weeks. Granted, I have a few field trips planned in those two weeks, but still, the end is near!!!

With the end of school, the beginning of patio-sitting-while-the-kids-play season. I sit there, sometimes in the sun and sometimes in the shade. I don’t often get to read too much in one sitting because people do actually still need me. Maybe not for snacks or potty breaks, but they do need someone to ooh and ahh over their latest sand creation.

This summer will find me reading a variety of books. Some because the list I keep is getting so long, I’m running out of room, and some because I finally figured out how to borrow ebooks from the library.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live – I’m almost done with this book, but it’s a borrowed book and this reading will be my second. I like it enough that I am seriously considering purchasing it just so I can read it again and this time highlight everything that has stood out so boldly to me.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are – I’m going to the Women of Faith Conference in a few hours and Shauna is one of the speakers. I’m excited to hear her speak and read more of her work… so far, Savor is a winner. And any book that comes with a gorgeous bound cover and ribbon bookmark gets bonus points from me!

The Blessed Woman: Learning About Grace from the Women of the Bible
– This is a library book, so I need to read faster. 🙂 But it should be mentioned that already what I have read has been beneficial. Especially on Tuesday. Usually, I stagger from my bed, fire up the keurig and open up my She Reads Truth app. Tuesday, it would not work. It didn’t work on any of the three devices I tried. So I decided to read this book. The very first chapter spoke to me where I was, easing my heart… I was scheduled to speak that morning at MOPS and was really overcome with self-doubt and wondering why on Earth I had agreed to speak in the first place. If anyone was unqualified, I felt I should have the top score. And yet, as I read the first chapter, again and I again, I felt it whispered to my heart that I was right where He wanted me.

Anne of Green Gables, Complete 8-Book Box Set – I haven’t read these books since I was pregnant with Sylvia. Following the death of Jonathan Crombie last month, I just needed to reconnect. I watched the first two movies yesterday (yay cold and dreary day!) and decided that I need to read through the entire series again. Also, I discovered that there is yet one more book written by Montgomery, The Blythes Are Quoted, but I am holding off until I re-read their entire story before I explore this last edition.

If I finish these books before I need to begin buckling down for the school year and all the planning that brings, there are several books on this list that I’d like to check out. But if I don’t, there’s always the dead of winter when I don’t want to be creative or busy or much of anything but a sponge. Those days are the ones where in contrast to the summer heat, I just want to curl up with tea and a quilt and read. I don’t know about you, but for me, book will always hold the key to worlds I’d never before imagined, even worlds within myself that I’d never dared to consider!

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

**There are affiliate links for these books embedded in my post. Any earnings from these links simply continue to fund my reading habits!**

When there are no words

I am a writer. Perhaps not a well-known writer or a highly paid one, but still a writer. I love to write, coming up with endless reasons to put pen to paper, from lists to greeting cards to journals. The stacks of journals and stationary attest to this fact. Not to mention my obscure peculiarities about pens.

However, when people know you can write, they expect that you can also speak whimsically on a moment’s notice. But there is a great difference between the written word and the spoken word.

Often I find myself frustrated at my inability to get the words from my head to my lips. I want to speak them out. I do. But my heart is too full to speak. So I don’t.

I didn’t realize it was much of an issue until I wanted to pray. Those moments when I just am too overwhelmed to speak. Be it joyful or sad, the words don’t come easily.

Emily Freeman writes in her book of a young woman who following the death of her mother couldn’t access the emotion enough to bring it to the surface. And I understand. So often, we aren’t given the safety of even putting a name to the emotions within us, so that when the time comes to actually express them, we cannot.

Today, I was reminded of this struggle when I opened my journal to record recent events and realized that although I had much to write last Saturday, I only got two sentences out. And I laughed at how often I long to communicate and simply cannot.

I’m no better at the deep communication than my four-year-old. I stumble around and change the subject and cry rather than actually explain myself. Perhaps I have not yet learned to give those emotions a name, but what I can do, is teach my children along side myself.

Together we can put names to feelings and emotions. Together we can learn to take responsibility for how we respond to those emotions and choose to respond wisely. And be gracious with ourselves and others. Emotions are powerful – so powerful that they often take our words away.

I struggle often with my words, but there is comfort in knowing that God is willing to wait patiently for me to get them out. And while I have often stuffed down my emotions so as to avoid dealing with them, He still waits for me to be in the right place. And little by little, I get the courage to put words to the thoughts and emotions within.

Hopefully, I’ll finish writing about the trampoline park soon. I have the words for that, I only lack the time. But with those blank lines open before me, I hope that in time, I’ll learn to not shy away when the words are not there. And while I learn, I’ll be ever so grateful for a loving God who can translate tears and mutterings into something that makes a connection from my heart to His, even when there are not words.

On the hidden story

I grew up in churches that didn’t spend much, if any, time on the sovereignty of God. As a matter of fact, I was in my 30s before I ever really was introduced to the concept. I had no idea and considered my life through the lens of someone working for God’s favor and constantly failing.

In so doing, every time something hard would happen, I’d immediately respond with a “I don’t know what I keep doing to make God so mad at me!” Because of my religious upbringing, I wasn’t aware that not every little thing that happens in life is a direct result of ME and the scoring system I thought was in place.

I didn’t know and so with each struggle, I added in the burden of a hindrance and thereby stunted my own growth. Without even trying! But then, our church did a 10 month sermon series based on the book The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People. For the first time in my life, I was shown the little stories in the overarching theme of each book of the Bible. And for the first time in my life, I realized that there is a plan for everything, even the hard. If they had done that series five years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten it. But they did it when I was ready to learn. I knew something wasn’t right in my life and I wanted to fix it. I wanted to do something, but what I needed to do was learn.

Sometimes, there isn’t so much a need for action as there is for humility 

I asked a lot of questions. I sent our pastor dozens of questioning emails. I made a lot of tearful phone calls while I tried to understand scripture. I sent texts very late at night when I reached a stopping point in my understanding. But I learned and I grew. And used up an embarrassing amount of tissues.

It’s been over a year now since I started digging out truth for myself. In that year, I’ve learned to stop saying that God is mad at me for every little thing. And you know what? We’ve had a lot of things happen in the last year. Hard things. Scary things.

As my focus switched from being overwhelmed by the hard to anticipating the plan there came freedom. It’s freeing to realize that I don’t have to strive for perfection in an attempt to live. It’s freeing to realize that when things happen, I am not alone, left to my own devices to cope with life. Even recently, some things have happened that were absurd. It is what it is. I cannot change them, but I can wait to see how the Lord plans to use them. And I am waiting with excitement.

For me, understanding the sovereignty of God went beyond my personal needs. It superseded the typical Bibles verses about worry or sparrows. Understanding that He is actually in control… that the events of my life don’t throw Him for a loop… life changing. You might be reading this and wondering what on Earth my problem was. I cannot answer that… I really don’t know. But I feel like Psalm 116:5-9 was written for me. I was/am simple. I am human and I need the Lord to protect me from myself day in and day out. And like any loving parent, He so graciously does.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, He saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

On waiting… and waiting

Every morning and then several times after throughout the day for the last few weeks, I’ve been checking our weeping cherry tree for blossoms. I know it’s coming because of the season. I know the date is upon me because the first time it bloomed was while I was away at my sweet infant cousin’s funeral. And as the anniversary of that approaches, I feel more and more anxious to see the floral joy I just know is waiting inside those tight little buds.

My tree is quite young, only 3 years ago did we plant it in the midst of my {equally young} hydrangeas. As of this morning, I can see the flutter of white around the edges of the buds and I know it’s coming. Yet, it is so difficult to wait!

What are you waiting for? Is it an answer to a long-sought prayer? Is it a night of rest from a child who just. cannot. sleep? Is it for peace in your life when all seems lost?

Over the weekend I realized that I had finally gotten an answer to a prayer almost 20 years old. And yes, I most certainly am shocked that 20 years have passed. Along the way, I’ve tried to step out on my own and tackle this. I’ve felt that since it was my dream, it was my job to get the ball rolling. No matter what I tried to do, it always fell flat. Always. I set the dream aside {eventually} and moved on.

At the time, I was in such a hurry to grow, to take off on my own and “honor God”, that I didn’t/couldn’t see all the immaturity and false thinking standing right in front of me. Had I continued forging my own way, it would have been about as successful as my tree blossoming in the middle of February here… or at least trying to, as ice would have cut that journey short. And as a matter of course, in my own life a proverbial frost occurred. Circumstances wore me down and I hardened. I chose to cut myself off, to seal out relationships and absolutely the Lord.

But then, one Sunday, sitting alone in the back of the church our pastor offered an analogy about a tree that has been bitten by a harsh frost:

“Sometimes the harsh frost of life freezes our heart, but in God’s timing the energy of Christ bursts forth into a new harvest of spiritual growth and energy.”

I remember sitting there and the tears just running down my cheeks. I knew I’d been frozen. And in that moment, I also knew that the sunshine of healing was coming. It’s been almost two and a half years since that day and I still can remember the intensity of emotion as he spoke those words. It was in that moment that I first realized God has His own time table, one that often does not match up to what I calculate should happen, but His design is for the greatest good.

In that very same sermon, Exodus 3:7 was read and in my notes, I underlined the word concerned. The word concerned connotes a “marked interest that arises due to a personal relationship”. The book of Exodus frequently speaks of the Israelites’ sacrifices…. the sacrifices that were ultimately replaced by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. His sacrifice was of a personal nature. He knew me and my dreams and my fears and then and now. He made the decision to save me and to become my sin, so his interest is very personal.

His interest is personal enough that although you may feel alone, you are not. When it feels like you are shouting prayers into a vacuum, you are not. He is waiting until the proper time for your answer. And when the time is right, the answer is spectacular. It doesn’t mean the waiting is easy, or that you’ll have an abundance of patience. But I can now say with full confidence that waiting is worth it.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t still be checking my tree… frequently 😉

 

 

On grace in the storm

Facebook has so kindly reminded me for the last week that my daughter’s birthday was coming. And because I am a super emotional person come birthdays, I’ve not really allowed myself to look at all the tiny baby photos or really soak in those memories. Sylvia is my last baby, and at times, the finality of each stage hurts my heart too much for me to celebrate. I’m working on it, but sometimes celebration is not as simple as a pretty pink party.

Which leads me to remember her birth. She was already an agonizing 8 days overdue. Her pregnancy was a challenge on it’s own, and her apparent unwillingness to join us earthside felt like a cruel joke. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long! But then, the contractions started. I’d already had enough labor by this point that you’d think I would have ignored that first one, but when it happened, I knew.

The next four hours were hard. Pregnancy had been hard. Another experience with hyperemesis was hard. But this? I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the hardness. And I was so worn out from how hard the months leading up had been, I really didn’t have it in me to go for hours. And then suddenly, the pain ceased.

In the moment, I remember thinking it was strange. I remember wondering if I had just suffered the previous hours and now labor was over and I’d have to do it all again at a later date. I also remember the peace. I remember knowing this was my grace. I was worn and tired and not really ready {despite the waiting} for labor. And I needed the time to recharge before the final struggle.

So for an hour, I celebrated that grace. I ate some snacks, listened to the birds outside my window and rested.

How often can we truly rest in the midst of struggles in our life? When the rest is provided, do we still look out with one eye, suspicious of what could possibly go wrong? Or can we celebrate the gift given in the middle of the hard and just rest?

That day, I could. In the years following, I haven’t been so great about it. However, in our past year, I’ve learned more and more what is it like to take those moments as the gifts they are and to be suspicious, confident, that the Lord is up to something good. That these moments are a blessing, not a trap. Perhaps things that are even harder will arise, but if I take the rest I was given, my soul will have the opportunity to be strengthened.

On that morning, four years ago, when the rest was over, I was ready to tough it out and finish giving birth. And that sweet little face that I was amazed by has continued to amaze in her tenderness, kindness and genuine love for the people around her. Over and over, I’ve been blown away by how the Lord has used her to teach me a lesson about His Love or show me the ick in my heart I’ve been making excuses for.

Right now, our family has come out of a season of hard and are entering a season of rest. This time, I can recognize it for the gift that it is and use it to it’s full potential. Instead of relaxing and thinking I’m safe to do what I please, I am continuing my discipline of trust and obedience. Not being wary, so much as wise. Another storm will come, but when it does, I know that we will see the other side, whatever that may look like, but He Is Faithful!