Sunday, August 30, 2015

For When the Changing Seems Hard

The clouds rolled in during the quiet of the early hours yesterday. While it was still dark, the rain fell and the air that has been so filled with smoke cleared and lifted.

Zee still refuses to put on her shoes.

And that's okay.

Tony received an email this past week while the air was heavy and thick. While my eyes were burning, he sat down near me and read the words that marked and recognized his time at Madison House. August 27th marked 3 years since he stepped into his role, 3 years since he brought me with Zee all curled up in my belly and the older ones pressed close as we walked up the front steps, unsure of what to expect, but wanting to receive all that God would give.

School started this week. We pulled down our books and brought out our pencils and while the school buses drove the ones living just down the street to their classrooms, we gathered in our own small school room and we entered into this new year with new hope.

September is it's own version of New Year's I think. There isn't a counting down at midnight, or fireworks exploding over our home, but it's a new leaf full of new possibilities and for everything that we've removed from our schedules and our purposefulness in going smaller, these days ahead feel ripe with expectancy.

I sat on the front steps of Madison House at the beginning of the week, I watched as the kids started returning with backpacks slung over shoulders and fresh new haircuts and shy smiles as they walked by me into the front doors.

As faces that I've loved for three years now come into view, I feel that familiar ache press close into my chest. It's one I've been feeling all summer, I think, but as Fall quickly approaches, the ache is getting deeper and it's time to acknowledge what it all means.

From the time I was small, I wanted to be a wife and a mama. That's all. Some may think that it's a small thing to aspire to, and that's okay. I never had grand dreams of grand jobs, I just wanted to make a home cozy and warm for the hearts I would love. And when one is 10 years old, this dream and this wish seems like a lifetime away.

Now, I stand on the other side of the dreaming. It's no longer a hoping, but a fulfilling. My home is full of a good man and crazy kids, but this body that has cocooned my five babies holds no more and my breath catches at the suddenness of it all. Warm newborn skin no longer folds up into my neck as a new one breathes deeply in sleep...instead, arms and legs sprawl and clamor for space, as though my once-little-ones haven't caught up to the reality yet that our space is transitioning.

My heart is aching.

It's that deep ache that settles in as I watch these kids who have found such deep places in our hearts walk up the front steps I'm sitting on. 3 years ago, they seemed so small, so young and now I look into the faces that are changing into young men and women in front of me. There's one young man whose hair was all shaggy just a year ago, he was the first one of the MH kids to hold Zeruiah just a year and a half before that, he sits across from me all quiet as he tells me about his first day of school. This kid, who just yesterday wasn't it when he was mouthy and hurting? He looks me in the eye and says, "It was a good day. And yeah, I'm in the top grade, but that means I'm a leader this year. I'm going to be a good leader."

The moving of time is a good thing, I see and know this...I do. I just haven't been prepared for how quickly the transitioning would happen. As though the letting go of one stage and moving into the other should be more gentle, more slow.

Back during the blur of Liv's first year of life, when she was awake more than she slept, when she screamed more than she was quiet, when all I saw was the neverendingness of where I was at, Jesus gave me a verse in the dark one evening, in the dark of my emotions, and it was this:

He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom, 
and gently lead those that are with young. 
Isaiah 40:11

This past week, when I was wrestling through all that my heart was feeling, I looked out the window at the big maple that hangs low over the fence. The leaves are just starting to turn colour on the edges, just enough to let us know the air is changing and soon a new season will be here. And there was, in the hundreds of leaves spilling off that old branch, one lone leaf caught in the glow of the sun.

I'm not sure why it pulled at me the way that it did, but for just a few moments, it reflected the glory of the sun off of it's surface...the deep green no longer seen, but instead transformed into a bright dazzling gold in a sea of shadow.

I don't know how long on this earth I have...the weight of this thought has been pressing in on me harder this year, but the One Who formed the dust I am made of, He has set me here, has given me all that I have here. And for a brief span of time in light of eternity's length, He has set His gaze on me here...and I can turn my life to reflect Him here, so that it's not me that is seen, but Him.

I think of that green all transformed into gold before winter's wind comes barreling in and it is no longer...and the words of Isaiah, they burn in my heart and as September comes nearer, it's a call I want to answer for me and for our children who have grown under my heart and for those who have become a part of my heart,

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk,
in the light of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:5

We have a Savior Who promises to lead the way...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dear Olivia {A Birthday Post},

It dawned on me last week, that I had you all wrong.

As though the world was flipped upside down and I could finally see all that I couldn't before.

It took 8 years and 9 months short of a week to see and there have been so many times in the last 7 days that I wish I could go back and make up for all that I didn't understand.

I wasn't ready for the gift of you.

I remember the pink positive sign and the tears of fear I cried, feeling wholly inadequate to be a mama to two children under the age of two.

I remember the miles the midwife had me walk, pushing your sister in the stroller, trying to navigate old and broken sidewalks in tandem with trying to navigate old and broken fears while you grew strong under my heart. Your quiet and small flutterings belied the powerhouse you would be.

It was during that time, when we found out you were a girl, that the name Olivia was mentioned. And loving words the way I do, I looked up the meaning to discover that it meant peace.

I craved peace.

I honestly craved quiet both in soul and surroundings and I thought that was what peace was...quiet.

So when you, Olivia, turned in all the wrong ways came bursting into the world on your very own terms and screamed your way through life for the first 2...3...6 years of your existence, I was convinced that we had named you all wrong.

That you weren't peace.

And in naming you such, you...and I...would always be reminded of that fact.

Oh, sweet Liv.

I've been so wrong.

So, as I sat in a conference last week while you were in the classrooms above tracing maps and coloring pictures and keeping an eye on your brother (to help your teacher, I'm sure. :) ), my heart was getting pried open and my eyes were beginning to see clearly.

The word Shalom gives a strong glimpse into the beauty of your name...and into the beauty of you. This greeting, said as a blessing, means this: You will have no lack, you will have peace and rest because you have everything you need.

Your name is a blessing.

Which means, when I call you, when I talk to you...when I talk about you, I am speaking a blessing over you and over those around us. May this very thought stop me in my tracks when our emotions run high and we both misunderstand the other.

I thought peace meant calm and quiet and when you weren't, I was blindsided. But peace, according to the woman speaking over us, it means that there is no area of lack. She spoke of A Plan for Peace, mentioning that it started with being in Scripture...because the word Peace is like a guard dog at the front door.

It makes me think of your insatiable desire for the Bible. How you keep the Scriptures right under your bed so that you can grab it before you go to sleep. How when you sense me growing frustrated you ask for us all to stop and pray. You long for the presence of Jesus and you desire to sense Him near.

I learned, in the back row of that conference, that peace isn't passive or quiet, but it is active and it moves with purpose and passion.

8 years and 4 months ago, when I saw you moving on that black and white screen, when you were named with a wrong understanding, Jesus knew that this name was the very right one for you and for all of the very right reasons.

This morning, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon, before it even has the chance to heat the air into the furnace it is supposed to be, in those early hours you will slip from being 7 and become a brand new 8 year old with all the flair that marks your every movement.

And I will have your breakfast birthday cake on the table and as you walk all sleepy into the room, I will pull you close and whisper your name into the air around us, inviting the One Who is Peace to come near because with Jesus, Liv? We really do lack nothing. I'll fail you in so many ways, but when we have Jesus, we are made whole and the blessing that we speak over one another becomes words of worship to the One Who created us.

8 years ago, I held you in my arms having no idea how my life would change.

You have changed it for the better, sweet girl; our family lacks nothing with your addition and we have been abundantly blessed.

May this year ahead grow you deeper and wiser - may it find you falling even more in love with Jesus. May you see that with Him, you lack no good thing always. Always. 

Happy, happy birthday, dear Olivia Grace. I love you so very, very much.

With all my love,



Thursday, August 6, 2015

For When Everything Changes

It keeps spinning, regardless of our circumstances. I know the truth of this. But there is a small part of me that wonders at times if there is a slight stuttering in the moments that matter, that form and change us...those moments that move us from one direction to another.

I guess the world would stop turning all together with all our many moments that bear the weight of change and notice, so I know it must keep orbit, held in the hand of the One who formed it. The weight of these moments instead lay deep in the heart, where He alone sees us most clearly.

It flashes in time with the blue and red lights filling the street just down from our house in the middle days of July, in the aftermath of bullets that fly from that rolled down window and enter the house just across the street from our front door. As officers tape off the road to block traffic and my phone rings with the number of a visiting dear friend. While she wraps her arms around me and calls out to Jesus for help as tears run down my face from not knowing if it was the house of one of our kids...from not knowing if someone we loved was hit.

In this circle of prayer, as we call out to the One who is Peace Himself, I find my footing in the anchor of His Name.

He hears us in the middle of chaos.

We leave for the unhurried craziness of camp in the hot heat of July. We leave the confines of wifi and cell service for the freedom of play and we find rest there, even as physical exhaustion sets in.

The second week that finds us in the height of trees and the cool of mountains, while the full moon was rising high and the field was full of the night game and teens, I slipped out of the lodge to walk in the fresh air. I wasn't expecting to hear the guttural scream or feel the tension of the next moments before the rushing and the call for 911. I see Tony's face and I know it's bad. Arms reach out for Zeruiah and I run with him in the dark on a dirt road so that we can direct the ambulances and emergency vehicles. I reach the field as it begins to fill with swirling lights circling around one of the most dear women I have come to know. This woman who retired just one week before coming to counsel a cabin full of teen girls and point them to Jesus was now laying on the ground with a leg twisted in all the wrong ways and there are times that tears are the only answer to the moments that don't make sense.

And as everything is tilting from the weight of pain and confusion, as her broken body is lifted up in pain onto a stretcher, the rest of us lean into the presence of each other as we hold the hands of the ones beside us and lift our voices up in prayer.

In this tender place, as we call on His Name, we find Him and He sets our feet on the truth of His presence. And He is there as the moon climbs higher and the smallness of us is deeply known.

It's here on this night, this night filled with so much brokenness and confusion, that a girl who knocks on my door back home and draws maps of imaginary places for my girls, who smiles shyly when I point out her's on this night that she hears the beauty of Jesus and how He makes the broken beautiful and she says yes and makes the decision to give her life to Him alone. She gives Jesus her yes in the hours before her counselor gets rushed to the hospital and we could see how God uses all things, good and bad, for His glory.

For whatever reason, I think of the story of the Good Samaritan and the brokenness he embraced. How Jesus used the unlikely to open our eyes to the beauty of mercy and calls us to a life that comes near to the hurting and tender places in another.

That's the key, I think. We may be afraid and uncertain, trying to feel our way through the dark and unseen, unsure of how it is all supposed to look. We can choose to stay back from what we don't understand, feel ill-equipped to handle, or even of what we are afraid of. We could, and it would be understandable. But Jesus pointed out the beauty of the most unlikely to a lawyer who looked the most likely in order to reach his heart.  The Samaritan, who was considered "Bad" by the ones who hated him most, came the closest to the wounds of  the broken in front of him. He didn't just come close, he gave of his time, his comfort, his resources - he gave of what he had and God called him "good".

Tony and I sit in the aftermath of these weeks at camp in our coffee shop chairs that still smell of caffeine and pastries and we ask the hard questions of each other that we had been praying over and seeking direction for to find that sometimes the greatest gain in our lives means the giving up of what feels safe and familiar. Realizing the small ways that I've been relying on things or "this is the way we have always done it" rather than on the faithfulness of Jesus.

I've been afraid to go smaller and simpler, afraid of what it would mean for our family and schooling and ministry. But if I look at the model of what Jesus put forward, I see a man who let go of what he had in order to add to the care and benefit of another.

The hearts of my children matter no less, the beauty of our family demands that Jesus and what He is asking come first. Letting go of the known for a season opens our hands to receive the gift of the unknown, trusting that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights. Letting go of the much allows us to give even more to the ones that He brings into our lives - we give from a place of trust and find that the stuttering moments have only just changed the orbit of our lives. Where we once focused on what was we now find our lives lined up next to the I AM and there is rest here.

Only half of the moon showed her face last night, she orbits and her face shows less then it did in the dark of a field surrounded by towering trees just one short week ago, but I'm not afraid of seeing the smaller picture anymore because I know that we are all seen by the One who spoke our days into existence and we are safe here, for we are always under the watchful eye of our good God.