What I want for you, my daughters..

what I want for my daughters

A few days ago, we walked through one of my favorite stores. You remarked about how I like to go up and down each aisle, and I whispered the excitement of something unique on so many shelves. I gasped over one piece, and you laughed at how I fell in love.

A few aisles over, you were the ones in love. There were dolls, and each of you found one perfect. Your heart yearned for those toys so badly, and faces dropped when I said we wouldn’t be buying them. I thought we were about to have a toddler show down, but it was resolved and you all shuffled away sadly, even as I reminded you how I, too, had just walked away from something my heart fell in love with.

But, sweet girls, our hearts are deceitful. They tell us that something (or someone) will make us happy, and though it may for a tiny bit, it is not a lasting happiness. The truth is, I wanted to buy you those dolls so badly. But, it wasn’t a wise choice, not just financially, but for your character, as well. To give you everything your heart desires would be to cheat you.

There are so many things I want to give you, things you can hold in your arms or play with all day.  But there’s a different list too. A better list. There is a list of experiences I want for you, and this is the beginning of my bucket list for your lives.

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I want you to laugh.

not just any laugh. girls, I want you to laugh at each other. with each other. I want you to laugh when you nervously ride with each other as teenagers with big dreams and small experiences. I want you to laugh with joy when each of you comes to the others with life announcements of wedding bells being planned or sweet new life still hidden away.

I want you to laugh at yourselves when you realize you’ve taken yourselves too seriously. I want you to laugh when it’s late and I have yelled at you to sleep, but you cannot contain the mirth at the moment and you giggle away despite me.

I want you to laugh when it hurts; when your heart is breaking and it feels like your world is ending. I want you to laugh, and I want you to see that laugh as life inside yourself and hope that your world will still go on.

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I want you to slow the rush.

I want you to slow down when the world hurries you on. I want you to slow down when mama hurries you on. I want you to listen, and not just hear. I want you to notice those the rest of us rush past. I want you to take your time and make the good choices. Even if it means we will continue being late for everything for the next 18 years or more, I want you to learn to consider choices and people. Consider God’s will and His perspective. Because sometimes, habits form small. What begins as considering exactly where the location of a shoe has the potential to blossom into “how are my words going to affect her?” Which leads me to the next desire…

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I want you to be a friend

a good one. Yes, I want you to laugh and take your time as a friend, but more importantly, I want you to be a blessing. I want you to say the hard thing, in the gentle way.

I want you to swallow hard and die to self and consider others more important than yourself. Because being a friend isn’t the same as having friends.

I want you to show up with help when you are needed most. I want you to have the blessing of being a blessing. That’s why we’re blessed in the first place.

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I want you to be hurt

now, stay with me a moment, because London, I can already see your eyes getting huge. We know that muscles cannot become strong without exercising them. You cannot be strong without the same.  And I want you to be strong. I want you to withstand the hurt of the world, to look past the lies and cheap shots and stand at the end victorious able to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” But, as hard as it is, I know you cannot do that without hurt in your heart, but I want it to be hurt that heals.

True strength is born out of those times when you answer, “I’m good,” but you really mean, “I feel like a crumpled up piece of paper left on the floor.” It comes from times when you have the wind knocked out of you from life’s hard hits, and sit alone processing how to pull yourself together. But when those moments come, that is when that laughter and those friends and each other will pour their own blessings out and anoint you with God’s grace. and, oh, I want you to have that anointing.

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I want you to feel insignificant

I want you to stand before a tree larger than you’ve ever seen. I want you to stand at the edge of the ocean, water pulling sand from beneath your feet. I want you to lie in the dark beneath a star filled sky. And in all of those moments, I want you to feel tiny, insignificant. I want your problems and our world to shrink and God’s majesty to boom. I want you to learn to number your days, and to make the most of our very short time on this very small planet.

Because it’s all a vapor. We are hear for a short breath of time, and then we are called away. You are all so little now, so far from giggling teens in a car or grown sisters whispering heartache over coffee. But, at the same time, it was so little time ago that I held you new in my arms. One eyes wide open, ready to take in the world. One, broken-hearted to be in a new place and away from the comfort you had known for 9 months. The other, so in need of the comfort of your people.

It’ll be here before we know it, girls, these moments of life that kick us when we’re down and make us laugh until we cry. So, I want you to be ready…not ready to take on the moments. You can’t prepare for such. But, I want you to be ready to hold tight to each other. To do the right thing. But mostly, ready to see God’s hand in every moment whether the tears made are from sorrow or joy.

Refining silver, rock tumblers, and little girls

Hello! So, it’s been a long time, and for that I apologize. Anytime you leave a blog for long, you come back sheepishly ducking your head into the door cheeks red from the embarrassment. It isn’t that I didn’t have things to say! we all know that’s not the reality. and I’m grateful to those of you who contacted me during my short holiday.

It wasn’t really a holiday, of course. It was MOVING. Oh my word, y’all. I’m never moving again. It’s most unfortunate that our bedrooms are all upstairs because I’m still going to be here when I’m old and those stairs may do me in. BUT, fortunately, my husband is a physical therapist so I’ll have me some live-in help until he’s too old too. (If he were here, this is where he would point out that I’m more than a year older than him, and therefore, will be “old” WAY before he will…sigh. men.)

Anywho, we moved! First, I actually rocked the single mom thing for 5 weeks while he lived here and we stayed at the other house. which reminds me, I need to start making my christmas list early this year and include every single mother I have ever known or met. One day, I’ll blog post about all my incredibly over-organized tips I learned from moving. The color coded duct tape to code boxes to rooms instead of hand labeling? YES. MA’AM.

But today, however, I wanted to share another bit of advice, and ask for yours in return. News flash: I am not perfect. and guess what? my kids sure aren’t either. I may be wrong, but I feel like homeschooling gives us a little more insight into that lately…because, we NEVER leave each other. We do have a lot more space in this house compared to the 950 sq ft in our last house, but people still share bedrooms here. We still have three meals a day together. We still do chores together, school together, and play together. I made the mistake of tallying it up this morning while doing dishes and realized that I do dishes for 3 meals a day, for 5 people. That’s 15 place settings a day. That’s over 100 plates or bowls or whatever that particular meal called for!

I’m not gonna lie….sometimes, that makes me grumpy. and sometimes, sisters who live with each other this much day in and day out get a little grumpy too. Which….makes me grumpy. and the cycle can quickly spin out of control until I am sitting in the living room floor completely losing my cool over board games not put away correctly!!!! ahem. so…we’re not perfect.

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God says in His word so so much about this topic, but my favorite verse on it has always been Malachi 3:3 when is says He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. A refiner is someone, like a silversmith, who will continually put his work into the fire to boil up the impurities, remove it to work on it, then put it back in again. Over and over again until basically, it is so shiny he can see his reflection in it. See where He was going with that in His word? He continuously places us into the fire, or the difficulties in our lives, to bring out those impurities while he is careful with us, always watching and protecting and never leaving us in too long. He molds and corrects, until the finished product one day will be a masterpiece of His that reflects Him completely.

Beautiful, right? When I first fell in love with this image, I was single and had no children or husband. The words of this promise washed over me and it helped that I was just so darn spiritual. Now, most days I still love the image, but some days, the image of it all makes me cringe. He is faithful to continue His good work in us, even if that’s uncomfortable and means I have to go apologize to my girls for going mommy psycho over board games.

But the truth is, what refines me the most is living in the midst of their sin. In their natural selfishness that says, “I don’t care that I’m not currently playing with it, I still don’t want to share it.” Or with their lack of compassion that means they don’t see me working hard for them already, they still have more demands to make. I feel like I have some of my own sin finally under control, only for the friction of their sin rubbing up against mine enough to unleash it. And boy, is my sin bigger than their’s. It’s like having a bunch of baby cows all in the house being annoying yet slightly cute while they’re messing stuff up. Then eventually, the giant bull comes in charging and breaking everything. …..I really have no idea where the cow to sin analogy came from, but I’m leaving it in. It’s fantastic.

But, the reason their sin can get to me so easily, is because often, I forget that they aren’t perfect. I forget that they are unrefined in their youth. And that’s when I have to pull out my bracelets and wear them around. Last year, I bought myself three bracelets. They are raw stones on a cheap stretchy band. I have one made of raw amethyst, one of sapphire, and one of ruby. They were super cheap. Why? Because they are unrefined and unpurified. If I were to throw them into a tumbler, they could stay in for a looonnggg time and eventually come out as tiny, beautiful, jewels. Then, the world would see them as valuable. But, they are valuable to me right now, because they are the birthstones of my girls. My beautiful, precious unrefined jewels. One day, after a looonnnggg time in this rock tumbler of a home and bigger rock tumbler of a world, they will slowly become refined. But for now, they’ve only just entered the first phase of their tumbling. They beat against one another and me, all day long. And that hurts, and it’s uncomfortable, and annoying. But, weeks and months pass, and I notice a small shiny spot on one of us that wasn’t there before. Someone gave compassion where they previously would not have. Someone shared a toy without being asked. Mama took a deep breath and swallowed her words. And we’re one step closer to reflecting His face.

What about you? What helps you to take a step back and remember to breathe? What reminds you to give grace?

Unrefined Beauty and Hope for the Season of Little Ones

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I love that verse. It gives me such hope. It is my very favorite verse. I have had seasons in the past when I have been drawn to other verses, verses about grace and heaven. I’m sure seasons will come when I’m drawn to other verses. But for now, this is it.

He who began a good work in you will

This is the season of littles. It’s a season of living life inside a rock tumbler with all our unrefined and immature gifts banging against each other all day, every day. A season of waking up to read the Word and sitting quietly in a rocking chair with a cup of steaming coffee in hand for 2.9 seconds before the dog vomits in the floor or someone cries out in pain because they bit their own finger. From that moment on, the day goes fast and hard. I never stop moving, they never stop talking, we never stop thinking. And because of that, there aren’t many moments that pass by without someone in danger of sin.

I wake in the morning full of repentance over my sins of yesterday, and determined and steadfast in my  heart to respond with gentleness and sweet words to each need of my family. But somewhere during the day, I fall short. The word for sin actually means to miss the mark. I have a target, but when I aim as well as I can at that mark, I still often miss. Sometimes I’m close to the target, but not quite on the mark. Other times, my arrow didn’t even hit the target. It went way over it and over a fence.

And sometimes, that fact makes me lie in the floor on my face sobbing because as long as I’m bound in this body on this fallen earth with these children bound to their own bodies, I am prone to sin. But, then I read this verse. He is faithful. He will continue His good work in me. I don’t struggle with what I did before. What once made me angry in years past, I could take all day long and make it look like a joy ride. But, I’m not around those things, I’m around little children. And I am being refined by them. And that verse reminds me of that. But, there’s another side of that I often forget. so I need a reminder.

I have three bracelets made of raw stones. One made of raw and unrefined amethyst, for my February first born. One made from sapphire stones, for the little girl with eyes to match her birthstone. And then one made of rubies, for that littlest one. The thing about those bracelets is that they didn’t cost much. Because they’re unrefined and not perfectly cut. However, if I had the experience and tools, I could put the time in and refine those stones. I could cut them and polish them, and eventually, those stones would become jewels. But I do have the experience and tools to help refine those little girls, maybe not the ones I need in years to come, but I have enough for today. God has promised that.

I have a daughter full of compassion and grace, but who often wants to control and boss. I have another daughter who is joyous and trusting, but who often wants to ignore what needs to be done and let someone else take care of it. And one who is full of surprises and laughter, but who often throws tantrums when she can’t have all of the attention.

They are valuable and their gifts are valuable. But their gifts are unrefined and raw, causing their sinful nature and emotions to be unrefined and raw. And that’s okay, because He is faithful. He will continue the good work he has started. The unrefined gifts are the proof of that. They are the deposit He has already made into their eternal souls, and part of my job is to stop holding them to a human standard and trying to be their Holy Spirit. Love is what molds. I could nag all day long and maybe refine a bit, like a slow stream. But loving someone enough to live with them through their flaws, in spite of their flaws, and helping them to strive for more refines like a rushing waterfall. We can’t always see that, of course. Because waterfalls are loud and hard to get too close to, without splashing you with water or pulling you down as well. and homes full of little children who spill all the cups and bicker and run and giggle and hug hard are much the same. Getting close will be loud. They’ll splash you as well and likely pull you down into the mess to be pounded by the waters. You’ll all lose your cool and calm, and bump into one another repeatedly in an attempt to find your ground. BUT, you’ll be refined in ways you never knew possible. And though I can’t speak from experience yet, I have a feeling that one day, I’ll stand on firm ground again, soaked and exhausted but with a deeper understanding of His grace. And I’ll be so very grateful for the season of littles.

Keep going. He is faithful to continue that good work! and not just in you, but in those kiddos too, praise the Lord! 😉 

For us, Control Freaks

That term…control freak. I’m not a fan. For one, freak makes it sound like it’s rare, like I’m alone in my serious fear of a future unplanned. But, the more I open up about my struggles in this area, the more I realize, I am not alone. Neither are you.

We can make our plans,

Before marriage and motherhood, I really wasn’t organized or concerned with planning. That’s probably why I ended up on academic probation and with credit card debt..ahem. But, it was just me I was looking out for..or not looking out for. I didn’t see a big picture, or care about it.

Last night in a group I lead at church, we talked about the masks I talk about in my book, and the mask of control seemed to hit home with the most. We talked about how the controlling mask almost always begins out of good intentions. It’s fear or distrust over something we care about that leads us to hunch over it and attempt to guide our own path.

Then, we get emotionally attached to the behavior of others and their choices. It makes us respond with anger or all sorts of new boundaries and rules to protect our control. We’re all, “well I’m not going there again if she is there.” or “no one can ever look at one another again if you don’t stop fighting!” or “since we’re always late because of that, then for now on (insert some crazy rule that actually makes more work for you later).”

The trouble is that life doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way… Here I am, trucking along on my perfect little figure 8 train track. I like the path because I know what to expect, I planned it so there are no surprises, no climbing or falling areas, and I made sure I was taking the pretty scenic route.

<Enter God and His plans for my good>

Suddenly, that little switch is flipped and my train turns off my perfectly planned track and onto a new one. One where I do not know the ending. One that has unexpected ups and downs and it’s not always the pretty scenic route i had first planned. It looks more sad and less perfect. My train passes others who have tragedy in their lives, and it hurts to watch. Eventually, I’m on the track long enough to get an idea of the path. I work it out in my mind so that I decide how the rest of the track will look, and I work hard to make that happen. Just when I get comfortable with it all again,

<Enter God and His plans for my good>

Are you seeing the pattern here? Let me guess, you KNOW the pattern from personal experience. But there is hope for us, ya know. Because, though we aren’t always sure what path we’re on or how fast we’re going, we don’t have to question the stability of that track or train. He’s got us. And though we won’t always like the ups and downs or the pain we’ll have to pass through, He has plans for our good. If He didn’t, He’d just let us stay on that same little figure 8 path going in circles and not growing at all. Even my kids get bored playing with a train on a simple little track.

Letting go isn’t easy. It will take a conscious effort to pry our hands off the wheel and sit back for the ride. We’ll have to be intentional to focus on loving and serving, not leading and controlling. We can do it! Just watch Jesus throughout the Gospels. He is the good shepherd! Did you know a shepherd always leads and never walks behind pushing his flock? If he did, the sheep my panic or feel threatened and they’d end up going in all kinds of crazy directions. So, he leads them gently, and they follow. We can love our families, and lead our children walking behind our husbands as they lead us. We can keep following the footsteps of our Father and love like He loves. and when we do that, we can step out of just being blessed, and begin to be the blessing.

What about you? Is controlling something you struggle with? How do you manage to let go of it?

When clocks slow down-A season of Renewal

We are one week into our summer break from school, and honestly, I feel like I’m waking up from a very long slumber. Things haven’t exactly slowed down completely. Our church activities are still in full swing, I’m still teaching, Lance is still playing and in school, and I’ve focused lots of energy into a new book. But, I’m waking up.

The biggest difference in our days has been the flip from school time to outside play time. I think those moments when all three girls are occupied and the youngest is safe and not attempting some death defying stunt from the ladder or trampoline, I have been able to sit and just…be. And that has made the difference. I’ve talked a lot about my “word of the year” through a Friday series, and this year my particular word is “renew.”

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Here it is April, and that word has led me down so many paths already. My last word was “love” and it felt like swimming against currents in a raging ocean so often. This year, renew feels so different. It is like following a stream through a lovely forest, only to stop every so often wondering if you’ve gone too far into the forest to find your way out if necessary. It’s been illuminating and peace giving, while also unsettling and uncomfortable.

In the last few weeks, the Holy Spirit has been renewing my marriage and relationship with my children. (Read that: the Spirit has been renewing my own heart and attitude toward them.) Creeping over to that inviting stream and gazing down at the reflection looking back at me hasn’t been easy to swallow each time, but each time I travel further down that path and creep back over, the reflection is less unsettling. The girl in the reflection looks more peaceful, with kinder eyes and a more loving disposition the the reflection I saw on the beginning of the journey. And maybe that’s why I keep on this path, though it’s taken me into some frightful areas and made me so uncomfortable at times…I want to keep going when I know that with each new peak over that edge, the reflection will look less and less like the one before.

In this new season, I bypass all the constant lists and fears of what my child should be learning and whether she’s in the right place. Instead, I pull out an old recipe for blueberry buckle to surprise my hunny and let the girls run barefoot outside while it bakes. I bypass all the articles about current events or the newest hot topic, and instead, seek out old blogs I haven’t looked at in forever…blogs that make me want to learn to can my own jam and slow down my life. In this season, I skip over the to do list in favor of the grateful list, and add each day

  • 456. muddy boots kicked off little feet
  • 457. stepping over a sleeping dog
  • 458. petals gone, green leaves there now

It’s an intentional season. A season of making choices and deciding that what I see and hear can be transformed mentally, before it hits my heart. I can choose joy. I can choose love. I can choose renewal.