{this blessed life}

{this blessed life}

sun dawning, mama yawning;
joints aching, day breaking

mercy new, {always true}

shower steaming, dishes gleaming;
children raising, husband dazing

laundry piling, me smiling;
break the fast, hope is cast

lessons taught, Truth is sought;
laughing, learning; praying, yearning

{this blessed life}

washer whirring, hearts stirring;
busy hands, making plans

soup bubbling, children tumbling;
in one accord, we afford

{peace}

we break bread, grace is said;
all sojourners, Love yearners

questions posing, night closing;
voices raise, in joyful praise

{for the Author of this blessed life}


Pregnant Pause

Pregnant.

Not exactly the Thanksgiving news I was expecting.  I wasn’t expecting to be expecting again.  In fact, I expected the next baby born into our family to be a grandchild!

After the shock wore off (and that took a few weeks), I battled with some unexpected feelings.  I wanted the baby…was already in love with this little person…but did not want to be pregnant.  Did not want to go through 9 months of feeling…bleh.  Swollen feet.  Sleepless nights.  Aching back.  Fatigue.

I also battled with feeling overwhelmed.  Mother to five?  It took a good year for me to understand how to manage the four I have now. And I feel…old.  Really.  At nearly forty, pregnancy and childbirth is a different experience.  To start all over 10 years after our oldest was born…it was all a little hard to take in.  I even think Hubs (who is Mr. Laid Back) was a little overwhelmed at the thought of adding another person to the dinner table.

I navigated nauseously through the holidays, taking daily cat naps and going to bed at 8.  We had our first OB appointment with a new doctor (Dr. Laid Back) close to Christmas, complete with a peek at our newest family member, affectionately dubbed “Baby Cinco.”  Still, I was wrestling with the prospect of our family growing and…changing.

About this time, the Lord started to speak to me about pausing.  As I’ve prayed about how to pause and be still and wait on the Lord, I’ve also confessed my lack of enthusiasm about being pregnant.  Grateful for this new life…just wishing it didn’t require the accompanying pregnancy and limitations.  I’ve grieved over a writing conference I was planning to attend…about 2 weeks after this baby is due.  Been disappointed not to be able to take a planned trip to California…Hubs’ mind will be more at ease of I stick closer to home.  Wrestled over the fact that a photography class I wanted to take would require me to crawl around on the floor at 8.5 months pregnant…not a likely scenario.

Basically, I’ve had a hard time putting things I want to do on pause.

Selfish?  Maybe.  Maybe I wanted those things for myself a little too much.  Maybe I felt like I deserved them.  Mostly, I think I have struggled because I thought I understood where God was leading me…out of diapers and sippy cups and toddler-hood and into being able to do some things a little more independently.

But, that isn’t the path I find myself on.  It doesn’t feel like “no,” but rather “not yet.”  And that is hard.  Harder than I really want to admit.  Harder than I like.  I’d really like to joyfully embrace whatever God has planned for me, however He has it timed.  But, in reality that isn’t exactly where I find myself.  I don’t doubt God’s plan is the very best for me and for my family…just having a hard time getting enthusiastic about it.

So, in this pregnant pause of sorts…I wait.  For the Lord to change my heart.  For Him to speak to me.  For Him to revive me, strengthen me, fill me with.  I wait for this baby…who will he or she be?  How will mothering and loving this person change me…change us all?  What new things of God will I learn?

I wait.  With hope.

Father, thank You for You.  Thank You for this pause…though I don’t fully understand the purpose.  I trust You in it and with it.  Change me.  Help me to know you more.  Fill me with Your Spirit.  Revive my heart.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.


2012 Word for the Year: Pause?

The last few years, I’ve read about and enjoyed posts from friends (and bloggers I admire) who have chosen a word to focus in on for the year.  Some of them have blogged about gratitude, joy, contentment, relationship, peace, and purity.  Their posts and transparency have blessed me and encouraged me.  As this new year dawned, I prayed and asked the Lord if He had anything…a word, a concept, a verse…that He wanted me to focus on for the year.  Over and over again, the same word and concept kept coming to the surface.  Ready for it?  It’s a beaut…

Pause.

I know, I just blew your mind.  What an amazing, spiritual concept, right?

Actually, I was pretty confused at first.  Okay, Lord.  Pause?  That’s not exactly the word I was looking for.  I was thinking of something more glamorous…like Kindness, or Mercy, or Grace.  But, Pause?  What am I supposed to do with that?!

And that’s the point…He doesn’t want me to do anything with it.  He wants me to pause.  Wait.  Stop.  Think.  Reflect.  Look around.  Listen.  Observe.

Pause.

The more time I’ve spent praying and studying the Word, looking back through my journals and study notes, the more I realize that I’ve been doing a lot.  A lot of ministry, a lot of teaching, a lot of mothering, a lot of counseling…a lot of activity.  It isn’t that I think any of the things I’ve done have been done with wrong motives or out of step with God, but it’s been a busy, busy season.  Really busy.  Sometimes you need to stop and just…breathe.

That part I get.  The breathing part.  The part where I look up from my trek up the mountain and stop to enjoy the view.  The part where I stop to smell the roses, feel the warmth of the sun on my face.  I get that part.

But a whole year of…pausing?  Ummm…how is that going to work?

Really, I don’t know yet.  It is, after all, January 11.  I’ve had about 10 whole days to really reflect on this:)  But this is what I do know:  before I make any commitments, offer to help, pick up the phone to counsel another woman, start my day teaching my kids…I’m pausing.  Sometimes it’s just for a moment.  To thank God.  To ask God for His leading.  Sometimes, the pause is longer.  To ask the Lord if this is what He wants me to do.  To ask God to provide for the need of another if it clearly isn’t for me to do.  For wisdom to know what His will is.

Pause.

And though it’s only been a few days, the pause feels good.  Hard…but, good.  Hard to say “no.”  Hard to say “not yet.”  Hard to watch without doing.  Hard to find my value in Christ without doing for Christ.             But so very good.

Loving God, thank You for this pause.  Thank You for reaching out to me in truth.  Thank You for showing me the truth about myself.  Forgive me for doing for You, more than knowing You.  Help me learn to wait.  Help me learn to look.  Help me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Birthday Gifts

I really wanted to start celebrating my birthday differently.  By giving instead of receiving…I’ve already received this beautiful gift of life.  So I made a little list…most of it I was able to accomplish today.

  • Crafts with each of my kids
  • Art for an artist friend
  • 10 dollar bills planted in the toy aisle of the dollar store
  • Cookies for our 2 elderly neighborss
  • Choosing 10 friends to lift in prayer today
  • Organizing Hubs’ dresser drawers
  • A phone call to someone feeling lonely this first holiday without a loved one
  • Food for a family in need
  • Cookies for our letter carrier
  • Thanking my mama for loving me every day of my life
  • Buying baby #5 his or her first book
  • Starting a crochet project for a dear friend
  • Homemade play dough for 3 of the kids’ playmates
  • 2 anonymous care packages

And if you can count that high, you’ll know just how many years I celebrated today!


December Rose

She’s holding on fiercely through wind, rain, snow, ice.  Clinging to the vine that climbs wildly around the railing of our wrap-around porch.  She’s a beauty, though.  A spot of crimson against the dreary landscape.  A little bit of hope, a reminder of warmer, sunnier, brighter days.  December rose…

And then there’s this December Rose…

And she is so lovely.  Her bright eyes, warm smile.  Her tender heart, her generous spirit.  10 Decembers ago, I held her in my arms, wondering how I would mother such a wonder.  Would I teach her well?  Would I know how to help her grow into the woman God means for her to be?

And now I know…it is she who is teaching me well.  It is she who is showing me how to be the mother God means for me to be.  It is she (and her sisters and brother) who challenge what I know about love and grace and forgiveness and compassion.

Today, I held her in my arms (all nearly five feet of her!) and wondered still at the marvel of who she is.  Her beauty, her gifts, her spirit.  Beautiful.  I see now that the baby, toddler and little girl I have loved is just a preview of what is to become…who she is becoming.  It…she…takes my breath away.

December Rose…


Grace on the Hard Road

The hard road is hard when you choose it…harder when your child chooses it and you have to part company for a bit.  Easy Street has a roughness all its’ own when your child in on a rocky path.  Helplessly, we wait and watch them stumble and tumble along, getting battered and bruised on a road not meant for them.  We wait and watch and pray.

But there is grace on the hard road.  God still guides.  Still provides.  Still walks with us, even carries us when we cannot take another step.  And the hard road builds a strength in us that we could never have fashioned on our own.  Yes, it can build bitterness.  But it can also build faith.  Faith strong enough to move mountains, tear down strongholds, part the seas, quiet our raging hearts.  There is grace on the hard road.

Friend, if you find yourself or a loved one on the hard road…the road not meant to be traveled…take heart.  Greater is He Who is in us…with us, beside us, holding us up, drawing us close…than he is who is of this world.

Look to Jesus.


The Humdrum of Holiness

The steady beat of a mother’s day…

dishes to wash, noses to wipe, toilets to scrub.

Hands to be held, books to be read, tears to be dried, hearts to be fed.

The cacophony of sing-songs, arguments, raucous games of charades, piles of giggling, wiggling wee ones…all meld into a childhood symphony.  A symphony of praise for laughter, silliness, the seriousness of simplicity, the divine combined with the fragility of humanness.  Praise for the Maker of the child and the mother.

Holiness is found in the humdrum…in the whirring of the washing machine.  In the dishes drying in their rack.  In the over and over again folding of the same towel.  In the toys strewn about, the laundry piling sky-high, crayons littering the table, Cheerios glued to chairs.  There is a quiet dignity masked by the chaos.  Just under the surface of the humdrum…do you hear?

That whispering of holy…to hear this.  {This is what I AM about.  I AM in the humdrum (and in the excitement, too).  I AM here.  I AM.}

And we miss it, you and I, because we see only the chaotic whirling and swirling of life just about out of control…but not quite.  We miss it because we are looking for bigger.  For better.  For more beautiful.  For more important.

{I AM bigger.  I AM better.  I AM all the beauty and importance you will ever need.  I AM.}

Our days and years and lives march forward, tapping to the beat, dancing in rhythm and singing in rhyme.  Is it the beat of holiness’ humdrumming?  Do you hear it?

Do you hear it?  Whispering….calling…wooing…

{I AM.  I AM.  I AM.}


Making Mothers

She slipped her arm around her brother and pulled him closer to her on the couch.  I watched as she played with his hair, instinctively.  Soothing him, loving him.  A mother in the making…

I hear the two of them in the bathroom…”your hair looks nice that way…wanna borrow my silver clip?  It will match your shoes…”  “Here, let me help you with your belt.  See?  This way makes your pants stay smoother…you look so pretty!”

She goes from bed to bed, smoothing, folding, arranging…wanting to surprise her siblings with already-made beds, a morning chore already completed.  Because she loves them.  Because she wants to bless them.

Maybe it’s in God’s plans to make them mothers.  Certainly it’s in His plans for them to love.  And they do. (mostly:)

It isn’t just my job to mother them…it’s my job…no, my calling…to teach them to mother.  To be an example, to guide them and show them.  And I get scared just thinking about it.

These three precious, beautiful, wonderful, little (and not so little any more) girls…they are going to first learn mothering by watching how I mother.  Gulp.

As I travel the well-worn paths from bed to bed, checking, tucking, praying…I wonder if I am showing them godly mothering.  Mothering that is fierce as a lion, and meek as a lamb.  Mothering that isn’t about the mother.  Mothering that is forgiving, encouraging, truth-telling, Word-centered.  Mothering that isn’t afraid.  Mothering that isn’t in a hurry, isn’t irritated, isn’t sighing and eye-rolling.  Mothering that is quick to listen and slow and wise when speaking.  Mothering with arms and heart wide open.  Mothering with an understanding of sin.  Mothering with two feet firmly planted and hands raised high, reaching and climbing…praising God for these gifts.

Mothering in total grace.

No.  I miss the mark every.single.day.  Multiple times.  Like this morning when I used a sharp tone to remind them not to leave their toothbrushes out on the counter…again (heavy sigh and eye roll.)  As if leaving toothbrushes on the counter was going to make or break our day, or take us closer or further from the gates heaven.  Or, at dinner when I snapped at everyone when the trashcan overflowed…because I was more concerned with the garbage spilling out of the can than the garbage spilling out of my mouth.

Then God reminds me of where I started…bringing our first baby home…clueless.  I didn’t know how to hold her or feed her or dress her…I didn’t know anything.  But, I loved her.  I loved her every coo, cry, giggle.  I loved changing her diapers (really!), I loved walking the floors with her at night, I loved every new thing she did.  And I loved seeing how unique and different her brother and sisters were, too.  I still love discovering who my children are…

Love makes a mother.  Love made me a mother.  My love for them, Christ’s love through me…will make them mothers.  So, despite my short-comings, my gracelessness at times, my impatience and poor attitude…love covers a multitude of sins.

Thank You, God for these beautiful girls (and boy!).  Thank You for choosing me to be their mother.  Help me, Jesus, to mother them well!  Forgive me for not always having the right attitude, the right motives, the right posture.  Forgive me for not always leaning on You.  Give me a passion for my children that will bring them to You.  Let everything I do point to You, point to the cross.  Help me to love them as You love me…In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Lost Keys, Found Knees

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 2 Chronicles 7:14-16

Hubs and I had the blessing of being able to attend the Midwest Pastors’ Conference for the past 4 days.  It was an incredible blessing for our family to get away together in a retreat setting.  Beautiful leaves, lovely lake, sweet cabin near the woods, fellowship in the Lord and with the body of Christ…too many blessings to count!  Like all vacations and getaways, at the close of our time, everyone was a little tired, a little smelly, and a little irritable.  The Boy was the grumpiest of us all, so he and I skipped one of the morning sessions to pack the van.  We had every bag loaded, every pillow and towel stowed away, every leaf swept from the cabin and were preparing to move the van back to the parking lot when I realized I wasn’t sure where the van key was.  I checked all my pockets, my bag, the floor of the van, all through the empty cabin…no key.  Feeling a little panicky, I got down on my hands and knees and looked under each bed, under the couch…even under the fridge!  No key.  Now, I was really frustrated and irritated.  So, I prayed…something like this:  God, You have to help me find this key!  I’ve looked and looked and can’t find it.  Please show me where it is.  You see it and I don’t and I’m the one who has to drive this van.  So show me where the key is!!

Eventually, I unpacked every bag in the van, searched every inch of both the van and cabin, re-packed all our stuff and even got down on my hands and knees and started searching under all the leaves scattering the lawn and road in front of our cabin.  I was crying and angry, all the while praying, “God, You have to show me where this key is!!” 

Charlie came back to the cabin just as I was sitting down in the cabin to have an old-fashioned temper tantrum.  I was sure I had lost the key out in the leaves somewhere and we wouldn’t be able to get back home that afternoon.  I was frustrated with myself and couldn’t understand why God hadn’t heard my prayers.  I sobbed out the whole story to Hubs and he, being so patient and kind, suggested we pray about it.  I snapped back, “I HAVE been praying for the last hour.”  Nonetheless, I bowed my head as he asked God to help us find the lost key.  His prayer went something like this:  Lord, You know we’ve lost the key and Jen has been searching for it.  Please help us to find it.  We thank You for always taking care of us and we trust that You will take care of us now.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

He then proceeded to walk out to the van, look into my bag–the same bag I had already searched multiple times–and find the lost key.  He called out triumphantly, “I found it!  Praise the Lord!”  When he told me where he had found it, I was bewildered…I had checked that bag over and over again.  And I had prayed and prayed and prayed…with no answer.  But Hubs showed up, said one prayer and God showed him the lost key.

Now here’s a true confession:  I was pretty miffed with God in that moment.  And I told Hubs about it.  “I asked and asked God to show me that key and He didn’t.  But you asked him once and He showed it to you right away.  Why?!?!”  Hubs just grinned and hugged me.  I eventually got over my irritation, but I kept mulling over the incident in my mind.

It wasn’t until this morning that I began to see that perhaps my approach to the entire problem was faulty.  I did go to God for help…but my attitude was prideful, demanding, arrogant.  Instead of being grateful and acknowledging God as, well…GOD, I demanded that He give me the key.  I was even so bold as to tell Him that I had an agenda and losing the key was not on it.  I was using God like a genie in a bottle, asking Him to give me what I wanted and GIVE IT RIGHT NOW.

God is a patient Father…

Hubs’ prayer was different.  He thanked God for helping us, remembering that God is the source of all our help.  He was humble.

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12

I had exalted my needs, myself… demanding that God give me what I wanted, in the time line that I wanted…like a two-year old.  Hubs had approached God humbly, giving God respect and reverence, in gratitude.  And God answered his prayer…because God loves humility.  Why?  Because a humble man or woman is not concerned for himself or herself.  A humble person is in awe of who God is and is willing to let the Creator of the universe, the Author and Finisher of our faith have His way.

So this morning, at the revelation of my own pride and the destructive properties it has…I found myself on my knees.  This time begging God for forgiveness and for a change of heart.  I know from the Word that without a humble and contrite spirit, spiritual fruit in my life is unlikely.  Not only that, but pride goes before a fall…and a stumble, and bruised knees, and all sorts of other injurious actions.  I want God to change my heart and teach me to be continually humble and unconcerned with myself….trusting God to take care of my every need.  I’d rather my knees be bruised from a posture of humble prayer, than bruised from prideful wipeouts.

Who knew that a lost key could truly bring me to me knees?  Who knew I would be grateful?

Oh, yeah…that patient, loving Father-God of ours!

Father-God, thank You.  Thank You for lovingly, patiently teaching me and instructing me.  Thank You for teaching me that I can trust You…always.  Forgive me of my pride.  Forgive me for having any other posture other than being bowed low in humble adoration, respect and gratitude.  You are awesome.  You are power.  You are wisdom.  You are my God!  Continue to love me, to teach me how to be truly humble, truly unconcerned with my own needs and desires.  Help me not to be afraid of this request, but to embrace You and all that You have for me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


What it’s really like to homeschool…

This is not a post about how to expertly homeschool your children nor a diatribe on the evils of public schooling.  Just some bits and pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past few years of teaching my kids at home.  If you’re looking for expertise…look somewhere else, because I’m still learning and figuring things out as we go!

We never set out to homeschool.  In fact, when our oldest two were 3 months and 21 months old respectively, and was I pacing the floors of our house with a very colicky baby, I would actually fantasize about putting the girls on a school bus and skipping all the way home. I think we just assumed that we would send our kids to public school.  We both come from a long line of public schooling and public school educators.  But, here we are…four kids later and choosing to educate our children at home.

Being the type A personality I am, I spent months researching methods, philosophies, and theories behind education.  I was sure that if we chose the *right* curriculum, our kids would learn all that they needed.  I figured there must be a formula or plan that would lead to success.  We settled on a philosophy and ordered a complete curriculum for our oldest daughter when she started kindergarten.  I felt confident that we were on the path to greatness.

I should have had “naive” tattooed across my forehead.  Three weeks into our first year, I was overwhelmed.  Our oldest daughter was bright…which was awesome.  But she was bored with the pre-planned lessons I was trying to teach her and she already knew well over half the material in her books.  Because she was bored, she was inattentive and surly.  I didn’t have anything else planned and didn’t know what to do.  To top it all off, our “educational philosophy” didn’t tell me what to do with an advanced, eager learner.

So, we ditched the expensive curriculum in favor of some cheap workbooks for first and second graders that I purchased at Staples.  She was happy and learning.  I felt like I was betraying Charlotte Mason and Susan Wise-Bauer…but the workbooks worked.

The next year, I had two little learners and was even more determined to teach them *correctly.*  I was sure it was my lack of skill and understanding that had caused me to fail in meeting my goals the previous year.  So, I spent even more time, energy and money preparing for the school year.  Again, a few weeks into the year, I found myself purchasing Tinkerbell workbooks and printing free curriculum off the Internet.

Clearly, I am a slow learner.  And that is valuable information, friends.

Fast-forward a couple of years and we are beginning our fifth year of homeschooling, with 4 little learners, shelves full of mix and match curriculum and a bin of the ever-trusty, el cheapo workbooks:)  I think every mama who sets out to educate her own children has an idea of what homeschooling will look like.  My “ideal” was a table filled with bright-eyed, clean-faced children, all learning Latin, playing violin, doing long-division…okay, maybe not that extreme.  But I did think that it would be a lot like, well, my own experiences at school.

Truth?  It’s nothing like my own experiences.  Truth?  It’s better.

After a lengthy learning curve, I have discovered that all the hyper-planning in the world won’t make my kids learn; nor will expensive curricula, critically acclaimed testing, or lofty ideals and philosophies.  My kids learn when someone who loves them invests in them, prays for them, encourages them, and introduces them to a love for learning.

Like I said…I learn at a snail’s pace.

I do think it’s valuable to have some handle on different teaching styles, philosophies and approaches.  This will help you discern how to approach learning with your child.  It will also help you choose curriculum.  My rule of thumb is to never use something I don’t feel comfortable working with.  A book or course of study may be expertly written and be popular with every other homeschooler in your area, but if you don’t feel comfortable teaching from it, you won’t teach well from it.

Far and away the most important part of educating our children (for me) has been a posture of prayer.  Leaning into the Lord for guidance, protection, wisdom.  At least once a day I wonder if we have made the right choice.  At least once a day I wonder if they are learning *everything* they are supposed to learn.  Maintaining a prayerful posture keeps me in communication with God and able to hear His gentle reassurance that He is with me, guiding me and helping me in my ministry to my kids.

Thinking back to my *ideal* for homeschooling, the only part of that picture that exists in reality is the table we use.  Some days we do school in pajamas.  There is usually peanut butter smeared on someone’s face or shirt.  The house gets messy, with projects and books and papers spread out over every available table.  We aren’t learning Latin.  There is no violin playing going on.  We check out 50 or more library books at a time. We count folding laundry, cutting coupons and making cookies as “home ec.”  We stop and pray when someone doesn’t understand a concept or is having a rough day.  We let other people interrupt our day and use it as an opportunity to let God teach us how to love others.  I actively invite God to mold me and shape me into a better wife, mother and teacher for my family.

We are slowly learning.  Learning to let God fashion us into the family He desires us to be.  Learning to live in reconciliation and peace.  Learning to see our children (and ourselves) as God sees us…beautiful, broken treasures.

So, what’s it really like to homeschool?  I don’t know…I’m still figuring that out!  And it’s different for every family.  But if you are called to it, you will be equipped for it.  If God leads you to it, He will provide wisdom.  And if you consecrate your efforts as unto the Lord, you will bless the Lord.

God, thank You for the privilege and opportunity to educate these kids for Your glory.  Help me to do it!  Give me wisdom, give me strength, give me JOY!  Help me to see them as you do…always.  Help me to see myself as you do…ALWAYS!  May this year bless You and glorify You and may it help us walk closer and more intimately with You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.