14 February 2013

lovely

Dear Self in Ten Years,

Do you think its cute that I thought this blog might still be around in 10 years?

I wanted to tell you something.  I realized it earlier today, and thought you should know.  I have to start with a little background information though, just in case you have made some grown-up changes in regard to your ability to schedule hair appointments.  See, right now, I do this thing.  I grow my hair a bit.  And then I chop it off a bit.  I'm not so great at keeping up with regular hair cuts, so the short hair ends up growing long.  I get comfortable with the idea that I can pull it into a pony tail, so I just get it trimmed a time or two.  Then a year goes by and I realize that I wear my hair in ponytails every. single. day.  So I decide I should just cut it off.  So I do.

And I did.  Again.

{What, self?  People snapped pictures of themselves all the time in 2013 with their iPhones, just be thankful its not in a bathroom mirror.}

This time around, as I flat iron my hair.  I've noticed some gray hair.  Just this morning, that one toward the front was being especially showy.  Its even a little wiry.  You know the ones?  Not like the kind that have shown up periodically over the years, that might've just been a super-light-same-texture-as-the-rest-of-my-hair gray hair.  No, these are the real-deal gray hairs.  And guess what, self?  I'm not mad about it.  I'm not scared of it.

The thing is, we're staring down 37, which means we're 36 right now. (We? Me? Letter writing to oneself is just asking for all kinds of grammar errors.  From here out, I'm sticking with first person, OK?  I doubt that Strunk & White has any information about this, so just quit arguing with me.) 

Basically, I've been an adult for 18 years.  Life can be divided evenly into childhood and adulthood right now. 

You might remember that this relationship with Jesus got for-really-real at 18.  You had known Him most of your life, but not very well.    18 is when you first learned that He was who He said He was - that His promises were absolutely true even in your most lonely of lonely places.  Remember, those times in the bunk bed at college, just weeping over past mistakes and heartbreak?  He was there.  He told you then that He had a good plan for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.  You believed it.  When He sent you across the country to work at that residential school in the mountains of Southern California, you were certain He was with you.  And He was.  So when the phone call came that asked you if you'd consider being a teacher in The Gambia for a year, you knew He arranged it.  So you kissed your family good-bye and flew to Africa.  And He went before you.  He stayed with you, He comforted you when you had no other earthly friends around you.  He proved that His love was not going to fail. Not ever.  You were certain He was all you would ever need.  So when He introduced you to that man that knocked your socks off after you got back from Africa?  Well, that took you a bit to believe.  How could He have chosen such a man to be yours?  Even now this is still a marvel to you.  (I'm sure when you read this in 10 years, you'll still be amazed).  It's especially delightful to consider this on Valentine's day.  When you finally accepted that God had a gift so good in store for you, you knew the story He would write with your lives would be filled with surprises.  And He has been writing it in a surprisingly beautiful way.  Not that any of your best guesses would be anywhere close to the reality He would bless you with. 

I could probably write you paragraphs upon paragraphs about just how real Jesus has been in your life these past 18 years.  Each story would certainly have a few rabbit-trails of God's goodness and the paragraphs would multiply into chapters.  He has been so faithful in the details of the every day.  Always.  There is not enough time now to tell it all.  Let me just get to the point.

Those gray hairs.

They are evidence of life well-lived.

That is exactly what I thought today as I spied more-than-a-couple hanging around in that flat iron.  I'm certain that was an impression from God; because this world would rather I freak out about that sort of thing.  Today, I'm perfectly OK with them.

Self, I hope you are still OK with them by the time you read this -- that goes for any friends or family members that took a peek at this letter to future me today.  Keep noticing the evidence of a life well-lived... it would be a shame if everything stayed the same for years upon years. I hope that you just keep believing Jesus for all He is.  Keep letting His voice be the One that you listen for and when you hear it, obey it.  If He tells you that you are beautiful, then celebrate it.  He has good plans for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.  He is working them out now, each part fits together with the next. Call upon Him.  Seek Him with all of your heart, you'll find Him at every turn.  Keep celebrating the good gifts He's given.  Do not shy away from the calling in your life, do not hide the grays away.  Keep living life well.  Day by day, He will continue to carry you.

We are re-reading the Jesus Storybook Bible, this morning we read about creation.  These words are true today.  "God loved them with all of His heart.  And they were lovely because He loved them."  Believe it.  Gray hair or not - his Love makes you lovely.  Always.

embracing the evidence of a life well-lived, with love;
amanda

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:11-13

08 February 2013

one thing :: mothering

I meant to write a post about my New' Year's Goal.  Like 5 weeks ago.  But you know, better late than never.  It might be that I was a little nervous about this one.  Its a humbling endeavor to invite others in to see how you are doing on a big goal.  But I figure you are a safe bunch and besides God led me to the goal, so I imagine His work will be evident.  Everyone likes a show, right?

The Sunday after Christmas we were driving across the lovely state of Michigan to celebrate Christmas one more time.  We planned on streaming our church's sermon but it wasn't cooperating, so we listened to the one from North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley's church).  Well, it turns out that their whole church shuts down on the last Sunday of the year so it was a re-play of last year's New Year's sermon.  In the sermon, Stanley suggested you focus on one thing for the New Year.  Not ten things, not five things, one thing.  As he spoke, he said, "I bet you already have an idea of what that one thing is."  And he was right.  I knew.

Mothering.

The way I mother, needs improving.  God knows it.  I know it.  My kids know it.  That was my one thing.  I wanted a word to go with it.  A focus.  One word to say in a nutshell how I'd like to view my mothering at this time next year.  This is where it gets a little embarrassing, maybe.  I thought of calm, then I thought steady, and as I pondered more, I was led to "unflappable."



That feels audacious to me.  That God could mold my mothering skill-set into something unflappable in twelve months time.  Because if I'm being honest with you, I am super flappable.  Super. Flappable.  Hello, my name is "easily flapped."  You know what I am saying?

I have a short fuse.  And two toddlers.  That combination isn't lovely very often.  Not to fear, my ugliness has been evenly distributed to each of the boys.  Bless them.  I am ever grateful for the words, "I'm sorry,"  and for their patient, forgiving hearts.  But deep in my soul, I knew this was the place where I needed to invite God in to do the work.  

I think it took me more than a week before I could admit that "unflappable" was my word.  I was still finishing reading "Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions" by Lysa Terkeurst and wondering about buying "Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breath" by Sarah Mae + Sally Clarkson.  How do you proclaim unflappable in that place?  And God keeps reminding me, its not really about me, its really about Him.  He is faithful.  Even to the easily flapped.  He is.  Always.

He led me to the scripture in the picture above.  Its the kind of unflappable I want to be. I want to be like a tree planted by streams of water.  Nourished by roots that run deep, without fear of heat or drought.  The kind of tree that can still be green and produce fruit even in adverse circumstances. 

Not too long ago, Brad was telling us about more of Andy Stanley's podcast series for 2013's New Year called Breathing Room.  Brad was explaining "margin" to the boys and telling them how important it is to have it in your life.  I gave Walker an example of when we left a little late for his basketball game and how if we had left earlier we would've had "margin."  We wouldn't have been watching the clock all the way to the game to see if he would make it on time.  You could see that he understood the concept with that illustration.

He then looks at me, with that sweet, little face and says, "I know where you need to add margin, mom!"  

"Oh, where do you think?" I ask, rather curious.

He points his index finger up as he declares his brilliant suggestion, "Your temper!  You know because you always lose your temper!"

Ouch!  And that is when I shared "unflappable" with the boys.  And I wasn't angry about it.  Humbled, yes.  Angry, no.  It was actually pretty fun to let them in on it.  I think they were pretty happy to hear it too.

I'm certain God is going to do a great work.  As embarassing as it is to admit the work needs to be done, its at least doubly freeing to stop trying hide it.

There is nothing out of God's scope of possible.  There is not one thing that He would say, "oh, well that, no, that is a little too much to try and improve."  Not. One. Thing.

Do you have a thing?  If you didn't make a new year's goal, has this got you thinking about making one?  I'd be happy to pray with you about your one thing.  And I'd be honored if you'd pray for me throughout this year!

"Blessed is the man who trusts the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by streams of water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

*photo credit :: Scott Harding circa 2005, Algonquin Provincial Park

03 February 2013

birthday boys!

Sweet, sweet boys. You are TWO! TWO! I had to say it twice because that's how shocking it is to me. The other day at Kohl's I said to your daddy, "I just wanna look at the baby clearance really quick." And he asked, "Why do you need to look at baby stuff?" I told him, just to see if there were any deals for the two of you. And you know what your daddy said to me? He said, "Well, I wouldn't call them babies!" What? I might still call you babies for awhile. Ok?
You two are just about as cute as can be for birthday boys.  You were truly delighted with your birthday shirts and banner.  The hats were a little on the annoying side - especially when the elastic got snapped - ouch!
Sweet Lincoln, you had to sneak a sample of the frosting before we could sing to you.  You are a seize-the-day kinda guy through and through.  You like to go, go, go and nine-times-out-of-ten you are thrilled with every, single, person that speaks to you.  Your laugh is contagious and you can easily get all of us laughing along with you with very little effort.  You love to give kisses to your family and toys alike... you even ask mommy & daddy to kiss some of your crib-mates.  Daddy isn't such a fan of this practice, but I don't think monkey, manatee, or your monster mind.  Your vocabulary is growing each day, especially words that name food or candy that you like.  And if we are having a hard time figuring out your new words, you say it slowly and loudly and you stare right at our faces.  You are determined.  Adorably so.

{momma has no clue what is up with the photo layout here}

You two were so cute with your cupcakes, intrigued that you both had two lit candles in front of you.  Within reach!  You did an excellent job blowing out your candles and an outstanding job eating those cupcakes!  Wilson did do some coaching alongside you.

You did really well unwrapping your presents... of course, you just had all that practice at Christmas.  Your big brothers "wrapped" your presents for you.  You didn't seem to mind the imperfections. 

Franklin, your sweetness is just pure sugar some days.  You are often "the shy one" but usually not after we tell people that.  You make some of THE funniest faces in the world.  And at just the right time.  Seriously, I think you have a great sense of humor even at age two, you seem to know just-the-right-time to say just-the-right-thing (or make just-the-right face).  You like to snuggle just a smidge more than Lincoln does and you have occasionally used this to your advantage at bed time.  Speaking of bedtime, your growing vocabulary is always evident right before bed.  You ask to "rock" or to snuggle on the "couch" or "pray" or "book" or I think last night you said, "song?"  You keep naming things until one hits the mark and pushes your bedtime back a few moments.  You are a smartie.  An adorable smartie.
I love this picture of all four of you playing with the new easel (and Mussy-ko-ko in the background).  This birthday has been so spectacular for us.  I know you won't remember a whole lot of it, but I think I am going to remember it for you.  Just a year ago, yesterday, we first met.  There were so many unknowns then.  Truthfully, the future always holds unknowns.  Thinking back to last year, I can remember so much of that day.  The excitement, the nervousness, the joy... it really isn't that different than when Wilson was born and I held him the first time.  I felt like I had no idea how to be a momma, but I was excited and nervous and joyful.  My heart grows fuller, babies, because of the blessings God has given us through the two of you.  {Yes, I said, babies!}  It has been a beautiful year of growing with you and I am thrilled to see what He has in store in the year to come.  God has answered our prayers in so many marvelous ways.  I trust He has good things in store for our family; just-right-things for us, for right-now.

"And Jesus answered saying to them:: Have faith in God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.  Therefore, I say to you, all things which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you."  Mark 11:22-24