Wednesday, March 7, 2018

just me and us (and Jesus)

i remember, 15 years ago, getting my roll of film back and seeing this (above) picture. 

it scared me. 

i am not sure what scared me more —

the fact that somewhere in the midst of my unstable state of pregnancy i must have decided to pre-purchase party glasses for my family …  OR that all these little people actually belonged to me. 

i was always excited about having "one more," but i’d be lying if i didn’t admit to also having the occasional "who in their right mind decides to add a 4th child?" thought.

but we did.

and we are so glad we did.

and today he is 15. 

but, in those months after connor's birth, when i felt about as crazy as a junebug in march, i somehow knew it would be the addition of this 4th child which would probably teach me the most in my motherhood. i was, clearly, in over my head like never before. from the moment this little guy arrived, i couldn’t seem to catch my breath. there was something about the number four. 

we were always on the go. 
always on the way. 
always on to something else. 

we had four children under the age of nine and everyone needed me. all the time. or so it sure seemed. 

maybe that’s the season you’re currently in. maybe you’re the mom who, right now, feels so inundated with what is happening in your home that should even a tiny hamster appear in a cage on your counter, you’d probably sit down and sob.

i know. 

i remember.

that was me 15 years ago. don't get me wrong: it was jam-packed with some absolutely-wonderful too! adding a baby brother  was like the coolest thing ever for our older three. we were all in awe and had so much fun just staring at him --- on the way to soccer practice or tennis lessons, mind you.

even in the busyness, the arrival of this sweet little brother breathed a special kind of joy into all of us.

babies can do that.

but, nonetheless, connor’s babyhood was a blur. he literally grew up in a carseat behind me. when he was a toddler and we’d drop off the older kids at school or practice or lessons, he’d almost always say to me: “it’s just me and us, mom. just me and us.” and that’s how we did life when he was little: just me and us. 

when he'd say that, i used to answer him back -- sometimes out loud and sometimes just
a whisper in my heart -- "yes, connor, just me and us ... and Jesus." because, more than anything, that's what i learned during those years of being an overwhelmed and under qualified (feeling) mother: life with these four kids would require a whole lot of Jesus. 

it still does.

now--15 years later--and my “just me and us” boy is about a head taller than me and no longer in the backseat. tomorrow, in fact, i take him to get his driving permit and he'll probably be driving me home. 

yes, his babyhood was a blur. but fifteen years have been even faster.

happy birthday, c-man. 
we love you!

15 things i love about you, connor!

  1. your sense of humor and timing.

  2. your compassion and tenderness.

  3. your desire to grow your own relationship with Jesus.

  4. your constant inquisitiveness.

  5. your daily texts asking me what’s for dinner.

  6. your 4th-born-ability to go-with-the-flow!

  7. your willingness to do whatever i ask (even when it involves things like your mother wearing blue sparkly glasses).

  8. your servant heart.

  9. your sense of direction — literal and figurative.
  10. your sweet desire to hang out with your crazy siblings.

  11. your big dreams.

  12. your little guy haircut. #amishboy.

  13. your love of the outdoors, animals and nature.

  14. your calming presence.

  15. the unique way you see things.

    we are so thankful God placed you in our family!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

a friend to fish with

living long distance from loved ones--friends and family--can be hard. more and more, i find myself missing those people for whom i care deeply.

with college kids out of state, parents 12 hours away, siblings scattered coast to coast, and friends dotted across the country, it sometimes makes my heart hurt.

then on a nothing-special rainy wednesday morning, my dear friend, diana, sends me this sweet picture out of the blue. and it makes me miss her and seeing our dynamic duo together---but it also makes me so thankful for how God has woven into my life so many wonderful people.

if you have people to miss, God's given you the most beautiful gift of relationship. He created us to be relational and rooted deeply with others. in the very beginning, He determined, "it is not good for man to be alone." - genesis 2:18

independent and autonomous as we might like to be at times, we aren't islands and were never intended for isolation. we were made in His image to bear His image and to be intricately involved with others---just like He is so intricately entangled wth us. yes, even in the messy parts. especially there. our earthly kinships can remind us of the relationship possible with our heavenly King.

dear ones, don't fail to invest in your relationships---near and far ... earthly and heavenly---we all need a friend to fish with.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

BLOOM even when you're [not] feeling planted

i know it's only february, but this past week has felt a lot like spring in georgia. makes me a little anxious for all these trees and plants beginning to bloom. i know a frost isn't quite outside the realm of possibility. so a little concerned, yes, but mostly i'm in a state of unbridled bliss. 

curse be the cold. i love spring. 

i love noticing the tiny buds on everything. i love how every day something new unfolds: the haze of lime and the hint of pink working their way into the drab fabric of winter brown and gray. honestly, sometimes i think something wrong with me: a middle-aged woman probably shouldn't be quite this smitten with a season. but, admittedly, i am. 

driving is downright dangerous during this time of year. last week, while chauffeuring connor to some teenage destination i scared the pants off my poor boy when i, unexpectedly, hit the breaks hard and shouted wildly for him to "LOOK AT THAT BRADFORD PEAR TREE BEGINNING TO BLOOM!"

after regaining his regular heartbeat, he was like, "MAAAHHM ... you CAN'T do THAT when you're driving."

but i was like, "son, i can't NOT do that when i see a bradford pear tree beginning to bloom."


anyway, today is sunday. and not having to drive anywhere this afternoon, i headed out to my backyard with the plan to address our vegetable garden i'd completely neglected since fall. i figured it was time to remove the leaves and other dead stuff i'd ignored in these past couple months of winter.

as i approached my forlorn, little garden, i noticed a few hyacinths already in bloom. last fall i had planted some bulbs with the purpose of cutting them. because, come spring, who doesn't go ga-ga over the smell of a fresh hyacinth. [if you haven't smelled one yet, you haven't lived. just saying].

standing before these few blooms springing from the rich garden soil i found buried on the outside of the garden was the bag full of more bulbs which i had failed to plant. i remembered thinking--last fall--wanting to save them for bella so she'd have the chance to participate in the fun of bulbs blooming. (i have these very grand ideas often). so i guess it was sometime last november when i abandoned the bag and then, of course, (grand idea or not) forgot all about it in my normal forgetful way. 

the leaves fell and the days grew cold and i never once again thought about that bag of hyacinth bulbs. 

until this rainy sunday afternoon at the end of february. 
and there, covered in leaves and pine straw, was the bag full of abandoned bulbs. not planted, but, nonetheless, blooming! BLOOMING!

these bulbs ...
they didn't get planted. 
they didn't get placed.
they were never gently situated in soil.

they were kind of forgotten.
kind of lost.
pretty much abandoned.
left out.


and, yet, they were doing their very darndest to bloom---right there on the outside of everything. 
and they were beautiful. 

and they made me think about how sometimes we, too, can bloom even when conditions aren't ideal. 

we've all heard the phrase, "bloom where you're planted." and i like that phrase. i'm sure i've even used it before in my writing and speaking. it offers a pleasant modicum of truth and, i suppose, some much needed encouragement. but i think in some ways it is a tad simplistic. 

maybe the bigger thing is to bloom even when you're NOT planted. 

because, let's face it, sometimes we don't feel like we are existing in ideal conditions. sometimes we don't feel like we're very rooted or even in the right place. 

sometimes we feel outside of something: left out or lost.
sometimes we feel not tethered or attached or anchored or very authentic ... 

maybe you're the high schooler who still doesn't feel connected to any group or any one thing. maybe you're the young professional uncertain in his first job. maybe you're the new mother who isn't sure how she went from deadlines to diapers. maybe you're the empty nester who isn't sure what to do next with everyone gone. maybe you're the older man questioning his day when he wakes to his very quiet house.

i don't know.

but i do know that even when we look like we are deeply rooted and perfectly planted, sometimes, we feel like we aren't. 

i have struggled with that feeling for years. i don't think anyone would necessarily know that about me. i look rooted; well-connected and well-established. i certainly am busy. 

but, truth is, sometimes it's easy to feel a little bit on the outside of life.

you're not alone.

maybe we all feel that way at times.

with moving away from family years ago and moving around a little in these past two decades there are moments when i'm not sure to which group or place exactly i belong. i am in this season of watching my kids grow up quickly and there are definitely days where i wonder what it is i am supposed to be doing. 

again, my guess is most of us struggle with these feelings.

and if you do, i'd like to encourage you to remember my bag of hyacinth bulbs. 
bloom.  wherever you are planted ... even if you aren't feeling completely planted. bloom.

oh friends, it's not about our FEELINGS, but about His FAITHFULNESS.

God has a plan and a purpose for our life. He knows exactly where we are and cares deeply for how we feel. so--teenager, young professional, new mother, empty nester, and well seasoned friend--go ahead and bloom!

"thanks be to God who  ... through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." ~ 2 corinthians 2:14

"be rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." ~ colossians 2:7

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

the only one home today

he's the only one home.

today. officially. [finally]. the christmas-winter break is over. 
no more vacationing. no more snowday-ing. 
no more sleeping in and staying up late.

EV-ER-Y-ONE is back at school this morning: college kids, high schoolers and the 4th grader too!

the morning is quiet. 
the house is still. 
the woman is grateful.

it's not that i don't love having them around -- gosh, no -- i do! and i'll be the first to miss it something fierce when they truly are all gone.

but there is a need for us to have our children well occupied. i don't mean crazy-busy and always-on-the-go ... but consistent employment. something fruitful.

our kids--actually, all of us--require structure and responsibility--a job or school or both.

how lovely it is to have time off and time away, but how life-giving it is to have purpose and a plan and something in production.

we rest and reset during these measured vacations, but we grow and gain character in our meaningful occupations. 
both seasons, necessary.

kiddos--it's been an amazing month with all of you home--absolutely wonderful, in fact--but, dear ones, it's time! i love you.

"whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men..." ~ colossians 3:23

 (unless you're the dog--only then are you allowed to stay home and lay about in the kitchen).

and the kitchen is clean!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

snowed in

i was snowed in with all five of my kiddos today. 

there was a time--when they were all little--that might have been hard, or at least challenging. 

but now, with so many of them grown and always on the go, i just feel like a super lucky mom. 

the days of all five home are fading fast. emily begins her last semester of college this month. it's exciting, but we all know that means in a  few months she'll graduate and begin her career and, very possibly, be out of the house for good. 

so, yes, trapped at home today was most definitely a gift! 

sledding on the 14th hole!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

adoption and christmas

7 years ago and her first christmas home.

i can't perfectly explain it, but somehow experiencing adoption that year made the christmas story even clearer---at least for me it did.

God sending His son so that we might be brought into His family.
brought as if we always belonged.

welcomed and wrapped up in unimaginable love. 

baby Jesus gifted to this undeserving, undignified and unbecoming world ... that we might become sons and daughters of the King.

adopted and redeemed because God loves us that much. 

in no way is it a perfect analogy, but this earthly adoption of our daughter allowed me a deeper understanding of how much we were wanted in heaven.

"this is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son
 into the world that we might live through Him." ~ 1 john 4:9

i made this video 7 years ago ... bella's first christmas home.

merry first christmas bella

Friday, December 15, 2017

o christmas tree, o christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches?

Be honest, are you an ornament re-arranger, like me? I’ve denied it for years, but the truth is, when the little ones leave the room I practically trip over myself making a beeline for the tree. My eager decorator-fingers itch to break up that bundle of 22 ornaments which the children have so carefully arranged on one single evergreen bough. 

I tell myself I do it for the tree. I mean, Jesus cared for the sparrows, right? I am caring for the Christmas trees of this world—One tree at a time. Seems almost spiritual. Seems like something Jesus would do … or so I tell myself.

We’ve been doing Christmas trees with kids for over 20 years in our house. Multiply the years and the five kids and that’s a lot of tree decorating. It’s also a lot of ornaments. Let me be more specific: A lot of handmade ornaments: A lot of droopy tinfoil-halos and glitter-crumbling stars and paper-plate angels and faded red stockings. 

And each Christmas our tree grows heavier and heavier with all of this stuff. Years ago, we even started adding a second tree. But even with two trees, our branches were easily becoming more laden than lovely. 

It’s easy to fill it up. It’s easy to always add more. It’s what we do.

Because in life, like in tree-decorating, we typically don’t see it as too much until we begin to bend and break. 

And sometimes, even when we are telling ourselves that it all looks well-balanced and perfectly shiny, we find out that it isn’t.

A few years ago, we purchased the biggest tree in the history of our family. On the way home from the lot, the kids enthusiastically dubbed him “Fat Sam.” He was 14 feet of glorious greenery and, that evening, we decorated him to the very hilt. I’m pretty sure there was no ornament in our attic left behind. By the time we deemed him complete, there was hardly a trace of green to be seen behind all of those ornaments. He was covered. Consumed. The children were ecstatic. Rick and I were exhausted. Our work here was done.  

But that night, about 3 am, I woke to my young, almost-teenage son shaking me. “Mom, Mom, MOM. Wake up. The Christmas tree has fallen over. And it’s bad.”

In my middle-of-the-night stupor, we raced down the stairs and found that, yes, indeed, our beast of a tree, our beloved Fat Sam, had collapsed across the entire family room. The coffee table and part of one sofa had all but disappeared, and it was, indeed, very bad. Shattered glass and water everywhere. Did I mention it was 3 am? It was a Christmas tree catastrophe. A holiday gone wrong. An evergreen armageddon.

No one likes to have their Christmas tree come crashing down in the middle of the night … (or ever, for that matter). But, what did we expect? We could have decorated an entire Noble Fir forest with the amount of ornaments we had piled on good old Fat Sam. As capable and stalwart as he seemed, it was simply too much. 

That year, we learned our lesson with Christmas trees. But have we learned this same lesson with our lives?

It makes me consider how we fill our time, our days, and our families. We are blessed with so many special, sparkly and shiny fun things—but even all of that goodness can cause us to lose sight of the life behind it all. Our fine intentions in making something wonderful come crashing down under the weight of all we are doing.

In the past few years, as the kids have gotten older, we have learned to put less on our trees. We are making choices and leaving more things in the boxes. Partly because of our experience with our friend, Fat Sam, and partly because we realize it was just too much anyway. 

Dear friends, this Christmas season, the opportunities to fill your days might be many and merry. But—from a woman who has lived to tell the story of Fat Sam (Christmas and otherwise)—let me encourage you to treasure the beauty of less and enjoy the gift of keeping things simple.

"It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”  ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder