Winter Bloom

 

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“You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

Ruth Chou Simons (@gracelaced.com)

I read these words on instragam recently and have been turning them over in my heart and mind ever since: “You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”

If there is a single recurring theme in what I write about it’s this: Seasons–both the seasons in nature changing slowly one into the other and the seasons of life doing the same.

img_20161123_100605.jpgI have felt lately that I’m in a rather wintry season of life–one in which there is little color or life on the surface though I know in my heart there is much going on in the roots and soul and parts of life mostly unseen. img_20161017_073043949.jpgI am a momma and a homemaker and my days are spent mostly at home doing work I know matters but presently have little to show for. Someday I will look back and see these days with better clarity and deeper appreciation; I know that.

But today I see the years stretching out before me and I know I have a long time to wait before there are blooms in the work I now do.

dsc_1356Like winter, life and growth are there, quietly beneath the surface in the roots and leaves working away silently until new life and color are revealed in spring.

dsc_1265Someday I will see the fruit of my labor; I believe that. I believe when my grown children stand around me and take off for life on their own I will be proud of how they’ve grown and blossomed and I will not regret the years spent quietly working away on blooms not yet seen.

But these are long days even if the years are short.

dsc_1368dsc_1367Winter sprinkled across our little New England home last week in frost and snow glittering in the morning light. I wrapped Roman in every layer of winter clothes a two-year old can reasonably move in and together we trekked outside to chase the light and magic at our door.

dsc_1354Winter is not my favorite but this frosty magic pulls me out into the cold every time. I couldn’t help but notice how completely nature then reflected what has been growing in my heart–this lesson about life beneath the surface when no blooms are seen.

img_20161115_151323.jpgimg_20161209_111947.jpgThe world looks dead and done but a touch of frost and morning light sets the world on fire and for a fleeting moment we see glimpses of the new life that is to come.

Winter will pass and melt away as any dark season of life does and on the other side we will see what has been happening beneath the surface all along–all the work and waiting will open into long-awaited blooms at last.

dsc_1284dsc_1272dsc_1274But for today, during winter, I have to take heart and remember this is but a season–both in life and nature.

Winter will pass and these long days of motherhood will grow and add up to something bright and blooming too. There is growth and life even if hidden quietly in the heart and soul and not yet seen in the fruit of our hands.

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It’s Okay To Be Young

Before I had my son I received a lot of eye rolls when I tried talking with moms about anything regarding children or parenting. Of course I didn’t know a lot about motherhood, not having been one myself yet. But I wasn’t completely ignorant either.

I grew up in a big family with older and younger siblings. I babysat a variety of children and ages over the years. I worked in nursery and was around kids quite a bit. When I did become a mother I didn’t drown from lack of knowledge and experience–I simply learned as I went (and continue to do so).

I thought the eye rolling would stop after I had my son and knew better what motherhood was like. But now I get eye rolls for only having one child. Again, there’s plenty I don’t know. But the fact that I’ve been entrusted by God with only one child so far doesn’t mean I’m completely clueless to what life might be like with more children. I grew up in a big family, remember?

I probably sound bitter by now but here’s my point: You don’t have to know everything or have to experience everything to know something and to be perfectly capable as you are.

We really love to put people down, don’t we? We might not consciously think so or admit it but it makes us feel so smart and so much better when we can roll our eyes at people younger and less experienced than we are. We love to think we have it so much harder than everyone else and no one outside of our exact experience can possibly understand what life’s like.

But we’re wrong.

I know it’s easy to do, I do it all the time myself, but we’re wrong to judge and belittle people simply because they’re young or less experienced in a certain area than we are. I have to remind myself of this now when women who aren’t moms try to sympathize with me about having a baby or a toddler. I catch myself doing the same thing moms used to do to me–thinking, “What do you know?” or “You seriously have no idea how easy your life is right now.”

But here’s the thing: I have no idea what her life is like right now. It may in fact be easy (though probably not). She may know a great deal about parenting and children from her life experience even if she isn’t a mom. Or maybe she’s totally clueless about motherhood–who cares? If she becomes a mom, she’ll learn as she goes like the rest of us do after we realize we’ve brought a child into the world and have no idea what to do with them.

1 Timothy 4:12 says:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” ESV

Not only should you not worry about what people think of you for being young and inexperienced, but you, young and inexperienced as you are, should be the ones setting an example in the way you speak and behave.

You are never too young to know and do what’s right.

You’re an adult and you’re old enough to behave like an adult. I married at 22 just two months after I graduated from college–and I don’t regret it. I’ve already had the fun of spending eight years with my husband and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. In my 20s I finished school, married, moved across the country, worked several different jobs, bought two houses, traveled all over, and had a baby. Yes, I was young–but not for one second do I regret jumping into life and beginning to build all the memories and relationships I have today.

Don’t let people discourage you from getting started on the big things that matter to you–you’ll learn as you go and you’re ready to start.

It’s vital we listen to and learn from those ahead of us who know more and know better. But it’s also vital that we aren’t afraid of our own age and inexperience. After all, if you are inexperienced the only way to fix that is by going out and doing the thing you right now know little about. The more you do the more you’ll know.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but…”

Let’s take those words to heart and do great things both while we’re young and as we grow. And let’s respect those who are behind us in age and experience by taking them seriously and helping them along rather than putting them down for being where we all once were.

End rant ❤

Faith & Depression

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Depression is a rather taboo topic among Christians. After all, Christians shouldn’t struggle with darkness when backed by all the hope and joy of knowing God, right?

Well…

If I’ve learned anything about myself as an adult, it’s that I feel everything deeply and this leads to highs and lows. I used to believe when I felt good that the high would last forever. Life was all worked out, everything was better now, and I’d never again descend into that ridiculous, suffocating darkness. Somehow I believed the same thing about the darkness–it was forever–nothing would ever change or get better, my life was a mess and there was nothing I could do about it. The end.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Eventually though, I caught onto the pattern, the ebb and flow of these all or nothing feelings. I started to understand that life is a mess of good days and feelings mingled with hard times and broken hearts. Outside of eternity, we are trapped in time and the changes time inevitably brings.

C.S. Lewis says it better in The Screwtape Letters:

“Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation? Humans are amphibians–half spirit and half animal. . . . As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.”

Simply understanding that the darkest days would not last forever was a game changer for me. I was able to ride out the emotion without feeling totally hopeless. I learned to acknowledge that life ebbs and flows and however bleak things may look today, they will surely change tomorrow or soon after. I learned not to lose heart–and that made all difference.

But this wasn’t enough. It helped knowing the hard times would pass but I still felt guilty for even having such dark feelings. Surely as a Christian I should handle life better and never allow myself to get so down in the first place.

It’s Okay to Struggle

Here, the Psalms helped tremendously. One Psalm is filled with praise and glory and the next the Psalmist decries all the heartache and hopelessness surrounding him. King David, a man who clearly loved the Lord and sought to walk with God did not hesitate to show fluctuating emotions.

Ronald Horton in Mood Tides states:

“An imperturbable evenness of spirits is not laid down as a norm in Scripture. Personal gains are occasions for thankful rejoicing. Personal losses are promptings to soul-searching and spiritual attentiveness. They are occasions for God to show His character in bringing something good from them and in the process mature our character as well. How else might we come to know beauty from ashes, honey in the rock, streams in the desert, a door of hope in the valley of Achor, lives revitalized and refined?”

Some of the lowest times in my life have led to the deepest reflection and strongest growth. Both struggle and blessing help my faith, but admittedly, I am more inclined to seek out God and his truth when my heart is hurting than when all is going well and I’m feeling self-sufficient. I’m learning to use the times when I struggle as opportunities to think, reflect, and grow rather than sulk.

Do What’s Right

Though it may not be wrong to feel down, it is wrong to sulk, complain, and otherwise behave in a way that doesn’t bring honor to Christ. However we may feel it’s essential we continue to do what’s right. You can acknowledge that you don’t feel happy or joyful while still doing what is right and good.

Trust that doing the right thing is always the right thing even if your feelings don’t line up with your current behavior. Acknowledging and riding out feelings doesn’t give us a free pass to behave unkindly or to spread gloom and discouragement like confetti. Our actions must be in line with our faith even when our feelings are miles away from joy and comfort. We must always choose to do what’s right regardless of how we feel (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

 

I hope this is a help to you if ever you find yourself struggling with darkness or depression. You are not alone, Christian or otherwise, trust me on that. If you would like to reach out, feel free to get in touch in the comments section below.

We Forget.

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I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1 ESV

I was glancing through my journal when I came across an entry from October 2014. This was a difficult time in life. I’d had a baby a few months prior and was going through a time of discouragement and loneliness.

The entry listed several different things I wished were different at the time and ended with the words “I wish, I wish, I wish” followed by the passage below I had read that morning:

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now I know the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Psalm 20:1-6 NIV

As I re-read the list of “I wishes” today, I was moved by how every single one of them–seven total–have been answered and allowed. These weren’t mere “wishes” but heart cries to my Abba Father and now I look back and see how God’s word did not fail in the promise to hear and answer my prayers.

While I was aware that life is tremendously different and miles easier than it was those two years ago, I hadn’t fully realized just how specifically and completely my prayers had been answered. I needed this reminder both to stand in awe of the God who does indeed answer prayer but also to remember to give thanks for all God has already done and not to focus only on what I would like to see happen next.

I’ve had some things pressing on my heart lately–things I worry about and have a hard time handing over to God. How good it was to be reminded that God is completely trustworthy with all my heart’s desires and disappointments.

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I needed to be reminded too that last time I had to walk through the valley first. I had to trust when my heart was hurting and I couldn’t see what was next or imagine how some of those prayers could possibly be answered. Several of the things on my heart two years ago have only recently changed and been supplied–but they have changed–and that’s all I needed today to face tomorrow with hope and confidence.

Today, I read again in Psalms (before discovering the journal entry) and marked both the passages this post opens and ends with; how fitting they are now in light of all I’ve been reminded of today.

For you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 ESV

We can trust God–totally, completely, with all our heart for all our lives. Test him and see.

November.

Autumn dazzles and keeps us ever looking up, up, up at orange and red and golden leaves set aflame against New England’s cobalt skies. We rode our bikes into town the other day and soaked up the magic of crunching leaves and the whole world smelling like a big cup of hot tea.

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My son, two years old, stood in wonder beneath maple trees and watched as still and quiet as I’ve ever seen him as the leaves came raining down in a sharp breeze.

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This is the time of year when my wandering heart find its way home after hot summer days spent away camping and traveling and chasing the sun while she’s ours.

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Today I sit with my second cup of hot coffee and enjoy the smell of the house filled with dinner simmering on the stovetop. Tonight we’ll light a fire and gather around for a few quiet moments as a family before we slip to bed and start again tomorrow.

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I used to dread this time of year because it means a long, cold winter is soon upon us. But this time around I’m actually grateful for the cold giving me a reason to spend some slower, quieter days at home with my people.

Summer will come again and we will go outside and travel and play and chase all those glorious golden rays. But for now, for today, I’m happy right here with my hot cup of coffee and the smell of dinner on the stovetop.

Happy November 🙂

Reconnect

There are fun, easy seasons of marriage and there are times that frustrate and wear you down. I don’t talk about my marriage much here because my closest relationship isn’t something I want on display or up for discussion. I will say though that we’ve had some tiring years full of short nights and long days packed beyond every bit of margin. Don’t ever try to cram like ten years of life into one, okay? Okay.

But after all of that, I have to say how good and how sweet the last nine months have been getting to reconnect with the man I loved all along but didn’t get to see much there for a while.

He’s a total gem this one and I love him.

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The last couple of years taught me how to fight for and hold onto what I want. The last nine months taught us how to slow down and see each other again. And that has been such a gift.

I’m old enough now to see some of my friends’ marriages crumbling –and that stings. We were all in love once and excited about the people we married when we said “I do” five or ten or fifteen years ago. But a lot can change in ten years; a lot can change in one.

I used to think Darren and I would always feel the same way about each other as we did when we met and married–and I hope we do. But I’ve learned that loving someone once doesn’t mean it will always be easy to love each other faithfully for a lifetime. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. And when we’re thrown against the rocks in life our spouse is often the one who bears the brunt of it privately.

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How thankful I am for a good and loving man to walk through life with. He is my best friend and the one person I most want to be with. I no longer take that for granted or assume our relationship will always be this way. I know how hard we sometimes have to fight for the things we most want but fail to see.

If you’re in a relationship then make, take, and create the time you need for each other. It’s very difficult to build a life together when you’re always apart, physically or mentally. Marriage isn’t something we get to coast through or take in like a bystander. We either build up or tear down our marriages every single day. Make time for the people who mean the most and keep on building each other up every single day with your time, your actions, and your words ❤ ❤

When Time Touches Eternity

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In The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis writes,

“For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

Each day we brush against eternity.

It feels like a big idea, like something far away and a long time from now. But every day I look eternity in the eyes when I hold my son or talk with friends and strangers. We carry eternity with us, it’s what we’re made for, and yet how easy it is to see only what’s directly in front of us.

This life demands our attention endlessly–always there is something else to do, something else requiring my time, energy, and concentration. I forget in the bustle that the people I spend so much time caring for and interacting with were not made for this life alone. We have eternity written all over us, woven throughout our souls and fibers. What I do here matters but it matters primarily because it touches eternity.

I’m trying to remember, especially at home with my people, that eternity is sprinkled throughout. It’s easy to think my life is small and mundane or that the things I choose to do with my time and energy matter little. But the way I teach my son, build our home, love my husband, care for those around me–all these normal, everyday routines add up to the stuff of forever. And forever matters immensely even if my day to day activities seem small and unimportant.

Today is “the point at which time touches eternity”–now, today, what you’re doing with the people right in front of you is what will matter forever. Don’t forget that and don’t believe the task before you is small or unimportant.

Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end (Ecclesiastes 3:11. ESV).

I Write Because I Want To

60a9ef4dc03ad22e48b521cd2481b779The rain is beating down outside; after months of dry weather I’m mesmerized by the sound—rap a tap tap, rap a tap tap. My son will be awake soon so I hurry with a cup of coffee to the computer to tap out words before my quiet, creative window closes for another day.

After my son was born, I stopped writing for a long time. I felt writing, for me, was a waste of time. I told myself I was too busy, had more pressing things to do, couldn’t spend time on a silly hobby that was going nowhere when I should be focused on more important work.

“Hardly anyone reads your words.” “You’re never going to be a writer,” I told myself. “You’re a blogger nothing more; stop wasting time playing around.” “If you’re not going to ‘make it’ as a writer then you shouldn’t be wasting your precious time fooling with words.”

I lost the magic and the joy in writing and stomped out any words that tried springing up in my heart; so the words stopped bothering me—for a while, anyway.

I made the mistake of thinking I was writing for other people, not realizing that really, all along, I had been writing for myself. I thought if other people weren’t reading my words, they’d have no meaning, never considering how much they meant to me alone. “If I’m not going to make it as a writer, I’m not going to write at all I said”— and the words tattooed all over my heart and soul had a good laugh, knowing, I was made to write and write I must.

Before I could read, I requested a journal for my birthday (a Princess Jasmine journal with a lock, mind you). Since I didn’t know how to spell and write the words myself, I would dictate to my mother what to write for me. Even before I could do the most basic tasks of reading and writing, I had words already pulsing and beating in my heart that I felt, as a little girl, must be recorded.

So perhaps I’m not a real writer, simply a mere blogger instead. Perhaps I’ll never “make it” or be able to tell people confidently, “I’m a writer.” Maybe this is it, this quiet little space in a dusty corner of the internet is the only place my words will live out their lives.

I’m ok with that.

I’m ok, because I understand now that I’m not writing to be known as “a writer” or “to make it” or for other people at all. I write because I like the way the keys feel beneath my fingers as I stroke out words. I like the way black words pop out behind that tyrant of a cursor ever blinking on my screen, seeming always to ask, “What’s next? What’s next?” I like the way my heart races when I’m writing and the way my fingers tremble over the publish button.

I love the cadence of words tumbling one after the other into life and meaning. Even if no one else reads my words, I read back over them a million times myself like a mother who can’t stop looking and marveling at her newborn baby.

Am I a writer then? Beats me. But I’ll keep on writing, simply, because I want to.

Image Credit: jasmine-marie.tumblr.com

Talk About the Weather

I open the front door at 6:30 AM and already it’s hot outside. I tiptoe barefoot across the front porch down into our dusty, brown yard; grass crunches under my feet. This is strange for New England where all summer we’re accustomed to the reprieve of cool mornings and evenings.

I try to avoid talk about the weather; it seems cliché and so remarkably dull to say in winter, “it’s so cold!”—as if we’re astonished that it could be cold in winter. Or in the summer, “it’s soooo hot!” when obviously, of course, it’s supposed to be hot in the summer.

But THE WEATHER is a difficult topic to avoid when the heat or cold wrap around our temperamental bodies in waves of humidity or shocking gusts of artic air. We humans can’t help ourselves, we must talk about it, must say something against this demigod—THE WEATHER.

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I sit outside in the sweltering heat. My lawn chair is positioned carefully in the shade and I do a dance with the sun getting up and pulling my chair back little by little as the sun advances and eats up my shadowy reprieve. I’m trying to remember that I love summer, that summer is ever so brief, that all winter long I stand dutifully at the windows willing winter to die and go away so that summer might come. I’m not going to complain, I say, because I like summer.

But it’s hot, it’s sticky, and unless I’m sitting on the front porch in a lawn chair like a hillbilly, it’s too hot to be outside. My son, barefoot and shirtless, brown as a chestnut, is unmoved by the weather. He would spend every moment outside if his mother would stop complaining about the heat from her hillbilly perch. He fills buckets with water and gathers rocks; he reminds me of a busy little squirrel prepping for winter. He wants me to come play with him, “No”, I say between sips of iced coffee. “Bring mommy the ball.” “Bring mommy the truck.” “Mommy is melting; go away”, I say.

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Let me tell you what this post is supposed to be about: It’s supposed to be about living happily in our present circumstances and not wishing life away for the next best thing—in this case, fall and apple cider. But I’m afraid I may not make it to the moral of the story this time; it’s hot outside and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Wild Flowers

 

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Perspective is a powerful thing.

I remember riding the train through southern Italy, snaking along the glittering Mediterranean and gliding past yellow and wheat colored stucco houses. I was lost in thought, captivated by how beautiful it all was. I had expected to be disappointed by Italy, as people and places don’t often meet up to our expectations after years of building them up in our minds. But Italy was perfect…perfectly modern mixed with all the old charm and personality the pictures had me imagine.

So I was surprised, offended even, when I heard a fellow American on the train proclaim loudly, “look at all these crappy houses…how do people live this way?”

I’m sorry? I’d sell all my American everything to live in one of those “crappy” houses—just ask Darren, I’ve tried ;] It’s true, the paint was peeling, the stucco was chipped and cracked, and the whole place looked a bit wild with clothes lines strewn between houses. But I felt magic there and I’ve never been able to shake Italy off; the clothes lines and sunshine and window boxes crept right down into my soul and I’ve tried ever since to sprinkle some of that Italian magic into the way I live here at home.

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One traveler saw only brokenness and decay; I saw charm and beauty—that day at least. Our perspectives were different and so our whole experience of that place turned out differently.

I thought about all this the other day when I was looking at our rather ragged yard. With building our house, we’ve had to level and landscape our lawn. All our grass was scrapped off and all winter our house sat in a sea of brown and mud. I bought what New Englanders call “mud boots” to walk from our house to the car because it was so messy and mucky and our feet were always sinking in the dirty sludge. Last winter was the first time I’ve hoped for cold temperatures to freeze the ground and snow to cover all that brown.

So imagine my delight at all the green in our yard this summer—yes, most of that green is weeds, some of it weeds nearly as tall as me—but it’s green. I’m sure our wild, unruly lawn looks like nothing but a disaster to the neighbors around us with nicely manicured lawns, and you know, grass. But to me, our yard is lovely and I’m so happy to look out our windows at green…green weeds, green grass, I care not.

I tend to like the wild flowers best, far more than store-bought roses or houseplants. I like the way wild flowers poke up with the weeds—sometimes they are the weeds. There’s something a little bit daring and rebellious about Queen Ann’s Lace, don’t you think? The way she stands alone in a field or along the road outshining every well-tended garden flower she meets.

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My mom told me once in a card, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” And ever since reading that, I’ve tried to remember how much my own perspective colors the world around me. Will I be the traveler who sees brokenness or beauty in a place different from my own? Will I be the mom who can see the joy in a sticky toddler or the one who resents the frustration and restraints of parenting? Will I appreciate all the magic fluttering past me each day in the sunshine and wild flowers growing free among the weeds?

It’s up to me, the way I see my life and the world around me. Sometimes I let darkness settle over me and it’s no surprise in those moments that the whole world looks dark and bleak. But when I focus on the light, I see the light.

Perspective is a powerful thing, after all.