Begin Again

I stand at the kitchen window, warm cup of coffee in my hands, and watch the morning light wrap the sleepy landscape in pink and yellow. Birds flit in sets of two back and forth between the birch trees; the white of their feathers stands out against the black shadow of trees in the distance.

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I’m not a morning person by any stretch but being a mother forces me out of bed into the morning light. I’m tired, but I like the quiet that comes with the sleepy, waking hours. Everything is fresh and new and ready to begin again— however frazzled and worn out it might all have been just hours before when we went to bed in surrender to another day.

I’m thankful for mornings and evenings and that we get one of each, each day.

Each day we’re gifted the opportunity to (mostly) put yesterday behind us and begin again. Each night we may (mostly) leave the day behind and rest in preparation for beginning again tomorrow.

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We need not carry too much with us at a time for we are only given so much time at a time to do what God has asked. This is a gift—for we are finite and God knows our limitations.

We are given the counting of days and hours by a God who knows we can’t bare the weight of burdens given outside of time and limitations. The sun rises and sets and we’re given rest in God’s mercy. We’re allowed over and over to begin again with the morning light—quietly breaking up life’s journey into sustainable pieces of the whole and leading ever on to eternity when our fragile souls are at last capable of the weight of endless time and waking.

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But until that day, we rest. We walk. We begin again. We take the small portion assigned to us for these waking hours and carry on faithfully for one more day—just one more day at a time until all our days melt into eternity’s forever.

You need not carry the whole of life’s burdens today; that’s not what we’ve been asked to do. Yesterday is over. Today is brand new. Tomorrow has not come.

Pick up today’s load only and walk on faithfully. Rest tonight and begin again tomorrow. That is all. Anything more is not what God is asking you to do. He alone stands outside of time for he alone is able to carry that burden. Do not try to be God today.

Walk faithfully—then rest. That is all.

Wild One

Letting your children grow up “wild and free” is sort of the thing right now. I see it everywhere–the arrows and floral crowns and woodland creatures that stir up ideas of adventure and nature.

I loved this concept when I was expecting my son. I decorated his room in woodsy animals and inspirational quotes by Emerson and Thoreau. I dreamt of days spent outside exploring with him at my side; we would be wild things for sure, he and I.

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I can’t help but smile as I tap out these words. I got a wild one all right–no extra outdoor adventures required. He stirs up danger and excitement wherever he goes, however padded and sedate the environment may be. Yesterday, he got the third cast in six weeks put on his arm (almost a year to the day from when he was getting a cast for a broken leg). What a whirlwind of life this little guy has already been at two and a half years old.

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I love him and I love the wildness that makes up who he is. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say too how much I’ve struggled with his strength, fiery temper, and will. He is tough. Tough in all the best ways and tough in ways that will wear you down and make you question why you ever decided to be a mother too.

I reached a breaking point with him not long ago. I had gotten to a place where I couldn’t control him–physically or otherwise. I was afraid to leave the house with him and every time I did, I’d recall and dread very loud, very public temper tantrums which required every ounce of my person to get him under control.

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These last two years have been humbling–even humiliating at times. I have been that mom in the grocery store with the toddler screaming and freaking out. I have felt eyes on me and judgment passed and my goodness, for being someone who doesn’t generally care what other people think of me, that has been hard. It’s hard feeling like a failure every time you leave the house for milk and apple juice but that’s been life for a good bit now.

A couple of months back my husband and I sat on the couch talking about our son. It had been a really hard day with him and I was starting to realize if we didn’t get him under control soon, he was going to be too much for me to physically manage. I’m expecting baby #2 and it isn’t reasonable to be wrangling a kicking, screaming toddler when you’ve got another baby you’re trying to protect too.

I was ready to quit and I told Darren so. I had reached a breaking point where I knew something had to change because we simply couldn’t move forward with things as they were. But how…

We aren’t parents who simply let our child do whatever he wishes; we’re quite firm with him–and that made knowing what to do next all the more frustrating. Where do you go from here when you’re already staying home with your child full-time, working with him, teaching and correcting him around the clock? It wasn’t for lack of intense investment and trying that we ended up where we were.

I can tell you how we got here though–Roman is just like us. I know someone else with a temper and will for the ages–guilty.

I never imagined the answer to all this heartache and frustration would simply (though not easily) be to change myself, rather than my son, first. It turns out that if I don’t lose my temper with him, he generally doesn’t lose his temper with me either. If I’m not grumpy and begrudging, neither is he (most of the time). While I knew I was setting an example for my son, I didn’t realize I was setting the tone for our whole home and experience together. But as I have learned to control myself–my anger, my frustration, my hurried way of getting things done at the expense of others–my son has transformed before my eyes as well. I needed to slow down and win his heart first, even at two years old.

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Though I regret the time we spent battling each other in anger, these days of learning to love and enjoy a relationship with him are certainly all the sweeter. There is redemption in this bumpy story of motherhood. There is hope when you feel hopeless. There is wisdom and direction when you are completely lost and at a loss. I know–I’ve seen the bottom and I’ve seen things turn around too. I have hated being a mother–truly hated and regretted it. But I’m learning to love motherhood now as God changes and grows me into this hard, demanding, and incredible role he’s called me to.

There are still humbling days in the grocery store but I no longer live my life as a mother with dread. I see hope and transformation and I know, by God’s grace, we’ll find our way through as he enables.

I got my wild one, all right. He’s every ounce of adventure and excitement I think I can handle but I wouldn’t change his spirit or energy for a simpler life (or fewer trips to the ER). However, if baby #2 wants to be a nice, quiet little girl–that will be fine too 😉

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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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.

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).

Fallow Ground

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Last night we worked on the yard, raking and turning up the soil for spring. I knelt in the dirt, gathering rocks into the wheel barrow and enjoying the cool spring breeze whisping through my hair.

We set out the boundaries of our garden and I dreamt while I worked of vine tomatoes and itty bitty strawberries ripening in the sun.

Roman helped gather rocks, huffing and puffing to assure me of his labor and brute strength. Even when he bent to lift a tiny shred of paper into the wheel barrow, he grunted and moved slowly to prove the weight of his task :] How I love him; how I have learned to love him after struggling and finding our way into and through toddlerhood this winter. He is strong, willful, completely sure of what he wants. I see myself in him, I see his dad, and I am both terrified and proud.

I thought last night as I worked the soil into soft, plantable rows, about the parable Jesus gave of fallow ground—dry, hard, unworked ground—where though the seeds may fall, nothing grows or changes in such unattended soil.

I wondered about my heart, the soil of my heart, and if this ground is turned over and ready for growth or packed down in stubborn defiance, refusing to grow, refusing to change.

I have felt a bit like a rock in a tumbler these last two years since Roman came. Around and around I’ve gone, having my hardness and rough edges worked down into a softer more desirable form. Last night, working the ground, it made sense to me–all the tumbling and falling–perhaps it was meant simply to turn up the fallow ground, to plant and build new life, to grow and harvest new fruit in soil that was once packed down and useless.

So today I hope not just for those sun ripened tomatoes and strawberries but for fruit in the softer soil of my own heart as well–that I would not be dead and useless but alive and growing into what God desires me to be.

What a gift it is that God works our hearts as we do the soil, that he does not simply drop seeds on hard ground but kneels in the dirt and works on us until we are made soft and useful for new life and purpose.

The Bigger Picture

Today I woke with the morning light spreading across a canvas of crisp blue winter sky. The one advantage of waking early with a little one is watching the sun wake up bright and ready for a new day too. The world looks full of hope first thing in the morning, with new light and new possibilities spreading before us.

For months now Darren has been building the chimney on our house. Day after day, brick after brick he worked away until we were finally able to sit in front of a crackling fire and smell the house filled with that wonderful wood and smoke aroma I love so much in winter.

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I learned something watching him lay brick, watching that same repetitive task done over and over again until something lasting finally took shape:

Life and all we hope to build unfolds slowly, brick by brick, day by day.

When I think about marriage or motherhood or staying home to raise a family, I often get mucked up in a romantic idea of how this big plan of mine is supposed to look. I forget though, that in the moment, day to day, things aren’t likely to look romantic or ideal at all.

I have to remind myself often, more so now in motherhood than ever before, that there is a bigger picture at hand. What I see and often get lost in day to day–the chores and messes and repetitive instruction of a little one–these are but bricks, small pieces of a much grander whole.

When I wash clothes and cook meals and sweep floors, I’m doing more than housework–I’m building a home and making this shell of a house feel like a home. When I kiss, and carry, discipline, and teach my little one–I’m more than babysitting; I’m raising a child who will become an adult who already carries with him an eternal soul. And so this daily work becomes a matter of eternal importance–forever, always, unending importance.

Darren bought a little plant for me at the store the other day. We were choosing paint for the cabinets when I saw a display of brand new succulents–I oohed and ahhd over them until we left with one :]

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I put the little plant on a window sill to sunbathe his way through winter. Today I noticed him sitting there in the morning light and thought what a pretty picture it would be–if it weren’t for the unfinished window trim messing everything up.

I took the picture anyway because it reminded me of this very thing I’m talking about–about the bigger picture and seeing beauty in the mess and unfinished work of life.

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So today I’m trying to stay focused on the long term and reminding myself over and over again that all these small things we do a million times over add up to a whole lifetime in the end.

The point is not so much what I’m doing today in and of itself but what today is helping me build for tomorrow. Bit by bit, brick by brick, I hope I can start to see the value and purpose in the tasks before me today so I may build something lasting and eternal for tomorrow.

Frosty Enchantment

God says we are made in his image—we humans somehow carry with us the likeness of the God who made us, in part, like himself. But it is in nature I best see the breaths and fingerprints of my God. That’s not to say I don’t see God’s handiwork in people—it’s just that people are always in motion, and for me at least, more difficult to study and learn from. But nature moves at a steady pace and watching the stars drip evening light out of the night sky or listening to the magnificent roar of thunder rumbling down around us somehow speaks far more deeply to me about the things of God.

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We are just two steps into November and already frost kisses the brown and gray things with glittering light—robing all that now seems dead in one last moment of beauty and enchantment.

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It’s a rare moment these days when I find time to pull my camera out. But sometimes the light or the shadow out my window pulls too strongly to stay busy inside and I find myself instead kneeling close to the ground, enjoying the weight of the camera in my hands, and trying click after click to capture what it is that brought me outside searching in the first place.

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Today, it was the frost sprinkled like star dust through the grass and leaves and the way the morning light danced in rainbows through the frozen drops of dew. And it’s here, knee-deep in grass, camera chasing the sun through frost, that I see God in my midst. I see him making dead things beautiful and breathing glittering light into things we might think are done and gone and no more needed.

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I see God making me new and somehow beautiful in his sight when I would be dead and useless apart from his light. I see the enchantment of frost sparkling on leaves and in that light, I see his light, shining too in you and me.

He can make you new. He can give you life. He can make all things beautiful in his time. I know, because he’s doing so in me.

Chasing the Light

Yesterday I woke to the most magical morning light; golden fingers dancing across autumn leaves lit the day with fire. I don’t like peeling out of bed in the morning—the covers are so warm and the world so cold—but I would wake with the dawn any day to catch the world clothed in amber.

Today the morning sky blushed in pink—deeper and richer shades melted into each other until the sky reached a grand finale of gold.

I suppose I didn’t notice the morning sky before we moved here—the trees blocked my view or perhaps the house faced the wrong direction. But here, in this house we’ve worked so hard on for these last two years, I feel like I’m dancing in a painting as the sun comes glistening across the field and, for a moment, every leaf and blade of grass drips in glitter.

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I have thought many times over the last few weeks, that perhaps God knows me quite well and hand-picked this small corner of the earth for me. I feel as if this picture I’m dancing in were painted by him, etched out by his finger and left as a package waiting to be opened with each new day.

I grew up in the wide open prairies and often I have missed the grassy fields and endless spaces. Here, an open field sits directly across from us and I always think as I watch the light dancing through the tall grass that it looks very much like the home my heart knows. A row of maples stands at the back of the field and before their leaves gave way, they stood together in red and orange and gold. Now the leaves are gone but evergreens stand behind the bare maples and oaks and make the view out my window look always a little green—green—such an important thing to my soul.

So I see God in this place—in the grassy field, and colorful maples…in the evergreens and the fog rising from the wetlands like feathery magic lacing through the trees.

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It’s not so bad waking up and facing a new day, a new challenge, or even the same monotony if you can at least start that day with the fresh, brand new morning light.

God is light and I see his fingers painting light all around me, ever reminding me that he is there—he is here—with me always.