Between the Waves

I knew the week would go fast.
Vacations always do.
But it honestly felt like I stepped off a moving sidewalk and life went into slow motion. Our living room looked out over the waves and dunes with their wild grasses nodding in the perpetual breeze, and I caught my breath.

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Foaming and dancing toward shore, and then the skittering back to the deep,
the waves left behind the shimmery, wet sand, mirroring the sky above.
There is this moment between waves when the last wave has slipped back to sea,
and the next hasn’t arrived yet.
The air of expectancy, the pause, the quiet.

I found myself drinking in the quiet of that moment.
Life is full of noise and demands and needs.
But this delicious moment in time, when the sand under your feet glitters with the sky above, the pinks and purples of sunset were a healing salve to my soul.
Sometimes God’s presence is powerful and mind-blowing.
But this last week I marveled at His presence in the quiet ones,
the whisper over my shoulder,
the hushed promise of His always presence.

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains
and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

He is there, in the quiet whisper.

Sand scrubs away at the rough edges of shells and rocks, flipping them over and over in the waves. I fingered a piece of green sea glass my son found for me, worn smooth and perfect from the countless trips back and forth against the abrasive sand.
I wondered what it might have been, a glass bottle perhaps, broken beyond use.
But here it was, in an entirely new form, more beautiful and stunning than ever,
but only because of the brutal shattering and endless sanding.

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My broken edges and sharpness have left me gasping this year, my need more often obvious than my abilities. I’ve never felt as inadequate as this last year.
But my heart is at rest this morning as the wave goes out again and the perpetual sanding continues. It is because He loves me that He keeps refining.

In the waves that tear my feet out from under me and leave me gasping for air, and in the gentle laughing of the waves as they trip back to sea, and in the pause in between, God IS.

His presence, even the whisper above the noise, is healing.

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I face real life after the dreamy vacation with a heart that is restored.
I’m not any stronger than before, but my soul leans harder into the beautiful reality of His never-ending presence.

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Photo credits to Gretta, as always,
who manages to capture those moments that I cannot…

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Don’t be Pinterest Perfect

Beautiful moments happen. Pause and drink deeply of the taste of heaven here on earth. There are so many gifts in the little moments.
In the lilt of a song.
In the wind in the trees.
In the ways eyes glitter just before the laughter comes.

But the pressure to create a Pinterest perfect image threatens to strangle even the simplest joys. We can never measure up to the next ideal. The voices around us demand more and more, and we live feeling like a failure.

But, there is freedom in imperfection. There is room to breathe where grace lives full and free. Relationships grow strong in soil that welcomes you as you are, not that resents what you are not.



Today I caught this perfect moment, with stunning latte art by my brother in law and my sister’s gentle hands. I held my breath and snapped. And there is was.
Perfect.
But God smiles at me when the latte is drunk, the flowers dried dead and tossed in the trash. He sees potential where I see failure.

God doesn’t see the way we do.
Don’t try to be Pinterest perfect.
Celebrate when it happens, but embrace the beauty of real moments.
Of the raw. Embrace honesty and humility.
Dance because you are loved for who you are, and not for how you perform.

You are safe because you are loved.

Steady in the crazy…

I was THAT mom today.
Aldi aisles resembled a war zone with frantic hurricane fearing folks pulling essentials off shelves. I navigated my cart and four children through the chaos and waged my own war: juggling my shopping list, sanity, and four sets of eyes seeing endless tempting things. More than once I caught people watching me, a smirk on their face. One eager shopper overheard the next item on my list and eagerly pointed it out.
“I don’t know why they keep it so low on the shelf…”
I nodded gratefully and added the Swiss cheese to my groaning cart.

I heard myself answer a question with “something yummy,” and rewound in my mind the question the three year old had asked. While my answer ended up being rational, I felt like I was losing my mind, one question at a time. It’s no wonder they sell cheap roses at the check out- to reward exhausted mothers for arriving at the finish line.
It’s perhaps less guilt ridden than a bar of chocolate.

It had been quite a day.
Attempting a pre vacation shopping trip of three stores, four children and pressure to get home and pack was perhaps unwise.
Necessary, but unwise.

I turned the key in the ignition and it clicked dully.
My forehead leaned on the steering wheel.
Really? Today?
But God sent two angel mothers back to their neighboring vehicle and jumper cables ministered their life. It was a close call, but I was reminded the rest of the day to be thankful.

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I turned my bulging minivan into the splash pad parking lot and the children piled out, dumb struck at the sudden stroke of luck. As I watched them squeal and dart through the spray, I was reminded to slow down. To let the stress roll away and notice the blue sky. The deer that sauntered across the far end of the lawn.

The two girls giggle and laugh from their beds and the 9 year old sits next to me on the couch, a mountain of laundry between us. He’s facing the hard elements of emotions wanting to toss him high and low. As I explain how Jesus is steady and consistent, how he holds us when life throws us hard stuff, my own words speak to my heart.
Let the hard moments go, and embrace to good ones.
Laugh with the baby, dance in the sunshine.

Jesus holds us steady no matter how we feel.

In any and every circumstance

The crickets’ evening lullaby floats in the open window, and cicadas join in the song. My baby sighs from her crib as I slide in between the white sheets next to my husband. He had a long day, and has an early morning again tomorrow. It’s a week for squeezing, working every possible hour before taking next week off.
Life is like that- hard one day, easy the next.
Today my nine-year-old forgot his claims of hating school and was sucked into the fascination of the digestive system. We colored and cut out strangely shaped organs and taped them all together, discussing the role each segment plays.
“The stomach here, the small intestine there…”
Even handwriting later was done with a carefulness I’ve not seen in a while. I leaned over the counter, intentionally making a big deal of it. “Look at that perfect line, Alannah! When you get as big as Weston, I bet you will write that neatly!”
His eyes gleamed and he shrugged, “It almost makes me feel proud…”
It’s the kind of pride that we can handle more of around here.

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Life is a lot harder than I expected.
I expected to find teaching easy, mothering natural, and the house to more or less be easy to keep clean. As a diehard optimist, it’s been a salty pill to take, this thing of life being hard. I want to be an endless source of creativity, to always feel willingly the response the moment needs. But I’m just not that perfect mom I always dreamed I would be.
Actually, I’m terrible at a LOT of things.
Take menu-planning for example. I love to shop for things at great prices (or better yet, to score a bunch of produce for absolutely free! (thanks to a local produce warehouse who is generous with their slightly over ripe merchandise), but having a week’s meals laid out? It’s on my to-do list nearly every week, and there it laughs and mocks me, that job that looks so big. Throw a few diet restrictions into it and I’m ready to call a week of fasting.
Did you know it takes a matter of three and a half minutes for the kitchen floor to recover from being mopped? Little fingers spill bowls of wet cheerios and the baby toddles through and pulls a box of crackers out the cabinet, bottom side up. Cracker crumbs and sticky cheese powder scatter before I can blink.

DSC04266The large picture window in the front room remains smudge-free for about ten minutes, noses press hard and fingers wet with slobber point out a butterfly, leaving a jagged smear right on eye level where I look from the couch.

I have books carefully arranged on the living room book shelf, color coded. I know, it drives my mother insane. “How will you ever find the book you were looking for?” she asks, but I remember the color of the spine, not always the title. And somehow the groups of color all together look happy to me. But the blue shelf is right on baby’s level, and we have this never ending duel. I glance at it as I pass in the morning see the books all even with the front of the shelf. But sometime during the morning, without fail, I find the books all shoved way back against the wall.
Every. Single. Day.
At first it annoyed me to no end.
Why? Just WHY does she do that?!?
Then I thought about how much fun she must be having, smashing the entire row of books six inches back. And I realized it was a game.
I make a move, then she does.
Currently, she is one up.
Clutter wears on me. But relationships are what matters most, and I mess up big.

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I look in the mirror as I brush my teeth, and instead of a mom of four kids who is homeschooling and running a house and raising four munchkins,
I see a little girl who doesn’t know how to do this.
“I know how to be brought low.”
I pull the sheets up and the words whisper into my mind,
“and I know how to abound.”
Waves crash in, and wash out again.
We breathe in, and out.
The sun comes up, and eventually, slides beyond the horizon.
In the giving and the taking, He is here.
On the good days, and on the bad. Present.
“In any and every circumstance,
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Phil 4:12-13
A friend of mine was having a hard day this last week, still grappling with her brother unexpected death last year.
Grief is odd like that.
Some days you think you are starting to be normal again, starting to be able to breathe again, and the next you hardly can force yourself out of bed.
“You’ve got this,” I told her. “Not because you are strong (you are)
but because of Who is holding you.”

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It’s not in who we are.
Our ability to face today with courage, with the failures of yesterday and the uncertainties of tomorrow, rest not in our ability.
In fact, it has very little to do with me,
and everything to do with Who is holding my hand.
Here in my broken moments, with the child’s left over toothpaste spit just inside the sink bowl, I find cleansing.
I wash the toothpaste foam down.
I breathe deeper.
Not because I am clean and perfect, but because it is here that He washes me.
It is here, in my need, that He touches me.

 

The best stories are the real ones

The best stories are the real ones.

We all pause in front of the catching covers and gripping titles, but the moment we flip to the first page only to discover it begins like thousands of others, our interest fades.

The best story is the one you’ve lived.
The retelling of your hardest moments,
followed by the stunning view when you at last reached the mountain’s peak,
or the crushing realization that you were still days from the summit:
here is where your unique story lies.

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Our lives aren’t all about arrival and having finally conquered our fears.
Perhaps the greatest quality of our stories is in the mundane.
Yes, we do eventually reach the top and feel the icy cold wind whip up the side of the mountain and steal our breath away.
But without the panting and grappling with the elements,
the struggling against the rugged stone,
those hours and days of climbing leading up to the summit would be worthless.

God knew we needed people ahead of us on the trail to shout over their shoulder,
“You can do this!”
And he also knew that we would be made stronger by offering a helping hand to someone beside us who is panting hard and feeling that they aren’y made of tough enough stuff to keep going.

We are given experiences with a purpose in mind.

“…the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Wounded people tell better stories.
Not because you were wounded,
but because you lived to tell the story.
Because you can offer more than words, you have experience to back it up.

Your story matters, your experiences are valuable.
Your losses and your gains,
your deep gut laughter and salty tears are important.

When we share our stories, perfect lives give way to real struggles and experiences.
And oddly enough, we find that we are safer in this crowd, not because we are a good story teller or can post a pretty picture, but because we each have a story.
And in choosing to be vulnerable and courageous enough to share it,
we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

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Let’s keep our stories going.
Tell them here. Tell your children.
Take a moment at the grocery store and look into the cashier’s eyes,
and ask her about her life.

Reach out and connect with people.

The online world is a massive opportunity,
but don’t overlook the physical people you come into contact with each day.
Take time and ask questions.
They have a story too, that needs to be told.
Some days we do the telling, other days we listen.
Each story is worth hearing.

The best stories are the real ones.

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(Photo credits to Gretta Coates and her time in a refugee camp in Greece this last year. Follow her blog and wait for the incredible stories of the incredible souls who braved the icy waters hoping for a future).

Do today well…

I woke up this morning to the quiet footsteps of my husband, still in his paramedic uniform. Drawers gently opened and shut and he crawled into bed. “Three calls,” he had told me. I’m gaining a new appreciation for the countless men and women who are on standby at all hours for those unanticipated emergencies.
Somewhere, there are people always waiting for the call, ready to come help.

The soft morning light illuminated the room, and four sleeping children were breathing rhythmically. But the baby’s eyes flew open and her night was over.
So was mine, apparently.
The toddler joined the awake crew and we headed downstairs to start coffee and give just a few more moments of peace upstairs.

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The last few days have felt like consecutive Mondays.
Returning from a massive trip and thousands of miles to Texas created suitcases jammed with stuff and a car looked like we had lived out of it for ten days, ‘cause we had. The lawn looked more like a hay field than a yard, and then an unexpected stash of tomatoes that needed to be canned asap took precedence over the already screaming chore list. Just roll with the punches, ya know?

Last night when I finally had washed the last dish, and sank onto the couch, my feet ached bone deep. I realized that I had been going nearly full steam all day.
But then, so had my hubby.
And so had most humans, so it wasn’t such a valiant accomplishment after all. 😉

We have two more weeks of my husband’s crazy class. And then so many hopes for the summer, like gutting the old kitchen and finally conquering these todo’s that I cannot do on my own.
But the todo list is NEVER done.
We don’t always hit the last lesson of the grade exactly when summer break is to start.

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It’s a race, and the muscles burn deep and breath comes jerky sometimes.
Sweat runs down our spine and it feels like the finish line is perpetually around the next bend.
This is motherhood. This is life.

But it’s about doing today well.
It’s about giving this moment everything, and letting the rest bide till its time.
It’s about embracing today for what it really is, and breathing deep in the moment.
It’s about pressing in, and maintaining.
The good habits I embrace today will help carry my children tomorrow.
Take a deep breath. Find your stride.
You can do this. God is right there, with everything you need to do today well.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
Hebrews 12:1

It was perfect.

I pushed my chair back and surveyed the damages.
Supper was over, but the table was heavy with smeared dishes and food the needed to be put away. Daniel has multiple tests and chapters to read before the weekend.
“There is no way I’ll have time to get them all done,” he had told me earlier.

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“Can we go outside and …?” The nine year old made a throwing motion.
Somehow the tossing sign must be more powerful than just straight out asking.

He didn’t have time. We both knew it.
But Daniel nodded, “Yeah! You coming?” he asked, looking my way.
The dishes screamed at me. But he knew I needed to pause and grab the moment.
I nodded.

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All day long the tractor had gone around and around the field, the cut hay tossed into neat rows and then bundled into round bales. The sweet smell mingled with the golden evening light lured us into the clean goodness. The guys threw the frisbee back and forth, and I marveled at the fluid motions of both throwing and catching.
When did that nine year old learn to throw like that?

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The girls raced around the bales and threw left over bits into the air.
Hair and hay were everywhere, faces dirty but happy.
Daniel looked over at me. “It’s perfect.
The evening could not be more perfect.”

I looked around. The golden light illuminating crazy hair, the squeals of laughter from carefree children, the busy daddy taking time for his children.
I was the only mess here.
My mind still saw the messy table and sink of dishes.
My heart still felt bruised from a less than seamless school day.

My to do lists never end, and I grapple with doing all things well and yet never getting done. Mommy guilt over not menu planning, bathroom cleaning, laundry doing or lesson planning a week ahead of time looms over my head.
There are just so many things I SHOULD be doing, and don’t reach around.

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(Chicken pox are over now, and thankfully the marks are fading)

When God created the world, He did a perfect job.
He sat back at the end of each day and surveyed his perfect handiwork.
At the end of the week, he looked over the brand new earth, teaming with life and breath and color.
And He said, “It is good.”
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Good. Everything was perfect.
Can you imagine?

Today this is part of the curse, the living in an imperfect world. Being in this world, but intended for another one. Mortality groaning for immortality. I gasp deep for air, and reach for God’s hand to guide me through the challenges of the day.

God looks down at me and loves me. He sees past the grime smeared on my face and hears the laughter. He sees me as His child, and loves me.

So hand your camera to your 7 year old, and let them capture today in its rawness. See what they see, and treasure it.

Today, in all our messes, are things to embrace. To treasure.

It WAS a perfect evening.