Monday, October 17, 2011


The trees are gone. Six of them. Cut down to save a house that will never belong to me from potential damage. Early morning light comes through my front window without being filtered through a canopy of leaves--harsh and without the gentle warmth that I have appreciated since moving here. The front of the house is bare. Naked and exposed. Stripped. The towering trees in the backyard that once beckoned me outdoors to sit in their shade to listen to their magical duets with the wind are silent now. Reduced to battered stumps and shredded piles of mulch. The landscape is scarred with their remains. My once beautiful retreat is now ugly with their decaying bodies. I am strangely grieved.

The day they came down, I walked the expanse of our backyard surveying the damage--I ran hands over the stumps and lingered long trying to find the rings to see their lifelines. To find beauty in the midst of ruin. But I couldn't clearly see the rings due to the scars the chainsaws left. No beauty to be found. Just loss.

I don't understand why this has affected me so. I am reminding myself of Jonah grieving over a plant that he didn't cause to grow instead of the people of Ninevah. I am frustrated by my lack of perspective. Perhaps I have put too much stock in my surroundings to bring me joy and God is pruning my heart once again along with the trees in this yard. Whatever the reason, my grief lashes out like the winds that first did damage to these trees outside. I feel battered, stripped and scarred.

Perhaps I linger too long over the stumps of my life. I look too much inwardly and trace and retrace the lifelines that have been scarred by loss. Perhaps I, myself, have picked at scabs long since healed by the tender Gardener who prunes my heart and I make myself bleed over again. Instead of seeing loss, I should look for the beauty in those scars because they are evidence that the Lord's loving hand was in the healing. Touched by God On High.

 Oh that I would trust Him more to know what true beauty is and how to tend my life in order to produce it. And taking my chin in His gentle hand, He would lift my face from the stumps and help me to see the landscape He is fashioning even while having to remove trees in the way of the better view.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


There are lots of things in the world that stretch. Some are pleasant---Like the stretch of warmed mozzarella cheese coming off a bite of homemade flat bread with fresh basil. Ooo...that's some yummy stretchiness. Or the stretch in jeans now-a-days. The fact that I can wear a size smaller than I know I really am just because I know there's a little give in them. I love this stretchiness a lot. I love it because then I can eat just a little more of the mozzarella goodness and know that I can still fit into my jeans. Or how about that brand new morning stretch after a great night's sleep? Stretching out all the kinks that my strange position put into my neck and hearing the ligaments pop and make ready to carry my body through the day. It feels amazing. In contrast, there are some stretches that are less than comfortable. Like the multitude of stretches I have put my body through attempting Pilates. I'm still recovering. Or the stretching that took place on a table in Physical Therapy after injuring my knee. The kind that made tears spring to my eyes unbidden and shocking in intensity. These kind of stretches hurt. Yet they are intended for good to come from them. Health maintained. Vitality restored. Strength-inducing.

God is doing some of those kind of stretches here in my home for all of us it seems. My husband is stretching his mental boundaries and making room for more genius to dwell in his cranium. He is learning the fine art of balancing loads of work, pressure of deadlines and a family who still desires him to lead us, know us and love us well. It's not easy. Sometimes he misses the mark. But he is growing smarter, wiser and more compassionate.

I am being stretched to see how much of myself I can lay down and die to. Will I be willing to serve my husband with a cheerful heart so that he can study harder and achieve more? Will I be willing to make less of my wants and more of what God wants to accomplish in me? Will I embrace those that the Lord puts in my path here and love them fully even when in a year I will have to say goodbye? Can I resist the temptation to protect myself? God is stretching me. It's not easy. Sometimes I miss the mark. But I am growing more humble, more thankful and more loving.

My children are being challenged remarkably this year as well. We have asked them to trust more deeply in the Sovereign Hand of their Maker and to walk in this painful path of leaving dearest friends with eyes wide open to the possibilities of God's plan for their life. We have asked them to exchange comfort and stability for the different and strange. We have switched up their schooling and asked them to trust us and try. It is going to be hard. It is already stretching the limits of what they think they are capable of.  But they will grow this year. And it will be good growth---Life-sustaining, faith-inspiring growth, Lord willing.

Sometimes the stretching is painful. But it is always for our good. It is mind-boggling and incredibly remarkable to me that while God gives us circumstances that cause us to have to stand on tiptoe, raise our arms up to the sky and reach higher, He bends to grasp our hands and help us to walk. The God who fashioned the heavens and put the earth on its axis stoops to hold me up. This thought makes me want to cover my face and weep. How can He love me that much? Yet He does. As He loves my husband, my children and you.

So stretch me more, my Father in Heaven! So that I might walk, hands-clasped with You and depend on You to help me take each step.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Breathing In...

Oh glory! Oh bliss! Summertime! I had forgotten how fantastic summer in the mid-west part of the States can be. Today has reminded me. It's August and I have my windows open and the air-conditioner off. That hasn't happened in at least the seven years since I've lived in Oklahoma and Georgia. My sweet friends in good ole' Okie are sweating bullets having survived more than 40 consecutive days at over 100 degrees. Yuck. Makes me extremely thankful to be here in Ohio! Today I ran errands around town with my sunroof open and my hair blowing in the wind. My kids were outside playing Bocce Ball, practicing archery and topping it off with a Super Soaker Water Fight. Tonight, I'm sitting on my back porch while I write this letting the breeze blow across my face and just breathing in. Have you breathed in lately? Do it. Right now. It feels great.

So here's my tribute to Summertime---these are just some of the many things that make it great to be alive and breathing in...

1. Summertime is the sounds of kid's outside playing---shouts of "Hi!" and "Wanna Play?" It's "Tag, You're It" and "1, 2, 3, Not It!" and giggles galore when swim-suit clad kids jump through the sprinkler. It's the strange circus-like music that is broadcasted over the neighborhood from the Ice Cream Truck and kids yelling, "Mom! It's the Ice Cream Man!"

2. Summertime is the smell of Hawaiian tropic, chlorine and popcorn mixed all up together while lounging at the pool. It's the feel of terry cloth on skin and plastic sticking to your thighs when you sit too long in the lounger. It's the sight of a dignified, balding man sporting wild-colored swim trunks and letting his grandchildren soak him with a water cannon just for the joy of hearing them laugh with abandon.

3. Summertime is when you throw caution to the wind and sit too long in the sun just because it feels so good on tension-bound shoulders. It's the sting that begs for aloe and the itchy delight of peeling sheets of skin off later. (come on---we all love a little skin peeling. Admit it. It's like the weird delight of seeing how full the vacuum cleaner canister gets after I alone? Can I get a Woot Woot?!? Anyone?)

4. Summertime is knowing it's supper time without looking at a clock. The smells of charcoal and every cut of meat grilling hot and juicy floating in the air and beckoning you to the table. It's the time of year where men become chefs with metal spatulas and tongs. Where "cooking over a hot stove" becomes obsolete and where women can relax with an icy diet coke and watch her man cook for a change.

5. Summertime is the tang of lemonade, the coolness of a Popsicle and the taste of sweet corn. (Oh my, the sweet corn here is amazing. I had forgotten what it was like!) It's the time of year when you excuse the daily ice cream cone just because summer demands it. It's spitting watermelon seeds or cherry pits. It's the sweetness of a nectarine and the pucker of a Mango. Let's just face it, summertime is delicious.

6. Summertime is Pajamas until noon. Or all day.

7. Summertime is crickets chirping loud enough to drive you crazy all night. Which is why pajamas until noon becomes necessary. It's fantasies of hunting them down with a flashlight and killing them good just so you can sleep for an hour.

8. Summertime is celebration time in our house---3 out of the 4 of us have summer birthdays. Throw in America's birthday and we've got more reasons to hoot and holler than a fat kid at a candy store. And we do. Hoot. And Holler. With wild abandon. I'll have two scoops of ice cream, please!

9. Summertime is the smell of green grass being mowed. The sight of my boy-man with his freckled-faced red with effort at pushing the grass-munching beast across the yard. It's his satisfied grin when the work is done and both mom and dad are proud. It's the sight of my daughter's hair glistening in the sunlight as she plays with her dog in the yard. It's the smiles of both of them and the warmth of my heart thinking that they will have summer memories of their childhood like I have of mine.

10. Summer is time. Time to sit a little longer. Time to try new things without the school-schedule binding your hands and energy. Things like baking bread and building fairy houses with my daughter. Time to slow down and keep my eyes wide open for the goodness of God. It's sensory overload--but in a good way--and my heart is full.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

...And Yet

I confess, I'm a recovering perfectionist. And I'm failing at it. Darn. I think that I'll just climb back in bed and pull the covers up over my head. I joke, of course, but in reality, my perfectionism is something that wreaks havoc on my soul-bound journey to joy in all circumstances. Pride is at its core---as if I am capable of leading a perfect life or responding to it perfectly. If I were perfect, would I ever have a need for a Savior in Jesus Christ? No way, no how. However, it is still hard to accept when I am confronted with an area where I am failing. But also, I have along the way, picked up that if I behave perfectly, then love will follow. Acceptance will be automatic. So I am slow to learn and accept God's unconditional love for me--yet it is. Why do I so often trade man's cheap praise for the deep love of a giant God who is so magnificent yet He still sees little me as one of His crowning acheivements in creation? Yet I do. And because I do, I often pretend to feel or be something that I'm happy and fully content and deeply joyful. It is my heart to be these things---but I would be lying if I said that I have arrived. I don't even think I'm close.

The other day, my husband lovingly brought something to my attention that he felt might encourage me in this quest for joy-filled living. However, I couldn't hear it because my "Perfection Alarm" was ringing in my ears too loudly to hear this tender heart of my man's. Instead I heard, "you're failing and I can't love you when you are like this"---so I left in tears and drove away from our home to try to outrun the sorrow and panic. I ended up in a parking lot sobbing and crying out to God to help me understand. The question I have (and I'm thinking many people might wonder the same thing) is how does acceptance of circumstances and choosing joy mesh with real, raw emotions? How can one live a joyous life when there is grief? What do you do when the loneliness threatens to overwhelm you? How does one live with deep joy and still be true to what boils underneath the surface of daily life? What does one do with the ache or anger? So as I sobbed, I told God that while I appreciate all the heroes of the faith found in His word,  I wished that there was one person in the bible that truly felt sad and lived out this life in a way that I could strive to emulate. A guideline of sorts. And there, in the midst of my sniffling in the car in the parking lot of Kohls, God spoke so tenderly to my heart that it threatened to make the tears that had recently dried spill over again---"DAVID....AND YET". David, King of Isreal, a man after God's own heart, felt sorrow. He felt loneliness. He felt fearful. AND YET, David trusted in God's unfailing love. He told God of his sorrow AND YET, David praised Him still and held fast to His promises. God was his lifeline.

Psalm 56:8-9 "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?...This I know, that God is for me."

Psalm 6:6 and 9 "I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer."

Psalm 42:11 "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God."

I write this today as an encouragement---more for myself but also for anyone who would read this and relate. Too many Christians out there put on a facade that masks their pain, their sins and their struggles. Too many of us are afraid to show that they are failures and that they can't live this Christian life perfectly...but none of us can. We, who have the hope of Christ in us, should boldly proclaim to the world, I SUCK! AND YET---CHRIST LOVES ME!  I'M SAD AND FEEL HOPELESS AT TIMES AND YET---GOD IS FOR ME! I AM UNFORGIVING AND YET---GOD IS GRACIOUS! I FAIL ALL THE TIME AND YET--GOD NEVER FAILS!

So there you have it---my confession. I am struggling to find joy in my circumstances here amidst the lonely ache. God designed me to feel these things---for what purpose? To torture me? No---to remind me of my need for Him. So I will feel this sadness AND YET, I will praise Him through it and hope in Him to restore my joy to fullness. I don't have to pretend with Him...I can be real and raw and trust Him to love me just as I am--in fact, those emotions should propel me to His throne so that I can climb up on His lap and let Him comfort me as my Father.

I am (thankfully!) not unaware of how many reasons I have to be thankful. I have sweet friendships that are sustained over distances, I have precious and warm company in my family here in Ohio, I have food, shelter and my health...I can see clearly the blessings around me and I am grateful for that fact. Gratefulness keeps my heart bouyed and that is a gift from a gracious God who bottles my tears and seeks to be my lifeline in the sadness.
Psalm 126:5-6 "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out with weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I love my Ohio backyard. It is filled with at least a half dozen giant trees that have roots sunk down deep into aged soil. The trees offer shade in the heat of this humid summer but more than that, they give the backyard a feeling that is reminiscent of my childhood home. Tonight I slipped out onto my back porch to sit a while and be alone in the quiet of dusk. I sat and looked over this giant backyard and before too long, the fireflies came out to do their nighttime dance. I have often marveled at the firefly. Watching their lights flicker like so many tiny stars close enough to touch turns me into a child. I stop short of getting my jar out to catch them preferring to leave them free to flicker and delight. But tonight I found myself in absolute wonder at this creature. I couldn't help but wonder at the fact that these flying lanterns are bugs. I don't like a lot of bugs. As much as I like the outdoors, bugs are not my favorite thing and you can catch me jumping and screaming if one happens to land on me. The firefly is a bug. It is fairly ordinary looking in the light of day and yet, at night it is absolutely transformed into a magnificent luminary.

I try to think hard about the Lord I love---and so as I watched these delightful bugs flicker and dance through the backyard tonight, I began to wonder about how God must delight in these bugs as well. I wondered if He called them out by their names like He does with the stars each night. I wondered if while He created the sunset tonight in all of its originality if He motioned the fireflies to stand in the wings and be ready to light up the night before asking the stars and moon to take center stage. I wondered about how He must be a little like me (or rather I like Him) that gets almost giddy to see them shine through the darkness. I began to wonder if these flashes of fluorescent light were glimpses of God's awesome glory---To see God's glory in fullness would so overwhelm us in our human bodies that He pinched off just the tiniest bit and placed it in the tail of a bug so that we could see it with our eyes and while doing so, see Him too.

I lingered long on the porch tonight. As I sat with my thoughts, I got to thinking about how we as Christ-Followers should be like the lightening bug. We should be sparks of light in the darkness of this world. We should delight others with our lights and point to God when they notice. It made me smile here in Ohio---where I feel a bit lost and very alone and where I have been shuffling through a depression that threatens to overcome my sparkle. Watching these ordinary bugs transforming the night gave me some hope of purpose. Oh that my light will shine here in the murky light and cause just one person to think hard on the God who creates, the God who loves and the God who transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Humble Update

What a whirlwind 2011 has turned out to be! It has been a journey both physically and emotionally for me. One that has triggered many profound thoughts in the recesses of my brain that are brewing and steeping down deep enough for me to write about someday. But this is not the time. Instead, I'm keeping it a little lighter to give a little update.

We left Oklahoma mid-May and drove our home on wheels to Ohio where we parked at the Family Camp on base for two weeks while waiting for a rental home to come available. While we were waiting, I was blessed by meeting a young family living in the smallest little pop up camper with all their belongings in a pick-up truck, a mini-van and a small trailer. They had just come from Alaska and had been in their little home for a month already with two very small, very active children. They came over one evening to look at our RV---rejoicing in the fact that they finally spotted a couple under the age of 65 that owned one. Up until that point, they thought they were foolish to have the idea of purchasing one for themselves. I hope that they left encouraged in some small way. I doubt very much that they will ever know the impact they had on me in that small exchange. Their awe at our vehicle and appreciation for the space to live, gave me better eyes to see how blessed I had been the past two months. It humbled me. It humbles me still to think on it.
A week and a half after arriving in Ohio, our rental home opened up. We are now living in a 1500 square foot house in Kettering with a giant backyard full of beautiful, mature trees and beds of flowers that the owner put her heart into cultivating. (I will do my best not to kill them all! A green-thumb I am not!) On a side note, this house also came with a remarkable feature! We have flatulating carpets. Really. There are air bubbles that are trapped underneath the carpet and when walked on, they make a noise that tickles the funny bone. It is hard to be angry for long or feel sad for long when you walk down the hall and with every step it sounds like too many cans of beans have been eaten. (I'm sure you are shocked that such a dignified woman would find humor in it! Or that I would use it as my new excuse--"It wasn't me, it was the carpet") You can not tell me that our God doesn't have a sense of humor! The house He provided for us comes equipped with an immediate tension breaker. That's just priceless.
At any rate, the movers came with their giant trailers filled to the brim with all our worldly possessions--and these same beefy, moving men tried hard not to laugh as they unloaded a 2300 square foot house into a 1500 square foot house. And I tried hard not to cry in my panic of where it all was going to go. No attic, no basement and a one car garage (might be a half car garage even) and boxes upon boxes of stuff. Let me pause here and tell you that I am a purger---I throw things out, give away and get rid of all I can. I purged while packing up the house, I purged from the RV and I have purged while unpacking...yet I still have TOO MUCH STUFF! I could excuse myself and say that it's because I homeschool and I have to have art supplies and a library filled with good reads for my kids. I could excuse myself and say that it is my duty as a homemaker to make the home beautiful for my family and so I have to have a giant boxes filled with silk greenery and pictures for the walls---but really? The thought of all I have accumulated makes me throw up a little. It causes me to think of verses in the Good Book of treasures found in fields and storing things up in heaven and where my heart is. It humbles me. But if I'm honest, not enough to cause me to give it all away. Once again, I'm reminded of how much the Lord has to do within my heart to transform me and teach me the greater joy.
One week after the boxes arrived, I had sorted through them, stored a lot of them and given away a little. The pictures were on the walls and home was established. I then packed up some suitcases and jumped into the car to travel to Minnesota for two weeks in order to be in my youngest sister's wedding and spend time with family. What a wild time we had. So much fun. Maybe a little too much fun.
After two weeks, I finally had to turn and face reality that I was heading back to Ohio. Having worked frantically to get the house ready before leaving for Minnesota, then being in Minnesota for that time, I hadn't had much time to stop and think about the fact that my life now was truly relocated to Ohio.
Heart-work is hard work. I am striving to embrace this life that God's good hand has given me. It isn't easy---I trip on discontent and fall flat on my face. But I know that God isn't finished with me yet and that it is Him who does this Heart-work in me. I'm praying that I will have a teachable heart and that He will give me eyes to see the blessings around me and the way I can serve other people while I'm here. It humbles me to know that despite all my groanings and complainings He loves me fiercely with a love that never disappoints and always comforts. That truth alone is enough to cause my heart to swell with joy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


A funny thing happened to me the other day. Something I never dreamed would happen or even be required of me in my life...I had to check "The 'Other' Box" on a form. So what, right? I'm sure all of us have at many different points of our life checked "The 'Other' Box".  How did you hear about us? A friend? An Ad? Word of mouth? Other? Are you following me here? No big deal---but when I came upon my "Other", I just stopped and stared and asked myself if this was a practical joke of some kind. You see, I was asked, "Where do you live?" An Apartment? Condo? House? Assisted Living Facility? Other? So I giggled, suppressed the urge to scream, swallowed and checked "Other". Thank goodness they didn't ask me to explain.

On another note, life in our Other is becoming easier. We know our boundaries so we have stopped bumping into each other. We know that a closed curtain means that someone is about to lose it and needs a little "alone time". We know that when my jaw sets a certain way that everyone must scatter to pick up their things and the vacuum comes out. But also, we've learned to enjoy the State Park that is our neighborhood. Mitchell is often found at the lake perfecting his rock-skipping technique. Maddy has found that Arcadia offers landscapes that inspire the writer in her. The other day, I was sitting outside on a beautiful day and noticed how the sun was shining stunningly through the bright green oak leaves. I dashed inside and got my camera and spent the next 30 minutes snapping pictures in perfect light. And Jordan? Well, Jordan never really had to adjust to life in the RV. He is my mountain man. The man who builds fires. The man who grows a beard when the Air Force doesn't interfere. The man who fixes things. The man who doesn't squirm when facing the sewage hose. The man who cooks outdoors. He's in heaven. And now that his family has relaxed a little bit, he's in Nirvana. Who would have thought that Nirvana could be found in "The 'Other' Box"?