Miraculous, commonplace grace

img_20170130_132901157This morning, I had the best intentions. I woke up, ready to tackle this Monday. Then, as I contemplated my day, things began to go downhill.

Task #1: Laundry. Due to a septic malfunction last week, my dirty laundry pile, instead of just being the terribly difficult but scaleable Mt. Everest, was instead an all out, mid-eruption Mt. Vesuvius.

Task #2: Breakfast. Well, we have eggs. So that’s what’s for breakfast.

Task #3: Homeschool two over-tired children while wrangling one over-tired preschooler. Needless to say, I did not accomplish all that I had set out for today.

In the midst of working with Little Red, who was putting up a pretty good fight against schoolwork, I realized that I needed a mommy break. As I walked out of the room, I uttered a little prayer. “God help me have grace with them.” I took my break and went back, and we resumed our work. While we are working through the spelling of “think”, Little Man trots into the school room. As I turn toward him, ready to ask him to leave so that we can work, he presents me with a hand-full of daffodils – my favorite. And I had to stop and smile. Commonplace flowers, full of miraculous grace.

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Lunch was on the table, little people were happy. Lunchtime conversations are always interesting in our house, and today’s was no different.

“What kind of pet do you want?”

“I want a monkey.”

“They like to throw poop at you.”

Whole table dissolves into laughter.

We hear a knock on the door and look up to see a surprise friend visit. We are now a table full of smiles. We pull up chairs and enjoy chatting while we finish lunch. As the kids go off to play, it’s adult conversation time. As I talk with my friend, I dig into my surprise that came along with the visit, a cupcake from my favorite restaurant piled with a mountain of creamy white icing topped with a raspberry and two blueberries. A commonplace visit from friends, full of miraculous grace.

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Today was a rough day for everyone in our house. We were all tired. We all wanted to throw to-do lists out the window. So I relied on the only thing I could think of – grace. I prayed to be able to shower it on my family, but I got so much more than that. The grace was showered on me, more than I ever expected. Or maybe, my eyes were opened to grace that I usually miss. Either way, grace was the air I breathed today. Instead of just answering my prayer of being able to give grace to others, God filled me with grace, and now I can pour grace out of my fullness. What a miraculous, commonplace day.

 

Grace All Around

Expectations. I am full of them. I have expectations about how my children behave, expectations regarding the cleanliness level of my home (although some of my friends probably don’t believe that one), and everyday, I have expectations about how my day will go. And, really, some expectations are good and necessary – they help us make sense of and navigate this crazy world.

Around Christmas, though, my expectations can sometimes go into overdrive. I have a picture in my head about how I want things to go – how we need to be a cozy little family every night reading a Christmas book or watching a Christmas movie, or even having a harmonious family game night where people don’t end up getting frustrated that they lost. In my picture, there is no fighting, there is no complaining, there are no bad days AT ALL between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The littles all listen intently to every one of our Advent readings and are totally immersed in the reason for the season and not the prospect of gifts, and I am gentle and calm everyday.

Doesn’t that all sound amazing?  What better way to celebrate Jesus’ birth, his coming to be the sacrifice for our sins, than to be perfect?

I forget that just like Jesus came into an imperfect, struggling, dying, frustrated world – with stinky farm animals, nonetheless – Christmas comes into my messy, broken, thirsty soul. Into my house where people get angry, siblings fight, and we aren’t always kind. Into a place where our plans don’t always work. Into my assumption strangled Christmas season. The season where, when the world doesn’t meet my expectation, I get frustrated and lose all the joy that I am supposed to be celebrating.

Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. What is more amazing than that? But put up against my failed expectations, I lose sight of the beauty, the miracle.

Somehow, this year, so far, has been different. The past few months, I have prayed that the Holy Spirit open my eyes to seeing God in my life, every day. It wasn’t specifically related to Christmas, just for life in general, and I didn’t realize how drastically that little prayer would change my Christmas season. Instead of planning out how my day will go, how my Christmas will look, I am looking for God. I have my eyes open to see Jesus, God with us – to see the real gift of Christmas.

Instead of finding the joy of the season in remaining calm, patient, and loving for a complete 24 hours, I see it in my littles impromptu living room dance number to Harry Connick Jr.’s “Frosty the Snowman.” Instead of making sure we attend every Christmas event that occurs, I delight in the glowing, colored Christmas tree lights (because that’s what the littles like – I am white light person, myself) reflected in the glass cabinet doors in my living room. I am filled with joy by something as simple as seeing my old man dog, my first baby, running in the frosty morning hay field with his neighbor dog like he is a little puppy again. It’s taking Little Red to buy presents for her brothers, and drinking in her contagious, bubbly anticipation of the giving.

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All of this, all of these little God signs throughout my days, throughout my Christmas season, really, they are just a picture of grace all around. Grace that came down to earth as a little baby. Grace that bled on a cross for my sins. Grace that comes into my messy, into the world’s messy, and loves anyway. Grace that draws us in, closer to our family, closer to the baby in the manger, closer to God with us.

 

 

Today!

The Broken Way is on shelves today! Pick up your copy and learn how to live in and share the abundance of grace that God has in store for us! This book is changing the way I think about life, about grace, about peace, and about my relationship with Christ. It is also teaching me new ways to live in this world as a sharer of this grace. Please, go grab a copy – you will not be disappointed!

To my oldest on his 8th birthday

Oh, son. How did you get to be eight? I remember holding you in my arms as a tiny baby on this very night in the unfamiliar, but so appreciated by this labor-weary new mama, bed at the birth center. I snuggled your unknown, yet so known, little being. I laid with you tonight, exactly eight years later, and I prayed for you and you were spread all over the bed, almost as tall as me. How did all this growing happen so fast?

The past eight years have changed you. You came in to this world fully dependent on me, a baby comforted by my touch, my milk, my love. Now, each day, I see you becoming more and more independent. Needing me less and less, as it should be. As much as it hurts my mommy heart that wants to hold on forever, it also makes me excited. Excited to see who you become, to see the man that God wants you to be. I see all the potential right there, in you, in your generous heart and your inquisitive mind, in your smile and your hugs. Every once in a while, there is a glimpse of the man you will be. Even as my heart breaks a little to see it, it is a privilege to watch you become.

But you aren’t the only one who is different. Being a mother has done more to change me than anything else that I remember. And it has been hard. From the moment you were born, you have reflected the worst part of myself back to me. You, in all your baby innocence, showed me pretty quickly who I really was inside. You showed me my selfishness, my critical spirit, my whiney-ness. And, still, today, I can see more clearly all the ways I fail you, and I hurt over each and every one.

But you also showed me that I can love more than I ever thought possible. You showed me that I can hurt more for others than I ever hurt for myself. Because of you, I found the strength inside me to go on even though the days were tough, even though I wanted to quit this whole parenting thing. Through you, I learned to wrestle with finding a balance between holding on and letting go. I also found an unexpected joy in motherhood – in watching you grow, in loving so much it hurts, in celebrating when you are happy and consoling when you are sad – all this, I would never have experienced if not for you, firstborn.

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Two day old new mom tiredness

Being your mother, although tough on many days, has made me a better person. I wouldn’t trade any of those hard times, any of those days that I wasn’t enough, any of those times when all I could do is cry because I had failed you that day. Baby boy, know that there is grace for those times. God is there with you. He surely has been with me. And because of you, and Him, I am growing in ways I didn’t know that I needed to. I am a better wife, daughter, and friend because of the things you have unknowingly taught me.

These eight years have been an adventure. It is amazing to have a front row seat to a person becoming. I do mourn the quickness with which they have gone by, but I look forward to what we get to experience in the next eight, to seeing more of who God makes you into. I love you something fierce, little man. Happy birthday!

 

 

No more waiting

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The light came through today – through the dreary storm laden clouds that have been hovering over our farm these past few days. Appropriate weather for the waiting, the Advent. But even in the midst of this waiting, this expectation heavy season, this time filled with rambunctious kids not even remotely living on the schedule they are used to, this all too often poor attitude that has haunted me this season, the light is still there. Even though we are remembering the waiting, we don’t have to wait. God is here. God with us.

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To Dwell

Confession: This was actually the Friday Freewrite prompt from this week, but I needed a little more time to think on what I would write than Friday allowed, so here it is on Sunday.

Dwell: 1) to live at or in a specified place; 2) think, speak, or write at length about

In the first fifteen years of our together-ness, the Farmer and I (before he was a farmer) lived in 13 different abodes (I would say houses, except some were tents). For the past 5 years, we have been living out family here in the little farm house. That means, for ten years, moving was our life. I don’t think I ever fully unpacked, and I didn’t even know to mourn the keepsakes that I shed for the sake of easy moving.

That said, dwelling is not something that I am good at, in either sense of the word. I am always looking to the next thing, adding to the never-ending list in the recesses of my brain. I greet the list first thing in the morning and I am lulled into dreamland by the list. It wasn’t always like this. Before there was so much – the constant need of others for food and clean clothes, the never-ending depths of messiness that we reach in our house, and the ever-growing list of tasks that running a farm entails, as well as the careful shepherding of the brains of the little people I am blessed to school at home – I was a more carefree girl (a little bit, at least).

But I have fallen into list world with a fierce vengeance. And list world leaves no room for dwelling in the now, for noticing the work of God in the world around me, his fingerprints on the Farmer and my babies. It’s hard to notice something that you aren’t even looking at.

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a sunset over the mountain that I couldn’t help but notice

My day to day action reflects these lists. Chores: check. Schoolwork: check. Read and snuggle: check. Play outside: check. Cook meals: Check. Bedtime snuggles and prayers: check. It all becomes a joyless doing of the mundane instead of the glory-filled worship that it was meant to be. That makes for a pretty hard life.

But when you aren’t a dweller, how do you dwell? Sometimes, the dwelling seeks out and finds even those who don’t dwell well. Friday, when I was supposed to be writing about dwelling, I actually found myself in the doing of it. I had my list, no doubt, but it wasn’t leading my day, stealing away my delight. Instead, I found delight right there, just in the doing.

I wrangled three kids to get haircuts, then went to a friend’s for lunch, after which we sat in the sweet autumn sun on her back porch with our hands wrapped around tea mugs, reconnecting while our kids played in the back yard. Then it was home to drop off the boys and whisk Little Red off to ballet. Back at home, we ended the day, all five of us piled up on the couch watching a movie.

Instead of living that day as a list, I lived that day as it was, as me, with all the ups and downs that came with not having the control that a list (falsely) guarantees. Along the way, though, I enjoyed the blessing of a sister friend who opens her home freely and comes alongside me in this journey through the world. I felt the joy of dancing along with Little Red as she came running out from class in her tiny ballet shoes. And I felt the blessing of a crazy, healthy, busy, loving family as I snuggled on the couch, piled under all this love the Farmer and I brought into this world. As I lay there, I knew I didn’t have the answer, that this day of dwelling was an unasked for blessing, an answer to prayer I didn’t even know I had prayed.

But the answers were there, waiting to be unmasked. While we were sitting in church this morning, the pastor brought up dwelling (are you sensing a theme, here?). We were reading Ephesians 5:15-21, where Paul is talking about how to have a spirit-filled life. Surprise, one of the keys to a spirit-filled life is to dwell in the word of God, as it says in Colossians 3:16-

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

A spirit-filled life is what we all want, right? I don’t want a life of lists and pushing onward, I want a life where I dwell in the spirit, and to do that I need live in the scripture, to make a haven and snuggle myself into God’s word. I need to think on it at length. Not just on Sunday morning, or in the five minutes of peace I get during the day. I need to dwell in and on God’s word like I live my lists. Instead of a checklist coming out through my actions, I want a God-list overflowing onto everything I touch – a list of all the blessings and love that he pours out on me daily so that I can share with others. That is where I am meant to dwell.

 

 

Technicolor days

Something about the crisp, cool air of autumn draws all the colors of the outdoors into a higher contrast. Wednesday morning, as I was out early to get to homeschool co-op on time, I pulled up to the stop sign at the end of our little road. I glanced up and my breath was literally taken away by the view of the fog hovering over the mountain as fingers the of day’s fresh sunlight streamed through the opaqueness. It was something to behold, something I needed to behold to get me through that errand-filled day.

As I continued my drive into co-op, I have to confess that it was difficult to tear my eyes from the beautiful world. I was seeing it for the first time, again. My eyes were opened afresh to the beauty of the autumn and my heart was renewed by the glory that we forget to notice in this world around us.

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Often, I get caught up in life, I am carried away by the chores over here, the fighting little people over there, my own expectations for myself that aren’t being met everywhere. In those places, when I am caught in the deep rapids, I am not always able to regulate my emotions so well. That is when mean face angry mommy comes out. That is when grumpy for no reason wife comes out.

But, sometimes, I am able to see life for what it really is – I am able to see it in vivid relief, in technicolor. And on those days, I am different. I can see the real circumstances and I acknowledge the emotions rising under the surface and I take the time to diffuse.

Today, this morning, was one of those moments. One of those times when God opens my eyes to how things really are and to what needs to happen. It was cleaning day and to no one’s surprise, I came upon resistance amongst my league of little people. All the whining finally broke my resolve to handle this calmly, and the anger started rising. For some reason, instead of my usual go-to reaction of blowing my top, I went to my room and began my p&p therapy (pacing and praying). “God, please help me deal with this effectively. I am at a loss as to how to do this parenting thing that you have called me to.”

Therapy finished, I walked into the kids’ room. I have no idea what I said – it was not planned out. I just spoke the words God had put in my mouth, I suppose. It was something along the lines of “you can choose right now how you want things to go today by your actions.” It was met with much huffing and many threats of what they were going to do instead of obey. With a sense of calm, I walked out of the room.

Later, taking an item down the hall in the midst of my cleaning frenzy, I glanced in the bedroom to see people cleaning! I was stunned! It all happened without me getting angry. Mean face angry mommy was no where to be found! This is what God’s power can do in my family and my parenting. Just like the clarity that comes with the crisp autumn air, my black and white, unnoticeable river of the same old everyday was suddenly thrown into vivid technicolor – I was seeing the richness of God’s glory.