Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Faith Response

I've been on a trip.

It was a trip on which my spirit was renewed, my soul was encouraged, and I fell in love with the little state of Iowa.

Iowa is not at all what I expected, and what I expected was pretty much fields of corn in a vast expanse of nothing else. No, it's hilly and green, and there plenty of trees, and cornfields, yes, but they give a golden hue to the land and a warmth unmatched by any other place I've been. And the old farmhouses fill that land with a sense of timeless appeal that speaks to a quiet soul such as mine, one that longs for solitude.
 
And it was there at a little church in the middle of all this solitude where I found what I've been looking for and didn't even know it. I was reminded of what it's like to know the One who gives me the quiet that I seek, along with the companionship that I need.
 
How To Have Hope In Trials
(Not Iowa, obviously, but taken on the way.)
“Be still and know that I am God.”

Initially, our primary purpose for going on this trip was to attend a bible conference and discuss a new ministry project, but as I quickly discovered, I was wrong about the primary purpose.
 
Because, of course, He orchestrates all things.

We all have a hard time being an encouragement to others if we ourselves are not encouraged, but that has been a problem lately – there is little out there to find very inspiring or encouraging.
 
I can't hardly get on social media – or any media, really – these days without becoming incredibly sad, or angry, or overwhelmed. I don't know if you've noticed or not, but things in this world are not alright. Maybe they've never been alright, except in the Garden, but the tension seems greater now, the circumstances particularly more dire.
 
But what I learned from the hearts that I connected with on this trip is that there are others like me. We are not alone in this world. We're together in the fight.
 
I am not the only one who has been looking around at everything that is taking place and wondering if the whole world has gone mad.
 
I'm not the only one who gets angry, who sometimes wants to punch some sense into people.
 
I'm not the only one who has allowed it to weigh me down, who has wondered if it's all completely hopeless.
 
I'm not the only one with fears.
 
And I'm not the only one who is resting in the hope that comes from Him.

That's a big one – the key issue. It's the one we're not supposed to talk about, you know. You're crazy if you mention anything about the forces of good and evil – call it anything but a 'spiritual issue'. But what is evil if not the absence of good? And darkness, if not the absence of light?

What is the absence of God?
 
I don't know how people remember 9/11 and still don't believe evil exists. I don't know how they mourn beheaded children and still don't believe evil exists. The only answer I can come up with is – because evil exists.
 
So if there is anything that can at all be an encouragement in these uneasy times, as we reflect on 9/11 and everything that has happened since, everything that has happened before in the course of human history and everything that waits for us in the days to come, it's Him. It's the fact that His presence resides in other souls, in the cornfields of Iowa, in the house down the street. He surrounds us in ways we could never dream.
 
We are not alone in the fight.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping With The Kids: Big Lessons In Little Adventures

I considered making up my own word and titling this post Camping and Creeking With The Kids (as in, playing in creeks), but then I discovered that according to Urban Dictionary, creeking is also a term derived from the 90's teen drama Dawson's Creek that means overthinking a situation or feeling until it becomes more complicated than it really is, and I thought that would be just a little too ironic because, let's face it, I do that.

I overthink because I want to overteach. Lately at home I haven't felt I've been doing the best job of giving my kids what I feel they need – a mom who is not stressed, who is patient, who is living by example. We all have a little mom guilt now and then, right? Lately I've allowed some of the pressures of life and the crushed expectations and the self-loathing thoughts to stand in the way of me doing my most important job, and I've been struggling to figure out how to get back to the basics.

I've been hurting, and I've needed to heal. For me, yes, but also for them.

Spiritual Healing Found In Nature
Life Lessons Found In The Wild
 
During the past couple of weekends we spent some time 'getting away'. It should be clear to all of us by now that in our world, it's hard to escape all the wrong things that get thrown at us everyday.

More is Better. Beauty is Success. Life is about ME. Don't think – just fill up your mind with everything that can distract you from how miserable existence is.

So the thing we need to do is take the time to escape it.

This is what I learned (and re-learned) by 'getting away from it all' with my family:
 

What I Learned Beauty Is Found In Simple Pleasures

When we go on camping trips, my husband brings way too much food. He says camping is for eating lots of delicious camp snacks, and and he also claims that while camping, calories don't count. (If only that were true...) But food really does seem to taste better in the outdoors, after working up an appetite in the water or on a trail, and feeling the warm sun on your face and the lake wind blow through your hair really is better than any movie you'll ever see.

Less Is Better, By Far

I read a few articles about camping with kids before we went on our trip, and though many of them had some great ideas, I decided that taking a giant tub full of toys to make sure they stayed entertained was not the way to go for us. I spend so much of my time at home cleaning up toys or supervising the cleaning up of toys that I was determined to get away from it for a while. And guess what? They made their own fun, and there was nothing to fight over. My determination to simplify has been renewed, and I once again remember the significance of packing light, in all types of baggage we may carry in life.

The Importance Of Sacrificing Comfort

Too much comfort results in too much expectation. When you go without life's little luxuries, you remember to be thankful, and you are better equipped to teach that thankfulness to your children.

And one morning around 4 am, when you need to pee and leave your tent with your flashlight and walk off into the darkness, you will remember what it's like to be brave. You might choose your spot, shut off the flashlight, and just as you squat, hear a growl behind you. You may think, that was probably a snore, not a growl, and glance toward the direction of the tent, but then you will hear it again – the low, guttural sound of a nocturnal animal – and realize it's definitely behind you.

As you try to mentally will yourself to pee faster, you might also talk yourself into believing you are not terrified, but your heart's thudding in your chest and the speed at which you approach the tent while yanking up your shorts mid-stride will say otherwise.

And then you will be really, REALLY thankful that you have a shelter to go home to and don't usually have to worry about being mauled to death in the middle of the night by a wild beast.

(Or maybe you will get lucky, and that won't happen to you at all, since it already happened to me, but the key is that these kinds of adventures teach you to handle whatever comes your way.)

Having Gratitude When It's HardTo See It All Through Their Eyes 

Every adventure, no matter how small, is grand in the eyes of your children. If you fall off the inner tube, you can still remember how fun it was to ride. You can look forward to the s'more at the end of the day. You may trip on the rocks, but your toes still never felt so good than when the creek was rushing over them.

You can be thankful for the experience, all good and bad of it. When it's all fresh and new, the gratitude comes easy.
Connection Is Healing
 
The experience is only what it is because you're together – the bonds you create with your family and with your Creator are more meaningful than anything else you could ever do.

When the trip is over, you may have to come back home to 'reality', but maybe reality wasn't what you thought it was. And maybe it's good to do a little 'creeking' now and then...because maybe you'll realize that it's all just one small part of one great big adventure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reasons Your iPad May Be Running Out Of Storage Space

Children Are So Random

Kids Are Sneaky

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seasons Of Grace: Revealing The Blessings That Are Already There

Finding Grace
What I love most about the summer is how everything feels so comfortable. We are not sick week after week, as seems to be the case during winter. We can choose to stay home and relax in the comfort of the air conditioning or go somewhere fun to refresh ourselves with water play. We enjoy veggies from grandma's garden and lower prices on fruit from the market. There is an abundance of activities, from picnics to parties, from swinging to swimming.

When it gets cold, I feel like I go into hibernation for part of the year, waiting for the world to thaw. But the winter months bring about a different kind of peace – there are warm fires, Christmas lights, hot tea, and cozy sweatpants. Each season has its highs and lows. And even if I start to miss the warmth of summer, what sustains me throughout that freeze is the memory of the time I spent in the sun – and the knowledge that it will one day come again.

I try to remember through all the season changes that attitude and perspective are what make life, and after all the sorrow and heartache I've witnessed or been apart of or read about, it seems impossible to NOT have a good attitude, when I realize what could be.

I'm one of those people who plans road trips by mapping out the restaurants and hotels at the exits along the way. Road trips can be fun, but they can be so much more fun if approached with meticulous forethought, right? You could eat at the perfect diner, pump gas at the cheapest station, and never have an emergency pee stop as long as you know where all the rest areas are!

Except this is life, and it doesn't always go according to our best laid plans. I've mentioned one of these road trips before...the one where Hannah and I got really sick just as it began...and the urgent care we stopped at along the way was closed because the doctor had gone up to Alaska to birth babies (Yes, seriously – that's what the sign said)...and we got snowed in on the way to our destination AND on the way back...and our car battery died and had to be replaced.
 
When Life Is Hard Attitude Counts

Despite all of that, it's still one of the best trips we've ever taken. We encountered so much grace on that journey. My baby was sick, but I learned to lean on my parental instincts a little more. We got stuck in Moab, Utah, which is a simply beautiful, quaint, majestic place to get snowed in. And the car battery died literally steps away from a mechanic shop.

We also got to spend Christmas in Colorado with family. It was all worth it.

And yet I wouldn't know that if I couldn't see it. That grace spills over into my life day after day – it is always there, whether or not I choose to look at it. And I suppose that's why I try to remember to look for it, and why I tend to write about the better parts of motherhood on this blog, or at least I have a habit of putting a happier spin on the tough parts, and why I almost always try to offer encouragement or a 'happy ending' in everything I write about.

I never, ever want to reach a place where I'm ignoring grace. We need to grab hold of our blessings. Sometimes I wonder if people think I'm too positive, too happy, too annoyingly 'look on the bright side'. I will admit that I believe I grew up facing situations that led me to develop that attitude as a defense mechanism – but I'm grateful for it.

Christ Brings Me Joy
I'm grateful to be living this life – to have precious moments to capture, to have opportunities to fight for what I believe in, to have comforts and joys and sorrows to share, and to have relationships to build along the way.

I'm grateful for it because I don't always feel that way. No one does, not all the time.
 
How Do I Find Joy Again In My LifeIn fact what I tend to feel most of the time is a sense of trying to find some quiet in the midst of a busy life. If I have a day when there have been extra messes or extra stresses (which seems to happen a lot when you have young children), I start to feel as though I'm losing myself, and I feel rushed to get to the end of the day, when I can find the quiet stillness again.

But one night a week or so ago, I cuddled with Hannah and Abram while I read them a couple of stories, and when we finished, I didn't feel so rushed. I suddenly had the urge to sing, something I haven't done much of since they were babies. I went through several verses of Amazing Grace while both kids snuggled up against me. I stopped at one point and Abram drowsily said, “Mama...sing. Sing, mama.”

So much sweetness. Abram ended up falling asleep in my arms, something he hasn't done in months. It was a rare, still moment. And in it, I found grace.

I hope I can remember to appreciate all the seasons – all the storms, all the sunshine, and all the cold. There is good to be found in it all. There is grace to be found in it all. And the seasons are always changing.