I took a bit of a blogging break this past week. I didn’t intend to, but God is slowly teaching me to reorder my priorities. If I had it my way, I would be writing here every day, sharing my thoughts that are always brewing, bubbling under the surface.
But… I have a family who I love dearly, little eyes that watch me and look to me for guidance. I have a husband who relies on me to take care of our home so that he can faithfully carry out the ministry God has called him to. I have a sister and family who traveled to see us this past week and time spent with them is always treasured. There are really no words for the blessing of family- family that is so dear! And I have friends who pour into me and who I am blessed to pour into.
All of these things mean that sometimes, I don’t get the opportunity to write like I would like to. But today is the Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It is always a day that is rich with meaning. And I don’t want to miss the opportunity to share my thoughts.
On Monday, we took a trip to Watkins Glen State Park, a must see park that has been compared to Rivendell of Lord of the Rings fame. I had no doubt that my sister would love this place and that her heart would be captivated by it as mine has been. We had a lovely drive, it was a gorgeous day, but then we arrived at the park only to find that the path through the gorge was closed due to wintry conditions.
I felt my heart sink. We had traveled so far and I had been anticipating this trip with my sister ever since we discovered it 2 years ago. My anticipation moved from hope to hopeless in the space of 30 seconds.
But I had just told my sister about how I have been learning to make the most of every opportunity, to not back down from adventure simply because it doesn’t line up with my expectations. And so, I determined in my heart to make the most of the opportunity we did have.
We were able to hike a path overlooking the gorge and while it was not the full experience, it was still beautiful and it gave us a different perspective then we would have had walking through the gorge. We were able to enjoy one another, there was a great deal of laughter and there were still photo opportunities that none of us regret!
On days like today, my mind goes to what the disciples, the followers of Jesus were experiencing. They had accepted that Jesus was the Messiah their hearts had been longing for. They had seen the miracles, they had sat under his teaching, they knew that he was more than just another prophet. But then they watched him die.
And here they were on Saturday, reeling from the events of the past week. A week that had started with Jesus being celebrated as he returned to Jerusalem. A week that had turned horribly wrong when one of his followers betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. The disciples had agonized as they watched their teacher treated with incomprehensible injustice. And they had turned their backs on the horrific scene before their eyes, because they couldn’t fathom such hatred, such abuse and they couldn’t imagine being treated in the same way because of their relationship to Jesus.
The euphoria had quickly turned to despair and I imagine that Jesus’ “people” were reeling from all that they had felt and seen over the past few days. How could they make sense of it all?
We know the end of the story and if I could travel back in time, I would want to say just wait!!! Your sorrow will be turned to joy! Your hopelessness, your despair will once again find victory! Jesus wins!!!
But sometimes, we don’t get to know the end of the story and we are living in the Saturday- in the in between time. And how do we hope in those times?
When life seems hopeless, we need to ask ourselves what are we focusing on? Are we living in the disappointment, the things that have not lived up to our expectations? Are we holding onto our despair, our hopelessness?
Or are we willing to look beyond ourselves, to search for what God might have for us here and now? Are we trusting in Him? Do we have the faith that He is truly God, that His will and His plan WILL be accomplished?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
~Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
Dear husband mine,
Today I found the journal that I wrote in during our engagement. And I sat on the floor and read every single word.
It has been 16 years (nearly 17!) since you proposed to me on the rock overlooking Devil’s Lake. I will never forget the way you knelt in the mud and told me you loved me.
The journal was full of my growing love for you. And here we are all of these years later, having lived in 4 different states, 7 different homes, 1 baby in heaven and 4 that fill our home with the loudest noises and the greatest joys.
And my love for you keeps growing and growing and growing. We have shared heartaches and difficulties, betrayals and harsh treatment. And we have made mistakes and we have regrets or at least things we would have done differently. But our lives have been painted with colors so vibrant, so breathtaking that I am amazed.
I can’t help but praise our great God for the way He led us to each other. For His perfect timing in allowing us to enjoy one another. For the way He orchestrated your first youth pastor job. For the loss that showed us how deep our faith goes. For the gift of Lindsay and then Ethan. For the way He kept tugging at your heart to pursue adult ministry. For leading us to Connecticut and the friendships we made that have left indelible marks on our hearts. For the surprise of Gibson. For the gift of Orchard Community and the opportunity for you to step into the role that God clearly has for you. For coming home. And then to be blessed with one more completely undeserved gift, our Ainsley Rose.
Are there words to express how blessed we have been? God has created a beautiful work of art in our marriage.
So, thank you, Babe! For being the man I fell in love with all of those years ago. And for being the one who I keep falling in love with every single day.
Linking with a beautiful community of writers at Lisa-Jo Baker’s Place. On Fridays, we write for 5 minutes on the prompt given without overthinking or overediting. And then we encourage other writers, because that is the heart of community.
When I saw the prompt “paint”, my first thought was about the time my husband and I painted our kitchen. I was adding some touch ups and he discovered that I had been using a pastry brush!!! That story still makes us laugh. But this post is what came out instead. Writing is like that! You never know where it might take you. Kind of like painting…
A few weeks ago (has it really been that long?!!), I had the privilege of attending a conference for moms who desire to be intentional about raising the next generation. The conference was exactly what I hoped it would be- a sweet uniting of two of my worlds, my real life friends and my online blogging friends- with one exception. I was sick.
Th irony of being sick for the first night I would be away from my 10 month old baby girl was not lost on me. It wasn’t until I was kissing my family goodbye that I even realized it would be my first night in nearly a year that I would not be listening for baby cries or available to calm fears and kiss foreheads.
I felt perfectly fine on the hour and a half ride to beautiful Corning, NY. My dear friend sat by my side and we were not lacking for conversation. We had intentionally planned to arrive early to our destination with the desire to set a slow pace for the weekend. Window shopping on main street and enjoying authentic Japanese food with chopsticks as the only utensil option was memorable. The sun was shining and my heart felt light.
But then… my head started to feel pressure and my throat was on fire. By the time all of our friends arrived and we sat down for dinner, I was feeling not-so-great. My spirits were still high. This is what happens when you have the opportunity to be in the same place with friends who you love dearly, but don’t get to see often. There were many hugs and lots of love shared.
Dinner was wonderful and the chalkboard centerpiece was by far one of my favorite centerpieces EVER! Then the beautiful organizer and founder of The Raising Generations Today Conference , September McCarthy started to speak. I met September nearly 2 years ago and have been blessed by her words, but mostly by her love for Jesus and for her children. It is impossible to spend any time with September and not have a passion for others and for life rub off on you.
Where the love runs deep, you are safe to be you.
As she spoke, my heart resonated with these words. Where the love runs deep… I want our home to be a safe place. I want my kids to be free to be who God is making them to be. How are we developing a deep love among our family members?
This has been a question that has been replaying in my mind. And then this morning, I was a witness to the morning greeting between my nearly 11 year old girl and my 5 year old boy. The boy ran and leaped into the girl’s arms and they squeezed one another with exuberance. Then the little one said to the bigger one, “When you come home from school, let’s play Barbies and then we can do handstands.”
Sigh. Our love runs deep, we are safe to be ourselves. And so my next question, how am I inviting others to feel safe with me? Am I loving well?
And so, the weekend began with a great challenge for my heart.
After dinner, my mom friends from my church joined my roommate and I for a pajama party. We talked late into the night and despite my fuzzy head, it was a beautiful, treasured time. As moms, we spend so much of our time taking care of our kids, shuttling them to activities, and just keeping up with our homes and life and we are not always intentional about taking time to make sure our own friendships are being developed and cultivated.
If this was all I had received from this weekend away- the opportunity to talk and laugh with my friends- it would have been a successful weekend.
But God had so much more for me.
I struggled a bit on Saturday, because as the day wore on, I felt worse and worse. And when I am sick, I find that my ability to handle difficulty is not very high. I had a hard time with trying to check out of the hotel and at the same time get through a buffet lunch line. The schedule felt jam packed and my aching head needed a slower pace. The sessions were full to overflowing and my mama heart had a hard time with this- I wanted everyone to have a seat, I wanted everyone to feel welcomed.
I share these things, because this is the reality of life, isn’t it? There are no situations that are perfect. Even (especially?) motherhood. But I have this feeling that this was part of what God desired for me this weekend. My heart needs to rest in Him. Always. While friends and conferences and my children are a huge blessing in my life, they will never be enough to fill up my soul. My “enough” must be found in Jesus. So even with a pounding head, God was speaking to my restless heart and wooing me back to Himself.
The sessions and the conversations with blogging friends on Saturday were exactly what God intended for me.
I could write a whole post on what I took away from Elisa Pulliam’s session on mentoring tweens and teens. The challenges that stuck with me?
There is no formula to turn out the perfect child.
Look at them as a “strong leader” instead of “strong willed”.
God has the answers so if we really believe this, we have to release the control of thinking WE have the answers.
Direct orders can have their place, but work best when you have established a relationship of discussion.
Elisa’s words were so timely for me as I am navigating through new waters with my Lindsay girl. She encouraged us to see our relationships with tweens and teens as a side by side relationship. Great challenge for me!
And then! Then I had the opportunity to hug these two beautiful women who I absolutely adore. Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker radiate with the love of Christ. They are passionate about the Word of God, about prayer and about offering hope through their words and their lives. If you are looking for great books that will encourage you and challenge you on your mothering journey, I cannot recommend their books highly enough.
I sat in the front row of their session, feeling miserable and at the same time praying for these two who I have grown to love. As expected, they offered HOPE in the form of an acronym. H- Honestly admit where you are. O- Openly invite Him into your mess. P- Pray Continuously. E- Encourage your heart with God’s Word. It was the perfect benediction to the weekend!
In addition to these conversations, I was blessed to hug these lovely ladies…
Crystal Stine from crystalstine.me.
Trina Holden from trinaholden.com.
And there were several others who are a blessing in my life, but I didn’t get a picture with them, so here are some older pictures…
Phew! We are very white in these pictures, but the love is so huge (don’t let their names fool you- the love I have for these two God-honoring women is anything but little!). Lisa Littlewood from littlewritermomma.com and Traci Little from ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com.
An old picture of me and Lisa-Jo. “The gypsy mama” as she calls herself was one of the very first blogs I started following and Lisa-Jo continually inspires me to be real and genuine and to pursue my dreams of being a great mama AND a faithful writer. I love her. She signed her new book at the conference and I have been devouring it the past several nights. I will do a full review on “Surprised by Motherhood” very soon. But suffice it to say, it is a must read. Lisa-Jo spoke at the RGT conference and honestly, I could listen to her speak every single day. She is passionate, real, God-loving and South African. Enough said!
I was completely blessed by blogging and life conversations with Annie Barnett from Be Small Studios , Faith Bogdan from faithbogdan.com and by Shaun Groves, singer, blogger and advocate for Compassion International (we will save those posts for another day!).
What it comes down to is this- being a mom is a privilege, but raising the next generation to love Jesus does not happen without intention. This weekend away was a challenging reminder to be deliberate about how I teach and train my children. Most importantly, it was a reminder to simply love Jesus with all my heart and trust my great God to work in the hearts of my kids.
My health has returned and has left hope and a renewed desire to serve my family well in its place!
In church this morning, we sang Majestic by Lincoln Brewster. As we were singing the chorus I was picturing places I have been and I thought I would share them with you today…
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.