The Time I almost met a great author, and Look – a Book Sale!

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A few of my favorite things

A few of my favorite things

So, some of the great benefits of attending TGCW18 was first of all, free books!

Yes!  Each lady in attendance was given a copy of John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God, along with a few other books.  I was SO excited about being handed Piper’s book when we registered the first day of the conference because I had really wanted to order the book about a month ago and decided to wait rather than buy myself one.more.book.

AND second, having access to the conference Bookstore, which was actually an enormous exhibit room filled to the brim with table after table of amazing book finds written by Biblically solid authors for all walks of life.  Dozens of these books were on major sale (like 50% off) so I already had my list ready and came home with some gems that had already been on my wishlist for a while.  (But I’ll just have you know I showed a good deal of restraint.)

I can already highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s In His Image.  Our church gave all the ladies a copy of this for mother’s day and it is rich.  Jen is funny and relatable but her books pack such a punch with the truth of God’s word and I really appreciate that.

I’ve also previously read Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin.  (I think this also was a mother’s day gift from our church, if I remember correctly – are we lucky or what?)

So good, y'all.

So good, y’all.

So right now, Christianbook.com has both of these books on sale.  So if you’re interested, hop on over there and snag them.  I don’t get any kind of benefits from saying this – just don’t want you to miss a sale on some good books.

I haven’t yet started Rosaria Butterfield’s beautiful book called The Gospel Comes with a House Key. (Also on sale right now at Christian Book right here)!!!!  I picked it up while I was In Indy.  It’s been on my list a while but I’ve got so many books going on right now and I want to give this one the time it deserves.  I have a feeling it’s going to cut deep to the heart.  But I have started listening to her teaching she presented at TGCW18 on the same subject.  She is just a joy to listen to, and to be around!

I briefly met her in person (well, almost) in the Indianapolis airport when we were flying home, although I didn’t know it at the time.  I was leisurely strolling back from the sandwich shop not far from our gate when I saw our church  ladies all lined up for a group photo. After the pic was taken, and I caught up to the group, they were all huddled around this delightful lady who was speaking wonderful words of blessing over the group and then said she was on her way home and had already called in her Thai food order to her husband. She was the likeness of a butterfly, I’m telling you.  She just shined with love and seemed to float away to her gate.  Just lovely.

There's Rosaria in the middle of this stellar group of sisters.

There’s Rosaria in the middle of this stellar group of sisters.

After she walked off I asked my friend, “who was that?” thinking they had all bumped into another attendee of the women’s conference and started chatting about the great time we’d all shared.

My friend grinned at me, “that was Rosaria Butterfield.”

Facepalm.  Figures.  I had known her name and her writings but not her face.  Story of my life.

That’s okay.  I’m about to go finish listening to her session at TGCW18.  What I’ve listened to so far is already so good.

And listen guys, I am not affiliated in any way with The Gospel Coalition, or Christian Book or any of these authors.  They don’t know I exist (apparently because I spend my time at airport sandwich shops instead of waiting at the gate, ahem) and I don’t get any kind of credit or support if you follow the links above.  I just want you to take advantage of some really solid teaching.  So please do!

P.S. At least it was a really good sandwich.

 

 

 

What Every Generation Needs to Know

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Photo Credit: Superfamious Studios

Photo Credit: Superfamous Studios

Okay, show of hands.  How many of you have asked this question: what am I supposed to do with my life?

Yep. We can all give a virtual wave and high-five to each other and now we can all put our hands down.  We’ve all asked this question, right?

There have been libraries of books written on the subject of finding your purpose, your passion, your destiny, your calling – whatever the hot term is at that moment.

Speakers and authors ask us, “What will be your legacy?  How will you leave your mark on the world? What will you leave behind for the generation that follows?”  And deep down each of us hope we don’t waste our life.

John Piper even wrote a book called Don’t Waste Your Life, which I highly recommend, by the way.

I really think this current generation has more pressure in this area than maybe any generation before them.  Social media has exploded the opportunities to put yourself out there and “do a thing”.

This is a thing, “doing a thing”; have you noticed?

“I just did a thing,” my friend posts when she’s announcing the launch of her new business.

Or maybe another friend just “did a thing” and decided to change careers.  Or another friend may post she “did a thing” with a photo of the home they just bought.

I’m tempted to look around my bustling large-family household in our 90-year old home in constant need of repair and see the laundry, and the bickering kids, and the pile of mail, and the dust, and the kitchen cabinet doors that won’t stay closed without a wooden spoon shoved in the doorhandles …. I fall into bed exhausted every night and feel like we didn’t accomplish anything.   I’m tempted to feel like “this thing” I’m “doing” is broken and dysfunctional and doesn’t matter.

We all want to “do a thing” and then we want to do another thing, and another and we want those things to matter and make a difference in the world.  And if life gets routine and mundane we may be tempted to feel like we’re not really doing a thing with our lives.

Jeffrey and I were just talking about this one night after the kids went to bed.  Well most of them.  The 2.5 year old still thinks she’s one of the adults and we’re kind of too tired to fight this, so she was talking to herself in our full length mirror and digging in the bedside tables while we plopped down on the bed and started chatting.

There was a time when we both felt like we had arrived at  “the thing” we were supposed to do with our lives.   We dove into youth ministry and then into full-time missions and then Jesus took the wheel and drove us to Southeast Texas and left us here.

I’m kidding.  I mean, yes, that’s basically what happened, but He never leaves us or forsakes us – even in Southeast Texas (wink).

And in the fifteen years since our exile – I mean our finding a home base here in Texas – I have spent at least a decade continuing to ask, “God, what do you want us to DO?”   Do you know He mostly has been completely silent on that one?   And believe me I gave Him a whole slew of ideas.  He’s not opened a door on a single one of them.

My restless feet just didn’t want to stay put. Maybe because we’ve been told all our lives to “Dream Big” and we were “Made for Big things”.

But in this time that our roots have been growing deep here, and our love for the people here has grown rich and strong, so has the understanding that what Jen Wilkin said in her message at TGCW18 is true – God isn’t so much concerned with what we DO, but in who we are to the world.  Namely, that we are the image of Christ to those in our everyday lives.

It’s not that what we DO doesn’t matter at all to God – of course it does.  Scripture depicts Jesus, at the time of judgement, telling His faithful sheep “what you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.”

We are called to visit the widow and orphan in their distress – that’s doing something.  We are called to care for the poor and defend the fatherless.  That’s doing something.  We are called to be salt and light to the world.  We are called to teach and baptize and make disciples.  All of that often entails doing something. Lots of somethings.

But maybe more often it entails just being someone.  Being loving. Being patient.  Being kind.  Exemplifying forgiveness. Being a listener. Being steadfast in prayer. Being merciful.  This is being Someone: the image of who Christ is to a world who desperately needs to see Him.

Doing something for God with our lives first means that we DO THIS: loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And loving others.  Putting others first.   This is first a matter of the heart before it’s a matter of the hands and feet.

As Kristie Anyabwile said in her message at TGCW18, “There should be something on the inside of our heart that is working on the outside, working on those around us.”

Doing things for God, absent of real, I’ll-abandon-everything-for-you kind of love for God is empty works.  And if we’re doing things for people for any other reason than first our love for God and then our desire to put others before ourselves, it’s also empty works.

Too often I like to tell myself that I’m doing something out of my love for God or others, when really it’s because it makes me feel good and productive.

And too often I want God to give me something big and grand to do for Him because I’m too bored and impatient to just love my neighbor and show kindness and forgiveness to the kids in my house who really push my buttons.

Jen Wilkin said something else about this that just jolted me right there in my conference seat:

“When we ask God, ‘tell me what to do’, we are really asking to know the future.”

I thought about it for a minute and it’s true – I want to know which of these decisions, God, will turn out well?  Which school or spouse or job should I pick (I know if You tell me which one then everything’s gonna be hunky dorey.)

“We trust more in outcomes instead of the God Who can use all outcomes.” – Jen Wilkin

We don’t have to ask God what His will is for our lives.  He’s already told us: Love God with all your heart… and love others – put them before yourself.

We don’t need to be empowered and strong and fierce – or any of the other trending adjective.  We don’t have to do a big thing to be pleasing to God and be used by Him in His overarching plan for the world.  We need only to love Him.

And bear His image of Christ to the world by growing in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I don’t know about you, but I could use another decade growing in these areas.

If we spent half as much time digging in prayer and the Word, striving to let God mold us in these areas as we do building our platform or our business model, we’d be doing a far deal more for the Kingdom.

Show the world who God really is.  That’s what every generation needs to know.  And that’s what every generation needs to do.

**This is the 2nd in a series of posts sharing tidbits from TGCW18 conference I recently attended.  For the first post, go here.**

**Want to go deeper?  Visit TGCW18 to watch the conference messages for yourself. You’ll want to grab your notebook and pen first – trust me! **

 

 

 

Promised Grace for Rebel Hearts

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Blog Post PhotoOkay first of all, how is it halfway through the year already?  I cannot believe we are over halfway through June!  For six months I was looking forward to attending The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference (TGCW18) in Indianapolis – and now I’ve already gone and come back and even unpacked my suitcase!

Outside Plane Window

The 16th floor had quite a view.  Although really we all know it's the 15th floor because no one likes to call the 13th floor the 13th floor....

The 16th floor had quite a view. Although really we all know it’s the 15th floor because no one likes to call the 13th floor the 13th floor….

Room View Selfie

 

I feel so blessed to have been able to attend this event – nearly 8,000 women from over 25 countries gathered to hear some amazing Gospel-centered teachers!  It was phenomenal, to say the least.

And you want to know one of the main factors that made this such a rich experience? I was with a group of 15 ladies from our church (2 formerly from our church but have moved away) – let me tell you – it’s been years since I’ve had that kind of bonding experience with a group of sisters.  I would tell you all kinds of funny stories, and mishaps that we laughed way too hard about, but I have been sworn to secrecy.  You know what they say about what happens in Indy…..

Boarding our flight. Are we excited because we made it through TSA? Because Southwest still serves peanuts?  Because we're about to spend 3 days together and not cook a single meal? You decide.

Boarding our flight. Are we excited because we made it through TSA? Because Southwest still serves peanuts? Because we’re about to spend 3 days together and not cook a single meal? You decide.

So blessed to spend quality time with these beautiful, unique, amazing sisters.

So blessed to spend quality time with these beautiful, unique, amazing sisters.

I DO want to share a few highlights and take-aways with you so you can have just a taste of what we experienced.  Honestly, three days drinking in the Word in this unique setting was like trying to sip from a fire hydrant – so I’m still pouring over my notes and processing what I took in.

I completely ran out of writing space and had to write on the inside flaps of my book, as well as on the front and back covers. #happyplace

I completely ran out of writing space and had to write on the inside flaps of my book, as well as on the front and back covers. #happyplace

And honestly, I’m not really a Women’s Conference Kinda gal.  I’ve been to a few too many where workshops entailed how to decorate your home or dress for success or apply your makeup (not kidding)…. and where the meatier messages were geared towards how God wants to empower us and give us a good life.  No thanks.  I don’t need more people telling me how to read the Bible like it’s all about me and how to fix my problems – my human nature is already tempted to do that.  I’ll just keep my conference fee in my pocket and stay home. Maybe catch up on laundry.

But a conference where teachers like Jen Wilkin say “the Bible is not a book about you; it’s a book about God…” and “we think when we see God we will respond with praise and twirling in a field of flowers, but in the Bible, when people saw God, they REPENTED!”  Ouch.  Yeah, that’s more along the lines of what my rebel heart needs.

Want more? Here’s what Jen said about seeking “God’s will” for our lives:

“We ask, ‘What do You want me to do, God?’ when we should be asking ‘Who do you want me to BE?’… What good is it to have the right job or spouse when we’re still the same self-focused person on the inside? His will for us is that we bear His image to others.”

But I divulge too much, too soon.

The teaching for this entire event was all centered in the book of Deuteronomy.

You read that right.  I mean, I have a degree in Religious Ed and I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to the Bible b/c I really love LOVE the Old Testament, but even I was scratching my head at how they were going to pull this off – a women’s event digging deep into Moses’ last words to the Israelites. Okay, then.

It was the most perfect word for my heart.  And apparently for thousands of other women present.  That should be no surprise since the Word of God is alive!

There are (currently, as I write this) four main take-aways I want to dig deeper into in the next four blog posts.  But for now I’ll leave you with this:

Moses’ message to the Israelites in the dessert, right on the brink of entering the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for decades was this: Remember.

Remember the God who brought you (your parents) out of slavery and provided for you over and over again in miraculous ways.  Remember how God has protected you so that not even your clothes or shoes have worn out.  Remember that He promised to bring you into this land and provide you with abundance that YOU had nothing to do with.  Remember how those before you squandered and refused this gift and grace and died here in the desert.  Remember that God has cut a covenant with you and promised to keep you always if you will be His people and follow Him in the ways He has set before you.  Listen to what Yahweh has said.  Listen and Live.

That same message for a rebellious people in a dry and harsh land thousands of years ago still applies to our rebel hearts today.  There’s more to come.  Who’s with me?

Want to drink from the fire hydrant?  Access the media from the conference and watch for yourself here!

Conf Book God's Story

 

 

 

 

 

What Every Family Needs

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blowing bubbles

A Recent Saturday
It’s late and cold on this January night, and most of the house is asleep. But I had some wheels turning as my head hit the pillow. I’ve finally learned that when thoughts begin to unfold themselves in my mind, it’s better to get them glued to the page before they float away on the wind of distraction. Better to strike while all the pistons are firing, I always say.
At least I’m saying it now.

So, here we are.

One Word for the Year?
For a couple of years on this blog, I would share my “Word of the Year” about this time each year – one word I naively thought would embody all that would come together over the following 12 months. I haven’t had a “word” for the past few years, unless that word was Survive and then Repeat.

But as this new year was approaching, there were a few words that kept ringing themselves towards the front of my mind, capturing my attention until they became quite clear and connected with one another. And I believe they could be anchors which will keep my wandering focus where it needs to be this year.

I’ll share one of those words with you tonight, but first, a tid-bit of a story.

Are We Really Seeing This?
This evening we had supper with some good friends. It was delicious and with our large family present, their home was quite lively. At one point, our 2-year-old and their 2-year-old were playing side by side, sitting on little push toys together on the living room floor.

Caught up in the adorableness, my friend grabbed her phone to sneak a few photos of the duo. “Cute!” she exclaimed. Sometimes we refer to the two girls as twins, which makes me giggle because our friends are Chinese. So their little darling, with her stunning black hair and black, slanted eyes is such a contrast to my little pale blonde girl with her round blue eyes.

The husband, watching his wife with a smile, said “she captures all the moments.” I noted how it’s another way we’re so dependent on our phones.

“Remember having to do this with actual film?”

Our friend reflected on this for a moment, remembering that there was a time when we would go somewhere or visit a friend and we would be there.
We would notice everything around us, we would really see it, experience it.

“Now, we just snap a photo or video of it, all the while never really seeing it,” he said.

It was a profound observation that I’ve been rolling around in my head.

We all know it, though we don’t really think about it. We don’t really have to live in this moment, notice those smiles, really take in that voice or the way the light plays on that scene at just this moment of the afternoon.

We don’t have to really pay attention. Because we can just capture it with our phone and then keep it forever. Look at it, “re-live” it whenever we want. But we’re never truly seeing it, living it. Being there. It’s another way we’ve learned to hoard.

It’s Not Just on TV 
We hoard 1,027 photos we never look at because we can take and store a near endless amount with almost no effort, unlike the days of taking a few photos because we only had that one roll of flim, and then only keeping the prints that actually turned out well.

(I know, some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, wink)

We hoard 7,000 emails we actually care nothing about when a few decades ago we had a little shoebox under our bed where we kept 7 letters, handwritten on paper. Worn thin and read a hundred times because they meant more to us than money.

We hoard the moment, instead of have that moment, to it’s fullest, just for that moment. We don’t appreciate that we’ll never really get that moment back. We steal it and put it in our pocket.

Store it on the cloud, instead of savor it, like we would if we believed that life is actually just a vapor.

We share it all over social media instead of sharing it just with that person next to us, who may not even be here tomorrow.

We can be all over the world at once, at the touch of our fingers,
and never really be present anywhere.

breakfast

A Cure for What Ails Us
One of my words – one of my anchors of the heart this year – is present.

To live the moment.  To study sound of the voice.  To memorize the lines of the face.  To really listen to the joke and laugh.

To enjoy the meal with my kids without gazing at a screen and scrolling with my fingertips.

To awe at the drawings and the lego creations because tomorrow it will be term papers and algebra equations the awkward drivers license photo.

To let them know I’m here. I see you. I hear you. I’m here for you in this moment. I’m not giving my half attention.

I really want to hear that story you’re telling. I really love that flower you picked. Because I know in twenty years I will cry at night and give anything to have these little moments back again.

And nothing on a screen in front of my face is more important to me than your face.

Under Attack
If I could tell every mom – every parent, really- to do one thing differently right now, it would be this. Put down your phone. Turn off the screen. Really see, really hear. Really engage with your children and your spouse.

I believe distraction and disconnect are two of the enemy’s strongest tactics in taking down families – and that IS his aim – to take down families.

There have been so many seasons where I have wistfully and in vain tried to have it all.  To live the double life of being the nurturing homemaker and educator of our children AND pursue my own life goals.

To not let my “ gifts and talents” fall old and unused by the wayside. Because, as all the world will tell you, I have something to offer the world! It would be a shame to waste my talents and my college degree. I used to do things, after all. I used to have purpose!

The enemy will lie to you and tell you that just being present in the everyday life of your home and spouse and children is equal to having no purpose. But I believe in the Kingdom of God it has great purpose.

To raise up arrows of light to be shot out into a dark world…

To show the world the love of a unified, loving, peace-filled, chaotic, messy, imperfect, joyful Christian home….

To show your children and the world what a life-long commitment to marriage vows and selfless love looks like…

To quench the firery darts of distraction and disconnect that the enemy flies at the heart of families – this is possessing great purpose.

Sometimes staying right where you are and doing just what you’re supposed to do day in and day out – takes more guts and integrity and courage and grit than pursuing something “amazing” that will “change the world”.

snow day

Bloom – really bloom – where you’re planted.

Invest in the few lives in your home in a way that will never go viral on social media. This is what the world needs.

Be present. It’s what the world needs. It’s what your family needs.

Jia You 加油

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So you’re probably wondering what that title means.  I’ll get to it in a minute.

Is it just me, or did the summer fly by faster than ever?  I mean, what happened?  I feel like I took a nap and woke up and hey, look, school supplies!

I’m not complaining, though.  We really love beginning new things, and we have loved jumping into our new school core.  And being halfway through August means we only have about two and half more months of sticky, hot, humid, mosquito-infested weather (fingers crossed).  And we are looking forward to doing all those idealistic homeschool things like taking walks, collecting things for our nature journals… reading or journaling or doing art out on the picnic table or trampoline (or sitting in a tree)… when the weather gets nice.  So, you know, maybe by early December we’ll be out there.  Right now we’re still cranking up the AC.

A nature walk from days gone by. Beautiful Colorado. There were no mosquitos.

A nature walk from days gone by. Beautiful Colorado. There were no mosquitos.

Enjoying the last few *months* of summer.

Enjoying the last few *months* of summer.

But wow, it still hasn’t slowed down.  Doctors appointments, dental appointments, veterinary appointments, new routines, necessary home repairs – the works.  And we have a lot of learning curves we’re juggling right now as attitudes get adjusted to a different work-loads and new chores and responsibilities for some of the kids.

It can really feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back when we’re moving towards certain goals and then something unexpected happens to throw some silly-putty into the cogs of our system to bog us down just as we get running smoothly.

Illnesses, late bills, unexpected expenses, car trouble, cavities, burnt dinner, toddler tantrum, dog vomit in the dining room…

You know, whatever.

One of the things the LORD has reminded me of this year is how to “Jia you”.加油

This is one of the many phrases we brought home from China with us and just incorporated into our vocabulary. (note: “you” is pronounced “yo”)

“Jia You” literally means to add oil or add fuel.  Think about an oil lamp that’s puttering out because it ran out of kerosene.  Or a car sputtering to a stop because someone ignored that little light on the dash board.  In order to keep the light burning and the car going, you have to add fuel.

But much like idioms or phrases in English, this has a different usage than just telling someone the obvious: “hey, put some gas in your car” or “hm, I think your lamp needs some oil

We yell “jia you” at a basketball game when we’re cheering on our team.  Or when our kid is running to the finish line and he’s neck and neck with two other runners.

We say “jia you” when  it’s the end of a long day and your friend just needs to push through that last bit of work.  We squeal “jia you, jia you!” when the toddler is just taking her first steps or the kindergartener is beginning to read sentences.

Basically, we use “jia you” to encourage – to say “Keep going!  You can do it!”

Don’t give up.

“Jia you” is something we say and something we do.

Jia you, son! One day you'll beat Daddy at Mancala.

Jia you, son! One day you’ll beat Daddy at Mancala.

I was thinking about this Wednesday as Jeffrey and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.  Fourteen years doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, especially when I look at my parents, who have been married over 40 years.  How do we get to THAT kind of anniversary?  By doing what my parents have done for 40+ years.  By doing what we have been doing for 14 years and counting – we keep going.  We fuel up and keep driving.  We add oil and keep the light burning.  We decide that we are not  going  to   quit.

Anniversary lunch date.

Anniversary lunch date.

Fourteen years and a few months ago. Yunnan Province, China. We look the same, no?

Fourteen years and a few months ago. Yunnan Province, China. We look the same, no?

There are so many things I’m working on in life right now, wether it be spiritual growth or personal goals or relationship goals,… or building new habits in home management or financial budgeting, … or helping the kids reach learning milestones… or learning something new myself.

To say my life looks a lot different now than when I was single and in seminary or working full time is just a laughably obvious statement.  Back in my 20’s I could spend hours of uninterrupted time studying a subject or practicing a skill or learning vocabulary or working on a project.

Now I can’t type a sentence of this blog post without being interrupted.  I’m not kidding.  One of the biggest frustrations I hear from moms (and from my own mouth as well) is how we can’t finish a project, a sentence, a thought without a myriad of interruptions.

This is what five minutes of quiet looks like - that's all the gum, unwrapped and broken into pieces. At least it's not in her hair?

This is what five minutes of quiet looks like – that’s all the gum, unwrapped and broken into pieces. At least it’s not in her hair?

Kids love to join me at the piano. Thus, I haven't played a song uninterrupted in about... a decade.

Kids love to join me at the piano. Thus, I haven’t played a song uninterrupted in about… a decade.

Needless to say this infinitely slows down productivity.

But the LORD is showing me as I’m going through this Metamorphosis of Motherhood that we needn’t measure success in the framework of time or checklists.

Here’s an example:
In January of this year, we decided as a family to read through the Bible in a year.  We figured out how many chapters we needed to read each night in order to get through the entire Bible by December 31st.

By April we were still reading the Bible as a family almost every single night, but were not able to get through the “right” number of chapters each night.  It became obvious that we weren’t going to finish the entire Bible by December.

But we didn’t quit.

It’s mid-August now, and we are halfway through the book of Job.  We’ve read more of the Bible together as a family this year than we ever have before!  SEVENTEEN entire books of the Bible! And we’re not stopping.  Some nights we read one chapter, most nights we read three.  And some nights it’s late and we don’t read at all, but we pick it up the next night.  We jia you.
We keep going.

We’re determined and committed.  We’re too far in to say “nah, this isn’t going how we thought, so let’s can it and pick something else to do during family worship each night.” No.  Maybe it will take us two years to finish the Bible together; I don’t know; we’re just gonna jia you.

Would we get to the end of December and look at all our kids and say, “guys, we didn’t make it. We only read all of the Old Testament and half the New Testament – we’re a bunch of losers!”  Of course not! I can’t even type that sentence without laughing; it’s so ludicrous.  We’re going to celebrate!  And then we’re gonna jia you!

We have enjoyed reading through the Bible so much!  All the kids look forward to it every night and there is always something interesting we come across.  We’ve learned so much already.

As the Chinese proverb goes: It’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey there.

Jeffrey and I aren’t sticking together day in and day out just so we can one day say “look! We’ve been married 40 years! Where’s our commemorative gold-rimmed plate?”  No!  We’re enjoying all the days, all the moments, just living this life together.  I hope it takes forever to get to year forty.

And this lesson transfers over to so many areas of our life where we have our eyes set on a goal. Wether I’m trying to love my husband better or listen to my children more or have a better organized routine- or a better attitude.  Wether the 5-year-old is learning to read, or the 11-year-old is learning a new math concept or we’re all learning a foreign language –

We’re going to hit things that slow us down or even cause us to stop for a bit.  There are going to be unexpected bumps. And many days we will feel like we’re making no progress at all and want to quit.  But as much as we are striving for the end result,  it’s also about all the moments along the way.  And in each moment we just keep choosing to jia you.

Just like a lamp doesn’t burn forever on a few ounces of oil and you can’t quit hitting the gas station if you want to keep driving your car – we will have to jia you again and again.

And again.

And what we’ll need when it matters most is more than a little pat on the back or a self-pep-talk.  We need real encouragement, real hope.  We need supernatural strength that doesn’t come from within ourselves.  We need Living Water.

We need a filling of the LORD’s presence that gives us real courage and hope for the future.  That keeps our perspective on eternal things so that we’re able to look away from the distraction of the momentary discouragement and put our hand to the plow once again.

And jia you.

We do this by daily going into the LORD’s presence, getting into His Word.  Sharing with Him our hearts, and listening to His.

There we find the hope and encouragement to believe the truth that it doesn’t matter if it takes twice as long to reach that goal as we had originally planned.

As long as we keep going.  And keep walking beside Him in the journey.

So if you’re learning a new skill, setting some better goals, or still working towards some old ones…

If you’re teaching your little ones or striving to keep your teen’s heart, or hoping to connect more deeply with your spouse or with the Lord –

Don’t give up, Friends.  Jia You.

 

 

 

For Such a Time as This

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It’s not a perfect day for blogging over here.  Jeff and I are running on little sleep from the last two nights.  The (almost) two year old is tantruming right now because she wants her homemade popsicle,  but she doesn’t.  None of us can figure out what she wants, least of all her.

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One of my eleven year olds is tantruming right now because he wants to be a part of us, but he doesn’t. He can’t figure out what he really wants either.

My firstborn is rip-sticking in the house, and two of the younger kids are rollerblading- one of them just tried to rip-stick with rollerblades on – and all of it is basically rendering me unable to think because I don’t do well with chaos. (Says the mom of seven kids.)

I just had to re-start supper because the Instant Pot wasn’t coming up to pressure correctly. My afternoon coffee is lukewarm now (see all of the above).  Oh, and we have to go pick up our 45 lb dog from the vet this afternoon.  He was attacked by a neighbor’s dog a few nights ago, so there we were at 4am, Jeffrey and Me, hosing off his mud, batting away mosquitos, and assessing his wounds.  And now he has to be inside the house, convalescing for two weeks while he heals.  Sigh.

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Oh. And we have a guest coming for dinner tonight.  I hope he doesn’t mind the mess. Or the dog.

As I said.  Not exactly conducive to blogging.  But I’ve had a few things on my mind I needed to process here.

Sunday morning, halfway to church, Jeff got a text from our pastor asking if I was going to be there for service.  We had a new family visiting.  They were Chinese, and he didn’t think the wife spoke English.

Wanna know where I was?

Home with half the kids, who still had hacking coughs and sniffles.

I gotta be honest, I was bummed.  I had a few raw moments with the Lord about it as I was standing over the sink washing something. Here I had been for countless months, praying for God to bring some Chinese friends into my life and the Sunday that this family shows up, I’m not even going to be there.

For years this is something the Lord has been refining in my heart.  I struggled for a long time with feeling like I had lost my purpose, or I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I used to do things I felt mattered.  Things that involved nations and gospel and souls and ministry.

Standing over the sink, the Lord quickly reminded me of the lesson He has been teaching me for a long time.  I am right where He wants me, doing just what He wants me to do.

I am here with my family and my growing kids  – not biding my time until I can do the important things.  These are the important things.  I am here for such a time as this – the time when my children’s souls are most pliable and open to the gospel.  The time when their hearts are still close to ours and their character is still being shaped.

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A friend and I were just talking about this the other day.  I hear this so often from young moms and I have said the same things: I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t even know what I like to do anymore. I’m so busy just being Mom, I feel like I’ve lost myself.

And truly, we have.

But I’ve come to believe that is really the way it’s supposed to be.

When we get a few years into motherhood, we begin to feel “the old me” slipping through our grasp.  Our days look different.  Our bodies look different.  Our minds feel sluggish. We are losing ourselves.

This is like a cocoon phase.  Yes, we are losing who we used to be. But I really believe the “answer” isn’t to bide our time until the kids are older so we can get back to our old selves.  And the goal isn’t to get enough “me” time to reclaim ourselves.

Moms, I think God is putting us through a metamorphosis.  I believe it’s by His design that we die to ourselves, that we be refined through motherhood, and begin to be transformed into a new person, with a new purpose.

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We’re reading through the Bible this year with the kids, and a few nights ago we finished up the book of Esther. It was refreshing – and sobering –  to be reminded that she was willing to lose herself in order to be the instrument God wanted her to be at that time.

Sunday mid-morning, Jeff and half the kids went on to the service. I finished washing whatever it was at the sink and decided I wasn’t supposed to meet that family at church – at least not that day.

That day – and today – with all the chaos and the tantrums – I am a different me.  I have a different purpose. And I have no job skills to bring to the table except being completely dependent on His strength in my weakness, trusting that He’ll give me whatever I need to be right here where He has me, for such a time as this.

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Seeing Life for What it Is – Part I

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How is it nearing the end of July?  Seriously, it has not slowed down this year one bit.  We have finished a school core, painted the dining room, watched things grow (mostly kids, but some vegetables, and a puppy too.)  Taken a marriage retreat and a trip to grandparents, the beach, and two to the ER – not in that order.

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Happy girl just pulled her first cucumber from the garden

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She’ll be TWO in two months!

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Our new Sonlight core all set to start soon!

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Everyone loves 10-foot ceilings, until it’s time to paint.

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Perfect Day! First time to the beach for my youngest girls and my two Ukrainian-Americans :)

Lately I’ve been seeing life for what it is- a vapor. A fleeting gift.

A breath.  A vital battle. Time that should be spent with focus – sometimes we really need a time of refining to wake us up from our distractions.  ( I call it waking up from the Matrix).

The enemy is such a great distractor, as C.S. Lewis has described, (and the Bible warns us)

“You will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his (the human soul’s) wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers, or his work, or his sleep; a column of advertisements from yesterday’s paper will do.  You can make him waste his time… in conversations about subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room.”
(The Screwtape Letters)

And C.S. Lewis didn’t live in the age of screens and social media.

Life is just flying by at the speed of … life.  It really does go by as quickly as the Bible says it does, and we’re spending so much of it being overcome by daily distractions. (totally guilty here)

I bet only a handful of you will make to the end of this post without getting bored and distracted by something else (wink).

We’re just swimming (and drowning) in distractions.  And we’re also overcome with an illusion of our own power – power to control our lives (and the lives of others- again, guilty over here.)

Work. School. Career. Spending. Borrowing. More spending. Vacations. Renovations. Physical alterations.

We are caught up in the notion that we have the power to control the details of our existence – down to the shape of our noses and the wrinkles on our face, the strings of silver multiplying in our hair, and the size of our muscles – and our bank accounts… and our living rooms.  (Interesting side note: in America our houses and cars are getting bigger but our families are getting smaller…)

Just think about the current trend. Everywhere I look on social media we are encouraging each other about how much control we have over our own life and destiny –  how “strong” we are.

We are “enough”.
We are “bold”.
We are “fierce”.
We are “brave”.
We are “mighty”.

The truth is that’s what our hearts are telling us, but our hearts are deceitful, and can’t be trusted.  The truth is that we’re really not in control of much, least of all our own tongues, though that’s one thing God does tell us to control, but that’s another subject.

We think we can guard our turf, and the Word tells us to guard our hearts.

We revel in the advice to “set boundaries”, but Jesus tells us to think of others as more important than ourselves, and love them as we love ourselves,….  and to put others first, turn the other cheek, and forgive to infinity.

We like to wear our sign (t-shirt, tattoo, whatever) labeling ourselves “fierce” and Jesus tells us to be tenderhearted.

We like to put on our warpaint and our workout clothes (the ones that make us look good, of course) and tell each other how “strong” we all are, and yet God says

“My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

And we forget that when Paul said “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength” he was referring to being content in his difficult circumstances – not killing it at his job or his workout at the gym.

We are proud.  So very proud.  We actually take pride in being proud.  But God says He opposes the proud – He actually fights against the proud – and gives grace to the humble. Think about that for a minute. That’s a frightening thought, actually, but don’t push it away. Remember, we need to wake up from the matrix.

God loves humility.  Humility is beautiful. Imagine that.  We come close to making it a Bible principle that we should stand our ground and fight for our rights.  Jesus didn’t.
And God says, “vengeance is mine” – not ours to take.

This life   i s   a   v a p o r.

Poof. Gone.

And we as believers are awfully (deadly) distracted these days – maybe more than ever before in history.  And we look like the world more than ever before.  Lately, as the Lord has been bringing me through the fire of refining, I’ve come out with this renewed awareness that we are in danger of wasting our lives on building up our earthly bodies and homes- and neglecting to disappear behind a sign pointing the world to Jesus, who is really the answer for a dying world searching for the fountain of youth.

And neglecting to see the beauty of life that isn’t fixed-up with a “perfection” filter slapped on, with just the right caption to describe it. (me, guilty again)

I as a Mom have been in danger of neglecting to teach my children the dangers of pride, the beauty of humility, and the focus of eternity.

And the cruciality of true, face-to-the-ground worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Yaweh.

I have in my possession  1) a quiver of arrows to be sharpened and sent out into a dark world, 2) a very real enemy who “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” and 3) a short puff of a life to complete this task.  And a huge propensity for distraction.

I too get caught up in thinking about where in the world we want to travel…. how are we going to pay off student loans… what color should we paint the dining room….

Life is jam-packed full of things to distract us from the actually important things.  It’s time for (me, at least- I’m not sure any of you are left reading this) to w a k e    u p.

I need more than just a little #bulletproofcoffee & Jesus – I need to realize I am absolutely powerless to fight my own pride and win battles that actually matter for eternity.  And I need the covering of God, to be filled with His Word – not just the favorite parts that look good painted on the wall – but all of it.  Especially the “sharp as a two-edged sword” parts.

I need to wake up and disengage from the matrix of this glittered-up world and be on my face in prayer – throughout the day.  Not just a few sentences breathed over the steam of my mug while I find the right lighting and angle to post my devo to IG.

It’s time for me to come out of the fog and see this life for what it really is….. I’m not promised another breath of it.

If you’ve made it to the end – wow!  Thanks for sticking with me.  Join me tomorrow for Part II, where I share what I’m actually doing about this “wakeup call”.

 

 

 

Havin’ a Great Day

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I hope everyone’s having a wonderful Saturday!

We’re over here having a pretty standard weekend for the Hazies –laid back.

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Sisters forever. Forever reading.

It’s a rainy day, so there’s a lot of the above photo going on.  This is the only photo I snapped on the sly.

I gave all the big girls a haircut.  Lena really wanted bangs. I had to overcome my decades-old trepidation over having bad-bang-haircuts and just give her what she wanted.  She was very particular about what she wanted but I cut them long and sloping to the side at first.  Nope. She wanted them short and straight across.  I cut them again, short enough to style straight across her forehead, but still long enough to sweep them to the side.  She never wavered.  Shorter, still.  This pre-teen thing is not for the faint of heart, I tell you.

So I just went for it and lo and behold, what she wanted looked just right on her.


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I should have known, just looking back at…..

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I don’t know if she’d go for the GIANT bow now, though.  Wow, I can’t believe how much she has changed…

Jeff picked up a deal on a weed eater this morning…. brought it home, pulled all the pieces out of the box and had it together in no time. Last year we’d had some friends who have a lawn service taking care of our lawn, since our mower had died a few years before that.  But one day I started praying that the Lord would provide us a lawn mower to do it ourselves because we were in a stretch where money was kind of tight.

Wouldn’t you know just a few days later another friend drove up in front of our house and pulled out a nice walk-behind, self-propelled lawn mower?  He had gotten a new one, and decided to give his old one to us.  Just the kind I had hoped for, which would make it easier for me to cut the grass when Jeff was too busy, and also be something the older kids could learn on.  God knows, doesn’t he?  So now we have a weed eater to go along with our lawn mower, so we can get about our business of #adulting, because apparently this is a thing?

Yesterday our whole family wore matching t-shirts. I kinda loved it.

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We were given the cutest shirts by our local Chic-fil-A this week.  We had recently attended Cow Appreciation Day – you know, where the whole nation dresses like a cow to varying degrees (I didn’t know about it until the night before, so we had to go with the everyone-cut-out-construction-paper-and-tape-it-to-your-clothes route right after breakfast)…   Well, my whole little crew got their picture taken, and apparently when pics from the day were uploaded on the local CFA Facebook page, people voted for their favorite by “liking” the photos.  I didn’t even know this was going on, so it was to my udder surprise (sorry, I had to) when a friend messaged me and told me my kids’ photo was voted Best Herd.

"Best Herd"

“Best Herd”

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She likes her chicken.

She likes her chicken.

You can’t make this stuff up.  So much fun.  So they made these ridiculously cute shirts – and even threw in some for Jeff and me!

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Goofing off while he's snapping photos. Imitating a cow, maybe?

Goofing off while he’s snapping photos. Imitating a cow, maybe?

"Over the Moooon for Chicken"

“Over the Moooon for Chicken”

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I can’t say enough wonderful things about the folks at our local CFA.  We know the owners personally – they’re the kind of people who just stop by your house when they’re driving around that part of town – seriously, they’ve done this a handful of times.  They even came by one evening a few years ago and helped us with our bathroom renovation!  (That reminds me, Becky, we still have Mike’s hammer!) And they make every person feel like they are on the elite list.

Back when we were preparing to adopt Christopher and Lena, we held a fundraiser at CFA and they were super supportive and so excited once we got the kids home.  And we were just one family they walked with through the adoption process.

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Recounting all those memories this week just made me so grateful for community.

God sets the solitary in families. (Psalm 68:6)  And he sets family in community.  We’re meant to live this life together.

When re-focus on this kind of perspective, it’s hard not to have a great day.

 

 

A Brutally Honest, Awkward, Re-Introduction

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IMG_4989Well, I really don’t know how to get this post started.  So I guess the band-aid rip-off technique is as good as any.  I haven’t been here in Blogosphere for quite a while.  And coming back to it – well there’s no natural-feeling way to jump into it.
You know how you have those friends who – when you don’t see them in ages, you get together one day and it’s like you’ve been talking every day all along?  Yeah, getting back to blogging? Not at all like that.

It’s more like when you’re in the mall and you run into someone who used to be in your Sunday School class and you really *should* know their name, especially because you were the facilitator, and you can’t-for-the-life-of-you remember their name because you have a condition which causes your brain to freeze up and put a lock on all name-files you’re attempting to access, so you just smile and use phrases like “hey….. you… how are you, …. girl?”  Lame.

Coming back to blogging after so long feels a bit more like that.

I’ve kinda yo-yo’d a bit… stuck my toes back in the water here and there, eeking out a post from time to time.  But I haven’t been consistent at all in the last several years.  What used to be a joy to me (blogging) quickly became a non-essential when life hit us like a train about six years ago.

Let me level with you honestly with one sentence: adoption has been a harder journey than we could have imagined.  I’d love to share more about that, as it’s something I feel pretty passionately about and believe the Lord has really done a work in us – our family and our children specifically –  and showed us many things through and about adoption – but that’s a post for another time.  Maybe. If I can blog consistently again.  Lord-willig and the creek don’t rise, and all that.

Six years ago, our little family was… little.  And cute; I’m just gonna be honest. :) We kinda had our ducks almost in a row, and we felt so full and blessed – enough that we felt we had a surplus to pour over and bless others.  We lived in a cute little 3-br house with chickens and a privacy fence and a garden and a swingset. I blogged pretty regularly and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed making homemade items for our kids and sharing about it on the blog (which at that time was called “Our Blessed Life”).  I shared sewing creations and playdoh recipes and snippets of our life.

Some of you began following us in the next chapter, when we were led to adopt Christopher  and Lena (who, through the adoption journey were called “Kirk” and “Lori”) and you prayed for us, supported us, cheered us on, and watched from all over the world while we journeyed to Ukraine, met our son and daughter, and brought them home.

Rescued from the Orphanage in Ukraine

Then the train hit us pretty hard.

Post-adoption trauma.  And unexpected pregnancy – I was pregnant and neck deep in morning (all day) sickness on the 2nd trip to Ukraine to bring the kids home.  Once we got everyone home, I had two traumatized kids on one side of the breakfast table speaking only Russian – and only to each other – and another set of traumatized children on the other side of the breakfast table speaking only English and trying desperately to get their new siblings to interact with them.  And a toddler who never slept.  And all I wanted to do was sleep.

By the time we were all together as a new family I was experiencing a delayed culture shock (if there is such a thing) heightened by the pregnancy-nausea making everything unbearable to me, resulting in me not being able to stand the sight or smell of my luggage that I’d just dragged back from Ukraine.  It literally sat in a pile in the corner of the dining room for a month because I couldn’t bring myself to touch it.

A little box of half-eaten raisins stuffed into a zipper pocket on my carry-on, in case I needed them on the flight for Carson (who was then 18 months old) sat forgotten and rotting in my untouched, still-packed luggage while our attitudes sat rotting on display at the dinner table daily.

We were all going through our own trauma.

I changed the name of the blog to Our Blessed Broken Life.  Because already the Lord was showing me that this life isn’t about having the best, cutest one we can have – but about pouring ourselves out…

The Lord brought us through that and we found our rhythm, our new normal, but it was always more stressful, more strained, more tiring and more emotional than life had been before adoption.  Our baby girl Olivia was born and we were all in love.  Christopher and Lena watched in rapt interest as I nursed her – likely something they had never seen done at the orphanage.

We had outgrown our cute house and bought a house in a different part of town, and gave up our chickens, our privacy fence – and our swingset.  In return we got a hot water heater that didn’t work for a month, a bee-infestation in the wall of our house (still there, by the way), and plumbing needing to be replaced in every single sink and bathtub in the house (still one more to fix.)

We limped along.

In 2014, the Lord brought us through the journey of carrying our little Rebecca, whom we found out at the 20-week ultrasound had Trisomy 13.  So many people all over the world were praying for #babyrebecca.  Then we met her too quickly when I went through an emergency C-section to save my life around 30 weeks pregnant, the day before my 40th birthday.  We held Rebecca until she took her last breath about 45 minutes after she was born.  She weighed one pound.  There was such sorrow and such joy.

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Again, we were all going through our own trauma, and in the midst of it, still neck deep in making many mistakes in our adoption parenting journey, and dealing with attachment issues in our son and daughter.

Grief came in waves like the ocean, ebbing and flowing, and life went limping on.

Then six months later, to the shock of the entire world – okay maybe just us and some of our family and friends – I was expecting another baby.  I struggled with faith that I would actually bring home a little pink bundle and not a pink bouquet of sympathy flowers.  Almost one year to the day after Rebecca’s birth, I again went through an emergency c-section to save my life, and my daughter’s  (in a different, more urgent scene).  It was surreal and very traumatic in ways I wouldn’t even deal with emotionally  until a long time afterwards.  Even writing about these things now makes my palms sweat.

Jessa – our gift from the Lord – was born 8 weeks early, and was perfect.  She stayed 21 days in the NICU while our friends and family helped with our kids, with meals, with getting me back and forth to the NICU every morning and evening for feedings and skin-to-skin time with my own personal little tiny baby doll.  (I wasn’t supposed to be driving for 2 weeks after my surgery).  The family of God – the body of Christ – is an amazing gift.  I don’t know what we would have done without our family and church family.

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And during that time, we continued to make so many mistakes in our parenting, and one of our children went through the worst period (to date) of attachment issues, acting out in ways they never had before.  Twice, we even sent this child with trusted family for respite while we got our feet under us because we had nothing left with which to help our child.

The trauma subsided, and with us all under one roof again, we resumed limping, thanking the Lord for the gift of a baby girl we never expected to enjoy.

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The storm waters have been still for almost two years now, and in that quiet period, the Lord has been perfecting some of his refining work in us.  Quietly opening His Word to us, and showing us grace in a way that maybe we had been blind to before.  I feel that I am just now – almost 6 years after adopting – coming out of a mental and spiritual fog.  I feel like I am waking up from a coma of sorts.  I just recently looked back at the early years of my blog and even posts about the beginning of our adoption journey and found myself thinking who is that girl?

So as I step back into the Blogosphere and trust that maybe the Lord has something to do through my writing here (if maybe only for my own sake), …. let me re-introduce myself.

Just the Two of Us... in a sea of children...

Just the Two of Us… in a sea of children…

I’m Shannon.  Mom of 7, and 1 more who’s already gone on before us.  Wife to an amazingly patient (and funny, and good-looking) man. I don’t have my ducks in a row.  I know a lot less than I thought I did a decade ago.  I make a lot of mistakes, and thank God for his patience and kindness.  I’m living a life I never thought I’d be good at, and actually I’m not, so that’s good, because it’s HIS strength I have to lean on daily.  I’m a survivor of the adoption journey and an advocate for those who are broken and in need of a family and the Gospel.  Passionate about the nations.  And I’m a writer. ….. nice to meet you. <3

 

 

 

A Merry Christmas

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Our short, cute little tree is aglow with lights and our favorite decade-old ornaments… We let the kids totally decorate it themselves.  The mismatched stockings are strung along the banister, growing fatter with Christmas letters as the day approaches.  (Two of the kids reminded me again that they still don’t have their names on their stockings. Oops.)

Our Christmasy weather has come and gone and it feels like muggy Texas spring outside as I lean over the cluttered kitchen counter, trying to decide which fudge recipe I’m going to make.

The extra greenery we collected when we picked out our tree still sits in a garbage bag in the laundry room, competing with the growing mound of dirty clothes.  I was going to use all that greenery to make a pretty wreath for the door.  Oh well.  Now the only festive thing to greet our weary mail carrier is the sun-bleached, water-logged “Happy Birthday” garland we’ve left hanging outside since Jessa’s party the first of October.

We let our Advent candles burn late the other night, so most of them are a melted mess and I forgot to buy extras… And the freezer section was out of cinnamon rolls, which is our traditional Christmas morning breakfast… so add that to the recipes I’ll contemplate before finally deciding on the canned variety.

It’s all so wonderful!

I have been so blessed to be able to (mostly) let go of the Greeting-Card image of this season and embrace life.  Our life.  The mess and full schedule and dried up tree needles on the floor (since I keep forgetting to water the tree), and the staying up late and the crazy antics of kids who’ve had too much sugar – they’re all just signs that we’re alive!

But wait, there’s more!

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)

And you who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us… cancelling the record of debt that stood against us. (Col. 2:13-14)

If you are overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) this Christmas…  If you’re tired or anxious…  If you’re burdened with a to-do list or a social calendar, or disappointed about everything this season is not – there is good news for you.  You’re alive.  And if you belong to Christ, you have an eternal hope that can be the lens through which you see all the imperfectness of this life on earth.

That is truly wonderful.

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.