Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sometimes You Have to Crawl

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The Real Test

Announcement:   I cleaned the bathroom!

I know. You’re thinking, And??

You haven’t written a blog post in weeks… and you cleaned the bathroom?  That’s it?

Listen.  I don’t think you understand.  I cleaned the bathroom.  Here’s what that looks like in my world:  Sometime around 7:45 yesterday morning, I’m sitting on the couch, feeding a baby, trying in vain to also drink my coffee and read the John Piper devo app on my phone.

Side Note: you need to get the John Piper devo app on your phone!

Anyway, I say “trying in vain” ‘cause let’s face it.  After all the kids are up, coffee and devo is spotty, at best.  

And, of course, since I’m feeding the baby, Carson has to go potty.  Now.  Like, right now.  So I send him off and task the older boy with helping him.

And alas, minutes later, there’s pee on the floor.

::I’m sorry, I know, I said ‘pee.’  This is just going to be one of those posts today, okay?  Nothing poetic here.  If it had been a girl, it would have been ‘tee-tee’, but it was a boy, so there was ‘pee’ on the floor.::

Anyway.  So Christopher (thank God for older boys, am I right?) cleans the pee off the floor, but I decide right then and there to clean the bathroom.

Well, after I finish feeding the baby and getting breakfast into my tribe and drinking only half my cup of coffee and forgetting where I put down the mug… then I get right to cleaning the bathroom.

Two hours and seventy-five interruptions later, I stand back and admire the fruit of my labor.  It’s quite possibly the cleanest and most peaceful room in the house.  I think briefly about shutting myself in there the rest of the day. True story.

But wouldn’t you know, a little while later, one of the kids waits to the very last mili-second to go to the bathroom, so I ended up cleaning the toilet and a section of the floor again.  (This time it was tee-tee. Ahem.)

I stand back and admire my work.  Again.

About half an hour later, I’m helping Carson in the bathroom and this time he makes it like a champ.  No accident.  But – much to my dismay – I notice a smell lingering with the lovely aroma of scrubbing bubbles… It takes me a minute of sniffing around to find a spot I’d missed earlier (what with the seventy-five interruptions, eh?).

So I quickly decide I’m going to spray down the entire area again (you know, with the seat up and all) and make double-sure it’s all extra clean.

After I spray it all down, I call for the older boy to bring me some paper towels, but he doesn’t hear me.  So I retrieve them from the kitchen and when I get back to the bathroom, I find that one of my children is a ninja.

She has somehow made it past me and into the bathroom and because she – like her sister before her- has waited until the very last mili-second, she doesn’t even bother with putting the toilet seat down, and just sat on the rim – sat on the rim, on the cleaning spray for crying out loud – and this does not end up working like she’d thought…

So after cleaning up ‘tee-tee’ again

I stand back and admire my work.

Again.

I have four bank boxes stacked up beside our desk, waiting to be moved to storage, and two boxes of files waiting to be put back in their places… a new stack of school paces waiting to be placed in kids’ folders… and a beach bag full of miscellaneous receipts and photos and study notes, waiting to be filed…

::because – you know – your junk looks less like junk when it’s collected in a bright, pretty beach bag, am I right?::

…not to mention the pile of laundry on the couch, the three baskets waiting to hit the washer, the kids’ closets needing cleaning out, or the floors that haven’t been mopped since before Christmas.

But by golly, the bathroom is clean!

That one accomplishment seemed to take me half the day and was wrought with frustrations.

And the bathroom isn’t the only area of my life that feels like that.

I have a John Piper app on my phone for a reason.  Because some days it’s the only way I’ll get a little Scripture rattling around in my head… and hope it will get planted in my heart…

I can hold that app open on my phone and read a line or two while I’m nursing the baby… and read and think about the next line or two while my phone is sitting there on the kitchen counter and I’m coring apples to go with lunch…

There’s this picture in our bathroom.  A framed 4×6 snapshot sitting on the window sill – of Jeff and me in a different era of our life… we were with half our team, camping out for the weekend on a mountain side in the himalayas.  He’s got me thrown over his shoulder and we’re both wearing our hiking fleeces and our headlamps.  And it was nightfall when our friend Chad snapped us with his camera – caught this moment frozen.  It’s too dark in the picture to see the landscape or the tents behind us.

You mostly see our faces, smiling.  Me thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and him grinning back at the camera.  We’re so young and fresh and energetic.  Full of dreams and plans and ideas for the future.  The world our oyster.  Sure, there would be babies one day.  But they would be bi-lingual and immersed in the culture – and by golly they would be practically leading the masses of local children to the Lord by the dozens.  Our heads were filled with visions of mission work and published works.  And just, lots of works.

Now a decade later, “attempt great things for God” has become trying to get through the day without losing my patience with the kids, and also manage to knock out 3 meals and keep one side of my sink free of dirty dishes.

Sorry, Flylady, check back with me in oh, twelve years?  Maybe then I can work on making my sink shine.

If I can also manage to read a story to my kids and everyone has clean underwear – bonus!

Some days I think “Jesus, in my weakness you’re strong?  Well all I’ve got is weakness… so then I guess all I’ve got is Your strength, right Jesus?  So… how come every day is still a struggle?  Faith of a mustard seed can move mountains… so how come these mountains of laundry can lay my spirit so low?

And some days to think I was going to spin my story telling other souls how to walk with Jesus – it seems preposterous!  I’m the one who’s gone back to crawling.  

At the end of the day, the bathroom is dirty again, and the sink is full and the real test is this – did I love You, Jesus with all my heart?  Did I love others as myself?

Every day that’s what it will come to – this is the season we’re in.  God has somehow, in His way, brought us back to the basics, the foundation.

No matter what condition the house is in… no matter what discipline issues we’re dealing with, or how much ‘orphanage dust’ is flying around here… no matter what learning difficulties one of the kids is going through or how tired we are after 60-hour weeks… no matter how much the baby doesn’t sleep, or how many kids end up piled in our bed by morning.  At the end of every day, it comes back to those two questions:

Did I love Jesus today?  With all my heart?

Did I love my neighbor (the one who’s always blaring the loud music) – did I love the lady at Walmart, my children, my husband – as much as I love… me?

The little embers of those young dreams and visions are still lit somewhere inside me… I hope to walk that proverbial mountainside trail again – to “attempt great things for God.”

But to do that before ace-ing this test I get at the end of each long day – that would be premature.

Because most of the time – before you can walk – you gotta crawl.

The One Who Lost His Way

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I could never relate to that story Jesus told more than I did one night last weekend.

Lazy Saturday.  Family togetherness.  Why not let it spill over into the things that must be done?  The buying of the groceries… because what mother-of-six in her right mind would go during the weekday, with all her ducklings in a row, without the help of another pair of adult hands (and eyes) – and expect it to be anything less than unproductive?

And sure, taking your entire family to buy two weeks’ worth of groceries on a Saturday evening at the newly-remodeled, expanded grocery in town – yes this might not be ideal.  But fun, right?

Or maybe it was just a plain bad idea.

So there we were.  I had the list and a few kids… he had some items to find and a few kids… and we’d split up and come back together and split and come back together….

We did this for a few hours.  I pushed the baby in the stroller, with Maggie pushing a cart behind me (the small kind that I imagine works well for college students or bachelors or couples with no kids – but certainly will only hold a fraction of our fare…)  And the hard-working husband – he pushed a full size buggy in front of his crew.

When we finally had all but one item, we were standing there at the checkout.  Jeff darted down a nearby aisle – and took Christopher with him – to retrieve the final thing on our list.  By this time Olivia was crying in her stroller, so I unbuckled her and lifted her out to hold and soothe her.  I turn around to tell Carson – my active litte almost-three-year-old – that he could take a rest in the stroller (and this would also make it easier for me to keep him in one spot.)

Only, when I turned around, he wasn’t there.  I quickly scanned my crew.  The three big girls were there.  No Carson.  I had only turned around for a few seconds.  How could he have disappeared?

I quickly glanced down aisle where Jeff and Christopher were looking for the right brand of the item we needed.  There were so many people, I couldn’t tell if he had Carson with him, so I called out to them.

No, he didn’t have Carson.

I looked around again, and couldn’t see him anywhere.

I left the girls standing there in front of the checkout, with the empty stroller, and with Olivia on my hip I went the opposite direction, quickly scanning down aisles and and in between check-out lanes.  I paced up and down a few times.  Saw Jeff coming back my direction shaking his head with his hands up in the air.  I re-traced my steps back the opposite direction again.

He’s so small.  So easy to miss…

I kept thinking that he just couldn’t have gone that far.  I had only turned around for two seconds.  If he hadn’t gone that far, why haven’t we found him yet?

Then I caught my breath as a thought occurred to me – unless someone took him.

This is about the time that panic was about to set in.  And I cried out a desperate prayer inside my head.

And then, the instant I breathed that prayer, I heard him.

I heard that familiar screaming cry I’ve heard a hundred times when he’s upset.  I instantly felt relief.  I couldn’t see him yet, but I could hear him, and I followed those cries.

There – a few hundred feet from the exit doors, there he was.  So painfully small in a big, busy supermarket.  A man with his little girl were nearby trying to call him to come away from the exit, and back to find his mama.

But he was lost and scared.  

And I can’t even describe to you the relief I felt when I saw him there.  And I ran to him, and with Olivia on my hip I knelt down and put my arm around him.

Safe.

When I turned my back, he’d gone looking for his Daddy.  But he didn’t know the way.

So He told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?

And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents thant over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’
Luke 15:3-7

There was never a time before that night when I could really relate to the parable Jesus told to the pharisees and the scribes that day.  I left my three big girls standing there by the checkout, and trusted they would be safe – and went searching for my little lost one.

I must have read this passage a hundred times in my lifetime.  And not one time before now did I have an inkling of the urgency that Jesus meant.

Sheep, yeah, I get it.  Shepherds, sheep, yeah.

Only no, I never did ‘get it’ before now.

The urgency and determination of a mother searching out her lost man-child.  Is this how the Father sees the ones He is calling to repentance?

And just last night, that amazing hard-working husband and I talked about this.  How often do we casually overlook those around us, void of real sympathy and concern?

When the Father – He seeks them out.  The ones who have lost their way….

But maybe WE are the ones who have lost HIS way…  forgot His heart for the lost…

Well I aim to remember the way again… because now I know how it feels to look for the lost.

 

Spinning

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Yesterday the world was spinning.

Well, of course it was.  It’s what it’s done every day since it’s very beginning.  Faithfully, rightfully spinning on course, in rhythm, perfectly obedient to the Great Creator’s design.

But I meant My World.

My World was spinning.  The out-of-control kind of spinning.  Ah, just the normal ride of my domain where the six children, they need.  And whine.  And complain.  And beg.

And goodness, aren’t they ever full?  Will they be forever hungry?

And when the day starts off with nose-picking (theirs, not mine, goodness), and with foot-stomping, and with lying…. is there any hope of it getting back on course?

Ah yes, if those onlookers at the grocery could see us now – the ones who persisted in telling me how ‘good’ my children are, all lined up, they are… and tell me, are they always so ‘good’? (All I could do is stare at her, for what kind of question is that?)

Well, now.  On days like yesterday, I don’t suppose any onlookers would be so quick to comment on how ‘good’ we’re all being.

And just the night before, the question I asked in family worship: “Who in here is good?”  One of ‘em, his hand shot straight up, and his sister was quick to shoot it down, “none of us!”

And truly, we aren’t, are we?  No one righteous.  No one good.  The only Good One – thank God He was good enough – He had to cover our no-good.

So when the day starts with nose-picking and lying and foot-stomping and defiance and complaining and whining…. why am I so surprised?  Why does my world spin?

But spin it does, and puts me right dizzy and in the meanest mood.  And I quip and fuss and wag the finger (as if a quick finger and a quick tongue could change a heart for the better – could do any ‘good’ at all.)

And wasn’t I the one who just wrote about becoming radiant?

And by late afternoon my small frame feels so heavy-laden.  And everything inside and out spins so that I want to put them all and me to bed without supper.

 I’m not living in the moment, I’m wishing the moments to pass.

 Discouragement has crept up on me and wrapped me up in it’s scratchy shawl.

And desperate, I reach for the list... I have to find something – just one thing to list.  Because I have to.  Because there’s this desperate woman far north who needed it to, and it worked for her – and it’s working for me.

Every time I write down a gift – something to thank Him for – I feel the warming inside, coming alive again.

I take the phone and snap the photo of the three pretty milk-glass candle holders lined atop my oven.  They’re my favorite.  A touch of ‘pretty’ in the mundane.  I write it down.

I hear the rain and all day I’ve been thinking about how it’s got us trapped inside with cabin fever and kids pent up like banshees – and instead I think of it as a cleansing refreshment.  I push open the patio door and feel the fresh air, and snap a photo of droplets on big, green leaves… and then I actually see them.  They’re beautiful.  And I actually hear the dripping.  It’s lovely.  And I actually hear the rain again.  Comforting.  I write it down.

And then the droning, repetitive song of the little blonde boy who’s been there for nearly half an hour – he’s been right there playing with his busy-bag… happily pinning up miniature felt clothes on the line strung from bar stool to high chair.  He’s happily singing this refrain again and again and now it finally gets my attention…

 an hebin an mayture sing, an hebin an mayture sing…

 

And I finish it in my head… and heaven, and heaven and nature sing!

This little guy – oblivious to my inward spinning out of control – is bubbling joy.  He’s spinning happy.  Like a child.

I snap his picture and write it down.

Because this finding the gifts and writing them down.  It’s making my cold heart start to sing again.  I do it because I’ve got to.  Because too long have I let the ungratefulness creep in.  The oldest disease of mankind.  The cancer of Adam and Eve and everyone thereafter.

I look around at the gifts… the warm mug of afternoon rescue…. the happy, squirming girl in my arms… the strong table built with strong hands…

I make my way into the living room and sit on the couch… and soon Jeff walks in the door…. and two of the kids, they’re spinning and dancing in the small open space – so much they make themselves dizzy.  Just happy that Daddy is there.

And come morning it’s still so rainy and sleep hardly came at all.  And at the breakfast table my big boy, he says that it’s like we got up too early, it’s so dark outside.  And I stand at the open patio door, the rain still pittering down. And look up to the gray sky.

“The sun’s just not up yet” says his sister.

“No, the sun is there.  Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

And just because you can’t see Me, doesn’t mean I’m not here.  I AM. I’ve been here all along.  Since before you.  Since before I set the world to spinning.

 

 

 

A Word for 2013

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It was the year of Joy.  Twenty-eleven.  Only, it came in the most unexpected adventure.  January of that year had no hint of the journey we’d take in July to bring home two children from Ukraine.  When that year began, adoption was not on our horizon.

 But God.  He expands our horizons.

And Joy came that year in the tiny, untamed package of a little girl which was given and then grew into the name.

And if our horizons were expanded in twenty-eleven, it was my heart I expected the Lord to Enlarge in twenty-twelve.

That was the word He gave me, without a doubt.  I had expectations for Him to Enlarge my heart and open my eyes to see more of Him, more of His greatness.

But again, my winding path this past year was over unexpected terrain.

It was more like the year of the Broken.  And not just in dishwashers sitting still and empty for months before repair, or ceiling fans hanging silent.  Not just in the broken plans of the Hard-working Husband finally getting the job we’d hoped for, only to lose it a few months later.  Not just in the broken hopes of finding the home we really wanted and be unable to purchase…

No.  It seemed that in order for my heart to be enlarged, and my eyes to be opened to His greatness – what I first needed to see clearly was the brokenness of …me.

As each month passed my brokenness – our family’s brokenness – took shape more clearly before my eyes.  Failures.  Selfishness.  Sinfulness. Pride.

For only when I see clearly my own state – only then can my heart and my eyes be enlarged to take in the depth and greatness of His Mercy and Grace.

And at the very end of twenty-twelve, that’s when I saw her picture.

My friend – my dear sister – from ages past.  The one the Lord was gracious to wind my path with briefly in college before she married a ‘Jim Elliot’ and I sang in her wedding and her beautiful feet went to far-away soil.

What I love about her is that heart always laid open bare.  Her struggles un-hidden.  Her seasons of heart-wrenching grief raw and  accessible.  But through it all, laid low, she is hidden in Jesus.  This has always been her way.  His way in her.

It was the end of my year of broken.  On her 40th birthday, I saw her photo posted.  She is simple and small of stature, and has always been beautiful.  But this was more.  She was – radiant.

Like Jesus Himself was shining around those light-colored eyes.

And in that moment I knew.  I hoped.

Could I, in my brokenness, be hidden in Him, and thus be so radiant with His light?

That I could decrease enough that His light would increase in me.

In my storm, hidden in the cleft of the rock, covered by Him… radiant.

 Twenty-Thirteen… The Year of becoming Radiant.