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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Joy and Failure and Vienna Sausages

Let me be honest, in case that last post gave the impression that I, so graciously put my needs last and serve and serve and serve all those around me.

I’m a mess.  More of a mess than my house.  More messy than grape jelly smudges.

Because my heart is not all want to clean and cook and serve and love.  I want what I want, too, and not just the good things He wants for me.  Which mostly is time for myself.  And too much Coca-Cola and not enough vegetables.  And time to be lazy and have fun and never work a moment of my life, and sleep in on Sunday instead of riding a noisy bus to church with shrieking and giggling teenagers.  Truly.  That’s where my heart can go.  And it’s a good thing the Good Lord doesn’t leave me where I’d put my own self most days (in bed, under covers), but gives me whatever I need to get up and do it anyway, at least most of the time.

Yesterday, I got dressed for the day at 11 a.m.  As I type this, my 2-year-old is smashing Pop Tart pieces in my hair… remnants of his sugary-snack-food breakfast, while the others guzzled down a big glass 'o Kool Aid as the sun came up.  I am not getting any mother-of-the-year awards any time soon.  (Which is why I so appreciated the always lovely Lysa TerKeurst's post at InCourage today).

Sometimes, I yell at my kids.  I burn the biscuits.  I leave the dinner dishes in the sink and they’re still there, stinking, the whole next day…. Just so we’re clear.  I served my son Vienna sausages from the can for snack today (yuck, I know).  Shameful.

And the whole thing about baking fresh bread?  I love to bake bread.  I do.  But when I went to get around to it yesterday, I discovered that the insides of the bread machine were missing, probably left behind when we moved here.  Seven months ago.  Because that is how infrequently I get around to baking bread.  In case I had anyone fooled…

I’m just sayin’.

I have twelve people in this house and there are more days than I care to admit that I high-tail it for the back of the house, for my bedroom, and close the door and pound my fists on the bed with hot tears and plead with the Lord about why in the world He put me here, about why He called someone here who is so obviously, so painfully inept at domestic responsibility. 

But I do long to serve these ones around me.  I really do.  As tiring and frustrating and oh-how-exhausting all this living can be, at the end of the day… what’s the alternative?  I can come around to finding the joy in these things because… would I rather there be no more grass-stained toddler tees to wash?  No more powdered donut dust trails across tables or size 7 footprints to clean off dining chairs?  No more giggles or sticky-lip kisses or Pop Tarts in my hair?  Heavens, no.

And I count it all as joy…

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grape Jelly Smudges

I just want to say something worth hearing.  I want my words to touch your heart.

And all these other tasks just pile up and fragment time… time that should be spent doing more.  Encouraging women.  Saving children.  Pondering theology.  Praying ceaselessly. 

But there is dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.  The living room floor.  The bedroom floor and the laundry room floor and the tops of beds and towel racks and rags on countertops.  And mountains of clean laundry to sort and fold and put away.  There are diapers to change, phone calls to make, papers to sort and shred and file.  Windows with greasy, silly face-print smudges that need cleaning.  Flowers that need planting.  Hair that needs washing.  Bread that needs baking.  Sticky purple jelly smears on floors and door handles and light switches.  And I cringe at the work of all of this because it feels like nothing I was made for.  It feels like the stuff keeping me from real life.

But I remember, again, that this is real life, and I guzzle down the coffee quick and strap on my apron – the new one from the sweet lady at the Saturday Market – the sturdy, cheery one fashioned of cupcake fabric that makes me smile and a loop for holding a dishrag and a waist pocket big enough to hold my iPod, so I can fill my heart with music and voice-recorded books as I fill my hands with all the dirty remnants of yesterday.  I dress for this work.  Because the apron is my only uniform – my own personal superhero cape. 

This is how I save children. 

And this is how I encourage and ponder and pray.  With clean diapers, with fresh bread, with quiet praises lifted all the day long.  With song-filled humming and smiles at little ones while folding pillowcases and mopping floors and teaching literature and porch-sitting in the evening every now and again.  In between interruptions and frustrations where I breathe deep and keep going, even when I’m weary, in the strength that is not my own, because it’s the gift I can give to the twelve bodies within this house, and the neighbors and friends that pass through.

And at the end of it, when I fall into bed and I count blessings, I remember that I, too, can be blessed by all of this.  My work, my rest, my smiles and bread and words become marks of all these gifts overflowing – all the beautiful details of a full and wonderful and messy and amazing life, sweeter than grape-jelly smudges.

Linking to:


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When Time Runs Out

The oldest resident boy in this house is 18.  Adult.  And in just a few months, he’ll be a graduate on his way in the world without my daily influence, or the protective net of love and safety that he has grown accustomed to in the years he has been here.

It makes me want to panic.  To fret and splinter and work hard to package every life lesson I can conceive of, then tuck it safely beneath his rib cage, straight to his core.

Don’t do drugs.  Always open doors for ladies.  Do unto others.  Love deeply, live fully.  And don’t forget to call.

I’ve been “mom” to him for less than a year and I see the hourglass shifting, the last few grains slip-sliding through narrow passages.  I don’t have enough time.

And so, it becomes my prayer, the one that’s always been.

Let this boy… and all these boys… see You, know You, and not just hear about You.

I’m desperate for them to gather the point of all this – of all the church services they’ve sat through, the special programs and weekly chapels, the summer camps and songs and devotions and meal blessings. 


Love that is more than religion and politics, bigger than pain, and more satisfying than any temptation.  Love that gave this hurting child a second chance.  Love that does not envy and does not boast and means so much more than words on a page.  Love that surrounds and uplifts, whether you lay your head in a dorm room or sleep under an overpass.  Love that transcends.

When time runs out, love is all that is left. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

And It Falls All Around

Yesterday was rushed and filled, and I was too abrasive, trying to get this brood to their respective plans… to far away towns for fishing and shopping and getting things done.  Me, who, weekly, longs for Sabbath, daydreams of rest and refocus but cannot seem to apply the discipline, cannot seem to line up time to accommodate rest.

Despite all the me in that equation, the day was marked by smiles and grace, and all was well. 

And isn’t it always?

So rest and refocus came, in funny, unplanned ways…flaking from upward grace and settling down upon me where I had not even invited.

Thank you.

Today, I shake off the haste and pestilence.  Apply myself to my tasks all the same, but with a heart lifted ever upwards and maybe the corners of my mouth too, upwards, reaching up, up, to finding joy in laundry and phone calls… signs of life and living. 

Today, again, I count them.  Blessings.  Joys.  Gifts.

225.    Little girl sleepovers, full of giggles.
226.    Hope, in whatever form it arrives, moment by moment.
227.    Satisfying sneezes.
228.    My baby’s belly, rising and falling with spent breath.
229.    Appealing weather.
230.    Heavy eyelids and cozy beds.
231.    A night of restful sleep.
232.    A front porch large enough for many friends.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Worms and Love-Nourishment

Boys in rubber boots and tennis shoes dig deep and labor long.  The too-hot spring sun hovers close, warming and drying the dirt as they dig and till, rake and hoe.  Making room for seeds, perfecting the conditions for growth, hoping hard for first a bud and then a leaf, making way for rich taste, patience for slow growth that eventually produces delicious nourishment, even as the hawk circles nervous overhead.  They break the ground in rows and then pockets for tiny seeds, side by side, and add water.  Add sweat and sunshine.  Add hope and trust in the magic that happens below the dirt, the creation of something wonderful where once there was nothing. This is what it means to garden.

And this is what it means to grow.

The ground is hard and so is breaking through.  Our hearts are tangled up like seeds under dirt mounds of rocks and grubs and squirmy crickets and sin and doubt.   

Our Creator tills the soil within, and He labors hard even as we labor hard to grow, first a bud and then a leaf, pushing through the rocky, sin-laced dirt, our own heart’s soil rich now with tears and sun and the hope that we, too, will blossom beautiful, that we will grow and be love-nourishment to this world, ravenous and emaciated, starved for delicious Truth.  That our delicate blooms will display the miracle of the magic that happens below the dirt, within.

Note:  Creating is what puts me in touch with the Creator.  Crafting words, spilling all the tales that make up the journey He takes me on... this is where I am the me I was made to be, where I overflow with all the graces and all the gifts.  Along that journey, I've found so much encouragement in the ministry and open hands of some like-minded and full-hearted ladies at Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Every summer, they host an absolutely incredible conference, She Speaks, which is invaluable to everyone blessed enough to be there.  A fellow writer and beautiful word-crafter, Ann Voskamp (who wrote the amazing and life-altering book One Thousand Gifts) is hosting a scholarship opportunity on her blog, A Holy Experience

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Badge I Wear ... Guest Post at The M.O.B. Society


It’s a badge of honor, that moniker, that tells the world of all the wounds I’ve kissed, the hugs I’ve given (and those I’ve received), and the battlefields I’ve lived upon.

But there are other words, so much harder to hear.
 ...   For the rest of the story, go check out my guest post at The M.O.B. Society today!  For those of you that aren't familiar, this is a wonderful, encouraging resource for Mothers of Boys. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bring On the Wildflowers

Everywhere I look, it’s announced.  Spring.

By the bloggers and bluebonnets and breezy wind blowing its cheerful whisper all around:  It’s Spring.  And time for all things to be new.

Usually, I birth and rebirth with the change of seasons, my own winter deadening hibernation, my summer sunny scorching, and my cozy autumnal leafy drifting. 

But the clock has not set to Spring on this heart yet.  My personal groundhog remains buried underground, inside the deadness, where there is still winter.  I am not new and fresh and all re-born, yet.  Not this year. 

Just tired.  So.  So.  Tired.

Tired because, yes, the baby couldn’t sleep and called out for me all night and we did the tucking-in routine dozens and dozens of times and my top and bottom eyelids haven’t met in oh, forty something hours.  Tired because one of our resident boys went home for spring break and didn’t return, left by his own will with no goodbye, and although I am an adult and should know better, I am hurt and slighted.  Tired because as the revolving doors can sometimes go in places like these, as one leaves another one prepares to move in, and we will start again with another boy in three days and I can't imagine where I'll get the strength, but I also know just where.  Here, in Him who gives me strength.

And the laundry.  And the mess.  And the unpacking from the not-restful vacation.  And it can start to look like mountains and monsters waiting for me around every corner, in this gopher hole where winter stays and the soul hangs damp and heavy.

I breathe in deep and pray for my internal Spring to arrive.

For the Rain to wash me clean, to bloom with brightness and shake off this stale winter breath.  For the Breeze to blow all this away, and the sun… the Son… to bring on the wildflowers, again.

“For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” – Psalm 18:28

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Girl

I am bone tired.

Thirteen people need something from me right at this minute, and all I can do is sit and funnel all my energy into the simple task of keeping my upper eyelashes from falling and taking me deep into dream-sleep. 

The job is harder than you might imagine.

I feel zapped and drained, void, and I glance over and see this lovely girl… busying herself with a book, beautiful in the simple pleasure she finds in a good story.  Quiet and content, lovely with her hair mussed and bare feet sticking out crooked from the chair.  She doesn’t know I’m watching, and yet, this is the most interesting thing I’ve seen all day.  

In this instant, I am lifted.

Eight boys that call me mama, and I realize that I am so very blessed to have this one sweet girl who shares my heart, who loves from the very bottom of her toes, who is always beautiful without trying because her heart is so very pure and the beauty just seems to leaks out of her, even with cream cheese all over her face.

I am grateful, today, to a God who knows how my heart needed this girl – this girl who gave me such fits in her younger days with her feisty independent spirit, but is such an amazing inspiration to a mama’s heart as she grows… high and deep.  Without her, I would drown in a sea of sportscasts and Nerf wars, and I am just so very glad she’s my Baby Love.