{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Several weeks ago, our pastor gave a Sunday morning sermon on “God-sized projects”.

Then, a few weeks later, I figured he must’ve lost his sermon notes or run into a temporary bout of memory loss when … he gave another one, mostly of the same script, same stories.

And most of the congregation, I fear, failed to notice.  I chuckled and flipped back to my notes, then followed along, grateful for the handwriting rest (I’m a frantic note-taker with fibromyalgia, which often equals swollen knuckles and painful fingers), and followed along.

And while I still don’t know what caused the redundant subject matter… I know this:

God whispered.

“Perhaps you didn’t hear Me fully the first time.  What’s your God-sized project, Cara?  What are you trusting Me to accomplish?”

And as this morning brings a gloriously rare bit of deep, lingering quiet in pajamas and bare feet, I ponder and imagine-pray what might be on His agenda for me.  And I sort of flitter among and through the thought that every day brings tasks I can’t complete without His help. 

And I wonder how big we’re talkin’ here, Lord.

Potty training, at the moment, is a God-sized project, and there are days that it feels insurmountable just to get a shower (or, dare I dream… a nap?!).  And I wonder.  Does painting my kitchen cupboards count?  Planning a summer vacation for twelve on a budget of $35 a person (surely that one, right)?  Just staying afloat through a summer of mad-dashes and constant movement?  How big should I be dreaming here?

How big is God?

And I spy, from my window, a busy grand-daddy dropping everything to push his beautiful granddaughter, all wild blonde curls and frog-faced rain boots, on a swing… higher… higher!  She splits open with giggles and he nods quietly, approving of all she is, right there in that moment.  And I see God in that too.  In that gentle moment, that quiet stopping.  Thirty seconds, maybe sixty… and now they’re done.  Is God big enough to be that… small, too?  Those tiny fleeting moments that amount to the significance of a life spent… on swings, in rocking chairs on porches, in cupcakes and hard-won smiles and three-word love notes?  


It makes me giggle.  To dream that my sitting here, peaceful, with coffee and manipulating words… this can be a project Just. His. Size.  And bending low to serve another, in quietness… that too.  And letting my finite mind imagine the huge, gargantuan dreams He’s working His hands around, smoothing into my heart.  Huge like the dream of putting together a conference for women, huge like mobilizing for disaster relief, huge like serving in the far and wide, and huge like applying lotion to sunburned shoulders or sharing a pink popsicle with a cranky kid on a hot day. 

And I see that the size of the project is relevant to the impact it makes, not only to the number of people it reaches or amount of hours it takes to accomplish.  A God-sized project can be, I believe, accomplished, sometimes, in one tiny word, one gentle touch given at the right moment, or offered as a lifetime spent in the reach of one righteous pursuit. 

In this quiet, I float in the awareness of just how incredible is this fluid notion of God’s size.  He is big.  He is small.  He is everywhere.  He is all.  He… is.   

I want to thank you, friends, for your grace in my recent absence.  I’m grasping at hours on these busy summer days and chose to mostly step away from the computer for a few weeks to enjoy a visit with my wonderful mother-in-love, who flew out a couple thousand miles to spend time with us, and get the school year wrapped up.  Our senior graduated yesterday, so its been a momentous couple of weeks.  Now, I’m making the attempt at returning to life as usual, and I hope we’ll see each other around more, even as I attempt to regulate my sometimes-crazy summer schedule.  I’ve missed you.  

Grateful with Ann, today and every day... I'm laid up with back pain at the moment and am not feeling up to digging out the journal, so I'm recording these today without numbers.  From the three-hundreds, somewhere.

... Back pain that stops me for rest and physical/mental unwinding.
... Pool hours, here, nearly every day, giving the kids lots of fresh-air and laughter time.
... A birthday in the house, today.  Blonde boy turns 14, complete with chocolate cake and video games.
... Mustard yellow.
... His banner over me is love.  Only, and always, love.
... Twinkle lights.
... Pinterest.com
... Mom moving in to her new place, and loving it.
... Sunshine through linen, filtered into pure, clear, light.
... Lunch plans, tomorrow.
... A life that ticks on, with help, while I take it easy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Where I'm Standing... A Look Into Summer

There are geckoes and junebugs skitting all up the window screen in front of me and it feels like summer all too soon, coming with the speed of a freight train… the hot days and wild hours with chlorinated bodies splashing in and out barefooted all around to grab a bologna sandwich with a water balloon in the other hand and me chasing them out the backdoor, waving a pink bottle of SPF 50 like a lunatic.  And I try to take a breath and brace for it, for the comfortable chaos that I imagine summer to be, here.  This is the last season we will be new at, now.  It’s nearly been a year.

Today we had a taste of it, a breezy afternoon with football on the front lawn and water pistols that took a turn toward egg-throwing and whipped cream in boyish ears and sour-cream catapults that had us all in stitches, remembering, this is the good stuff.  Laughter and front lawn food fights and family movies into wee hours just because we can, because we love each other and most days, we even like each other, and I whisper thanks for that, for it is so good.  The kids are amped up for summer and its all I can do to try and get things together before the tornado of flip-flopped-feet stampedes in and out the storm door all summer long. 

I like chaos.  I do.  But this ADD-mama fears a bit of the necessary insanity that accompanies summer’s revolving door, and the mash of moods that crunch together in the melting Texas heat.  I worry about my ineptitude, that summer’s sun will magnify my weakness for order and organization, that my half-hearted routine will splinter and I’ll “lose” control (the illusion, of course, that I ever had any to begin with). 

For today, I watch these still-spring clouds spread wide and thin above my head and linger in the manageably warm air for another day – counting the days to come, mulling it over with a bold dash of anticipation as to just what summer will be like, here, and will I be able to handle it, now, with all these twelve bodies home all day, cranky and cantankerous, eventually pent up together in hiding from the blistering heat?

And as I wonder and calculate, I try to lay down my expectations and again practice gratitude for the days at all, for the season and all that is to come, whatever will come.  And I count, in the here and now, (and even a tad "late", with Ann, toward one thousand gifts.

370.    My mother-in-love’s safe arrival and wonderful company.
371.    Cool weather that makes for hours of chatty porch-sitting with neighbors and friends.
372.    Returning a favor, for a friend.
373.    A one-on-one lunch date with one of our cottage boys, full of honest talk and reassurance.
374.    Rain, even if only a little.
375.    A mini-vacation coming up later this week, trip to Austin/Fredericksburg.
376.    Side-splitting laughter.
377.    Deep words over cold ice cream.
378.    Mild-weather days.
379.    Sunlight, at dusk, and how it plays on my children’s faces, all aglow.
380.    Frozen waffles (and an extra few moments to sleep, this morning).

Linking to:  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Thank you for your grace, friends, as the blog-garden goes untended for a few days around here, while I visit with family and prepare for the wild end-of-year uproar that is upon us.  I'll be back in two shakes...

Friday, May 13, 2011

So Much More Than Good

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home.  I was showered with the love of divorced parents who, like we all are, were fighting their own uphill battles and doing the best they could with what they had to love me and raise me to be what we all want our kids to be – a happy, healthy, well-adjusted good person.  And so much of my life, I thought that’s what it was all about… being good.

But I came to realize that I wasn’t really good anyway and I wanted something more for myself than just being good.  I wanted to strive for more than what my own flesh would deteriorate every day, by my very nature, my ever-thin goodness, in favor of something better.  Good was simply not good enough.

And as I’ve struggled to raise my own kids with meaning and understanding and faith and compassion and, okay, even a push toward goodness, what I hope for them is that they be something more in this world, too.  More than right.  More than happy.  More than good.  

Growing up, my friend Jessica’s family had a plaque by their front door with Joshua 24:15 printed on it:  “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  I thought it was the most beautiful verse.  Their household will serve the Lord.  Simple.  Declarative.  Powerful.  And I started to believe, somewhere within, that perhaps therein lies the difference between good and so much more than good. 

And now, as my own household is made up of so many different faces with hearts in different places, I stumble through this life and ministry in aim of making that true – As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  And I wonder how to live in such a way that my household will follow suit, that I, too, can make such a declarative statement on behalf of all those I look after and weave enough truth into their lives to see that even when they are not good…even when they are festering with ugliness and sin has caused moths to eat and rust to destroy, where families fail and choices pile upon them, that they are loved with a Perfect Love, and that they have a place here – that they belong to a household that serves the Lord.

The beautiful serving tray pictured above is one of the {in}courage inspired deals this month and is on sale in the DaySpring online store for $17.99, which is a jaw-dropping price for this very nice, heavy duty, carved metal tray with intricate decorative carvings and a cross, front and center, that sits on my coffee table and reminds me, daily, that serving the Lord is both heavy and beautiful.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Day Bittersweet

Beautiful Mother's Day Cards from Dayspring.com

Today is a weird day… a lot of up.  A lot of down. 

It’s Caleb’s third birthday.  My last baby… a bit of an end to all things baby.  Bittersweet.

And of course, it’s Mother’s Day.  And I now live 2500 miles away from my mom.  Bittersweet.

But beyond that, I’m a mom and I have little ones that celebrate and love on me and rejoice in this day beside me.  But I’m also a housemom, and there are nine kids alongside me today, some of whom can’t bear to say the words “Happy Mother’s Day”… some that whisper it behind the pain of what ‘mom’ means.  There are hearts in this house today that are broken, hearts that are angry.  Hearts that miss mom and hearts that rage and hearts that grieve over death and would really rather I not be standing here in the mom spot of their daily life.  But there are hugs and there are construction paper cards and Sunday School handicrafts and hard-swallowed mom greetings that I accept with a hug and hopefully a humble remembrance that it took a lot of heart-pain for me to be in their lives at all.

I’ve been praying for a broken heart – to break over the hearts of these boys that I may sew stronger stitches to them, that I may understand where they’re coming from.  And this morning as the church honored moms with flowers and the pastor thanked God for moms who love us and support us and put their needs last and it was all very happy and beautiful, He gave me the eyes to see through child-colored glasses… to notice the duality in the smiles of the boys whose mothers were not the kind of mothers they were supposed to be, and those whose mothers did the best thing they could have by letting them go.  And I was broken, indeed.

Bittersweet.  And beautiful.  And I’m grateful, today, for a Perfect Parent that’s hand slowly heals earthly parent wounds, where mommies and daddies fail, who covers our mess with a blanket of love-salve, and settles into hurt places even when we don’t see Him there.  So I continue to pray for brokenness, to see behind the eyes of the broken ones, and to connect the dots between my cracks and theirs, to remember that we aren’t so different and I ought not celebrate too triumphantly the rocky road they’ve had to walk, even while blessing whatever it took that I can pour love over them, love that flows through Father’s words and mother’s arms and gives me any time with these boys at all.

But I will savor these construction paper cards with fervor, for the difficulty it took to present them, for the names scribbled upon them, for what they represent.  And I will thank Him for the title… Mom… that makes up a one-word description that motivates everything I do, in work and in life and in prayer, and remind myself to do whatever I can to make it a happy mother’s day, whatever that may mean, for them, too. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to Stand Still in a Puddle of Pee

I awoke to a pee puddle on the floor, and that’s the kind of week it’s been --  a who-pooped-in-the-tub?, walls-falling-down, have-to-hire-a-sitter-to-take-a-shower kind of week.

In case you need me to clarify, the puddle belonged to my toddler, not me.  But these are the gifts that keep on giving, aren’t they?

Friend, can I pull covers back over my head and sleep for six days straight if I promise to catch up with laundrydishesdustinggradingwritingreadingcleaningbathing… later?  Thanks.  You’re a pal.

Fancy a recap? 

Good friend missing in Alabama tornadoes.  Worried sick.  Knock-me-over allergy woes.  Big kids in big trouble with big implications… lots of “what kinda man are you going to be” conversations with our resident boys, this week.  Four doctor appointments all around, tuberculosis scare.  Phone calls from teachers…detention, detention, suspension.  Potty training.  Water leak.  Five trips to town.  Medication changes.  Meetings.  Tick bite…Lyme disease?  Six hour front-lawn laugh- and cry-fest with coworker/friend.  Picked for Relevant sponsorship, might as well have won the lottery.  Insomnia.  Anxiety.  Teenage boy tears.  Canker sores, migraines, fibromyalgia flare up.  Report cards.  Fevers.  A boy I’m particularly close to around here moved to a different cottage.  Heart broke.  Alabama-friend found, safe and well.  Relief.  Fitful sleep.  Sixty days without a day off.  Husband handles it all in stride.  Kids, not so much.  Mom… not so much.

Wait, did you say it’s only Wednesday?  That I still have a home licensing inspection, two more doctor appointments to shuttle kids to, a staff meeting, end-of-year testing, company coming to stay for a month starting Friday, two birthdays, four sporting events, one preschooler party, a service plan meeting, fourteen meals, two in-progress bedroom makeovers, Mother’s Day, and the great potty-training-undertaking of 2011 still ahead of me, this week? 

More coffee, please.  

Life has sorta been this way since becoming a housemom.  Ten kids in one house will do that.  Always worry, always life on the roller coaster of things to do, things to feel, things to pour over in prayer.  And so much tiredness…physically, emotionally, spiritually

But God’s teaching me, in increasingly major ways, how to feel it all and be present for it all, but let it go at the same time.  How to kneel in my weakness and remain.  I haven’t loved it, but He’s taken me lower, and for the first time in my life, I’ve learned how to rest in dependence, on Him, on others.  I’ve learned how to receive encouragement and ask for it.  To let my husband rise where I fall.  To do one thing at a time.  To be weak and incomplete, and not be guilt-ridden by that.

What’s He teaching you, friend, where you are, today? 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fresh Air and Gifts like Soul-Manna

I don’t know what to say.  I don’t have words, only aches and tears and self-righteous anger and a foolish belief that what I’ve given up to be here isn’t worth what You are doing in and through me, here. 
 I pray that it will all melt away… the fear, the foolishness.  The struggle, the grief, the loss.  The phone calls and meetings and assessments will be no more and I’ll be left with You pulling me close to the heart of You and shushing me… “It will all be okay.  I will not leave you in the darkness here.  I have you where I want you and this drought will not be forever.” 
 And I know, shameful, that the part of me praying to love and take these little ones deep into every moment, to love with every bit of my live, battles the part that cries and tantrums and just wants to go home already, that doesn’t believe in my power to continue here and doesn’t believe in Your power to transcend this kind of fatigue.
 I am tired, spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally and more.  I am discouraged.  I am waiting for help to arrive, for a breath of fresh air.  I am waiting.

I wrote those words last night.  Today… is a new day.  And air has come, and it is fresh and I am gulping it down deep with gusto… and it is good.   I’m still tired, but oh to resume the counting is the medicine to soothe the weariness, the balm to heal the wounds of the week.  Joy.  Grace.  Gratitude, with Ann (who I am very much looking forward to hearing from at Relevant ’11). 

357.    Wilderness.
358.    Friends that will sit late on lawn chairs to speak truth straight into me, with love and laughter and hearts in right places.
359.    A husband with words ever wiser, learning how to best support this messy wife of his.
360.    A very, very generous gift.
361.    A tearing down of verbal walls within this house, recently… progress, sticky and thick as syrup, but progress all the same.
362.    Bone tired days that allow me to admit my weakness, to soak life up through outstretched hands, through encouraging words, through miracles.
363.    Communities full of women, of hearts all ticking out our words together to do what we can do for each other, to keep us all on our feet, to raise each other’s chins upward.
364.    Perspectives that challenge my faith, cause me to wonder, to seek, to search and admit that there are things I simply do not know.
365.    Learning to be okay with being the woman who isn’t doing it all, all at once.
366.    Nighttime dreams that drift along with sleep and feel like closure and nods in right directions.
367.    The beautiful way He weaves weakness within our personal tapestries.
368.    Healthy, loving discussion that helps keep attitudes in check and hearts humble.  
369.    Encouragement, pouring down and all around like soul-manna. 
370.  Every person that stumbles across these words, that keeps me going in ways you'll never know the measure of. 
371.  Sticky feet in hard times, even when they urge to run away but, instead, find strength to stay.

Count, along with me friends... won't you?  

Just... wow.

I was floundering for community.

I wanted to tell the truth.

And my experience in the Christian community is that we {women} tell the happy truth and smile and encourage and "pray about it" but we're afraid to get messy... down in the dirty nitty gritty that is life to say what we really need to say, to hear what we really need to hear.  And my heart was heavy with the search for the okay to say all the real stuff, the good and bad and ugly.

And then I found {in}courage... this virtual beach house where we're all invited to put our sandy feet up and laugh and cry and get real... and tell the truth.

So I did.  I told them who I was, that my passion was for you, that my fervent prayer was that my mess would connect to your heart and we'd all just go along doing life together, arm in arm, all these sandy feet on the table.

And this morning, I got the happy news that {in}courage/DaySpring honored me with the writer's craft sponsorship to the Relevant 2011 Conference, in my favorite quiet spot in the world, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania this October.  Something I dared to hope for more than I probably should have.  And I am encouraged, and it feels like a beautiful day after a dreadfully hard weekend.

Can't wait to meet you sister-friends that will be at Relevant, too.  And introduce yourself.  I don't yet know anyone else that will be there, and I so look forward to all that this sponsorship, and this conference, holds.

And.... wow.  Just... wow.