You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wise words of the sage philosopher … Semisonic.

Yes, the 90s rock band.

The lyric “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” has been pulling at my heart.  This week has been a week of beginnings and endings for us.

Monday we went ice skating.  Temperatures are warming up and the snow is starting to melt, so our local ice rink shut its doors for the season.  We drove up the hill to ice skate one last time and say goodbye to sledding and snow men and all things winter

Friday, we went hiking.  Temperatures are warming up and the snow is starting to melt, so we drove up the hill and said hello to a new season of outdoor fun.  This marked the beginning of hiking and biking and picnics and all things spring.

Monday we said goodbye to winter, Friday we said hello to spring.

Goodbyes are really hard for me.  Letting go takes so much more skill than holding on. My spirit lingers in the goodbye.

This is not a good trait for a military wife to have.

A few months ago, my family moved from the oceans of Okinawa, Japan to the mountains of New Mexico.   The hello has been wonderful and a long time coming, but the goodbye has devastated me in some ways.

My heart aches for my little Japanese neighborhood on the bay and cherry blossoms and eisa dancers and, for the love, real ramen and even the typhoons. (You can read more about our time in Okinawa here http://downbythebay.blog.com/  )

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be living in America again. It is my home. I don’t really feel like I fit in, though.  People look at me funny when I bow. They confusedly answer hello when  I say, “hai”.  All of the little cultural habits  that once felt so foreign to me as I tried them on for size in the Japanese culture, are now second nature to me but foreign to everyone in my own culture.

I struggle to find my footing in this strange new place called home.

Friday as we slowly meandered our way through the trees and took deep breaths of crisp pine scented air, I felt a kinship with the mountain.  I recognized its struggle.  In some ways, it wanted to roll back over under the blanket of melting snow and remain in the winter; chunks of stubborn ice held on for dear life in shadows yet untouched by the sun.  In other ways,  it was  waking up to this new season, fresh and happy to greet hikers on the trail that had laid abandoned all winter. Green shoots were beginning to peek their heads out of the snow, the birds were singing in the trees, the mountain was beginning to come to life.

It was in transition, neither fully winter nor completely spring.

I think it wanted to push the snooze button. Just 5 more minutes, mom.

Even with the fresh promise of spring, it still wasn’t quite ready to let go of winter.

As we walked, I felt like more than my boots connected with the melty slush on the ground.  It wasn’t still fully the beautiful blanket of white snow it had once been, but wasn’t completely yet the life-giving water it would soon melt into.  Both the snow and myself were in transition from one beautiful thing to another,  living in the in-between where life gets kinda messy.

God is teaching me that it is okay to linger a while in the goodbyes, but it is better to focus my eyes on Him and keep following after Him.  He has new and exciting things to show me, new and exciting tasks for me to do.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells me that God has plans for me to prosper and not to harm me.  He has plans for me a hope and a FUTURE.

He has lots of exciting hellos in store for me in the future, but they will come at the cost of saying some goodbyes.

He reminds me that I once felt awkward as my toes took their first steps through the Okinwan sand.  The salty tropical air once felt foreign in my lungs.  Once upon a time, not so long ago, I stood under the warm Okinawan sun with cherry blossoms and eisa dancers and, for the love, real ramen and even the typhoons  while I mourned the goodbyes I had just said in America.

Over time, as I watched blue fish swarm around my daughter and laughed with my Okinawan friends and tried strange new foods and was taught proper chopstick etiquette by my students, Okinawa slowly crept into my bones.  It became a part of me.

This new place will, too.

I can already feel it a little in the sunsets over the mountains.  I feel it a little in the gentle rustling of the wind between the leaves and in exhilarating sled rides down the steep hills. I feel it as I watch my kids come into themselves a little more each day here and I slowly begin to see the faint outlines of who their adult selves will be.

I gained so much during my time in Okinawa.  My family grew stronger as we weathered some storms, I came home with 2 more children than I left with, and God called me so much deeper into relationship with Him.  I would’ve missed all of that if I had been unwilling to suffer through the goodbyes that led me there.

As I sit on my sleepy mountain and contemplate messy transitions and dirty snow, God whispers for met to get up and keep walking. I will take these next steps with my heart focused  on hellos and on the God who makes all things new – including myself.

closingtime2 closing time 3(These pictures are of our last night in Okinawa, and our last minutes in America as we were in line to board the plane)

Here are some pictures of our week of goodbyes and hellos.

 

 

Nightwatching and Dishwashing

Not long ago on a continent far away (on a day my son will never forget, I might add) I had a conniption. The day had started out like any other, another in a long series of school, chores, bed, repeat, when my son brought his dirty clothes basket downstairs. As I started sorting his clothes, I began to notice that about half of them were still folded. The child had taken his clean clothes to his room, but instead of putting them away, he had just started stacking his dirty clothes right on top of them. I called him down to discuss it with him and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Bud, half of the clothes in the basket are still folded. You never put them away, you just added your dirty clothes on to of them. Go through this basket and take the clean ones back upstairs
Him: Well, at this point, wouldn’t be easier for everyone if you just rewashed them.
Me: Yes, precious child of mine. It would totally be easier for me to do two loads of your clothes instead of one, to unfold these clothes, pay for more water and detergent to wash them again, move them to the dryer, and refold them for you. I have nothing else going on. That would be totally easier.
Him: I see what you’re saying. Sorry, I just thought this was kinda your thing.

Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if you rewashed my clothes? Sorry, I just thought laundry was kinda your thing?

The conniption that followed has been part of Edwards family folklore ever since.

He truly thought I enjoyed cleaning and doing laundry, because who in their right mind would spend that much time doing something they didn’t enjoy?

Clearly, I’m not in my right mind.

The truth is, I really don’t like doing laundry. Also, I despise doing dishes. Cleaning bathrooms is yucky. And don’t even get me started on vacuuming. No, really, I really don’t want to get started vacuuming.

Am I the only mom out here that feels like everything I do is immediately undone again, so my whole life seems to be in vain? I get caught up on the laundry and inevitably my kids take their clothes off that very night to change into pajamas. I start the dishwasher, and a kid is suddenly stricken by hunger leaving a new stack of dirty dishes in the sink before the load is even through washing.

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And for the love, these kids want to eat every. single. day. Not just once a day, I’m talking breakfast, lunch, and dinner and even a few snacks thrown in there. As soon as I get cleaned up from one meal, it’s time to start the next.

When I was working full time, I envisioned the life of a stay at home mom as peaceful, relaxed, and full of extra time. I had visions of Maria Von Trap spinning through the mountains singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. I pictured my whole family snuggled together on the couch reading classic literature and nobody ever fighting. And love. And harmony. And world peace. And little Disney birds singing all around our heads.

In reality, I spend most of my time doing these chores I don’t like. Often, I redo them, you know, just to make it easier for everyone. Some days, I feel cheated. Where are those dang Disney birds?  I feel put out, stressed out, and burnt out, and then I lash out.

Father and son team David and Solomon recently ganged up on me regarding this frustration.

In Psalm 127:1, Solomon writes “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” So … unless the Lord is in whatever we’re doing, we are doing it in vain. Unless the LORD is watching with the night watcher, he is up all night in vain. He might as well have just stayed in bed.

Psalm 127:1:

The same is true for us. All these little things I do each day, like laundry and dishes, I do to create a peaceful and Christ centered home.   Unless I am walking with the Lord in my homemaking, though, at the end of the day I’m doing it all in vain.

This is true for anything you do, including all the mind numbing, boring, mundane, trivial tasks. Maybe for you, it is filling out a report at work or driving your kids all around kingdom come for their practices. Unless God is doing it with you, you are doing it in vain.

Ya’ll. We aren’t capable of doing these things on our own.  With out God, it is all in vain.

 

So, why do we have to do it at all? If night watching and home making and taxi driving are all in vain unless it is God is with us, why do we have to do them at all? Can’t God just take the night watch and let us all sleep? Why do we need to be part of it at all?

David offers a little insight in his own verse about standing watch.  Solomon tells us that the point isn’t actually guarding the city, it is all in vain unless God is with you anyway.  So what is the point?

In Psalm 119:148 David says, “I look forward to the night watches so that I may meditate on your law.”

I read that and I think I would never look forward to the night watches. I need my beauty sleep at night and my coffee first think in the morning. Amen? I will gladly do whatever chores need doing so long as they are to be done during normal business hours.

If someone were going to say that they looked forward to the night watches (not me, but someone) I wouldn’t expect scripture meditation to be top of on their list of reasons why. I would think it would be something more like I look forward to the night watches so that I may protect my a city, or so that I may get some peace and quiet, or so that I may play pranks on all my friends (I’m thinking freeze their under tunics.) It is curious to me that David looked forward to the night watches for a reason that had nothing to do with night watching.

David looks forward to the night watches, because it gives him that one on one time with God. He looks forward to the quite in the night, no one interrupting him, and the time to meditate on the scriptures that God is putting on his heart. He enjoys his relationship with God and truly loves the scriptures. Sure, he is there to protect the city, but his heart is there to worship and commune with God uninterrupted.

He’s not truly there to guard the city, if he takes that task up all on his own, it is all in vain. He’s using this mind numbing, boring, trivial task to grow in his relationship with God.

This has transformed the way that I think about my dreaded chores. “Unless the Lord does the dishes, he who does them does them in vain, but I look forward to the dishes so that I may meditate on your word”.

“Unless the Lord folds the clothes, he who folds them does so in vain, but I look forward to folding the clothes so that I may meditate on your law”.

laundry

I have taken a step back and looked at my life and found this to be so true. Some of my best worship experiences happen when I pop in a praise cd and load the dishwasher. I can’t be the only crazy woman out their raising her hands in worship on the way to drop off the kids somewhere. The time I’m vacuuming gives me time to think and meditate on the scripture I studied in my devotion time that morning.

Ya’ll. We live in such a fast paced world where so many things jump out and try to capture our attention. There are whole career fields like marketing and advertising in which people study ways to get in your brain and change your behavior. Almost everything in your life, from the colors on your cereal box to the ads on your e-mail are designed to get your attention. “Buy me! Click on me! Look at me!” So often, we exchange our free time for screen time. We binge watch a show on Netflix over the weekend and spend hours on our phones.  Our brains have become hardwired for lights and colors and action.

Doing these mind numbing, boring and trivial chores gives us time unplugged. Time to be in our own heads. Time when God and His still small voice can get a word in edge wise. Time to write the Word on our hearts. Time to meditate on scripture and praise our God.

Now, I try to see that stack of dishes not as an annoying chore my messy kids left behind, but as a few precious moments I can steal away to commune with God. I try to see the never ending pile of laundry as an opportunity to let the Spirit of God have a moment to speak to me.

Don’t hear me say that I always do that perfectly. No, I try to see the dishes or the laundry that way. Do I still have conniptions from time to time? Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. Do I still give my kids plenty of chores to do? You betcha! They have to learn responsibility. I’m just trying to live my life with eyes wide open seeking times to spend with God.

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If you, like me, struggle with exactly what that looks like, here are a few tricks I have been using:

  • Play praise music during chores.
  • Have a specific scripture in mind when starting a chore and ask God to give you more insight.
  • Take the time to think over a line from a book or sermon you heard recently that caught your attention.
  • Just be still and listen, ask God what He wants to tell you.
  • Think of a specific person or prayer request that you have committed to pray for.
  • Tell God you feel awkward, but you want to give that time to Him. Trust Him to bless you in that.

Quantum Mechanics and Fried Chicken

This just happened in my real life:

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For those of you who don’t know, I homeschool my children. Earlier today, I assigned my 14 year old to read a chapter of his chemistry book. He returned a few minutes later with this glazed over look and said, “Mom, I read it, but I didn’t really understand it”.

Don’t worry, I got this. Please remember that in my former life I was an actual classroom teacher who always straightened her hair and never wore yoga pants (except I did wear maxi skirts, which, if we’re honest, are basically yoga pants on their best behavior). I have actually been paid real money to teach both 6th and 8th grade science and I can draw atoms on the overhead with the best of them. No probemo. Just sit back and I’ll show you how it’s done.

I naively followed him to his chemistry book like an oblivious pig follows the farmer into the slaughter house on Christmas Eve.

I opened the book and read the chapter title: “Quantum Mechanics: Unlocking the Secret Code that Tells us Where Exactly in the Electron Cloud an Electron Is.”

Record screech.

Uhm, did that just say quantum mechanics?

Like, with no air quotes around it or April Fools behind it or anything?

This was my exact face the moment I read the title.

I looked over at my son and he looked like this.

Then we both looked like this.

I told him we better roll up our sleeves and get busy, and so we started apprehensively like this.

Finally, it was time to put our game faces on. Let’s do this thing.

I read the chapter quickly by myself. Then we read it together, stopping to draw diagrams. After that, we kind of looked like this

 

I searched youtube for a short video on the 4 quantum numbers (thank you ChemestNATE).  Don’t judge my youtube teaching, you’ve never had to teach quantum mechanics.

Finally we reviewed the chapter and answered the questions together.

When we finished,  we felt like

And then we walked away exactly like this

Ya’ll. He had answered all the other questions correctly (by the grace of God), but his last question was “why should we study quantum mechanics?” He was supposed to write something about knowing the reactivity of atoms or something ridiculous like that. He wrote “so we can know science”. I. counted. It. Right.  If I’m honest, I would’ve also accepted “so we can be up to date on the latest torture techniques”, “Dear Jesus please make it stop”, and “coconuts”.

A few minutes later after we had gone on with life  he turned to me and said, “My brain is fried like chicken. … I used a simile! … Or was that a metaphor? Some kind of analogy? …. Never mind. I give up”. He seriously just could not even anymore. A gone fishing sign was hung up on his brain. The end. Kaput.

I know the point of this blog is to “seek the miraculous in the mundane” and try to pay attention to the spiritual lessons in our ordinary daily lives, but I’ll be honest, I got nothing here. I could say something about how God always knows where we are and doesn’t have to unlock a code to find us (wow, that’s pretty bad) or how we should stick close to God like electrons to the nucleus (I’m sorry, ya’ll) or something about how I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (ooh, that’s better) but I got nothing.

My brain is fried like chicken.

Two Types of People

There is a common phrase -“there are two types of people in this world.” People say this and then go on to find some distinctive way to distinguish them. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s serious. For example:

There are two types of people in this world: those who are morning people, and those who want to shoot all the morning people. (The second group is my people.)

There are two types of people in this world: people you drink with and people that make you want to drink.

There are two types of people in this world: people who agree with me, and people who are wrong.

In Ephesians, Paul takes a stab at it. Ephesians 4:21-24 says “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (NKJV)

In this portion of Ephesians, Paul is telling us there are two kinds of people in this world: those living according to the old self and those that are putting on the new self.

Here he is taking about “the old self” as the person you were before Christ when you are left to your own devices. The “new self” is referring to the new creation that you become after accept Christ.

As I was reading Ephesians 2:22 in the NKJV a couple of days ago, the phrase “grows corrupt” really stuck out to me. The NASB says “is becoming corrupt” This seems like an oxymoron of sorts to me. I mean, I always think of growing as a good thing. We grow up, we grow older and wiser. If we get through a hard season, we say we “grew”.  Rarely is growing anything other than a positive thing.

If I were writing this passage, I’d have said something more like “is corrupt”, something stagnant. The NKJV says it “is becoming corrupt”. The old self isn’t just stagnant and corrupt, it is becoming even more so. It is growing in a corrupt way.

This immediately brought to mind the image of flag trees.  Flag trees are trees that grow bent or mangled because of strong winds.  They grow in corrupt ways that aren’t true to what they were created to be.

What Paul is saying here is you are growing, changing, and becoming something every minute of your life. There is no neutral ground, life isn’t a spectator sport. You are evolving with every breath. You are either evolving towards the old self, which is being led by the deceit of lusts, or you are evolving towards the new self, which is being created by God according to righteousness and holiness.

In the NASB, v. 24 reads “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” The new self is being created in the likeness or image of God. If we rewind a little bit back to creation, Genesis 1:27 reads “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Don’t you see? We were created in the image of God to begin with. That is the truth of who we are at our core. That is why it says “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in … TRUTH”. It is being true to who we were created to be to grow towards being the new self. The old self “grows corrupt according to the lusts of deceit” or LIES.

As we grow and evolve and become in our lives, we have two choices.  We can choose to be true to the image of God that we were created in allowing God to see through to completion the good work He began and to continue molding s us in His very image, or we can choose to grow and evolve and become in the direction of lies and deceit, like a flag tree. We grow in the truth of who we are, the image we were created in, or we can grow according to the lives of our lusts.

In Colossians 3:5, Paul so far to say that living with sexual immorality, greed, and lust are idolatry.

Idolatry. Wow. That seems pretty strong to me. I picture idolatry as people worshipping a golden calf or doing some kind of voodoo chicken dance. Idoloatry can take many forms, though. Just living with greed, putting the deceit of our own worldly lust for money above the truth of the new self, is idolatry.

Wowzers.

All of these things that are lies we believe about who we truly are (we are truly made in the image of Christ) equal to idolatry.

So, basically, there are 2 types of people in the world: worshipers of God and worshipers of idols.

Psalm 115 offers a little more insight on idols.

“Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throa. Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.”

Passages in Mark, Jeremiah, and Isaiah talk about people who have ears but don’t hear and eyes but don’t see. I’ve always wondered why. Why were they made with ears that don’t hear? Psalm 115 has the answer.  It says the same thing about idols. – they have eyes but don’t see and ears but don’t hear, etc. Then, the answer is in verse 8 .Those who worship them will BECOME LIKE THEM.

You will become like whatever you worship. If you worship idols, whether it is a golden calf or your own self, you will grow and become according to lies, having ears that don’t hear and eyes that don’t see. If you worship, God, however, and grow and become with Him in truth, you will continue to be made in His image.

Make no mistake, you are moving and growing towards something. Are you choosing to grow towards your old self being made in the image of idols and lies, or towards the truth of what you were created in: the truth of the image of God? Are you going to make yourself or Allow God to create you?

White Sands and Raised Hands

They say your kids will teach you more than you will ever teach them.

So true.

My kids have taught me things like what the fox says (not sure they were right about that one), that there is an end to my tolerance of fake Scottish accents, and all the tricks for hiding things to make it look like you cleaned your room.

Just keepin’ it real.

They have also taught me some pretty amazing things, too.

Kaelynn, my oldest daughter, is more herself than anyone I’ve ever met. It both baffles and inspires me.

I struggle so much with comparing myself to others, chasing what I think things are “supposed to be” instead of chasing God, and doubting myself. I may get a great idea or get inspired to do something wonderful, but then I spend my energy thinking off at least 50 reasons why I’m completely inept or incapable of doing it instead of actually doing it.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I’ve found that to be absolutely true. No matter which side of the equation you end up, if you compare yourself to other’s you’ve lost. If you come out on bottom, or “less than”, you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. If you come out on top, or “better than”, you end up having to fight the very sneaky enemy of a humble faith – pride. One thing Christ never had was a superiority complex – and he was God. Take a look at Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

SO TRUE! Wish more people remembered this.  comparisonjoy copy by lindandcammommy, via Flickr:

It is so easy look around and compare yourself to others, which totally distorts our own identities. Whether it ends up defeating or inflating us, comparison with others is the same as looking through a fun house mirror – totally wack.

So we settle for what is “good enough” or what we consider to be within our reach instead of expanding our brains and hearts to the amazing things that are with in His rich. The things he wants for and from us, not just because he is for our good, but because it is the very reason he created us.

Instead of looking to others to find our identity and make sense of our place in the world, we need to look to God, the one who created us.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us “You are his handiwork, created through Jesus Christ, to do good works which he prepared beforehand

You are not just something God created like you create a doodle in a notebook and then forget about it. You are his handiwork. His masterpiece. His Rembrandt. His Sistine Chapel. His …. you.

You weren’t created just to look pretty (even though you do, I love that shade of yoga pants on you), you were designed specifically to play your part in expanding the kingdom of God. You are commissioned to do something great for God that he prepared for you before you were ever born.

Chances are, that thing you think you can’t do, that dream that lives in the secret places of your heart, is the key to figuring out what that is. Our dreams and our giftings usually go hand in hand. God put this homing beacon in our spirits to draw us towards Him, towards His kingdom, and towards His purpose. Listen to that. Develop it.

Yes, someone might be more successful in your space than you are … today.

There may be more accomplished singers in the world or Bible teachers, or whatever that pull on your heart is. (Don’t worry, singers, that space is completely safe from me. Thank you, praise band at church, for playing loud enough that I can sing my heart out and not ever have to hear myself).

There may be other people rocking in your space, but they aren’t rocking it like you could. They can’t leave your unique finger print on it and touch the same people in the same way you would. Let’s get to the point where we can cheer each other on instead of comparing ourselves to others to bring them or ourselves down.

Most importantly, seek God first. Don’t seek success or fame or money or friends or popularity. When you seek God first, other things have a way of falling into place, Jesus tells us this very thing in Mathew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When you are running after God with all you have and finding your identity in Him, He will reveal to you the plan that he has for you. Not all at once, but step by step.

Whatever you’re life looks like, God put you there for a reason. He prepared good works for you to do before you took a breath. What in your eyes looks like a hot mess, in God’s eyes is the stage set perfectly to tell his story of redemption and love through your testimony.

Our family just recently moved from Japan to New Mexico. This is quite a change. From the Far East to the southwest. From tropics to deserts. It has been a big adjustment for all of us. Military/missionary life is hard.

Kaelynn, my gymnast, has amazed me at the way she has just brought herself with her. No matter what situation she goes into, she knows who she is and does her thing. She jumped into a new culture and a new gymnastics class with new girls, and never skipped a beat.

No matter where she is, whether it is on the beaches of Japan, the mountains of Washington, or the deserts of New Mexico, she does her thing. She brings it.

What an inspiration to me that no matter where I am in life, even if it is in the driest desert I have ever been in and my skin is shriveling (but my hair finally straightens well) and 4 kids are following me everywhere I go, I need to do the things that God has called me to do.

I have pics of Kaelynn just doing her all over the world. She is doing gymnastics in our house in Okinawa, on our vacation in Washington, and in the white sands of New Mexico. No matter where she ends up, she brings herself and shows up. Isn’t it beautiful to watch a person come into their own and really fill the space of their lives with the thing that give glory to God?

So wherever you are today, lean into who God made you to be instead of second guessing it. Trust God and His Word when he says that you are a masterpiece designed with purpose. Run your race. Shine your light. Do you. Then, give God the glory.

 

Here she is at our house in Okinawa:

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Here she is in Washington:

 

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And here she is in White Sands:

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The 15 Year Week

*This post is actually a post I posted on my previous blog, http://downbythebay.blog.com/ , about a year ago.  It is my husband’s birthday, so I started getting all sentimental again and thought I would post it here, too. *

Marriage Quotes | Mothers Who Know: Proclamation Series: Marriage Quotes & Links

Steven proposed to me in January and we got married 6 months later which means that every 6 months I get to get sappy and sentimental.  I sing all the songs and remember all the memories and look at all the pictures, and do all the things, and then I get over it because, sheesh, I have a life to live and kids to raise and, let’s be honest, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”  Lucky for you, it just so happens to be the anniversary of my proposal. Proceeding into sappy mode now –

Here’s the thing.  We spent Christmas at the beach and while I was looking through the pictures of our trip this one picture stood out to me.  No, it more like reached out and slapped me right in my crinkled face. Check it out –

You see the funny thing is I don’t recognize the people in this picture.  In fact, I don’t even remember them being on the beach with us at all.  I mean, who are these people? Because it was only like a month ago that I would hear Steven’s mustang coming down the road toward my house and I would go bounding down the old, wooden, blue porch steps and jump in THROUGH THE WINDOW because I was little and I could do things like that and we would drive aimlessly holding hands listening to Foo Fighters or Sublime or Lenny Kravits.  And if we couldn’t go out together because he had to work at Sonic, he would sneak over to my house “on his way home from work” which was, by the way, completely out of the way, and bring me a cherry limeade with extra cherries, which basically meant he took a regular cherry limeade and  used cherries in the place of ice, so it was kind of actually a cup of maraschino cherries with a little sprite on top.  And every day in the school cafeteria at lunch, after he went through the taco bell line (because one month ago apparently nobody cared about childhood obesity and we got Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper at school) I would ask for a bite of his burrito and he would give it to me even though he knew I was going to suck the beans out of it, which I did.  And we thought thoughts and dreamed dreams and sang the songs and rebelled against all the things because we were rebels without a clue, but we were together.

And then, I swear it was only last week, Steven proposed to me.  I can still see it like it was yesterday even though it was a whole week ago. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve as the year changed from 1999 to 2000 on the edge of time between two centuries right at the exact moment of the millennium we set our lives on course with each other.  We were at a small group gathering at a friend’s house and were bringing in the New Year with praise and worship.  I always get a kick out of thinking that while everyone else was sweating Y2K, Steven was sweating asking my dad for my hand and a public proposal.  Exactly right at midnight Steven got down on one knee in front of everyone and asked me to marry him.  I waited a whole .2 seconds before snatching that ring out of his hand and declaring right then and there that I would indeed devote the REST OF MY LIFE to him.  It was okay, I was the ripe old age of 19. Okay, everybody breathe in deep and sigh at the sweetness now.  I know, totally presh.

I wanted to post a picture of that, too, but it was back in the days before everyone had cell phones with cameras.  We were way back in the dark ages with beepers and giant car phones then.  Don’t worry your pretty little head about how it is that cell phones have developed from beepers to the iPhone over the past week and how everyone has one now when just one week ago, no one did.  It’s just one of those things.  Life is funny like that.

So you can imagine how surprising it is to look at this picture and see what looks almost like middle aged versions of us just standing there like it ain’t no thing.  I wouldn’t expect to see that for about, I don’t know, 15 more years or so.  I seriously think some chubby lady ate me.  And why in the world is she wearing a long denim skirt and boots to the beach???  Teenaged me would’ve been down there in cut off shorts and a tube top even if it was December because, hey, it’s the beach and what kind of old lady would wear boots to the beach?  Would you even believe that when we were younger we rolled our eyes at all the old fuddy duddies who would tell Steven to pull up his baggy pants (yes, one week ago was in the time before skinny jeans) and then when I was a middle school teacher I kept rainbow suspenders in my desk drawer so that I could hold up the pants of students who tried to get away with saggy pants?  Teenaged me would kick my butt.  Today me would promptly send her to the principal’s office for being disrespectful and tell her to put on same dang clothes because who wears cut off shorts and tube tops in December. And for the love, look at that man I’m with. I know this isn’t my Steven because he always had long hair and side burns and hair everywhere.  It almost looks like this man is starting to get the faintest hint of a bald spot.  How in the mind-boggling heck?

Would you even believe my knees are starting to creak when I stand up after sitting Indian style for a while?  I’ve always heard people saying their joints creaked and thought that that was just a thing people say but don’t mean literally like a cat has their tongue or they want to butter someone up or they don’t need any more coffee.  I was wrong.  It’s a real thing.  And another real thing – sometimes when the lighting is bad in my mirror, it looks like I have all these crazy little crinkles around my eyes.  The lighting is usually pretty bad at my house, but I’m sure there is bound to be somewhere I could go where it would be better.  I maintain a steady hope for good lighting out there somewhere which will show my eyes in all of their genuine youthful glory and not fall victim to these crazy crinkle shadows.

So you can sympathize with me how shocking and appalling it was to look at this picture and see a couple of boring fuddy duddies at the beach with kids and baby bottles and a station wagon and for crying out loud boots and to know that these very people have to hurry and get back before nap time and that they are looking forward to a Christmas dinner without chicken nuggets.  These things have a way of sneaking up on a person.  At first glance I can only think, “What in the serious what?!”

Then, after a deep breath I sneak a second glance and see so much more.  You can’t even tell because his head is turned away from the camera, but he is cracking up, too.  That’s us, me and my friend, laughing together on the beach on Christmas while our baby splashes in the waves.  And do you even know who took that picture?  Agent K.  Of all the beautiful scenery she could’ve taken a picture of on that glorious Christmas morn (or afternoon if I’m honest.  Getting up is hard, people) it was her parents laughing with and loving each other that she wanted to capture at that moment.  That’s pretty special, huh?

Oh, the laughing.  You wouldn’t believe how much we’ve laughed in the past 15 year week.  From a hysterical several hour conversation in the middle of the night on the way home from our honeymoon, to laughing at our local Japanese convenience store putting up a sign wishing us a “wonderfully throbbing Christmas” to acapella Sir Mix Alot, we laugh.  all. the. time.  And oh, the inside jokes.  Ya’ll don’t even know what you are missing out on.  We are hysterical.  From badgers to fat man in a little car to raccoon hands to cocktail weenies to loading the dishwasher to big dip ice cream, we have some random words we can just say to each other and crack up because we know why even if nobody else does.  Okay, so you might laugh at cocktail weenies, too, because they are pretty funny all on their own, but you’d laugh harder if you were in on our inside jokes.

Hysterical, snorting, knee slapping, water coming out of your nose laughing isn’t all we’ve got going for us.  Ya’ll , I married a deep thinker.  I realized this the first time when we watched “Of Mice and Men” in high school (yes, watched.  It’s okay, I wasn’t an English teacher yet) and then we had a deep discussion about the themes of the movie and the characters and the emotions and poor sweet Lenny.  Thank heavens those discussions have continued and matured as we have.  We have discussed so much about our dynamics, religion and spirituality, freedom and liberty, dreams and plans, parenting strategies, and on and on.  If you can think it, we have thunk it.  We inspire each other to think of new ideas and understand ourselves and each other at deeper levels.  This is one of my greatest blessings.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been roses.  We have cried with each other and we have cried because of each other. This might come as a big surprise, but I wasn’t actually the perfect wife at the age of 19. We have stormed off and slammed doors and stayed up all night arguing said mean things designed to cut each other down.  We have stood inches away from each other with an immeasurable gulf in between us that neither one of us was sure how to cross.  The thing was, though, that in the end we both wanted to cross it.  We’ve stood there wondering how or  if we could even breathe much less take that next step. And then, at that exact moment, this man reached out, took my hand, and we took the next baby step together.

We have done babies and toddlers and teenagers and all of them at once because, hey, why not.  We have done moves across the country and moves across the world and moves across the chasm between us.  We have swum in the oceans and climbed the mountains and kissed in the snow.  We have had dreams come true and watch dreams fly by and dreamed new dreams together.  We have shaped each other and grown up together and nurtured each other and called each other on our crap.

We have been real live married in all of its glory and awkwardness and wonder and fury for this last 15 year week.

I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat.

The truth is that the version of me that I am today has no chance of existing without my husband.  We started dating when I was 15 years old.  We have grown up together.  No one knows me like he does; most of the time not even myself.  He is such a deep and engrained part of me that I can honestly say that the two have become one.  There is no untwisting the ways in which we are intertwined.

15 years ago he proposed and we started off on this incredible journey with a lot of dreams, a dash of naivety (okay, a big dash), and love for each other.  I look at the picture of us today and realize that so much of that has changed.  Our dreams are different, most of our naivety has collided with the real world, but that love has only changed in that it is deeper and truer.  We may have a few more crinkles and a little less hair, but we know ourselves, each other, and our God now at levels we didn’t know existed then.

I know that near the end of our lives when all the laughs have been laughed and all the tears have been cried and all the kids have been raised and all the decisions have been made that we’ll look back at this picture and swear that it was just last week that we were walking that beach with our babies in Japan.  We’ll remember when we used to be able to make that hike and think about how quiet the house is with all the kids gone and wonder where all that grey hair came from and how those crinkles conquered our eyes and then invaded the rest of us and marvel at how young and happy we look in that picture.

In that moment, I’ll know then what I know now.  To commit to and grow up with and share a life with someone is something special.  It is something sacred.  I wouldn’t trade what I have for all the money or fame or fortune in the world.  15 years ago when I said yes to that kid down on one knee, it was the best decision I ever made.

I’m not even lying when I tell you that exactly 15 years after my proposal this man was dancing to Taylor Swift with our girls to bring in the New Year.  This is the same man who tied a WATER HOSE from the tree in the back yard to give me a heart attack so that the kids could swing on it like Tarzan.  I get to raise kids with this man.

In the end, isn’t that what it is?  In the beginning, your life is open to every possibility and anything can happen.  And slowly by slowly every day you exchange a bit of that openness for the concreteness of what happened that day.  Pages that get written on can’t be unwritten.  Your book only has so many pages and each day you must write a little.

I am happy with the exchanges I’ve made. I like the story I’m writing. I’ve truly lived an adventure so far and know that when we move this year that the adventure will continue. I’m looking forward to what will be written then.

Mostly, I’m glad I get to walk through this life with my friend.

Okay.  That’s it. I’m over it now.  I have kids to raise and a life to live and “ain’t nobody got time for this”.  You may now continue with your regularly scheduled internet browsing.  As for me, I’m off to continue this crazy life with my friend.

Faith Like a Child

 

My youngest, The Little Willow,  has such a precious and sweet heart.  She also has a naughty streak that will turn me grey well before my time.  (Yes, it is still before my time.  That’s what I pay my hair stylist the big bucks for – so that I can keep believing it is still before my time).    Sweet Willow is a fiery ball of passion, compassion, stubbornness, and creativity with just a hint of a wild  streak.  Okay, a big hint.    Before she was born, I thought I had this parenting thing down.  I mean, I was really rocking it.  Then, The Little Willow came along.

Recently, she  came running into the kitchen bursting at the seems with excitement and joy.  As she was jumping up and down, she told that that she had made something “oh so pretty” that she wanted to show me.  She was so proud, so thrilled, so filled with utterly excited.  I tried to feign excitement for what ever scribbled color sheet or sticker book she had carefully crafted while I continued loading the dishwasher. (I’m just keeping it real here, folks. Don’t judge me, if you’ve ever been around a toddler more than 5 minutes, you’ve done it, too. )  It wasn’t until she told me that she couldn’t bring her latest project into the kitchen for me to see, that I would have to go to it, that I began to get a little concerned.

Enthusiastically, her little 3 year old hand grabbed mine and she went skipping down the hall.  “Mom, come on!” she cried when I didn’t follow quickly enough.

You can imagine my surprise when I turned the corner into her bedroom to find that she had scribbled all over her white bed with a purple sharpie.

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Surprise is one way of putting it.  Other ways could include frustration, anger, or the groan of “great, another mess to clean up”.  Luckily, I was too shocked to open my big human mouth for a few seconds.  During those few seconds, I saw my daughter smiling proudly.  She was doing grand gestures towards her art work saying, “Ta-da!”

How could I crush her little spirit by condemning her art work?

How could I let her think that drawing on the furniture was acceptable?

What was the right move?

She kept saying, “It’s oh so pretty!”  and “See the lines, mama?”  We had recently been working on drawing lines, so that was a big deal for her.

I sat down on her bed and put her little face in my hands.  I said something like “Oh, wow!  This is so pretty!  Great work on those lines!  But, here’s the thing.  We can’t draw on furniture, okay?  From now on, I don’t want you to write on the furniture.  If you ever have a question, come ask, and I’ll tell you what you can write on, okay?”  She agreed and I continued to ooh and ahh over her masterpiece.

As I was walking out of her room, I asked her “are we going to keep it there, or wash it off?”  She looked so confused like she didn’t know what in the wide world was wrong with me.  “Keep it, mama.  It’s so pretty”.  Sigh.  Okay.

I went back into the kitchen and began to ponder what had just happened, running over the events in my mind. It wasn’t long until I realized I do the same thing in my spiritual life.

The Little Willow had a lovely bedroom set up.  With in the past few months, my parents came from Texas to help paint her new bedroom purple and green (or lavender and mint if you ask her sister).  They even painted the furniture to match.  She  had a beautiful room provided for her by people who loved her.  But then, she got a brilliant idea.  She thought she could improve upon it herself.  She assumed I would be bubbling with joy at her additions, but she didn’t even ask me first.

As I sit here today, God has provided a beautiful frame work for my life.  Loving  husband, amazing kids, big house, cars, everything I could possibly want.  I am so far beyond blessed I can barely see blessed in my rearview mirror anymore.  It’s ubsurd.  And yet, I am always trying to improve upon it, making additions to my life with out even asking God what He thinks about it.

The first time I really remember  being aware of doing this, we lived in Okinawa.  I was so excited to work as a missionary teacher in a foreign country that I didn’t even ask God if that was what He wanted for me, for my family.  I just jumped in with both feet.  Fast forward a little while and with my husband working long and odd hours, a constant stack of papers to grade or report cards to fill out, laundry and dishes, I existed in a state of perpetual exhaution.  Worse than that, my kids weren’t getting the best of me at all.  My son’s teacher came to me to tell me that he was struggling with math, and I’m embarrassed to say that my initial attitude was “hey, you’re his math teacher, that’s your deal.  I have my own classroom and students to worry about”.  That’s right, I realized that I was so focused on other people’s kids that I didn’t have time for my own.  Yes, God could see in my heart that I was trying to honor him, trying to add things to my life that would it better, make it Godlier.  And just like the Little Willow, I took his hand and proudly said “tada!” as I showed him my own purple scribbles.  I’m pretty sure he face palmed.  I was missing it.

Just like I told The Little Willow to ask me what she could write on, I needed to ask my father what He wanted for me.  I had gotten so busy doing what I just knew that He wanted for me, that I had never stopped to ask Him or even have a conversation with him about it.

This new year  brings so much more new for me than just a new year.  My family has recently moved from Okinawa, Japan to Alamogordo, New Mexico.  From tropics to deserts.  From oceans to mountains.  We are setting up completely new lives here, looking for a church, friends, etc.  I am in a position to decide what we will add to our lives and what won’t make the cut.

I don’t have a great track record in this area.  I have a really bad habit of doing what others want or need me to do, things that I think I should do or feel obligated to, and random things that just somehow end up on my plate. All that busy work pushes out the things that I know God wants for me and from me.  Writing, Bible and prayer time, family, and passionate ministry all take a back seat to the things I fill my life with, the scribbles on my bed.

I’ve recently come across the same quote in several places: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no!”.  If it isn’t something I’m passionate about, something that will further the Kingdom of God, something that will bring growth and fruit for me or my family members, and for the love something I have asked my heavenly father about before hand, I don’t have room to add it to my life.  I’m going to be slow and purposeful, waiting for God to reveal His perfect plan for me instead of proudly showing Him my own.

At the end of the day, I’m blessed by the scribbles on the bed.  I’m thankful to God for whispering to my heart and calling me closer to Him even through a purple sharpie.

This is what my life is – taking the beautiful chaos of this crazy life with 4 kids, a dog, and a military family that doesn’t stay anywhere too long – and realizing that it is sacred ground.  It is here, in this chaotic space, that I point these little people to heaven. It is here where my soul is mated to my husbands and we grow together, build together. It is here where I hear the voice of God teaching me, shaping me, and calling me slowly towards Him.  It is here where I realize there is something amazingly miraculous in the seemingly mundane.

Now that I think about it, those purple scribbles are oh so pretty.  I think I’ll keep them.

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