Judah and Jesus

Today was hard. Not hard in the “I-hate-my-life” sense but hard in the “when-is-it-bedtime?” sense. Josh was out the door before anyone was up this morning and then home for about 30 minutes for a quick dinner before heading off to a meeting. Baby is not taking good naps so more time holding her and she’s grumpy because she’s not rested. Judah…well, more about him later. Spring will.not.come.ever. And there is so much to distract even though it’s Holy Week and supposedly this week of all the year is when I’m supposed to be thankfully occupying my mind entirely with remembering all that has been done for me.

Why is it that the discipline of the mind is the hardest thing? What is it about the mind that somehow manages to be anxious about more things than I could possibly give words to? I can somehow think about 10 different worrying or frustrating or depressing things all at the same time, but I can’t think about one thing – One Person – who is willing and able to give the kind of peace my little tiny brain could never even imagine possible.

Why do I sabotage myself like that? I shove off the easy yoke because, really, it just takes too much effort to pick up that cross. I run after the heavy, the burdensome, the anxiety-ridden thinking that somehow there is rest for me if I live there instead. Lies, lies, lies.

One of the things that I am working on – rather, trying to work on – is patiently giving myself to Judah minute after tiring minute during the day. He keeps up a steady stream of conversation from the second he opens his eyes until he collapses into bed in the evening. He hates to be away from me. Being left alone in his room to play (where there are all kinds of wonderful things expressly laid out for his amusement) is tantamount to torture. No matter how often I give him room time it is always a showdown. By the end of the day my mind is so tired from interacting with him I feel like there is nothing left.

Just now I went into his room to tell him to stop calling out for me after he had been put to bed. He knew I was angry, but that didn’t stop him from saying, “hand? hand?” He wants to lie in bed holding my hand for just a few more minutes. He doesn’t care that I’m frustrated or angry. He just wants me with him. It’s the fellowship he wants – it doesn’t matter what kind of a mood I’m in or even really what I say.

I wish I was like that with Jesus. I wish my mind went to Him automatically, every free second available. I wish I worked harder for the fellowship of the Spirit, which, as I know from experience, is the sweetest thing on offer. I wish that I cared more about being with Christ in my mind and in my heart than anything else. I wish I was more like my two year old son. And the difference is Jesus will never get tired of me or bored or irritated. He will always be glad for the fellowship.

Posted in Mommying, The Daily | 8 Comments

Lenten Musings

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I love small comforts. I mean, I really love them. Being a homebody means I don’t go in for the big bangs. I don’t want to spend my Saturday skiing or going to concerts or boutique hopping. I would rather be home, reading to my kiddos or watching Judah kick the ball with his daddy in our backyard.

It’s the small things I love. A glass of wine when it’s time to make dinner. Nursing my first cup of coffee before it’s time to get babies up. Sitting outside on a summer evening waiting for the sun to set. One more episode of our current favorite TV show. A family breakfast that lingers into the morning. I would choose these things over a camping trip or a concert or an amusement park any day, hands down.

And now it’s Lent. A time to remove one or more of the small things for the sake of denying ourselves. Facebook, alchohol, coffee, comfort sleep, desserts. The theology is pretty straightforward. We worship a Jesus who denied Himself for us. During this time of year when we remember His Passion it makes sense to deny ourselves something tangible. We walk the same road He walked. We take up our cross like He took up His.

I get the theology. I understand it. I want to take up my cross. I want to show my Jesus that I love Him and I am willing to walk His path. Surely giving up my glass of wine is a pretty small thing to do and surely I can do it for the weeks of Lent.

But there’s a problem. I really don’t like to give up my small comforts. I love my small comforts. I love to live in the present. I love to enjoy each moment that I live and I love each moment to be just right. I see my life as a string of wonderful experiences that shape who I am. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time; performing the first movement of Schumann’s piano concerto; climbing around in the Catacombs outside of Rome; those first awakening moments of falling in love with my husband; walking down the aisle on my father’s arm; waiting for Josh to come out of the room where he successfully defended his PhD thesis; holding Judah for the first time; handing him over to be baptized. These moments are tastes of Glory and I want the tastes of Glory all the time. The small comforts are small tastes and I love them and cherish them.

But it’s not time for Glory yet. This is what has struck me this Lent. God gives us tastes of joy – He fills our lives with good things, but I must live in the future too. Jesus is waiting for all the evil and heart break and human suffering to end. I need to wait too. This present day is not Glory. It is not perfection. There is joy to come that I can only imagine. Denying myself a small comfort is to affirm the coming joy – the joy that is not yet.

I am glad for Lent, glad for its self denial, its reminders of the way of suffering, the opportunity it gives for me to re-focus my purpose. But self denial by itself is pretty lame. Lent is good. Easter is better. On Easter I’ll pour my glass of wine and say, “To the coming King!”

Posted in Christian Ritual, The Daily | 4 Comments

Here is my heart

A couple Sundays ago a storm hit and we had to re-arrange a number of things that had been in place for quite some time. It was very frustrating and I balked at the tedium and disappointment of it all, wanting to blame anyone except the One who actually makes the weather. I said to Josh that morning that I felt able to surrender the big things to the Lord (our twins, our fertility, the growth of our family), but I struggled to surrender the little things – the tedious things, the things that don’t feel heroic.

But of course this was a dumb thing to say because it’s not true. Yes, I have surrendered all those things to the Lord, but it took years of work and sometimes I have to surrender them all over again. And there are other big things in our lives that I don’t surrender. I just don’t. I stew over them. I worry over them. I feed that ravenous pit that sits deep in my stomach.

The big things might seem heroic after they are actually surrendered, but in the moment it’s not heroism. It’s just plain hard work and it’s work that I don’t want to do. And when it comes down to it, it’s all the same work – the big things and the small. It’s the same place in the heart that says, “Here I am.” Or, “Please leave me alone, God.”

A friend recently painted a picture for me. An oak tree is so tall that it stands above all the other trees. It is so big that it ends up shielding others from the elements. Because it stands so tall and is so big the roots have to go down, down, down and spread wide, wide, wide. If they didn’t, they could not support the weight or the bulk of such a massive tree.
The oak can’t say, “Ummm…I’m not liking the oak thing. What about a birch? Or a maple?” The oak tree is an oak tree and it always will be. And when those roots start to grow they just keep growing.

I am not an oak. I am not a maple. I’m a sapling and when the winds blow I need stakes in the ground to support me because my roots rip up so easily. But I know oaks and lately their presence in my life has been so wonderfully powerful. You know what I mean. The kind of powerful conviction that is also encouragement because you think, “Yes. That is what I want to be and maybe, one day, I will get there.”

One of these women said to me recently, “I just want to obey.” Wow. OK. I guess all this other stuff doesn’t really matter. And another talked to me of the glorious Christian view of God’s great power moving all things to completion – our little lives are but a tiny part. Well, I guess if you put it that way…

As a wife, a mother, a sister in the church, a teacher, a musician, I alternate between the big things and the little things. It doesn’t seem to matter – they all have the power to knock me flat, ripping out the roots and killing faith in the process. Whether it’s the daily dying that my toddler boy requires of me or the big huge world of orphan care that leaves me feeling heartbroken and overwhelmed. It’s all the same battle. Do I believe the truth or the lie? Sturdy, strong, God-knowing faith does not suddenly appear in the heart. It is a gift that is won. I see that sturdy faith in others – the kind that says, “It is well with my soul” and I want it. But it’s not enough to want it. It has to be won with blood, sweat and tears. My blood, my sweat and my tears.

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The weary world rejoices?

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Nanny

This picture cracks me up. Judah is obviously so done with the picture taking party. The look on Nanny’s face says she is too. But Mom and I remain determined to get just one more before we end the photo shoot.

These days it’s one of my favorites. Nanny went to be with Jesus on Monday, quietly and gently. Like the Lord came softly into her room, said it was time to go, took her by the hand and she was gone before anyone realized it. In Heaven her Lord welcomed her to Rest. Then, at the front of the line were her husband and her daughter Bronwyn. And after them, so many others. People she had missed for many years and was anxious to see again. I love to think of her meeting our twins and her granddaughter, Samantha, who died years ago. Can there be anything so joyous as the reunions that take place in Heaven?

As news of her death has spread, my dad has received emails from friends around the world, expressing condolences, recounting memory after memory and bearing witness to the wonderful legacy Nanny is leaving behind for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And nearly every email and story centers around her hospitality and the openness of the home she and Papa kept for years and years. They hosted countless numbers of missionaries, pastors, college and seminary students, friends, strangers, the poor, the rich. Their home was a rotating bed and breakfast (and lunch and dinner) for so many years, living right on the seminary campus and welcoming anyone and everyone for a meal, a place to stay, a home for the holidays.

Papa had the vision for that way of life, but Nanny was the one that made it possible. She was at home all the time. Her life was cooking, cleaning, changing sheets, doing laundry and, of course, raising four children. She was the hub of their home, the warmth of it, the energy for it. Without her it wouldn’t have worked. And people from all over the world benefited and are now bearing witness to the powerful influence her hospitality had in their lives.

I wonder how many of her guests knew that she ironed her sheets every single time before making the bed again. (Did you get that? Ironed the sheets!) Or that her beautiful furniture was gathered meticulously from their travels, every piece carefully selected. Or that her spread at the table and her wonderful meals came from a strict code of ethics regarding manners, table etiquette and meal hospitality. (No label on the table!)

I loved nearly every meal that she made (nearly). But my favorite was lunch. She was not a PB&J kind of girl. Her lunch spread (just for herself!) would include toast, a delicious wedge of cheese, a side of pickles and olives, some salad dish and of course, a cup of tea. Sharing these lunches made me feel like a queen. Still today when I make myself a plate for lunch I find myself putting a little extra effort into it, thinking of Nanny. “It’s just what you do, honey!”

She practiced her hospitality as an art and a science and she devoted her entire life to it. Her whole ministry was her home and that ministry stretched across the country, to Europe, India, Australia and China. This legacy is more precious to me than words and will remain in my heart the perfect example of what good can be accomplished by a lowly housewife. I add my voice to all those who are rising up and calling her blessed.

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Generations

Autumn always feels more like a new beginning to me than January. It’s probably my birthday in August and the time we spend away in Colorado. Returning home is a fresh, spring-like start for me (after the two weeks of dreaded re-entry, of course). I come home with plans and goals and energy, eager for work.

The reflection that vacation affords is becoming increasingly precious to me. Even with a toddler in tow one can’t help but go deep into those thoughts that have buried themselves under the busyness of every day activity. I love the absolute still of our valley – I have never heard such quiet anywhere else in the world. At times it’s disconcerting. Calling you to actually uncover thoughts and fears and hopes that are easier to keep hidden.

One such day I felt distinctly ill at ease with myself and my thoughts – easily distractable, unable to get at what I was searching for. My favorite place is at the kitchen table of our little cabin, looking out on the whole of the valley, watching the rain soak the wild flowers. I looked down at the stream, only yards away, and could hear my sister’s voice in my head. “I have never seen the stream that low,” she had said only a few weeks earlier. I had to smile to myself – every year one of us says that exact same thing. Or maybe it’s, “Has the valley ever been this brown? We need rain!” Or “This road is the worst it has ever been. Something must be done about it.”

All of my 33 years I have been coming to the same place and listening to my grandparents and then my parents and now my siblings have the exact same conversations. It is all an outpouring of our firm and devoted love for this particular spot – our favorite in all the world – a spot that means “us.”

Thinking these things I looked up at the mountains, majestic, grand and so familiar that I can trace their shapes now in my mind’s eye. Year after year I looked out on the same vast scene. Every year I was different. Every year my life had a different shape, a different feel, a different taste. But this scene – these mountains – this stream – they were always the same.

And then I thought of God, preserving His world through the generations, through history, through all of time from the Beginning to the End. Suddenly I felt safe. I knew myself to be absolutely secure, tucked away in the generations of God’s children. My own life with all of its joys and sorrows and defeats and triumphs is only a small, barely visible piece of His determined plan to bring His Kingdom to this world.

All I want is a place in that Kingdom – that’s all that matters.Image

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Greetings and a new beginning

Hello dear people,

I’m starting to feel like the Elizabeth Taylor of bloggers…switching hosts every few years as the whim takes me. Terribly sorry about that. But I have a hunch I might actually stick with this one. Unlike some of my wonderful friends I’m rubbish at posting pictures and it feels much more like a burden than a pleasure. I would much rather pontificate as the mood seizes me…for better or worse. WordPress seems like the perfect match. Besides, the apple program I was using decided to bail on me which means I lost some of your wonderful comments. Ergh.

Some of you have asked periodically for the writing I did in the months following the death of our twins. It’s all here – categorized under Ebenezer and Hannah. And if you’re interested in following our progress to Judah’s birth and adoption you can find that too. Thank you for reading!

Speaking of Judah we have decided he needs a sibling. When a couple decides to add one more to their family it generally involves something a bit more fun than paperwork. But c’est la vie – that’s our narrative and we are very grateful for it. It is an honor to be a part of the adoption world.

As God would have it, just a couple nights ago we had the pleasure of meeting new friends who adopted through the same agency we are now with. Watching them cuddle their sweet little baby, only a few months old, who has the same lovely dark skin as our Judah, reminded me that adoption is truly alive and making its mark all over the church.

After our first miserable adoption experience, when we flew home with empty arms and doubting hearts, a friend told me over the phone that once the Lord gave us that first gift of a baby I would be willing and ready to go through pain again and again just to adopt at least one more time. I honestly thought she was crazy. Now I think I know what she meant.

When I hold Judah, flesh and blood and skin and oh-so-beautiful eyes, I am feeling and touching and seeing evidence that God can indeed grow my family anyway He wants to. Judah is proof.

So…here we go. Homestudy #2 is halfway done (Yes, you do have to do another one for another baby – to answer the question we have been asked many times) and we’re praying for a sister or brother for Judah who currently reigns supreme and should probably be de-throned.

Posted in Adoption, Mommying | 14 Comments