The Smell of Rain

The first two bottom teeth of my youngest baby are gone, and now his tongue is confused and he lisps with some words.  I could just die of love.  He asked me why I don’t call his Daddy, “Husband”.  I’m not following at first, but then sweetness floods me and I laugh.  He calls us by our titles in relation to himself, so why don’t we call each other by titles too?  He continues, “Why doesn’t Daddy call you Life?”  “Life?  You mean wife.  It’s wwwife, not lllife.”  He stares a hole of concentration right through me, his lips and tongue battling one another.  “Wwwwlife”.

“Perfect” I tell him.

I help him brush his teeth.  Two less to brush now, though the new are already fighting for space in crowded gums.  I help him pack his new backpack with fresh crayons.  The smell and perfect order of new crayons in the small hands of a five year old is pure joy.

Just a few more days now.

“Husband” packs a bag too.  By the middle of August every year, he and a few work friends drive a less traveled road up the mountain to strike at a small, white ball with craters like the moon.  Kevin’s philosophy:  swing as hard as you can and pray for the best, or so that’s what my Dad says about my husband’s golf game.  I believe him because that’s basically Kevin’s philosophy on life as well.  He plays hard.  He’s all in with life, but has enough of a gentle spirit to notice the beauty of the walk along the way.  Maybe it’s true what they say about knowing a man’s character after playing golf with him.golf course

yellow flag

Summer in the mountains is glorious because humidity is illegal in those parts.  It takes a game they say is already set apart from all the others, and somehow makes it a holy experience.  But that mountain law has made it’s way down Highway 421, and settled here for the past few weeks.  Fall weather in August.  The kind that warrants more than just a cup of coffee in hand in early morning, but maybe a blanket around the shoulders too.

He left to go find the white cup at the bottom of that yellow flag, waving at the end of a lot of green; and the girls and their lisping brother left to hike trails and visit old trains with grandparents.  One last trip for all before summer ends.  And here I am in a quiet house with two dogs, a paint brush and a stack of blank canvases, and Pandora Radio playing Blessed Be the Name of the Lord so many times it has to be none other than the Lord’s will for me to hear it and get it.  I thought Pandora was supposed to rotate songs?porch

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mr darcyThis is what I call a holy experience.

It rarely happens.  As the kids walked to the end of the concrete driveway, carrying overnight bags, books, and IPod touches; Caroline whispers that she’s always sad to leave me.  “I know Caroline.  I’m sad too, but it’s good and okay for you to go.” She smiles that smile that protests too much, and I know what she’s thinking so I hug her even tighter. Behind her walks the one I wish I was more like, the one who has started three businesses over the summer.  The one my Mom says was just born older, like herself and George Bailey.  Ella hurries Caroline’s goodbyes because apparently the world is waiting for her to show up at their destination, and Thomas ends the trail of departing vagabonds with a baseball cap tilted slightly to one side because it’s too small for his head and is unable to sit straight.  He’s just following “his girls” with no real clue where he is going, but his personality allows him to easily trust it will be a good time.  And if it’s not, he will make it one.

The silver car crests and then descends the hill.  Disappears.  I walk inside and Mr. Darcy demands attention by nudging my hand.  It usually annoys me but I don’t mind it so much today.

I can smell the rain coming.rain on umbrella

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misty green

All this is what I’m accepting as a dress rehearsal gift from God’s hand.  Tuesday we will do it again, and for the first time all three of my kids will go together where someone else is teaching.  I will drive them the 22 minutes with no traffic, and then come home to Mr. Darcy waiting for me at the side door to pat his head.

Just like that.

And it’s good.

And there’s guilt I know is false, but I still wrestle it.

More than wrestling guilt, I think I’m throwing punches in the wind at change, and that is so strange to me.  How can the same two hands that clasp together and pray everyday for God to change each of us more into the image of His Son, also clench fists and fight the change that’s happening?  The stripping away of what’s safe and comfortable is never easy, but I know it’s good.  bowIt’s good for children to grow and look more like their Father, and it’s good for me to do the same.

I sit in a restaurant, staring at fries and a church bulletin, pondering all these things.  The outside door opens, heat floods through and hits the air conditioned space, no one enters through the opened door though.  I can tell someone is trying, and then I see her walker is catching on the frame of the door.  Before I can help her, her son who is holding the door gently maneuvers her in.  I say hello, she smiles but her expression tells me she can’t speak.

Her frame is fragile.  She limps.

Something in my spirit leapt.  I stared at my french fries even harder.

My heart raced, for no other apparent reason than God was clearly present, but in a different way than the “God is always with you” kind of cliche.  The rest of my meal was awkward, and nervous, and I didn’t know why.  Before leaving I went to the restroom and I could see her walker.

My heart settled, seconds slowed, and I walked to where I knew she needed help.  Just the three of us there.  No words.  I lifted her.  I walked her to the sink, cupped water from the faucet to pour over her hands.  Living Water cleanses.  She muttered sounds and her eyes pierced me.  She smiled, thanked me with her eyes.  I walked her to the door where her son was waiting.  He offered me gratitude, but I had already offered it the Lord.

I can hear Him, “There’s a whole world out there to serve Amy.”  I can smell the rain coming again.

A holy experience.

Kev comes home before the kids and we sit down on our porch to a delicious dinner I ordered and sent him to pick up.  His callused palm holds my hand and he prays for the food, for the day, and for the upcoming week.  I feel emotion welling up in my chest and lumping in my throat.  Change always does that to me.

The kids return home and Thomas bursts through the door armed with a new cap gun.  His grin spreads wide and touches his ears, he’s covered in grey dirt from hiking trails.  I usher him to the bathroom to clean him up, his gun holstered and he begins singing as he skips in front of me, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!  Blessed be Your Name!”  Lisp and all.

I look upward, smile and declare, “Alright already! My heart will choose to say, blessed be Your Name!”

I will choose it.

I can smell the rain coming.  Again.  And it’s good.

What the world doesn’t want mothers to know

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The girls march down the hardwood floored hall above me.  The awkward clanking makes it’s obvious they are in my high-heeled shoes.  Caroline in the black ones with a layer of ruffles down the center, the ones I wear to weddings.  Ella in the leopard print pair, the ones I wear everywhere else because we all know leopard is a neutral and goes with everything.

They wear the shoes and in short, proud moments, two naive little girls are grown women.

It’s okay.  Innocent child’s play.  But the dry ground under foot laughs because we can’t force the next season of life before its’ time.  We can’t make the earth revolve quicker and make ourselves grow up faster, just by walking around in shoes too big for our feet.  Tomorrow doesn’t hold a better blessing than the ones He is offering today.

He sets the pace and commands we see the beauty and the grace of today’s season.   For our own good.  The joy of right now.  In a world that bricks closed gates in Jerusalem because prophecy says the Messiah will walk through it.  As if God obeys the bricks and mortar He created.  This world hangs signs outside the Holy of Holies reading “God has no son”, but God already hung His Sign on a cross, and the Spirit within roars at the sign hanging on that building in Jerusalem.  Even in this fallen world, He says stop longing for tomorrow, open your eyes and see My joy in the present.

We have a call to see the beauty and grace in today’s Promise Land.  Green pastures flowing with milk and honey.  Or maybe it’s flowing with blonde curls and side braids, and dimples so deep I can’t find the end.

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bracelet

braid

dimplesWe think it’s hard to find it until we finally surrender to it’s simplicity.  Then I see it one day in the soft curls of a little girl’s hair that hasn’t yet been damaged by a flat iron, and I laugh.  I laugh at how easy it was all along.  I feel like Dorothy questioning Glinda, “I had the power all along?”  

Everywhere I look.  There it is.

laughing

ella on sofa

mirror

I walk up the stairs expecting darkness.  Sometimes it does a mother’s heart good to watch her children sleep.  I imagine it’s one of God’s favorite times to watch over us too.  No interruptions, no drama, just innocent stillness.  The girls’ door is cracked and light flows like grace from a bulb over Ella’s bed.

I was expecting to see eyelashes resting on high cheek bones, but instead found her reading hours past her bedtime.  “I couldn’t sleep Mom.  This book is sad and now I’m scared.”  I hear her voice shake at the end of her confession.  Why does the evening make everything worse than what’s actually real?  I crawl into her bed and listen to her reading which lacks fluency.  The night begins messing with me too, and I think of all I should have worked harder with her on while homeschooling.  But it’s a challenging book, the words are probably above her level I reason.

I drink in every one of them as she reads.

I’m awakened to the holiness of the moment.

ella and T

reading

This world is a liar.  It wants us mothers to believe it can serve us platefuls of joy and contentment with ridiculous ideas like Disney World vacations, travel soccer teams for 8 year olds, and IPod Touches.  It clamors for our attention and we unintentionally gorge ourselves on the chaos of it all.  It has forgotten we were knit together in sacred darkness, we were known in the secret place where only He could see.  This world runs us frazzled and hangs heavy yokes around our necks, but God says put on mine instead because it’s easy and light.  provence Jesus did it better.  Perfectly.  The louder the world became the more He withdrew to pray.  The crowds multiplied, but He sought the one lowly person He could serve.  When people intended to lift him up for their purposes, He chose to lay Himself down instead.  But He is God you say.  But what of the one man Jesus described as being the greatest born among women?  The one that wasn’t God.  He said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”  He spoke truth from the desert.

In the quiet.

In the still.

In the world, but not of the world.

I think there’s grace in that for us mothers to see.   This world clamors and shouts to-do lists for us.  It manufactures busyness for mothers to buy into, and we don’t even notice that it is trampling all over holy ground.  There is a peaceful and safe Promise Land right now, in this very moment being offered to us.

resting with T

cheese stick

toes

one lick

During the quiet hours when we can rest and listen to them read.  In the frustration of a five year old’s hand, who doesn’t yet have enough fine motor skills to write His letters without the gentle guidance of his mother’s assistance.  In the mid-afternoon sunlight that floods through the southern exposure windows and frames out her face in a perfect silhouette.  In the morning when we have lazy hours available to make pancakes, and she tells me she knows God will use my back pain for good one day.  I smile and nod.

The world doesn’t want us to know how much joy God has packed into those simple, small moments.

The struggle isn’t in finding His grace and mercy in the everyday, the struggle is in the battle to resist searching for it in the wrong places.

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Resist with all your might dear mothers, and choose instead the yoke which is easy and light.

The Sublime Studio: {Emma Wood Photography}

FINAL

Good Monday morning to you.  It’s been a few weeks since we’ve featured an artist here at The Sublime Studio, and I have missed it. Today I am shining light on an artist who uses her camera, rather than a paint brush, to reflect light onto all of us.  Emma Wood (quite appropriately for our feature series) is a natural light, lifestyle photographer.  She is mother to 7 beautiful children, and currently living in United Arab Emirates.  I found Emma through clickinmoms.com, an extremely helpful site for photographers at any and all skill levels.  She is a contributor there, as well as an instructor for “cmuniversity”, their online educational program for photographers.  

Emma has recently reignited my love of photography, and inspired me to put down my paint brush for a bit and pick my camera back up.  I know you will love her work like I do.  You can find Emma on her blog here, her website here, at clickinmoms here, and on Instagram here….and now I feel like a stalker.

Enjoy!

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Fork in the road moments: laugh or cry {the one where I make you feel better about your life}

Sometimes you’ve just gotta laugh.

There are moments in life when the road is gonna fork, and we will be forced to look down the path and see two very possible routes.  One route being hysteria from tears and, “Are you kidding me is this really where I am in life?!?”  The other being hysteria from laughter and, “Are you kidding me is this really where I am in life?!?”  We have a choice, and we can choose either path to get us to the finish line of life, but one path will clearly be more fun than the other.

I choose the later option.

photoThis all started when our friends texted a few months ago and said they ordered us tickets to see Dave Matthews in July.  My first thought was, I know two Dave Matthews’ songs and all the rest sound exactly the same to me.  My second thought was, seriously, a mid-week late night concert, ohforthelove this gonna be rough.  I fought my natural late 30′s instinct, which always errs on the side of lameness, and we agreed to be adventurous and go.

It turned out the concert fell on the same day as summer camp drop off for the girls.  Of course it did.  Thanks a lot Dave Matthews.  This welcomed in a slew of carpooling dilemmas, scheduling conflicts, and “I can’t believe you are not going to drop me off at my first overnight camp because you’re going to a concert instead.” Okay the girls never really said that, but make no mistake, the mommy guilt was screaming accusations in my head and they didn’t have to say it because I was saying it for them.  I am awesome at mentally shaming myself on behalf of my children when I feel guilt…I’m like an expert at it.

But miracles still happen even today, all children were dropped off at camp or with a babysitter, and I began wondering what I should wear to the concert.  What do you wear to concerts these days?  Who knows, I haven’t been to one in 12 years, so I googled it (exhibit A that proves I am too old to be attending concerts: I googled “What to wear to a Dave Matthews Concert”).  Then I remembered I still owned my old-school Vans from high school.  Score.  I have never been so excited in my entire life.  Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI have faithfully held onto these shoes for 20 years, and it was about to pay off in a major way (exhibit B that proves I am too old to be attending concerts: I was excited about dusting off a 20 year old pair of shoes and wearing them).

Now that the clothing dilemma was solved, it was time to mentally prepare for staying up past 9:30 pm (exhibit C that proves I am too old to be attending concerts: they take place past my bedtime).  I realize caffeine is not the usual Dave Matthews Concert pre-gaming drug of choice, but coffee was all this girl needed (exhibit D that proves I am too old to be attending concerts: I pre-game with coffee).  While sipping this delightful cup of joe in a quiet house, it occurred to me that we would be driving our friends to the concert and my vehicle has suspiciously smelled like a dumpster for the past few months (exhibit E that proves I am too old to be attending concerts: it occurs to me I should tidy up the car before we leave, and take out all the kid’s carseats to see what might be lurking underneath).

I called Kev at work who was frantically trying to finish up so we could get on the road, and asked if he would mind taking my car to be cleaned.  This request is not as innocent as it sounds, as there’s a backstory.  Kev has been repulsed by my car for 2 months now.  Every time he gets in he complains about the dumpster smell, and then proceeds to makes ridiculous and haughty claims about how his car is always clean and orderly and free of an entire Chick-fil-A kid’s meal on the floor board.

Well good for him.

To which I always follow-up in response with, “The day you’re the one homeschooling this circus of a family, carpooling 19 kids to and from 47 soccer and swim practices a week, and feeding meals to an army of cleat-wearing children in the back seat of your car, you can complain to me about the smell.”

In my defense, I had genuinely tried to solve the mystery of the smell.  Many o’ times had I climbed under seats fully expecting to find a sippy cup full of fermenting spoiled milk, ripening in the trapped summer heat of my vehicle (tell me that’s not the worst), and could never find anything but a few waffle fries, empty candy wrappers, and an open container of Chick-fil-A sauce (side note: the creation of the Chick-fil-A sauce rivals the creation of man in awesomeness, and I struggle even getting mad at my kids for finding it opened in my car because it’s so good, it just makes me proud they love it).  Anyways, what more could he ask of me?  I had given it a half-hearted search and not turned up much.  And besides, I was starting to get used to the smell, it honestly didn’t even bother me much anymore.  Filth had become my new normal.

Note to self: When filth becomes your new normal, it’s time to re-evaluate your life.

Because Kevin loves me, he agreed to rush home even earlier to take my car to be cleaned.  If I only knew then, what I know now, the rest of this story would have ended very differently.  This is the moment where God was watching in heaven and He was telling the cloud of witnesses, “Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it….this is about to get soooo good.”

While proudly sipping coffee in my 20 year old Vans, excited about a crazy night out where we stay up past 9:30, I receive this text from my husband:dead mouseNow.  My husband speaks in fluent sarcasm, and I have never prayed harder that this was one of those times where he was shamelessly messing with me.  But at this same moment, I was also vaguely remembering a day when Ella said, “I think I just saw something move in the backseat.”  I of course told her she had lost her mind and to hurry up already and get in the car because we were late, but it was starting to appear the only crazy in the family was yours truly who had allowed her life to become so out of control that there was a dead rodent decaying in her backseat (and for the record, that’s worse than a fermenting sippy cup of milk).  The texting insults continued….

family pictureEnter in that aforementioned fork in the road.  We all choices to make in this life.  Learning you have become that family who just might have a shot on a reality TV show that ends with an intervention, would send most people down the path of tears.

But I’m choosing laughter.  I informed Kev, “Ya know, this is real life baby and sometimes you end up with dead rodents in your car.  But at least my kids have been fed and made it to soccer practice on time. I don’t think I’m even embarrassed.”

Without hesitation or tact of any kind, he responded, “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard, and you should be embarrassed.”

He’s probably right, but I’m still choosing laughter anyways.

After all the “mouse dust” had settled (pun intended), the concert was a great time.  I was a little disappointed Dave didn’t play either of the two songs I knew, the one about the ants, and the other one about crashing (obviously), but we did capture a selfie to send to Matt Lauer on the Today Show.  I think I’m supposed to be hashtagging it something like #loveyourselfie, but I really just feel like it should be hashtagged something like #wemadeittotheconcertanddidn’tgettheplague.Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

That would be more appropriate.  Fork in the road baby, laugh or cry.