What September Taught Me

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 presetI’m joining my friend Emily today and talking about what I learned in September.  It feels so right at this moment in time because I am currently doing better with looking back than I am looking ahead.  That’s what happens when you have had either a baby or toddler in your house for 12 years, or have had your kids home all day because of homeschooling, but now instead you are staring at two dogs.  So let’s do this.

1.     I learned that dogs are the new kids.  That’s who I now spend my days with.  The first day all three of my kids went to school, I had an irrational urge to immediately adopt a baby, and I may or may not have spent the morning researching adoption agencies.  But then I took a nap with Tiny Tim after lunch instead, and that was pretty awesome, so I quit researching.  I’ll stick with the dogs for now.Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

2.     I have learned that not having an “easily definable job” in modern America makes both myself and other people uncomfortable. I have been asked 63 times (and counting) this month, “So what do you do now with all your free time now that all your kids are in school?”  Back to my views on small talk, it’s hard to answer this question with “small talk niceties”.  I don’t think they want to hear that I’m questioning almost every decision I have ever made in life other than Jesus, my marriage, and having children, and everything I knew I was pretty good at doing like nursing babies and changing diapers is over (alright fine, that’s been over for awhile, but still), or that I’m kinda scared because I don’t know what’s next and that’s kinda a problem because I’m the girl who writes about purpose and trusting God for what’s next, or the truth that I really like painting but I throw away more than I keep and that’s sort of lame…..I don’t think they want to hear all that.  So I smile and say, “Oh ya know, a little of everything.”  Which is code for:  a whole lot o’ crazy.

3.     I learned that my husband looks like this guy from Fox News.  His grandmother and I made him stand in front of the television so we could take his picture to prove it, and then we called in all her friends to come look and see our discovery.  It was a good day.  kevins twin iphoto4.     I learned that Ella is her mother’s daughter, and when she reads scripture out loud she holds the bible in one hand, points her index finger on the other hand, and paces back and forth in the room with authority as she is reading.  I listened and watched her read Jesus’ words from The Sermon on the Mount last week and had one of those moments in life when the air is sort of sucked out of your lungs, and you just stand there in awe at the grace of God being lived out in a middle schoolers life.

5.     I learned that Thomas gets into drunken fights right before Kindergarten pictures at school.  Okay fine just kidding, but his picture could have fooled me.  Thanks a lot school photographer. t final6.     I learned that if there was one concert I could attend over and over again, it would be Rend Collective.  They bring joy in the form of music.  I knew I loved them before we saw them live on their Art of Celebration Tour, but now my heart is experiencing a forever sealed kind of love for their music.  They are the voice of revival in today’s church, and I love their heart.

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(photo via Rend Collective Instagram)

7.     And lastly, I learned this month the freedom that comes when you surrender to soccer.  I stopped fighting it this month, and you will be shocked to hear that having a good attitude about something helps that something not be such a challenge.  Kevin and I kiss goodbye Saturday morning, he heads east with one or two kids, and I head west with whoever is left over, and we meet back for dinner that night.  It is what it is, and smiling more than complaining helps everyone involved.  Who knew?soccer

And those are the highlights.

For When We Need to be Reminded to Hold On a Little Longer

one among many iphotoIt’s becoming a holy 25 minutes each morning.  We pile into small seats and both kids in the back say they need more leg room.

Don’t we all.

Don’t we all need room to stretch?  Freedom to run and be who we were made to be?  One day a week we sing loud about chains being gone, and then the other six we allow our lives to sing loud a different story.

Why do we believe Him for His promises more on Sunday?

Sure, we believe we are saved.  We believe we’ve been redeemed.  But as for all the rest of it, all those promises of everyday grace and mercy, well now all that becomes a little more than our souls can comprehend and receive.

It feels safer to turn Good News into Average News.  Maybe that, we can wrap our hands and minds and hearts around a little easier.

field of haze iphotoJacob’s story begins being read aloud through the speakers of the car.  Thomas stares out the window and I wonder if he is listening at all.  The four of us managed to successfully wade through Sodom and Gomorrah a few weeks back.  Ella’s eyes widened at details only she and I understood;  Lot’s wife becoming on the outside what her heart on the inside had already become, and now we are here with Jacob.  The deceiver, the gullible one, the mess maker.  The one who prophetically grasped his brother’s heel straight from the womb, a thief from the beginning.  This Jacob.  And there in the dark while Jacob was left alone, He wrestled through the night with a Man.

We get to places in life where we can’t wrestle the same issue any longer.  Days can feel like nights and we roll and tumble identical issues we tried pinning the day before.  Our shoulder hits the ground, dust billows.  Again and again and again.  We think we are wrestling the issues of this world.  Friendships are hard.  Family is difficult.  Work seems impossible.  Critics are everywhere, and the loudest one is in our own head.  We wrestle it all with arms flexed, dirt rising, and strength weakening.

It would be easier to stop wrestling and walk away.  It would be easier to say thank you Lord for the freedom I know you will give in heaven one day, but for now, I’ll grin and bare it down here.  I’ll take your Average News for now, and look forward to the Good News in heaven.  That seems easier.

Jacob could have walked away.  He could have taken his 4 wives and countless bad choices, and walked away in the night. But he didn’t.  He wrestled until the blessing came.  He tossed and tumbled and finally came face to face with his real issue {the Face of God}, and he refused to let go until the blessing came.  Sometimes the places we feel most captive, are the very places we will experience the most exhilarating freedom if we will hold on long enough to receive the blessing.  Those Peniel places where we stop looking everywhere else for blessing and stare into the eternal face of God and plead, bless me!

The truth is, His voice is really the one we are aching to hear anyways.

dandy iphotoThe wheels get us closer to school and I slow my speed so we can finish the chapter.  We have to hear this ending because we all wrestle, I wrestle everyday, I was made to teach and that’s a hard thing, and therefore nobody is gettin’ out of this car until we hear the blessing come at the end of this wrestling match.  I tell the kids, hold on, just wait for it, the best part is coming.  We listen like our lives depend on it, and they do.

And He knows they do, it’s why He comes down to wrestle with us in the first place.  With one touch of His hand he declares enough is enough and wrenches Jacob’s hip, the tendon that wraps his sciatic nerve.  I smile, of course He does.  Day is breaking and God is done with wrestling, He denies us a lesser blessing of average and pours out overflowing Good News.  He changes the name of Jacob from deceiver to God’s warrior, and blesses him as Israel.

His promises aren’t just true on Sunday morning.  Believe Him for the fullness of His promises and hold tight to Good News.  Fight for blessing.  Morning will come and you’ll be limping, but you’ll have a better name.

We pull into carpool line.  Exactly 25 holy minutes door to door.  The kids duck their heads and climb from crammed seats.  I tease and tell them, “Ok, you’re free now.  You can get out of the car.”  Thomas drags his backpack behind him as his sisters help him from the car.  He turns and laughs, “I knew He would bless him.”  Me too Thomas.  Me too.

A Matthew 5 Kind of People

My soul is allergic to small talk.  It seems false to me.  I understand it’s the socially acceptable way to interact in most casual settings, but there is something in me starving for more each time I’m in one of those “how’s it going” kind of conversations.  Several years ago, I met a young woman who within the first 3 minutes of conversation shared with me her struggle with mental health, and how she met Jesus while in a padded cell after attempting suicide.  I looked straight into her wild blue eyes, gripped her hand and said, “I really, really like you.”4

This broken world needs more honest people like that.

No, I’m not encouraging us to throw-up every detail of our lives, on every person who asks us how we are enjoying the weather; that’s just awkward for the sake of awkward.  But there are ordained moments when people need to see and hear real life stories, they need to know they are not the only ragamuffin walking around in need of a Savior.  God didn’t delete broken stories from the Bible, instead He told them, He left them in print so that humanities’ great need would be obvious.  Maybe there’s a lesson there?

I stood in my bathroom flat ironing my hair, a torturous process which takes an hour from start to finish.  Kev has learned if there is somewhere we need to be at 6:30 that will require my hair to be tamed, he better tell me we need to be there at 6:00.  It’s the only way we will be on time.  I pulled the last section of hair through the flat-iron, fogged my head in spray, and we headed out the door to a work dinner….a place where speaking fluent small talk is the only requirement for entering.

As we walked to our table, I was seated next to a woman who spoke with just enough confidence to make me think she wasn’t  actually confident at all.  That’s not judgement, but rather the simple ability to read in someone else the very thing yours truly has wrestled with a time or two, or 3 or a million.  As our ten top table slowly paired off into smaller conversations, she and I found ourselves matched up in “small talk discussion”.

She talked about her work and her kids, she pulled her phone from her purse and shared pictures of a recent trip.  I smiled, noticing how all her daughters looked exactly like her.  She shared something simple about one of the photographs.   I responded sympathetically saying, “That must have been so hard for you.”

That one-sentence response apparently signaled to her it was safe to abandon the small talk, and climb on board to a bigger ship meant for deeper waters.  We talked and shared real struggles over the next hour, and none of them had anything to do with the weather.corner iphoto 1kneeiphoto

This world needs more people willing to travel into deep waters with them.  We need each other.

The next day Kev ran into her at work and she said, “I want to tell you something I mean as a compliment.  I really loved talking to your wife, but she wasn’t at all what I thought she would be.”  Kevin laughed, and later told me what she said.  I kind of laughed, a little, but have since thought so much about her words.  My hunch is she expected pleasantries and small talk, but thankfully we both had an opportunity to share more…and it was good for both of us.  Regardless of what she expected that evening, I did nothing while sitting next to her at dinner but listen, and then encourage her that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.

This hurting world needs us to tell people they aren’t the only ones that can’t get it all together, and more importantly, it needs to hear the reason we have hope in spite of the mess.dotted3candle 2 iphoto

I quit the ministry of writing and teaching 14 times last week, about twice a day.  That’s actually a good week.  Sometimes it’s 14 times a day.  My friend Doug called in the midst of that week and asked me write a few posts for their team at Tiny Hands.  Despite the reality I had just quit an hour earlier in my head, I told him yes because the One in me is stronger than discouragement ever will be.  He wins every time.

I confessed to this friend of mine, this guy who has become more like a father, “Yeah, I’ll do it, but you should know I’m a train wreck.”  He laughed and said, “Perfect.  You and I are exactly who the gospel was intended for…the broken, the hurting, and the ones hanging on day to day.  We have an awesome God Amy.”

This broken world needs more people like that.  More people who will vulnerably share their brokenness, in order to share the One who was broken for all of us.

Jesus didn’t come for the self-righteous.  He came for a vagabond group of Matthew 5 kind of people, people like you and me who struggle everyday.  The wisest of Pharisees were unable to proclaim the hope that 12 ordinary, broken, down on their luck, uneducated, everyday kind of men were able to ignite all over the world and to the ends of the earth.

Today’s world needs more people just like that.

Decorating with Maps: an easy project

bathroom map Every time I see a room using a map as decoration, my eye is immediately drawn to it.  No matter the room.  I think they are so very cool, especially in a boy’s room.  pottery barndecor padorange baskettwin bedspottery barn map playroomclassroom chci HGTV bedroomsweird doll my same mapIt turns out, I own the wall map you see pictured above in these last two photos.  I bought it two years ago when we decided to homeschool.  I had such grand disillusions of how I would daily reference the life size map during our geography studies.  And now two years later, still rolled up in the tube they shipped it in, while my children are in a school where someone else is teaching them, I pulled the map out to create wall art for Thomas’ room.

Sounds about right.

I figure, if God is going to use Thomas to conquer kingdoms, maybe the kid should have a map on his wall to study those lands he will one day conquer.

Thomas already has a great room for a little man:

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Dude room 060

I didn’t want to change anything major, just add to a few walls. Here’s what I did:

I purchased three large canvas’ to apply the maps to:blank canvas

I used basic, black acrylic paint to paint around all the edges.painted edgeNext, I cut each piece of the map down to fit the size of the canvas.  I was hoping to place each part of the map in it’s proper place allowing the maps to fit together like a puzzle.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it work due to space limitations (no big deal, the end result is still cool).

map to size cutting map(Please note my scissors read, “Do not use me for paper”.  This means I’m about to get a talkin’ to.)

Then using Mod Podge, I attached each piece of the map to the canvas’.  I sealed the top with one more coat of Mod Podge.

And on the wall they went, opposite the little warrior’s bed.3 maps 2Lastly, I hung my newest painting on another wall in his room.  I’m starting a new series of paintings, “Lambs and Lions”, great art for any child’s room, girl or boy.  Email me if you are interested.ram