How to Survive Mom Life

It’s been a crazy week. (How many times have I written that?) I told my husband, my actual list of stuff to do has not been that long, but my emotional load has been really heavy. We had a home visit this week from our foster daughter’s caseworker, getting ready for an important upcoming court date next week. Several of my children have had some struggles this week that have weighed on me as I try to help them through. National affairs still have me really tense. 

Yesterday I was feeling a bit shell-shocked. Then a friend posted an old blog post online from DESIRINGGOD.org written by Jen Wilkin. Here’s the link to the original post Women, Trade Self-Worth for Awe and Wonder . The basic premise is that instead of focusing on building up our self-esteem we should be focusing on the greatness of God. As we focus on Him instead of ourselves, we develop a healthy “fear of the Lord”. And a “fear of the Lord”, according to scripture, leads to all the good things we want in life. 

I was thinking about this all day yesterday. And I tried to put it into practice. As I felt myself getting overwhelmed with a situation, and I sent out a silent plea, “What do I do?” I remembered, focus on God, not yourself, and I started thinking about his Majesty, sitting on his throne, his Holiness, his Worthiness. And it helped. My problems shrunk back to a reasonable size when I compared them to the Awesomeness of God. And the heaviness lifted some as I lifted up praises instead of complaints. 

Guys, I’m just going to go on record and tell you that being a mom is tough. And it’s not that my kids are unusual. They are regular people with the regular issues that all people have. It’s just that being human is difficult. And raising humans to adulthood is difficult. 

Last night my husband and I snuck away for a very short date night. We went out to eat, but during the meal we were fielding calls from our teenager who was babysitting and was overwhelmed by two small children fighting over a device that neither of them were supposed to have in the first place. We also were texting with another child, and watching the time because we had to go pick up another child when her work shift ended. 

My husband said, this is just for a season, or something like that. And I said, No, we will be doing this for our entire lives. Our youngest is only three after all. By the time he finally has himself all sorted out we will have grandchildren heading into their teen years. Andy said that would be different. But, I hope that we will be involved enough in our grandchildren’s lives, that we will be able to share in their ups and downs. Anyway, the point being, the stress of being a parent isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay. And that is hard to accept sometimes. 

The other day, I found my mind just cycling through a woe-is-me kind of cycle. It was so Me-Focused. And it was tiresome. And I had this revelation that when my thoughts automatically turn to thinking about God instead of automatically obsessing about myself and my problems, when I can get to that place, my peace will exponentially greater. And I think that’s why Jen Wilkin’s article hit me so deep. Yes. Cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord. Yes. Focus on God’s might instead of my weakness. Yes. Spend my energy praising, instead of complaining. These are the things that will enable me to not only endure, but thrive in this crazy job of being a mom. 

Conflict and Emmanuel

The upcoming Christmas season has me conflicted. I have decided to not host our annual Christmas Party. And a lot of that has to do with trying to be sensitive to others. But, when I made the decision to not host this year, I admit, I felt a big sigh of relief. Which is why I feel conflicted. I love our annual Christmas party. It is almost better than Christmas morning itself. A time when I get to see all my friends in one place, share our house and all the Christmas decorations. A time to bake a ton of treats and cook yummy savory things to munch on. A time to just celebrate. A normal year, I would be devastated to not have our party. But this year, I’m not. 

I’m tired. Stretched thin. 

Every year is challenging, but then throwing in covid, quarantines, school shutdowns, a horrific election year, riots, more covid, a giant host of conspiracy theories to sift through…yeah, that kind of tipped the scale to Insanely Hard Year. I know I’m not the only one tired. Everyone seems to be in a race to get to January 1st. Like somehow the turning of the calendar page will make all the troubles go away.

So, tough year, no party. No concerts. No big events. Despite all that, I am trying to make this Christmas as meaningful as possible for our family. We did our traditional Decorate-for-Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. Got a nice tree. Put up our nutcrackers. I made myself a Christmas Stick. We’ve got music playing. We’ve started our nightly Advent Readings with the kids. I got everyone a new Christmas mug and we’ve been having lots of hot cocoa and hot tea and hot apple cider. We’re off to a good start. We watched a Christmas movie. 

The kids are sad about things being different this year. Why?? They want to know. Umm. Covid. That is the answer for everything nowadays. But I secretly feel a little guilty because I am relieved to have an excuse. Yeah. Covid. Or, Mom is too tired to interact socially with other people this year. 

Fortunately, all my inner conflict and guilt is solely centered around social stuff. The real meaning of Christmas has my heart singing. This year it is hitting me even harder, a rush of joy, relief, awe, that Jesus chose to come to earth to save me. Save us. 

If anything, this year has been a good reminder of just how fallen and messed up we are. Our division, our fighting, our selfishness, our violence, our constant leaning towards evil. We are desperately in need of a Savior. Someone who can wipe the slate clean. Someone who can actually get into our hearts and change them. Someone who can rescue us from our self-destruction. 

I sat down to my hymnbook yesterday and turned to the Christmas section. My hymnbook is arranged by theme, so it has an Advent section. I played through the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. My husband came and sat at the piano with me and we sang together…

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heav’nly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

As we begin this Christmas Season, this is my prayer. Come Lord Jesus, Come. Make all things new again. It’s been a rough year, and we have no guarantees that next year will be magically better. But, it doesn’t matter. Jesus has come. We now have hope. We have a future with Jesus to look forward to. And no matter how our circumstances and traditions change, Jesus doesn’t. His promises hold true. He came, he died, he rose again, he has given us his Holy Spirit. And one day we will see him face-to-face. 

And so we rejoice. Christmas is here. We celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this beautiful fall day in East Tennessee, I sit on the porch with a full stomach after feasting with my family, watching my children run around in the outdoors. And I am thankful. Thankful for family, home, God’s provision for all our needs. I’m thankful for friends and church family. I’m thankful for my online community and all my readers that make this blog fun.

May you be blessed today and full of the joy and peace that comes when you take time to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Reflections on This “Upcoming” Giving Tuesday

I see you sitting there, firmly on the ground, legs stretched out in front of you. Sitting in a parking space in the back of the autoparts store, as if you have indeed parked yourself for a time.

I drive past in my heated van, sitting comfortably in my pilot seat as I head to the library. My glimpse is short, but my eyes take in all the details.

A larger woman, dressed in blue. Hair braided. A bag next to you. You are sitting in such a way as to announce to the earth that this space, however small, is yours. You exist, and by virtue of existence, you must claim some small corner of this planet. And here it is, the back parking space of the autoparts store.

And I wonder how long the store will let you stay before they shoo you away. Perhaps call the police to come and make you move along. I wonder if you’re cold. Your jacket looks thin. I’m sure that the pavement must be freezing your butt. Your eyes are wide open, observing everything around you in a way that makes me wonder if this a new situation for you.

I see you.

And I keep driving.

I have places to go.

Things to do.

On this giving Tuesday, I’m going to share a link for KARM, Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Though I’m sure they will accept donations on any day of the year.

http://Karm.org

Edit: I got my Tuesdays wrong, so I’ll repost on Dec 2nd, but any day is a good day to give!

😄

Fall Nights

It’s been a good day. A day to notice little things. 

This evening I heated up some soup for my supper. On Sundays I make a big noontime meal and then the rest of the day everyone fends for themselves (Ok, we help the three year old out, but that’s about it). I try to have sandwich makings or bagels or leftovers or something simple people can snack on. Today I heated up the homemade chicken soup which is more like chicken stew, it’s so thick, and two of my girls joined me. We got out the pretty colored bowls of mismatched shapes and sizes that always cheer me up. Sat at the big wooden table my husband made. 

After eating we moved back to the living room, the center of the home in winter time. My teen was playing the part of dj, selecting music off her playlists for us while she read her book. 

Some kids were gathered around the coffee table, having an interesting debate about how to draw animals. 

Another child was sitting on the couch with the dog, also reading her book. The puppy sleeping on the floor close by. 

Another child crawled into my lap and after a couple minutes of rocking in the old chair, she was out. I sat there holding her, enjoying my domain. 

Right now life feels a little crazy. Holiday plans are getting shifted, age-long traditions are being paused. Our country still doesn’t feel stable. I try to avoid thinking about the outside world as it seems out of control and bewildering. 

And so, it feels like a gift, to be able to just sit and see my immediate space. My home. The solidness of family. To feel the peace around me. Belonging. Purpose. Mission, as we try to raise these kids to adulthood. 

As we head into Thanksgiving this week, I’ll get started with the thankfulness now. I am thankful for fall nights, in my home, with my family. 

Is Prayer Enough?

Have you all ever read Isaiah 58? The other day, I was moving things around in my dining room, and a Bible that had been on a side table was set on the dining room table. I went to eat breakfast and there was the Bible, lying open right where I usually sit and eat. How nice. I sat down and looked to see where it was open. Isaiah 58. I started reading. And it kind of felt like I was suddenly sitting in the Principal’s office being read the riot act. 

I will summarize. Basically, God says, I’m not interested in your fasting and praying if it’s not accompanied by acts of mercy and justice towards the people around you. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot concerning our country. Before the upcoming election, and even throughout this momentous year, I have heard a lot of Christians, from all denominations and political stances, calling for prayer for our nation. I have often heard people quote, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, I will heal their land..” and then we are all called to pray for our country. Except that the verse they are quoting actually says, 

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We seem to forget about that “turn from their wicked ways” part. Isaiah 58 gets pretty detailed about what God thinks of as “wicked ways”. 

Isaiah 58:6 -7

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

I don’t believe it’s an either/or kind of thing. We’re not supposed to choose between fasting and prayer or social justice. One without the other is empty. I am not trying to put a yoke of condemnation on our shoulders. In this world where we are overwhelmed by all our responsibilities, being told that you should be out feeding the poor and lobbying for social justice, well that just feels heavy and impossible. But, saying, it’s too much, I can’t do it, is also a cop-out. 

Each of us has talents, gifts, and resources. We can use those to help those around us. We can send that extra spending money to a homeless shelter. If we have time to volunteer, there are endless possibilities. We can write letters. We can call our local government offices. We can serve people in our community through one-on-one relationships or through supporting others who have time for that one-on-one. For those moms with young children who are in the trenches and barely hanging on, you can befriend someone at your church who is new. Maybe reach out to another young mom who desperately needs fellowship and encouragement. For those who are housebound, you could write letters to people in prison, start researching the issues in your community, email people with influence. There is SO MUCH we can do! 

We all desire the grace of God on our country. But I am going to say that prayer is not enough. If we want to see changes in our country then we need to follow Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. God’s heart is for the homeless to be fed and sheltered, for the worker to earn a living wage, for people to be treated with love and respect. 

We are saved by grace through faith. Not by works, but when we have faith and grace, it should compel us to do works. 

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I would like to suggest that while we are praying for our country, we also add to that prayer: God show me what I can do to help the homeless, the oppressed, those who are under a yoke. Show me specifically something I can do to help. 

In Jesus Name Amen. 

Here is Isaiah 58 if you are interested in reading the whole thing:

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

    Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

For day after day they seek me out;

    they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

    and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

    ‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

11 

The Lord will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 

then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Panic Attack

I found myself having a panic attack and decided to write my way through it. Here’s a snapshot of what is going on in my brain during a panic attack..

I’m having a rough day. I had to take my nine year old to the hospital for surgery early this morning to get rods put into her broken arm. My other daughter is sick and I will be heading off to another doctor’s appointment this afternoon to help her. I’ve been fighting a cold for ten days and in this era where Covid fear rages, having a cold is not a small thing. 

Today my mind is stewing on silly things. An online conversation with a blogger that turned into a veiled interrogation of me and my life choices. A scary notion that I am failing in this game called life. An overwhelming feeling of impending doom. 

And suddenly, I stop and realize that I’ve got things flipped upside down in my mind. In my mind, all these crazy things are happening, and as a result, I am responding with anxiety. 

I think the actual truth is I am struggling with anxiety and so everything that happens is being filtered through that anxiety and blown way out of proportion. My life isn’t causing me anxiety and stress. My anxiety is causing my life to feel anxious, stressful. 

Next question, why am I feeling so much anxiety? 

Typical culprits: lack of sleep, social media and the news, having to forego church due to sickness in our house, being physically sick myself.

When you can sit back and analyze things, it helps take off that big load of self-condemnation. Cause when I’m feeling anxiety, I feel like a personal failure. I have failed. I am not at peace. I must be feeling anxious because I’ve done something wrong. Not just that I’ve done something wrong, but that there is something inherently wrong with me. 

So, it’s time to hit the Refresh button. Speak some truth. 

I am Esther, daughter of the King. I have been saved. God no longer looks at my sin, but instead looks at me and sees Jesus’ goodness. My future lies with spending eternity with God. I am loved. God has blessed me with parents and parents-inlaw and a brother and brothers and sisters in law who love me. I have been blessed with a husband who loves me and children who are amazing. I belong to a church body that is there for me, that regularly supports me in all ways. Our world is crazy right now with political upheaval and covid, but God is still on his throne, none of this is a surprise to him. I am not perfect, but when I make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world. I can apologize. I can make restitution. I can go back and try again. 

My life is in God’s hands. 

So, I say Thank you Lord for this beautiful day. Thank you that my daughter made it safely through surgery. Thank you that my other daughter has a doctor she can visit and that medicine is available. Thank you for freedom of speech in that, so far, we are still able to hold opposing opinions with others and live in a diverse world. Thank you that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that you thought creating me, in all my quirkiness, was a good idea. 

These verses come to mind..

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Childhood Memories

Disclaimer:

The following is a memory from my childhood. A note on memories. They are not always accurate. Details might be wrong. Also, these are the memories of a child, my understanding of the world around me was that of a twelve year old. My main concern in posting this article is to not cast a bad light on the country of Haiti. I do not want that. I think the events that happened are universal to any society that is going through upheaval, not specific to Haiti. So, without further ado..

I was twelve years old. We were living in Cap Haitian, Haiti. We had just moved back to Haiti maybe six months before, after living in the States for five years. Haiti was the home of my father and mother, and I had memories of Haiti from when I had been younger, so it felt like home.

There had been a Coup d’etat, the government had been overthrown and the country was in an uproar. We had been hiding in our house for a week with little word of how things were going around the country. My father religiously listened to the radio throughout the day and he had a ham radio in his truck that he could reach a missionary compound that was maybe a thirty minute drive away in Vaudreille where my Grandparents lived. My father and Grandfather had a prearranged time that they would talk over the radio twice a day. 

The first day that everything fell apart we had heard explosions and gunshots. We had all hid in the stairwell of our house, the safest place we could find in our open, airy, tropical home. Not sure if any of the bullets were aimed our way. During the day we could hear the low roar of a mob, far off in the distance. And I wondered what that mob was doing. I had overheard stories of mobs attacking rich people’s houses, dragging the occupants out into the street and killing them in horrible ways and then ransacking their houses. The sound of the mob was the sound of death. I hated that sound. 

We stayed inside, rarely venturing into our concrete-block-walled yard. We had very little groceries in the house and had been subsisting on macaroni and a large bag of pancake mix. 

The first night of the trouble, my father had told us to lay out an outfit in dark colors and pack one small bag. He was afraid that our house might be attacked in the night and that it would be necessary for us to run on foot from the house. He had spoken to our night watchman and the watchman knew the trails over the mountain that could take us to the missionary compound, and he was willing to lead us if necessary. 

I had always wanted to hike over that mountain, it always looked so romantic, looming over the Northern Plain, often covered in clouds. The whole idea sounded exciting, but it also made my stomach churn. I remember laying out my black tshirt and my blue jean capri pants. I packed a small blue jean bag with leather straps that my mother had brought as a gift for me when she had gone to South Africa for the funeral of her missionary father. I always slept with my favorite stuffed animal, Potbelly, and I couldn’t decide if I should stuff him in the bag so he would be ready to go or should I sleep with him and then, if I was awakened in the night, I could stuff him in the bag at that time. I can’t remember what I decided. 

My mom had a large jewelry collection, none of it worth a great deal, but each piece representing an exotic location she had visited. My mom got out some dark green fabric and showed me how to sew a simple little drawstring bag. We sewed two bags and then put our jewelry in the bags and stowed them in our travel bags. 

When I woke up the next morning, I looked over, and all my travel stuff was still there. I was surprised and thankful that we hadn’t had to run in the night. But, we left our stuff layed out every night that week, just in case. 

After a week, my Dad came in after talking on the ham radio with my Grandpa. After talking with my mom, they announced that we were going to drive to the missionary compound and stay there until things had calmed down. 

What about the drive there? What about the mobs? What about the gunshots? What if we got stopped? 

My Dad said we would not get stopped. Everything was going to be ok.

We each packed a small bag of valuables and clothing and then loaded them into our truck. The watchman agreed to stay on and take care of our pets and take care of the property. 

Our truck had once been a Tap-Tap, a vehicle outfitted to act as public transportation. The back had a roof and sides. My dad had changed the benches in the back to make them more comfortable and he had installed a tail gate and wire mesh doors that could completely close up the back. 

Usually, my brother and I would sit on the benches and we would get a bungee-cord and fasten it to the two wire mesh doors to hold them closed from the inside. If my dad wasn’t carrying passengers he simply used a padlock to shut the doors from the outside.

This time my dad put a mattress down on the floor of the truck bed and instructed us to lay on the mattress. Then he shut the wire mesh doors and locked them from the outside with a padlock. He had canvas curtains that he could put down when it was raining. We hated those curtains as it shut out any breeze and made it very hot. He put down the curtains so that nobody could see into the back of the truck, and we couldn’t see out. 

I lay on the mattress on the floor and just stared at that padlock through the dim gloomy light. What if our truck DID get stopped by a mob? What if the mob set our truck on fire? I knew this was a possibility. I had seen burnt-out vehicles by the side of the road before. What if the mob pulled my parents from the truck and killed them and we were just stuck in the back of the truck, unable to do anything?

I looked over at my brother. He had his headphones in, music blasting. I scooched a little closer to him, layed on my back and stared at the sliver of light coming between the rubber curtains. I held on as the truck slowly made its way down a very rutted and washed out dirt road. I mentally kept track of where we were, each bump and turn giving me a clue. I didn’t move from the mattress. I had no desire to get up and peek through the cracks. Finally the truck pulled off the dirt road and onto a paved road that was also rutted and full of potholes, sections of pavement missing every once in a while. My body tensed. We could drive faster on this road, but we were still in town. Just a little bit farther and we would be out of Cap Haitian. The closer we got to Vaudreuille and the missionary compound, the safer we would be. 

Finally, finally, the truck took a sharp right turn and then stopped. I knew we must be at the gates to the compound now. The gate would be locked and guarded, but they would recognize our truck and let us in quickly. 

We finally pulled into a grassy driveway behind my grandparents house. My dad got out and I could hear him talking to my grandparents. I shook the back door, Hey, let me out. And he walked over and unlocked the gate. My brother and I jumped out, holding our bags. We all then acted like we were having a holiday visit with my grandparents. My grandmother showed us our rooms, my brother and I sharing the room we had always shared when staying with them. A cannonball from the Citadel, a large fortress in the North, acting as a door stop for our door. The whoosh of ceiling fans. The chimes of my grandmother’s clock. 

My grandmother explained when supper was, when breakfast was, what the shower schedule would be, what she and Grandpa’s work schedule would be, as they were still working full-time at the Christian Radio station. It was all so orderly. Just like my grandmother. 

I laid on my bed that was made up with seventies style flowered sheets. I pulled out my book and started reading.

I’m Available

Yesterday someone asked me if I planned on continuing to foster children in the future. I said an outright NO! And then, after a pause. Well, ok. In the end, God gets the final say. I just hope it’s no. 

I thought about it some more and wanted to add to the conversation, You see, the problem is, I don’t feel like I have very much Margin in my life. Margin, according to nourishedplanner.com is “the boundaries, the rest that is built into your every day life. It is the space between our load and our limits. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating…” 

I was thinking about margin and thinking that it feels like I have been going full-throttle for twenty years now and my margin has been very small. `I would like to have more margin. Having more foster kids would definitely not fit into that plan. At least, not in this stage of my life. 

While I was thinking all this, I put out a little prayer, Lord, I need more margin! 

Then last night I had a crazy dream. The simplified version is I realized someone had a baby hidden away in my house, and it had been there for months, and no one had been taking care of it, and it was severely neglected and needed care Immediately. I was rushing the baby to the doctor, making plans in my head of how I could wear the baby in a carrier to try and establish a good bonding between us. Maybe I could nurse it? I was in full-blown FIX IT NOW mode, and at the same time feeling overwhelming guilt that I had somehow let this happen right under my own nose. I woke up and there was a complete thought planted in my head. 

“There are so many babies that need someone to take care of them. Aren’t you going to do it?” 

And all my thoughts about wanting margin in my life came flooding back and I cried out to God, “What do you want from me??” 

And this verse came into my head. 

Philippians 2:17, NLT: “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.”

And then I just lay there in bed. And now today, as the whole thing lingers in my mind, I think more about margin. I remember all the times when I felt like I was on the edge, I could do no more, I was, in fact, Done, and God provided Rest. Restoration. Reset. 

My grown up life has seemed to be a series of long hard gallops, followed by some really slow, meandering walks. And sometimes, just periods of time when I am completely still. And when I’m restored again, the pace starts picking up and the gallop starts again. 

And it doesn’t seem correct to me. I mean, slow and steady wins the race, right? Pace yourself. Take care of yourself first, and then you will have something to offer others… All of these statements have been my go-to for the last couple years. 

Not taking on more than you can handle sounds like wisdom to me. Of course, when you do that, you kind of negate the Divine. God never said that we could handle everything. He said that if we are relying on him, and walking in His Spirit, His Power, working through us, can accomplish anything. And when that happens, it’s so obviously God, and not us, that God gets all the glory. 

I have no idea what the future holds. Our current foster arrangement was miraculous in itself. We did not fit any of the parameters for fostering, but when the need arose, the court was willing to jump through a bunch of legal loopholes so we could foster. I don’t know what will come next.  But, I am feeling led to just say, Lord, I’m available. Whatever you want. I’m here. 

Three Love Stories

The other day I was reading the New York Times and they had a section where they were offering readers to submit their own loves stories in 100 words or less. I looked through their requirements, and they were looking for a demographic that doesn’t include me, but I still thought it would be fun to try and write a love story in 100 words or less. I ended up with three stories, about children, my spouse and God. Enjoy!

MY BABY

He is the youngest of ten. His oldest two siblings are all grown and gone. He is the baby. Three years old.

I am cleaning my desk. He climbs into my lap, demands my attention. 

Read me a book!

I sigh. 

Ok, one book, then you go play. 

We settle into my armchair. I read. He smiles and laughs. I set the book down. He snuggles into me, in moments, asleep. 

I still need to clean. 

It can wait. 

I know. 

I’ve only got seconds left before he too will be grown. 

Gone. 

I sit and hold my baby. 

We are Romance

The romance movie ends. Steamy, undying love between two attractive, successful people. I look across at my husband. We are two middle-aged, normal looking people. We pay bills. Raise our kids. Go to church. We are not considered movie material. Too bad. Our lives are all about romance and undying love. The undying love of washing dishes and going to work every day. The romance of saying, no, you stay in bed, I’ll get the crying baby. The passion of sleeping in on a Saturday morning together while kids eat cereal and watch tv. We are Romance in the flesh.

GOD

God. The one I bring my heaviest questions to. The one who gives me answers. The one who lives in my head. Hears every thought and feeling, loves me anyway. The one I talk to, complain to, yell at, cry to, sing praises to. The one I compliment and thank every day as I watch the sunrise, see the beautiful colors of the fall trees, feel the warm sunshine. The one who I take my heaviest burdens to. Trust that he will turn the bad into good. 

God. Without you there is nothing. You are the meaning of life.