Because Summer Reading is Upon Us!

I sat down with my school planner this morning and calculated the completion of Kindergarten (and by default, my first year as an official homeschool Mama). Two more weeks people, two. more. weeks. Granted, I have a few field trips planned in those two weeks, but still, the end is near!!!

With the end of school, the beginning of patio-sitting-while-the-kids-play season. I sit there, sometimes in the sun and sometimes in the shade. I don’t often get to read too much in one sitting because people do actually still need me. Maybe not for snacks or potty breaks, but they do need someone to ooh and ahh over their latest sand creation.

This summer will find me reading a variety of books. Some because the list I keep is getting so long, I’m running out of room, and some because I finally figured out how to borrow ebooks from the library.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live - I’m almost done with this book, but it’s a borrowed book and this reading will be my second. I like it enough that I am seriously considering purchasing it just so I can read it again and this time highlight everything that has stood out so boldly to me.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are - I’m going to the Women of Faith Conference in a few hours and Shauna is one of the speakers. I’m excited to hear her speak and read more of her work… so far, Savor is a winner. And any book that comes with a gorgeous bound cover and ribbon bookmark gets bonus points from me!

The Blessed Woman: Learning About Grace from the Women of the Bible
- This is a library book, so I need to read faster. :) But it should be mentioned that already what I have read has been beneficial. Especially on Tuesday. Usually, I stagger from my bed, fire up the keurig and open up my She Reads Truth app. Tuesday, it would not work. It didn’t work on any of the three devices I tried. So I decided to read this book. The very first chapter spoke to me where I was, easing my heart… I was scheduled to speak that morning at MOPS and was really overcome with self-doubt and wondering why on Earth I had agreed to speak in the first place. If anyone was unqualified, I felt I should have the top score. And yet, as I read the first chapter, again and I again, I felt it whispered to my heart that I was right where He wanted me.

Anne of Green Gables, Complete 8-Book Box Set - I haven’t read these books since I was pregnant with Sylvia. Following the death of Jonathan Crombie last month, I just needed to reconnect. I watched the first two movies yesterday (yay cold and dreary day!) and decided that I need to read through the entire series again. Also, I discovered that there is yet one more book written by Montgomery, The Blythes Are Quoted, but I am holding off until I re-read their entire story before I explore this last edition.

If I finish these books before I need to begin buckling down for the school year and all the planning that brings, there are several books on this list that I’d like to check out. But if I don’t, there’s always the dead of winter when I don’t want to be creative or busy or much of anything but a sponge. Those days are the ones where in contrast to the summer heat, I just want to curl up with tea and a quilt and read. I don’t know about you, but for me, book will always hold the key to worlds I’d never before imagined, even worlds within myself that I’d never dared to consider!

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

**There are affiliate links for these books embedded in my post. Any earnings from these links simply continue to fund my reading habits!**

When there are no words

I am a writer. Perhaps not a well-known writer or a highly paid one, but still a writer. I love to write, coming up with endless reasons to put pen to paper, from lists to greeting cards to journals. The stacks of journals and stationary attest to this fact. Not to mention my obscure peculiarities about pens.

However, when people know you can write, they expect that you can also speak whimsically on a moment’s notice. But there is a great difference between the written word and the spoken word.

Often I find myself frustrated at my inability to get the words from my head to my lips. I want to speak them out. I do. But my heart is too full to speak. So I don’t.

I didn’t realize it was much of an issue until I wanted to pray. Those moments when I just am too overwhelmed to speak. Be it joyful or sad, the words don’t come easily.

Emily Freeman writes in her book of a young woman who following the death of her mother couldn’t access the emotion enough to bring it to the surface. And I understand. So often, we aren’t given the safety of even putting a name to the emotions within us, so that when the time comes to actually express them, we cannot.

Today, I was reminded of this struggle when I opened my journal to record recent events and realized that although I had much to write last Saturday, I only got two sentences out. And I laughed at how often I long to communicate and simply cannot.

I’m no better at the deep communication than my four-year-old. I stumble around and change the subject and cry rather than actually explain myself. Perhaps I have not yet learned to give those emotions a name, but what I can do, is teach my children along side myself.

Together we can put names to feelings and emotions. Together we can learn to take responsibility for how we respond to those emotions and choose to respond wisely. And be gracious with ourselves and others. Emotions are powerful – so powerful that they often take our words away.

I struggle often with my words, but there is comfort in knowing that God is willing to wait patiently for me to get them out. And while I have often stuffed down my emotions so as to avoid dealing with them, He still waits for me to be in the right place. And little by little, I get the courage to put words to the thoughts and emotions within.

Hopefully, I’ll finish writing about the trampoline park soon. I have the words for that, I only lack the time. But with those blank lines open before me, I hope that in time, I’ll learn to not shy away when the words are not there. And while I learn, I’ll be ever so grateful for a loving God who can translate tears and mutterings into something that makes a connection from my heart to His, even when there are not words.

On the hidden story

I grew up in churches that didn’t spend much, if any, time on the sovereignty of God. As a matter of fact, I was in my 30s before I ever really was introduced to the concept. I had no idea and considered my life through the lens of someone working for God’s favor and constantly failing.

In so doing, every time something hard would happen, I’d immediately respond with a “I don’t know what I keep doing to make God so mad at me!” Because of my religious upbringing, I wasn’t aware that not every little thing that happens in life is a direct result of ME and the scoring system I thought was in place.

I didn’t know and so with each struggle, I added in the burden of a hindrance and thereby stunted my own growth. Without even trying! But then, our church did a 10 month sermon series based on the book The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People. For the first time in my life, I was shown the little stories in the overarching theme of each book of the Bible. And for the first time in my life, I realized that there is a plan for everything, even the hard. If they had done that series five years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten it. But they did it when I was ready to learn. I knew something wasn’t right in my life and I wanted to fix it. I wanted to do something, but what I needed to do was learn.

Sometimes, there isn’t so much a need for action as there is for humility 

I asked a lot of questions. I sent our pastor dozens of questioning emails. I made a lot of tearful phone calls while I tried to understand scripture. I sent texts very late at night when I reached a stopping point in my understanding. But I learned and I grew. And used up an embarrassing amount of tissues.

It’s been over a year now since I started digging out truth for myself. In that year, I’ve learned to stop saying that God is mad at me for every little thing. And you know what? We’ve had a lot of things happen in the last year. Hard things. Scary things.

As my focus switched from being overwhelmed by the hard to anticipating the plan there came freedom. It’s freeing to realize that I don’t have to strive for perfection in an attempt to live. It’s freeing to realize that when things happen, I am not alone, left to my own devices to cope with life. Even recently, some things have happened that were absurd. It is what it is. I cannot change them, but I can wait to see how the Lord plans to use them. And I am waiting with excitement.

For me, understanding the sovereignty of God went beyond my personal needs. It superseded the typical Bibles verses about worry or sparrows. Understanding that He is actually in control… that the events of my life don’t throw Him for a loop… life changing. You might be reading this and wondering what on Earth my problem was. I cannot answer that… I really don’t know. But I feel like Psalm 116:5-9 was written for me. I was/am simple. I am human and I need the Lord to protect me from myself day in and day out. And like any loving parent, He so graciously does.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, He saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

On waiting… and waiting

Every morning and then several times after throughout the day for the last few weeks, I’ve been checking our weeping cherry tree for blossoms. I know it’s coming because of the season. I know the date is upon me because the first time it bloomed was while I was away at my sweet infant cousin’s funeral. And as the anniversary of that approaches, I feel more and more anxious to see the floral joy I just know is waiting inside those tight little buds.

My tree is quite young, only 3 years ago did we plant it in the midst of my {equally young} hydrangeas. As of this morning, I can see the flutter of white around the edges of the buds and I know it’s coming. Yet, it is so difficult to wait!

What are you waiting for? Is it an answer to a long-sought prayer? Is it a night of rest from a child who just. cannot. sleep? Is it for peace in your life when all seems lost?

Over the weekend I realized that I had finally gotten an answer to a prayer almost 20 years old. And yes, I most certainly am shocked that 20 years have passed. Along the way, I’ve tried to step out on my own and tackle this. I’ve felt that since it was my dream, it was my job to get the ball rolling. No matter what I tried to do, it always fell flat. Always. I set the dream aside {eventually} and moved on.

At the time, I was in such a hurry to grow, to take off on my own and “honor God”, that I didn’t/couldn’t see all the immaturity and false thinking standing right in front of me. Had I continued forging my own way, it would have been about as successful as my tree blossoming in the middle of February here… or at least trying to, as ice would have cut that journey short. And as a matter of course, in my own life a proverbial frost occurred. Circumstances wore me down and I hardened. I chose to cut myself off, to seal out relationships and absolutely the Lord.

But then, one Sunday, sitting alone in the back of the church our pastor offered an analogy about a tree that has been bitten by a harsh frost:

“Sometimes the harsh frost of life freezes our heart, but in God’s timing the energy of Christ bursts forth into a new harvest of spiritual growth and energy.”

I remember sitting there and the tears just running down my cheeks. I knew I’d been frozen. And in that moment, I also knew that the sunshine of healing was coming. It’s been almost two and a half years since that day and I still can remember the intensity of emotion as he spoke those words. It was in that moment that I first realized God has His own time table, one that often does not match up to what I calculate should happen, but His design is for the greatest good.

In that very same sermon, Exodus 3:7 was read and in my notes, I underlined the word concerned. The word concerned connotes a “marked interest that arises due to a personal relationship”. The book of Exodus frequently speaks of the Israelites’ sacrifices…. the sacrifices that were ultimately replaced by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. His sacrifice was of a personal nature. He knew me and my dreams and my fears and then and now. He made the decision to save me and to become my sin, so his interest is very personal.

His interest is personal enough that although you may feel alone, you are not. When it feels like you are shouting prayers into a vacuum, you are not. He is waiting until the proper time for your answer. And when the time is right, the answer is spectacular. It doesn’t mean the waiting is easy, or that you’ll have an abundance of patience. But I can now say with full confidence that waiting is worth it.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t still be checking my tree… frequently ;)

 

 

On grace in the storm

Facebook has so kindly reminded me for the last week that my daughter’s birthday was coming. And because I am a super emotional person come birthdays, I’ve not really allowed myself to look at all the tiny baby photos or really soak in those memories. Sylvia is my last baby, and at times, the finality of each stage hurts my heart too much for me to celebrate. I’m working on it, but sometimes celebration is not as simple as a pretty pink party.

Which leads me to remember her birth. She was already an agonizing 8 days overdue. Her pregnancy was a challenge on it’s own, and her apparent unwillingness to join us earthside felt like a cruel joke. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long! But then, the contractions started. I’d already had enough labor by this point that you’d think I would have ignored that first one, but when it happened, I knew.

The next four hours were hard. Pregnancy had been hard. Another experience with hyperemesis was hard. But this? I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the hardness. And I was so worn out from how hard the months leading up had been, I really didn’t have it in me to go for hours. And then suddenly, the pain ceased.

In the moment, I remember thinking it was strange. I remember wondering if I had just suffered the previous hours and now labor was over and I’d have to do it all again at a later date. I also remember the peace. I remember knowing this was my grace. I was worn and tired and not really ready {despite the waiting} for labor. And I needed the time to recharge before the final struggle.

So for an hour, I celebrated that grace. I ate some snacks, listened to the birds outside my window and rested.

How often can we truly rest in the midst of struggles in our life? When the rest is provided, do we still look out with one eye, suspicious of what could possibly go wrong? Or can we celebrate the gift given in the middle of the hard and just rest?

That day, I could. In the years following, I haven’t been so great about it. However, in our past year, I’ve learned more and more what is it like to take those moments as the gifts they are and to be suspicious, confident, that the Lord is up to something good. That these moments are a blessing, not a trap. Perhaps things that are even harder will arise, but if I take the rest I was given, my soul will have the opportunity to be strengthened.

On that morning, four years ago, when the rest was over, I was ready to tough it out and finish giving birth. And that sweet little face that I was amazed by has continued to amaze in her tenderness, kindness and genuine love for the people around her. Over and over, I’ve been blown away by how the Lord has used her to teach me a lesson about His Love or show me the ick in my heart I’ve been making excuses for.

Right now, our family has come out of a season of hard and are entering a season of rest. This time, I can recognize it for the gift that it is and use it to it’s full potential. Instead of relaxing and thinking I’m safe to do what I please, I am continuing my discipline of trust and obedience. Not being wary, so much as wise. Another storm will come, but when it does, I know that we will see the other side, whatever that may look like, but He Is Faithful!