Thursday, April 28, 2016

Some Kind of Wonderful

Peter slips on his shoes (or not) and heads out the door right after breakfast. I catch up with him around lunch and push a peanut butter sandwich into his hands before he's gone again, tooling around the back yard on that hand me down big wheel, squatting in the dirt and poking at bugs with a stick or working on his pumping technique on the swings. At dinner, he begs to eat outside.

We've had maybe three 70 degree days total so far this year, but you can't convince this guy it's not summer. He has moved into sandals and shorts and refuses to look back, even when the temperatures plummet into the 50's and freezing puddles form in the driveway. To this 4 year old, summer is here and our little yard is calling him, the magnetic siren song more than he can resist. He's out the door first thing in the morning and dragged in reluctantly at dusk.

Having kids is sometimes the reminder I need that the world is a wonderful place. I'm prone to sad spirals of hopelessness, but their enthusiasm is infectious. The reminder to look up, breathe deep, embrace the grace - it's a message my kids deliver to me like a fistful of dandelion blooms on that first warm day of spring, as comforting at the gentle roar of the lawn mower two houses over. When my insides are all tempest and trouble, it's the invitation to step out of myself for a moment, away from fear and darkness and into the sunshine.

It's a sermon that is best taught by accident, unintentionally. It's how lives lived wild with love, gratitude and peace pierce those around them with tender hope. Not because it is lectured, shamed or bidden, but because it is effortless. Free.

It's preached in her laugh when her sister pushes her on the swing. In the sidewalk chalk drawings that welcome daddy home. In young minds with vibrant imagination and days long pretend play.

Springtime with my kids is alive with Gospel truths when nothing is further from their minds. Life is good. Love wins. All is grace.

Like a four year old barefoot in the driveway, chucking rocks into a rain puddle for the sheer joy of watching the ripples they make.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Weight of Trust

Under my bare feet, the ball shifts. My muscles adjust, automatically, without a thought, and that familiar burn takes hold. I remember - breathe. Breathe.

I'm 32 and it has become a daily practice of mine. Move. Sweat. Lift. Breathe.

In this season of life, I'm thinking a lot about trust. 3 job losses in 18 months, 7 kids who need me and the future up ahead ever so uncertain - it's just too easy to fall prey to fear. To forget that trust requires a little bit of weight bearing, muscle building.

Ask anyone looking to change their body and they'll tell you - muscle is hard to build. It's quite a bit easier to diet and cardio your way to small than it is to build yourself to strength.

That's the way of balance. It's only when we adjust and adjust and adjust, catch it a bit more before each fall, each attempt - that we grow stronger. The fiber of our muscles knit, deep. Each time, a bit more automatic. A bit more time before we just can't anymore.

Lack of effort only yields atrophy, but repeated attempts - yes, even those that leave us wounded, with scraped palms and bruised egos - yeah, they are what breed strength.

Getting distracted by the pain and effort is the surest way to miss out on the benefits. The way I'm changing, sculpted in grace, strengthened in trust.

For all the times I almost fell - but didn't. For all the times I reached out in the dark and still found solid footing. For all the nights I went to bed in doubt and woke again to a new day of mercy.

It isn't a guarantee that life won't hurt, that people won't disappoint, that you won't fall. But it is the surest way I've found to getting back on your feet faster, ready to start, try, to live again.

The miracle here is something we always have known. That with patience, practice and persistence, tearing down and building back - we can grow. Couple that with the nourishing Word and I can feel it - strength returning. Sharpened. Sure.

Trust is a muscle built with reps. I'm counting them out, and counting on Him. And I'm never let down.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Motherhood and Guiltless Leisure

This afternoon, after the chores and school were done and everyone was having their own quiet play time, after I settled the preschoolers with a show and after I switched over the laundry, I made a quick cup of coffee and settled on the back porch with a copy of Image magazine that I received as a birthday gift.

I don't read much these days, but as I thumbed through the pages and caught a few breathless sentences, I felt a familiar stirring inside me. Comfort. The warmth of the mug and the the words on the page, the soft breeze and the surrounding silence...for a few moments, anyway. I savored what I read and when the coffee was gone, it was time to head back in. My time outside alone couldn't have been more than ten minutes, but the space, perspective and peace that resulted is carried along with me.

The conundrum of motherhood and leisure is that we either get none, and wind up soul-starved, or what we do get we lace in guilt. Surely, I have other things to do. Who am I to take a moment in the middle of an afternoon to sit and read?

Leisure and motherhood don't have to be mutually exclusive or fraught with guilt. They shouldn't be. I find that the things I choose to spend my precious little personal time are, for the most part, things that make me a better person. Things that expand my horizon, cement my relationships, bring me closer to God.

This wasn't always the case. There was a time in my life when relaxing in front of mindless television was my preferred evening activity, and to be completely honest I still enjoy some of that - though not nearly as often as before. I realized - the fallacy here is that you can take time off. Sure, you can halt any activity of importance or weight, but you can't hit the pause button on time. Time marches on, and the older I get the more I realize how blessed little of it there is.

Perhaps the overwhelmingly positive that I take away from this is that those things that I sometimes feel a bit guilty about, the things that feel like a luxurious indulgence - afternoons sipping coffee with a girlfriend talking while our kids play out back, an evening out with my husband, a nap on a sun speckled Sunday, going out for a beer with my siblings - these things aren't "just" private indulgences with no value. They are intentional acts that improve the rest of my life and the lives around me. They take time, yes, but they are worth time. They are full of real life.

The Moms I know garden for fun while their little ones help out, or sit outside and do a bible study while their kids swing on the swings. They knit at craft nights and in doing so create much needed community for themselves and others. Even when they aren't multi tasking, they are giving themselves the breathing room necessary to be the strong, courageous, life changing warriors that they are. We need that. The people in our lives need us to have that.

It's not that we "deserve" leisure by our merit and hard work. It is that our work, our vision, our calling is positively impacted when we make it a priority.

It's time to start dinner, check homework, get things organized for co op tomorrow. I'm in a better place to tackle it then I was before.

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