Category Archives: breaths of grace

{moments in mothering}

there’s times I feel like I can’t keep up as a mom –
especially with the big age gap between all my kids.
I feel like Gumby, the green stretch man most days..
tugged and pulled in all directions.

major life decisions being made with the oldest.
while still helping the youngest brush (all) her teeth before bed.
and every extreme between!

there’s days of getting it all pretty right.
and days of getting most of it wrong.
on Monday, after a crazy weekend,
and looking at an even crazier week,
I was feeling so overwhelmed.
how could I do it all?
but most importantly, BE all I needed to be?
mainly to the people in my own home.
I found myself praying, “Lord, give me moments.”
one on one connection.
quality time.
sensitivity to what they need.
patience to put them first.

I felt acutely aware of my prayer last night..
after a crazy day of running non-stop.
getting home at ten.
then sitting in the driveway answering texts and messages,
when all of a sudden the back car door opens.
I hadn’t even seen her dash out.
my littlest in her night shirt. no pants. only underwear.
looking for the books we’d bought earlier at the book fair after school.

“mom.. can we read now?”

I start to say, it’s late. you need to go to bed. you’re only in your underwear!
but I hear that prayer for moments in my head. so I nod.
I stay in the front seat where I am and she in hers behind me as she begins.
it’s a long process as those of you with beginner readers know.
and I turn to tell her words and close my eyes a few times asking again
for patience to put her first over my tiredness.
and finally when she’s done one, there’s a second one..
that of course has to be read too.
so I nod again.
and think how these haven’t always been the choices of my younger mom years.
but I wish they had been.
so I try to relax and remember this is the stuff that matters.
and then, 30-minutes-to-read-6-pages later!!
she slaps it shut and says she’s going in, calling as she jumps out –

“I’ll have to run cause it’s raining..”
and halfway up the driveway I hear,
“AND I’M IN MY UNDERWEAR, YA KNOW!!!!!!”

(a little clip from our late night reading sesh in the car)

moms.. if you’re feeling that you’re under the waves more than you’re
on top of them lately – pray for moments.

sure, we’re going to mess up.
we’re going to get it wrong.
some days they’ll watch more tv shows than they should.
eat mac n cheese for dinner.
and not even brush their teeth before bed.
you’ll feel you’re totally screwing up.
there’s one that’s falling through the cracks.
that maybe you can’t get through to.
or you haven’t connected with in awhile.

it’s easy to spazz in those times.
to jump into control mode and force things.
but often that only leaves us more overwhelmed.
I’ve learned, and am still, to give myself grace..
and “give” isn’t necessarily the right word.
TAKE the grace God provides.
it’s nothing I do and all what He’s already done!
and that thought makes me sink into rest vs. despair..
which we tend to do as moms.
feel like a failure.
like we can’t do it all.
and yes, we can’t always.
life gets busy.
we get tired. grumpy.
but that’s the beauty of grace. it always arrives fresh. every morning.
I love the quote that says, “courage doesn’t always roar…
sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says
I’ll try again tomorrow.”

praise God for tomorrows!

so, maybe there weren’t really any great dinners this week.
or grand adventures.
but there were some sweet times tucked in among all the crazy.
like the one in the driveway, in the rain, listening to a little reader stumble through her words.

those are the things our kids will remember one day.
those are the things they’ll hold on to.

Children are not a distraction from more important work.
They ARE the most important work. – C.S. Lewis

 

{a new rhythm in parenting}

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last sunday morning, we dropped the little girls off at a birthday party..
after the whole gong show of having to turn around halfway there to go back to
get the birthday present we’d forgotten.
pick kate up from a friend’s house where she’d spent the night.
get the little girls situated at the party.
and realize we were now 20 minutes late for church.
we decided to take the older kids advice and go out for breakfast with them instead.

there would have been a time i would have been more,
“no. we’re going to church. you kids need Jesus!”
and though i love church. and it is, and will always be a huge part of my life.
it’s certainly not the only place to find Jesus on a Sunday morning!
sitting in the breakfast house restaurant talking about life and universities,
and future plans and sex, {yep. that came up in the conversation too}.
and laughing, and listening and interacting, felt even more God-ordained
than sitting in a straight row in the church pew.

can i just insert here that, parents, if you want to keep the hearts of your kids.
keep the communication lines open between you, it might mean at times bending
on some of those things you never thought you’d bend on.
you can force your kids to do what you ask.
yes, your house. your rules!
we’ve actually had that conversation with our kids about church.
“as long as you live here you go where we go.
church together as a family is not an option.”

but, letting them skip out every now and then to go somewhere else?
or not even go at all?
taking off to the city with friends?
or a breakfast date with mom and dad?
okay, then. there’s exceptions to the rule.

we have to learn to bend so that we don’t break the relationship all together.
in my opinion, yes, relationship is more important than church attendance.
i’ve seen far too many parents force outward conformity at the expense of losing
the heart of their child all together.
it can be a tricky thing –
this delicate dance of knowing when to bend and when to stand firm.
it’s a rhythm i’m still working to find.

i LOVE having older kids.
it really is my favorite phase so far.
but i’ll be honest.. it’s the phase i’ve felt most lost in!
i’m not always sure how to respond. what the next step should be.
and how to maneuver through it all with grace and calm.
i remind my kids often, “i’ve never done this before!
i’ve never parented a 19 and 17 year old..
i haven’t a clue what in the world i’m doing!!”

it really has just been alot of trial and error.
alot of, i messed up. i got it wrong. forgive me.
alot of talks and tears and figuring it out together.

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when kate first came back from south africa we went through
such a period of just clashing!
it seemed no matter what i said it was wrong.
how do you give a curfew and say, no, you can’t do that when they’re of legal age
and basically lived on their own for a year?
independence once tasted is hard to be retrieved.
and it took some tough times and humbling myself to listen to her.
i had to hear from her what she needed from me and how i could do better
at mothering her at this point in her life.

it was HARD!

i thought these things would naturally align themselves.
wouldn’t my kids just always adore me like they did when they were five?
one of the hardest things for me has been to not parent from my emotions.
guys, i don’t do that well!!

the thing with your grown kids is they can hurt your feelings.
man! it can sting.
and my flesh, my emotions, wants to retaliate.
“fine.. hitchhike to ball practice! make your own dinner!”
no more sacrificing on my end!!
i’m not going to put myself out there to be hurt.
anyone?
please tell me i’m not the only immature parent out there.

shayne is so much better at it. that mature parenting thing.
he’s calm and cool and wise.
lays out the boundaries and sticks to his guns.
i’m a hot mess. so easily swayed.
one minute full of mercy. the next..
“i brought you into this world and i’ll take you out if you act that stupid again!!”
i’ve had to learn/ am learning that even though i might be freaking out inside
i can’t let it show on my face.
“what the what?”
that’s hard for me. i’m pretty much an open book.
but, i know from experience.. you freak out on your kid when they’ve made
a bad choice or had a bad attitude, or whatever it is, and you will shut their
spirit off to you in a heartbeat.

there’s a quote i like – “being kind is better than being right.”
i think that applies big time to our kids.
be kind to them when they make mistakes.
be kind as they’re trying to figure it all out.
who they are. what they’re doing with their life.
and most importantly, be kind, even if those choices don’t
look like what you think you should.

i never really cared much about what other parents thought of my parenting..
i mean, my kid was the pacy-sucking, disposable diaper wearing,
formula drinking one asleep on their belly!
i didn’t care what all my crunchy granola mama friends said about no peanut butter
until they’re two and no chewing gum until they’re six. whatever.
but put two college age kids on my hands? that everyone’s favorite question is,
“so.. what are kate and ben doing with their lives?”
and suddenly, i found myself caring a whole lot about what other parents think!

after the first couple of times of staring blankly at people when they asked
i went to the kids and said, “give me something, guys!”
to which is was something like,
“travel the world and run a lama zoo!”
so i knew i better come up with a better answer myself.

once, at a ballgame this past summer..
i was sitting a few bleachers up from kate when i heard another mom ask,
“so, kate.. what are you doing?”
kate shrugged, “oh, nothing!”
because as frustrating as it is being the parent of a college student undecided
on what they want to do, it’s even more frustrating for the student.
kate had said that was going to be her new standard answer.
but, caring about others opinions of our parenting in this new phase i did the
totally creepy mom, i’m listening to your conversation from all the way up here,
thing as i called down with a laugh, “oh, she’s joking!!
she’s working two jobs and saving her money and looking at different universities..
right, kate??”

kate just gave a half-smile and nod. she knew what i was doing.
i embarrassed myself that day! and decided from then on, going forward,
the best answer to give that i had struggled to find was just the honest one.
“she doesn’t know what she wants to do yet.”
and you know what?
that’s okay.
she has a better idea now than she did last summer
and we’re working on mapping that out with her.
but man! there is so much pressure on these kids straight out of high school
to know what they want to do with their lives, for the rest of their lives.
when reality is, here we are as parents at 42 and 43, still figuring it out ourselves as well.

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one of the biggest things in parenting older kids is giving them SPACE.
space to just be!
yes, we are there to guide and give advice and instruct
and there are times to put our foot down and say, “absolutely not!”
but most of the time, at this time in their life –
the foot putting down days are over.
and they have to be given the freedom to think and decide things for themselves.
and guys, that is the freakiest part of all in parenting!

and here we thought it was bad when they pooped up their backs when they were babies!

there’s moments with your older kids you’d give anything to have *that*
be the toughest part of your day again.
from, “which book do you want?” at bedtime.
to, “what do you mean one o’clock in the morning is too early of a curfew?”

i’m sure parents of older kids reading this are probably groaning and laughing
all in the same breath. i know you get it.
and parents of littles, don’t be afraid. ha!
it’s wonderful. i promise!
the good far outweighs the bad.
it’s a blast and nothing has burst my heart wide open with so much joy than having
young adult kids that i just find so cool as individuals and love hanging out with.

but it stretches your faith like nothing else.
that’s really what the “hard” is all about.
we say we trust God..
it’s the expected answer.
but the answer we know in our heads is alot different to live out!

those times of lying awake in the middle of the night,
worrying over something they’re going through.
or waiting on them to get home, when you know they’re with friends
who aren’t your first choice for them to be with.
when there’s been struggles and attitudes and beliefs they’re not sure they share.
those times of fear and what if’s? and feeling completely at a loss.
and what if all we’ve trained and taught them and tried to pour into them..
what if they choose a path opposite than ours?

as followers of Christ, we believe ultimate fulfillment is found in Him alone.
but what if our kids don’t share that belief? or veer away from it for a time?
what about those times?
will you trust Him then?
that He is faithful.
that He is sovereign.
that He cares.
that He’s at work.
that no amount of rules or lectures or 10 p.m. curfews or church services
or forced bible time or controlling or circling the wagons can change what
is inside their heart.

only God can do that.

and that.
that can be the hardest point of all our lives to trust Him with.

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of course it doesn’t mean we do nothing.
like, i’m just going to sit here twiddling my thumbs, trusting Jesus.
yes, it’s about faith in God. but it’s active faith!
as my kids would tell you, i’m not silent with them when it comes to what
i think they should and could be doing, saying, acting, living.
we talk ALOT.
we get passionate about our opinions.
we disagree.
we argue.
there’s still plenty of just plain, “i’m the parent that’s why!”
but more and more. little by little.
there’s this whole releasing thing too.
learning to parent hands-free.

hands-free parenting just means you’re face planted on the floor more.

prayer!

i’ve never been great at it.
but man! i’m learning.
i’ve been reading priscilla shirer’s book, fervent.
so, so good!

coming home the other night i had kate on my mind so strongly.
she was gone for the night with friends and suddenly, i was worrying about her.
usually, i’m halfway down the toilet drain of lies..
she’s kidnapped, dead, and gone before i even think to stop and pray!
anybody know what i mean?
but in trying to spot those early signs of beginning to circle the bowl,
i stopped right then and just went to God with my concerns.
kate told me the next day there was a weird guy hitting on her that night.
and when i asked about what time..
right around when i was feeling that way!

guys, we can never underestimate the power of prayer and the promptings of the Spirit in us.

i’m so far from having all the answers.
i don’t write these blogs because i think i have it all together..
but, because i don’t!
and for any of the rest of you out there maybe feeling the same way.

mothering of all our jobs is so closely knit to our identity.
such a reflection of who we are, and for years i struggled to feel that
i had to get it all right in order to feel i’d succeeded in my role.
now, it’s kind of this strange realization that it’s actually been, mostly,
in the times i’ve gotten it wrong.
the times of brokenness and not having a clue that have propelled
me to be the best mom i can possibly be..
because it’s been those times that have pushed me more into Christ
and seeing my great need for Him.
i’m convinced this parenting journey is far more about what God is doing
in me than what it is i think i’m teaching my kids.
the “success” of any of it is having a heart that is rooted deeper and deeper in Him.
and if my kids see that in my life? despite all my flaws and failures..
then i think i’ve done my job well.

this past summer we were at a waterfall with some friends.
after splashing around at the bottom for awhile, ben, in typical ben fashion
decides to climb up the side of the falls.
soon after, and again in typical fashion, he calls to kate who goes and
begins following him up.

i’m sitting on a rock close by watching them.
i feel a little nervous, but not too bad.
i’ve watched them do this sort of thing their whole lives.
but then, they get higher. and ben’s hand slips and he falls down a bit,
knocking kate off balance.
i stand up and call ben’s name, then kate’s.
they go a little further and i see ben struggling again.
the ledge is narrow and the rocks are slippery.
now my heart is beating fast and i try to get closer..
yelling out their names, but the water is too loud, too overpowering.
they can’t hear me.
i’m almost directly beneath them but they’re both oblivious.

and so i just stand there.
and hold my breath.

i know one of them will fall at any moment.
i’m almost sure of it.
expecting it.
i grimace as i see them go higher.
it’s the last ledge before the top and here i’m positive they won’t make it.
i shut my eyes, waiting on the scream.
when i hear none i open them up slowly, one at a time.
and as i squint against the sun trying to see, there they are.
at the top laughing and waving and, “hi, mom!”
and i just smile and shake my head and wave back.

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i’ve thought of that story so many times since then.
how parenting and struggling to find my rhythm in this new section
feels much that way. a bit helpless at times.
the roar of other influences so loud.
any attempt to control or change the course, futile.
there’s no going back.
all i can do is look up.
watching. grimacing at times. yelling against the drowning flow at other times.
but mostly, just trusting.

trusting God.
trusting them.
trusting this whole process.
that they’re learning to climb on their own.
and come to discover the Rock that is higher than any of this.

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{talking straight in a transgender world}

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i don’t think there’s ever been an issue i’ve felt more conflicted over.
i’m totally on both sides of this.
i get what you’re saying…
but i get what they’re saying too.

on one hand i’m climbing over the person in front of me to sign that petition.
and on the other hand i’m telling shayne how christians make me crazy!
why do we get so upset when a NON-christian company like Target isn’t acting “christian” in their policies? it’s like my friend jerry always used to say, “why do the heathen rage? because they’re HEATHENS!!”

i’m not sure boycotting and picketing in the streets ever solved anything.
if it did, maybe we would have seen more of that from Jesus.
the only time He went off was on the church goers.
yet with the adulterous and murderous and cheaters and liars and those who were probably transgender before they even knew what to call it He was nothing but compassionate.. it is His LOVE that leads us to repentance. and yet, somehow we forget that with everyone else. we think jumping on our soap boxes and spewing our self-righteousness will somehow change hearts. when in reality, we’re not even changed ourselves.

as christians, we are good at taking stands from afar.
it’s easy to shout, “love thy neighbor” from across a computer screen.
but what about that fellow christian right across the church aisle?
to say we need to reach out to those different from us..
and yet not even be able to shake the hand of someone we’ve had a difference with?

“but you don’t know what they did? how they hurt me? i have to put up boundaries…”
as jen hatmaker says, boundaries can just become a fancy term for choosing who we don’t have to extend love to.

when Jesus commanded us to love there were no conditions placed upon it.
like, love everyone but these, these, and this one.
we don’t get to choose who we love – we.just.to.do.it.

and love has to start in our own circles before it can reach those outside our circles.

if we can’t love our own.. how can we love at all?

but that’s the thing, right? loving those that we probably will never really rub shoulders with is a whole lot easier than loving those up close. that gets messy! a little uncomfortable. way more uncomfortable, at times, than loving someone who is transgender. i have gay friends and know transgender kids at ben’s school that are lovely. and i know many people, myself at times through the years, who would say, give me “that crowd” any day over the christians. i feel a whole lot safer over here than with those who are “supposed” to love and care for me!

but in loving. always. always. there is risk.
it’s not possible we’ll be hurt when we love. it’s probable!

but does that mean we pull back. shut others out. put up our healthy boundaries?
the only thing walls seem good at is keeping prisoners in.
and i don’t want to be a prisoner. especially inside my own heart!
i want to live trusting. open. and free.
living scared and bound up is no way to live!!

“but we’re not to be naive. we must be wise. we can’t embrace sin.”
because that’s what we as christians always say right after we talk about loving freely.
and of course we’re not and yes we must be!
God’s Word has got to be the final authority on all areas of life. period.
but i think God gets blamed for a whole lot that has nothing to really do with Him and everything to do with us! no one is better than christians at making something sound so good and righteous when perhaps it’s entirely contrary to what the Bible actually says we as christians are to do.

i’m not saying that from now on i’ll still be sending my ten-year old in the bathroom alone with her little 5 year sister and say, “hey, if you see any weird people in there just tell them you love them!” you better believe this mama bear will claw eyes out first and give hugs later if i suspect anyone is out to harm my kids – i don’t care what the heck you are!

but. i also know i can’t always be with my kids. there are times when maybe they’ll be in situations where they feel unsafe – and can i just insert that people who might want to hurt your kids aren’t just hiding in the Target bathrooms – they are in our churches. in your best friends home. don’t just assume because people are like you that your kids are okay to go off and play without checking in. i speak from experience that sometimes the Target bathroom is safer than your church.

be aware. that’s just smart parenting.

but.. don’t parent from fear!

God knew something about His people when He compared us to sheep. we can be so dumb! so easily following the one in front of us and we’ve no idea what we’re even running from. we need to be educated with these things. really educated. not just taking someone’s word for it on social media that writes something spiritual sounding. we need to research and read and dig into scripture. so many of us hold to beliefs that we don’t even know where that belief is rooted. why do we believe what we say we do? because mom and dad did? because the majority of christians seem to? because it makes sense? we need to know these things not so we can go and argue to the point of exhaustion with all the other views out there. but we need to know so that our kids will know. so that we can educate them!

instead of going round and round with each other.
we need to be having these conversations with our kids.
they are the answer.
they are the ones who will live this.

i believe our world is full of good people. but that doesn’t mean it’s getting better. the light is growing dim. our kids generation is/ and will deal with things that if we had heard of them even 10 years ago we would have shook our heads and said, “no way!”

but, WAY! it’s no longer in the far off future. it’s upon us.
and i don’t want my kids living in fear…
and if i parent from fear.. that’s exactly what will happen because fear breeds fear!
and then what are we but a bunch of scared sheep running from what? we don’t even know!

i want my kids to not be shocked by a dark world.
to not circle the wagons and hide inside.
i want them to be confident in not only what they believe but WHO they believe in.
to be able to go out and stand strong.
but always. to stand in love.

love isn’t a noun. it’s not something that just is –
no. love is useless without action.
it’s a verb! meant to move and be and do.
so we can say all day long, till the cows come home, that we love..
but until we teach that to our kids. and by teach, i mean show!
what that really looks like-
starting in our own circles first.
with those who are like us.
we will never be able to go out and love those who aren’t!

our kids are the ones who will live the realities we fear
and they need to know
perfect love {found only in Jesus Christ}
casts out ALL fear!

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{when we think we’ve missed the miracle}

i sat with a friend last night in her living room.
the warm fireplace flickering to the side, glowing orange.
i stared into her face. warm, flush from the fire.
but something more –
this glowing that i would say i’ve only ever seen in few people.
it’s the glow of intimacy with God and you recognize it.

i had went with gift in hand to try to offer some sort of solace
a slight encouragement, maybe.
it was the anniversary of her daughter passing.
seven years ago now. and jennie would be seventeen.
same as kate.
i didn’t know her. we only met their family recently.
but i wished i had.
i love what i’ve heard of her.
i think she and kate would have been grand friends.

i sit. coat still on. not wanting to stay long.
not wanting to intrude. this ground of grief so sacred. so precious.
and i just listen..
listen as this mother talks.
talks of what it’s like to lose a child.
talks of loss. of pain unthinkable.
of things that can’t even be put into words.
and how i wished i had a pen and paper to write all the wisdom.
those who have weathered these kind of storms and not turned back-
they’re the ones i want to learn from.
i feel a lump rise in my throat and chills go up my arms as she looks
me in the eyes and leans forward slightly, saying,
with her british accent faint except on the word, “God,” and then i hear it clear.

“God is a good God. He really is.
i believe that with all my heart.”

and she talks on. of having to come to this place of believing.
that there comes a time in all our lives where we must choose. is it true?
more than the sunday school answers. the spiritual jargon we’ve heard our whole life.
when things shake us to our core we’re faced with the gut wrenching battle of,
“God is either who He says He is, or He is not.”

“but where is hope if not for him.” my friend says with a smile.

“it is not the life i would have chosen. nor ever imagined in a thousand years.
but i believe that God {that strong british accent again} knows what He’s doing.”

and i was gripped and challenged and my own problems seemed so miniscule.
this courage she had seemed contagious –
i felt it filling me.
we can trust His sovereignty.
the answer to our why is always Who!

“so many people said to us, ‘we prayed for a miracle, and it didn’t happen..’ ”

and i see a softness in her.

“but this is the miracle – He sustains.”

and i swallow and blink hard.

“and keeps doing so…
when i didn’t have any idea in the world how i was going to survive.
how i was going to get through a single day. go on.
i look back now and all i can say, He sustains.”

and i nod. this understanding. this hope. i get it.

we pray for healing. for help.
for bills to be met. for relationships to be mended.
we want rescued. relieved. ease. comfort. evidence.

we think God hasn’t given the miracles we’ve sought.
but that He has carried us through it all.
that we have been SUSTAINED.

THIS is the miracle.

——

“And the radical wonder of it stuns me happy, hushes me still:
it’s all Christ. Every moment, every event, every happening.
It’s all Christ and in Christ we are always safe…

When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms,
true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust!

We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect
in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust!

We can give thanks in everything because there’s a good God leading,
working all things into good. It is safe to trust!

The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye,
but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust!

Each bridge I need cross, from one moment to moment to next, is wholly safe,
each leading me deeper into Him and closer Home.

And I hear that hurting voice again.. those aching voices I have known and still cry:
There are moments that as sure as I bruise don’t feel like good things
have been given. What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?
When the bridge shakes and heaves..

Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.

I draw all the hurting voices close and I touch their scars with a whisper:
sometimes we don’t fully see that in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ,
He does give us all things good – until we have the perspective of years.

In time, years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.

Then when we look back, we see God…”     -one thousand gifts

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{the next day}

you know how it is, moms, when your kids are in school.
the PAPERWORK!!! {can we just take a moment?}
there’s just so much. every day. all the time. i can never keep up with it all.
new ones come before the old ones are read.
and i try, really i do, at first, in the beginning..
when there’s 50 million forms to sign and safe arrival? do we want that?
consent to play sports, go to the library, drink milk, use the class kleenex box…?
i’m pretty sure somewhere in there i’ve signed my kids first two years out of high
school away to serve in the royal Canadian Mounties.

but, seriously!

the agendas. and calendars. and lunch programs. and fundraisers. and special events. the side of my fridge is like a filing cabinet with all the kids constantly shuffling their
papers, making sure theirs is at the front of the stack. and always the, “hey.. who moved my football schedule?” or, “hey.. where’s my class list?” and things get buried. and
forgotten. even lost! {the fridge must be a relative of the dryer-things magically
disappear} and the paper about the kindergarten christmas program i’m pretty sure is still in a pile on top of the paint can sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor, covered in about six inches of drywall dust. good thing reese’s teacher emails too and when i got that one, way back the first of december, i immediately tore out a sheet of paper from the notebook in front of me and wrote the date and time and all the details in big letters across the whole page and stuck it front and center on the fridge!!

as the weeks passed and the time got closer i would often ask Reese, “are you excited about your christmas program? daddy and i can’t wait to see it!” and she’d grin all shy and proud and tell me she might forget some of the words. so we’d work on them. when sunday night rolled around i did my mental list of each kid for the week and what was happening and where and when they needed to be places. i knew reese had to have a red or green shirt for the program and i made sure to take care of that first thing. and there was basketball and volleyball and emma had some make up classes for dance.

by wednesday i was glad for a little break of the crazy two days and finally got my
christmas cards ordered and a bit caught up on some editing. i strolled over to the school early to get the girls and thought is was odd no other parents were waiting
outside the kindergarten class like they usually are. when the teacher saw me and opened the door reese was the only one left. i’m usually one of the first ones to pick up so i thought everyone else must have just been really on the ball and extra early to my
earliness. i thanked the teacher, like always, and told her we’d see her tomorrow. she smiled and waved and reese and i walked over to where we meet up with emma.

“how was your day?” i asked reese as we walked.

“dood.” she stopped and kicked at a pile of snow, then jumped over it. “our prodram was today.”

“what program?”

“da one for da moms and dads.”

by this time emma was with us and emma piped in, “your program wasn’t today, reesey..
that was the primary classes in the gym.”

“NO! IT WAS TODAY!!” reese insisted.

“i don’t think it was, mom.” emma went on, “the primary classes put on two programs and i was at both of them and i didn’t see reese on stage..”

“i was in da ober stage.”

“reesey, i think you must have just been practicing.” i told her. “your program is
TOMORROW. on thursday. mommy has it all written down and everything. your teacher emailed me. daddy and i are coming tomorrow, THURSDAY, to watch your show!”

by now we were to the van and the talk of school and programs kind of dies off. the rest of the night was spent picking up older kids, watching basketball games, a trip to the grocery, and not another thought about the program that was, for sure, TOMORROW.

this morning, i got up in enough time to give reese a bath and wash her hair. her little red and white shirt laid out all ready for her to wear. as i dressed her and asked if she was nervous and did she think she’d remember the words for her songs she looked at me confused,

“i did. i did it yesterday..”

suddenly. it was one of those mom moments where you’re looking into your kids eyes and you know! you just know!! and i went to my laptop and opened my email, searching quickly and finding the one with the subject line, “Kindergarten Christmas Program.” i clicked on it and my heart immediately fell as i saw in bold, black letter
“Parents are invited to join us in celebrating the Christmas season on WEDNESDAY…”
i didn’t even get past that part. i just sat there. staring at the word, WEDNESDAY.

then.

“no, wait? is today wednesday? i think it is? the 17th right?”

and i went and dug my pocket organizer out of my purse {a lot of good that thing does me!} to see what today’s date actually was. “the 18th? that can’t be right! did we skip the 17th? is this like those months that only have 30 days and i can never remember which ones they are? every 10 years we skip the 17th day of december or something? why did i think thursday? and WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THAT PIECE OF NOTEBOOK PAPER I PUT ON THE FRIDGE???”

as the harsh reality set in that there wasn’t actually some kind of cosmic lapse of dates i felt sick to my stomach. literally! s i c k. who does that? this wasn’t, “oh, i forgot it was ‘wear your reindeer antlers to school’!” no. this was, “it’s my baby’s first ever christmas program at school!!” and i was sitting, not even FIVE minutes away at home, editing
pictures!! clueless.

i went to reese and got down on my knees at her eye level.
“reesey, ” i gulped. “your program was YESTERDAY!!!!!”
she just looked at me blankly. “i know!”
“i’m so, so sorry daddy and i missed it..” launching into this whole, long explanation that i’m not sure her four-year brain really got, or even cared.

“vell.. i didn’t know where you duys were and i ask-ed my teacher and she said i tood sit wif her tause you weren’t there. but tristian’s mom wasn’t there eiber but he didn’t sit wif da teacher..”

and my heart just sank as i listened.

EVERYONE was there! {well, except christian’s mom but still.. that’s practically
EVERYONE!} and i hated thinking of her looking for us. anticipating us being there.
and not. and then. bless her! she had gotten herself dressed that morning – a little brown shirt and black leggings with a hole at the knee that i didn’t see until we were walking out the door, and then it was too late to change and i had thrown her hair up into a couple lopsided pigtails after we pulled into the school parking lot. i cringed a bit
inside picturing the scene.. like in a movie, as every other child stands festive and coordinated and hair combed, and my sweet little bright-haired, sad-faced raggamuffin with her brown shirt and holey leggings and lopsided pigtails looking like an orphan child!

when we got to school this morning i went in and explained to the teacher.
she was kind and, “oh, there were a few others that forgot too..”

“but.. i DIDN’T forget!” i wanted to say. “i just wrote down the WRONG date!! and that’s SO not the same thing as forgetting!!” but i smiled weakly and thanked her and said, yes, i would like a picture of all the kids from the program {yesterday} when she offered to email one. and all day i just.could.not.get.over.it. i felt so awful!!

worst mom of the year award?
{*raises hand* pass it down?}

because as moms THIS is what we do!! this is it.
our lives. pouring into theirs.
every day. all day. trying not to miss a thing. trying to get it right.

and we’re constantly thinking of who is where and where is who and when is this and what is that. are they too hot? are they too cold? did they eat enough veggies? did they eat TOO many veggies? are we being too strict? are we being too lenient? did we take enough time? did we make them feel loved? accepted? cared for? important? this is our JOB! our priority. and though crazy chaotic most days. we.love.it. because we love them. that’s why we organize and pack and prepare and keep track and remind and read and stay on top of it all and get up and make up and most days no make up because there isn’t any time and we get everyone where and when and how they’re supposed to be somewhere. and always, always we SHOW UP!

so this? this of all things. of not being there when she needed me.
this feeling i had let her down. it crushed and defeated me a good part of the day –
but then driving back from home depot this afternoon i had to smile remembering as i put reese’s boots on her this morning. emma, ever my little encourager, saying brightly, “it’s okay that you missed the program, mom. you’re still the best mom in the world!.” and then a little prodding to her sister, “isn’t she reese?”

and reese looked up, hesitating a minute, and i cupped her face in my hands and put my nose to hers, “what do you think, baby?” and she broke out into this huge smile and threw her arms around my neck, squeezing hard, “you’re my favorite!”

and i held that little girl and thanked God for the resilience and tenderness of young hearts and how old hearts have much to learn from them!

yes. there’s going to be days we get it right.
and days we get it oh, so wrong.

but there is something called the next day
and it waits with fresh mercies and new opportunities.

so we let it go, and move on.

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_181 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_184 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_187

*photo credit to the beautiful alyssa fleming of joline photography :)

{we’re not through yet}

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i sit on the bed and he across from me on the other side of the room.
both our shoulders slumped.
mine even more.

i feel the extra burden of wanting so badly to say the magic words to make the light come on and everything to suddenly make sense and be easy like it was when he was younger and i thought my worst battle was trying to get him to sit still and not hang upside down from his chair while i homeschooled him.

now. moments like this…
i wish for those simpler days of a hyper boy standing on his head during math.

i stand to leave his room. and pause.
“is there anything else you want to say?”

and you wait for something like,”thanks, mom! this is exactly what i needed!! i know God is using you and dad in my life and tomorrow, i think i’m going to go start a bible study in the neighborhood…” ;)

instead. it’s only a shrug and slight nod, “no.”
and i pause longer. {oh, those pauses. how many will we have throughout motherhood – when everything inside us is screaming to just “fix it,” and yet you know.. you know the fixing cannot come from you} so, i let out a soft sigh under my breath and turn and walk out.

later i tell shayne, “sometimes i get fearful in all this parenting stuff. are we doing it right? are they going to make it?” {and when things weigh heavy on our hearts the enemy of our soul works overtime to convince us the darkness is darker and light cannot win.}

but shayne smiles calm, as he always does, and puts his arm around me –

“we’re not through yet. there’s going to be tough places along the way, but i’m confident the kids are going to be just fine!”

—-

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it’s been weeks ago now that i recorded that in my journal.
but a conversation in the kitchen last night, going into the wee hours of the morning..
and feeling that familiar fear, had this truth meeting my discouraged heart when i woke up.

we’re not through yet!

i love that word. through.
it’s a journey.
beautiful. wonderful.
we’re crossing this life together.
kids. parents. all learning.
but there’s going to be rocky parts.
the ebb and flow of the tide.
things are going to get stormy.
there will be those times of stale mate across a bedroom floor.
midnight talks in the kitchen of tears and frustration.
those feelings that you’ve completely screwed up. done it all wrong. ruined them.

that they’re too far gone.
heart too hardened.
nothing can penetrate.

but when God is our God, that’s just not the case.
because greater is HE.
GREATER is He!!!
He never stops saving us. rescuing. coming to our aid as we cry out.
He doesn’t just restore, He redeems.
He takes what might seem broken and all wrong, and gives back something better.
nothing stumps Him. nothing stops Him. nothing sever’s His will being accomplished.

so in God’s economy –
there’s no such thing as too far gone.
too hardened.
or too screwed up.

and as we’re going t h r o u g h we can go through with calm and confidence.
there’s no need to fear.
because we’ve got this?
no. because of WHO’s got us!!

i’m learning, or relearning some things lately though.
like, choosing battles in parenting.
asking myself, “why does it matter?”
is it based in fear? my own pride? wanting to squeeze them into my mold? worrying what other’s might think?

oh, man! how i’ve parented too many times from the perspective of others opinions!
social media has revealed this in my heart big time.
“you put WHAT on twitter?” ;)
not necessarily because it was “bad,” only… yes, “what will so-so think?”
so there’s times i have to just let them be themselves and let something go –
even if it might cause others to judge them. i have to rest in how God is calling shayne and i to parent.
and no, that’s not always like everyone else parents.

but in letting things go, i also have to be willing to hold onto some things too.
to not be afraid to take strong stands with my kids.
they’re my best friends and of course i want to please them and be “popular” with them ;)
but i’m their parent first and have to be willing at times to risk a little popularity
in order to protect and guide where they can’t see they need it.
to remind them that yeah, they better believe i love them exactly as they are right now –
but i love their future selves as well!
and they don’t always get that.
{it’s okay. they will one day}

how many of us can recall things we hated and didn’t understand our parents doing?
a decision. a boundary. a rule. a sleep-over we weren’t allowed going to?
and yet, looking back we see the wisdom of it.

parents-
love them through.
walk them through.
PRAY them through.

more important than clean rooms and pants pulled up over their boxers are HEARTS!
and good thing God is in the heart changing business and always a very present help when it seems their hearts are far away.

it’s such a delicate balance of guiding these young, moldable hearts
and yet not allowing ourselves to get in the way of GOD’s work in their hearts.

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i remember when my two oldest started high school after homeschooling them the eight years prior.
i was afraid of all the things people said about public school.
what if it was true? the drugs and partying and sex?

well, it turns out what they say about public school is pretty accurate.
lots of scary stuff there.

one day while washing the dishes and worrying over the, “what if’s?”
it’s like God said to me, “yes, what if? am i not big enough for those things too?”

and though we’ve not had drugs, or drinking, or sex to deal with yet we have had other things..
some that landed us in counseling with one child a year and a half ago.
and i went through the shame at first, but then, crazy found freedom that, we were that family! and it was okay.

no matter what.
homeschooling.
public school.
super strict rules.
or more lenient.
unless The Lord had been our help we would have never made it through.
and be making it through still!

it’s about daily humbling ourselves and recognizing we can’t do this in our own strength.
that we have a God that loves our kids far more than we ever could and we must avail ourselves of His power by coming boldly before His throne of grace, crying out for our sons and daughters. do we think that Christ would die on the cross for us when we were still sinners, and now that we are His children He’s going to leave us desolate and not come to our aid?

i’m convinced more and more that all these things –
the hardships. the battles. the fears. they are for our GOOD!
because they drive us to Him. dependent. needy.
and in our need He meets us there and His glory shines through all our cracks and brokenness.

so keep running to The One whose parent heart beats deepest.
and rest on His unconditional, all-wise love.

i know the battle is intense for these kids of ours.
and i want to shout out loud and clear to all you fellow warrior mama’s –

carry on!!

carry on.

—-

and since this feels to be a very personal post..
anytime i write about my kids i weigh the words carefully.
i want to say to those who have asked before about me being so open here-
God has brought shayne and i, and the older kids, to a place where we’re kinda tired of the bull crap. {anyone?}

we don’t want to just do the “good christian, cookie cutter thing.”
to play a part. go through the motions.

we want real and authentic.
and at times that means opening our mouths and making ourselves vulnerable to share our story.
easy to do 10 years down the road, but harder when we’re still going through it..
but sometimes, God wants while still in the middle. before its necessarily all sorted out nice and neat.

and there is a wonderful freedom in letting go of what others think.
to be able to own your own junk and be okay with it.
to admit, this is where we are.
and it might not be where we need to be. where we could be.
but praise God, it’s not where we used to be!!

every day is NEW. and we’re moving forward.
one grace paved step at a time!

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{surviving love}

it was eighteen years ago today i walked down the aisle and became his wife.
funny how eighteen years can seem only a few days and a lifetime all in one.~

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i laid in bed long after he left this morning.
the sound of the wind howling and fierce all around as my mind went back over the years..
of all the winds that have threatened to rip us right apart, and near did.
those times when i felt we might not make it to this point.
and then i smiled as, “but we survived,” washed across all the other thoughts swirling..

to say you’ve “survived” sounds about the most unromantic thing you could say about your marriage.
i’ve heard older couples say it and wrinkled my nose in the past. positive they must have lost sight of true love.
but. now i wonder if they didn’t know more than i gave them credit for.

maybe those who’ve made it the longest know love the truest.

surviving love.
committed. loyal. determined.

and maybe surviving love is really the most romantic love after all.
the real kind. the kind only God can give. the kind that has endured the battle. stayed.

the kind that says i’m not just fighting beside you. i’m fighting with you. for you.
we’re going to make it to the other side. and we’re going to make it together.
we might be limping. we might even be crawling. and yes, there might be times one will carry the other.
but we will get there. we will survive.

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how easily we forget or grow passive about the fact that we have an enemy of our souls that’s stops at nothing in trying to destroy our homes and marriages and lives. he never lets up. he never gets tired. and he’ll never feel he’s suddenly done enough and just leave you alone. he is constantly {constantly} seeking those he can bring down and devour and he loves nothing more than taking something that is supposed to be the very picture of Christ and his church and making a mockery of it. making it seem that God has lost His power. that maybe He’s not strong enough to change and transform lives and hold hearts together.

but i’m here to say today. that’s not true!
He does transform. and yes, and amen! He does hold us together.

these past two years have been hell for our marriage..
the hardest we have yet to face.
i’m ashamed to say the word divorce crossed both our thoughts if not our lips.
it’s what happens when focus is on self and you’re looking to someone to be your saviour other than who your Saviour truly is.
that’s what i was doing in my marriage. trying to put my husband in the position only God can fill.
but no human alive can meet the deepest needs of our heart apart from God.

we try so desperately to cram in what’s tangible. what we can see. what seems to be bringing fulfillment at the time but it’s not lasting. not solid. not the kind of stuff battles are won from and storms endured.

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you can be married to the sweetest guy in the world. i know i am!
you can be great lovers and have the hottest sex.
enjoy each other’s company and be the best of friends.
but if you’re not constantly looking and running and finding your source to love IN HIM..
when the battle intensifies, the winds increase, the burdens press in..
well, all the sweetness and sex and best friend feelings in the world cannot sustain and carry you through.

we need HIM.

our marriages need Him.

and though my marriage is not where i want it to be. i praise God it’s not where it used to be.
i hope i never feel completely content with where it’s at but always want deeper and more and closer.

and i just want to encourage anyone reading this that no matter where your marriage is at.. keep on!
if it’s good – keep fighting for better.
if it’s shaky – remember where the victory lies.

there is healing for the hells of our lives.
and there is {always} grace to be and room to become.

there is love that survives because there is a Saviour that redeems!

heart

 

*from the archives:
because sometimes you just need to replay redemption’s song.
how great is our God. sing with me, how great!

{letter to my senior}

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dear kate,

you bounded down the steps with your hair curled and floral book bag
draped over your shoulder.

“it’s my last first day of school, mom!” you beamed.

i just stared.

those moments where you seem so big and so little all at the same time.
and i wonder, how can it feel only days?

only days since i first found out you were in me.
only days of first steps and first words and that first day of school.
sitting across from me at the kitchen table.
how inadequate i felt. always.
to teach you all you needed. still do.

i so often feel i haven’t got a clue.
but you’ve been the best child to learn to parent on.
you’ve made it easy.
you are gracious and patient and let things go quickly.
i’m sure this is why we’re still friends.
not because of anything right i’ve actually done but because of how forgiving you are.

your spirit of easily letting go will take you far.
far in relationships.
far in freedom you’ll find within.
far in keeping your heart tender.
never lose that.
your open heart towards others.
hurts will come and you’ll want to shut down. cave in. give up on people.
but when you stay tender. sensitive. you win!

because loving the way Jesus did always does.

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i love that you already see this.
that taking a chance on people is what it’s all about.
that a life lived for others is a life truly lived.

i pray your senior year finds you living hard. living free.
living full and living without fear.
there’s so much talk and emphasis put on what you’ll do when school is done.
don’t sweat it, babe.
you’ll do what you always do. what any of us can do –
you’ll do the next thing.

the same God who’s led you till now will keep right on leading.
people plan and save and map out their lives.
nothing wrong with that. only..
all the preparation in the world matters little if it’s not His voice you’re following.

sure. chase dreams. follow your passions. embrace your gifts. run after adventure.
but always let your steps be guided by the still small voice within.
His way – though not ours – is best.
and His will – though not always making sense –
is exactly what we’d choose if we knew all the facts.

you can trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God.

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i think of how much i love you. how my love only grows..
and the more i know you the more i fall in love with who you are.
but in all that. in the deepest, most glued tight together bond a mother feels for her child
it can’t compare to that of your Heavenly Parent.
His love is perfect. it is everlasting. it is your life-line.
and it is, and will be, your confidence.
loved by God. cherished daughter of the King. crafted by the Creator of the Universe.
who thought about you. planned for you. made you on purpose. for a purpose.
of any title you could ever claim remember it is this one, “He knows me”
where your true identity is found.
it always comes back to that.
that we know Him and are known of Him. and loved just as we are.

it is the hope that anchors us.
you are precious and valued.
you matter to God!
where else can hope like that be found?

education can inflate.
degrees fade.
friends disperse.
plans change.
dreams take on new forms.
and paths aren’t always as straight as we once perceived.
but this.
love God. love others.
this is success!
this is eternal.
this is life!

i don’t know what the beginning of all these lasts this year looks like.
we’ve never walked this way before.
where you’ll be next year. what lies ahead.
but i have confidence in the One who gave you to me to begin with
and i put you, once again, where i’ve put a thousand times since..
right back in His more than capable arms.

fly high little bird.
you were made to soar.
do it without fear.

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i love you.

mom

{of loss. and trust. and a God we call, “Abba!”}

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it’s been almost two months now.
a little life we didn’t even know was there
until we were already saying goodbye.
and then the complications. the questions. the tests.
the final doctor’s appointment last week.
and though we already knew..
to hear the official word felt tender.
knocking a deeper ache i didn’t even recognize was there.

this would be our 4th miscarriage now through the years.
and though familiar, the pain isn’t lessened.
it still catches me.
perhaps in different ways now.
we would have loved another. have prayed for one since reese.
but yet, at this stage of life my heart also feels content – to a degree.
i find myself thinking maybe more than i thought i would about what an addition would look like for us.
and where to go from here? and when is time to stop “trying?”
another baby would be a game changer.
and yet.. there still seems that small empty spot inside that another would fill.

and i find myself in territory i know far too well.
of learning {once again} that all i need, God already is!

i feel it settling more within me.
the hurts and doubts and dark places of these past weeks.
but it’s been a process.
and there so much more to the story {there is always more to someone’s story}.
and though not at liberty to share those details-
i will say, it has been way more than just babies that needed surrendering in this heart.

so often what i think i fear inside these clenched fists of mine isn’t really the battle..
the battle is opening my hands to begin with.
loosening my grasp of control in exchange for trust in a God that is Soveriegn and cannot make mistakes.

do i pretend to always understand why He does what He does? no.
and i certainly don’t always like it.
but i believe that only the wisest love filters all that touches my life.
and therefore, i don’t need to dread or be afraid of whatever i’m facing. whatever lies ahead.

“for you have not received the spirit of bondage that leads you into fear again ..
but you have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father!” rom.8:15

i think all of life. ALL. is about coming to this place of intimacy with Him.

every heartache. every loss. every dream shattered. every question raised. every trial faced.
every point of surrender. every dark night. every wilderness. every red sea before us..
it is all to bring us to a point of realizing there is a story so much bigger. a home still to come. a Saviour who holds the victory. and a God we can run to called, “Abba!”

this. is what it’s about.
this is what it’s always been about.

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“what if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?”

yes.

so fill me, Lord.

{a safe place}

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i sorta ran away home because i needed to get away.
sometimes when life seems closing in i feel i need to do that.
run.
back to familiar.
back to my country.
back to chick-fil-a.
and american target.
they have it in canada but it’s not the same.
lots of things aren’t.
i often feel i’m not.
that i don’t breathe as easy here.
feel my head clear.
so i pack up.
throw the younger ones in.
take a girlfriend along too.
and away we set.
and always, this happy little settling inside when i cross the border.
think i’m home.
and it is.
but home changes.
or maybe it’s me.
and i ran to where i thought would be a safe place.
aren’t we always –
looking for shelter?
where to turn?
our husband.
a friend.
a country.
a place.
family.
security.
stability.
and it felt all directions i was coming up lacking.
and then my mom says to me – because moms know the struggles we never really verbalize.
“i know you’re looking for a safe place..
you want it to be your husband. you want it here at home..
but amber
there is only one
and God is your safe place.
the strong tower where you must run to find all you’re looking for.”

and her words were for me.
but i thought maybe they might be for you too.
just from a mom’s heart to another.
a sister in Christ.
a friend.
a slight smile and tap on the arm that reminds you the same.

we DO have a safe place.
and it’s name is,  Jesus.

“show me the path of life
in your presence there is fullness of JOY.” ps.16:11

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happy monday all you sweet ones who stop in here~