3/13/2023 0 Comments
What We Leave Behind Us
Teatime for seven on a Sunday evening, oh, bless my soul! We arrived home from a weekend away with Cassidy after visiting a college and it felt so good to be home and rubbing shoulders down the length of our handmade table again with all its cracks, chips and shifting boards. Home. It’s a place intimate to each of us and dearly missed when we can't get to it.
Cucumbers sliced thin and layered onto English muffins thickly spread with honey goat cheese. Oranges sliced and arranged were quickly scooped up onto the littlest one's napkin, hot tea with milk for him as well. Fresh mozzarella dotted a crusty round loaf I purchased at the grocery store after church, along with a blueberry cream Bundt cake. It felt special and cheerful on what seemed like day 1,000 of cold and snow.
And it's no surprise to me, I knew I’d feel this way in March. A weary longing for all that’s warm and colorful and free, like a summer day. We stopped at a conservatory on our way home, and well... I’ll just show you.
I hope you feel a little warmer now!
The snow is beautiful in its own way, no doubt. But there's something deeply life-giving in spending time in a thriving garden oasis. We need color, we need warmth, we need life from seed to maturity, and we need to set our eyes on all that holds beauty, so we know what to leave behind for those after us. And not just in plant form, but in every way.
It was a discussion around our table one afternoon - what you leave behind you. The question was: When you enter a room are you leaving behind peace and joy? Do you add creativity and inspiration to each conversation? Is laughter and encouragement on your lips? Of course, we all answered no, not ALL the time. But it's the goal! (At least when appropriate as there's a time to mourn in every life)
To be a life-giver means you can look forward into the lives of others and know that in time they will grow and mature and many of the hard days will pass them by, so you need not weigh them down with the what if's, God knows all the possibilities and still chooses to hold us near. There's no fear in His love and all worry is cast away with its perfect timing. We can be strength givers to those we encounter by trusting God's hand in their life, we can choose to set our minds on things above even in the midst of dark times and we can look for all that's good and lovely and show others what we've discovered!
The snow piles up outside yet again and I'm off to crack fresh eggs onto a hot skillet for two little boys with empty bellies. I hope you too find ways in your day to refresh those near you and leave behind an abundance of cheer for days to come!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
1/31/2023 0 Comments
Healing in the Cabin
“Prayer is the voluntary realization that we need God...”
My husband said it to me as we drove toward our dinner reservation one night a few weeks back. I quickly jotted it down securing it safely like a gem in my pocket. And I’m glad I did.
I do not think I have a limit on the amount of beauty my eyes can take in, so when I find it, I can’t help but chase after it. It was nearing 10pm one night as I slipped on my coat and the biggest boots I could find to fit over my slipper socks. I had seen the stars from Simon’s bedroom window when I bent to kiss his head and tussle his hair one last time with my fingertips.
The night was cold and clear. The stars seemed to be shivering with me, frozen in place, but understanding of the season, fully accepting of their given post.
I stood with head tilted, puffs of breath visible and fitting of the winter air around me.
“Adams race has done the harm, Adams race will help to heal it”. Words from C.S. Lewis’, The Magician’s Nephew.
I read the line two and then three times over sitting by the fire of our rented cabin. It was too much truth for me to let slip in and out of my mind, I knew I had to keep it.
We spent four days away from home in a log cabin filled with books and artwork and pottery pieces holding dried hydrangeas from someone else’s garden; a summer gone by. We brought decks of cards for favorite games and stacks of books we wanted to finish, sweaters and all our favorite tea to last the days ahead. Children scurried to their chosen bedrooms upon arrival and hung their clothes in empty closets and filled the drawers of wooden dressers.
I sat for more hours than I can count reading by that fire. I nearly finished two books and my teacup rarely went dry and I thought hard about being part of the healing this world so desperately needs.
It’s nothing new to any of us how dreadfully hurting the inhabitants of earth already are. I believe what we need more than the nightly news is a way through the darkness with healing in our hands and hope in our hearts. We are, after all, Adams race on the other side of the harm done - we are the healing generation, the Jesus knowing people.
The sun didn’t shine as much as I’d hoped those four days but nevertheless, we were together without any interruption. We filled that little cabin with music and late-night dancing to old jazz rhythms left behind for our enjoyment, we played word games with our feet up on footstools, drank coffee with maple syrup and gobbled down plates of chocolate chip cookies by lamplight. There were movies in bed and popcorn kernels strewn about, laughter (and correction by the minute, let's be real here), root beer floats and plenty of healthy meals were eaten too. The kids learned to icefish on the pond and hiked miles into the forest with Andy while I quietly turned the pages of my book and scribbled out thoughts in my journal.
For four days straight, time was endless, unchecked, ignored. Our appetites determined the hour and the setting sun of course. We healed together from a difficult year gone by and vowed to let it drift down river in our minds. We didn't heal the world in some Michael Jackson sort of way - but we shifted the harm done by just being present and willing to settle into the moment and be still. And sometimes that's the best medicine one can take.
"Be still and know that I am God..."
12/23/2022 0 Comments
He Is Here
"It’s really sad, mom, that this bird had to die in the cold like that.”
A nuthatch frozen in the snow found by this boy of mine. Stiff and lifeless he cradles it in his cupped hands and shakes his head.
“It’s sad, I know”, I tell him. “We’ll warm him up anyway and give him a place of rest outside.”
All four candles stand lit on our table now and all five children gather round me each night and we read and eat and open another little window of our chocolate Advent calendar.
Being married to a lineman means I spend many nights doing the reading and the tucking and the singing and the back rubbing alone. And many days doing the wood stacking and the story listening and the correcting of rambunctious boys as well. The Lord sustains me time and again.
It’s less than two days before Christmas and a winter storm is brewing like a big pot of stew right outside my window. We wait and listen for the wind to blow just hard enough to knock out the glow of the Christmas tree and change our plans again.
But even the darkness won’t stop the light from getting through. I’m reminded in my soul; Emmanuel, God is with us.
Not God was with us. But God is with us.
It’s easy to remember him as a baby born in a stable many years ago and change his name to, God was with us. But He is the God of today and of right now, of this hour and of your story and mine.
Emmanuel is, God here right now.
The God who is with us now and working in the secret ways of hearts shifting and eyes clearing, open to His call.
Because without him even the softest of hearts can feel as frozen and lifeless as a dead nuthatch in a child’s hands.
He is here and He is working an unbelievable story in your life, even when you can’t see anything happening. And even if what is happening isn’t ideal (our power is now out).
So, we wait on this darkest of dark nights with no tree lights. Three little flames flicker in our big living room and all six of our bodies huddle close and we read the story of Zechariah and Elisabeth, Cousin John and beloved Mary, tried and true Joseph, and The Wonderful baby Jesus.
In the dark I bring the light with all that’s in me through the story of a savior’s birth. They listen in without complaint to the Word brought again and again into their hearts.
And we wait, just as I know you are. Waiting for tomorrow’s light and all that comes with the Eve of a Christmas Day. And inside, all we really want for Christmas are the hands of God to cup our weary bodies and warm our frozen hearts to beating again. It's what we all really need this Christmas.
So, go ahead, in the dark of the night with the wind howling and tossing about the flakes of snow, let the cold places of your heart be cradled by the hands of the one who came to the cradle himself all those years ago.
Emmanuel, God with us.
12/12/2022 4 Comments
The Man with the Black Coffee
I was mid-tip toward my coffee mug with the quart of creamer when I remembered the story from the night before. The one about the old man in Aldi my daughter witnessed who had cashed out behind us. I hadn’t noticed. The man who, from her view, couldn’t quite foot the bill of all that had ventured down the belt.
“Did you want to put something back?” The sweet cashier asked. He had looked longingly at his few items, weighing the needs. Finally pushing aside two of them he deemed unnecessary; a bag of white sugar and a quart of 1/2 & 1/2. The same two things I add to my coffee every morning.
But not this morning - this morning I stop and remember hearing the story from my girl and how my heart sank. How could I have missed this? We were sipping our tea when she told me. Sweet cream mingled with honey and the zesty orange flavor of Earl Gray in my cup, a few assorted treats sat on my saucer beside it - and the picture of a man who could afford neither the sweet nor the creamy, imprinted on my heart. We could do nothing more than stop and pray.
“Dear Jesus, be with the man at the store. Bless him, comfort him in all his troubles, send loved ones around him, whisper truth to his broken heart...”
I drink my coffee black in the morning and submit the same prayers to God for the man I failed to notice.
The children and I have been reading psalm 23 for over a month now. Studying it, memorizing it, reading other people’s thoughts on it, soaking it deep into our beings. There’s a verse I’m sure is familiar to many that’s been hitting me hard this time around.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...”
The valley of the shadow of death, the one we’ll all face one day simply because we live on earth. Truly, if you’re here, you will without a doubt, be met with the shadow of death.
But can I tell you something interesting about this verse, something hopeful? The psalm says you walk THROUGH it. You don’t stay in it, or get lost in it, or fall in it. You walk right on through it! If you’re following the Good Shepherd, Jesus, that is.
This psalm is written to those who give their lives and hearts to Him who guarantees His presence through every dark and shadowy valley. The one who gives all good gifts and leaves nothing of want in us, who hems us in ahead and behind and cradles our restless minds in a meadow of green pasture.
He is the only shepherd to never leave you in your troubles, in your valley, in your own mess, or the darkness that’s reaching for your soul. He wraps you in His kindness, His attentiveness, His true and unfailing love.
And then, He arranges a table for you even in the darkest of places surrounded by the darkest of people. And He draws up a chair, or a cushion, or a mat, or however you can imagine a table created just for you by The One who keeps track of every hair on your head. It's there you find peace, and life, and the breath that felt knocked out of your lungs returns and you realize every low and rocky terrain leads only up again to the hilltop.
Black coffee and dark valleys will never be my preference, I’m sure the man at the store would agree. But with Jesus as my Shepherd, whether my mug brims over with sugar-coated froth or the bitter, nutty taste I try to avoid, He is with me. With you. And with the old man in line behind me. Even in the darkest of valley.
Be willing to be shepherded today by God. Rest in His care, ask and He will answer, trust and He will sustain you, reach and He will restore your soul.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
The wind sways the tops of the trees to clapping as we walk through the woods. Like a round of applause, all the birches and poplar, ash and oaks seem to know the maker and take their turn in summoning a standing ovation.
“It is good” God said long ago, the trees respond, “YOU are good!”
I walk alone the day after Thanksgiving on our newly purchased forest plot, searching for nature to add greenery to the Advent wreath that stands neatly in the center of our table. The trail is only leaves now, though just yesterday snow crunched under foot. I stop at just the right time to see a young buck peek over the mound of rocks in front of me. We stare at each other for a few seconds, His curiosity of me and mine of him freezes us both. He’s unafraid of me. I shift slightly and burst his inquisitive bubble, he puffs a snort and disappears, white flag of surrender following behind him.
This place. This deep sea of sky-stretching tree trunks is really a sweet and unexpected gift from God. A place to breath and let our minds wander - and who couldn’t use a little more breathing room these days?
Advent is upon us, and my heart is turned toward the birth of Jesus. These next four weeks we’ll slowly light each candle. Hope and peace, love and joy. We’ll recall His coming to the manger by candlelight each evening, mixing in murmurs of what’s to come for us in the days ahead.
Because everything done in these days before the new year, steps us back into history and forward to eternity all in one season.
We remember. We wait.
We remember. We wait.
Year after year we hold tightly to the hem of His garment for healing, for hope, for heaven.
As a little girl of 4 or 5 I couldn’t shake the fear of leaving my home to board a bus to be driven away from everything that held my heart. Anxiety would inch its way toward me each morning as I'd fold my beloved blanket at the end of my bed to await my return.
If only I could take it with me, school wouldn't feel so far from home. And in a moment of beautiful wisdom and grace, my very own prized mother pulled the scissors from her sewing box and snipped the corner of my blanket into a perfect square and slid it into my jeans pocket. A hem all for me to be grasped whenever I felt afraid or alone.
I can still feel that thin square of cloth between my fingertips and the comfort it gave to my lonely, little heart.
Because there’s power in the hem. (Luke 8:43-48)
From the strips of cloth that first swaddled the Holy baby, to the tunic Jesus wore on the dusty roads surrounded by truth seekers as he walked out the Father’s will. We cling onto the hem and remember.
All the hems of Jesus heal. All bring hope and love, joy and peace like the candles of the season. There’s power in the hem of the one who holds our longing hearts.
Our forever grip on the garment of Jesus’ life from babe to Risen King clothed in white, is our one and only lifeline. We are to pocket it like the corner of a beloved blanket, too precious to leave behind.
There’s power in the hem of Jesus and when we grab hold of it and know He has come to redeem all that’s broken, it’s then that we’re whole again.
Where is his hem?
It’s in the Holy Word. It’s in prayers whispered over a sink full of dishes, it’s in knees that bend in the middle of a wooded land, and in closets, or right smack-dab in the center of the kitchen floor. It's in car rides alone when all the words come pouring out, and in bedside tears when loss is looking you straight in the face. That’s where you’ll find the hem of Jesus, that’s when your hand should reach out and grasp it.
I urge you, be a notorious knee-bending Christian! Adhere your heart to His hem as you celebrate His arrival, His Advent.
Sometimes we’re welcomed into another’s story in the most unexpected places and all we can do is recognize it as a gift and be a good keeper of what’s been entrusted to us.
In line at the deli of my small-town grocery store stood an elderly couple ordering ham and cheese loaf, sliced thin. I smile at the wife as I remember my own father’s love for the same combined meat and cheese between white bread.
“Is it sandwich night?” She asks me.
I turn and laugh out my answer, “ohh, yes. I have five hungry kiddos waiting in the van.”
“What’s their favorite?”
“They like turkey and salami best.” I tell her.
We chat for a few minutes as the deli worker portions into her gloved hand my pound of turkey. “A 1/2 pound of salami, as well, please.” I throw my voice strong over the glass case of golden-brown meats, the kids are waiting, and I’d hate to be skipped over by my own natural timidity. She begins the slicer again with the same repetitive motion in her wrist.
Bagged and priced she gently lays the meat on top of the case. I am just about to turn and B-line it for the Ginger ale to complete the promise I had made to the youngest for his good behavior at the library, when I hear the crackly voice of the same old woman next to me in line.
“I’ll show you this, because I like you.” She says.
I smile at her quick conclusion to befriend me as she walks slowly closer, leaning on her cart. She opens her purse and pulls out an old black and white photo. A posed picture of about 35 elementary aged school children, all in plain skirts and button-down tops, and in the center, a man with a stern looking face, a furrowed brow and a cinched in mustache that fits just under his nose. His look, familiar, but I dare not ask. She tells me to guess which one is her, but my eyes are glued on the man in the middle. I try and keep a lighthearted look not to give away my thoughts. She catches them anyway and points to her 7-year-old self, “middle row, third from the left, that’s me.” She says. “The Americans liberated us when I was 9 years old.”
I no longer need to inquire about the man, whether Hitler himself or one of his mimicking puppets, I begin to follow along with her story.
She tells me, five of her classmates were killed because they didn’t possess the distinct look of a non-Jewish person. And one child in the picture lived here in America for all her adult years after the liberation, and they remained friends until her death.
Her eyes are deep with age and tender from experience, she trusts me with the details of her past and allows me to ask questions. I try and memorize her words as she speaks, I want to be a good keeper of stories and retell them honorably.
She pulls out two more pictures. One of her standing with uncles and brother about to board the train that would take her to a camp.
The other, a joyful picture with aunts and cousins and siblings all piled on the grass of a summertime gathering. Some stretched across in the front, some crouched down on knees, all squeezing in trying to be part of the moment. Likely before the war began.
“That’s my mother.” She points to a lovely woman in the front with a big smile and womanly figure. “Beautiful”, I say.
As she touches the photos, I can see her hands are strong, her fingers twisted and gnarled. She’s a Polish woman of 80 plus years with children and grandchildren and a joyous smile when she speaks of them.
I put my hand on her arm, “you’ve had a very hard story” I tell her. Without hesitation she smiles and says, “oh, parts of it, yes...but we’re here now!”
But we’re here now...
I hold onto it and bank it away as wisdom I’ll need on days my surroundings deceive me. The visible faults and failures of life in a broken world can easily victimize the soul, if allowed. And here I stand beside a woman who’s seen more adversity than I can imagine, yet still living in the moment of a decades-old rescue.
But we’re here now, I replay in my mind after children are tucked in bed and teenage thoughts resolved and laid to rest.
Is it possible that being fully here, right now is like a big spoonful of thankful medicine? That living in the moment of our greatest deliverance keeps us continually aware of all that’s good and beautiful.
When we accept the rescue mission of Jesus’ birth for us, and do not deny his life and death and life again! Keeping it in the front of our story and not forfeiting it to a generation of those believing to be victimized by every remark and disapproval of others - we will be able to say, “but, I’m here now!” And live fully.
I round the corner of the cereal aisle, regaining my pace and focus on what I came for, but with a shifted heart.
That night we eat a simple meal of cold cuts on soft bread. Popcorn is popped and a movie picked out as we pile on couches and chairs in our pj’s. I look around the room at the faces I see every day and exhale a smile. “But we’re here now!” I down a spoonful of my own prescription.
“The stars are so patient, mom. They don’t have a worry in the world, do they? They just wait on God to tell them when to arrive and when to fizzle out.”
She stands past my shoulder now with her straight, strawberry-blond hair that echos my genes entirely.
It was a coal-black night when we stood barefoot in the yard with tilted heads, eyes peering into the darkness, counting the stars that resemble more of tiny diamonds than the majestic fireballs they are. The howl of a coyote, the leader of the pack, passes through the field and our bones at the same time. The chill in the air is good enough reason for us to skip back inside.
I let the thought of patient stars run through my mind while I lie in bed and wonder if I could be so trusting, so steady as a tiny light in the darkness, all for the glory of God.
It’s a “golden year” under the three trees, that’s what we call it, though it doesn’t always happen, so we roughhew into our schedule a plan to stretch our lungs beneath the trees paper-thin crisps. Sun light finds its way through the cracks, and the memory is etched.
By the afternoon the fading of chores and schoolwork and guiding children rightly brings me to the same spot. I watch from the kitchen window, wet up to my elbows in bubbles and dish water, as day after day the trees change and loosen their hold on what once was theirs.
A lot can be learned through their surrender, their willingness to let God decide what’s next and when. If we could get to a place where we stand sturdy and strong like an 80-year-old maple that no storm can break, yet tender and willing to allow each season to have its way in us. Oh, how wise we would be!
There’s a hill of laundry that threatens my sanity daily but the act of sifting it down to a few straggling socks and someone’s mid-day change brings great success to this orderly heart. A young girl follows me into where the work awaits. She recites her assignments aloud to me as I fold the sleeves over and down, over and down. Towels and jeans, verbs and conjunctions. My hands and her mind straightening the wrinkles and working through the speech patterns.
Freshly baked pumpkin bread for a snack. Some slather butter, others prefer only the baked-in moisture of the pumpkin purée. Small boy hands complete with dirty nails, and I snap a picture. It’s his unsophisticated innocence that frees my heart of any legalistic tendencies I might be hanging onto. He reminds me often how to live these days well. Unashamed and open handed, dirty and all.
It’s a tornado out there beyond these doors. Not the kind that destroys the siding, or tears at the shingles, but the kind that crushes the heart and cuts through the deepest bonds of love.
Yet, for the heart that trusts its own delicate frame to The One who formed its life-nourishing rhythms - there is no crushing that kills, no confusion that shocks and no stress that renders the heart abandoned.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Because...Jesus. He is the only soul saver in the story. The only healer of your history, the only tender to your tender heart. He is The Holy one of God, who IS God and will only ever be God!
There is an enormous rest in such a right maker, truth teller, hand holder, and spirit keeper like Him. Though the days long and hard, and often the sun sets on tear-stained paths down weathered cheeks - this I know, and lean in close, my friend. The shifting of your one broken heart to His pierced-for-you hands is what will shape your future. And your broken but beating heart will find a new song to drum to. You’ll be made new and given a thump-thumping in your chest that steps to God’s own beat, a rhythm fit for a King.
So, when you find yourself under the stars of night, or the oak’s browning leaves, or even if you find yourself under your own quivering quilt, do not let your heart be troubled, take cover in Him who wishes to cover you with His love.
"Do not let your hearts by troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." John 14:1
10/14/2022 3 Comments
Oh, the ache of summer’s end, it gets me every year. The Celtic music playing in my van matches the season with its quick stepping fiddles and the repetitive notes of the flute, a bit melancholy, a bit exciting, but never exhausting its welcome. Fiery red branches touching arms with the golden maples for the 15th, 30th, maybe even 100th year in a row seem to sing a similar tune. Hello fall, goodbye summer, again and again.
There’s laughter on the porch as an assembly line of wood is stacked in its new home. Dining room chairs pulled out because the sun’s cheerful presence made known my lack of mopping the floors. Light always reveals hidden dirt, there’s just no escaping it.
Later that day when I’m almost to the finish line I hear, “Mama, let's go for a walk, you’ll love the tree up the road..." Spaghetti noodles still limply draped over the edge of the table where the youngest was seated, sauce still in pan, parmesan sprinkled like snow across the countertop, a sink full of plates and forks. The porch door cracks open and those familiar eyes peer in, he heard the request for a walk and knows my bend to decline in order to keep house - “Emma, go for the walk, we’ll all help clean up afterward.” A sneaky grin under his full beard convinces me quickly and we slip on shoes and overcoats or whatever we can find that’s not still tucked away with the scarves and hats of January.
And we walk.
To that tree that isn’t ours, but we call it, “our tree” because that one autumn day when the breeze was light and the leaves barely holding on, we walked under a sprinkling of orange and red peddles that rained down on us for what felt like an hour. We laughed and jumped and kicked at the piles and lifted our hands to the sky catching all the tree surrendered to us. It was said that day, the timing of the maple releasing its leaves at the wind’s command, was for us. So, the tree became, “our tree" and remains still in our minds.
The linking of arms will forever be one of my fondest memories.
It’s that time of year again when we knit in close to one another to stay warm and arrange the table with more than paper plates and vases of dandelions. Everything changes in fall, everything slows, and we’re all challenged to re-learn how to live more hours within these walls together. The children are growing and changing so quickly it’s no wonder grace is needed moment by moment under this roof.
The Word tells us to rejoice always in what the Lord has done and is doing. We’re called to keep in full view and at our fingertip's, gentleness in all things and to all things. Gentleness, not as much in kind touches and hushed words, though rich and lifegiving. But gentleness can be the way we let go of grievances caused by others and the contentment we possess and the generosity we express within our hearts, all spring from a gentle spirit. The way we bend our ways and wills to those rubbing shoulders with us daily.
You know the people...the ones sharing your washing machine and squeezing from the same shampoo bottle. The ones borrowing your socks or favorite DVD never to be returned. The ones inviting you over for Thanksgiving this year and the ones you’ll invite to your feasting table. Our leniency and mercy toward the faults and failures of others will always echo to the world a spirit of gracious humility, gentleness being evident to all.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, REJOICE! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near." Philippians 4:4-5
Today is the day to find gentleness in all your doings.
9/19/2022 7 Comments
Scent of a story
"Glads for sale", the sign reads. I want to pull in and gather in the crook of my arm a bundle for myself, but I’ve promised two little boys a trip to the playground, so I continue on imagining the smell of those brightly colored "sword lilies", sweet honey and almond next to me.
They've worked hard for a few weeks now at the little table by the glass door. Math and reading, writing and the continual reminder to, "be polite" and "wait your turn to speak." That's the sum of my days and I love this school year already because of it...Because of them.
It's just about fall now. Just about time to switch out t-shirts for sweaters, and sandals for socks. Just about time for wood stacked on the porch and dinner by candlelight.
Just about.... just about....
We wait for the still days of autumn and winter when the blanket-basket’s piled high with extra layers for all who enter, and when the crockpot is stacked often with a mountain of potatoes from our garden and beef from our neighbor, dotted with carrots, salted and peppered.
There’s so much living in those cooler days, those frozen to the bone days. As if we can do nothing better than huddle together like a tiny community sharing the same wood stove flame. I look forward to them again. Though sure enough February will once more find me at my wits end when teacup rims are stained from the steady flow of Lady Gray and Chamomile and the word “too” is used daily.
“It’s too cold”, I’ll hear from my mouth and others.
The summer proved itself difficult, and in many ways heartbreaking. We left our church of 10 years. And that’s all I’ll say here about that, though you’re welcome to ask me privately. God has given us a new church home and I’m convinced it was all part of His plan to begin with, hard as it’s been on everyone.
All summer I sent important documents away to be state authenticated and mailed back to me with gold fasteners and official statements adhered to them. I watched the mailbox for the “okay” from Homeland Security for months. Tears fell when it finally leaned against the inside of our box by the road. We’re finished with the paper chase, the document collecting, the waiting on this form or that appointment. “And really, Lord?” I say all too often to myself, “is this really for us?” A gift this grand feels hard to imagine, hard to fit into a box or one solid emotion in my heart.
9 months of collecting documents and signing papers, arranging sessions with our adoption psychologist and asking banks and doctors, employers and friends to write detailed letters on behalf of us. A two-inch-thick stack of paper was mailed away last week, and in the blink of an eye, it was weighed and handed to someone around the corner.
And so we wait...
I recently heard someone say that every worthy story needs to possess beauty, goodness and truth. I do hope my story here, clings tightly around those three words. And that you feel it deeply too when you visit. But mostly that you find your story treading the same waters, even in the brokenness of the world around us. I pray you choose to let your story sink into the goodness God, the beauty of His works and the truth of His word, whether you get to stop for the gladiolus on the side of the road or you have to dream up their honeysuckle and clove smell.
One day late last summer I began reading the book, Sarah, Plain and Tall to the kids - "That's me", I said to Claire, "Emily, plain and tall!" Claire's furrowed brow questioned my reasoning as she quickly responded, "You're not plain, Mama! YOU have freckles!"
The sweetest response I'll remember forever. I love the idea of our uniqueness and the fact that my freckle sprinkled arms separate me from the "ordinary." No one else has freckled arms like mine under this roof. And no one else has piercing blue eyes like Natalie, or eyes so brown there's no difference between iris and pupil, like Jude. All different, all made in the likeness of God, The Creator. How blessed are we to be surrounded by an array of unique features!? And I absolutely love to be adding more uniqueness to our family through adoption.
The corner of our property facing the field is fenced with an angled cedar post and adorned with a pink mini rose bush. So many prayers have been whispered into the wind at this little V-shaped corner. So many cries for understanding, mercy and grace have been spoken into every season's breeze in this same spot. More times than I can count, I've asked God to, "extend our borders", in my heart meaning the fence line. And only recently have I discovered this boundry stretching request might have been answered, but in a way different from what I imagined. Adoption.
We're nearing the end of our paper chase. I can't tell if I'll dance for joy by its end or flatten on the ground in exhaustion. There's a reason they call this stage a "paper pregnancy". And although I haven't thrown up at all from it, I have cried tears, needed naps and discovered a serious vitamin deficiency,
(thank you, adoption agency, for requiring bloodwork!) The similarities are there, for sure.
Andy and I spent all of Valentine's Day together this year at the office of our social worker in Cortland answering questions about us, our childhood and our desire to adopt from Haiti. I'm not sure if we've ever spent an entire Valentine's Day together! We took full advantage of this time and enjoyed a Hibachi style lunch complete with a near beard burning! Those flames are a little close for a bearded man's comfort!
So, things are moving along in the process. We're keeping up with our 4–6-month timeframe to have everything neatly organized and authenticated by the county and state before being sent off to the Haitian government. We know the waiting process is in many ways much harder than the paper process, but we're reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac - Neither one knowing exactly what to expect at the top of the mountain, neither one able to see the full plan up ahead, neither one with access to Google planner for God to fill in the blanks of what tomorrow will bring. But neither one backing down from climbing higher and higher, neither one turning away in fear or questioning the process. Only obedience by both faithful followers of God, keeping the pace all the way up the hill, ready to see what God would provide at the top, confident he most certainly would make provision so life could go on.
We're leaning into His plan as we navigate through these hoops and hurdles, conscious of the mountain up ahead. But the journey is far from over, with our faith pressing us forward, we will continue to step out and into His mysterious will.
More updates to come....
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass." Psalm 102:11