Conquering Rocks!

Ok, first thing you need to know is that I don’t really hike. I am going to tell you about a hike I took today, but in comparison to the hikes my brother takes….well, this was closer to a stroll. 

A stroll with a big giant rock in the middle of it, and a sheer drop to a lake. That sounds better, doesn’t it?

Usually my Mondays look like this:

A ‘good cup’ of coffee at a good coffee shop with a good book. I spend most of the day reading and setting up calendars.  
Sitting.

Second thing you need to know: I am 47 and so much heavier than I would like. I am frustrated by my lack of energy and by my extra weight…but I like sitting around coffee shops more than gyms.


Not today, though. It is that moment when change is in the air. 




Literally. We dropped about twenty degrees and about a gazillion percent in humidity. The sky was a little different and the leaves are just beginning to think about changing (be quiet, Northern friends).

I searched for a trail to hike. Mind you, I searched for an ‘easy’ trail to hike.
And I found a cool app that showed me a whole bunch of trails…and I picked one and went!

Looks pretty easy, huh? Stick with me.
I am so glad I did this!

My soul needed this, I believe, more than my body. My soul has felt sluggish and heavy and frustrated. Even though God has been doing some amazing things (more on that hopefully soon!)…my spirit has been tired.

So I went for a walk.

I was practically skipping along..literally…when I ran into this:

You can’t really tell from this picture, but one side of the rock drops into trees, and the other is a sheer drop to the lake. Turns out the lake was a quarry.
I stood on the top of the rock and didn’t really think about taking pictures. I though it would not be great to fall, and it would not be great to simply go back the way I came.
And then I thought, “I’m Fred’s daughter and I can get down this.” See, my 84 year old Dad just took a ‘drive’ over Northern New Mexican mountains which resulted in some hunters on an ATV asking where on earth he came from. When I asked one of my brothers if they were ok with Dad making the drive, they responded, “If we all got stuck on the mountain, Dad would probably get down first.”
My Dad is a problem solver, and I am his daughter. My rock was not exactly a mountain, but to a plump nearly-50 year old it was a problem. I especially didn’t want to lose my glasses or phone!
I went slow, I payed attention to where I could hold on, and I made it over the rock. And then I got to enjoy the views from up high.

I skipped the rest of the way down and ran into some people who had come the other way…not over the top. They glanced at the lake for quite literally 45 seconds. 
“Nice.”
I took it in with the challenge of the rock behind me.

“Beautiful.”

It was a short walk from there back to the car, but I noticed one little side trail up a steep hill. Of course I took it, silly.

And I found this:


What’s the lesson? C’mon…you can guess, but I will tell you anyway.

My Father is also a problem solver. My spirit is weary, and there is a creation filled with wonder to refresh me. My confidence is low, so there is a rock just challenging enough that conquering it gives me a joy and spring in my step.

My sin cripples me and separates me from God. He solves the problem with a cross and resurrection and forgiveness before I knew what I needed.

I think I am going to take more walks. Maybe I will even look up a ‘moderate’ difficulty one!!

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An Inconvenient Work of Refreshment

There is a conference that happens the first weekend of October in Nashville, and has been happening for about eight years. Tickets go on sale in Spring and in the past have sold out in a matter of seconds. I was one of the fortunate few lucky enough to grab a ticket three years ago. I almost didn’t go, and I wrote about that here.  This year I didn’t even try for the ticket, because I just didn’t have the funds or the time.

Until the last minute, a few days before the conference and an extra ticket was offered up on FaceBook. I went for it. I splurged. It was a spontaneous moment. I didn’t really think through all the consequences, I just knew that I needed refreshment.  I needed to be among this group of people, represented by a pipe smoking rabbit. Crazy, right?

Hutchmoot. This oddly named, hard to define gathering of creative people desiring to foster wonder, desiring to instill a theologically infused wonder into our bruised world…this conference always refreshes. Filled with writers and painters, singers and songwriters, musicians and chefs, and people who appreciate all of this. Somehow it even refreshes those of us who don’t get to go, just by listening to the testimony of those who have gone. 

This year, though,  I jumped and decided to attend. Honestly? It was a bit of a challenge. The conference meets about 50 miles from my house. The husband and the eldest were in St Louis at a hockey tournament, while I was home with the other three kiddos. Which meant while the conference was happening, I was running between the conference and tutorials and soccer games and home and friends homes. I was not completely at home or completely at the conference. 

It was all a bit inconvenient. No. Not a bit. It was inconvenient.

You know what?

It was worth it.

The bit of the concert we caught on Thursday night, the bit my husband and two of the kids attended…completely worth it. They got it. They caught a glimpse of what Hutchmoot was about.  The  session Friday morning on hospitality and the importance of the table I caught, after catching a bit of ‘Muffins with Mommy’ at the tutorial (which was thankfully two miles from the conference) with the younger kids…completely worth it. Completely.  Lunch with a friend and a new friend, then driving home with kiddos and settling them in before running back to the conference for a bit of the dinner and evening conference? Well, that was kind of a pain, but worth it. 

Saturday…dropping some kids at the soccer field and other kids at a friend’s house, then watching hockey games and soccer games  on periscope while waiting for sessions to begin, then engaging in sessions and conversation? Yep…you guessed it. Worth it. Deciding to leave the conference before the evening session…difficult. Laughter at home with the kids was good.

I drove 350 miles over two days. I switched gears between parent and conference participant I don’t know how many times. I tried to take notes and gave up. I worshipped, listened to concerts and drove miles. It was inconvenient. It cost a fair bit of money. It was, honestly stressful. 

It took work.  Work for me, work for my friends helping me out with letting my kids hang out with them and coaches giving kids rides home. 

What is the point?

Refreshment is important, it was important enough to work to get there.

Find it. Search it out.

We are in a bruised and broken world.  The week of the conference was the week of the shooting in Las Vegas. The week of brutality and fear and sorrow. The weeks leading up to the conference were hurricanes and floods. Now there are fires.  Our world is broken, bruised and so in need of hope and wonder. Gospel. Refreshement. 

That refreshment takes work.


The conference took great effort and work…we benefitted from the effort and discipline and work of all the session leaders and the workers who put together beauty in words and music and visuals. Months of planning, disciplines that have been developed. Thoughts and ideas and lectures prayed over and discussed and edited and revised. A vision for refreshment and encouragement and hope…and inspiration. And we benefitted. From all this work. 

In some ways, this year was even better for me. I did not get to connect as much with people, but each time I walked in to the building I took a deep breath and had to intentionally change my focus. I had to set aside all the busyness it took to get to the conference…and take in the moments I had there. I had to make the most of the time I had in that setting of refreshment.  The conference took work for me this year…lots of planning and effort to make it to just two sessions and a bit of two concerts. It cost me a bit more, and I paid attention more as a result. 

Now, I am able to reflect and read some of the books I picked up. I’m able to take the time I need to think and to pray and to listen. I am able to hopefully allow what was begun at the conference to come to fullness…and to have an impact on those around me. The work continues now.  The work the conference presenters did continues in me so that I am prepared to offer refreshment to those who are in need. When those come to the door, or to our table…we need to have done the work so we have something to offer.

So…when a conference comes your way that sparks your attention, go. When a book grabs your attention and inspires you and the Spirit awakens you, pay attention. When you find a space that brings you refreshment, be thankful, and go there. Don’t feel bad about carving out spaces for reading and having coffee and finding beauty. Go for walks, and pray. Splurge and go to the conference or the concert. Sing loudly in worship each Sunday. Refresh your spirit and pay attention as God speaks…and make the spaces around you to refresh others. It takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes being intentional.

 Sometimes it takes being spontaneous and splurging and going to crazy conferences with goofy names in the midst of crazy schedules…but they might just give you the lift and inspiration you need, and refresh your spirit. You might just inspire someone else as a result.

(I grabbed the picture of the leaf and the “Every Moment Holy” from the Rabbit Room Instagram feed )

Creativity and Joy…14 years!

It has been months since I have written anything. Months that have been busy, filled with travel and camping and family. Months filled now with homework and lesson planning. Busy, busy life…with not much time for sitting and thinking.

 

Thankfully the rhythm of birthdays brings me back to these pages, and the latest is a great moment to sit and reflect. I’m late even with this birthday post, but I did not want to simply rush the thoughts.

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14 years old. Nathaniel David.  Oh my how time flies.

 

The last year has witnessed your rapid growth spurt, the change in your voice…and the continuing realization of who you are. Every year you become more comfortable in your own skin, more adept at seeing the world in your very unique way. 


And that is a wonderful thing.


You bring joy and creativity to just about everything you do. Except waking up. There is not so much joy in the moments we try to wake you.

You have a wonderful ability to look at an event or an outing and find ways to make it “more” than it was. You add color and delight and wonder. You do not simply make your way through things…you plan them and you think of the impact of events. 


That is a valuable ability, and it has value and impact on all around you.

One of the results is the friendships you enjoy. You value people, and you care…and those around you know that. Plus you are just enjoyable to know. 
You laugh heartily and you feel things deeply. Sometimes the latter part can make life difficult. You can be hurt more quickly and more deeply than those who brush things off…but the benefit is you also can experience a wonderful depth of joy in life. 

Life is fuller with you alongside. We are so thankful for you. Thankful for the creativity and sharp wit, for the quick mind and questions you bring to the table. So thankful for the man you are becoming. 

I’m sorry your birthday post was a couple days late…but thanks for drawing me back to this place. Plus, we’ll celebrate some more today!!

Happy 14th, my boy! Love you!

Six Years Packed with Life.

Six years old. Our little miss is six years old today.

I remember the moment I realized I was pregnant. We weren’t planning to have another baby. This was a surprise, and it shook us. Sammy was finishing preschool and about to start Kindergarten. Things were fairly settled in our life and I was not getting younger.

We hadn’t been expecting this. We were caught off guard, and had for a moment a glimpse of how dramatic news of an unexpected pregnancy can be. Overwhelming.

We simply had no idea. No idea what God had planned. No idea how deeply this little bundle would change the dynamic of our lives, of our family.

 

She came in with a little drama. My body needed a few days to recover after her arrival, a few days for her to bond with her dad and her brothers.

 

 

Ever since, she has been changing things around here.  There is far more pink than there ever was before.

 

 

There are more curls and frilly clothes.

 

 

There are tea parties and dolls, which seem to have multiplied exponentially over the last six years.

 

 

There is a bit more drama. A bit stronger of a demand for attention. She is creative in these demands, and often leaves us in laughter.

 

 

She does everything with enthusiasm.  Everything. I find myself having to not watch when she is playing on the swing set…she climbs faster than I am ready to see, swings higher than I am ready. And giggles and smiles the whole time.

 

 

Six years. She still surprises us daily.  She stretches our imaginations and she causes us to grow. God knew. He knew best. We were overwhelmed by the responsibility of another child…and yet we should have been humbled by the gift we were about to receive.

 

He knew our family needed another voice…a voice with imagination and love to amplify the good already present in our little family. He knew we needed her persistence and demands to pay attention to wonder…even if that wonder comes in the form of worms and spiders along with butterflies and flowers and sunsets.

 

 

She loves us well. She has packed six years full of life and I cannot wait to see what the next years hold. I’m thankful she is still little enough to snuggle first thing in the morning, little enough to still need us. Her personality is so big, though, I cannot imagine life without her touch.

 

 

 

Happiest of birthdays, my girl!!! Keep us on our toes and keep us laughing. We are so thankful for the surprise God knew we needed.

 

 

Happy 16th, my Man-Child.

Looking back over the years of birthday posts, I find that I almost always begin with, “I can’t believe…”. Somehow I am always stunned by the progression of days becoming another year passing in the lives of those I love. Every year.

 

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Except this year. I am not surprised, and I find it easy to believe, that my eldest is 16. Today.  This one who began the completely life altering moment of making me a mother. This one who has delighted us from the beginning with such a happy countenance, has begun to carry the mantle of manhood already.

 

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Every year there is more character revealed, more maturity. Every year we begin to see more and more the man you are becoming. Your humor, patience, wisdom…they all continue to develop in such a fantastic way.  You will forever be the boy with big blue eyes, filled with chuckles and wonder…but now you are also the young man with patience and his own opinions.

 

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I think every year I refer back to the pastor in Vancouver, BC who taught one Sunday on parenthood. He told us not to say, “I am so dreading the teen years”, as we hear so often, but instead to affirm that we look forward to our kids growing and maturing. We look forward to the teen years and seeing the adult beginning to overshadow the child.

 

 

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He was right, and he was not asking us to lie. The teen years have been great. You have matured into the big brother everyone wishes they had.

 

Best buddy.

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Example and friend. 

 

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Cohort.  I love listening to you and Nate talk now and break into laughter. I love the companionship.

 

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You continue to delight and have curiosity, something I hope continues the rest of your life. Keep screaming at the hockey games, keep laughing uncontrollably at things you find hilarious. Keep reading people like Chesterton. It is good for you.

 

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. – G.K. Chesterton

 

 

We are so thankful for who you are. Today. Yes, for who you are becoming, but in this moment we are so thankful for today. You make us laugh, you remind us when we act in ways inconsistent with what we say we believe. You play and keep us young. You cheer every one of us on. We are better because you are part of our family, and so thankful another year has rolled around so we can celebrate.

 

Laugh hard today, eat many tacos. Read something significant. Be kind to your siblings when you can, and tough on them when they need it. Sleep until noon sometime this week.  Find something that makes you feel wonder.

 

Happy 16th birthday, my man-child.  So glad you came along.

 

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  – Buechner

 

Lessons from the Back of the Bus

 

It was on a school bus, sitting in the far back while I giggled nervously, when I realized the force my mother could be. I do not remember the exact circumstances leading up to this moment, but there was a substitute school bus driver and some slight this driver had delivered. We were upset, all of us kids, and the driver was the cause. I had told my mother and the next morning when the bus came to pick us up, she stepped up to the door and spoke her mind.

 

The bus was from that era before electric doors…it had the huge silver handle the driver had to pull to close the door. Mom stood on the bottom step, just inside the door, and I remember that substitute driver pulling on that handle with all her might trying to close the door on Mom. Didn’t work.

 

Mom stood with her hands on her hips, clothed in her bathrobe with her hair pulled up, and clearly explained to this driver that things would change.

 

And they did. I don’t remember how much longer the driver was subbing, but I remember things changed. And we giggled in the back row.

 

I learned that day that Mom was a force, that her presence could not be ignored…and that she heard me when I was hurt and frustrated and she stepped in and changed things.

 

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I stood at the store the other day looking at all the Mother’s Day cards and thinking about Mom. I read all the sentiments of love and of the impact of the mother in our lives…and I thought that we need a section for those who have their mother and yet don’t. We need cards for those who still want to send cards, but know the card will not be understood. I know that the exercise is mostly selfish at this point…we want to remind her that she is loved and she is not forgotten, even when she cannot remember.

 

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I remember that she loved us well, and she delighted in children. Even when Dementia began to take her memories and her personality, she delighted in the grandkids.

 

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Mom could laugh and make everyone around her laugh. It was contagious.

 

She dominated a room when she entered, not by trying, but simply because her presence was so strong. She carried herself with grace and dignity, with humor and wit, and sometimes with roaring anger.

 

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Mother’s Day is another opportunity to pause and to remember her in her strength and fullness. She may not understand the cards anymore, she may not recognize those who love her…but I believe she knows in some way that she is cared for and there are those who are present for her when she cannot be fully present.

 

Her physical presence is a reminder, though, of all we are missing. I am constantly amazed at my Dad and brothers who care for her with such tenderness and perseverance. The distance between us is more acute on days like today.

 

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history..” C.S. Lewis

 

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I wish she knew today, all that are around her. All that she cultivated and caused to be. The people we have become, and the mother I am as a result of growing under her care. She was not perfect, but even the challenging aspects of her personality caused me to be who I am today. For that I am thankful. I see glimpses of her in myself and my kids. In my only daughter, who carries her name…and the set of her jaw.

 

Dementia cannot wipe away a personality so large and so strong.

 

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I still giggle when I think of that bus driver. I think of so many situations when she made me laugh genuinely out loud. I inherited her sense of humor and her love of laughter, and in the midst of this season I am all the more thankful.

 

 

“He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” – G.K. Chesterton

 

 

God Made You Special….Remember That.

Thirteen Reasons Why.

 

This title kept popping up on my FB feed, or on suggested lists on Netflix. Maybe because I watch lots of detective shows? I’m not sure. Maybe because one of my kids watched it before I was aware of the heaviness of the show and the starkness of the subject matter.

 

I watched this last week, primarily to discuss with the kiddo. We’ve had some good discussions as a result, with two main aspects I keep thinking about. I would not suggest our kids watch the show, to be honest, but I would guess many of our kids have watched or at the very least have discussed the show with their friends. The age of viral topics is deeply upon us.

 

The show, in case you have not watched or heard about or read about it, follows the story of a high school girl, Hannah, who commits suicide. She leaves behind thirteen tapes, each focused on primarily one person, explaining why she took her life. The tapes are passed from person to person on the tapes, and we follow the character of Clay as he listens to the tapes. He is number nine. The story of why Hannah takes her life is filled with sex, betrayals, false relationships and fear. Loneliness. There are graphic episodes, and the scene of her actual suicide is quite graphic and stark. (Apparently in the book Hannah takes her life with pills, while in the show she slits her wrists in the bathtub).

 

I am not interested in giving a point by point retelling of the show. Two things, however, have struck me, and these I wanted to share.

 

First. There is no mention of God, no awareness of God, no exposure to God, no calling out to God, no reference to God in these episodes. Ok…maybe a reference or two. There is no one in these characters who has a relationship with God. There is no one in these characters who tells Hannah that she is loved by the Creator with a deep and tender and true love. There is no one who tells her she is an image bearer of the One who can love her purely.

 

How utterly different could this story be if someone had spoken Gospel to her. If someone had told her of the redeeming love, the pursuing love of the great God?

 

We have to tell those around us that they are loved. We have to speak and not simply hope others will. We have to watch for those in our midst who need to hear the reality that they are loved and not forgotten, and there is a God who changes everything. The absolute vacuum of anything spiritual in the lives of the kids on this show was stark to me.

 

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” – Brennan Manning

 

 

Second. Sex. This is at the root of so many of the problems in the show. There is a reason sex is dealt with in Scripture. There is a reason we are given guidelines. Sex is not something to be treated cheaply, or to be toyed with. Especially in the volatile emotional teen years. Sex has such a deep impact on our psyche, on our identity. The bonding of one human to another so intimately….changes things.

When our identity is void of the reality of God, sex holds even more weight. When sex becomes common place in our relationships, when it becomes so casual, the weight of its implications may not be felt until later. The identity of these kids, and they are still kids, is marked by the impact of sex, of rape and of alcohol. They are tailspin. That is too much to carry in the season of life when they are beginning to find their identity as more than children. When that is even more amplified by gossip and rumors…it is no wonder despair results.

Sex should be a beautiful, life giving, wonderous act. Sex should fulfill and deepen a relationship, but when it is shared with so little commitment, or when it is taken forcibly, it shatters the person.

 

When I was in high school I was an awkward kid. I desperately wanted attention and I was too emotional and dramatic for my own good. I was a mess. I also got plugged in to a church early on and it probably saved me. I had a good home life and a good life overall…but that doesn’t always matter. In the midst of things it can seem like your life is the worst ever. In high school everything is amplified. Every insult, every slight, every hurt…it plays again and again in our minds and we can turn nothing into something life shattering.

 

I also got involved with an older guy. We never had sex, but he pushed me beyond my comfort level. It changed me. Thankfully, I had others around me who spoke life, and who spoke of God. Others who reminded me of my identity in Christ.

 

I struggled with thoughts of suicide. I never came to place where I was willing to follow through…never made plans. One night I was the closest as I drove home from church, and I don’t remember what had caused me to be so upset, but as I drove home my thoughts of suicide were interrupted by a car accident. My own.

 

The point is…suicide has been an option and a thought for a very long time. Thirteen Reasons Why is not new.  Teen years are tough, and they have been for a long time. It is the season of figuring things out, the season of finding out friendships are not always what we think, and relationships are exciting and terrifying. The one thing that is new is how quickly rumors can be spread and images or gossip shared. That is part of Hannah’s story in the show, and the impact of rumors and gossip is validly given exposure.

 

Does the show glorify suicide? I agree with Russell Moore, the show does not glamorize suicide, but it makes it an option:

 

“In order to provoke tragedy in a hurting teens life, no one needs to make suicide glamorous; one only needs to make suicide plausible.”

 

The show makes much of what happens in the wake of Hannah’s suicide, and in some ways makes an argument that there is redemption in the characters as a result. Things change. Her death is a catalyst for honesty and even for repair of some relationships, while others end tragically themselves. Apparently, after reading a summary of the novel the show is based on, the show moves far beyond the book. The suicide scene in the show is stark and tragic. Hannah slits her wrists in the bathtub. The book has her take pills.

 

The point is that suicide does not have to be glamorized…it only has to be an option. The show absolutely makes it an option. For those kids who are struggling, who are feeling lost, it would absolutely not be a good show for them to watch. Those of us who are far from the teen years and all the angst, it might be worth watching at least parts as a reminder of all the emotional stress these kids are facing. Hannah’s story may be amplified and sensationalized, but it was a good reminder to me that the kids walking around with their heads hung down and even the kids who are outwardly over cheerful..they need to be seen. They need to not be invisible. They need to be reminded they are loved. They are special.

 

And our kids…they need to hear it from the start, and they need it repeated throughout their lives.

 

 

 

 

You are loved. Life can be terribly hard, and it can be incredibly wonderful. Learn to find that wonder…seek it out and hold on to it because there are times you need to remember the good.  They need to hear as they are older the realities about sex…and why it is not something to be treated cheaply because it is so intimate and precious.

 

 

Life is precious. Life is tenuous. Let’s be gracious with these kids around us, and with the adults as well. Let’s remember what a story can look like when it is completely void of God…the hopelessness and the thinking that there is only one solution. Let’s remember that in God is eternal life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11) Let’s be quick to listen, and quick to share the hope we have.

 

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. – Buechner