Tuesday, December 4, 2018

the way you love me

by Alanna

It was Thanksgiving week.
I tried so hard all week, fought for joy and won.
Thursday we feasted and laughed
ate cheesecake with our toddlers by candlelight
But things built up in me and around me
and on Friday I fell apart.
I bared my soul and let you into that darkness
but your words hurt that day.
Because you are only a man,
and truth is there's only so much a man can take.
So I fled deep into myself and pushed you away
And when you came after me with love and apologies
I drove you away.
You tried so hard but I was afraid.
Swallowed lies and truth all mixed together
about who I am and who I'm not
and who I wish I could be.
I want to be here for you,
to feel whole and to love you from that wholeness.
But truth is we are all broken
and me most of all.
So I left the house
left you wondering why God had given me to you.
I took the kids and cried it out at a cold park
while they played unawares.
I thought you'd never come
couldn't see redemption in all the mess I had made.
But you came for me there
broke through all my defenses
and I heaved great sobs standing there in your arms.
You whispered you would never give up on me.
And yes, it's true, we all deserve to be given up on.
All of us with our sin and darkness.
But that's why Jesus came, isn't it?
To stand in our stead, to pay the price
to name us beloved.
I can't expect perfection from you
just like you can't from me.
Only my Jesus is always safe
always understanding and compassionate.
He alone will never hurt me with words
when I bare my soul to him.
He is a guarantee.
But this I know with certainty my love.
I feel safe with you.
No, you are not perfect.
And sometimes your words will hurt.
But I am resolved not to hide from you
not to pretend I am someone I am not. 
Because this is true love.
Us, wading through this, broken together.
And I'd rather be broken with you than alone.
Thank you my love, for not giving up on me.
You are imperfect but you have given me
the clearest picture I have ever known
of Jesus
and the way He loves me.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Ladies, gentlemen, and respectability

By Mary

Years ago there was this song I'd hear on the radio with a line that ended "and any girl like you deserves a gentleman". I was initially irritated by the thought, like only certain types of girls should have a good guy. It wasn't long after my first baby was born, a girl. I didn't like the idea of her growing up with that being a prevalent concept-like a girl had to look or act a certain way for a guy to treat them with decency. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a flip side to it as well.  My son was only theoretical at the time, but I began to think about him and how I'd want him to be treated by a girl. And while this particular song was most likely shallow enough to be mostly referencing the girl's appearance, there was a lot more to it than that for me. The bottom line is that while I want my children to be treated well by others, always, I'm not necessarily going to expect it unless they are also treating others well themselves.

It's been said for the longest time that chivalry is dead: well if a real gentleman, or a knight in shining armor are few and far between these days, I can tell you that a real lady is a rare sighting too. They're both hard to find flourishing in an environment where even the thought of a moral compass is thrown out the window. Where morality is lacking, decency is lacking. So while I'll teach my daughters to hold out for a gentleman, I hope to teach them to be a lady worthy of one. And while I plan to raise my son to be a gentleman, I plan to tell him not to settle for less than a lady.

I want to raise both ladies and gentlemen, and that's what I expect them to be to whoever they meet in any type of relationship; personal, professional, passing acquaintance. Real men and women act in a respectful way towards others because of their own respectability, even when the other person hasn't done anything to earn it. We should learn to treat others with respect, but also everyone should learn to be respectable, to earn respect.

There seems to be such a men vs women mentality in the world lately. There's so much blame-shifting and finger-pointing and it's wearying to hear everyone pitted against each other and how everything is always someone else's fault. It seems everyone wants to be treated decently without behaving decently and nobody wants to take any responsibility for the part they play in any of it. I think it just gets harder and harder to bring up little men and little women, real ones, good ones, in a world that becomes more and more against them. So I'm so glad we don't do it alone. So thankful for grace upon grace and that all things are possible with God.



Friday, October 12, 2018

lullabies

by Alanna

I lay in the dark on the kids' floor tonight. One sick toddler and two restless ones breathed in their beds nearby. Lullabies played on a borrowed CD. I remember one of these songs from when I was small. "Sleep sound in Jesus." So much nostalgia floods over me. Sharing a room for so many years with my sister, my best friend. Feeling safe and secure and loved. Falling asleep to that song in the dark. More memories tug at my heart. Singing songs in the darkness of South Africa. Singing with my "twin", singing with my cousin. Holding small dear hands until breathing became deep and peaceful. I prayed so much for those babies, cried so many tears with them and over them and across the ocean for them. I wanted so much for them. Families and homes. Jesus most of all. Most days I don't think about South Africa anymore.  But tonight I'm surprised at tears and this ache in my heart for them. I feel most strongly this absence where my first heart son took a piece of my heart and never returned it. I miss him tonight. I love him so much. I loved them all. I love these babies here too- these four under my roof, that God has given to me for this time. For only He knows how long. I cry tears for them too, because I want so much for them too. Wisdom, health, love, good friendships. Jesus most of all. Maybe I should spend more evenings laying on the floor in their room, just being near and hearing lullabies and remembering.  Remembering South Africa. Remembering my little one. Remembering how precious time is and how we have no guarantees. Remembering to love.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

grey days

by Alanna

Sometimes I try to deny that winter is coming. I still wear sandals every day, nevermind that it's in the 40s. I try to stick to a sweater and avoid the coat, still get outside every day despite the rain. I never ever check the weather forecast.

But now that we wake up to grey and eat dinner as it fades to black, I'm thankful I finally bought a sun lamp. I don't intend to give in to depression this winter, whatever that looks like.  Sometimes I feel like a caged animal, and I cry and shake my fists at the dumb clouds that won't part. But then I let my arms fall to my sides again because this is where God put me. And this is also where God put the clouds, and the cold, and the winter.

I'll probably never figure out if "seasonal depression" is a disease, or giving in to it a sin, or a little of both. I do know that there are days when my soul sings to Jesus but my mind is a haze and my heart dull. I fear sometimes. Fear the winter, fear dysfunctionality (which I can't even spell), fear not seeing the sun for perhaps weeks on end. But I know some things with confidence. That I will not give in to this darkness. That I will make my home a refuge of love and light. Play hymns and songs, bake good things, laugh and dance, invite people here. Whether or not my mind and heart will follow, my body and soul will sing to Jesus.

I also know that God uses broken people. Many lies whisper to me that this is not so. That my son is angry because I am not emotionally whole for him. That if I was not depressed my marriage problems would go away. That no one is blessed by me, that God cannot be glorified in me. But thankfully I know the truth to fight these lies. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." (2nd Corinthians 4:7) God knows I am broken. He chose to make me His child anyhow.

I also know that God is all powerful, sovereign, enough. So every moment this winter, I will cling to Him. When I find myself weeping on the floor, when I can't think straight, when I have to apologize to my kids over and over again for my lack of patience, to my husband for my lack of a listening ear. When I miss the sun, when I miss the blue skies. I will come to Jesus. Every day, every moment.  I pray that in this fragile broken vessel of me, He will be glorified. That His great mercy would be all the more evident from the depths of my darkness. He is enough. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

prayers for grace and strength

by Alanna

God doesn't always answer the small prayers I want him to. That the line at the DMV would be short, that the baby would sleep during the wait, that he'd not need to nurse during lunchtime with the 3 toddlers, that the brown stuff smeared up the highchair could be banana and not poop. Life with four kids under four is going wonderful, as long as I redefine that word to match the expected for this season of life.  I have seen God answering other prayers. For grace, for love, for joy and laughter.( It's helpful to have a sense of humor when my 3-year old forgets to lift the lid and pees on top of the toilet). I think that God is teaching me a few things these days. One, to notice the things to be thankful for.  If I am nursing the baby and the one-year-old has a blowout, I thank Him that the toddlers are happily playing together. It could be worse.  If we had to give up at the DMV because it was taking too long with my four and the baby was screaming, I'm thankful that all three of my "big kids" were well-behaved, and that lunch was waiting for us in the oven. (Extra thankful for my delay-start oven). God is also teaching me to pray for grace, by myself, with my kids, especially in the moments. He is ever-present here. It is worth slowing down to stop and pray when I feel in over my head, instead of frantically trying to multitask to a new level.  These are lessons I am still learning, but I'm so thankful that I can always come to Him. He is ever faithful. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

drama queens and something better than capturing a city

by Alanna

My 3-year old daughter has reverted to babyhood lately. She crawls around and makes baby sounds, and wants her 2-year old brother to role play as her dad. Some of it is playful and healthy, and some of it involves a regression to temper tantrums and throwing fits when she is disappointed. Her fits are mostly quiet, fussing and whining and manipulative. A few days ago when she was pouting, she asked me to take her to the mirror. I was surprised because it's not a request I'd heard before, so I asked her why. She said she wanted to see what she looked like sad. I realized then that she was being a drama queen. Purposefully, intentionally, and she wanted to show off not just to me and whoever else was in the room at the time, but even in the mirror. I was astonished, but I showed her herself and then we made happy faces together and talked about how much more beautiful happy was than complaining.

Yonas and I are reading in Philippians, and that familiar verse came up about doing all things without grumbling or disputing. I know it; I had my kids memorize it not long ago. But complaining is ingrained in me. Habits that stretch back I know not how far, to speak negatively. It seems to be a popular thing in our culture too. To complain, to point out the bad in our society, our church, our government, our families, ourselves. Maybe that's why the author of Philippians goes on to say that not complaining would make us "shine as lights in the world", "in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation".  I don't want to be a drama queen. I don't want a heart full of complaining that manifests itself in my face and my words. I want a heart full of joy that overflows in abundant praise to Jesus. In constant remembrance and speaking aloud of His goodness.

We are memorizing a verse now that I feel is way over my toddlers' heads. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city" (Proverbs 16:32). I chose it for my son, who struggles with anger that is vocal and aggressive. But I am realizing that my daughter and I need this more these days. A reminder that it is a powerful thing to rule your spirit. My husband and I walked around the lake after we read in Philippians, and I told him that often I want to do something "big" for God. But that maybe something as simple as doing all things without grumbling, maybe that would bring Him so much glory. Maybe not complaining would be better than capturing a city. So that is what I will ask for and fight for these days.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Light

By Mary

"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

It was something of a shock, moving to a Pacific Northwest winter from the coastal Carolina ones I'd become accustomed to. The change in temperature was welcome-I could actually wear these winter jackets and things I've had lying around for years! And really there was far less rain here than I anticipated. I had decided in advance we'd just have to figure out how to live like ducks and do everything in a continual drizzle. That hasn't been the case. (Coincidentally, I've read that both Chicago and New York get more rain annually on average than Seattle. Really!)

What has gotten to me are the cloudy skies. It might not be raining all the time, but overhead still seems so overcast. so. much. After one wintertime phone call with Alanna, having commiserated over the lack of sunshine in our new cities, I got to thinking about that verse, John 8:12. And several others, really. Ones about God being light, our light, ones about how we should be light. I'd never put much thought into the richness of light. It shows you the way, yes, it illuminates. But it also inspires. It motivates. It brings warmth. It beautifies. Nothing feels better than to sit in the sunlight when you've been battling sickness. It's restful, peaceful.

So while I'm still going to be wishing for plenty of sunny days during our time in Washington, I'm grateful for the reminder of all that God's light is to me-and of what He wants me to be.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."