10 years of growing in grace in West KY

ky-livingston-county-kentucky-1905-map

The first week of December brought a milestone for our family: the 10th anniversary of our move to Livingston County. We’ve been married 18 1/2 years, so we can now say we’ve lived somewhere over half our marriage and honestly, I didn’t know if that would ever be something we’d be able to say. We moved six times in the first ten years, and once more since then. And our time in LivCo has seen three houses and two churches, so even the last ten years here have seen their share of change. But ten years in one geographic area is still something we weren’t sure we’d experience, and so for this girl who lived in the same house until she was 18, and the same city until she was 23, I definitely think it’s something to commemorate.

December 2008 brought us to Livingston County, KY, full of hope that our hardest days were about to give way to the life we’d once dreamed of, in what we longed for to be “our place.” We’d just gone through three very difficult years of three failed ministry experiences, being members of five churches in three years, two moves (not counting the move to KY), taking on our first mortgage only to face unemployment six months later, and two years of Clay working mad hours killing bugs and watching his dreams die along with them. And yet, look what God had done. We had given up all hope of finding another ministry job for Clay, settled into life in an exterminator’s family and finally plugged into a healthy church family, when out of the blue Clay got a phone call asking if he’d be interested in coming to a tiny town in West KY to serve on staff at a church. We said yes, and headed back to the bluegrass. We’d just added baby four to our family and things were finally looking up.

Well, our difficult days of course were not over, as anyone who continues to live in this fallen world could probably have predicted. And that town and that church did not end up being “our place” like we’d hoped it would. We’re now nearing the end of year 5 in a different town, different church, in the same county and time will tell if this place is really “our place”–the place where we will stay for years and put down roots and build a lifetime ministry.

But even though all our dreams haven’t come true, and we have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, ten years in West KY is still a significant milestone and worthy of contemplation and reflection over what God has done and the paths He has made for us to walk.

I think there are three areas in which the hand of God has pressed in and worked and refined my thinking and my heart and my beliefs in the most profound and significant ways during these ten years, the first being through our family. We had left KY in 2006 as a family of four, and we came back to KY in 2008 as a family of six. We had four kids age five and under and had just barely begun our homeschool adventure, being halfway through kindergarten with our oldest. In the last ten years, our family has increased by two more, and our schoolroom is now full of six students and it’s our baby who is now halfway through kindergarten. We also have loved three other babies that I carried but never got to hold, joining the one we had lost before moving here, and forever leaving their mark on my life. Watching God’s grace and mercy through both euphoric joys and bitter providences in the life of our family has been one of the single most changing influences in my life. I have had to lean on Him, lean into Him, come face to face with my own ugly failures, experience the exposing of the darkest corners of my heart, and wrestle through areas of unbelief I didn’t even know existed as He has led me along the path called motherhood. Everything from trusting him for our family size, to obeying Him in educating our children the way He directed, to fighting to find my identity in Him instead of in being a mom, to the heavy realization that I come up short as a mom every single day, to grieving the lives that He took so soon, to struggling to believe He is still good after taking them–He has forced me over and over again to face the fact that I am not enough, I have no strength on my own, I have no wisdom of my own, and I cannot do this on my own. The beautiful truth and hope of that repetitive process of coming to the end of myself is that when I do, He is there. He loves my children even more than I do, and shocking truth–He loves me as well, more than I think I really understand. And His love, His sufficiency, His strength, His wisdom, and His power have shown brightly through my darkest moments. He has used the roller coasters of the last ten years in our family life to bring me to greater heights and depths of His love.

Another area of life that He has used to expose my own weaknesses and show me more of Himself over the last ten years is the church. Our ministry experiences on the whole throughout our marriage can be summed up in the word “difficult” and our West KY years are no exception. To be clear, not every moment or every aspect has been difficult–we’ve made some sweet memories, had some wonderful experiences, and grown to love some genuine believers who are very dear to us. But we’ve also experienced quite a bit of heartbreak and disillusionment along the way. I have had to really fight at times to find love and compassion for the church, to not grow bitter over things that were said and done, and to not want to beg my husband to give up and look into that exterminating job once more.  But God has been so gracious, and every time I have wanted to give up and turn my back on His bride, He has reminded me both of His love for her, and of the fact that I am just as sinful and ugly as the people who have hurt us. It has sometimes taken a Herculean effort to physically walk into the doors. I can’t describe what it feels like to walk through a parking lot packed with cars that haven’t parked at that church in months or even years, in order go into a business meeting full of people who unplugged from the church months ago or were never really plugged in at all but their names happen to be on the membership list and they’ve been told they need to come tonight to stop this pastor or this youth pastor from doing whatever it is he’s trying to do, even if that means he may lose his job and his family may be out of a home. Unfortunately, we’ve walked that dreadful walk more than once in the past ten years. But God walked it with us, and He walked us back home afterwards and held us as we cried out our frustrations and hurt and grief over what His bride can do at times. Through the ups and downs of our years of ministry in West KY, most of the rose color has been stripped from my glasses and I’ve developed a cynicism that requires constant vigilance and stamping down lest it creep in and take hold, but I’ve also been reminded over and over that Christ bought the church with His own blood. He died for her, and He is making her into a spotless bride, and I exist within that community of a bride, and if that bride is worth such a costly sacrifice, she is worth my sacrifice as well. There were moments when I wanted to give up on the church, and honestly, those moments still come. But He hasn’t let me, and He has taken a superficial love for the church–a warm fuzzy love for the people who raised me and grew up with me and were kind and good to me and loved me back–and is changing that into a deep, fierce, fighting love for the church as Christ’s bride. A love that sees the church in her ugliness and sees that she’s worth the fight. This is not me–this is Christ in me, and it’s evidence of His work in my life and how He fights for me as well, as part of His bride.

The final area of my life in which God has worked to refine me the most over the past 10 years is in my marriage. Married 8 1/2 years when we moved here, the honeymoon stage existed only in memories and photo albums and souvenirs of dried rose petals and mushy Hallmark cards given for no reason except we were feeling starry-eyed that day. We’d walked through hard times in church and work and grief and life. We knew what it was to live with the consequences of each other’s sin. But God’s grace was still shining bright in our relationship. We were as in love as ever, and best friends besides. And that has not changed. Our relationship has grown only stronger, but it has grown stronger through the fire. Living with someone day in and day out makes it impossible to not bump into their sin along the way. His sin has affected me, my sin has affected him. But love covers a multitude of sin. And God has been so merciful to lead us to love each other in ways that have been healing, cleansing, freeing, and empowering. I have always been performance driven and craved approval, feeling like I have to measure up to a certain standard to be loved and accepted. This creates a natural tendency to be extremely afraid of honest confession of sin. But in this marriage, it’s hard to hide sin for very long. And here’s what I have seen–when I am at my ugliest, Clay loves me anyway. Because he’s proven that over and over and over, I am finally starting to feel safe in confessing my sin instead of trying to hide it for fear that it will cause him to run. This has worked wonders in my heart, and the most significant way is in the fact that it has pointed me back to Christ, who loves me more fully and unconditionally than Clay ever could, and that in spite of knowing every secret thought and sin–even the ones I can successfully hide from my husband. Clay has represented Christ to me and it has changed me. And God has used me to do the same for him, working in me to offer forgiveness to him for the sins that hurt me most deeply, granting him to freedom to be honest in a safe place, knowing that love would meet him there. It is Christ in Clay that is able to forgive me; it is not his own strength. And it is Christ in me that is able to forgive him; it is not my own strength. And this dance of sin and forgiveness and love and freedom has taught me so much about how Christ loves and forgives me. We are now 18 1/2 years married, and the girl who couldn’t see how she could love her groom more than she did on the day she married him is learning the beautiful truth that fire and forgiveness over time grow love into a flame she could never have imagined.

It’s possible to squeeze a lot of life into ten years. The heartaches, joys, adventures, experiences, and lessons of our last ten years in West KY have been exhilarating, agonizing, eye-opening, life-changing, and exhausting. But they all have served to show me so much more of Christ than I had ever seen before, and for that, I wouldn’t trade a thing. Looking back over pictures from the last ten years has been a sweet walk this morning, and as I look at each one I see the work God was doing around and through those moments. How grateful I am for His work in me, and in us, over these last 10 years. I have no way of knowing if the roads I’ll walk in the next 10 years will still be in West KY, but I am confident of this: that He will walk with me wherever He leads. And in that, I rejoice.

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When Cindy Lou Who sang the song of my heart, and Luke answered

The Grinch movie with Jim Carrey may possibly be my favorite Christmas movie. From the time I saw the set on a backlot tour of Universal Studios Hollywood with my sister the spring before my wedding I was intrigued and excited to see how Dr Suess would come to life on the big screen. And I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it in theaters. My love even remained true the summer we moved to Indiana when Abigail was three and it took me awhile to get unpacked because I was in the early stages of pregnancy with Elisabeth. We didn’t have cable hooked up yet and had only come across one box of movies, with only one kid movie in the box. You guessed it–The Grinch. So, June or not, she watched that movie every single day while Catherine napped upstairs and I dozed off and on snuggled up with her on the couch. And her favorite part was when Cindy Lou Who sings “Where are you, Christmas?” She would sing along in her tiny three-year-old voice with all the emotion she could muster, and I honestly didn’t get tired of it.

It hit me a few days ago, as I’ve been finally able this Christmas season to start processing where I was last Christmas season and even the few years before, that in that summer of 2006, I was listening to Cindy Lou Who singing the song my heart would be singing a few years later. It actually began in 2011 after my granddaddy died in September. I also had my second miscarriage that same month, then watched my parents go through painful changes at their business in October. When it came time to decorate for Christmas, all I wanted was to go to bed and wake up in January. If we hadn’t had kids, I would have. We decorated and went through all the motions of Christmas for the sake of the kids, but for the first time I just couldn’t find the wonder. It didn’t get a whole lot better over the next several years, and I remember feeling so guilty that I claimed to be a strong believer and was leading other women, and yet couldn’t seem to get into one of the most significant seasons for Christians to celebrate. It all just seemed like a chore and my heart just wasn’t in it.

This of course all came to its lowest point last year. We found out the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 27, that our twins had died in the womb, and then bam, it was time to put the tree up. I barely remember last Christmas at all. I looked at pictures this morning and I literally don’t remember the moments they were taken. It was like I was looking at photos that were taken when I wasn’t there, instead of photos I took myself. I don’t remember what we got the kids, and I don’t remember what anyone gave me, except the bracelet my best friend gave me to honor the lives of my babies. It was the darkest time of my life, and it coincided with the time when we are supposed to celebrate the Light of the World.

All year this year I’ve been trying to heal from that wound, and in the process have begun healing from some other wounds from the past that I had just endured until I could function again but never rightly addressed. And as Christmas has approached, I’ve been scared. Scared that even though I know I’ve taken some baby steps forward since that dark time last year, I still won’t be able to rejoice in the wonder of the coming of Christ that we honor this month. I have felt desperate to not endure another December feeling completely left out because everyone else is full of joy and I can only feel numbness.

So what could I do? I decided to intentionally look for Him. Last Christmas the pain in my broken heart was too fresh to even breathe normally, but even the Christmases before that, I knew something was missing in my heart but instead of actively working to fix my gaze on Christ, I just passively waited for that warm feeling to come back. I see that now, although I didn’t then. So this year I knew I couldn’t just hope to feel good, I had to seek out Him who fills my heart with joy, fix my eyes on Him and dig in until my vision cleared and I saw the wonder in His love for me. I started looking for Him.

A couple months ago, I bought a journaling Bible with the purpose of beginning a journey of searching for specific truths in Scripture, highlighting them, and journaling through them right there on the page. The specific truth I wanted (needed) to search for first was evidences of the goodness and love of God. After my babies died last year, a whole section of my heart was exposed in which I was doubting the goodness and love of God. I hadn’t realized it but it had been there all along and was coloring my responses to my circumstances, and it took this most painful experience of my life to finally pull back the curtain on these lies I’d been believing. So, to combat that and demolish that stronghold in my heart, I began combing the Scriptures, highlighting in yellow every verse I found that showed me God’s goodness or love. I had already gone through several books in this new search and God had been showing me His goodness and love on every page, in every chapter. The books I’d searched with filled with yellow highlight.

Then toward the end of November, one of my friends posted a simple observation that since there are 24 chapters in Luke, you could read a chapter a day in December and finish on Christmas Eve, thereby studying the whole life of Christ during the Christmas season. I figured that was as good a book as any to search through next, and began reading through Luke on December 1. It’s this process that has rekindled the wonder in my heart. It’s a quiet flickering flame more than it is a roaring fire, and it still burns faintly at times. There are still days when the sadness wants to overwhelm, sadness about the babies but also about difficulties at church and struggles with family and brokenness in the world in general. I feel so weighed down by so many things that joy seems to come only with effort most of the time. But I’m learning that when I intentionally and specifically seek out the love of God, it’s there to be found.

At my house I’ve earned the title of “The Best Finder in the House.” This is because while the rest of my family looks for something by letting their eyes kind of roam generally around the room without really focusing in on any one spot, and without digging around and under things to find that which they seek, I go in the room and look systematically at every spot in that room, picking things up and shaking them out, looking over and under and inside and not giving up until the lost item is found. Well, until now, I’ve looked for Jesus the way my family looks for a lost remote. And I’ve had about as much success as they have. But this journey I began through the Bible a couple months ago, and through Luke on December 1, is thankfully changing that for me. I’ve been amazed at the evidence I’ve found of His goodness in passages I’ve read hundreds of times. I’ve been marveling at proof that He loves me that I’ve looked over so many times without seeing.

I’m finding Christmas again because I’m finding Jesus’ love again. It’s different than it used to be, this Christmas that I’ve found. It’s not all excitement and loud and boisterous and fun. It’s deeper than that. It’s more a quiet awe of His love that comes after a battle hard fought. And I’m still fighting, still searching, because the love I’ve found is a love that compels me to want more. Lord willing, it’s a fight and a search that will continue all my life until I finally see Him face to face and rest in the presence of the One who sought me out in love.

Let me leave you with some of the evidence of His love I’ve found thus far in my search through Luke. It’s my prayer that you too would find Him this Christmas.

“Blessed by the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,” (Luke 1:68-69)

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (2:10-11)

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (3:5-6)

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (5:31-32)

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;” (6:20-23)

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her…” (7:13)

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven–for she loved much.” (7:47)

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (11:9-13)

“Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. . . Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (12:7, 32)

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (15:20)

Maybe it’s easy for you to celebrate the coming of the Savior this year. If so, thank Him for that. Don’t take it for granted, it is a mercy to you. Maybe you’re like me and Cindy Lou and you are just wondering where the wonder went that you used to know. If so, search for it. Don’t just give up. The wonder is there, His love is there, HE is there and promises to be found by those who seek Him. Seek Him where He may be found, in His Word, and you will find Him.

 

 

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Give honor to whom honor is due: Celebrating International Men’s Day

Did you know today is International Men’s Day? I bet you didn’t. Facebook certainly didn’t alert me with a banner the way it did on International Women’s Day. It’s not popular to honor men, you see. Women are the men of the hour. Feminism has achieved some good and right goals and then kept right on roaring past what is reasonable and sane until men are villianized as a unit and any step taken by a women is celebrated–whether that step is forward, backward, or just plain sideways, as evidenced by the posts celebrating the women recently elected to Congress despite some dangerous and even bizarre views of government–and any step taken by a man is screamed suspect because of his obvious male privilege and probable pattern of abuse or degradation of women, concrete evidence not always necessary.

As a woman married to a straight, white, evangelical male and raising two more, this pattern grieves and concerns me deeply. Women have claimed that they are ignored and patronized simply because of their gender, and now do that same thing to men. Women have demanded honor and celebration and praise–goddess status, really–simply by virtue of their second X chromosome. A world has been created where men must walk on this fragile, frozen layer of cracking ice, knowing that any careless word or deed could plunge them into the icy depths of a woman’s scorn. We scream at them for being lazy and adolescent and boorish, but laugh at them in condescension when they attempt to be a man. Oh, woe is us.

Today, with the minuscule reach that is afforded to me, I challenge something different and radical. Let’s give honor to whom it is due. Are there wicked and disgusting men out there? Well, yes, unfortunately there are many. However, we should not give them the power of defining the whole gender. I’ve been blessed my whole life to be surrounded by godly men, men who take their role as man seriously. Men who lead their families well, love and cherish their women, work hard, and are worthy of honor and respect. Maybe that’s your story as well, maybe it isn’t. Either way, I challenge you to think of at least one man who is a credit to his gender, who wears his manhood with dignity, who knows how to love and protect and work and provide and hasn’t been afraid to step up to the task. Honor him today. Not because he’s a husband or a dad but because he’s a man.

I also challenge moms of boys to think hard about the way we’re raising our boys. Yes, let’s teach them to respect women and love children and act honorably and be chivalrous. Absolutely! But never to the exclusion of celebrating and encouraging their manhood. We must not make our boys feel guilty for their energy, roughness, and basic inability to act like a girl. And we must not feminize them right out of the strength and boldness and courage that we actually long to see in a man. Ladies, feminism had good beginnings but has veered off the course of what is reasonable. We needed equality with men on many levels. What we don’t need is superiority. That is neither a right or safe goal. And we also don’t need a current generation of men who are faced with feminist opposition every time they open their mouths, or a future generation of men who have been raised to squash down any tendency within them that was too boyish. Let your boys be boys and celebrate it. And let your men be men and celebrate it. Step back. Give them the honor that is due them, and give them room to thrive as a man.

I am so grateful for the men in my life. From great-grandfathers I have only heard about, to my own godly grandfathers, a godly father, and a godly husband who comes from his own heritage of godly men–I know that I have been uncommonly privileged. And since he is the one I see day in and day out, in struggle and in triumph, in weakness and in strength, in grief and in joy, I honor my husband here today. How grateful I am that he was man enough at 21 to commit to a lifelong covenant with me and to live it out every day since. To rejoice at the children we’ve been given and to not shy away from leading me in raising them. To take seriously his role of pastor of his family. To strive daily to lead me well and live with me in an understanding way. To sacrifice his own desires for the good of our family. To lead by example in loving, being generous, and being long-suffering with those around us. To laugh hard, play hard, work hard, and love hard. Clay Hall is a man worthy of honor, and it’s a joy to honor him today.

Who will you honor? Leave a note in the comments, and then go show honor to whom honor is due.

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What Frodo the pudelpointer taught me about my own heart

I woke up this morning to the sounds of a frantic pudelpointer puppy barking and clawing at the door of his crate, trying with all his might to break free. I was home alone, sleeping off the effects of a wakeful night not feeling well, and the rest of my family had quietly gotten ready, crated the dog, and slipped off to church without me. Their plan sadly backfired, though, because Frodo did not agree that the crate was the best plan for him.

I lay there in my bed, listening to his barks and whines and mournful howls, and intermittent scraping and clawing as he tried his best to get out of a circumstance that, from his perspective, was absolutely not good, much less for his best. And after wishing for about the seventh time that he would just give up fighting, lie down, and go to sleep, Scripture suddenly popped into my mind.

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (Psalm 3:5)

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:2)

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)

I was lying there, trying my hardest to use telepathy to convince him of the truth of these Scriptures. I just wanted him to be quiet, quit fighting, and trust his masters that this really was the best circumstance for him at this time. Gradually, it began to dawn on me that I’ve been acting exactly like Frodo.

I had just meditated on these verse a couple days ago as part of my search through the Scriptures to find God’s goodness. You see, it’s been an extremely rough year for me, for reasons easily found elsewhere on this blog, as well as other circumstances that aren’t as easily made public. I’ve experienced things and been in situations that felt just like a cage to me, and I have not been able to agree that these situations could possibly be for my good. And I have reacted just like Frodo, crying and clawing and complaining myself hoarse, fighting against my circumstances until my heart is raw.

You may be surprised, if you know me well, to read that. Honestly, I’ve been surprised to discover it in my own heart. I have been so sad for the whole year after losing our babies, and hurting through a couple other situations, and until recently had just assumed that the wounds were simply slow to heal. And I’ve done my best to be normal on the outside, feeling that I needed to keep up appearances, be ok, in order to keep those around me from feeling uncomfortable in the face of the grief that was only growing, not lessening, and threatening to explode within me.

I’ve realized that I’ve been questioning the truth of God’s goodness. I’ve become so short-sighted, seeing only the cages of my painful situations, that I’ve lost any ability to see a bigger picture, and see a God that loves me and is working for my good even by using these hurts. So after realizing that was going on in my heart and mercifully being able to recognize the danger of continuing in that thought, I recently started combing through the Scriptures chapter by chapter searching for evidence of God’s love and goodness. And last week, I found the verses listed above. I have marveled at those verses before, remembering far too many nights when I stayed awake worrying or fretting about this or that instead of enjoying the good gift of trustful sleep, knowing that God loves me and is always working for my good. This time, as I read them, I could see them as evidence of God’s love for His own. I’ve read stories and books where for whatever reason, the characters aren’t safe to all sleep at night without one of them keeping watch, staying on guard to protect the others. They work out a rotation, and almost inevitably at some point, the exhausted guard also falls asleep, leading them into even more danger. How good it is of God to offer sleep to us in the midst of danger, grief, stress, or any other situation that tempts us to think we have to stay awake to protect ourselves. And He never is exhausted, so there is no danger of Him falling asleep and leaving us exposed and vulnerable. He offers us this rest from thinking, rest from striving, and rest that energizes us to face whatever tomorrow will bring. This is goodness to us.

But just like Frodo, this morning, I have been refusing to lie down and sleep, refusing to trust His plan, and refusing to surrender to the plan of my Master that right now seems confining and painful. Just like Frodo could see everything he wanted just on the other side of the bars in the door and was going nuts being unable to reach it, I have seen other people enjoying what I have prayed for and been denied, and I have seen possible ways to attain what seems like would be the best thing ever, and I have been going nuts being unable to attain it.

What Frodo couldn’t understand was that it is not good for him to be left free to roam around the house while we’re gone. Our things would be destroyed, he would wreak havoc in our house, and might even be a danger to himself. His restraint was for his own good and for the good of those around him. And he was perfectly safe. He could have surrendered to an unpleasant circumstance, trusted his master to be working with a good end in mind, and simply lain down and taken a nice long nap while he waited for the door to open. I realized this morning that I don’t have eyes to see what would have happened if I had gotten what I prayed desperately for. From my view here, I can only see good that would have come. But my view is so limited by my humanity, so distorted by sin. I can’t see at all. But God sees all the potential endings as well as the actual ending, and He chooses the one perfectly suited to my good and His glory.

I haven’t wanted to surrender to the path He has chosen for me for right now, and honestly, I still don’t. But I caught a glimpse today of a dog whose fighting was only making his situation more difficult, and I saw myself in that crate. Maybe my grief would not have consumed me to this point if I had simply surrendered on the inside like I appeared to have done on the outside. If I had stopped fighting earlier, maybe I would be much further on the road to healing now. I have much work to do, with the situations from this year as well as ones from the past that I had buried instead of confronting biblically. But I’m already finding God’s love and goodness on a difficult path. Even through a dog that was driving me crazy.

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On the night before kindergarten: One mom’s heart when a season is ending

I’ve had babies, toddlers, or preschoolers at home for over fifteen years–most of that time I had all three at once. We’ve celebrated the first day of kindergarten five times already, but each time there was at least one younger sibling waiting eagerly for the day when it would be their turn. Tomorrow, that will change. Tomorrow, my last preschooler will become a kindergartner. She’ll get her own exciting day, her own rite of passage, and her mama will be shedding some tears.
I know all you seasoned moms who are ahead of me on the path are either rolling your eyes, or nodding knowingly while thinking, Just wait until she starts high school or starts driving or starts college or gets married. I know. I know this won’t get any easier and that it won’t be long at all before I’m longing for this first day of kindergarten to come back as she drives off on the journey of her life some day in the not too distant future. But right now, I don’t really need those comments. I just need to breathe deep and savor the snuggles I just had with my last preschooler, and mourn the end of a season.
We don’t always know when a season is about to end. And until very recently, I didn’t know my season of having little ones was about to end. You see, I never intended for Lydia to be my last little kid. This time nine months ago, I thought I’d be in the newborn stage again as she started kindergarten. I still looked forward to many more days of babies and toddlers and preschoolers before I hit this momentous occasion of the last first day of kindergarten. When we lost our babies last fall, it took months for me to catch my breath again. Months for my world to stop spinning and the ground to start to feel firm again. When I could finally start to think straight again, we began to explore the options that were left to us as far as adoption is concerned, and our hearts were drawn to foster care once again, as they had been before we learned about embryo adoption. After a little time of considering and praying and getting excited, I started making phone calls, only to learn that our family is already over the size limit and foster care is not an option for us. Slam. The door of expanding our family was shut, just like that, at least as far as we can see right now. The breath was knocked out of me again. The way I had envisioned things, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. We stopped having biological children after Lydia was born only so that we could then adopt. Now, God has closed that door, and my heart is working every day to surrender to His good plan for us.
So I honestly didn’t see this coming, not yet. Until just a couple weeks ago, I truly thought there would be more Hall kindergartners to come. I’m really having trouble wrapping my brain around this season ending. I love my big kids. I love my teenagers. I love every stage of childhood we’ve experienced thus far (except maybe potty-training; I always said that was the one stage of parenting I wished I could outsource). I love the season I’m moving into. I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the season of littles quite yet, and the realization that it’s time has come quite suddenly.
My Lydia is so excited for tomorrow. She is so proud to be a big kid and do school just like her siblings. And I’m so excited for her. I really am. I’m loving watching her grow and learn to read and understand more of the world around her. I know we still have so much joy ahead. But I also know it will fly by, and thirteen years suddenly seems so incredibly short.
I’ve been working hard, these last few weeks, to reorient my thinking to being Hall, Party of 8 indefinitely. And I know there are some pros to our kiddos getting older. More freedom, more things we can do all together, more flexibility in our schedule. I’m working to focus on the joy in what I’ve been given and not complain or grow bitter about what was withheld. To surrender to the Lord because I know He is trustworthy and good even when His plan does not match what I had dreamed. And I am growing in these things, little by little. But tonight, I said goodnight to my last little preschooler and I’m closing the door on a season that I loved immensely. Change is hard, even when it’s good and right. My Lydia is growing up just as God created her to do, and I love watching it. She’s just taking a large chunk of my heart along with her.
Tomorrow we start school. All six of my kids will be busy at work, with no little siblings waiting in the wings. I think every mom who’s sent their last little one off to school will allow me the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes tonight.

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