A-LIVE!!!

Road Trip Scrapbook

Jimmy missed two days of school last week, sick to the point of (he was pretty sure) death. It turned out to be a migraine, and it really was awful. After forty-eight hours and a strong dose of magical pain meds from Urgent Care, the boy was starting to feel himself, and he decided to attempt a soccer practice. He came home face glowing from sweat and an ear-to-ear grin. “I’m a-LIVE!!!” He was back from the dead, no doubt about it.

Contrast can be invigorating.

I’ve experienced a bit of aliveness in my own soul lately. Maybe it’s spring, or back-to-back vacations, or family feeling like family again. My heart feels lighter and the birds are singing.

To be fair I need to give some credit where it’s due. God’s YES has been generous, no doubt about that, either. I’d been begging Him for a good long time to give back to my soul some things it’d been missing. And He did it. Amen.

All the way to the southern tip of Florida and back I dabbled with a road-trip project. A scrapbook of sorts, and maybe to boys it looked like Mom was obsessed with some serious work, but in truth – I was playing. No pressure and no goals. (Nothing like the photo projects hanging over my head with a 2-for-1 grad party looming large.) Twenty-eight hours times-two, and the whole way I cut things out and glued things on and wrote things down and it was nothing but pleasure.

We march when we were made to dance. I wrote this quote on a fun little tag and tucked it inside a pocket. Becky L. – February 2017. 

She was talking about Christians. Us church people who forget who we are and the reason God made us. All our intentions and motivations telling us to DO THIS and BE THAT. When really we’re made to be dancing with HIM.

It was Dekker’s point, too, and his Forgotten Way quotes are strewn throughout my little binder, written by hand on scraps of coloring book pages. (One of those adult versions, which seemed so perfect for passing road-trip time, until I came to the certain conclusion that car-ride coloring makes me feel like puking.) I digress.

Open your arms and release all that you mistakenly thought would give you value in this world. See your chains falling, and feel yourself rising in new life.*

My dear friend Angie and I were about halfway through Dekker’s book when she sent me this text:

!!!!!!! (it started like that…) i am literally lol as i am trying to repeat some of the scripture truths out loud…how could i have missed this before!!!??!!

The entire text message was longer than this. It’s all there and embellished on one of my pages – part of my play, but it’s also IMPORTANT.

THIS is God’s YES in the happiest way.

Angie and I have spent the past going-on-eight years drinking coffee together every couple of weeks. All this time, and it took until now for THIS to happen. She’d been reading Ephesians (my scripture memory… these quotes, too, filling scrapbook pages.)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us ALIVE with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God RAISED US UP with Christ and SEATED US WITH HIM in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV. EMPHASIS mine.)

WE ARE A-LIVE!!!!

*The Forgotten Way, p. 201

Family

Photo credit to Felipe Anderson

Jimmy: Beauty or Beast? This was the boy’s suggestion for a title for my next blog post. One of many one-liners randomly uttered from the back seat of the mini-van during our long journey home. And the fact that he’s still making jokes and we’re still laughing is no small wonder. 3,800 miles there and back. But worth every minute.

My friend, Bev, sent a text yesterday. Beautiful pictures of your family in FL. And you look like a family!! 🙂

I know exactly what she means, and I feel it, too. I’ve been feeling it for several days. A shift of some sort, and I’m not sure if it’s me or them or all of us, but I know it’s true. This is family.

Last night back home in my own kitchen I was making sandwiches, thinking it was an hour earlier than it was – clocks still on daylight savings time. Luke was hungry (when isn’t he?) and needed a bit of supper before heading back to the U of M. (Sky-U-Mah, my boy. Still sad our Gophers didn’t win.) And it was there over bread and cheese it hit me. This coming and going is easier now. I can tell I’m not clinging nearly so much to the-way-it-was. And the-way-things-are feels right and normal and good.

All eight of us spent spring break in Florida this year, but in three different places on three different trips. Nils is still in Orlando with the band and choir. Grant and Kiana vacationed with friends in Pensacola – twelve hours north of us and still in the same state. We all sent texts comparing weather forecasts and basketball brackets, but our paths never crossed. This is our new normal. I said it to Kyle during a conversation about family vacations and how there’s no way of knowing what it will look like by spring break next year.

And I’m okay with this normal. This coming-and-going and who-knows-who-will-show-up at dining room table. For now this is family the way it should be.

I did wonder at times, while we vacationed, what people were thinking when they watched this crew. From pasty white to already-tan; two speaking Spanglish; three calling me Mom. With Luke in the mix we don’t fly under the radar. But nobody asked or even seemed to be curious, and we were content to just be who we are. This is us.

Boys headed back to school this morning, spirits light and looking happy. Spring break over – but real spring just beginning. March 20, and temps are mild for Minnesota, although Florida tans will be fading fast. We’re still watching March Madness, but it’s baseball season for Nils and Jimmy, and Felipe starts his work-outs for track. One quarter left until school’s out and graduation, and whatever comes next after that.

Bring it on. This FAMILY is ready.

Beauty

Beauty

Our friend Andi said something a while back that I’ve been chewing on ever since. She said she doesn’t believe in beauty. She doesn’t think it’s really a thing. And I know what she’s saying. Andi of all people knows what it is to be hurt by those who define what’s beautiful and what is not. And so she keeps her distance and says she’d rather not.

But not me. Me – I’m constantly craving this piece of something – and what is it? It’s deep in me. So deep I’m sure it’s got to be real and – can I say this? Holy. It’s a holy thing. Beauty.

I’ve asked myself this question a hundred times since Andi’s comment. What is beautiful? Who decides?

I start my morning with window cracked to birdsong and breeze and a sky lit pink. And my soul sings its beauty. How does it know?

My boys play music haunting and sweet and it’s there again. That joy and longing and this has to be something. Deep and real.

Words spoken or written or portrayed on a screen. I’m always searching for this illusive something – not ordinary or predictable – but somehow special and there’s no other way to say it. It’s beauty I’m seeking.

I attend a conference and the seminary teacher says something so profound I’m moved to tears. Not polite tears quickly hidden, but a deluge that last for an hour while I sit in that prayer garden praying and praising, soaked in the joy. So much beauty I hardly know what to do with it all.

I am made for beauty. I’m sure of it now. The author I’ve been reading, whose words quicken my soul, he says it like this. If your sight is clear you will see light, beauty and wonder all around you. Yes, it’s true. It’s true! Beauty is real. If we could just see it.

Of course it can be distorted. Isn’t that true about every good thing the Father created? We can so easily ruin it. And do. Curse that curse that darkened what God meant to draw us to Him. HE IS BEAUTY. Yes, HIM. Is it possible? It’s HIM in that sunrise. HIM in the music. HIM in my childlike wonder and unbridled delight. If my sight is clear He’s revealing His beauty in a million glimpses. Do I see it?

Felipe’s artwork hangs above the piano. He said it himself. This is my heart. This boy who struggles to say it in words, but whose heart overflows on the canvas. The first time he shows me I’m standing there speechless. How did you do it? Thank you for sharing this beauty with me.

Tomorrow we pack our bags and hit the road for a spring break trip. Heading south as far as we can possibly go without leaving the country. I grumbled the first time I did that math. More days on the journey than the destination. But then God whispered. Open your eyes and enjoy the beauty. Point taken. I get it. The journey’s the vacation, and I’m all in.

This week with Angie – there’s a whole story there, still being written. The most beautiful answer to my pleading with God. And His YES is more than I can ask or imagine. All afternoon Angie’s sending these BEAUTIFUL texts, full of scripture and wonder and the JOY of it all. HE IS BEAUTY.

My eyes are open like they haven’t been in a very long time. Seeing His Kingdom through the eyes of the Spirit. Eternal Beauty and it’s pointing to HIM.

Parenting

fake-baby

Jimmy got to practice being a parent this week. For two days he carried around the fake baby from health class. It’s a computer-programmed experiment designed to convince teens they are not ready to be moms and dads and it probably does the trick. But come on, teachers. It’s nearly the end of the quarter and my son hasn’t slept in two straight nights. This boy’s already logging detention hours all week long from too many tardies – almost solely the fault of a particular brother who tortures us all every morning, and whose first hour teacher doesn’t seem to care. Ugh. Life’s not fair.

Parenting is not an easy calling. This is the point of the health class experience, and it’s certainly the lesson of real-life, too. We’re all in over our heads.

My work is ministry to moms and dads. And I still shake my head when I think about the timing of how God put me in this position. How my new job title and my new mom title overlapped so neatly, and it was no mistake my professional training would roll out in real time. The lessons He’s taught me in recent years have been His blessing.

Last weekend I volunteered at a parenting conference held the past three years at my kids’ school. Each year since becoming the mom of five I’ve helped with the event, a whole day of sessions filled with parenting advice. Each year I’ve come away head spinning, heart aching, more than a little overwhelmed.

But this time was different. Unexpected.

The theme of this conference (perhaps unintended) was parenting in a digital age. Each speaker addressed it. The statistics and realities swamping our families in this wildly connected world we live in. And I’ll be the first to confess, these are the challenges that have been the most daunting for me the past couple of years. I’m in over my head – no question.

So it was a surprise last Saturday at the Legacy conference when all day long I felt affirmed. Encouraged. I sensed God’s pleasure. Why?

It’s this. I finally realized – I CAN’T do this. Like really – can’t. We can’t do this – my husband and me. It’s impossible. Every year the stats are more dismal, the realities more stunning. Our kids can outsmart us; the possibilities can sink us. We’re IN OVER OUR HEADS. And that, my friends, is good news.

As in. GOSPEL.

I’ve said it this way a hundred times. The Good News of the Gospel is Jesus does for us what we can’t do ourselves. This is what saved us, and it’s saving us still.

We literally CAN’T. We can’t do it. Moms, dads, and kids, and the rest of us, too. If we think we can do this, we’re fooling ourselves.

It’s taken so many years to finally get this message. But last Saturday I realized it’s working. I am totally dependent on God. I can’t, but He can and HE IS.

There’s not one thing I’m really equipped to handle, and yet miracles are happening all the time. It’s just like the sign says on my dining room wall: The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still. And it’s true.

My job is to love my boys and to show them Jesus. The rest is HIS. I say it often. God, this is up to you! And it’s working. He is ABLE to do it.

Last Sunday we got some parenting practice when one of our teens had a driving mishap. In our own driveway. (I have to smile now thinking about how my very last post was about Sandcastles, and let’s just say this was an inevitable wave.) Two cars looking tough and a teen shook up – but later both Kyle and I had the same impression. It was worth it to show boys the love of their Father. Boys – are you watching? Are you noticing HIM?

We can’t do this. There’s no possible way. But He does for us what we can’t do ourselves.

Good news for this mom who’s in over her head (: