claire

claire

Monday, December 14, 2015

Everlasting

When I was young I loved to climb trees. Autumn was my favorite season for a climbing adventure. I remember clearly the smell of the air from my perch  - a bit dusty and a lot smoky and filled with memories of autumns before. I most often found myself in old walnut trees surrounded by yellow and brown leaves, just being held in perfect peace in those husky, worn branches.

Step into present day and I am now watching my kids explore the wooded wonder around them. The twigs they find lying beneath a majestic timber are magically transformed into swords and wands and arrows with just a touch of their eager hands. Given the chance, they rake fallen leaves into strategic plump piles only to disrupt the order by jumping and jumping and jumping again. They climb any bough they can find that is low enough to accept them into its arms. And then they rest. Just being held. As I watch my kids I often wish I could escape and be lost in care free play with them. Instead I am wandering through the rewarding and challenging task of mothering, teaching and nurturing my small adventures.

When our school year started this fall I was incredibly excited and full of idealistic goals. And then life happened. The workload of five kids age 9 and under was realized. Our dream of a house on acreage became a reality  - but it came packaged as an energy consuming fixer upper. Matt's typically family friendly work schedule began to look like the 80 hours a week he labored in residency. Claire spent time in the emergency room with a still mysterious allergy. Matt faced a health scare that shocked us. And then one little thing after another stopped working. The car. The oven. The washing machine. Trivial under normal circumstances, these mishaps carried the weight of the straw that broke the camels back and overwhelmed me. Through it all, when I would sit and lean into God I heard one word. Surrender. Over and over and over again. Surrender, surrender, surrender. And so now I find myself in the midst of learning what surrender looks like.

I'm learning that surrender is not holding on to how I think something should look.
 But instead being held by the One who knows all.
It is letting go of any illusion I have of control.
And instead trusting that God is the perfect author of my story.
 
This path of surrender starts when I choose to give him my day - from sunup to sundown. I sit in the morning and make a list of "my" plans for the day. And then I pray over the list. I pray for the incredible patience and peace it takes to let go of my plan if I must in order to welcome His plan.

Daily - often times hourly - I have to give Him the fears that exist as I navigate parenthood and this home educating journey. I must choose to trust that the unexpected tugging I felt to homeschool when Henry was just a baby was placed in my heart by God.

Surrender and humility complement each other perfectly. In this season I am learning to accept help. Meals come and I receive them with a thankful heart. I meet the generous offer to wash, dry and fold my laundry with gratitude. A team of servants descend upon our new land and spend three days clearing rotting fences and pruning trees and removing debris. And Matt and I accept with all we have to give - gratitude and humility.

I'm discovering that deep trenches of a life of striving don't partner well with sweet surrender. So I sit. Even when life spins. I sit. I open my bible. I close my eyes. I write. I pour out my heart. Here and in a journal and in my prayers. I let the kids watch TV nightly so I can rest. And often just watch them. The clutter piles high on the counters. The car is full of crumbs and coats. Shoes pour out of closets. Paper and schoolwork and bills abound. And yet, in the midst of it all, peace reigns.

The other day I was basking in this peace and I physically felt as if I was perched in an old, worn tree. And I was overcome. Because in that moment the feeling of peace I was experiencing felt exactly like those tree top moments of my childhood. And I knew the One who sees all, the One who is writing my story, the one carrying me along this path of surrender is the One who has been carrying me all along. In his strong, loving, everlasting arms. 




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Just A Moment

 
 
Momma, if you are standing on tired feet please take just a minute to cuddle up on the couch for this. If kids are pulling on your legs, perhaps wait to listen until they're tucked away for the night, breathing sweetly. But when you have time - a precious commodity I know - please take a few of those sacred moments to hear this message.
 
 It's simple. And powerful.
And it's all you need this advent season and each day beyond.


Just close your eyes and listen here.




 
 
 
 





Saturday, November 14, 2015

And Then We Wait


In a world that will rival for their hearts and attention, it is my hope that my children will be able to recognize the still, small voice of God. This is not a gift that comes naturally to me. I am wired such that my drive to do is stronger than the need God planted in me to just be. Be still. Be calm. Be attentive to things unseen. And yet experience has taught me that those moments of being still are the moments that order all the other events of my day.
 
So in at attempt to train my children in the gentle art of being still we have adopted a morning practice ...
 
After a time of reading together, we all sit on the couch and close our eyes. Individually we ask God if He has anything to say to us. And then we wait. It's hard. But it's getting easier. I tell the kids that an image or thought might come to their mind, and if it does they can say, "God, if this is from you please show me what it means." And then we wait some more.
 
Often times they don't have anything to share. Sometimes it silliness. And that's okay. They are learning to be still. In a world of distractions and busyness and screens competing for their attention, they are learning to set aside time to seek God. They are learning to fix their eyes on things unseen.
 
The other morning when we were practicing the art of stillness I saw an image of a large oak tree, a small house and squirrels. Lots of little squirrels scurrying busily and happily around and over and through yellow grass. The image instantly reminded me of the house on a little piece of this earth we are remodeling. And as I sat with the image I was gently reminded that "unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." (Psalm 127:1)
 
On the same morning Adam saw a "beautiful, warm, golden sunset." He said he felt God telling him "we have a wonderful adventure on the horizon."
 
Henry saw a window with sunlight streaming in and "beautiful glitters of dust in the air." He said mostly he just felt peaceful. But it also reminded him of the window in the school room in our new house and it made him feel "that school is just going to get better and better and better for us."
 
And Claire saw a big puffy heart. And "felt love."
 
As parents we have an endless to do list. Things to do around the house. Things to do at work. Things to do for and with the kids. Things to do for ourselves. And our marriages. Things to do for school and church and neighbors and extended family. Lessons to teach. Practices to attend. Bills to pay. Commitments to keep. All of these things are pressing and immediate. But in the midst of the urgent, let us pray for wisdom not to forget the eternal. And let us respond to the tugging God has placed on all our hearts to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
 
 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Prayer Walk

I woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I laid there, hoping my eyes and body would surrender to the lull of my bed. But they never did. So at 5:04am I got up. I told myself to sit and spend some time meditating on God's word. But I didn't. I told myself to take the dog for a run. But I just couldn't. I told myself to fold a basket of laundry. But that was not going to happen. I told myself to p90x it in the garage with Tony Horton. But I really don't like spending time with him all that much. And so at 5:10 this morning, I found myself just wandering around my house.
 
 I walked from the office ...
 
To the kitchen ...
To the living room.
 
 
Eventually I found myself standing by the front door, looking into the heart of our home.
 
And from somewhere inside, I was filled with a heartfelt longing to pray.
 
 
Lord, please bless whoever walks through these doors today. Help them to be welcomed with love and to feel the warmth of your presence in these walls.
 
 
An abiding joy washed over me as I found myself walking toward our office.
 
 
Lord, help the activities that go on in this room today to be pleasing to you.
Help the time to be well spent. And minds to be eager.
 
 
I walked on toward the kitchen.
 
 
Lord, as I tend to the work of making meals and cleaning dishes and wiping little hands, please help me to work as if I'm working for you. May my thoughts and my actions be an offering to you. Help me to serve my children today out of love, just as you would if you were the maker of this home.
 
 
Onto the dining nook.
 
 
May the meals that are shared around this table today be blessed by you. And may the conversation be pleasing to your ears.
 
 
Next I found myself in the family room.
 
 
Fill this room with laughter and joy today. Protect the kids from bumps and bruises. And when arguments arise please fill me with wisdom and grace to handle each situation.
 
 
And lastly, I was standing in the music nook in our bedroom.
 
 
And Lord, please help any music that rises from this instrument to bring glory to you. Help the fingers and minds that are just learning to be encouraged today by their progress. And help me to be humble and patient as I guide them to practice.
 
 
And when it was all said and done, I was filled with peace. Sweet, sweet peace.
 
Praying through the rooms of my home in the still hours of the morning. How had I never done this before?! I'm sure there are many moms out there who have been lead in such a way. But for me it was a first.
 
And what a blessing it was.
 
Because just a couple hours later when I found myself standing in the kitchen preparing breakfast and the kids wanted eggs and cinnamon sugar toast and grapes and yogurt.
Oh, and "Momma can we pleeeeeaaaasssse have a smoothie toooooooooooooo?"
 
My mind started to go to the place of martyrdom as it so often does.
 
But it stopped as I remembered just hours before standing in that exact spot and praying for a servant's heart. And suddenly everything in me longed to serve my kids with loving kindness.
 
And a few hours later as I stepped over three little bodies laughing and wrestling on the family room floor, I recalled my earlier prayer for joy and laughter to fill the room. And I smiled.
 
And when I lead Henry to the keyboard in the afternoon to practice I suggested that he focus on just one song today. And he did. And he got it! And he felt so proud.
 
In many ways our day today was like all the others. I was busy. The kids were needy. They played and they fought. They needed correction and discipline. We all laughed. And 5/6 of us shed at least a tear. The baby spilled her milk and mom spilled a glass of wine.
 
But when all was said and done, today was just a little different.
And so very wonderful. 
 
Heavenly Father,
Thank you for tugging at my heart this morning.
  And thank you for filling this home.
Amen
 
 
 
 
 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Twists and Turns

It's been so long since I've had time to sit and write. So long in fact that I completely forgot what my last post was about. So when I opened up "A Bunch Of Barron's" just now I needed a reminder. And as I read my post from a few months ago I found myself covered in goose bumps and completely in awe of how God intricately weaves together the story of our lives.
 
In my last post I mentioned a letter Matt sent me in 2001. The letter in fact, that made me realize I loved him. The line that opened my eyes to that love was this ...
 
 
"I want to send my kids to you." 
 
 
When writing that letter, Matt had an unlikely dream of sending his someday children to my someday classroom. Today when I reread those words, the awesomeness of that long ago dream was not lost on me. In fact, it was more meaningful than ever. Because last month Matt and I decided that this fall we are going to home school our children. So it appears that in a twist and turn of events that only God could have known 13 years ago, Matt will indeed be sending his children to me!
 
Thank your Lord for knocking my socks off today.
 
Only you know how I needed this reassurance that the plan we have for our family is indeed a plan you are writing.
 
 
*     *     *
 
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Favorite Happily Ever After

Matt and I took the kids out to dinner last night. We got to the restaurant nice and early, hoping to beat the rush. We still had to wait 15 minutes to be seated. We just missed ordering before a party of thirteen so it took a bit for our order to be placed. The restaurant was particularly busy for a Wednesday night so service was understandably slow. From start to finish, it was a much longer dinner out than I excepted. The kids were squirrely and loud. As they whined and played with knives and picked food off the floor and played musical chairs and bickered over crayons and laughed and scarfed down their food I just gazed across the table at my husband - completely and totally overwhelmed by how much I love this man.
 
 
 
 
 
Matt and I met in 1997, toward the end of our first year of college. My first impression was that he was a "very nice hippie". Years passed and we were very good friends. During the time our college years overlapped in San Luis Obispo we spent many hours talking about life and dreams and goals and family. But neither of us ever thought we would end up together, married and parenting 4 children. In 2001 I had just graduated college and I was preparing to get my teaching credential. Matt was finishing at UCSD and applying to medical schools. After not talking for almost 2 years we had a brief email exchange in which I learned he was a bit worried about the application (and acceptance) process. After our email exchange I sent him a letter, hoping to encourage him along in the process. Two weeks later I received a letter from Matt. 
 
 
 
 
Prior to this letter, I never thought of marrying Matt. I admired the man he was but I never thought he was the man for me. But one sentence in one very dear letter changed all of that.
 
"I want to send my kids to you!"
 
The moment I read that line my heart skipped a beat and I thought,
 
"I want your kids to be my kids!"
 
The clarity God placed on my heart in that moment was shocking. After a month or so of mulling over my hearts desire to be with Matt I called him. Unknown to me, Matt had been mulling over his own thoughts. And he had decided to call me too - at the exact same moment. So for the first time in nearly two years we talked. It was a brief and awkward phone conversation. After a few more conversations that turned into face to face visits. And a long distance dating relationship that turned into a long distance engagement we were married in July of 2003. And the rest, as they say, is history.
 
My love and appreciation for Matt has grown stronger with each passing year. Matt and I both feel we've been blessed with a marriage we only thought possible in our dreams. The time we spend together isn't always exciting or romantic - but it is always appreciated and treasured. Matt is my most precious gift. And by God's grace he has gifted Matt and I with 4 beautiful children (and 2 more awaiting us in heaven). I thank God every single day that he gave me a heart to love that "very nice hippie" and worked out life so that my kids are indeed his kids too.  
 
 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What Once Was Lost

This is a blog about motherhood (obviously). And an honest one at that (hopefully). For the last 2 months things have been quiet on here. I haven't wanted to open up about my days spent mothering. Because truth be told, for the first time in my life, I spent much of the last two months just wanting to escape motherhood. And for someone who has desired to be a stay at home mom from the time she was a little girl - that's a very painful reality to sit with. Somewhere in the mess and chaos and exhaustion of raising 4 young kids and taking care of a home and loving a husband and being a friend and blogging and finding time for my health and cooking and checking Facebook (too often) and sleeping and carpooling and nursing a baby and paying bills and folding laundry - I lost my joy.

Thankfully, I journey this parenthood road with an incredible husband and partner. And we have an awe-inspiring Heavenly Father guiding both of us. And through the grace and love these two have lavished upon me - joy found me again. 

I noticed it returning when I traded minutes spent on Facebook for minutes spent interacting face to face with my babies.

I began to feel it when I chose to start each morning with a simple, earnest prayer - "Lord, fill me."

I sensed it's presence when I allowed myself to sit. And just be still.

I discovered it when I tuned out the television - completely. And tuned into my husband - wholeheartedly.

I was greeted with joy when I began to see the world around me with overwhelming gratitude once again.

And I found joy when I made time for God to reveal himself to me. Through his Word and through the words of those wiser than me. Words like the following:

     "When a man changes a diaper, when a mother puts a child to her sore breasts to feed her, this parent is doing what God created him or her to do, what gives God great delight, what faithful believers have been doing for thousands of years. Let others mock us; let others ridicule us! That's a small price to pay when our dutiful service brings a smile to God's face and pleasure to his heart. This is the world as God created it, and living in it rightly brings great joy to him.
     Faithful parent, hear me: Heaven rejoices in your service and even cheers you on. The world has mocked and will continue to mock our choices and our estate. But we know the God who called us to live as a family, and we are to find our pleasure, our purpose and our acceptance from him.
     You are doing what God created you to do. Look Godward, friend, and be strengthened."

(excerpt from, Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas)