Summertime check in, numero dos

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Greetings, dear friends.  I’m in the middle of unloading from Costco, prepping our house for a week away, and getting stuff together for our trip.  Is there a better time to write a new post?  I don’t think so!  All of the refrigerated stuff is away and I have to leave to pick a daughter up in a half-hour so what else was I really going to get done?

We’ve reached the point in the summer where two of our kids had dreads in their hair.  I actually had to schedule our middlest to see her hairdresser because two sections of her hair required professional help.  Super proud moments.  Thought sharing them with the internet was appropriate.  (To be fair to myself, her hair is crazy curly and we were trying to let her learn to take care of it herself.  Too soon, maybe?)

I’ve had this back pain for about a week now that I’m fairly certain stems from carrying 50 or 769 bags up from our basement filled with trash and donations.  I cleaned our things out last week when the rest of the family was either away on a service trip or in day camp.  Also, wearing flip flops while I did it.  Apparently I am reaching the age where I need to consider the support my footwear has to offer.  I also bought a pair of capris from Costco today, and am looking into joining a Bridge club.

The main reason I’m writing this is procrastination.  I am already in vacation mode.  All that’s standing between me and our trip is 20 loads of laundry, three days of bored but lovable kiddos,  and lots of telling myself the house does not need to look perfect for the family members  that are staying here to help with Grandma and Grandpa while we are away.  Let’s not talk about my silverware drawer or the cupboard with my pots and pans or the pantry. Okay?  Great.

We’ve banned slime-making for a few weeks here at the homestead.  I was outside tending to our Japanese beetle traps (which are a whole other story) when I heard, “Mooooo-ooooooom!  K got slime on my ceiling!”   That, coupled with a mess that was not cleaned up well, pushed the parentals over the edge.  Our youngest has a creative mind that will someday be a delight but right now it is just making lots of messes.  For example, the other day my husband found blue paint, body wash, and turkey lunch meat in a nook in the house that our girls call The Sister Fort.  When confronted with these things, our girl confessed she was hoping to make Blue Turkey Slime.  I have found all manner of half-made slime around the house and I feel like if I kept a closer eye on her she would be attached to my body.  I really don’t know when she makes this stuff.

So, that’s where we’re at around here.  Happy, tired, messy, imperfect, and ready for vacation. We’re almost there…

On kids growing up

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I remember when our oldest girls first came to live with us. They were 5 years old and 20 months old.  Zero kids to 2 overnight, and we had a week of adjustment before my husband had to go away for a weekend youth retreat.  I still panic a little just recalling those moments, and the years that followed.  Every summer it was a week away, sometimes more.  There was the weekend winter retreat, then a few others thrown in here and there.  It’s usually true that everything hits the fan when one parent goes away (and many parents are away MUCH more), but when you are working through very hard things with kiddos who have had lots of goodbyes and they haven’t all been pleasant?  Well, it’s not always fun to be the one who gets to regulate that!

Anyway, in those early days, we survived by keeping busy.  When Daddy went away, we did staycation stuff.  We went to Lake Tobias to the animal farm.  We did Chocolate World, Oregon Dairy Days, Hands on House, Crayola Experience, the cheap movies, day camps, and more.  The cost of survival was high those days, quite literally!  My in-laws, my parents, church friends and family…everyone helped.  The first two summers we had our littlest were probably the hardest.  She didn’t sleep well and got an ear infection with every tooth, and all of the things were still hitting the fan when we were down a parent.  Managing with two parents was difficult, managing with one felt impossible.

Fast forward to this week… our oldest is able to be away with her dad because she’s IN MIDDLE SCHOOL (WHAT?!).  We can’t take day trips anymore because we need to be around for Grandma and Grandpa.  By God’s grace, in this stage of life, that’s not as hard as it would have been 4 years ago.  I still know my limits and what the kids need, so day camp was the thing this week.  Could we have done without it?  Yes.  Was it nice to not have to?  My GOODNESS, yes.  There are SO MANY words every day and when I’m the only set of ears…On top of the other responsibilities of living here, having this break every day and having time to get a bigger project completed was life-giving.

Here’s the thing. I was drowning during those early years.  They were the hardest years of my life.  But now, just 4-7 years later, I would do it all over again.  I would absolutely go back because those hard years have brought the most beautiful fruit.  Even without the extra hard stuff, those early years are hard for a mom.  No sleep, diapers, all of the mom guilt thanks to the internets… BLECH.

Know that the years ahead are hard, but a different kind of hard.  I’m finding that what’s really important in parenting older kids is remembering that they are in need of everyday grace, just like me.  (Sidebar: Sometimes the expectations we place on our kids and other peoples kids are ridiculous.  What were you like in those years?  I was an emotional hot mess. I get that we want our kids to be great, but they can’t be great when they’re older if they don’t get the grace and space they need when they’re younger, you know?)

Anyway, we’re at the end of this week.  The kids are alright.  I am alright.  In a few hours my husband is going to get home, exhausted from a week with middle school kids.  My daughter will get home, exhausted but over the top with stories and experiences and I will have to listen to what happened each day as she goes through the week with me, down to what she had for snack EVERY DAY at The Apple Tree.  And I will do my best to listen, because someone once told me that I can’t expect her to come to me with the big things if I don’t hear the little things.

I found a lot of pictures of our oldest while I was cleaning out the basement this week, and it made me feel a lot of things.  Most of all, I wish I could go back and tell myself just how worth it all of the hard things would be.  And when I see the chubby cheeks of our middlest in old photos, then see the long and lean girl she’s growing into, I get a little sad…it’s going so fast.  She’s growing so much and I want to grab onto the moments while I can.  And our littlest…well, she’s still in the chubby cheek phase but it’s coming to a close.  I can see her growing and now I know why the youngest really does get more.  A.) because parents are just tired, and B.) because all of a sudden parents realize they won’t ever do this again and they want to enjoy every last bit.  Good thing for us is that she won’t ever let us miss her-she’s good at making her presence known.

I said I would never be a mom who told other moms to enjoy every moment.  And it’s true.  You can’t enjoy every single moment.  But I’ll say this-good or bad, those moments fly by.  These are the days.  There will be a different kind of joy when we have an empty nest, but neither one of us are ready for that yet.  It’ll be good-we believe that.  This season is good, too, though.

On that squirrelly thing called shame

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Last night I fed this to my children while they watched shows on their Kindles:

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What you are seeing is a PBJ on a hot dog roll, barbecue chips, and gummy bears.  My younger daughter was still hungry and finished the rest of our turkey lunch meat by eating it directly from the container while she watched other little girls play with their dolls on Kid’s YouTube.

KEEP ON MOVING WITH YOUR JUDGEMENTS AND DROP THEM OFF SOMEWHERE ELSE.

My husband is away this week, and has our oldest with him.  He’s our middle school pastor and she’s part of the youth group.  They’re doing some great work in a community a few counties over.  Our younger two are in a local day camp that is keeping them busy! While they’re gone, I’m cleaning out part of our basement.  It’s huge, and when we moved in here three years ago so much of our stuff was just dumped down there.  Three years later, I have the time to work on it.  But all of this is making me tired!

Last night we had about an hour at home between day camp and our 9 year old’s soccer practice so I decided to let them full on crash.  A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do, you know?  The kids thought they had won the lottery when I let them have their food in the living room WITH A SCREEN.  I got so many hugs and I love you’s.

Here’s the thing…  I’ve come to realize that there will be days when the kids eat junk and watch more tv than usual, and these days do not need to cause a spiral into the pool of mom guilt that I would eventually drown in.  We still only allow trace amounts of red dye in their diets so I feel like I’m winning at something.  (If my kids ever call fruit punch “The Devil’s Juice” around you, please don’t be offended.)

I’ve reached this point in life-maybe because of the age of our kids, maybe because I got help for depression, entirely because of Jesus-where I have dropped so much of the shame that used to be my constant companion.  I used to say I didn’t care what people thought but oh my goodness I absolutely cared.  So much.  I hid from friendships because I figured if someone really knew me they wouldn’t like what they saw.  But God has given me freedom-and it’s been the journey of many years- that has allowed me to drop this stuff.

We have a bird-feeder in front of our house.  My dad built it.  It’s tall and sturdy and cemented into the ground.  It’s not going anywhere.  He put white PVC pipe around the thick metal pole the feeder sits on so that squirrels don’t climb up and eat the seeds.  I put cooking spray all over that PVC pipe so that the squirrels, when they try to climb up, just slide right off.  The food meant for the birds stays safe, and the squirrel goes away for awhile.

Sometimes shame is like that squirrel, trying to climb back up and take what is meant for good.  I don’t let it win, though.  I don’t coat myself in PAM, but I do  guard myself with God’s word.  I guard myself with vulnerable and transparent relationships, my husband first of all.  I guard myself with service, because seeking to serve others is a quick way to get over yourself.  I am aware of shame, that squirrelly pest.  But I do what I need to do to keep it at bay.

Tonight we’re having sweet and sour chicken for dinner (THANK YOU HELLO FRESH).  The kids who have not bathed since Monday will get bathed.  (But isn’t swimming in a pool basically a bath? Asking for a friend.  Nope.  Actually, asking for me.) I might play a game or even do a craft (gasp!)-we don’t have any other plans.  But it doesn’t mean I’m a better mom tonight than I was last night, with the Kindles and lunch meat out of the container for dinner.  It means it’s what I can do tonight.

Do what you can do today, with great love for God and your people.  That’s a great plan, right there.

On loving well

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I’ve been watching my kids swim a lot this summer.  They leap from the diving board with abandon, a dab thrown in here or there, some twists, sometimes a full-out belly flop. It’s been reminding me of a quote from a book I read…”Don’t put a toe in the water with your love; grab your knees and do a cannonball.”

It’s an image God’s been using in my life lately, this cannonball kind of loving.  It’s easy to keep people at a distance, something that I have excelled at in the past.  I engaged with my head but not my heart.  I’m not saying my head shouldn’t be involved, I’m just saying God gave me both for a reason so I may as well use them.  I was having a conversation with a friend recently that was headed in a serious direction and when I was tempted to say I was tired (because I was) or I had to get going because I had other things to get done (because I did), God whispered to me.  He said, “Do a cannonball.”  So instead of ending the conversation we huddled up for awhile longer and went deep and God was real and present and it was pretty amazing.

I’ve struggled through many seasons of trying to figure out the best way to love someone.  I’ve made lots of mistakes and will make more, because girlfriend still does not have it all figure out.  There was a time when I was TRUTH MCGEE and I knew right and wrong and shouted it without regard for the person’s heart.  Then my pendulum went swinging over to the other side, where it’s all ok and my empath heart hated seeing anyone hurt and I stayed away from hard stuff.  The problem with both of those extremes is that I wasn’t trusting God in either one.  I wasn’t trusting Him to be able to be at work in another’s heart.  I wasn’t trusting that He could reveal truth without it being shouted, or that He could stitch up the hurt and reveal His redemptive work.

So I’m somewhere in the middle now, trying to keep my head down and love the people He has around me and just do the next right thing.  I’ve learned I can trust Him.  I’ve learned not nearly as much depends on me as I would like to think.  I’ve learned that there is truth and there is love and somehow my Creator can help me to walk mysteriously in both at the same time.  In fact, I must.  I can have all of the right rules and head knowledge but if I don’t have love-true, sacrificial, putting the other person first love- I am nothing.  See, this loving looks different than I thought it should look.  Life and perspective have not changed what’s true, but it does necessarily change how it’s applied.

I encourage my kids to cannonball into a pool because I trust that the structure of the pool they’re landing in will hold everything up.  Their jump will not break the lining or take out all of the water or ruin everything.  The structure supports the leap, you know?  So I’m cannonballing, you guys.  I trust the structure to support my leap.

Summertime check in, round 1

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I honestly have no clue if there will be more than one round of this, but as I like to say, sometimes I dabble in optimism.  How is it almost the end of June and it feels like it’s almost the end of July?  I think it’s because we’ve already crammed so much in these first few weeks of summer!  Moms, listen up.  There are summers that make up a very small percentage of your life that seem to require shirts that say, “Hello, my name is not Julie and I am not your cruise ship director.”  And then there are the rest of the summers that require just as much running and scheduling as all of the other days of the year.  Cherish the ones where you can stay in your pajamas as long as possible and never leave your house.  I promise, they end quickly.

We’ve had a short vacation, soccer camp, and VBS already.  I’ve hit up a concert with my sister (HAPPY BIRTHDAY STACI), we’re doing swimming lessons for our youngest (thanks to my in-laws), and also managed a dance recital and dress rehearsal.  The next month and a half will be much more chill, hopefully, although my husband and our oldest are headed on a missions trip for a week and we have a week-long trip coming up the end of July. Some family things, but nothing crazy… hopefully the lazier days of summer can come now?  We’ll see!

Something I’m missing this year is being able to help my parents with their garden.  There is a rhythm to seasons, and not helping with the planting and weeding and picking and then canning feels really weird to me.  Last year I wasn’t much help but I canned a lot and put back a ton of green beans and corn and salsa.  This year I’m telling myself I’ll take the extra time with the kids and that’s a gift.  I actually got teary looking at all of my empty jars.  I know.  Dramatic.  I would love to put a garden in at our house, but getting it moving is the difficulty.  I thought about raised beds but again, lots of front-end work.  If anyone has done this on a somewhat larger scale and has any tips, let me know!  I would like to have a plan for next year.

I’m working through 1/2 Corinthians with some ladies this summer in a Bible study and it’s been really good for me.  Having some extra accountability over the summer has been key, and I’m grateful to be in the Word each day.  With our current schedule of kids and caregiving, finding time to exercise has seemed impossible.  I had hoped to get back on that wagon over the summer but that might have to wait until fall.  If all I eat is lettuce and the occasional kernel of quinoa I should make it to fall with minimal damage.

I’m still struggling with the news coming from our border.  I’m thinking of the children who aren’t with their moms and dads right now, and asking God to make a way.  I’m calling and emailing people who God can use to that end and hoping to see some change. It’s making me hold our girls a whole lot tighter right now.

Watching our girls grow up is such a bittersweet thing.  I miss the chubby, toddler days of our youngest, and the zany dressing days of our middlest.  We missed so much of both with our oldest that her getting older is an even more difficult pill to swallow.  I know we’re giving them wings and blah blah blah. Recently our oldest asked if I pray for a baby (we’ve never conceived).  When I said no, her jaw hit.the.floor. “Well, just so you know, I PRAY FOR A BABY ALL THE TIME.”  I let her know that if I ever get pregnant it will be a straight up miracle from God thanks to all of her prayers.  She assured me she wasn’t stopping, and said I would have three others little mothers who would just LOVE to love on a baby sibling.  I let her know that “little mothers” go to school and don’t have to wake up during the night or go through actual labor so I think we’re good here.  What a trip. I don’t need to start all over, but I sure did love the days we had.

Hoping that each of you reading this is enjoying a lazy day here or there, and making the most of the warm summer weather!

On taking care of the children

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I’m writing this because, over the last few days, my mind and heart have become overwhelmed by the situation at our border.  I am not a legislator.  I am not a journalist.  I am a mom who follows some people on twitter and googles the questions I have to try to find reliable answers.  So I’m going to share my heart as a mom, but please don’t ask me to cite each and every resource.  If you’re still reading and don’t share my opinion, I would simply encourage you to do some of your own research-and not just by listening to the same voices you always hear.

One of my daughters overheard me calling our senators a few days ago and asked me why I was calling them.  I explained, to the best of my ability, the end of catch and release at our borders and the beginning of zero tolerance.  I explained how this affects children and why I feel as though our lawmakers need to make a change.  After her initial anger, she expressed fear that this would happen to her.  “No, honey, because we are citizens of our country.  We will not be separated.  We are safe.”  Why, she wondered, wouldn’t we want all kids to be safe?

Kids should be kept safe.  That’s why the majority of their parents are fleeing their countries of origin.  They’ve seen immediate or extended family murdered and they want something better for their kids.  So they run.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

(an excerpt from Home, by Warsan Shire)
In my non-expert research, I have found that there are policies that could be put in place by the US that would help to stabilize these Central American countries.  That’s not happening.   Men, women and children flee.  They run towards the US.  Some try to enter legally, some do not (for many reasons-if you ask google, it can tell you).
The US has had this idea of family separation on the table before.  I know that now.  I didn’t know that then.  But what I do with what I know now is the important thing.  I do know that catch and release helped families stay together.  From what I understand, the immigration courts are not equipped to handle the cases coming before them and that is what is causing all of these children to remain in detention centers for undetermined amounts of time.  You can research and find articles that support this, and you can also find articles that will deny this.  Welcome to information age.  Research your source. Find out if they typically produce news that lines up with a white nationalist agenda.  Find out of they typically produce news that lines up with a far-left agenda.  You are smart and able to do this.
Because I know the cries of a traumatized child, I will do my part to help other children who cry out.  Because Jesus tells me to love others preferentially (see His sermon on the mount), I cannot justify this traumatization of my neighbors.  I will support working towards legislation that honors human life (this of course means both the born and the unborn-I can support both of these).  I find it interesting that so many will take trips to these countries for a few weeks at a time but when they come knocking at our door we say no thank you.  I find it interesting that many will sing “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” except for when it comes to THESE borders.
I’m reminded of God’s words to the Israelites in Amos 5:21-24,
“I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
 Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
I won’t share article after article anymore, I promise.  These thoughts have been rolling around in my head and it’s been so difficult to focus on much else-I needed to get this out and share my heart.  I recognize the privilege I have, and while I do not seek to be divisive, I do need to use my voice as I am able.  We won’t all agree, but may we all be civil, and consider the full personhood of those we disagree with and also of those who are hurting.

On being present

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Two more days of school for the kiddos, after today. Half-days. I am so ready to be done with the school schedule but let me tell you… I was sick for most of last week and it knocked me on my rear. Then my husband had some stuff that kept him out of the running for a few days. And my to-do list went undone.

Last week I felt like God was teaching me some good things in the stillness. This week it leans more towards feeling buried by work that needs to be done and not enough time to do it.

I’m stretching myself by trying to choose being present. I went on an all-day field trip with our middle daughter yesterday. It’s her last year at this school-we’re switching her next year-and it’s bittersweet. Being present with her during this transition is important. But it meant another day’s work went undone.

It seems like a no-brainer for most of you but it really is a struggle for me. I’m a task-oriented gal. I didn’t realize how much so until we transitioned to our current living situation, where my work was here at home.

God’s teaching me to manage my expectations in a more healthy manner, I suppose. Sometimes these lessons are sweet and sometimes they’re just hard!

I’m glad for His grace, for each moment of the day. I know He’s glad when I place people over tasks. The tasks always seem to get done, somehow. But the people, they won’t always be with me.

Taking a deep breath, and committing the to-do list and the people to God today. He’s pretty good at bringing order and life. I’m going to trust Him with that today. Join me?

On messes and beauty

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So I mentioned the cozy space we made on the back porch in my last post.  img_1137

Isn’t she lovely?  It used to be a woodpile, now it’s my coffee spot.  It’s an early morning-midday-evening escape.  As it turns out, other smaller members of the family like it too.  It’s also their early morning-midday-evening escape.

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And this is what it looks like the morning after.  You can barely see the little tupperware container, but it has a robin’s egg our youngest found on the ground.  She made a nest for it and put the egg in it and was certain she could coax it to open.  (This is also the same girl who told me at bedtime last night that, “God should make a law against hunting, because what about all of the babies that are trying to get back to their mommies but their mommies have been killed?!  That is not ok, mom!”  She is the tenderest of  hearts.)

Anyway.  This space you see above.  I had ideas about it.  You might not think it looks terrible, and you would be right.  But I like order, way too much.  I like things to be “just so.”  Honestly, this entire journey of my life has been God unraveling my need for ridiculous amounts of order!

And I could easily choose to look at the bottom photo and mentally straighten everything up to make it pleasing to my eye, or I can look at the bottom photo and allow all that is in it to be pleasing to my heart.  I can choose to remember our littlest running around with her butterfly net, hair streaming behind her.  I can remember what was like when I watched our oldest two take turns blowing bubbles while I read aloud last night, from Bob Goff’s latest treasure.  They threw football and played basketball with their dad and our youngest used our end tables as drums when she had a friend over to play.

See, I’m learning that before I clean a mess up, I need to sit in it and look for the beauty that is there.  It’s like that with a lot in life, isn’t it?  Life is messy.  It’s not usually what we ever thought it would be.  But I’m finding that even in the messiest, most chaotic times, there can also be beauty.  Sometimes we have to wait for it, sometimes it shows up pretty quickly.  This is the redemptive work of Christ, though.  I sing the song with our kids, “God makes messy things beautiful when you put it in His hands.”  (Thanks, Slugs and Bugs.)

He is able to take messes exponentially bigger than my back porch and make them exponentially more beautiful.  I can’t do that with my own hands!  I would make the messes bigger if I tried.  (I may know this from experience?)

So I’m learning and choosing, by God’s good grace, to see the beauty when I can and to trust it’s coming when I can’t.  I hope you’ll join me.

On woodpiles

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It’s been almost three years since we moved in with my husband’s grandparents.  What a journey it has been, and what a blessing. Our girls love the yard at our house.  It’s over an acre and has beautiful, mature trees.  There’s a huge flat area on two sides of the house, where my husband played football with his cousins as he grew up, and where he now plays soccer with the girls.  The other day our middlest said, “This would be the perfect spot to get married, mom!  Can I?!”  Melt.my.heart.

I grew up in the country, with views that stretched.  Uninterrupted treetops until they met the sky.  Behind our house now, there is farmland.  Glorious, rolling farmland with views for miles and miles.  Sunsets that make God’s presence loudly known.  This contemplative’s heart is filled after a long day by spending just 15 minutes on the back porch.

When we first moved in, the back porch had loads of split and stacked wood.  We knew we wanted to make the space more livable-seating for Grandma and Grandpa so they could enjoy the fresh air, and also extra living space for our family in the warmer months.  But that wood had to be moved, and we wanted to be careful about it.  Grandpa had spent hours upon hours laboring to stockpile that supply in order to help heat the house.  It was more than moving a woodpile, it was a sign that times were changing.  It was eventually cleaned up and given to relatives who needed it to heat their own home, and it was a great blessing to them.  I remember the look on Grandpa’s face as it all got hauled away.  It was the right time, the right thing to do.  But it was bittersweet.

It all got me to thinking… there are lots of woodpiles in my life, little monuments to labors and things I had placed importance in, that need to be shifted and moved to create space for something better.  Not all of them are bad, but they still need to be moved to make room for what is to come.  This process is sometimes painful, when life’s seasons change and it’s beyond our control.  But it’s healthy and it’s good and it’s necessary.

As the wood was loaded up we found little notes that Grandpa had made, noting the dates he had split and stacked the wood. I don’t know what woodpiles will need to be shifted around the next corner or what notes will be unearthed when it happens.  But I am grateful that though there may be some pain in the shifting, beauty often follows.

On our hidden stories (AND FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER A GIVEAWAY!)

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There are many reasons why I sit at this laptop and type away and click “publish.”  One of the reasons is that I think it’s important to share stories and offer hope-in my case, Jesus.  Friends, I have recently reached my 100th post in this space!  I was thinking about how to celebrate this milestone and then it dawned on me… but it won’t make sense unless you read this post, and I’ll give you the info at the end.

My husband asked me a few days ago if I would be willing to be one of the speakers this summer in the series he offers our middle school students.  I’m hesitant because our daughter is one of those students.  She knows my story-we feel like honesty is really important around here.  But her knowing my story versus her friends knowing my story?  Two totally different things.  It got me to thinking about my middle school and high school years.

I was not churchy enough for church but I was too churchy for my school friends.  There was a big disconnect for me-in 8th grade, one of my school friends told me all about losing her virginity.  A few days later, I sat with my church friends while they talked about the evils of Disney movies.  I wasn’t either extreme, and I didn’t know where I fit.  So, without going into detail, those years were filled with lots of searching.  I was active in church and I did love God, but I also hated being left out of parties because I didn’t drink.  I was always so afraid that if anybody from church REALLY knew me, they would be disappointed and angry with me.  I lived lots of life with shame, carrying that shame into my relationship with my now husband because he was a good guy.  He hadn’t made some of the same choices I had and I felt like I didn’t deserve him.  It took a few years (even into marriage) to fully process this and receive some healing.

So there’s a podcaster and writer that I love.  Her name is Jamie Ivey… she wrote this book about her journey through her high school and college years and the shame she carried into her own marriage to a guitar playing youth pastor.  In so many ways, our stories run parallel.  They’re not the same, but they are similar.  And it got me to thinking… If I had these feelings and this shame, and if SHE had these feelings and this shame, and all of the ladies commenting on her book did too, maybe there are some ladies around me that are silently dealing with this.

Here’s what my earnest desire is.  I long for community that is honest and vulnerable and looking towards hope.  I want to get things in your hands that spur you in that direction.  So, in honor of all of our stories and the stories I share here (100 so far!), I want to give away two copies of Jamie’s book, titled If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free.

Here’s what Jamie says about her book:

What if you knew all the moments of my past that I am not proud of? What if you really knew me, the messy parts that I’ve hoped to forget and worked hard to conceal? For so long, my greatest fear was what you might think of me if you only knew the whole story.
 
It’s exhausting, this guarding of our stories and struggles. Fear of being found out had caused me to hide—but I wasn’t just covering my flaws, I was unintentionally blocking the beauty of God’s grace. My journey to real freedom began when I quit running from my mess and started trusting Jesus to make something beautiful of it. 
 
This book is that story. It’s stepping out of shame and insecurity into gospel freedom. It’s  letting God turn our failures and frailties into testimonies of His faithfulness. I’ve discovered that when we quit hiding, God gets the glory and we are able to fully embrace not only our relationship with Him, but also with one another. 

Transparency brings freedom, and in every moment, we’ll find that God can absolutely be trusted.

 

YES AND THANK YOU, MA’AM. This book would make a great gift for a high school or college grad, or for any young adult lady in your life.  It would also be a great book for moms-you need to read it and let this inform you about what your own daughters may be dealing with.  The portions where Jamie’s parents respond to her struggles were really difficult and beautiful.  To be entered into the giveaway, just comment on this post or on the Facebook or Instagram posts it is shared on.  The winners will randomly be chosen on Monday May 21st, at 6pm.

Thank you for reading with me, for sharing stories with me, and for chasing Jesus with me.  I love this community I’ve been placed in and can’t wait to see what God has around the next corner.

(Jamie Ivey has no idea who I am and is not sponsoring this post or the giveaway.)