Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Being Present

Presence. One word. This one word has been the topic of almost all of my conversations with God lately.

A few months ago, I felt his nudge to be present every moment of every day. You see I’m human. I catch myself mumbling a response to my sweet children when I’m busy in the kitchen and they’ve each already asked me a hundred questions. (That makes 400 questions in case you’re wondering.) Mumbling isn’t my intention at all. My heart longs to cup their precious chins in the palms of my hands and speak tenderly straight to their hearts. My flesh is weak and terribly tired by 5:00 most days.

As soon as God announced the challenge, I began to look for ways to say ‘yes.’ I turned off the computer, put down the phone and recharged before the school day ended. Being present is what I want to teach them. I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the most important treasures God has given me.

This morning God whispered, “Presence.” I feel it was an invitation to a deeper awareness of his presence because he is ever-present, always with me, always moving and never leaving. I want to live my life even more conscious of his presence not just “in my life,” but in my all-day-everyday. Without his presence I have no life.

Especially with the holidays approaching, his presence is something I want, I need, I desire. Christmastime is certainly not the time to take his presence for granted in an effort to mark chores off a list. One of the reasons I love Christmas because it’s when Jesus is most commonly referred to Immanuel, or God with us, a constant reminder of his sweet presence permeating our stinky world and individual lives.

And then he reminded me that his ever-present presence was his present to me on my birthday.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! Acts 17:27-29

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birthday Bliss

Well, this is it, the eve of my 39th birthday, the marking of the beginning of the end of my thirties.

The thirties have been, for me, a decade of motherhood. Having babies, nursing babies, changing babies, rocking babies, bathing babies, dressing babies, feeding babies and all other baby related activities have dominated the last ten years. Saying goodbye to my thirties is also saying goodbye to an era of my life. Next year Palmer will start school. Wow!

Ten years ago I wasn’t even thinking about entering my thirties. I was busy mothering my firstborn through those bleary, sleepless nights. I was full of joyful bliss at the sight of my precious little bundle. Turning thirty didn’t bother me at all. I was right where I’d always wanted to be. Finally.

As I woke up in the early hours of the morning on my twenty-ninth birthday to feed a crying baby, I flipped on the TV to discover that the bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M had occurred. I watched in horror as the newscasters announced the deaths of one Aggie after another. I spent my birthday weeping (hormonal tears of real grief) over other mothers’ children. I held my own child tighter and said a few more prayers.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I saw with fresh eyes the truth. We are not promised tomorrow. I decided on a very deep level that the thirties would be my decade to live on purpose. Each day I would hold my children, talk to my husband and embrace my place. I wanted to intentionally say each day that I had no regrets.

I’m not quite sure how I have fared at this challenge. I see the slightest bit of improvement, just enough to encourage me instead of leaving me feeling defeated. I certainly have gone to be with regrets but I have also learned many lessons. Each day starts fresh with a clean slate. If it was messed up yesterday, it can be fixed today. It’s never too late to say things like, “ I love you” or “I’m sorry.” Time is something that you can’t ever get back; once an opportunity passes, it’s gone forever. Words are something you can’t ever take back.

As I go to bed tonight, having 365 more days of thirty, I can honestly say I’m excited. Excited at the possibilities of tomorrow and excited about the hope from today.

This is God's work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted— let's celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!

from Psalm 118

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eating Away

Questions. What ifs? Why nots? How comes? How will it all work outs? Whens? Why did yous? The questions of life assault my soul. They eat away at my very being threatening to destroy all I hold dear. Bite by bite they sink their teeth into the tenderness of my heart.

I search for answers in vain. No answers come late at night, early in the morning or while I motion through my day. One question only leads to another. My mind is a playground for partially expressed thoughts, incomplete ideas and worrisome questions. Particularly in times of uncertainty. What I do not want is for times of uncertainty to become a breeding ground for times vacant of peace.

I wonder is it God speaking, the enemy at work or the tricks of a restless mind? Restlessness is an old enemy. It took me years to recognize that old restless feeling in my heart as an invitation to sit in the presence of One whose very essence is peace. He says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."

As I sit on a quiet Sunday morning I begin to hear once again. As sunlight trickles through the windowpanes, light ebbs into my dust-covered soul. Dew drips from the roof corner to nature’s steady beat restoring measure and order to my cluttered heart. The morning pours forth a song, a beautiful praise to its Creator. A verse I needed to hear. A melody my heart joins making a chorus of words once more.

The questions subside as cares fade away like the morning dew. Grace and peace begin to dance in my soul. Their performance promises a duet just as promising as the coming day.
As life’s questions, particularly in times of uncertainty, threaten to steal moments, destroy opportunities and invade decisions, I know the truth…What I have cannot be destroyed. “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be.” Matthew 6:21

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Always On My Mind

Yesterday you saw how I pray for Julia.

You've seen how I pray for Palmer.

I have bits and pieces for Alyssa and Hunter. I pray. I just haven't seen a big picture yet. The one I see when I close my eyes and pray for their futures. It will come. I know it will. I will wait and pray until it does. My God is faithful. He has a plan. He has a purpose.

He's called me to mother these children and He will show me how to pray for them.

This is God's Word on the subject: "I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed...I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." Jeremiah 29:10-13 & John 10:10

How do you pray for your children?

What picture do you see when you close your eyes?

Please share.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seeing with Eyes Closed

Julia plays soccer. She started playing four years ago. After she begged and begged and begged. And then begged some more. And started sleeping with her soccer ball. And then kept begging. Then I let her join a team.

You see, she's our girl who's tried it all. And been successful with it all. When she took tennis, the pro wanted her to take private lessons. When she danced, she had solos. When she played basketball, she controlled the ball and the court. When she played softball, she worked her way from the youngest, most inexperienced on the team to a starter who had the winning hit.

She's enjoyed most of these activities. She's always enjoyed herself.

As a matter of fact, she enjoys herself so much, it can be downright annoying. What Andrew and I see, what her coaches and teachers see is potential. It's obvious. She can be developed into a really great athlete. No question.

Until soccer, she was just interested in playing. On the field, on the court, on the stage. Playing. She can take a room full of her peers and have them in an organized game in just a few minutes. Recess is when she creates tether ball challenges and freeze tag tournaments. Indoor recess means a new club is created. A big one. A popular one. One that everyone wants to join. She's just a like that. A leader.

A solid leader. No doubt. She's had not one but two teachers in her short school career tell her they will be casting their vote for Julia Smith on election day. President, congress woman or senate seat, these two teachers both see Julia's name on the ballot one day.

She can take a stark, clean bedroom and with a few blankets, stuffed animals and her siblings, she has created a farm and she is feeding her animals. Or she can create a circus where she is training her animals. Or she can create an ocean where she is scuba diving and observing sea life. Or... You get the picture.

That's just Julia.

With soccer, she wants both. Fun and competition. Competition is fun. She's developing. She's not always the best one on the field. She's always improving. She's a joy to watch.

Sometimes I'm not sure she's taking all her training seriously enough. Other times I'm concerned she's not enjoying being a kid enough with all the pressure these days.

So when Julia was invited to be a part of a competitive soccer league I wasn't so sure about it all. I liked, no loved, the comfort of our city's recreational league. I was so used to the schedule. Two nights a week practice. One game on Saturday. Two tournaments a year. I loved our team's moms and we had great friends there.

Competitive means two practices plus extras. Two games a week. In Houston. On Sundays.

Competitive means commitment. Fancy uniforms. Embroidered bags. Monthly dues. Tryouts. New coaches, leagues, teams, parents.

Competitive means change.

Andrew and I were leaning hard towards no but we committed to pray before deciding.

Julia said she'd like to try it. She wanted more competition. More play time. More practices. She just wanted more soccer.

I was concerned about the time. The travel. The money. The commitment.

And then. I closed my eyes. I began to pray. Suddenly I saw my girl. Playing. Soccer with children. Lots of children. In other countries around the world. Sharing Jesus on the soccer field. Playing. With children. Soccer.

He showed me she needs training. Good training. The best training.

The Lord reminded me that her very name, Julia, means youthful. Youthful: of, pertaining to, or befitting youth. What is more characterizing of youth than playfulness? Playing.

He showed me how she has the mindset to answer his call. She doesn't care what the crowd is doing. She does what she wants. Without fear. Without reservation. She organizes. She makes things move.

The Lord showed me in an instant that he can take the very thing that makes a person unique. That very thing that I love but I hate. The thing that he put there and will refine. He will take that thing and use it to do something great. Use it to create a mighty life of worship in a little girl. Someday.

For today we play soccer.

And pray.

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Friday, November 06, 2009

So much funness...

So little time...

There is so much amazingness to catch up on in bloggyland. So much.

Some of you travel around the world. Some of you have babies. Some of you publish books. Some of you share heartfelt revelations. Some of you are traveling your own tough journey. Some of you are celebrating different sorts of victories.

All of you I love. All of you I miss.

Tonight I must go prepare for a garage sale.

Soon. I promise pictures of my "new" house. New paint. New floors. Emptier closets. Rearranged rooms, furniture, drapes. For all you nesters, stay tuned. Mine's looking new and different and it's all exciting.

Just stay tuned. Soon.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Old Ball and Chain

Awhile back I was asked to make a list of messages our children are getting that are contrary to the absolute Truth we believe as Christians. The messages came slowly.

Wall-e tells my children that the future of our earth was disastrous, a wasteland that they would need to save by being green. Hannah Montana shows my children how they could live a double life...the best of two worlds by keeping secrets from everyone they know. Taylor Swift tells my children that being on the sidelines is where romance blooms and Harry Potter teaches them to use the power that they possess inside themselves.

Whew! Are future leaders of our country under attack or what? This just scratches the surface!

The gigantic revelation I had during this week long experiment was when my cell phone broke. I was in complete turmoil for two days. On one hand, I loved the silence of no ringing calls, no buzzing emails and no dinging text messages. On the other hand, I was in a constant state of panic. We don't have a land line and my cell phone is my only contact with the outside world. Checking email on my computer when I was at the house was simply not fast enough. I felt like I was missing tons of stuff. You know, important information.

My mom might need to tell me something, a client may need my help, a practice might be cancelled, Andrew might get a huge bonus...I felt like I was missing something the entire time my phone wasn't in my hand!

This is how we are raising our children. We are training them to be connected 24/7.

God used these two days to create a discipline in me. He gave me a desire to be intentional about not answering my phone. I've placed parameters on checking my emails and texts. I need boundaries on technology in my life or I'm "chatting" with people absent more than I'm chatting with little people who are here.

After all, how can I live if I'm only existing online? My time can certainly go much too quickly when I'm engaged with a computer screen instead of real life. I don't like leaving things in real life undone so that things online can be complete.

I want to teach my children to be present. I want them to feel important, much more important than my iPhone and the world wide web.

John 10:10 is one of my favorite verses. I was offline for awhile due to renovating our home. During which I couldn't even locate my computer or my shoes or my children's backpacks for over a week. Then I just started enjoying the freedom of not having the distraction of my cute little laptop time thief. During this time I have remembered what "having life" is really like. It's not beheld on a screen.

It's not that I haven't been writing, it's that I've been experiencing technological freedom. I'm back. Just with boundaries.

"A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest." John 10:10

Monday, November 02, 2009

Missing you...

It's like I forgot how to write. Not really write. I could never forget how to write. Just how to write on a blog.

I've got much to share. Much to tell. Even pictures to show. But for some reason the keyboard seems a little strange and a slight bit foreign to my stiff fingers.

Setting her up was like seeing a long lost friend. I thought catching up would be easy. But it's not. It's quite hard actually.

Oh, I won't give up because I want to catch up with all of you even more than I want to catch up with my computer or even with my blog.

But I'll also be honest. Having this contraption turned off for the last eleven days has been a little freeing. Really it has.

I wonder if I could get away without using my cell phone for that long...

What have ya'll been up to?