Category Archives: purpose

Vigilance

I make my rounds each night holding my breath hoping they’ll breath theirs strong. Say last prayers with a kiss, grateful for warm cheeks meeting my lips, rising ribs beneath my palm. I brush gentle upon their foreheads, soft across hair, wondering why loving is so full I could burst with gratitude and so hard I could wilt. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to give all to these little lives, everything I’m capable of, for a life lived better than my own. Daily it dawns on me fresh how incapable I am of everything I hope to be as I strive to guide them toward what I can only glimpse they’re meant to be and it’s all a precarious too precious road.

I want them to thrive, to be kind, to know God’s love and people’s love and self love in easy ways that are hard for me to grasp. So much more than potential and success of this worlds contriving, I hope for good hearts, beautiful spirits, character that does what is noble and right. So much more than goodness for pleasing’s sake, I hope for wholeness living abandoned to what one’s been created for; ability to embrace fault and flaw within and without, see space for grace, inside and out, and the potential that shadows cast for seeing with more depth and feelings more real.

If I love so deeply then why do I live so imperfectly? If I long to be the best I can for them, why do they see my worst? When I read and study and teach and yearn to know right strategies, research, narratives, and antectodes, why then do I still lose my temper over sibling squabbles and spilled milk? When I know it is all par for the course and atleast 5 positive ways to handle it better than I do. I have patience, and good skills, and a heart so full to be sure, but shards of glass sometimes cause me to crack, laying bare how we are all so very broken.

I was having tea with a dear beloved nurturing mom friend while our children played at our feet, literally crawling under table and chairs. She watched her mature son’s rambunctious play cause a fragile dish, gifted, from another country, fall from the table to bits. As he hung his head in shame she said, “No, son” and made sure their eyes met, “it’s not things that matter it’s people. It was just a cup.” Her words were gentle and sure. I was moved because she was brave to speak what makes my heart sing. So why do I still sometimes shatter when things shatter and shatter the ones I love most when I’m tired or lonely or feeling unlovable? Having been a witness to her strength of composure and grace, I loved her even more, my own children more, and even made room for myself more to break cups on good days and bad, and hold the face of the beloved between soft cupped hands with strong seeing eyes willing to witness it all and still say, “its you, above all this mess, that matters.”

Perfectly held, however imperfectly loved, we are given these gifts of life so divine, so precarious so strong, praying against all wrong done to us and born within us, that we might not be so rambunctious as to shatter spirits, but rather strengthen souls. Let us be diligent to hold precious the cup up, beyond our own hands, to seek after sustenance overcoming ourselves, yet doing our part to will our wildness to love abandonedly better than we’ve ever known, so that those who go after us might better represent He who went before us.

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A Time to Treasure

We are on a little working Spring Break trip to our summer business home in Canada.  The weather is cold, the cabin is cozy and we are breathing a sigh of relief as we relax in for a few days, despite the ongoing to-do’s.  It is just a bit easier getting things done when we are outside of our everyday lives, and nice to balance it out with some down time with our kids and each other.  It has been a busy season with three careers between us, a hand full of volunteer roles and a major home remodel in the works.  We are thankful to be able to spend so much time with our kids, but the reality is that we can be multi-taskers with an electronic device almost always within reach – a necessity I rather loathe and often in fact ignore (which you know if you have ever waited for me to respond to an email).  Or we can be side by side at night catching up on work when “normal people” (do those exist?) settle in for some TV or reading time to relax before bed.  I am always trying to get better at watching TV, a funny goal some might think, but it would do me some good.

So we needed some family time, and some down time.  For this morning, my indulgence on this remote little island is to have a moment to write while my husband takes the kids for a hike on the north shore.  With a warm cup of tea in hand, a fire crackling, an expansive view of the ocean out my window and a silent house, I am breathing easier and feeling quite content.  There has been some news I have been wanting to share and this is the week.  The fourteenth week.  Fourteen has always been my favorite number, and although 12 is said to be the safe time to share, I needed a buffer this time around.  We were so naively expectant last year sharing our pregnancy news so early before our miscarriage, and many of you know of our full term loss of our son 3 years ago.  So this time I really needed to make sure, and sharing too early felt like I might burst the fragile bubble.  But all is well, I am showing, and I am ready to share.

With absolute awe, excitement, a bit of fear, huge hope and more emotion than I can describe, I announce the upcoming arrival of the 5th Sund baby!!  The 4th we hope to bring home to join our family on earth.  We always wanted four!  From our college dating days, when we were unaware of the work of children, we talked excitedly about how great four would be.  We each came from a set of two and loved the idea of a house-full.  So this season feels like the realization of a long-held dream. It has been a windy road, not in the order or spacing we’d tried to plan for…is it ever?  It is hard to explain what it feels like to be culminating my childbearing years.  I am sure I will be writing about that.  Above all, it is a time I hope to treasure.

My last pregnancy, sacred in it’s own right, was a blur of numb coping.  I was still in the early days of grieving and the only way to get through another pregnancy was to not hope too much, nor fear too much, just breath and live each moment only by the strength of God.  In past pregnancies I had kept detailed journals for my babies in the making, writing letters about their unique traits, prayers for health and well-being and my own guidance, and professing my undying love.  It was a whole other layer of loss to have poured words into a life that would never receive them.  It was like I was standing at the edge of a treacherous cliff watching helplessly as my lifeless baby floated away from me, my arms outstretched with his gifts – the journals, the soft clothes, the warm blankets – when all I wanted was him in those futilely full empty arms.

But his time around, and not without reverence for the baby I will always ache for, my joy has returned.  I feel the full measure of life that is within me and the hope for it to come.  I love being pregnant!  I find the whole thing so amazing and am one who feels especially good and healthy, mostly migraine free, while pregnant. I winced at the sight of it for a time and that made me so sad.  I was too aware of all that could go wrong and desperate to warn those blissful faced bellies of their possible torture ahead.  But I am thankful that reaction has passed.  Hopeful expectation has returned, without naiveté of whatever may be, but I know full well God will be with me whatever may be and it is too much fun to miss out on the joy of this last season of expectation.

So with all that in mind, three kids to care for, and all the to-do’s I described above, I don’t want this time to pass in a blink.  I want to cherish it.  I want to be able to remember it.  I want to treasure it.  I would love your ideas for how to do that well – please share them!  I would be so grateful!

I hope you have moments to pause and treasure your season of life too!  Blessings!


Unrest

On this Sabbath Sunday, so soon after my restful Saturday, I fall into bed exhausted, no rather weary. It was a long day, marked by goodness to be sure: I celebrated the life of my oldest, watched with pure joy as she was celebrated by dear friends, laughed and skated with her, talked long after her early bedtime about the day’s events and some deeper things between a mother and a daughter. I looked endearingly upon my son as he talked up a storm with a younger sister of my daughter’s friend, barely an acquaintance to him, and yet he chats easily and laughs and makes silly faces as if they go way back. He’s just the best thing ever, a charmer who is charming because he genuinely loves. And lest we forget the littlest, drug around all day to church and errands and party, no place to nap or have peace for a little one who relies on it, but for a few precious minutes fell deeply to sleep in my arms like she used to when brand new and I pulled her heavily breathing face near to mine to breath her in. I felt goodness and peace in the velvet smooth of her sweet cheek. I needed her slumber to force stillness upon me for just those few moments today.

I began reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp weeks ago and can’t get past the first few chapters as each time I pick it back up and get caught back up I get stuck re-reading the beginning chapters.

“The end will come.
Doctor’s warning or not the end will come, and this life of the bare toes across grass, the sky raining spring down on eyelashes, the skin spread close under sheets, blink of the fireflies on dusky June nights – all this will all end…

“Which road through this brief land? What is all most important? How to live the fullest life here that delivers into the full life after?…

How does one live ready, and always?…But, someone, please give me – who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew – give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?…

How do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?”

Does anyone else live tormented by these questions?

She details unrest and longing and deep awareness of beauty and goodness that so resonates with my soul. The book begins with a vivid scene of her great loss, she gets it, and she goes on to write of the longing for meaning in the everyday-ness of life. I get that.

I will never be carefree to the reality of death and great loss ever again in this lifetime. Fearfulness which took residence years before great loss even hit me personally (but surely to those I dearly love, a trauma of it’s own), when I only held the awareness of the possibility, now takes a permanent place in my lense on life. I see the range of color, the bright, the beautiful, the rare, the true, but always there is the possibility of black, always there is awareness of what might never be ever more.

“Perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18) I know, I have that one memorized, along with all the other verses on fear. Made myself a bookmark once. Diligently wrote scripture on my heart. But I am not perfect and still I get scared. I know the verse refers to God’s perfectness but what does that really mean to me when I know that bad things can still happen under his perfect watch? I can trust, (I know, I know) his perfect plan, (yes, yes) but sometimes that perfect plan hurts so damn bad that it is impossible to view life without the knowledge of what might be, both the glorious and horrendous. In full awareness of all that is awesome and beautiful, searing, gut wrenching, and life altering, pain can happen, is happening now, everywhere. My awareness of this, does not weaken my faith but brings me closer to my God who knows this pain even greater than I. Everywhere He is aware of it, and still He is good. I choose to believe. I hope to let go.

I don’t live dark or leary in the day to day and my faith can hold the mindset that I am safe if I just think I am because it is He who is keeping me safe. I know there is a plan. On some level that is comforting, sometimes. Call me Peter, ye is me.

In the wake of loss, the pressure is on to live purposefully even more so, as the stark reality of an un-promised tomorrow always lingers, for me, my children (God no!), my soul-mate. So as I pursue things of purpose, parenting as if it was essential as oxygen, always, always aiming to please God, acting as if His pursuit of me is my uphill climb, much that feels purposeful can also ring hollow, feel “busy”, nothing like the mountain top high seemingly promised. And lucky for me, one who blames so easily, most profusely myself, I then take the burden upon myself – not spiritual enough, discerning enough, self-aware enough, hard-working enough, enough, enough.

I could end with verses that are hopeful, stay true to my title and the undercurrents that carry me along and buoy me to full breath, but the raging surface of the deep waters tonight is tumultuous, and that is where I am. This too true pieces of my humanity. Not at all what I would assign hope to, and yet there is my most favored book of Ecclesiastes that speaks of those times, those times for everything. I feel them all, everything.


Instant Gratification

I took a nap this morning, as my baby napped. After a late night and a few wakings, I was exhausted. I have a whole day ahead of me, and a hand full of to-do’s, household, ministry and professional and I laid there waking slowly from one of those deep long dream filled naps, wondering if I would even have the energy to rise again for the day ahead. My big kids are off to ski with their dad and it is just me and the babe. I have loved these slow Saturdays with her. The house more quiet than any other day, she is the sole focus of my attention, we get to play on her level, and her nap times become sweet indulgent down time for me. But today there are a few things to get done before church tomorrow and my big 7 year old girl’s birthday party.

I believe God has put things on my heart to do, I recognize His voice, His call, and I feel moved to act. I am motivated, excited, moved, willing, believing this purposeful thing will honor God, whether it be in how I live out my day to day life as a mom, wife or friend, or if it is tackling the Mount Everest of accomplishments. If it is God’s voice, and/or I am clear that what is placed on my heart will honor God, I am in and I will obey. And not to overspiritualize everything, I know too there are simply things I just want to do that sound fun or interesting or exciting to me. I have learned over and over again that here too God smiles at the freedom He has given me to choose these ways of spending my time, much as I fret over discerning His call and His will. These become His will (read The Will of God as a Way of Life by Gerald Sittser, my mentor and friend who taught and counseled me through this years ago and yet I still need to learn these lessons).

In addition to my day to day willingness to honor and obey him with my spirit and character in love of Him and others, the honoring of Him with my mind and body in willingess to act and do can sometimes leave me feeling perplexed, shall I say stressed? After the initial excited, purposeful “yes” I begin to think of the how and wonder about the when. The problem lies in the timeline. I don’t doubt God’s voice or purpose, I begin to doubt my abilities and wonder why I say yes to anything at all. I feel like I need to hurry, get it done now, to the best of my ability and be efficient and work hard to be faithful. There is an essence of truth to these concepts in being faithful, but mostly they are false. If I look at the bible many of the purposes God places on people’s lives take years, lifetimes. How unexciting eh? How wonderful though. God is honored. The people are ok.

Our world is increasingly instant. It used to be that I had some time before people knew if I got an e-mail or not. My lengthy average rate of return was understandable then. I had little ones, no time to sit in front of a computer. This made sense. That nagging feeling of having e-mails to get back to somewhat reminded me of the constant pressure felt in getting a college education. Always something ahead to do, no time to sit and read anything for fun, there were books to read and papers to write. I always loved my breaks and indulged heavily in “light” reading, as in I would read my favorite magazine, like Real Simple or Martha Stewart or Country Living, cover to cover, every word, from the editors letter to the last meaningless ads in the end. I love doing that! It is the ultimate down time indulgence. Such a relished time-waster, so much more fun than TV to me.

Now people know there is a good chance I see my e-mails near to when they come to me on my phone, that goofy gadget that I swear my children must think is my 3rd robotic eyeball. I kind of hate that (I can hear my mockingbird children’s voices in my head saying “we don’t say hate in our house mama”). It is almost always near, though I do manage to forget it upstairs or in my purse sometimes (I need to to that more often actually) but with the loud sounds of children in my midst or quiet ones whom I do not want to disturb, I rarely answer it at a moment’s notice. I do check it often though, for efficiency sake right? Get that e-mail read and out of the way and on to processing what I can DO about it. I still don’t get back very efficiently, takes too long to type on my phone anyway, but it is in my head all the time, and I kind of hate that too. I digress.

The point is the instantaneousness of the world, and how counterintuitive that is for how God would work in our lives, how he has historically worked in others lives. In fact, in stories like Abraham and Sarah (Genesis Chapters 15 to 21), the length of time He takes to respond after making His promises very clear that Abraham would father many is aggravatingly laughable to them. I often feel like that, complain to God that I want things to happen now and pine away wondering why they are not. He does not place instant gratification on His call.

Thank you God, now please help me to do the same; to slow down, take things step by step, rest when I need to, even when I don’t need to but after a good 6 days or so of hard work have passed.

Now off to read my fun book about slowing down and relishing mom-life before my baby wakes up and we get to play.


Leaving and Cleaving

As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California.  I can’t stop crying.  The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them.  It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.

Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California.  I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful.  Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys.  But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me.   And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.

He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there.  Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful.  I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures.  So yes, go do wonderful things with your life!  Hooray!

But now I am the parent.  And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.

I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.

Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions.  In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.

The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work.  I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it.  The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too.  As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated.  I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another.  Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.

And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all.  I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever.  Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too.  My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.

My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.

There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling.  They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations.  When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love.  I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too.  It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year.  But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids.  I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences.  We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.

Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry.  But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.

There is no perfect formula to all this.  Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is.  I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength.  May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen


On With Life

I had a tough time with my most recent birthday, feeling like 35 was more near mid-life if one pays attention to averages than any other age and in all honesty suddenly feeling “old” in many ways.  The physical being the most obvious and lament worthy, the wrinkles, the grays, the aches and the pains are more pronounced than ever.  I started doing tri-athlons this year (isn’t that crazy?) and each time I trained and for days after, I HURT.  I also started playing soccer again.  After 15 years away from team play and 6 plus years of pregnancies, I started up again, and it hurts.  I grew up playing soccer!  I love soccer!  In my mind I thought I’d have so much going for me with all that childhood and adolescent experience behind me.  The reality is, I have to work hard to run fast and when I do I usually pull muscles.  (Luckily it is fun and I play with really nice people that I care to spend time with.)

Beyond the physical, I am taking stock.  A year and a half ago I lost my son at the end of my pregnancy and plunged into the depths of grief that has fundamentally changed how I experience and perceive life.  That is another story for another time, but for this time it influences my “mid-life” birthday in such a way that I feel I must get on with doing the things I hope to do with my life, because it will pass, too fast and there’s too much I want to do.

1. Slow down

Funny this would be my first goal after stating “there’s too much I want to do” but that is why it must be first.  A therapist of mine once said “you like to live a full-life, I see it as a pouring out of your intellect and creativity.”  I loved that!  What a positive spin on my active life.  That was before kids though, and there is no possible way I can pursue all my passions and still be the mom and provide the life for my kids that is nurturing and honoring of them.  I must set those things aside, for a season, in pieces if I am to be the mom I hope to be.  I must slow down, slow us all down (my husband and kids like adventure and experiences too) and make space for us to play, tickle, read, nap, go for walks, have conversations that matter.  If you have practical advice in this area, I would love to hear them.

2. Listen and Respond to God’s voice

So often I wonder what God might have me do in a particular situation or season of time and wish the map was clear before us because I swear I would follow it, free will and all.  As a little girl I prayed every night “Lord, help me to be the girl you’ve created me to be” and still I hope above all that I am living out God’s purposes for my life.  The problem is, He’s not always clear, there isn’t a formula and the magnitude of love He has for us comes in giving us many options.  I am a planner, so I contemplate and I worry, I fret and I weigh all options.  I am a slow decision maker and the concepts of God’s will and our freedom of choice can feel like some mysterious equation that I must work hard to solve.  Lately, though, I have heard God speaking, loud and clear, about some things, and felt Him pointing me in certain directions in more pronounced ways than usual.  My hopes, in this new year of my life, is to create space to listen – through reading and studying my bible, praying and times of silence – and be bold enough to respond, actually doing what God is telling me to do.  That is always scary and exhilarating for a worry wart like me.

3. Pursue Passions

In order to be the mom I want to be, I need to do a few things, outside of mothering, that feed the other areas of life that interest me.  So often inspiration will hit me, and then I look around at the dishes, the laundry, the stack of papers that perpetually piles up in my kitchen, and then a child comes into focus and there is ALWAYS a need to be met and I set that idea aside, swallow it down, hoping for a window of time, later, to pursue it.  When days go by and the time doesn’t come I get discouraged and wonder why I allow myself to hope to pursue these bits of inspiration anyway.  I can’t give up hope.

God laid it on my heart a few years ago to write.   There is so much going on in my head and my heart that I want to get out in a meaningful way.  Looking around, I realized I write all the time; I keep journals for each of my kids highlighting special moments in their lives or simply writing letters to them as they grow up,  I write in a hand full of personal journals, one in response to sermons, one for my life in general, one in my purse in case an idea or thought hits me on the fly and then there is the myriad of post it’s, receipts, random word documents that I jot down and idea or trail of thought before I lose it.  So really, it is something I already do, I want to put purpose and priority to that.  This blog is part of that.

3. Love Like Crazy

Yes, it is a sappy country song I heard the morning of my 35th birthday, but my aha moment was in the lyrics.  In losing my son I felt a huge numbness come over me that was part normal response to grief and part coping with feelings that could sear me if the numbness didn’t take over.  In grief therapy we talk about layers of our loss, and the loss of the easily excited, exuberantly hopeful parts of myself was a sad layer of my loss.  In grief therapy, I would ask our counselor when I was going to feel like “me” again and she would say that I would feel something similar, but I am forever changed by the death of my son.  This new self can is full of goodness too, but definitely different.  A piece of me had become a bit guarded, fearful I guess, of loving anyone so much that it would devastate me to lose them. This year, when I come up against the fear and numbness that stifles feeling of big huge love and joy, I will remember to love like crazy.  I invite you on this journey with me