Leap-aversery

Nine years ago last month, my husband, Mark, and I took a leap of faith. Shortly before, I’d taken the jump from a job I adored into the arms of stay-at-home parenting. And now that our firstborn was 10 months old, we took an even bigger leap to say farewell to his paycheck and the luxury of a company health-care plan for the dream of working from home and being his own boss.


We made the decision with caution. We had saved up enough to give the dream a go for six months. If we didn’t see signs of encouragement after those six months, he’d scour the job-search engines and circulate his resume again. Thankfully, when six months rolled around, he had done well enough that we took a deep breath and said we’d give it a go for another six. We’ve continued to set mini-goals and re-evaluation check-points along the way, but so far God has continued to give us the green light on the dream. And though there have been some very dramatic downs and ups, God has blessed our leap and our faith and that is how we find ourselves nine years on the other side of the chasm of the unknown.

Up until the time Mark turned in his resignation, he had been dutiful and productive in his work, but not happy. He was earning a living, but not loving the life it gave him. I knew him well enough to see that and to encourage him to give what looked like a risky venture to the outside world a go. While not everyone gets the joy of loving his or her job, I knew that if it was at all possible, I wanted Mark to spend his 9 to 5 doing something that would bring him deep satisfaction, just as my work as a writer had given me.

I often joke that my husband got the left brain and I got the right and together we make a whole brain. But in all seriousness, it hasn’t always been easy for me to understand what exactly it is about numbers and spreadsheets and studying a company’s quarterly earnings that makes him love working as a long-term investor for a living. But I have always respected the way God made him enough to see what makes him come alive and cheer him toward the godly use of those gifts.

The point of this post isn’t to pat ourselves on the back. Certainly, every provision we have received has been a gift from God’s hand, a mercy, and not a right or guarantee. God could have let those dreams fail and still been a good and faithful Father. But I bother sharing our leap-aversary at all because I think there is a goodness in taking a risk in faith and for the right reasons. My husband longed to be a part of the daily life of our family. He longed to use his gifts at that intersection of God’s glory and his deep gladness. And God blessed the dive.

Maybe God has been nudging you in some area to take a risk, to splatter some paint on a blank canvas, to speak into a void, or open yourself up to the pain of possible rejection. Have you stopped to listen? Have you stopped to dream? Risk is at the heart of the Christian life. Love risks. Faith risks. Faith can risk because faith has a faithful Father, willing to catch us even if everything falls apart.

So let me encourage you to slow down a minute. Ask the questions. “Where, God, are you calling me to take a holy risk?” And ask him to help you have the faith and the confidence in his character to sow your seeds of faith generously (2 Cor. 9:6). May I leave you with the words of one of my favorite poets, Rainier Marie Rilke:

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.”

Who knows? Maybe a year from now, you can write and tell me that you are celebrating your leap-aversary.

Awakening

Looking outside in this season of what Rosetti called “bleak mid-winter,” it is hard to imagine life is getting ready to burst out in splendid renewal. All we see are limbs standing naked of their glory, fields cowering beneath in their barrenness, and clouds shrouding the brightness of the sun. The earth beneath is hard and cold and unforgiving.


Just as the world outside us goes through seasons, I believe our souls do as well. In my life, I feel as though my inner creative world has been going through a long winter’s nap. Undoubtedly, for me the demands of five children under the age of 10 are such that the creative self has little room or time for blossoming. But lately, as I’ve pushed myself to truly practice Sabbath rest, I’ve felt a stirring.

The creative spirit needs Sabbath.

It began with just a simple yearning, a hunger I filled with His Word. It led from there to an ache for beauty. I slaked my thirst with gazing deeply at Jesus, but also beholding His glory in nature and poetry and music and dragging two toddlers with me to bask in beauty at our local art museum (this by the way, is not the ideal way to enjoy art). And it has led from there to tender shoots of inspiration—a gift, not a guarantee—pushing up through a cultivated soil.

“See I am doing a new thing,” the Lord says to the prophet Isaiah, “Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

As I meditate on these new awakenings I wonder. Perhaps the birth of all new things in our lives begins with a void. The emptiness gives ways to longing. The longing morphs into season of waiting, of aching. And then sometimes in the mercy of God, a new thing bursts forth, surprisingly in a way we could not have expected or imagined. “See I am doing a new thing,” the Lord says to the prophet Isaiah, “Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

From what I can tell, we don’t have much control over the seasons we face in our lives. But in every season, we worship God through a posture of faith, gratitude and expectancy.

Even the ache is a gift that can lead us to Him…

May I encourage you—if you are in a season of deep mid-winter—look with the eyes of faith. Even the discontentment, even the ache, is a pathway that will lead you to Him, if you are brave enough to follow it. God works wonders in the hidden places. Even resurrection began in the dark.

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How to Weather Adversity Like My 2 Year-Old

About a month ago, my sweet James caught his foot under him while playing in the basement. We didn’t see the moment that it happened and at two and a half, communication is still less than perfect. At first we thought he’d just stubbed a toe, but after a day went by and he refused to put any weight on the foot, we knew something was definitely wrong. After a trip to the pediatrician, the radiologist, and the orthopedist, he came home with a bright blue cast on his right foot—and a diagnosis: a fractured first metatarsal. There were a few tears at the doctor’s offices, but overall he was a brave boy. He even managed a smile on the ride home.

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This being my inaugural fractured bone as a mother of four boys, I didn’t know what to expect. But I’ll confess, I feared it was going to be a challenging several weeks. The first night we got home and I was putting him to bed he said, “Shoe off, mommy?” And then I explained to him that his blue boot couldn’t come off for at least four weeks. There were tears and more repeated requests that night and the next for me to take “the shoe” off, but after that he didn’t ask again.
Instead, he taught me a few lessons about handling adversity with a sweet spirit.

1) Accept your limitations. Since it basically rained most days here in the month of May and getting his cast wet was out of the question, we had to set pretty strict rules about him not playing outside most days. And even on the days when it dried up for a few hours, we couldn’t let him play in the grass where it was still wet. Several times he stood at the glass door like a forlorn puppy, while his brothers got to play outside. But he didn’t throw any tantrums or drive us crazy whining. He accepted his limitations with grace and looked around to see what else was available to him. Because no matter how small your yard is, you’ll waste what has been given you if you spend all your time looking at the fence.

2) Discover new strengths. With outside time being off limits and mobility up and down the stairs to the basement being somewhat a struggle, James turned his attention to puzzles. Before he got his cast on, we knew he had a slight interest in puzzles. Now 4 weeks later, he has absolutely amazed us. Since my other boys never really gravitated to puzzles, I didn’t have a whole lot of them around the house. I did, however, have a set of continent puzzles I’d gotten for teaching my 6 year old homeschool geography this year. James started out mastering South America. I was pleased, but with only about a dozen pieces I wasn’t surprised to see him memorizing the puzzle. Then he turned his attention to North America. When I noticed that he was matching the shapes of 50 states, Canadian territories, Mexico, Central America and the islands to the puzzle outline I called my husband to stare with me in disbelief. A day later, our 2.5 year old had conquered Asia, Europe, and Africa as well, all the while refusing help from anyone who offered and persevering til he finished the very last piece. If he hadn’t had the cast, who knows if we’d ever have discovered his hidden talent. Sometimes it takes a weakness to discover a strength we didn’t know we had.

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3) Love on others. There is only one member of the family less mobile (for the moment) than James and that is baby brother, Beau. James seized the moment amidst his trial to spend his “down” time with baby bro and give him some love and attention. Because no matter how bad things are, there is always someone else who could use your love and encouragement.

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4) Break expectations. When we finally had a dry enough day to play outside for a bit, with just a little bit of help on and off, James took immediately to his tricycle. Basketball and backgammon were also on the agenda. While we do have to accept our limitations, that doesn’t always mean we have to be defined by them.

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5) Let others help.  It was so sweet over the course of the weeks with his cast on to watch his brothers learn compassion and service. Each night, Isaiah faithfully prayed for James’ foot to heal. Luke was sweet to offer James his hand or build a special Lego surprise for him. Both boys served him by clearing his plate or bringing him his milk. It was a sweet reminder to this mama that sometimes our trials are God’s opportunities to help others learn service and compassion.

 

On Tuesday, we went back to the orthopedist. Thankfully, the bone appears to have healed. While James is still a little unsteady, he is on the road to full recovery, but we’re richer from having watched him walk through this trial with such grace. Next time I’m faced with something hard I hope I’ll remember my brave and cheerful little 2 year old and weather the storm with a smile.

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Slow Down: What Our Longings Tell Us

Boys newborn beauSo in the past few weeks at my house, we’ve had a two year old fracture a bone in his foot, pink eye, an ear infection, a twisted ankle, fevers, nausea, more pink eye, sore throats, and congestion. I’m thinking of putting yellow caution tape outside and posting the word “Quarantine” on our doorpost. Undoubtedly, it has been a very strange and eventful sick ward. These are not the days that you look back on with nostalgia. These are the days you pray to get through. But I do know the days—or perhaps, more aptly put, the moments—where we just wish, somehow, we could slow down time.

Recently, my two year old has been coming and cuddling up next to me, looking up at me and saying in his still babyish voice, “I love you, mom.” The simple sincerity in his statement, the turn of his chin as he looks up at me, his dimples, his bed-head, his sticky fingers: could I just somehow bottle it all and uncork it on another day when I need to hear, see, and feel it again?

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These are the moments where, yes, we wish time would slow down, as Nicole Nordeman has put words to in this wildly popular music video:

Such moments come to all of us, parents or not. They are the moments when you are laying in the grass on a perfect September Sunday looking up at the light shafting through the trees, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, the lightness of the breeze, and then closing your eyes with a deep, settled sense of peace.

One of my moments, I’ll never forget, came when I was 17 years old and was spending a summer in Cuzco, Peru. Each morning I would climb up to the flat rooftop of the guest-house where I was staying and have some time reading my Bible. I’d watch the sun as it eased its way over the Andes, and somehow, I felt free enough to just sing and worship God there, alone on that rooftop. I remember one morning being so caught up in the beauty of the sunrise and of the truth of the words I was singing about God, that I just praised and wept and held my hands up in worship. Still, to this day, when I think of the tenderness of my love for God–the youth of our romance–I think of that morning on a roof, 11,500 feet above sea level, soaring over the cares of the world.

But while we’ve all known moments we wish could last, something else in us seems to bristle at the over-sentimentalism that people sometimes use to airbrush the reality around such moments. A friend of mine posted a picture of her two children, all smiles, embracing one another. She captioned it, “A split-second of genuine affection before they went back to clobbering each other.” Another friend posted a picture of her and her daughter smiling two dazzling smiles against a picture-perfect backdrop of blooming flowers. Then she shared how moments before and after that photo she and her daughter had been quarrelling to the point of tears. A lightening glimpse of peace surrounded by an afternoon of thunderous heartache.

Recently, I was reading a friend’s words of how tired she is of having people tell her to “Enjoy every moment!” with her little one. It seems as if every time she goes out, someone says to her, “They grow up too fast,” or “Savor it!” or some such comment. She’s frustrated with all the saccharine that is attached to life with young children. I can feel the tension between these two points of view. As I was thinking about what she said, I saw her words echoed in a recent blog post. I found myself in agreement about the pressure that all the “Cherish this!” sentiments can put on a young mother who is in the thick of sleepless nights and sweeping crushed Cheerios off the floor and round 3 of the stomach flu. We shouldn’t feel like we have to enjoy every moment. And the blog author’s main take-away is a very good reminder to remember that the whole point of all our -parenting is that they grow up. That’s not a tragedy—that’s the God-ordained trajectory.

But as my husband and I talked it over, I couldn’t help thinking that there is something particularly fleeting about these little years. There is a reason why this refrain of “Enjoy it,” is so oft-repeated. Why people can hardly help saying it. Our little guys are changing so fast. The rate of their growth, both physical and mental, will never be matched again. The children I had just a few short months ago are so different from the ones they are today. Everyone who is telling you to enjoy it, the ballads which long for it to slow down, they are all trying to express a truth that is buried in our hearts. Here it is:

We are meant for eternity.

Okay, you say, that was a leap. But hear me out. There is something in us which just wants these special days to last for always, right? That is why we annoy our children with pictures and videos, why we relive these moments in our memories, why we wish so hard, sometimes, for the moments to slow down. We are living within time, but God has “set eternity in the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We long for something of that “eternal now” because God placed that longing within us. As singer/songwriter Michael Card puts it, we are built for eternity, but “stranded in time.”

If we have those moments, where just for that fleeting second, everything is right and perfect and good and we want it to last, don’t berate yourself for that desire. Remember that desire is evidence that you were designed to live eternally in a world that is not blighted with sin, but where everything is right, where your heart is tuned to praise God, where everything that is good and true and beautiful lasts and leads you to praise your Maker. You were made for that.

So next time you have one of those moments, don’t hoard it as if that memory were the end-all and be-all of human existence. The point isn’t about the sweetness of your child, the beauty of that sunrise, or whatever else you wish could last. It is that these good and perfect gifts point us toward a perfect and good Giver who built us to long for timelessness because we were made for eternity with Him. Let the look back lead you to look forward in expectation. You were made for something beautiful-and that beautiful moment is there to whet your appetite for something even better.

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