Shells

I shed a couple of tears as I laid there, using the sometimes starved right half of my brain. Imagining. Remembering. I saw my feet slipping on sandals, and down the stairs, over grass and pavement to the sandy path. All my leg muscles working to make my way up and over the dunes; soft, dry sand kicking up over my toes and reaching the back of my calves. I make it past the shore line brush and hear a joyful shriek of “WA-WA!” The little curly-haired red-head and I pick up shells, and feel the breaking water over our feet. She runs away from the small waves crashing, but I go in deeper. A tow-headed boy with a blue boogie board, seemingly too big for his five-year old body, calls to me, “Mommy! Do you want to ride the waves with me!? Swim with me!” We spot dolphins just 20 yards away. The air is salty and thick with humidity, but we don’t mind. This quiet sound off the Atlantic Ocean is filling our heart tanks and breathing rest into our lungs. I wade towards the shore and step out onto the shell-filled sand once more finding shiny, yet broken treasures. I keep them in a bucket and I feel like a little girl again. I feel close to God’s heart, finding and admiring sea treasures that might not catch anyone else’s eye, but I see their value. I see how the wind and rain and sea has tossed them and weathered them- some unrecognizable. Like human hearts.

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“Are you doing alright?” she asked, with her doctor’s mask and goggles with special lights on it.

“Uh huh.” I had come back from my mind’s beach sanctuary to the reality that there was drilling and scraping and pressure going on in my mouth to help alleviate a small crack in my molar that wasn’t healing itself since March. How dare it. I felt hot and weak and nauseous from the anesthesia needles and nervous at the pain that might come anyway. I felt guilty about how much aversion to physical pain I have. I feel unnecessarily guilty about a lot of things, but I thought about ebola and the children victim to ISIS and paralyzing depression that leads to suicide and hated how low my pain tolerance was to getting a flippin root canal that I even have medical insurance helping to cover. Shut up, Allison!

But wait.

Jesus cares about those fears, too.

Was that thought mere self-enabling? Or the truth? Jesus cares about my tears over being nervous in the dental chair and he cares about my heart-filling experience with my family to the beach. It will be fuel for another cold winter that lies ahead.

My shape and the degree of weathering is going to look different from the other shells. We are all accounted for though. Not one hurt or wound or death is in vain. He sees each tear. None are frivolous to Him. No one gets through this life without deep hurt of some sort. Those of us fortunate to live a life with family, friends, food, a home, a car (or more), medical care in a free country are fortunate indeed. Even with all that, subtle evils attack and lives fall apart. No one is out of an enemy’s reach, physical or spiritual.

So we can share tears. Pain, joy, whichever- it’s something that if we let others in enough, we can start to see their weathered hearts but love them anyway. Admire them, hear the stories. Learn. Mourn. Laugh. Encourage.I’m so guilty of taking this life for granted. For judging others before I know the whole story. Are you? I hope I’m not alone. There is beauty in the shells, rocks and glass that are in the middle of their journey of being smoothed and refined, though some just look beaten and rough. There is beauty in tiny grains of sand, former shells that shattered and broken or worn down next to nothing. I’m okay with feeling vulnerable and small, when I remember the One who holds the grains of sand and the stars in the sky.
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A Collection of Hearts

It’s just another day, but the calendar says some numbers have changed.

No matter how great of a year it was for me, for whatever reason I end up feeling relieved there is a new start. But really it’s just a Wednesday this year. I think I’m going to wake up different or have a new outlook but I wake up the same way I always do in these young parenting days. Back hurting a bit and a few “shushes” from my mouth, waiting to see if Jason would be the first to cave to the smell of a pee-filled diaper or a plea for mommy and daddy to get up, “it’s morning time!”

But when I do take the time to think back on 2013, I think about growth. I think about changes- more emotional and spiritual changes than physical.

I think about moments I have experienced joy and pain this year.

At one point this year I looked around my church congregation and thought- if the rest of the world thinks the church has it all together- it couldn’t be more wrong. If they think the church thinks it has it all together, it’s wrong. No matter how strong the front, I saw a people who have seen all the joy and pain of many lifetimes. My mind saw all of their faces and the faces of those in my life- family and friends and acquaintances. They have lost a child, pregnancies, a parent. They have lost a job, a marriage, a friend, a brother, hope. They have made tough choices, struggled through a wounded past. I thought back to last year when I was at the end of my human control of what was next in my family’s life. I felt broken. I couldn’t sing a song with my church family without weeping. Brokenness doesn’t always mean without hope or trust. I knew God would be present with us, no matter what the new path of our lives would be. I was raw. Translucent. Fragile. But God spoke, and heard it loud in my heart.

I see you.

Restoration.

Hearts.

____

The other day, Baby Clemmie had a cold and she and Miles were in the living room playing together. I had told him she wasn’t feeling good, so not to get too close to her and to wash hands a lot. But from the kitchen, I could hear a little boy’s voice saying “Dear Jesus, please help Clemmie feel better cause she is sick…” On his own, he decided he should pray over his little sister. He saw her – as she was and saw her need. He showed he was there for her.

One particularly nervous-breakdown of a day (I seemed to have a lot of those this past year) had me instead stilled with the love Jesus has for me. My mommy-melt down was ever so apparent to my four year old son and when I told him it was time for a nap and to go upstairs, he had stopped his defiant-ness for once that day and paused at the bottom of the stairs. He looked at me and said, “Mommy, you are a good mommy. I’m going to put a heart on your bed- to tell you that I love you.”

Miles has been infatuated with tornados, Curious George and how hearts work over this year. Hearts have been speaking to me mostly. Not that a good Curious George episode doesn’t touch my soul, but you know.

As I walked along the beach of Edisto Island in October I wanted to walk along that sand forever if I didn’t have to pee. The crashing waves weren’t helping my situation. I tried to forget about my natural necessity and take in the breeze, the billions of grains of sand I stepped on and the imprints I made. The waves, only just warm on my tired feet. And the shells. Some perfect, some broken, some smoothed or shattered beyond all recognition. I found myself asking Jesus to join me- where I was. Not for help, not for guidance, just to be with me. That’s not something I normally ask. It’s always for something. It’s always urgent and usually about trying to change me or someone else. This time was different. The environment had calmed me enough that I was past the point of tears- it seemed like I couldn’t be alone with my own thoughts most of this past year without crying- and I just said “meet me here”. I looked down and spotted the first of three shells with holes in them. I looked closer and saw the shape of holes the ocean had carved into each shell was a heart.

I saved them all in my collection I brought back to Ashland.

__________

My other joy-filled moments of  2013 went something like this:

• Coming in to the living room to see the word “Poop” spelled out with alphabet game cards by my son. It was pure accident. But a funny one.

• Re-connecting and singing with old friends at the Ashland Symphonic Youth Chorus reunion.

• Seeing the ocean again.

• Watching Miles learn and spell out the word Kotex. A lot. An embarrassing amount of times. For the future Miles, not me.

• Finding my baby photos.

• Sending Miles to pre-school for the first year and enjoying his hunger for knowledge.

• Witnessing Clementine’s first steps and learning to play with her brother. Him being patient with her, helping her. Then not so much.

• Locating and securing a sentimental one-of-a-kind guitar for my dad with the help of so many friends and family members.

• Miles being so excited when opening his silver trumpet for Christmas.

• Jason taking me to the Titanic Exhibit

• Clemmie’s cuddles and kisses when she’s not bossing us all around with her hand motions and girly grunts.

• Started a painting.

• Dressing up like Wilma, Barney, Pebbles and Bamm Bamm as a blended family  for Halloween.

• Spending lots of quality time with my grandparents and watching them with my kids.

• Watching Miles “read” and build things from the “restructions”.

• Practicing with, then playing with members of my dad’s old band, CenterLine and making awesome rock n’ roll sounds. Loved every minute of it.

• Discovering some new-to-us genealogical information for my family

• Visiting Deal Island, MD where some of them were from.

• Realizing I reached my strength goal when brushing my teeth and my tootbrush busted in half. That’s strength, people.

2013

_____

I hope you have a list of things that have lifted your spirit, made you laugh and filled that hollow space in us that sometimes feels less than empty. I hope 2014 is a year that sees your heart being restored. And it starts with wherever you are, right now.

 

 

Restoration

This word “restore” and all variations of it has been speaking into my life lately. The thing I am learning about it is that it’s  a process. The last two years of our life has seemed to be a pruning season for us. While beneficial in the long run, I’m glad the pruning only lasted two years. Jason has found his niche in his new job and is loving it. I, on the other hand, still felt like I was running in place. Lost and going nowhere. Happy for my husband and thankful for a paycheck, but still lost. I blame some of that on post-partum and hormones of a nursing mom but regardless of that I was emotionally drained.

The funny thing was I still felt like we moved. We’ve obviously kept all our old friends, but since the new job we’ve made a handful of unexpected brand new ones and the whole lot of them have been a part of this time of restoration whether they know it or not.

A year ago we were busy digging out our childhood savings bonds, flipping couch cushions and peaking under car seats (of our own car:) for change to deposit in our checking account. We never imagined that Jason would get a new job that would pay less and even with me still staying at home that all of our current needs and financial obligations would be completely met. Every month. And there has been extra. We are dumbfounded. How? It doesn’t make sense at all, but I can tell you that we believe God has been providing for us. Even when I hit my lowest point this summer and my faith seemed to be the most fragile, He knew what was ahead. We had no choice but to say no to fear and just trust His promise to us. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and know that all sorts of trials and challenges lay ahead of our young lives, but taking every day at a time and being in awe at how all of our needs are being met right now is enough to be thankful for.

Part of how we’re being provided for is that after three years of me being a stay at home mom/freelance graphic designer, I’m finally getting a regular flow of work opportunities. My small group can attest to the fact that not even a year ago I had no motivation- no desire to do much graphic design anymore at all. I was in a very discouraged state- when I got the inkling to just suck it up, make myself a new logo, do some low-key promoting and put myself out there a little more. It wasn’t long before I started getting some more jobs. I’m especially grateful to Lawgix International, my dad’s company, who have never let me go long without some kind of design job;) While mostly I assume I just get their business because I’m the CEO’s daughter and I am quick and reasonably priced, I also have a dad who is incredibly encouraging that I have a talent. And for all my other clients in the past and the ones that are becoming more than just a few right now, thank you!! I have a new found excitement for projects and have gotten enough work that I can afford to pay my good friend to babysit for me one afternoon every week so I can spend quality DAY time on my projects. I get way too run down staying up until 1:30 every night plugging away at my computer with two very active kids during the day to do that for long. You are all part of God’s plan in restoring me and who I am at the core. I’m a mom, but I’m also an artist. I have to create things. I lost that for a while, but little by little I’m finding ways to create (thank you for crafting inspiration, Friday Night Finishers!) get some exercise and simultaneous rest through my wonderful yoga class and hope to be getting back into my fine art background soon as well.

How? Well here’s the best part. Just over a week ago, my dreamer of a husband watched me make some art on a corner of our dining room table and listened to me vow to become really serious about doing an art or craft show in 2013 at some point. He said, “Why don’t we just make this room your work space?”

I just said, “You’re insane.”

We NEED a dining room. Our house isn’t huge to begin with and we already have a small 4-seater dining table, how would that ever work? He suggested getting a smaller round table to put in our kitchen. There was space in there, but I still thought it would be incredibly selfish of me to take up a whole room with my stuff and make us sit within arms reach of the sink, stove and fridge. He assured me there was plenty of room. I wasn’t biting. Then he gave this moving little speech about how he wants me to be happy and for my emotional well being we needed to do this- yada yada yada, those of you who know him know he is a persuasive albeit persistent fella. To be honest he didn’t need to twist my arm too much. What husband would say sure! All your art crap can be in the room people first walk into when they come in our house and it also happens to be where we eat meals? Mine does, apparently.

So the process started. We searched out a few things we needed to complete my “vision” for it. Of course I drew up rough plans and measured and allowed myself to get excited about something we were ultimately doing just, well, for me. I mean don’t get me wrong, painting in my basement did make me feel all warm and fuzzy…

…and doing design work on my couch, bed, kitchen counter wasn’t promoting my horrible posture or back spasms… Okay I’m lying. It wasn’t effective, or healthy and with out parameters of what was my workspace, my taking care of kids space, my making meals space frankly I was going nuts. I thought soon someone would come take me away. So before that happened, my loving husband intervened.

We spent the weekend turning this:

into this:

Between getting a small break in the middle of the week to get out of the house now as well and having a space of my own in the house has made all the difference! My mood is so much better and I feel much more efficient and inspired. The small investment of new paint on the walls, a few shelves and a couple small pieces of furniture was worth it. In this space I have room to do graphic design, paint, draw, make baby headbands, make wreaths, sew, scrapbook, collage, store all my supplies, scan photos, even spread out papers and folders to do genealogy research or incorporate it in my personal artwork. And it’s all right there for me- accessible and I don’t have to feel like I have to put it away and clean up after an hour of working on something. Plus, it’s cozy and I even have a little space to set Miles up with some crayons and paper or playdoh and Clementine has floor space (until she starts crawling- then I’m giving her the boot! 😉 if I have to do something while the kids are awake and I’m the only adult in the house.

I’m learning to balance my mom side and my work side a little more and give each side boundaries. It’s been too long blended together. I’m not one or the other. I’m loving that I am beginning to feel renewed and restored emotionally and creatively by this small change in our house, which is a very BIG deal to me.

What Speeding Locomotives, Veggie Tales and Poopy Diapers Are Teaching Me

So picture yourself sitting on train tracks and you can see the train from a distance. It’s approaching, and you could (maybe even easily) move yourself from the tracks and into safety. But someone who you trust told you to wait and they would come get you.What would you do?

Maybe that’s a horrible analogy, but that’s how I feel lately in regards to our whole house and financial situation. Jason’s job ends in 5 weeks. That’s like 2 or 3 more paychecks. Then what? Nothing! That’s what! We’ve both applied for jobs but nothing is opening up yet. And the worst part is, I worry about how people must think we’re idiots because he’s stepping away from his current job because of this call to go back to school. I worry what people think too much. He didn’t get let go from his job all of a sudden, we chose this. And since we assumed he’d be going to school in the fall the appropriate time to leave would be near the end of summer, right? Well, since funding was an issue and now he can’t start until January, there is that 5 month gap of nothing to fill. So yes, we struggle with being looked at as silly, irresponsible, reckless. Even if the train hits us, and we’re forced to foreclose on our house cause it doesn’t sell, we have no job and have to move in with family or whatnot, we will still make this PhD thing happen. Trust me, I will be the train wreck when it comes to saying goodbye to a house I love and have been raising my babies in. If we don’t push forward though and do this, we will always wonder “what if”. And worse yet, we would have been disobedient to God’s calling on our lives. I don’t know why He’s leading us down this route, other than to have Jason become a teacher. I’m excited to share with all of you what ups and downs do happen as we’re nearing the end of the beginning of this adventure.

I’m not always strong. Writing this blog has given me an outlet, helped me share our lives with friends and family I don’t see all the time, but mostly it has been a way God has encouraged me through the thoughts He gives me to share, and the responses I receive from readers. That is a major blessing that gives me renewed strength, endurance, hope to believe that what God promises he sees through. Some may think it’s a cop out, but I really do think that just because it’s not the easiest route, or the way we think a situation is going to go, doesn’t mean God’s hand isn’t in it or that He’s not going to fulfill His promise. If you don’t believe me, just watch Veggie Tales Abe and the Amazing Promise.

Seriously, though, God is teaching me to trust through Miles every day. When I tell Miles to wait because I see something ahead of him that will hurt him, he sometimes throws a FIT. He thinks I’m not going to let him go where he wants to go at all. I am. But I see something he doesn’t. So I stop him and ask him to wait. If he doesn’t, he could get hurt. If he calms down long enough to listen, he doesn’t. And sometimes he even listens long enough for me to explain WHY I had him wait and because I want what’s best for him and I love him. So elementary, yet I need those lessons every day.

I resist the urge to be like Sarah and when promised she will have a child (that she’s longed for) at her very old age, she decides to take matters into her own hands and has her husband (Abraham) sleep with Hagar, her servant. That wasn’t what God had in mind, He wanted Sarah to have a child (Isaac). I feel humbled and scared because I have the power to tell Jason, forget about this. We are going to be homeless and broke, so you do what ever it takes to get a job in Ashland, or I will get one, you stay home with the kids, I’ll just work to make a paycheck, we’ll keep the house, on and on and on. I don’t feel like that would be an easy route either, but I know doing an about-face on this call on our lives would be cowardly and very control-freakish of me. This feeling of being out of control in this situation is terrifying. Yet, extremely exciting and comforting. I know who’s really in control- and who wouldn’t want the creator of the universe, who is so madly in love with all of us, to be so in control of our lives that we aren’t even worried about the outcome of a situation? I’m not saying every situation will end happy or well or how you want it to. Our current situation may not either. But I know it’s not about what I think should happen or about being successful and responsible in the eyes of our society. It means just being open enough to be silent and listen to the One who knows you in and out.

Sometimes we are to act on something, other times we need to wait on the Lord, as painful as it may be. Jason and I are pretty impatient people, this has not been easy for us by any stretch of the imagination. We’re not doing in perfectly, oh my goodness are we not doing this perfectly. I’m just sharing this process of learning I’m experiencing. I have an equal amount of faith and doubt. I just hope we’re stepping aside long enough, now that we’ve done all we can do, to let God take over and fulfill the work He wants to do through us.  Trusting that He will come through and save us from the geyser eruption that I see gurgling up over the diaper and up the back of my daughter as I write this- I mean speeding train. I was using a train for my analogy. Okay, gotta go. Dooty calls.

Now Where Did I Put That Crystal Ball?

Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball- or at least just a Magic 8 ball that told me the truth. “That’s part of the adventure of life, the not knowing…” Bla, bla, bla. Actually, I believe that too. But now that we are in the thick of June we await God’s last minute plans to swoop in and save us. I don’t doubt that he will but I’ve resigned to the fact that it’s not going to be how I envision it. It hasn’t been so far, so why start now? I like to pretend like it’s ten years from now and we are looking back on this time laughing and sighing on how far we’ve come and how silly we were to ever doubt for a second that every step, every situation was put in place for a very specific reason. Like I said in the last post, the only thing we’re sure about is this call in our lives for Jason to persue his PhD. We don’t know the ripple effects of that action, but we don’t want to look back someday and regret that we didn’t obey God’s call and be haunted by the “what ifs”. If you’re passionate about something, and feel God saying, “What’s holding you back from doing that?” then do it! That’s what we think, anyway.

Miles has a 3rd birthday coming up. My little boy is energetic (and that’s an understatement), sweet, creative, smart and sometimes a real space-cadet. He can be loud and squealy and talk your ear off with good vocabulary or poopy butt talk. He can also be quiet and cautious and observant. He loves all things cowboy, trains, anything that flys or is in the sky, throwing rocks in water, anything the color blue and numero siete on the Fiesta Charra kids menu. He’s a wheeler and dealer. “Eat 3 more bites of broccoli and you can have a cookie.” “How about 2 bites? Okay I will eat 2 bites and get a cookie? Okay.” or “If you go pee on the potty you can have a jelly bean. If you poop on the big boy potty you can have a popsicle!”  ” If I pee I have a popsicle! Okay!” He knows exactly what he’s doing. Earlier we were coloring with markers and he was making me a picture. After he was done with mine, he said, “I sell it?” “I’m not buying your artwork, kid! I’m your mother! You should just give it to me!” He’s humble. “That’s very nice of me!” “Yes, I is a nice boy.” “Jesus is proud of me going on the big boy potty!” Yes He is, Miles. And for many more things. He loves his sister and tells her so all the time. He puts her pacifier back in her mouth, fetches her blanket and bear all on his own will. He always wants to cuddle with her. He is a great big brother. Jesus is proud of him. My heart is full.

Miles at 2 months

My almost 3 year old on a choo-choo train

I love my life right now, but I’m tired. I need a vacation, but no time or money to take the one I really long for (hint: it would probably exclude children). Waiting for something to happen for us- so we can move forward- has taken a toll. I feel pressure to make money freelancing, pressure to spend time with my kids; loving, encouraging, teaching, playing with them. Pressure to find time and resources to cook healthy food. All things I want to do, but along with finding time to rest myself it seems daunting each day. I find myself holding a nursing baby in one arm while I use my other arm to help my toddler use the “big boy potty”. I would like to use the “big boy potty” without hearing thuds and screams and wailing coming from the other room, sounds that won’t stop until I give my full attention to them once more. I don’t know how you super-moms  and dads do it all. My guess is you don’t do it all- but you make it look like you do and on top of that you make it look so dog-gone easy.  Jason and I joked yesterday that kids really do ruin your life. In a good, but challenging way. It really is about sacrificing your time, wants, needs to them for the better part of 18 years, and then I’m told it really never ends. We knew that going into baby having, but it still isn’t a reality until you’re in the thick of it.

I’m thankful for a husband who (for example) as soon as we got back from our 5 day trip to Virginia started a load of laundry, did dishes and got the laundry out and folded it AND put it away while I fed Clementine her last meal of the day and got her to bed. As we weaved our way north through the southern part of Ohio, we admired the beauty of Tappan Lake like we had on the way down. This time I was making a list of years and looking forward to three years from now when (God willing) Jason is done with course work and exams at Catholic University. That is the Fall I would love to take the kids to Disney World. 2015. Sigh. The follow year will be our 10th anniversary and I would love to go on a 2nd (yet cheaper and closer) honeymoon. That’s also the year Jason would be able to work as a professor and we could possibly buy a house again wherever he gets the job. Miles will being in 1st grade. Clementine will start pre-school. 2016. Sigh. I can’t imagine that time yet and I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to a rest. Even a little one.

I’m glad I can’t find my crystal ball, I don’t think I’d want to know where we’ll be until we get there. I’m enjoying the ages they are right now.  Even though I’m exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally- I’m enjoying relying on the Lord for- well, most everything. I’m enjoying becoming closer to my husband. I’m enjoying our friendships and our families and watching both grow. In three years, in four, in ten- I can look back and see the fruit of what God is presently doing. I’m excited for the future, but for now I will choose to wait and keep trusting and breathing hope into my little family, maybe helping others that can relate to continue to hope in what the Lord has promised them in their lives. Sometimes the best encouragement one can hear is “It will all be okay.” And I know it will.

The Grad School Update

We thought last year would be our last Christmas in our first home together. And we’ll think that it is again this year. And we’re okay with that. Things seem different this year, and they are. Things didn’t go as planned last year, but we took things as they came and embraced 2011 as a transition year, and frankly, if it hadn’t been for this year, we would have not been able to announce that we’ll be adding a little girl to be named Clementine to our family this winter, as well as all the opportunities for growth and friendship that has blessed us this year.

Applying to schools this year looked a little different. A little wiser, Jason had the chance to be able to visit most of the schools he applied to or thought of applying to this time around. It was extremely beneficial to the process, as it affirmed his research interests and showed how he could fit in very well or just alright with the schools he was looking into. The list we end up with is a very precise list of schools that we feel connect deeply with where Jason’s passion lies as well as being places we could see us raising our family over the next three to five years. He got to meet with faculty in the department he would potentially be working with and studying under, as well as current graduate students, who were encouraging and answered many of his questions. Many of them have young families and were honest and open about what life as a graduate student while having a family would be like. For me, it’s nice to know that no matter where we end up, we may have quick friends in some of these people, and I may have playmates for my kids as well as new girlfriends that have already started the experience of being a wife of a grad student.

He re-took the GRE. His score improved notably! He had a couple significant writing opportunities that not only provided us with some extra needed money, but more experience Jason could use when applying to schools. And now, the visiting schools part of the process is over. The applications and references  have been sent. Fees have been paid. Now, the waiting. All over again, just like last winter. Let me also be clear: we don’t get to choose. They choose him (us). This is extremely competitive. They only have room for a handful of new PhD students per year. It’s hard to just get “in”- then if you’re lucky enough to get “in”- you apparently will be worked like a dog until they are finished with you. Sounds…exhilarating. And I’m glad I’m not doing it. I’ll gladly support my husband wanting to do it, however. I believe in him.  If more than one of them chooses him, THEN we do have the luxury of choosing between the two (or more). However, we will just be excited if one chooses us.

And now we wait to hear from:

• Marquette University, in Milwaulkee, Wisconsin

• University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia

• Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.

• Baylor University, in Waco, Texas

There are a lot of things I could worry about right now. But all the worries depend on which school is the one. And I should say “if any” if I’m supposed to be responsible and all that grown up stuff. Last year there was no plan B. It just played out as we found out only one school accepted Jason and that it was not a school we felt led to be at. It had been a safe pick, one that Jason figured I’d be most okay with, seeing that it was so close to Ashland. Since then he has seen how that was not the case, that I am completely fine with not settling on a school based on the location, just so he could get a PhD. I want his experience to be the best it could be, with a department and faculty that took interest in his research interests and one that he would hold in great esteem, to get to work with people he admired and would want to have mentor him and he could really make the most of his experience with them. Why expect anything less? We only be saying, well, what if….you had tried again. Or what if….you had just visited and applied at this school instead. Or what if…you could have worked with that Dr. and helped write that journal article…or book….you get the idea.

I’m proud of Jason for being so ambitious and having this persistence. If I didn’t believe in him, I would have shut this thing down long ago. If married and embarking on this type of thing, you need the full support of your spouse. He has always been supportive of my hopes and dreams, and continues to be. I’m not giving up on what I want to do with my life so he can go “play” student or wanna be doctor or something. We don’t take this lightly- either of us. We are trying to follow God’s will for our lives and follow what gifts and passions He’s given us. I’m not going to engage in a debate on whether or not we’re hearing God right or should just stay in our comfort zone, because things are fine the way they are. Our decisions have to be public within our community because of Jason’s role in the church, but our reasoning is between the two of us and God and I don’t feel the need to apologize for that. I might sound like I’m getting all keyed up and defensive, but we actually we haven’t encountered much opposition to our plans, and so many have encouraged and affirmed us, prayed for us and have even given of their resources to help us in this transition year. We are deeply thankful for you. As for my role, right now, I see part of my story as being a support system to Jason. Which is what a spouse is, right? A helper? I am content in that sole role for now and being there for him and our son and the daughter on the way. That is an important role. And as I go, I find ways to use my giftings to bring joy to my life and I hope the lives of others, and for the glory of God. It’s always messy, life is just that way. And never perfect. But I can say that I learned a great deal more about trust and patience from the process last year and I can only expect that no matter how our plans shift from what we want them to be or think they will be, I will still have the love of my little family, a bigger extended family, my friends and my God. I’m looking forward to what may be in store for me in a new place, a new environment. I hope I change. I don’t want to stay the same. I want to grow and learn and if I have the opportunity to do this outside of the home I’ve known for 27 years, I will embrace it. I know I will cry. I know I will miss familiar people and things and places, but I’m excited to be stretched and pruned (for lack of a better non-“Christianese” word). I will be with my best friend and the two best things that have and will ever happen to us. That’s all I need. And that’s all I need, too! …I need this lamp!! and that’s all I need…

(thanks for laughing at “The Jerk” reference.)

I apologize for the lack of humorous musings on toddlers or everyday life in this post. I felt corny writing this mushiness. But after over a month of silence on this blog, I wanted to give an update on our status. I hope all of this made sense, because I am on some nighttime cold meds right now, so I can’t guarantee I didn’t say something idiotic. And goodnight.

Is Trusting People Naive?

Had a great conversation with friends last night and I started thinking a lot about how we trust or distrust people. When we have a distrust for people in general, its because someone or many people have let us down in a big way that hurt us.

Many times when we expect the worst out of people, we get the worst. Not that whenever we expect the best out of people we get lovely gems of humans that are perfect. Maybe we don’t expect them to be perfect, but perhaps more like us. Newsflash: Since we aren’t perfect either, they will mess up. And they do. People hurt us. We hurt others. But there has to be a fine line of not being naive to getting walked all over or being a fool in trusting people over our better judgement, and having high expectations of people because we love people, no matter how different or similar they are to us. Assuming that people are bound to screw us over is sometimes a natural reaction because of the brokenness in all our lives, but it’s not the attitude we were meant to be held captive by.

Jesus was the example for us in this walking the line of being a brilliant man and strong, but humble leader, yet having faith in everyday people who would let him down time and time again and charging them to be the ones to carry out the biggest challenge of all. I wonder if we followed that example and gave others the benefit of the doubt more often and expected more out of them, they would rise to the occasion? Again, it won’t always turn out like we think, but we have to remember to be encouraged and persistent. God doesn’t give up on us, we shouldn’t give up on each other either.

We all let each other down time and again, like humans tend to do. I never want to loose hope in people entirely. We all get discouraged by people, but if we’re honest, we let others down just as much as the next person. If we thought people had more faith in us, what we could accomplish- what we were capable of, wouldn’t we rise to that occasion too? Loving people- truly loving people is hard work, there’s no doubt about that. It can be messy and unpleasant and depressing at times. No matter how many times people let me down, I want to try my best to be an example for my kids and the people around me on expecting the best out of others, loving them even when they’re not giving their best, and letting down my guard to show them a real person that doesn’t have it all together either; never has and never completely will. We can only strive for hope, greatness and loving with our whole hearts. Maybe that’s naive, but I have chosen to try to live my life with the example Christ has set and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit He provided for us to have on this earth. While many things Jesus did seemed and were counter-cultural, I think that really loving people is having hope and faith in each other to do great things- even thought it doesn’t seem sensible, almost irresponsible at times- based on the human track record. The thing I struggle with is that I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to do it anyway.

I don’t know if all that makes sense, but those are my generalized thoughts from what was swirling around in my head before I went to sleep last night.

Waiting Is Hard. Period.

The suspense is getting greater and greater, at moments, I can’t even stand it. Over a week ago Jason got his first letter back from a school. It was a rejection letter. It was the same day that my doctor scheduled me for a CT scan and blood tests, thinking I had appendicitis. Thankfully it was just symptoms of a virus I had instead. Antibiotics helped quickly. Aside from that, my back had been acting up for 3 months and I finally was going to the chiropractor, since my right leg was perpetually numb, and carrying my 30lb flailing toddler was getting really difficult. How old am I? Sheesh. Our house is on the market, and the pressure is on to sell within 6 months, but we hope sooner, with the reality of losing money. There was some other stuff going on too that I’d rather not get into, but it was a rather stressful depressing week, to be honest.

Even in those moments, though, God reminds us that He doesn’t want us to dwell on the things that don’t seem to go our way, but He still wants to use us to bless others, and use others to bless us. Mostly the latter has happened lately, and we don’t deserve it, but are grateful for it.

Jason’s rejection letter came from Duke Divinity, and it stung. Today, the email came from Duke itself stating the same. He was expecting that answer. Hopeful, but realistically it is just such a difficult school to get accepted into the PhD program he applied for.

Our hopes lie with UVA in Charlottesville, VA and Duquesne in Pittsburgh. We should know in the next two weeks about those two. I’m getting antsy. Having nightmares. Cleaning and cooking and painting like a mad woman. Walls, not canvases, much to my chagrin. And on our 60 degree weather day I got a lot of outside work done I didn’t have time for in the fall.

I have loved, however, watching my son discover the piano at my parents house, and not pound on it, but gently play a few notes at a time, some even in a rhythm and once he found an octave. He was so serious and concentrating so hard. He looked like he really enjoyed the experience of it, and when it was time to go, he cried- not the temper tantrum kind of cry, but a “you just ripped me away from my puppy” kind of cry. It was sad! I can’t wait to get him back over there to play on it some more.

I also have tried again with crayons with him. Before he was more about putting a couple dots on the paper and then sucking on the crayons, but today he actually drew! He’s never done that before! Well, scribble, I guess, but I teared up, I loved it so much. He used different colors and it almost looked like storm clouds over the ocean. I just never thought I’d get so much joy out of watching my kid explore and be creative. It gives me a different perspective on how God must see us, and beam with pride and love when He watches us use the gifts he’s given us, and create and explore and make the world a more beautiful place. I can’t wait to see what gifts Miles has and how he uses them.

He Never Said Trusting Was Easy

Prokop, Péter (1919-2003) Abraham, Isaac, angel, ram Date: 1961

Trusting is sure easy when things are going swimmingly. It’s another story when obstacles appear. Like big, ugly sharks chomping down on the housing market kind of obstacles. I knew things were rough in Ashland for some trying to sell their house, but I didn’t realize some people were taking 5, 10, even almost 20 thousand dollar losses on their properties. It’s just the economy. I totally understand this is the environment we are dealing with.

Our house will be on the market in the next day or two, and the asking price is, well, lower than I wanted. Sadder yet, it’s at the very high end of what we were advised to start pricing at. I may learn a lesson over the next couple months and have to bring it down but I can’t bring myself to lower it even further yet. It’s already 10 thousand under what WE paid for it. And it’s also a couple thousand under what we still OWE on it right now as I type my pitiful post.

I had a moment of depression, and by no means do I feel giddy right now, but my husband, encourager of my faith, reminded me that God is good and faithful. He reminded me of the story of Abraham and Isaac and how sometimes God will bring us to the brink of something uncomfortable or even terrifying before we see His provision. Trusting God isn’t always easy, and I’m not going to say I always do 100%. I should, but I’m human and I doubt. I worry and I keep “doing the math” and it never adds up. But then I think, what about all the times that God has provided for us in numerous ways that didn’t make sense either. Sometimes things just suck before they get better.

I know our house selling potentially way under asking price is somewhat a trivial matter compared to what others are going through. Loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, illness, abuse, the list goes on and on. Why would He come through for us in this “trivial” pinch, but not for them? Or why them and not us? I don’t know. I don’t know all the plans that are being woven together with sorrows and joys and confusion and clarity. I just wait and trust and I have hope. Not just for our house selling, or just breaking even, but hope that in God’s good and gracious timing we will see things come to light that have been covered in darkness. And we will see the good growing from all of our sufferings, big and small alike.

 

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

 

Why Mourning Doves?

Mourning doves is the name of this blog because these birds are our Ebenezer.

1 Samuel 7:12, NIV
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[a] saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

Ebenezer means “stone of help” and for us, whenever we see a Mourning Dove, we are reminded of God’s love, provision and faithfulness. If there is a symbol in nature or the man-made world, or a person, the cross, Bible, etc. that reminds you of who God is in your life, that is an Ebenezer.

We have seen Mourning Doves greet us at our new home when we were first married to remind us of how God wanted the two of us to love each other as He loves us, sacrificially and with passion.

They were there when we are having financial difficulty and needed reminded of God’s provision.

They were there when we screamed through green lights on the way to the hospital to deliver our son to remind us of out of great suffering (or, in my case contractions) comes great joy and life.

These birds have come back to our porch every year (the same two, as they are monogamous) to have babies two or three times through the summer. Their sound is sad, but comforting.

I hope to write about marriage, motherhood, the unknown, relocating, new adventures, food, great joys, selling a house, art, music, movies, saving money, dreams, and let’s face it, probably some venting.

Underneath it all, though, I want to record a journey of seeing God in all things and being open and moldable to His plans for me and my young, little family.