Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's been too long . . .

It has just been too long since I've popped in and chatted with y'all, and I miss you! Danielle (my awesome friend and roommate) took my kids for the first few days of camp this week so I could spend some time with my boys (it's older boys week at camp) so I haven't had any time that I havent been running around and playing. And I've been loving it completely, but I am sorry for my absence. I know it's probably hard for y'all not hearing my babbling every single day . . . or not at all. Whatever.

Either way, all I got for you today is way too many pictures (again) from two weeks ago at camp, because I am also behind on my photo editing. Shocking, I know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living in the tension

Some of the stories I hear from the kiddos at camp make my heart ache. They bring me to tears, and make me cuddle my own children closer, reminded that not all children have someone to cuddle them. Jayci asks why my eyes are wet, and I dont know how to explain that we live in a broken world. A place where kids are hurt, abused by those who should be loving them best. That some kiddos don't get enough to eat every day. Some witness shootings, or don't meet their fathers. Some spend every Christmas alone . . .

In the very next moment, I lay Jayci down in her bed and she prays in thankfulness for all the kiddos. We snuggle until she drowsily whispers goodnight, and I tiptoe out of the room, careful not to trip on piles of princess dresses and camp t-shirts.  I grab my camera and tromp down the stairs to watch the kiddos play their "night game." Sometimes they run from "flower bandits" as they bring water all across camp. Or maybe they're having a giant food fight, or spraying each other mercilessly as they "storm the castle" or rescue the "damsel in distress." Their shrieks make me smile, and they stop for a sopping wet hug as they run past. I wipe water from their cheeks and frame my shot, trying to capture the innocence of their play. Trying to remind them, and myself, that they are still kids.

And the sun sinks low over the hills, casting brilliant colors on the clouds and silhouetting children as they run through the dusk. My breath catches at the beauty of each new sunset, God's subtle and brilliant reminder of His creativity. His goodness. His beauty. His love.

I am caught off guard by the tension of beauty in the midst of brokenness. Of pain and joy, inextricably linked.

As the sun dips, the shadows deepen to darkness. Pink and orange fade to blue and purple. And then, a single contrail rends the sky with a brilliant pink streak, looking for all the world like a tear in the fabric of the clouds, offering a glimpse into the beautiful light and splendor behind. I am reminded that the torn places, our wounds, our scars - they are the very places that rend our shells and give space for Christ to shine through.

As we were leaving to drive back to camp last Sunday afternoon, we pulled back up to our house (because Adam forgot his wallet, this happens more often than you can imagine). Stopped outside, the car idles, while Caden babbles, and Zack raps under his breath along with the Lecrae music coming from our blown speaker. I am distractedly checking emails or facebook on my phone while Adam runs inside and then re-locks up and alarms the house.

Mommy. Mommy. Jayci is insistent, and I turn my attention from my phone to smile at her. What is it sweet girl? I ask, trying to remain patient rather than irritated at the interruption. I was talking to God she said, and He says the sky is peach. I look at her quizzically: it's midday and the sky is brilliant blue, spotted with white clouds. Also, I am surprised she knows the color peach at all, I've never heard her use it to describe a color and not a fruit. Good job coming up with that color sweetie, I say, but it's actually blue right now. I wink and turn to my phone as Adam gets back in the car, and we drive to camp, navigating drive-through dinner, replacing Caden's pacifier 748 times, mopping up spilled diet coke (mine) and french fries (also mine, I'm a little clumsy).

As we are pulling up to camp, the sun is just beginning to set. I look at the sky in amazement and punch Adam in the arm excitedly. The sky is totally peach I tell him. Not orange, not pink. Peach. He is thoroughly confused since he missed our earlier exchange. I desperately dig for my camera (which is nowhere within reach) while explaining. Jayci tells us, matter-of-factedly, See? I told you the sky was peach, God wanted us to see it so we would know it was beautiful.

God cares. His plan and His world are beautiful, despite the pain and brokenness, or perhaps even because of it. He reminds us, just when we need it most, of His beautiful goodness and that He is taking care of my children and the kiddos. He loves Jayci enough to give her a perfectly-peach sunset. And He loves each of the kiddos enough to bring them here to experience His goodness, even if just for a week.

That night as we prayed before bed, I thanked God with Jayci for speaking to her, for sharing His creation and sunset with her. And we ended our prayer, like we always do, with "we love you Jesus. Amen."  And Jayci said: "mommy, God says He loves us too."
He loves us. And cares for us. And is always there beside us, reminding us of His goodness even as we doubt it and question His plans. He is big enough, strong enough, beautiful enough to handle our questions. And He gives us beautiful sunsets and declarations of love through a sweet three year old. I am grateful, and am learning to live in the tension. Because in the tension I cling most tightly to my Savior. We live in a broken world, and I am reminded that our brokenness becomes the very thing that draws us closer to Christ, cracked and broken vessels that shine His light to a hurting world.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Camp Photo Dump

Y'all, it is seriously a momentous moment. I just laid down on the couch in our room, and breathed in the silence and even shut my eyes and prayed for a few minutes before getting out my computer to return work emails and personal emails and check on kids coming to camp next week and then thought I'd pop in here and put up a few pictures. But back to the momentous-ness of this moment. You see, Caden and Jayci are BOTH napping right now. And for that, I thank camp and all of it's crazy chaos and energy-sapping activities. Granted, Caden will probably only sleep for thirty minutes anyways, but still - simultaneous naps. That is something to celebrate.

All that to say, I'm trying to make use of this time but all I want to do is shut my eyes. So I'm going to stop talking, share way too many pictures from the last week or two, and then shut them. Amen.
hahahahaha. That's all I have to say about that.
Also, do you see how big our chickens are getting? I definitely should have held them while they were tiny, cause now I'm a little frightened.
Ok and just for fun, I have to include this SUPER old picture from our 2nd year of camp, and Zack's first time at camp. Gah, look how little the boys are!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pinning our Hopes

Danielle and I sit on the front porch under the spinning fan and strings of lights, swatting the occasional bug and shaking our heads at the cluster of teenage boys who have just left our yard, noisily tromping and joking and good-naturedly-shoving all the way down the street. When my phone rings, I answer it (a rare occasion) on the first ring. The godmother of the boy who was shot is calling to check if we still have a mattress he can use now that he's home, because he's been sleeping on a box spring. Of course, I assure her, I'll have Adam bring it over as soon as he gets home from camp. After exchanging pleasantries and commenting on the weather, her voice tinges with desperation as she clears her throat and asks me if I've seen her son in the neighborhood that night. When I tell her I haven't, she halting asks if you see him, could you please tell him to make good choices? I tell her of course I will, and only the slight break in her voice betrays the trembling of her soul when she adds I can't do this without him.   After hanging up with her, I giggle at little with Danielle because this particular boy has been in and out of prison since we've known him. And though I'm not proud of my response here, I'll admit to y'all that I may have said to Danielle with a slight smirk that perhaps she should pin her hopes on something, or someone, else.

But isn't that the very story of what we all do every single day? We pin our hopes on all the wrong things.

During training week at camp, every counselor and leadership member shared their testimony. Everyone's stories were so so different, the paths that led them to camp were varied and beautiful and hard and terrible and perfect. But the common thread running through each and every one of our stories was this: "I had my hopes pinned on something else. And it did not satisfy. And I was disappointed.  Then I found Jesus, and pinned my hope on Him. And life has never been the same." The end.
But the problems start because hope is easily mis-pinned. It is oh-so easy for me to look at my kids and pin my hopes on them: if I am a good enough mom, if my kids will only SLEEP and obey and grow up to be ____(insert any responsible, honorable part of society)____, then I will be ok. Then my hopes and dreams will be fulfilled and I will feel like I am enough. So I look at Jayci, I see how beautiful and lovely and wonderful she is, and I cringe at her self-consciousness and insecurity. I see so much of myself in her, and I pin my hopes on the fact that things will be different for her than they were for me. I look at Caden, trace his scar, count his heartbeats. And I pin my hopes on his heart staying healthy. I forget daily that it is ok to have hopes and dreams FOR my kids, but not to hope IN them.

Every person you encounter can probably trace pain and hurt to mis-pinned hopes in their lives. The single woman who desperately longs for a man, pinning all her hope on finding a boyfriend. Or the girl who just knows that all her dreams will be fulfilled when he proposes and she walks down the aisle in a beautiful white dress.  The wife who hopes and longs and cries out for a baby, a tiny bundle of pure joy that will finally fulfill all her hopes.  The father who watches his son make bad choices, his hopes pinned on the prodigal son's return to his waiting arms.  Or the wife who learns of her husband's affair, hopes crushed because they had been pinned on THIS time being different. Or the young professional who claws her way up the corporate ladder, her hope pinned on the next promotion finally helping her feel important and whole. The girl who eats next to nothing, or throws up every bite she takes, all her hopes pinned on everything being ok once she reaches the perfect weight. Or the person getting botox and a face lift at the plastic surgeon, hopes pinned on eternal youth. In a broken world, we pin our hopes on all the wrong things.

The other day, I was driving to Publix to do some groceries (I'm a grocery-store snob, I admit it. I hate the Kroger in our neighborhood). All the trees in the parking lot were full of gorgeous, huge white blooms. So huge, in fact, that every single branch was bent low enough that the blooms were nearly skimming the pavement. As I navigated the giant-two-kid-racing-car-shopping-cart through the store, trying to avoid knocking over displays and constantly stopping Caden from grabbing things off the shelf and putting them immediately in his mouth, I kept thinking about those trees and their bent branches. About how sometimes we too bow low beneath the weight of things. The weight of things we've pinned our hopes on. We bend low to the ground, certain we will never recover, never stand straight again. We bend beneath the weight of ourselves, the weight of His glory and His grace, and often it is only with our face to the pavement that we finally realize we're pinning our hopes on the wrong thing. And once we re-vision our lives, transferring all our hopes onto the One who will never disappoint, then we recognize our false hopes, our hurts, our burdens, our unrealized dreams. Only then can we recognize these burdens as they actually are, the fragrant blooms of a beautiful offering to our Creator.

A few days later, I grab my camera as I head out the door to pick up Jayci and get more groceries (turns out having teenage boys in the house means you need lots and lots of groceries). I want to take a picture of those trees, to capture their boughs bent low, to sniff their heady blooms and remember what Christ reminded through them. But when I pull into the Publix parking lot, the blooms are gone. In their place are lush green leaves, and boughs that point straight to the sun. I sigh and then smile, turning my own face to the Son, thankful for the reminder that He makes all things new.

When we bend low and offer our burdens and unrealized dreams to Him, He transforms and redeems them. He offers new life, green leaves sprouting from straightened branches. And all our mis-pinned hopes are made into beautiful dreams for our lives. God-given dreams and hopes and wishes that, offered to the King, remind us of His goodness, and point us to the One who will not disappoint. And we are free.
Free because we are no longer bound to those things we're hoping in. I am no longer in bondage to becoming the perfect mother, to worrying about Caden's health. My hope is in Christ, not in how my children turn out, which frees me up to just love Jayci deeply and fully rather than trying to make her something that serves my own needs. I am free to have hopes FOR her, without putting my hope IN her. I am free to love Caden without fear of losing him, because my hope is not in him, but in the One who made him. Wives are free to forgive, single girls are free to be romanced by the One who loves them most fully, woman are free to be who Christ made them to be rather than comparing and prodding and cutting and coloring and dieting and starving themselves. Because all our mis-pinned hopes are now fragrant offerings to the One who delights in giving us good gifts, to the One who fashioned us, and who knows most intimately every single thing we need and hope and wish for.

I'm praying for all of y'all today, and for each and every kiddo here at camp and in my neighborhood, and for myself and my own kids. I'm praying that our hopes will be redeemed today. That whatever we carry that bows us low, will be the very thing that causes us to bow our knees before our Savior and pin all our hopes on Him.
"But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:31

Friday, June 8, 2012

Some Things I Love

Ok so I'm at camp and like I mentioned in my last post, life gets crazy and busy. So here's a few quick links to tide you over for the weekend.
Our pastor PREACHED this past weekend. I'll tell you what, it was one of my favorite church services I have ever been to. I highly recommend listening.
Have y'all heard of Lecrae? We pretty much listen to him on repeat while we're at camp, and he has a new free "mixtape" that you can download right here. It's also what we listen to in the car when the kiddos clamor for rap and I cant stomach Jayci listening to the lyrics of what they try to put on. So I put on Lecrae and everyone's happy.
And here's a few posts I've loved from around the internets lately (I know I'm busy, but sometimes I just gotta get lost in some truth to refocus my soul, ya know?)
The Robe (Bring the Rain)
One thing that will make your soul explode (Chatting at the Sky)
Because Hard Days are White Horse Days (Holy Experience) 
I just finished (and loved) The Language of Flowers (thanks Shannan!)

I also love these two little stinkers. They're adorable and appropriately fawned over by ALL the campers. I'll be shocked if Jayci doesn't have a big head by the end of the summer, based on the number of people who tell her she's the prettiest little girl in the world (not that I'm arguing with that, it's true y'all).

Do you know what else I love? Crud Wars (a giant food fight we do at camp). Please notice Adam dumping the whole bucket on "Coco"'s head. Poor Coco, Adam always picks on her!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Even then.

We are half-way through our first week of campers. And I fully realize that it has been nearly a week since I posted here. It's just that when we're at camp, life tends to move at a faster pace. And somehow slower too.
This different pace is exactly the reason we love camp. Why we love letting our kiddos escape the city for a little while to experience the cadence of life in the country. Where we walk through the dark by the light of a full moon and a sky pin-pricked with stars. Where lake water and muck seeps through our toes, and we climb walls and zip-lines even when our knees feel weak. Where frogs fill the night with loud lullabies, and are thrown into the beds of unsuspecting campers by Adam (it's one of his favorite camp activities).

At camp, by the time I kick my Chaco's off at night and wash the dirt off my feet, I just want to crawl in bed and whisper prayers that Caden and Jayci wont wake me up before the sun.
At camp, I get so caught up in playing games and having massive food fights and taking pictures of smiling faces that I neglect the blog. And that's really a good thing, right? For life to happen for real and not just here on the inter-web? It's good that I'm so busy walking outside with Jayci and dancing to Lecrae with Caden that I dont pop in here. The only problem is that when I'm not writing, it often means I'm not processing. I'm not working through my emotions. I process so much and work through so many things in this place. Like grieving the fact that I dont get to spend much time with the kiddos at camp any more, while celebrating and rejoicing in the fact that the reason for my lack of time is my own two precious ones.

Or working through how I feel about the fact that I drove back for Caden's feeding therapy this morning, and they told me he was "difficult." Which is ok. But also hard. Or that while I was at home I talked to the grandma of one of my kiddos and she told me she had given up on him. "He's just too far gone, I sleep well at night knowing I did my best. But he's just too far gone." But he is only fourteen years old. No matter how old he is, in fact, I refuse to believe that anyone is too far gone for the love of Christ to reach. Like Jayci's Bible says: He loves with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. So we must love the same way.
But if I don't write about that here, I find myself sad and feeling defeated. And I can't figure out why. So I am sitting here, when I should be sleeping, picking at a little thread of sadness, until I can unravel the whole thing. And then let God weave it back together into something beautiful. Something with promise. Something that says that we can have hope, even if some of the kiddos here end up down the wrong path. Even if some of them end up with babies at fourteen, if some of them get shot next to our garden, or end up in a gang, or prison. Even if some of them seem "too far gone."

Even then.

Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love


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