Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Margins: sigh (day 31)

The 31 days of October and margin are finished. And I'm glad, although I don't even have the time or energy currently to think about all I've learned (or not learned, perhaps). Also, today is Halloween. And we dressed up as super heroes and went trick-or-treating. And now we're watching the New Girl before going to bed. Because that show is the bomb, for realz.

Anyways, thanks to y'all for your patience and love and kindness as I (didn't even come close) posted every day this month. I love you all.

For now, to end out these 30 days, I leave you with a plethora of pictures from our day!
This is about when all the kiddos started asking Mr. Adam what in the world he was thinking wearing his underwear like that . . .

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Margins: Family Day (day 29)

One way that we have attempted, since the beginning of moving into this neighborhood to do ministry, to maintain a little bit of margin is through establishing a "family day." Every Monday we spend the day as a family, and when kids knock on the door I simply raise my eyebrows at them and ask: "what day is it today?"

"AH MAN!" Everyone around here hates family days!" is how one kid responded to me this week. Which made me smile a little, so I winked and hugged him and reminded him to come back tomorrow. Not that they need reminding.

Because our weekends are basically full of kiddos and bringing neighborhood kids to church and having "family game night" and playing cards or football or having a bonfire with kids, we decided to take Mondays as a "weekend" of sorts. It also turned into "cleaning day," which I originally vehemently opposed because THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY DAY OFF - I DONT WANNA CLEAN (no, I am not whiny and over-dramatic, why?) Cleaning, however, happens much more easily around here when it's scheduled and forced upon me without interruption.
We try to do fun family activities and/or family dinners. We will spend time with other family/friends, but no "work" (aka no extra kiddos).

I'd really like to try and be more intention with my Monday time, possibly even doing my Monday cleaning tasks on Sunday afternoon/evening to give me more time to take a "sabbath" on Mondays. But, overall, I've been really happy with the way Mondays give us some focused time where Jayci and Caden get undivided attention and a reminder that they are our children and we love them deeply.

(Today, we went to the zoo for family day with some friends. It was frigid, making it not as fun as I hoped . . . but at least we had some family time, right?!)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A beautiful day in the neighborhood (day 27)

Saturday was a beautiful day. No other words for it. The weather was perfect, bright blue sky painted behind leaves in brilliant orange and red and yellow.  Bright and early we gathered boys, crowding them into the car and driving the forest-lined roads to camp for fall festival. After a few hours of painting pumpkins and eating hot dogs and climbing the rock-wall, we headed back to the ATL.
The afternoon was brilliant, my house and heart full of teenage boys who were loud and raucous and ate too much pizza and cheered for my Bulldogs, and also cheered for the Gators, just to make me mad. And they played tackle football in the park, and then ended the night with a game of manhunt, occasionally trickling in for a cup of hot cocoa and a hug.

And I am grateful, once again, for the reminder of why I do this crazy-life that I do. Because these boys? I love them and they love our family and they drink the "tea" that Jayci serves them in porcelein tea cups. And they stay off street corners and find a place to belong for even a few hours.

Because really? Who needs margins when you have love? And lots of it.

(Ok I do need margins. For realz. But I'm just sayin, I love it.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Margins: Simplify (day 25)

On day 14, I wrote about the things we put inside our margins.
 And I've been thinking, since then, about how to downsize the number of things inside our margins. You know, the things that make up our day-to-day life and responsibilities and jobs and roles as parent and wife and friend. But if there's nothing that can legitimately be CUT OUT, because we dont have money for child-care and I have to do both photography and keep my job because we need to make ends meet and we need health insurance (because of Caden especially and his "preexisting condition"). And I obviously have to take care of my children and the house (I mean, at least to the point that we dont end up on some episode of hoarders or something). We will never stop doing ministry to our neighbors or fighting for the kiddos. And we value small group and church and time with family and friends. Oh and this blog? I could probably cut it out, but I love having space to write and think things through and I'm not positive I could do all of the other stuff I do without an outlet.

So then what's the solution? Because that's what this is all about, really. This lack of space and inability to cull activities/responsibility, leads to a lack of SPACE (aka margins) in our lives. I also feel a little helpless that I apparently cant even explain what margins are properly.
Anyways, I think it means somehow we need to simplify. To downsize and streamline and simplify the things we DO have in our lives, the things that are staying no matter what. So simplify our parenting practices, our home, our finances. Less clothing and stuff means less clutter and less cleaning, right?

 I really love the idea of simplifying, I'm just not very good at the practice of simplifying. And I think it comes down to simplicity of heart. A singleness of purpose rooted in the understanding that a heart centered on Christ will have an ability to root through the clutter in order to find and fight for what's important.

So what suggestions do y'all have regarding simplifying? Simplicity? Monk-dom perhaps?

This is post 25 in a series of 31 posts (one for every day this month) on margin. Read all the posts here. And visit The Nester to see all the 31 Day link-ups (but be warned, you could literally read for days and never read all the good stuff linked up there!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Margins aren't for insulating (day 23-24)

The longer I look at margins, the more I notice them. The shoulders on the road, margin unfolding alongside a stream of cars in either direction. The extra five minutes that Caden naps. Crisp white space in my favorite story, jotted with notes and exclamations. Scribbled dates and reminders in the margins of my Bible.

I've realized, however, that it can be tempting to see margin as a protective barrier. A hedge of protection around our lives. An excuse to say "no," on the grounds of preserving margin and leaving space for ourselves in our lives. But in church Sunday morning, I sit in the gymnasium of the local middle school, a King Cobra leering overhead, cleverly disguised by black curtains and carefully pointed spotlights. I shoot warning looks disguised behind a smile at the row of teenage boys from our football team in front of me, occasionally reaching forward to squeeze their shoulders and remind them of my presence and, you know, the fact that I have ears and can hear everything they're saying. And even in the midst of all of it, I'm reminded that our primary goal is never protection.

The message this week was from the parable of the talents (in Matthew 25). Here's a refresher for you in case it's been a while: a man goes on a journey and entrusts three of his slaves with varying amounts of talents (money). The first two (given five and two talents respectively) immediately invest the money and when the master returns after a long time, he receives double the amount he originally gave from each of them. He declares them good and faithful. The third man, however, is given one talent, which he immediately buries. And when the master returns, he gives him back the talent. He is declared wicked and slothful by the master for this, and cast out into the "outer darkness."
First of all, can I tell you that this parable is slightly straight-up frightening? Because here's the thing:  the "wicked" servant didn't even squander what he had been given. It's not like he spent the master's money on himself, or partied it up on the master's dime. Nope, he is fearful of losing the talent and so he buries it. He protects it for the master's return.

But we were not given talents, or money, or influence, or stories, or friendships, or neighbors, or children, simply so we can bury them in safety for the master's return. That's not enough. As Christians, and particularly as mothers, it can be so easy to believe that we are, above all else, to "protect" ourselves and our children from an evil world. We forget that we must invest to see growth. That we need to give of ourselves, take risks, make ourselves vulnerable.
Those margins I've been talking so much about? They are not for keeping the bad world out. They're not meant to be a white-picket-fence encircling our ideal Christian life. Rather, they are space to let God in. Room for Him to move, so we can better love our neighbors. So we can hear His voice and His nudging, and so we can invest ourselves and our stories into the things that will bring greater glory and joy to our Master. Because He is coming back, y'all. And I, for one, want to hear Him tell me "well done good and faithful servant."

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal…We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.”~CS Lewis in the Four Loves

Monday, October 22, 2012

Margin and listening to wise friends (Day 22)

First of all, I recognize that I've been a little spotty with my posting "every day" lately. I apologize for that; however, y'all know I'm working on letting myself break the "rules" in order to gain a little margin. So thank you all for being so gracious and loving and forgiving. You rock.

Anyways, a wise and amazing friend sent me an email this week that I cant stop thinking about in how it relates to margins in my life. So I'm just popping in really quickly today to share what I've been pondering and hope that you might be able to look at your own lives and margin (or lack-thereof) and sit before Jesus alongside me.
 I don't know, but perhaps when you're feeling robbed of joy and feel like quitting it's because you've taken on something He hasn't asked of you -- whether in actuality or just mentally.  Because I'm confident He didn't call you to the city to change the city (He doesn't need you for that).  He called you to change you.  To give you life more abundantly.  So if life feels like less, maybe it's time to sit quietly before the Lord and open your hands and let Him show you if somehow your mind or heart has gotten distracted or side-tracked or muddled or has just forgotten that He is enough just as He is. 

Reading - Day 20

Some things I've read the past few days that have stirred my soul and heart. I have given myself space, and continue to fight to find space, to read things that make me think and make me pray and draw me closer to the Father's heart. And I love sharing good things with y'all, because you deserve it. Cause you rock. You know that, right?

As a side note, I ask the kiddos (and my own children) this all the time: you know I love you right? I especially love when the teenage boys duck their heads and tell me yes tentatively before hugging me tight and running out in the street to play basketball or throw the football or listen to who-knows-what in their headphones.
Her posts are always some of my favorites. Always.

These two posts? Ridiculously heart-shaking and thought-provoking. And brought many a moment that made me want to shout "exactly!" Which is really cool, and another reason all the teenage boys in the neighborhood love hanging out with me.

I adore everything my most-amazing friend Shannan writes. But this one? Especially my favorite.

Oh and this post? Seriously, perfect for me and my "margin" obsessed month and also my busy-crazy life.

If you're a parent (or want to be one day) I highly recommend listening to this sermon. Loved it. Also? That's exactly, 100% what I long to do and why I NEED margins -because I want to parent on purpose and not by default.

And without margin and space to think and pray and make wise decisions, without margin things are done by default. And I think we are meant to live our lives on purpose and with purpose.

What have you read and loved this week?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Margins so we can hear (Day 19)

Today I stumbled onto this post, and then this post. And tears welled, pooled, and ran in rivulets down my face as I imagined so much hurt. Not imagined, really. Remembered is more accurate. I have been there. And I ache and tremble to think that one day Jayci might make one mistake. Or rather, that she WILL make mistakes. And that this world, the people around her, might not ever let her forget. To imagine she might feel such depths of pain and shame, that she might one day wish she was made to be something and someone else. That she might be left out, alone, ignored, or ridiculed.
I dont want to simply raise a "good" girl. I dont care if she is successful or pretty or dresses well or makes good grades.

I want her to be heard. To be brave. The kind of soul-moving and earth-changing bravery that only comes from the certainty that we are noticed. That we can and do make a difference, simply by our existence.

So I want, no I must, leave space. Leave margin in my life where I can hear her. Where she knows that I will listen, that someone cares. Always.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Caden Cardiologist Update

I think y'all probably knew (cause I told you a few or ten times) that we brought Caden to the cardiologist for the first time in six months yesterday morning. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all your prayers and support and love.

The night before his appointment I was feeling inexplicably paralyzed by fears and a lack of peace about the whole thing. In fact, just thinking about it made me want to throw up. I dont really know why, except that maybe I have some unresolved issues and fears and memories from the time we spent with Caden in the hospital. And it's also a jarring reminder that even when life with Caden has seemed SO normal the last six months, he still has cardiologist appointments and things aren't REALLY completely normal. He will have more surgery, we need to keep an eye on him. And that's a hard thing to remember when we look at our silly little boy and his sweet little heart.

When Adam and I talked as we lay in bed that night about how we felt and what we thought they were going to say, we both agreed that we felt like they were going to say everything was fine. But that we were also afraid to fully let ourselves think or believe that. Anyways, we spent some time praying and surrendering our fears, and Caden, into the arms of a loving and patient Father.

So the appointment itself was LONG (like three hours long) and felt physically and emotionally exhausting as we chased Caden around and tried to entertain and quiet and keep him still while he missed his morning nap and was poked and prodded and measured.
The news was basically exactly what we expected; in other words, really good. He is doing really well, his heart function is good right now and everything looks just as they expected it to look. His murmur is a little louder (which, however, seems like a very subjective matter to me), and his pulmonary valve (as expected) is definitely going to be the next area of concern and why he will need more surgeries down the road. The doctor said, however, that it should be a few years before we need intervention, and that we can go six more months before coming back to the cardiologist!

Caden's cardiologist is a little bit all-over-the-place and I dont feel like I really got a very clear prognosis, however. During the echo he kept saying we were done and then he would see or hear something that made him want a closer picture so poor Caden kept getting dressed and undressed and I wasn't really sure what was going on. I think we might try and meet with a different cardiologist in the practice next time who hopefully wont be quite as confusing. So pray for wisdom in that too.

Thank you all again for your prayers and love and encouragement for me and our family and especially for Caden. Continue to pray for his little heart, and that we will keep enjoying many more normal years with our sweet little man.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Going to the Margins (Day 16)

I'm currently sitting on my unmade bed drinking coffee, a pumpkin candle lit beside me, and sunshine streaming onto my bare toes, fresh from my first uninterrupted shower in who-knows-how-long. Sigh. Life feels more manageable in this moment, when my kids are safe with my husband, but far away from me right now. I read and re-read all of your sweet and life-giving comments from my post yesterday. Seriously, y'all have no idea how encouraged I am by your kindness and support and love.

There is work to be done (lots of it!) but sometimes I need to empty my soul, order my thoughts and untangle my insides, before I can be most productive. Right?

I've been reading about Sabbath this morning and pondering rest and rhythm and WHY exactly we need to create margin in our lives. Margin is important to Jesus, I think. And not just because we need space to meet with Him. Rather, I think it's because He cares so deeply and desperately about the poor and marginalized. And until we have margin in our lives, we find ourselves unavailable to GO to the margins.

When people hear about our lives, about where we live and what we do, the question I am inevitably asked again and again is this: how did you know? How did you hear God calling you to this? How did you decide to actually move into the city, to go to the marginalized and live with them?

The truth is that God was gentle with our hearts in this process. He tip-toed and baby-stepped us towards the margins until, before we knew it, we had bought a house there. And now He is reminding me that unless I respect margins and space for His continued voice and movement in my own life, I will miss the next steps He is leading me to take, the next places He is asking us to go.

On our last morning of vacation in St. Simons, we walked on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean, and ventured down the pier to watch the fisherman pull in nets full of silvery, flopping fish. I spent the majority of my time chasing the children and trying not to have a heart-attack at the thought of them walking (and/or climbing) off the edge of the pier. Adam pushed the stroller while I sipped iced coffee, relishing the feeling of sun warming my shoulders. 
While we walked, hundreds of butterflies fluttered around us, their orange wings pausing just long enough to rest on grass blades or flower petals before resuming flight. Jayci ran around in delight, pointing out each butterfly tirelessly. I raised my ever-present-camera to frame them, trying to capture their sheer numbers as their tiny shadows kept flitting across our path.

What in the world? I asked, turning to Adam in amazement, certain he would know the reason behind all-the-butterflies (he always knows these sorts of things).  

They're migrating to Mexico he answered nonchalantly.

Wait, what?  I was amazed and slightly disbelieving. These beautiful creatures could scarcely fly in a straight line, how could they possibly fly in staggering, zig-zagging paths all the way to Mexico? It seemed ludicrous, absurd even.

Adam patiently explained that they migrate to Mexico for the winter, headed for warmer weather and more abundant food sources. I argue that I would just stay, clearly that is ridiculous and entirely too far to fly.

Well then, he replies matter-of-factly, you would die.
Here's what I know: You will never GO until you believe that staying is far more dangerous.

So we go to the margins, certain that meeting God there in the poor and marginalized means LIFE. Certain that our fragile wings must belie an extraordinary strength. We stop to pause on petals, to drink nectar and strengthen ourselves for our journey, but then we go. And we dont stop until we are in Mexico. Because it might seem crazy, absurd even, for us to go. For us to move into the inner-city. For us to move to Africa, to join believers in Haiti or China, or to start a church in Idaho. I dont know where you are going. I dont know where God is calling you, to what marginalized folks He is taking you. But I do know this: He created you for the journey. So trust your wings, and follow Him with the knowledge that He is leading you to life, and that NOT going means death.

This is post 16 in a series of 31 posts (one for every day this month) on margin. Read all the posts here. And visit The Nester to see all the 31 Day link-ups (but be warned, you could literally read for days and never read all the good stuff linked up there!)


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