Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Mess

Okay, so here's the thing. My house is perpetually messy- ahem- disorganized. It is roughly 2000 square feet of finished space (which includes the partially finished basement), was built in 1937, and has 4 humans living in it, two of which are under the age of 6. We have always had projects we've been working on since we bought the house. It is not the kind of house and we are not the kind of people that have a perfect spot for everything. I like to think that classically I am somewhat of a perfectionist, but in these last 9 years of home owning, house organization has gradually and definitively fallen by the wayside.

Maybe it was all that cleaning I did growing up for my parents (most of which I did for earned money in my high school years), maybe it was the adjustment of working full-time after college in those "entering the real world" years, maybe it was having my 1st baby and then- oh yeah- sanely deciding to get my master's degree not long after, or maybe it was having my 2nd baby who put me over the edge for awhile.... whatever it may be that gradually made my priority of organizing my house very low on the list, that is where it is.

Let me vulnerably let you into the inner workings of my literal current mess. Seriously. I took these pictures tonight.

Here is the office area which I must say looks slightly better this week than the previous 5 months because I forced myself to go through piles I had on the floor last week. But now the general scatter over everything has replanted itself.

Above is the main "catch-all" closet in our house which we can barely walk through at times. It is especially fun for Reuben to have to get into the attic space when the closet is cluttered like this. It's his favorite job.

Kids craft (aka: throw whatever somewhat creative-like thing they have on it) table. And this is in the corner of our dining room.

Oh yeah, this is the hook Alena's backpack should be hanging on, but with her first day ever riding the bus today, she naturally forgot her backpack on the bus at the beginning of the day. So there are those kind of messes to figure out that are more urgent than the mess of my house. 

Not to mention these two still awake an hour after I tucked them in bed still nowhere near wanting to sleep. Oh and their mattresses on the ground and their room a chaotic mess while we are in the progress of making their "new" room across the hall.

 General random toy messiness, most of which are too young for their ages but they still enjoy...

Scribble chalk left on the kids' easel downstairs.

 A comforter drying for the millionth time after another bed-wetting.

 General shoe pile-up. Hey- at least I'm trying with the shoe tray.

 Catch-all clutter corner on my kitchen counter.

And that bookshelf that keeps hoarding random books and papers.

If you are still reading, I'm impressed, thanks for hanging in there with me. I have moments that I can't take it anymore. That I look around me and sit and cry at the chaos. But then I go to bed, feel better in the morning, and don't do much about it. Because in the messiness of life, there is always something more important to deal with. There is that appointment to schedule, that lunch to pack, that bill to pay, that e-mail to send.... all the things that make life actually happen. There is charting to be done at home late at night after a long day of work when the kids have gone to bed. There is trying to feed my family well by shopping for, cooking, and baking healthy foods. Then there is that friend to text or call or have coffee with. There are cuddles & kisses with my girls, the reading of books and crafts and baked goods. The glass of wine and conversation on the deck at night with Reuben. The trying to take care of my body and soul with a solid run and time in the Word.

There is so much room for work in me, both in the messiness of my heart and the messiness of my home. Maybe there is a connection there that I'm missing. But I try to remind myself that life is about embracing the messiness, to come as I am and be who I am. This doesn't mean embracing sin, but finding joy despite the imperfections I have because of the grace God has lavished on me. That doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to develop healthy habits (including maintaining a more organized home), but what matters is how Jesus sees me. He doesn't care one bit how my house looks if my heart is in all the wrong places. He doesn't care how organized I have things or if I'm up on the latest house trends. He wants my heart. He wants Reuben's heart. He wants the hearts of my daughters. He wants the hearts of my friends, my family, and all of us. I'm preaching to myself here. I can't take any of this with me someday when I die. It won't matter how big my house is, how much money I have, or if I have all those old photos perfectly organized. What will matter is if my life pointed to Jesus. If I invited others in despite the messiness, if I showed my kids that they matter to me more than stuff... and ultimately, if my heart is surrendered in faith and obedience to Jesus.

So this post isn't a cry for help to organize, nor is it a "Look at me, I'm fine with dealing my messy house because I care about more important things." It is therapeutic for me to write about and simply an honest part of my life that I have tension over and usually battle to let go of. I don't have it together and I know you don't either. And I'm so thankful that Jesus overlooked the worst or my sins and the pettiest of my downfalls to love me and die for me (and you) just as I am.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The theme of my life so far seems to be "stay."

I've lived in the same city my whole life, other than a semester abroad in college.

I attend the church that I primarily grew up at. After about a 4-year period of not being there, Reuben and I realized it was home for us while we were engaged and we've been a part of that community ever since.

We bought our first house 8 years ago and still live in it. We briefly attempted to sell it a year and a half ago and it was clear at that time that we were to stay.

I remember the tearful day at age 18 sitting with my mom at Panera when I realized it made the most sense financially to go to the college in my hometown instead of out of state like I had dreamed.

I remember the job offer in Colorado and then the realization we had that our love to travel other places would likely not happen if we moved as we value seeing our families and would be spending vacations coming home to visit instead of going elsewhere. There's more to that story, as there is any story.

I remember the painful day in the summer of 2013 when our dear friends moved across the country, clearly being called to "go," and it felt so horribly painful to stay. Stay as I always have.

I'm sure I will always struggle somewhat with "what-ifs" because there are trade-offs to every decision that is made. I often feel like my life is so cliche, boring, and not risky because of these things.

But I'm learning more lately that there are times when staying can be harder than going, and just because I'm physically stagnant by the world's view doesn't mean that my heart is stagnant or that I'm the same person I've always been. I'm learning that God can use me where I've been planted and maybe I'm truly called to stay.... at least for now.

For nearly 2 years now, God has been stirring in my heart and Reuben's heart His heart for orphans and vulnerable children. Through much wrestling, talking, tears, prayers, resisting, seeking, and finally submitting, we have decided to take a step of faith and obedience to pursue adoption as the next step in growing our family. It is not a decision we take lightly but one that we are excited to pursue because we truly have total peace and confidence that we are called to do this.

As we gathered information about the various options (international, domestic, foster care), it became clear to us that we were to "stay" yet again. We felt the least called to international adoption (though the need is certainly great) and felt like we were to stay local. While we strongly considered foster care, we weren't at peace with entering into that at this point in our lives. And yet, we kept hearing that we were to do something now, not later, as it is so easy to say. So 2 weeks ago, we sent in the initial paperwork to start the process of domestic infant adoption. We will go through the process of hopefully being approved and then be on a list of waiting families that birth mothers can choose from. It could be weeks or it could be years after approval until we have a child in our home. The birth mother could change her mind before, during, or after the birth of the child. There is usually an ongoing open relationship with the birth mother with this type of adoption.

It feels risky. It feels messy. But this is life we're talking about. Two lives we're talking about. This woman will be in a situation she didn't expect herself to be in. In the face of this situation, she will be choosing life, choosing life at a time that it is too easy not to, even if she doesn't think she can raise the child and faces the horrible pain of relinquishing rights to the child. As a mother of my two girls, I can't imagine.

As a Christian, I am not called to live a comfortable, secure life as I've often thought for some reason. Jesus did not say, "Follow me when it's convenient or fun or easy." He said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). This means surrender, total surrender. Whew, I have a long way to go. But Reuben and I are ready to be available with open hands and open hearts to provide a home and a family for this child and to partner with the birth mom in her decision of choosing life when she didn't have to.

We so desire a 3rd child in our family. God has called us to "go" to grow our family, and yet ironically we are yet again to "stay."

Maybe there will be a time at some point in my life where it is clear that we are to physically "go" far away. For now, I will strive to enjoy the wild ride of staying.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Not Perfect

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." -Proverbs 22:6

A few weeks ago my mom decided to take my 4-year-old daughter on a little date. She picked her up from preschool, they had a little treat, and went to the local library. Home came two new library books and one that Alena was particularly thrilled about. The title is innocent enough:

The very first time I read it to her, a red flag went up in my heart, or as my pastor would say, my "crap detector" went off. The book is well-meaning in trying to teach kids how to have good manners and be nice. But the word "perfect" is used repeatedly, specifically in talking about "being perfect" and "perfect people." This page in particular bothered me toward the beginning of the book:

Really? What kind of crap are we teaching our kids, our daughters? 

There are two things wrong here: the aim to be perfect and the aim to look perfect. 

No, absolutely not. 

I do not want my daughters to think that this is what the goal is. Yes, I want them to have good manners, to have good hygiene, to be nice people. But if that is my end goal and I have the bar set high for them to try to be perfect in these ways, this will be destructive to their souls.

This was an amazing opportunity to talk to my kids (in 4- and 2-year-old language) about how nobody is perfect and we all sin and fall short, so very short. We talked about how the only perfect person who ever walked this planet was Jesus, who was both a human and God. And about how we need Him because of this, because he was mysteriously both of these things and died for us and then defeated death by rising from the grave. I'm thankful to have that opportunity so easily come as a response to this book.

It's one thing for society as a whole to have this view, trying to look perfect and be perfect and incorporate this into children's books without knowing Jesus. It's another thing as Christian parents to not be upset with this, knowing the truth we know. 

In that familiar analogy of a ship being off subtly by only 1 degree and then completely missing its destination by miles because of that slight deviation, this kind of language spoken into the hearts of our kids may steer them to a destination we are blindsided by. As Christian parents, we cannot let this kind of language slip into our children's hearts to the best of our ability. Of course we will mess up and they will hear and see so many things that we can't control. It's completely by the grace of God that I daily parent my girls and I say all of this very humbly, but with conviction.

Shortly prior to reading this children's book, I had started reflecting on a different aspect of this topic: am I teaching my kids to be fans or followers of Christ?

I am currently reading the book Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman (which I highly recommend) with my small group and the general premise is this challenge: are you a fan or a follower of Christ? Am I doing all the right things (fan) without the heart, without the true relationship and passion for Christ, my Savior (follower)?

And I started thinking about this with parenting. Am I expecting the outward spiritual perfection of my children, such as wanting to pray, wanting to sing at church, etc without focusing on their hearts? Without cultivating their inward growth and passion for following Christ?

It's something hitting me afresh and deeply humbling my heart. 

Alena almost always refuses to pray out loud. She's 4 1/2 years old. This bothers me.

But what should bother me more is that usually when she does decide to pray out loud, I have an inward relief and satisfaction, like somehow we've arrived and I can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Yes, we need to celebrate the small steps, the small victories. We couldn't do this parenting thing if we didn't. And the daily disciplines such as prayer are the stepping stones for growing a healthy relationship with Christ. But it can't stop there. I pray that as long as it depends on me, I can raise children who don't simply go through the motions and learn to be the "perfect Christian," but that they will grow into girls and women who are deeply in love with Christ and look to Him in everything. That of course then brings the conviction full circle that I need to be daily modeling that too. Ouch.

Praise God that He is the ultimate author and perfecter of Alena's faith, Nora's faith, and mine too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


So about a month ago now I was cruising down the highway on my way home from a long day of clinical, and I passed a church that seems to be classic for having those cheesy church signs. You know what I'm talking about?

Well this one made me mad. I read it, quickly re-read it, and then felt my blood pressure rising as I continued my drive.... appalled.  It said:

"He is watching. Look busy."

My heart starts racing as I type those words.

Really? The very last thing I need to read right now is to "look busy." I think that's the last thing any of us need to read right now, especially here in the U.S. where busyness seems to consume us as a culture.

No, no, no.

The amazing gospel of God sending his son Jesus Christ to rescue us, to deliver us, is not at all about looking busy. It is not about doing one more thing. It is not about performing.

It is all, all about grace. Period.

Yes, we could get into a debate and give this church the benefit of the doubt about what they meant by this sign. I usually do try to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least I think I do. But even if this was well-intentioned, as in wanting us as Christians to make sure we are living lives serving and glorifying God and making intentional choices about what we are doing through God's calling, this is certainly not how it looks. As a Christian, this sign made me mad. If I was a non-Christian reading that sign, I would have gotten the completely wrong quick glimpse of the gospel.

It's all about God and not about me.

Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God."


No really, stop.

I was blessed to be part of a day-long women's retreat this past Saturday. The leader had us begin our time by sitting, palms open, for 3 minutes, completely quiet, stilling our racing thoughts. I was amazed at what God revealed to me in just 3 minutes of truly quieting my soul. I just kept hearing the word "calling." Calling. Calling.


This year is bringing a lot of changes for our family and especially in the forefront of my mind is what my new job will be as I graduate from grad school. I have often been prone to the "shoulds" mentality. You know, the "well, as a Christian I should probably serve people with this kind of job," or "I should get involved in that ministry at church because they need someone," or "we should have them over for dinner because it's a nice thing to do."

Blah blah blah.

It's all meaningless if it's based on the nasty word should, with no calling of the heart behind it.

What are the things that I'm called to?
What are the things I'm only doing because I think I should do them?

I'm not saying there is never a time or a place to do the shoulds. I'm pretty sure I've never actually felt called to do my laundry.

But really, what are the things I'm called to and what are the things that need to be weeded out in order to more fully grow and blossom for God to multiply my efforts in the areas he has called me to?

My heart and mind are messy. They are in need of God... in need of Jesus. They do not need me to become busy doing another thing. They need to be quieted, to be stilled, and to listen for God's voice to call me in the areas He wants me. It's about being first and then doing what he has called me to do.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know.

Be still.


Friday, January 17, 2014

The Messy Truth of Christmas

If there is one thing I've learned in the past year and a half, it's that life is messy. It doesn't go how you want it to. We tend to focus on the "big" things in life like where we live, where we work, who we marry, how many kids we have, etc. But the day-to-day mundane in and out living life is just.... hard. And I often feel guilty about this because of how blessed I know I am.

When I think about sharing my thoughts, I struggle with that balance of being open and vulnerable and real.... but also not having a spirit of complaint. I have this other photo blog that I created awhile back to help me focus on the joys of each day. This has served its purpose and I plan to continue it as it's also been a fun diary of sorts. However, as I continually reassess the purpose of it, I know there are people out there who would think that by my blog, I have it all together and have fun all the time and whatever other appearances might be extracted from the "outside." I know when I view other blogs, I internally compare myself to the life of the blogger that I have created in my imagination, even though I fight this.

I don't know how often I will actually write on this blog, but my purpose here it to be open and real about some of the day to day struggles I face, and yet embrace the messy life I've been blessed with.

So the picture above summarizes our Christmas Day this year. It is one of about a bazillion pictures I tried to take of my girls dressed up in front of our tree. Yes, that's right, the other girl isn't even in the picture. So here are some thoughts from my journal that afternoon after this, but before we headed to our big gathering of the day (which ended in a horrible tantrum from this one pictured above).

"..... How can I live my life with the focus on the gifts of forgiveness, grace, peace, love, and joy that Jesus brings when so much of this world distracts? Even today, I was caught up in things of worldly importance when I wanted a cute picture of the girls and of our family all dressed up by the Christmas tree. The girls were crabby and wouldn't cooperate and I became easily frustrated and too caught up in getting that perfect Christmas picture. But even if everything aligned perfectly and they both happened to cooperate and smile (with chocolates in hand that I had bribed with), what would that have been?


Simply fake.

Because the truth this Christmas Day is that real life is messy. Actually, it's always messy.... and always has been for any human who has ever lived. Many people may try to pretend it isn't and all those beautiful Christmas cards I received this year certainly don't lead me to believe that anyone else has this kind of difficulty getting their kids to smile (or beyond).

But real life is messy, today and always, because of sin, because of the fall that took us all down. And who walked into this messiness? The messiness that goes far deeper than my kids not smiling for a Christmas Day picture? Who walked into the world of blatant sin, of greed, abuse, hunger, malice, filth, lies, power, murder, adultery, and on and on?

God himself. Incarnate.

Oh wait, but he didn't walk in, he was birthed in. Birthed. As in, through a teenage virgin's vaginal canal, crying, covered in blood and vernix, and into dirt and hay and animal waste. God was literally birthed into the messiness of our world to bring new birth and life to the messiness of our sinful lives.

Fully God. Fully human. So mysterious.

Emmanuel, God with us.

This is the hope I have, the focus I must continually have. God is here. Jesus has come. And he didn't just come, but He came with a purpose... to love, forgive, bring peace, bring joy, and most of all, to take on the weight of literally the sin of the world and suffer a brutal death on a cross in my place.... in the place of all of us. Wow.

So a nice Christmas tree picture of my girls smiling? Even if I had captured it, it would pale in comparison to the beauty of the glory of God and the significance of this Christmas Day.

So in the coming year, I pray that I can embrace the messy, laugh, and celebrate Jesus more fully every day."