Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace Year

The year 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster for me with my oldest child moving to the other side of the globe and my youngest leaving home, but I prepared for it and gave myself extra grace.  For me, this grace looked like coffee with lots of half and half, salted almonds, and massively huge bags of tortilla chips.  It also looked like me being a little nicer to myself. 

At one point (actually, most of my existence previous to this year) in my life, I forced myself to do lots of things and I was very disciplined—mostly because I thought that was how I was supposed to be.  It seemed to be the mode of operation for all the women I admired. So I chose to work hard at working out, eating right, and being diligent with a mostly-regular quiet time.  I got up early, made lots of food from scratch, and kept a clean house. 

Now, however, as I am nearing the half-century mark (and am a novice empty-nester), I am starting to find out who I really am…and that I don’t enjoy all that structure so much and that I really prefer slowness to speed.  I have discovered I am a nicer person if I don’t try to be someone that YOU want me to be, but, instead, tap into the person that God made ME to be; He’s the only One that needs to approve anyway, amiright? 

And you know what?  I’m not really the tough girl I used to strive to be, nor am I very brave; I only look that way sometimes because I hang out with my adventurous family.  I’m actually the one that cries like a baby when the hiking gets hard and hyperventilates when I have to climb mountains.   I’m just a normal, sometimes fragile, middle-aged (wow, I have never used that adjective to describe myself) gal who resists change like the plague and who happens to like cute things that look like animals (you know, like the cow-shaped cream pitcher that allows you to dispense milk while simultaneously pretending the animal is vomiting) and flannel sheets with rabbits on them (not actual rabbits, though that would be cozy). 

I have taken to walking in the sunrise with my exuberant pup most days rather than performing exercises that make me want a four-hour nap by 9 a.m.  I let myself eat a cookie with my coffee and have no guilt about it; I even bought a cookie jar shaped like a fox to put them in.  Brent and I have been doing a Bible read-through in the mornings where we read a passage and then talk about it, and I haven’t been as rigid about spending my own time in the Word, nor have I been journaling regularly. But I am gaining a depth of knowledge from listening to Scripture being read to me.  In fact, each night when I go to bed, I am anxious for morning to come so we can have our coffee/Bible time all over again.

Since my kids are out of the house and my morning schedule is much more lenient, I am allowing myself to sleep in occasionally (but not if it makes me miss my coffee date) and enjoying the coziness of my flannel sheets and the deliciousness of slumber. I occasionally purchase convenience products as part of my meals and have chosen to not look at the labels but instead, to enjoy my reduced stress level.  Also, I often just consume tortilla chips from a giant bag for an entire meal, and I’m okay with that. 

My house is easier to keep clean now, with less people inhabiting it, but it still gathers dust and pet hair and cobwebs.  Uncharacteristically, or maybe not really (who am I anyway?), lately those things haven’t really bothered me.  Occasionally, if someone is coming over, I will pull my sweater sleeve over my hand and do a quick dusting of the china cabinet.

And, instead of feeling a loss of control by giving some of these former “necessary things” up and loosening my grip on some of the others, I have felt a new freedom and a deep-seated joy in my paradigm shift. I am not suggesting that these changes are all positive, nor necessarily permanent, but switching things up a bit has helped me successfully navigate formerly unchartered territory.  I am also learning that spending more time on what I enjoy actually fuels my mind and body to complete the drudgery  important things that all card-carrying adults must do (ie: laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and buying actual food).

Lately, though, I am hankering for a bit more structure and will likely pick up some of the dropped balls; others, however, will continue to sit on a lower shelf; they don’t need nearly as much attention as I formerly gave them.  And like the “chips for supper” decision, I’m okay with that. 

In this year, the grace year of 2016, the year I lowered my expectations for who I am and what I should accomplish, I am much more content with who God made me to be.  In conclusion, I guess I write all of these to convince myself that even in a time of great transition, I’m still okay.  Life is still good.  And the liberties I have given myself to “grieve” and adjust—to be more childlike and less hardcore--have made me feel less frantic and frazzled.  That’s what we all want, isn’t it?  Just a little sanity mixed in with our craziness?  We always think we are in control; we really never have been.  However, being nice to myself in my year of transition has leveled out the bumps of this wild ride and made the bruises not nearly so bad.  At least nothing a Hello Kitty band-aid and a few tortilla chips can’t fix.

This is real life folks, not dress-rehearsal.  I am planning on enjoying it fully. 
How about you?

Happy 2017!

“In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free.”
~ Psalm 118:5

Friday, December 30, 2016

Stop Feeding It--repost

Brent and I are planning to an extended fast to ring in the new year 2017.  The last few years, we have adopted the practice of doing a one day fast most weeks, but we thought doing a longer time of food denial might help us do a little re-set on our diets, our priorities, and our prayer life.  I thought about writing a blog about fasting, but when I looked through my archives, I found this from December of 2012 and thought it appropriate even though it refers to a different kind of starving...

I once had a very wise 7th grade English teacher who, when asked how he got his dog to stop pooping inside the house, said,

 “It’s simple; I just stopped feeding him.”

Cute.  Now, if you love your dog, I wouldn’t recommend that.  And maybe if you want to keep feeding your dog and he won’t stop pooping on your carpet, you could get some diapers and cut out a hole for his tail, or you could hook up a bucket-type thing—like you see on horses in parades—to catch anything falling from his little hiney.  Or you could train him to do his duty outside.  Novel idea. 

You know though, when you apply this idea to sin in our lives, it makes perfect sense.  We can struggle with sin all we want, but until we make a decision to demote it to it’s rightful place—with us being it’s master through Jesus’ resurrection on the cross—and it being our slave, we will have no victory (I wrote about that in my last post.  You can read it here). Really, it’s all about starving;  starving our sinful habits until they are no longer habits, saying “no” to ourselves when we struggle with an appetite for temporal sinful pleasures, and ignoring our feelings (by listening to our minds that are filled with God’s truth) when they thirst for vengeance, unforgiveness and immorality.

If we want sin to stop coming out of us (believe me, dear reader, I could have written that in a much more creative, distasteful way), we need to stop feeding it.  We need to crave God’s glory more than our pleasure.  We need to see long, like God does, and not short, like we do.  And we need to make choices that make us look more and more like Jesus and less like ourselves.

So, here’s to starving our sin (and our dogs, but only if we don’t like them. Kidding, I’m kidding.  Don’t report me) until old habits die and new life appears.
No carpet cleaning necessary.

What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:21-23

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Newborn King

This is my new grand niece, Amelia Josephine, born two just two weeks before this picture was taken.  I had the privilege of spending her very first Christmas with her along with lots of extended family.  We spent most of our holiday time ooing and ahhing over her tiny perfection and watching her 22-month-old brother do cute things.

As I held little Amelia in my arms, I was struck by the reality—THE REALITY-- that Christ was born to us as a baby--A BABY!  At this time of year, we read and sing of this fact often;

"You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." 
   "The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head." 
"Holy infant so tender and mild" 
 "Glory to the newborn King"

But do we truly understand what Christ did for us by becoming utterly helpless?  Do we comprehend how He left His place in Heaven and confined Himself in skin?  Do we grasp how our most powerful God allowed Himself to sleep silently in an animal trough?  Can we truly fathom that the same voice that created the entire universe now limited Himself to a feeble cry?

It’s absurd, really.  A limitless, ageless God chose to intersect time and space and become a limited, time-bound man; and not just a man, a baby; tiny, helpless, poor.

So why did He do it?  God saw His children needed Him.  Yet, because of their sins, there was no way they could get to Him.  So He became one of them, and He lived among them to save them and bring them close again.  Not only did He live with them; He loved them; and He died for them…and in their place.  And then He rose again—conquering death, their greatest foe. 

He chose to enter the world in a way that none expected; not as a king; wearing extravagant robes and sitting on a royal throne, but as a baby; swaddled with strips of tattered cloth and lying in a hay-filled manger.  Our mighty, strong, omniscient God chose to come to us in the most unthinkable form, wrapped in skin and humility; a tiny newborn babe.

Just like little Amelia.  Just for little Amelia.  And just for you too.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
~Matthew 1:21

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankfulness Things: Love


For my last Thankfulness Things post, I want to share the thing I am most thankful for:  unconditional love.  Humanity has trouble with this one—even the best of us—but God extends it freely. 

When we surrender our right to ourselves and ask Jesus to be our Savior, He exchanges our sin for His Righteousness.  He gets our rags and we get His spotless garment of forgiveness and love.  The trade is mighty uneven.  Even so, because of the shedding of Christ’s perfect blood for our sins, we are covered with “Jesus clothes” and our Holy Father sees as clean and pure.  We can do nothing to earn this; it is purely unconditional Love that gives it.  Because Jesus took our sins to the cross with Him, He is our ultimate sacrifice, our propitiation, our substitute, our payment—by His wounds we are healed.  I love this quote by Tullian Tchividjian in his book, One Way Love, The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.”

And because Jesus loves you unconditionally, you can be sure you are precious to Him.  The good day/bad day scenario doesn’t work with God.  He loves you all the time because of Jesus.  He sees you as righteous every day because of Jesus.  His judgment is assuaged because Jesus satisfied it.  He views you as He views His son, because of Jesus perfection—not yours.  God can love us unconditionally because all of the conditions of righteousness were met in His Son. 

We can do nothing to deserve His love.  That is why it is called “unconditional”, but we can extend to our family, our friends, even our enemies to show them what true love is.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 
~John 3:16

The love of God is greater far
  Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
  And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
  God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
  And pardoned from his sin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankfulness Things: Sanctification


I love to walk in the early mornings and see the day wake up little by little.  The sky, usually deep dark blue when I begin, turns all shades of pink, purple, and orange as the sun peeks over the horizon.  It does this every day—whether I can see it or not; sometimes the clouds cover the splendor; other times, I don’t get outside until the sun is fully up and all I see is the big blue sky.  Regardless of the weather or my activity, though, the sun continues to rise.  When I walk, the verse, The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day”(Proverbs 4:18) often comes to mind and I am filled with gratefulness that God is continuing to work on my rough edges and selfish desires.  God promises me that if I will allow His Spirit to work in me and if I will obey Him when I feel like rebelling, He will be faithful to His job to change me into the Tori he intended since the creation of the world. 

Sometimes, when I have chosen not to use my renewed mind, or when my time in the Word is lacking, I struggle to act Christianly.  And sometimes, even when I am doing “all the right things”, I still mess up because I am human and faulted and weak.  The times that I fall are the times that I doubt God could ever use someone as clumsy and clunky as me.  But He can, because even though I am faulted and tempted by my rogue emotions, God uses imperfect vessels to carry out His perfect plans.  He does this purposely to help us remember we aren’t as great as we think, But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”(2 Cor 4:7) because He is so much greater than we can imagine. 

In the same way that I can’t control the rising of the sun, I can’t control the speed of my sanctification.  I can, however, take hold of the promise that it is happening within me, even without my awareness.  God is good like that. 

“In general, the soul makes greater progress when it least thinks so, yea, most frequently when it imagines it is losing.” 
~St. John of the Cross

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankfulness Things: God's Design


“In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Once, when Brent and I were first married, I decided to impress him with my culinary prowess and make a big pot of chili.  I diligently followed the recipe that said to include “ 4 cloves of garlic, crushed”.  Being new to reading recipes, and especially new to garlic, I assumed “a clove” was the entire head of garlic—which I thought was plenty, but hey, garlic was supposed to be good for you—so I added FOUR ENTIRE HEADS of garlic to the pot.  Needless to say, because I didn’t understand the directions of the recipe, our chili was VERY GARLICKY and completely inedible.  Sometimes, I think we assume God did that same thing when he decided to create people; that He went about it haphazardly and things turned out all wonky. We think it strange that we are supposed to be “equal” but have different roles. We want to change His recipe for maleness and femaleness.

As a woman, I can be dissatisfied in the role God gave me—to be a help-mate, a nurturer, a life-giver in every sense of the word.  I can view my feminine role as weaker and therefore become a competitor to, rather than a completer of, my husband.  When I try to embody the role that God gave to men and I aggressively disdain the internal urgings of my feminine soul, I may be praised by the world, but I will struggle internally.  I will struggle because I was made to be a woman and the desires and instincts that make me want to care for others, do “home” things, and be sensitive to the emotions and moods of those around me are put there by an intentional God.  The book Designed for Joy explains it well, “[God] didn’t make one mistake in creating humans male and female. Why does this matter? Because for us to embrace our femininity, we must first understand that it wasn’t an accident.  This not only gives us confidence to trust God’s design; it should also bring us great joy.  The Lord of the universe created us like he intended—and called it good.”

As a woman, like the man, I am created in the image of God.  This realization should give me the freedom to eagerly display my femininity and, when living in tandem with Biblical masculinity, provide a way for me to show a full picture of our Father to the world.  God’s created design really is the best for us in all of nature (have you ever tried to fight against gravity?  You WILL lose) and in our personhood.  When we choose to stay under His Lordship and within His boundaries, we have so much freedom to be ourselves, and so much protection from the influences of our dark world.

It’s still okay with God if I bring home the bacon (to put in the chili, of course), as long as I do it with an understanding of who I am in Him.  I can do some masculine things and still have the heart of a woman who desires to please God by following Him and willingly submitting to His authority. 

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thankfulness Things: Sovereignty


I was always amazed when I read the story of Esther in the Bible.  At one point, Esther learns that her people are to be violently annihilated and she, as the queen, may be able to save them.  But, the law of the land was that no one (not even the queen) could enter the king’s presence unbidden.  If the king did not extend his scepter to this impostor, the penalty was immediate death.  Yet, Esther, fully trusting in the God she served said, I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  She trusted more in the plans of her sovereign Father than in her own imminent danger.  And as the story goes, Esther is invited into the King’s presence and God’s people are saved from extinction.

Not only do I struggle with having the attitude of “…if I perish, I perish”, but I am constantly trying to control all of the variables so that I don’t have to even think about perishing.  In my finite mind I believe that if I can just get the safest flight, or the car with the most advanced air bags, or if I can consume enough spinach and quinoa, and if I never ever sky dive, THEN I will be fully insulated from anything bad that might happen to me. 

But here’s what really happens:  When I focus my energies on myself and my health and my possible demise, I am consumed with worry and I feel like everything is a threat; I feel out of control.  But when I replace those thoughts with words of surrender to God’s perfect plans, I can rest in His sovereignty.  He is after all, the One who is actually in control—I never have been.  As I read through the Bible, it doesn’t guarantee that I will be safe from harm, but it does say God is good.  He’s good even when I don’t understand His “goodness”.  It doesn’t say that my life will be all roses, but it does say God’s plans will prevail.  Now, if God is always good, and if His plans always happen the way he intends, then why do I worry, as if I had any power to change things?  I can’t, of course, throw all caution to the wind, as God calls us to be wise and use our transformed minds, but I can stop worrying about what is coming next and trust in He who is in charge of history. 

And I can even go skydiving if I want. 

But only if I want to speed my journey to heaven because I am sure I would die from a heart attack on the way down.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.  Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, and Thy beauty fills my soul, for by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankfulness Things: The Word of God


When I was an eighth grader at Albia Community Middle School, my home-economics teacher, Rowena Hardinger, required us to complete a sewing project as part of our education.  Feeling ambitious and capable, I guess, I choose to sew a melon-colored terrycloth romper.  The pattern I chose showed a cute young girl with perfect hair wearing a one-piece shorts outfit and smiling.  That could be me, I thought.  So, in a hurry to become that smiling, romper-wearing teen, I lay out my pattern pieces upon the fuzzy fabric and began to cut—hastily.  My friends were completing their bags and shirts and skirts so quickly that I, finally sitting at my sewing machine, sewed with great gusto and soon finished my assigned project.  The final part of the plan for our creations was to model them at our eighth grade graduation, which would be happening later that week.  I took my item home so that I could try it on (I find it strange I hadn’t tested it out during the sewing process) before my modeling debut and found, to my dismay, that I had made one of the romper’s legs shorter than the other.  In my haste, I had neglected to measure correctly and was left with an imperfect product.  This mistake required me to stand in an unnatural posture when modeling since I was horrified by my ineptitude. 

I tell you all of this to introduce you to my third Thankfulness Thing:  The Word of God.  I am grateful for the Word of God because it provides a measure for me, and if I align my thoughts, words and actions against it, I can bring God glory.  If I forget my measure, or use our world as my ruler, I will end up letting my heart or popular opinion determine what is right, instead of the perfect and unchanging Word of God.  The world measures itself against itself and comes up impatient, unkind, and unhappy because they don’t know that the Word is right and true.  Our emotions often measure themselves against what our hearts say and end up taking us in directions that will destroy, not heal.  When we slow down to measure our behavior against what God has said is true, our lives will bless others and be a sweet aroma to our Father.  And we will be able to model Christ with confidence instead of shame. 

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.    
2 Corinthians 10:12

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  
Jeremiah 17:9

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.    Hebrews 4:12

How firm a foundation you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thankfulness Things: Faithfulness


If you have read through the Old Testament of the Bible, you will find fickle people, just like me.  But, you will also find a very present and faithful God--a God of mercy, justice...and faithfulness.  I am so thankful for God's faithfulness because, as I said yesterday, there is absolutely nothing I have done to deserve it. God's character is always perfect, even with very imperfect children.  My sweet daughter-in-law, Jessica*, summarized this so well when she shared with me some musings after studying through the book of Hosea...

I’m no good with history. It’s hard for me to remember a lot of what I read in the Bible because it is contextual. The Bible is sweet in that way, it’s always connecting back to itself. But, it makes it exceedingly difficult with little scriptural knowledge to understand the sweetness of the words. I find myself especially lost in the Old Testament. I’m not sure when any of this happened, who all the people involved are, who is important for me to know and who can I forget, what the cultural implications for this scripture is, and what I’m supposed to do with it now.

I want to challenge myself to process more of the scripture I read. It’s a lot of the in one ear out the other most times when I read. So this is what I learned from the book of Hosea, through a women’s discipleship group in the fall of 2016. Initially we see a story about a man named Hosea who was directed by God to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. It’s hard for me to get my mind around God telling Hosea that he’s walking into an unsuccessful situation and equally as mind numbing that Hosea was obedient. Hosea goes out and marries Gomer. Soon after their marriage begins she sleeps with other men. Hosea continues to provide for Gomer and she goes on with these other men, even giving them credit for the many blessings in her life. She thanks them for providing things like food, shelter, and provision when actually it was Hosea who was doing the work. Hosea is told to reconcile with his wife and to bring her back to himself. He does so and they make a new covenant with each other.

The story of Hosea and his wife ends near the beginning of the book. The story transitions from one about the marriage of Hosea and Gomer and focuses on the marriage between God and Israel. God was faithful to bring the Israelites out of slavery and Egypt. When they were saved they quickly gave the credit that was due to God to the things made by their hands. They worshiped idols instead of God. The Israelites fall into a vicious cycle where they go back to God again and again, and they fall away from him again and again. Their hearts are not sincere when they repent and ask for forgiveness and worship.

I find it easy to judge the Israelites. The worship they were taking from God was so obvious. Our misguided worship now is much easier to hide. I may not have a golden calf sitting in the center of my house, but I do give my worship to other undeserving things.  My heart is filled with desires to cook the perfect meal, have an organized house, and feeling “put together” as I leave the house. Just as quick as they repent they go back to sinning, but isn’t my heart the same? I repent, I tell God that I’m truly sorry, but I keep on sinning. I repent of binge watching TV instead of spending time in the word and I turn the TV back on. I feel disappointment when the meal I prepared isn’t as satisfying as I wanted it to be. I keep on choosing myself, my desires, and my flesh over the God who saved my soul from eternal separation from Himself.

I saw my heart with clarity as I read Hosea, especially near the end of the narrative I found myself saying “enough already! God stop!” God is rightly punishing the Israelites for their disobedience and unfaithfulness. But I was done with the wrath and ready for the mercy. I was ready for the God I knew and loved to show up. God was always faithful to them, even when He was executing His wrath on them. This is because His faithfulness is always first to Himself and then to His people.

Am I compartmentalizing God? Am I dealing with and pushing through His wrath and unsavory characteristics to have the love, grace, and mercy for myself? Am I putting myself and my judgment ahead of God? I think the answer is yes. I am thankful that through the book of Hosea I was reminded about my sinfulness and rebellion every day.  But I am most blessed to be able to know, understand, and love more about the character of God.

Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;

             All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
         Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

*I'm also so thankful for Jessica...such a sweet sweet gift to us!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thankfulness Things: Grace

I really wanted to title this post, “All the things my dog has destroyed in the last 14 months”, but I didn’t think that sounded especially grateful, so that idea was nixed, even though you may see it creep in as a future post (I once did a post about all the things my kids have lost which is a very similar concept, but also mostly ungrateful). My real goal with this weeklong series of Thankfulness Things was to get my mind in the right place so that when wrong thoughts tempt to pull me into their grasp, I can immediately recall these very real blessings that I have in my life.  Here’s my first installment in the series:


I am thankful for grace because I am so very fickle. Two days ago, in the evening, I drove home from Bible study feeling committed and confident on my quest to eventually reach the Celestial City (we have just finished studying the book Pilgrim’s Progress, and the last chapter is gold!).  Filled with spiritual adrenaline, I had decided to “let nothing this side of Heaven possess my soul” and to keep my eyes on the prize—namely Jesus Christ.  But, as I turned into my driveway, I saw half of one of my very favorite blue rubber rain boots laying on the cement in the dark and the other half in glimmering navy shreds all across the lawn.  Immediately, I tanked.  I forgot to “set my face like flint” on the narrow path.  I forgot that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.  I forgot that “God works all things together for good for those who love him”. 

I chose to believe that my life was now bad and that someone needed to take the blame.

All because of a rain boot.  Talk about first world problems.

I had allowed a destructive dog and a shredded piece of footwear to determine how I responded to my situation, my husband, and really, my God.  How sad is that?

Not too sad for grace.

I am so thankful that God has offered me grace when I let my very entitled attitude tell me that I deserve an easier journey--with less sweat and more even ground.

I am so thankful that God has offered me grace when I choose to pout in the “Slough of Despond” instead of pulling myself up with His great and precious promises.

And I am so thankful that God has offered me grace when I descend into the Valley of the Shadow because of my grief over a pair of $23 rain boots.

I am so thankful that God has offered me grace.

Because I will never, ever deserve it.  Yet, He gives it freely anyway.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

12 Observations from my First Month of Empty Nesting

Today marks one month and three days from the day we dropped the last little Haverkamp off at college.  Life is much different than it used to be…and it’s not half bad.  Here’s why:

1. Mornings are slower because I am not trying to clean up any dishes left in the sink or the remnants of lunch-making mania.  They now involve drinking coffee and sitting with my main man on the porch talking and listening to the birds welcoming the day. I love our new morning routine.

2.  Suppers are quiet and kind of pieced-together; we have had lots of soup, sandwiches, quesadillas, and eggs.  If I make an entire roast or something in a 9x13 casserole, we have to eat it forever.  And that’s a long time. 

3.  Speaking of food, I finally went on a real grocery shopping trip last week after Brent said, “Hey, I don’t mean to be critical, but we have nothing in the pantry and only Half and Half in the fridge.”  He was actually wrong since we had tortilla chips and salted almonds in the pantry and a half a bar of dark chocolate in the secret drawer by the fridge.  He was, however, right about the Half and Half.  I mean, since no one is really around anymore, I pretty much just eat those things.  And only those things.  I am a bad eater when I am alone.

4.  We go through lots of Half and Half—in our coffee because it has to be light tan—but not much milk.  I had to pour some milk down the drain yesterday because it was sour.  We even started buying whole milk, thinking that we could use it in the place of Half and Half if we ran out.  Because running out of Half and Half is an emergency.

5.  Our conversations center on either the dog or the Roomba—mostly things like, “Jet tore the drainpipe off of the garage and ate it today” or “Do you know where the Roomba is?  I started it before I went to work so it must be stuck under the bed.”  We are able to talk about these very arcane and boring subjects for an entire mealtime.  I think we are going to have to buy those little note cards with conversation starters on them so we can expand our repertoire.

6.  We see way more movies.  We have gone out to a movie theater THREE times (and we even got popcorn once!) since we have been on our own.  Two of the movies were great, but Brent fell asleep at the third since it was animated and about pets.  I did not fall asleep.

7.  Evenings are uninterrupted and slightly boring.  Which is why we have gone to so many movies.  And out for ice cream.

8.  You know all that time I spent stressed out when I had kids at home because their rooms were disasters and they never made their beds?  Well, those same rooms stay neat and tidy now and the beds are made beautifully.  This is both a happy and a sad thing.  The bathrooms staying clean however, is an entirely happy thing.

9.  I post videos of my dog on Facebook and celebrate his birthday by buying him a toy and letting him play with the old dog food bag. 

10. Brent mows the yard now, and we had to decide who would take the garbage out.  I have 100% of the pet duty and Brent puts salt in the softener.  He has also agreed to cook one day a week, and on Sunday he made eggs with an avocado garnish and a side of salsa.  It was yummy. He had forgotten that he was a great short order chef.

11.  Everywhere we go, we notice other people who are obviously empty-nesters doing the same empty-nesting things as us—kind of like when you are pregnant and you notice all the pregnant women—kind of like that, but with no baby.

12.  We take lots of walks together in the morning--and sometimes at dusk—and we marvel at God’s goodness to us.  He has blessed us richly.  So richly.  Like coffee with lots of Half and Half, except better.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Catch and Release

So, I’m not liking it. 
The whole being done thing.  

This past year was just a big succession of things we had to do: senior pictures, college stuff, grad parties, banquets, and it all kept me so busy, I didn’t really think about the reality of what was coming. Now he’s gone; moved out; grown-up; independent; and I’m walking around in his empty room noticing all the things he left.  I always do that when this happens—when my children leave home for college and I am left in a stupor, lethargic and mourning.  I quietly walk into their rooms and notice things; things they thought not important enough to bring along to their new lifeformerly beloved things: the faded baby blanket kept under a pillow at night; the stuffed panda with a hole in its head; Raggedy Ann whose face is stained pink around her mouth; the soft robe. The robe! Why did he not take the robe??? His old loveys are quarantined in the highest recesses of the closet; Gorilla, Ow the cat, Chocolate Cake the beanie pup.  They look down from their perch waiting for him.

This is my life now. I wander from room to room feeling like doing absolutely nothing, but forcing myself to do the next thing: laundry, then dishes, then cleaning out my broken fridge.  I decide to eat chocolate to placate myself, and, as I put a knife into the peanut butter that I intend to put on my chocolate, I break; big tears falling onto the dining room table; huge, gasping belly sobs that have waited to come out since yesterday when we left him. when we finished the job of daily parenting in our home. We’re done, y’all. DONE.  I didn’t really think it through—the fact that it would all end.  Right about now, I want to be finished with this emptiness and go back to the way things used to be; the busyness and buzz that used to be the Haverkamps. Why do these transitions always punch me so hard in the gut?  I knew I was starting the whole grieving thing when I began to be forgetful a few days ago; and when I stopped eating. I still eat chocolate. obviously. For pete’s sake, he’s close, I tell myself. That helps me. I can still touch him if I want. And smell his head. But it will never be the same, this family we built. I think my mind goes through a kind of shock; trauma; panic; and tries to make sense of it all.  When it can’t, it turns inward, producing yuk. confusion. heaviness.  I’m not sure what to do about it, so I walk around and cry about fuzzy robes and long-forgotten beanie pups.

The second day after his move out, in the afternoon, I feel comatose.  I clean out my pantry of all Gatorade powder, granola bars and regular animal crackers; I save the chocolate ones (because you know, coffee). I never eat these things and what do empty nesters keep in their pantries anyway because mine is mostly bare. I move onto the mudroom and see the Snickers bars in the freezer and I cry. again. I can eat them if I want to, and maybe that would make me feel better, but really they are for a big white boy who doesn’t live here anymore. 

Life is weird.  You just get to a stage that you really enjoy, like when you have all of your kids home and you eat on the porch for supper and then the children rush out the screen door and down the steps so they can play on the swing set all together and you and your husband look at each other and say, “These are the golden years” and you think that those “golden years” will last longer.  But they don’t and so you feel unsettled and everything feels so foreign and hard.  It’s kind of like fishing, the catch and release kind, where it’s fun when you’re doing it, but you know you can’t keep them. I mean really KEEP them.  Release is imminent.

 This unfamiliarity, this quiet, empty feeling, is my new life. When Brent and I had “practice sessions” for empty nesting this summer, it seemed fun and carefree and I was super excited.  But, let me tell you, when it really happens, and it is no longer practice, the whole element of fun turns sour.  I know this feeling is temporary and don’t get me wrong, I AM looking forward to hanging out, just with Brent alone, cause I really like him, but I’m trying to recall life before our kids—the sweet times of just the two of us—and it’s not coming in very clearly—I keep pressing play, but my mind keeps reverting to rewind and all the images of all the things we have done as a family keep appearing on my brain. It will come into focus, I’m sure, when the newness becomes normality, and when I stop making so much extra food (do you know you don’t have to use all the pasta in the bag? You can use just half. It keeps).  It’s just Brent and me now; that’s how it’s going to be, God-willing, for a very long time. Because I know that, even though Cole is close, he will never really live at home again permanently. Our family will never live here all together again.  Our job, here, is done.  

It’s been a very long job. 
And a very short job.  
And the best job that I ever had.  
And the hardest job I ever had.  
And I will miss it.  
And I will [some day] be glad we're done.  
And I will wish I had time to do more things with them.  
And I will welcome my own independence. 
I will adjust.  
I will wake up happy again.  

Right now though, when things feel strange, I will remember to thank God who blessed me with more joy than I could ever imagine.  And I will be thankful, so very thankful, because He has been very good to me.

So very, very good.

I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.  
Psalm 13:6