gifts at 37.

gburg

agirl

tablebooks

canopy

alwayswanted

I celebrated my 37th birthday this week. I don’t feel that old. I still feel an awful lot clueless about most things. This year has been full of hard fought surrender and beautiful communion. So many things are still the same. And so many things are so very different. Sometimes I wish God would change the things I want Him to change and leave the rest alone but His heart is best and what He has wrought over the last year in me is sweet and humbling. There have been little bits of gifts along the way.

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There’s the man who walks his two adorable beagle dogs every morning right about the time we’re leaving for morning drop off. I’ve watched him walk his dogs almost every school day for the past four years. This year? There is a woman with him and she has her own dog. I don’t know all of the particulars but I smile when I see them. It’s just good to have company on a cold morning when you’re hunched over in the face of the wind. He is very businessy but she looks like she got up just in time to go with him, her hair in a top knot and her pants spilling over the top of her boots.

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The leaves on my two favorite trees are a canopy of yellow right now. What I thought were red oaks are actually black maples, I think. Either way, I can’t help but stop under them every single time I walk by. I try to cement in my brain how everything glows right there underneath ochre leaves tinged red at the tips. I watch how the branches run like charcoal veins, cutting through layers of golden light. I like to think that God was giddy over knowing how He made Fall a painting that would dazzle us.

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My girl’s brain is on fire. We started slow but she is taking off in every direction, always questioning all the things. It can be tiresome and I get a little ruffled when she assumes I don’t know my 3rd grade English but I’m just trying to do what a wise woman encouraged in me this week: I’m going to love her little self exactly where she is right now.

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I picked up a well-loved coffee table from a sweet friend and we have felt so fancy with that thing nestled in our den. It is becoming a place to gather around–this room–and I love it. Our books are stacked and I have fresh flowers from a sweet friend. This is the room where my morning prayers are uttered and these two books are changing me: Gospel Identity (Do this one in a group with hearts that are for love and community.) and A Million Little Ways. Along the way, I got into the habit of trying to patch up the seams of my paper heart with a do more and not enough mentality. I see failure. I receive condemnation. I am beginning to understand that working harder and viewing myself more unkindly is not the way to freedom. Instead, the Lord wants me to see as He sees, especially myself and others. Adoration begets adoration and I am praying that the more I look on Him the more I will understand how He loves us so.

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This week we got to eat a Thanksgiving feast with each of our short people. On the first day I turned toward the cafeteria and I felt that teenage panic wash over me. Many seats were taken and I don’t understand how a 37 year old woman can feel 16 and seatless in a skinny minute. We ended up sitting with two young fellows who didn’t have family there. One of them we’ve known since my oldest was in kindergarten. I wish I could take you to that moment because it is what I want most of all to be lifted up in my life. My husband knows how to love on a child who is in need of a little extra or has walls up or is just an easy laugh. I don’t know but it is Jesus to me to watch him use his gift. And I wish that every time you came here you saw THAT, how he bulldozes walls with laughter and love. We’re both human and you know the whole drill but I am so humbled by the importance and everyday of the way he has been made. We’ve done this every year and somehow I forgot in that second. I’m so thankful God saved a seat at that table for us.

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For every gift-giving holiday I always ask for an American flag. We live in a parsonage and sometimes I feel a little insecure about our patchy grass and our wimpy landscaping and our overgrown bushes. Somehow I’ve felt that an American flag would stamp HOME all over this house. Every year I don’t get one. And this year I had already received a few things I needed. I’d forgotten to even ask. But my girl wouldn’t let the day pass without a little something and Tom remembered. I got my American flag, the sewn and fancy kind. We all hung it together in our bare feet on the cold front steps. It made my cry how he remembered.

I’ve written more than I ever like to write here. But these are my gifts. I’d love it if you shared yours.

a bit of everyday: grace.

tackle

Today I decided to tackle a little bit of this. It’s not their fault, really. With all my redecorarranging there’s been nowhere to put all these little bits.

I also went to the library by myself. I was really just going to find a few movie choices for Friday night but when you have three very distinct opinions about fine cinema it just makes sense to go by yourself.

avoid

I avoided working on this. It’s where I’m supposed to write and be inspired. Oops.

This morning I fell while running with my rascal dog, like with blood and everything. It seems we have a bit further to go than I thought. I think he was more traumatized than I was.

I hung up my winter coat for the last time, hopefully. And I made a total fail of a dinner. And my girl pretended to be Nate the Great while the boys played baseball on the field a few steps from our house. She cut and colored and stapled and told me about how she saw a smiley face in the clouds earlier in the day and she knew God was telling her that everything would be all right. When she was all done she asked me if I was missing something and I prayed and prayed that I would lose something soon just so that she could find it. Instead, I sent her hunting for a thing that was right where it should be. It’s a joy and a mystery to walk in the world of right-brained child.

tballready

Tomorrow we’ll watch our youngest play in his first t-ball game. He’s more than ready.

a prayer for the right now and the almost there.

fiveyearold1

Dear Lord,

Please don’t ever let me forget what it’s like to meet a five year old fresh from a night of sleep.

The cheeks swathed in pink. The hair mussed and smelling of apple shampoo. The eyes open, artless and tinted darker with sleep still hanging on.

Please don’t let me forget how there is still the slight puff of toddlerhood on a warm face. Or how it feels to have short and plump little arms fold around me, how it feels to get the tiniest scratch on my back from nubbin fingers.

I know what is coming, the good and the harder. How we totter at the edge of the heart realm. There will be beautiful moments filled with love notes and tears and adventure. There will be harder moments filled with rushed words and trying to meet in the middle. I’ll holler with pride at ball games and call my husband in tears over bad choices. I know all of this, half of me already in that world.

fiveyearold2

Right now? I need to grasp so tightly how it feels to know the slight pudge of a still young belly’s deadweight against me. How it feels to kiss a soft neck and know that all of this child can still fold up in my lap with rounded knees and stumpy little toes.

fiveyearold3

I relish what will come and that is why right now I need written all over my heart the way soft and full brown eyelashes just barely rest over rosy cheeks under full and wiry bedhead.

fiveyearold4

Amen.

small joys: in the details of everyday living.

second. fourth. the big day has started. #chipperjonesjerseyforthespecialdayofcourse and in #takingbackmornings news: we rose early, we ate, we read, we prayed. still a bit rushed in the end and a bit harried at drop off but #leaningintograce .

For fresh eyes and new starts, I’ll give thanks this weekend. For first days of school filled with hope, I’ll give thanks.

it's amazing what can happen in a few minutes on the phone.

For small people who think literally, I’ll give thanks. For soap and water to the rescue, I’ll give thanks.

"nap" time.

For quietish afternoons will with quasi-napping, I’ll offer thanks. For a creaky bed that has seen generations and smells just like old wood should, I’ll give thanks. For plain old generations and their story, I’ll give thanks.

friday night lights. supporting one of our boys from the home. #husbandinheaven

For a husband who loves the next generation and shows up for them, I’ll give thanks. For friday night football reborn into my life, I’ll give thanks. For sixteen year olds who are not my own ripping at my taped up heart seams, I’ll give thanks. And for how God always, always, always whispers to me in a pink lit sky, I’ll offer Him thanks this weekend.

God most certainly is in the details of everyday living. It’s the deep down dirty roots of hope and trust to see Him there and I hope you’ll take a minute to mine those moments in your own life today.

manna: still miracle

At 7:39 am on Sunday morning I’m sitting in the plaid chair in the corner of our den.

My eyes and throat are scratchy from a good cry the night before. After a week of early starts and hurt feelings and very public tantrums and new things and failure feelings, a stubbed toe and a broken dryer brought everything spilling out.

Across from me my two youngest niblets of people strum a play guitar with two strings, singing made up songs about morning and games and siblings.

At exactly 7:40 am, the sun just barely peeks over the building across the street and all of the sudden morning light streams bright and straight through our little house. Right from one end to the other.

crookedframe

“Mama! The air is green and yellow,” my girl exclaims with eyebrows sky high and brown eyes shimmer shining. It is and it settles on that one crooked frame and the scraps from handmade heart-shaped paper chains scattered across my grandmother’s fancy table.

scraps

Just the night before in my sniffly mess, through gritty entitled teeth and pumping fists, I had wondered aloud. “Do you think? Do you really think that on the 39th day the Israelites believed that manna was still miraculous?” My husband sat graciously taking it in. “No,” he said.

But it didn’t change anything. And it doesn’t change anything. Manna was still miracle. On the first day. On the last day. After months or after years, it’s still the same. Daily bread is still enough and still peck marked by grace and by power.

This is how change starts. How I can finally start to live like truth really is true. Letting grace lead me to see that even if it has been days or months or years, this daily living and waiting? It is still good and perfect and full of miracle and full of God’s unchanging and extravagant love.

a hopeful heart.

pink

Seventh grade brought bouffant bangs and embarrassing boy stories. Eighth grade brought braces and a permanent.

Ninth grade? By ninth grade I had tamed the frizz and the sky high bangs. I went for a simple bob with a straight fringe in the front. Ninth grade was also the year of my favorite outfit. I had graduated to shopping at Express and that year I had purchased a hot pink pencil skirt. I paired it with a cobalt blue scoop neck t-shirt, tucked in. Through the belt loops? I would string one of those mexican woven belts, the kind that you could tie in a pretty knot with braided tassels hanging down.

I took my yearbook picture in that cobalt blue shirt. I know that I know that just below the frame is my beloved pink skirt. Blue t-shirt. Wispy bangs. Curly bob. Freckled nose. Braces. Hopeful heart.

From the first time I saw plaid skirts and knee high socks and preppy blazers splattered across a fall Seventeen spread, I’d always believed that clothes had the power of story, that they could make something out of nothing.

It’s not true, though. Meaningful, lasting, fellowship inducing beauty comes from the inside. But when what’s inside is incredibly frail and insecure and limited by self? You distract.

This year I’ve done a good bit of hard heart work, the kind of work that rubs grace all over those inward places. No more distracting.

I challenged myself to wait: never to buy the first time I saw that perfect shirt unless it had been on my list for a long time. I avoided Target because even though I already have at least ten cardigans if I see a pink and gray striped boyfriend cardigan for fifteen dollars something happens in my head and all of the sudden I cannot live without it even though I am five foot one and a boyfriend cardigan comes down below my knees. I’ll always love Target. I will. I’m just starting to question if I need everything they tell me I need right when they tell me I need it. I’ve become the ultimate skeptic when it comes to colored denim.

Just the other day? I took the experiment to a new level. There was that bubble gum pink and soft gray striped boyfriend cardigan. I wanted it. They even had it in mustard yellow, which i double heart. But i already have ten cardigans. Ten. That’s two work weeks with no repeats. Weekends don’t count.

So. I walked away and I thought about my friend, my friend who just finished a week of something new. She had been nervous, getting ready months in advance. This friend? She’s awesome and she knows that you cannot find a better snack in this world than a cold coca cola and a handful of cheez-its.

I bought the coca cola and I bought the cheez-its and all the other random things I had actually come for. I got right in my car and I drove to her house. The whole way? The biggest smile I could muster spread across my face. I was giddy.

Sometimes it feels good to say no just so that you can say yes to something else. To give instead of get. To stop distracting and start loving.

let laughter rumble.

four year olds rock.
there is magic in holding a four year old close.

the dead weight of nubbin arms and pudgy belly are soft on my heart. his tears trail down onto my shoulder. his sniffles and warm breath are a balm.

it’s a moment after discipline. it still hurts me every time but we follow through anyway.

bedtime now and as he sinks-still wet with crying- into his downy comforter, i lean in for a kiss.

and he is all uncontrollable giggles. there is no gentle transition. no tickling. no silly joke. it’s like he was standing with his toes curled over the warm cement edge and he just jumped. sniffly tears to belly laughs in one big splash.

i laugh with him and i pray that God will teach me that. how to let laughter rumble up in me even when i’m still holding onto hurt, disappointment, anger. how to let joy sink those soft lines deep around my eyes even when the tears roll out. how to heal.

three daily small joys

Good morning, Monday.

I didn’t think I could love mornings more but I can. Mornings are a constant surrendering for me. I get up early looking for more time to just be. Which is good. But I find that I’m having to just be with open hands, willing to give that time over to being intentional. I have a wish for you. That you would love mornings, too. It’s a secret between you and me, ok? But if you want to know pink light kissing your skin while everything is almost yellow and you can actually hear the world instead of people noise? Embrace the early morning.

Afternoon reading.

Every afternoon we have been setting aside an hour for reading. We choose one summer reading book and one library book and the house is quiet and my heart is happy. For half that time, I sit down near our girl and I read, too. I find that somehow it helps that I communicate physically that I am available. If I’m dashing all about, there is more resistance and there are more questions. My favorite spot is on the settee in the dining room where we are a jumble of legs and words.

UNO.

And in the evening, we’ve taken to playing Uno. Over and over again we play. We get lively and fierce games going until someone finally wins and we all shake hands and shout, “Good game!” If you’ve never heard a snaggle-toothed four year old with a lisp and a southern accent say, “Good game!” and “I winned!” then I pray you will soon.

treasure hunting

Here we have a recent trip to the zoo with a big girl camera and some of my favorite people.
aslan

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

 

littlefeet

 

lorikeetbeauty

 

braveone

We have a very brave one in him.

eyesandears

The eyelashes.

headon

Right there I turned to our girl and wondered at God’s imagination.

happyaccident

A happy accident at the meerkats. I put my camera down by my hip. These brown eyes are, I like to say, saucers of spilled out coffee all rich and deep.

This girl danced in all her finery today. “Mama,” she said. “I got lipstick on my bow. Do you think anyone noticed?” I put my arm tight around her, wrapped her up in the warmth of my heart pumping big for her and breaking just a bit and said, “Nope. Not a one.”

small joy: sabbath

sabbath2

I did something I haven’t done in a good long while yesterday. I took an honest to goodness sabbath day. We worshipped with our church family and then I came home and stayed in this one spot for a good remainder of the day. I read books and magazines. I had hand drawn pictures delivered to me. I also got shot with nerf guns and had to help break up a few wrestling matches gone wrong. That, my friends, is what we call pure T wrastling. But we were all here and we just stayed here.

More than ever, I am realizing that priorities don’t simply happen. I have to make space for them. Except sometimes I don’t and them I’m totally perplexed by the fact that I’m caught up in doing a whole lot of stuff that isn’t life giving.

I am also convinced that our four year old LITERALLY (Chris Traeger) lays himself flat in the dirt and then proceeds to roll and frolic in it. The other day he came in and there was dirt swirling off of him. It’s a sight, to be sure.

I’ve also been writing more thanks to a dear friend and every other Tuesday morning with her. We read. We write. We share. Some of it trails over here but some of it I’m holding on to. I’ve been a bit unsure about what this space is supposed to look like. Yes, still. But last week I took some time to ponder: why do I keep coming back to this place instead of keeping it all close? It helped to think intentionally.

Also! I always dread Monday when it’s the late afternoon on Sunday and the best light is almost filtered out. It’s the early mornings and the other non-weekendy things. But! Something happens on Monday mornings. I don’t know but that I’m really loving them for their fresh starts and new goals and hopeful breezes.