the wanderers & the wilderness

the israelites were wanderers. they wandered in their faith, all to easily distracted by golden calves. they wandered in their hearts, becoming rebellious & disillusioned and as a result, they physically wandered in deep wilderness for forty years.
"the christian life is this, that your internal realities become your external realities." 
{b. johnson}
they wandered internally & so they wandered externally. they were anchorless & their hearts drifted & got lost & tangled up in all that wilderness. and that is where i have been. in the wilderness of the heart. all tangled up & lost in this unfamiliar terrain. until i realized the manna. life giving, hunger quenching manna. God's miraculous nourishment falling from heaven daily. manna literally meaning "what is it?"

"when we are despairing, we can choose to live as israelites gathering manna. hungry, they chose to gather up that which had no meaning. more than 14,600 days they take their nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. they find soul-filling in the inexplicable. they eat the mystery. they eat the mystery. and the mystery, that which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips."
 {ann voskamp, on thousand gifts, p. 22}

the wilderness can be a disorienting, terrifying place. it's the kind of suffering that can eat a person up from the inside out. but in the baffling, lostness of the wilderness, this manna, this "what is it?" question has been freedom to me. choosing to gather the manna bread crumbs & eat the mystery. although the purpose be latent & hidden at times, nothing is wasted. not even in the wilderness. and that is a great comfort to me, that this too has a purpose & it is to prosper me. to provoke me into the Presence of Peace himself. 

it is in the darkest moments of this wilderness that i have tasted the deepest, purest Shaloam. the kind of Shaloam that John talks about. soul prosperity. mental wholeness. tangible, grip-able peace. it's in the torrents of the raging sea, i have found the place of rest. soul restoring, lie destroying, war waging rest.  the kind of rest that leads to the promise land.
"the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."
 {romans 16:20}
those poor israelites never got to see their hard sought for promise land. never got to taste the honey, drink the milk of their inheritance. and unlike them, i will find my way out of the wilderness. and i will arrive on the other side of the Jordan stronger, more resilient & most of all, clearer & closer to the One who was there the whole time. my anchor. my ever present help.
"because you are my help, i sing in the shadow of your wings." 
{psalm 63:7} 


little fellows & their fellowship

sharing is perhaps one of the biggest issues of a little person's life. the why, the what, the whom & how they share are much of what i spend my day sorting out at the moment. with four fellows four & under, most of the toys in this house are communal, which has lead to some inevitable conflict. it is rarely the brand new race car or the latest newfangled trinket, but rather the old broken purse strap
that they love to chase the dog with or some old bottle cap tucked conspicuously in someone's shirt pocket that causes murderous rage to erupt between them. silly things possess children to do silly things. who knew a trike could be welded as a weapon? who knew a flashlight could be like catnip to a little sinner? who knew a bubble wand could set off WWIII?
needless to say, we have tried regulating & implementing sharing policies so fair is fair which has only made us all into legalists. we have tried making the punishment fit the crime, which has lead to an un-ending conveyer belt of timeouts. we've tried toy jail & chocolate chip bribery, sticker charts & sharing magnets & total toy isolation. we have tried just about every parenting strategy out there to prevent sibling rivalry from raising it's ugly head but nothing has been as effective as getting to the heart of the matter.

"now every time your children have a conflict about a toy, they are breaking fellowship. if you step in and redistribute the toy but don't address the unkindness or selfishness or envy, you allow that to stay between them. it is sort of like trying to get rid of a dandelion by shaking the seeds all over you garden. there we go. solved that problem. until this afternoon.
it is a lot harder to work through grabby heart problems than the grabby hands, even though they usually travel together. if this part of parenting were only about toy distribution, then we should just be setting timers & keeping tally sheets. but teaching them about dealing well with each other, looking to their own hearts, and staying in fellowship is hugely important if they are ever going to get on without you." 
{rachel jankovic, loving the little years}

i know they are little fellows at the moment but i very much value their relationship with their siblings & i want them to too. people are always more important than toys. more important than anything that could possibly come between them, i tell them. and when the wild rumpus starts to rage in the other room, it doesn't matter who started it or how, they are both in the wrong. absolutely nothing i can think of necessitates a lord of the flies savage outbreak. they both have the ability to communicate. and if the other wasn't listening to their plea, that's when they should have grabbed me to come help, matthew 28 style. but wild rumpus is never ok, no matter what. i want them to learn the lessons i am still learning, that no matter what, we can always walk through a dispute in fellowship with one another. no matter what, i can still love my brothers & my sisters regardless of the sinful nature they have just manifested towards me. and then, once we agree the we love each other & that this is worth working out together, we get down to the heart of the matter. 

"remember that the house rules for the toys are foundational social laws to your child. they will take these lessons with them for life. so think through what your rules communicate to your children.
do your kids know that if they grab they want & cry mom will make their brother give it to them in a minute? do you try to pacify them by offering them things & trying to persuade them that it is better, rather than deal just deal with envy?
it is the hearts that are the problem. only sorting out what they may grab & when does not deal with the actual situation because it does not address the engine of the situation - their hearts. nobody profits from this kind of a system, but everyone learns how to work it to their advantage.
it's important to stick to principles, teach principles & then sort out the details in light of them." 
{rachel jankovic, loving the little years}

it is hard to see our precious little one's in true light sometimes. to see them chose to use their wallop instead of their words. to see them clobber instead of communicate. and it is definitely difficult to see such big, ugly emotions come out of such teeny hearts. but they are there whether we want to recognize it or not. envy is still envy, even if i choose to call it 'spirit-ly concerned for the welfare of all toys everywhere'. selfishness is still selfishness, even if i choose to call it personality. we put names to the big, ugly emotions, we call them like they are, & then we work through those emotions in repentance & replace them with the true feelings of fellowship, like it had never been broken. 

i'm not saying that every time there is an altercation between children i run through all of this, but i most definitely set it as a goal to talk about the heart of the matter later if there isn't time or if space to deal with it right there & then. stories help too. the story of the brave knight who fought dragons all day protecting the castle & then came home & walloped the princess over getting the blue plate has convicted each of my own brave knights at some point & the same with the beautiful princess with glass slippers & a regal tiara who went around calling the boys poopy heads. for some reason they always know what the right thing to do is when there is a brave knight or a princess involved. :)


the crown on your head {letters to eva}

"the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair."
 {audrey hepburn}

nancy tillman's the crown on your head
this morning started out like any other morning. a good hearty start to the day. there was the usual feeding of the four hungry bears at the counter. one extra grumpy bear down with rosy cheeked

teething but nothing mama couldn't handle after a big swig of caffeine.
my mistake was reading that book. that book that has gotten me into trouble in the past. kai had found it stuffed under the couch & begged me to read it. and so i did. and 'alexander & his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day' jinxed us.
i shuffle you kids into your various spaces for room time. shower. get a good roll on the dishes & the day & then spring back upstairs to get you dressed. you chatter in my ear as a scramble through your drawers only to realize laundry day is long overdue. i pick a tuff of hair off a discarded sweater, thinking jeepers i should have done a better job cleaning up after i trimmed your bangs.  the sweater will do. not so dirty you look dirty. just dirty enough to think you play hard. i lift you up onto the change table & begin forcing limps through clothing holes. you prattles on. something about a haircut.
"see mummy! see?"
"yes eva. uh huh" i say half heartedly as i continue to build my list in my head for the day. groceries. gym. can't forget to mail that letter.
i sit you up all dressed & get out the hair stuff.
"which pretty bow should we use today?" i ask as i awkwardly fumble the comb through your hair only to realize...
nancy tillman's the crown on your head
"eva, what have you done?!" i exclaim in sheer horror as you hand me a golden clump of your hair.
your enthusiasm for your new do evaporates as you burst into tears.
"i sorry mummy! i so sorry!" you sob.
i pick you up & you bury your head in my shoulder. i run my hand through your hair to feel for the missing chunks.
i take you to melonheads. you sit in the chair reluctantly until you agree to a stale granola bar & my hand to hold. i hold your hand tight as the hairdresser lops off the rest of your hair. i hold back tears. but you don't notice. you're zoned out watching 'rapunzel' on the t.v. overhead, a cruel irony.
i breath deep as i carry you back to the car, stoking the back of your practically bald little head.
throughout the day, i watch you as you play. taking in your hair. taking in your beautiful little face. you catch me watching you a few times & instantly run to me with quivering lip.
"it's ok evie. it'll grow out. i'll be ok" i say.

nancy tillman's the crown on your head
they say a woman's hair is her crowning glory. some say it is her definition of femininity. some believe it's where her strength comes from. and that may be true. but you came into this world with no hair at all. you came into this world with a crown all your own a top that bald newborn head. i noticed it the first day we met. it was beautiful & bold & bright. full of all that is you. it's fierce full of life & wild joy uncontainable. and oh how it's glimmered & grown with you. and whether you have locks of gold to for that crown to nest on or are bald as the first day we met, it is there just the same. saying the same thing it's always said. shining to all and to all it says 'she is magnificent'. you wear it a top of that head of yours even now & carry it with you for always & wherever you go.

"in other words, from your very first day, you were chosen to glow in a very big way! 
with your crown made of glittering, high-flying things, you've got wind in your pocket, your wishes have wings...
your crown is your best friend forever, by far. it tells the story of just who you are. 
that's why every night, when i put you to bed, i'm careful to kiss the crown on your head."
 {nancy tillman, the crown on your head}


just bring you {the box}

as a mom, i have often fallen into the trap of 'one day'. one day i'll be able to appear in pubic without smudges all over my clothes. one day i'll have it all together. one day i'll have a ministry.

somewhere along the way, i built a box called ministry in my mind. and it was full of pulpits & conferences & travelling & elite status. the Lord recently found this box & convicted me in this. ministry is not as much about what you do but more about who you are. and when you begin to realize who you are, then what you do out of that is ministry.

whether that's behind a pulpit or a coffee cart, whether it's teaching in an amphitheatre or changing a diaper in a small stinky room, intentional or not, it's who i am that ministers to everyday situations & people. there is no box called ministry. ministry is just who i am. no striving needed.

just bring you, He says, to the everyday challenge of life. bring you everywhere you go.  the God-birthed you.


motherhood in the trenches

happy belated mother's day! this is my fifth official mother's day. five years since i was belly round with my first child & my, how things have changed. my, how i have changed. little did i know on that first mother's day how i was jumping head long into the steepest learning curve i'd ever experience in my life. i am transformed. so much learned & yet still so much left to learn.

i have been reluctant to share my own parenting journey, especially with the blog-o-sphere. it's kind of like those who have perfect children please go first. i am very aware that i am no where near the perfect example of a mother but i am in a committed, continuing process of becoming perfected into the likeness of Him & i have collected a few gems along my way. from my own experiences but also from many brave & courageous women who have walked before me & have shared their own treasure chest of wisdom with me, full of the precious stones that they have mined out of the trenches of motherhood.

although i can't entirely take credit for all of these treasures, it is such a beautiful grace to get to share & experience the prize of long fought for wisdom with each other. and so, i thought i'd start a little blog feature called 'motherhood in the trenches' to help me remember the priceless journey i'm on & perhaps encourage others on the same journey.

and so, here's to motherhood in the trenches & loving the little years! (*also the title of an awesome book that has become just such a treasure to me, couldn't recommend it more!)


investments {the long road of covenant}

steve & i are investors. it's the way we do our finances, our parenting, our relationships, our time.  it's the way we do life. it's a lifestyle that we feel we're called to.
early in our relationship, we both felt God speak clearly to us through this scripture...

"be very careful, then, how you live - not as the unwise but as the wise, making the most of every opportunity." 
{eph 5:13-16}

we are investors. and we're aspiring to live as the wise, not as the unwise. making the most of every opportunity. seeing everything as an investment.

us Christ-lovin folk have often heard teaching on investments nestled between tithes & offerings & the parable of the talents. i have long subscribed to the principle of sowing & reaping and it has unlocked something spiritual in my life. but this revelation is new to me. investments aren't just limited to finances... what of emotional investments? relationship investments? and the nitty gritty about how i actually feel about investing in fallible people?

we all instinctually move to protect our investments which, in the realm of relationships, means i stick to the few solid relationships i've invested in. the safe ones. the ones that give a good & easy payout without any risk of over-investment.  and ideally, we like to chose our relationships very carefully. but sometimes, and especially in our profession of faith, relationships chose us. these are not usually the glamourous, sitcom BFF's. they can be the hard & unattractive relationships that have no particular or apparent promise of a payout.

it's the discomfort & demand of the "i'd-rather-not" relationships, the one's i am so tempted to discard that have produced the most fruit in my life. they provoke my own areas of weakness & selfishness & challenge them to change. they expose mouldy motives & other ugly things that creep & lurk in my heart, things i didn't even know were in there, things that would otherwise be left conveniently concealed & unchallenged. they dig & pinch at my resolve & dedication but in the end, these kinds of relationships produce manifold what was sown into them. through the slow, painful churning over of my own selfishness being culled under to produce a plump crop of ripe fruit. they are the underestimated, hidden treasures. the diamonds in the rough. and they have become some of my most precious & solid friendships now. 

"overpay for your relationships like He did for our relationship with Him."
{todd pulsifer}
in a capitalist society that thrives on minimum investment for maximum profit, it may be difficult to conceptualize why one would chose to over invest in a relationship with little payback or maybe a fair amount of difficulty & discomfort along the way. when a relationship runs against the grain of instant gratification or God forbid, a relationship breaks... our society says replace it. trade it in. cut your loses & move on. but Christ says forgive & forbear. give yourself to the patient, selfless detail work of daily communion with each other. to covenant. to fellowship.

"the people outside are too broken & hopeless for us to settle for a notion of fellowship as a kind of comfortable togetherness that has no transforming, empowering, explosive effect when we meet." 
{john piper}

when fellowship is reduced to church socials & picnics, we have lost something vital to our inheritance. the Truth speaking & death bringing& Christ resurrecting & grace giving & life living in such an intimate way that there is no supplement. we were made to live & find fulfillment in each other through Him. we need each other whether we like it or not.

i know now that i am not called to the pretty, neat & tidy BFF or even the BFFE.  i'm called to the refiner's fire of relationships. the one's that chisel & shape into the likeness of Christ. the one's that pull the Christ out in me & pull me in closer to His heart, into His body. not the hollywood style, feel good relationships but the plough the hard ground until it's a lush, green meadow kind of one's. it's often dirty & unattractive work as it can take time for relationships to turn over. years sometimes. but for the diligent, for the few that stay the course, there is no reward like covenant.

bff's make cliques but covenant makes family. blood family because it's through the grace & forgiveness & forbearance of Christ's blood that we become bonded.

i pursue these kind of relationship investments because He did. He invested in me when there was no payout & i have such a strong desire to see a 100% return on God's investment of grace in my life. it's because of Him that i am living as the wise not the unwise, making the most out of every opportunity, every relationship. stewarding each relationship like the, apparent or unapparent, treasure that it is. for He wastes nothing.