Monday, December 31, 2012

My Word 2013! A Year of Living Intentionally

The last few years have been hard.  I know that seems like a very uncelebratory way to usher in a new year.  It feels good to say it out loud.  Specifically, the last three years have been really hard. In August of 2006 we moved to Missouri for what we thought would be a two-year stint, but here I sit in my home in Springfield more than 6 years later.  We had no idea the journey we had embarked on or what we would encounter along the way.

The first half of our Missouri story was actually pretty good.  We bought a house, the Counselor finished his Master's degree and became a--well--Counselor, we bought one dog and rescued another.  We both had decent jobs.  It was shortly after we arrived in Springfield that Kevin's sister, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer...for the second time.  This time was bad.  Our Virginia family's life seemed to be put on hold, but ours seemed to march along.  We were apart.  We were growing.  It felt like we were here so that we could be there for them in whatever way we could offer.  We were not in the midst of it so I am sure it seemed it didn't impact our lives. I am not sure we felt like it impacted us as much as it did.  Then Kevin's grandfather too fell ill.

We rushed back to Virginia.  It was almost as though he waited for Kevin to arrive before the man I believed looked like God went to meet his Savior. He spoke over my husband in a way I had only read about and I watched Kevin take it all in as a student learning at the feet of a teacher.  When we came back to Missouri, we were different, changed. We decided that I would leave the comfort of a stable job and do contract work to finish my doctoral degree with the completion of my dissertation.  Kevin would work for a social service agency to be the stable income.  

Things fell into place. Provision was always made even if it arrived at an odd time.  The savings we had built up would carry us through.  As the process neared an end we made the monumental choice to stop using contraception and take our chances on becoming parents.  It didn't take long.

This is where is gets hard. Neither of us were longing to be parents.  It would be a step of faith. A leap.  The economy had tanked, our savings was running out fast, but we had faith like we had never had before.  Then the degree and the dissertation were delayed, but a beautiful baby girl eased the sting.  We brought our girl to Virginia to meet her Auntie KK and then to North Dakota to meet the whole Anderson clan.  Then it all fell apart.  Karen left.  Another baby was conceived.  Mourning turned to terrible sadness. It is like the world stopped turning. 

When I tell people that our family doubled in size in 22 months with babies 13 months apart...and I completed a doctorate...all people tell me is that they are sorry.   I have gotten used to it, but it still stings in a place far from human reach.   To say that our lives were set on auto-pilot is an understatement.  Many told us just how hard it was going to be; few offered anything in the way of help to ease the burden. A fog set in.

I was asked by a colleague a few months ago just how I got through it.  What did I do to make it better? Being the good church girl that I am, I had my prepared platitudes of God's grace, my son's presence, and more stable work contract to pull me out of the mire.  All true, but incomplete.  We have gone through the motions.  The few times I have confronted the loss, the challenges, the sheet exhaustion I am so broken that I quickly put it away for fear I will sing more deeply.  We exist.  We just do the next thing because sometimes it is all we can do. 

All of this has taken a toll.  It is visible in many areas of our lives.  I see it most in our finances, the care of our home, in my approach to work and the Counselor's ability to take the next steps.  But I see it most in my relationship with the Lord.  I have rested on the foundation of my faith given me by my family and in the Word planted in my heart, but I cultivated nothing.  I begged God to be there in the trials, but let the disciplines of a spiritual life slip away. Yet, 2012 has been different.  One, we did not have a baby this year.  Can I get an amen?  Opportunity is again presenting itself.  Change is afoot.  The fog is starting to lift as sleep becomes a reality again and some of the pressures are lifted.  I have never shied away from hard.  I enjoy a challenge.  Tell me I cannot and I will.  Just existing was starting to get old.  And I am not interested in giving up or giving in.  It does not honor my children and it would disappoint our Karen if we died along with her refusing to live life fully. I am lonesome for the presence of the Lord.  I miss the closeness and the fire of the Spirit.

So this year will be different.  Inspired by my friend Sarah Bessey I am going to choose a word for 2013.  Look, the Holy Spirit did a major work in her this year, so I am not entering into this lightly.  I come at it with fear and trembling.  The fog may look more like a blanket of comfort when we meet again a year from now, but I am doing it.  I miss LIVING.  I miss passion and purpose.  I miss goals and dreams.  I miss ME.  And I miss my Savior.

My word for 2013 is Intentional.  I want to live fully right where I am as Ann Voskamp encouraged.  I want to approach my work, my family, and my relationship with God in pure passion.  I don't want to just get through, I want to take this year by storm.  I have been praying about this word since the last semester ended.  I got through it, but I missed a lot.  I don't want to live like that.  I will need help.  I am no longer an island who only has to concern herself with my own actions and choices.  I have to do this in relationship to my husband and children.  We are a unit. 

I will need all of the help I can get, but I am ready.  Life is born of struggle that is internal.  I know this year of intentional living will not be a cake walk.  I know that hard has not left my lips, but that out of this year will come a better me.  I can't wait to see where this year of intentional living takes me and my family.  Here we go...but first...sleep!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Being Wonderstruck

It has been far too long since the last time I spent time at the burning least to blog about my experiences there.  The season I am in right now seems to suck every last minute away from me, but the work that is being done in my life right now is nothing short of amazing.  It is painful and hard sometimes, but all along the way little gifts come my way via books, Facebook, Twitter, and even in face to face conversation.  One of those is gifts has not yet been released to the public, but is already making an impact in my life.

My friend, Margaret Feinberg [], has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God [],which releases Christmas Day. This is a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life. This book will turn your prayer life upside down, stir your desire to live more abundantly, and take your relationships with others to the next level. To learn more, watch the Wonderstruck Video: click here to view.

Margaret recently posted a great warning on her site that those who have read Wonderstruck []have experienced the following symptoms:

-An inability to stop smiling

-An uncontainable desire to pray

-A loss of interest in judging others

-A quiet, unshakable confidence in God

-A renewed ability to see the wonders of God all around

And from what I’ve seen, they’re all true! I wanted to share some thoughts that stuck out to me as I read a sneak peek of Wonderstruck:

I am in the thick of these moments right now.  Teaching too many hours, worried about keeping up my house, spending enough time with my kids and praising them rather than only offering correction...each of these things have been given to me as a gift and God is in the comments I return to my students, he is there when I wash the dishes (and he doesn't judgement when I don't), and he offers me grace to follow up the correction of little ones with lots of hugs and kisses.  When I intentionally see God in the wonders of each of these moments, then they are no longer the stressors of my life, they are moments to stand in wonder of a great God who saw fit to place himself in the midst of my mess.  They are opportunities to worship and wonder at all God is and who he wants to be in my life.

 I am so grateful for women like Margaret who write so honestly and passionately.  I am inspired in my own work because of her.  Her approach to this life and to the wonder of God and his work in us here and now is a great inspiration to me.

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter [], Facebook [], or her blog []. You can learn more about this great book by visiting where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.95 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble [] for all you savvy shoppers. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

We have what my counselor husband refers to as a "night routine." There is a rhythm. There is an order to things. There is a process. I sit with my baby boy in the big black and white chair which does not quite match the decoration in his room, but is the best chair for the rocking of babies. Here we sit together and he drinks a final bottle. A full tummy to get him through the night. Sometimes he drifts off before finishing and others are spent wishing the bottle would extend just a little while longer. Most nights I put him down awake and he is such a good little boy who rolls over on his tummy and drifts away. Some nights he wants to practice his standing skills and when he cannot figure out how to get down he fusses for one of us to come back. We sit some more. Tonight was different. Less than halfway through this sleeping draft, he pushed the bottle away, curled himself up, and dug deep into my chest. Soon the sounds of rhythmic breathing and a stuffy nose filled the air. He melted into me like a comforting blanket.
Tempted to gingerly stand and put him down as quickly as could be so that I could "get on with my night" I couldn't move. Instead, I put the recliner foot rest up and curled up with this little person in the quiet dark. For just a moment, I wanted to just be still, to hold on to this moment and savor it as long as possible.
When you are a mama of two little people under two years of age life is hard. Add to this the demands of work, financial pressure, a car that has long outlived its intended lifespan, uncertainty in shifting schedules, and grandma who is 18 hours too far to rescue us makes for a level of anxiety mixed with exhaustion can be nearly debilitating. Many well intentioned told me it would be this way--just how hard these years would be. These same well intentioned cannot help but now add that soon it will be better. These hard years. They will be over. Children grow. They learn to dress themselves. They take themselves to the restroom. They go to school. While these well intentioned are just that, their input rings hollow.
Tonight I could not bear the thought. This season will end, but what a shame it would be to wake up one day, knowing that moments like these will never come again, only to have missed it all. He will always be my baby, but all too soon he will no longer BE a baby. He will not fit on my torso, he will not melt into a pile of baby pudge, he will not smell of no-more tears or lavendar lotion, all of the firsts will become everyday occurances. All I have to do is look at his sister, her little body no longer one of a baby, but now a little girl. No longer does she reach for me, but instead proudly proclaims, "I DID IT!"
I do not want to wish away these "hard" years, but I want to take them in, ponder them in my heart as Mary the Mother is said to have done. I have spent my entire life "getting through" so that I can get to that ellusive moment where what is next is finally the moment where life is. I want to capture these moments and bottle them so I can drink deeply of them one day when the baby boy is now a man. I want to experience each minute, I want to taste each morsel of their lives, I want to know that I was present and for them to recall it as clearly as I do.
As we sat together in the dark, I said a quiet prayer. One of thanksgiving, one for safety and rest, one for his future. A final prayer I said for me. That I would not take for granted these years both the challenges and the triumphs. All too soon, the counselor came looking for me. Worried something was amiss. No, nothing was wrong. In fact, in this moment, all was right with the world. Even for just a moment.
So the next time I am tempted to be well-intentioned. Tempted to dismiss the hard for the easier future that is on its way. Stop. Be silent. If I must contribute to someone else's experience then I will do just that: contribute. Offer to bring by a meal. Buy an extra sack of groceries. Purchase a fift card for gas. Give my time so the one who is experiencing hardship can have a moment that is less hard. Be a friend. Lend an ear. Make some coffee.
Most of us are not bothered by what is hard. What we desire most is not to eliminate the hardship or to just get through. Rather, what we long for is the chance to just be, to take it all in, to find the beauty born of our struggle.