All Posts By

Eryn Lynum

936Pennies Motherhood

Everything I Know About Motherhood, Today.

June 22, 2017

I am nearly depleted by it, motherhood. Many days I think that I am, yet somehow by the grace of God I resurface. It empties me, nearly. Yet equally it fills me.

It is both great joy and great challenge, and on my best days, great joy in the challenge.

I know that far too often I feel as though I have nothing left to give. Guilt rushes in and crushes me as I hear my voice snap, tones I never knew it could hold. Fatigue and exasperation–perhaps desperation–coat my words.

And then a simple “Thank you” or “Love you” from your lips tilts the entire day, shifts everything, readjusts perspective, and reminds me that all is not wrong. There is grace yet to be found here. New mercies await us tomorrow, but we have not yet used up today’s. God’s reservoir always has a little more to give.

I know that motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever done. And one of the most rewarding, always. I know that I never knew that I could fear so deeply, or love so fiercely.

I know that you give me more grace than I deserve. Far more. And that while I am trying to teach you about patience, you know much more about it than I do.

I know that God chose me to be your mother, and that, my Love, is an honor.

I know that while many days I long for a break, I cannot imagine this life without you in it.

I know that motherhood has taught me deep lessons about respect–not only in teaching you the value of it, but so much more about what it means to respect you–who you are, and who God has made you to be, and the process of watching you unfold into that potential every single day.

I know that this is going too fast. And if we do not choose to live radically different from what we see around us in this world, then we are going to miss it. Me and you. We’ll miss us.

I know, or rather I am learning, that so much of motherhood is an act of observation. And that I am called to exactly that. Most days I miss the mark. But on those days I truly see you, motherhood is at its best.

I know that your laughter is the sweetest sound on earth.

I know that I would not trade even the most trying of days. And that I cannot take back my mistakes. And that your forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that I receive, and you give it freely. Over, and over, and over. You teach me what it is.

I know that I want you to see my weaknesses, to know that I am needy, too. And to see in me what it looks like to call out to Jesus from that need.

I know that God knew that you were for me, and I was for you, and that was the perfect plan.

This is everything I know about motherhood, today. I am certain you will teach me more tomorrow.

936Pennies

Where We Need To Go More ‘Oftenly’

May 24, 2017

I entertained the notion for a fleeting moment as we drove past one of our favorite walking trails. I almost pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t. Too much work to do at home. But as we passed, my heart ached. Last year I would have stopped. But life now was fast-paced and demanding. I drove on.

It had been one of those days when life shifts on an axis, from great news to bad news all within hours. Circumstances roar like ocean torrents, and you sink beneath the waves, resurfacing for a moment and searching desperately for the illumination of that beacon on shore. Then they overtake you again. Up, down, up, down again. 

But today I was fortunate. And my five-year-old son pointed my eyes toward that light. Ten minutes after I neglected the beckoning trailhead, we pulled into our own town, my mind awhirl with tasks to do as soon as the boys went down for bed. But my heart told me otherwise—that this wasn’t right. I should have pulled into that trailhead.

“Do you guys just want to grab some snacks at the store and go to the park?” I asked the backseat. And what little boy would say no to that? I thought I was killing time. Their Daddy wouldn’t be home for another hour or so anyways. But unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t killing time—I was stretching it. Preserving it. Setting it into stone. I gave them a couple of options for playgrounds, but this was the moment that my boy directed me back to shore after a discouraging afternoon.

“How about the sand by the water?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I remember walking there!” It was my four-year-old speaking up this time. I pictured us, a year ago, him only three, and us strolling along the lake.

“I didn’t like how long we walked.” Zeke, my oldest added.

“I remember we found a golf ball!” I could picture my middle guy, Ellis, pulling the small ball out from underneath the water surface. “Really?” I asked him, “You can remember that?” He went on to describe it in detail, this yellow golf ball. I pulled into the parking lot for the beach. That little golf ball on the beach, during an unassuming summer afternoon, had sure left its mark on him. 

For over an hour I sat there in the grass, listening to their laughter as they ran in and out of the chilly water. The sun slowly dipped below the snow-capped mountains behind the lake. My youngest boy, Willy–his white curls shimmered in the sun’s remaining light as he ran circles around a large Elm tree standing tall beside the sand. Slowly my boys made their way down the shore away from me, then meandered back. Again and again and again.

“I know what we can do, Mom! We can draw in the sand!” Zeke bent low, placing his finger into the sand, running zig-zag patterns backwards, creating art as he went. Two-year-old Willy ran back and forth on the sidewalk in front of me, a grin spread across his face. He tripped and his toddler hands hit the pavement hard. He began to cry, but then rose back to his feet, wiping his hands against each other, and ran on into the sand. He plopped down on his bottom and stared, smiling into the sunset. I watched. And as I did, the day’s worries faded right along with that sunlight. Tomorrow that sun would rise again, and with it, new mercies. Enough mercies.

By the time we packed up, and I strapped boys–sopping wet and sand-covered–into carseats, my heart was light. No longer weighed down by the day and its unexpected twists, but freed—because we let time be what it wanted to be.

Earlier that evening, I drove past that trailhead because work hovered. Anxieties crowded. Time felt rushed and limited and entirely not enough. But my boy brought us to that beach, where time was set free. He sat next to me in that grass, wet shorts and chilly, goose-bumped legs. “I am just cold and need your love.” he told me as he snuggled close. I placed my arm around him. Time could be spent no better way. “We should come here more ‘oftenly’” he told me as we had loaded up the car. And he was so right.

This place where time is stretched and savored and slowed and cemented into our legacy.

Yes, my boy. We should come here more oftenly.

936Pennies Motherhood

I blinked.

May 10, 2017

I blinked. They told me not to, but I did. Who can stop it, anyhow? None of us, that’s who.

I blinked and your pudgy bare toes gripped tight to blades of green grass as you stood to your feet for the first time. I stared at you in disbelief from my knees, pausing from my task of plucking snap peas from their vine. Why did I blink?

I blinked and you clung to Daddy in that hammock with one hand, the other hand pointing to the clouds as planes soared across the blue sky, looping far above your head of white blonde curls. You shrieked in delight as you watched them.

I blinked and that test window blinked back at me. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Pregnant”. And then there was your brother.

I blinked and you timidly walked into the hospital room holding your Auntie’s hand. You approached slowly, taking in the sight of your mama on that strange bed in a silly gown, holding that tiny bundle of uncertainty. You kept your distance. But not for long.

Because I blinked, and then you were best friends.

I blinked and the two of you spent the entire day in the garden helping me dig and pull and plant and nurture. I blinked and you helped me pick of our bounty, warm red strawberry juice slipping down your chins.

I blinked and your little brother stared back at me from that crib, “I wub you,” the words slipping from his mouth for the very first time as I kissed him goodnight.

I blinked and again that plastic window blinked back. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Not Pregnant”. But I knew. And the next morning it agreed, “Pregnant”.

I blinked as I watched you and your brother bound through piles of fall leaves, your laughter mixing a melody with the birds’ songs from the trees. I blinked back the tears and the doubt, how would we do this again so soon?

I blinked at that screen illuminating the dark room, your grandma sitting next to me, us both watching to see. “I’m calling your doctor,” the nurse spoke. I blinked and the tears slipped down my cheeks.

I blinked and your baby brother came much sooner than I anticipated. Time stood still with him nestled in my arm, three days in that room just us, me getting to know him, and coming to see that we needed him. Yes, time stood still, but then I blinked.

I blinked and you and your brother held our tiny baby, and I knew it. In no time you’d be best friends.

I blinked and our whole world changed. From city to mountains. A whole new world for us to make our own. I blinked and it became just that—home.

I blinked and again there was new life in my womb. But then I blinked again and oh how I wish I hadn’t, because then that life was gone.

I blinked, and time went on. But our baby would remain in that time, those three days, until we meet again.

I blinked and your baby brother licked chocolate icing from his birthday candles. I wrapped myself warm in a blanket as the three of you bounded across rocks and slipped toes into icy river water.

I blinked back tears as I told you that I felt like a bad mom. I had yelled too much, I told you. “It’s ok,” you spoke back without even a moment to think. “I will always forgive you when you do something wrong” you told me.

I blinked and you became this little human who somehow understands love and grace and beauty on much deeper levels than I do.

They tell us not to blink. “It’ll be over before you know it.” They say. But how do we stop this constant reflex, a counting of time from birth until grave, a rhythmic reaction alongside of heartbeat and inhale and exhale. We cannot.

So I will keep blinking and you will keep growing and we’ll keep doing this dance of counting time and making time count. Because one day those words from friends and family and strangers will ring true. I will blink and it will be over. Only it won’t. Because we counted time. We slowed it and savored it and told it who was boss. And its treasures will always abide in our hearts—yours and mine—for forever’s keeping. So keep on making time so sweet, little one. Let’s make this business of blinking a sweet legacy of time well spent.

 

 

Devotional Faith Life Seasons

Will We Trust Him When Life’s Pain Does Not Make Sense?

April 25, 2017

It felt ruthless. Anything but caring, tender, or nurturing. It felt like taking life rather than giving it. But this is where my five minutes of research and a YouTube video had landed me.

“Boys, come here. I want to show you how we do this.” They stood on the opposite edge of the hole I had just dug in our front yard. Curiosity shone in their eyes. Carefully I pressed the blade up and out of the X-ACTO knife and began slicing through roots of the Dappled Willow. I could picture it a year from now, hues of white, green, and pink splashed across its leaves, dancing outside of our kitchen window.

And yet there I was, severing the life system it had worked hard to web together over its short life. My knife snagged itself on a thick root. I pressed the blade in deeper.

“We have to score its roots,” the boys’ eyes were locked on my task, “that way they can stretch out and grow into the new dirt.” They nodded. Yes, they understood. But not fully.

They could see the torn roots, the hole in the earth, and the potting soil ready to encourage our tree’s new life system. They could piece it together. But could they piece together that this was exactly what their Daddy and I had done to them a year ago? Could they look at this tree and connect it to how we had cut away at their own roots when we moved them away from all they knew, all the while asking ourselves whether this was the best for them?

Maybe they can see it, just as we will witness it in our Dappled Willow a year from now. That sometimes the cutting away, the letting go, the transplanting is all a part of sinking our roots down deep where we are given the most promise to thrive.

I feel it myself every day. The severing, the cutting, the pruning. I feel it deep as God redirects my roots away from shallow soil. He cuts, and I am sure that He feels my pain. But wait, He promises, I have so much more for you. Such richer soil. Life fullest. I know it hurts now, but just wait. Sink your roots down deep where they will thrive.

I feel it every day as He teaches me of marriage, motherhood, ministry, and following Him. He slices those misguided roots–sometimes a whole tangled web of them, and graciously He plunges them into richer soil. And right where I was left bleeding, I begin to thrive.

What roots of yours is He cutting away at today? Trust His hand. He wants us to thrive, to stretch out our roots beyond that tiny web that we once counted sufficient. He has more. So much more beyond that tiny tangle we’ve been clinging to. He wants us to dig our roots down deep and thick and forever where we will not be moved–not be shaken. And He wants us to trust in who He is when we don’t understand what He is doing. Then, with time’s passing, we can look back and see it–that we thrived. Roots cut and scored and sliced away at. We thrived.

Faith

I Am Not Reading My Kids The Whole Story Today

April 14, 2017

My head is heavy. Requests for granola and cups to be filled with water and Play Doh jars to be opened, I can’t take them right now. Not before I have had a chance to pour myself a cup of coffee. But then my five-year-old makes a request I cannot say no to. “Mom, can you read us a Bible story?” Steam rises from my mug as I pour that first cup, and settle down onto the floor between a pile of boys. I know just the story. But they’re not going to like it.

Sure enough, my three year old speaks up when he sees the first illustration painted across the page. “I do not like the parts of this one, Mom.”

“I know Love,” I tell him, “but do you remember that today is Good Friday?” I hold up three fingers and give them the same visual we have been talking about all week. “Do you remember that there were three days? And on the first day, Jesus had to die on the cross. Today is that first day, Good Friday. And today we remember that Jesus chose to die so that He could rescue us. We have to remember the sad parts, and then in three days, we can remember the happy parts.”

I begin to read. And when we make it to the final page of the chapter, we meet an abrupt end. Most stories in their Children’s Bible end on a chipper note. A conclusion. A happy ending. This one ends with a dark sky and an occupied tomb.

Because after all, it is only Friday.

I flip to the next page with a new chapter heading, and a painting of three women approaching the tomb. I want so badly to read on. I know what happens next, I know the hope waiting on the other side of that tomb. But I cannot. Because it’s only Friday.

I want my boys to land on the happy ending. For their hearts to rest in the good news. But today? Their hearts, as well as my own, need to rest in the Friday news. In the filled tomb. In the torn veil. In the blood spilled. In the sting of the real cost of our sins.

It’s only Friday, after all.

And on this Friday we will dwell on the sad news, eager and anxious and waiting for the third day. Because we know what the disciples and friends and Mary could not quite grasp back on that dark evening. Their Friday? It was spent mourning, confused, angry, and with a deep sense of hopelessness. Our Friday is different.

Our Friday lays nestled in that Bible right between the promises of hope, and hope rising. Our Friday holds the promise of Sunday. The image of that tomb empty. The truth of death conquered. His death, and our own.

And so today I only read to my boys the story of Friday. And we leave it at that, for now. Because we know that Sunday is coming.

Rest in this Good Friday, friends. Settle in. Feel its heaviness. Sense its hope. Sunday is coming, I promise.

Faith

When God Left Me Alone During The CT Scan

April 6, 2017

 

I unlaced my sneakers, slipped them off my feet, and placed them into the plastic bin. Patting my jean pockets to make sure they were empty, I walked forward as the TSA agent waved me on. My plane was scheduled to take me home in an hour and a half, and I would not be on it.

I could not have known that before the hour passed, I would be back at that security checkpoint, tears streaming down my face that was flush with fear and embarrassment. The TSA agent turned towards me as I spoke through cracking voice. “Excuse me… my plane leaves in an hour, but I am very dizzy…”

She had already rose from her seat, and was patting it, telling me to take a seat. With shaking hands I gripped my bottle of water as she called for medical help. “We are going to take care of you.” She assured me. Then she began praying out loud over me. Minutes before I had asked God, Show me what to do. Show me who to talk to.

He had.

Within minutes more security agents had arrived, circling around to shield me from the crowd of people making their way through the security gate. The paramedics arrived. “Where are we going, Sweetheart?” The EMT asked me.

“The hospital, I guess.” Tears slipped down my cheeks. “Oh. I mean Denver. I was going home.

Time evaded me as the ambulance carried me to the hospital. All I could think about were the nine hundred miles that separated my husband from me. I sent a desperate text message to my dear friend who had dropped me off an hour before. “Can you come back to Memphis?”

When she arrived to my bed side, I was already adorned in a hospital gown, and I.V. in each arm. She told me of the two churches and various small groups in her town that were already praying for me. “Flight is booked” My phone buzzed with the text message from my husband. I prayed that he would make it to the airport in time to catch that last plane.

The nurse pulled back the curtain in my room to reveal a wheel chair. “They want a CT scan.” He explained.

“You’re going to be fine.” My friend whispered to me as the nurse wheeled me away, legs trembling and heart racing.

Despite my complicated health history over the past thirteen years, I had never had a CT scan. And as the technician wheeled me into the room, it struck me just how much it looks like something you would see on an episode of ER or Grey’s Anatomy.

He strapped me to the bed and positioned my head. “This should only take three or four minutes.” Then he disappeared into a small room separated by glass.

I was alone.

I closed my eyes and tried to take deep breaths as the bed moved into the white cylinder machine. It revved to life, and I couldn’t help but notice how the droning of the machine sounded a whole lot like the drone of the aircraft I was not on.

Three or four minutes stretch much longer when you are counting every heart beat, wishing to wake up, to not be alone. I tried to pray. But I was struck by the lack of peace. God, where are you? Have you left me alone in this room, with this machine, and nine hundred miles away? I heard nothing but the whirring of the machine as it orbited my head.

It would not be until the next day, with my husband next to me, searching his laptop to find us a flight home, that I would see it. I wouldn’t see it fully until we arrived home, and had some solid answers from doctors. Only looking back on it would I be able to see it–His presence. His sovereign, loving hand in the details.

From the prayer of a TSA agent, to a friend who refused to leave my side until my husband could arrive to take her place. From the last flight of the evening to bridge that gap of nine hundred miles, to EMTs making me laugh in the ambulance. From dear friends taking in and loving on our boys, to a week of meals from friends waiting for us when we made it home. Even in that sterile room with the white machine suffocating me in fear and loneliness–He was there. Never leaving. Never blinking.

Just as Peter stepped out of the boat only to nearly drown in his fear, so was I in those moments. Sometimes all we can see is the wind and the waves, the white machine and the nine hundred miles. And we teeter on the edge of drowning until we look up just long enough to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ outstretched hand. Sometimes we don’t see Him until we are actually back on shore. But He was there. “I believe, help my unbelief.” And He does. He works with our faith, no matter how small and full of holes it may be. He stretches out his hand.

In the darkest of places, when fears drowned out faith, He is still there.

He never leaves our side.

Faith Family Parenting

When He Asked Me If God Made Us Like Puppets

March 29, 2017

One busied himself sweeping a paintbrush coated in deep teal paint across the makeshift doorframe of their wood-and-tarp firefighter house. The other swung through the air next to him on his tree swing. I watched them, hot tea in hand and sunglasses perched atop my head, from a chair out in the back yard.

“Mom, is Mary dead?” The oldest one was asking for his little brother, who had just posed the question to him. It took me a moment to gather what they were asking. Right. Mary. Mary mother of Jesus. Got it.

“No Love, she is with Jesus in Heaven.”

My oldest, five-year-old Zeke, thought for a moment before posing his follow-up question. “So, is she dead in Heaven?”

This was getting harder.

“No….” I began precariously, “she lived a long time ago. She died here on the world, and  now she is alive with Jesus in Heaven.”

Both boys nodded and went on with their play. I took a triumphant sip of my tea. I felt pretty good about our discussion. They have been getting harder recently. Yet as the questions dancing on the tips of my boys’ tongues become deeper, and my answers hold more weight, I find that my heart discovers so much purpose in these conversations. The big questions wave casually into our everyday, catching me off guard, as if the boys have been thinking on them for hours, and suddenly they pop into our car, or in the grocery store aisle, or at the coffee drive-thru line.

This happened a few weeks ago as we were driving through the mountains. My husband and I chatted, and the back seat had been quite silent. Then suddenly Zeke asked, “Hey, did God make it so that we can talk? Or did He make us like puppets?”

My husband and I glanced at each other wide-eyed.

We attended the same Bible college, my husband and me. And so we had both been through the same classes on God’s sovereignty, and had immersed ourselves in the same types of discussions about how much God controls, and what type of free will He has given us.

But Bible school never prepared us for explaining Calvinism vs Arminianism, and what God causes versus what He allows, in five-year-old vocabulary.

“God made it so that we can choose what to say, Love. He wants us to be able to make decisions, so that we can decide to love Him.”

The silence from the backseat told me that my answer was satisfactory.

They have been coming more and more frequently, these questions. Most of the time they catch me off guard. But sometimes I see them, working their way through my little guy’s mind. He grows silent, and I see the gears turning. I see that question sitting in his mind right amidst wonderings of how airplanes glide through the sky, or how caterpillars transform to butterflies.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by this task. As parents, we hold the responsibility on our shoulders of helping our children navigate these questions. We feel as though we are teetering on the edge of Well Done! and Well, You Screwed That Up! depending on the answers we give. We place incredible weight into each word, questioning ourselves the whole time on whether we’re explaining things right.

At least, I know that this is how I have felt. As though their future and eternity rests in the words I choose to craft my answers from.

It feels terribly delicate.

But then, just the other day as we were pulling onto our street, I overheard our middle guy nearly four years old, chattering away. He spouted off something about “God running away”, and Zeke didn’t miss a beat. “Ellison,” He began, seriousness dripping from his voice, “God does not run away. He loves us.”

And that’s when I saw it—or heard it, rather. Child-like faith.

He may not understand the intricacies of God’s sovereignty, but then again, neither do I. Yet sometimes I think that this child’s faith is actually bigger than my own.

It ends up that my answers are not quite as weighty as I place them on my shoulders to be. Rather, our kids come to understand faith and Jesus and love and beauty through what we show them every single day.

They see the grace of God every time I forgive them, and every time I ask them for their forgiveness. They see God’s beauty every time we take them out for a hike or a walk through the park. They see God’s creativity every time we sit next to them and splash paint on paper, speaking about how God is creative, and made us to be the same. They see God’s power every time we as parents stop relying on our own power to do things or say things just right, and instead trust God to work through us.

This is how our children come to know their Maker. Yes, we are called to be intentional with our words. We need to pay attention to the opportunities spun into everyday conversations to explain to them just how great and beautiful and loving our God is.

But we also need to stop placing all of the weight of their eternities into our perfectly manicured answers. We need to trust that God chose us as their parents for a reason. And we need to trust that He will work powerfully through our words throughout our everyday conversations.

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 11:19-21

936Pennies Family Living With Intention

We Choose It For Our Child, And It Will Impact The Rest Of Their Life

March 3, 2017

My teeth clench and my foot braces hard against the floor of this shaking machine. All at once the conversations surrounding us are hushed by the droning of the wind against metal. My heart beats harder. I have always been a nervous flyer.

My stomach drops as the aircraft lifts sharply, wheels bidding farewell to the airstrip. The plane tilts left, and I see them like never before. “We’re going to fly right over our house.” My husband leans over me to glimpse what I cannot take my eyes off of: our mountains.

They stretch out before us without end, an infinite expanse of wilderness and wonder. I have never seen them like this before. At least, not since they became our own. Within minutes he spots it. “There! Do you see that curve in the road? Right next to it, there is our neighborhood.” And I do see it. I picture at once our three boys running across the living room, keeping my brave mom, who flew in the night before to stay with them, on her feet. They are a stone throw away, but 10,000 feet out of reach.

My husband points out rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, and canyons. I know them all by name, by smell, by tastes of picnic lunches, and hikes along their trails. I see day drives, afternoons spent tossing rocks into riverbeds, and where we hiked into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. All of these places—our places— are laid out as if bark on a tree, rising and falling, with lines of river and trail snaking their way throughout. Home. And it is. We have made it to be, and we know it intimately.

Not a half hour later, the summits calm and taper into flatter land, then rise steep again into a wilderness I do not know. Our boys are now a range away. I turn to my husband, “Hey, happy One Year In Colorado.”

We are flying away from the new backdrop of our lives, and toward the backdrop of my husband’s childhood. For four years of his boyhood he called the moss-covered trees and cloud-covered mountains of Washington “Home”. And I could hardly wait to see these places that I had pictured so many times from his stories.

That week I would stand in awe of the 286-foot Snoqualmie Waterfall, maze my way through forests of 100-foot trees and beds of ferns, and see the creek where my husband and his brother used to spend entire days rope swinging and creek jumping. And as I did, I could picture our own boys, and it made me wonder about the backdrop we are choosing for their own childhood.

It’s incredible just how much the backdrop that we choose for our kids shapes their futures. It is something that our kids get little to no say in. We choose it, and it will shape them profoundly. This was a realization that weighed heavily into our decision to move to Colorado one year ago. However, it doesn’t take the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to color a beautiful backdrop. Nor does it require sandy beaches with ocean breeze, or a quaint farmhouse among golden fields. The backdrop of our child’s life is made up of so many details.

A backdrop is made up not only of the things that we see day-to-day. It is pace, and flavor, and music, and scent, and words, and embrace. It is the tiniest of details that make all of the difference in a home.

Our move to the mountains was not a fix-all. I would be naive, and sorely disappointed, if I expected it to produce the perfect pace of life. Yes, it has helped us to embrace wonder. But it did little to slow us down. That takes more than a move; it takes intentional choices every single day. Even among all of this awe and wonder, we can still become lost in the rush of life, and we often do. We still find harsh words on our lips, and our minds too busy to offer a listening ear.

Location does not change these things.

Choosing a backdrop is not often a dramatic move, but a continuous string of small, intentional moves; moves we make every single day. Moves like these:

  • Reserving a campsite for a few weekends throughout the summer
  • Looking up nearby nature trails, and choosing one to explore each weekend
  • Playing music throughout the day in your home. (Our favorite Pandora stations are Caedmon’s Call, JJ Heller, Nickel Creek, and Rend Collective Experiment)
  • Lighting candles in the house
  • Diffusing lavender oil
  • Sitting down (with your spouse if you are married), looking over your calendar for the month, and choosing two activities to cross off. Go on a family date instead.
  • Choosing books, crafts, play, and time outside over screens in the morning hours
  • Reserving one evening a week for Family Game Night
  • Packing sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the park
  • Visiting the library once a week, and coming home with a new stack of books
  • Sitting to enjoy a cup of tea with a book, or just while sitting with your kids

These small moves add up quickly. They hold the power to change the whole culture of a home, and the backdrop of our children’s lives.

We chose these mountains because they remind us every day to slow down and listen. They challenge us to this, but they don’t do it for us. We must heed their reminder to keep our hearts focused on beauty, and living a life in line with our values. That is what creating a backdrop is made of: intentional choices that line up with our values in life. Choices to take walks and pursue wonder and create beauty and speak kindness until all of these things engrain themselves into the culture of our home. Until they all add their own color to the backdrop of our kids’ childhoods.

Living With Intention Motherhood

The Day I Nearly Killed My Son’s Compassion

February 17, 2017

Each cry from the back seat added another layer of tension to my shoulders as they hunched up closer and closer to my neck. My toddler was long overdue for a nap after a morning of running errands. Running errands is one thing. Running errands with three small children in car seats, who cannot buckle or unbuckle themselves, is a whole different thing. I was long overdue for a nap, too.

But that is when my middle boy spoke up softly. “Mom, look at that man. He does not have any food. We should give him some food.” This child, all of three years old with his soft voice and strong words knows exactly how to put a halt to the rush of our days.

I had seen the man too, of course, out of the corner of my eye. The toddler wailing and my blood pressure rising, I had hoped silently that the boys would not see him—would not suggest that we stop to help. Not today. Not now, when there is so much to be done. But then my boy reminded me that there was only one thing to be done, actually—and that was to help.

My boy’s words on that day, and his older brother’s exclamation of, “Wow, I feel great now!” after we rolled down the window and handed the man a gift card to a sub shop across the street—their words have stuck with me all these months later. Words that unearth the roots of your selfishness often do that. They stick. Not only did they show me a hard place in my heart, but they showed me a soft, strong place in my son’s heart; one bent on helping those in need. And I’ve come to see now that children are born with this bent within them.

Yes—kids are born selfish at their very nature; entering the earth with only needs of their own. But I believe that they are also born in the image of God; a God of great compassion towards those in need. And that compassion must be nurtured and encouraged, lest it be snuffed out by society.

Lest it be snuffed out by a mother in the thick of a rushed day, just trying to get home so the toddler can nap.

Last week at church we were given a bottle. Along with it, we were given the challenge of filling this bottle with change over the next few weeks. Then, with the bottle full, we’ll return it to church, where the money will be given to a local organization with a mission to help mothers and unborn babies.

As I picked up that bottle in my hand, it did not escape me that this is not the first time we have been given a container for change in church. Immediately I was brought back to that little stage, our toddler boy in my arms, the glass jar full of 936 pennies. I thought of the challenge we were given, to remove one penny every week; a poignant reminder of time being spent, and how are we spending it?

I stare now, these years later, at this bottle in my hands, ready to be filled for hurting mothers and endangered babies. I think of the organization helping mothers, and making sure that their babies will have a chance at their own 936 pennies. Their own 936 weeks with a family who loves them. And so we take our bottle home—three actually—to be filled.

Our boys have been doing just that. Day by day they ask for jobs to earn money. They’ve had their little hearts set on remote control cars for weeks, and have been working hard towards filling their own change jars, envisioning that trip to the store, and the picking out of their prized cars.

This week has been different, ever since bringing those bottles home. Now each day, after their hard work is done and it comes time to be paid, they divvy out their coins. One for their own jar, one for the moms and babies who need help. My second boy, the one who stopped us to help that homeless man on the side of the street months ago—he puts the majority of his change in the bottle for the moms and babies.

I count it grace that this comes so easy for them. It’s not always the case for me—take the example of the day I tried to drive by the homeless man. I see inconvenience. My sons see a Good Samaritan moment.

These Good Samaritan moments, and the conversations surrounding them, they teach our children, in a soft manner, the hard things of this world. As we talk about homelessness, moms who are frightened, babies without parents, and children without food—we coat the conversations with How Can We Help? And in doing so, our children grow up with an understanding that yes—this world is hard. It can be lonely and evil and scary and it is most definitely hurting. But—we can help. And this plants within them a sense of hope and purpose. It preserves that compassion engrained in their young hearts, so that it can outlast the hardship they will see and face as they grow. 

It teaches them that whenever within our power, we are never to just keep on driving. Because this world needs more people whose sense of compassion was never snuffed out as a child. This world needs more difference makers.

Faith Life Seasons Motherhood

When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

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