All Posts By

Eryn Lynum

936Pennies Chasing Dreams Motherhood

Can My Dreams And My Motherhood Exist In Harmony Together?

July 22, 2017

From as early as I can remember, there was a dream tucked within my heart to be a mother. I think many of us share that dream. After my husband and I slipped bands of gold over each others’ fingers, and spoke hand-written vows to seal our love in promise, it did not take long for me to begin imagining the two of us becoming the three of us. My husband tried to hold this big change off for as long as he could. He adopted me a puppy. I think he thought this would satisfy my maternal stirrings for a while. I don’t think it worked for as long as he planned.

Before long, he felt ready too. And come our second wedding anniversary, we would celebrate with our tiny newborn boy. I was a mama, and it was every bit a dream come true.

I know that so many of you hold similar stories; the euphoric step into mamahood and how it completely overtakes you with a new depth of love you never thought possible. A lifelong dream come true.

Perhaps if we share in that same experience, you may be able to relate to another also. Those newborn bundles of dream-come-true learn to crawl and walk and talk–and this dream, although still dreamy, lacks a bit of luster among the day-to-day routines.

Motherhood begins to feel not enough. It feels lacking. But we dare not speak it, because isn’t this what we always dreamed of?

Mamas, I think we have been looking at this from the wrong, guilt-ridden perspective. Maybe it’s not that motherhood is not enough, but rather that it was never meant to be the whole picture of our dream. Maybe our motherhood is exactly what it was meant to be, and it can coexist with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. You know the ones. Those inklings and ideas that raise your pulse and increase your heartbeat with excitement. But we set these dreams on the back burner because, “It’s not the right time.” The dreams feel as though they are clashing with our current season of motherhood.

Yes, it’s true that in some cases, the timing is not right. But I think that we are writing these dreams off far too early. We are saying No, not now, too quickly. I believe that too many of our dreams are sitting on the back burner, sizzling away and evaporating before we ever gave them a chance.

I remember one of my first thoughts after I began to consider writing a book. I sat at my desk, contemplating this dream, and I felt that strong gut-deep friction. “This is awful timing.” I thought to myself. At the time we had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and I was newly pregnant with our third son. “When will I ever have time to write a book?” I asked myself. And an even more weighty question tugging at my heart: “What if this dream takes away from my children?” What would my dream cost them? It felt ridiculous, to sacrifice time with my children in order to write a book with the message of making the most of the time we have with our children.

But God kept on pressing. And He kept aligning the smallest of details to affirm this dream in my heart.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

His timing is always perfect, right?

Three years later, with the book being published this coming February, I hate to imagine a life in where I would have said no to this dream. If I would have bought in to those doubts that this dream could never coexist with my current season of motherhood, then I would never have had this chance to see God work in miraculous ways, ways far above anything I ever could have done on my own. The Author of time–He made the time for me to chase this dream. And He makes the time for your dreams, too.

If we say no, not now, then we may never realize the beauty born when God brings together our dream of motherhood with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. When He convinces us to chase these dreams, then He can use the journey to usher us deeper into our motherhood than ever before.

Fellow mamas, God created us to be dreamers. We are crafted in His image, the image of the greatest Dreamer. We are His grandest dream, but not His only one. His dreams hold the majesty of mountains, the depths of oceans, the awe of a newborn’s cry, and the narrative of the greatest Rescue Plan ever. And He invites us–His favorite dream– to come along in the journey of these dreams; to be a part of the greatest story ever told.

We can do the same. We can chase the God-given dreams on our hearts while inviting our children right into the journey. They can be present and witness to their Mama working hard and showing up every day to chase her dreams.

And then, one day soon, they’ll take what they’ve seen and run brave after their own dreams.

936Pennies Parenting

Let’s Never Stop Getting To Know Them

July 15, 2017

“Why do you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I watched his little brow furrow as he popped another bite of pancake into his mouth. I sipped at my coffee, waiting patiently for his answer. “Because I just do.” I was not letting him get away with that.

“What do you think would be cool about being a firefighter?” He looked at me now, sipping orange juice from a straw. “Rescuing people, and putting out fires.” I smiled. Now we were getting somewhere. I continued to ask him questions, the kind that require specific answers. I had woken early that morning to find him by himself, already awake before his brothers and Daddy, sitting by the front window. “Do you want to go get breakfast with just me?” He grabbed his shoes and was out the door, and now we sat, just the two of us at that cafe table. Looking over at him, I couldn’t help but notice just how grown up he looked—how different.

I can only imagine that your children are growing as quickly as mine. And my heart aches at how easily it is to forget to keep getting to know them. They are so different from a year ago—and are we able to count and name the ways?

My first baby, by this time next week he will be six years outside of my womb. Six years. No longer a toddler or preschooler—a kid. A boy. And every day I see him inching more and more toward manhood. As I watch this, the passing of time happening mercilessly right before my eyes, I fear that time and boyhood will pull him away from me. It’s so easy when they are tiny, to cuddle and read books and run wooden trains across endless loops of tracks on the carpet.

But I’ve seen it happening—as this near-six-year-old boy grows and makes friends and reads books and learns, his interests are developing. He’s more content to do his own thing—to ride his bike over homemade jumps for hours on end—and I think we both forget that we still need time, just him and me.

That’s what brought us to that breakfast table. The evening before after he was sound asleep, I replayed in my mind the two questions he had asked me that afternoon. “Mom, can you read more books to us?” I walked toward the bathroom to grab my hairbrush, “I can’t, Bud, I need to get ready to go.” And, “Mom, can you do this craft with us?” I had turned that one down, too.

I know it’s not realistic, or healthy, to sit side-by-side with them all day long. But perhaps those simple invites tucked into their everyday conversations, the ones we often turn down in the name of Busy and Distracted—perhaps those are a precious gift from our child, an opportunity to keep getting to know them—to mark up the passing of time with timeless memories.

Maybe, if we were more open to those invitations, if we even went looking for them through invites to breakfast, a walk around the pond, or a trip to the ice cream shop—we’d be more aware of time’s passing before us. Maybe we’d be more at peace with its pace because we would be leaning into all it has to give—a front row seat to our babies-turning-big-kids.

I think I’m going to try it. I mean, I have been. Perhaps—no, I am certain–the reason I write so much on time is because it is one of my greatest struggles. But this morning over pancakes and coffee, we won. Over questions of aspirations and favorite hiking spots and hobbies, I got to know my boy a little more.

This is how it happens—how we know them yesterday and today and tomorrow and twenty years from now when they’re living their own lives—we know them because we made an effort to at every stage. And sometimes effort looks like a plate of pancakes and a hot cup of coffee.

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.