Friday, August 19, 2016

The Follow-Through

Three times it has happened.

Three times we have met a new neighbor, a boy just my oldest son's age.

Three times we have been told that that boy would come knocking to play at a specific time.

Three times my son has woken up, gotten dressed, cheerfully done all his chores and waited for a potential new friend to knock.

Zero times has that boy shown up.

As a parent, there are fewer things more difficult than watching your child be sad. Almost two months ago, we took my son from all that he knew. A school he loved, a friendly neighborhood, best friends in the backyard, a fantastic soccer team, a church where he was learning to worship with other kids in a multi-generational setting.

And for two months I have watched him try to be brave. To smile for us, to help with his brothers, to power-wash our fence and help unpack the truck. To set up his room just the right way and patiently earn his way to new roller blades through doing extra chores. To find him sobbing in his room, wishing he were still in Wisconsin, unwilling to admit that he's probably mad at what we've done to him. Hurting.

And when these possibilities of friends, of humans his age living so close are dangled in front of him, I see his hopes rise. I see his step lighten.

When they don't show?

I see him crushed again. And in that disappointment, all the things he misses come rushing back in on him. The pain becomes even more acute. The homesickness grows.

I can't do much here. I can play with him and take him on special outings for taboo foods we can no longer keep in the house because of his brother's issues. I can teach him how to pray through this pain, how to invite God into it. I can do all this.

But I cannot be a nine year-old boy.

And what he needs is a friend.

So, I sit here and type as he plays legos alone and his brothers sleep. I asked if I could play but he wanted to be alone. I don't know how to get our neighbors to follow through. Today, after the disappointment, I marched him over to knock on their door. No one was home. Not once has anyone given us an explanation for the no-shows.

If there is one thing I have learned about my oldest it is that he never forgets anything. A promise, a casual comment, a word. They stick. If someone says he will give him a present, he asks every day for months if it has come in the mail. If someone says he will write, he asks me to check the mailbox all day long. If someone says she will come over, he waits by the door.

He trusts that people will do what they say they will do.

And I am so afraid that the more this happens, the more his nature is going to change. That he won't believe what people say. That he will have trouble letting new people into his life.

I don't know why that boy and his mama didn't come over this morning. I don't know why the other ones didn't come last week. I don't want to pass any judgments. There could have been an emergency. She doesn't have my number to call and let me know what's going on. Maybe she just forgot or decided it was inconvenient to stop what she was doing and go hang with the lonely neighbors. I don't know.

But man, I hate feeling helpless and I hate watching him let down. Again. And knowing that I, too, am capable of this failure, have not always followed through. Have not always been true to my word. Have flung promises carelessly at times. Have inflicted my own share of pain.

I cannot shelter him from the disappointments. I can only teach him to cling to the One who doesn't disappoint.  In fact, I know deep down that he has to experience this to truly be human, to develop empathy, to learn about the importance of his own follow-through. Of doing what he says he will do and speaking truth and life to the people in his life.

Friends, I don't know if you have children in your life. But I know we all have humans in our lives. And I know that as humans we crave to be able to trust, we desire to be sought after, to be followed-up. To be shown we matter.

Being people who say what they mean and do what they say has no small impact on the world. Following through on what we say is just one gift we can give to each other, one way we can be lovely in a world filled with so much unlovely.

Let's just be that, shall we?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Blank Canvas

You know that moment when you are walking through a museum and something grabs you? Maybe a glorious sculpture or the colors in a vivid impressionist painting? Something just touches you, your soul, and you stop. You breathe. You delight.

I always ask myself how someone went from a block or clay or a piece of paper to such a masterpiece. What went on in his head? Did she feel the need to create? Did it just pour out of this person? 

When I look at clay or paper or canvas, that's all I see. Maybe I want to write something on it, but there is nothing else. No picture, no image, that comes to mind. No creational force. I am grateful that so many other people in the world DO see what needs to be painted or drawn or sculpted. So grateful.

I used to believe that I didn't have creativity because of this particular lack in giftedness. 

But as I've gotten to know my God, my God who sees beauty in ashes, who creates out of nothing, I've seen that there is a piece of that image in all of us.

All of us have some area in which we see the potential of something. Not just what's in front of us, but what COULD be. Creational optimism. Vision.

This is our current backyard.

Used to be a playset, now a big bald patch with rubber mulch pieces embedded

Gate leading to more backyard that wasn't fenced...why?

All swampy weeds and overgrown landscaping

Old looking lattice covered in green and mud underneath the deck.
Deck (which is great!) leads to weeds and moss and, yes, more mud.

Right now, I type this painfully as I have poison oak rash between all my fingers and up and down my arms and legs. I am covered in mosquito bites from mowing what is not really a yard but a swampy, weedy, insect-infested forest.

That is the reality of what it is. 

For me, though, every time I look outside, every time I step on another weed or trip over an exposed tree root or look at the algae growing on the fence that has clearly never been power-washed, I see potential. I see beauty. I see God's creation in trees and shrubs and flowers and grasses just waiting to be tended and coaxed and given what it needs to flourish. I see a great storage space and a fort underneath that deck. I see little kids laughing in a sensory corner developed just for them. I see big kids playing on a jungle gym or jumping on a trampoline or climbing trees or maybe even riding a zip line from one tree to another. I see (if I look REALLY hard) a hammock hanging and my husband and I reading books together on a lazy Sunday when the kids are older. 

I see potential. I see a beautiful blank canvas.

I am SO glad that God sees us in similar light. Sees not just what is (and loves us there), but what is created to be. What can be. What should be reality and is already reality in his perfected grace even though we don't look that way on the outside quite yet. And that he's gifted us with that same ability to see the goodness around us in varied and beautiful ways. 

My backyard is not going to happen overnight- flowers take time to grow, we'll need a tree company's help and I'm not so sure my husband is looking forward to building another playset. It's too dad-blamed hot to plant anything right now. Really, it's too hot to even be outside looking at the yard. I can barely mow it without losing my entire weight in sweat during July in Virginia. 

So right now, I dream. I collect ideas. I draw them out in my head and on paper. I cross things out and start over. I scour the internet for creative and budget-friendly ideas, things I can create with my kids' help and on my own. I peer creepily into neighboring backyards to see what others have done.

And I go outside with the little ones anyway., when the heat index is below 105. We traipse through the weeds, we climb the trees, we water what little grass does exist.

Because even though it's nice to dream, you gotta dream while life still happens. 

Friday, June 17, 2016


I sit here drinking in the perfect summer morning. No humidity, timid, sweet noises from a nest of baby birds in a bush not three feet away from where I sip my coffee, they waiting eagerly for mama to bring their morning breakfast, me just stopping for a brief moment.

I tried to do this yesterday. To slow down, read, write, breathe. After about 4 minutes, my leg was jumping, my coffee cup was already empty, the oppressive lists closing in on me like one long, cruel tyranny.

But I need this. This five or ten or fifteen minutes that stops the chaos. My husband took the littles for a drive and the oldest is sleeping in.

Peace. Quiet. Calm.

It's been a relentless few years for us. We have gone through and are continuing to go through some of the most stressful transitions a family can endure. Two newborns, cross country moves, new jobs, mystery illnesses, chronic sleep deprivation, all the goodbyes and making of new friends only to say goodbye again.

Some days it just feels like too much motion.

And to put it bluntly, I am glad God is stronger than I am. Because there ain't no way I'd still be standing if His strength wasn't my anchor. If his hope and peace, even on our craziest days, weren't my truth.

We move in one week. We say goodbye, we load the van with reluctant children and we set off on a new adventure.

Not that I don't like adventures, but I'm hoping for at least a few years where we can have adventures to the beach or sleepaway camp. The kind that don't shake our family's rhythm, but just bring more joy and challenges into the everyday. I'm hoping for no more moves or jobs for awhile. For the chaotic daily raising of my kids alongside friends, of working and dreaming and lots of laughter. And way fewer lists. Of no major decisions for my husband and I to wrestle through. We have had our quota for awhile, thank you very much.

For my prayer each morning to be from a verse that has continually sustained me these past seven years of change and waiting and loss and hope.

"For God alone my soul waits in silence; 
from him comes my salvation, my fortress;
 I shall not be greatly shaken." 
Psalm 62:1-2

May it be so, Lord. May it be so.