Signs of Life

Can I just be real for a moment? I am quite possibly the worst housekeeper this side of the Mississippi. It doesn’t help that I have three little people who are experts at making messes but suddenly become paralyzed and lose all their mental faculties when it comes time to clean up those messes. It is amazing how quickly that can happen too. It is almost like they have narcolepsy. “Okay, guys time to clean up your toys….oh! Silly me. I could have sworn I heard an epic story unfolding of a knight rescuing a princess from a toddler dragon. Must have been my imagination because all I see are two kids asleep on the couch and the dragon trying to figure out where the other characters went. Darn Narcolepsy, strikes again.” And, when is Royce going to learn to wash her own dishes and do her own laundry?! I mean, c’mon. Tick-tock.

I have been trying to come up with better “systems” for cleaning and maintaining some-what of a semblance of order around here. I am She-man after-all. I need to conquer and subdue my domain…or something like that. While I want to be be all Proverbs 31 about my house, (although that last sentence sounded more like Zena: Warrior Princess) I am finding that as important as that is, there are some things that are just more important than clean floors (which is awesome because if clean floors were the most important thing, we clearly missed the boat around here. We weren’t even at the dock.) I know I need to “fill the earth and subdue it” when it comes to my house. I seem to have the filling it part down. Still working on subduing… And while I want my house to be clean enough not to cause people to call Hoarders for an intervention or the police to put up hazard tape around my bathroom, I want to allow it to be messy enough to show signs of life.

Sometimes though I lose those signs in the clutter. Or rather, all I see is the mess. I don’t see the mess as the sign of life it is. I see piles of laundry that never go away. I see dishes in the sink that have been “soaking” for two days because I haven’t made time to wash them. I could see a Lego battle field full of Barbie shoe land mines covering my living room floor, shoes not on the shoe mat, a shoe mat completely hidden under the Mt. Everest of shoes, construction paper “decorations” covering the walls  and floor ( scotch tape doesn’t work well with dirty fingerprints on it), beds with covers falling off the side and dirty foot prints on the bathroom floor and bedroom walls (yes, walls.). Or, or I could see the life these represent. I could see the messes as signs of life.

It is all a matter of perspective. Sometimes I need to pull my “lens” back or I need to take the focus off the mess and see the life behind the mess.

Instead of seeing a giant blur of primary colors, I could see little hands hard at work building masterpieces. Those same pudgy little hands that wrapped their fists around my finger for a sense of security on their first day in this world. I could see minds engaged in deep imagination of other worlds. Those are the minds I have been entrusted with to mold and  to guide.

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(I love that the block he is playing with says “B”.)
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The mess is missing its meaning without those hands and minds in the picture.
 
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Instead of feeling frustrated by the dishes in the sink, I can look at what each one represents. Each bowl, each cup, each spoon represents a breakfast eaten to start another day, a healthy child looking to me to give them nourishment without ever a thought that I wouldn’t provide, and another opportunity to be thankful. Each dish represents God’s faithfulness is giving us a full pantry and full bellies. There were certainly less dishes when it was just the two of us, but less joy too.
 
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I could look at each haphazardly made bed and instead of groaning at a job half done, see God’s grace in accepting my best efforts even when they come up short. I could see little people learning the ways of the world with me, ME as their guide. I could see the sweetness of the pride they take in “merely” spreading a blanket over their bed. Instead of messy covers I could see the full beds and the sweet souls who occupy them each night. 
 
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And the footprints everywhere? I could see little feet, dirty from exploring and playing. Those foot prints represent 6 little feet, 30 little toes-all mine to tickle. Little feet that follow my footprints through life. Little feet that I pray tread in the way of the Gospel with confidence.

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Those shoes left all over the house would be so annoying if it weren’t for the little feet that went in them.
 
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I could look at the dirt on the rug…
 
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But then I would miss the reason for it. If I shift my focus I don’t see JUST the dirt. I see the dirt is just a sign of life.
 
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When I just look at the baskets and piles of laundry and the bins of diapers I can lose sight of the joy they represent. Each dirty outfit is another day lived with the ones I love, lived well and with purpose. Some day I won’t be changing diapers. I won’t be folding tiny outfits that  fit well in my hands. So, for now I will change the diapers and fold the laundry and let it pile up with joy, because it means people are living here. My people.
 
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The clothes that don’t fit in the girls’ closet so they hang on a portable closet in our bedroom- I could look at those, or I could shift my focus to see the big girl resting in our bed, singing songs to her doll. I could thank God for a full house and full hearts, for cups over flowing and a home literally bursting at the seems with life.
 
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And there are so, so many signs of life here. Reminders of people living and thriving and loving, doing life together. Because life is messy.
 
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Life is messy. But life is beautiful. Today I will not just see the messes, but the signs of life they are. Today, the messes are beautiful too.

What about you? I would love to know I am not alone in my craziness! What are some of the things that could drive you to the looney bin but if you shift your focus you see them as signs of life?

treasures part 2: the best part of the story

The other day I wrote this post about my sweet treasure hunter inspiring me to hunt for the treasure I have in Jesus. I meant every bit of it, but as I was reading to the kids from their children’s bible last night I realized I may have only told part of the story. In fact, I think I may have left out the biggest part, which is pretty telling of the way I often view my relationship with God. Only talking about my need to seek God and see Jesus as my treasure for now and forever, is only telling part of the story. I left out the greatest part, the reason for all of it-the reason I can even “treasure hunt'” in the first place. I told about the part where I do something, but I left out the part where God does something. I left out the most beautiful part of the story where the King, the Creator, the Truest Treasure becomes the Great Treasure Hunter.

He hunts with more stamina and more zeal than I ever could. He gave up everything to find His lost treasure. And He wasn’t motivated by greed, but my love. His treasure? Me.

For so long I have lived a life of obligation. I have been motivated by guilt. I always needed to do more, be more, try harder. It makes sense to me that I should hunt for Jesus, pursue Jesus, draw near to Jesus. And all of that is true. But so often in my life I forget that God first hunted for me. “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.

I am His treasure.

For years I heard people tell me (and I told myself) to pursue God, to follow hard after God. And I should. (Hebrews 11:6, James 4:8, Matthew 7:7-12). But so often I struggled with my worth being what I did for God, and let me tell you- it was never enough. I am realizing my identity is not in what I do or don’t do. My identity is not about how other people see me. It is really not about me at all. My identity is found in Jesus and who I am in Him. Nothing can change that.

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (NLV)
 
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:16-17
 
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:4-8
 
I am His treasure. He gave everything to capture and secure my heart. In the kids’ bible after God has created Adam and Eve it says “And He loved them. And they were lovely because He loved them”. This makes my heart let out a sigh. My tired heart can stop trying and trying and floundering. My heart can just rest in the love of my Great Treasure Hunter. It can beat with love for Him and everything else can just come after that, in its place. What a relief and comfort is the love of Christ. No condemnation. No uneccessary guilt. No unrealistic expectations. No comparisons. Just Grace. Just love.  (Romans 8:1.)
 
My Great Treasure Hunter hunted me. He dreamed up a master plan to save me. He sacrificed it all to get me back. He left no stone un-turned; no darkness could keep him out. He traveled through time and space to hunt for my heart: His treasure. And He wants me to stop. He wants His love to be enough for me- enough satisfaction, enough salvation, enough motivation.
 
I can love because He first loved me. I can rest because He first loved me. I can hunt for my treasure in every circumstance because He first loved me. And I rejoice knowing where my eternal treasure lies because He first loved me. That is enough.
 
I am so glad that me hunting is only a part of the story. I am learning more and more to remember the most important part of the story: My Great Treasure Hunter relentless hunting for His beloved treasure: me. Wow.
 
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.
Psalm 23:6 (NLV)
 






treasures

I am not awesome at memorizing scripture with references. The past week or so I have had two verses swimming around in my mind and continually rising to the surface. The one about “this treasure in jars of clay”  “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. This verse just seems really fitting for life in general, but also very pertinent when it comes to my dad’s and father in law's diagnosises. I decided to word-search them though Biblegateway.com and found to my tearful surprise that they were both from 2 Corinthians 4…along with a couple other favorite verses (vs. 17-18).

“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-18
 
Isn’t God amazing, how He brought those verses to mind and led me to this passage, that they BOTH were in?!
 
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I sometimes call Hayleigh my treasure hunter. I mean, she is always, always finding treasure-both literal and figurative. She has so much joy, so much enthusiasm, so much passion for the small things I might over-look. Her life is a musical, her subject matter is beauty in the seemingly mundane, and her stage is the world around her. I love to watch her live. She is a reminder to me to find the joy in every situation. She literally bursts with joy and excitement with each treasure she uncovers. She oozes happiness in the form of jumps, twirls and songs.
 
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The other day she found a stray seed on her slice of cantaloupe and asked me if she could keep it in her treasure box (alongside broken hair clips, dried leaves, broken seashells from the lake, pictures of loved ones and a half dozen tangled necklaces.) My first thought was to tell her “no” and make her throw it away. But I got distracted (as usual) and forgot to follow up to make sure she had actually listened and thrown away her beloved cantaloupe seed. Turns out she hadn’t “yet”. She had “planted it” in the carpet and watered it with her cup from lunch. Now, while there was probably enough dirt in our carpet to grow some fresh produce (our vacuum is fickle these days), I wanted to scream because of her disobedience and the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Who plants a cantaloupe seed in their living room rug?! As I scolded her I saw the tears well up in her eyes. Ugh. I softened a bit. “Why Hayleigh? Why did you do that?” “Because it is just so beautiful, Mommy. I wanted to keep it. Everything is so beautiful and a treasure.”
 
While I did make her throw out the water-logged seed and clean up her new “garden”, I couldn’t help but be touched by her thought process. She is a treasure hunter. Sometimes I wish she would would be a little more choosy about her treasure, but I really do love that she finds treasure everywhere she goes, and in any situation. A cloudy day is “just sooo beautiful, Mommy! Can we please please go for a walk and enjoy this beautiful day?!” Rain beacons her to twirl and sing under her umbrella. A stain on her new shirt “will just remind (her) of this wonderful time we had ice-cream after playing at the beach, Mommy!” The 3 tadpoles out of thousands that made it to the big leagues (named Brooklyn, Tree and Hiccup-Toothless) are so cute and precious and will hop all over the world exploring until they find her again…and maybe they will find Stella too (the late chrysalis  who never made it to be a butterfly and  literally vanished into thin air over night in our kitchen).  A last minute cancellation of a playdate because her brother is sick is “okay because it lets (her) take care of poor Braxton and show him love and let him watch his choice of show on TV”.  Where did this girl come from? My treasure hunter. There is so much I could learn from her.
 
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“We have this treasure in jars of clay…We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body…so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God….”
 
I need to be more of a treasure hunter. I need to carry the death of Jesus with me so that His life may be revealed in me. Jesus, Jesus is my treasure, in all things. Yet I can be so blinded by everything else: by the clouds and the rain and the pain and the struggle and challenge  and the guilt and the “to-dos” and the “supposed-tos”, by how life feels and what other people see, and by all the pretty and ugly that surrounds me and by the sunshine and circumstances.
 
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Hayleigh is a vigilant treasure hunter. She is always looking for the next great thing to excite and bless her.  And she does more than hunt. She gathers. She compiles her treasures. She…treasures them. If Jesus is my true treasure than I need to treasure it. I need to vigilantly hunt my treasure and plant it in my heart and be captivated by its beauty and splendor so that I can’t help but rejoice…maybe even sing and jump and twirl. (We could all use a good twirl every now and then.)
 
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It is because of my treasure, my Jesus, that I can say, though tears and fears, and with great joy and confidence :
“ we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
 
And I will never look at Cantaloupe seeds the same way.
 

gluten free but covered in sand

Last June I wrote this post one week after going Gluten Free. Today is my one year anniversary of being “guten fee” as Braxton says. I am still just so grateful to have been able to find a solution to all my bizarre neurological symptoms! Today as I played outside with my kids, ran errands, made lunch, read a book and took a walk it was not lost on me that just over a year ago those were things I couldn’t always do. Some days it is still crazy to me that gluten could cause so much havoc in my/our life/lives! Over the past year I have accidently eaten gluten a couple of times, but never on purpose. People will occasionally ask me if I cheat and the answer is always “no!”. It is just not worth it for me. One time I had some chocolate syrup on an ice-cream sundae that had gluten in it (usually chocolate syrup is fine, but that brand had gluten in it and I forgot to check the label) and I was exhausted, shaky, had blurry vision and a horrible headache all the next day. I definitely miss having normal pizza or baked goods or a bagel…okay I need to stop. I never thought I would be a person who would be able to have dietary restrictions (because I have basically no self-control), but other than researching and reading labels this has been pretty easy for me. No self-control required when I see the results of feeling healthy and being able to take care of my family.

Speaking of spending time with my family, Peter took off work on Tuesday for his birthday. We went to Hamlin Beach for the day. As promised here is a smorgasbord of pictures of our day together.  Except for a brief shower about 20 minutes after we got there that sent us to hide under trees (and an awkward teenage couple getting a little too comfy with the PDA right in front of who we can assume was her mom/chaperone), the day was just perfect. We “unplugged” and spent the entire afternoon pretending that we were the only five people in the world…except for the above mentioned couple. The kids ran free, gathered treasures, chased sea-gulls, made sand castles and mud, and face planted/rolled in sand. I am pretty sure Royce thought she had died and gone to heaven. To her it must have seemed like endless freedom-just what her independent spirit always dreamed of. I never loved sand as a kid, but its funny now as an adult how I am coming around to loving the beach more-just for the sheer enjoyment I get out of watching my kids bask in it. Yep, it was an amazing “sand in your crack and you don’t even care” kind of day.

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To top the night off we went to our favorite neighborhood ice-cream shop with my parents. It was sticky, sandy perfection. Happy Birthday to our favorite guy and yay for one year Guten Fee!

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