Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sabbath Rest

My kids, especially the biggest, the little stinker, have been used mightily this week by God to do a work in me that soooo needed to happen. In the process, though, I have been frustrated, angry, scared, and at my wit's end.

So, I cried out to God in exhaustion. And, as I sat and prayed with clenched fists, these are the things that kept coming up:

Lord, I work so hard at parenting and she is still selfish.

I work so hard to protect them, and they are still exposed and enticed by evil.

I work so hard at having good relationships with my girls, and they deliberately disobey me.

Then, I unclenched my fists in hopes of just listening to God.

I sighed a deep sigh and laid it all out.

God, I'm angry and frustrated. "Because you don't have control..."

I'm worried about evil. " I have good plans... "

I don't like the neighbor girl who acts way too old for her age. "She's a wounded child and I love her deeply... "

I feel like I can't do enough and it's too painful to fail. "Come to me..."

I felt such hope afterward and I couldn't really explain why. But, the next morning as I read in Hebrews 4 about Sabbath Rest, it became a little clearer. We are encouraged in that passage to enter fully into His rest - the completed work of redemption - and to be careful that we do not fall short of it. We are asked to cease working to bring about redemption in our lives and in the lives of others. We are invited to be still, and understand that God alone redeems. And if we don't do that, we risk falling away.

I can see how that would happen, actually. My own frustration at not being able to produce the results I want with my children has me in tears regularly. And I realize now that my anger, frustration, and worry about those things are because I believe that somehow I should have more control. That somehow all the work I do should produce perfectly behaved children who never encounter evil. Somehow I have made the subtle shift from guiding and helping to shape my children to taking it upon myself to do the redeeming work in their lives. It's a shift that has, at it's core, a belief that God's goodness towards me, and towards them, that his grace, is not sufficient. And just like that I have taken a nose dive off the edge of my faith...I've fallen away.

But here is the hope in it all and what snatches me back from the edge of faithlessness.

I can't do it. I'm ill equipped to be a redeemer.

And thank goodness. Because in spite of my great love for my kids, what I have to offer in that regard would fall so far short of what God wants to do. Pitifully short. And I want more for them than an earthly redemption that would make them good little robots who are motivated by my fear or anger or frustration to do the right things. I want their hearts to be redeemed by the One who invites us to live life to the full, and transforms us by his love.

There are still issues. My kids are still selfish. The neighbor girl is a 10th grader in a 2nd grade body and I'm not sure how to handle that. My kids continue to wound me with their little rejections. And all of it is likely to produce suffering in their little lives that I feel like I can not bear to watch. But I hope I will let those things lead me to a life of prayer and surrender, instead of fear and frustration.

As I attempt to daily enter into the Sabbath rest, I pray that I will parent with more hope, and less fear, as I understand more of the character of God. I pray that I will be more apt to trust that his desire to relentlessly pursue redemption in my life and the lives of my children is far greater than anything I can drum up. And I pray that as I pry open my hand and release my children to his tender care, that I would know better how to love them in a way that invites them to willingly place themselves in his grip.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goodbye Quaker Ridge

Well, almost as quickly as we came, it's time to say goodbye. We leave camp tomorrow to head back home to Canon City. And, just like that, people that we have gotten to know and who have imprinted themselves on our hearts, will all head back to their respective homes and their lives. Some we will see again. Most we won't. That's just the way it is with assignment.

What a privilege it was to work along side these that served, prayed, sacrificed, and loved on students for three weeks, all for the sake of Christ. Laborers in the Harvest.

And what a blessing it is to know that God delights to use all of us, at any age, in spite of our past and our weaknesses, to bring people to himself.

Have I mentioned how much I love being at camp? I really do. But I know I'm blessed to be able to say that I can't wait to be home. Amidst those who know the depths of my wicked heart and the beauty of the redeemed one and whose steadfast love continues overwhelm me.

To you that we are coming home to: Get ready...cause we have missed you terribly. We are coming home and you won't be able to be rid of us for weeks and weeks to come. Practice these words: "Go home...we'll see you tomorrow."

I leave you with some pictures from camp. Some of our favorites.
Ava just didn't quite know what to do with Loren in his Gnome costume.

Amy was Ava's second mom up here at camp. She carried her around almost as much as I did, which saved me from coming home with arms like Arnold Swarchenegger. And look at those cute western freckles. If I painted those on her just for regular every day stuff, would that be weird?

There was no tub in our room so we had to make due with the sink. Ava didn't mind, though. She liked that she could see herself in the mirror and wash at the same time.

Never underestimate the importance of a girl's cowboy boots. They go with everything.

I just love this picture!

I love Bella's goofiness in this one. Oh my goodness, she had such a great time!

That's Hope...getting ready to make a strike in the bowling game. Too fun!

And...well...what can I say? Two of the most lovable people in my world.

And a sweet little family picture. I'm up there in the sunlight where you can't really see my face. Maybe you could just think of me as an angelic creature shining brightly down on my family. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pool

So, I think I've mentioned that at camp we spend a lot of time at the pool. A lot. Which is great, because I love the pool and because these are the "this is heaven" kind of faces that I get to see when I'm there.

Cute huh?

But, spending time at the pool at a middle school camp also gives the me the opportunity to notice some things. One of those things is that middle school girls (and I'm sure boys too) are, in general, in varying stages of insecurity. And never is it more obvious than when they are at the pool. You can't really blame them. You see, the thing about middle school girls is that they run the gamut in terms of development. Some still look like basically like children, not all that different than Hope. And some...well...some look like full blown women. It's no wonder that there are insecurities. There is no normal in middle school. And everyone is sure that they are being scrutinized by their peers. And actually, they're probably right.

Today, amidst all the bikini clad middle school bodies at the pool (because everyone should think you are confident enough to wear a bikini no matter how you feel), I noticed how almost all of them sat covering themselves with their arms or their towels in some way. They sat there covering their bellies, their chests, their legs, whatever part they weren't too sure about, and tried to act like they weren't comparing. As I watched them, I suddenly had the urge to go into town and buy a bikini to wear, just so that they would have someone else to look at. Someone else to compare to and make themselves feel a little better, since my bikini body definitely isn't what it used to be. Then, maybe they would get a momentary break from their own insecurities. And I remember middle school enough to know that even a momentary break would be nice.

I have my own moments of insecurity. They still come more frequently than I would hope. But, these days, I work a little less at covering up my imperfections. And, I try harder not to compare myself to others. In the twenty years since middle school, I guess I've learned a little something about being comfortable in your own skin.

I think I'll stick to my tankini, though. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Word made Flesh

Yesterday, up here at camp, a leader hiked a rocky mountain barefoot, so that a student could have shoes to hike in.

The Word made flesh.

The feet of Christ.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love camp?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Yep...a total rock star in the world of dad's...and they know it...and told him so this morning.

Thank you, Lord, for giving my children the gift of this amazing man for their daddy. We couldn't be more pleased.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oh How He Loves....

Sometimes, when you hear about God's love week after week at camp, you, sort of, lose some perspective. The story of God's love is for these campers, right? I already know it. Right?

Well, I do. I mean, these days, I continue to be transformed by His love as I seek to follow him. I have finally decided that's it worth the work I put into it. More than worth it. And I realize, these days, that it's not a lofty and unattainable goal to pursue Christ with reckless abandon. It's actually the only appropriate response to his love.

So, when I am suddenly thrust into a deeper understanding of that love, I am instantly brought to tears. Because it really is too much. It really is.

As I make my way through Hebrews these days, here is what I am discovering. Jesus not only suffered and died for us, but he then presents us to God as if we weren't people who spit on him, mocked him, and ultimately took his life. He presents us as if he has just uncovered the most precious treasure. And here's the kicker. He feels like he has. With a flourish, he says, "Ta da!" and points to us. "Aren't they wonderful?" He is the proudest big brother.

And to think, I've spent so long wondering if he somehow resents, even a little, having to die for me. Feeling that he surely must. I have so much to learn about his love.

I guess camp isn't just for the kids.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Family Pictures!

OH BROTHER! Someone save me from the nightmare of blog design! I am done trying. This is not exactly how I want it to look, but the colors are right and everything is still in it's place. It will have to do until someone who speaks code can rescue it.

Did you notice my new fancy header? We got our family pictures in the mail today and our photographer, Darci, who I sort of met through her blog, threw that bonus in there for me. I love it!

Here is what's great about the images that Darci captured: it's the real us. I know it's downright impossible to get a photo with three small children in it where everyone is smiling and looking the right way at the same time. She managed to get some of those, though, just cause she's good like that. But, far and away, my favorites are the ones where we're just being us. And, right now, "us" is three little girls with completely different personalities whose agreeableness fluctuates from one moment to the next, and two adults holding on for dear life, and for love, and loving where that life has taken them.

Here are a few of my favorites from our photo session out at Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs. Thanks, Darci!

Okay...I know it's a lot. It was really hard to restrain myself and 11 is the absolute least amount I could have possibly put in this post. Seriously...I couldn't have narrowed any more!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Good Eats

One thing that camp affords me the time to do is read. I read a lot anyway, but at camp, where we all share a room, quiet time for the girls means...well...quiet time for me. Time for indulging in a good book. I like it. It's not like at home where quiet time feels like the only time I have to clean the house or get dinner ready or do the gazillion other things that call my name. Here, my only job, really, is to care for my family. During quiet time, when they are otherwise engaged, I get to care for myself. And I do that, have always done that, by reading. So, soon after we got here I started reading this book:

Yeah...I know. It sounds kind of hippie, right. kind of is. Actually, Barbara Kingsolver would be irritated to hear me say that. She would argue that it is ridiculous to have negative connotations in regards to eating healthy. And, she's probably right.

I'm not really a health nut in my own mind. I like soda, I like chocolate (and not the dark kind either), and I even eat the occasional fruit snack. But, I've come to realize that in comparison to a whole lot of Americans, I am kind of a health nut. I make my own whole grain bread. I have a garden in the summer. I pick apples and can my own applesauce. And there's plenty more. But, let me just say, I've got nothing on Barbara Kingsolver.

Initially, I began this book kind of skeptically. Here's the premise. Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two girls move across the country to a farm and commit to eating only local foods for one year. Daunting, but apparently doable. And then, she writes about all she learns. So, I sat down with it, my Diet Dr. Pepper and, yes, some fruit snacks and began to read. Halfway through the first chapter, I pushed both away and began to chastise myself for not snacking on walnuts and sparkling water. When I stopped reading after quiet time, I wasn't sure I would go back. Who needs more guilt in their lives? Not me.

But, I did come back. And, what I've found are some new ways of thinking. They don't have to produce guilt. I can reasonably assume that I may never live on a farm/orchard and grow 5 acres worth of my own fruits and vegetables. But, there is plenty that I can do and plenty that intrigues me enough to try it. I may not save my family completely from the evils of high fructose corn syrup (because of it's prevelance in everything we eat, it, along with soybeans[used for making hydrogentated oil] comprise about 70% of midwestern crops these days...70%...and farmers have had to go with the flow, or else risk losing their livelihoods), but I can think harder about the choices I make in the grocery store. I can choose to support my local, organic farmer, whose produce doesn't have to be shipped thousands of miles, thus losing some of it's flavor and a good deal of it's nutrition. And, I can eat seasonal fruits and vegetables instead of insisting on having anything I want at any time I want. (If you are eating raspberries in January...they came from really far away. Who knows what had to be done to those raspberries for them to survive a shipment from South of the Equator? It's not natural.)

Alright, I know I have lost some of you at this point. It's too overwhelming and probably just feels like one more thing to be concerned with in a world of concerns. I know I'm not gonna change everything about the way we eat. I just can't. It's not practical for me, with three small children, to go traipsing all over creation trying to find every organic farmer and local honey there is. But, it's made me think a little. I'm thinking more about our local farmers and how much they need our support. I'm thinking about my family and what I can do to encourage healthy eating habits. I'm thinking about the fact that while it may cost a little more in some ares to do this, which is scary, it's probably worth it. And I'm thinking about how much fun it would be to try some of this stuff. So, here's what I'm gonna try to do:

1. I will try to buy only things in season, locally, whenever possible, thus guaranteeing that they are fresher. No more grapes in April, apples in February, and Avocados in November.

2. I will buy some local, seasonal things in bulk and store them if they are storable in my cellar and can them if they are not. Tomato season will bring a great deal of work, but I think I'm up for the challenge.

3. I will try...try, to make my own mozzarella. It supposedly only takes about an hour and I really think it might be fun to see how it's done and to get to pull all that stringy goodness into long ropes of cheese and then eat it!

4. I will ask my local grocery store if any of their products come from local farms...and do my part to put pressure on the chain stores to carry more local produce.

5. I will call around and ask about buying local chicken and eggs. I WILL NOT kill and pluck my own chickens. Nope. Not gonna do it.

Whew! That seems like a lot, actually. But, I think I can do it. I'm kind of excited about it actually. Hippie chick, here I come! Oh...and I forgot #6...

6. I will, every once in a while, give myself a break and buy an avocado in November because, let's face it...I'm not that hard core. And I really like guacamole.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Kids at Camp

Here are a few pictures of the kids and all that they get to enjoy at camp.

Western night is always a big favorite. And this year is no different. During western night, there is also a carnival and campers have the chance to win tickets that they use to throw pies in their leaders faces or dump water on them. And, because everything has a purpose at Young Life camp, even the crazy weird stuff that Loren is often involved in, it isn't just about getting messy. It's about leaders being willing to sacrifice comfort and some pride, as they walk around soaked and with whip cream all over themselves. And it's about not being too old, or too mature to get a little crazy. Hope kept insisting that she wanted me to throw a pie in her face so she could lick the whip cream all off. :) She chickened out at the last minute. I don't blame her.

I asked Bella if I could take a picture of her in all her cuteness and she said, "sure," all exasperated like. Then, she turned around and pulled this pose for me. Hello, Project Runway.

Okay, this isn't actually a picture of the kids. It's of me. But, Bella took this picture. I had to lean way down to actually be in it, but I think she did a pretty good job.

Uhhh....yeah....Loren's a gnome this year at camp. And in this picture...the Gnomes go country. Mmm hmmmm. That's all I really have to say about that.

Look how tan and rosy cheeked my baby already is! She is soaking up all the attention and, apparently, a little sun, too.

This one is in here because I finally captured Ava's screaming face. Imagine a very loud screeching noise coming from this face. It's a lot cuter to look at than it is to hear. :)

Hope and Bella dancing to The Fray at club. They're cool kids like that. :) They are dancing here with one of their favorite summer staff girls, Nicole. Even though Nicole works at the store and holds the keys to all things sugary and delicious, I'm pretty sure my girls just like her because she is super sweet herself and loves hanging out with them.

Who could resist taking this picture? It sort of sums up my kid's experience at camp. They are right in the middle of it all. And, here's what I really love about it. If you could read the overhead in the picture (which you could if you clicked on it and enlarged it) you would see that it's a song that says, "He loves us. Oh how he loves us. Oh how he loves us. Oh how he loves." And that's what camp is about. And not only are campers experiencing that love, my kids are too. What a gift!

And finally, if you've been to my house then you know that my kids sleep in a double bed. When we got to camp, they had bunk beds all set up and the girls were excited about having their own space. Hope on the top bunk and Bella on the bottom. Well, after four nights of sleeping separately, they decided last night that they missed each other and wanted to sleep together. Sweet sisters! (Also, note that I had to take many pictures to find an angle where Hope's wide open eyes...which is how she sleeps!...would not creep you all out. It is freaky. I can say that cause she's seen it in pictures and she agrees. :) )

More to's only the first week!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The House

Sometime next month, we will be living here:

Because last month, amidst my mommy meltdowns and the craziness of wrapping up the school year, God gave us a house. There really is no other explanation than that. Here is a list of mountains he moved to get us this house.

1.) the price had to come down roughly $50,000 from when it was first listed
2.) someone had to buy our house
3.) a contract that someone put on the house right before we did had to fall through
4.) a substantial down payment needed to be made

Now, to be fair, he didn't bring the price of the house down $50,000. Technically, he brought it down $60,000. And, technically, someone didn't come and look at our house and decide to buy it. A friend and Young Life supporter actually offered to buy it from us and then keep it on the market...just because God told them to. And, anyone who knows our financial situation knows that a substantial down payment is a matter only God himself can take care of. And he did.

Twice during this whole process, I felt like God told me that this was our house. Once in a dream, and once during my prayer time. And I believed it with my whole heart. But, with others, I was cautiously optimistic. I wish I had been more bold. I wish I had declared what I knew God was doing. I feel like I have spent most of my christian life wanting God to speak powerfully to me. This time, he did. And, for the most part, I tucked it away and kept it for myself. Next time I'm gonna speak up.

I'm so thankful for his faithfulness to provide big things like houses that we could never provide for ourselves. And for his faithfulness to provide seemingly smaller things,which may not actually be smaller at all, like quiet encouragement that he hears, he knows, and he delights to give good gifts.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Young Life Camp

Well, we are finally here at camp. Quaker Ridge, this year, in beautiful Woodland Park, CO. And, although camp generally presents some logistical challenges in regards to our family(trying to all sleep in the same room, nap schedules, getting everyone to and from dinner in a timely manner, etc.) it is always a good time to reconnect as a family as the pace of life tends to slow down a little and we get to enjoy just being together. And, as I've said before, it's also a good time to reconnect with why we are blessed to be called into this particular ministry.

We are glad to be here. Glad to be serving middle schoolers for the next three weeks in hopes that they will encounter Christ in a transforming way. Glad to be serving amongst a whole group of people with the same heart and passion that we have. Glad to be completely poured out for the glory of God. And excited to see him move amongst us.

Do your thing, Lord!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Hair

My Bella has a beautiful head of hair. Gorgeous. Seriously, it is the kind of hair that women dream of. So, when she said she wanted to cut it, I was a bit apprehensive. I love long hair on little girls. And hers...well, I've already said it's dreamy so let's leave it at that. But, I am also determined to be the kind of mom who is not attached to her child's hair. I wanna be able to say, "It's your hair, honey. Do what you want." Even at three. Because, even at three, this little girl has some strong opinions. So, I let her ask every day for about a week and then I called the stylist. Because her hair deserves a professional.

And the result....would you believe it is possibly even more precious than ever? I LOVE it. More importantly, she LOVES it. Man, I love that girl so much!

So, here she is in all her glory.....
See....ADORABLE! By the way, we also had family pictures done by a really special new friend and I can't wait to share those with you in the next couple of days. This is one she took just of my sweet Bella.