Deep Gratitude, Quiet Joy

I ran a 7k fun run race the other day. One of those nasty fall days that the rain was pouring down in sheets. Yep, that day. I got up and ran. In the rain. Because I can. I felt so alive in those miles, charging up the stupid hills, pushing myself to keep moving despite the bad weather around me. I could have easily stayed in bed that morning or found another excuse not to run. But in those minutes of running in the rain, I felt the inner strength that I have gained. I found gratitude for myself, that my body still pushes limits, excitement for what my future holds, and a deep sense of gratitude for the grace of God in my life. Even in the downpour I ran with complete joy and a huge smile on my face.

Today, a cold is settling into my body. No doubt the consequences of running in the rain. It’s left me a bit quieter than usual, but it’s also causing me to reflect on the blessings I have today.

I am most grateful that I am a child of God. Even on the dark, lonely days I know that He is leading me and still loves me. Even when I push boundaries and pull at the fabric of the plans He has for me, I know he still loves me. Deeply. And the grace that is extended to me is amazing. Even when I wrestle with where He is walking me now, He gently and quietly reminds me I am His and He has a plan.

His plans right now involve pursuing some seminary classes and a ministry license. I’m a bit overwhelmed. But He’s asked me to take a step. So I’m not going to look to the end of the race or even the end of seminary. I’m going to focus where He has me now. I feel humbled and incredibly grateful that He’s asked me to walk with Him in this way.

I’m also so excited for my kids and the ways they are growing into amazing individuals. People with tender hearts for others and for God. Sometimes I just pause and watch them. Have you ever done that? Or taken a mental picture or video of what they’re doing? Yesterday Jacob was laughing at something he was watching. Just seeing the sheer delight on his face and hearing the deep belly laughs brought me so much joy. I giggle to even think about it. Knowing the road we’ve walked together and the hardships he has faced makes it even sweeter to just enjoy a moment together with him.

The other day I had a phone conversation with Cory, my oldest son. We talked for about a half hour about our plans for the upcoming weekend, the bad play calling of the last football game, our worries over the next game, and the challenging class load he’s taking in college. Normal mother son talk, I suppose. But to recall that a year ago he would barely acknowledge me brings it into perspective. He was angry and hurting after losing his father. He wouldn’t come to visit us in our new town, take my phone calls, or really even look me in the eyes if I did see him. Since I have been provided much grace, I extended much grace. I continually pray that Jesus is rebuilding and restoring Cory through me, or whomever else He chooses to use. Cory will be here tomorrow. We’ll attend a college football game together. He wants to just hang out with us. Just be here. And for that I am so grateful.

Of course my Sarah always brings such joy. My princess. I love to tease her and hear her heart. She gets so excited over normal teen issues and I love that she always wants to share them with me. Just the little things. Even if it’s singing along to a song in the car, sometimes driving around the neighborhood just so we can sing until the end. It fills my heart with joy.mountains-trees-fall-foliage-medium

Oh Jesus, you are so good. I look out my window and see all of the autumn leaves lit up by the afternoon sun. I see the flowers that fill the vase on my counter and they make me smile. I feel your comfort and grace all around me even when I’m not feeling well. My cold reminds me that you have given me a body to be used. My kids remind me that you’ve entrusted me to not only raise them but to also point them to you. The anxiety that can fill my life has been replaced by your peace. And today I feel a complete, deep sense of gratitude that fills me with a quiet, happy joy.


So Long September. Seriously.

nature-leaves-fall-neature-mediumSeptember, I’m glad to see you go. I kinda have a love / hate relationship with you. I’m not swinging clear into the hate camp right now, but I’m glad you’re done and over with. You’re just such a busy month. I feel like I can’t catch my breath and I’m chasing deadlines and never ending to-do lists. All. Month. Long. Also, I always feel like you came in a little too fast, I wasn’t ready to let go of the deep summer of August yet. Sneaky, sneaky August.

The back to school and work rhythms of life are kind of nice when we meet you, September. Kids going to bed earlier. Knowing a bit more of what our weeks will look like. But settling into these new rhythms leaves me breathless. First, we have to be up early. Too early. We have to leave our house by 6:50 am to get these high schoolers to campus before the traffic hits. I am not a morning person, September. We both know that. This is gross. It’s just gross. Second, that means I should go to bed earlier. But there are all these papers the kids need filled out and signed and read over. A bunch of the back to school paperwork is automated and I did that way back in August. So why, September, are you still sending them home with papers. Let’s save some more trees, shall we??!!

September, beyond school you bring all of these activities and sports and clubs and stuff to do!!! I love that my daughter wants to manage the football team this year. And I love that she has been taking initiative to learn everything she’s doing. But her schedule is different every night! Add in my Bible study that started back up, it adds into the nights out along with meetings in the evenings and back to school curriculum nights. So many nights gone. I honestly don’t even know the last time I really cooked a meal for my kids. Not even kidding, September. I think if you took a blood draw from my son all you would get is frozen pizza. Last weekend I went grocery shopping. We were out of almost everything because I hadn’t even had time to go. I intentionally bought the ingredients to make my kids a nice pot of beef bourguignon that night. Then I got busy writing. And my son was more that willing to help. So I told him step by step what to chop and sauté and add and taste while I was at the kitchen island writing. So much for mom making a home cooked meal. Do I at least get half credit?! Well, then we consumed it in about ten minutes before running off to another activity. Dearest September, are you feeling my pain?!

Oh, and remember that I’m in full time ministry? September, please. I love you when we get to see all of our friends return from their summers around the globe. And I love that we’re back into our regular schedule of volunteers serving in classrooms. And I love that all of our life groups are starting back up and we’re back into building relationships with people. That also means that I have been working really, really hard to cultivate long range volunteers, long term planning, dreaming of new goals to achieve in our ministry, planning special events, leading trainings for volunteers, designing new environments in teaching spaces. I love it. I do. But September, you crush me when it all falls right here. Some ministries wait for a late September or even (gasp) October fall launch time. People are filling their fall schedules already though. So September, we’ll continue to do this.

The other love / hate, oh my friend, September: my birthday falls in you. I always look forward to it and want to celebrate in full joy, gathering friends and family around me. And everyone is busy. Too busy. I still remember one birthday as a kid when my “cake” was a floating flower candle in a bowl of water, squished in after dinner and before evening events. Everyone was busy and we had to celebrate my birthday on a different day. I understood. And it still sticks with me. I never know if I should plan a celebration for myself or let someone else plan something for me or just let the day disappointingly slip by. I’ve had them all, including the unfortunate RIP cake someone planned for me. <deep shudder> That was bad, September. And now, you remind me that I celebrate 29 into eternity. Love you for that….

The other thing about you, September, with your changing weather, decaying leaves, and cesspool of classroom germs, I’m always sick by the end of you. Last year you gave me the never-ending sinus infection. And I was flying south. It felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing me in the face. Awesome sauce. This year, you’re just under my skin making me feel “off”. Like when the milk is a bit “off”. Hmmph. Maybe I’ve celebrated 29 one too many times and I’m on the verge of spoiling. Thanks for that reminder, September. Sheesh.

I do kinda love you and some of the joys that you bring. By the end of you I’m usually ready for the beautiful fall colors you’re creating. I’m ready to settle into the beauty of your neighbor, October. I say goodbye, knowing so much of your psychotic craziness I’m not going to miss at all. So long September. Seriously.

Falling into Him

Fall is here. Officially it started this past week. The weather where I live cooled off earlier than usual, so it seems to me that fall started a few weeks ago. It felt like a dramatic shift from the bright hot days of summer.

I think I struggle with some of the seasonal shifts, especially this one. The onset of fall is often the back-to-routine season. Getting the kids back into school, re-establishing routines, racing around to all the back to school/work/ministry/life events that seems to come thick and fast.

For me, it’s also a letting go. Letting go of unstructured days, of hopes for those days, of all the activities and pieces still undone. Spring brings hope, summer is the time to fulfill those hopes, and fall is the letting go of what didn’t come to fruition. Some years it’s good. Sometimes it’s hard.

As fall hit hard this year, I felt it. Not in a good way. Early summer this year brought the promise of something I had been seeking. For a long while. With it came the anticipation of more activities, more connections, more enjoyment of life. Fall brought the reality that it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for. It really hadn’t been all along. Just as the realization that the leaves are changing and cool mornings are now the norm, so were my hopes from the summer. Changing, letting go, cooling down.

When I get in a hard transition like this, I have to get out. Get out of my office, out of my home, out of my mind full of too many thoughts. I can’t be stuck in a time like this. I climb things, hike up mountains, adjust my surroundings so that I can gain a new view. A new perspective.

A few weeks ago I did just that. I started up a mountain close to my home. By myself. My intention was set to climb high and fast. Push out the old. I put in my earbuds and listened to the loud thumping music I needed as I ran up the trail. My conversation started with God. It wasn’t good. I’ll tell you that right now. I was pretty angry. Feeling hurt. Feeling used. A little bit lost. Really disappointed. The old words to myself kept recycling over and over in my head. Words I don’t want to hear anymore. I am not a failure at this. Next time will be different. I held onto that resolve, pushed up the mountain, and continued my conversation with God.

There’s something about being out in His creation that just gets to me. After the first couple miles, I started to actually notice the scenery around me. The glimpses from the trail of the valley below me. The tall trees enveloping me. The little squirrel darting in front of me. The waterfall cascading down, filtering, washing, cleansing.

I scrambled down the steep hill right before the trail turns for the final surge to the top. I could feel my perspective shifting. I took in a deep deep breath and felt a resolute feeling deep in my soul. I had made it to the top. I am stronger than I think. He is stronger than I give Him credit for some days. I am fine. I am more than fine.

I rounded the corner to the view. The view. Of the whole valley below. Of the lake and the mountains across the valley. The faint views of the city skyline in the distance. The clouds all around but the sun still breaking through. And in that moment it all just melted away. Everything. All the fear. All the hurt. All the questions. They just didn’t’ matter anymore. I only intended to stay at the top for ten minutes. But He called me to just sit. Drink in His view. Gain His perspective. Be reminded that He knows.

He’s the only one who can touch my soul like that. That fast. He’s the one who can reach in and push the reset button. He’s the one who sees it all. He knows my heart, my hurts, my fears. He knows the plans He has for me. He’s the one who calls me to Himself. He’s the one who lifts every last piece of my sin off of me. He’s the one who cleanses me, washes me, renews me.

So this isn’t really a season of loss or hurt. It’s a time to start afresh. A time to be renewed and look, from His perspective, at all that He is working out for His good. It’s time to fall deeper and deeper into Him.