it’s ok // be different

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It’s so peaceful in the country 
It’s so simple and quiet
You really ought to try it
You walk about and talk about
The pleasant things in life
It’s so restful in the country
It’s the right kind of diet 
You really ought to try it
You lie and dream
Beside a stream 
Where daisies nod hello
City living is a pretty living 
It’s so full of unexpected thrills 
But there’s too much stone 
Too much telephone 
There’s too much of everything but trees and hills
It’s so peaceful in the country 
It’s so simple and quite 
Someday you’re bound to try it
The only place to be 
Is a place for you and me 
Where it’s peaceful in the country
The skyline of New York is a splendid sight 
I know Chicago’s loop is magical at night
The natives of Cleveland from Frisco and Boston 
And natives of cities a stranger gets lost in 
All of them claim that their city’s the best 
From deep in the south and from out in the west 
Perhaps it’s all true but from my point of view
It’s so peaceful in the country
It’s so simple and quiet 
Someday you’re bound to try it 
The only place to be 
Is a place for you and me 
Where it’s peaceful in the country
-Mildred Bailey

****

I can recall sitting on the front lawn of my parents home and asking myself, “why are these houses all stacked so close together?!” I’m not sure that’s a normal question for a young child to ask, unless of course they were raised on “Little House on the Prairie” television episodes, which I was. At any rate, suburban life never sat perfectly well with me. I wasn’t suited for it, and I felt that from a very young age.

I recall feeling uneasy at large shopping malls (still do), and almost always feel like I’m going to lose my mind on a grid-locked freeway. Popular city destinations, always-crowded beaches & jam-packed local restaurants, museums, watering holes, hiking trails, movie theaters, and main street attractions. For peets sake, even the city drained the allure out of Disneyland for me – and I love Disneyland – but so does everyone else in the entire world- and they’re all there…..every.darn.day.

I started having these feelings when I was young, they wained a bit once I had children – let’s go to all the exciting places! – and then reemerged in the last few years (for both my husband and I.) We felt the push to exit the rat race, for both ourselves and our daughters. That is very much what city life had become for us – a race. Not necessarily a race against anyone else – it was against ourselves. We were always moving, always on the go and always crowded by shoulders rubbing against us.  Hearing about amazing things we should do and have our kids involved in. It was constant. What’s funny is that I know we weren’t half as busy as some and we were still exhausted. I don’t know how others managed. I suppose I wasn’t born with that gene. Sean and I both became miserable with the velocity.

Some people love the city (some of my dearest friends, in fact!) and they flourish in it. I think it’s beautiful that God creates a variety of personalities….but we were not those people, and the city quickly started to lose it’s shiny luster for us. The constant

driving

concrete

look-at-your-phone all the time, rush

noise

horn-honking traffic

colorful and often unsavory billboards

busyness

obscenely tall and nature-blocking buildings

convenience

Starbucks drive-thrus

always inflating cost of living

lack of personal space

concrete

concrete

concrete

It became too much for us and I began to wonder and feel….

Are we weird?”

Because it’s hard to be different and want something different, especially when many you know enjoy the very thing you are trying to escape (and do quite well in it, I might add). You can have all the reasons in the world for why you know it’s good for you to be in a different environment, but people will inevitably look at you a bit sideways, and give the eyebrow raise. In fact, when we finally shared we were moving to the East Coast, the amount of well-meaning, critical comments were plentiful.

“Are you ready for that humidity?!” 

“You’ll think twice once you get snow and have to shovel it!”

“You won’t be able to afford to move back to California, EVER!”

“Why would you want to move there?!”

“You’re buying a…..farm???”

“Do you even have a Target close to you?”

“People in the South are….different.”

Of course, we also received an overwhelming amount of support and affirming words too – but it struck me how different it must seem to some. California natives wanting to leave and try something ridiculously different!??!

And then it made ME a bit concerned as well…WHAT were we doing?

However, only two months in and I can unequivocally say that this home in the country is precisely what we yearned for. It’s not without it’s faults but we have found…..

…green, lush, quiet, freedom from the constant buzz of overcommitment and deluge of information. Creation as far as the eye can see. People move slower, which can be a good, fruitful thing. The grass grows longer and the rain pours down right before the sun blasts its rays all over the rolling hills. Ma & Pa businesses where you can “put it on the tab.” Houses with plenty of room in-between them but close enough that you can walk a pie over (and we’ve already had a delivery!) Not as many cars (and not as many stores either.) Children running as far as they want, without a care in the world. No highways and byways littered with too many cars, unless you need one….and cows, horses and sheep along every gravel road. Grazing and moving peacefully through life – just like we do.

It’s hard to be different. Especially when something seems to work so well for others.

But it’s also acceptable to be different and go against the grain.

When we finally admitted to ourselves that we felt city living was somewhat crushing us, we found freedom. Admitting this gave us the ability to realize a dream and direction and purpose for the feelings we were having – we found friends that felt the same and were able to voice that without being thought bizarre. God gives us desires and grants us feelings of contentment and I think we need to acknowledge those and see what He is teaching us through them. It might not always mean a move, but it might mean the beginning of a huge learning period.

I have wanted out of Southern California for as long as I can remember, but God didn’t see fit for that to happen until I was almost 40, with three kids. He has His timing.

I suppose I share this for that one person who believes there must be something backwards about them because the big city offerings don’t appeal to their sensibilities.

You’re not weird. You’re just different.

And that’s ok.

about Ray {part 2}

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…..I signed off from writing the previous post and munched on a few kernels of popcorn (I don’t even eat carbs but I’M NERVOUS! WHY am i nervous?!)

I decide to log in and open the email which confirms what I already know….Ray thinks I’m a lunatic.

There’s a new email!

It’s from Ray!

Ray does not, from what I gather, think I’m a lunatic. In fact, he goes on to share about his two grown children – neither of which live close but both have grown children of their own. One is coming to visit soon and will see Paulette in the home for the first time. He shared a picture of his sweet bride “in better days” and commented on how beautiful she is.

And he mentioned that he lives alone and would enjoy an occasional email from a friend.

Nothing earth-shattering, nothing monumental.

But a beginning.

And one I shall pursue – because everyone deserves a friend. Even if it’s a lunatic mom-of-3 who randomly decides to become your penpal.

 

…….off to email Ray……..

 

about Ray.

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It started when my daughter went scouring CraigsList for pre-1980 editions of Nancy Drew books. She received a set from my mom a few years ago, but just began to dive into the wonderful world of vintage mystery. She blows through them so quickly and is only interested in the “old” copies. She has no use for the newly reintroduced, snazzy “re-makes” (as she likes to call them.)

She happened to find a seller who was trying to unload 19 books for $40 dollars. While a very good price, I’m always one to haggle (blame all the estate sale-ing) and offered $30.00 (I’ll later feel bad for that…) The seller accepted and we agreed to meet this morning, at 10am “sharp.” He asked me to bring exact payment and we made an hour long drive to retrieve these treasures for my bookworm.

As most people, I was slightly unnerved with visiting a seller at a new location, without having ever met him. I rarely feel fear, but CraigsList does something to me. I’m always very cautious and have passed up some really good deals, simply because the location was shady. And I’ve been to some seriously shady neighborhoods for a good find.

Back to the story.

My nerves were settled when we turned into the neighborhood from which we would make our much-anticipated pick up. It happened to be a rare suburb in Virginia, which warrants an entirely separate blog post, but I haven’t the time for that right now. It’s almost the girls bedtime and my private writing moments are waining.

When we pulled up to the home my navigation had instructed me to, I saw a large American flag waving and a tightly manicured lawn, but not that of a gardener. No, one that was straight out of Revolutionary Road – strategically selected and coiffed regularly. It was heavily bricked and stately. Perhaps I’m remembering it incorrectly, but that is how my mind has played it back all day.

A man slowly emerged from the garage and waved. He had a friendly smile and his shirt was tucked in, secured with a belt. A fashion regularity I wish more gentleman my age would return to. It’s a sign of a bygone generation, much like men who mow their lawns in slacks and collared button-ups.

The three girls and I got out of the minivan and met him halfway. He introduced himself as “Ray” and he had our books waiting. He had also offered to show me seven other vintage titles (of course we bought them) he had and told me he would give me a very discounted price. He leaned down to talk to Polly and shake her hand. He grinned at my girls and we made small talk. He asked where we were from. I quickly knew that this wasn’t just a “this kinda thing happens” meeting. Maybe I’m making more of it than I should, but it’s what I do, and it’s served me well.

Because nothing is chance and nothing just happens. It’s all in the plan.

He told me that his wife suffers from Alzheimer’s and is now in a home.

He is alone and downsizing their estate, to a degree.

They are one of two couples on the street that were original owners.

I didn’t want the conversation to end, but it couldn’t go on indefinitely. We don’t “know” one another and I had three hungry young ones, so we loaded up the minivan. As I was punching in our home address into my phone, Ray walked back to our car. Apparently we gave him one dollar too much and he wanted to return it.

We waved goodbye and that was that.

Except it wasn’t. At least I didn’t want it to be. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I immediately texted my husband and told him that life moves so quickly. This beautiful, rhythmic routine you begin….can end. I don’t fear much, but I fear that (well, and CraigsList.) It had me very emotional. Life is so beautiful and I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want to think of only having a few more decades left with Sean and the girls. It was a bit stifling, so I decided, to instead, write Ray.

I sat down this afternoon and chose to respond to one of his earlier emails regarding our transaction. I breathed deep and started in. I thanked him for selling us the books and told him how happy it made Kensington. I also wrote that I was so very sorry his wife (and he) suffer. I hoped that it didn’t fall on deaf ears and he understood my intention.

I went and prepped dinner.

About an hour later, “bing!” There was a reply.

Ray had just returned from visiting his wife, Paulette. He told me that, in all his years selling online, he had never received a thank you note. He shared a few things with me, most notedly that his wife no longer recognizes him, except as the man who brings her ice cream, apples, and cranberry juice. He had taken care of her for eight years before no longer being able to on his own…eventually relinquishing what had been their life together.

I exchanged one more email with him, apologizing if my emails and inquiries were bizarre to him – I am a stranger, after all. I wrote a few more things asking if he would like to exchanged words….letters…emails. That I am interested in his life and Paulette’s. If they had children. What their life had been like. What it was like.

I decided to write this post before I checked to see if he has responded.

There’s a part of me that is afraid he will agree this entire thing is odd. That he’ll think I’m some weird kid who looks at him like a kitschy sociology project.

But it’s not. I just want to understand why we met. Why my daughter has been asked to read Nancy Drew for three years and she just now decided to become obsessed and just now wanted to find vintage copies online.

I want to know about Paulette and Ray. Or maybe I don’t and I think this is going to be some magical connection and it isn’t. But I can’t stop being me and I can’t stop being interested in people, their stories, and who they are.

I think I’ll go check if Ray wrote back…..

look what the cat dragged in (welcome back, death & moving)

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Well, well, well……look who finally decided to write again (over three months later.)

My absence is well-founded, I promise. As I shared in the previous post, we traded coasts and in the last three months we packed up our family home, said goodbye to loved ones, and set off for the country.

So much has happened and while I desire to chronicle it in sufficient detail, my sad excuse for a nightstand journal (and Instagram) will have to do. Without sharing every single moment and emotion, I’ll say that it’s been a whirlwind, but a remarkable one. Change on this scale is never without heartache – the old refrain goes that when something new begins, something has to end (or something like that). It’s true, you know. We had many goodbyes to say and many memories to release from our grip. Everyone says that you’ll always have the memories but what they don’t say is that many memories are dependent on location and current circumstance. Sure, they will always live on in your mind and heart, but some things just feel more alive when you are still close to the people and places with which they occurred. Of course you always have them, but they do change. Trust me.

Leaving everything you know is really hard. And really good. There is so much to learn that you can’t possibly predict or hope for. You just let it wash over you. If you resist, the story turns contrived and fake.  I’m glad for the change and know that I will never, ever regret this adventure. All of it has taught me so much about myself and others.

I think everyone should be forced to move away at least once in their lifetime. It’s good for your soul, good for your marriage, good for your children, and good for your faith.

At least, that’s my opinion, with which I know many would disagree.

A month after we arrived on Virginia soil, our beloved dog Molly died. She had been with our family for close to 15 years and she was such a part of us. It’s funny….I never understood the emotions that people displayed, when their pets passed, until Molly left us. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I recalled a memory from my childhood that had been hidden in the recesses of my mind, for decades.

When I was about 8 (approximately the age of my middle child), I was left at the neighbors home for the afternoon. My parents came back to pick me up, both with blotchy, red faces and tear stained collars. I still remember what my mom’s skin look liked – spotted and bizarrely puffy. They had been crying. Both had just stood in the veterinarian’s office where they put down their beloved dog, Boaz. He had been with them since the beginning of their marriage, and the time had come. I remember, as a young child, thinking their response was so overly dramatic and stunning. It was a dog!

Fast forward 30 years and Sean and I (and all the girls) stood on the back of our property, as Sean dug a hole large enough for the body of our sweet, golden labrador. She was wrapped in a cream sheet, with a bandage around her leg, protecting where they had put the lethal injections. She laid there still warm and with a look of serenity. We pet her and Sean lifted her into the hole and followed with gently sprinkling dark red, Virginia soil on her body. Tears bubble just typing this. I felt ill.

My face was red, blotchy and puffy…. just like my mother’s had been, so many years ago.

It’s not just a pet. It’s a memory. It’s a season of marriage, of life. It’s gone. Just like the reality that we are no longer a “young married” couple with our sweet puppy…..we are older. She was older. We have moved on. Nothing is the same.

And it has been ridiculously embarrassing how difficult it has been to look for her (still) each day, or catch myself saving leftovers for her. She’s gone and it’s weird…. just \a reminder that live moves on. You can’t stop it or slow it. It just goes and you’re here for all of it….whether you like it or not.

We realized that not one of our girls know any life without Molly. She’s always been around and we underestimated how difficult it would be for each of them individually. One of my girls is still crying on a near daily basis – always spontaneously. Molly left a huge hole in our lives. In my effort to allow them to feel anything and everything they want to (with Type A personalities we can often not allow much time for emotion – MUST MOVE ON AND GET BACK TO NORMAL! THINGS TO DO!) I introduced them to my two favorite children’s books relating to death and mourning. Both THIS book and THIS book have touched me, are simple, and give kids space to feel very real sadness. They are good for the soul. Neither are able to be read without real tears, even two weeks after her passing. I recommend them to anyone who finds themselves in the same place we are in.

In every difficult thing, there is beautiful light, and things to be learned. Sean loves to remind us all of God’s great timing. Molly could have easily passed in Long Beach, making the transition to Virginia a little harder – never having her be a part of this great journey our family took together. No, he allowed Molly to make the trip all the way out here and enjoy the hills, land and all that our small farm offers. She spent the twilight of her life in a glorious cacophony of barking at birds and running around after small chicks as they chirped uncontrollably. She was so happy here. She had a new resurgence of energy, that undoubtedly was gifted by this unique change in atmosphere.

It was a perfect ending to the long life of a perfect pet.

new season // moving

IMG_3207I didn’t forget to post “The Wednesday Afternoon Post” last week. I just had no spare time, whatsoever. I promise I wanted to!

Our little family has made the huge decision to move to Virginia, from Southern California. We are thrilled (to say the least) but even with how excited we are….it comes with very real sadness. We are leaving the people who have stood with us through marriage, parenthood, and life in general. But, because they are such amazing people, and we are all so woven together, Sean and I are confident that this will, in many ways, draw us closer to one another. We have always said that we know some of the most gracious, real, and selfless people in the world. Announcing we are moving has proven this – they have all rallied and are there, each step we take. I couldn’t ask for more. The Lord has truly blessed us both in the relationship category.

I’ve never moved across the country before. The most I’ve even moved is down the street. I’m moving out of the state I was born and raised in, and I’m moving to a state that I know little about, but am already falling in love with. The history! The seasons! Rain and snow! Land in my front yard! So many things to feel joyful about. And yet….so many questions and thoughts.

What will this new normal look like?

Will we find a new church that we love?

Will we find community like we have formed here?

All we can do is trust and obey. Go in faith and know that the Lord has gone before us, has a plan for us, and loves us. The unknown is looming over my head in a very anticipatory and exciting way. There’s a part of me that wants to rip the bandaid and be there already, and a part of me that never wants to leave.

(if you’d like to follow along with our journey to Virginia in a more photo sense, I re-opened an Instagram acct @rachel.r.reeves)

 

flicker in the dark // the innocent child

I was struck by something last evening. It so profoundly moved me that I spent the entire evening (well into the wee hours of the night) thinking about it. How on earth it hadn’t astonished me hundreds of times prior, I’ll never understand. Conceptually, I know this idea, and I even write about it. Share the concept with my friends, and encourage the very cultivation of it within our home. And yet, it took a specific moment to send an electric charge of recognition throughout my mind and body.

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Last night, I witnessed and acutely understood the mind-blowing and intense brilliance of my children’s innocence. 

Without divulging the entirety of the conversation, I’ll share that, last night, Kensington learned what a miscarriage is. Sean had bought a large pot and a succulent for each child we’ve had together. As he was potting it, Kensington asked what the “other” small succulent was for. He answered, “That symbolizes the baby that mom and I lost.” She had the face of complete bewilderment. I instantly realized we had never explained it to her. Why? I really don’t know. Possibly because I don’t like talking about my pain, but I’ve gotten much better at that in the last few years, so I’m not all together sure, but there it was. Sean gave a very simple explanation that some babies simply stop growing – their heart stops – and they are gone.

I will never, ever forget her eyes. She went from innocence to knowing. In fifteen seconds flat, she knew something, a dark thing, that she will never not know. She instantly burst into tears, which I didn’t expect. She apologized over and over again to us. That it happened, that she feels bad for wondering what it would be like to have an older sibling, and back to apologizing. My heart broke for her new understanding, because it’s just one step closer to her entering into this world where us adults reside, (and have grown quite accustomed to, by the way.) She’s had that same look in her eyes when she learned about slavery. When I had to explain the procedures and actions they are to take if someone tried to take them. When we explained to them why foster children need homes.

That broken, glassy-eyed stare of recognition. They take one more step toward dark.

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We do live in a dark and depraved world and to accept anything but that fact is willful negligence. It’s why Christ came to save. If we were clean, there would be no need, but we are a creation that is eating itself from the inside out. There are beautiful strands of grace and joy, of course, but this place is scary. This place needs a Savior. I think we, as adults, forget how dark things are. But one look in my eldest’s eyes reminded me of the vast gloom.

And my girls don’t know it yet….at least not much of it.

When I saw her face last night It was like an electric shock zapped me. I thought,

“Oh my gosh. The innocence of a child is remarkable. Simply brilliant. It’s the still remaining light in the somber overcast.

It almost steals my breathe just thinking about it, as I write. It is something that is inherent in each little being, and can be gone in a literal second. Stolen, never to be replaced. My girls walk around still believing in good, lovely, and delightful things. They talk to stuffed animals and dance awkwardly in front of friends because WHO CARES?! To think someone might care is to acknowledge at some point, someone is going to judge you based on something ridiculous. They ask important questions and come to luminous conclusions because nothing is at stake with them – except, that is, the truth. They have no phones or way to contact their friends, so when they see them, they are all in. They laugh and play and then shriek in horror when it’s time to go, because they can’t text them 10 seconds later. They don’t try to do good things because they’re going to post about it, or start the next non-profit. They just live.

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My girls don’t know what pornography is.

Or sex.

Or human trafficking.

Or illicit hatred.

Or corporate greed.

Or adultery.

Or domestic abuse.

They just wake up, eat cereal, learn, read, run and play, get a consequence for talking back, do cartwheels in the front yard, yell across the street to their friends, talk about their favorite ice cream flavor, say their prayers, go to bed and sleep. Wake up, repeat.

Stop and think for just one second about your child’s innocence. Really, really think about it. The glorious gift they have right now of not knowing.

Because of this not knowing, their lives are so so small.

But because of this not knowing, their lives are so so much bigger than ours.

It won’t always be, but please Lord, please let it be for awhile longer.

give and take // 11 years

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(Jasmine blooming will always signal the sweet memory of my first baby)

On this day, eleven years ago, Sean and I found out that we lost our first baby. I was into my second trimester, but I knew something was different. I vividly remember wearing a camouflage hoodie and sweats. I was walking to our dining room table, in our first home, to join our friends Mary and Jason for dessert. Jason and Sean had made a fruit tart for my friend Mary’s birthday and I sat down and knew the baby was gone. It was especially bizarre to me (and still is) that I would know the difference between having a baby alive in me, and one that was no longer. I had never been pregnant before and this was before I had felt a child kick from within me. After miscarrying a baby and giving birth to our three daughters, I’ll never, ever question the existence of a creator. It’s all too magnificent to be chance.  Only a gracious God grants us the gift of knowing the depths of joy and pain, from within our very body and soul.

I remember white-knuckling it through that dessert with my dear friends, knowing something was off, and then finding out the next day that we lost the baby…..the same day that my best friend found out she was pregnant for the first time, as well. We both cried and laughed on that day. We felt joy and pain. She went on to miscarry that child, just a week later.

We both clearly saw that the Lord, in His sovereign and divine plan, gives and takes.

The first few years after we lost that baby, I didn’t understand why. I have been known to question a God that allows so many things to occur. Look around the world. It’s wholly unjust, depraved, dark. How could a loving God choose to allow these things? It angers me. It has entangled me in doubt. Why, oh God, do you let these things continue?

Thousands of theologians have asked and answer this query. It’s nothing new and I will not offer anything more than my simple mind has come to understand. What I have finally (prayerfully) reconciled has given me solace…..both from events 11 years ago and in the years since – life certainly has been filled with darkness and anger and unfair consequences and frustrating platitudes. Loss and general heartache. What I have come to believe and hold so dear is this…..

God is Sovereign and I am not. If I choose to believe this is true (and I do) I must accept that I will not understand any part of His plan fully. All that happens is in His perfect purpose and for His glory.

This means I must accept the things He gives AND the things He takes.

***

My now-10 year old daughter just came downstairs and asked if she could cut up some bell peppers and watch Andy Griffith. Had my pregnancy been a healthy one, I would not have met Kensington Jane. It’s hard to grieve and rejoice something like that. Truly bizarre, but here I am.

The Lord allowed the loss of my first baby.

Three months later I was pregnant with my sweet first born. And four years later, my second. And two years after that….Polly.

He gives and He takes, and as always….

It is well with my soul (even when I don’t understand.)

 

death // truth

My friend lost her father two weeks ago. This past weekend was the memorial service.

After I had wiped away the eyeliner streaks, I had some time to sit down and actually ruminate on how swiftly this life streaks by. The slideshow at the memorial was riddled with images of Bob when he was young – like my husband. Younger than my husband. He was in love with his wife just as I am in love with my Sean.

Hugging.

Smiling at a camera before stockings are opened, or right as one of his children hopped on his lap. Normal. Every day living.

Until it’s over.

I’ve said before that funerals often serve as some the best experiences in my life. They give me a jolt of life that I often let putter out….usually lost to the more pressing issues. Bills. Schoolwork. Getting to bed early, or whatever new recipe I should throw in the crockpot.

In my mind, funerals leave me feeling one of two things. I either depart feeling mournfully joyful – knowing the person we are grieving is home with the Lord and no longer in worldly pain.

Or I leave so somber that I almost can’t feel.

No matter how we as Christians desperately try to make our belief system less offensive to an unbelieving and cynical public, we can’t escape what is truly true:

If one does not have faith in Christ, there is no peace or closure when they pass. There is no solace. There is no hope.

I hate how this statement may pain people – I really do. But, I hate even more how many Christians will resist approaching this very subject because they may offend someone.

If indeed there is no hope aside from Christ (there’s not), than we as Christians need to be intellectually honest about that and stop repeating the cultural mantra, “Find your truth.” No, there isn’t “your” truth and “my” truth.

There’s just truth.

Truth is hard. It requires change and commitment and resolve. Often I lack these things and I know the truth! Truth confronts us and doesn’t allow for halfway efforts. Of course we are sinners and will ultimately come up short, but the pursuit of truth is all-consuming, but worth the effort.

When I sat and saw the celebration of Bob’s life, I was able to really celebrate because I know he loved the Lord. He praised the Lord and told others of Him. He made disciples, going and telling and proclaiming the good news.

Funerals leave my heart sad but they also remind me of my purpose here.

It’s to tell others of the love and salvation that Christ offers.

So that each funeral need not be hopeless.

convalescing // things to hear/read/do

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Age really is just a number.

That is, until you get the H3N2. Nothing makes me more aware of my aging body than catching the “going-around” flu of the year. I thought I had escaped it. Our family (sans one child and one super-spouse) endured the dreaded winter stomach bug, just days before Christmas. We hurdled over January 1st and I thought we’d made it.

I thought I would be spared.

Nope.

I started feeling poorly last week and I just can’t kick it. It doesn’t help that I manage a cold like I manage most issues in my life, with “Mind Over Matter!” as my mantra. Which sounds all well and good until it’s day 6 and you still feel like death warmed up. I’m slowly learning the fine art of caring for myself, not that anyone has forced me not to….I simply choose to do so many other really really valuable (to us) things, and suddenly I’m forced to realize I haven’t slept or napped or exercised or rested or stopped. In five years.

I’m getting better, actually (don’t ask my friends, they might disagree.) I am starting to set down a good book, in favor of sleeping until at least 5:30am. I’m starting to allow myself to think of exercise as imperative to mental rejuvenation, rather than a luxury. I’ve even started to realize that the weekend a huge paper is due, “YOU CAN NOT HOST FOUR FAMILIES FOR APPETIZERS & DINNER, RACHEL!” This past year I’ve said “no” to a multitude of activities that sound/are amazing, in lieu of taking my small family on a quiet, local hike, where I can feel less drained, anxious or propelled to re-evaluate so many things. Peaceful mindfulness is becoming a good friend of mine. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way.

I’m learning to slow down (kinda.)

This is all said with the clear recognition that I fail in my attempts, often. My husband and I are missing our weekly Couples Flamenco dance lesson (yep) because I started feeling better yesterday, and decided to go on a long run, last night. I woke up today feeling awful, and asked my always-gracious (but occasionally sassy-when-it’s-needed) friend Amanda to keep my kids, even though we weren’t going to the lesson, so I could sleep, and my hubby could rest as well. She texted me that I was crazy to go to the gym in the first place, but of course she would watch my kids.

She’s right. Like I said….I’m learning.

While I want to get up and vacuum my house RIGHT NOW, and do the dishes/laundry/homeschool planning….I’m choosing to sit down and do nothing. It’s rare, but man, it’s nice. I rather like it, actually.

Being forced to be still isn’t something I want to be known for, so I’ll take this physical admonition, enjoy it, and remember that just because one is restful and still, we should never assume they are not purposeful, intentional and living the life that God deems faithful. I think at times I’ve made the mistake of assuming because I’m busy, my life has purpose.

This just isn’t so.

Like I said….I’m learning.

In any case, I thought I would use this chance to share with you some really wonderful resources that I have been learning and growing from. We are living in a time of so much information and that can be a really huge blessing. I love looking for pockets of time, throughout my day, where I can read, listen to a podcast, watch a video or skim a magazine.

I received a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas (my people know me) and here are a few books that just came in:

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I’m not finished with them all, but I would recommend each of them, nevertheless.

I’m a huge HUGE student of the life of Winston Churchill, and his part in history. Oh my goodness, I can’t get enough. THIS and THIS are must-haves, if you’re at all interested in his life. I also love this one, which is endearing and places Sir Winston in a more “sweet” light.

I’ve long been a follower of R.C. Sproul, his ministry and his theology. He passed away last month and I was so very sad that the believing world lost such a leader. One of my favorite resources to hand fellow Christians (or those searching) is the web address of Ligonier Ministries. It’s chalk full of videos, sermons and literature on living a life for Christ, and was begun by Dr. Sproul. I also highly recommend their monthly devotional pamphlet, TABLETALK, which is a ministry of Ligonier. It comes to my door each month, and I smile. It challenges me. I’m working through two books by Sproul and I believe they would be beneficial for any believer, no matter what stage of your spiritual journey you’re in. You won’t regret adding THIS and THIS to your home library (or any of his books, truthfully.)

I know that “history” isn’t for everyone, but I think it should be! It illuminates and adds context to modern-day issues, as well as being downright fascinating! You can be knee-deep in history by this evening, with a few resources I’ve recently devoured. Podcasts (once vetted) are a wonderful thing. FREE and full of information, opinion and story-telling! I’m so in love with this type of media because I can learn while engaging in other activities I need to accomplish (read: laundry.) It’s a win-win.

Without further adieu, here’s a very short list of historically-centered podcasts that will make your heart sing:

American History Tellers (new podcast with amazing narration and frames history with fictional stories which allow you to feel like you are living it)

The Christian History Podcast (how churches came to be, essentially)

Tides of History (supurb story-telling and context)

History Unplugged (a huge catalog of episodes, covering events from JFK to French trappers to Leif Erikson to the Siege of Malta)

Letters From War (my new favorite podcast by the WaPo, based on old letters found in a storage unit!)

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As I was writing this post, I realized I have some unspent Amazon dollars and I’m purchasing THIS, THIS (an oldie but particularly relevant,) and THIS (curious the narrative here) with the remains…..have you read any of these? What did you think?

A good recommendation is one of my favorite things, so share what you’re into right now!

Alright, I’m off to lay in bed, drink a luke-warm cup of coffee, and start a Netflix show. Here’s to hoping I kick this cold and learn my lesson….

Slowing down is a very good (and hard) thing to learn.

this is parenting // this is life now

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Edited to add:

Within 12 hours of writing this post, I found out that a dear friend lost her father and a friend of the family had passed. Within the last few months, Sean and I have watched people we know lose their battle to cancer, be diagnosed with debilitating disease, or walk through dark trials of losing children, coming up short with finances or facing fears. Within the last few years, Sean and I have walked through some really difficult life circumstances alongside many of our best of friends, managing to deal with their own hardships. Why do I share this? Because it adds an additional layer of deep richness to the following post. While we are parenting, we are still living life. The good, the bad and the incredibly painful. And the only way to walk through it, plainly stated, is to walk right through it.

Hand in hand with your children. Your spouse. And know the Lord is doing something. Something much larger than we could imagine.

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I’m laying in bed, at 4:45pm, with my three year old. She has bilateral ear and throat infections and is generally miserable. She only wants mommy. The other two are downstairs watching television, which I hate because I often feel guilty about their “screen time” (thanks, 2010-2018 parenting blog posts+case studies) and there is laundry/dishes/homeschool prep that needs getting to. So much laundry.

But here I lay, watching Bubble Guppies (her choice, not mine) because it’s all that keeps her from grabbing her ear and shrieking (not an exaggeration) in pain. She’s irritated that I’m typing and not watching, but I haven’t sat once today and had, once upon a time in 2017, told myself I would write more frequently, in 2018. Which has been going just as I expected.

This is motherhood.

Parenting has so many shapes, sub-divisions, and emotions. I don’t even have time to feel like I’ve figured something out, before I start to feel confused again. It’s not always a bad confusion – it’s more like being a mathematician, and being handed a complicated algorithm, and asked to trace its origin {can you tell I am extremely inept with math, by that example?} You enjoy the process because you’re a mathematician, after all. But, it’s challenging, and the second you’ve solved something, another “something” arises.

From decoding the range of emotions that pre-adolescent females are discovering, to explaining why some relationships flourish while others wither, to navigating anxiety, anger, compulsions or sin….parenting is overwhelming.

Those descriptions could, at first glance, seem like they merit complaint or that I’m only characterizing the negative parts of parenting, but it’s not meant to be that way. To raise children is a gift that I couldn’t possibly take for granted. I’m glad to walk through confusion, life-altering happiness, and deep grief with my husband and children. I would have it no other way, although I’m sure if someone explained to me the in’s and out’s of parenthood, prior to giving birth….I might have declined, initially.

There’s no way of understanding until you’re inside the vortex and that’s a very good thing. We are selfish by nature and parenthood is about giving, in large part, and I’m convinced we wouldn’t choose it on most days – if you didn’t understand the amazing give-back and refining it pushes you towards. God has used parenting to expose me, leave me floundering and bring me unparalleled purpose. Being a parent has also elevated my affection for my husband – marrying him and being linked to him, for the rest of my life, is the greatest joy I will have this side of heaven. I never have enough words to describe my deep pleasure with the covenant of marriage. Being allowed to raise children is often something I am amazed by – why on earth would I be permitted to guide, raise and educated small souls?! It’s quite a gift.

With all these things said (and many others, in posts from the past), I wish to express the beautiful and generally exhausting task of being a parent, being a faithful family member, and being a generous wife.

But man, it’s hard.

I’m constantly questioning if I’m “doing it right”. I wonder if I’m going to screw my kids up by homeschooling, if I’m too strict, if I’m too loose, if I don’t teach them enough about God, if I preach too much at them, if I do too many Bible lessons and not enough STEM projects. I think about how much their reading vs. playing outdoors, or maybe the food I’m feeding them is going to eventually eat their insides and leave them with a disease since it’s not all organic. I yell too much! I don’t yell enough. I’m not their friend enough. I spend too much time with them! I go on too many date nights with my husband. I’m raising entitled kids in SoCal and they aren’t exposed to the real world! They are too exposed, aren’t they?! I’m too protective! I’m not protective enough! I don’t let them express themselves enough, oh my gosh I let them express themselves way too much STOP IT KIDS. And the worst fear of all. The one that keeps me up at night, often.

What if my children never really know the Lord? What if…..

It’s a hamster wheel of revolving emotions. And I’m convinced it never, ever stops. Parents just get better at not freaking out quite as much, the older their children get. They’re still grappling with it because you never stop being a parent.

Your kids may leave you, hate you, love you, respect you, or never want your opinion.

But that will never change the fact that you’re still the human that bathed them, changed them, reassured them and gave them the tools for adulthood.

That is why it’s so exhausting.

I can deal with ear infections alllll day long because it’s temporary. But the rest of being a mother – the realizing that the Lord instructs me how to act virtuously towards my children, yet one day they will leave and may never understand anything Sean and I did – that’s my stumbling block. Because I am not perfect and I fail (often) and have to ask forgiveness, from my children. I only have a few years and man…..I hope I’m doing enough. I hate the vulnerability of it, but there isn’t another way to be. In the end, I’m simply an instrument to be used in their formation. An instrument to draw them closer to Him, His truth and His virtue. That’s it.

God is teaching me. He’s humbling me. He’s breaking me, and He is lifting my head.

This is parenting. This is motherhood. This is the most beautiful season of life. Right now.