FOR THIS HOUSE I HAVE PRAYED

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We’re moving. We finally bought a house. I’ve been praying for this for a while, so I really can’t wait.

It has everything I wanted. A beautiful view. A bit of character. A layout that lends us privacy. And a neighborhood with friends a stone’s throw away.

Everything I wanted! Except one thing. It needs work.

Pretty much every lovely room needs something. Paint. Flooring. Updates. Oh, and the outdoor wood siding and trim need to be painted. Not a small job. A work in progress.

When they power-washed the outside, little bits of rotting wood were exposed. We were expecting this, but it’s kind of alarming to see.

Sometimes I lay awake at night and think, This is such an adventure! I don’t deserve this.

And other times I wake up and wonder, What was I thinking? This is way too much.

Feels a bit like my family and life in general. So much potential…but so much risk. And a little overwhelming.

The other day I prayed, Lord, my family feels like a little ancient walled city with huge breaks in the walls and breaches about. I can only do so much. There are just too many vulnerable places. I can’t protect them all.

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HOPE IN THE MIDDLE

hope in the middle

I was asked to share a little of my story with some women at my church the other day.

Darn, I thought. I wish she would have asked me six months from now instead. Then some of my stuff would be resolved. I’d have a real story to tell…then.

But you see, I’m still in the Middle. So many loose ends to tie up.

I really think the speech therapy and special tutoring my youngest daughter is receiving will have kicked in by then. And my adult daughter with disabilities will probably have a job by then – that should be a good story…a happy ending. And I think my other child’s future should be clearer, and we’ll have the results from the tryout for my third….

If only she’d asked me in six months.

But instead I’m here with a half story. Still waiting.

And I hear a door slam somewhere in my house, and I’ve got a text from my daughter to please pray, and I don’t think my son is working on his homework yet, and my husband is still processing the same work problem.

And I’m still in the Middle.

But I remember a story someone told me 30 years ago in her small London kitchen as we were washing up the dishes after dinner. It challenges me to rethink the Middle.

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THE NEW STRONG

img_1040I’ve been thinking about the future. It’s that time of year. Looking ahead.

This year I’m especially thinking about My future…what I should do with the Time.

Since I am no longer the sole educator of my children, I’m wondering what might be next. Maybe nothing… but maybe Something. Who knows.

I was talking to my daughter about an Idea. Playing with a vision. Processing. You know….

What do you think? Can you see it?

She’s quiet.

Do you think I could do it?

She tilts her head. I think you’d be good at it…while you’re weak. But if you ever get strong, you’d be awful. You don’t do Arrogant well.

Well, that’s why God gives us daughters. They’re the only ones who can say such things and get away with it.

Probably right.

But I can’t stay sad forever,  I tell her.

She smiles. Sadness is your strength. You’re at your best when you weak. Unsure of yourself. You give the best advice when you’re There.

Well, that explains a lot.

Like this past Christmas Day.

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THE SEASON OF HOPE – LESS

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I heard on the radio that the first week of Advent is about “Hope.” But Hope deferred makes the heart sick, so maybe Advent is really about Heart Sickness.

Every year we sit around our dinner table and light the candles and sing that perennial Advent song.

O, come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom Captive Israel,

That mourns in lowly exile here, Until the Son of God appears….

Kind of mournful. Makes me quiet.

And we open our Advent book that starts in the Garden. And quickly leaves the Garden in pieces.

That pretty much sums it up. That’s where we live. Outside the Garden. Outside the way things were supposed to be.

This year our Advent began in darkness. As it usually does. Kids bickering. Parents struggling. Stress building. Hopes flagging.

Outside the Garden.

But lucky for me, Christmas came early this year. Back in September God gave me a precious Gift. A Word. Best kind of Gift.

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RETHINKING WHO I AM

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Identity. Whoever we think we are shapes our view of the world. It is a point of view. Point of viewing everything else. It is a controlling factor in how we make choices, what we grasp for, what we hold tightly to. It directs us. Blinds us. Makes us… or defeats us. So I need to think carefully about who I am.

I am not a homeschool mom.

Feels strange to write that.

I have homeschooled my kids for 18 years.

And I have loved homeschooling. When people asked how it was going, I would light up and say, “I’m learning so much! Oh, and my kids are doing great too….”

I used to read curriculum magazines for fun. And I made the most wonderful, lasting friendships in that community.

But lately, homeschooling wasn’t working as well for my family, and it was beginning to threaten my way of life.

It happened gradually. I just didn’t think my children were thriving. They were passing…but not becoming.

And so the “S” word became a topic of conversation. And prayer.

For several years in a row I prayed about School. My husband prayed. My mother prayed. My mother-in-law prayed. It just became a part of the fabric of my prayer life. “Lord, if school is the best thing for my kids….”

But it always stopped there. Once we visited a local Christian school. But that was it.

And so I began my school year last fall with this prayer: “Lord, I’m homeschooling again this year. (Surprise.) But Lord, if you know that school is really the right change for my children, please give me overwhelming wisdom.” That was my prayer. Overwhelming wisdom. I reasoned with God that a little wisdom wouldn’t get me there. My inner gravitational pull was toward homeschooling. I loved it. And I knew it. Only overwhelming wisdom could compel me to take a different direction.

That school year was a testimony to Overwhelming Wisdom.

It came in many ways, but this one was key.

It was One of Those Days. Kids were bickering. Lessons were limping. Even a belligerent No came from my children on that morning.

This isn’t working, fear gripped my heart.

I looked directly into the angry face of one of my children and thought, You are ruining my vision for my life.

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THE CURE FOR ENVY

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There are just so many things I want. They are not bad things. In fact it’s all pretty normal stuff. But I look around and it seems like everyone else has them.

And that hurts.

I look around, and I think…

I want your house. It’s in the perfect location. Always clean. No chipped paint. So up to date and well-decorated.

I want your job. Your significance. My life of mundane tasks feels so infinitely unimportant.

I want your family. It seems so put together and cohesive. Mine is complicated and a lot of work.

And -I want your community. I have many life-long friends, but they are spread out on different continents and in different cities and in different circles. I’m feeling alone. For once, I want a crowd.

So here I am, filled with all these empty thoughts, and it’s beginning to feel a bit like Envy. Like, you don’t deserve all those things. And you think you’ve earned them. And, I’m not going to help you get even more.

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:16)

I’ll say.

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ON EXHAUSTION

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I let my kids watch an extra hour of television yesterday. Hate that. I’m just so tired.

It’s the end of the semester, and it’s been another busy one. Weddings, special events, and my daughter graduating from college. I knew I was burning the candle at both ends…and here I am again with a terrible head cold and I’ve lost my voice.

My husband came into the kitchen last night, just as I was wiping the counter clean with my last bit of energy. The dishwasher was started and the coffeemaker ready to go for the morning. He was all cheerful after a successful business call and was opening the freezer to reach for the ice cream.

“Oh no you don’t. The kitchen is closed for the night,” I whisper hoarsely. (I’m so grumpy when I’m sick and tired.)

My husband looks shocked. “Come on, Priscilla. I was looking forward to it.”

“Nope. Look at the time. I just finished cleaning.” I actually don’t think I can face one more, dirty spoon.

“Oh, please!” he pleads in disbelief, with one hand on the freezer handle hoping for a change of heart to cross my countenance.

“Nope,” I stand fast.

Big sigh.

My youngest daughter who is drawing at the island looks up at her dad and advises quietly, “You have to just keep begging and begging and begging, and eventually she’ll give in,” she smiles.

Hence the extra television that day.

Things you learn when your mom is worn out.

There are just so many things I don’t do well when I’m really tired. Like parenting. Or friending. Or basic housework. Or prayer.

That last one got me thinking. Why is it that I feel so little spiritually when I am like this? I don’t feel drawn to God’s Word. I don’t send any faith with my prayers. I don’t sense God’s presence with me. I don’t even feel upset about world poverty. Just nothing.

Then of course I feel guilty. Just a little. I mean, maybe I’m just a fair weather friend to God. And then I start wondering (oh, no!) maybe He is just a fair weather friend to me. When I’m in my spiritual “A” game, he’s my champion. But when the worst of me comes out, what then?

I guess it’s an age-old question. Is God only for us when we are really for Him?

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