So sorry - I had to delete this video because of the You Tube content options at the end.
I was carrying a troubled heart, a battling mind,
and a restless spirit.
I was desperate for the calming Breath of Life -
Hungry for the forgiving cleanse of grace.
I finally found the space I needed to dig...and wait....and soak.
Then I could breathe again.
At first, my prayers reached dead space. My spirit stayed crumpled. I drove to pick up the kids, put them all to bed, and took my prayer cards outside into the sunny wind across from a waiting field. And then, scripture by scripture, his Words began to unrattle me. His forgiveness settled into my soul. His counsel set my mind at ease. His quiet washed my heart and I breathed deeply.
He knows me as I long to be known.
He forgives me in my weakness
He understands me before I tell Him,
but he waits - still - eager to listen.
His answers are above me.
The answer is Him.
He is enough again.
please set my heart at rest in Your presence
when my heart wants to condemn me.
for You, God, are greater than my heart
and You know everything."
(I John 3:19-20)
Scripture prayer from Beth Moore's "Praying God's Word Scripture-Prayer Cards"
As I talked with an old friend recently at IHC, she told me that she is in a "good place." Meaning: Her spirit is quiet. She has joy. She is viewing the challenges of her life with strength and grace as God helps her. Why, I ask? Her answer, Prayer. Waiting. Sitting - in the mornings, until her soul has quieted long enough to open up with God and talk it out. "It changes me inside." She said.
And it reminded me how thirsty my soul is for extended quiet time.
I've been running a lot lately. A lot. And this weekend my spirit was showing signs of an unquiet heart. Cranky. Irritable. Dissatisfied. Definitely NOT refreshed.
So this morning I considered it a gift from God that my kiddos slept a little later than usual. But my time alone was short-lived. It is a practice of discipline for me to say, "No, you may not have your breakfast until Mamma is done. Yes, you may have some milk. But you'll have to wait."
But as I sat in the big chair in the living room (once again drinking in Eastman's A Celebration of Praise and A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of Man), I could not ignore my son's quest to empty the snack drawer onto the floor -one item at a time. Had he pilfered carefully, perhaps I could have continued in quiet. But it was the vivacious pitching-and-plopping that made me nervous. A loaf of bread. Plop. A half-sack of chex mix. Pitch. A half bag of wheat flour. Bang. A can of pistachios. Smack. And I realized I simply must rescue my kitchen from certain destruction.
And so, I remembered why my spirit is thirsty. This is what happens.
Now, I know that the practical answer would be to get up an hour before the kids. But it is not uncommon for my children to wake up at 6:30 or 7:00, full of vim and vigor and ready for the day. And at this time in my life, one of the most spiritual things I can do for this mommy-body is to get as much sleep as possible. So I do not rise at 5:00 and sink into spiritual oblivion. Honestly, I look forward to the day when I can again. And I certainly believe in beginning the day quietly alone with God. But creativity is a must in this household. It seems that after breakfast or during nap times works better around here. But whenever it is, I am getting out the biggest sippy cup I can find and lifting it up to be filled.
Right now I have some other sippy cups to fill. The kids are asking for cake for breakfast. One needs an asthma treatment. Another is crankily teething. The dogs have been eating cereal and milk because we ran out of dog food (seriously!). Karissa informs me dramatically there's a fly in their room - a BIG one and the big ones are MEAN! The day has begun.
I need a date with my Abba.
And we press on. I think I'll turn on some Brooklyn Tab.
Abba, you know that I am thirsty for you. You know how to fill me. You know my frame, that I am dust. Thank you for loving me anyway. I am anxious to meet with you. Give me a moment today, Lord.
After 5 years of being squirrled away in the deep south during IHC, I was very excited to get to go back. My excitement was dampened by the fact that my better half was home teaching and studying and thus I braved the elements alone with three monkeys.
The stage was set after a busy week of getting over (I thought) a 10-day sickness on Sunday, rushing to Cincinnati Sunday night for my mother's surgery, rushing back on Monday night, teaching on Tuesday, running errands and packing on Tuesday night, Teaching on Wednesday, running errands again, jumping in the car with all the kiddos and driving as fast as my husband allowed me all the way to Dayton. I was unspeakably proud of myself for not making one single wrong turn all the way from Frankfort to 5th street!! Those of you who know me understand what a miracle that is. Thank goodness for Mapquest.
The real fun started as I made the journey from the parking garage to the Crowne Plaza lobby with 3 kids, a double stroller a large suitcase and a diaper bag. Everyone around me received a lesson in patience as my stroller stuck in doorways and the suitcase stuck in the elevators. The kids could not WAIT to find some cartoons. After dressing everyone, we actually made it to the service in one piece. I was blessed to the tips of my bones as the choir powerfully sang:
"Under his wings, under his wings. Who from His love can sever? Under His wings, my soul shall abide. Safely abide forever."
I was reminded of who I am and why.
But by Thursday afternoon, my pressed and curled children were coming apart at the seams. So we found a dark quiet room and they all slept. Gloriously. Then the four of us split one $8.00 convention dinner plate and were refreshed. Until.....the evening service. Five minutes after we sat down, Kayla has to pee. Had there been a husband on the scene, that would have been only a mild irritation. However, I had to repack the diaper bag and haul 3 cranky kids in front of 3,000 nosey people. Two minute potty break. Then repeat the process.
So about 30-45 minutes later when the sibling relations reached the point of WWIII at an embarrassing decibal level, we gathered our stickers and coloring books and slinked away behind the black bleacher curtains. (It's really spooky back there, by the way!)
We crashed Thursday night at Mom and Dad's house full of happy memories, then on Friday we gave Mom a full report and enjoyed a lazy day of playing in her gardens.
ON RECONNECTING: I felt this year like I was reconnecting with a whole new batch of friends. Many of you I have gotten to know through blogging, and I have looked forward to seeing you in person. And of course there are the old friends...
(I missed those of you who watched from home. It's bittersweet, eh?)
But I have to tell you that I left feeling like I'd had two days of relational fast food. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a hot & salty 99 cent small fry. But after a day or two of that, my body starts longing for a baked potato and broccoli - something of a little more substance.
I am not slamming the fellowship. I loved it. I'm already looking forward to next year. But I value your friendships so much, it made me dissatisfied with a 30-second greeting and hug or a quick escalator conversation or a 5-minute nursery discussion about chilbirth options. It made me hungry to sit and linger and laugh. To have one of those midnight table discussions where we laugh like a bunch of idiots until our sloppy joes are digested (precious memories, Melodie).
Or to watch our kids play together in a park while we find out how life "really" is.
And I know that for many of us, email will have to suffice. But please know that your friendships are gold to me. And when I say "It's SO good to see you." I mean it. David and I have learned over the years to deeply value these friendships when we find a family who gets life the same way we do and pursues the same values and has a passion to raise children in love with God. This is the fleshing out of the 2nd great commandment.
Which brings me to my IHC prayer this year. I never missed an IHC until I got married and moved off to Mississippi. So I've heard my share of reflections and comments about the whole Dayton phenomenon. Some say it's just a fashion show. Some say it is a Bible College competition. Maybe for them it is. But not for us. Before I came this year I realized in such a beautiful way that it is a wonderful opportunity to fulfill God's top two priorities for my life:
Love Him more and Love You more.
And so I prayed that He would help me to do both. And He did.
So until next year, let's BLOG, baby!
These thoughts have been twirling around in my head, trying to find solid resting places. I'm hoping that writing them will help the sorting.
So many houses grace my days - flitting pictures sometimes noticed, sometimes ignored. The once-exquisite houses in town - history and architecture ignored, turned into run-down apartment complexes. The contented white farmhouse - more grey than white because of peeling paint. The cheery yellow Cape Cod with little patches of annuals dotting the yard. The comforatable Raised Ranch with toys scattered and a stroller parked outside. The huge house across the field from us. A mystery in its massiveness. Deeply in need of repair, but strong and cozy and inviting.
I know that some share my strange love for driving past warm-lit windows at night. What families, lives, stories are in the light behind those half-closed curtains?
It is easy to make assumptions. Labels. Categories. This kind of person lives in That kind of house and That type of person live in This sort of house. Maybe there is some truth to those categories. Its so easy to judge a book by its cover, a family by its dwelling place. Do I do the same thing with people?
It has been rumbling around, troubling me. We not only categorize, but we place value to those categories. Of course, you realize that I'm not talking about the value of Real Estate. But doesn't the pristine Queen Anne seem to hold more value to us - societally - than the run-down trailer with toys in the yard?
My own home is beautiful and cozy inside. It is designed for our needs - who we are as a family. It has our signature all over it - in the colors, the books, the lived-in-ness. But the outside has some issues. Even my oh-so-cool red barn star doesn't distract from the siding-bare spots left from last summer's remodel. And try as we might to disguise it, our small storage area is open for the world to see. And I know how easy it would be do drive by and notice the bare siding and the toy storage, rather than the hundreds of new flowers that are blooming or the cool red barn star.
I know because I'm afraid I do it too.....To people.
How easy is it to think we understand a person based on what we see? We see their designer clothing and manicured nails. Or their slim physique and new running shoes. Or their perfect hair and magazine-ready children. Or their extra pounds and loose-fitting shirt. Or their starchy suit and shined shoes. And - plop - into a category they go. Know it or not, we stamp them with a general range of value. Like when you shop online for real estate, you have to click on a price range. And you get what you pay for.
I'm terribly afraid we don't only do this to the people we pass in the grocery store. We do it to each other.
Just as I want someone to look past the flaws of my house, to enjoy the flowers and come inside and see what we're about and why our priorities are as they are. I also want others to look past the 3-baby-poundage still hanging on for dear life. And the non-designer clothes. And the 4-foot-ten-ishness that lingers about me. And I want them to know me for me. How many times in my life have I been labeled from a distance? Enough to realize that it isn't fair.
God values the prostitute on the corner exactly the same as me. And he values my wealthy, picture-perfect friends the same, too. He sees past all that. And He doesn't categorize us.
I had a college professor once that taught me about giving people "wobble room." It is so easy to lash out at the one who is often harsh, or who runs their mouth too much, or who seems reclusive or even proud. But what a gift it is to learn to give them the grace, the wobbling-space, that I wish to be given. To understand that I don't understand everything about them. And that I have not walked in their shoes. And there are reasons people get into the habits they're in.
As I said, these thoughts - although not a new concept - are arresting me in a new way lately. Because: I want to begin the slow process of de-valuing facades. And knowing people. For who they are. For how they hurt. For where they've been. For those beautiful laughing and crying and understanding and creating corners within them that they don't let people see. (The image of God within all of us.)The same way I want people to know me.
Her seizures were so violent and her blood pressure so high, they didn't even expect her to live through the night, much less wake up, much less be able to speak. But she's saying words already. (See where I get my affinity for talking?) They say her words don't exactly make sense yet, but they're words....
Some of you may not know that I have a brother (Garen L. Wolf II) who is 2 1/2 years younger than I. He studied construction management at University of Cincinnati. He now is in management for Lycos, a large construction company. I don't know his title. But I know he's good at managing huge jobs and keeping all the workers in line. His company's parent company (or owner or something) did the concrete for the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Kentucky.
He married an incredible southern gal named Crystal Reese. She was our friend before she was our sister. My Dad says she walks on water: meaning that she is an unbelievable match for Garen and for our family. We let her know in no uncertain terms that when she married him she couldn't bring him back! She still claims she doesn't want to.
She is a teacher/tutor at a place like Sylvan Learning Center and is very good at what she does. She also does private tutoring. So if you live driving distance from Cincy and you need a good tutor give her a call.
They live near Cincinnati in a beautiful 5-bedroom home that Garen remodeled himself.
Garen is a tough guy with a soft heart. Crystal is a sweet lady with a tough mind. They're a wonderful match.
Garen told me recently: "Everyone talks about how hard marriage is at first. We don't know anything about that." In other words, he's a happy man.
They are friends first and have learned to work through things as they come.
I think we need to celebrate a wonderful marriage when we see it.
CONGRATULATIONS! Love you guys.
Garen - a message from Mom and Dad: They thought you might want to celebrate your anniversary by coming over to their house tonight to visit with them. Doesn't that sound fun? : )
Thus a new happy post about my ongoing, obnoxiously tenacious sickness. And the blindingly bright flowers above said post. (Speaking of which, I hope it doesn't bother anyone that I've been changing my blog layout more often than some people change underwear. Then again, I really don't care a whole lot if it does bug you. I like change. If it does bug you, you need to take some herbs or something. You're entirely too buggable.)
Oh yeah...back to my post about not talking....
I was just grinning to think today how funny it is that I can't talk. It's a rare occasion, indeed.
I can still barely eek out some noise (although I'm paying for it), but this is probably the closest I've ever been to truly beeing speechless.
Even when I run out of words, I have words about the fact that I'm out of words. Take now for instance.
And Grandma Wolf had seizure attacks this morning and is in a coma.
Makes the championship seem like peanuts, huh?
Karissa is incredibly picky about her clothes. She had replaced the socks and shoes I had laid out for her own choices - including some not-so-great socks and her favorite purple shoes! Isn't she Kooky?
Notice the streaker who kept messing up our attempt at modest picture-taking.
The kids love their new outfits from Grandma Fry. She took the picture and took the kids to church for me since I'm still home sick.
Hair fixed, purple shoes ditched (although she did manage to get out of here with a purple purse!), streaker dressed (At least for the moment. This kid hates clothes! But he loves Sunday School. Clothes are a sacrifice he's willing to make to see Miss Melva.)
Here are my sweet darlings.
A word about nature walks:
We started this tradition in Alabama when the kids were very small. We downloaded Tanglewood Education's Nature Notebook and put it in a 3-ring binder (plain paper works just as well). Kayla recently took this to school for show-and-tell. It's full of memories, leaves and drawings from our time in Alabama.
We usually just take a short walk around our yard, or wherever we might happen to be. It's amazing the things you notice when you just pay attention to the signs of the season around you. One time we discovered a caterpillar on a flower, took it home, and got to watch the whole cacoon/butterfly process. On this recent nature walk in Cincinnati, I realized how much had really sunk in on those walks. Mom has a small magnolia tree in her garden. I found Kayla standing alone, gazing at it. I asked her what it reminded her of. "Home" she said quietly. There was a humongous magnolia tree in the woods where we took our nature walks. It was a strong and vivid memory for her. There was also a cool chicken that lived in those woods we liked to chase.
These walks are not something we do on a regular basis or get in bondage to. We just do it when the fancy strikes. It's a great way to get the wiggles out when everyone is cranky from being together inside. And it fosters the skill of observation.
Download a free sample of a Charlotte Mason nature study handbook if you want to read more.
Buttercups from Mamma's garden
Roses from my Main Man
New Friends Mary Ellen, I was going to say how cool it was to meet you and feel an instant friendship. But then you had to go and do the whole picture/video thing. So now you're dead meat. Only I can't think of anything to do to you. So I just stole some pictures off your blog.Quiet time alone at the Intercoastal waterway
Beautiful Beach (Beautiful friendship)
....and one serious sunburn!