“Our Hope is in heaven…”

I shared here, about Honor, the unborn child we lost through an early miscarriage on March 5th of this year. I wanted to share a little more about her story, about ours, and about Hope. This is personal stuff so if you’d rather pass on this lengthy post, I understand. But I welcome you to come along.

After having Heidi 8.5 years ago, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I was serving as Women’s Director, speaking at retreats, and drafting up the proposal for Sacred Mundane. Dutch, 2, was difficult and mostly baffled me. I loved being a mom, but felt like a failure most of the time. I wasn’t really a “kid person” and both babies came without trying, so I couldn’t imagine having more.  I wanted a preventative method that was permanent.

Appointment made. Procedure done. Close that chapter. Moving on.

Life was full. We sold our dream house. Moved. Planted a church. Moved again. Lived on next to nothing. Had an assortment of housemates. Wrote a book. Moved again.

Then, a couple years ago, I was speaking at a retreat, and casually sat down with a woman holding a baby. We got to know each other, and she shared that she and her husband had had a vasectomy, but then years later felt that they heard clearly from the Lord to have more children. They obeyed, had a reversal, and now had several more children. She was sitting there, beaming, bouncing her darling little bundle. So clearly happy.

I was horrified.

God can DO that?!

I mean, He had told us to do stuff. We had sold our home. Given money away. Planted a church. But those were gospel-y things. Kingdom things.

Could God tell you what to do with your body???

I’m smiling here because of course He can, but it was certainly disconcerting to me to think that God would interrupt someone’s life in this way. Go on a foreign mission? Sure. Give money away? Of course.

Have more kids? Now wait a minute.

I remember going back to my room a bit unsettled. Her story challenged my assumptions of what God would or would not ask of me. Of course I loved my kids. But this was years later. That season was over. I was 35 for crying out loud. Advanced maternal age. Didn’t that have to do special tests for pregnant people my age?

I pushed the thought out of my mind. Too much time has passed. That ship has sailed.

As the next year went by, I thought of that conversation. I also reflected on how very different my life was now that my kids were older. In short, they’re SO FUN. I remember being exhausted during the baby stage, but this … this was fabulous! I loved seeing who my kids were becoming, and I found myself often saying, “If I had known how awesome this would be, we would have had more…”

But we hadn’t. So we didn’t.

I was also amazed that year to hear that a friend of mine, well into her mid-40s, gave birth to her 8th child, with a 10.5-year span between her next youngest and her newborn. My “I’m too old and too much time has passed!” excuse seemed a little lame.

Fast forward to last September. With these thoughts still on my mind, I received an invitation from a friend, asking if we could meet for lunch. She drove 5 hours from her hometown just to meet me, so I was eager to hear what was on her mind. Knowing nothing of my own inner wrestlings, and to my jaw-dropping amazement, she shared her incredible story of how God had revealed that there was an area of her life that wasn’t fully surrendered to God. The area?

Willingness to have more children. They too had had a vasectomy. Closed that chapter. And now, 7 years later, God had led them to get a reversal and be open to having more children. She too was beaming, so filled with the joy of obedience.

I was speechless. I think I muttered something like, “Oh wow, good for you.”

I walked from Cafe Yumm back out to the car and sat in the silence. Just me and the Spirit. I didn’t sense conviction, per se, or some heavy condemnation, as if I had sinned. I just knew that the right answer is always surrender, and I never wanted to have an area of my life where I refused to let God move. Without much passion, I spoke the words into the air,

“Fine. I surrender. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do.”

A month later, the idea of a reversal still stuck with me. I knew I should at least mention the idea to Jeff, since it kind of involved him. 😉 To my amazement, he was all for it: YES! I’d love to have more kids!

You what??! I was shocked, but happy too. Over the course of the next month the idea grew, specifically in the form of two names. Just as both Dutch & Heidi’s names were clear to me before they were born, I kept having two more names come to mind, one of which was the girl’s name Honor. I loved that name for a girl, and it was as if these were children God had thought of for us that we had yet to hold. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like they were already conceived, as in thought of, by Him, before they were conceived by us. I found myself WANTING to hold them.

The true reversal was of my heart, and God did that completely. Now I found myself, more than anything else, longing to hold these children our Father had for us. 

Now, the decision. We knew that if we were to have more kids, we should probably do more than pray for an immaculate conception.

Obedience usually requires action.

And often, cost. While vasectomies are easily covered by most insurance, reversals are most certainly not. We were quoted $8,000 out of pocket at OHSU. Ouch.

And yet, David said, “I will not offer to the LORD that which costs me nothing.” Sometimes undoing a decision is costly, so we needed to be willing to pay that cost.

But we’re still frugal! We wanted to be wise stewards of God’s money, so we prayed, researched, and while Jeff shared our journey with the church Elders, I was home researching and I stumbled upon a chat thread that mentioned Dr. David Wilson, a Christian urologist in Oklahoma who had a ministry of offering at-cost reversals. He loves the Lord and has performed more than 6,450 reversals at cost, as a generous ministry. Instead of $8,000 it was $1,900. And he loved Jesus.

Yes, please. We bought cheap airfare for a few months out, and kept our secret over the holidays.

Although, it seemed the Spirit was speaking to someone else as well.

Although we had never said anything to our kids, they both began talking about siblings. Dutch wanted a little brother and Heidi a little sister. That seemed surprising, since they’d never brought it up before, in the past 8 years! Then, one December morning, Heidi came downstairs and said,

“Mommy, last night I had a dream that I prayed for you to get pregnant and you did.”

I about choked on my coffee but tried to stay cool. “Hm. That’s interesting,” I responded, and dropped it. But that night she pressed the issue,

Mommy, what about the dream? What do you think about it??”

I smiled. “Why don’t you just pray about it.”

And so she did. I heard from her Sunday school teachers that each week for her prayer request she’d pray for a sibling. I was amazed and silently hoped God would hear her prayers.

And then, in January, without telling anyone what we were doing (not even my parents, who were watching the kids, ha!) we flew to OK and had the procedure done. When we arrived in Tulsa, the car rental place explained that even though there were only 2 of us, they needed to upgrade us to a minivan. Ha! We winked at each other (“It’s a sign!”) and hurried on our way.

It was a great trip. We enjoyed the time away, loved Dr. Wilson who prayed with us, played worship music in the surgery room, and encouraged us along our journey. However, we knew the chances were still slim, since so much time had gone by since the original procedure was done.

We didn’t know if I’d ever get pregnant.

But 3 weeks later I did.

We were stunned. Thrilled. Over the moon excited. It worked! This was happening!

The few friends who knew our journey were celebrating with us. God is faithful! Hallelujah.We told the kids.

“Heidi! God answered your prayers!” She was thrilled. We rejoiced.

And then I miscarried.

Now I was stunned, in a different way. I knew that this was not uncommon, but Dutch & Heidi’s pregnancies were so easy, uneventful, uncomplicated. I’d never had a moment of doubt or worry with them.

And now, just like that, this child was gone.

The swell of momentum and joy and hope and excitement … was over.

Now it was just pain, and recovery, and explaining to the kids and all the shocked people who didn’t understand how on earth we could have even been in a situation to have a miscarriage.

So much explaining.

Not at all how I pictured “the blessing of obedience” would be.

But there was Hope.

As I was going through the miscarriage, I sensed God saying that this child, this tiny barely-formed child, was Honor. I was losing Honor.

But I still knew that God had put on our hearts to have two children we would hold, so I cried out to Him, in tears,

“Then God, please, give me another name. If I’m losing Honor, speak to me, who do you have for me instead?”

As clear as an audible voice, into the darkness:

“Hope.”

Yes. Hope. Of course. I knew Romans 5 — suffering produces … hope. And hope does not disappoint. This suffering would produce Hope and I would hold onto her. Hope would be the child who would remind me always of God’s good work through suffering.

I looked forward to Hope.

The months ahead brought up more stuff. Disappointments do that, they bring things to the surface that should have been dealt with long ago, but the pain or discouragement drags it up, so then you get to deal.  It was a hard few months. I was surprised by how long the recovery took, the ups and downs and hormones and swings.

But I held onto Hope.

And around May 5th, I felt like myself again. The winter was over. Spring! Hallelujah, spring.

A month later, during one of our church prayer meetings, a good friend felt led to pray specifically that I would get pregnant immediately.

I did.

YES!

This is Hope.

Yes! What redemption! God’s promises are sure! We can count on Him! Hope does not disappoint! We waited longer to share the news, but each passing week seemed to solidify the surety of this child. My first appointment was scheduled for 11 weeks, and we couldn’t wait. Morning sickness was in full swing, I gained 6 pounds right off the bat, and was already rounding out quite nicely.

I just couldn’t wait to hear Hope’s heartbeat.

And then.

A couple days before the appointment, the pain began.

No. Fear threatened. No.

I will hold onto Hope. I prayed, prayed, all day, under my breath, in my mind. Through that night. Through the next day. Sunday morning I came to church still in pain, but holding onto Hope. As I walked into worship practice, my sweet friend Christine was singing the worship lyrics,

“Your Name is Hope inside me, Hope inside me…”

Tears welled up as I sang out with all my heart, praying through each twinge of pain, singing for Hope, holding onto Hope.

That afternoon it began in full force.

It was horrific, to me, so I don’t need to share details. I didn’t realize how different a later miscarriage was than the one I’d experienced earlier. I passed out three times from loss of blood. Jeff was a hero, carrying me, holding me, through six hours of horrendous labor-like loss.

I prayed constantly for hours, holding onto Hope, and then, in a crystal clear moment, in the darkness I heard in my heart,

“Our Hope is in heaven.”

Through my blurred eyes I pulled up the verse on my phone–did it really say that? Yes. Colossians 1:5,

… the hope laid up for us in heaven.

Hope was laid up for us in heaven. 

You’ve probably been there before. When the waves of grief just wash over you, like the relentless waves of labor contractions, and the physical pain seems endless and it all feels overwhelming, but there’s peace too.

The physical process continued in all its mercilessness, but Jeff carried me, and somehow heaven seemed so real and suddenly there was so much there.

I was just so grateful. All I could think about was how grateful I was.

To be alive. To have a husband who stayed up all night holding me. For two beautiful children, alive and asleep in the other room. For our home, for this land that is green and lush and gorgeous. For grace, for life, for Jesus and for all He’s done and is doing and for our friends and amazing family, and for HEAVEN.

The hope of heaven. Whatever the worst is this world can do to us … it’s got nothing on heaven.

Heaven wins.

And so my Hope passed from this world to the next, just like that.

Sure, I know my God works miracles here too. Jesus clearly shows us that. He heals bodies. He parts seas. He feeds thousands. He opens eyes.

But that isn’t all He does. Ultimately, our Hope is in heaven.

And I know God’s good will isn’t miscarriage. He’s shown us that too (Exodus 23). But no matter what this busted, messed up, broken world can beat us down with, heaven wins. 

And then, afterwards, the gratitude couldn’t help but grow because God’s people are amazing and who can grumble and gripe when there’s gorgeous flowers filling my countertop and the kindest words poured out on cards and gifts and love that leave me speechless? When friends show up with my favorite treats, and Clear Mind kombucha flows like water 😉 and when I don’t know what on earth to do for dinner the housemate comes up with steaming hot spaghetti and then the husband walks in with brownies dropped off by a friend, and, and, and …

How can I complain of pain when there’s still so much beauty in this world??? 

There is still so much beauty in this world.

Of course there is still grief. And I know two miscarriages is nothing compared to some of your pain. You who are battling cancer or fighting for little one’s lives or grieving loss that’s beyond my comprehension. But I know this:

He wins.

The worst this world can do is death.

Oh death, where is your sting? It has been swallowed up. You know by what?

By victory.

And so, that was this Monday. 🙂 And now I’m unplugging for a bit, laying low with my feet up and I hope you have a great week. Just wanted to share a bit of our journey with you.

It’s not over.

{Thanks for reading.}

How to have wide joy

I paused, considering, then answered:

“Sure, I think going fishing sounds great and I’d love to go with you. We can do that after dinner, once we get our stuff put away.”

The child let out a little sigh,

“No, that’s ok. I don’t want to go fishing later. I only want to go right now.”

I smiled. I know that attitude. It’s the same I often sport, the same one a different child had donned just moments ago when she sighed about the dinner menu. She had hoped for bean burritos, not chicken legs.

Downcast face. *sigh*

I smiled, and told them I had a secret to share with them. A secret that would serve them well all their days if they’d remember it. They leaned in a little, a bit skeptical, but willing to listen.

I held my hands up in front of me, palms closed together like a prayer posture, then separated them about 4 inches apart.

“See this sliver here, between my hands. This narrow space between my palms represents all the things that are exactly as we want them to be. This is getting to fish at precisely the moment we have the urge, this is the meal we most want, this is the game I want to play, the plans I want to keep, the way I want it to go. This represents the circumstances I must have in order to be happy.

When I have high preferences, picky tastes, particular wants, I narrow down this slice of life with which I can be happy. My joy becomes very narrow. Every time I narrow in on what I want, I exclude more and more of life that I’ll be eligible to enjoy. Pretty soon, there isn’t much left. That’s narrow joy.

They were listening. Then I slowly widened my hands, out, out, out, until my arms were stretched wide, as far as I could reach, palms no longer facing inward, but stretched out, like a giant embrace of life. I smiled into their faces.

THIS is what happens when we let go of our high preferences, our picky tastes, our particular wants. This is what happens when we say, “Well, this isn’t my favorite food, but I’m so glad I get to eat. It’ll do just fine.” When we say, “Well, I’d love to this activity now, but I’m grateful I’ll get to do it at all.” When we say, “That’s not the way I’d like it done, but I’m grateful we get to do it together, and it’s better than being alone.”

This is what happens when we decide that no matter what way it happens, we’ll be grateful. We’ll make do. This makes all of life eligible as a source of joy. This means circumstances can vary widely without depleting our joy. This is WIDE JOY.

They understood. And so did I. And we munched our meal with gladness, and fished ’til past bedtime, and we will continue to pursue wide joy with all our hearts.

{Thanks for reading.}

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”

Philippians 4:12

How to recover your lost love of learning

And then I tore the math workbook into pieces while my stricken son watched, and I knew something had to change.

I closed my eyes. What’s gone wrong here?? 

I’m ashamed to even share it here, but I’m guessing if any of you mamas is schooling a special needs kid, you have had a day when you JUST. CAN’T. TAKE. another school-lesson sidelined by endless interruptions and dropped pencils and blank stares and suddenly forgetting everything taught up to this point.

Chances are this day happens to fall when you’re most hormonal and have approximately 87 other things to do before noon. Chances are you woke up with a headache, gained three more mysterious pounds, are agitated about another issue altogether, and this all creates the perfect storm for that mommy-fail moment you wish you could forget.

This was mine. It was a little math workbook–something I’d picked up for him “for fun.” (Oh the irony!)

We were so not having fun.

Thankfully, my son and I snuggled and prayed, I apologized and he forgave, I recycled the shredded pages, and we talked about how things had gotten off track.

Reflecting, I could see how the tension had mounted for weeks — we’d had a hard few months and as the end of the year approached I became the drill sergeant, pushing to complete the pages, eager to cross the whole year off and be done.

I was so deeply saddened by this. I just kept thinking, “This is not me! This is not the home education I’ve longed for and aspired to and envisioned for my kids. What’s happened?”

I took a few weeks to contemplate this. I prayed, talked to close confidants, read articles here, and processed my feelings with my husband Jeff. Two key things rose to the surface: {Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool. Thanks!}

The power of declarations

I was at a loss. It felt like things were getting worse and no amount of good parenting seemed to make a difference. He was more and more anxious, he was overreacting more, acting more autistic, and just overall unhappy. I tried everything I knew, but kept feeling like I couldn’t reach him. I couldn’t reach down deep into his heart, into the place I knew was broken. It wasn’t just about behavior — he wasn’t behaving that badly, but something was off and I didn’t know what to do.

So I tried declarations.

Now, before you flag me as crazy, hear me out.

A friend handed me Raising Burning Hearts. I had never read a charismatic parenting book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m only a few chapters in, but one thing that struck me was: The power of declarations.

At first I was skeptical — declarations? I pictured my kids confused faces as I stood over them with my hands on their foreheads, shouting out, “You are the head and not the tail!” It didn’t seem like that would probably be a good idea.

But I was still intrigued — the author shares about the power of our words, life and death are in the power of the tongue, and I knew that I had been struggling with harnessing my words, with speaking words of life. But then on the other hand, I always struggle with this area, because Dutch doesn’t respond well to verbal praise–that is not his love language and he gets embarrassed easily. Even as a toddler, if I praised him verbally for potty training success, he’d get angry and run away. So I have to be very careful with my verbal praise, and wasn’t sure how declarations would fit into that.

So I started silently, without him around. As I was out on my prayer walk, I began just proclaiming/praying over Dutch as many scriptures as I could think of. It was a mixture of saying, believing, proclaiming, and praying. I wasn’t so much petitioning as I was laying hold of promises that are already said to be true in the Scriptures. It was like waving a banner of truth over the whole situation.

I was amazed by how encouraged I was by the time I was done. Instead of my usual, “God please fix my sad situation somehow” it felt like aggressively believing, trusting, and calling into existence the spiritual realities that God says are true. It really felt like waving a banner of truth. I thought, “Man, I need to pray like that more often!”

But then I was really encouraged by that day. It was so much better. No tears and frustration, no anxiety over baseball, so much better. So that night at bedtime I quietly slipped a little scripture-declaration into my usual bedtime prayers over him. Each day I continued declaring scripture over him, my own heart and mind, over stressful situations as they arose, a little more each day. I found myself eagerly reading the scriptures, looking for more promises to lay hold of.  It felt like a way to battle, like each declaration of truth and scripture was a death-blow to the enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

And each day, he continued to thrive more. 

Now please understand: this isn’t a gimmick. I don’t mean: Declare your way to a new kid by Friday! But we are wise to proclaim the goodness of God, His truth, His Word, over our lives, and especially the lives of our children regularly.

Now the author had a specific, short declaration blessing she said over each of her 6 children every single morning before school. I don’t have an exact scripted version but I like the idea. So far, my declarations just go something like this …

Dutch, you are loved by God and me. You are a son, born again and adopted into the family of God. You are made in His image, you reflect His glory, you bear the fruit of His Spirit. He will complete the good work He began in you, He will sustain you to the very end and keep you blameless until the day of Christ. You are set apart for righteousness. He works all things for your good and His glory, and no good thing does He withhold as you walk uprightly. You were made for good works, prepared in advance for you to walk in. You are full of goodness, faith, humility, and love. You are patient and kind, you are generous and faithful. You can do all things through Him who strengthens you and nothing is impossible for your God. You have all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus. You are chosen to declare His excellencies and display His goodness and glory. You work with all your might, as unto the Lord, and surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. You are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus Christ our Lord, who took our sin and sickness, who bore them away, forever, on the cross. You have spiritual gifts and a unique calling to fulfill as part of God’s glorious plan, for the redemption of all things and the coming of His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. You are loved with an everlasting love, and nothing can separate you from the love of God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen! 

All of this is some form of scripture, and there are a LOT of scriptures to pick from, so you could create your own based on what biblical truths you most need to take hold of. Again, not saying this is some magic gimmick, but we definitely turned a corner last week and I’m convinced this played a part.

The more we raise His Word as a banner over our lives, the better. So let’s proclaim His excellencies over every circumstance, and see what difference it might make.

{You are loved by God! Have a great week. Thanks for reading.} 

His pre-planned mercies make no mistake.

I heard the scream from downstairs:

“MOM! Dutch put an ANT on my cookie!”

And that was when I lost my mind. 

It had been a day. No, a week. No, a few weeks. And after lots of talks and tears and training and all that good stuff, we’d had a great day, the to-do’s were checked off, the day was coming to a close, bedtime was on the horizon, and I had zipped upstairs to grab laundry while they finished their dessert.

And then an ant. On the cookie. And when interrogated, the boy’s response is,

“What? It’s good source of protein.”

And with steam coming out of my ears I ranted and raved and did all the wrong things, and put the boy to work scrubbing floors and washing windows and folding laundry. Eventually, he repented, I softened, and the evening was redeemed, of course, but that night I couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming burden of so many things weighing on my mind. His recent inner struggles (being 10.5 and seeing how big and strong the other boys are becoming, while he stays small and gangly), plus the pressure of school’s end and feeling the crunch to finish, then my mental laundry list of all my loss-of-patience failures and wrong-responses–I tucked them in, then came upstairs and sunk to my knees beside the bed:

Help me, God. 

I poured it out:

“Sometimes I feel like I’m ruining them. Some days I think I do more harm than good. Certainly someone else would take the extraordinary raw material of Dutch and make something so much better than what I’m doing. I don’t feel like I’m the right mom for him. But I want to be. Please help me.”

And so I fell asleep.

The next morning I shuffled downstairs, groggy-eyed, for coffee. Jeff had come home late the night before, and had brought in the mail with him, and stacked it on the counter.

On the top of the pile was a hand-written card, to me.

I tore open the top, pulled out the card, and out slipped two stickers — two bright red car-window decals:

IMG_9682

“DUTCH MOM.”

Tears.

You are the mom for Dutch. 

This faraway friend, the one I only see once a year at most, something made her (days before!), snag those stickers and write that long letter of encouragement for my heart, even though she had no idea how I felt, what was going on.

You are the mom for Dutch.

My mom had said it, before he was born. At my baby shower. She had said,

“Always remember that God chose you to be Dutch’s mom. No one else. So He will personally equip you to be the mom that Dutch needs. Never doubt that.”

And of course I have, because we do, and we all need that reminder that this is not a mistake.

This spot you’re in: No accident

This challenge you face: No coincidence.

This life you live: No mistake. 

Sure, we make mistakes, heavens yes! But you are not a mistake, and this situation you’re in, it’s not a coincidence.

He gently whispers,

“I haven’t cast the wrong girl for the role, you just need a bit more practice, Love.”

So, Despair–where is your power? Hopelessness–where is your sting? I stand in the sovereignty of God — the God who led a girl to mail stickers before I even needed them. The God who pre-plans His mercies so they arrive on our doorstep–on our countertop–right on time.

New mercies delivered up when we need them most.

So, my friend: Take courage. His pre-planned mercies will meet us in our time of need, and you’re not mis-cast in this role you’re in. Make no mistake about that.

{Praying for you this week! Thanks for reading.}

 

Teaching kids to take initiative

When he showed up with our dinner, I could barely believe my eyes — this was a kid! What kind of kid does this??

Let me explain. My husband frequents a local coffee shop, and gets to know the baristas. He had often chatted with one in particular, a guy named Christian. Turns out one day Jeff had shared with him about a difficult season we were in. In response, (after asking Jeff’s permission), Christian took the initiative to coordinate—and personally deliver—dinners out to our house the following week.

Now, I was already floored that someone I had never met was willing to bring us meals (we live a long way out of town).

I was further floored that this person was a guy (sorry, but usually it’s the moms who think of things like meal-delivery!).

But I was completely floored when this guy showed up and looked barely old enough to drive.

He was 21. With a wide, bright smile, he was respectful and kind, talking at length with our kids, admiring our home, and hand-delivering a nutritious meal made by his mom. He was clearly a go-getter, working part-time while also going to school and pursuing his passion in a creative career while also serving in his church.

I soon discovered he was one of 7 brothers … all homeschooled.

Ah. As soon as he left, I looked at Jeff and said, That’s why we homeschool. I want to raise kids like that.

It’s remarkable to see young people who take initiative. That is, they don’t just follow the rules, do the least amount of work possible, wait for someone to offer them options, or live self-absorbed. They are proactive, looking for ways to grow, learn, excel, serve. They take responsibility.

They’re leaders. That’s what I want for my own kids, and probably you do too.

As parents, one of the critical transitions to help our kids make is from being merely responders (obeying our commands), to initiators (proactively seeking to do good). This had already been on my radar all year, and the interaction with Christian encouraged my efforts all the more.

So, here are 4 suggestions for teaching our kids to take initiative: {Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool…thanks!}

To do today: Win their hearts

This Mama has had a crazy busy few months, and Friday was my last speaking event for the season and the sun is out and I am READY to get low with my littles and catch bugs and dig holes and play games and I was reminded again of this — playing with our kids, winning their hearts, is of eternal importance. Hope this encourages you this week: What you do matters.

~

I plunge my hands into the muddy water, winning his heart in this imaginary world of war.

“I just destroyed your aircraft carrier, Dutch. You’ll need a way better design next time.”

He looks up at me delighted,  eyes dancing, sun sparkling in his blond hair. Soon, Heidi skips across the yard.

“Would you like to come to a party at my house?”

Her face is light, eyes full of anticipation. For a moment I marvel at her eager vulnerability. It is one thing to invite someone to your house for a party. That’s a risk.  It is quite another to invite someone to an imaginary party.

Every time a child invites you into her imagination, she risks.

I see it most clearly in Dutch. We had settled down into Heidi’s playhouse, seated in miniature chairs sipping water-tea from plastic cups. Dutch grew quiet for a moment then looked me in the eye.

“I got a new job, down in LA.”

He says the short statement and waits for a response.  It’s such a simple, mundane interaction–something most moms do every day. You play pretend, that’s what you do. But the enormity of it washes over me, as he waits for my response.

Will I take him seriously and play?  Will I accept this invitation into his innermost world? In just one sentence a child may open up her heart and world to us.  How do we respond?

“Oh? Down in LA? What are you doing there?”

A quick flash of joy comes across his face–and he continues in his deepest most serious voice. It’s a big job, overseeing all those aircraft carriers. Only two days off a year–Christmas and Easter. The pay is good though–$200/month.

We talk, like this, most of the afternoon. Heidi explains how her friend “lost her medical” and had to have her legs amputated. Then she had to go to DHS. (Having had Julie in our life informs their imagination in humorous ways sometimes.) Later, Dutch is a WWII veteran. He tells me detailed stories of his heroic escapades, explains the intricacies of the war when I dig for more information.

And I have to chuckle to myself, Too bad we didn’t do school today.  I could almost see their little minds blossoming, opening, like little buds of creativity, connecting and exploring and risking and learning. And what an honor–a privilege–to be allowed into their innermost world of imagination.

Before Dutch was born, my sister-in-law threw me a baby shower. Each woman wrote one piece of advice on a little card. My pastor’s wife, a wise woman I’ve known 30 years, wrote:

Win your child’s heart.”

She explained,

Win his heart, so he will never want to disappoint you. Love is a better motivator than guilt. A desire to please you will carry him through more temptation and struggle than all the rules and right answers in the world. Win his heart early on.”

There are many ways to do this. I haven’t mastered them. But entering our children’s imaginary worlds–with enthusiasm–is one of the most powerful ways to pursue their hearts when they are young.

Few invitations are more sacred than the invitation to enter the imaginary world of a little soul. 

When we enter in, we win

Go play. 

{Have a wonderful week. Thanks for reading.} 

*Originally posted April 2014.

 

Homeschool Nature Days {And the story of the Ark}

“Now I don’t have to die to go to heaven,” my son grinned. “It’s right here.”

We were walking along the trails zig-zagging through the wild countryside of the property we would soon call home. Towering trees, low-hanging limbs laden with moss, a pond and trickling creek, old-growth stumps — it was all so lush and green and vast — as far as the eye could see.

But even as spectacular as the scenery was, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Seeing his wonder–rapture really–as he explored and discovered, head tilted back, gazing straight up, pointing here and there, “Mom, red-tailed hawks!”

I couldn’t believe this was where, Lord willing, our kids would grow up. … {Read the rest over at here Simple Homeschool! And if you’d like to read the story of this piece of property … it’s here:

The Ark pt. 1

The Ark pt. 2

The Ark pt. 3

The Ark pt. 4

Thanks for reading!

My day-in-the-life …

Sometime around 7 they shuffle out, sleepy-eyed, their pajama-pants falling mid-shin, reminding me how fast they’re growing up. But we still snuggle.

They find me in my favorite chair, the big one with room for a little beside me and another on my lap. I slide my Bible to the side, set my coffee down, and gather them up, pushing back the blanket so they can crawl beneath. I kiss their cheeks, right next to their mouths so I can breathe in their morning breath. I’m weird like that, I love their smells.

Thus begins our day. …. Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool! Thanks!

Low enough to see inside …

This lesson from last year came back to me in a fresh, profound, unexpected way. Maybe I’ll get to share more details later, but for now, this: …

I stood tall at the door, arms folded, that familiar wave of overwhelm sweeping my mind into hopeless thoughts. Sure, it was just a bedroom. Kids have messy rooms, I get it. But this. This particular kid’s quirkiness translates into chaos on another level altogether.

The intense emotional attachment to objects translates into keeping everything–wrappers, scraps of paper, tags off clothes. The passion for creating inventions out of boxes translates into cardboard contraptions cluttering every corner, wires attached, duct-tape holding them together. A fascination with science translates to a half-dozen bottles, various experiments, growing salt crystals and green things and jars teetering on the edge of the table. The voracious appetite for reading translates to towers of encyclopedias, right at arm’s reach beside the bed, covers torn with frequent use, dog-eared pages. The love of Legos translates to countless “creations” that cannot be stowed in bins, must be left out on every available surface. The typewriter, his new love where clicks out stories, means strewn papers with half-written plots. The fascination with flags and signs (?!) translates to another dozen or so papers taped to sticks, papers taped on the wall, door, papers taped everywhere.

Every time I address it, I can feel my blood pressure rising, anticipating the battle: he gets defensive, upset, I get harder, firmer, harsher.

Hence, the overwhelm. Maybe, you’d say, it doesn’t matter. Who cares if he has a messy room? But our responsibility as parents is to prepare our children for life. This doesn’t just fix itself. With all my heart I want to give him the tools to thrive, and that includes an orderly space. The ability to tidy. Not perfect. Not spotless. I don’t mind boxes or Legos or weird taped papers on the wall. But this was out of control.

So I stand at the door. Point. Bark. I bend to move a box, but fail to recognize its function, breaking off some antennae-ish thing and bringing him to tears.

*sigh*

Those weird irrational thoughts begin formulating in my mind, those ones we moms have in desperate moments. I could take everything away and make him earn it all back one item at a time. I could make him sleep in the hallway, on the floor. He could lose access to his room. Would that be severe enough?

It’s dinnertime and we all need a break, so we head downstairs. Earlier, he had said this was the best day ever. We’d been outside all day in the cold sunshine, we’d adventured and explored and played baseball with our housemates. It was one of those glorious childhood days.

But now he hung his head, discouraged, eyes red with tears. I picked him up into my arms,

“Ok, babe, we had the best day until 4:30. Then we had a struggle. Let’s return to joy, ok? We’ll figure out your room. Don’t worry. I love you.”

He managed a smile and nestled his face into my neck.

We ate dinner and cleaned up.

“What should we do for family night?” I asked.

Dutch, as if suddenly remembering something, lit up:

“Oh mommy! I haven’t gotten to show you Hobbes’s room! Can you come see?!”

Hobbes (and Max) are his best friends, two well-worn stuffed animals who never leave his side.  I can’t turn down that light in his eyes, so I let him take my hand and lead me up the creaky stairs.

We come to his room and before the birds-eye view can overwhelm me, I lower down, with him onto the floor. I look past the scraps of paper, to where he’s curled up next to an upside down detergent box. It’s white with A-L-L spelled out bright, a low, wide opening in the front.

“Oh, neat, hon!” I smile.

“No mommy, look inside.”

I have to lie down all the way to be low enough to see.

But I do.

I peer inside. Oh!

Oh, he’s right! There is unbelievable detail, a place for Hobbes and Max to hang their stockings (!), a large piece of artwork on the wall, (“It’s a real Van Gogh, Mommy!”), a picturesque window, even a cut-out piece of flannel on the floor (“It’s carpet!”). It was a stuffed animals’ dream-home, to be sure.

He had poured his heart, his time, into creating a special room for his favorite friends.

We were both lying there on the ground, his face was right next to mind, peering inside. I turned and kissed his cool cheek, looking into his lit-up eyes.

Of course. Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I have to get low enough to see inside.

From the top, it’s trash. All I can see is cardboard-box chaos. I see garbage, mess.

I look down and see a lack of care.

Could it be that when he looks up at me he sees the same?

Not saying that solves everything, but getting on the floor is empathy-in-action and at least it’s good place to begin.

When we look inside cardboard boxes we see inside hearts.

{Praying we get low enough to see inside. Thank you for reading. }