18 years, a letter to Fred

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You might be wondering about this jar of dirt. Seems a weird gift right? Well I’ve been doing a lot of praying about us and our relationship and the years we’ve tucked under our belts together. I wanted to say just the right things and not a lot of drivel and sap and mushiness. I wanted to say something profound. For days I have struggled and come up with nothing different or new to say and I was getting incredibly frustrated. I literally yelled out in the car by myself, “Why am I such a mess?” That’s when God spoke into my heart through a series of images and thoughts.

I am a mess. I big, fat dirty mess. I am dirt. We as humans were created from dust and to dust we’ll return. God started showing me what that means because it sounds and looks pretty lousy just to be dirt. I have this beautiful garden that you’ve helped me build. At various stages we have amended the soil and tried to grow things. Sometimes things have grown. That first year everything got choked out by weeds because we just didn’t know what we were doing. There has been a lot of sweat and tears trying to make things grow out of that crazy patch.

I’m a lot like that patch of dirt. In the beginning of our marriage I didn’t know a whole lot and I leaned a whole lot on my own knowledge which as I just said, I didn’t have. SO. SO. Stupid. I was hard and packed tight and full of rocks and roots and any number of things that had to be tilled up and rooted out. Little by little things started changing me. There was so much crap piled onto my soil so to speak. Amazingly, instead of wrecking me, it helped make the ground better for growing things. Just like real garden soil when you throw junk on it and it composts and decomposes it makes great ground for growing things. How can crap make anything turn out beautiful?! So bizzarre this whole process. But during those times when it was decomposing and nothing was growing but weeds, it was pretty desolate. Much like me. There have been times in our journey that it couldn’t have been easy to be with me. Full of rocks and junk and not enough nutrients to produce much of anything.

The truth is, when you take up to be a gardener, you’re gonna become filthy and broken and sweaty while the ground is being broken and amended. So dealing with me, growing with me, you got my filth all over you too. I’m sorry for those times that my sin took it’s toll on you and you had to slog through the painful process of watching me be broken. And the worst part is, I can’t promise you it’s gonna get better. All I’m ever gonna be is dirt and all your dealings with me means that dirt is going to get alllllllllllllllllllll over you too.

As much as that all sounds depressing, God wasn’t finished walking me through the metaphor here. When the ground is finally broken and the soil is turned and sifted and all the right crap is added, then it becomes rich and full of nutrients, and beautiful things grow out of it. I think, if I’m being honest, I have to admit to growing some beautiful things. 5 amazing kids for a start. Some pretty incredible friendships. Hopefully stronger shoots of things resembling the fruits of the spirit. And for sure a strong marriage with good secure deep healthy roots.

If I could go back to our beginning and tell me anything about what’s ahead and how to navigate it better, pitfalls to miss, ways to love you better, ways to show you grace, to somehow save us from the hard spots, I”m not really sure I would. There are certainly things we’d all change about our lives but truthfully, if I changed them, would they make me less empathetic to pain and less able to practice mercy and humility and grace? The unfortunate answer there is probably.

Finally you’re scavenger hunt has ended and here we are at the altar just like our covenant began. We committed to all the betters and worses, and sicknesses and healths, and riches and poorness. We have dug through them all and I’m sure there are many more ahead. 18 years is such a long time. I have loved you for more than half of my life and even though the years that lie ahead aren’t promised to us, I am confident that what we have built together will continue to endure. I am so proud of the goodness that grows out of us. Our ground has become dark and rich and life giving. Thank you for being willing to be elbows deep in my filth and to do the hard work that comes with marriage. It is an honor and a privilege to be by your side as your helper and encourager. I so hope you’ve enjoyed your day and that I’ve been able to fill you up as full as I can with all the love that flows out of my heart. It is a well that never runs dry.

Kneading Hands, Needing hands

I stand at the sink up to my elbows in steaming water and bubbles, washing away the crumbs and crusts of breakfasts.  He circles his arms around my burgeoning belly, and damp shirt from the morning tasks. A gentle hand cradling two lives.  I still can hardly believe the little kicks and flutters wrestling around my womb.  The fifth time.  Fifth mind you, and this is still a wonder.  A wonder that love overflows out of us becoming tiny feet and hands, dirty messes, shrieking I love you’s, college tuitions, another lifetime of responsibilities.

Sometimes the wonder is just darn overwhelming.  I stand at the counter kneading bread with needing hands pawing at my jeans, needing bellies grumbling to be fed, needing minds begging to be enlightened, needing hearts aching to be filled up with love, needing chores piling by the masses never fully completed.  I wonder how on earth it will ever all get done.

How will each of these five look back over their lives and remember what I did and didn’t do.  They may remember meals, but never the scrubbing of pots and righting of kitchens, sweepings of crumbs.  They may remember the voice that read to them and never the stories.  They will more likely remember screams and rants of frustration and wild eyed fury more than tender patience and measured self control.  I fear this most.

This new year I cling to Romans 12.  I wake and read and absorb the words and when I lay down I read them again.  Desperate to hide these scriptures in my heart.  I am a member of this body as they are members that once were of mine.  We all have parts and roles and gifts. I must remember that we are not all measured or made the same.  Love is patient and kind, slow to wrath.  I can’t do this.  I am swift to irritation and anger riding a tide of hormonal wackness that makes me feel crazy and insane and I see the wounds in their eyes.  I am not enough.  But I’m not supposed to be right?  Isn’t this the point?  We aren’t enough.  That’s why we celebrate the birth of the baby who came to be enough.  To be more than enough.  I can lean into His grace and His mercy the way that I lean into Fred when I fear I am failing.  We aren’t enough kiddos.  But with all that I am, I pray that my every day in some way, I pointed you to the One who is.  Jesus is enough.

I finish the washing.  Stack the clean dishes.  My knuckles are dry and raw from the winter season.  I know I’ll be right back in this spot at least twice more today.  The cleaning up is an ongoing process.  Fred whispers a good bye, kisses me in that one spot behind my right ear that makes me swoon like the first time all over again and we all head into our days, whatever they may be bring.  And it is enough.

Goliath

I was driving home the other day without all the monkeys in the car and a rare opportunity to just listen to the radio all by myself and really focus on what was filling my ears.  A Casting Crowns song that I’ve heard for years came on and grabbed my attention afresh with these lines:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

I have been desperately searching and praying and trying to put into words the magnitude of what it means to fight for the lives of the women in crisis who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.  There in my car on the radio it hit me.  Abortion is the Goliath of our time and it is so strong and so powerful that it barely needs any advocates to march in to fight for it.  For the life of me I cannot imagine how this atrocity has become such a force to be reckoned with that few in the Christian community will put on their armor to stand against it and fight with whatever means they have.  We quake in our boots before the taunting and jeering of those who demean life to a smattering of cells when we know the truth.  We who have been set free, we who have been saved, who are being saved, who understand the depth and the breadth of life, we know the cost, and we know the value of human life.  Shame on us.

Our own savior, Jesus Christ, was an unplanned pregnancy.  It would be no stretch to say that His mother faced a crisis.  And we know how Joseph stepped in, to be an earthly father to the Father of us all.  But today we still shame young women who evidence the sin of sex outside of  marriage in the swelling of their wombs.  We scorn women in poverty of little means to support their children.  We shun unbelievers, we judge, we criticize and we condemn.  We show no love.  We show no grace.  We give no mercy.  How could they not choose to hide their shame by choosing abortion?  How could a daughter of a pastor refuse an abortion when he’s driven her to the clinic so she will not embarrass him before his congregation?  How can a single mother of five, barely able to sustain and support the children she has, not buckle under the weight of concern for how on earth she will provide for a sixth?  How can a girl of fifteen stand against the boyfriend driving her to the clinic to rid himself of the obligations to be a man and a father when he is too immature to even hold a job?  How can the mom crippled by the weight of her choice to abort years ago ever begin to heal in her Bible study or mom’s support group when we spit vile, ugly words about her sin while we wax fat on gluttony, and gossip, and she keeps silent to escape our condemnation.  We have marched our daughters, our wives, our women into the outstretched hands of this Goliath without a hestiation or a glance back.

But then, then there are David’s like the CPC standing before the giant, without armor, full target of the mockery and the taunts.  Often they are standing alone with a sling and a stone.  For once, I’d like to see them land a blow that will bring down the front man.  For once, I’d like to see us rally around David so he is not in the fight alone.  For once I’d like to see the Christ followers lay aside their judgements and criticisms and put on the armor and go out and fight to stand with these women and carry them through the greatest challenge of their lives.  To be encouragers, to be cheerleaders, to be supporters, to be a healing balm to the ache in the lives of mother’s facing desperation.  And that’s what the Keim Centers in Tidewater do.  Yes, they fight for the lives of the children but they fight equally as hard for their mother’s to be able to support and care for their babies.  They do it all on the funds that God provides without a dime of assistance from our government or from grants.  Sometimes the stone we have to sling at the enemy is five dollars out of our pocket to help those on the front line.  Sometimes it’s more.  Right now, David is at the front lines facing down Goliath and you have the opportunity to get into the fight instead of quailing like the Israelites did.  But will you?

Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

Don’t regret a missed opportunity.  Get in the fight however God has made you able to do so

Garbage

I was one of those girls.  One of those girls tossed like so much trash and waste in the corner.  I was 16 working at Chik Fil A and he was a clerk at a watch kiosk.  I was naive, in love with the idea of love.  The kind of love that movies and storybooks sold me.  And I’d always been boy crazy.    I was so desperate to have a boyfriend all my own.  Life at home was a mixed up mess and to be honest my heart was just thirsty for attention.

I”m not sure what prompted the bet.  Maybe I really was just too much of a goody goody then.  Maybe I had a personality that made others want to take me down a peg for my self righteousness.  But there was a bet he made with the other guys who worked in the mall that he could “take me”.  I don’t really know the details other than that.  I don’t know if money changed hands or if there was a timeline for it all to be done in.  I just know that I was a pawn in a game and I had no idea about any of it.

I can tell you in hindsight what could have prevented it .  The part that could have brought it all down to crashing end.  I can tell you that when your daughter is crying in her room and shares with you the things that her boyfriend is pressuring her to do, that you should call an end to the relationship as a parent.  I can tell you that leaving that couple unsupervised after that in any capacity is throwing the sheep to the wolf.  When your daughter asks you what part of touching is okay at that phase of a relationship, your answer should be none.  None of it’s okay.  And the reason it’s not okay is that when you define a physical relationship by what’s sin and what isn’t then you are splitting hairs and sending your child down a path that will lead to corruption.

Before all of that had ever transpired there was an even surer path to prevention.  If my parents had met him first, or spent any length of time with him. If they had asked one vital question, I may have been spared an eternity of shame.  Because if they’d asked him just one time, do you love Jesus, he’d have walked out and never looked back.  I will tell you that if you value your daughter and her innocence and the treasure she is, you will settle for no less than a boy, a man who loves Jesus first before he could ever attempt to love your child.

We never talked about dating.  We never talked about what love truly looks like.  We never talked about love or lust or sex and how to distinguish the differnce between them.  We never discussed them in a way that I could have used as a weapon to preserve myself then or even further down the road.  And when he won his bet, cast me aside in his victory, I was the garbage left.  The refuse who could look up no farther than the pit I was in.  I drowned in that pit for too long and too many more links like him were added on to the chain of shame I was bound up with. From that point, I sought and pursued sin.  Practically every woman the church would scorn for slovenly behavior, that had become me. The story in the Bible about the woman at the well, that was me.  I was just like her.

That’s how Fred found me, as a used up filthy piece of trash.  Most of you know the story, but here’s the kicker.  I am redeemed.  I am redeemed from a life of worthlessness.  I am redeemed from a lie.  I am redeemed from shame.  Shame I didn’t ask for, and also shame I pursued and heaped upon myself.  But why am I telling you all this?

The thing is, there are girls around you everywhere who are walking a similar road.  They are walking it alone.  They are crying in secret with no one to trust or confide in.  You warn your sons and your daughters from associating with their likes.  For the most part, with very good reason.  But how on earth will they ever know they can be changed or that they are so precious and so dear?  How will they know if we are forever turning away from them and pushing them out?

I know the reasons most people support crisis pregnancy centers.  I know the fight for life is true and real and we must be vigilant.  But I fight, I plead, and I pray, not just for the lives of the unborn to be saved, but for the lives of their mothers and their fathers to be rescued.  They are so broken, so bruised, worn fragile.  They need to see the Christian community being the hands and feet that diverted off the path, that sent everyone else away so they could be alone to find them at the well.  They need to hear the words of life poured into their parched souls.  They need to know they are not their past and that they have the hope of a future.  This is why I fight.  This is why I volunteer.  This why I will Walk for Life this year.  We are not garbage.  We are redeemed.

Walk for Life

Valentines Poo Pooers

Recently the subject came up about celebrating Valentines Day.  Prepare yourself people, I’m pulling out my little soap box, but only to explain our position on the holiday a bit.

Most of you know we celebrate darn near every holiday under the sun.  There are two exceptions.  Valentine’s Day and St. Patricks Day.  The short answer to St. Pat’s is that it is the anniversary of my father’s death and frankly even after 4 years, nothing about it feels celebratory so we take a pass.  But Valentine’s?  Yeah, I know you’re flabbergasted.  After all I think I”m about the mushiest, lovey dovey, make you wanna stick a needle in your eye from the PDA’s, love struck wife around so why on earth would I shun the celebrating of a holiday that is designed just for that??  Welllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll here’s why.  {{{screechy soap box being pulled out.  You’ve been warned}}}

I feel like, like many other holidays, that the focus is on the material things.  And worse than that, I think it’s a holiday designed to make men feel like failures at being romantics.  The thing is, whatever our mate does to show us their affection for us, if it doesn’t measure up to hollywood standards of doves being released and extravagant proclomations and expensive, shiny gifts, then we’re dissapointed.  We’re selfish.  We hold men up to a standard that is designed to let us down, and to destroy their confidence.  We lose sight of the fact that our husbands work hard at their jobs, maintain our homes and cars, hold our hands, kiss our foreheads, sit up nights with fevered children, mow our lawns, call to say hi, and a host of other little ways that show their great affection for us.  We miss it entirely.  We demand more.

We demand a model the world has told us is appropriate instead of focusing on the realistic people God created our men to be.  They aren’t perfect.  They get mad, they say dumb things, they leave their dirty towels on the floor, their socks in front of the hamper, dishes in the sink, trip over toys without picking them up and on and on and on.  But can we honestly say we aren’t guilty of being careless ourselves?  Can we say that we treat them perfectly when we’ve been up all night with a colicky baby, haven’t found time to patch their shorts in 6 months (sorry honey!), grumble good mornings, refuse affection, hold grumpy grudges and on and on and on?  We’re all a mess, a big, fat, baggy sweats wearing, caffeine deprived, fallible, foot in mouth, selfish mess.  We give no grace, extend no mercy, forgive nothing. But we demand once a year on a holiday that we be loved in spite of our selfishness and reserve the right to disdain whatever may be offered if it isn’t on par with what we desired.

Instead of trying to pull our act together one day out of the year, Fred and I make a concerted effort to be aware of the way we each share affection.  To appreciate the small things we do for each other that go without saying. To really see the things that occur without much of a thought to why other than that it needs to be done.  We say I love you’s deliberately with a bold look into the eyes of each other.  We hug with affection intentionally.  We extend grace and mercy and we forgive each other.  We encourage and build each other up on purpose.  I haven’t always been this way and there are far more days I’m awful at it than I want to admit but Fred’s a patient teacher and I learn more and more every day.   We aren’t perfect, but we have a Savior who is and we vowed from the beginning that He would be our center and we’d strive to achieve the kind of love He extends to us individually and share it with each other.  So that’s why we don’t focus much on this one day.  It’s one day I don’t want him to feel guilty if we don’t have the money for gifts, or the time to go out, or a sick kid barfing on our plans.  I want him to know  every day, he is a gift to me and I could ask for no more than this life with him.

Giving in real ways

Facebook is abuzz with the talk of many things. Between the posts on election polls and wins and small talk of regular doings and my accidental Noah birthday photo bombing there are these posts of beautiful thankfulness. I know that they are inspired by the holiday season upon us but that steals nothing from the beauty of a life surrendered to gratefulness. To be honest, I have seen more and more posts sneaking in regarding an appreciation for homes and family and life.

But while I enjoy seeing the joy that you share, while I admire the parents and children and friends that you are becoming, there are other posts sandwiched in that I see far fewer of. Posts about missions trips and pictures that leave my brain seared with devastation, poverty, hopelessness, hunger, and filth. I am haunted perpetually by the blogs I read from missionaries truly in the field up to their elbows, digging and softening the ground as it were to lay down the seeds to bring healing and hope and joy and love. Chances are, you’re reading some of the same blogs. Chances are you’ve been on missions trips this year and have seen it with your own eyes. Chances are that you’re heart has been remarkably changed by it. Chances are you wonder how to move forward, here in America. I know that I do and I have only seen pictures and read words.

Last year our family made a commitment to do more. Instead of regular gifts, in our family members honors we chose to give water, animals, Bibles, mosquito nets, and vaccines. We bought gifts made by women in villages trying to help support their families. We donated socks, undershirts, and underwear to our local homeless shelters. We let our children choose the gifts, we took them with us to deliver meals and drop off donations. Last Christmas we changed the way we give forever.

Maybe you’re looking for more ways to give meaningfully. Maybe you don’t know what to buy for the people you know who have everything. Maybe this Christmas you’re looking for a fuller heart than a fuller tree.  If so, you landed in a good place.  These are the links to sites we found last year.  We are excited to be continuing on our new tradition this year!   We can give gifts that not only honor Christ, but share the gift of His life with others who are desperate for the love of their Savior.  I hope you are inspired to join us.

Light Gives Heat

The Salvation Army

World Vision\’s catalog

Compassion Internationals catalog

p.s. (stay tuned for our upcoming online kettle campaign for the Salvation Army!!!!  Every little bit helps.  And really, who doesn’t have five bucks these days???)

A community of sinners

It is no secret that I am not an introvert. My life is written in daily snippets of black and white on a fb wall for all the world to see. The good, the bad, the lonely, the weary, the ugly, the jealous, the scornful, the broken. I don’t know when I learned it. How to be transparent, to be open, to let the whole world glimpse the random ridiculousness of who God created me to be. It’s obnoxious on my worst days. The drivel I spill all over the internet. I know it. I know I’m addicted to the comments and the likes. It’s a weird way of feeling like belonging. Belonging in a box.

Let’s face it. Fb caught fire because we could create a community that flattered our egos and at the tap of an unlike we dismiss naysayers and negatories. We build a false perspective trying desperately to sell the world on our likeableness and we reject what it truly means to commune with our flesh and blood brothers and sisters. We are afraid.

Because sometimes the community of the Body, bruise and wound us and we run lest we be marked all over again. But He calls us, over and over, to grace, to joy, to commune. And we have to let the barriers down, the walls that separate us, the loneliness comfortable as an old sweater, to begin it again. To forgive when it is like sandpaper over the wounds. To commune with the sinners who are torn ragged just like us.

Ann Voskamp‘s latest post.  Inspiring and convicting

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day and I haven’t been on good terms for a while.  Maybe it’s just the commercialism and materialism that bog me down and make me dread it like pretty much all the other holidays around.  Guilt driven consumerism makes me bonkers.  Granted, if I’m honest, I can think of a gagillion things I’d actually like to have but really am to ashamed to ask for.  It feels selfish.  I have so much more than I need already, and more just seems like, well, more.

But further self examination and prying open my soul a bit leads to a deeper explanation.  I feel awkward when the kids praise me. Deep down, I know I suck. I scream and yell and slam doors and fuss and cry and get hysterical over nothing.  They’re just kids.  They mess up.  It’s part of the deal.  Sometimes though,  I’m so angry I catch myself planning to be more angry based on their responses to things expected of them.  And sometimes what’s even worse is that their tears and anger and frustration just fuel mine more and the shouting amps.  I don’t deserve praise.  I don’t deserve thanks.  And I certainly don’t deserve an entire day set aside shower me in accolades.  I’m a big fat failure.  A fraud.

I don’t have a clue how I managed to build a false image that I have things altogether or that I’m some kind of super mom amongst my friends.  I get this journey wrong on so many levels daily.  Maybe 10% of the time I actually get it right.  That figure’s probably more like .05% of the time if I’m truly honest.  I do all the things I swore I’d never do when I became a parent.  And I do them a lot.  I don’t ask the kids forgiveness nearly enough.  I don’t own up to my faults as often as I should.  And Mother’s Day comes around and it’s like a big slap in my failure.

I want to hide in the bedroom all day until it’s over.  These four precious little beings that I longed for and prayed for and treasure.  I don’t want them to ever feel they owe me anything.  I don’t want them to get older and have their only example from me be a big fat list of what not to do’s.  But right now, that’s all they’re getting and I hate it.  They deserve better.  And this self deprication train is a hard one to get off of when I’m on it.  I could literally fill blog after blog post with all the ways I feel and know I have messed up.  It could go on forever ad-nauseum.  And then God gives me a big reality check.

I know in my heart that He chose these specific kids to have us as their parents.  That in some insane crazy plan of His, I’m the one who needed to be their mom.  I cannot imagine what He is thinking in that big perfect head of His.  But I cling to the idea that there is something salvageable, even redeemable within me to make me fit to be theirs.  Maybe one day I’ll get a glimpse of the big picture and agree with Him that I wasn’t so bad after all.  But right here, right now, I’d rather “celebrate” the day appreciating that they haven’t voted me off the island yet.

15 years

A young friend of mine called a few weeks ago and asked if Fred and I would be willing to be premarital counselors for her and her fiance’.  I was really surprised and honored to be asked and told her I was all in but would double check with Fred to be sure he was on board.  He was.  We hit Amazon to review the book we’d be doing together and started going over some of the questions we’d cover in the coming weeks.  Fred joked it was good for them to get their expectations down on paper and then we could try to let them down gently.  I started thinking back to what my own expectations had been before we began our lives together.  We started talking about our own premarital counseling experience.

I’m just gonna say here and now I was SO selfish and naive back then.  When we made lists with our counselor about all kinds of things all of my lists pertained to how Fred would meet my needs and how he would take care of me and just completely random frivolous stuff.  It is a miracle that he didn’t find me an utter twit and call the whole thing off. I’m not even kidding.

I was telling my friend this and she said old married couples are so mean to young married couples with their “you know nothing” speeches.  So I expounded on what I’d been thinking when looking back at myself.   When you take those vows, you are dying to your own needs and trusting someone else to be doing the same with theirs to meet yours.  You are vowing to honor and respect and love someone more than yourself.  All that sounds fantastic on paper until you are confronted with real life situations where you have to put it into practice.  It is even harder in a society that has blurred the lines of what roles are in marriage and has made divorce such a convenience that working through the worst just looks like wasted effort when you can end it and take the easy route out.

You are vowing for better or for worse and let me say, there’s a LOT of worse.  Not necessarily between you but just life coming at you from all sides.  Job stresses, financial burdens, extended family crisis, illnesses, and all kinds of other disasters that just happen.  It is not even really about your happiness.  It’s about theirs.  I’m not saying to make yourself a slave or a doormat to their whims and fancies but it is making a concerted effort to put their needs above yours, to encourage them when life weighs heavily, to pray for them daily and sometimes hourly and minute to minute when life hangs in the balance.  It is hard work.

All the romantic ideals of walks on the beach and candlelit dinners and exotic getaways are lovely and beautiful and those will happen.  But your idea of romance changes as your marriage ages and you grow together.  When money is tight in the earliest years and you’re eating tuna noodle casserole for the umpteenth time cause that’s what’s in the pantry it will still seem like a gourmet meal because you’re together and you have food and electricity to cook it with.  When you can’t afford a gift for a birthday or an anniversary,your spouse sits up in the wee hours of the morning to write a letter spilling out his soul about his love for you, you will feel richer than any human on the face of the earth.  When you buy your first ramshackle of a crackhouse to renovate and make your own and he spends hours and hours by your side washing and scrubbing and sanding and hammering to make it a home, you will sit inside those walls together and marvel at what you accomplished.  When you are laboring to bring your first child into the world and you look up to see the worry etched into his face but  joy wash over him as you lay your firstborn into his arms.  When he gets up in the middle of the night to change diapers or to console the baby’s crying (or yours) or makes a bottle and takes a feeding, love fills you up from the tips of your toes and spills over your whole being.  When you’re parents become ill and each of you takes turns caring for their needs and each of you bolster the other as your realize their mortality you will feel the pieces of yourself held together in a way no other circumstance can knit.  More children grow more love and create more situations for you to lean on each other and to build each other up. You will marvel at the incredible beauty of watching your spouse being a parent and you will fall deeper and more madly in love than you could have ever imagined over dirty diapers and noise and chaos and vomit and absolute insanity. And before you know it you will wake up 15 years later stronger and more in love and more content because you made someone else’s life your own.  You will find that their happiness was the breeding ground for your own and you will roll over and wrap yourself up in their arms and pray for more years to come to continue it on.

Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “community” the last few months.  Between homeschooling these last couple of years and now our move away from all that is familiar and convenient it is occupying my brain a great deal lately.  More so in the last few days due to a failing attempt to change our curriculum and get involved with a group that I hoped would answer what I thought were problems.  But today while I’m watching the boys outside playing with the neighbor kids, I’m beginning to realize perhaps I am focusing on the wrong thing.  The aspect of community and socialization that society says is appropriate.

We joined our church about 7 years ago and jumped in with both feet to get involved and to become a part of their congregation.  Our kids have made friends they see week to week and they see us mingling with our own friends and they ride in the car with us to take meals and move furniture and serve nursery or sound and a multitude of other tasks that go on in the interim from Sunday to Sunday.  Is this not community??  Are they not socialized with an enormous variety of folks of all walks of life, race, and ages within the walls where Christ unites us?  Do they not see their parents willing to submit to the authorities set above us and watch us serve with what we hope are humble hearts to set an example for them of what it means to be a part of a larger spectrum than themselves?

The kids have tons of neighbors here that come and chat and play.  Just like I had when I was growing up.  A lot of those kids I’m still joyfully connected with thanks to social media like fb.  These are friendships homegrown that may last the rest of their lives and I get a front row seat to watching them develop and an amazing opportunity to be a part of them myself.  Isn’t this also community?  Socialization anyone?

And then there’s the stereotypical “unsocialized” homeschooler comments that I’ve learned to laugh off but really they irritate me.  It irritates me because I don’t make comments to my friends about their decisions to put their kids in private or public school or make them feel like less of a parent because of their choices to do so.  But I hear stories upon stories from all different angles about the kids in each system and the bullying and faculty apathy and growing violence and I wonder.  Why is society pressuring us so hard to engage our kids in this kind of madness and calling it normal??  Am I really “sheltering” my kids from learning to put their big boy/girl pants on and deal with real life issues or am I guarding the innocence of their hearts?  It definitely was not the reason nor did it have bearing on why we chose to homeschool but I am learning that it is a benefit I am holding more and more dear.

I am still struggling to hold the pieces of us together on this adventure and every year we choose to follow this path I feel stronger and weaker all at the same time.  I cannot help but feel that community as I am coming to understand it for our family is definitely outside of the norm and I am accepting that I am okay with it.  Letting go of caring what anyone else thinks about is definitely the biggest obstacle but I’m getting there.  Thanks to the help of my own community.