Category Archives: Family

Marriage, parenting, sticky children, dogs, camping, food, school.

Priority Tension

It is summer.  For a brief season, all of us bound by school-year schedules are free; visions of swimming pools dance in our heads.  Lakes and camping, beaches and sandcastles, supper on the patio.  The hours ahead seem endless, which the kids are quick to pick up on.  “I’m boooorrrred,” whines across the country.  We roll our eyes, throw a book.  The screen door slams.  Laughter spills over the yard.

But summer is also the season of angst, for me, anyway.  So many projects, put off all year, so many options every day.  What to prioritize?  What will get checked off?

I went to a garage sale this week, checked out a hammock.  “It’s a little loose,” the lady said.  “You can increase the tension.”  And there’s the trick — the tension between numbering our days, accomplishing all of the procrastinated projects, or keeping margin, swinging loose.  Too loose and I’m bored, guilty, mad at myself for wasted days.  Too tight and I cringe when the doorbell rings, grump when I fail, sigh when I realize I missed the joy.

Summer is a microcosm of life speeding by.  Seems like forever, but blink and you’ll miss it.

I made a list today:  all of the things that need doing.  As usual, I made sure to include some I can already check off.  (Secret to a good list, right there.)  But I think I should go back, add a few:

  • make homemade ice cream

    grille-wood-lying-grill
    photo via visualhunt.com
  • light sparklers on the 4th
  • visit Hanging Lake
  • read a book by Citronella candlelight on the porch
  • go kayaking with the smallest boy
  • get coffee with the tallest boy
  • go yard sale-ing with the laughing girl
  • spend as much money as possible at lemonade stands
  • go to free outdoor concerts in the park
  • remember that summer is fleeting, life is fleeting, life is a wildflower and then it is gone.

Photo via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/5abcad”>Visual Hunt</a>

Glory in the Grilled Cheese

What’s a good career path for a girl who just wants to change the world?  Stay at home mom, right?  Wait…

I’m a person who feels strongly what Courtney Reissig calls the “pull of the spectacular.”  I want my short life to count.  I want to do eternal things with the days I’ve been given.  I wanna imitate the disciples, 12 ordinary guys who turned the world upside down.  And the world needs changing.  It’s so broken!  There is so much injustice, so much poverty; it breaks my heart.  In college, I studied great writers, great thinkers, great teachers and revolutionaries.  I studied the lives of missionaries and politicians, and I wanted to be one of them.

I’m all about doing big things.  If I help to plan an event, I want 1,000 people to show up.  If I write a book, I want 1,000,000 to buy it.  I want to do big things for God, but that’s not the commission He has given me.  Evidently, He wants me to do small things with great love.  He wants to take center stage, not to shine a spotlight on me.

So I’m a stay at home mom.  I don’t even have a dozen children to boast of, just three.  I spend my days assigning books to read, catching up on a sinkful of dirty dishes, and cooking.  I don’t even cook amazing gourmet meals — we eat a lot of cereal.  My house is always in need of a good scrub, and I’m perpetually behind on school with the kids.  So what does it mean to be faithful in exile as a mom?  It’s what my husband calls “the peculiar glory of humble circumstances.”

First, I think being faithful means having faith.  Having faith, as we teach our little ones, that “God is great,” and “God is good.”  He is mighty, He is thoughtful, and He is sovereign over all of the little details of my life.  He doesn’t need me to accomplish great things; He’s got “great” covered.  Just as I can trust Him for my salvation, I can trust Him to make all things beautiful in His time—including all the little details of my life.  And little things can be eternally significant, like little mustard seeds that grow up into towering trees.

I think being faithful means loving God—ridiculously.  It means worshipping Him with a glad, full heart, day in and day out, even when my days kinda start to look the same from one to the next.  My primary contribution to the world is to adore and enjoy Jesus with my husband, with my children, with all of y’all.  It’s not about me at all.

I think being faithful means loving my neighbor extravagantly.  In this case, my most obvious neighbors are Michael, Josh, Abbey, and Patrick.  When I wash a pan that somebody made a grilled cheese in, I am loving my neighbor.  When I do the bills, I am loving my neighbor.  It’s not glamorous, but it is God-honoring.  And frankly I don’t even do it for my family, I do it for Jesus.  Whenever we give a cup of cold water in His name, He receives it as a gift to Himself.

And finally, I think being faithful in exile means remembering that what matters eternally far outweighs what matters for a fleeting moment.  Love is significant, because it plants seeds that bloom in eternity.  Our lives are really, really short, but every moment that we dedicate to the Lord will have long-lasting impact.

We are in exile here, in a broken and fallen world.  There are “thorns and thistles” — obstacles and tediousness and heartache galore.  As a stay at home mom, I experience this exile as a long wait, a wait for Home.  And whenever I can serve with humility and love, I am reminded of Jesus’ exile here on earth.  He did not seek fame and fortune; He came to love extravagantly, to serve ceaselessly, and to lay down His life for you and me.  Any frustration I feel at being mired in little chores is swallowed up by awe when I consider the God who came to our little earth out of a great, great love.

This post was written for a quick testimony at church.  We’ve been walking through the book of Daniel (check it out!) and considering what it means to be faithful in exile.  Each week someone from the congregation has shared what faithfulness looks like in their unique context.  This was me taking a stab at it.

Adventures of Some Crazy People

I suppose it probably surprised some people when we loaded up our entire family and brought them along for Michael’s D-Min cohort that first time.  Shoot, it surprised me.  I mean, really?  Bring three elementary school kids to Georgia for 10 days for a grad school intensive?  Who does that?  I suppose it surprised still more people when we brought them on our sabbatical, dragging them, their Legos, and approximately 10,000 pounds of school books from Colorado cabin to Massachusetts cottage — and that’s right, back to Gordon Conwell for more grad school.  In the past few years, our children have listened in on more doctoral history lectures than most of their friends’ parents combined.  We joked that they were Gordon Conwell’s new mascots.  Dr. Rosell has bought them ice cream half a dozen times; they think he’s the dairy fairy.

We went on to bring them to a third cohort, back for Michael’s graduation, and to teach at a Colorado Bible school twice.  They’ve romped the Atlantic coast from Maine to St. Simon’s Island as their dad studied his way through 400 years of church history, and snapped selfies with elk in the background while he taught it.  This week we’re taking them to a conference outside of Chicago.  It’ll be scholars, pastors, college students, and our kids.  They’re used to it.

One great thing about our gypsy existence is that our kiddos have seen the country — almost all points east of us we’ve thoroughly explored.  (We haven’t turned our attention west yet, but I’m sure one day we will.)  They have adventurous spirits, don’t mind traveling for long hours, and have sampled everything from alligator to elk to grits along the way.  Hopefully they will remember how to check for bed bugs in cheap hotels.  When we couldn’t afford to fly, we drove.  Sometimes we camped our way cross-country.  I love that we can incorporate our studies into real-life places, real world geography.  Our kids have seen the first slave-built church in Savannah, Georgia and the Underground Railroad quarters hidden beneath.  They’ve stood in front of the house where George Whitefield died and explored the landing place of the Wesley brothers in Georgia.  They’ve strolled the campuses of Baylor and Vanderbilt.  I love it.  This next week we’ll get to show them around one of the premier Christian colleges in the world and hopefully pass on a vision for all that college can be.

But another perk is the kids’ assumption that intellectual engagement with our faith is expected, and is not reserved for boring grown-ups.  I love that they have heard great speakers and sung along with all ages.  I love that they continue to meet and develop respect for people from all different denominations and backgrounds.  We may attend a Baptist church, but our friends are Presbyterian, Charismatic, Congregational.  The world is much bigger than our bubble, and I love that our kids have seen that.

What if “take your daughter to work day” was more like “take your children everywhere year”?  What if those designated grown-up activities were expanded just a bit to include the small fry?  What if discipling our kids meant letting them see us dive into our vocations,  letting them see our faith hit the road?  For our own family, it’s been a trip.  Like, literally.

The conference next week is held at College Church of Wheaton, and features Ajith Fernando, Bryan Loritts, Phil Ryken, Josh Moody, and the Gettys.  Even on that one panel is a wide swath of the human experience.  Love it.  If you’re in the area…  new-sola

Checking One Off the Colorado Bucket List

Last weekend we decided to drive east instead of west.  About two and a half hours’ drive are the Pawnee Buttes, rising up out of the flat plains like giant, misplaced sand castles.  To get there, you have to hold your nose through dairy towns and take care to stop at one last outpost of civilization before about a 45-minute stretch of boondocks.  You’ll be pretty sure you are heading the wrong way; the wooden painted signs are so weatherbeaten that they are hard to read, the asphalt trucks apparently abandoned their paving task shortly off the highway.  There is even what can only be called a ghost town there in the sticks — a cluster of abandoned houses that once optimistically catered to tourists of the Buttes.  But then,  you’re there. 20170218_15574220170218_170652

What is so arresting about this little pocket of Colorado?  For one thing, you can’t see it coming — it just sort of shimmers into being at the last minute like an apparition from the Wild West.  Empty field, empty field –boom.  Humongous towers.  It reminds me in that way of Black Canyon, only in that case the last-minute jaw-dropper falls down, a yawning cavern hewn out of the earth like the battle scar from some great axe.  In both cases, we tourists begin to mutter “nothing to see here” before rounding that final corner. Black_Canyon_and_Gunnison_River.jpg

And that makes me wonder — what else is hiding in plain sight?  What gobsmacking wonders of the world lie forgotten on the back 40 of some dairy farmer’s fields? Or, for that matter, in our back yard?  On the palm of my hand?

It reminds me of last year’s viral video, the little orange guy who makes us happy.  Who knew he was hiding in the back of your brain?

So much depends on having the eyes to see, the perseverance to track down marvels, the determination to squash the muttering.  Pinch your nose and take a drive — it’s worth the trip!

Mamas and Boys

Four mamas, nine boys between us.  The oldest is fifteen, the smallest fiercely five, and we’ve been through it.  From infertility to a whole lot of surprising fertility, from spectrums and conditions to hand-wringing and tears.  We’ve seen the inside of a lot of hospitals and churches and counselors’ offices and McDonalds, laughed and snorted and cried and blushed and spent a lot of time with the mouth hanging open and the did-you-really-just-do-that shrieking at a high pitch.

Being a mama of boys (or girls, for that matter, though our particular batch of girls is awfully well-mannered and easy…  Girls are not any more or less wonderful or necessarily simpler to raise, but this post is not about them.  That’ll keep for another day.)  But back to my point — being a mama of boys is not for the faint-hearted.  You realize after a while that these little creatures are making plans, and they are not your plans.  They are diving into danger with gusto and not much forethought, and pretty soon all the mamas are running full-tilt behind them, hollering out cautions and suggestions aplenty.  We are raising little men, and they are rocketing into the future faster than we can rein them in.

These are the men who will shape the world.

You realize when you’ve been around the ring a time or two that after a while the decisions to be made come down to your boy and God.You realize after a while that the decisions to be made come down to your boy and God..jpg  None of the steam you can produce from both ears, none of the dreams you’ve dreamed can alter the story written for him; your boy is on a journey you haven’t scripted, making choices you would undo and letting the chips fall.  Think of the long history of the world, the Jacobs and Esaus and Moseses, the Roosevelts and the Edisons and the MLKs.  Think of all the mamas, running behind, waving a handkerchief vainly to keep them from boarding that train.  Wouldn’t you have cleaned up their stories a bit?  Wouldn’t you have wiped away the ugly parts?  But then they’d never have become who they were, and our collective story wouldn’t be what it is.

If I were Mary, and I could somehow save my boy from his long, troubled road, I would, I would.  But the nail that sank into his story turned out to be the fulcrum that levered the whole broken world out of the mess we were in.  That ugly nail was grace.

So how do we pray these boys into men?  What do we do when they’re rushing headlong into disaster?

Well, I guess there are a lot of squawks that sneak out before we get the hand over the mouth, a lot of lurching stomachs when we peek through the fingers.  God give us the grace to hide our face in His shoulder and let Him do all the watching and worrying.

I find myself praying for grace a lot these days; praying for the grace to let go, the grace to be patient, the love to expect all things, believe all things, endure all things.  I pray for faith in the Author and His perfectly beautiful story, and I remember all of the great men who started life as impetuous, not-always-wise boys.  I pray for grace to put down what I’m doing and listen, really listen, whenever I can; for the first thing I say in the morning and the last thing I say at night to be sweet, and not overfull of finger-wagging.

I pray for my friends’ boys, the ones with impossible hurdles ahead, and I remember that with God all things are possible.

Four mamas, nine boys.  Boys who will break bones and forget homework and visit tattoo parlors and leap off of tall things, scale mountains, raft rivers, join rock bands, and kiss girls.  Nine men who will be overcomers—courageous, visionary, strong, kind, humble, and mostly?  Very, very loved.  Four women who will learn (sometimes the hard way) to trust in our good, good Father, and share His delight in the escapades of silly, impulsive, fearless, wise-cracking little boys.

Homeschool 2016: Thinking With Forever Glasses On

It’s the first week back.  That means we’re still eating breakfast — the good kind, with fruit and waffles and mmmm, bacon.  We can still locate sharpened pencils (though we did somehow misplace a book on Monday.  Monday, people.  The first day.  Not to worry, it turned up, obviously, in the closed, dusty, cabinet under the computer desk — you know, the one where all of the old hard drive equipment used to go.  Of course.)  But it’s still fresh.  There’s laughing.  Interest.  We aren’t impossibly far behind… yet.

What if it could stay this way?  What if we were still laughing and curious and well-fed in February?  What would it take?

I think it would take anticipation — cultivating an expectant attitude every day.  And I don’t suppose I’m very expectant if I’m in the throes of self-pity; pity-party Kate is not thankful, but grumpy, disappointed in what’s gone wrong instead of grateful for what’s gone smashingly.  I tell my kids I don’t speak Whinese — but maybe, too often, I do.

It follows, then, that it would take gratitude, wonder, recognition of little victories and amazement at the grand stage.  Living like I have an illness in remission.  (What?  I feel good?  I get another day with these people?)

Living with a forever mentality means remembering that life is so, so short.  The stresses will pass; the kids will grow up and move on.  (Theoretically) we’ll miss them someday.  My husband likes to say that every complaint betrays a blessing — the dirty socks on the kitchen counter (what, you don’t find dirty socks on the counter?) mean I have a delightfully absent-minded kiddo.  The dog-chewed wallet means I have a wallet (and a dog.)  Living in light of eternity means seizing the joys life affords, knowing they are fleeting.  It means remembering the big picture, the prize at the end of the race, the purpose behind the cost.

I’m not just filling minds with facts, I’m filling hearts — with what?  A contagious attitude (thankful, I hope, and curious, full of awe at the incredible intricacies of the world and fascination with its people), hope, determination, purpose, love.  I’m not plodding back through 5th grade lessons for the educational thrills; I’m investing in world-changing people that will explode like dominoes from our home and set off chain reactions in a thousand unpredictable directions.

This life?  This is my one life.  This is their one childhood.  Help me, Lord, to make the most of these wildflower days.%22To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.%22

Guest Post: Their Parting Gift

My sweet friend Heidi Treibel joins us today.  I asked her for permission to share this beautiful story, knowing that many of you can relate.  These are her words.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

I cannot be who I once was.

Fingerprints from hands not formed leave their impressions on my heart. Silent voices whisper deep inside me, sounds only a mother can hear. Avery Rose and Everett James lived only weeks in my womb, but now live forever with my King.They are the heaven-born babies swept up into my heavenly inheritance.

And I cannot be who I once was.

My feet too long have been firmly planted on this foreign land; and my heart has been sinking into it. I’ve fallen for the lie that what I see is all there is, while mouthing the words to songs of an unseen reality. Though I have not seen Jesus with my physical eyes, I have imagined him waiting for me in heaven. But my mind has gotten sidetracked with mortgages and grocery lists and one more cup of coffee…

But I cannot be who I once was!

For if my two babies cannot be used to change me, who can? I have seen their tiny frames. I have held their lifeless forms in my hand. I have grieved all the plans I had in mind: their births, nursing them from my body, snuggling them as their sleepy infant eyes closed. They are real to me. They really lived inside me, gaining their very lives from my life. And then, like dreams that fade upon waking, they were gone.

I have not seen my Savior in heaven, but I have seen the children who await me in heaven. And in the devastation of my loss, they have given me a very sweet gift.

I am not who I once was.

Now, my mind is not pretending to dwell on heaven; my daydreams take me there. My heart is not forced to long for eternity; it aches to be swallowed up by immortality. I am not just mouthing the words to the songs longing for Christ’s return; I sing “Come, Lord Jesus,” with the saints of the ages.

Now my mind is not pretending to dwell on heaven; my daydreams take me there. My heart is not forced to long for eternity; it aches to be swallowed up by immortality.I do not love my babies more than I love Jesus. But they were tangible rays of light sent to me, light that I could see and touch and grieve and miss. They came to me on this dusty earth, then went ahead of me to wait until the Lamb returns for His bride. They are my tethers to heaven, pulling my heart in the direction it needs to go.

I am not who I once was.

Christ is risen from the dead. My living hope in him is to be raised to life, along with my babies and all who long for his appearing. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfailing. The brief earthly lives of Avery and Everett have bridged a gap within me: the gap between my head and my heart. My head always knew what the Bible said. But now my heart knows. I am a stranger and foreigner on this earth. I long for a city with foundations, whose builder and designer is God. There my hope is kept. There my babies are safe. There my Savior reigns.

I will never be free of the grief of losing the children of my womb. I cannot be thankful they died. But I can be thankful that in their deaths, they have awakened my heart to my true life.

I will not be who I once was.