Slowing Down to Savour

A temporary relief from the stifling heat of summer is so welcome! Dark clouds hang overhead, yet to give us the treasure within. We’re waiting for the rain to fall after a week of bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and hot, sleepless nights.

Summer is sailing along now, heavy with the scent of life in full bloom. All the things we’ve planted are showing their resilience in the face of hail and heat. Some stand tall regardless of what comes, others are crushed beneath the weight of the elements or become food for critters and birds bent on survival.

Saskatoons are slowly ripening, but the sparrow stole my only strawberry of the year. Though the plants are young and the soil likely needs more nutrients, I have hope that in future years we’ll have more berries. Maybe I’ll expand the patch in a few more years if the plants are doing well.

Amid all the flowers and fruit, our kids are engaged in the very serious business of backyard play. With four between the ages of 5 and 11, there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the day. Morning ’til night, with short breaks for food and responsibilities, they play. And play. And read. And play. I believe in the gift of a rather boring summer, with loads of space in the schedule to literally do nothing, if that’s what they want to do. Of course, the responsibilities are always an expectation, but otherwise, we aim for a rather carefree summer pace.

I glance outside. The much-needed moisture begins with sprinkles at first and then turns to a steady, gentle rain. The thirsty ground is soaking up the blessing of a long, cool drink. Trees bend in the wind and robins impatiently pull the surfacing worms out of the ground.

The kids wander around for a while before becoming thoroughly soaked and chilly. In the back door they tumble, asking for a late snack, although lunch is nearly ready. It’s our daily reset button, a gathering around an abundant table, filling their hungry bellies and setting them on track for the afternoon ahead.

I don’t want to forget what it was like in this season of life. I am learning to slow down and savour the small, ordinary moments of each day. These scenes are mainly for me, snapshots of what life is like in these good old days, moments captured on paper and in photos, and mostly, in my mama’s heart.

All four kids, home together, more of a gift than I can fully appreciate, I’m sure. That old cliche rings true: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12, 14 (NIV)

The pansies are doing alright this year. Grateful.

Remember

A mama house sparrow hops around our front lawn, looking for a bite to eat in the sunshine. Everything is alive now, with dandelions, saskatoons, apples and irises in bloom. Ants carry on, bees bumble from sweet flower to sweet flower, sparrows and chickadees flit here and there, robins diligently care for their broods. The hawks are back too, solitary hunters soaring and diving to fill their bellies.

Let heaven and nature sing!

In becoming what I like to call Noticers, we’ve caught breathtaking glimpses of our magnificent, carefully designed world right in our own backyard. I’m amazed at how many times I hear, “Mom! You’ve got to see this!”, an invitation to hurry out the back door to observe the shape of a spiderweb or quietly tiptoe across the deck to spy a house finch among the leaves.

For years I’ve thought that I was just one of those people who didn’t like change. We have this vintage book about opposites where the characters go to the circus and at the very end two of them are heading home. One says, “I’m sad that it’s over” and another one says, “I’m glad that it happened”. Guess which one I tend to be! I’m the one who sheds a few tears at the end of the Beatles Anthology every single time, even though we know from history how that story ends. It occurred to me this week though, that it’s not change itself I dislike but its hallmark sense of loss.

I find the slow rhythm of the seasons steadies me. Give me the first robin, the first handful of Saskatoon berries, the first pop of fall colour, the first blanket of snow and I feel confident in what lies ahead. These changes I welcome, although they’re bittersweet. New milestones, adventures and plans are exciting, but a sudden illness, unplanned large expense or unwelcome news can throw me for a solid loop unless I pause to remember not only who God is but also what He has done in the past.

This week I came across Psalm 116:1-7 — 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion. 
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

Amen. Praise the Lord. He is good to me, even when my plans go awry, when interruptions come, when my energy is drained and I have little left in the tank. Even when the mundane is, well, mundane. Even when the day feels like an uphill climb or the pace of life is dizzying. Even when we have to say goodbye, and change brings its unmistakeable sense of loss.

Maybe, especially then.

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

(Psalm 116:12-14)

The foreshadowing of a fruitful year for our Saskatoon. (image: mine)

Berry Watch

We’re on “Berry Watch” this week.

Last year we had only a handful in total, but after thinning out the oldest branches early in the season, our single bush seems to have survived the relentless heat and is bursting forth with berries. We’ve been checking back morning and evening to see which ones have ripened enough for picking and eating. I’ve taught the kids which to take and which to leave a little longer as we work together to fill a small container, give it a rinse and enjoy.

Each year without fail, whether a little or a lot, this bush bears fruit. Mid-July comes along and we get to see how much will actually be harvested, and how much will be enjoyed by the birds that call our neighbourhood home. Some years we end up with enough to make a little jam, but most years it’s just enough for a taste.

Our little apple tree, on the other hand, hasn’t been so faithful a fruit-bearer but we haven’t quite been ready to give up on it. It came to us second-hand, wind-whipped, then heavy-laden with an unexpected snowfall just three days after being planted in the yard. I pruned that one a little too much one year and it has taken nearly four years of patient watering and feeding but, with great joy, we have counted a dozen or more little apples on its branches ripening in the sunshine. I’ve marvelled more than once this year at its resilience, carefully watching to be sure the birds haven’t helped themselves to the precious few that cling to its branches.

One had a great start, planted young in good soil and watched over all along. The other was a transplant, overcoming imperfect conditions and care to bring forth fruit in its season.

I can’t imagine a greater picture of God’s loving care for each one of us as we remain in Him. And I’m amazed that it’s right in my own back yard!

Makes me think of Jesus’ words in John 15:1-8 (NIV) —   

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Regardless of how you got your start, stay faithful to Jesus and let Him bear His fruit in your life!

Coming along nicely

The Gift of a Regular Day

Lord, help me to live this day by the truth of Your Word, not by how I feel right now!

This was my bleary-eyed, early morning prayer after I was jolted out of bed, not by the happy singsong greetings of a shiny-eyed, cherub-cheeked preschooler but by the angry edicts of a grumpy, pint-sized dictator. I did not feel particularly ready to greet the day in that moment. In fact, you could say I was on the verge of an internal temper tantrum of my own. My irritability revealed to me that perhaps I too need more sleep after last week’s intense heat wave and rather quick pace. The rain and cooler temperatures have ushered in better sleeping conditions which will hopefully mean better moods as the days roll on, but for today we’re still catching up. The heat and summer fun is all too much when you haven’t slept well for many days in a row.

Working through the morning crabbiness, I began to tackle the long list of things that will make our home liveable once again. When you spend the week with the blinds closed to keep the heat out, living mostly in the open air of the backyard where the slight but hot breeze is blowing, you can’t really see the growing mountain of things inside that may need some attention. Today we find ourselves exhaling, working on home things and resetting for the week ahead. As I build in these rhythms of rest into our life and embrace the quiet, I experience the grace of God in ways I tend to miss when I am moving at the speed of light.

Dirty dishes mean good food. Dirty laundry means great memories. Dirty floors mean a place to call home. I am not immune to deep grief and heartbreaking realities, but I also know that joy and sorrow are not independent of one other. Even in the middle of difficult things, I find myself experiencing moments that fill my heart with in praise of the Lord. His goodness and mercy are unending. Early this morning as I was chipping away at the to-do list, these ancient words bubbled up in me and became my song:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
-Psalm 27:13 (NIV) 

It struck me that this particular moment was a direct answer to my prayer to live this day in the light of God’s truth, not by my crotchety attitude. I know He reveals Himself in unexpected places, like discovering a sparkling gem in a pile of dusty old river rocks. You may not see it immediately, but upon further inspection you realize that what you are holding in your hands is precious. In my life, God has met me while I rocked my babies in the middle of the night and care for them through their childhood illnesses. He has met me on my way into the grocery store. Over broken dishes, weed-filled gardens and vehicle breakdowns. Through bread on the doorstep, text messages, phone calls and unexpected visits.

He knows our needs. He hears our prayers. He is good. 

Even a regular day reveals His glory. To be completely honest, it has taken me many hours to finish writing this short post due to constant questions, conflicts, caring for the needs of littles and listening to the ones who need listening to. If I had shut myself in a room to wax poetic about the goodness of God in the middle of the ordinary, the power of this truth would have been lost on me today: His goodness knows no bounds.

Praise the Lord. Amen.

Blue sky beauty

Lay Your Burden Down

Something came up unexpectedly this morning and my heart began to pound. I immediately imagined a future where a certain outcome had taken place and sadness and fear welled up within me. Every ounce of my being wanted to run in the other direction instead of dealing with it head-on.

Not another thing, Lord! Not another thing.

We’ve heard the call of Jesus: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” We’ve heard that we need to “cast all your cares up on the Lord, for He cares for you”. We’ve heard that He never leaves us alone, that when we walk through the fire and flood we will not be destroyed because He is holding us up.

Each of us carries silent burdens that others know nothing about. We may hold them for a few minutes and release them with ease. Some linger a few hours and are more challenging. A few days, months or years and we are nearly crushed beneath their weight. At times, just one more thing feels like it’s simply too much to bear, driving us to our knees in prayer.

We cannot escape the challenges of life. They come slowly, they come fiercely, they come with great joys, too. I love to see the goodness of God on display right in the middle of the mess. When my heart was gripped with fear this morning, and I was praying, Not another thing, Lord! He brought to mind His faithfulness from generation to generation. I remembered how throughout His Word and throughout my life I have seen His goodness unfold in situations that seemed hopeless. I remembered the promise of an eternal future filled with His presence in a way I cannot imagine here and now. I remembered the beauty of the truth that He is with me in all seasons and at all times.

When we’re weary and burdened by the visible and invisible, when the cry of Not another thing, Lord comes upon our lips, we can take that as a beautiful reminder of our human limitations and acknowledge our desperate need for Him. We choose to stand on the Solid Rock of Christ Jesus our Lord, knowing that God the Father has brought us to Himself and the gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to face these challenges with confidence that He will carry us through. And He does, every single day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful. Praise the Lord.

I took this photo years ago and it still reminds me of the life Jesus gives!

Learning to Rest

The enduring daylight of summer is upon us and it’s so beautiful.

We’re in an 8-week stretch without actual night. The sun dips below the horizon just enough to give us all the phases of twilight, but no actual nighttime hours. Every night before bed I look out the window and marvel at the edge of the day lingering on the western horizon, and in the morning the light streams through the curtains long before my body is ready to rise.

The created world always fills my heart with wonder and awe. It’s not just the beauty that surrounds me, it’s the remarkable rhythm of life that teaches me lessons over and over again.

I grew up with the idea that productivity is a measure of your worth. Farm life is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no shortage of things to do and serious ramifications if you don’t do them. While Sundays were for church and a short nap, Saturdays were for to-do lists. Weeklong summer vacations were for visiting family in another province, not for laying on the beach in Mexico. The only thing worse than being lazy was being thought of as lazy so I learned to work hard, or at least give the appearance of busyness, at the expense of my body, my mental health and my spiritual life.

I am all too familiar with burnout. In my early twenties I poured myself into a broadcasting job for 60 hours a week and found myself desperate for a break after three years. I took a two week vacation in another province to recharge my batteries and remember weeping nearly the entire 14 hour drive home at the thought of going back to my old pace of life. So I quit and took an opportunity 1300km away to allow myself space and time to reset.

“Your job will never love you back,” someone once said to me. “Boundaries are a blessing.”

Truth.

As I’ve spent the past ten years rocking babies, fixing owies, feeding hungry tummies and answering millions of questions about all the things, there have been long seasons of bone-crushing exhaustion that all the naps in the world could never have erased. Some seasons of life require all hands on deck and circumstances don’t always allow for vacations on the beach or even Sunday afternoon naps. But thanks to this gruelling season of parenting and most recently the pandemic, I’ve been learning to smash the idol of productivity and embrace the necessity of resting in Christ in mind and body. We always have a choice in the little things, like actually admitting when we need a break and asking for help. Or pressing pause on some of the things in our life that can wait and actively pursuing a slower pace.

It’s a tough lesson for a goal-oriented person. Regardless of my circumstances though, what am I saying to the Lord when I constantly push myself beyond my limit and refuse help or avoid acknowledging my need for rest?

I’m learning that resting my body actually gives Him the glory. It’s an admission that He is God and I am not, and that I can fully trust that He is taking care of me in every way. On nights when  my body is still but my mind won’t stop, I remember Psalm 4:8 — 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.”

And Matthew 11:28 —

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

And even Job 38:4 — 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.”

God is able. In His wisdom, the One who does not need to rest chose to rest on the seventh day after creation and built rhythms of rest into His creation as a beautiful gift. He even commanded it for our good, knowing how much we would resist it and how much we would need it. Watching long summer daylight fade into twilight reminds me that this is a very good gift indeed and that I would be wise to embrace it as an act of worship.

Thank You Lord. Teach me how to rest in You, in every season of my life.

10:15pm on an early June night

Do Not Be Anxious

We may have experienced the final true blast of summer heat this week and boy was it sweaty. Determined not to complain my way through the short few days of intense temperatures, I decided to pretend we were on a tropical vacation. We ate ice cream for lunch and takeout on the deck, avoided our chores, spent early mornings at the park and had a huge water fight in the back yard.

Belly laughs are good for the soul.

A few weeks ago we took a little day trip into the foothills of the Rockies and found a little green-blue pond nestled among trees. As we were exploring the area, we discovered a dry riverbed with a gentle rolling river, shallow enough at the edge to dip our toes in the cold water. It was so cold we could only stand it for a few seconds! But the breathtaking beauty all around me filled my heart with joy.

I treasure these summer memories, knowing they’ll ground me when the weather turns cold and physical distancing guidelines prevent us from gathering with our people indoors.

August is always bittersweet. Summer is winding down but September holds new beginnings with amazing possibilities. We’re setting new goals and launching ourselves into unfamiliar and exciting things.  At the beginning of every school year, I always have a sense of dread for the cold and flu season I know is just around the corner. I’m terrible with worst-case scenario thinking! This year, though, I’m dealing with the added anxiety that the sniffles might be more than just the sniffles.

The pandemic.

The very thing we hoped would be long over and done with is still with us in a very present way.

For families with young children, we know that September to March is pretty much just runny noses, fevers, coughs and the occasional GI bug thrown in. If you can get through with more healthy weeks than sick ones, it’s cause for celebration!

In 2020, we have the “extreme heat warning” version of dealing with childhood illness: constant temperature and symptom monitoring and covid testing for kids who don’t even want their noses wiped, let alone their throat swabbed with a giant q-tip.

Jesus, be with me in this season! It’s hard to pretend this isn’t a big deal. And it’s even harder not to give into the anxiety it brings. Perhaps that’s why Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) has been returning to my mind over and over this week:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I am so thankful for God’s Word! I lingered in Psalm 36:5-9 this week:

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

In this suffocating heat of pandemic protocol and current events, we long to dip our toes in a cool mountain stream, to remember that there is more to life than anxiety and fear. Let’s quench our intense thirst for truth and hope in the Fountain of Life! Only in His light can we see light!

Lord Jesus, You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May we live today with that truth alive in our hearts and find our peace in You!

Cold mountain stream

All These Things

Forts. Lego. Cooking. Dress up. Sidewalk chalk. Twister. Family walks in new parks. Bug hunting. Tree climbing. Lawn bowling. Kite flying. Bike riding. Kids learning to read, learning to use the potty, learning to get along. Creating and exploring, losing teeth, discovering new interests, building life skills. Socially distant Saturday visits and FaceTime celebrations. Online church and school. Growing a garden, washing dishes by hand. Bounding down the sidewalk. Jumping through the sprinkler. Wading in the tall grass. Home haircuts. Home cooking. Chasing backyard butterflies, bunnies and storms. Drive-thru pancakes and coffee dates. Drive-by birthday parades. Gathering around the table, around the fire, around the Bible. Reorganizing the basement.

Reorganizing our priorities.

When the pandemic hit and the lockdown unfolded, we were worried about what we might miss out on.

But I can see now that we had nothing to worry about. God’s goodness washes over us in the most wonderful ways!

This week I found myself lingering in Psalm 27. When my eyes fell to the end I was deeply moved (v 13-14):

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

I barely slept two nights ago thanks to the intolerable heat and a little one who was dealing with nighttime fears. And in the soft early light when one of the kids woke up our youngest (long before he —or I — was ready) I laid on my bed feeling desperate for some bit of blessed quietness and rest where there was none to be had. Jesus, give me strength for this day! I prayed. Frustration. Exhaustion.  Desperation.

This morning my eyes fell to a social media post from a friend that told the heartbreaking story of a young woman who was murdered because she would not enter into an arranged marriage with a man of a different faith. And then another story of a young woman who was kidnapped, violated and forced to marry her abuser who is four decades her senior so the law would protect him. Violence. Injustice. Oppression.

The constant demands of raising a family on a tight budget in the middle of an isolating health emergency. Anxiety from a bleak economic outlook. Grief rising in the face of horrifying headlines and personal pain. These things challenge my determination not to live a despondent life that throws its hands in the air and proclaims, “it’s no use!”, a life that ignores the suffering of others in favour of my own comfort. In those very moments, Jesus’ words echo in my head: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world! (John 16:33)

We remain confident in this: we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. There is a better way. A richer, more wonderful way that brings hope in the darkness. A way that leads to life! Our troubles will not overcome us.

No matter what we’re facing right now we can choose to place our hope fully in Jesus. Because of Him, we have eternal life that cannot be shaken or taken away! And we see God’s goodness on display not only through Christ’s life and death, but in the precious life He graciously gives to each of us.

As we wait for the Lord, let’s choose to live each moment with confidence in His Word and by the power of His Holy Spirit, pouring out His love out onto those He has placed in our lives. We are His handiwork, created in Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do! (Ephesians 2:10) May we walk in His truth today and preach His good news to our world-weary hearts.

a word of comfort kid art

The kids set up an art show called “A Word of Comfort” one day. My heart!

Simple Things

These are the days we long for in November.

When the sun sinks below the horizon at 4:30 in the afternoon and the pale winter sky turns inky black, I always remember this season with daylight hours that stretch past my bedtime. Last night I looked to the west and was shocked to see the remnants of a gorgeous spring sunset still making their mark well past 10pm.

We made it.

I remember getting up with my babies for nighttime feedings and taking a peek out the window as I came back to bed. I was always hoping to catch a glimpse of that heart-stopping silent summer lightning, but often it was the hue of the sky that surprised me. The sun was below the horizon but its rays reached above, changing the ordinary black of night to an exquisite shade of greenish blue. The horizon was already glowing even though the clock glared 3am.

We used to stay up all night around the campfire and watch the sky change. Where I live there are weeks in summer where it never officially reaches night. We have all the twilights — civil, nautical and astronomical — but no actual hours of complete darkness. It has something to do with the angle of the sun below the horizon, and it feels magical. Sitting around the glowing coals of a dying fire, you knew what time it was simply by looking to the east. When you could see the edge of daylight, it was time to say goodnight with a full heart.

Yesterday I dug my hands deep into some dirt and mixed it up so I could give a plant a new home. The mud squished through my fingers and I felt like a little kid again. It had been so long since I worked the dirt with my bare hands, mixing and squeezing and feeling the cold wet earth covering my skin. Gloves and tools are my usual practice, but this barehanded soil turning was the very thing I needed. I remembered I was still wearing my wedding ring. I once heard of a woman who lost her precious diamond band deep in her garden one year and decades later it was found and returned to her. Wrists-deep in sticky muck, I quickly pulled my hands out and checked to see if the ring was still there. Phew. Although lined with black, it remained steadfast around my dirt-stained finger. As I finished transplanting the herb, the scent of fresh soil filled my senses and my heart swelled.

Long, warm nights and dark, gritty earth — these simple things are wonderful gifts from a good Father. I don’t have to rush to the store to stand in line six feet apart hoping to grab the last one. I don’t have to work extra hours to save up my pennies so I can finally buy them for myself. These gifts are free.

I’ve been reading and re-reading Ephesians in the past few months. I still can’t quite figure out why the Lord has me in that book, but I can’t seem to leave it alone. I’m discovering so much truth resonating in my heart and mind that I just want to go back and savour it again. This week, I’m captivated by Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

We’re just coming through a season where the only thing we could do was stay home, which is really hard for a person who is naturally drawn to action. I love getting things done. In fact, when I realized that my particular areas of church ministry may not be able to move forward for quite some time to come, I felt a strong sense of loss and discouragement. But what will I DO Lord? I cried out in desperation. Verse 8-9 kept coming to my mind: “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith… not by works…”

Just as there is nothing I can do to conjure up a lovely, long summer evening or cause the sun to warm the soil for great growth, there is nothing I can do to secure my spot in God’s Kingdom by hustling harder and faster in my work.

All I can do is fall on my knees and accept this great gift freely given to me.

Jesus, have Your way in me. Work this truth down from my head into my heart – that when I put my faith in You, I can be confident that the work is already finished. The price has already been paid. The gift is free! I am Your handiwork, made by You to live the life you have called me to live, with works prepared long ago for me to do — not because they are my salvation, but because You are.

What a wonderful gift from a good Father.

My container one year.

Home for Summer

Summer brings a new rhythm to our house.

My husband and I have four children aged 8 and under so it requires some creativity and a great deal of patience to have everyone under the same roof 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, as I write this, my four year old is standing beside me holding a Golden Book, “reading” it to me in her version of a British accent.

Do you know how difficult it is to focus on the task at hand with such cuteness in the room?

Not to mention the inevitable bickering, screaming, whining and rainy day cabin fever that makes everyone feel a bit stir crazy. Add in regular bursts of laughter and the sillies and it’s nearly impossible to concentrate.

They’re in holiday mode; my work still needs to get done.

So how do we do it? How do we coexist in the same space, with very different goals? My goals are to be productive and efficient at all my tasks. Their goals are to be on summer vacation.

Worlds collide.

Can I make room for the chaos that comes with welcoming my children into my plans?

Last week I announced that we’re going to have to be very patient with one another as we adjust to our “summer normal”. I talked about giving each other lots of grace.

I think the talk was more for me than it was for them. Even after years of being surrounded by my small children, they still stretch me beyond my limits and I find myself asking the Lord for great patience and courage to parent with kindness, compassion and intention.

I came across this story in Mark 10:13-16 (NIV) —

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Jesus was indignant when He saw how the disciples were treating those children. He told them to let the children come and not to stop them. This was a stark contrast to how children were viewed and treated in the culture of His day. In fact, instead of rebuking them like His disciples did, Jesus brought the children near and blessed them. He told His disciples that God’s Kingdom belongs to those who are like children, and we would do well to have a simple faith like children do.

Do we have the eyes to see? Do we have the ears to hear? Children view the world in a remarkable way; they are a gift.

This summer, I have another opportunity to learn from my kids, while also teaching them and building a unique relationship with each one.

But if I am consumed with my own narrow plans and goals, I will miss the opportunity altogether.

Being a mom isn’t easy, but the messages of culture aren’t making it any easier. Our culture communicates that “the kids are alright”. In other words, children turn out okay no matter what we do, so we are free to invest the best of ourselves in other places. God’s truth about kids is that they are precious treasures to be welcomed and learned from.

It happens every single time. Whenever I take all four kids to the grocery store, strangers ask “are they ALL yours?” or mention how I have my hands full. We are often the recipients of stares and even glares. Other parents often extend grace, but most of the time the air is thick with huffs of impatience.

Our entire culture is designed to make the kids “someone else’s problem”. We face enormous pressure to put them in daycare, then preschool. When they get to school age, we are told we are depriving them if we don’t enrol them in at least two extracurriculars, which take up most evenings and weekends. In summer, we are encouraged to ship them off to camps and then to grandma’s and then to hire the babysitter so we can accomplish our plans and goals. Mom-memes are filled with jokes about running out of the house as fast as possible when dad gets home or longing for the hour the kids finally go to bed.

It’s funny because it’s true. I really need regular breaks from my kids! I’m a work-from-home/work-away-from-home mama. Sometimes I just need to get. things. done.

But I fear that if we design our entire lives around trying to get away from them, we may give them the impression that we don’t actually want to be around them all that much. And you know what? That’s a really tough impression to get rid of.

When I was a teenager, I read a quote that has stuck with me over the years. It’s a simple prayer that I carry in my heart: “Lord, stamp eternity into my eyes”.

My perspective of parenting needs to be larger than my personal goals and dreams, even in summertime when they’re constantly invading my space.

Back to the living room, on a rainy summer afternoon.

“Mom! Even though Captain Hook has a bigger sword, Peter Pan always wins!” my four year old exclaimed. She held up an illustrated copy of Peter Pan, telling the story by looking at the pictures.

The culture may have a bigger sword, but God’s profound ways and wisdom always wins.

Peter and Hook

Image: a snapshot of Disney’s “Peter Pan” from an old Golden Book