Tag Archives: hope

Restore

It was several weeks ago when a text came through from my youngest sister.

I want you to know that I am praying Joel 2:25 for you, that the Lord will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.

As one of my go-to people while processing the Return in 2015, she was privy to much angst and frustration over the mess that I was trying to wade through and understand. Her simple text touched my heart in a profound way, as I began pondering what restoration would look like.

restore ~ to put or bring back to an earlier or original state; to put back into use or service; to give back

Other words and phrases began popping into my head in various contexts. One such passage was this prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare Thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore Thou those who are penitent; According to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. Yes. Left undone. Much.

Restore thou those who are penitent.

Restore.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:12, ESV

I have not felt much joy, lately, and certainly not over the salvation so graciously given to me by Jesus.

Restore joy.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness,
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

Restore my soul. Yes. My soul is tired.

It’s interesting that restore is one of the words in the acrostic I did for return last year.

Remember
Engage
Think
Understand
Restore
Name

It reminds me that there are still places to return to, that I am not finished with that word totally, yet, but that I can back off and rest awhile. Rest in the mess.

When Steve asked me about this year’s word, I had a difficult time articulating why I chose it. I felt clumsy and awkward and began to panic and doubt my choice. I began to lose faith in my instincts and myself.

Maybe it’s not a good word. What do you think?

And that is where I knew it was right, because it is a good word and it’s mine. I don’t need permission or approval for my words to matter. I can choose them just because.

Maybe I need to restore some confidence in myself.

There was also a hard conversation yesterday that reminded me that this is a good focus for this year. There have been places in relationships broken, left undone.

Restore relationships.

Christmas break offered Steve and me a taste of unstructured time together. There were moments to just be and not feel rushed. There were moments when the kids were occupied and there were no immediate projects to attend to. We had snippets of time to dream and risk sharing those dreams with each other.

Restore our dreams. Our ability to dream. Restore our hearts.

So my word this year is a claiming of a promise made in Scripture and the continued walking by faith, believing that which is unseen. It is trusting that, yes, even what has been broken and felt shattered beyond repair can be restored.

Where might you hold hope for restoration this year, Dear Reader?

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten
Joel 2:25, ESV

 

 

Thanksgiving Wrap-up

Thanksgiving weekend has come to an end. November, with its month of thankfulness, is almost over.

I won’t pretend it was an easy month, an easy holiday, because it wasn’t. There were moments of goodness and thankfulness that I was grateful to feel before moments of darkness and pain settled around me more strongly.

There was a struggle to stay present and thankful through some incredibly hard moments that can’t be detailed here. Because privacy.

I battle depression and would be lying if I said that it isn’t threatening to take me down these days, this season. The first step is recognizing the danger zone and admitting that I am in a vulnerable place. The second is reaching out and speaking up. The third is taking action and making a plan.

All three have happened, are happening, will happen.

I don’t know why life is so hard and the struggle is so real, but it is. I am grateful for those on my team who walk with me through the darkness and point me to the light.

One place of light was this tree of life moment Thanksgiving morning.

My husband woke me with a cup of coffee and the words, Do you want to come out and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

He had gone to the store in the early morning hours and purchased an antenna to hook up to the TV to capture the signal for NBC. Each year since our move to this house, Thanksgiving has been the one day I have longed for network TV to watch the parade. Each year we miss the opportunity, and I move on in hopefulness to the next.

Thanksgivings past have found my parents recording the parade for me to watch later or me heading over to their house to watch it. I have ignored it completely or deferred hope to another time down the road. This year it happened as I snuggled up on the couch with coffee and my kids, and we watched the parade together.

Then they watched the dog show.

It was a tree of life moment for us all around, and though it would soon pass and challenges present, for a few hours Thanksgiving morning, we escaped into musicals and marching bands and musicians and dancers and balloons and floats and dogs.

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Toothless watching himself in the parade is just one of many sweet moments shared together Thanksgiving morning.

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Don’t get too envious of the technology you see here. 2/5 of the electronic devices resting on the entertainment console are not ours. They are also the most modern of the devices. But whose counting? We are grateful for generous family and friends who share the fun with us.

Toil

Profiting toil
what is that?
It’s the doing and not just the talk.
It’s fearing the Lord,
understanding and strong.
It’s patiently walking the walk.

It’s the building up of a house
where the oxen are plenty and strong,

though the manger is messy,
and chaos is loud,
and the days feel endlessly long.

It’s the flourishing within our tent,
while our hearts may be aching with grief.
It’s the moments of joy in the struggle.
It’s the laughter that brings us relief.

It’s a strong confidence that remembers
the call and commitment to care;
to offer our children a fountain of life,
to remind them we’ll always be there.

It’s the peace in the midst of the struggle.
A heart that is fully at rest.
With wisdom to guide us,
and hope to provide us
reminders of how we’ve been blessed.

~a reminder of the profit in the toil from Proverbs 14~

Seasonal Ritual

It happened again. Though not officially fall for another week and a half, a seasonal ritual took place today. Since my teenage son was around for a rare Saturday moment, the timing was perfect.

The porch swing was carried from the kitchen set back down to the basement.

Didn’t I just carry this up from the basement? My obliging son asks.

It’s a seasonal ritual, I reply. The carrying up of the swing in the spring in hope that THIS will be the year that I sand, repaint, and hang it. The dragging on of summer. The realization that maybe it will be NEXT year’s tree of life moment. The return to the basement.

The swing was found at the Belmont Yard Sale many a year ago by my dear sis-in-law, who picked it up for me.

If you see a porch swing, let me know, I told her.

It hung for a time on the old porch, always with the intention that one day I would repaint and rehang it.

There was the porch project that is still a work in progress as we save up money to finish it.

Oh! You live in that house on the corner that is going through the remodel.

Yes, we do. The twelve-year remodel.

There was the idea that it would be nice to have a swing hanging.

There is another season gone. Another desire delayed for a spell. There is only so much time. So much space. So much money. So much energy.

So I have my son return the swing to the basement after toying with the idea of putting it out on the curb. We almost got money for it on Craig’s List one year. Almost.

Maybe next year will be the year. For now, I just need to stick with my word and continue the seasonal ritual.

Longer Shadows, Bluer Skies

September is here.

Shadows lengthen. Skies take on the brilliance of sapphire at just the right time of day. Fall prepares for another appearance.

School is in its second week. We seem to be settling into a routine before things change again. Because that’s what happens. Things change.

September brings a hopeful tension to me. The beginning of September makes it doubly so, since those single-digit days have returned. The hopeful part is that fall will be ushered in in all of its glory. The tension enters when no amount of pumpkin spice can cover up inevitable heartache and disappointment.

We try.

There is the hopeful of setting intentions. Waking early. Stretching. Following a routine. Planning.

Sapphire blue skies.

There is the tension of unintention. Oversleeping. Shutting down. Falling behind. Scrambling.

Longer shadows.

Yea, though I walk . . .

Fall brings a hopeful brilliance before the fading into winter.

It’s still summer, though. There remain several days to stay present in that instead of rushing ahead to the next season. The next season will come, ready or not.

Return to the Red Tent

Today was my first day back to work after summer’s break. Part of returning this year involves teaching again, and today began the process of setting up for another year in the classroom.

This morning I set an alarm to wake me early, beginning the push through some sort of early morning routine that I hope to follow.

I am thankful for time to practice it this week.

As I sat in my corner with Bible and journal, reading and writing and praying and listening, an alert came through my phone. It was the posting of today’s Red Tent article.

My heart soared when I saw that it was the article I had submitted for consideration this month. You see, the timing of its publishing felt perfect.

I have struggled this summer with many things, including writing. In fact, when I am struggling, writing is the first thing I cast aside, shutting myself out of the very thing that brings joy to my heart and breathes life to the hearts of others.

Writing this article was an act of defiance to the shutting-down place. It was a pushing through during a time when I didn’t feel like writing or sorting out or sharing. It was fighting for my heart.

I did it anyway.

Sometimes we just have to do it anyway. Whatever the it is that brings life to our dry bones. Even when we’re not feeling the love.

I’ve had to work this summer at intentionally looking for and receiving the love. Offering up praise and thanksgiving in the hard.  It’s there to be found. Even in 2 Chronicles. Don’t give up seeking.

I hope that if you haven’t clicked through already, you will choose to do so and see where writing took me this month. Rejoice with me in the kindness of a God who sees us as individuals and who encourages us in the places where we need it most.

You can read all of my Red Tent articles here, including a bonus by my daughter.

Hopeful Hibiscus

Hibiscus, you bloom;

hibiscus

one small orange flower, inviting me to examine more closely for buds.

bud

Sure enough, there they are.

budding

Tiny. Hopeful. Growing.

Your leaves aren’t pretty.

They aren’t lush and full.

I’ve seen you look better.

I’ve seen you look worse.

You’ve weathered a lot.

Winter was hard.

But you escaped brush pile and were given a new home.

transplanting

Returning to life, I find you now growing, and in your growth you invite me to hope.

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A Daughter’s Desire

My grown-up girl finally has her dog.

A lifetime of longing resulted in a tree of life moment for sure, as the text came through my phone, You’ll never guess what we did last night! I was glad for the picture so that I didn’t have to, you know, guess.

Did you get a dog??!!!

This is huge in my daughter’s world. I am sure she can never remember a time when she did not want a dog. She has always wanted a dog.

We never got a dog.

I will be the first to admit, with the constant flow of babies and toddlers and children and chaos in our home, the last thing I needed was something else to care for. I would be trying to feed a child while someone else was throwing a fit and another was calling for clean socks and someone needed to be wiped and think, If a dog bounded through the room right now, that would be the thing that tipped me over the edge.

One of my saddest mothering moments was when my daughter confessed that her 18th birthday was the first one where she didn’t hold out hope that we would surprise her with a puppy. It’s hard to know you have caused tremendous disappointment in your child’s life.

There is another daughter who longs for a dog. There are no more babies in the house. My firstborn made sure I knew not to hold out just because she never got a dog. In other words, Get that girl a dog!

So we are open to the idea of the right dog at the right time.

Meanwhile, my firstborn will celebrate her one-year wedding anniversary with her husband and the dog that we always said she was free to get when she grew up.

Welcome, Wren!

Wren

 

On Parenting

It’s the day before Mother’s Day. That’s not what this post is about, but I find it fitting that this week one of my favorite parenting passages came up in my Bible reading.

Judges is not the most encouraging book, but it reminds me that life for God’s people has been dark, broken, messy, and painful, yet he has never lost them or lost track of his purposes for them.

This is incredibly comforting as I travel a path that feels dark, broken, messy, and painful.

So there is a barren woman, which in biblical times was frowned upon, yet seems to be a pretty common theme among those whom God was going to raise up as influential mothers of important birth lines.

She would have been the one sorrowing on Mother’s Day as those around her received accolades and atta-girls for their fertility, which they had no more control over than she did. Really. It’s not a contest, race, or proving ground, this journey to motherhood or not. Or maybe that’s just my story and a digression.

Broken Motherhood.

An angel comes to her directly from heaven and tells her what she already knows. She is barren and has never borne a child or children. He follows this with the news that she will conceive a son.

Really.

He then gives a specific list of prescriptives explaining how she should move through her pregnancy and then care for her son when he is born.

  1. Drink no wine or strong drink.
  2. Eat nothing unclean.
  3. Do not cut the boy’s hair. Ever.
  4. Follow the rules of the Nazarite for him. He shall be one from birth to death.
  5. For further clarification, see Numbers 6.

He concludes with the statement that her son will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.

She tells her husband this big news. He is hesitant and full of questions. He wants direct heavenly communication, as well, and asks God for this. God kindly agrees and sends the angel again.

It really was the angel of the Lord.

They offer up food, which the angel does not accept, and sacrifices, which he does. Then he ascends in a flame from the altar.

I appreciate that Manoah thinks they are now going to die, but his wife understands there’s no getting out of this call that easily. If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these. Judges 13:23

A son is born. They call him Samson. He grows and is blessed by God. They follow the plan. They get results.

  1. He grows up and is attracted to the wrong kinds of women.
  2. He scrapes honey out of a dead animal and offers it to his parents without telling them the source.
  3. He kills people and steals from them.
  4. He is angry and destructive.
  5. He visits a prostitute.
  6. He loves Delilah and experiences his downfall at her hands.
  7. He asks to die with the Philistines in his final act and kills more at his death than during his entire life.

This passage is one of my favorites, because it shows just how little control we have over outcomes in parenting. His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord is a theme in Samson’s life. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him is another. But he did not know that the Lord had left him is there, along with O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God.

What was life like for Samson’s parents, especially his mother, when her dream child came true? Was it all she had hoped for? Worth giving up strong drink and wine for? Watching closely as she raised him that he didn’t touch grapes or raisins and finding things to do with his unruly hair? Having to deal with touching the dead animals and insects herself or calling to her husband, since her able-bodied son was not permitted to touch anything dead?

She was told he would begin to save Israel. How must that have felt? Hopeful? Exciting? Special? Yet watching Samson’s life unfold appears painful, confusing, and despairing from a mother’s perspective.

Did she struggle with her identity and with how things appeared to others? Were there moms of large families with many children who hadn’t been visited by the angel running a tight, obedient tent while Samson was running around? Did she experience looks and whispers?

I don’t know the answers. I am not a Bible scholar, only a woman who struggles every day with mothering a large number of children. I am a woman wounded by things labeled biblical. In this passage I find comfort that God’s hand is present even in the seemingly senseless and that my job is not to control but to walk by faith.

I am not responsible for outcomes.

Coloring Eggs

This is the first year that egg coloring hasn’t felt like a big deal.

It just happened.

Maybe it was because the three little girls who were the three babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners, are now big. They can do things rather than create extra work. Or at least they can help with the extra work.

Easter egg dying

Roo helped to mix the colors in the cups that we use every year.

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Each girl contentedly colored eight eggs. One even shared eggs with me, so that I could dye a few.

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There was painstaking care taken to try different techniques, and nothing spilled. No one yelled. Not even when the yellow was removed from someone’s space by me and passed to a little sister, because I didn’t know that it was being used next.

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Collie had to help, of course.

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We improvised a drying rack.

At the end of our time, each girl had a labeled box of colored eggs for the fridge, and I had a sense of what it looks like to move forward on this mothering journey in hopefulness.

It will not always be thus. My babies are growing up!

Happy Easter!

Easter 2015