Leave a comment

Let Freedom Grow

A word which has shaped and defined this year is freedom.  I’m seeing it played out in so many ways throughout my every day.  For instance.  Today my skirt fell off.  Under many circumstances, this would have been categorized as one of my most embarrassing moments.  Thankfully, I was *only* outside in the front yard, having just walked out to our van to grab something and bring it inside.  The mailman wasn’t there.  No one was walking by.  The neighbors weren’t mowing their lawn.  I speedily pulled it together and ran inside.  This can be categorized as freedom, though not exactly what I had in mind on January 1st.  My box of wrap skirts have taken center stage in my wardrobe.  And I will not let a small setback, such as one falling off of me, deter me from wearing them.  My twenty-week-belly loves the wrap skirt idea.  2016-06-30 17.31.40This week the kids have been able to feel baby Chip move so much.  Their faces are priceless!  Jack sat there with his hand on my tummy for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden his hand shot back and he looked at me with his eyes and mouth about the same width.  It was great!  As I sit on the front porch this evening after a busy day of mommy-ing, attacking the weeds in my garden, and doing the regular mounds of laundry, I feel some kicking.  Baby Chip most certainly had a growth spurt this week, because all of a sudden I make a funny noise when I bend over, forgetting my front has expanded into my ribcage when in that position.  That, and I keep stubbing my toes when I walk upstairs.  I think it’s because I don’t lift my legs as high right before I take a step.  Pretty much on the dot, every night around 11pm the gymnastics starts, and I sit with my hand on my belly, in wonderment at another life bursting with joy inside of me.  Freedom.
IMG_8608[1]
For the past six weeks, Elsie has had a cast on her right arm.  After about a day of figuring out how to do stuff with a perpetually bent arm, she quickly resumed life with a cast, almost as if she had none.  She literally lets nothing hold her back.  Even without the use of her thumb, she figured out how to tie her shoes, do monkey bars, climb, ride a bike and even play baseball!
2016-07-01 22.40.29.png
Monday was a big day for her, when she was liberated from its confines.  Freedom.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
IMG_8590[1]This week I had to say goodbye to a dear, sweet friend.  Our husbands met at a spin class about 8 years ago, which was definitely a God-ordained meeting, since I don’t think either of them have been to a spin class ever since.  Our kids are the same age, and we’ve watched and prayed eachother through some mutually serious health issues.  She is the friend who introduced Plexus to me, and after watching her journey to health and freedom, jumped in to join her.  She has been an incredible source of joy and encouragement and wisdom to me the past few years.  I love how in Heaven others will truly find out how much impact they’ve had on your life.  Thankfully Tennessee isn’t too far, but knowing I can’t just pop over makes me get a little teary.  Letting loved ones go and be and do what they’ve been called to is one of the hardest things on earth, I believe.  Yet, letting them go gives you more freedom to love stronger and deeper and further than before.
2016-06-26 13.47.01
Once a week Nadine has been getting back into the saddle.  It’s the highlight of her week.  She gets to ride with one of her best friends as well, which adds all sorts of amazingness to her week.  To me, it’s scary.  To her, it’s freedom.  She continues to be a huge source of help to me around the house and is growing in her babysitting abilities.  nrw
Today our not-so-bitty-Betty lost her first tooth!  She is growing up, embracing her big sister role already, and is somwhat of an old soul.  Sometimes I look at her and wonder on what wavelength she communicates to God.  He must tell her things I can’t quite fathom.  If you’ve ever had a conversation with her, you might understand what I’m having a hard time putting in to words.  Growing up requires a little bit of pain, which usually results in more freedom.
2016-07-01 13.09.59-2.jpg
Speaking of growing up.  There are these two characters who live in the attic, who often sound like a small herd of elephants when they come down the stairs.  But they are in actuality, boy-men.  Boys trapped in bodies which are swiftly becoming men.  Boys who dream of motorcycles and ammunition and muscles and big stuff like jobs.  Jobs that pay money so Elijah can get his pilot’s license and fly his friends wherever they want to go.  It’s fun to listen to their dreams and know that many of them will come true if we never plant seeds of doubt into their fertile minds.  Freedom.
2016-06-21 14.07.13.jpg
Apparently there is a “look back and compare an old picture of you and your spouse to now” thing going on over on facebook.  So, for fun I decided to do just that.  I practically died when I pulled out this doozy of a photo from nine years ago!  Matthew had been sick for about a year and a half, was on high doses of toxic meds, and I was barely surviving as a mom of three.  How incredibly blessed and grateful I am for the road we have traveled, and for the way the Lord has helped us navigate the stormy path.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Processed with MOLDIV
We don’t even know how many prayers have gone up for us on Matthew’s behalf.  So many.  There were times we literally felt like there was no way to go on.  We praise the Lord for the gift of health.  We know we are never guaranteed another breath.  But for every breath we are given, we praise Him!  Matthew is out running right now, his reflective vest on, heart pumping, lungs breathing, windpipe open.  Not something we would have thought about before.  It is the storm which has made our love so strong.  It is being in the pit which has made the air above so clean and worth savoring.  2016-06-28 23.14.09
We pray for open hands to receive both the sickness and the health.  The richer and the poorer.  Til death do us part.  In doing this, there is great freedom.

 

Advertisements


2 Comments

Running and Free

We were created to be free.  One of my favorite things about being a child of God is the freedom we have in Christ.  Why has Christ set us free from sin and death?  For the incredible and awesome status of “free”.  Free to love beyond ourselves.  Free to truly live and not just exist.  We were on those slave blocks.  Half-naked, humiliated, alone.  Sin had us bought and mocked and tortured some more.  Deep inside all of us is this yearning for freedom.  Real freedom.  Not the freedom from our own procuring, like sneaking out the house at night in search of exhilarating freedom, yet being burdened with guilt instead.  Not like a runaway slave who is constantly looking over their shoulder in fear.  Freedom in Christ is freedom FROM guilt and fear.  It is living truly free.  Free to be at peace with our life today and eternally.

My heart hurts when I see God’s children becoming slaves all over again to fear and guilt.  The very reason our freedom was bought at such a cost was so we wouldn’t have to be burdened ever again.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Did you hear that?  It’s like a slave being bought from the tortured life of slavery, being given every privilege of a free man, yet still beating themselves every night for old times’ sake.  It’s a mockery of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  And it’s exactly where our enemy wants us to  be.  If we aren’t taking full advantage of our freedom in Christ, he wins.  Because his tactics are to lure us into self-made cages of fear and guilt.  As long as we’re in bondage again to fear, we are powerless.  Scared stiff.

I’ve been really convicted about being unafraid of doing hard things.  We all have hard things.  Everyone’s story is different.  We simply can not compare each other’s journeys.  We’re all running the race, and it’s a good thing we’re not all the same pace.  Just like running, though, the goal is not to quit.  On our journey, we’ve had some hard stuff.  Our hard has often revolved around health and money.  In fact, last month, the two year anniversary of our hardest battle yet, came and went without me even thinking about it!  I praise the Lord for a healthy marriage, despite unhealthy bodies.  More recently, our hard has been the climbing out of the pit we’ve been diving in and out of for the past ten years.  It’s because of the freedom we have in Christ we have been able to keep going.

Maybe Paul was a runner too, because he often referenced our life to a race. In a race, you’re exhausted, sometimes unsure of how to make the next step, and usually right about the time you feel like quitting, someone with a cup of cold water or a really encouraging word yelled in your direction puts a new strength to your legs and a renewed desire to finish well. 2015-09-08 12.13.17
We all have stories.  I actually made a short video about our journey so far.  I call it ten years condensed into less than five minutes.  Consider it a cup of cold water if perhaps you are going through a hard mile.  We’re not there yet, but I can fully and earnestly say, thus far the Lord has helped us!


Leave a comment

Sweet Summer

Since school is beginning very soon, I thought now would be a good time to do a quick overview of our summer so far.  It’s been delightful to say the least!  June started out with a half marathon, which I completed with two friends.  It was much harder than anticipated, but I finished and was thankful for the challenge!June 2015 phone photos
July was full of some sickness, but was trumped by the ocean, soccer camp, girls’ camp, wrestling camp, and family time.
July 2015
So far, August has been beautiful.  Our dear friends came to visit us from Ohio.  Ruthie and I go all the way back to age ten.  Lots of front porch talks, a trip to the beach, and seeing our kids play with each other was such a joy.  The garden is bursting with color.  Matthew made the girls’ room a lot more fun by hanging their bed from the ceiling.  It is only accessible via a ladder and monkey bars.  Notice, my oldest daughter has to bend over a bit to look like the same height as her mother.  Matthew is doing marvelously well health-wise.  More on that later.
August 2015
God has been so faithful and good to us.  Summer isn’t over yet, and it’s been grand so far.


Leave a comment

Only 179 More Days

Last night I pulled out the half-dead morning-glory vines and squeezed back tears.  My feet crunched dead-ness all around, and I fought the yucky pit in my stomach that creeps in every year around this time.  This morning I put on shorts, somewhat in defiance, but succumbed to long pants because my body just can’t take anything below seventy degrees.  Then I heard somewhere how today it’s fall, which means my favorite time of the year is over.  So I did what is only natural for an African-born gal to do.  I cried.  Mourning the loss of barefoot days, flowers in abundance, fireflies at night, and countless hours spent outside, without having to worry about a coat or something to cover my feet.  I may have even found a counter to check off how many days are left until spring.  There are 179 more days.  But who’s counting?

So, yeah, I cried over the phone to my ever-patient husband, who didn’t laugh at me for the hard morning I was having as a mom and as a summer-loving girl.  But I’m not the sulky eleven-year old that I used to be.  Yes, I still resist the urge to slam my bedroom door, and sometimes the door swings out of my hands a little faster than I was hoping it would, and makes a louder bang than I truly intended it to make, but I’m growing up.  So, when seasons change and I let my dislike of it get to my very soul, there is a problem.  I’d like to think there’s a problem with the thermometer or perhaps even the entire earth, but honestly, there’s a problem with me.  There’s this tricky little part in all of us that quickly gives in to difficulty.  It’s the part in us that needs words like, “In everything give thanks,” and “Endure hardship like a good soldier.”  So when everything is wrong with the world, and people who love fall move to my hit-list, there is  problem inside my heart.  I have failed to give thanks, to see the beauty in change, and to wonder at what this change will bring to my life.

Things that thrill me no matter what season: sunshine, my man, running, fresh veggies, aromatherapy school, my amazing children, and music.

So, I choose joy.  Even though I want to curl up in my bed, with chocolate and hot tea until the first day of spring, I simply can not.  I will embrace this colder season of life with dignity, grace and strength provided from the God who made me, knows me, and never leaves me.  I will keep donning my sneakers (along with many other layers) and run with endurance.  I have goals to accomplish.  Children to teach.  Things to learn.  Places to go.  Life can’t stop just  because the sun is further from my part of the globe.  It’s time to pull out my scarves, check my thankfulness-meter, and perhaps buy a few mums to brighten my dead-looking garden.  


Leave a comment

Run Wild With The Hope

Amazing experiences are like pearls hidden in a shell.  Unless you know there is treasure inside, it is just an ugly shell.  This weekend may have looked like a crazy-dirty-roll-my-eyes-at-another-race-type-run to most people, but if you can be patient, I hope I can unpack and share with you some treasures I found hidden in the rough.
DSC_5008
DSC_5012
DSC_5013
It started as a team of twelve people I barely knew.  Names painted onto a van.  It ended very differently.
DSC_5031
We had two vans, with six runners per van.  Every runner had three legs to complete, so we made check boxes for each of us to fill in as we finished.  Art meets brawn.  Or something like that.DSC_5035
As second runner, I waited for my first run and tried not to think about how cold I was.  I imagined the warmth that would soon be coursing through my blood once I got going.  Once Bonnie tagged me, I was off.  DSC_5041
I had a two-mile climb before cresting the hill and experiencing an incredible view.  The van drove by me to yell through the windows, words of encouragement.  And I listened to words of worship and blessing through songs in my ears.

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames 
I feel thunder in the sky 
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name…
And there is still a faith
That can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I’ve seen love make heaven ring…
From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song
Not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name.

I slowed my pace to catch this view with my phone.  It doesn’t do it justice.  I felt so free up there, maybe a bit like how a bird feels when he’s flying across the beauty only visible between earth and sky.  I could feel the glory of the mountains breaking into song and the trees clapping their hands.  I was spectator to the majestic song of praise that is constantly being sung.  My feet kept time, I met with my Maker up there, and it felt like holy ground.

2014-09-12 09.27.34-2
DSC_5050
At the second exchange, I tagged runner 3, and we were off to encourage him.  Sometimes it meant screaming through open van windows, and sometimes it meant using sidewalk chalk along the craziest climb of the race. rr3
rr4-2
DSC_5058 DSC_5051 DSC_5061
Through each exchange, each runner tagged the next.
DSC_5079DSC_5074
There was a particularly breath-taking view along the way, right before Matthew’s first run.
DSC_5090-2
Who spoke the Earth and sky to form
Who sets the sun and calls the dawn
Who breathed me out of dust to life
With the will to trust or run and hide

I will stay should the world by me fold
Lift up Your name as the darkness falls
I will wait and hold fast to Your word
Heart on Your heart and my eyes on You

Who loved me through my rebel way
Who chose to carry all my shame
Who breathes in me with endless life
The king of glory Jesus Christ

DSC_5096
DSC_5102 DSC_5104
After Matthew ran in to finish leg 1 for our van, we headed to another exchange to wait until van 2 finished their first leg.  We slept, refueled, and played Phase 10.  It’s always more fun when you win.
DSC_5111
2014-09-12 18.18.50-2
I was a bit nervous about running through the night.  Donning my headlight, strobe light, and reflective vest, I headed out into the darkness.  They weren’t the only things lighting my way.

For all of this life
Your Spirit ignites
A heavenly fire
Untouched by the night

You opened our eyes
Turned death into life
Revealing all truth
There’s no one like You.

In the midst of the darkest night
Let Your love be the shining light
Breaking chains that were holding me
You sent Your Son down and set me free
Everything of this world will fade
I’m pressing on till I see Your face

At a few points during that run, my team pulled over and got out of the van to cheer me on.  I’m having a hard time putting into words how that actually made me feel.  It was a condensed version of life, really.  We all go through dark times, when fears are tangible and light is dim to nonexistent.  The second I took my eyes off the light from my headlamp, and darted them into the woods lining the dark road, my heart could feel the darkness.  When our eyes are fixed on the light and power that is Jesus Christ, we are truly set free from the fear of darkness.  Because darkness is really just the absence of light.  Dark times can also be very lonely times.  There was literally not a speck of life on some stretches of that road.  When those cheering voices came into view, the feeling of loneliness and isolation was immediately overwhelmed by love.  Love stands outside on a cold dark night and yells your name until you smile and find more strength in your weary legs.
2014-09-15 08.37.41-2
When we finished our night runs, we were able to rest for a couple of hours at one of the exchanges.  The third and final leg began right at dawn.  My legs were sore, but quickly the adrenaline gave me an extra boost I didn’t think was possible.  We had a few people’s cell phone’s taking pictures along the way.  This one is not from my particular leg, but every run had the ever-encouraging “one mile to go” sign posted and blinking.  It was pretty exciting to hand off the bracelet one more time, and then revel in the joy of being finished.
RR Processed with Moldiv
Finished running, maybe, but not finished cheering on my team.
Processed with Moldiv 2014-09-13 10.40.15
When we all completed our legs, we ate a delicious meal before driving to the finish-line in Washington D.C.  I even managed to wash my hair and self in the small bathroom sink at Panera.  Glory.  rr2
The view was gorgeous from the finish line, and then it began to pour.  Van 2 team did an amazing job of enduring over very difficult hills, through the night, and in the rain.  A few minutes before our last runner crossed the finish line, the sun came out and smiled on our tired but happy team.
2014-09-13 15.17.20-2
2014-09-13 15.08.18-2
Driving home, the sun kept on shining.  Check marks on the windows reminded me of hundreds of miles run.  Goals accomplished.  Hills conquered.  Darkness overwhelmed by light.  No longer just names painted on a van.  Real souls, with stories of their own.  Real hearts that pump blood through their bodies.  Bodies capable of more than each of us thought possible at times.  Names turned into friends.  Friends who made me laugh to my core, and changed me in some intangible way I haven’t quite figured out yet.  But I know I’m better because of them.
2014-09-13 17.24.03-2
I’ve been shaken up a little.  Pushed out of my comfort zone a lot.  And somewhere out there on the road, I found a part of myself I didn’t know was missing.
2014-09-15 09.51.32-2
When I agreed to this race, I only saw the shell.  I was skeptical of the entire idea.  Yet through the hard work and grit and grime, a real pearl emerged.  It reflects teamwork, laughter, determination, and friendship.  Unique and priceless.  Press on.  You never know where the next road will take you.


Leave a comment

200-ish Miles and At Least One Shower

I mean to take showers every day.  Really I do.  But I often tell myself that it will happen after I exercise.  It’s a lovely treat to wash away all the stinky sweat after a good run.  But when I forget to shower… I mean, exercise… I will usually be reminded by my sweet 6-year old.  It’s pretty bad when she looked at me yesterday afternoon as I stretched my arms in the air and said, “Mom!  This is like the fifth time I’ve told you… You need to shave your armpits!”  Oy!  My oldest sister used to remind me to take showers.  Now my daughter does.  As I’ve said before, it’s not my favorite thing to do.

This little girl is the queen of pull-ups!  She can do three dead-hang pull-ups in a row, and at least a dozen times a day I see her going down to the basement to practice yet again.  She is a funny girl.  The other day she said to me, “My life is changing.  Everything I used to like I don’t like anymore.”  I think we were just having a meal she wasn’t too fond of eating, but from her point of view, it was much more dramatic than that.  She loves to sing and dance and do one-handed cartwheels.  She is growing out her hair and can hardly wait until it’s down to her waist.
DSC_4557-3
“I don’t want my hair in a pony any more,” Betty said to me.  “I want it in my ears.”  I think she meant “behind my ears”, but that’s ok.  I understand her sweet three-year-old vocabulary.  Which is really quite astounding.  She is a precious girl with a lion’s heart.  She can count very fluently until about ten, then she says things like, “Eleventeen, twelve-teen, thirteen…”  But she is improving daily on her school work, and sits for HOURS at her little desk.  She isn’t afraid of bugs.  “Real bugs fly like this!” she told me one time, flapping her arms like a bird.  “I really like ants and lightning bugs.”  Betty reminds me to use special things every day, because every day is special.  Like when she wears her most beautiful dress.  It’s a creamy butter yellow with tulle all around it.  I used to think it should only be worn on very special occasions.  Now it is worn to ride bikes, climb trees, and during sword-fights, because every day is special.

DSC_4500-2 DSC_4504-2 DSC_4505-2 DSC_4506-2 DSC_4512-2
Our week was short but very full.  The boys find reading much easier dressed in soldier gear.  On Sunday, we had the privilege of meeting Jay, from Kenya!  He was a graduate from Compassion International, and we heard his story last week at the mobile experience.  Nadine has her boot off at last, and this morning the stitches came out too.  She isn’t up to running yet, but not having crutches or a big boot is a huge blessing!  Getting back onto a horse, bareback, was a huge highlight for her this week.
Processed with Moldiv
This weekend, Matthew and I will be running in a 200 mile relay with other people from his work.  I am runner #2 of 12.  Here is a look at my three legs of the race:2014-09-10 15.20.15
I’m a little bit nervous about it, but excited too.   This weekend I got my longest run in that I’ve had since March… so I hope I survive!
Processed with Moldiv
Nadine told me to take lots of pictures of this weekend.  I’m mostly excited to be with Matthew for a a couple of days, even if it is doing something rather crazy.  And in honor of Elsie, I’ll be sure to get at least one shower.


2 Comments

Oh I Would Run 3 Miles or More Just To See You Walk Right Through That Door

Today was our “official” first day of school.  Everyone dove in excitedly, and we got everything done that was on our schedule!  We waited all day for Matthew to come home, because we knew he was driving home in something pretty special.  If you heard the screaming from the West End, those were our children excitedly welcoming their Daddy home from his first day of work at Rittenhouse Builder’s.  In his “new” truck, no less.
DSC_4586-2
A few weeks ago, he was offered the position of a project manager at Rittenhouse, and after praying about it the Lord confirmed that this was the right next step to take!  He even provided a much-needed new truck for Matthew, and medical benefits.  We are incredibly thankful.  We were not looking for a new job, but God fit Matthew for this perfectly.  I’m so proud of him!  Elijah is too, but he was just tired of smiling into the sun.
DSC_4596-2
As for the teacher of those wild and amazing children… she needed to pound out some miles tonight.  So, this is me, after running practically all uphill for 3 miles to go fetch Matthew’s old truck and drive it home.  Because that is just something we like to do.  Or, it might have something to do with the fact that I’m training for a relay race taking place in three weeks.  I am slotted for 15 miles, split into 3 runs over the weekend.  I’m pretty excited since Matthew and I will be doing it together with a team from Rittenhouse.
run
So, that was our day in a nutshell!  I’m excited for new beginnings, overcoming challenges, and a gracious Heavenly Father who is holding us through it all.  The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad!  (Psalm 126:3)