Rest, Movement, and Rain

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I was having a “moment” that turned into a day.  Moodiness and dissatisfaction seeped into the cracks of my vulnerable state. Relationships seemed like extra work.  People disappointed me with their actions.  Church ministry and MOPS plans gave me a glimpse into the type of schedule the fall would usher in. My fun plans for the day fell through.  I was unhappy, weary, and felt overwhelmed.  Coffee and chocolate could not clear the cloud hanging over my day.

I should have stopped to pray. I didn’t. I should have opened my Bible.  I didn’t.  Instead, I suffered silently through the day, trying to mentally solve situations that I had no control over and participating in a personal pity party.

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The next day, my morning devotions led me to a verse, which led me to another verse, that led me to a story that I needed to read. I love when this happens. It feels like you have found an unmarked trail, beckoning you to explore and discover something new.  This story was about the prophet Elijah and the wicked King Ahab.

Elijah had just challenged the prophets of Baal, killed them, and told Ahab to go eat and drink for an abundance of rain would break the long drought that held the land.  While Ahab went to rejoice, Elijah climbed up the top of Mount Carmel to fervently pray for rain. It was a head on the ground, face between his knees, full-body believing, and intense-kind of supplication.

After a time of prayer, Elijah told his servant to go look to the sea for rain.  The servant came back, no sign of rain.  Elijah got back in his prayer position.  Again, he sent his servant to look for rain and again, the servant came back with no news of rain. This happened FIVE more times until, at last, the servant came back with news that a cloud as big as a man’s hand is rising from the sea. A very small cloud to bring the promise of an abundance of rain. Elijah sent his servant to tell Ahab to get in his chariot before the rain stopped him on his ride to Jezreel.  And then this….

“The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:46

Skies blackening with dark gray rain clouds, temperature dropping with a cold wind.  The first drops of rain fell and multiplied in intensity.  Elijah filled with glory and power from the LORD, hiked up his long robe, tucked the garment into his belt. His eyes set on the direction of Jezreel, he ran or 15 miles through downpours to Jezreel.

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Convicted about my poor attitude and moodiness, I quieted myself to listen to what God wanted me to hear. My prayer life needed work. SEVEN times Elijah prayed on his face between his knees for rain. He did not give up on the first time or fourth time. He did not stop when his request was not immediately fulfilled; he got back on his knees and prayed again. Elijah rested in anticipation and the expectation that God would be faithful.  Oh, to pray like Elijah! I might need to pray once or a hundred times, but I need to believe the answer will come in the right amount of time. Whatever it may be, God’s got this! I need to rest with anticipation and expectation that my need will be fulfilled.

In addition to my prayers, I need to allow God to take over in every area of my life. Elijah’s run reminds me of that.  When I try to do things under my own power I stumble and fall over my cloak of commitments, human nature, and sin. I need to tuck my life in the belt of truth, allow God to fill me with his power, so that I can run free with courage and strength. I may get weary, but God never gets tired or never fails and he NEVER gives up on me. (Isaiah 40:28)

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In my next “moment,” I want my reaction to be different. I want to fall on my knees in prayer and rest in the knowledge that God’s in control.  I want to rely on God’s strength and wisdom in situations and decision making. I want to move towards Jesus, bringing all I have to him. I want to be caught running through a rainstorm of hope, mercy, and grace. I want those things to deeply seep into the dry cracks of my life so there will be no room for dissatisfaction. Time and practice. Mistakes and lessons learned. The only room I want left will be for love, flourishing and growth through God’s strength and his promises.

Our Summer Bucket List- Camping Edition #1

On Sunday afternoon, we decided that it was time to check camping off our Summer Bucket List. We packed the kids in the car, drove to the sporting goods store and purchased an eight-person tent and a queen sized air mattress. My husband and I decided that the kids would have to sleep on a skinny mats because that is what we had to do and before one gets to sleep in “comfort” one needs earn a certain number of hours in camping experience.

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We set the tent up in the backyard. Pumped up the air mattress. The kids unrolled the mats and sleeping bags. They brought out a few comforts from home- stuffed animals, blankies, and flashlights.We sat up in our tent talking. We made s’mores  and washed up in the house before ZIPPED the tent for the night.

It wasn’t long before the girls were fast asleep on their mats. My son had a hard time sleeping on a mat so we pulled him in between us. It took a good amount of time for him to fall asleep. But once he was asleep, he stayed asleep, on the air mattress, in between my husband and I. We never would have allowed our girls to do this but that is what happened when you are two, the baby of the family, and your parents are old and tired.

Here is how the night went for me:

10:00 PM- My son fell asleep.

10:00PM -11:30PM (?) A metal “dink” sound came from a neighboring yard….dink… dink…dink…It was loud and inconsistent. The type of noise that prevents you from falling asleep. We could not figure out what the noise was but a day later, we saw our neighbor’s son practicing hitting baseballs with his swing trainer. The same “dink” noise followed with each hit and the mystery was solved.

12:30 AM A loud meowing sound came from outside the tent. Our cat had been accidentally left outside and needed to be put in the house. UNZIP the tent. I enticed the cat into the house with treats. Back to the tent. UNZIP to get in and ZIPPED close again.

12:45 AM  The meowing sound AGAIN. I had left the sliding door open and could hear the car meowing wanting to come out back out. UNZIP the tent. Close the sliding door. UNZIP and ZIP the tent again.

1:00AM-4:00AM Various noises outside the tent. Apples dropping from the apple tree. Rustling noises from the woods behind our house. Some animal sniffing around and rubbing up against the tent. My husband says it was a bunny. I say it was something WAY bigger. Regardless, it kept us both up. This was added to the constant sleep interruption by my son’s feet in my face and his body rolling over my head.

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4:30AM Sunrise! Beautiful morning but the kids were still sleeping (thank the good Lord.) The peaceful sound of birds tweeting lulled me back to sleep.

6:00 AM- Kids up. We woke up. Time to take on the day!

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We made breakfast outside on a small camp stove and played Hello Kitty Uno with the girls. We didn’t look at computers or cellphone. The very-short break away from social media was nice.We laughed at the events of the night and imagined what animal really was lurking around our tent. My husband and I were both relaxed.  The kids were having a great time too.We were fully present and having fun.  Total fun score- 85% (15% off for no sleep.) But we can deal with no sleep. We have taken care of three newborns and survived.

With a successful camp-out under our belts, we packed up our camping gear. Rolled up the mats and sleeping bags. Deflated the air mattress. Took down the tent and packed it away. Our backyard was no longer a campsite.

My husband and I decided that this camping thing would be good for our family. My husband went to the basement and pulled out our old camping gear (stuff that has not been used in about 10 years.) We sorted and cleaned and prepared totes for our next adventure. When all of that was finished, we made a reservation for a campsite at a state park. With all the enthusiasm and expectation of great things to come, we are looking forward to our overnight trip. We are happy that we followed through with the activity on our bucket list. This small adventure will lead to many more and memories that will be last a lifetime.

When Past and Present Collide

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Waves of nostalgia intensified with each sweet, icy swallow. The cold, waxy, green-yellow cup and the sweet-tangy taste of frozen lemonade, sent me back to my childhood. It was a taste so familiar that it seemed to have been frozen in time. The stand still looked the same. An old clock, the plastic yellowed with age, hung on the inside wall. Nothing was fancy about the stand, it was just as I remembered it.

It was 4th of July weekend, the kids and I were visiting family. I had a romantic idea of having an “Authentic Rhode Island” holiday. I wanted to see old sights, taste the old treats, experience a glimpse of life the way it used to be. Twenty-one years had passed since I had lived in this small city, twenty-one years filled with changes and growing up.

We pulled out of the lemonade stand, driving towards the house I grew up in. The van seemed to instinctively know which way to turn. As we came to a stop in front of the house that I grew up in, I took one more gulp of the lemonade and relished in its familiarity.  I put the car in park and stared out the window.

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In front of me, was a house that looked so much smaller than I had remembered. A bungalow or cottage according to the sales records. There was a white sign with black lettering declaring that this house was no longer filled with a family but empty property owned by the airport corporation to be used as part of the airport expansion. The house paint was not as bright as it once was. The windows boarded up. The fence falling down. Weeds had started to grow in the cracks and crevices. It sat in a sad, lonely state. This house once filled to the brim with family, faith, hope, dreams, and love was looked so empty.

I looked across the street to our neighbor’s house. It no longer existed. In its place was an empty, grass lot.  Down the street and around the block, many other homes had succumbed to the same fate as my neighbor’s house. Houses that were inhabited by grumpy neighbors, messy children, friendly families were all gone. Demolished for the airport expansion. Phantoms of memories rose at every corner and in every empty space. It was a sad and eerie feeling.

A voice from the backseat declared the urgent need of a bathroom, startling me back to the present time. Another voice inquired when we were heading back to the hotel. One more voice, happily made noises from his car seat. My past faded and the present reappeared in vivid, deep color. The world seemed full of hope, dreams, and full of life.

I took one more glance at the house before driving away. I might not see the old house standing again. If I return to the neighborhood,  it may be a shiny, new runway for the airport.  That is okay.

The memories of my childhood, good and bad, do not live in an old house or in an old neighborhood. The empty, grass lots have not erased the laughter, friendship, and memories made in those spaces. Memories and lessons learned are kept close and held in mind and in my heart. Many hopes and dreams have come to fruition, in mistakes, successes, and with time.

My present place is a wonderful life, filled with constant activity, overabundance of love and laughter, lessons STILL needing to be learned. I was happy I had the chance to show my children the old house and my neighborhood. They may not have appreciated it but that is okay. For me it was a celebrations of the past and the future and of lemonade.  It was a memory that weaved my past and present together and will be stored away in my heart.

My Plan For Summer

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 “The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you.”   -Robert Louis Stevenson

What is my plan for summer?

I plan to breathe in, gaze at, listen intently, and feel fully each moment of summer.  For the first time in months, our calendar will be void of weekly classes, programs, and commitments. I intend to guide my family into the many possibilities of a blank schedule with a call for new adventures and sensory experiences.

This will not be easy for me. This will take practice. This will take grace.  I am a planner – a Type-A personality by nature. I like schedules, lists, agendas, a beginning time and an end time.  I like to carry my planner with me.

I have not always been this way. I used to be a dreamer, a free spirit, an adventurer, a lover of the glorious and spontaneous moment, a hopeless romantic. Somewhere between my first teaching job and my third child, those characteristics got pushed aside and buried deep within me.  As each new season of life approached, I changed. My approach to life changed. Schedules and lists took over spontaneity.  Safety over adventure. Reality over dreams.

BUT my seasons continue to change. My babies are growing up. I am getting older. If I am not careful, I will be swept away in the current of this quick paced world. I do not want to miss a moment. I am ready to unearth my old adventurous, dreaming, spontaneous self.

This summer, I will lead my family on mystery adventures. I will jump into the freezing cold, icy Atlantic Ocean with my children. I am going to choose the cone over the safety of a cup and let the cold, sweet ice cream dribble all over me while my children laugh. I am going to feel the warm sun on my face.  I am going to gaze in awe at the sunset skies. Most importantly, I am going to quiet myself and listen to God’s prompting, move to be in step with his plan, and embrace the rest summer offers while I notice the good gifts he has given me.

Originally posted at mops.org  http://www.mops.org/my-plan-for-summer

Succulents

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Recently, I have been enthralled with little plants called succulents. Succulents come in a variety of beautiful shapes and offer very interesting leaf formations. In their natural habitats, succulents adapt, survive, and even thrive in the harshest of environments. These plants embody A FIERCE FLOURISHING.

A succulent might not be the first plant you notice when you walk into a greenhouse. If placed next to a showy, tropical hibiscus it most likely will be overlooked. It might look foreign and out of place compared to the familiar, white blooms of a daisy.  However, if we stop for a moment, shift our focus and pay close attention, we might be surprised to find the uniqueness that each succulent has to offer. There is an art to noticing goodness. Sometimes we need to turn our eyes from the flashy, attention grabbing things and stretch our sight to notice the unfamiliar and uncertain things.

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Succulents have seasons of growth and rest. During their growing season, they like to be watered and fertilized.  During their season of rest, they fall into a dormant state. This is a critical time for the plants.  They need this break to stay healthy.  Just like succulents, we need rest to stay healthy. Rest may feel unnatural in our busy, fast-paced lives but it is important and needed to not only survive but to also thrive. As women, we must practice and strive to embrace and encourage rest as a natural part of life.

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We are like little succulent plants blooming up all around.A lavish celebration is taking place and we should join the celebration. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace, the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”Isaiah 55:12  All of nature is celebrating our growth, our uniqueness, our surroundings, our ability and work to adapt, our wandering and replanting.

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“Forget the former things do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you know perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland!” (Isaiah 48:18)

Last year, was a big growing season for me. I was challenged to be brave and embrace life with courage and grace. God did a lot of work in me and I emerged as a new thing that came up in the wilderness. That work has not stopped, I continue to work at springing up against the fiercest of situations, the fiercest of enemies, the toughest of critics.  I am a like a brave little succulent and am blooming in fierce, surprising ways. I am ready to adapt, rest, notice, celebrate, and flourish.

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You can experience A FIERCE FLOURSIHING this year too by joining a MOPS group.  A MOPS Group is a community of women who meet together to come alongside each other in our journey of motherhood. MOPS International exists to encourage and equip moms of young children to realize their potential as mothers, women and leaders, in relationship with Jesus, and in partnership with the local church. Find out more and find a group near you at mops.org.

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The views expressed on this blog are mine alone and they do not necessarily reflect the views of MOPS International.  They have not been reviewed or approved by MOPS International