Monday, September 21, 2015

Taste and See

Growing up, I loved adventure and exploring. The world was a different place and I would roam grassy fields, picking flowers, living in my imagination. We'd toboggan through apple orchards, never worrying that we could hit a tree. Getting "too close" to the pond  beside my grandparents' house was something I did often. I loved to swim and to run as fast as I could, and was convinced I could do anything. At age five, I ran away and just knew I could make it on my own (you know, at the corner store where there was plenty of candy and a playground across the street).

My confidence made me dream big and live large and loud. I was sixteen the first time I went to Europe. The thrill of exploring old cities with friends and meeting new people and being Jesus to those who may have never heard His name was immense.

There's another side of me -- one I buried as a teenager, that often rears its ugly head in adulthood. The same little girl who could do anything, also clung to her daddy in fear, at the bottom of Niagra Falls on the Maid of the Mist; and when looking up at the Canadian Rockies said "If I went up there, I would fall."

The two -- the explorer and the timid child have been trying to co-exist for a long time. I love the adventurer and I want to tell my fearful self to get over it. Fear can do nothing but hold me back. These days, the adventures and the worries are different in form, but they are ever present.

When I comfort a child back to sleep, I pray I would not pass on my fear -- that it would have no stronghold in our kids' lives. That they would "taste and see that the Lord is good" and that He "has not given us a spirit of fear ..." and that we can trust Him (Psalm 34:8, 2 Timothy 1:7).

As a mother it is my constant challenge to not parent out of fear and to open my children's eyes to the wonder of the world around them, but sometimes their independence and fearlessness frightens me. I am keenly aware of the worst case scenario in any given situation, but I am learning to let those thoughts work themselves out internally.

We recently discovered that Mary Elena (our baby, who is now three) loves the thrill of a rollercoaster -- high speeds and steep, sudden drops. She just barely reaches the height requirement for these rides, but once in her seat, she's all in ... all thirty-six inches of her. As we went on her favorite rides at Disneyland, she'd throw her hands in the air and laugh until the end of the ride, when she'd declare the experience "totally awesome!" The drop on Splash Mountain is over fifty feet and the speed is forty miles an hour, in a log without seatbelts, and she squealed in delight and wanted to go again. My little dare devil!

Our five year old, Nicholas, loves to swim. He's in and completely under, oblivious to the perils of the water. Up until last week, he'd only gone swimming in small groups of either close friends or family. Now that he swims, I've been less nervous about taking all four of my kids to a pool on my own, but last week we went to a party and there were few places he could touch the bottom of the pool. Even so, he was in and he was swimming -- until he wasn't. So I jumped in, fully dressed -- in one of my favorite outfits of the summer with accessories and shoes still on, surrounded only by people I don't know -- and lifted him out. When I asked him what happened he said "I just forgot to swim." As full as that pool and yard was, when he was in trouble his eyes found me, and even if they hadn't, my eyes were on him. That's what a mama does.

As I spend time with my kids, I realize that the part of me that anticipates danger is a positive thing if I direct it and use it well. That part of me remains vigilant so that my kids can have their adventures. My arms are around them as theirs let go, wildly waving in excitement; my eyes are on them when the waters overtake them, and my hands reach down to lift them up; my prayers surround them when we're apart.

In this new season of parenting when my kids are grasping for independence, it would be easy to think that the hard part of my job is over, but then I'm reminded that I am still being guided ever so gently by One I cannot see (Isaiah 40:11). And His eyes, His mind and His heart are on me and for me; That He created a world of places and ideas for adventuring and He wants us to taste and see that He is good.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!

    If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
(Psalm 139:7-12, The Message)

In the fear, in the adventure, He is there.

I am excited to write with an amazing and diverse group of women this year. Read what Susan has to say about adventure unlimited, and then click through the rest of the blogs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mourning Into Dancing

You did it: you changed wild lament
    into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
    and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
    I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.
Psalm 30:11-12

It has been a full summer. Yesterday, as I was looking over some paperwork I was reminded of what this time of year last year and the fall was like for our family. We were all feeling so beaten up. I was living with unexplained pain. Our kids were transitioning to a new school. We were trying to understand our son more and exploring possible reasons that may play a part in how challenging every day life can be for him. We had lost approval for speech therapy for our other son, and he was still struggling to be understood. And our extended families were also experiencing stress that we felt keenly. Not least of these, my sister-in-law was in a battle with cancer that was about to end and change our lives forever. If I'm honest, I found myself constantly questioning the goodness of God.

We are far from having all the answers to all that made life hard last year, and yet as I look back on the past two months, I realize how far we've been carried

In the thirteen years that we've been married, Matt and I have experienced high highs, and the lowest of lows. We've moved away from all our family, worked plenty for-now jobs, not known how we were going to afford to eat as we worked Matt's way through graduate school, lost grandparents, an uncle, suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage, experienced and bore the pain of the struggles of our siblings and parents. We've loved being married and hated being married. We've looked at each other more than once and asked "What are we doing here?" We've been blessed with four children, Matt's job, our amazing church community, a love that perseveres through the hard times and embraces always, God's constant provision, supportive families, the generosity of strangers and faithful friends.

What I'm [finally] realizing is that I'm not doing this life alone. I'm not even making it through the day alone. The broken parts of my life, the darkness in me -- they are not being healed because of my efforts.

"He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together." 
Colossians 1:17 HCSB

Isn't that just like Him? And if I never experienced the heartaches of this life, I would never be drawn to Him, nor would I notice the stunning beauty of the world and the people around me. 

In the last two months, I have gained two sisters-in-law. I have participated in and witnessed both their weddings, with tears of joy streaming down my face, not only because weddings do that to me, but because these weddings -- I know the stories behind them -- are evidence of a loving God, working "all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, NIV).

My brother-in-law who lost his first wife to cancer is still healing -- we all are.

My other brother-in-law reached his lowest years ago and has been doing healing of his own.

When I look at their lives, what they've been through, what they've lost and I remember their faces as they said their vows to my new sisters, I know there is a God. A good God.  And He is working all things ...

When I think of the stunning beauty of the two brides, as they pledged their love to men that they know -- brokenness and darkness, strength and passion melded together, I see evidence of a loving God. And He is working all things ...

When I look at Josh and Trakena and Joey and Rachel, I am blown away by the faithfulness of a God who does not want man to be alone. He is faithful. He is for us. And He is working all things ...

A pledge to love someone in the highs and lows, for better for worse, in sickness and in health -- that is no small thing. When I witness the joining of two lives at a wedding, I am reminded of a God that comes close. A God who laid down His life, to save mine. A good God who sees my mourning and breaks through with gladness and joy. A loving God, who does not want us to do life alone, but calls us into community. A faithful God, who sees our brokenness, and says "Watch what I can do!"

As Joey and Rachel's wedding was winding down, the DJ called everyone on the floor for a line dance. Erin, Matt's cousin, was encouraging me to join in, and I just said "I can't dance." Erin said "The way I see it, is everyone who I'm going to see again has already formed their opinion of me. So it doesn't matter what I look like." I was thinking good Erin, now you go dance. I'll stay here. Then she said "Lindsey, I've already formed my opinion of you, and I like you. Let's dance!" And I did. It was a blast! But as I reflect on that evening and that moment, I know that is also God's heart for me, for you. "I like you. Let's dance!"

He is the God of Job and the God of the Psalms. So today, as I muddle through the ins and outs of life, as I consider all the unanswered questions, I choose to dwell on the goodness, the love and the faithfulness of a God who constantly turns mourning into dancing, because He likes me. He likes you and He invites us into a life where mourning may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Take Your Sweet Texas Time

Others are sown among thorns; these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
 Mark 4:18,19 HCSB

We just got back from nearly four weeks in Texas spent mostly on JMJ Ranch, my in-laws' home and land. Once I am there, life immediately slows down and there is a deep, deep peace. It is rustic and romantic. There are cows and horses and soon there will be chickens. In every way, life on the ranch is different from our life in Los Angeles.

All year long, I'm holding my breath. With every unexpected turn of the road in parenting, I tell myself a break is on the way. Each time I rush out to the car to run another errand, to pick up kids, to play my role in the hustle and bustle of the city, I am subconsciously hoping for a slower existence.

A week before we began our eastward trek, I told my friend "I am a better version of myself in Texas ... a better wife and mother, calmer, less worried, more comfortable with myself. I trust easier, I love deeper. I am slower, deliberate, more relaxed. I am closer to the person I want to be." It is true that everyone is different on vacation and it really isn't fair to compare your everyday self to who you are when most of your responsibilities fade, and yet there is a deep desire to be the Texas Lindsey in California.

Leading up to our departure, Matt and I created a playlist of favorite country songs as we revved up for our trip. (This is the only time of year when he indulges my love of country music.) The closer we got to the ranch, the more I "serenaded" him with the words from a favorite song.

I wanna walk and not run
I wanna skip and not fall
I wanna look at the horizon 
And not see a building standing tall
I wanna be the only one 
For miles and miles
Except for maybe you
And your simple smile
Oh, it sounds good to me

Cowboy, take me away
Fly this girl as high as you can
Into the wild blue
Set me free, oh I pray
Closer to heaven above 
And closer to you

And it's not that I don't love my life. I love this adventure we started on thirteen years ago, the children we've been blessed with, the home we've made, the church and friends we love -- it is all grace. It is just that there are things that are done better in Texas that I want to be part of my reality in Los Angeles.

If I want to live well in the place God has called me -- if I want to be the person He created me to be, the best version of myself where He has placed me, provided for me, commissioned me, than I have to learn to be my Texas self here.

I love the bumper sticker that says "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as quick as I could." There is an enchantment in and for Texas. I admit it drove me crazy the first time Matt launched into what can only be described as a Texas Pride monologue, but I had lived there less than a year and we'd been dating a month at best, and it had yet to capture my heart.

Then as a college student I was required to take a Texas history class and it was during that semester that I fell in love with both history and Texas. I mean seriously, only Texas has existed under six flags, and that is only the beginning of its charm.

Oh, Texas.

I have so many memories from our trip this summer, but one that I will always remember is when in the middle of a conversation, my father-in-law said "Just let him take his sweet Texas time." A few days later as we were driving out of Texas, Matt read to me an account of John Ortberg asking Dallas Willard what is needed to be spiritually healthy, and his response resonated with me.
"You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

I worry that in this season of my life, with four kids, a husband in full time ministry, in a city with no family, with my (impossible to attain) shadow mission of becoming super mom; in a world and a culture where achievement, possessions and image reign, that I might lose myself -- that I will become so preoccupied with my outward life, that my heart gets lost in the shuffle.

So as I return to real life, I am determined to slow down ... to know that life isn't about reaching a destination, but like a good road trip, it is about the journey. It's as much about the music and the snacks, the conversations and the company. Yes, there is an end goal, but how much sweeter life would be if we allowed ourselves to slow down, to be distracted and amazed at the unexpected.

How many times and in what ways does God speak to us and we're so blinded by the world around us and by what we think we want, that we fail to see Him and the ways He longs to satisfy our soul hunger?

"Slow down. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, 'I can't help it. I'm addicted to alien gods. I can't quit.'" Jeremiah 2:25, MSG

It is impossible for me to spend hours silently fishing, lost in prayer everyday like I can on the ranch. I can't walk out into open fields with only the sound of crickets, birds and cows for company. There are so many buildings in Los Angeles and rainstorms are so few, that I will not hear His voice often in crashing thunder or feel His breath as the rushing wind forces an afternoon rain across the pasture, but He is all around and if I slow down I will find Him.

He speaks in the silence of the morning when I'm the only one awake. He is present in the belly laughs of my kids. He breathes peace when I respond and not react to a sibling conflict. I feel His presence as I set aside the press, and take the time to mince garlic with a sharp knife. I can't deny His goodness when I splash wine into a sauté pan and that glorious aroma fills my senses.

As I come home, I am determined to take my sweet Texas time, knowing I will find God there.