Tall, Dark, and Scary

My friend has a daughter who is always climbing trees.  Like way up in the sky, give her mama a heart attack, kind of climbing trees.  She climbs up in those branches, and sits to look at the beauty around her while everything on the ground becomes small.  Sometimes she climbs alone.  Other times she brings along her dad.  I’m pretty sure she inherited this love for high places from him…anyway, my friend gets to have a double portion of anxiety as she watches her loves ascend the branches of any tall tree they can find!

Awhile ago, she posted a pic of them together, high in the branches of a pine tree.img_2391-1I couldn’t help but wonder (after having a mild heart attack myself), when was the last time I climbed a tree?  When did these beautiful, tall, green, and solid plants become tall, dark, and scary plants?  FYI: a tree IS considered a plant; I googled it just to make sure…

I used to be the same way; climbing to the tops of trees and sitting in the branches.  I would get to the point where I would feel the wind moving me while I sat.  Then, I  would move one branch higher (just to see if I could), before slowly backing my way down.  I would feel for solid branches with my feet, and then have adrenaline race through my veins because I would slip on my way back to the ground.  It was always an adventure.

We had a tree in the front yard of one of the houses I grew up in.  It wasn’t a tall tree.  It wasn’t a huge tree.  But, it had a cluster of branches that was just perfect for a scrawny 9 year old girl to sit in.  I was up there all the time.  Watching birds.  Seeing little critters run around the yard.  It was heaven to feel the cool breeze make its way through the branches on hot summer days.  It was quiet and peaceful.  My 9 year old mind told me it was closer to God too; especially after my brother died.   It was my spot.  It was my calm.  Everything around me looked smaller and seemed more manageable up in that tree.

So, when did I stop climbing trees?

When did you?IMG_0754.JPGI know things change as we grow into adults; even more when we become parents.  They do.  You can’t stop it.  You just roll with it as responsibilities increase and gravity pulls your feet to the ground.  All of the sudden, we’re plodding through our days watching our kids live life with the abandon we once had (insert The Lion King “Circle of Life” chorus here).

I don’t think our wild and risk-taking attitude disappears.  I agree that it changes.  Honestly, with that change, I think it gets buried.

We have to work and pay bills.  We are in charge of raising kids and making sure they grow.  We have spouses, and school, and sports, and church, and groceries, and birthdays, and yard work, and laundry, and cars, and cleaning, and the list that never ends.  All of the sudden, life isn’t about climbing trees, or rolling down hills, or riding your bike as fast as you can down the steepest hill you can find.  Nope, it’s about making it through to the end of the week.  It’s about getting to the end of month.  Just.  Finishing.  The.  Year.

A few months ago, I wrote about the women with the issue of blood and the risk she took when she waited just a second longer.  She could have been buried in all of the chaos and people following Jesus, but instead that step out of the crowd gave her freedom.  Her surrender resurrected her and brought life back to that wild and risk-taking attitude.

Day to day “stuff” is so heavy.  That list up there tethers us to the ground.  The checked off “to-do’s” bury us to the point where we feel like just taking a breath is an accomplishment.  That list we think of as solid ground…in reality, it’s quicksand.  Waiting to bury us and keep us from the adventure God has for us.  It wants to drown us and hardens our hearts to beauty around us.  What we see as solid ground makes the life He has envisioned for us seem scary, not worth the risk, and definitely out of our reach.

I challenge you today to reach up, grab those tree branches, and start climbing.

Climb higher into the love and grace He extends to us and watch every care get smaller and further away from our feet.

Sit in the branches of His safety and embrace the warmth that softens our hearts because we keep getting closer and closer to the Son.

Step off the well traveled road and confront the glorified busyness of life and work that distracts us from our real purpose.  Slow down and talk each other, instead of letting your heart get buried or hardened in this business that we have started calling “marriage.”

Stop to listen. Slow down and watch. But, never stop climbing.

We need to show our kids how to climb.  It’s ours to teach them how to leave the ground and embrace the life high in the branches of the tallest tree.  The place that from the ground seems scary and unstable.  But, in reality is safe in the arms of The One who would never let them fall.3943592bc96f0d10d100afe2708f3c5cI am going to choose happy on this seemingly routine Thursday, because even though I am just beginning to climb trees again, I am excited to see the view God has for me and mine.

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Just Keep Hiking, Just Keep Hiking, Just Keep Hiking

IMG_0754.JPGHave any of you ever been hiking?  There is something beautiful about being in the woods, on a mountain, or even in the middle of a sand dune with no distractions.  It’s quiet.  It puts God’s creation on display.  It lets you focus on the world around you in the most simple and breathtaking way.  If you’ve never tried it, do it!  Seriously, just go to your closest state park, find a trail, and go; you won’t regret it!

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We stumbled upon this new hobby by accident!  One day, we all decided to tag along with Clint when he went up to Ludington for work.  Northern Michigan is beautiful any time of year.  And, in the summer it’s a little cooler and the lakeshore is just perfect for a day trip.  So the plan was to let him get his work done and then head up to Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear Dunes.  We were going to climb the big dune with the kids and take in the pretty view.  Simple enough, right?!

We drove around town and then headed for the first big dune we laid our eyes on!  It was huge! But, when we got to the top…the view was just another sand dune.  And when you got to the top of the next one there still was no lake at the bottom of it.  And when you got to the top of that one, you only saw another, and another, and another…IMG_0054

Being the committed family that we are (more like I was too stubborn to turn around), we continued on.  We kept climbing.  We kept running down the side of one sand mountain only to crawl up another.  Each time hoping to see Lake Michigan as we reached the top.  However, we were only seeing more sand.

It was becoming quite obvious that we had chosen the wrong dune.  People were turning around and telling us that there were more obstacles ahead; that they were turning back.  There was another family, just like us, who told us just to give up as they headed back for the car disappointed and tired.  We considered it.  But, there was something about that feeling we got every time we reached the top.  The feeling that this was going to be it!  That this was the last one!  IMG_0052

Finally, after what seemed like forever we saw the end!  Not in the form of water, endless blue skies, or forever reaching lakeshore.  It was in the form of a sign that said that Lake Michigan was still 1/2mi in front of us.  That we had a 1/2mi more of sand, more sun, and more climbing.  What?!!!

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This is actually from a hike in Ludington State Park, but it gives you a good idea of how we felt.

Hope is a tricky thing.  It can spur us on to accomplish great things.  It can keep us going when we just want to give up.  The feeling that what lies ahead is greater than what lies behind defines hope.  But, what happens when what your hoping for seems constantly out of reach?  When hope is deferred, and every time you get to the top of a mountain you only see another one?

I wish I had the perfect response to lift the discouragement that seems to fall every time life happens.  When we fail to get the job promotion; again. When we fight with our spouse or kids,over the same thing; again.  When it feels like our dreams are just too far to grasp; again…

I do know that we have a choice.  That just like love, hope is a choice.  The choice that pushes us forward.  I am talking about the cling-to-hope-even-when-all-is-lost choice.  I am talking about the decision to get-up-and-face-another-day-and-climb-the-next-mountain. The choice we make to decide that what lies over the top of the next sand dune has to be better than the sand dune we just climbed if only because it’s not the same sand dune we just climbed!

That every step forward takes you further from what is behind you.

This is hope.

Well, we did it!  We continued for another 1/2 mi and were rewarded with one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  We were hooked; hiking has become something we love.  Even Livi (who is opposed to most physical activity), can occasionally be convinced to join.

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I am going to choose happy this week because HOPE.  Because we would have missed that gorgeous view if we had just focused on what was right in front of us.  We would be missing out on a ton of other great views too if we hadn’t seen it through to the end.

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P.S.  

That hike in the dunes ended up being 7mi total!  How we missed the other signs, I am not sure.

 Oh, and don’t ask my kids if they have the same great memories I do…you won’t get the same response!

 

 

Three Days In

THREE DAYS!  It’s been THREE DAYS!

Heaven help me I’m going to lose my mind…or one of my kids is not going to make it through the summer!  I’m sorry but that is just the truth of it!

We are on day #3 of summer break and I have heard the words “I’m bored” so many times I’ve lost count.  Since when am I required to be their entertainment?  Apparently, the minute school let out…

Teachers, can they please come back?  Without the homework, early arrival, and lunches to pack, of course.  Can’t you just keep them all summer?  You can do all that nonsense that was dubbed the last week of school.  I mean, you could have more faculty vs. student basketball games, soccer tournaments, and talent shows; right?  You could show them a few movies and have ice cream parties everyday; it would be splendid!  Then I could pick them up, feed them dinner, and put them in bed because it’s a “school night” and they need rest.  What sorcery is this? You know, the odd magical event that coincides with the last day of school, when suddenly no one under the age 18 needs sleep anymore?  I can’t be the only one enduring this sleepless purgatory that is called “summer break.”

And all the teachers just shake their heads, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh!

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And, it’s only been THREE DAYS!!! God give me strength…

Oh, I know, I know.  I was the first with my hand raised to talk about how much I love my kids home.  I was the one who started a schools out for summer countdown.  I was the mom who just wanted to skip the last week of school and call it good after Memorial Day!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been really nice to not have to hide my un-make-up-ed face behind sunglasses at the morning drop off line.  And, I have loved the extra hours I get each night because there is no homework or lunches to pack (this is my favorite).  I am also a fan of the lazy, unscheduled carpool free days.  But if I hear “so, what plans do we have for the day?”  One. More. Time.

IT’S ONLY BEEN THREE DAYS!

While browsing Pinterest (in an effort to numb my mind; it’s better than day drinking or drugs), I came across a verse in Nehemiah that I had previously overlooked.  It’s simply, “God, strengthen my hands.”  Oh. My.

This needs to be my prayer.  I may or may not have been trying to figure out a way for the kids to live in a tent in the backyard all summer!  So, once again divine intervention was on our side.

I am going to do my best to choose happy this week because even when I can’t exactly feel it, God is strengthening my hands and my heart.

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Now, excuse me while I go break up a screaming match about whether or not it’s someones “right” to put their feet on someone else’s nightstand (I can’t make this stuff up).

Please pray for me!

IT’S ONLY BEEN THREE DAYS!!!

The Little, Yellow Spider We Call Tom

The summer has been all about relaxing and unscheduled days for this family.  I have tried my hardest to have as many days with no plans as possible.  The school year is full of days that have us splitting up to get to everything, and I want this summer to be remembered as the summer we spent as much time at home as a family as possible; I know that sounds completely boring to some, but hey it makes us happy!

One of the things I look most forward to every summer is seeing my daisies bloom.  I absolutely love it!  I can start to see them pop out of the ground in late spring.   They slowly start to get taller and taller during the early summer days, and then all of the sudden we have an explosion of white flowers with little yellow sunbursts all over the front and back yard.  Every season I feel like I have watched these little baby flowers grow and grow and then bring so much beauty to everything around them.  It’s the best!

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My Olivia shares my love for the daisies (actually, she loves any and ALL flowers; just like her Momma).  We usually spend part of the day watering, weeding, and just looking at the flowers.  Our favorite part is cutting some of the flowers or hydrangeas and bringing them inside!  I usually cut a bouquet for the kitchen table and she cuts one for the table in her room.

Last week, while we were doing this we noticed the tiniest, littlest, yellowest spider on the petals of one of the daisies.  Instead of being afraid (which is usually the case when either of us see spiders), we sat and stared at this little guy and thought he was not at all terrifying.  He was downright cute!  I felt a little “Horton Hears a Who”  like as we talked about what how lucky he must be to live on a daisy and wondered what his little yellow life was like everyday.  We decided to name him Thomas.  Tom for short.

The spider on the other hand did not seem at all thrilled to be plucked out of his domain.  He ran and hid under a petal (seriously, how cute is that?!)  I am sure his little spider mind was spinning.  He was away from the warm sun.  He was no longer seeing the even tinier bugs that I am sure were his diet.  And, of course he had two giant human staring at his tiny little spider self.  I am guessing this was not in his plans for the day.    I am guessing the view was pretty scary from behind the petals of that daisy.

This little guy was now totally dependent on us for his every need.

And it made me think about my reliance on God.

I go through my days doing it all on my own.  I spend a huge chunk of my time trying to figure out how to get my needs met and meet the needs of my family.  I find that more and more often my thoughts and prayers are spent trying to convince my God that the way I do it is the best.  My plans will keep everything in order.  My plans will make everyone, including me the happiest.  I know this sounds pretty selfish, but honestly isn’t this the way we usually go about our days?  Relying on ourselves instead of the one who holds the world in His hands.  Depending on what we can do in our own strength instead of letting go of our ideas and trying it His way.

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Today, I am finding happy in the little, yellow spider we named Tom.  He made me realize that even though it was not in his plans for the day, and even though he was afraid, and even though he was probably scrambling to find some kind of reason for this disruption, he was in a state of total reliance.  And that is where I want to be too!  With my heart in total surrender, and my life completely dependent on the One who knows whats best for me even when I’m hiding and struggling to make sense of things from behind the petals of a daisy.