God is not just in the Quiet Times

It’s been two weeks since we last posted and I know that’s a no-no in blog world. But it’s pretty hard to find time to write when you’re living out of your car, visiting people you haven’t seen in a decade and adventuring through monumental nature sights like the rustic Oregon coast, famous Crater Lake (made from a volcano!), the Redwoods and Yosemite. Often without any signal or reception. Yes, we’ve been out of touch with many, but very in the moment with one another and with the friends and family in front of us.

And that’s the point. I’ve had to remind myself of that whenever I think about how behind we are on our posts. So. Much. Has. Happened. And I want to share it all with you! But it will just have to come in spurts as we’re able, and the sequence may be off. We want to share with you about Utah, Washington, the INSP conference in Seattle, Oregon, northern California, Bethel, our time with family and all we’re learning and doing along the way! Eventually we’ll get there.

(To see the pictures bigger, click on them and you can arrow through the gallery).

Right now we’re visiting Matt’s sister Mary and her husband Kory who live in Sacramento. It’s been a blast. We’ve gone hiking, canyon jumping and swimming, picnicking in Yosemite and seeing the splendor of it all. Nature is the best entertainment, not to mention the cheapest! My adventure tank is definitely full, which is a sweet kiss from God since He knows how I come alive with that kind of stuff. But my physical and emotional energy tank has needed some tending to. We’ve stayed up late most nights. Alone time doesn’t really happen unless Matt and I get real creative and intentional with how to give it to one another (and as much as I’m an outgoing person who loves to engage people, I’m also an introvert in the sense that I draw my energy and strength from being alone, so I’m grateful for some time today that Matt has gifted to me by taking the kids on errands). And you can imagine the challenge of Matt and I getting couple time together since we’re constantly with the kiddos, and then sleeping in tents or often in one big room. I have no idea how the early pioneers had private conversations or moments with all those kids in a one room house!

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Seaside, Oregon

But there is this overarching sense of peace knowing we are right in God’s plan for us this summer. And He knows our needs. And we are learning to depend on Him in new ways. We are going a little deeper in our understanding of what it means to wait on Him. What it means to find our anchor in Him when our previous concept of “normalcy” is in no way our current reality. He Himself is our anchor when we don’t have total control over the pace or schedule of our days, when we can’t always find the time or place to do the typical “quiet time” or processing time, when we’re tired and when there are people we love in front of us to engage (and that we really want to engage) even when we feel a little empty.

Moments of drawing back, pulling away are important. But I feel like He is teaching us new ways to do this…whether it be losing a little more sleep to get it in, or finding the quiet well in the midst of the chaos. Jesus can be found and His strength drawn from in loud noisy spaces full of activity as well as in the quiet serene calm of a solitary nature spot. And I’ve really needed to learn this for a long time.

Thanks for following along. Thanks for the little texts you’ve sent here and there reminding us that we are missed and loved even when we’ve been quiet. We have felt so much love on this trip, both from the people we’re visiting who have welcomed us whole-heartedly, making space in their schedules for us, space in their homes, making us meals and sending us off with food; and from those on the other side of the trip, those who are praying for us and who have supported this trip with their words and gifts and thoughtful gestures. Thank you for the gift cards many of you sent with us! And thanks for your continued prayers.

Please leave a comment below and let us know how you’re doing and what you are up to! And Matt already has a post on the conference that you can expect to see very soon. We’ll write as we can!

 

Joy in the Setbacks

A friend of a friend who has been on a road trip of this size gave us some advice:

  1. Have a sense of humor.
  2. Have a plan, but be flexible.

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Turns out our very first day gave us plenty of opportunity to test this out. We had our plan! And it involved leaving our house around 6am, getting to Nashville for lunch to meet with the folks over at The Contributor, and having a few hours to explore the city. A good friend who used to live there gave us a list of some sweet spots to scope out. I couldn’t wait!

However, Friday morning came and we found ourselves with a good bit still to do before leaving, plus a few unexpected hiccups. One was my getting suddenly so sick I barely made it to the bathroom; another, Isaac having a lamp fall and shatter on his head. We had to suction the little shards of glass that were all over his scalp and skin with a vacuum hose. There may have been a breakdown or two that day…

10 hours later than planned, we left, a little discouraged to have missed our Nashville window but still rejoicing. We get to go on an adventure, and just like in life, a trip is going to have lots of surprises along the way. We know we’re going to have some amazing moments, and some not so perfect moments, but as Matt said to me, joy is always ours for the taking if we choose it.

And he’s so right. I can’t say this wasn’t challenged in my heart when two hours after driving we realized I had left an important bag at home (Lana!)… but right at that moment we saw the most beautiful rainbow I’ve seen maybe ever. We all stared at it in silent amazement, then Isaac said, “I think it’s a sign from God.”

Yep.

I’ve got you. Let go and let Me.

So, letting loose of any expectations other than the expectation of the promises of God. He is with us. Joy is ours. He is working on our behalf. He is faithful. And all of this is working together for our good. We didn’t get our day in Nashville but we got a fun stop for coffee there. And the place, Barista Parlor, was amazing (thanks Kyle!). One of the best pour overs I’ve ever had.

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And you know a place has to be special if they have a whole table dedicated to chocolate bars

 

Now we’re on our way to visit friends in Branson, MO tonight! We will stay with them for the next 2 days before heading to visit IHOP in Kansas City. Traveling mercies, as my grandma would always say, are definitely with us! Kids are enjoying the traveling games and books on tape, and earlier as we were driving through the mountains I was thanking God that He makes our feet like hind’s feet on the high places, and we literally saw a deer on a high cliff on the side of the highway! It was majestic and incredible.

Thanks for reading. You back home are missed. And you we’re coming to, we can’t wait to see.

 

 

One Line At A Time

“nulla dies sine linea”

The latin proverb that says, “not a day without a line.”  Some add, “not a day without a line drawn.”  It refers to the practice of your art, be it painting, writing, the etudes on a piano, learning to pray.

Recently, we’ve been giving our home a little upfit.  Spell check tells me that’s not a word but I like it, and if “twerk” can make it into the dictionary I think upfit deserves a chance.  After much painting with my mom who came over to help, I began to do some simplifying.  I went through our many books and sorted them, picking ones to say goodbye to (this is no easy task).  In one particular book that used to belong to Matt’s Grandpa Shaw, who was a poet and college professor, I found this book mark with the latin proverb.  It now sits on our piano.

Not a day without a line.  It reminds me to take the step, to do just a little bit.  Every single day.  One step, one bit.  We all can do one small thing each day.  Pick one thing this week to do every day.  Even if it’s just before bed and you remember, do that one small thing.  (Is it exercise you want?  Do 20 squats.  A lifestyle of prayer?  Take five minutes.  Want to write a book?  Start with a paragraph, or as the proverb suggests, even a line.)

The secret is in the small step, not the gigantic leaps.  The small steps are sustainable, habit-forming.  Anyone can do this.

Lectio Divina

This last week was our family’s sort of “spring break.”  The kids were off school and Matt determined to take time off of work even if we couldn’t go on vacation.  So, we enjoyed the benefits of staycation.  Some big ones:  no days spent packing and unpacking, no fussing over what to take/leave behind, no days spent en route.  And a good friend of ours suggested there is great benefit in determining to enjoy in the surroundings where you live, rather than always escaping, just to return and see home only as the place of responsibility and duty.

So this week, we enjoyed our days of playing board games, reading new library books, going on picnics (at the Dairy Barn), playing with friends, de-cluttering the house, transplanting bushes, exercising, walking and, my favorite, daily nourishing our souls with the heavenly manna.

Matt made a new spot in the kitchen for our times of reading, meditation, journaling, emailing and writing.  It’s perfect!  Right next to a window that overlooks our woods and wild field, with the perfect amount of light shining through.  I spent many mornings there this week.  I’ve been doing the practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading, which has been so nourishing.  You can read about it elsewhere, but a quick description…

  1. Read out loud.  Pick a passage of scripture.  It shouldn’t be too long.  Sometimes, it may just be a phrase; other times it can be a few paragraphs.  Read it out loud (this is important!  there is power in speaking it out loud, there’s something to hearing your voice say the words, feeling them on your lips); read it out loud over and over again.  One part may jump out at you; if it does spend time there.  Don’t try to figure out the meaning with your mind.  This is not a time for grasping mentally (you can do this another time with study); this practice is to nourish your spirit.  Believe that this is happening even if you don’t understand what you are reading.  Remember the Word of God is ALIVE and ACTIVE.  It makes a difference in your life and heart.  It is always working, always renewing.  Treat it like a meal that you are getting for your spirit.  Reading the words over and over is like chewing.  
  2. Meditate on it.  If you’ve been reading the passage over and over, you have already begun this step.  Now, take it a bit further by visualizing the words.  Use your senses to imagine everything you can about them.  Sing them, write them, speak them; whichever you feel led to do.  This gets the words and meaning deeper into your soul.  Meditating is like swallowing.  
  3. Respond to what you are reading.  You may be moved to a time of thanks for the promises  you’ve read; you may be moved to a time of prayer, praying for something in the passage that you want but feel you don’t have.  You may be moved to a time of repentance if the Word has exposed something insides of you that you want to change.  You may just want to worship at the revelation of love the Lord has given you.  All of these have happened for me this week in my response time.  One time I responded by dancing.  Maybe you’ll respond by painting, or writing, or making music.  Everyone is different and each time is different.    
  4. Rest.  This is the hardest part, as we always tend to want to be doing something.  Just rest.  Once you’ve spent time entering into His presence, just rest there for a minute.  Imagine yourself on His lap, or on the Potter’s wheel… imagine He is massaging your heart, healing it, forming and shaping you, and you aren’t doing anything but resting.  You are completely trusting Him to do a work in you.  You have entered into His rest.  
So I know this all sounds a bit mystical.  Yes.  I’m okay with that, I think we need more of it in our western Christianity.  The ancient Hebrew culture was rich with this kind of tradition, and we would do well to reintroduce it to our faith communities.  This has been blessing me more than I can say all week… my soul and spirit are alive.  His Word and presence does that!!!  If you want to discover more about Lectio Divina, some great resource are:  
  • “Come To the Feast” by Marchiene Vroon Rienstra.  Excellent!  It’s not just about Lectio, it has so much more to it and I love this book.  
  • “Be Still” DVD (so good!  I saw this at a recent retreat and was SO inspired).  
Be careful though with some books on Lectio Divina, as some authors use this practice with other faith texts (Qu’ran, new age texts, etc).  We want to open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit of God through the path of Jesus Christ, not other spirits disguising themselves as angels of light.  There is a red carpet to God, laid down by the blood of Jesus, and if we try to go any other way we open ourselves up to all manner of spirits that will ultimately wreck us (and not in the good way!!!).  
We took a lot of pictures this week, which I will post as soon as we find our camera cord…  

Mentors Matter

A friend of mine, Karen Trigg, has this beautiful ministry called Ruth’s Hope.  She is passionate about pouring what she has learned in her walk with Jesus into others in a very transparent, refreshing and thought-provoking way.  She disciples young women and opens her home to become a safe place for many.

She recently asked me to write a guest post on her blog about my own experience with being mentored.  I am including the first few paragraphs of my post here, then you can head over to Ruth’s Hope if you’re interested in reading the full piece:


Since my earliest memories, I remember longing for Jesus.  I don’t know why or how, but somehow I just knew that I was for Him and He was for me.
It is one thing to long for Jesus, and another thing entirely to live for Jesus.  That was going to take more than just a feeling.  I knew I needed help in this journey to really flesh out the desires in my heart to live and breathe for Him.
For much of my life that help has come from books.  Authors, ranging from the first century to modern day, have become my in-house mentors, always there for me at a moment’s notice.  That sweet gift that has helped me through many seasons, and is one I still utilize and cherish today; however in my reading I began to long for a face-to-face person to talk to about the specific issues and questions I was facing in life.
So, somewhere in my college years, I began praying for a mentor…

I invite you to head over to my friend Karen Trigg’s blog for the rest of this post!  

Let’s Get Raw.

Sometimes we have low points.  Not often do we talk about it.  This was written during one such time for me, and for a long time I couldn’t post it.  I’m not sure why it’s so hard.  In hindsight, I’m sure it would have been better for me to share it when I was in the middle of these feelings.  But the safer and less courageous thing is to post it once I got on the other side of it.  I figure I’d rather post it now than not at all, since I know there are others out there who struggle with similar things.  And even though it’s written mainly to parents of young ones, I’m sure in some ways those who don’t fall in that category can relate.  (I realize it’s all relative.  I am just a mom of a healthy two, there are many who face more pointed challenges, they have my deepest admiration.  I also realize these are first world problems, not worthy to be compared with those faced by billions beyond our seas.)  

This post is for all the moms (and dads!) out there who feel tired.  Especially those who stay at home with the primary role of caring for the house and kids–a never-ending, demanding and incredibly important job that has no official title, salary or built-in vacation time.  Who feel ashamed because even though they wouldn’t trade their position for anything, sometimes (and sometimes can be often) upon awakening are already wishing the day away, waiting for that moment when young ones will hit the pillow and there will be silence.  Still, free silence.  Who have so little energy and yet are chasing ones at peak energy levels; who have “mom brain” and yet are asked a thousand questions and face a thousand demands.  Who can feel little desire and then a lot of guilt for not being enough.  Who struggle because they’re overwhelmed and have lost sight of their meaning behind all of the dirty dishes and diapers and laundry and wiping up after everybody.  Who look around and see what seems to be a plethora of super moms, blogging about their great healthy meals made, their organic gardens and their new cute homemade curtains.  These moms homeschool, look beautifully trim, seem to always be peppy, sell their creations on Etsy and are saving their families thousands with their organized couponing systems.  Oh, and their kids are already reading books that you’ve never even heard of, and memorizing scripture to boot.  I wish I was this mom.  I’ve tried to be this mom.  At times, I’ve managed a few of these things, and probably when I did I blogged about it, or at least captured it with a picture for Facebook.  See world, I can do this too!  

I’m not at all bashing the mom I just described, please understand.  I admire her.  I pray to be her.  Proverbs 31, right?  I have friends that are genuinely close to this mom, and it’s not a front.  But I also see that they struggle too, just like me.  And I see that they’re amazed at some things I do.  It makes me think all the other moms who I don’t know so well but seem so together just might struggle a little too.

This all got me thinking.  Why do we so rarely post about the struggles?  I mean really, how often do you see your friends posting pictures of the ramen they made for dinner, or the piles of dirty dishes stacked up in their sinks?

On Facebook I hear of all kinds of lovely and impressive things, and I myself have posted them.  Roasted garlic, grilled salmon, peppers stuffed with quinoa and pine nuts.  Pictures of happy times at the park, on walks and sitting at the table doing lovely artwork.  Pictures of beautiful garden beds and manicured backyards.  I won’t stop posting these things, and I don’t want my friends to, either.  These inspire me often.  I just also feel the need to say, “Hey, anybody else out there got a desk-pile-monster mocking you with stacks of paper, unopened mail, uncut coupons and your son’s misplaced school schedule?  Anybody else have weeds taking over their lawn and flower beds, and are having a really hard time getting the tomatoes to grow right?  Anybody else feel almost paralyzed when that sweet free moment comes, unsure of how to spend it?”  

Anybody else sometimes feel alone, in this supposedly uber “connected” age?  Overwhelmed?  Inadequate?  At times, defeated.  And if we’re really honest, at the lowest points the other ugly “D” word looms… depression.  I hate to even write it.  

Life can be a war for our soul.

This post will not spell out all the answers, I don’t have them.  But I know one for me has to do with soaking.  Soaking up Life.  Words of promise.  My low moments have come when I’m focused on all the circumstances around me that I wish were a little different, and I drown in them.  I get sucked into the undertow and they usher me to fear, doubt, despair.  Then I just want to escape, and all these caves we hide in are just dark and lifeless and soul-sucking.  But I know, I know the times of victory and joy have come when I’ve gotten a consistent diet of truth.  Renewing my stressed-stained mind with what my Creator has to say.  I believe in the Bible for this reason–not because of all the theological and historical arguments for its validity, but because of the impact it has on my core being.  I can be in the middle of despairing circumstances and suddenly, like getting an IV from heaven, against all hope I in hope believe.  These words are living–water to a plant, food to soul… and I am lifted.

Joy also comes when I choose the hard things, things that my flesh begs me not to do.  Running or walking when I want to be lazy.  Water when I crave sugar and fizz.  Cleaning when I want to veg.  Thinking about the countless things I have to be thankful for rather than focusing on the few difficulties I’m enduring.  Time in the secret place with God when it’s easier to browse Facebook.  Attacking the pile monster on my desk, even if I only have ten minutes.  Going out to meet my friends when my flesh screams “pull down the shades and isolate!  keep pajamas on and hide!”  It’s answering the call from the sweet elderly neighbor who calls multiple times a day because she’s lonely and in pain, when self wants to hoard any spare moments for my agenda and “to-do” list.  When I choose these things more consistently, I find life.  I walk in the footsteps of Christ and where He is, joy is.

His table is worth the trek it takes to get there.

(As an aside, I need to say for those of you who don’t have kids yet and want them, don’t let these descriptions of the hard moments make you hesitate.  Not for one moment.  It is a great mystery how even the most frustrating days dissipate with one look at your darling.  No amount of money could make me choose differently than this path and honor of motherhood.  One writer likens it to climbing Mount Everest–even though the climb is grueling, it’s worth every step.  The truest living is in the sacrifice.)

Being 34 is Fantastic!

So far, I like this age.  I’ve been 34 for one day.  And it’s been a great day.  Here’s a run down of some highlights:

7:30am — Smile as I see lots of messages already from friends giving their birthday wishes.

8:30am — Enjoy a much needed long chat with one of my best friends, Angie.  Thanks friend.
Angie and I in 2006, I was pregnant with Isaac.  Wow we look young.
9:30am — Already (still, always) blessed by Jesus.
9:40am — Sit at the table where my husband serves up one of my favorite breakfasts.
11am — Ride in our newly purchased Volvo (we’ve long been waiting for this moment, where we’d be able to replace the car we lost in an accident over 6 months ago), listen to Josh Garrels (hear him below, it’s worth it) and enjoy immensely the company and conversation of my husband.

11:45am — Begin the best massage of my life at Massage Heights in Stonecrest (valentine/birthday surprise from Matt).  If you go, ask for Emma.  Deep tissue done right!  
2:30pm — Fish Tacos and a video chat with my Shaw siblings.  LOVE them.  I think we talk for over an hour.  
3:17pm — Baby Asher is born.  Enough said.

Photo Credit:  Genelle Billings.

6pm — Dinner at Cajun Queen where I get my fix for fire-spicy food.  Open a present that literally rocks (thanks Shaw men).  

7pm — See and LOVE the black & white silent film “The Artist” at the Manor theater in Charlotte.  Incredibly smart, creative, moving, captivating.  Go see it!

9:30pm — Pick up the kids from my good friend Lindsay’s house.  She is beautiful and beaming and I am glad I get to see her on my birthday.  She, as always, has loved my kids well.
11-something.  Home.  Look over pictures from the last few days, decide to share, smile as I post this now.  Thanks and love to my husband, who made a wonderful day of rest and delight available to this tired but now refreshed momma!  I love you Matt Shaw.  
Goodnight, and goodbye February 15th, 2012, I loved every minute of you!  

Valentine

DIY Valentine’s Day Cards

So nowadays in kindergarten they call it “friendship day” but the old rules I remember from childhood still apply:  bring valentine’s cards in, and bring one for everyone.  I’m not trying to knock the holiday paraphernalia you see in every store come January–I’ll even admit to feeling something strangely pleasant at the site of those little boxed valentines cards with perforated edges that say things like, “Be Mine!”–but this year we just weren’t having that.  So I pulled out an old package of do-it-yourself business cards and counted enough for my son’s class.  When he got home from school on Monday I had them out on the table with all the markers and crayons we own.  “Have at it, son.”  And he loved it.  We’re talking three straight hours of focused work–three hours folks!  I’d say that’s something worth repeating every year.  I think these are pretty darn good too, so I’m sharing the trend.

After your kid has made the drawings on one end, turn it around and label it how you like.  Glue or tape a piece of wrapped candy on for added pizazz and boom, you’ve got your valentine.  Now enjoy the rest of our valentine’s day captured in photos (even if they are from what my friend calls the “ghetto” phone)…

I love my man and he loves me well.  We’re fond of reasons to celebrate that.  Cheers to steady love!

(2005, our second year of marriage–before kids!)