I recently brought a “worry” before God, and before I knew it, I was thinking of different ways I could reason my way through the situation with logic, or get expert advice to help me make the best decision. I felt very clearly God saying: “You look to ME.” This was kind of revolutionary for me, and I realized in that moment that I ALWAYS compare myself to other Christians – you know, the “good ones” – to see how I’m getting along in life, or if I’m making the right decision. But God calls me to look to HIM and be obedient to HIM – not to shun the council of friends, but to recognize the brilliance of His divine (and unique!) plan for each of his children. (If each earthly child is unique and requires specific kinds of parenting to grow into adulthood, surely the Heavenly Father knows all the more that HIS children are unique, and in the same way need to be steered in slightly different avenues along the same voyage.) The following is a song I wrote in pieces (doing dishes, driving to the bank) over the last 2 days. As a disclaimer, it’s a mesh – some pulled from my exact experience, some mirrored in things I’ve been learning in the BSF Isaiah study, some my perceptions of “the world at large” – whatever that means. =) I think it’s better with the tune. But you can get the gist. I really need one of my singer/songwriter friends to write  a rockin’ guitar part. =)

 

A temptest rolls over you masked as a party.

You feel you are capable, young, and foolhardy.

But your hours, they fill up with waves of deceit -

and before you know it, you’ve met your defeat.

 

You look to me -

You look to me.

My wisdom, it echoes through eternity.

Oh temporal human, the one that I love -

if you want to see, look up -

- up to me.

 

You can’t even see that you’re captive to “nothings” -

that emptiness rules, it is warring and trumping.

Well take up your arms, dear, it’s well worth the fight!

And shake off those liars with all of your might.

 

You look to me -

You look to me.

My power, it stretches across the wide seas.

My ways, they are perfect – my laws bring you peace.

So if you might want to be free -

- look to me.

 

If the eyes are the window down into your soul,

then your gaze can destroy you or lead the way Home.

The battle’s much fiercer than you may have known.

And despite your pride, you won’t make it alone.

 

So you look to me -

You look to me.

You won’t find My equal, this I guarantee.

It might take dethroning those “powers that be,”

but you will have all that you seek -

- when you look to me.

 

The world’s got a handful of eyecatching “princes” -

they might put their hope in their wealth or defenses.

But you, you are MINE – I have bought you anew -

So they can look where they want to -

- but YOU look to me.

 

You look to me, you look to me.

I hung out my body for you on that tree.

If that doesn’t do it, what will turn your head?

It’s for you, my darling, I bled -

 

You look to me, You look to me.

I am who I am, and I will always be.

I’ll abide in you – will you abide in me?

And in you I’ll do a new thing -

- when you look to me.

Tonight at dinner, Josie says, “The angel said, ‘Don’t be -fraid me. I bring good news.’ Then the whole sky – full of angels – praising GOD.”

 

I was intrigued by the fact she had pretty much memorized that little bit verbatim, even though she’s only two. It made me remember everything I’ve heard about little kids being sponges and soaking up way more than we realize or think to teach them. So as an experiment, we read the story again, once in her little story book “Bible” and once in my Bible. The next time she told the story, she said basically the same thing, but she added after the part about the good news, “for ALL the people in the whole wol-ud.” (I love the way she says “world.” It used to be “woild,” and now she is conscious of that error and over-corrects by saying “wol-ud.”)

 

Anyway, I’m not saying my kid is a genius or anything, but it’s pretty remarkable what she remembers! We also watched the cartoon version of the Grinch this evening, and afterward she was processing that film like crazy – “That grumpy grinch was selfish – and he was not kind – and he wanted to make the people sad. But then he WAS kind! And he took the sled back and choosed to share with that little girl and she was happy!”

When I agree with her summary, she shakes her head emphatically and says, “The grinch did a really good job of changing his attitude!” :)

As a tag-along to my previous post, here are some of the things Josie’s been going around saying after attending BSF Bible Study with me on Tuesday mornings (where she goes to her own 2 year old class)…

 

- “Jesus is LIGHT!”

- “Jesus is GOD!”

- “We read about God in the HOLY Bible.”

- “God is going to come back and show his powder.” (To which I asked, “His powder?”) “Yes – show his POWDER.” (I Finally figured out she was talking about how Jesus would return and God would show his power to all people – which goes with what we’ve been studying in Isaiah.)

- “That big fish spit Jonah right out on the beach!” (This is the only part of the story worth telling, apparently, when you’re two.)

 

And a little bit translated from what we’ve talked about at home:

- “Mary puts Jesus in the manger while Joseph is outside.” (Not sure why this is – maybe because Nathan is usually out in the living room while I put Josie to bed?)

- “Angels are REAL. Monsters are TEND (pretend).”

- “God keeps me safe.”

And, my personal favorite,

- “Mary is a nice lady.”

I put together a rudimentary advent wreath using a plate, some potpourri for decoration, and a few candles I had stored away. Oh, and the very important addition of a small gold angel covered in glitter (Josie’s favorite part). She rests against the middle “Christ candle” but comes down for frequent visits with toddler hands. We may get fancy and add an actual WREATH at some point (arguably a critical feature), but for now we’re making due with what I could find at home. (Taking 2 children out to a craft store, which is 30+ minutes away, when there’s 8 inches of snow on the ground is no small task!)

So, though our “wreath” is simple and doesn’t follow all the correct specifications, hopefully the heart behind it will please our Lord and do the intended work – to prepare our hearts for His arrival.

But this blog isn’t REALLY about the wreath – it’s about Josie’s prayer during dinner after we lit the first candle.

Usually her dinnertime prayer goes something like this: “Dear God, thank you for this food, and these plates and our forks….amen.” Sometimes she thanks God for all the people at the table, and sometimes she thanks Him for all the people she can think of – “…and uncle Bitz, and Big Ellie, and Nana, and Uncle Dick…” Occasionally she thanks God for something that happened that day – “Thank you that Nana turned on the video for me.”

After the advent candle was lit, she prayed:

“God, thank you for this life and this food. Thank you that God is coming tomorrow – we lighted the first candle – and thank you for Daddy, Mommy, Ellie, ……..”

The “God is coming tomorrow” comment is in reference to our expectation of Christmas. Jesus is coming – and she says this often, in random toddler-esque song or playful shouting – but I think it says something that her prayer tonight was “God is coming.” I learn so much from Josie. Yes, maybe she simply jumbled the words in her head, and so instead of saying “Jesus” she said “God.” But the thing is, she wasn’t wrong. GOD came down and dwelt among us – Jesus was both fully man and fully God. I recently learned that in Greek Orthodox Christianity, Mary is called the “Theotokos” – the “God Bearer.” What a weighty title! The rest of us may be tempted to see a cute little plastic Jesus hanging out in the quaint little plastic manger, but in her innocence our sweet toddler isn’t fooled: He is God. What a great reminder!

 

And she said he is coming “tomorrow” – again, we could laugh. He’s not coming tomorrow! Christmas isn’t for several weeks! And the second coming isn’t happening tomorrow – surely – because our schedules are too full for that….

 

But when is “tomorrow?” It’s a time yet unkown, a time in the future, a time for which we can make plans and set paths, but which is completely out of our control. The Lord directs the future. And when will Jesus come again to reign? In the future – perhaps tomorrow! Do I wait expectantly for His return? Can I mirror Josie’s words in my heart: “Thank you that God is coming tomorrow”…?

 

This morning, Josie found my Bible, opened it up, and started “reading.” She said, “I’m reading a story out of this Holy Bible” –  she emphasized the word “Holy” – “About God, and Jesus. And Jesus is coming! Hooray! Jesus is coming!”

 

It was incredibly sweet. I’m understanding more and more why Jesus said that unless we become like little children, we will not enter His kingdom. Adults can be too academic for the simple childlike joy resulting from simple childlike faith. When we first started talking about how we were going to celebrate Jesus coming as a baby, Josie’s eyes got just as big as if I had told her we were going to dunk her in chocolate and let her eat her way out.

 

It’s nice to have a small one around to set me straight occasionally. =)

(Maybe I can write a book called “the Prayer of Josie” and make a fortune…just kidding….how about “Tuesdays with Josie”….or even “Everything I needed to know in life I learned from Josie”…..ok enough geeky book references!) =)

 

 

 

Some people say that us “English” people make too much out of little things, or try to read meaning into things that aren’t really meaningful….like when my students used to give me skeptical looks after my enthusiastic pontification about the mountains of symbolism available on just the first PAGE of Of Mice and Men. (Really, it’s quite remarkable – you could write a lengthy and complex essay on the craft of that one page.)

Some people say we’re crazy. “Mrs. Robinson, how do you know that John Steinbeck meant to do all of that? Couldn’t it just be coincidence?” (Later upon trying to WRITE with literary techniques, they were sorely disappointed to realize that these do not happen by accident.)

Someone once tried to convince me that the Chronicles of Narnia should only be taken at face value. “What – it’s just a story about a Lion. What’s the big deal?” And this was an adult woman with a Christian background. (When I tried to explain the allegorical connections, she said I was reaching for things.)

I think allegory and metaphor help us find our way in a world that is more than just flesh and bone. If there is an unexplainable mystery in life, as I’m sure there are many, we can begin to understand it through story. At least theses things (allegory and metaphor) help us develop a way of looking at life, and to me, it seems most helpful when trying to understand God.

Lately I’ve come across several life experience that, though I wouldn’t say they’re quite allegorical, certainly offer parallels to my experience with life and with God.

BLUEBERRIES

I went to pick blueberries with Josie (which is AWESOME – the large bushes offer shade while you pick, and some berries grow low enough so Josie can pick her own – though those rarely made it into the bucket). There’s a blueberry farm very close to our house, and so one morning I decided we needed to go. I was shocked at how easy it was – much better than picking strawberries, which I had done as a child – these grow close to the ground and you have to cover many rows of plants before getting very many. These blueberries, though, were everywhere! I basically stood at the edge of a bush and picked only the ones that were easiest to reach (since I also had Ellie strapped to my chest), then moved on to the next bush. We only hit maybe a dozen bushes covering about 30 feet of ground, but that was enough to easily fill my bucket. There were rows upon rows that were yet untouched, and even the bushes I picked from had many more berries hidden on the inner branches.

As I reached for a handful of giant berries, it hit me: here is this unspeakable wealth tucked amidst the countryside of a state that is otherwise quite poor. Economically, things aren’t so hot for much of the state. But the berries don’t know that. They’re flooding the fields – and it’s not just blueberries. I thought of the corn flooding the roadside stands, the black raspberries lining the woods at the build site.

This makes me wonder about my own life – there is bounty, even amidst deficiencies. Blessings are easy to overlook when my subconscious mind is overcrowded by a faceless disquiet. And subsequently, once recognized, those blessings remind of God, who is above circumstance – and so root me in certainty and lift the clouds.

PACIFIER

I’ve recently taken Ellie’s Paci away, “cold turkey.” We’re still trying to fix the nursing problem, and I finally owned up to the fact that just about every breastfeeding expert says pacifiers are no good, particularly if you’re having trouble. So I did it.

I knew there would be more crying, but after about a day of it I really wanted to give her her pacifier back. In a moment of weakness I did, and she quieted right down and went to sleep. Convicted that I needed to stay the course (at least until things look up for our nursing routine), I went in and pulled the pacifier back out. She, of course, cried.But I felt certain that I was doing the absolute best thing I could for her, even though she didn’t like it very much.

It’s not that the pacifier is so terrible, especially for a baby who is breastfeeding well at the same time. But sometimes a baby will focus too much on the pacifier – learn a new way of sucking that is paci-specific, prefer the feel of the pacifier to the feel of the breast, etc, and this is of course detrimental to breastfeeding. The pacifier is fine, but it doesn’t give life. And the minute the baby wants the non-life-giving pacifier more than the live-giving breast, there is a problem.

I wonder what MY pacifiers are in life – what kinds of things keep me calm and comfortable but threaten to take the place of my REAL life-giving source…? And when God takes those away, do I recognize that it’s for my own good? Or do I cry and fuss and long for the pacifier – even though it is of no real benefit to me? It’s amazing how much I am like a little child when compared with the wisdom of God.

Tonight, I find myself lying in bed next to my husband of almost 5 years. Our beautiful baby girls – 2 months and 2 years old – flank the bed, each in their own cherub-like sleep. Though motherhood has made me more appreciative of sleep than ever, tonight I find none. I lay in one of the bedrooms of my childhood farmhouse – nearly empty but for a bed and a dresser, intended for “show” – and breathe in the air of my youth. The crisp breeze carries me back to another time and place. The frogs and crickets chirp away their familiar lullabye – one I haven’t heard in years. They invite me to remember.

Since I can’t sleep, I venture downstairs and roam through the house, aimlessly. I look at this or that piece of furniture, stand in this or that room, imagine this or that scenario for inventive remodel (should I own the place). Of course all of that is for naught – the house has been sold, and my only purpose here this weekend is to help move out the remaining furniture. Well, that’s the cover story, anyway. My real purpose here, as it stands in my own mind, is to say goodbye.

It’s storming, and I stand on the front porch and let the winds blow over me. Lightning flashes every few seconds and illuminates the rolling front yard. As I watch the yard spring from dark to light over and over again, it starts to come to life, like an old movie reel in my mind. Each flash brings a different image of life gone by.

In one burst of lightning I see a whispy-haired girl, barely 6, hanging upside down from the apple tree beside the road – the only one left standing after a recent yard clean-up. In the next flash I see the yard covered in an expanse of white, our proud snowman sitting in the middle, siblings in mismatched winter garb putting on finishing touches. I see massive flood waters rolling across the yard, dragging debris along with it, threatening to chip away at the tiny, seemingly ancient bridge at the base of our driveway. I see Bunny eating dandelions, then accidentally chomping on my finger. I see runaway cows tromping through the yard, feel the adrenaline of dashing this way and that to coerce them back behind the pasture gate. I see Tyler, my most cherished puppy-dog, sitting in front of me on the hill. He would sit as a guard dog on my toes. If I got up and moved, he would follow. We made a game of it, of course.

And  there were fireflies. Little blinking lights that I spun and darted after, triumphantly sealing them in a jar one by one. And there was the warm smell of apples, freshly fallen from the trees, baking in the sun. And the gentle clapping of cottonwood leaves in the wind. The grass was always soft underfoot, a marvel I didn’t fully appreciate until becoming accustomed to the prickly grasses of Texas.

Another flash of light illumines the driveway. I’m reminded of Easter, coming up the driveway to find a row of Easter eggs carefully placed up the center – a surprise from our (not-so-secret) Easter bunny adopted Uncle. I think of riding Misty lazily up the drive toward the tack room to unsaddle for the night, and of driving quietly up the driveway with the headlights off, hoping Mom and Dad didn’t know how late their high school daughter was getting home that night.

Suddenly the memories are more than I can think at one time – overlapping images go racing through my mind. The dusty, spidery milkhouse, once a playhouse for me, but most often a house for camping supplies, fishing gear, Christmas boxes, and our orange sleds. Sledding! The hills in the pasture seemed enormous, and we’d careen down them in our sleds until the snow had soaked into our hand-me-down boots. Then, homemade hot chocolate, boots drying on the register. The register! On wintery mornings, I’d drape my nightgown over the register and wait for the heat to kick on. I didn’t realize how often mom would wake early just to go start and stoke the fire in our wood-burning furnace.

The wood! Piles and piles of wood, cut and stacked by Dad and Dick, lining the old corncrib or piled high along the chicken-coop foundation. Chickens! I’d venture into the coop to visit, or to search for eggs. You had to be careful not to get pecked. I remember picking them up one by one, little girl arms wrapped around their wide middle, like holding a big beach ball against my belly. Their heads would bobble as I’d carry them about. I’d pretend I was a doctor and they my patients – though thankfully I never had the guts to try the operations I had planned. Though – some are sad to hear – we did have a “chicken slaughter.” Strangely I did not mind. It was explained to me, and seemed the natural way of things. I helped Mom pull out the innards and played in the brightly colored intestines (which make a simply fabulous necklace when you’re 4).

When the chicken coop came down, the foundation saw all kinds of creative uses: basketball court, ice skating rink, outdoor storage station. (You read that right: we would spray the whole of the foundation with water when it was freezing cold, and the icy sheet that formed was a great ice skating rink – better than having your own pond!)

So many memories! Too many, too many! Running through the pasture, dodging wet cowpies. Listening intently for the new cries of baby barn kittens and hunting and hunting to find their nest, hidden somewhere in the hay. Mixing up potions and stews and secret things from whatever I could find in the pasture: grass, dirt, rocks, sticks, whatever. Playing on the fallen tree behind the barn, with sturdy branches for climbing and giant seed pods, good for all kinds of pretend things. Playing starship on the rusty old farm equipment – mimicking older and wiser brothers. Singing at the top of my lungs in the pasture, then waving wildly to the conductor of a passing train, hoping he’d heard my song. Frantically chasing Sally (German shepherd and practiced hunter) away from a nest of baby bunnies. Waking at 4:30 to go to a horse show – and feeling so cool in my new riding apparel. Finding “caves” in the banks along the creek in the wooded spot near the road, and claiming them for our own. (One was smashed when we visited again – we blamed the neighbor boy, who we just knew was envious.) There are so many more – little flashes of a me that’s long gone, of a life that is only in pieces of pictures in my mind.

I’ve come to say goodbye to all these things, and it seems impossible to know how to do that. I can mourn them, I suppose, and feel twisted up in knots about how precious this place is – so precious, so precious – and resent that I now have to let go.

Or, I can look to the truth: that this place, this life, was never really “mine” – that it is all on loan from God, who gives here and gives there as He sees fit. And it was given to me, and to us, in the time that was fitting – and it is being given now, again, to someone else, for a hope and a purpose unknown to me.

And in that light, I am only grateful for the immeasurable gift I’ve been given, that I got to grow up in this house and on this land. I pray, with all my heart, that the gift will be just as poignant, just as necessary, for the next owners. Though I can’t part with it on my own terms in peace, I can rest firm in the knowledge that it was never mine to begin with. It’s too wonderful, too mysteriously breathtaking in its dirty and raw simplicity. It gets under your skin. And now the Owner and Caretaker, the Architect of this land, has hand-picked others who need to be wrapped in its wonder and to rest in its soft grasses, to be put at ease by the gentle sound of the clapping cottonwood.

I promised several people I’d blog about our time in Michigan and keep failing to do so. Mostly because I keep feeling like I don’t have anything meaningful to say. =) But I’ll try to give a quick update, anyway.

How about some snapshots? Alrighty…

- I washed my phone. Like, it went through the washing machine. It is sort of working. Sort of not. But we don’t really get very good service here anyway, so how much of a loss is that, really? =)

- The sale of my childhood home is nearly final. They’ll close at the end of June. It’s both a relief and heartbreaking. We had a “closing ceremony” on Saturday with our whole family. It stormed and the electricity went out, so we sat on the front porch (in the light of early dusk) sharing memories from our childhood. We prayed to thank God for the gift of life in that house and to ask His blessing on the future. Later on, my oldest brother John took a walk in the pasture and discovered a rainbow arching perfectly over our property. God is with us.

- Josie has started hitting. We’re not sure what’s up with that. It’s particularly troubling when she hits Ellie. But she can also be very sweet. I love her little voice saying, “Sank you, Mommy.”

- Josie took her first ride on the flexiboard. It’s like the first step toward waterskiing, meant for little kids. She totally rocked it – she’s an awesome little sporty chic.  (We start ‘em young.)

- Ellie is the sweetest thing ever. She almost never fusses. But then her big sister hits her on the head, and that goes out the window. =)

- Josie and I got to tend the neighbor’s chickens while they were away for 3 weeks. Josie totally got into it and would get excited about seeing the “balk-balks.” We also got to use the eggs during that time. One of the chickens lays blue eggs! That was fun and farmy.

- Nathan hasn’t broken ground yet. We’re really really (really!) hoping that changes soon. Steps are made toward that goal every day, but there is a lot to coordinate.

- My mom *may* have breast cancer – maybe. It’s still at the “suspicious” stage. She is powering along this new alternative treatment she found that seems to have awesome results. If you want to know more, you should really just talk to her. I would not do it justice. =)

- Josie loves “Grandma’s special purple salad” – which is cole slaw made with purple cabbage. Actually Josie eats just about everything. Unless she decides for an arbitrary reason that she doesn’t want to. But it’s always about the fight in that case – not about the food.

- Mason rocks at water sports. He’s the only one we’ve ever had at the lake (ever) to get up on every kind of board on the first try.

- Stuff mildews here faster. Even cloth diapers! The girls smell funky in a whole new way. It’s kind of disappointing. =)

And I’m out…..

We’re moving from Austin to Michigan. It’s kind of a long way. And because we need to empty our house for the renters (and because we need to have things to live with in our new home), we are taking all our stuff with us.

Generally I’m up for just about anything: but packing up our lives this time around has been more harrowing than I expected. Just more emotionally heightened than I had anticipated.

My brother Fritz flew down to help Nathan drive the truck up to Michigan. I’m staying until Monday to finish some “work” requirements with my exchange students. As a result, I am getting to pick put the pieces of the hurried early morning exit that left much last-minute cleaning and other maintenance in my charge. Though this is the plan I helped formulate (and so was not a victim in any way), I couldn’t help feeling a sense of abandonment as final preparations were being made to leave. I keenly felt what it would mean for me to be left behind. But that’s not really the point of this story – merely the context.

The night before they were to leave, Fritz was finishing packing things in the Uhaul trailer that I’ll drag behind the Saturn when I too venture north.

“Alright,” he said, “which of these do you want to leave behind?”

He had out several house chairs, the Muehlhausen high chair, and a large and awkward plastic lawn chair.

“I guess the lawn chair,” I said. “It was free.”

I said this with a sigh. Let me tell you something about this chair. It’s the kind that can recline, and it came with a cushion. It’s good for laying out in the sun (not that I have time to do that anymore), and it was free on craigslist. I was elated to find such a deal. Sure, it’s broken in one spot, and the plastic construction is not exactly beautiful or noteworthy. But ever since I was pregnant with Josie, my dream has been to sit on such a chair with my morning coffee and enjoy the morning air. This free chair was the answer to that dream, even if I only seldom used it. It came home with me over a year ago.

Of course, because I am terrible at general maintenance of things, I left the very nice cushion out in the rain for month after month. When it came time to pack up such things, Nathan asked what I wanted to do with the chair and its dirty cushion.

“I guess just get rid of it,” I sighed. “I mean, ideally I’d like it to be in good shape and to take it and use it in Michigan, but I know that it’s probably too far gone at this point, and it’s my fault for leaving it out in the rain, so we should probably just get rid of it.”

That afternoon, about a week ago, he spent at least half an hour if not longer with a hose, soap, and a scrub brush washing the cushion. Josie helped. I popped my head outside several times to assure him that he didn’t have to go to that trouble. He did it anyway. He dried the cushion in the sun, and it was cleaner than when I had first brought it home.

After that point I started feeling excited about the chair again. I started picturing the chair on our little porch at the Michigan house. I like to visualize things before they happen. It helps me feel more confident about the future, even if my mental image is only partially accurate or a vague guess at how things might go. So now that the cushion was beautifully clean, I periodically had mental pictures of sitting in that chair, drinking my coffee, writing in my journal. Perhaps I would look out at the neighboring field and see a deer. Perhaps Josie and I would have breakfast together there. I made a mental note that I should be sure to bring that cushion in out of the rain when not in use. I wondered which side of the porch would be best suited for that chair.

So when Fritz said that it wouldn’t fit, on the heels of a very emotionally strenuous day of packing our lives in boxes, my heart sank. I knew the reasonable answer: leave the chair. Leaving it costs us literally nothing. But my heart sank anyway. (The heart is not a rational creature.)

Without realizing it, that chair had come to represent my collective hopes for our new lives together in Michigan. It was a tangible symbol of comfort and familiarity in the midst of so much uncertainty. I went inside and cried weary tears.

After a minute of regaining composure, I went back outside. I was ready to give up that worthless plastic chair. That’s all it was!

Fritz had packed the remaining items, and only the chair remained.

“There’s just no way it will fit,” he said.

“Oh, it’ll fit,” said Nathan. I looked at him. He said something about finding another way. I went in the house for another task, and when I came back out, the chair was sitting on top of Nathan’s truck, upside down, and he was securing it for the long haul.

I don’t know exactly what I said, but I felt a relief that was totally disproportionate to the situation.

“You saved the chair!” I said when he was done. “I can’t believe you strapped it to your truck!”

“For you baby, I’d strap the world to my truck.”

It was quiet for a minute as he finished up some work on the truck and I stood in the garage, watching.

Exhausted himself, he sauntered over, pulled at his sweaty shirt, and smiled triumphantly. “It’s not really about the chair,” I said, feeling foolish. “It’s about what the chair represents.”

“I know.”

And he really DID know, and I could see it in his face. He saved my chair. For the life of me I don’t know why he knew he needed to.

It’s still not about the chair. But now there’s another layer. It’s the chair that fulfilled a dream, the chair that points to future hopes, and now it’s the chair that was rescued by my man for no other purpose than to please me.

“Where will we live next year when we go to Michigan???” – a small house that fits our needs, rented by friends of my parents, which literally fell into our laps – $550/mo, comes with friendly elderly neighbors, a garden, and a wood with trails wandering through it

“But who will rent our house here?” – friends Nathan used to work with

“How will Nathan make the time to go to Michigan to take the coursework to get certified?” – Rudy will call at exactly the right time, wanting work done right around the time the coursework is happening, making it possible for Nathan to earn money around those 2 wasted weeks.

“But how will we make money in November? We have no leads!” – Rudy had big jobs he wanted help with that paid us well enough. God has given several leads for jobs when Nathan returns so we don’t have too much lag time.

(From Katie) “How will I ever find 3 new host families while I am out of town?” As of today, all of those families have been found, and they are the perfect fit for the kids who need them.

There have been many more “daily graces” that I am too tired or too forgetful to record here. The basic gist is that God has been answering our prayers. Like the Israelites in the desert with Moses, we always seem to wonder if God will provide THIS time – even though we’ve seen manna fall from heaven and water flow from a rock – in our weakness, we wonder. And like those Israelites, to whom God continually proved his faithfulness *despite* their disbelief, we see His provision again and again – even when we are too stubborn to ask for it.

When in the quiet of the

darkest hours of the night, when

“All is calm; all is bright” -

an overlooked joy tumbles in the dark,

bounces lightly, cradled by

a busy body

with much too much to do

all other hours -

- always more.

In these dreamlike moments before sleep,

that little whisper of a being has the floor.

check it out!

Josie is so stinkin’ cute!

I LOVE this photo of us downtown. Nathan, Josie and I went to this cool outdoor venue called Auditorium Shores, which is right by the lake. The music was free (though we spent some money on some food and drinks) and Josie did SO well. It was really encouraging to be able to take her to a cool venue downtown and have it “work” and have everyone still happy on the way home. :)

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Josie likes…

…the dog.

…avocado, yogurt, fruit, dried figs.

…riding in the grocery cart.

…eating dirt, mulch, or just about anything else that’s gross in the backyard.

…”helping” mommy fold the laundry (by tearing apart all of my piles and scattering the clothes everywhere). I still praise her for helping. =)

…standing up in her high chair (even though we strap her in as tightly as we can!)

…sticking her hands in the toilet.

…feeding the dog food from her high chair (even though both parties have been forbidden from this activity).

…eating dog food.

Josie DOESN’T like…

…mommy taking away the dog food, or the toilet water, or a bug she’d like to eat, or any other “toy” that is hazardous or a “no-touch.” (She throws a little fit. GREAT.)

…anything that tastes “green” (although the other night we got her to at least put some asparagus pieces in her mouth, even though she promptly pit them out again).

…falling off the bed. (She’s done this several times at night, despite the pillow baracade.)

Josie can…

…walk.

…run (sort of) when chasing the dog.

…do these signs: eat, more please, all done, down, milk, water, please (when prompted), ball, dog. She’s working on “help” and “poop,” but they come out looking just like “more please.” =)

…eat finger foods.

…lift up her shirt when you say “Where’s Josie’s belly?”

…point to the things she wants.

…”talk” with all the phonemes, but not really together in words.

…say “hi!” in a way that ALMOST has us convinced she knows what she’s saying. Still sounds a little like baby babble, though.

Here is a little clip to document Josie’s current walking speed:

And some fun photos…

Yummy!

Yummy!

bath time!

bath time!

"What?"

"What?"

helping daddy lay sod

helping daddy lay sod

"I wonder if I could fit this into my mouth..."

"I wonder if I could fit this into my mouth..."

helping daddy put down mulch

helping daddy put down mulch

lovin' the swing

lovin' the swing

lovin' daddy!

lovin' daddy!

Ok, so after the last Ben Folds post I wanted to share another song I love by Damien Rice. This time you just get the Youtube link….No time for copying lyrics. =)  I don’t actually love the video that accompanies it, so maybe just listen to the song. =)

I just love this song by Ben Folds. I’m listening to it right now and so wanted to post the lyrics. I think it might be one of my most favorite love songs.

I don’t get many things right the first time: in fact, I am told that a lot.

Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls, brought me here.

Where was I before the day when I first saw your lovely face?

Now I see it every day — And I know….

That I am, I am, I am the luckiest.

What if I’d been born 50 years before you in a house on the street where you lived.

Maybe I’d be outside as you passed on your bike; would I know?

And in a white sea of eyes, I’d see one pair that I recognize:

And I’d know….

That I am, I am, I am the luckiest.

I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you.

Next door there’s an old man who lived to his 90’s and one day passed away in his sleep.

And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days and passed away.

I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong.

That I know…

That I am, I am, I am the luckiest.

The song itself is really beautiful. In fact, here: Have a listen!

So, I’ve been thinking more and more about this whole concept of “over-planning” our lives to the point where we try to control everything and don’t give God the room to move in our hearts and our circumstances.

An additional thought I had about this is that I think we actually train this idea into kids. In order to fight what we perceive to be the natural tendency toward sloth and idleness, we perhaps over-train in the other direction. We want them to always have a plan, always have a goal. I think in some circles it’s starting younger and younger, too. Many of my freshman students had parents who seemed to know what their children would do in 10 years. “Well, keep on him,” they’d say. “He’s going to need these English skills if he’s going to be a lawyer.” Another parent very seriously approached me to ask my advice about when her son should take the SAT. “Is it too soon to take as a freshman?” (Why would you WANT to take the SAT as a freshman? Don’t borrow that worry from later years!)

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m advocating for chaos or some sort of hippie  alternative lifestyle (although sometimes I think living in a Christian “hippie” commune would be really cool!) It’s not always prudent to have an “I’ll just go with the flow all the time” attitude. (Though I do love just going with the flow….)

We absolutely need to be intentional about things. BUT, I’m just feeling like our culture in general has missed the boat on just how to perceive the future.

For instance, it’s deemed irresponsible for a person not to have a plan. It’s seen as irresponsible if a person doesn’t “take control” of his/her life. If a pregnancy happens unplanned, even within a healthy marriage, the stinging question often follows: “Well, weren’t you using PROTECTION?” It’s as though the idea that a person might leave that timing up to chance (or more appropriately, up to God) is imprudent, unwise, irresponsible, etc. AND, what’s even worse is that it seems to be more and more important to people to PLAN and to CONTROL when these really big life questions are at stake. But it seems to me that the very BIG life issues are the very ones that we should hand over to God more immediately. (After all, who am I to know when it is the right time to bring another eternal soul into being? Surely God’s wisdom concerning this matter far surpasses my own understanding…)

A person who carefully outlines a 5-year plan to conquer the world with their small business is seen as “ambitious.” One who admits that they will have to see where God leads in the coming year, because His vision and grasp outreaches our own, might be perceived as unmotivated or lacking “drive.” (In reality, I think both perspectives can be very valuable — but I think we have elevated the first to the detriment of the second, such that leaving room for God to work and to move is almost perceived as a “cop-out” or a “weakness.”)

Now, I don’t have it all sorted out. Please don’t mistake this for “theology ala Katie.” I am no theologian. I am confident that it IS good to be intentional in our actions and to be diligent in our work, and a lot of both of those things require planning. But I DO feel a stronger and stronger conviction about this whole “control freak” cultural phenomenon. I feel like the harder I look, the more places I see it popping up. It just seems to be this giant wall between us and God, and even us Christians have accepted its presence. (For instance, in much of the Christian community it’s totally expected to plan all the big stuff….and yes, it is frequently Christians who say, “Didn’t you use PROTECTION?” or “Is this within your plan?”) The control freak mindset is so prevalent that many of us don’t even see it for what it is, which seems to me to make this attitude much more dangerous in that it is a little “stealth” stronghold of pride and separation from God.

(But alas…who am I to lecture anyone about pride? Muehlhausens exude pride, and I am probably one of the worst. If pride is merely the “slippery slope” for the ordinary man, then it is my giant chasm — my Grand Canyon — the walls of which I daily cling against lest my foot should slip to send me plummeting to the depths to be swallowed up!)

Well, now I’m just rambling. I promise I’ll get back to posting light-hearted comments with pictures of cute Josie soon. Just not this morning. =)

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