On Listening and Hallucinations

So often I think society short changes our youngest citizens.  We assume our youth to be in need of constant glitz and glamour and unable to grasp concepts without entertainment.  I don’t agree.  I think kids are fully capable of holding mature and in depth conversations without the need of flashy presentations.

Even junior highers, who, as we all know, tend to be a species all their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the eighth grade students I spoke with on Thursday.  They were bright and engaging and terribly adorable.  They asked really great, insightful questions about writing, overcoming writer’s block, how to seek publication and so on.  Many of them were avid readers and were far more articulate than I ever was at that age.

Because Sloan was not feeling well (which, MOM FAIL, I thought was just a ploy to get some alone time with me for the day) he tagged along with me to the career fair.  I so enjoyed having him to myself for the morning.  No one told me that parenting would be so hard so young.  I knew that it would be a lot of work.  I didn’t know that it would be emotionally draining by the time age seven rolled around.

Connecting with him one on one was a blessing I didn’t know I needed.  And Sloan, in turn, learned a little something about me.  All that time I spend on the computer?  I’m not just playing games.

“You work?!” he asked.

“Yes.  I am a writer.  That’s what I’m doing when I’m on the computer…most of the time.”

“But only dads work!” he exclaimed.

Oh boy. 

So along he came, a few books in tow, to sit with me as I spoke with the kids.  He was great.  My first group was comprised entirely of pretty little girls, which sent Sloan into a flurry of embarrassed chatter and flirting.  It’s inate, the flirting!  So we had a little talk before the second group came along about not talking and just listening.

So he did.  He listened – maybe a little too closely.  He brought home one of the packets that the students received on writing.  These were some of the notes he took upon listening to me speak:

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He also wrote me this little note, which just made my day weekend month.

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Upon leaving the meeting, we headed home where Sloan promptly began running a fever.  This began two of the most dreadful nights I’ve had as a mom.  I was alone.  My son was sick, restless and hot.  Very, very hot.  Thursday night he peaked around 103.  Niether one of us slept much, in part because his fever was so high and in part because he kept flicking his expander in and out of his mouth all night without even realizing it which was equal parts disgusting and annoying.

Friday we laid low.  He ran a fever all day, but it wasn’t too terribly frightening.  I promised the kids we’d have a sleep over at their grandparent’s house (who are currently out of the country) and so we headed over with snacks and a movie.  As soon as the sun went down, though, his fever spiked.  He and I ”slept” on the couch, which really means that I was up and down all night getting cool cloths for his forehead and neck.

At 1:00 I took his temperture and flipped out when it read almost immediately 104.9.  Sloan was very restless, couldn’t lay still and couldn’t sleep.  He was murmruing in his sleep and would occasionally sit up and say random things like “Give Sadie more water,” or “Tia move!”  Even in a delusional, feverish state he manages to fight with his sister.

Nice.

At one point he sat up and started reaching for an invisible object, which sent me into all manor of panic.

I had quite the adventure trying to locate medicine to try and bring his fever down.  I briefly considered pulling a Ma Ingalls and packing him in a tub of ice, but though better of it and instead prayed and wondered at what point I was supposed to wake the other two up and take him to the hospital.

Laying next to him when he was that hot was almost as miserable for me as it was for him.  He wanted to be close, but didn’t want to be touched.  Imagine spooning the sun.  That’s what it felt like.  We made it to morning and hightailed it to the doctor’s office where she confirmed my suspcions: Influenza.

Two days of Tamiflu later and we’re down to a low grade fever and nasty cough.  And Lee should finally be home any minute now.

And I feel like I could conquer the world for surviving that.  Just as soon as I get a decent night’s sleep, of course…

The Art

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A ten year old girl sits intently over her metal framed desk, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth as her pencil scratches furiously across the lined paper.  She sighs, erases, then places pencil to paper again.  An adventure is spilling from her fingertips.  It involves a hot air balloon and a chicken.

She knows it’s brilliant.

With a modicum of flair, the girl hands it to her teacher looking much like the Cheshire Cat.  Two days later, her story come back with a bright red smiley face and the words GREAT JOB!  The teacher pulls her aside later and tells the girl to never be afraid to use her imagination and to keep telling stories. 

So the girl does.

A thirteen year old girl sits in her bedroom with the blank pages of a journal on her lap.  It is the place where the angst of teendom spills forth in childlike poetry.  She pours out her heart with emotion and gives full expression to every hurt, every confusion, every fear, every joy.

She lays the journal down and immediately feels the need to write some more.

So she does.

A sixteen year old girl sees a younger classmate hurting and wants to help.  She’s not good with words unless she is able to put them on paper so she decides to write a devotional.  With great fervor, she writes a seven day devotional in which she hopes to convey God’s love in a way that replaces the pain with hope.  She never found out if she succeeded, but she begins to wonder if her passion could be used for good.

So she continues to dream.

A nineteen year old girl is called into her professor’s office.  She sees her paper on his desk and suddenly fears she has made a grave error in her writing.  She listens in awe as he instead praises her paper and asks if he can submit it to a local writing contest.  “You know we have a Professional Writing Major here, don’t you?” he asks.  “You should think about that.”

She thinks, she decides, she declares.

A twenty year old sits on a train from Prague to Ukraine.  She is alone with a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a copy of Jane Eyre.  She puts down her book and looks out at the changing leaves and rolling hills of a foreign land.  She picks up her pen and journal and writes.  She uses “Thee” and “Thou” and feels like Charlotte Bronte on a grand adventure.

She feels romantic and poetic.

A twenty three year old girl is newly married and sitting in her empty apartment, her eyes glued to the computer screen before her.  She has her first big break.  A book.  And she is terrified.  So she does the only thing she really knows how to do, she writes.  Most of it isn’t fit for publication, but she works out the kinks through the melodic clicking of her keyboard.

Her dream is coming true.

A cough cough year old girl gets up long before the sun to make use of the few brief moments she’s allotted with her thoughts.  She pulls out her dusty journal and for the first time in years touches pen to paper.  It’s as if her first love has been there waiting for her all along.  Life flows from her fingertips and she quickly puts her pen back down, almost breathless.

She forgot how much she loved the art.

This same girl is digging back into the recesses of her imagination and letting it run free again.  Hot air balloons and chickens suddenly don’t seem that strange.  In fact, it feels like a fantastic adventure.

Today I am speaking at a local career fair on the art and craft of writing.  What will I say to them?  Perhaps, chase your dreams.  Or maybe, don’t be afraid to use your imagination.  Should I include have a back up plan?

What advice would you give young minds eager to jump into their own futures?

Pumpin’ a dry well

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It’s 11:11.

Quick – make a wish!

What did you wish for?  Don’t worry about it not coming true.  This is the internet, where dreams come true in droves, right?  I wished for abundant energy.  And a clone.  And the skin of my youth.  And a steak (I get hungry after 10:00).  And for the clock to tick a little slower so I could have a bit more time to make more wishes.

Lee is out of town this week.  I think I mentioned that already.  So far the kids and I have survived three days.  Just five to go.  It’s not bad, really.  When I know Lee is going to be gone, it’s not much to dig my heels in and take the bull by the horn.  I switch into survival mode.  It’s all about going from one minute to the next.  Breakfast?  Done.  Teeth brushed?  Done (most days).  House picked up.  Meh.  Homework?  Check!  Baths?  Got it!  Bedtime?  Hallelujah!

This week is a bit different, though.  Painters are here doing that which I can’t…painting.  The house is being beautified and I must say it is looking spectacular.  Could I have done the painting myself?  Probably.  But not likely.  I hate painting.  It falls in line between walking on glass, rolling in fire and visiting the lady doctor.  Let’s put it this way…I’d rather do laundry and mop simultaneously than paint a wall.

So painters are here, which means the kiddos and I have to be out every morning and we stay out until the evening.  That’s a lot of time away from home.  And we’re all camping out in my room because the rest of the house smells like paint.  We’re all a little tired.

I’ve also had more than one person give me more than enough to think about as far as how I manage my time and what I do in my spare time.  It’s been great food for thought and has had me mulling over a few things lately.

So tonight I will sleep for a short while.  And tomorrow out we’ll go, wasting time, living life, surviving until daddy gets home.

Speaking of daddy, I didn’t even get to talk with him today.  *sad face*

It’s 11:22 and I still don’t have a clone, the clock is still ticking, no one has brought me a juicy steak and I can feel wrinkles developing.  I guess I shouldn’t have told you my wishes after all, eh?

Does anyone have good news to share with me today?  I could use a little cheering up to get me through the halfway point…

Cherish the moment, they say…

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I’m currently about 60 pages from completing Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing to SEE.  Have you read it?  You really should.  But I will give you a few warnings up front.

  • Have Kleenex at the ready because when she gets to the experience of losing her daughter Maria, unless you are a robot, you will likely cry and cry hard.  I’m not sure I have ever sobbed quite so hard while reading a book before.  Except maybe Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which I read late at night while pregnant thereby setting myself up for disaster.  Which leads me to my next point…
  • Do not, under any circumstances, read this book after 10:00 when you’re already tired and perhaps a bit emotional.

Consider yourselves warned.

Lee is currently out of town and I don’t know about you all, but when daddy is away in our home, the mice think they can play.  That’s a metaphor, of course, the mice being our kids.  Not real mice.  If real mice were coming out to play, the kids and I would be at a hotel.

It’s tough when Lee’s not around.  The kids need him.  I need him.  Every process becomes that much more difficult and without daddy’s firm voice, sometimes certain little ones forget how to behave.  Particularly at bedtime.

I’ve heard so often that bedtime is a sweet time to enjoy your kids.  “Lay down and talk with them,” the proverbial “they” say.  “Enjoy those snuggle moments at bedtime while they’re young because when they’re grown those moments are gone.”  Every time I hear that advice, I want someone to tell me how to enjoy bedtime and yet still get them to go to bed!

I’ll admit it.  Bedtime is not my favorite time of the day.  It’s hectic and stressful.  The kids get wild and rambunctious.  If I lay down and talk with one, all three have to pile in with us because “IT’S NOT FAIR” otherwise.  I don’t get to lay and snuggle with just one. 

On top of that, the older two share a room and to be quite honest, all I want is for them to go to sleep.  If they had it their way, they’d have a wild party every night for a couple of hours before slipping into slumber.  Which leaves me feeling like the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get them to be quiet and go to bed.

Last night was no exception.  It had been the longest of long days and everyone was wiped.  I knew they just needed to sleep and yet, once again, as soon as they got into their room the antics began.  And I had to put a stop to it.

    Then I read this from Mary Beth’s book:

    How would I have lived differently if I knew that my time with Maria was going to be this short?  Regretfully I would have lived much differently.  I would have purposely hugged and kissed more.  I would have tried to memorize and lock away in my heart certain smells and smiles.  I would have colored more and worked less.  I would have laughed more and fussed less.

    Bedtime wouldn’t have become a chore to check off the list of things to get done.  Instead it would have been more of an opportunity to listen about the day and offer whatever words were needed.  The swimming pool wouldn’t have been too cold to swim in.  The flowers in the garden would have all been pick, and definately more ice cream would have been consumed.”  Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to SEE.

I read this and I nod.  This falls into line with the thought that we should live each day as if it’s going to be our last.  And yet…

I can’t really live today like it’s going to be my last.  If I knew for sure today would be my last day, I wouldn’t worry about mopping the floor or answering emails.  (Okay, I actually just laughed out loud because I’m not worried in the slightest about mopping the floor.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did that.)  I wouldn’t be concerned with brushing the kid’s hair or what kind of food they ate.  But the fact is, I have to cherish today as if it’s my last while still living like it’s not.

How do you cherish each fleeting moment with your kids knowing that you still have to keep routine?  I want my kids to have fun with me and I want life to be full of laughter.

I also want to sleep.

I think it’s a balance.  After being the heavy last night and then reading Mary Beth’s words, I felt a weight that I couldn’t shake.  And so I went back to their room.  They were finally calm and were close to slumber.  I slipped my arms around each of them and squeezed tight reminding them that they were loved and cherished by me.  With one last kiss, they both slipped into dreamland with the knowledge that their mom, even when she’s exhausted, loves them fiercely.

That’s the best we can do, right?  ”Cherish the moment,” they say.  Well, sometimes the moment is tough to cherish, but the kids?  It’s them that I cherish. 

Send Emilda to The Special Olympics

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Social media has made the world smaller.  It has connected us to one another in ways that were not possible even ten years ago.  Through social media, we now have the power to hear and see the plight of those on the other side of the world. 

And we can act.

It’s not a matter of if we should.  We just should.  Let’s think big.  Not only for the good of others, but for the blessings that come upon us as well.  The knowledge that we took part in something bigger than us.

Emilda is an 18 year-old Compassion International sponsored child with the mental capacity of a three year-old. She lives in a squatter community in the Philippines. And she’s fast!

In 2009 Emilda competed in the Philippine Special Olympics and she performed well enough to qualify for the World Special Olympics in Athens, Greece this Summer. But she needs your help to get there.

Emilda’s parents are unable to pay her way to Greece and neither is the Philippine government. Her need is $19,857.

This is more than just helping a little girl run a race.  This is showing a little girl that her talents and gifts are worth celebrating.  This is helping a little girl see a dream come true.  This is showing a little girl’s parents that the world knows…and we care.

Would you like to help send Emilda to the Olympics?  You can do so quickly and easily by clicking right here.  If you’d like to read more about Emilda and her amazing talent that has provided her this opportunity, head over here.  Grab a box of kleenex first, though.

We have the power to work together for the good of this sweet and beautiful little girl.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me smile.  If you would like to share this amazing opportunity with others, use the information below:

Donations can be made at:
http://donate.compassion.com/special-olympics-athens/?referer=96738

Pictures and more information about Emilda are available at:
http://blog.compassion.com/the-making-of-a-special-olympics-champion/

When asking others to give please use the following link:
http://donate.compassion.com/special-olympics-athens/?referer=96738

Or this shorter link:
http://bit.ly/Emilda

Let’s do this together and cheer Emilda on to the finish line!  Thanks everyone.

Remember When

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Remember when you were a kid and the world was a playground worth exploring at every turn.  That was awesome.

Remember when you got off the school bus and mom had a plate of hot chocolate chip cookies waiting for your consumption – or, if you were my brother, she had a plate of bologna cut in triangles and a slice of buttered bread?  That was special.

Remember when there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones and people actually spoke in person and developed real relationships? It’s sad that I can actually answer yes to this question.

Remember when you could play in the snow for hours on end and actually come in sweating because you were just. having. so. much. fun?  That is totally bizarre and foreign to me now.

Remember when you had an imaginary friend who seemed so real that you had play dates at night after you drifted off to sleep?  And you woke up in the morning thinking about the fun you had.  Um…yeah, me neither.

Remember when you sat in your mom’s lap and cried so hard you could hardly breathe and she just held you because there was nothing else she could do?  That stays with you.

Remember when you met your true love for the first time and you “just knew?”  I am one of those people this happened to and yes, I believe in love at first sight in the sense that you can feel an instant connection and supernatural awareness that this is The One.

Remember when you had your first kiss and you felt like you were twirling on clouds?  Oh how I love the innocence and sweetness of that memory.

Remember the first time you experienced heartache so deep you had to remind yourself to take another breath?  That memory never leaves.

Remember when you held your first child and somehow you felt as if you’d known him/her all your life?  Makes me want another baby. Lee keep breathing, babe.  I’m just dreaming for a minute.

Remember when you got married and you couldn’t imagine life being any sweeter?  I do. 

*groan*

Remember when you were a kid and you ran so fast that your legs couldn’t keep up and you tumbled down in a fit of laughter?  I would love to feel that again.

Remember when life was easy and uncomplicated?  Yes.  For me it was called college.

Remember when you thought that easy and uncomplicated period of life was sooo hard and soooo complicated?  Still college.

Remember when we tried to be understanding of one another’s faults and short comings and we weren’t quick to judge and maim someone who made a choice different from our own?  Wait – has that ever happened in society?

Remember standing by a lake skipping rocks over the water with your dad and feeling safe?  I love these memories.

Remember when your night began at 9:30 and you still had the power to function the next day?  That ended when I had my third child.

Remember when you watched a movie that so deeply impacted you that you had to remind yourself it wasn’t real?  This generally happens when they are either realistically frightening (which I can’t watch) or painfully sad (also tough for me to watch).

Remember when you watched a movie that made you laugh out loud without reservation?  These are the best kind.

Remember when you could read a blog post and someone didn’t ask you a frillion random questions over and over? 

I’ll stop now.

What are some of your favorite memories?

Bieber Fever – Post Update

Justin Bieber’s got nothin’ on this kid.

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I’m thinking it’s time for a trim.  Not a cut, mind you, because I love his shaggy little locks.  But his haircut is quickly morphing into a mullet and we can’t have that, now can we? 

I’m trying to figure out how I can get someone to give him a real Bieber haircut while still maintaining my (and his) dignity in the process.

Suggestions, anyone?

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We had it cut today and, with a bit of shame, I asked for a Justin Bieber haircut.  It looks cute.  It’s really difficult for something to not look cute on this child…

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The gene that skipped me

I am good at many things.  I know this and I embrace it.  Sometimes I doubt it, but deep down, I know the things in which I excell and I chase after them, sometimes with great glee.  Sometimes with trepidation.

I also know, however, of a great many things that I do not do well.  Like sewing – can’t do it.  I can’t even sew a button on a shirt without it falling back off within a few days.

I made an Octopus pillow in 7th grade.  I sewed it to my jeans…twice.  Ultimately it turned out pretty darn cute, what with its crooked eyes and all.  I haven’t sewn a single thing since then.

Ironing.  This is another skill that somehow passed on by me.  I can do it, of course.  It’s not rocket science, ironing a shirt.  But I’m not great at it.  I never know how to lay the shirts right on the table and I end up making more creases that need to be sprayed and ironed out and…

I felt a bit of shame over this one when we first got married.  I felt that ironing my husband’s shirts was a wifely duty that I needed to conquer in order to honor him.  I was certain that my initiatiation into Wifedom would not be solidified until I hung his shirts and pants, starched and pressed, in his closet.

I surrendered all of those feelings of failure a long time ago and, thankfully, I have a husband that doesn’t mind ironing his own clothes.  If he’s in a pinch and needs something – I am his gal!  But mostly, I don’t iron.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ironed.

And I don’t feel bad about that.

Decorating.  Ah, decorating.

I stink at it.

I don’t know if this pillow should go there or if that picture should hang here.  I don’t know how to arrange a book case to make it look cute and not cluttered.  I don’t know how to hang knick knacks on the wall in a way that is cute and doesn’t make my house looks like it’s inhabited by an eccentric old woman with 99 cats.

I don’t like to watch HGTV, because it makes me feel inadequate – and it bores me a little.  I actually just heard some of you gasp in horror. 

Picking out paint colors sends me nearly into shock and the decision to move our TV over the fireplace almost gave me a heart attack.  My husband has been wanting to do that for eight years.  I have resisted because I just couldn’t see it.

Then my neighbor came over.  My neighbor who had a table that she thought would look better as a bench so she sawed the legs off and painted it white and low and behold, she had herself a bench that looks like it walked out of Pottery BarnI would never have thought of something like that.  Ever.  If I didn’t know what to do with a table, I would get rid of it.  Or better yet, just sit and look at it for a decade and mutter repeatedly, “I hate that stupid table.”

Carol walked into our house on Sunday and in two hours the entire house was transformed.  Trans-flippin-formed!  Our front room, which has always been a bit of an eyesore has now morphed into a warm, cozy music room.  For eight years we’ve wondered what to do with that room and in one hour Carol fixed it.  We sold a desk, moved furniture and lamps around and voila’!  Transformation.

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Then she tackled the rest of the house.  Like the foyer, which has felt like a cave for the past two years.  See the beautiful hutch in the above picture.  That bad boy was in our foyer.  And yes, for two years we have tripped over it, muttering under our breath and we were prepared to get rid of it.  Until…

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And yes, she moved our TV over the fireplace, turned all the furniture toward it and by God if it doesn’t look like the room is twice as big.

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Lee has been smugly strutting around the house all week.  Yes, dear.  You were right.  The TV looks great over the fireplace.  *eyeroll*

So now you know.  The decorating, designing, making cute from drab gene passed right on by me.  And it laughed as it raced by yelling “See ya, sucka!”  And I’m left with nothing to do but put this picture here and that painting there and then sit and wait for someone to come along and do it right.

I’ll try not to wait eight years this time.

Final

We had our final harrah in the snow this weekend.  Or what we hope I pray was our final harrah, anyway.  We donned our hats and our gloves, our snow pants and snow boots and spent one more afternoon playing in the white fluff that’s graced our yard for much of this winter.

We took one last run down the mole hill we call a front yard.

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We ate snow one last time.

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Then we licked it off our chins.

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We made silly faces for the camera.

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Some of us were just cute for the camera.

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And, of course, we made our final snow angel.  We hope.  Seriously…no more snow, ‘kay?

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Yes, on Friday we enjoyed one last romp in the snow.  By Sunday it was 60 degrees and the piles of white fluff were transformed into black slush.  And we were outside riding our bikes in shorts.

And by We, I mean They.  I was just the chick behind the camera, taking it all in.

Come on Spring!  We can’t wait for you to get here!

The Waves

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Have you ever watched the waves rolls in to shore and been mesmerized by the rhythmic swell and crash?  Have you seen the way they slowly pull back from the shore, gathering in a mass, then tumbled in frothy praise to the sand?

I love that.

I love the sound of the water as it tumbles and rolls.  It’s praise.  And I feel like many times, my praises echo those of the sea.  There is a welling up of my soul and it gathers with momentum, then peaks and crashes forward, spilling praise at the feet of the throne.

Sometimes the wave of praise is large – a culmination of fear, heartache, struggle or simply gratitude.  It’s a tidal wave of praise that builds up slowly and spills over with force.

Sometimes the waves of praise are smaller, but they are consistent.  An ever present gathering and rolling of white tipped praise that cannot be quelched or contained.

Sometimes, though, there is no praise.  I am still.  Like the ocean on a clear, calm morning, I sit stagnant.  At times this stillness is a good thing.  I am listening.  I’m waiting for the whispers.  And if I listen for long enough, I usually end up bursting forth with that tidal wave of praise again.

But, unfortunately, many times the stillness is a result of not listening.  It’s a result of stepping away, checking out or simply being lazy.  I might send forth a ripple here and there, but the waves of praise stall.  This is how the ocean begins to dry up. 

I don’t like this place.

Several years ago, as I was in a place of frustration, I penned a short phrase that has stayed with me since.

Used have brilliant words to sing

Now I drift like the wave

I crash to the shore

Then I quickly pull away

I miss sitting at Your Feet

Listening to your tender words so sweet

How I long to surrender

To Thee, Precious Lord

I long for Your presence in me.

I wrote those words in a journal late one night, while the rest of the world slept and my mind churned like the unsettled ocean.  It was a time when I felt distant from the Lord.  A time when I felt like the stagnant sea.  In a burst of emotion I would offer up my praise, then, as quickly as the wave began, it pulled away and the ocean of my soul grew stagnant again.

Lately, these words have been spinning in me again – but in the right way this time.  It’s a good place to be.  I kind of like this contemplative state of mind.  It helps me sit still and wait and, ultimately, the waves of praise will bubble forth yet again. 

We’re in a blessed place as a family.  But…Sometimes a good place gives way to complacency.  I’m fighting it.  Really, really fighting it.  Because now I have the opportunity to spill forth with grateful praise.  I don’t want to miss that opportunity!  I don’t want to be content stagnant.  And so I stop, and I think.

Shaun Groves wrote about this yesterday.  It spoke right to my heart, confirming the emotions already stirring.  I love the written word – especially when paired with a beautiful melody.  

These are the things on my heart today. 

And, obviously, I’ve got the beach on the brain…