I bit my lip and started the prayerful negotiation. "God, I can't sabbath this weekend. I have a cold. I'm way behind in all my work. The girls need things. I have to get stuff done. I promise, I'll get back to setting aside a day of rest as soon as I get through this course...and things slow down at school...and the garden isn't growing...and..."
I thank God He made the discomfort of my soul sharp and unrepentant. I knew, even as I haggled, that to disobey I would be saying that I didn't trust God.
I would be saying that I didn't trust God with the work He has given me. I would be saying that I didn't trust God's big picture for my life. I would be saying that I didn't trust God's promises. I would be saying I didn't trust God to be sharing truth when He told us over and over that a day of rest is crucial for our life.
So, I held my breath, shut one eye, and closed my computer at 4pm on Saturday evening.
Jovani was away for the weekend, studying for two major exams this week. The moment I stepped away from my computer the girls swarmed me like happy little bees, full of ideas to watch movies and eat waffles and snuggle in our pajamas.
Immediately I was so glad I said, "Yes." to God.
The next 24 hours were full. We stayed home from church with our suspicious sniffles, had coffee with my dad, made pasta, watched TV, sang songs, and read books. It was beautiful and restful. My heart filled with joy, the joy that comes when you rest in God's promises, no longer required to carry the burdens of life alone.
So far, the week has been blessed by our Sabbath, just as God promised.
What surprises or blesses you when you take a day of rest?
The garage felt cold as wrapped my arms around my waist and sobbed. The last kitten had died. Each one had died the same way. By the time the third and last one grew sick, I had known the end would come,but I had prayed and hoped and kept showing up to care for them. Our best guess is that they either had some sort of birth defect or a contagious virus or bacteria. It hurt so much to watch them die.
Those kittens were an extra burden for three and a half weeks. I had imagined the hard work would be worth it. I had envisioned the sweet, fluffy cats they would grow into. I had enjoyed watching Micaela pet them, Adela feed them, and even my students in my classroom help care for them. Their end hurt. And it felt so frustrating.
It made me ask that old question, “Why did I even try?”
We ask ourselves that question about a lot things. You know the things: the ones that are beyond our abilities, the ones that are beyond our resources, the ones we have never succeeded at, the ones that everyone tells us aren’t worth it or aren’t right for us.
But, then we try anyways.
And sometimes we fail.
In that sad moment, alone in the garage at 1:00am, I felt the darkness of the world swirl around me. Everything felt hard. Everything felt like too much.
God must have been waiting for that moment, for me to fall hard, for me to be still, so that He could hold my hand and promise me that He wastes nothing.
More than that.
He rejoiced in every moment He watched me and my daughters and my students care for small and fragile kittens that He created.
He rejoiced at the lessons in perseverance and tenderness.
He rejoiced at the love those little ones were shown.
He rejoiced at the ways our hearts expanded and accepted our service.
God, celebrated our journey the whole time for three and a half weeks.
There are so many things I’ve done or tried that failed. I have such the terrible tendency to want to grab a big fat sharpie and scribble over the mistake, blotting it out so that it can’t be seen or understood by others. And, so much of my life has been this frantic rushing to work harder so that the blemishes are forgotten or so far in the distance that they cannot be recalled. I don't know if the kittens' end was my fault or not, but I know it was not the outcome I fought for.
Those kittens lived, were loved, and then they died. That was it, it was their whole journey. But, when my desire to throw it all away, blot it out so it doesn’t blemish my heart, I miss out on seeing just how amazing the experience was and how it changed my soul. Another moment in my own journey, one step closer to heaven.
Sorry if this blog post today seems sad. I know you all hurt, too, and wish certain journeys had never been taken. But God is on your journey, He goes before you and He walks with you. He rejoices as you grow. Our souls are more beautiful to Him than any success we could ever have. He loves us. He loves me. He loves you.
We should love ourselves that way too.
Yesterday I ran outside because I literally didn't know what to do with myself.
I was completley overwhelmed. With work as a teacher starting up next week, Adela's baptism on Sunday, and some projects that I promised would get done before summer ended ... I just didn't know where to start. I had a horrible sinking feeling that I wouldn't get it all done at all.
So, I ran outside with my socked feet stuffed into my thong sandals (I don't know why I do that) and walked up and down the drive way. I prayed and cried and asked God to please just write down a list of what He wanted from me so that I could stop being confused and disappointed in myself all the time.
All the time.
Because at the end of the day, the list felt like a big fat sign that I had messed up. That I had messed up the summer. Maybe I was doing all the wrong things. Maybe I wasn't on the right track. Maybe my family wasn't on the right track. Maybe I wasn't what and who I was supposed to be and needed to trim corners of my heart to fill the space that others expected of me.
My eyes lifted to the sky and I finally saw the approaching storm, the warm moist wind filling my face and nose.
I love storms. It feels like watching a force of God approach, full of power and promise.
So I sat on an old blue tractor and wiped tears from my face.
A bird, a simple barn swallow, flew in front of me and perched on the power lines. "Look at the birds. They do not plant or harvest or store food in barns and your Heavenly Father feeds them." Matthew 6:26. I stared at the bird. It didn't need to worry and God promised me that I was more valuable that it. That silly little barn swallow.
That barn swallow also didn't need to be anything but himself. He just had to be. To live.
"Oh, God," I breathed. "Me, too?"
He whispered back into my soul. Yes, you, too, Lora. You just need to be.
The fog, confusion, and fear cleared. I smiled. I even felt a little foolish.
I am me.
I have a ridiculous passion to improve things, to teach, to watch people grow, to figure out systems, to find the fullness in life every breath of my life.
Oh, goodness, how I suddenly loved that bird. It isn't a smart creature and it isn't worried about it. The more it trusts God the more it rests in God's bounty and provision.
I rose from the tractor when the wind gusted up, the sand pushing me back to the house and my list. I am me. God created me for His purposes. I just need to enjoy the ride, the placement of my soul in the wide tapestry of His love story.
Where in your life do you feel you need to stop striving and just be you?
I was puttinig Adela to bed and she had a thousand words. I tucked a few strands of dark brown hair behind her ear and marveled at the sparkle in her eyes as she told me about the most important part of her day: digging up irrigation leaks with her papa.
The laughter was hard to hold in, I could feel it bubbling up at the base of my chest. She was full of conversation about worms and frogs and gophers, repeating a dozen things she had learned and expressing her fascinations with the process.
And I was so thankful.
It had been one of those days when I had felt exhausted and preoccupied. There had been a lot of phone calls to make and decisions requiring thought. I had felt like a truly terrible mom. I had been so emotionally and mentally unavailable to the girls.
Eventually we said our prayers, sang our songs, and turned out the lights. I walked away and was so thankful for the way God provided love and connection to our active little girl through the simple act of working with her father. It also made me pause.
We really don't have to recreate or construct perfect experiences for our children, we just need to include them in life. Life is already part of the interesting and complex. Life is already full. But so often we feel the need to occupy our children elsewhere while we get life done. As if they need to be compartmentalized into another part of our world.
Now, I'm not saying that I should have put the phone on speaker while I called doctors and dentists that day and let Adela be part of the decisions being made, but there are more opportunities than I realize to include the girls in my life and in my world. There are conversations to be had over folding laundry. There is laughter to be heard as we squish pizza dough. There are plenty of ways that we can be seen and heard.
This realization is such a relief. Connecting with my girls can often feel like another chore, another expectation that is sometimes not met. However, when I invite them into my world and my life, the connection can me more real and deep than the reconstructed moments that are squeezed into a busy schedule.
Thank you, God, for showing me that it never was that complicated. Relationships are about sharing our life with others, including them in our world.
Where do you feel yourself trying to compartmentalize your life instead of inviting the people you love into it?
I pride myself on really knowing my family. I also pride myself on feeling connected to God often as I go through life, but our recent family vacation proved me wrong in the most beautiful way.
Today we're back home with a happy glow to our browner-than-before skin. A couple weeks ago, Jovani and I were gifted five days away at a cabin at Munds Park, AZ. We spent a lot of time outside and laughing. After years of parenting our girls, this is the first time that Micaela's health and the responsibilities of farming and ranching have allowed us to pack up and leave for a family vacation.
I had no idea how powerful this experience would be.
That first morning, we loaded the girls into the truck with the camper in the back full of fishing poles and sandwiches. The mountain air was crisp and clean, giving me that same feeling of climbing between fresh sheets on the bed--restful and waiting. My heart flopped and I made myself open my heart and mind to the possibilities of the morning. I had no idea how the girls would react to a lake fishing adventure but I knew that they were happy and excited and that my husband, Jovani was relaxed and thankful for a break and time with his girls. So, I let the worries about how Micaela would act and agreed that beyond sunscreen and bug spray, I needed to let my heart fill with peace and my mind stop planning out every minute.
As we reached the lake, we began to unload chairs and poles. I held Micaela's hand. The struggling began. She didn't know what she wanted or how to react to everything. She is a fighter and the moment she feels pushed or unsafe, she reacts with resistance and determination to remain as independent as possible. By the time we reached the shore, I was sweaty and frustrated and looking at my watch, calculating how long I really needed to put time in before retreating to the cabin and the sanity of toys and quiet.
Jovani began to prepare poles and Adela cast her first line out into the water. Baby mud hens chirped nearby, their parents hunting and feeding with industrious fury. Micaela, determined to join them, immediately waded into the lake. Distracted by the mud hens, I didn't catch her until her shoes and braces were soaked beyond redemption.
Great. Five minutes and my worst nightmares had been realized.
I began to pray. Just pray for a way to make it through some hours so that Adela and Jovani would be able to enjoy the lake. Then, as if receiving a message from above, I gasped and asked Jovani, "Do we have an extra pole?" A red pole was found and Micaela gleefully took hold of it and began to fish. She was avid, completely fixated on the activity. For the next four hours she hit the water determinedly with the pole and told us she was "fishing".
At one point, I just settled back into my chair and took it all in: Micaela's happy play that was so determined to match her papa's activities, Adela careful attention to her own activities and wonder at nature, Jovani's patience and peaceful attitude as he helped Adela and taught her how to bait hooks and take fish off the line. It was as if I was meeting them for the first time. Something about seeing them away from our normal lives showcased features of my loved ones I rarely see. It was beautiful, a landscape of God's workmanship and His hands in my family's life set to the background of God's mountains and water.
I saw them all out there. All of them.
I think we can get so used to the wonder of God in our normal lives, that we lose that feeling of awe. We lose that attitude of gratefulness. We lose that mentality of serving an awesome powerful God. But, on those days at the lake, I saw it all with sweet clarity as if He was showing it all to me for the first time.
Returning home, I felt new respect for my husband and felt the laughter come easier with him. I also felt as if my girls had grown up more. Not because they had done maturing in the mountain air, but because I saw them in different situations and settings and noticed things about them that I hadn't seen yet.
I found my life and faith and family again out on that lake.
Where and when have you felt your faith and your love for your family refreshed?
Sometimes, with gardening, I admit to not know what I am doing. However, I have accepted my condition, realizing that with every project and plant, my knowledge grows. For my perfectionistic soul, this is one of the most therapeutic activities. Plants require love and care, but they are alive and so much of what they do and how they develop is out of my control. I can see my work being rewarded, but I receive little surprises every day that I venture out to my plants.
This week, I have been battling weeds. I decided to be extra smart and sow perennial seeds into the south side of the old bunkhouse. Then, next year there would be happy plants ready to bloom and grow. The problem is that the seeds take 21 days to germinate and, in the meantime, New Mexico weeds have done their thing.
I waited and agonized for my seeds to come to life and finally, I was rewarded for my patience. Tiny, unfamiliar sprouts lifted their heads from the dirt, shadowed by hundreds of iron weeds and careless weeds. So this week, with agonizing precision, I have endeavored to remove the weeds and give them space to grow.
The funny thing is, I am just like those baby plants. The space and stillness given to me in those early morning hours, create the space for peace to enter my soul, fueling me for the hours of busy life ahead. It is in those quiet moments that I feel my heart stretching out, taking new and health shape.
So, why do we resist the quiet? I think of the past school year and how I tried to fill every breathing waking moment. Surely, there was ample opportunity for my mind and heart to stretch and grow unencumbered by my vicious insistence on taking ground and marching forward.
As I look at the summer months I pray for the wisdom to make sure I find space for stillness during other seasons of my life.
Where do you need to create more quiet and space for your soul to grow?
The summer has opened up to me and the time is so sweet. After the school year packed with activities and extra responsibilities with Jovani away, I want to soak up the extra space and at the same time, fill it up with every possible long-awaited dream.
However, at the top of our list, is potty-training Micaela.
It is time-intensive but going incredibly well. Still, I find myself growing impatient with her, wanting her to play less games and do more responsible tinkling on the toilet. Today, we got into an epic battle about the whole thing, mostly because it is laundry day and I am all "hurry, hurry, hurry." I feel God whisper into my soul with the some words a friend shared with me years ago, "The time will pass anyway."
And it will. The time will pass at the same rate whether I relax or worry. The time will go on, oblivious to my plight.
Surprisingly, this gives me so much peace. It reminds me that the only thing I have control over is the state of my heart as the summer days wax and wane. And, as I hold on to this reminder, I am at rest. I can trust God with these days and moments and everything will be as it should.
So, you might ask, what am I up to? Well, I'm teaching Adela Spanish and some housekeeping skills, potty-training Micaela, taking the girls to swim lessons, taking them both on an experience once a week, gardening both vegetables and flowers, writing, podcasting, cooking for my happy husband, and reading to my heart's content. It's a lot, but it only becomes too much when I stop resting and trusting in God's perfect will.
There is a quote by John Mark Comer that reads, "Hurry is a form of violence upon the soul." If that is true, then patience and rest is sure to heal this soul of mine that had been in great danger of running on empty and in desperate need of repair.
And, even if it will be a busy summer, I am still resting in Him.
What do you need to trust God with so that you can find peace in the passing time?
Micaela's staring spells began last spring. She would go into these long moments of unresponsive staring and then snap out of it like nothing had happened. By last September it had gotten so bad that we started trying new medications and rescue meds to help her. I hated it. They made me sick to my stomach, thinking about the destruction that could be happening to her brain as it went through so many little seizures daily. It seemed so unfair after having her awful nocturnal seizures under control that she should have to go through this, too.
Our neurologist is one of the most wise and caring health professionals we work with. While she listened compassionately and trusted my observations and judgements, she insisted that a 24-hour EEG needed to be done in order to get a better picture of what we were dealing with.
I dreaded the appointment. Micaela has spend the last year or so in that independent-don't-touch-me phase and thought of hooking her up to a few dozen electrodes sounded like my worst nightmare, but, we put the appointment on the books for June and got ready.
My heart aches with happy amazement. The appointment was full of one unexpected blessing after another.
First, Micaela was so sweet. Seriously. She held my hand like a champ as we navigated the hospital, gave out hugs like it was her job to every nurse, technician, and doctor. She even THANKED the EEG technicians as they hooked her up to the machine and tediously worked the electrodes off of her head the next day.
Second, Micaela didn't fight the placement of the electrodes. The pediatrician on call at the hospital suggested that we swaddle her like a baby, and Micaela loved it. She seemed relaxed but curious as her head was measured, marked, and decorated with rainbow-colored cables.
Third, our family was completely provided for the whole time. Our close friends treated Adela to a fun-filled sleep over with their kids complete with going to the rodeo and eating doughnuts. The nurses were constantly making sure Micaela and I had everything we needed and we were comfortable and well-cared for.
But, the last unexpected blessing was the one that still makes me catch my breath. When they completed Micaela's EEG set-up they showed me where the button was to mark and record the staring spells. I was vigilant, watching her carefully and marking each one of those horrid episodes. And, guess what, there was no seizure activity. None at all. Those staring spells are just staring spells, possibly caused by Micaela processing some internal feelings or sensations. I couldn't believe it. I had been so sure.
As they discharged us from the hospital yesterday, we walked into the sunlight with so much less fear and worry. My husband and I feel like we have been given some of the best news we've heard in years. Our little girl's epilepsy is officially controlled.
I know it is foolish, but I hadn't considered that this blessing might ever be ours. I am so thankful for those who have faithfully prayed for her all these years. She is a testament to God's goodness and the strength of faith. Oh, my Christian brothers and sisters, you have been so loving in your continued prayers for her and for us. Thank you.
Image explanations from left to right, top to bottom: Micaela had just gotten her EEG leads removed and was enjoying a doughnut, Micaela loved playing "Doctor Micaela" with her stethescope that Presbyterian gave her the whole time, this is the monitor recording her EEG at night (I stared at it a lot), Micaela had just finished getting her EEG placed and hugged her baby doll hard, Micaela was a champ during the light test, making sure that she doesn't go into seizures with light flashing.
I kept adding the items to the list and my stomach twisted. Finish planting the garden, do the laundry, prep the bunkhouse, cook meals for the weekend, call the neurologist,...
It looked impossible and yet it had to be done.
I raised a weary hand and rubbed my aching shoulders. Why in the world had I insisted on putting in the garden right before we started branding? Ugh!
I shook my head. I knew why. After months spent in the classroom, I was hungry for sunshine and dirt. Hungry to be outside, to watch things be weeded, and to watch things grow. Yesterday I loaded up the girls into the car and we picked out plants and seed, eagerly driving back home to let the planting begin. We worked for hours and probably got half way done.
In my mind, I figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I'd dig some holes, do some weeding, and have it all done before dinner. That would have left today for all the food prep, laundry, and housework that needed to be done in preparation for the next few days of branding cattle.
Even with Adela and Jovani working right alongside me, the work was slower than I had thought it would be.
As I prepared for my days, my Bible reading landing me at 1 Peter 5:7 and tears sprung to my eyes as my Heavenly Father reminded me that He cares deeply for me. My strong and loving God goes with me and before me. Perhaps everything won't get done. Perhaps I'll have to trust the un-done tasks to the future of tomorrow. But, God will not change. This morning I choose to hold on to the promise that God cares for me. That promise makes the knots in my stomach untie and a smile come on to my face.
So, I did what my Mom told me never to do: I wrote all over my hand. I need that reminder. I will need it often today. I will need it each time Micaela and Adela need time with me even though I feel too busy. I will need it each time the dryer finishes and I need to pause to sort a load of laundry. I will need it when everyone is hungry and I am finishing cooking. I need to remember that the God who created the universe is right their with me, caring for me, and asking me to give Him all my worries.
What anxieties do you need to give to God today?
I want to remember all of it.
This morning the house was quiet. The girls were still asleep, as if the stillness of our lives created a pocket of rest we so desperately need. I sat in my trusty rocking chair and was reading in Job, sipping my half-caff-coffee when I ran across that verse where one of Job's friends tells him, "You will surely forget your troubles, remembering them only as waters gone by." I paused. I don't want to forget.
This school year pushed me and my family. All of us. Including my dad, mother and father-in-law, brother, and friends who came alongside us. I don't want to forget my mother-in-law showing up last-minute when one of the girls was sick and I needed to go into work. I don't want to forget late nights spent grading papers. I don't want to forget my dad cuddling Micaela on his lap as he waited for the bus to come. I don't want to forget every single hug that a coworker gave me when I was barely holding it together. I don't want to forget the phone calls and texts of my sister and close girlfriends as they checked on me and did the work of keeping our relationships alive. I don't want to forget how good it felt every single time my husband walked in the door and I remembered how blessed I am to be doing life with him. I don't want to forget my brother coming over to watch movies with me and the girls when I needed a smile. I don't want to forget the teachers that encouraged and watched over my daughters' growth as precious human beings even when they were having rough days, just like me.
All those hard times, every single one, God provided for us. He provided for our weariness, fear, anxiety, and stress. God never ever forsook us. I watched Him show up time and time again and it was the most beautiful gift for my faith that I could have ever been given.
So, my friends, I just want you to know, that in this quiet still morning, as my feet have made it across the finish line and my ears have heard that last bell ring, my heart is full.
What troubles have built your faith through the years?
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"...and God was already there with me."