Our Double Life

DSCF6607It was our grand finale—a trip to Ludington where a dozen delighted kids frolicked on the beach sculpting castles, playing cards, jumping over waves, lounging on floaties and having splashing contests while four moms in lounge chairs enjoyed easy conversation. We cooked hotdogs for dinner sitting in a circle around the campfire and finished off with s’mores before racing to the beach to watch the sunset and dune jump.DSCF6637DSCF6621DSCF6667 mg_6193The sun waved “goodbye” in a blaze of color, as if acknowledging the magnificence of friendships forged over time and shared experiences and we knew it was our turn to do the same–again. There were so many hugs—the little boys resisted. The mamas squeezed hard and long and so did Lily. Tears erupted from turbulent soul volcanoes. “Goodbyes” called from cracking voices through open windows followed by “See you in 9 months,” and “I love you guys,” called out Christine with a “Back to You” returned.

Then there was just the beach and the dunes for miles as darkness descended. Minutes passed quietly except for an occasional involuntary sob. I wondered how to band aid the gaping wound our children were bleeding tears about. What does a mama do with all these tears, especially when you know it was your choices that caused them. I did the only thing I know to do when I don’t know what else to do—pray.

“Hey guys,” I spoke compassionately. “I know we’re hurting. The tears tell us that we love large and we’re loved back– and that’s a gift. The downside of the gift is that it hurts to say goodbye.”

Sigh….. Pause……

“So, let’s take a few minutes to cry it out and then how about if we try shifting our focus away from ourselves and onto those friends we just spent a beautiful day with.” “How about if we pray for each of our friends individually? They have their own stuff to deal with too and we could talk to God about it for them.”
“OK,” Starla responded agreeably.

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And over the next 25 minutes, all 16 of those dear people who hold our hearts were brought before the throne of the only One who can fix all this brokenness.

And when we said “Amen”, I suggested we play music.
Robyn chimed in, “I don’t want to hear anything sad.”
So we turned on Jason Gray singing:

…..Every step along the way,
I know You’ll never leave my side.
Whatever the season I can say,
These are the best days of my life…..

And we just kept driving away from the beach.
Just like we just kept driving away from Wheaton College on Sunday.
And just like we drove away from our cousins house yesterday.
And just like we’ll drive past the “Pure Michigan” sign on Saturday– all the way to Dallas to our other life.

The music felt like white noise in the background of my internal banter.
“How did we get here?” I asked myself. “And more importantly, how to do we get out?” I wondered….

I reflected 12 years back.

Like all sincere Christian parents we weighed our options prayerfully when we considered relocation, seeking wise council and did what seemed prudent. Nobody intentionally sets out to break their children’s hearts repeatedly. We were utterly ignorant about the long term implications of our decisions.

When we first drove away, we knew we couldn’t sever ourselves from our northern life completely in good conscience, even if we’d wanted to–which we didn’t. The Bible has something to say about respecting parents and reciprocating the care they blessed us with when their health goes South. So, we came back north to take care of family and that is what jump started our double life—school years in Texas and summers in Michigan.

To some people, it seems almost idyllic—winters where it’s warm and summers where it’s cool. While I appreciate upbeat optimism and grasp for it at times, that assessment is highly simplistic. It might be alluringly exciting for sanguines, but God didn’t wire us that way, and our double life makes us feel alive right in the pit of our stomach.

So what do we do when we can’t find a way to change the trajectory? And there’s no place to seemingly to make a U-turn….

That’s the million-dollar question we can’t seem to escape. We all ask it within our own particular messy stories….

And so we lament—groanings that only God understands.
And we try not to project ahead how many more times He might ask us to do a repeat because we don’t think we have even one more in us.
And tonight in the wee hours, the questions swirling feel a lot like jazz music that doesn’t resolve and leaves you aching with its dissonance.

img_5494-1But all of life is not the dead of night. I hear the girls whispering animatedly in the next room recounting to each other their sweet stories of summer–holding on to the memories in the retelling so they don’t slip like beach sand through their fingers.

Soon, they will drift off to sleep as will I.

And tomorrow, we will all wake up to God’s faithful, tender, mercies that are fresh and new for the day.
We’ll open our hand to accept His.
And trust He’ll take it just as He always has.
And we’ll turn the music up loud and on repeat as we pack up all those Rubbermaid plastic bins and sing,

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…..Every step along the way,
I know You’ll never leave my side.
Whatever the season I can say,
These are the best days of my life…..

Countdown to Easter

by Robyn
by Robyn

It feels so good to see light at the end of the tunnel. So far, I’ve survived 42 days of boring food and clothes, but in 5 more days it will be Easter. I love the feeling of anticipation (and I’m definitely feeling it now), but I’m afraid that I’m so excited for sugar and pretty clothes that I might miss the importance of Good Friday or even Resurrection Day. I mean, will I be happy because Christ has risen, or because I can eat chocolate and wear a beautiful dress? Back in pre-school and pretty much all the way up to elementary school, all of my Sunday school teachers around this time of year would tell us that Easter isn’t about chocolate bunnies or colored eggs, but about Jesus and His victory over sin and death. My family never did Easter baskets or egg hunts, so I always thought it was funny how some people actually got more excited about these things than they did about Jesus. But, I guess those aren’t the only things that can distract us from Jesus…..

To try to keep focus on what is really important, my family celebrates with a variety of traditions. We go to church several times– to Maundy Thursday service which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, Good Friday service which acknowledges Jesus crucifixion, and of course, church on Resurrection Sunday. Easter starts with an all church breakfast. Here at home, Mommy and I continue reading together through Matthew following the Easter story and praying for help from God to finish well. At dinner time, we’ve been singing a Lenten and Easter hymn together for the past 6 weeks and just added our Easter egg devotions.

Maybe Starla understands Holy week better than I do…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHtZ_5yBUmM

 

 

Lent = Life Lesson

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Last Sunday was my Grampsy’s 9th heavenly birthday. It makes me feel happy to have so many good memories of him.  I remember his low, grovelly voice and the way he used to clear his throat when his allergies were bothering him. Grampsy liked to tell me stories about the Great Depression and how God took care of his family.  We played hide and seek and he took me to the park.  He always worried I’d fall off the slide and “break my noodle”.  “Be careful now” was one of his favorite phrases.  What I liked best is how generous my Grampsy  was when it came to treats.  He would buy popsicles, ice cream cones, chocolate bars, cookies and donuts for all his little granddaughters.  So in honor of Gramps, Mommy decided we could make an exception to our “no sweets rule” on that day.

Wanting to celebrate Grampsy’s memory all day long, I started eating sweets at breakfast.

Here’s my menu for the day:

Breakfast: 3 of Lily’s famous chocolate chip cookes

Snack:  2 more cookies

Lunch:  Left over Roast and Potatoes and 2 more cookies

Dinner: Pizza

The grand finale:  a 5 scoop sundae with hot fudge, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and whipped cream.

Words fail to express how amazing that ice cream tasted!!!!

Unfortunately, I had to face the morning after on Monday.

I had been getting used to resisting sugar and it was easier for me but after I tasted it again desire fueled temptation.  I noticed sugary treats everywhere and they were calling my name.  I felt like a Veggie Tales character in Larry Boy and the Bad Apple being chased down by Temptation.

I wonder if this is how it feels for people who have other kinds of addictions.

I’m glad that mommy and I are doing this together.  It’s nice to have someone to moan and groan to when we want to eat something we shouldn’t and I’m also happy that we can be each other’s cheerleader.  Mommy says its accountability.  According to her, it’s really important to have a couple of people in your life who hold you to your commitments and call you on it when you don’t keep them.

By Robyn

She says we’re learning a life lesson here.  That this is more than clothes and food and drinks and getting out of bed at 7:45.  We’re applying Ecclesiastes 4: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble…”

Better go practice my life lesson on Mommy.  She’s gazing admiringly at the chocolate chip yogurt……..

Lent Day 5: I’ll Rise but I won’t Shine

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WARNING: This post will not make any sense to morning people.

I’m not going to survive 40 days. Let’s just let it be known that 7:45 + no sugar = extremely sleepy (potentially crabby) Robyn. So far today I’ve nodded off in the shower, my head dropped into my cereal, and I stumbled into the wall about 7 times. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I made the commitment to get up at 7:45 everyday. My intentions were good.  I wanted to be able to get up in the morning with a clear mind and energetic body like this:


(Disclaimer: In the outdoors scenes, that’s our swimsuits under our Tshirts.)

It’s not happening!

Something had better change soon because I would really like to be conscious while Mommy reads the Bible.  We chose to read Matthew as our text by process of elimination. So far we’ve covered Jesus’s birth, baptism, and the scene where Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. When I’m still half asleep, God’s Word isn’t very compelling. This makes it hard to dialogue with mom afterwards.

Mom: “So, what impacted you in this chapter?”

Robyn: “…Ummm……(opens eyes)………………………”God protects?”…

Mom: “That’s too basic. It’s a Sunday school answer.”

But that’s about as deep as I’ve been able to go at the moment. I’m not feeling very spiritual about this, which is frustrating because I was hoping for an immediate “spiritual high”.  Mom says sometimes we have to wait patiently for the Lord.  In the meantime, I will continue to try to keep my commitments.

And since sweetened drinks are taboo, I may need to learn to drink black coffee….

by Robyn
by Robyn

Adding and Subtracting: Part 1

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robyn
By Robyn

My mom is not as sacrificial as I thought she was. Last night we sat down together in our love seat to talk through what we would add and give up for lent. The first topic we discussed was vanity, which translates in my language as clothes. For me, picking outfits is a huge distraction in my daily routine.  It trumps my new year’s resolution to read my Bible each morning. Because this is a major issue, lent is like a “kick in the pants” to focus less on how I look and more on God’s Word. The first way Mommy and I are addressing this is by reducing our wardrobe for the next 40 days. We negotiated a deal but it wasn’t easy.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 1 sweater
  • 3 shirts
  • 3 bottoms: jeans, exercise shorts (which double as pajamas) and a pair of shorts + mom negotiated for an extra bottom.
  • unlimited socks and underwear

Mom debated me for ten minutes trying to convince me that she needed 4 bottoms instead of 3. The dialogue went something like this.

Mom: I need jeans, shorts, pants to exercise in, and some nice pants or a skirt I can wear to work and church.

Me: What’s wrong with wearing jeans to work? I mean, I do my work in my pajamas! Give up shorts or something.

Mom: But then what will I wear on hot days?

Me: Come on.  Jesus probably didn’t have 4 tunics.

Mom: I can’t wear jeans to church.

Me: Why not?

Mom: Because it would be humiliating.

Me: That’s probably the place you need to wear them the most then.

In the end, I gave her a bonus pair of pants because I’m so nice.

Next, we argued about shoes.

Me: OK. So 2 pairs of shoes–

Mom: Wait, a minute. 2 pairs of shoes? I can’t do that!

Me: *sigh* Why not?

Mom: I’ll need shoes for cold days, hot days, and tennis shoes to exercise in.

Me: Well, pick shoes that works in both kinds of weather then.

Mom: But I don’t have any.

Me: Sorry to hear that.

No dice this time mom.  Your case isn’t strong enough.

We also debated about some of our unmentionables but that conversation is not public domain.

I was amazed at how much my mom “needed”.

Once we agreed on the terms of our reduction, we started talking about what we would add to replace it. When we take away the bad, we make space for the good.  So we are adding a daily meeting between, me, Mommy and God at 8:00 each morning and we’ll read the Bible together. This will be no picnic because I am NOT an early riser. You let me and I’ll sleep in till lunch time and since I’m a home schooler, sometimes my mom lets me.   It’s not really my fault because I’m an insomniac. I lie in bed bored to death, until at least 12:30 a.m. most nights. In a way, getting up will be more of a sacrifice than taking away most of my clothes will be.

We prayed and asked God to help us know Him better in all of this.

With vanity laid bare, we changed topic to idolatry which we spellC-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E.  Mom’s the expert on this one because she has so many years of experience.  So I’ll let her tell you what we committed to there.