"'And you've quite given [writing] up?' asked Christine.
'Not altogether...but I'm writing living epistles now,' said Anne, thinking of Jem and Co."
- Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery


All of My Best Plans

The fear sets in when the plans come crashing down.  When I prepare and plan and give all my best effort to getting my ducks in a row only to watch those plans fail.  Sometimes everything comes to a halt and there is absolutely nothing left but to wait.  I can't help but laugh a little at the way it keeps happening - the way all the work comes to a sudden end when so much is undone and the waiting sets in and I must learn this lesson all over.

It happened a few months ago.  We set aside the packing for praying.  For two weeks we prayed that God's will be done while we waited for the moment we would know if we were moving or not.  For two weeks we knew that we probably wouldn't get an answer until moments before it was time to act.  The moment came and we went downtown to sign contracts on the house God said yes to while friends and family picked up where the packing had left off.  And we moved that very night.

It's happening again today.  This nesting momma has been given orders not to nest.  It's time to wait.  The not-knowing gnaws.  Baby's heart beats irregular and we wait for answers.  Fluid levels drop and we don't know if it means she'll be here too early or if she'll be here in a few weeks or if she'll stay and grow until the time we were expecting her. 

And the truth is we're just not ready.  The bags aren't packed and the clothes aren't put away.  The cars aren't fixed and the carseat sits in the house.  We haven't bought a crib and are probably expecting a baby that won't fit into a stitch of clothing we have for her.  And my orders are to sit and wait and not do anything.

It can overwhelm so easy.  My plan A comes crashing down when the doctor says "soon" and I make a plan B and watch while it too nose-dives when I hear of specialists and hospital stays.  Everything spins and the only thing that is clear is that I'm not in control and that I won't be in control. 

The fears threaten to well up when the best laid plans crumble.  I know the what-ifs can strangle if I let them.  So I take time to count joy.  I sit all day in that hospital bed knowing that it's not the magazines or the television I need to distract me from worry.  If I seek distraction those fears will still eat their way in.  What I need is eyes to see.  The only way for me to fight the fear that comes with the unknown in the middle of my crumbling plans and spinning world is to taste and see the goodness of God that is surrounding me and even sustaining me in the middle of the chaos.

This storm, it isn't calming yet and her heart keeps skipping beats despite my prayers and things grow worse and there are threats of danger.  Yet I can look around me and see God's love shine brightly and know that even if I'm not in control, God is.  He is here and I know that he has only what is good in store for me - that all he gives me will be gifts and grace and he will work everything out for my good.

And so I am free.  Free to let go of the fears.  Free to let the plans fall as they may and just hold on tight to God's goodness.  Free to experience joy instead of trembling in darkness.  So, today I count gifts.  I record the little glimpses of God's love all around me and offer thanks for them:

Thank you, God, for:
(Starting with today's gifts)
270.  pictures of baby we'll see today.
271.  everything that is going just right.
272.  the way boys grow and even though it can break my heart to see them no longer babies, it can delight to watch them get so big.
273.  Cap's little button nose and those eyelashes resting on his cheeks that remind me that 5 is still little.
274.  a doctor that inspires my trust.
275.  the way tears can bring those endorphins that make it hurt a little less.
276.  the generosity and help of so many.
277.  friends who love me enough they'll even clean my house if I need it.
278.  the patience of nurses.
279.  access to all the water I need.
280.  pigeons pecking outside the hospital window.
281.  the carpet being in and the boys in their room just in time!
282.  a husband who brings me what I ask for.
283.  a husband who brings me flowers from our yard.
284.  a husband who would even put a dandelion in a vase.
285.  a husband who could make me smile by bringing baby's toy monkey for me to cuddle.
286.  pictures of my three little ones all lined up on the tray by the bed.
287.  a doctor who sits right down to chat.
288.  a doctor who knows I'd be more comfortable at home and thinks that's what's best.
289.  getting to go home and take my boys with me!
290.  little boys wrestling and chasing and using up the energy I can't spend.
291.  prayers surrounding
292.  the way words make thought clear and heal hurts.
293.  Jeff taking such good care of the work I can't do.
294.  hugs from nurses.
295.  the fact that cuddles and conversation and stories are part of a mommy's job and I can still do those!
296.  the way sinks will clog and messes will be made and there will be way too much to do at all the wrong times, but it will still be ok.
297.  the secret of contentment - Philippians 4:11-13

(and backtracking to count the gifts not yet typed out:)

Thank you God for:
189.  Cap figuring out how to write my name all on his own.
190.  the way he always wants to be Luigi - putting others first while so young.
191.  pastel heart candy in the frilly crystal dish - the one he insisted I keep because it's dainty & beautiful & he knows those things can inspire joy.
192.  the bold way Grandma will come right out and ask where we stand with God.
193.  them eating their fill of good food.
194.  reminders of the responsibility to teach them to share with those who don't have.
195.  pretty journal full of neat words resting on top of a messy scrawled to-do list - a visual reminder of how he gives me all this joy from  the work he has called me to.
196.  a time for work and a time for rest.
197.  order coming slow but sure from chaos.
198.  motivation and energy to get stuff done.
199.  floors all mopped clean.
200.  the way he points out to his son how hard I worked.
201.  home lights burning brightly
202.  talking on the phone with Captain Silly Wiggles.
203.  time to create.
204.  the boys calling me "mother".
205.  remembering how Cap would ask for a song at bedtime in the old house.
206.  getting to meet Jeff for lunch.
207.  seeing those blue eyes across from me in the middle of the day.
208.  sitting long at the table with my little guys.
209.  the way Skidamarink says "munner" instead of "mother".
210.  how much they miss their Daddy when he's not there.
211.  Skid running into our room first thing in the morning, book in hand.
212.  warm weather.
213.  snacks for the park.
214.  picnics.
215.  watching them run and chase each other.
216.  the way Skid kept looking over his shoulder to make sure I was watching.
217.  meeting Daddy at the park.
218.  watching the three of them play so rough-and-tumble.
219.  the way sometimes Daddy-rules are different from Mommy-rules.
220.  that I get to go home to them.
221.  that he fell where he did and not a half inch closer to the table.
222.  time to just be silly.
223.  baby waking me up with her dancing at 2 am.
224.  knowing that in a matter of weeks when she wakes me up at 2 am, I'll get to hold her in my arms and kiss her cheek.
225.  Skid joining in to sing hymns & retelling the stories he is learning about Jesus.
226.  a time to teach & a table full of students.
227.  little boys sharing what is left of my lap.
228.  Ben spotting a cardinal on his own & pointing it out to us.
229.  a healthy boy who will get the hang of this potty-training thing.
230.  success & jellybeans.
231.  Skid finally getting it!
232.  little hands on my face.
233.  Cap so proud to help in the kitchen.
234.  the way work brings extra joy when it is shared.
235.  two whole days with my niece & nephew.
236.  baby smiles.
237.  Cap thinking of things to teach Skid.
238.  the way the boys love their cousins.
239.  big little guy cuddling that baby girl.
240.  eyes to see the glory.
241.  little green shoots in the yard.
242.  anticipation of discovering what spring holds in this new place.
243.  conversations with a 4 year-old about seeing God's love. 
244. a full table during Sunday School.
245.  bare trees standing black sillhoette against purple-orange sunset.
246.  hearing the phone ring and knowing it's Jeff calling to say he's heading home.
247.  being just plain silly together.
248.  green paint on our noses.
249.  little handprints marking freshly painted surfaces.
250.  the joy of exploring.
251.  pirates in the backyard.
252.  pirates in the car on the way to the grocery store.
253.  kid-sized imaginations.
254.  time with friends.
255.  the opportunity to hear the God-stories of others.
256.  wise words.
257.  a friend so willing to help.
258.  long phone call with my boys.
259.  friends with refridgerator rights.
260.  hard honesty.
261.  conviction.
262.  your faithfulness to answer prayer.
263.  baby girl kicking my arm as I write.
264.  knowing not to worry.
265.  Cap finding his first toad at "the farm".
266.  the carpet fresh laid.
267.  feeling the discontent rise and knowing it doesn't have to control.
268.  things going oh-so-wrong when brothers fight and how it's really an opportunity to teach the things of God.
269.  freedom not to hurry.


February Joy

...or on Fridays. :)

Taking the Joy Dare from A Holy Experience:  writing down three gifts each day for a year.

January's Joy
During the month of February:
1.  a gift found at 11:30 am, at 2:30 pm, at 6:30 pm
the man who shared a dollar & a blessing with each of my boys * the man who passed along his grocery cart * time to all cuddle up and read
2.  3 things overheard today, all gifts
 boys & their Dad playing early in the morning * man at the store getting a chuckle out of Cap bossing Skidamarink * Cap comforting Skidamarink when he needed it
3.  3 gifts found in writing
all those words printed out and arranged for Momma's birthday * the boys not even needing to read the words of those familiar stories * writing letters as he sounds out words
4.  3 gifts found when bent down
little hand on my cheek when I bent to talk * faint little milk mustache * the wonder of a blanket fort
5.  one gift stitched, one hammered, one woven
the red shirt that brings out bright blue eyes * all that work he's doing upstairs * my great-great-grandmother's bedspread
6.  3 gifts found outside
frost hanging from trees * him so big he can run to the house by himself * all those stars we can see in the country sky
7.  3 gifts red
 little heads resting on bring red pillowcases * red stitching on my journal * red scarves on the penguins both the boys play with
8.  a gift broken, a gift fixed, a gift thrifted
the cross with my name that waits for glue * pages taped together in books well-loved * a crib for our girl?
9. 3 gifts that were surprises - unexpected grace!
Grandma & Grandpa stopping by * delight at videos of penguin antics * how thrilled they were with their art work
10.  3 times you heard laughter today
Skidamarink laughing while he plays with his Dad * us all laughing together over a movie * giggles while they ride the Daddy horse
11.  3 gifts found in working
the joy Cap has in getting to do real work * that my work is drying tears & explaining mysteries * the spoils of my labor - dishes to eat on, clothes to wear, places to play
12.  3 hard eucharisteos
discomfort & pain that means baby is growing & my body is fighting illness * their grace & forgiveness when I'm so grumpy * taking time to rest when I need to work
13.  3 gifts found behind a door today
Grandparents ready to love little ones * a room full of 4 year-olds full of joy * cupboards & refridgerators stocked with food to help me show them love
14.  3 ways you feel the love of God
adundance of gifts coming so fast I can't keep track * stopping to look at the way He redeems my captive places through marriage * feeling all these little ones around & inside & knowing He uses me
15.  a gift in losing something, in finding something, in making something
losing track of time in the company of dear ones * books to teach him in the right ways * plans for next year, crafter with care
16.  3 gifts in shadows
the way the shadows are unseen  until the sun comes out & throws all into contrast * spiritual truths from natural laws * the way they lengthen as the sun sets
17.  3 gifts in giving/serving
providing a clean place to play & relax & just be * the way hugs & kisses can count * joy in serving - even when it's not what I want
18.  3 gifts on paper
the power of making lists of all sorts * scratchy little letters while he's learning * seeing that love note on my table
19.  3 gifts that were Plan B's
staying home when we were supposed to be out * digging into "school" stuff early because he just can't wait * helping Jeff get work done
20.  a gift at breakfast, lunch, dinner
everyone up before Daddy left * working through tears & seizing those teachable moments * Jeff home to eat with us even though he had to travel far
21.  3 gifts white
bubble bath beards * the milk spilled & the extra milk bought * him all cuddled up in that white blanket asleep on my lap
22.  3 gifts that changed today
bad attitudes changing for the better * hours on the clock changing to bring him closer to home * tires changed and men who stand up for me
23.  a gift of tin, of glass, of wood
plant markers waiting for spring * sticks in the vase, filling with paper as we count the days of lent * that big window to look out
24.  3 gifts before 11 am
everyone up so early again * beautiful morning drive * time with just the little guy
25.  a gift nearly worn out, a gift new, a gift made-do
paper cutter, falling to pieces from projects past * pink sparkly baby shoes * an improvised lunch
26.  3 gifts seen as reflections
little boy on tiptoes brushing his teeth * words about trust to reflect on * sunlight reflected from Jupiter & Venus
27.  3 ugly-beautiful gifts (see beauty in ugly)
carpet dingy from house rennovations * the way they learn through tough mistakes * grocery store fights & the grace to make something of them
28.  3 gifts from the past - that help you trust the future
despite problems before, the babies were born healthy * God has provided in tougher times * knowledge that my certainty on the future isn't what's important
29.  a gift dull, a gift shimmering, a gift cleaned
worn out old books passed down * bright little eyes * house all picked up