‘Tis the Season for Crazy

Last night my husband and I sent the Court Jester to Family Reading Night at school.

Without his family.

Prince Charming was helping with our church Christmas program, and Princess Ella rushed through two different rehearsals. Where was I? Starbucks. At a meeting. What was I doing while I was meeting? Sewing pointe shoes.

At least I was surrounded by women I love, and there was coffee.

Did I mention my son went to a family night without his family?

Yeah. The mom guilt was thicker than my grandmother’s fruitcake. Even though my meeting was for my daughter’s ballet school and I was sewing her ballet shoes, the Court Jester still got lost in last night’s seasonal shuffle.

‘Tis the Season for Crazy.

We all know it. We all experience it. We all attempt to stop it.

This week, I’ve lived through four late nights, three long meetings, two stacks of essays, and a partridge in a pear tree. My crazy is normal.

After leaving my meeting last night, I walked to the car, pulled the handle, and opened the door. It wasn’t until I was half-way in that I realized the car wasn’t mine. Yeah. I’m that woman this time of year.

Or maybe I’m that woman all year.

Ella will turn 14 in less than a month. This morning? That sweet child of mine continued to give me grief for not having an Elf on the Shelf when she was younger. The Court Jester continues to talk about Snowflake, his classroom Elf.

Caleb – Why can’t we have one, mom? Because he freaks me out. Who wants a creepy Elf staring at them all day?

Ella – Well, when I have kids, I’m doing Elf on the Shelf for them. That’s fantastic darling. You’ll do an amazing job, and your children will be the luckiest in the world. (unlike you, apparently…)

I told Ella I was just making sure she would get her money’s worth as an adult when she has to seek counseling for all the ways we screwed up her childhood.

(Side-note: I’m not anti-Shelf-Elf for any other house—just mine. Only because I couldn’t possibly keep up with moving an elf every night when it’s evident I can’t recognize my own car.)

Every Christmas I race into the madness and promise myself I won’t do it again.

Then I break my promise.

Year. After year.

I want the slow and the nights of hot cocoa while drinking in the lights adorning our tree. But slow is not the reality in this season of my life. I have a teenager and a seven year old. I’m a teacher with mountains of papers to grade. I’m in love with a man whose responsibilities equal my own. Slow isn’t really an option.

Sure, there is the busy of my life I can control—and I do. I have learned to say no. (Halleluiah. Amen.)

Still, there is the busy of my life I can’t control.

The slowing and breathing in of Christmas is beautiful. I’ve written about it every year. I crave the quiet moments of the season when I draw my children near, and we whisper of the newborn King.

But this year? I’ve realized that just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I can’t embrace this magical time.

Because Christmas is woven into the very fabric of my life.

And my life? It’s messy. It’s crazy. It’s chaotic.

It’s also beautiful.

Christmas exists with or without my crazy. One might even say Christ was born because of my crazy, because of my broken. The more hectic my life gets, the more I need my Savior—my Emmanuel—my God with me.

The meaning of Christ’s birth is threaded into my soul—knitted together with all I do and all I am.

Christmas resonates in the middle of my frenzy. There will be scattered moments of stillness, but mostly I will be keeping pace with the hustle and bustle. In the midst, Christmas will be there. It’s always there. Because the Joy of this season is the Gift lying in a manger sent because my Creator loved this world with all He had.

My Christmas may be a bit crazy, but the true beauty of this season isn’t lost.

Rather, I need it more.

So I choose to see, even when life won’t slow.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Christmas, Joy | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Let My Words Be Few…

Friends…God never promises easy. And there have been times when the fear of losing my dreams has been so real, I can smell the acrid smoke and ash as flames destroy the path I was walking.

But I’m learning. The hardest times? They’re my invitation to trust. To trust in a Jesus who wants my best.

Today, I am honored and down right blown away by the invitation to be a guest on my friend Edie Melson’s blog, The Write Conversation. Join me there?

I can’t remember a time when my pencil didn’t scratch across paper or my fingers didn’t tap, tap, tap on a keyboard.

Writing is part of the air that fills my lungs and allows me to breathe. Crafting sentences into ideas is the way I express my most authentic self. I’m sure you can relate.

So what happens when God whispers, stop? 

To continue reading, please click here: The Write Conversation

Posted in Struggles | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

She Did What She Could…

I watched as the Keurig drip, drip, dripped the bitter liquid into my mug. Energy to get me through the next two periods.

Desperate measures were needed. Okay…maybe not so desperate and not so out-of-the-ordinary. But still. Even after grading hours over Thanksgiving break, I still have two stacks of essays and five classes of journals to go.

As coffee brewed I lamented to one of my dearest colleagues. The one who teaches me daily of grace and kindness.

“She did what she could,” my friend whispered.

I nodded and agreed. It’s all we can do, right?

Then she stopped me in my tracks. “It’s one of my favorite scriptures. I have it circled. On days like today, I tell myself over and over—she did what she could.”

Wait. How have I missed these soul-saving words? These words of healing balm for the anxiety-ridden heart.

Where? What story?

“It’s when Mary anoints Jesus with perfume.” My grace-giving friend smiled, and we headed to our classrooms.

But all day long, the phrase she spoke circled in and out of my thoughts.

She did what she could.

The story in scripture is beautiful. Mary ventures into a crowded room with a bottle of expensive perfume. Not just any bottle, but one of great value. Alabaster.

To the shock and disdain of those around, Mary broke the bottle and poured the lavish perfume over Jesus.

His words stopped the rebukes that fell heavy on her shoulders. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”

While her actions may seem strange to us, in the custom of Jewish burial, a body was rubbed with oils and perfumes. What Mary could not have known was the crucifixion of Christ was to take place only days later.

Her offering—a sacrifice of immense value—ministered to the Creator of heaven and earth.

But did you hear His words?

It wasn’t the value of her gift. Jesus’ response was that Mary did what she could. It was her complete surrender. For Him, that was enough.

For us? His words are freedom.

Even thought I need constant reminding, I’m free from the chains of anxiety. Anxiety that has been thick these last few weeks. Anxiety that has chased close, yapping and barking—telling me I will never get it all done, that I’m a failure.

My task list keeps growing. Midterms peak their evil heads around the corner. Countless errands and chores around my home add to the weariness. The Christmas season intensifies my pounding heart. And I’m fraying in all the wrong places.

But.

If I live with my Jesus in mind, if I work to serve His purpose, and if I do what I can, then it is enough. Because, friends, Jesus makes it enough.

It wasn’t Mary’s offering that was enough. It was that Jesus made it so because He saw her heart—a heart of sacrifice. She selflessly did all she could when she broke the jar and poured out what she had.

The same is true for us. When we give Jesus our all, He will make it enough.

She did what she could.

Allow those words to sink into the depths of your tired soul.

Do what you can.

And then rest.

Because truly? I can never be enough for anyone. Nothing I do will ever make me a perfect wife. I could move mountains for my children and they will still require more. I could work 80-hour weeks and never be everything my students need.

I am never enough.

But I can do all I can.

Jesus whispers that my offering is plenty.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Relationship with God, Struggles | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Bedtime Chaos and Some Thanksliving…

I’m sitting in the dark with my Court Jester scooted as far away from me as possible. I’ve told him no to a request, and his world has crumbled into dust.

He blames me for his own catastrophic Armageddon.

I want Daddy to put me to bed. I want Daddy to put me to bed. Over and over again from his grumbling mouth tucked beneath blankets.

He’s even put a pillow between us. Muffled and angry. Huffs of frustration and hot tears. He hasn’t gotten his way.

I’m standing my ground.

Sort of…

Does ignoring him count? I feel like I could write my own Thanksgiving version of Twas the Night Before Turkey Day…

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Oh wait. Can’t do that because my very own Caleb-turkey is thrashing and rolling, which definitely moves us past stirring.

Peaking over my shoulder, Caleb just asked if I put indentions in my paragraphs. (um, no?)..He’s reading my words, smiling, and snuggling close.

Just like that, the show’s over.

But even in the chaos of bed-time or the freaking out because the real turkey is still stone-cold frozen or the midnight run you make to Walmart for that one. last. thing–even in those moments, Thanksgiving is possible.

The Court Jester is now silent. His body still, and his breathing slow. The deep breath I’ve waited for all day comes.

This is the thanksliving.

Living and breathing thanks despite our frustrations, our tears, our tantrums. Because beauty surrounds when we look close.

Daily graces peek through covers and shine light into our dark nights. Gratitude for those moments shifts our eyes heavenward. Focusing our vision on the God Who Sees us in the midst of our hard, in the midst of our painful.

Learning to live out our thanks in those moments?

Joy. Pure, unadulterated joy. Joy in the midst.

And Thanksgiving comes alive. It’s no longer about a day–but about our living, breathing existence.

So this Thanksgiving I pray morning wakes fresh with gratitude in your hearts for even the smallest graces and moments of brilliant light.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. Shall we journey to walk with thanksliving together?

 

Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Motherhood | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When I Wish for a Different Life

Lately? I’ve been feeling harried and haggard. Frayed at the edges and rushed in the middle. Because life is ballet mom, flag football mom, wife, teacher, migraine sufferer, committee member, writer, all the other things and somewhere in there—me.

Have I mentioned lately I have ADHD? Because that’s a thing too.

Last week Prince Charming came in the door the same moment the ballerina and I were leaving. Hello. Good-bye.

You’re picking up dinner, I called through my car window.

I wasn’t cooking. I had decided.

I know you understand…you’ve been there too.

After I dropping my girl off at Nutcracker rehearsals, I headed to my favorite coffee shop. (I’m a cliché…) With computer and books in hand I knew I had several hours of lesson prep ahead.

A sweet friend I hadn’t seen in ages stood in front of me at the cash register where I soothed my ache with carbs and sugar. We said hello, and she had the pleasure, rather misfortune, of asking how I was and getting an honest response.

Basically? I spewed words of stress, anxiety, and angst her way. Bless her heart for standing there with a smile on her face as I huffed and puffed about wanting to be just a mom. About how I was desperate to have my children in school while I didn’t work. That way I could have a clean house and a home cooked meal instead of gross toilets and 1,000 frozen pizzas.

I know I live in Lala Land, and it doesn’t work out that way—but still.

Yesterday? I walked in the door at 4:30, began grading at 4:45, and didn’t stop until 10:00 last night except to eat a dinner that, yet again, I had no role in creating.

And then? As I got up from dinner to go grade some more? My Court Jester wrapped his arms around me and broke my heart into pieces.

Why do you have to be a teacher? I wish you were just a home-mom. Then you wouldn’t have to grade papers and could spend more time with me.

Yep. His words exactly. I know because they burned a hole into my innermost being.

I’ll take five heaping helpings of mom-guilt please…

And if you’ve managed to read this far before thinking, “What does she have to complain about? She has a great family, a steady job, and no real worries in the world,” then kudos.

Because you’re right. I love teaching. My family is precious. I know I shouldn’t whine.

The self-reproach weighs heavy as I complain about a life that’s pretty dad-gum great. But maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe your crazy-busy life is beautiful, but maybe there are days and weeks you feel like if someone pulled one more thread from your delicate balance, you’d unravel into a tangled mess. A mess no one can fix.

Contentment is hard to get right.

Most days I get it wrong.

Because most days? I want to be a home-mom. I don’t want to grade until my eyes are bloodshot and so dry my contacts have glued themselves to my corneas.

Most days I’m desperate for a home that is clean more than once every six weeks or so.

Most days I want to cook a meal for my family that doesn’t involve a microwave or a box-mix of anything.

Most days I want to be the mom that doesn’t have to miss field trips and special events.

Stay-at-home moms have crazy, insane lives, too. I know because I was home when Ella-girl was young.

But I’m not home now.

Don’t hear me wrong. My life’s not harder because I work full time. Nope. That’s not it at all.

My real problem?

I want what I can’t have.

There stands the struggle. The envy and the dissatisfaction. Discontentment has a staring contest with my emotions, and I blink first.

When I focus on what my life isn’t, I lose sight of what my life is.

When I get contentment wrong, it’s because I haven’t gotten gratitude right.

And there is the miracle in this mess. The miracle of this life is communing with the Father,and turning a heart of dissatisfaction to one of Thanksgiving. Living with contented heart means living a life of constant gratitude.

Gratitude for surprise cups of coffee given by the student as I walk into the school. Gratitude for the Godiva truffle a student shares because it was her favorite, and she wanted me to love it, too. Gratitude for my babes who jump in the car with me at 9:00 pm and head to the park so I can take pictures of the harvest moon. Gratitude for my Love who picks up my slack without complaint. Gratitude for the music that softly plays in the background as I write from a plush chair with the gentle glow of the lamp nearby.

Can I still struggle with the hard days? Days I want to crawl into bed and sink into the shadows? Without doubt. Because there are some days when we are overwhelmed by the tragedy taking place in our own corners of the world.

But.

The more gratitude swells, the higher the tide comes in to wash away the discontented sand that scratches and sticks to my skin.

Maybe. Just maybe…contentment isn’t so hard after all.

Posted in Gratitude, Motherhood, Struggles, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

When My Words Are Insignificant

What do you write when you’ve held your babies as the wind howled and windows creaked and branches flew and trees fell? What do you write as you watch the videos of boats saving souls in places water rose to rooftops?

What do you write?

What words do you use when a monstrosity like Maria bites down on islands, ripping and tearing and gnashing homes as mamas hold their babies with fear I can’t comprehend? What words do you use when humanity digs through rubble because the Richter scale registered 7.1?

Are there words?

I’m not sure.

My thoughts are scattered. My burden is heavy. My prayers are constant.

How does one make sense of a world suffering?

I don’t want to tell you I’ve been anxious. I don’t want to tell you I’ve stomped my feet and fussed about the inconvenience of living away from home for eight days while waiting for power. I don’t want to tell you I’ve asked God why.

Instead? I want to hide in my hole and ignore the emotions racing skid marks on my mind.

Because I have been anxious.

Because I have stomped my whiny, first-world foot in an air-conditioned home complaining that my routine had been interrupted.

Because I have asked God why. Why the One in control of the winds and the rains allows Harveys and Irmas and Marias and earthquakes and catastrophes.

I wish I had answers that relieved every. single. doubt.

I could give you my seminary-trained, theological answers. Answers I know to be true. I could say all the right things—things I believe. Things like “there is a purpose and a reason for everything under heaven.” Or words like “rainbows always follow the storm.” Or answers like “God works all things together for our good” and “God’s ways are not our ways.”

And I believe those truths. I trust God. I know He is good. I know He loves us unconditionally.

But I don’t understand Him. And I struggle to keep from shaking my frustrated fist of whys in His direction.

So tonight? When my words are insignificant and full of whys?

I step into the truths I know.

I know God is big enough for my questions. Better that I run to His arms with my anger and whys than stew in my own anxiety-ridden confusion.

I know I can hold faith and questions in the same hand. Because He is God. I am not. I will always have questions. But I will also trust the One who stretched blood-stained arms across splintered wood for me. For you.

I know pain and tragedy and brokenness can bring beauty. Our fractures always allow His light to shine in the dark places.

I know it takes immense strength to trust what cannot be fully understood. But better to trust than live without the hope Jesus brings.

I know that even in the doubt and fear, I can be the hands and feet of help and support. Courage is action in spite of fear.

I know that bending low in prayer brings peace—even if I have to bow my head again and again and again. And again.

I know this world is not my home.

I know Hope because Jesus loves me this I know.

And so tonight? As the bitter cries of humanity ring in our ears and the aching groans of earth are felt deep, that Hope will be enough.

Even with my questions.

Posted in Hope, Relationship with God, World Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fighting for Prince Charming

IMG_6560I can change a tire. I know how to check my oil, washer fluid, and radiator. I can jump off my car and change the battery.

I spent one week of my summer as a college student reroofing a house. With a hammer—not a nail gun because that would have been too easy. I can refinish furniture, and I know how to use a table saw. Laying tile? No problem.

If I could work in my yard every day and never have to dust another lamp or clean another toilet, I’d be a happy girl. I secretly envy those who work with their hands creating, building, landscaping, fixing.

You know. All the “man-things.” Or so the stereotypes say…

I’ve lived alone before. Did my own shopping, paid my own bills, hung my own pictures, installed my own shelves, fixed my own holes in walls.

I’ve been known to hack the heck out of a snake and power washing is just fun.

My point?

I’m not a damsel in distress. I can take care of myself.

I know a little something about being a woman in a man’s world. The first seminary class I walked into was with shaking knees and a churning stomach causing me to gulp down the nerves and raise my chin up.

Only one other female student floated in the sea of testosterone. And that ratio continued through most of my studies.

I never forgot the night class, when coming in after break, I overheard a classmate say he could never learn anything from me. That I could never teach him anything.

Well. Okay then.

I guess he couldn’t teach me anything either. Except maybe patience…And I certainly didn’t need him in my life.

But I still need my Prince Charming—my Knight in Shining Armor.

My daughter and I live in a world full of mixed signals. We don’t “need a man,” except when we do. And a woman can do anything a man can do, except when she can’t.

Independence is vital for a young woman today and teaching her to stand on her own two feet is essential. But just because she can stand alone all her live-long days, doesn’t mean she must.

Because if I’m being honest, I’m usually in need of rescuing. And knowing there’s a hero willing to fight for me is calming. Even if I’m doing my part in kicking some villain butt instead of cowering in a corner.

Yeah. There are men out there who aren’t a gallant anything.

Men interested in collecting not saving. Men looking for trophies and conquests. These are the men who hoard women under their wings of protection. Men who aren’t interested in kindness or saving or generosity or grace—but only interested in power, only rescuing to control.

These men? They know nothing of Prince Charming or the Princess. And women never need their kind of rescue.

But what if you want and need the rescue of a true protector—one who honors and cherishes and loves, one who’s ready to storm the castle wielding his sword and shield? Is that okay in today’s society?

Here is what I know. After 19 years of being married to a prince among men, I’ve decided it’s okay to want the rescue. To desire the man who protects, shelters, shields.

It’s okay to want the gentleman. The one who opens the doors for me, gives me the umbrella going without, fills my car with gas, and lifts the heavy furniture.

I want the man who wants to protect me from myself.

I want my valiant knight.

I want to teach my son, Caleb, to be a prince too.

And I don’t believe I’m weak-minded for saying so.

Because really? We’re all in need of rescuing. There’s not one human who doesn’t need someone to climb the highest peak or swim the deepest ocean to save us from ourselves. Humans aren’t made to go at life alone.

I’m not saying a woman must have a man to live a fulfilled, amazing life. That is not my heart. But we do need community.

Sisters, it’s okay to want the rescue.

It’s okay to yearn for your own fairy tale that colors different from Disney in hues of truth and a spectrum of stained glass beauty.

Because being the Princess worth climbing the tower for? Worth risking everything for?

It’s a healing balm for the sore muscles and bruises we bear from fighting alone.

And while my own Prince Charming is a most gallant knight, he’s only a reflection of the One who rescues my soul. The One who heals my most broken places and deepest wounds. The One with a battle cry more fierce than a legion of evil beings.

Knowing I can’t fight my earthly battles alone, opens my heart for the Savior of my soul.

So I will fight for Prince Charming.

Because being rescued is a gift.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Love, Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

To Teachers on the Last Night of Summer

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It’s almost midnight. Preplanning begins tomorrow.

And I don’t wanna.

Summer has been glorious. Filled with unexpected wandering and brilliant laughter. I don’t want it to end but it fades as quickly as the sun slipping beyond the horizon.

Every year it seems to be the same story. The night before I go back to work, I live in denial that the alarm will begin again after it’s summer hiatus.

Yet.

Tomorrow will come.

Summer always begins with plans of formulating new organizational strategies and influential books to read and stronger lessons to consider. I think to myself every first week of June: This will be the summer I go into school ready!

Prepared for better discipline. Prepared for all my students. Prepared for my yearly focused theme. Prepared for clearer strategies.

Really? I just want to be prepared.

And every August? I feel inadequate. I stare into the new school year feeling like a girl scout without all her badges. What happens if I get lost?

And this year? I feel like a girl scout without her badges, her hunting knife, and her fire starter kit.

How will I survive?

What if I told you I still have to finish reading a book I assigned for summer reading? What if I said I haven’t figured out which novels I will be teaching this year? What if I whispered I haven’t scoured Pinterest for all the best new teacher ideas?

If you’re not a teacher, maybe those question don’t illicit a single stress bubble. But if you are a teacher? You know the kind of stomach-clenching tension this might cause.

The anxiety has begun.

A million different things will run through my head over the next week of preplanning.

These are just tonight’s scattered ashes:

  • How do I want to change the English III syllabus?
  • I need to buy the supplies for the icebreakers. What is my icebreaker?
  • I have to remember to ask the bookkeeper to renew the NHS membership.
  • Don’t forget to review my roster and make copies.
  • The emergency substitute plans need to be in the office before Friday.
  • The new bell schedules have to be retyped and printed.
  • I have to write the joint lesson plans for the high school summer reading novel.
  • The lessons for the first couple of weeks will have to be penciled out.
  • The new homework policy must be tweaked and finalized.
  • Make sure to run by Office Depot on my way home to buy more black border to match the bulletin boards already in place.
  • Candy still needs to be purchased.
  • Expo markers! I can’t forget to buy those! Wait. I wonder if I asked the office for them in last year’s order?
  • Are there any new school rules I will have to be aware of?
  • Gah! Cell phones! A teacher’s discipline nightmare to be sure.
  • Ella still needs a few pair of shorts and Caleb will have to have a first day of school outfit.
  • When did I last get to the grocery store?
  • I can’t forget to bring the classroom plants back in the morning.

And oh. my. goodness! Can I just go to sleep!?!?

This will be my 15th year in the classroom. A mile-marker to be sure. And yet?

There is not a single first day of school that my stomach isn’t tied into knots. Jitters and nerves clenching my insides tight.

Will my students like me? Will I like them?

Am I going to be able to teach them all they need to know? Or will I be lazy and slack off some days? Will I be what they need me to be?

The root of all my worries? Of my feet-dragging-not-ready-to-go-back?

Fear.

Fear of the time my job will take away from my family. Fear of the hard, hard work. Fear not being enough. Fear of wanting more for my students than they want for themselves. Fear of the days I will fail. Fear of the days when students will fail me. Fear of the heartbreak teaching brings.

But fear never breeds success.

So tonight? Tonight, I resolve to cast away the spirit of fear. Because fear lives in the dark, and I want to be in the Light of the One who called me to teach.

Because this calling we have? This collective role we play to edify and pour into the lives of others? This privilege we’ve been given to educate and bring knowledge to children?

It shines a light into the darkness.

And the dark? It wants to keep good teachers away from the classroom.

If our role, our calling, our job wasn’t so important? I don’t know that it would be so hard. The same is true for all jobs-all hard work in our country.

The important is difficult. It is an upward climb.

And it’s worth it.

It’s worth letting go of the fear and saying yes to another year of difficult days. It’s worth the hours awake, dreaming of new ways to reach our students.

And it’s always worth the joy. Because friends? There is joy.

This afternoon, while taking my children bowling in a place I had never been, I heard a whispered “Mrs. Iseminger” in the background.

I turned to see two men, because that’s what they are now, headed in my direction. Two former students that had been just tiny 8th graders the first time I met them. Two bear hugs with lit-up faces giving me a faint glimpse of the 13-year-olds they used to be.

What delight to see them doing well.

I know parents and teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites. And I’m not sure I do. But there are those students with personalities that click with mine. Students who deeply impact me. Students that seem to dig themselves deep into the crevices of my teacher heart.

There, in the most random of places today, stood two students who have done just that. My heart filled with joy as I stood smiling back at them.

And I wonder tonight.

What if I had given in to fear and darkness the year I taught them?

Answer? I would have missed the joy today—joy that came almost a decade later.

That’s the thing about teaching. We fight the daily fear to witness the future.

The future is nourished in our classrooms.

And so tomorrow I will bring courage to fight the fear. Because I don’t want to miss the joy the future brings.

Tomorrow is a new year, so tonight I will kiss summer good-bye with a grin on my face.

Because I refuse to let fear win.

Posted in Joy, Summertime, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Because We’re All A Little Bit Castaway

The salty, warm air of the ocean wrapped me in its embrace this week. Our family tasted the ebb and flow of a vacation with no plans. A week of togetherness. A week to breathe.

Sanibel Island.

Not only stunning, but it’s known to be a shelling mecca. A place to hunt for conchs and cockles and tulips and whelks like buried treasure.

My best friend of 35 years, Kelly, is the shell-whisperer and great shell-hunt teacher. Our vacations crossed paths this year, and I was able to bask in the glow of her “Get the Isemingers Some Shells” campaign.

We spent a few days and evenings together with shovels, nets, masks, and snorkels stooping and bending and searching for the treasures of the sea—our families along for the ride.

It was heaven. Each perfect shell brought the satisfaction of a find, and we giggled like school girls.

My Court Jester joined in the hunt as his little toes dug into the sand and every shell became a prize. And I mean, every shell.

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Broken shards. Holes bored through. Beaten down and grungy. My Caleb picked up them all.

Though I would praise his finds and cheer him on, I inwardly cringed as the imperfect found its way into my bag of treasures.

One evening, much to my parenting shame, I even suggested he look for the shells that were whole. And while he attempted to accommodate, he would bring me whole shells with holes…Because. Court Jester.

A few nights ago, as Kelly and I plunged our hands deep into the sand of the shore line and brought perfect banded tulips and rose murexes to the dusky light, Caleb walked, head down along the shallows—hunting.

Among the treasures we were finding, we would pull up the fragments. We would shake our heads at the what-would-have-beens and lament their brokenness. Then, over our shoulders castaway shells would fly, as we tossed the pieces behind—forgetting them, pressing on towards our search for perfection.

“Mommy! Aunt Kelly! Look what I found!” The tiny voice of my sweet, seven-year-old would call from behind. What did he have in his hands?

Our broken castaways.

Kelly looked at me and smile with knowing and a grin.

“Gorgeous!” I exclaimed, and the fragments I had tossed away would go into my bag with a sigh.

But as I spent my week with sand jammed under my nails, God whispered deep.

Because here is what I know to be true—God never tosses aside the broken.

My son showed me the face of our Creator as he saw beauty in every fragment and shard I passed over and threw away.

Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem.

No one is beyond God’s ability to recover.

Like Hagar, tossed into the wilderness by Abraham, broken and scared, there is a God who sees us. And really? We’re all a bit of a broken mess.

He sees us in the shallows, having been fiercely pounded against the shore, tattered with missing pieces. I imagine He picks us up, turns us slowly in His careful hands—examining. And to all who will hear? He gives a shout of joy.

Look at this beautiful one! What color! The Light shines through in all the magnificent places. This hole here?  I know just how I can make it into something stunning. And this piece here? I’ve been looking for one just like it to fit into my newest mosaic of ministry.

While perfect shells can be found, and I continue to love hunting them, no unbroken person exists. And today, my friend? I want you to know our Jesus sees the beauty of your broken.

He spends His time in the shallows, looking for our fragments. He wants only to take us home, to expose our beauty because we are broken.

There are treasure seekers in this world who attempt to define perfection and only find importance in those who match the man-made ideal.

But not God.

He’s walking the shallows behind those treasure seekers, picking up their castaways and declaring their definitions wrong.

Because He’s found the beautiful you.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Joy, Relationship with God, Struggles, Summertime | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Momma? Don’t Wish Your Summer Away

So. I’m a week into summer. And I can’t get enough of my kiddos.

I have something I’d like to talk about. Something that’s kinda bugged me for years. Basically since I had to step back into the classroom and leave my babies to the care of others.

Would you mind, if just for a moment, step up onto the proverbial soapbox?

Please? Like pretty please with sugar and a cherry on top?

IMG_0885 IMG_0927 IMG_0951 IMG_3523Please don’t joke about how you can’t wait for the summer to end so you can send your children back to school.

I promise. I get it.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Around the clock. Day in and day out. God forbid it rains for days. Legos from the front door to the back door. Arts and crafts glued to the table. The Mt. Everest of summer laundry. And good grief the sibling arguments reach their pinnacle in the July for sure!

I really do understand.

Our kids can drive us literally in sane. Or at least to Target for chocolate and retail therapy. I know. I’ve experienced both.

Summer can be hard. Because kids don’t come with an easy button.

The monotony of the days, tied together with the heat and loosened structure can be difficult for anyone.

But.

There are mommas out there that would give all they had to spend a summer with their children. There are also momma’s, like me, who teach ten months out of the year when all I really want to do is stay at home.

And let’s be clear—for an incredible number of mommas—work is not a choice.

And even though it’s not a choice, I do love my job.

But.

I can’t wait for summer.

Yes, there’s the break from work. But really? It’s the time with my children I can’t wait for.

And my heart hurts a little when I hear you trying to get rid of yours after only a few days into the summer.

We all need a break from our kids sometimes. We really do. And in no way am I suggesting that to want some time off from mothering wrong.

But semantics matter.

You can talk about the hard. You can talk about the crazy. You can talk about the very worst parts of summertime. But please don’t wish for your children to walk too quickly back into the classroom.

We only have them for so long.

My Ella girl? She’s 13. I have six summers left. Six before high school ends. And each one slips faster through my fingers like water rushing toward rapids.

I can’t hold on. It’s impossible.

So I’m trying to enjoy, to delight.

I’m not here to tell you to savor every moment or some crazy-talk like that. I’m not about to savor tantrums and sass and exhaustion.

I am here to remind you to list the grateful.

The recognition of moments we get to have with our children.

To realize the blessing of days spent in pajamas and mornings spent at the park. To know there is a workforce of moms that dropped their little ones off at summer camp this morning, desperately yearning for summer days at home.

I’m learning when I am purposeful in my thanks, I discover the deep joy hidden beneath the chaos and the sticky floors. When I take time for gratitude, I remember the beauty my children bring to this life.

So when you step on your last Lego and curse the day those tiny plastics from hell were made and your day rivals Alexandar’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, take a few moments to thank.

Sneak into your little tornado’s bedroom, pull the blanket close around his chubby chin, and breathe him in deep. Watch his peace with wonder and thank God you were chosen for this moment.

You will find yourself no longer wishing the day away, but rather desperate to keep the moment forever.

Summer days can be hard days.

But soldier on, warrior mom.

Because these days are also the fading days.

Posted in Beautiful Life, Gratitude, Motherhood, Summertime | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments