Monday, April 22, 2019

Wednesday Wars

Last week Lu and I snuggled up on her bed and finished Wednesday Wars.

It was such a good book about an awesome 7th grader who attends junior high in Long Island during the Vietnam War era America.  I love how the effects of the war are woven into the lives of the characters.  We loved the personalities that emerged as we read, the development of relationships, the descriptions of everything from the sky to the humorous random side notes, to the Shakespeare references to the sad disappointments and the tough victories. THANK YOU for the recommendation that came from a blog reader here. (and you can find it HERE)

It takes us a long time for us to read books these days, so many distractions, but Lu and I both loved pointing out the most beautiful parts and we both got teary over and over as we read.

I hope we will keep how we felt that evening in our hearts, lying on her bed when we were done, talking about all our favorite parts.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

beauty for ashes

I'm back for my second Easter post.

I just feel compelled to come back and post this talk my sister gave yesterday because it spoke so beautifully to me.  I read it to my family last night through tears, it is so beautifully worded.  There's so much of life that can feel like sifting through deep ashes.  And the thought that Christ can "give us beauty" for all that darkness and woe is overwhelming to think of.

Just felt this was too powerful not to share this Easter sabbath.  Because to me, this is what it's all about.  Thank you Saydi!

Beauty for Ashes 
Reading for Incanta Easter Concert 2019
By Saydi Eyre Shumway

This week we watched in agony as Notre Dame was engulfed in flames.  We feared the worst, watching from across the world, hearing commentary about its seemingly inevitable destruction.  In the darkness of those unknown hours it seemed likely that the priceless art and relics would burn up into the black Paris sky.  That we would wake to a heap of ashes where, for centuries, beauty had stood. 

In Isaiah Christ promises us that He will give us Beauty for Ashes. 

He doesn’t promise us that things won't burn.  He doesn’t tell us he’ll simply sweep away the ashes after the fire.  

Jesus doesn’t ask us to come to him only if some walls are still in tact, or before our rose windows melt or our spires fall.   He doesn’t run to fix us only after we’ve squelched a bit of the fire and crafted something presentable for Him to work with. 


He tells us that he will give us beauty for the ashes. The promise is that He will take the most burnt up, dark, nasty, horrid things in our lives and souls and somehow grow not only something worthwhile, but something beautiful from them. He will turn what appears to be the very substance of our ruin into something beautiful.  

This might be easier to believe if He said He’d give us beauty for something like clay or bricks or stones.  We could imagine how He could make something beautiful of those unformed, and potentially useful things.  But ashes?  How can beauty rise from ashes? 

Just as hope felt lost on Monday night in Paris, so it is with our lives.  In the middle of the destruction it often seems our situations or our souls are burned to nothing but worthless ruin. There are moments, sometimes weeks and months and even whole seasons where we feel stuck, sitting in piles of ash, mourning, weighed down by the spirit of heaviness.  In these dark, lifeless, burnt up moments it’s hard to imagine how the mess will ever be cleared away, let alone flower into something worthwhile and redemptive.

Surely it was so on Good Friday for those who loved Jesus and believed in His power to deliver them.  Mary at the cross, lamenting with exceeding greif, the disciples weeping bitterly, the sun and moon hiding their faces from the starless sky.[1]  In that moment they could only see the ashes: the dead Christ, the loss of hope.  They couldn’t see three days ahead to Easter dawn, the breaking of the tomb, the stone rolled back, the Christ rising with healing and restoration and beauty in His wings.   

Ashes, distress, loss, brokenness: this is the Redeemer’s pallet.  These are the materials Christ uses to create beauty.  Just as the dark contrast and shadow make art into a masterpiece, it is the cracks in our lives and the holes in our hearts that make us deep and real and alive, that allow Christ to transform us. 

It is when our plans come crashing down that God can start in with His plans, which are far more glorious in the end than anything our limited human minds can dream up.  

So when our lives feel burnt up, when it looks as if there is nothing redeemable in our situations or our souls, let us take our pile of ashes to Christ to see if He’ll make good on His promise.  This may mean we have to work through our anger or doubt, or muster up faith we don’t think we have. We may have to wait longer than we thought for a transformation, and it might not look like the one we had envisioned.  But drawing near to the Lord, handing Him our ashes and waiting and hoping for the transformation is better than sitting still and stuck in the wreckage. 

In Isaiah Jehovah says:

The Lord hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all that mourn; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.[2]

Christ loves broken things.  He is glorified when we allow Him in to restore us.  We can be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world.  His light shines best through broken things, like our Notre Dame, still standing, with all kinds of love pouring into Paris to redeem that holy artifice.

For Christ, nothing is beyond redemption, He reaches our reaching[3] and sanctifies to us our deepest destress[4].  If we draw near unto Him and hand over our grief and fear and loss, He will draw near to us. His reclamation will regenerate, refurbish, restore us. He will salvage all the good we have and raise us up. He WILL give us beauty for our ashes.  

Happy Easter

In a coming day...
Pain will die.
Loneliness will die.
Despair will die.
Sickness will die.
Darkness will die.
Hatred will die.
Death will die.
And we all will live again.

How grateful I am for this day to celebrate the beauty that He Lives.

Friday, April 19, 2019

freshmen golden scholars

Claire worked hard this year and made the "Golden Scholar" list....along with all these cute kids:

I was in Marshfield with Lucy at the time, so I was so grateful Dave (and some friends) were such great documenters.

Love those friends, and these second cousins:
How lucky is she to go to the same school with them?

Lots of hard work goes into that honor, pretty proud of these kids!  Claire's well on her way to Oxford for college.  Ha!  But really, she'd love that.

Go Claire!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

last weekend

There is something almost holy to me about having your whole family together after some have left. I don’t think you can ever explain it until you are in it, and even then, there are not words.  There is just love just filling up the air and oozing out of all the pores in your whole body.  I’m dramatic I know, but to me this past weekend was a holy one.

It was a blurry one too, there were so many comings and goings and I didn’t get much sleep. There were a lot of other family members here too.  My parents came to town at the same time. They wanted to see Grace and Claire's last tennis match of the season and my dad had his own tennis match here. A bunch of extra cousins were in town too...Dave's sister and her family were here for a week, then the kids left and her college daughter McKenna, who is another of Elle's best friends joined us in time for the wedding and stayed with us a couple nights, and Dave's oldest brother and his wife and another sister came to town too.

Before people started coming, Grace and I snuck off with one of her friends to take some senior pictures.  It was so windy but we wanted to give it a whirl.  I'll have to post our favorites soon.

Grammie and Grandfather arrived first. Their flight was late so they missed dinner with everyone but it was fun for Dave and I to have them to ourselves while the girls were all at mutual camp kick-off.  

I took my Mom on my BrainFood route, and we talked deep about so many things, but mostly family revelation (she, my dad and my sister are deep into writing a book about that right now).  Boy, I’m so grateful for the pathway we sometimes don’t recognize until we’re past it.

We went to Grace and Claire’s last tennis match of the season.  
Grace was playing practically the whole time so I didn't get a pic. of just her with my parents, but here she is about to win her match :)

Abby rolled in half-way through (same flight as my niece so Dave's sister dropped her off) and joined Grandfather in the grapevine watching the end of Grace’s match.
Ha!  (This is a funny exercise my dad does when he wants to keep moving that we are all endeared to :)

Josh came too...good crowd for that last match and I didn't even have time to get all emotional about it being the last....

...because the three of us had to hustle off to my niece's wedding dinner (not the one who just flew in with Abby luckily!)
It felt so good that it wasn't OUR wedding dinner and all three of us loved just relaxing and enjoying all those good people gearing up for the next day.

Abby and I walked Lu to school, and midway there up drove Dave, Elle and Max (they had just flown in on hour-apart flights that morning).  Hooray!

A little father/son ping pong and accidental matching:
Some girl talk before the bridal party was to meet up:
So happy to have these cousins back together:

Does this house look familiar?:
Yep, my cousin-in-law was the one who hosted Abby's bridal shower (back HERE) and was on for hosting duties again (she is SO good at that).  It was so fun to join in for a little bit with the bridal party as they got ready.

Then it was off to the WEDDING!
I know I mentioned this, but those two in the back seat were so happy to be there to enjoy someone else's wedding they didn't have to be the stars of.  And that lady in the front seat was pretty relaxed/happy as well!

So happy for these two!

(Missing the fourth cousin in this close-knit cousin bunch above...she is serving as a missionary in Florida right now.  We missed you Jaylee!)

We were also missing one of the nine siblings (on a family trip that had been planned well before the wedding), but so great to have these eight together:

Missing no one in this family though!
Woo Hoo!

Excuse this second car picture today, but this time it was with Dave's brother and his wife who were in town from Milwaukee:
We stole them away for lunch to meet up with our family, and loved sitting there on the patio eating tacos surrounded by all those people I love in one spot.

On to the reception:

Dave's Uncle and Aunt who we love, and Max are good friends with their granddaughter up in Provo:

There was something pretty grand about the reception.

Our whole family was dancing our hearts out on the dance floor.  I love that Dave has passed dancing skills on to all of our children and they have got the moves, and they make me join them sometimes.

I’m not going to try to describe how that felt that night all tightly knit together, everything else faded in the background except to say it was holy to me.

The next day we did this:

And this:

We came home and met up with my niece (Elle's fellow bridesmaid) and a companion from her mission and hung out in our back yard all afternoon. 

We set up the volleyball net and had a great game with all nine of us and Lucy keeping score and I looked around and realized it’s ok that my kids are growing up.   
There is something pretty great about a family ebbing and flowing and growing and morphing and I love what we’re becoming.

My parents had been with my brother that day, then joined us as the sun started to slant.

We went and played tennis:

(My dad is really confused in that picture above because can't figure out how these girls got so dang good.  HA!)

Then this barefoot duo joined in too:
Crazy kids.

We had a really late dinner, and a good dance during clean-up:
(I love that area for after-dinner dancing which happens more than you would guess...)

Since dinner was so late we didn’t start our last game night until even later but I loved having my table crowded to the max with our whole family and Mom and Dad and McKenna and even my brother-in-law who happened to drop by and we lured him in for a few rounds.
Then, late-night hot tubbing.

We had our whole family together for church and and I was determined to get there on time (8:30am), but there was a comedy of errors that morning that I won't go into details about, but it all melted away when Elle and Abby came in to join my primary class and shared how they know Jesus is real and spilled out so much beauty into that crowded room.

It was a good weekend.
I hate goodbyes, but college is over so dang quick before we know it we'll all be back again.  And then split again. And then together again.

And so it goes.  The life of a growing, expanding family.

I am a grateful mama.
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