Sometime before the new year, I made it out for a hike with just my kids. I love our winter hikes. I obviously use the word "winter" loosely.
A "winter" flower, maybe?
It's the closest I may get to fluffy white.
We love the dark shadows of the forest best. It's where there are more mysteries to imagine or uncover...
We take the 5 mile loop, with a very long stretch of uphill climb. Olivia and I are always far ahead of the boys.
Little gentleman Jack insisted on carrying the pack for me.
The plan was to hike up far and away, then to find a place beneath the oak trees and settle in for a while. I had brought a few snacks, a light blanket, and my Bible and journal. The boys were planning on exploring, while Olivia probably had a book or her sketch pad. I was looking forward to this down time, this quiet, restful time that my mind imagines when it needs rest the most. But alas, boys take a long time just walking. They seem to stop every few steps, bending down to look, feel, discover. I know it's good for them in ways our modern culture overlooks, so I don't mind. Eventually I could feel the temperature begin to dip as the sun neared the mountain edges, and our sunlight began to fade. We had just enough time to complete our loop at a slow, take-your-time-to-smell-the roses kind of way. It was nearly as good as the original plan.
This tree is our favorite place to catch our breath after the climb.
Some boys think outside the box and climb up the branches, others are interdependent and look to a brother for help. Both methods have their advantages. Actually, Michael hoisted me up too, because there's no such thing as being too old to climb a good tree.
I'm sure the boys covered more ground than the 5 mile distance of trail; their path criss-crossed back and forth over the footpath.
Finding trapdoor spiders...
(impressive little home-makers)
I spy with my little eyes... one girl having a snack.
Tender, fresh green growth makes its way up and out after the rains...
Kind of like sanctification.
Around here, "winter" comes sometime mid-December; spring apparently arrives later in the same month.
The boys carried home samples of various mosses for their ongoing experiments and plans. They were impressed with all the varieties we found.
I’ve always desired for this little space of mine on the internet to be honest. Not that I have to write about every aspect of life, but honesty should characterize what I do share. That said, it’s perfectly honest to only write about the good stuff of life, perfectly honest to post a picture of something I find pretty even if the surrounding area is not, and perfectly honest to keep private the issues that affect others. ‘Honorable’ might be a better word for that last part, but the point is that I don’t owe anyone here the entirety of my thoughts, circumstances, or story. It is the responsibility of the reader, I think, to understand that people and situations and life in general is multifaceted and often complex. Obviously.
Blogging is so weird. You, dear readers, are a mysterious group to me! I have some indication of who you are among family and friends, but my stats show that thousands visit this space each month. With few comments, I have always been left wondering who you are. Interestingly, the occasional feedback I get from friends and strangers is often related to honesty, or at least about so-called “transparency” regarding the things I share.
So here’s something honest and very human. Despite the very real and true and honest fact that our holidays were sweet (as I have previously posted), I entered the new year with a fizzle. I rang in a NYC new year at 9 PM on December 31, with a tired, forced, and very difficult-to-muster type of smile.
The Lord has determined to bless me with a physical trial on a regular basis. This one started sometime in November and rapidly brought me down by the end of December and into January. I'll get to the blessing part of it in a moment (the honest good stuff), but the trial part is very real too (the honest difficult stuff). And it is a trial. This physical trial leaves me in a state where I am gasping for oxygen from the inside, but the real trial comes as I grasp and struggle to live well in every other sense. The feeling of inability, failure, and depression (gasp!) hangs like thick darkness.
It's more than "just tired."
I have spent an extended period of time in survival mode. I struggle to sleep because the arms and legs are freezing to the touch, despite extra clothes and mountains of blankets. I struggle to wake because I am always exhausted, my whole face hurts, and my limbs heavy. I am fragile in every way, especially beyond my physical state. I lay there each morning quoting Psalms, begging God to sustain and strengthen me, and asking for His supernatural assistance. And I thank Him for loving me enough to bring about that which He knows is for my good.
But I am highly vulnerable. Edgy. Severely and embarrassingly foggy-brained, light-headed, often assaulted by emotion, and keenly aware that I'm fighting a spiritual battle most of all.
Psalm 71 has been my standby scripture...
"...forsake me not when my strength is spent" (v. 9)
"Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again." (vv. 19-20)
But I fail. For instance, one misinterpreted/imagined sideway look from my husband at the late hour of 8AM, and I think he is looking down on me for laziness. My heart sinks further. Later, the boys and their jokes are loud and stupid to me and I snap. Too often I am in my head, partly by default and partly to protect myself from sinning with my words, but also at a cost to relationship with those around. I often succumb to emotion. Emotion, I have learned, is never a good controller.
It's a lonely place to be, but not hopeless. I have learned that my trials hold a promise of bearing fruit in due season, even if I don't feel it in the "winter." My ugly behavior horrifies me, so I learn to take my guilt back to God. I am humbled in my weaknesses and in my sins, but I remember that my righteousness was never, ever the result of any perceived goodness when life was easier. This humbled place -- though dark and painful -- reminds me of who I really am, and especially that I am a desperate sinner in need of a good and compassionate God. I am comforted to know these thoughts are simply and truly evidences of grace and the result of sanctification from past trials, and to know that it is through trial that I grow. Never do I feel my need to cling to God as desperately as I do when enduring trial, though the need at all time is very real.
He is my righteousness, and my hope. He is my salvation. His promises of deliverance are trustworthy, His character of compassion and steadfast love are sure.
And there is more goodness all around. There are simple joys and triumphs when if I set myself to seeing. For instance, the ability to just leave the house and get out in nature with my kids for an afternoon hike, or a 30 minute bout of exercise, is reason for thankfulness. This does me such good, and controlling a tired body brings a small sense of accomplishment, rather than allowing how I feel to keep me cooped up only to rot some more! Also, the warm feeling of laying in a beam of sunlight on the carpet in the afternoon, or hearing the three boys talking together like great friends for an extended period of time soothes my bleak outlook. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I feel a small victory when I can offer help with sincerity to those around me. And then laying skin to skin in the night...
Oh, of course I can't forget the fact that help is on its way now that I've received two IV infusions of iron. When my appointments were set, I told Jon it felt like I was way out at sea in a tiny little dingy at night but the rescue ship was shining in the distance. So for this I am very thankful!
It has become trendy to enter the new year with a chosen key word or two. If I were to pick I think it would be the words brave humility.
Sometimes it takes bravery to stop trusting in our own devices, bravery to sincerely admit from the depth of our soul that we are in fact useless for righteousness without God. We walk around saying we believe this, but not truly living it from daily conviction. This is humility. It takes bravery sometimes to humble ourselves in repentance before people, and bravery to say to the outside world, "Hey, don't look to me 'cause I'm pretty messed up. I am what I am by the grace of God alone, so look to Him!" ...and then actually live it. It's takes bravery to raise kids this way, too. Humility is absolutely necessary to trust God's backward way of living when my flesh thinks, "I can do it myself!" with a toddler-like attitude.
I read these good words to the kids this morning, and as they come to mind again tonight I think of brave humility to simply trust God with my all...
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
So there. Cheers to brave humility despite the degree of happiness we feel in the coming year! Joy, satisfaction, and confidence in God will always beat a fleeting, fickle feeling of happiness! xo