Slices of Home

My parents bought the chair when they were pregnant with me. Rocking makes my mom sick, so it’s a glider, with a little gliding ottoman to match. It started in my room, moved with us from house to house, always anchoring the corner of the nursery wherever we called home. Six babies my mom has rocked there, cuddled, nursed, sang to sleep. When we moved again, into what will most likely be my parent’s longterm home, there was no nursery for it to settle.

The chair got tucked into my parent’s room, in the corner by my mom’s bible study materials and laptop. She sits there every morning; we all find our way into that chair when we visit her room. It’s where we all started, and to sink into those brown cushions and send it gliding back and forth a few times feels like home. Over the course of our lives, every one of us have pinched our fingers in it at least once, curled up to read a book, sat on the ottoman to get a loose tooth pulled or itch cream rubbed on a mosquito bite and to talk to Mom while she rocked back and forth.

My aunt had a December baby, and she says she has a special attachment to their tree and lights now, ever since she spent so many nights watching them and feeding Lauren. I can’t help but think that the arrival of Christmas decorations will always be special to Lauren too, that as she grows, the lights will warm her heart a little bit more than the rest of us. They’re her lights, just like the chair is our chair.

So many moments in my life are like this, I’ve noticed. The tiny little details God has woven into my life, so seemingly minuscule that I’ve had to look hard to find them, to snatch them up, to hold them close. Summer days at the lake, running up from the lake sunsoaked and damp, to a feast of bbq chicken and corn on the cob and iceberg salad on the porch, everyone squished onto the picnic tables with the sun in our eyes and the sounds of the waves and the screen door sliding back and forth and peach cobbler for dessert. Setting up our tree and how the aroma from it fills the house, and needles poke through our socks as we make our way to the kitchen for endless helpings of my great grandma’s nutmeg cookies that taste like Christmas itself. Pancakes on Sunday mornings, and how I use the sound of frozen blueberries hitting the strainer as my signal to get out of bed each week. The side of the stage where Andy told me that he liked me, and the way my heart still speeds up and I can’t stop smiling when I walk through and just pause to soak it all up and remember.

As Andy and I have talked about our future family and I dream all those little dreams about motherhood and a baby of our own, one thing I’m looking forward to is slipping into that room, settling into that chair, to feed and rock and sing to my own little one. It feels so complete, to have begun there, cradled close to my momma’s heart, and to be able to do the same to my own son or daughter. It feels so right.

It feels like coming home.

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203

The days are moving steadily, some quickly, some slow. Sometimes it’s a whirl, an exclamation, a “Wow, it’s Friday already!” Sometimes it’s only Tuesday morning when it should be Thursday night. Sometimes, I find myself saying “I’m ready for the weekend,” before realizing that it’s Sunday evening and the weekend has passed. (True story.) Such is life, isn’t it? The good days, the bad, they move on at a steady pace, never stopping, only pushing forward.

My life is pushing forward.

We were talking to them separately after church last Sunday when she finally leaned over to her husband and said “Let’s just all go out for lunch! I’d like pizza.” and our hearts cried “yes!” In this stage of being teenagers and engaged, there aren’t many people in this season of life who are right alongside us. We crave group fellowship, friendship, to be involved and active in the lives of other young engaged and newly married couples. Our heart’s desire is to hear your stories, to pray with and for you, to grow together.

We feel so lonely.

To pizza we went, and we heard about their wedding and honeymoon, and talked about jobs and commitments and twins and life. It wasn’t until afterwards in the car that I confessed “That was scary. But it felt good. We need people right here.”

School and work sucked up my evenings this semester until I only had three left. My only nights to have dinner with my family are Friday through Sunday, and I miss it. Coming home to people scattered through out the house and heating up my dinner to eat by myself on the barstools is never the same. I fight for those dinners, the ones where we’re all together. I never knew to cherish them until they were gone. Until they became numbered. I get married in 203 days. There are many less family dinners all together than that left.

My days in this house are winding down. We planned to build it for so long, and I remember Dad saying “I guess we’ll try to have it done before you graduate and leave us.”

I laughed.

We moved May 16th, 12 days before I walked down the aisle with the class of 2015. In the past year and a half, this big gray house has been home for so much: the majority of my relationship with Andy, hosting people for dinner and parties and bonfires, homework and reading and cooking in our white kitchen and family gathered around the table. I left this house 4 times within a period of 8 months to attend a funeral, which seemed so cruel and sad. I dressed for three weddings in this house, and I’ll bring my own wedding dress home to it next week. As much as I grew up in the 10 years on Cross Country, this house is where I became an adult, a woman in my own right. It’s here I’ll leave for the last time as Lindsey Solomon on June 2nd, and only be Lindsey Sivils from that day on. 203 days left right here. I don’t want to miss them.

We’ve made so much progress in wedding planning the last few weeks: secured a caterer, asked Andy’s uncle to marry us, answered the housing question, began asking people to stand up with us, took engagement pictures. There are so many things yet to do, but when I raise my head, it’s right here where I want to be. Right here is what I want to remember. These people: family, friends, fiance’, all around me. This house. This season. This love. This happiness. I feel truly full of joy for the first time in a long time, and as each day passes, I want to choose to be right here.

Because right here is only lasting 203 more days.

Atrophy

It was a year ago this week that broke the camel’s back.

I don’t even remember exactly how I sustained the original injury… it was during dance rehearsal and it wasn’t super dramatic. For almost a year afterwards, that tendon in my neck would swell and harden and build pressure down my arm and shoulder and up into my head. I babied it, never wanting to risk the three days of pain and dizziness that pulling it again would bring on. Tiny things aggravated it: newborns, my purse strap, a heavy necklace, and when I tried to be brave and do something like waterski, I paid for it dearly over the next few days. I quit. I stopped moving, lifting, doing, with that side of my body. Without use, the muscles in my arm disintegrated. That arm grew weak and sickly. You could touch the bone of my shoulder blade directly through my skin; the muscle there was no more.

I knew it was bad, but I don’t think I fully recognized it until I tried to carry a nearly empty gallon jug of milk the 5 feet across our camper floor to the fridge and couldn’t. Who can’t carry a few ounces of milk three steps?? Apparently me. I had another 2-3 day spell of being absolutely miserable and we finally said enough. Enough.

Enough with calling this okay. Enough with living with a dysfunctioning shoulder and neck. Enough of letting this control my life.

I called a chiropractor and made an appointment for the week after we came home. I was terrified, sensitive to touch and pain and sound and worried that hearing and feeling my bones move around inside me would be worse than the days of debilitating pain.

He found the vertebrae in my neck that pops to the left, causing all the issues. I miserably failed every strength test he put me through, and we set up my schedule of appointments: every few days, then once a week, then every two weeks, then every four. We talked about how those muscles had atrophied, how it would take time to establish them enough to hold me in place, how without boundaries, it’s so easy for that vertebrae to slide back out into causing me pain.

Isn’t this the way of life? We start with a little sin, and after a while, it gets so easy just to slide back out into whatever we want, whenever we want. Or we slip from a habit we’re trying to establish, and then all those weeks of trying seem fruitless. Just as our physical muscles atrophy with lack of use, our mental and spiritual muscles wither away when we quit fighting with them, either intentionally or inadvertently.

It causes us pain, makes our head throb and limbs go useless. Yet it can take so much time, so much pain, to cause us to finally decide to change our ways. It takes so much to say “enough. I’m done living this way, and I’m willing to change. Tell me what it takes.”

I came away from that first chiropractor appointment quite traumatized. The noises in my head were loud and dramatic, and my neck ached, being back in place after so long of being unadjusted. Being back in alignment was painful. But it was healing. The only unnerving visits back were when I waited too long or did something I shouldn’t. It takes time to see progress, to remember how it feels to be normal. I remember that moment, when I texted Andy after an appointment, asking “Is this what a functioning human body is supposed to feel like?” Slowly, the darkness and pain fade away, whether it a physical injury, or a mental or spiritual one.

I’m not 100%, or even 85%. I’m so much better, so much stronger, than when I started at zero 12 months ago. I’ve seen so much progress in the last year of treatment, but there are still times when I try to be normal and end up sidelined, with ice and Tylenol and nothing fun for two days. I still can’t waterski, can’t sleep on that side, can’t carry my backpack evenly between both shoulders. It still damages my quality of life and thinking about living life this way forever still scares me. I can’t move heavy boxes or carry a baby car seat or do a push up. I don’t want to live out my days this way. But there is progress. I can carry two grocery bags on that arm. I can move an almost full gallon of milk. I can use that arm to wash my hair, to lift my hands in church, to kayak. I only ice once or twice a week; I visit the chiropractor every 4 weeks.

I’m living in the tension of being on the road, and not arriving to the destination. It’s a journey, and while it’s not one I would have chosen, it’s one I’ve been given, and I’ll choose to live well and peacefully as I travel. I will praise Him, with both hands lifted high.

Shine

Andy planned the majority of our date on Thursday. We went to our favorite spot on the beach and picnic-ed, eating way too much of some of our favorite foods. We walked down to the water, and I squealed as the cold water hit my toes and he tried to convince me to walk in deeper. He had to do a lot of convincing that night, convincing me to walk in the water, convincing me to climb to the top of the dune, convincing me that it’d be worth it.

There was one thing he didn’t have convince me to do.

Say yes.

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Along with celebrating with our families and friends over the weekend, we began researching venues and I promptly realized that this whole wedding planning is not going to be super easy. There wasn’t a place that I fell in love with, and some of the places I refrained from falling in love with because my parents would not fall in love with the price tag. I’m 100% NOT a decision maker, and the endless lists of decisions that have to be made in the next year threaten to pull me down. An officiant? A photographer? A dress? Flowers? Cake? Food? Decor? Yikes. I have a color scheme and and fiance who cares for me so well, who reminds me to shut the laptop and take a break to play Ticket to Ride and go for a walk. I’m telling myself that that’s all I need at the moment.

Everyone wants to see my ring, dainty and fairylike and a bit too big, and every time I stare at its sparkle and shine, I know that the wedding doesn’t really matter. Not in the long run. Andy matters. Serving and loving him matters. Honoring God with our marriage matters. My ring is a symbol of our dedication to each other and to Christ, of our desire to be one, to worship Christ with our lives, to raise our family to be His. This bit of earthly shine reminds me that I’m also the bride of Christ, that His kingdom will last forever, and it’s living for eternity, not for our wedding, that really matters.

I can’t wait to be Mrs. Sivils. Our wedding day will be wonderful, but it’s the life afterwards that really matters. May I live those days, these days, and every day for His shining glory, and His glory alone.

Adventure & Vacuums

“God designed us for adventure because He knew following Him would be one.” – Jennie Allen


I had settled into the big, pink, 90’s lazyboy that dwells in our loft, the one that’s become “mine” through the hours of homework and reading and writing and texting and internet browsing and thinking I’ve done there. Jess Connolly’s “Wild and Free” was less than two weeks old, and as I sat with it in my hands, the doubts and misgivings filled my heart.

“Do you really want to be wild?”
“Free sounds nice, but will this just be crazy? I don’t like crazy. I don’t want to be crazy. At all.”

Doubts and all, I opened it.


While driving home earlier in the day, my sister said something like “Doesn’t hiking through the mountains sound like so much fun?!” I didn’t have to think about my response. No. No, that sounds exhausting and hard and buggy and how would you wash your hair? I don’t want to do anything that difficult. She’s always been the more adventurous one, the go-getter, the roller coaster fan, and 50* water swimmer. Me? I’m more likely to tell you “Look at this freshly vacuumed room! Isn’t it delightful? Lets just sit here with a new book and enjoy it.”

Adventurous to me is ordering a different soup at Panera or parting my hair on the right instead of the left. It’s parking in a different row at school or sending the Facebook friend request or wearing grey capris instead of denim skinny jeans.


I opened the book to the foreword by Jennie Allen and only got a few paragraphs in before that quote made me stop. “God designed us for adventure because he knew following Him would be one.”

How much of His adventure do I miss because I’m too busy looking at my pretty, clean carpet? I don’t want to miss His plans for me because I’m too scared to say “yes”.

Being adventurous scares me. Being wild and free scares me. But life isn’t about staying in our comfort spots with our vacuums and our wifi. We have to leave what’s familiar, to pursue Him everywhere we are, to let the experiences He draws us into bring us closer to Him, even when it’s not a “church thing” or a “mission opportunity”. The world is our mission field! Let’s find Him in the every day, in the view from the new restaurant as you watch the sun go down, in the vastness of the waves at the new beach you visit, in the face of every person you see on the day trip to Chicago. Let’s go on adventures and find Him there, even if it’s terrifying, even if you don’t want to leave your house, even if you have to be wild and free to get there. Life with Him is a big ol’ adventure. The day may start with your heart pounding and your eyes wide, but ending it with peace and thankfulness and the whisper of “I’m so glad I did that.” will make it all worth it.

Sign me up for the next adventure, Lord. You might have to tell me to open my eyes and unclench my hands, but I want to see you.

Boys Need Sponsors Too

I didn’t plan to sponsor a boy.

I’m an eighteen year old girl. My house is mostly girls, with a ratio of 6:2. I curl my hair and love my dresses and books and stillness and I want to be a wife and mommy and holding babies is about the best thing ever. I don’t really know how to “do” boys. I knew going into sponsorship that letter writing would be mandatory for me; I’ve read too much about the delight children take in their letters (and the disappointment in an empty mailbox) to only give the money, and not my time and words. How could I write letters to a boy? be encouraging to a boy? love and support a boy?

Nope.

Not for me. Leave the boys to people who know boys. I’ll sign up for a girl, thank you very much.

——-

Every year, I follow the Compassion bloggers as they fly across the world and see the work Compassion is doing up close. They visit the centers and attend church and meet their sponsored kids and see homes the size of our pantry. They see the poverty and the struggle. They see the light and the hope infused into the Compassion kids from a thriving relationship with Jesus. They see the difference sponsorship makes in the life of a child firsthand.

And then they go back to their hotel and write about it. I read each post and it burns me up.

——–

Kids are my holy fire. Everyone has a passion, something that riles them up and the older I get, the more riled up I get about kids. Mistreated kids. Kids in poverty. Kids in need of safety, physical safety, emotional safety, and most of all, spiritual safety. I want every child to grow up with their basic needs taken care of. I want them fed and clothed and warm and safe and loved.

I want every child to know love.

The love of a family.

The love of a church.

The love of God.

This is my fire.

——-

I kept the list of waiting children up in a computer tab while the recent Compassion group was in Ecuador, refreshing it every so often, loving to see the number go down and thinking about how so many children’s lives would be changed. Someone wrote about seeing a child’s face when he got to the learning center and seeing his name on the sponsored list. Joy. I want to be a bearer of such joy.

When you open the list of waiting children, it defaults to being sorted youngest to oldest. There are adorable one year olds on that first page. Trust me, my heart melted like most people’s do. But I sorted by longest waiting, and that tore up my heart too. Some of those children have been waiting for 367 days, over a year, for someone to pick their name from a list and say “I believe in you. I support you. I love you.” That fact alone got me going.

But they were all boys.

Over the next few days, I would refresh and scroll through a few pages and every time, my heart would pound with injustice. Boys. Boys. All between the ages of 6-10. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

They might not be “cute” like the little kids. They might not be sweet and easier to write like the girls. (Please note: the gift of being sponsored from such a early age is an incredible blessing! And I love the work Compassion is doing with girls, teaching them and protecting them and enabling them to work good jobs and care for their families. I don’t want to bypass that work at all, and if you sponsor young children and girls [my family does too!], you are doing the Lord’s work and loving them well and I’m so grateful for you!) But boys need sponsors too! It’s such an important age (isn’t every age?) for a boy, an age where he can understand that he is valued and loved, where dreams take root and the faith of a child is established and the direction of life is formed.

At the time of this writing, there are 558 girls waiting to be sponsored. There are 1156 boys.

——-

I’m not the “prime candidate” for sponsorship. I’m a college student, whose main source of income disappeared with the start of the new year. I’m in the stage of life where things change really fast, and my life will probably look vastly different a year and a half from now. I hesitated, knowing that unpredictable times and unpredictable income doesn’t really make $38 a month look “smart.” But that’s what the world says. Jesus says, “trust Me with your everything.”

I scrolled. There was one sweet little face I kept coming back too, and when I clicked his name and asked God, He told me yes. A few minutes later, Karlos was mine, the first of the sponsored children I plan to have over the course of my life.

It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen counter, my laptop, my tea, printing pictures and writing my first letter to my sweet little boy in Columbia. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know this. Boys need sponsors too. They need people pouring into their lives and being the hands and feet of Christ to the world. So 6 year old little Karlos for me. I might not know boys well, but I know Jesus. He loves him. And so will I.

Boys need sponsors too.

Weight

Laying on my bedroom floor, I was thinking about 2016 when I heard the whisper through my head.

Be careful.

They were wise words. Unconsciously, I was laying down bricks, weighing down next year with expectations.

All the credits I want to have by next December.

All the plans I want to make after a ring slides onto my finger.

All the hours I want to work and the savings I want to accumulate.

All the clothes I want to wear and ways I want to do my hair.

All the essays I want to write.

All memories I want to make.

All the coffee/lunch/beach dates I want to have.

All the healthy food I want to eat, and the strength I want to gain, and the miles I want to run.

Basically, I want to be all the things. I want to be the cute, fit, smart, all pulled together, engaged girl after the next 12 months. And that’s a lot to dump on a year that hasn’t even started yet.

My ways are not your ways, nor are My thoughts your thoughts.

I can’t do it all. There’s no way. My way looks an awful lot like being up at 6:30, powering through a workout and having time to make a decent breakfast and spend time in the Word and still dress in skinny jeans and oversized sweaters and chunky jewelry and unchipped nail polish and curl my hair and make it out the door by 9:15, where I’ll ace my classes and eat healthy, packed-the-night-prior lunches and dinners, leave in a truck that doesn’t have trouble starting in the cold, come home without freaking out on the roads, have tons of energy to spend with my family, cook and pack the next day’s food, and still be showered and in bed by 10:30, interspersed with days of homework and nannying and seeing my family and boyfriend.

And… that all sounds horribly overwhelming and a way to run myself into the ground. My impression of what I need to do and be in order to be perfect… isn’t me. I’m not a perfectly put together person. I’m never going to be. There will always be more that I feel like I need to be, always more to make me a better student, a better friend, a better girlfriend, a better nanny, a better daughter, a better Christian.

Yikes. There will always be more, and it will never be enough. I can’t do it all.

“You can’t simultaneously do it all and do life well.”

In my six years of babysitting outside the home, one of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned is that no one is the perfect mom. Some are good at keeping their house really clean; some are good at working from home. Some are good at letting go of expectations and getting to their children’s hearts; some are good at putting together cool unit studies for every week of the school year. No one is good at everything, but each one has a place where she excels.

And these women still do life well.

I want to do life well. I want to let go of expectations and be okay with the sweatshirt and ponytail and a layer of mascara some days when I spent time hanging out with my twin sisters over breakfast instead of in the closet getting ready. I want to be okay with releasing the “I’ve never studied enough” mindset and putting down the study guides in favor of talking with my sisters in our room. I want to give up sleep for Scripture. I want to sometimes let the hair go undone (even if I’m getting 6 inches cut off on New Year’s Eve and if that isn’t a sign for 2016 being the year of put together hair, I don’t know what is) and laugh over Sunday morning pancakes with my family. I want to live each moment with Andy without wishing we were at a different place in life, and knowing that this dating stage doesn’t last forever.

I want to live.

I don’t want to remain stuck in the battle of never enough. I’m not the girls I pass in the hallways of school, seemingly with perfect bodies and outfits and hair and lives. I’m me. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I don’t spend tons of money on new clothes, and the five pounds I’ve lost in the last two months is a result of not eating when I’m busy or unmotivated, not because I’m eating healthier or working it off. I don’t have the time or desire to spend hours in the gym, or hundreds on clothes, or never eat anything but “clean” food.

I’m letting go. I’m releasing those expectations, bit by bit. I will take baby steps in many directions, relying on the grace of God rather than my own strength, and I will know that when I let all the “I wants” sweep over me again, that I’ll need to remind myself that I’m me, and that’s enough.

I am loved.

And wherever you are in life, whatever you’re good at, wherever you feel like you’re lacking, you are loved with a Love that fills those places up and equals us all in front of the throne of the Kings of Kings.

I am a child of God.

And so are You.

2016 can’t change that. Your goals and resolutions can’t change that. Let’s live well; resting in His strength, His plans, and His will.

Happy New Year.