A Ready Heart

My heart’s a little rambly tonight. I don’t know just how much of this will make sense to anyone but me. Do you ever feel like settling into your own life is elusive? That after that next thing happens, when you cross that next hill, come up from that next dip into the valley…then you can do all those things you’re planning to do? You just have to arrive first, right? Right?

We didn’t move a lot when I was young. A few times in my early childhood and then we moved into the house where I lived from age 8 until age 21 when I left to move into my first “married house.” John and I are both relationship people. We like traditions and security. We tend to plan a bit. We pictured ourselves as “pick a house and live there to raise our family” people. John did an excellent job of saving and preparing for marriage, even as young as he was. When we were engaged at 20 and 21, he had saved enough money to buy my ring and make a down payment on our first house. I was extremely proud of him. We loved that little house. It was our first experience with building a house even though it was a little cookie cutter starter home without a lot of options. We made our first Home Depot runs where “a few things” added up quickly, bought our first Christmas tree that was way too big and barely fit in our living room or in our car to drive home, bought a puppy for our first Christmas gift to each other, bought toilet paper from Sam’s that lasted us months and months, and painted rooms whatever color we wanted. We spent hours and hours decorating our firstborn’s nursery, stayed up all night playing Empire Earth on two computers side by side, and I made I don’t know how many cookies to feed all John’s buddies who came over to play Halo or watch 24. We lived on the same street with a couple from church who became some of our best friends, hosted small groups, played games with siblings, and had family and friends spend the night. It was greatness.

When I became pregnant the year after John V was born, we decided that it was time to think about getting more space. Then I lost the baby. When I quickly became pregnant again, we continued on with our looking and planning. Then I lost that baby too. We felt clearly that even though things weren’t moving forward with our family in the way we had pictured, it was still time. We both knew that we were supposed to step out in faith and build that house for the babies we believed God would send us. For the hospitality we felt was our calling and ministry. So we did. And as the months passed and we built that house, we were surprised that we had to continue all the way through move-in on faith that we needed that extra room because it was still Critz party of three. John’s job changed around that time and it turned out that he would be working ten minutes from where we were building our house. What a blessing! That was a wonderful season of a very short commute and a great work environment. What a blessing. We began settling into that home and creating new memories there. Within a month of living there we had hosted a family holiday, a baby shower, and small groups. We decorated and my mom and I made drapes, bedding, and covered chairs. We again loved the building process as this time we built something much more custom to our tastes and to raising our family in our “forever home.” I guess forever is a stretch to use in describing 4 years, huh? It’s easy to laugh at myself a bit now thinking back to how figured out we had things at that point. One thing we still didn’t know was where the small people were to fill our new home. Then came God’s promise to us after fasting and praying through the due date of that third miscarried baby. He spoke to us and promised us more treasure than we could carry away if we would praise Him first and allow Him to fight our battle. And true to His promise came a little pink person to help fill one more bedroom in that house. And after a year and a half and a scary start to the pregnancy, we experienced our first two consecutive pregnancies without loss in between. Such joy. Such victory. And complete unawareness that the next two years would hold two more losses, another son, and a move completely away from the place we had planned to “settle.”

I will never forget that “punched in the gut” feeling I had the night John came home and told me there was a strong possibility we would need to move to Austin if he wanted to keep working at his current job. It seemed like just too much. After my third baby I had been sick, struggling with health issues. I had worked with every ounce of energy I could muster to get out of that hole. I had spent hours and invested myself in learning about nourishing my family and taking us down a better path. I had gathered resources and figured out a plan. And now I was going to take my three young children, my physical struggles, and my plans and start over in a new place. A place where my husband would relocate with everyone he worked with and I would start over. But the first thing the Lord reminded me of in that moment were the vows I made on our wedding day. I said the words of Ruth when she promised Naomi to stay with her, “Wherever you go, I will go.” And I knew in my spirit that this was my opportunity to fail in my marriage or to make it stronger than ever. And I did everything in my power and in the power I begged God to pour out on me to go with a cheerful heart, with courage, and as a support. And, as God always does when we just walk off the cliff with Him, I found myself standing on much more solid ground than I could have ever created with all my safety nets in place. I wouldn’t trade the next two years for anything. We said goodbye to that house we thought was ours to keep and found ourselves building again. At this stage of life we found ourselves thinking about what would be hardy and strong against little munchkins, what would give me space and usability for homeschooling and for spending many hours at home with my kids in a new area. Again, our goal was hospitality as we invited others to spend time with us there. We knew we would also have many visitors and we treasure the memories we made with friends and family who stayed with us during that season.  That move we expected to be more temporary – probably around three to five years. Mitchell came and blessed us beyond what we could have dreamed. We built precious friendships with co-workers and their families, ball team friends, and neighbors. We grew as a family into people who desired adventure with God over security. We were no longer content to calmly exist, we wanted to wildly go out there and be really crazy. We crossed the line of normality and never looked back. Our thinking changed and God took our minds out of boxed compartments and opened it up to see a tiny bit more of His perspective. I received the beginning of a calling to serve moms as a ministry and began seeing slivers of how God was going to open the doors to make that happen.

We had lived there two years when we very suddenly saw our next move in front of us. We were supposed to go home. And that quickly I found myself having made a full circle back to the house where that eight year old girl rode her bike in the driveway. We moved, my grandmother had a serious car accident that drastically changed our extended family, I had a baby, my sister graduated, my other sister got married, John started a new job, he left that job, he started another job, he worked on a side project that will eventually be his job, I started another year of homeschooling a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a pre-K son. Now I go to Home Depot with five kids and can’t remember what I need while my child climbs on everything, I go to Costco to buy things that might last a week, and I stay up all night folding laundry and feeding babies on growth spurts. 😉 The other day I asked God, “Where should I put down my roots? Do they need to go here in this house? Do I invest myself here? Do we go somewhere else? Should I keep myself in reserve knowing that You never intended for us to be stayers but goers?” I wrestled through my planner questions that have swirled in my head for a year now. And I heard Him tell me again that my investment is not in where I am but with whom. If you come to my house you will find it a long way from “settled.” There are drawers and closets that need more organizing, there are wall hangings under my piano instead of on my walls. There is a nursery for one of the most wanted and beloved babies ever born that still awaits personalization, and a sweet six year old wanting a move up from the bedding we made her for her first big girl move out of a crib. You will find my Pinterest worthy fall decor missing and the school system of my dreams is just there…in my dreams. You will find that I spend many hours doing things to invest in the health and well-being of my family and still don’t do all the things I would like to do. But you know what you will find there? And anywhere that I ever live? You will find my whole, entire heart there. Outwardly I may be far from settled and some of those things I would like to give to my family are elusive. But I will never choose to let those be a measurement of what lies beneath. I will get there on many of those things. Eventually. But if all of this moving has taught me anything at all, it is to invest the most in what will go with me. I will decorate, organize, and settle into what lasts – my family. And with what is left over, I will do the same with my home. Wherever He takes us next will be part of a great story, and we will be ready. For now, I think boxes are the enemy and the “M” word is one of the four letter ones that isn’t allowed. 🙂 Until He says it. Then suddenly what I didn’t think I wanted becomes the best thing that ever happened to me. That is the miracle of God’s hand at work. He didn’t come in and make my closets look better and He didn’t paint the nursery, but He settled my heart and that is the greater miracle.

I am grateful for those who have spent time with us in each of these places. For those who will spend time with us in the places to come. For everyone in my life (and they’re in yours too) who doesn’t care a bit about perfection but about being together and being a part of my past, present, and future. I begin to think less about how long I will do something or how to plan it out and more about how much real living I can fit into whatever time I have in this season. Maybe “settled” is elusive because it is never meant to be the goal. Maybe “ready and willing” is.

Our first happy home.

Helping Daddy move into our second house.

Hide and seek with the best moving aunts in the world the day we moved to Austin. That game was hiding some heartaches, but our families were wonderful through all of the changes.

Back to my home on the range 10 years after I moved away.

 

 

 

 

6 Years of Joyous Treasure

6 years ago on November 13, 2006, my Kailey was born. It was a precious day and she is a joy I am incapable of putting into words. From before she was conceived, she has been prayed for, loved, and given to God. You can read a little of the beginning of her story here at my old blog. She was born in 2006 after my family experienced an extremely difficult and stretching year in 2005 that included my two miscarriages and my precious first nephew going to be with Jesus at birth. Kailey and her cousin, Kyndall, will always represent to my family answered prayers and the unparalleled beauty God creates from the brokenness of this world. What Kailey adds to the lives of her brothers and her daddy, and me is similar to a prism. When the light hits it, rainbows reflect the light all over the room. You can see them on the walls and on yourself. The way she loves others spills color and warmth into life and cannot help but affect anyone present. She is often selfless, extremely helpful, loves deeply, desires with everything in her to serve the Lord, and can be the silliest, most hilarious little monkey you’ve ever seen. She is like me in some ways and then in many ways I would like to be like her. She is all things girly and then a beast on the soccer field. She is into drawing and art but can hold her own on the Wii with her brothers. She loves to dress up but can get dirty with the best of them and is the hardest on her clothes of any of my children. She is grateful for all we do for her and all the Lord has given her. She is my Kailey and I adore her.

Since she is a big fan of making and decorating cards for others, we waited until she was in her room last night and then made cards for her. Daddy drew her a castle with a princess, John V wrote a sweet message telling her how much he loved her in all her favorite colors and then tied it up with a ribbon, and Levi drew a ballerina. Mitchell pitched in with his awesome hieroglyphics. I wrote her a little true story to remind her again of who she is.

Once upon a time there was a mommy who had an aching heart. She had a little boy and wanted him to have brothers and sisters. She prayed and prayed. One day God told her to open her Bible to the story of Jehoshaphat. He said for that mommy to praise and love Him and to trust Him to fight her battle. He said that if she would trust Him, there would be riches to carry away just like in the story. She did choose to praise God and a baby girl was given to her. She named that baby “crown” (Kailey) because she is the treasure God gave when He won her battle. And every day of that girl’s life she has also been “joy of the Father” (Abigail) to her family. She is a priceless jewel and no princess in the world is more beautiful or more important to the Kingdom of God. A mighty God fought a battle, a maiden was rescued, and YOU were the reward. I love you, Kailey Abigail, “crown” and “joy of the Father.” You are more precious than diamonds!

Happy birthday! Love, Mommy


A Place to Observe

We loved our time in Austin. We loved where we lived, we loved a lot of people, and it was a great season. But as we draw closer to a year since we moved back to our hometown, I am deeply grateful to be here. There is so much around here that is easy for me to do with my five kids. One of our favorites is the excellent zoo. We go once a week, drink in the sunshine, and spend an hour or two between lessons just seeing a few animals at the time. Not hurrying, or rushing, or trying to take it all in. Just moseying and really noticing the details. I learn about these kids of mine as I watch them observe. It gives me the opportunity to step back as the teacher for a few moments and see how they learn when I am not directing. What most interests them? What sparks thought and creativity? What concerns them or causes distress?

Levi has to be forging the trail. He needs to be in front, to go at his own pace, to not be kept on a short leash doing what seems like the next thing for everyone else. He tends to be quieter and he may at any given moment be there with us or be on the plains of Africa. You never know. John V is beginning to want to drink in all the information and then cement it in his thought process by sharing it with us. “Mom, did you know that…” is what I most often hear from him on these visits. Kailey wants to be with John V, she wants to see what is beautiful and know about relationships within animal families. “Are they like us? Do they love their mommies? Are they safe?” Then on our return home she may draw them or write a story about them. Mitchell wants the whole family in a herd. He is distressed if Levi is too far ahead or if John stays back to read a sign. “WEBI, come HERE!” often can be heard through the zoo from my little guy. He wants to eat snacks and see turtles. He wants to walk “all by himself” and, surprisingly enough, he often wants to stand and observe one animal for a long time instead of moving on to another one. And he always wants to check on the elephants and the baby rhino. His vocabulary of animal names is ridiculous for a 26 month old boy. Natalie is simply happy. She can feel the sunshine, she can sense that I’m not trying to do other things, and she is content to ride, see her family, and soak it in.

I am happiest when we can just be together so I think I look forward to it more than anyone. I love my kids. I like my kids.

I am grateful for a place to observe the beautiful life God created, the creatures He intricately designed. Including the ones He entrusted to me.

Any time I am with these kids, my heart is happy.

Tomorrow Morning When You Wake Up

Guess what, Church? I have great news. Tomorrow morning there is no need to wonder what to do, how to react, or what comes next. Regardless of your feelings on the outcome of this election, there is one thing we know beyond the shadow of a doubt. THIS is your job. THIS is your calling. If you do not do this, all the government in the world cannot save this nation or any one of the hurting people in it. Those who throughout history have reached out in courage and boldness, following this command, they have been unstoppable. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing more untamable, unmovable, unshakable. Stand up and dust off if you’re red, hold out a hand of goodwill if you’re blue; let’s wash off the paint and get down to business.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:7-18

Planes, Elections, and Bible Translations

John V and I are studying countries and cultures this year in school. We have made our way through North and South America so far. As we’ve done this, we have read the biographies of Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Nate Saint, a missionary who flew for Mission Aviation Fellowship. It is beyond inspiring to read of their dedication to making sure all people of all tribes and tongues are able to read the Bible in their own language. As they fought through different struggles in the nations where they worked, they could always come back to this country to raise support, find new workers, and gain new knowledge. God used businessmen and women in this country to buy planes, pay for translations, and donate training facilities. I choked up every, single time it talked about a group of people holding the Bible in their language for the first time and saying, “God speaks our language!” I think more than ever before, I am grateful for what the people of our country have been able to share with others around the world because of the blessings and abundance others have sacrificed to give us. Whatever decision is made tomorrow, it is overwhelming to look at how few people throughout history have had the opportunity to choose their government peaceably and without force to bring about a change  in leadership. We are not a nation divided between the 99 and the 1%. As an entire nation, WE ARE that small percentage of those with even an opportunity of some kind to get what we need. May we never forget. And tomorrow night, when we find out who we will have at the helm for the next four years, may our fervent prayers begin that God will work mightily through him in any way He sees fit that somehow the Word of God could continue going forth from this country into others around the world until our real work is done and every knee bows before the REAL Man at the wheel. I think the prayer is not that God would be with us. He is whenever we turn to Him. And not that everyone else will line up with what He wills for this nation. Because they won’t and can’t without the saving grace of Jesus. But that each of us aligns ourselves with His calling upon us and then begins to look around us for another to whom we can toss a lifeline. For at the very core, that is how innocent babies are saved AND raised, how precious, hurting women are preserved in wholeness, how marriages and individuals are treasured and cherished, how nations and people are rescued. One at a time. Our votes matter. Our everyday living between elections matters even more.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm 20:7

Flying our replicas of Nate Saint’s plane he used to assist missionaries in the rain forest of the Amazon.

Milestones and Growing

Sometimes it can get easy to get caught up in the overwhelming. In the big stuff. In the momentous, the pressing, the large, the “important,” the epic, the challenging, the great…you get the picture. 🙂 And then there are the moments of gratitude when you are simply enraptured by the small. The precious, the whispers, the breaths, the squeaks, the fleeting, the tiny, the daily…the LIFE. Five times I have watched my little one learn to smile. Then to laugh. To grasp toys. To roll over. And recently I have watched for the fifth time as my little one learned to sit on her own. Making her a little more a part of our world and a little more removed from the newborn. A little more interactive for the siblings and a little tug on the heartstrings of Mom. I can’t wait to continue discovering who she is, this precious fifth miracle of ours. Grateful for days full of growth.

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Apparently she already has a love for biographies from sitting with us while we have read about Cameron Townsend and Nate Saint. Starting them young. 😉

The Gift of Sports

As we wrap up yet another involved sports season in the Critz house, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for these healthy, hearty children who love to run around outside. Sports is obviously something that always has to be weighed, balanced, prayed over, and considered for its place of priority in any family. For our family it has brought many blessings: outreach, relationships, structure, discipline, physical strength, practice in listening to instructions and following the directions of other adults, proper competition, teamwork, respect, humility, boldness in standing alone, confidence in God-given talents and skills, and the list goes on and on. I am truly grateful for the men and women who have served as our coaches over the last four years. We remember each and every one fondly for what he or she has taught our kids and the relationships we have built with their families. We miss our Dripping Springs sports “family” and have great new friendships with the people in the area where we now play. Thank you, God, for coaches, friends, balls, sunshine, breezes, sturdy legs, cheering siblings, athletic daddies, extended family time, and lots of family togetherness at the fields.

Kailey loved playing her third soccer season this fall with The Mermaids. Her coach was fantastic with the girls and taught them a lot.

You have to love silly soccer girls!

Levi’s coach for his second soccer season was absolutely terrific. A mom of four and yet she gave her time to herd cats another evening a week, often while holding her own toddler. He had a blast and grew a lot.

This was a strange fall for us without baseball, but John V decided to opt for a season on the competitive team in artistic gymnastics. He loves it. Coach Jason and Coach Courtney are favorites, and I love how he comes home from practices even more respectful than when he left. Physical and mental strength have been great benefits of this sport.

I can’t even think about doing what he does.

Again, I’ll cheer from the sidelines!

His first meet in September was fun to watch!

No Fear – God is the Light in Our Darkness

I grew up knowing I had choices. My life didn’t have to look like anyone else’s. My opinion didn’t have to reflect the way those around me thought. I answered to God. And while our society has tragically subscribed to the theory that answering to God eliminates all of our freedoms, stunts our growth, and steals our joy, it is indeed the total opposite. God is light. As we draw toward Him we find enlightenment far beyond what any Renaissance moment could bring us,  and we are taken to a place that human awakening cannot comprehend. His light, His unveiling of truth, His miracles of the heart and mind as we understand more and more pieces of His creation is the fulfillment we all spend our lives seeking after. If we are in a depth of misunderstanding, His light can penetrate our muddy perceptions. If we are in a dark sea of pain, His light can beam across the waves guiding us to a place of hope and safety. If we are in a fog of questions, turmoil, and inability to see one more foot in front of our faces, His light will show us that next step. And then the next. And then the next. Until suddenly one day we realize the fog is only a slight mist and then we might even find ourselves in a place of hopefully looking forward to what is next. But His light is just like all other light. If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly enough, I can shut it out. I can sense that it is still there and still refuse to allow it a place in my heart and my thoughts. I can shut myself off from what it has to offer and decide that I must stay in the pain, the turmoil, the fog, the questions. Because He often reveals it one step at a time. If I’m unwilling to take the one step then I simply will not see the next one. And it’s usually that one thing I will not offer Him. “I’ll give You everything but that.” He knows us too well. He knows if I see the step way down the road, I will pull the classic toddler move and fall flat on my face because I was looking, not at my next step, but at my destination. He is not the faraway adult waiting for me to be able to walk across the room, but the patient, present Daddy God who sits right in front of us where we can toddle a little distance and have Him inch back to let us take one more step on our own. Unless we need to fall. Then He is right there to catch us, stand us back up, and get us walking again. Funny enough, in our stubborn toddlerhood, we often seem to act like the Daddy God tripped us instead of our own clumsy, impatient feet, but He is still there as our Light and Love personified.

Last year I shared with you about our family’s choices for Halloween. Our tradition continued to bring a lot of joy this year, some things remaining the same and some looking quite different. As we got close and I asked the kids what they would like to do for a theme, John V came up with the perfect idea. Especially since Kailey is studying Creation in school. We do not fear because God is the Light in our darkness. I sat back in awe as I watched my 8 year old son plan the whole thing. Then the four year old threw in the perfect costume theme. They’re eventually going to completely replace me on the planning committee and I’ll just have to show up. 😉 I don’t have a whole lot of pictures. I am trying to strike a balance between documenting my babies and making sure I just participate in the moment with them. Not always having a camera or an iPhone between my eyes and what they are doing. What good are the memories if Mommy watched and recorded instead of just being there? So I try to do a little of both and once again, constantly adjust for that ever-elusive sense of a balanced mommyhood. We introduce to you:

No Fear Party 2012 – God is Light

An Angel of Light, the Princess of Light, Lightning McQueen, Buzz Lightyear, and Green Lantern

Our Nonnie and Poppie, Marmee and Pa joined us for some festivities. The four of them are so extremely supportive of us as we seek the Lord in raising our kids. I couldn’t be more grateful for them. The completely awesome Aunt Caitlin even came as an angel. How great is that?! She and the baby angel made a beautiful pair. 🙂

John V planned out the most wonderful game as we walked in the darkness following lights on the ground to different places where we read that God is light. We talked about verses we’ve memorized telling us that He puts His light in us to shine out to everyone around us. And we ended at a disco ball in the bathroom because light results in joy and partying. And yes, that is Biblical. 🙂
He also insisted that we bob for apples. No idea. But it was great fun.

Due to other choices we’re making in our family this month, we had a Halloween and No Fear Party completely devoid of sugar. More to come on this soon. It made me very grateful that our traditions have been developed around other things than the candy so that it was still fun for everyone. John V was very happy planning his fruits to serve. We had golden pineapple and other great “treats.” Marmee brought us the first ever “No Fear Pear.” I believe he will making an appearance at all future parties. He was great.

May you always look to Him in your darkness. He is the Light!

The Thankful Season

Today marks the beginning of the “thankful season.” I’m personally a little grateful when the dark, scary, “gimme candy” season moves over to make room for this one. 😉 I am grateful that life moves and flows in seasons, one maybe seeming too difficult or strenuous to bear and then, just in time, the new one has come. The heat breaks bringing cool breezes to your soul as well as to your body. Three years ago at this time I was experiencing a move away from the place I had always called home and my fifth miscarriage. Crying out for reprieve from aching, emotional loss. Having no idea what the next few years would hold for us. Today, I am in a season of fullness. Two more babies since that time. So much growth. A return home to family, friends, and a new ministry calling that is opening wider and wider day by day. This fullness brings joy, fulfillment, memories, love, snuggles, people, warmth, and also brings exhaustion, constant motion, and little time for rest or quiet thought. A constant balance between those I’m serving in my home and those I also want to serve around me. Between availability and the common sense of only being able to do one thing well at a time. Between making sure my children are provided the foundation of a solid education and that they are living as well as learning about a full life in this one shot at childhood. It’s also a season where one thing begins to run into another leaving you wishing you had written it down or saved it to remember at a quieter, “wintry” time down the road. For this reason, I have felt convicted lately to consider removing myself more often from some of the time-snatching, two-sentence connections in this internet world and instead moving more into this one of blogging where my thoughts for my children are written down more permanently and can be saved for later perusal by those God called me to pour into during this running, loving, happy, tiring, mommying time. So here I am, back again. Grateful, tired, and ready for a season of thankfulness. Welcome, November.

Peaceful rest. One thing we can learn from these little ones!