Treading water

We’re taking our house off the market.  Sigh…
Around here, the market is TOUGH!!!  There are a couple factors completely out of our control making the selling even harder.  And we are burned out.  Tired of living in a house we are not really living in.  I want to put my family pictures back up and decorate my gorgeous mantel again and leave a mess overnight if I want to.  I want people to quit driving down our driveway for a while.
So we are taking a break for the winter, starting now.

We have some big plans up our sleeve while we wait these few months.  Those will be revealed when the time is right, and then when spring comes we will begin again.

Besides, there is a baby about to be born into this family and that deserves some serious attention!

You all know by now how much I love Lake Michigan.  If you’ve read my summer blog posts at all, you know that there is nowhere on this earth that I would rather be than at my beach, swimming in the lake.  Thanks to this lack of a home sale, I had a delightful summer here.  Well, other than that month of cold that deprived me.

me and my beach 2Two days ago, I found myself alone, happily tucked up in the beach grass, just me and God.  I had sun time and water time.  Best day kinda stuff. Image

As I was going out into the chilly water, I was thinking of the different approaches my family has to getting in.  With the water temp usually hovering between 67 and 70 (occasionally climbing up to a sweltering 72), it takes some courage to go in.  And it’s not like a pool where you can just jump!  You have to walk out and try to acclimate with waves that splash higher into dry, still-warm regions of your body, and it can take some fortitude, let me tell ya!
My husband has what I call the “Lake Michigan Walk.”  Oh, how I wish I could show you.  It makes me laugh out loud every single time I see it.  His arms are lifted at the shoulders, his elbows held up by two invisible strings, and his whole body goes up and then down again with each rise and fall of the water.  It’s fantastic.  And it never fails.
My oldest and youngest always blaze on in at full speed.  When they get to a depth of about three feet, they dive under.  And they do this in May or June when the water may be a balmy 60 degrees.  Not kidding.  Then, my youngest will turn around and start the badgering of Momma.  “Come on, Mom!  Go under!  Aren’t you gonna swim, mom?  C’mon!  Get all the way wet!”
Because there I am up to my waist, happily standing in the sun, half-refreshed, half-warm.  So Happy.  Very Content.  Except this niggling need I have to go deeper.  This little voice in my brain that says, “There’s more, and you don’t want to miss it!  What if you don’t surrender to this and you go home and for the next month, Michigan is 60 and rainy and you will have missed it!”

So, here’s my strategy.  For anywhere from 5-20 minutes (depending on how cold I am), I think about it.  I stand there and wait until the time is just right.  And then I get to the best, bravest part.
I pick my wave and jump.  Head first, headlong into the cold.  Deep into the water that mutes the rest of the world.  I swim suspended in a place where no one else can be. And I come up refreshed and so happy.

There are days like yesterday, however, where there are no real waves.  I stand there and can’t figure out if I want to just stay warm where I am or go all the way under, and there’s no defined wave to spur me on.  No clearly defined moment telling me which way to go.

Kinda like our life right now.  There is no clear answer.  Obviously, the timing isn’t quite right for us to move.  The right family who needs this house isn’t quite ready for it.  Perhaps there are some things being worked out in the six of us before we are ready for the next step.
But this time, we don’t get to pick our wave and jump.  It’s not about being afraid to go all the way in, it’s about surrender to a bigger plan.
It’s completely out of our control.  That’s an interesting place to find yourself, let me tell ya.  You either surrender to it or you rail against it.  I’ve done a bit of each, honestly.  From a place of frustration and regrouping to a place of relative peace.  Again, You-Who-knows-best,  I say that I trust you.  Here’s where the water meets the sand, so to speak.

So, we’re gonna tread water for now.  Not all the way wet, not all the way dry.  Just chillin’ here waiting for the chance to dive.
In the meantime, enjoying the view…

Storm the Gates

When I was a little girl–three to be specific–I began singing publicly. My dad was a phenomenal classical guitarist and I was doggone cute and could hold a tune, and this seemed to make folks happy. So, I started singing (while he was playing) at nursing homes, various churches, and by the age of five weddings, and not long after that, funerals. Evie Tornquist was my role model and many of her songs were in my repertoire including one that said, “I’m only four feet eleven but I’m goin’ to heaven and it makes me feel ten feet tall.”
Only, I sang three feet eleven ’cause I was (and may still be) so darn short. Cute, right?

Well, it was until I hit my awkward stage…

And this one is thrown in just because there are so few pictures of my dad and me and this one just hit me square in the heart.

So, I guess you could say that pretty much all of my life, I have been singing.

And hating it.
No matter how many times I sang in public, I despised it. I hated the upset stomach that preceded it, I hated the way it made my entire being shake to the core. I dreaded worrying about what people thought of me.

I despised in myself the love for the attention and the need for praise.

I was told by my mother that I was given a gift, and if I didn’t use it God would take it away from me. That fear of the awful moment when my voice would be snatched away from me (think Ariel and Ursula) worked well on a people-pleasing, afraid-of-everything personality.

So I sang.

At some point when I was in my twenties, things got rough for my Dad and he forgot how to use his gift well. We didn’t perform together anymore. I missed the camaraderie and the bond that came with it, but we just let it fade away.
I still sang alone at weddings, funerals, and once in a while at church, but when I did, I was still battling epically on the inside every single time.

And then I quit.

I just decided that it was not worth it. And I had never found the purpose in it anyway. The suffering that surrounded it just outweighed any benefit. I vowed to myself to quit forever. I never wanted to sing in public again.
Big, huge sigh of relief.

Enter into my life a time where my heart felt like raw meat. I was in the midst of separating from my parents, beginning youth ministry with Christian and telling God He could do whatever He wanted with my life. It was a time of charging forward and storming the gates, if you will.
You see, until then, I was a soft-spoken girl afraid of my own shadow, operating entirely in a life of shoulds. I did what I should because I should and because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t. Anything I did that looked brave was usually bravery resting on someone else’s laurels. Not Alison’s.

I remember taking a self-defense class with Justin at some point in my twenties and punching someone for the first time in my life. Once I started I couldn’t stop. It felt so good to feel powerful. I punched so much I left bruises on my teacher and came home exhilarated.

This is how I felt when I surrendered all and whatever to my heavenly Daddy. I literally felt infused with a power that was not my own. Whatever stood ahead faced my “BRING IT ON” attitude. I had ceased being afraid.

And then someone asked me to sing. Not just any someone. A professional musician needed a singer for a youth event we were hosting. Despite my intimidation of him and much to my own dismay, I heard my own voice agreeing.

It was an entirely new page that had turned in my spirit. If there is such a thing as praising defiantly, I was doing it. The only singing I vowed to do from this point forward was worship. That’s all that had merit to me. And so I began to worship in a new way. I worshiped from the hurt, afraid, and broken part of my spirit. And like a balm, the worship began to cover those deep places and I began to heal.

Through the entire time that things were at their absolute worst in my life, I was passionately worshiping until my body would hurt from the exertion. Like a good coach, the aforementioned musician (who became a brother to me) was still pushing me to worship and he will still laugh at me for the times I literally fought him by stomping my feet as he pushed me out front to new levels of bravery in my ability to take the mess the enemy had tried to ruin me with and turn it into words of public praise. There were days when, during practice, I would go from sobbing in a corner over the latest developments to wiping my face and taking the stage.

It was the most powerful time of my life. A huge part of my testimony about the absolute power of words and even more about the power of a God who saved my life.

I learned that I was made to worship. I was not made to sing, and that’s why any type of singing with the wrong motive felt like torture to me. I was created to tell my God how amazing He is. Whether that’s on a stage or in my kitchen or in the words I speak to my family or a stranger in the grocery store, I am here on this earth to reflect the love of my God. It is my purpose. It is my intention.

It’s about looking evil in the face and declaring a new thing. To see the impossibly high gates ahead and storm them with whatever weapon I have been given.

May I encourage you to open your mouth and use your voice?

Click.