Friday, July 29, 2011

finding the fruit

The air is still now. Fans hum gently, but the voices and the feet, hands, tears and giggles are stilled. Three small girls rest in three small beds.

And I stand here, wondering at the morning, the words spoken and tears shed and smiles shared and voices raised.

Imperfect is far too gentle a word.

I am at once compelled to confess and desperate that no one find out. How broken I really am.

Little arms raised for a hug, and I obliged, but cringed inside - I've been touched too much today. Where is love?
Tiny voices laughed a sweet, silly song. I did not look up. Where is joy?
Questions were repeated, small hands tugged on my pants, and I was irritated. Where is peace?
Cups were spilled, pants were wet, there were lessons to be learned and hearts to train, and I was inconvenienced. Where is patience?
My voice was sharp, words came fast, anger bubbled quick. Where is kindness?
Sandwiches, grapes, blueberries were handed out willingly but without a smile or a hug. Where is goodness?
I yelled at my little girl today, and the reason doesn't matter. Where is gentleness?
The Spirit spoke words of conviction to me and I ignored them, wondering at myself as I acted against His will... where is faithfulness?
The girls were screaming, fighting for a toy, and I grabbed it away, tossing it aside, scolding them for selfishness and unkindness. WHERE is self-control??

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law...

So undeserving, so disobedient. I know the Truth. I know what gives life and joy and I know what steals it away. Why is it not easier to find these fruits of the Spirit?

Why is it not easier?

Because I am the unlovable who is loved. Patience is not patience if nothing is testing it and undeserved kindness is what changes hearts.

In the moments when I think I cannot meet another need, cannot wipe another nose or hand, cannot extend any more grace, it strikes me. Whatever I do for the least of His children, I do for Him. How can a call to serve my children exasperate me when I am unworthy to untie His sandals? Jesus deserves better than the likes of me... why is it that I seem to think His daughters do not? Why do I think my life is so small?

His grace washes over me - I have been forgiven. The record is clean. This morning's ugliness is washed, stainless.

I take a deep breath, steady myself. He has deemed me worthy. I am holy, chosen and dearly loved by the God who hung the stars and spoke the mountains into place. I am incapable of undoing His work. He shall reign.

Today, He is asking me to love His children. To bend low, to serve, to set aside myself and discover that true love is found among the crumbs under the table and joy among the toys scattered on the floor. Peace is in the eyes of little girls and patience is finding thankfulness for the moments. Kindness, goodness and gentleness are sprinkled in bowls filled with pretzels and cups of water. Faithfulness is found in the pages of books, pulled off the shelves and read slowly, snuggled deep in couch cushions. And self-control pours itself out with the tears of frustrated children.

The grace, the love. It is everywhere. I simply need to look.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Today, I am grateful...

1. spring rain's clean scent
2. baby girls falling asleep peacefully on living room pillows
3. sisters holding hands
4. helping hands at the grocery store
5. generosity of neighbors
6. plants growing from seeds pushed into dirt by tiny hands
7. sudden, silent snuggles from my middle daughter
8. white chocolate mocha creamer in my half-caff coffee
9. text messages from dear friends
10. ability to lift up prayers for my friends

Big and small, elaborate and mundane, clearly spiritual and seemingly inconsequential - my life is littered with gifts of grace from my Father.

It seems easier, in these days of the constancy of caring for small children, easier to complain, to notice the pain and the hardship and the lack. I can't help but wonder - if it's really easier, why does everything weigh so heavily?

And so, I am seeking them out - naming the gifts, pausing to think on them, and marveling at the intricacies of this world, created by Him who holds all things together. Not that the hard, painful, lonely things cease to exist - but that they are swimming in an ocean of good gifts, things to which I can cling and remain afloat as waves crash around me.

It is all grace, all a gift.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


I'm beginning to realize how often we meet something new in our day-to-day lives. New people, new places, new food, new challenges... so frequently we are being introduced to an unknown.

Sometimes we are changed very little by the experience - it is simply a blip on the day's radar and passes without much more thought.

Other introductions press their way into the frames of our lives, moving walls and setting up residence. These introductions are usually more intense, more difficult, more joyful...

It's my abundant pleasure to introduce Ruby Suzanne Burley - the newest resident in our little world. God gave her to us at 6:10am on February 2, 2011 (in the middle of a blizzard). Our little 21.5 inch, 8lb 2oz bundle has rewritten the fabric of our lives, just as her two beautiful sisters did before her. Nothing will be the same again.

Friday, December 03, 2010


A beautiful princess

My girls

Sweet face, with a mouthful of sweet donut

Happiness is... a cider donut :)

sisterly love

She's a goofball. I'm sure it's ALL from her daddy.

order of events

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them."
John 14:23

I wonder, often, about the little roadmap of cause and effect I have drawn up in my own little brain.

How frequently do I wait for something to happen in order that I might respond to it?

Upon examination, I find that being the something that happens doesn't even blip on the radar of this little roadmap.

Why not?

According to my Jesus - the only impetus I need to act is love. My love for Him will move me to act. My love for others moves me to act. It is not simply a matter of waiting.

Parenting littles easily becomes a game of responses.

Messes are made - I clean them up.
Noses are runny - I wipe.
Sisters are fighting - I teach and train.
Bellies are empty - I feed.

But tonight, I am reminded that I don't truly clean, wipe, teach, train, feed, or any of another thousand mommy-verbs, because of messes, noses, sisters or bellies. I do these things because I love Jesus. Because I love my husband, because I love my daughters and the little one who kicks my ribs.

Tonight, I am reminded that cause and effect, the order of events, is a little more tangled - and beautiful - than I've led myself to believe of late.

As parents, we do things that we know will, over time, produce good fruit. Because of love, not because it immediately feels right and good.

Sometimes, these things bring tears to the eyes of our children, which also brings tears to our own eyes. Because of love, not because we are wrong.

Tonight, I am lifting my eyes to the hills, remembering from where my Help comes.

I am remembering that my actions need to come from my love for Christ, for my family, for my neighbors.

I write it on my heart that I only love because He first loved me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

simply pictures

SUCH a beautiful smile

Lovely and serious

exploring at the gardens

hellooo, Daddy!

two girls and a sheep

deck the halls...?

Apparently there are ONLY 89 more days until Christmas.

Personally, I find it a wee bit bizarre to count down to Christmas in September - it's like you're deliberately trying to fill yourself with stress and worry. Happy Holidays, indeed.

However - I made a LOT of Christmas presents last year - and though I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I did worry that I might give myself early-onset arthritis from crocheting so much in such a short time.

So this year, I am "starting early" by finally finishing up the Christmas stockings I made for our family last year. (Yes, I am Scrooge - we had no! stockings! for the first 7 Christmases of our marriage...) Last year, I made them. This year, they have names. And I still have a whole year (and 89 days) to make a fifth stocking for Newest Little Burley.

Check it out:

Mark and I are Christmas grumps who choose not to spend money on each other - but we give the girls a few gifts, and our extended families exchange gifts. I'm gonna see how many presents I can make this year - and hopefully repurpose a lot of material, use up some of my scrap fabric, and have a (moderately) green Christmas.

The list so far:

alphabet bean bags for the girls (sew)
a hopscotch playmat for the girls (sew/quilt)
superhero capes for each girl (sew)
stuffed/beanbag "monster" doll for each girl (sew)
flannel/feltboard for each girl, travel-sized (craft)
a paintbrush roll for my art-teacher-brother (sew)
a crochet hook roll for my sister-in-law (sew)
a scarf (or two) for my sister (crochet)

I'm a little stuck on what I could possibly make for my nephews (3 1/2, 5 1/2 and 7 1/2) - they are definitely starting to have ideas about what is COOL and what is NOT... and while I'd *love* to make their gifts - I also want them to enjoy them. Ideas?

I think I can make most of the sewing projects from fabric I already have (AWESOME) - and I've already started playing with colors and cutting stuff up. Hopefully, getting started now will help with the Big Scary Christmas Countdown.

Anybody else getting ready for the holidays early?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

u turns

North. South.
Up. Down.
Right. Left.

It's fairly safe to say that everything and everyone has a direction. It might not be purposeful. It might not even be something of which we are aware. But the direction is there. We all point, orbit, track, follow.

Directions exist as ambidextrous forces in our lives... on one hand, direction is cherished and craved and sought after. It generates security and purpose. On the other, direction can remove our sense of autonomy, make us feel as though we are riding the waves of a force far to large to transcend.

When we are comfortable with the path - directional living is desirable. We are proud of it, we wear it on our sleeves for all to see. And even when we are not comfortable, we may cling to a path simply because it is familiar. At least we know where we are going.

It's when the path swerves unexpectedly out of sight that we are unnerved.

Here's the catch - it's my experience that the path can, will, must swerve. Directions change suddenly, the road falls away, storms gather and darken the course. It is going to happen.

I spent the first days, weeks, months of motherhood adjusting to the path upon which I was suddenly called to walk. I was responsible for another person - the task of keeping her safe and healthy was a track laid before me, a gorgeous and treacherous road of joy and accountability. The rocky thoroughfare of early parenthood gradually became familiar - I adjusted and learned and adapted to my new surroundings.

Then the road swerved. While I had spent my earliest moments of parenthood slogging through lesson after lesson on How to Be a Steward of Another Person, I realized that I would spend the remainder of my life as a mother learning to give up my responsibility, to relinquish that control.

Similarly, we spend the first few decades of our lives as growing our abilities in decision-making, taking responsibility for ourselves, controlling our choices and our lives... we live out the rest of our years grasping for the understanding that we cannot possibly control everything. Learning to hand over the reins. Discovering that perhaps life is not so much about choosing a direction as it is about choosing how we travel along the directions laid before us.

East. West.
Forward. Backward.
Over. Under.

God has given me the ability to weigh my choices, make decisions, and follow paths. I am accountable for these. But more so, it is the heart - the why and the how behind the scenes - that will define me.

I like knowing where I am headed. Clear views of the road ahead provide comfort. And yet, I know that my path will veer into the unknown. By His grace, I will prove myself a seasoned traveler, and know that in following Him, my path will be made straight.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


My youngest daughter is a scavenger. A predator of treasures fallen and ignored by others, she hunts on all fours to lay claim to precious bits and pieces, to make them her own. Stray breakfast remnants, forgotten carpet fuzzies, strands of loose string. No one can eat within a 20-foot-radius - her radar picks up the frequency of the cracker box being opened, the refrigerator door sealing itself shut, the crunch of the pretzel bag being clipped closed. She prowls, scours, seeks... and fiercely protects her findings.

It's humorous - and in a way, oddly encouraging to me. I watch her sift through the "stuff" to find snippets of value and I am heartened. I learn from my 11-month-old daughter that there are treasures to be found and cherished, if only we would look for them.

And so, when I find myself frustrated by another tantrum, wondering what strategy to employ - wondering if it even matters... I remind myself to search. Toss aside the tears and the screaming, remove the selfishness and stubbornness... and find the glimmer of a desire to be pursued. Perhaps my toddler has wrapped this desire in her human nature, and it's been twisted into an ugly fit. But her need to be pursued, to know that someone is loving her with intent and purpose and determination, THAT is from God. In that piece, she reflects His image.

And when I am frustrated and disgusted by my own limitations, beaten down by the fact that yet another day has passed where I cannot count the number of times I have fallen slid run stumbled turned away from His grace... I stop and look. I find a piece of myself, however small, however deeply buried, that reflects an image of God. And I take heart in knowing that even though I can distort His beauty and holiness into something virtually unrecognizable - a glimmer of Him might still be found if I scavenge for it.

Tomorrow, as my daughter zooms around, searching for the lost and buried valuables of our living room carpet and kitchen floor, I will chuckle, and be comforted the she knows. It's there to be found - all you have to do is look.