A Birthday Gift

So I had a baby on my birthday. Nine years ago today in fact. I’ve written about this before. It’s just kinda one of those things that happened in my life that has forever left me changed and so, so thankful.

This happened during a very dark and difficult time in my life. Having a baby was the very last thing I thought I needed. But I was so, so wrong.

This is why I am thankful that God tells us no. That he doesn’t always answer prayer the way we think he should. And that sometimes he takes us to a place that is far from comfortable and where we think we might not survive. Because without him, we just wouldn’t.

As I laid my hand on top of his head this morning and whispered into his ear, I felt the whisper of a God who still has his hand upon me. I fought back the tears as I said, “Nine years ago this moment I was holding you for the very first time. And nine years ago I heard the words that I will never forget, ‘Wait! Don’t move him! He’s still attached!’ and that’s when I knew what your name would be, because Levi means, to be attached. And God’s special purpose for you was fulfilled. And I am so thankful he used you in such a special way to show your Mama that his hand was on my life.”

lepraf8a

{Norman Rockwell}

It was the perfect gift. He was just what I needed and I didn’t even know it.

I didn’t know just how significantly God would use him in my life and marriage in those early moments. I didn’t know then, that a few months later I would stop dead in my tracks when I read the story in Genesis of another Levi who God used to attach a wife to her husband. I didn’t know that he would use this little baby to root my feet firm. And I didn’t know then that the warmth of a whisper from God would once again give life to my soul and a renewed determination to keep walking with Him, one small step at a time.

It is no wonder to me, that Jesus compared being the greatest to being a little child. That unless we become like little children, we will never enter into his kingdom.

It is in those moments, when I am being led my a small hand, that God usually does a big thing in my heart.

Being a mother often requires so much. We give of ourselves constantly. Denying our own physical, emotional and spiritual needs. And sometimes we find ourselves depleted, exhausted and wondering who we are.

So it makes those moments all the more sweeter. When God stoops down to show you a bit of Himself, in a dimpled smile, or an unexpected hug, or heart-words you would have never thought you’d hear, or the times when you know you’ve blown it and they take you back anyway with genuine love and forgiveness.

When I left the hospital nine years ago after my body had been broken open for another, I left with new life in my arms and in my heart. Even though I couldn’t quite see the beauty in the gift yet and I might not have even felt it. But God knew and he saw and he was faithful to fulfill his promises to me.

To answer me when I called on him and to deliver me from all my fears…to make my face radiant, never covered with shame…He promised that the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them…He said to taste and see that he is good and to take refuge in him...that those who seek Him lack no good thing...that his ears would be attentive to my cry... and that he is close, close, close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.       Psalm 34

So please sister, do not fear. Even if you can’t see past tomorrow. Even if the weight feels crushing and you’re just not sure. Even if the grief threatens to overtake you and it really is not fair. Even if you don’t understand and you’re angry with Him.

Wait. Just wait. Hold on and let him hold on to you. He will be faithful. He will show you.

You have been given a gift. You may not see it yet. You may not feel it. It may take months, even years to see what God is and was doing. But I promise. He is. He is working and he cares and he is with you. In the midst of the pain or the heartache or confusion. He is.

Levi is that kind of gift. His life represents that kind of sweet love-note from Jesus that says, “I see, I hear and I know. Hold on a little bit longer and you will too. There is purpose in your pain, there is meaning behind the aching and through it your faith will be made genuine…” (1Peter 1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Valentine’s Day Hurts

I found myself on the Valentine’s aisle at Wal-Mart. Surrounded by red hearts and chocolate candy, each one enticing me to place them in my cart. Searching for the right card felt like agony.

valentine

I bumped into an old friend. “Single’s-Awareness Day!” she proclaimed. I turned toward her with a question in my eye. Not only was she married, she had several grown children. “That’s what my girls call it anyway,” she said with a tight smile. I understood then and smiled back.

As I was standing there I felt the weight of her words and the feelings they represented.

We continued fingering through the cards. Each one opening to a message that left us feeling emptier than the one before.

I turned toward her again and half whispered, “Valentine’s Day can sometimes be painful for married people too.” Her hand stopped half way to the rack, the card falling limp. Her eyes closed and she nodded. “MmmHmm.” That’s all she said. That’s all she needed to say. I saw the understanding flood over her face and seep out of her eyes.

I walked away without a card that day. Instead, I placed a bag of chocolates in my cart that I knew wouldn’t wait until V-Day to be eaten.

Somehow as a single person I had convinced myself that being married would fix all of my love issues. I would no longer walk the sidewalks, longingly staring at the couple holding hands. I would no longer feel the twinges of loneliness. I wouldn’t be impatient for my picture perfect life to begin, because I would be living it.

The moment I said “I Do” at the alter, I placed all of my heart needs on the shoulders of my husband. It was his job now to fulfill my every desire, to meet my every need and to ensure my ultimate happiness. An impossible burden to carry. “Married Bliss” is what they called it right? It didn’t take 12 hours after the wedding ceremony for me to look around wondering where it had gone.

I never counted on the fact that he might fall short in this area. That he might have issues of his own. That he might be…human. I knew he wasn’t perfect, after all we had dated for 5 years. But I guess I figured that a magical switch would flip on as we walked down that flower-petal-covered aisle.

I was devastated when I realized that it hadn’t. That there had never even been a switch to begin with.

I spent years reacting out of that devastation. Blaming him for the feelings of loneliness and betrayal. For feeling cheated and discontent. It was all somehow his fault.

Wasn’t marriage designed to reflect Christ? If so, then where was He in our marriage?

It took me a long time and many hard lessons to realize that my view and expectations of marriage were simply wrong and misguided.

I had been looking to my husband to be my Savior. I entered marriage thinking this would be the vessel God would use to bring me happiness and fulfillment.

And it did. Just not in the way I expected.

I thought it would be through the man. But instead it came through the Son of Man.

God wanted me to experience more than just a temporary happiness in marriage. He wanted to grant me an eternal joy that simply doesn’t make sense in worldly terms.

Like a child, I kept grabbing for what I thought would fill me. What I thought I needed. Even what I thought I wanted. But I kept coming up empty, unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

Like a parent, God showed me that I needed more. I needed more that just the snacks and desserts that looked right and even tasted good. I needed substance. I needed nourishment. I needed Him.

“COME all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:1-2

In God’s economy we don’t need something to get something. In fact, He requires us to come with our nothing. Empty. Bankrupt. Broken.

He has laid out the best of the best. All we have to do is come and partake.

He tells us there is no cost. In one sense there isn’t. He does not look for payment, for He has paid it all. But there is a cost. The cost of dying to ourselves and laying aside our agenda and even what we think we might deserve.

And this is why:

“AS the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

Whether you are single or married, God is doing something bigger than you. But He has not forgotten you. Even though it may feel like that some days, especially on Valentine days.

The ache that you may feel because you don’t have someone to love or you do and they just don’t love you the way you need them to, points to something greater. And that is your greater need for Jesus. There is purpose in your aching. It is there to tell you to look to Him to touch the deepest recesses of your soul. No matter how many Valentine’s you may or may not receive. No matter how many bags of Pre or Post-Valentine’s chocolate you may eat. None of it will fill you like He can.

And even after you’ve learned these things and the days are still hard and you still can’t find the right words inside that card, go to THE Word. His life-giving words that can change your heart and fill it to overflowing.

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace, the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

Isaiah 55:11-13

A Happy Valentine’s Day is still possible. Because there is One who loves you more than life itself. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ♥

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

A Daddy’s Day

I wrote this on Father’s Day a few years ago. It’s still one of my favorites…

 

Once Upon A Time…

There was a little girl and her Daddy. And they went burshin’.

Burshin’, you wonder?

Well, the little girl was only three and that was the best she could do. Fishin’ was what she was trying to say.

They took their little jon boat and went burshin’ and caught all kinds of bursh! Big ones, little ones. Some they kept. Some they didn’t. They were hooking worms and eating sandwiches when all of a sudden…

BIG GIGANTIC  SNAKES!!
Lots of them and they were coming out of everywhere!
Some were hanging from trees and falling in the boat. Some were swimming down the river right towards them!

Well, that little girl of three wasn’t scared at all, cause she had her daddy with her and she knew that he would protect her.

Sure enough, he grabbed his handy dandy pistol that he must have kept in his boot and started shootin’! I mean he shot that snake right OUT of that tree! And the ones swimming towards them, poor things didn’t have a chance!

POW! POW! BANG!

Her daddy was the best shot on the Ashepoo River. No one could match him.

She wasn’t even worried about the one that fell in the boat. Her daddy yanked that thing right up by it’s tail, flung it around his head a few times and threw it down the river!

She was so proud. But not surprised. Because, simply put, he was her hero.

They counted their fish like nothing ever happened and drove their little jon boat off into the sunset towards home. Just another day on the river with Daddy.

————————- ~*~ ———————–

I have told this story for years. Fondly reminiscing, bragging slightly on my brave daddy, sharing my childhood memories with family and friends. Never realizing until just a couple of years ago that the events of the story were not actual fact, but instead exaggerated imaginings of a three-year-old little girl.

My daddy really did take me fishing in a little jon boat and I’m sure we ate sandwiches. But there were never any snakes or cowboy acrobatics, not even a pistol stowed away in his boot, since he was probably wearing flip-flops.

I had pretty much made the entire thing up in my head and not only believed it to be true, but shared this story as unadulterated fact!

Mom and Dad corrected me as I shared it around the family table a few years back. I was completely clueless to the fact that I had been telling lies!

We all had a pretty good laugh that night.

But deep down I was a little devastated. I had really believed it to be true and it was like I woke up from my dream, only to realize none of it was real.

I thought about it all for a while, wondering how I could have imagined such a story and believe it to the point of telling it as truth.

Where had those snakes come from? And the heroic actions of my father?

I believe they came from the place inside of my heart that believed my daddy could do anything. That place inside of every little girl’s heart that wants to hold tightly to the belief that daddy’s can do no wrong, that they will always protect their little girls and will always be her hero.

But that really isn’t true either, is it?

I think maybe that is why it was so hard for me to except the fact that the story I had believed to be true for so many years, wasn’t.

No matter how good our daddies are, they will disappoint us.

But that’s ok.

Everyone needs permission to fail. No one can live under the weight of perfection or idolization. Eventually a chink in the armor will give and parts of their weaknesses will be exposed.

And when that happens it can be really painful. Devastating even.

But only because it exposes more about us than the other person.

We have been given an insatiable need to be wanted, protected and fought for. And sometimes we see hints of that in this life and how sweet that can be. But mostly it’s just a hint.

Because we are broken people who need Someone much bigger than us to be our Rescuer, our Protector, our Provider.

We get confused sometimes and place that responsibility on the people living around us. Instead of accepting their propensity to fail us and loving them anyway.

It’s a great thing having a good daddy. I am thankful for that gift. Thankful for a man who has always loved me and been a constant in my life. I’m even thankful for his failures too. Because they remind me of my own and my need for a Heavenly Daddy who has made a way. A way for grace, a way for rescue, a way for forgiveness and a way for this little-girl-heart to never stop believing in a Daddy who will always be her hero.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you. And thanks for taking me burshin’.

Five Minute Friday: Nothing

**I’m a day late and a dollar short. But I think you’ll forgive me for that.

 

I have nothing.

You have nothing.

There really is just nothing.

Nothing in us that clings or holds tight. Nothing that is good or hopes. Nothing that does that thing that is right.

And I know this and it scares me. The nothing scares me. Because I want there to be something, anything.

I want there to be something to fall on and hope in and cling to. Something within me that will hold tighter when my fingers are slipping.

But when I look down deep I find nothing. Nothing within me that comes from me that makes me want to stand strong when the waves roll me over.

Instead there is Someone. Who takes my nothing and replaces it with His everything. So that I don’t have to fear. Fear that my fingers may slip or my hold will break or my hope fail.

Because my nothing has always been nothing. And His everything is enough.

 

lisajobaker.com

An Almost-NONE’s Perspective on Why the NONES Have Left the Church

I wrote a letter to the church recently.

Not my church, but to the church in general.

An interesting topic was presented in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago. I was gripped by it.

We were talking about “NONES”. Those, who when asked their religious affiliation, answer “None”. It doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t ‘religious’ or even Christian. They simply have no ties to a church or any religious affiliation. One third of adults under 30 in our nation today consider themselves “NONES”. The highest percentage the Pew Research Center has ever seen.

This should concern us. I mean, this should really inflict alarm in the heart of today’s church. It should make us ask some hard questions and find some good answers.

It was interesting listening to the discussion surrounding this topic in class. Most of them were over 30 and frankly, just didn’t get it. (No offense) I’m not pretending I ‘get it’, but I do have perspective. Maybe because I came very close to becoming a “NONE” myself.

I almost left. In fact at one point I told God “I QUIT!” Out loud and everything.

I know a lot of people, some I grew up with, family even, who really have quit. Or who have been so burned and burdened that they just can’t muster the strength to go back, even though they might want to.

This is really happening. These aren’t just ‘numbers’, these are people. People who have completely lost hope in the church, who have lost their confidence in Christ. And a lot of it frankly is our fault.

This brings to mind the lyrics from a Casting Crowns’ song, Jesus Friend of Sinners:

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

I wrote this to be thought provoking and not taken literally, at least not by me anyway. I haven’t really quit. But maybe I have in a lot of ways…

Dear Church,

I’m curious, why have the “None’s” divorced the church?

It’s because we are tired. We are tired of never measuring up and not being good enough. We cannot possibly attain to the standard you hold over us. So, we quit.

We have a need to be loved. To be known. To be accepted. To be cherished. We have a need to know the truth. To believe in something. Someone. We have a need for that truth to make a difference and to tell us who we are and why we are here. We have a need to be forgiven.

Sadly, Church, you are not meeting those needs. What we find frankly turns us off and turns us away. Instead of being loved, we are told to love God. But WHO is God? Instead of being known, we are told to know God’s Word. But again, WHO is God? Instead of being accepted, we are told to accept His will. But what does that mean? Instead of being cherished, we are told to cherish his law and hold to his commandments. But honestly, it all seems a little pointless. What’s in it for us?

Church, you are confusing us. You tell us Jesus came to heal the sick, but you tell us to stop being sick. You tell us, God came to save the lost but then tell us to get our acts together. We hear,“God loves you and has come to give you joy, to give you peace, to give you rest, to forgive you, to give you life.” But that is not what we see modeled by you. Instead we are told to Do More and Try Harder. You ask us, What’s Wrong with You? And tell us that, We Should Know Better. Well, we really just don’t know any better (and I’ll let you in on a little secret, neither do you, so stop acting like a hypocrite).

You have warped our view of Christ. “Grace” is something our parents used to say at meals, and honestly, I never really saw it work for them. And the “Love of God” is just an expression we tack on to the end of a sentence when we can’t find a parking space.

None of it has any meaning.

But this is what we are longing for. We long for meaning behind the doing. We need a Rescuer, not a rule set-ter. We are aching to be known, really known. We don’t want you to be scared of us. We are dying, literally dying, to be accepted just the way we are, with all our imperfections and screw-ups. And we are afraid to ever say it. But we want to know what it feels like to be cherished, to know we have value and aren’t just taking up valuable space.

This we find outside of your doors, believe it or not. You, Church, are supposed to be a safe place, a hospital I can come to, to bind up my wounds, but I do not find that kind of healing with you. So I go to the outside and I find it there. My soul is screaming for relationship, for connection and community. For that safe place. The outside gives this to me. They don’t strap me with rules and regulations and judgment. No, it’s quite the opposite, really. I am free to be who I want to be. So this is where I turn. To the safety of my girl-friend or my boy-friend or same-sex relationship. To the protection of drugs and alcohol and self-mutilation, numbing my pain and emptiness. To my addictions and dysfunctions, because it works, if not for a while.

We don’t have time or patience for this “Carrot and Stick” kind of faith. Be good and you’ll get a carrot. Be bad and I’ll beat you with a stick. Because, didn’t you hear me when I said, my soul is screaming for relationship?

Religion, Christianity, Church, these do not offer relationship. So, we’re done with you. We don’t want a religion that means nothing. Haven’t you seen the state of the family, our country, our economy, our world? We don’t have time to waste trying to be perfect or time trying to hide our imperfections. Why would we choose that when, like I said, I can find what I need on the outside a lot faster and safer than you can give it to me here?

I don’t want to be rude, but Church, you need to hear this. You got distracted. You fell asleep at the wheel and now you’re paying for it. And now we’re paying for it. You majored on the minor and minored on the major. You were swallowed up in the trap of Look Good and Do Better. But I’m here to tell you, that that’s just not real life. This pain and hurt I feel, is real life. This pressure I feel, is real life. This culture that tells me anything goes is real life. And, this economy that is sucking the very breath out of me, is the real life I’m living in.

And how does your Jesus fit in this real life?

I’m not sure why, but you seem to be afraid of the message of grace. I mean, real grace, what it looks like in real life. This baffles me, because this is what I need the most, this scary, dangerous gospel of grace. It’s the very thing that makes the difference and makes Jesus real and feel right. If you would have told me that Jesus doesn’t necessarily care what I look like or even what I do. If you would have shown me His love and acceptance and forgiveness instead of strapping me with a burdensome way of living. If you would have explained to me, really explained, that He came to take all of my sticks and to ive me all His carrots regardless of my “sinful transgressions”. Well, maybe, just maybe I would have stuck around a little longer.

But right now, I’m Just. Too. Exhausted. So I quit.

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Friend

I’ve always needed one. I haven’t always had one. But God has always provided what I needed when.

Through the different seasons in life… when I didn’t know up from down, saying ‘I do’, holding my first baby and all the moments in between and after.

God has never left me alone.

I think of this season of ‘now’ and how things have changed and the friends that hold me up and carry me through. And I just don’t know what I would do without you.

You talk to me and you listen.

You make me laugh and laugh at me and with me and it’s what rescues this recovering Pharisee.

And even though we are miles apart, you are holding me.

Your words, they bring healing and clarity. How are you so stinkin’ smart? You’ve saved my counselor endless hours and he doesn’t even know it.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to give back to you what you have given to me and I guess that’s what makes this work.

You encourage my deepest hopes and calm my crazy and point me to the Lover of my Soul.

We don’t hide behind masks or hide our struggles or even the things we disagree on. And sometimes our differences make us wonder if we should even be friends.

But of course we should. Because God knew what we needed; He knew I would need you.

I thank Him often for His prompting that day long ago when you picked up the phone and ignored my distant tone. You didn’t give up. And I will never be the same. This road we walk is far less scary because we have each other.

Friend, I love you.

Five Minute Friday: Glue

Trying something new and linking up with Lisa-Jo today. She does this neat thing for bloggers called Five Minute Friday. Where she encourages them to write unfiltered, unedited for five minutes, then courageously publish their five-minute-musings. I will be honest and tell you I didn’t follow the rules exactly, (in other words it took me a little longer than five minutes, mostly because my kids are on spring break and I don’t have to explain to you what I mean by that) but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?  The topic for this week is: Glued.

Go

There is so much that is broken. So much that hurts. So much that needs binding.

There is so much left empty. So much undone and untouched, loose
and lost.

And what do we do with all of that?

When you see the friend grieving or the sister who is lost. And you are forced to let go and nod your ok to God to be God.

How do you keep walking down this rocky road of life, with all the jagged and jarred, broken and scarred?

You are left helpless and hurting for the hurting. Desperate for a balm to ease the stinging, the burning, the raw.

Just something that will keep it all together, from falling apart. For the thread is thin and breaking and you hold your breath, bracing for the fall.

And you search, deep within yourself, sifting through pockets and purses, under couches and cushions. Hoping upon hope your hands resurface through the crumbs, finding just what is needed. But you are searching blindly and your hands, crumb covered, come up empty.

Empty.

There is so much that is left empty.

It shouldn’t feel heavy, but it does. And it makes you wonder if it should really be like this, look like this, feel like this. You wonder and you hope and you search.

And you remember there is One that has hold of you. The One who keeps you from slipping through that ever growing crack. Who binds you fast to Himself along with the sister and the friend.

And the three walk together, eating Rocky Road, as they walk that rocky road. And lean deep into the One who binds them up.

Holding fast the broken, filling the empty, recovering the lost.

“And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11

#FiveMinuteFriday

Grace for the Super Mom

I had just given birth to my fourth child. The baby fog was thick, so the fact that we had made it to gymnastic class on time was a small miracle.

I kissed my girl goodbye, waited for her wave at the door, and off I went to the grocery store. I was feeling pretty super that day.

As I pulled out of the gym parking lot, I noticed there weren’t as many cars as there usually were. I shrugged my shoulders, assuming the other families must be on vacation or something.

I strolled happily through the store with my three boys. This was my first trip “back” and I was feeling quite capable. I eyed the mother next to me eyeing the bananas. She looked frazzled, bless her heart. And she just had one with her. I looked at my three peaceful boys. Yep, I was feeling super.

Half-way down the cereal aisle, my weeks old baby began to scream. For no reason. He simply became hysterical. Before leaving the house I’d made sure he was fed and dry so hadn’t planned on encountering a hysterical baby. My Moby Wrap was inconveniently stowed away in the car, so I carried him in one arm, pulling the cart with the other. But that was no problem for this mom, because remember, I was feeling pretty super. I could almost feel the breeze of my cape, fluttering behind me.

By the time we hit the frozen food aisle my confidence started to slip. My previously peaceful boys had reached their peaceful peak. Judah’s screams had reached a level of decibel-desperation. And now that mother who had been eyeing the bananas was now glaring at me, as she tossed her frozen peas into her cart.

I threw my items onto the belt, threatening my boys with a glare of my own. I tried to ignore the look from the cashier. You know the one, would-you-please-shut-that-baby-up look! I dug blindly into my purse looking for my credit card, while bouncing and patting and begging the baby to stop crying. After 30 minutes of incessant screaming in a public place, you start begging.

We made it to the car. I was on the verge of tears. After loading everyone and everything up we rushed to pick up my gymnastic girl, for we were now late.

This time only a single car occupied the parking lot of the gym. I felt the weight of my heart sink into my stomach.

After squealing to a stop I jumped out of the car and ran (as best I could weeks post giving birth) into the building. I was met with two large, tear filled eyes. There had been no gymnastics class that day. This super-mom wanna-be had dropped her sweet baby off at a big empty gym.

My heart wasn’t the only thing to hit the floor. My cape slid down around my ankles and so did that super feeling I had been caressing all day.

I wanted to blame the baby fog, the sleep deprivation. I wanted to blame the distraction filled life that comes along with having four kids. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I couldn’t be super mom, not even for one.single.day.

But that is the very thing God wants me to do.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… that no man should boast before God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)

The heart-stopping minute that tiny, pink baby was placed in my arms and the nurse and doctors left the room I was completely overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility. I felt fearful and frail. Were they even allowed to send me home? Wasn’t there some kind of test I had to pass first? I was so unsure as I timidly stepped into motherhood.

But somewhere along the way my fearfulness turned into boastfulness.

I began to place my value as a mother on what I was able to do and be. How was it that schedules and laundry, cooking and cleaning, breastfeeding and homeschooling, t.v. time vs. book time, organic baby food and name brand car seats became the measuring stick I quantified my mothering by? Some days I measured up. Most days I didn’t.

It is an easy trap to fall into and one of Satan’s favorites I think. Satan wants us to believe there is such a thing as Super Mom. He wants us to so that we can be weighed down by the thought of her. So that we will feel judged and condemned and assume she thinks we are failures. All before we even get out of bed. So that we lose sight of the true way God measures us.

 “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)

Is it about having well-coordinated and well behaved children whose manners don’t match their hearts? Is it about looking good and holding it all together while the inside bleeds out? Is it about stumbling under the burden of perfection at the cost of my family, or my very soul?

Or is it about grace lived out in our own lives so that our children might get a glimpse?

A glimpse of the power shown in weakness. A glimpse of a God “who remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). A glimpse of a grace whose message is, we are all lost, all sick, all in need of salvation (Give Them Grace p.71).

Granting that glimpse of grace can be a frightful thing. A life where grace is lived out is a life that calls us to expose our weakness. To break open wide the idols of our hearts. To lay down our abilities and strengths. To accept the fact that we were never expected to have it all together.

God does not ask me to be Super Mom. It is my own ideals and expectations that ask that of me. And those quite deeply reflect the idols of my heart.

“To keep me from becoming conceited…there was given me a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Sometimes it feels like my kids are that ‘thorn in my flesh’! But in all seriousness, I believe God gives us children to expose our weaknesses, not to turn us into heroes. He wants us to be faced with our failures and confronted with our incapability’s. To remind us of our need for Him and to force our reliance on a Father who knows our frame. To offer us humility, so that Christ’s power may be seen in us.

Jesus does not want us to be weighed down by the burden of our sin and shortcomings. But rather lifted up by the reminder that no matter how we fail, he loves us all the more.

“Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

He says this to the mother who can’t keep up with the laundry. He says this to the mother who hates to cook. He says this to the mother who threw a tantrum bigger than her toddler’s. He says this to the mother who dreads getting out of bed some mornings. He says this to the mother whose kids are well behaved but their hearts are far from him. He says this to the mother who is killing herself trying to do it all. He says this to the mother who does all the right things, but her children still stray. He says this to the mother who is discontent, who is frustrated, who yells, who forgets to have her quiet time, who walks in fear, who gets angry, who is discouraged, who needs a break.

He knows our frame. He knows we are far from super. He knows all this and he still offers us his grace. He still says, Come. And he means it.

I will never forget being in the counseling room not many years ago and my counselor and friend asking me, “What do you want your children to know when they leave your home?” My answer was something like, “I want them to know how much I love them, to serve God, to be kind and respectful, to know how to work hard and to be responsible adults.” He then asked me, “What about the grace of God?”

That one question has revolutionized the way I view parenting, the way I view myself as a mother, and the way I view my children. We are simply all the same, desperately in need of the grace of God lived out in our lives.

I will end with a quote from my new favorite parenting book, Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Through this book (and the delightful women I am studying it with) my parenting is continuing to be revolutionized. It’s about one thing and one thing only. What Christ has done.

(Referring to the motivational theory based on promises of reward and/or threats of punishment)

Rather than trying to entice us by dangling an unattainable carrot of perfect welcome and forgiveness incessantly in front of our faces, God the Father freely feeds the carrot to us, his enemies. He simply moves outside all our categories for reward and punishment, for human motivation, and gives us all the reward and takes upon himself all the punishment. He lavishes grace upon grace on us and bears in his own person all the wrath that we deserve. Then he tells us, in light of all that he’s done, “Obey.” Yes, we do have promises of rewards in heaven, but these are not earned by us through our merit. Yes, there are promises of punishment, but not for those who are “in Christ.” All our punishment has been borne by him. The carrot is ours. The stick is his. Manage your children with beans in a jar if you must, but be sure to tell them that it isn’t the gospel. And perhaps, once in a while, just fill the far up with beans and take everyone out for ice cream, and when your son asks you, “Daddy, why do we get ice cream? How did the jar get full?” You’ll know what to say, won’t you? (Give Them Grace p.108)

I feel certain, if we get really good at knowing this one thing, we will become the most super moms on the planet. So watch out world.

Dear Levi

As I sit here, drinking my afternoon tea, I am pondering you my son.

My third baby. In such a short time, there were three. During a time when life was very uncertain and I was scared. I wasn’t sure God had things in control and didn’t feel I could trust Him. And then a baby.

A baby who changed everything. A baby who changed the course of my life.

laughing

You may be tired of this story, son. Tired of hearing the same words from this Momma. But who can ever tire of hearing of God’s sovereign grace over a life fraught with sin and pain?

God chose you, my son, for a great work. And he sent you to us as a baby to show me just how much He cared for me, for my heart. God is neat like that. Just when we think He doesn’t hear or know or see, He reaches down just in time and proves us wrong.

I knew in that moment when they yelled, “He’s still attached!” And when I felt your wet-warmth seep into my soul. And when I stared into those dark blue eyes in the middle of the night because you were confused as to when you should be awake. And a few months later when God whispered through His word to this weary heart. I knew. I knew there was more to it than what I was seeing.

“So we fix our eyes NOT on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

In this great big maze of life sometimes we get lost and all we can see are the wrong turns, the dead ends and the unpassable wall that’s in front of our face. We think there is no way out. That there is no purpose to the wandering. That somehow we were forgotten and handed the short end of life. It’s easy to only see the bad, the hard, the suffering. But those are not the only things. And we must tell our eyes not to land there because there is so much more. So much.

Even in the midst of those hard moments, when the breath is knocked out of you and you may be crying. Yes, even then, there can be joy. It may come as buried treasure, you may have to hunt for it, but it is always there. And just like a diamond that is hewn out of a black rock, it will shine blindingly bright in the midst of depressing darkness.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Why do I write these grown up words to my seven year old boy? (SEVEN!!??)

Because you were my buried treasure, Levi. You were the light that began in the dark and hidden place. You were the hope that fluttered inside me. You brought the joy to a weighed down momma during the long stretches of night. You were the gift on my very own birthday. A gift of fulfilled meaning the very moment you came to be.

 CIMG1505

God sent a baby another time in history who changed everything. A baby who changed the course of this world.

A baby born in the midst of great darkness whose purpose was to break open the light. To kindle the flame of hope and to ignite joy.

“For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

And because of that gift, we can find joy. Always. Even in and amongst the sorrow. How sweet of him to use another baby, you, to bring a smaller salvation to my soul. To bring the light of his face into the every day. To encourage me not to lose heart and that nothing, even the hardest of moments, are not wasted.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

I know that some of these words you may not understand right now. But I know that one day they will make sense and that is why I want you to have them now. You are precious. You have purpose. I promise.

I love each day I have with you. Sometimes I wish I could just drink you in, so that you would seep deep into my pores. It is strange sometimes for me to think that you are your own, thinking and feeling little person and no longer a part of me. I guess that might sound weird to you. But this momma-heart makes me sound that way sometimes. Letting go is a hard thing. And a wonderful thing. But sometimes it just feels strange and I’m not sure I like it. It starts the minute the cord is cut and it is a cutting that continues with every year that comes and goes by. Each year you are a little more of you and a little less of me. And really, that is so good. But it makes my heart twinge just a bit, ‘cause I wonder if it’s enough.

 View More: http://coastlineimagery.pass.us/judah

But again, I’m talking grown-up.

For now, just have fun playing with Lego’s and shooting your bow and arrow. And riding your bike and playing with friends, telling jokes and being silly. Enjoy going to school and learning cursive and a little Latin. Be a good big brother and a good little brother and a brother to a sister who sometimes drives you nuts. There is still so much divine tucked in all these beautiful, childhood wonders. Glory in them, my son. And I’ll worry with the other.

I seriously can’t even tell you how much I love you and just how thankful to God I am for you. You most definitely win the “Best Birthday Present Ever” award!

Happy Birthday!!

Love,

Your Momma

Taking Notice

I pulled my cart up to the register. I hastily unloaded my dollar items onto the moving black belt. I noticed I had too many. I shifted the phone on my shoulder, as I listened to my friend. I checked the time. I picked up the toy Judah had thrown – again – this time placing it in my purse. I hushed his cries, reaching in his diaper bag to hand him a snack. Food makes everything better.

The cashier began scanning my items, placing them in bags. I noticed her then. I noticed her round, protruding front and her swollen fingers. I felt my heart twinge in compassion as I remembered the discomfort of those days. I noticed her face. Her eyebrows close together in concentration, the breathing in and out through her mouth. I noticed the slow motion of her hand as she hovered the items over the scanner, her other hand cradling her stomach. Everything slowed down in that busy moment and I stopped listening to my friend talking in my ear.

“Are you having a contraction?” I asked her.

Startled, she looked up at me. “I don’t know, but I’m having pains.”

“How far along are you?” I continued prying.

“39 weeks tomorrow,” she answered through gritted teeth.

“Is this your first baby?” I noticed her intake of breath.

“Yes. But he’s not supposed to come until next week though, so I think I’ll be ok.”

“Babies don’t always pay attention to due dates, sweetie. You look like you are in labor to me, I think you should sit down.”

The mother came out in me then and I apologized to her for that. But it looked like she needed a mother in that moment. After prodding her with more labor-questions, I told her I thought she needed to at least go see her doctor. She insisted she had to work and that the baby wasn’t coming for a few more days. As she finished up my transaction, I realized I needed some reinforcements.

I decided to take my items to my car and find someone else who might be able to help.

Another employee was walking into the store as I was walking out. I asked her if she knew the girl at the register. She said yes, that they were friends. Relieved, I placed my hand on her arm and told her that I believed her friend was in labor and needed to go to the hospital. At this, her eyes grew rather large.

I said, “We mothers don’t always take the best care of ourselves, and sometimes we need a friend to stand up for us, someone who will take care of us. Will you be that friend? Maybe you could call her boss to see if she could get the afternoon off.”

I ended up leaving the store, feeling certain her friend would help her. I prayed for that very young, first time mother. How scared she must have been.

Frederick Carl Frieseke (American artist, 1874-1939) Young Woman with Sewing Basket

As I drove away I wondered… How often do I take notice of those who are in pain living and breathing around me?

My life is so busy. My world, all consuming. And pain-bearers are not always so obvious.

We don’t often walk through life with our wounds gaping open for everyone to notice. There are not always signs as there were with that heavily laden mother. Sometimes there are smiles when there should be frowns. Sometimes there is outward laughter when there is inward weeping. Sometimes there’s a joke, when underneath there is really paralyzing fear. Sometimes the pain is so deep and the walls so high and their hair so perfect, we are shocked when it all caves in.

But should we be shocked? Should we?

We are all broken. Every. Last. Oneofus.

The cashier, the teller, the doctor, the nurse, the pastor, the librarian, the teacher, the mother, the father, the child, the friend.

Taking notice doesn’t always equal major interruption. It can simple mean choosing compassion instead of frustration. Slowing down instead of pushing through. Kind words instead of a harsh tone. A smile. A touch. A hug that lasts longer than a second.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us, if we have and do and be all these things, but do not have love, we have nothing.

Jesus took notice. He took notice of those who were invisible to most. He saw through the mask, the shield, the disease, the age. He noticed their pain while the crowds pressed in. He stopped, he reached out, he touched their brokenness, he healed. He was busy and got tired. He tried to escape to solitude at times and yet they still came. They still pressed in upon him, touching and pulling and taking. And he gave. So freely. He gave everything.

That was why he came. To give. To take notice. To be interrupted. To stop. To care. To love. To heal. To die.

We have been called to be “Jesus with skin on”. To be his hands. His feet. His arms.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ” (Matthew 25:40)

We just have no idea what people are going through. Where they are in life. What they need. What they might be feeling.

The woman in front of you taking forever at the check-out, might still be in a fog of grief due to her miscarriage. The person driving slow in the fast lane might be distracted because of a lost job. The mother lashing out at her kid in Wal-Mart might be drowning in a difficult marriage.

We just will never know. But Jesus knows. And He puts his people in these places at just these times that we might be his hands, his feet, his smile and tender voice.

This is a hard task in this busy world we live in. Our agendas rule and our witness wanes. Our judgments mislead and we blindly follow. Our insecurities take charge and our strong wills yield to them. But if we push through these things and the isolation we prefer, asking for eyes to see, we might just make a difference in someone else’s life.

So next time you pass me and I’m looking lost. Take notice and put your arm around me, cause I’m sure I could use a hug too.