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.

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.

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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.

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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

The Sacredness of Mothering

housework print by Granger

I was on the floor. Again. Underneath the highchair. My knees were wet and I was scrubbing. Scrubbing with SOS pad in hand, trying to free the who-knows-how-long-its-been-there-food off of the floor. My nails were chipped, my hair hanging haphazardly and my T-shirt splashed with bleach stains.

When I signed up to be a mother ten plus years ago, this was not the vision I had pictured in my mind. That vision was more… clean.

No one warned me of the messes, (and if you did, I blissfully ignored you) the puke, the mound of dirty diapers, the snot, the poop, the laundry, the missed-aim pee-soaked shower curtain, the dishes, the soured, chunky-milk sippy cups underneath the seat of the car. Ugh! The car!

I didn’t know about the week long process of seasonal clothes change. Or the doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointments. Or that the broom would become an extended part of my body. I didn’t know that shower mold was actually orange and not green. Or how involved playing T-Ball really is and what it takes to get there. I didn’t know about arsenic hour.

I didn’t know that most days I would feel more like a maid than a mom. And that some days I’d forget who I was underneath the constant need to serve.

But scrubbing the floor not so many days ago, God whispered something to me. Just one word.

Sacred.

Regardless of how it felt or what I looked like, I was engaged in sacred work.

housework print by Granger

The definition of sacred is – dedicated to or set apart for the worship of a deity; made or declared holy; worthy of respect.

Our work as mothers is sacred work. It is sacred because of how God uses it to daily sanctify. A gradual process of making us holy.

As this word rolled over me, I noticed my tears mixing in with the soapy water on the floor. God had set me apart for his worship through the setting aside of myself. And after many years of begrudging the task, I somehow felt honored. Honored to be on hands and knees, in servitude.

There is something about serving another that is so good for our souls. This mothering. This caring for little ones. This demanding, often dirty, lonely work is just so good for us. It strips us of ourselves and empties us of pride. It forces us to set aside self and care for the weaker, demanding one. It makes us more like Jesus.

There is less of me when I’m kneeling low in service. There just is. And that is always a good thing.

I was reminded of that argument found in the Gospels. The one the disciples were having quietly among themselves. The one about who they thought was the greatest. Jesus is so patient with our pride. He didn’t point to himself (the obvious greatest) or rebuke them with a loud voice. He showed them by bringing a little child over to them saying, “…For he who is least among you all, he is the greatest.” (Luke 9:48)

There was another story, when a mother came to Jesus. She wanted to secure for her sons important positions in the kingdom of God. Jesus plainly told her, “You don’t know what you are asking.” He knew her focus was on Jesus’ earthly kingdom and reign, not on His eternal one. She was looking for security in earthly position, not in Christ himself. He responded with this, “Whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20)

Servanthood was a common theme among Jesus’ teachings. He knew our hearts and how hard this would be for us. We want position. We want acclaim. We want accolades and recognition for a job well done. We want what we think we deserve. That is not easily found in the area of motherhood.

Mother’s Little Angels

Instead, it is a constant giving of yourself. It begins the moment of conception when your body is no longer your own. You become the dwelling place. A vessel of life and one that must be broken open in order for life to be given to another. There are wounds and scars left behind, your heart bearing the greatest of wounds. Your life becomes a life of sacrifice. Your wants, your desires, your needs, all sacrificed for another.

This is a hard surrender. It’s ok to admit that. Because Jesus is patient with our pride. And so are our children. Their gift of forbearance makes up one hundred fold what they’ve ever demanded from us.

We are to look to them. The least of these. The least who are the greatest.

When that first baby was laid on my chest and I felt the weight of it all, I didn’t know what I had really been given. A very high calling and privilege. One of service.

It was hard falling into that roll. My inner self screamed sometimes and my outer self cried – a lot. I just wanted to sleep or take a shower or eat a meal without nursing a baby. My selfishness cried louder than my baby did at times. It caused anger and resentment and frustration. It has taken years and four babies to chip away the bondage of that selfish pride. And still it clings.

I have to be careful not to be like the mother who came to Jesus seeking only what this earth could give. There is so much more found in Christ alone. But it looks different than what we would initially expect sometimes. It is often the very opposite in fact. We have to look through a different lens. A lens of sacrifice, a lens of daily dying, the lens of hard, sacred work that takes on the purpose of holiness.

I get distracted sometimes by the gift my children are. And I miss the real gift. They are not merely given to me so that I might teach, nurture and protect them. They are given to me so that I might be taught. That my holiness might be nurtured. And my heart protected from selfish pride.

I am thankful Jesus is patient with us and that he didn’t leave me in that place of frustration. I am thankful that he didn’t give up on this ol’ girl, that he didn’t stop hammering away at my hard heart. And that’s he’s still chipping away.  I am thankful for the work accomplished through scrubbing a floor. The inside work of the heart.

It is sacred work.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but make himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

A Gift of Perspective

picture from the world-wide-web

 

We were hanging on by a thread.

Relationally. Financially. Emotionally.

The recession had sucker punched us in the jaw and our heads were spinning.

The simplest of tasks became monstrous. Taking care of three children under four, some days, was like climbing Mt. Everest in sandals. My feet were slipping and my oxygen was running low.

We were losing our house. A house we were never supposed to live in, but because real estate was at a stalemate we were forced to move into it. We tried to hold on for three years, but we were drowning in the sea of debt the economy heaved upon us. It was built by my husband. I saw his handiwork all through out it. Even the towel bar upstairs he made special for the kids. I loved that pegged towel bar. But still, it was just a house.

It was the man I was really losing.

The stress had become physical. It choked the breath right out of me and left twinges in my chest. I found myself counting the ceiling tiles in my doctor’s office while he did an EKG. I thought I was experiencing congestive heart failure. His prescription was, “Reduce the stress in your life”. Like most doctor’s hand writing, I couldn’t quite decipher what he meant. “We are going BANKRUPT!” I wanted to scream at him, but bit down hard instead.

I had to start letting go. So the dishes and toys accumulated. The mail piled up. Laundry became an eyesore. And the grass grew tall.

So tall in fact, I stopped parking in the back. The kids would have gotten lost on the way to the house from the car if I had. The weeds took over and choked out the beauty of the landscape. Much like my stress was choking the hope out of me. I imagined the many balls and yard toys hidden in the grass, buried. That felt appropriate somehow. “A graveyard of buried hopes,” to borrow the phrase from Anne. That’s how life felt in that moment. All I could see were the weeds and the other things that had a choke-hold on us.

I tried not to venture out onto the back porch unless I had to. This day I must have had to. Four year old Livie Rose had followed me, bouncing along behind me. I turned to the sound of her gasp.

“Mom!!”

“What is it?”

“Look!!!” she nearly burst.

I followed her pointed finger, but couldn’t quite figure out what she wanted me to see. All I saw were the embarrassing weeds.

“It’s a… It’s… It’s a MAGICAL FOREST!!!” Her lisp was more pronounced the more excited she got and I almost ate her right there on the spot.

I looked back out at our horrendous yard, truly hoping to see what she saw. A twinkle, a sparkle… something! Again, all I saw was a neglected yard that had once been a fun play area. So I looked back at my girl and into her eyes. That was where I saw the sparkle. Her eyes. She smiled brightly, clasped her hands and jumped the tiniest bit. Again, I almost ate her. What I saw as a symbol of hopelessness and loss, she saw as magical. A place of beauty and wonder.

Where you stand makes a difference.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about perspective, specifically in my mothering. How much it changes you in the midst of unchanging circumstances.  I have thought back to this mothering memory many times in recent days and the perspective my girl so graciously gave me that day.

Mothering can be a tough job. Many moms find themselves fighting the depression battle, getting beaten down by failure or captured by the guilt-enemy. We wallow. Feel lonely and unsatisfied. We swing in and out of victory and defeat, sometimes all within the same moment.

It’s normal. And no matter what you have told yourself, you are not alone.

But where our line of vision rests makes a difference in the daily.

Hebrews tells us to, “Fix our eyes on Jesus…” My prayer needs to be more often, “God show me where my eyes are fixed.”

When I’m feeling frustrated, when I’m yelling, when I have the proverbial towel held tight in my hand, about to send it soaring – in those moments my eyes are rarely fixed on Jesus. My ingrown eyeballs begin to throb and ache, sending a message to my soul, it’s time for extraction.

What a gross picture. Sorry for that. But really, if you let your mind go deep, to that place of sin-infection, it is a gross place. It should be seen as such, so that true cleansing can start to happen.

We are selfish beings by nature. Always. Every time. And self fights so hard to win. Most of the time, if I’m honest, it does win.

But these last few weeks, I have noticed a difference. Walking through grief is never a path I would willing choose. I don’t have to explain to you the pain of it. You know. We run from it and avoid it at all costs. But when we find ourselves sitting in the midst of it, we must receive from it what God wants to give. Perspective is a grief-gift. Yes, there are gifts amongst the painful places of grief.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights…”

We must receive it as a gift. And it must not be lost to us.

There are times when God brings us to the low places. It changes the way we see life. Small things become big. The unimportant, crucial. And things that drive us, disappear altogether. Other times God brings us to the high places. Big things becomes small. What was most important no longer matters. And things that never mattered become the most important. Messes become opportunities to serve those we love most. Quarrels show us our SELF and how to die easier next time. In the midnight moments of nursing again when your body screams for sleep, are moments that can forever change the way you pray. When shoes and lunches and papers are lost again, we can be thankful that those are the only things lost.

There is a strange reversal when we have perspective. It doesn’t have to come through grief. It can come through asking. And when you find yourself being choked out from the life-threatening weeds of those miserable-mothering-moments, know that you can have it. It can change you and your mothering.

“Fix your eyes on Jesus…”

Dear Olivia

I think I may have blinked.

I didn’t listen when they told me not to.

Somehow you are ten now and I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

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I finally figured out how to be a mommy to little’s. I know what to do when my baby or toddler cries. And what to do when they need a nap. I understand what it means to lose a favorite toy and what must be done to retrieve it. I’ve learned to be calm(er) when nothing I do seems to make it better. I breathe more often. I know how to pray for the little years, for protection and perseverance and to give thanks for the chaos. I’ve grown into this mothering-of-little-people and it fits quite well.

But this. I don’t know quite as well.

I was watching you as you ate your birthday dinner. I had to look twice because I wasn’t sure I was seeing the same girl. This one looked so grown up. So very pretty and mature. It makes this Mama’s heart quiver just a bit.

I remembered back to when I was 10. I remember being in 4th grade. I remember curling my bangs every morning and using way too much hairspray. I remember playing on the play ground at school and flipping my cocky ponytail around. I remember the layered socks I wore and how I had to scrunch them down just right. I remember making fun of my best friend because I thought it would make this boy I liked like me. I remember her face. I remember mine and how I promised myself I would never do that again. I remember going to a different church. And listening to the Bible preached for the first time. I remember all the notes I took and how I couldn’t wait to tithe my money. I was so proud of myself and told all my friends. I remember reading my Bible for the first time and understanding that it was written for me. I felt the weight of it all and it would make me cry. I remember missing my friends when we started to homeschool. I remember playing house with my dolls and wishing so much to be a mommy. I would even put a blanket under my shirt and pretend to be pregnant. It was all I ever really wanted out of life.

And you, my girl, made me just that. A mommy. So thanks!

When they told me you were a girl I was so happy. I wanted a girl. But it made me a little scared too. Raising a girl takes so much. It’s such an important job. And I wasn’t sure I had what it takes. Part of growing up as a mother, means realizing you never will have all that it takes. That’s the scary part I think. Knowing that we are just stewards of our children, that God is the real parent and the results of our parenting rests assuredly in His hands. These things may not make sense to you right now. But one day, when you are on the phone with me, crying because your baby wont sleep, or because he just hit you for the first time, or you’re afraid you are losing him or her, you will remember these words and it will all make sense to you then.

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I tease you all the time and tell you that “Mommy knows everything!” And sometimes I do know more than you think I do. =)

But really, sweetie, most days I still feel like that 10 year old girl and I’m playing house. But this time it’s for real and it makes me pray all the harder.

It’s a funny thing, this growing up. Your body gets bigger and goes through so many changes, but your inside stays the same for so much longer. I still get nervous and scared about things. I get my feelings hurt too. I wish I could have my own box of cereal and read all day. I want to swing on the playground and play with my friends. And I still use too much hairspray. I wonder if I’m pretty and if people will like me. I still feel peer pressure and make unwise choices. I cry. I want to talk for no reason about absolutely nothing and that makes me feel better somehow. I want to be wanted.

Do you ever feel those things? Do you ever wonder if you are enough, if you belong, if you are loved? Do you want others to like you and think you are special? Do you want to feel important and needed? Yes?? Oh, good. That means you are a normal girl. =)

You will feel a lot of things. Sometimes in the span of just a couple of minutes. It’s how God created us and it’s a normal part of growing up. And this Mama, she understands. Because I think I’m still growing up too.

God understands these moments too. He understands our wonderings if we are enough and He’s not afraid to answer them. He tells us in Isaiah 55:

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“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. Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you.”

God invites us to a Tea Party of sorts. He has everything there all pretty and scrumptious and waiting. We must simply come. Come with our nothing. Come to Him when we are thirsty. Thirsty for recognition and approval. We must come to Him when we are hungry for friendship and love and the things that do not satisfy. We must not waste or ‘money’, our time and effort and desires, on the things that will only leave us empty. We must come to Him and ‘eat’ from Him, for He only has good things to give us that will make our very souls delight in.

So often we settle for the crumbs on the floor. We sit under the table and hide. From Him and all that is good. To be a strong woman of God, you must trust in His goodness. That means opening your heart to Him and drinking deeply. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We must. Because only then will we not settle and will want for nothing.

Take it from this grown-up-girl. There will always be so much that we will not have, whether it’s material things, emotional, relational or otherwise. This is a broken world we live in. One that does not offer complete satisfaction. Only God can offer that. And you can have it.

These are my words for this tenth year… and every year. You are never too young to learn this vital truth.

I can’t believe I am a Mama to a 10 year old! I am so glad it’s you. Happy Birthday. I love you.

Love,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Your Mama

Just What We Needed

I know I’ve not shared much here over the last several months. But I’m pretty sure you’ll forgive me for that, right?

Writing is an emotional thing for me I’m learning. And I think I’ve been slightly emotionally depleted these past several months. Writing asked more of me than I could give, so that’s why I’ve been quiet. I’m trying to work through it. I’m pushing through. I’m not giving up on this thing I love.

Every now and then I guess we just need a breather.

A rest. A break. An opportunity to renew and refocus. A sweet breath of fresh air.

Like that salty breeze that hits you hard and only comes from the place where your toes sink into the edge of the ocean. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, hair whipping wildly, and you standing there welcoming in that long awaited relief.

Ahhh… It’s great living by the ocean.

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These last days of December 2013, that’s just what I’ve needed.

The last few years have come to a close, ending with such a heaviness. I’m starting to think that this just might be the new norm. Life is hard. But is it always SO hard?

I have watched dear friends lose dearly loved ones. Three friends lost their sweet baby girls. Another lost her husband. Another her brother. And just a few short weeks ago another friend said goodbye to her 19 month old baby boy. He was Judah’s friend and it is just so close.  There have been so many other heart wrenching stories I have heard of as well. From friends of friends and members of our church. There has been so much loss. Just so much.

We know that heaven is sweet and there is absolutely no other place we wish for those we love the most to be. But this earthly grief and separation stabs deep. And it leaves us without breath as we watch from the outside completely helpless.

Nothing else has ever taken me to this dark place of questioning. I have never been afraid of God, not like this. I have never spent so much time on the floor, completely powerless to stand. I have never, never felt this helpless or out of control. And I have never seen faith in God acted out like I have in these few short weeks.

I’ll never forget when I was 13, my brother was 10 and he was high in a tree, held by a rope swing and the rope snapped. The pressure was too great, the rope too thin, the tree bark too sharp and it just snapped. He fell and landed hard. I watched, helpless as his eyes bulged and he gasped for breath, but the air would not enter his lungs. There was panic in his eyes as he willed his lungs to work those long minutes that felt like hours. There was panic in my screams as I watched him suffer from the impact of the blow. The air was hit hard out of him and there was nothing. anyone. could. do.

I have been that 13 year old girl. Panicked and helpless. Screaming, willing for air to enter.

There is a story that I listen to often. A story I have referred to many times before. A story for children God has used for this weary heart. A story of A Horse and His Boy. The boy was seeing Aslan for the first time and it was all coming together for him. HE had been the lion who had pushed him through the waters to the violent man who raised him. HE had been the lion who had chased them through the desert. HE had been the lion who had slashed his friend wounding and causing her deep pain… How then could he be GOOD?

I have been Chasta, the boy. Asking God, how could you have allowed these things? This deep pain that takes away the ability to breath, which causes such heart ache you almost wish it would stop beating. The ache and the empty and the grief that crashes like waves, threatening to drown. Why, God? How, God? Why like this?

Like the lion Aslan has been described, God too, is good, but He is not safe.

I want to think that He IS safe. That nothing ever bad will happen to his children. That we can walk in ignorant bliss through this life and never be touched by grief. This is what I want.

But like we can ask of most things we want, is it really what we need?

What we need is Jesus. And only Jesus.

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Through this deep grief and loss I have been deeply convicted of where I place my hope and trust. While processing through this I have shared with several friends, that I have not wanted to place all my eggs in one basket so to speak. So I have placed hope-eggs everywhere. In my husband, children, relationships, finances, my house, my church, things… oh yeah, and Jesus too.

Jesus is important, but He has not been my first and only hope. Other things have taken his place, or rather, I have given His place to other things.

This was the prayer of an 8 year old boy about to say goodbye to his baby brother, “Jesus, you are our only hope… please help us to trust your will.”  When I heard this, I was brought hard to my knees. Jesus told us to look to the faith of little children. To follow their example and lead of a blind and simple faith. They accept it. They believe it. They embrace it.

As we grow up, we lose that kind of faith and trust. We push ourselves through this weary life relying on our own strength and trick ourselves into believing we have control. And then get angry with God when he tries to bring us back to a simpler, child-like acceptance of His sovereign hand over our lives. It is not safe, but it is always for our ultimate good.

I have asked over and over, “What is the good?”

I’m beginning to think that our ultimate good is to always see a clearer view of Jesus. It is not through the easy times that our view becomes less foggy. No, it is often through
times of pain, of loss. Of grief so sharp it leaves a heart-wound and that is what sharpens our view of Christ.  We are forced to stop. Forced to question. Forced to decide and take hold of what we believe about God. Only then does our verbal faith become an action faith. When everything seems to be falling apart. When reality turns into our worst nightmare. When nothing makes any sense and half your world is gone. And you still choose to believe that God only gives us good gifts. That He is never changing. That His love endures forever. That He still sees. That He still hears. That He will carry you through.

That is when He becomes your only Hope.

I am thinking of the story of Hagar. Her troubles had forced her to run into the desert. She was afraid for her life and she had come to her end. But God. But God met her there… at her end. When nothing or no one else could rescue. God could. And God did. That is where she saw Him; stripped, completely helpless, at the very end of herself. He is the God who hears. He is the Living God who Sees. (Gen. 16) And He wants us to see Him, clearly, and only Him.

I have been deeply shaken. But I know that I am settling. Settling in after much wrestling, many tears, and loud screams. My eyes burn and my throat aches, my heart throbs and my head hurts. But I feel certain my vision of Jesus is slightly clearer.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1Cor. 13:12

For my friends, there will be many, many days of grief ahead. I ache for them. I want to take away their suffering, but I know that I can’t. I would be robbing them of the great work of God in their lives. And as painful as that work can be, I know that not even our tears are wasted.

Even in the midst of such grief, I know that God is here among us. There is still much hope.

I wasn’t sure how to do Christmas this year. It felt almost wrong to celebrate. But singing the Christmas hymns, I realized that Christmas is the perfect time to see anew the true hope we have been given.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

As I sang quietly, the tears fell. My hands raised slightly opening in surrender. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…

Our world is so weary. Yet He gives us sweet hope in the midst.

I felt this in a tangible way Christmas night. The best surprises are those you never see coming.

Sitting in the midst of the Christmas chaos, a combined 6 children squirming and squealing, opening presents from aunts and uncles, Baba’s and Dadada’s, I felt a slight shift in the atmosphere. It wasn’t loud or obvious, but I turned my head just the same.

I looked over at my mom who was holding a partially unwrapped package, her eyes staring. The contents were still concealed but I could tell they held great meaning. I looked from her to the gift bearer and back again, desperately trying to discern what it meant.

Their eyes were wet and Mom whispered, “Really? You are?”

I jumped from my seat. I’m not really sure why, I just reacted to the surge of hope within me, and I jumped.

“Really. I am.”

It was quiet, but it resounded loud within me. A baby. A life. Hope born.

The tears were immediate as I yelled, “YOUR PREGANT!?!?!?!”

2013-12-27 13.04.02

My logic couldn’t believe it, but my heart screamed that it be true. When I saw her nod, my arms flew open, engulfing my brother and his wife. Hunter, a dad. Amy, a mother. A moment I really thought I would never see. I was completely overcome by shock and joy and laughter and tears. I rode the wave of emotion, letting it wash over me. Everyone joined in at this point, each family member coming into realization. A baby. Sweet hope of life reborn.

Looking around at each person there, I knew this was what we needed. I’m not the only who has screamed for answers this year or begged God for mercy or felt the burden of grief weigh heavy. None of us are alone in the weariness of life.

It was then I felt the cool breeze of relief rush into my soul. A lightness entered that had been absent for a long time. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…  I looked around and marveled as each one took turns congratulating, wiping tears, and embracing one another.

It was a moment in time that will be forever frozen in my memory. A testimony to the Living God who Sees. Who is forever faithful. Whose love endures to the very end. He, who is our Only Hope.

With that, I will take courage and welcome a New Year.

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raised the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…” 2 Cor. 1:9-10

Sometimes

Sometimes I see you and I’m just so glad to see you.

Sometimes I wonder how you’re really doing and what’s really going on.

Sometimes I ask you.

Sometimes I don’t and then I wished that I had.

Sometimes we talk and we really talk.

Sometimes life is too busy or the kids are too loud and we try, but we can’t.

Sometimes we just don’t try hard enough.

Sometimes I’m honest and I tell you what I’m really thinking, what I’m really feeling.

Sometimes you do too.

Sometimes it’s powerful, that kinship we have.

Sometimes it can change our path.

Sometimes distractions get in the way.

Sometimes we are discouraged and don’t know how to keep going.

Sometimes we are stuck and need each other’s help to be freed from our bondage.

Sometimes we just need to cry together or dry the eyes of the other.

Sometimes there’s joy and it over takes us and spills out over all and all over the other.

Sometimes there’s pain and the pain threatens to drown us and we ride the wave together.

Sometimes I’m afraid to say what I think is true, because what if it hurt you or what if it changed you?

Sometimes we walk away from each other never knowing, never seeing, missing the most important.

Sometimes we see and we really see and we meet the need.

And sometimes, just sometimes, we are true friends, sisters who would give up anything to see the smile of the other. To know they are doing ok on this road called life, or to be there to answer the call when they’re not. Sometimes God has us be His hands and His feet.

Sometimes and we will never be the same.

Dear Judah

Your first birthday has come and gone. More than two weeks have gone by… and I’m just now sitting to write your birthday letter.

I’m sure you would understand if I gave the excuse, “I’ve just been too busy or I’ve not had a moment to…”

Because that would be true. The past few weeks have been very busy.

But it wouldn’t be entirely true. 

This excuse might not make sense to you. But my mommy-heart hasn’t been quite ready to write your first birthday letter. And my mommy-heart can be a tricky thing.

This past year has been such a joy for me. I just didn’t want it to end. I haven’t wanted to admit, really admit, that your first year has come and gone. But it has. And I can say it now, if not a little quietly.

A couple of years before you were born I was somewhere. I can’t remember where now, but it was away from home. I had Olivia, Deacon and Levi with me and maybe Daddy too. We were busy and there were lots of people buzzing about, so I counted.

I counted the heads. One… two… three…

I counted again. One… two… three…

Everyone was there, but for some reason, I couldn’t shake that feeling that someone was missing. I looked around, waiting to see who it was that I was missing… but you weren’t here yet.

That kept happening. Sometimes I would get a little panicky about it. And then I would feel a little silly. So I decided to pray and ask God why it was that I was feeling that way.

And then He showed me.

I’ll never forget the first time I thought that I might be pregnant with you.

I was downtown and wanted a coffee. But as soon as I walked into the coffee shop, I didn’t want coffee anymore. So I got tea. But it just didn’t taste right, so I threw it out.

I paused for a moment. Hmmm… could it be? A few days later we would know for sure.

I remember laying in bed with my hand over my tummy and my tears streaming down into my ears. My heart was so full. Yes, that mommy-heart of mine. That one that can be so tricky. It was so happy and full of joy and I wondered who you would be.

I thought of your forming body and that verse that talks about God knitting you together. I pictured His hands at work, even then, in the hidden place of my womb. My heart rejoiced.

I didn’t know then that you would be a boy, but I knew if you were what I would name you. I would name you Judah, for my heart was Praising the Lord.

I thought I was done having babies. That’s what we had said. We had even given all of our baby things away! My heart was content with that. But I’m so glad God decided something different. For my heart has been full of praise since the moment I knew you were on your way.

As you grow, you will learn that God is always working and preparing us and those around us for… something. Sometimes it may seem like a small thing, an unimportant thing. But looking back you will see that it wasn’t unimportant after all. That God had a plan for that something and used it in a very big way.

Adding children to a family is a special thing. It is also a very natural thing. And although every baby is a miracle of God’s creation, it is also very normal and not unusual. I know I may be sounding a little wishy-washy. I blame it on my mommy-heart. It can sound that way sometimes.

But what I’m trying to say, is that God used the very natural occurrence of having a baby to do something big in the heart of this mommy.

We are all born for a purpose. God plans the time and place and family He places a baby in. It’s never an accident. I want you to grow to believe that, David Judah. He numbers our days before we ever see one of them. And God has a book that He writes all these things down in. He knows us. He loves us. And He uses our lives to change the lives of others.

And God is already using you, sweet boy. To encourage this mommy-heart. To confirm God’s blessings over my life. To whisper… I still hear the cries of your heart. Cause sometimes, this mommy-heart cries.

And just as I held you those long hours and days and months when all you did was cry…

God is holding me.

And when I didn’t sleep at night, but nursed you instead, breathing you in…

I remembered how God never sleeps, and always tends to our needs.

And when my heart would expand to yet another size and the tears would stream down at your first smile….

My heart would be refreshed at the thought of God’s favor over His children.

I have praised the Lord, my son. I have praised Him with my whole being for giving us you. I have praised Him for another chance to be a mommy.

I have praised Him for 10 more little fingers and toes…


And for the way you just wanted to be held all the time and how you don’t mind wearing your jammies to the park….

And for how you loved your first Christmas, even though you napped through the family picture and mommy forgot about you needing to be in it! And the way you are so good at eating your food all by yourself….

 
And for your chubbily scrumptious cheeks (sometimes I eat them!) And for the way you LOVE your lovey (it truly as magical powers) and suck your tongue when you are sleepy…

 





For your ears and your duck hair and the way you meow every time you see the kitties…

 


For your new teeth and the way you love to play in your Pack N’ Play… (and how you love balloons!)

 For the way you love your Uncle B. and how you ROCK a faux hawk!

For how I don’t have to see your smile to know you are smiling! And the way you are mommy’s helper in the kitchen (and yes you are wearing a tie here =)).

 
I am praising Him that you are my fourth blessing (whether you like it or not).

And for the way you are trying so hard to stand even though you’d rather just sit on my lap and smile.

And for how much you love to play with your toys and your brothers and sister. And for how you knew exactly what to do with that cupcake (eat it) and that number one (throw it on the floor).

And for how simply beautiful you are. You take my breath away. I love you my son. Thank you for filling this mommy-heart to overflowing. Happy Birthday.



You Know You’re a Momma When…

You pick up 100 Lego pieces in a day and instead of throwing them away, you put them back in the box because you know they will need them for their next building project.

You do 8 loads of laundry in a day.

You load and unload the dishwasher at least twice before dinner.

The only time the house stays clean is when your children are sick.

You reach in your purse to find your sunglasses and instead your hand comes out covered in goldfish crumbs.

You don’t hear your name until the 11th time they’ve said it.

You feel guilty for no reason.

People stare at you in Wal-mart.

You ask your waitress to change the channel on the restaurant T.V. and ignore her belittling stare.

You opt for casual comfort rather than the latest fashions.

You wonder, just what do they do with all of that toilet paper?

You play peek-a-boo through the window of the car while pumping gas… and again people stare at you.

You cry when your child’s hamster gets hurt.

You cuddle your hurt boy and kiss his sweaty head, ignoring his puppy dog smell.

You talk about your kids on dates, even though you know you’re ‘not supposed to’.

You collapse in the bed at the end of the day.

You stay up all night watching your child breathe when they are sick.

Your heart aches with love.

You have all of your lunch dates at Chic-Fil-A.

You stand up for your kids when know one else does.

You feel glamorous walking into church Sunday because it’s the first time you’ve worn make-up in a week.

Your favorite shows are Veggie Tales and Cars ‘Number 2’, and My Little Pony…

Some of your favorite conversations are with people 3 feet tall.

You cheer very loudly at T-Ball games.

You hear phantom baby cries in the middle of the night.

You hold her hand after someone called her a name… and take captive thoughts of inflicting harm on another child.

You are embarrassed to open your car door.

You step on cheerios and march their crumbs through the house… and in between your sheets.

You wash his camouflage clothes after he goes to bed so he can wear them again the next day.

You swallow your pride and let them dress themselves.

You get your exercise by dancing in the kitchen.

You don’t mind smelling like spit up.

You become a pro at hiding greasy hair.

You spend hours begging God in prayer.

You try really hard to believe Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “Don’t worry..”

Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo becomes your favorite scent.

You cry every time your read “You are Special” by Max Lucado.

Wooden spoons have multiple purposes.

Mosquito bites make you angry.

You find dirty diapers in strange places.

You feel like a champion after only 4 hours of sleep.

You consider glue and play dough and crayons and markers and puzzles a great investment.

You send messages of love in lunch boxes every day.

You somehow change an explosive poop on your lap on a crowded air plane and enlist the help of the passenger sitting next to you.

You answer letters to the Tooth Fairy in curly hand writing.

While driving yourself to the doctor, after hacking for a week, your kids ask you if you are sick and you refrain from glaring at them.

You learn to share the gospel in a very simple, childlike way… and cry tears of joy when they come to you late at night and tell you they want to become a Christian.

And then you realize that all the dirty work and long hours and tired shoulders and frustrated moments were all worth it. Because moments like these are why we are here being their mothers. To take them by the little hand, dirty finger nails and all, and lead them to the Saviour who will lead them far better than we ever could.

And we leave them at the cross for a moment, before we pick them up again, and in that moment there is peace. And we wish we could stay in that moment, but mostly we just remember those moments of peace and surrender. Because as mothers it’s the hardest thing to hand them over to God and not worry and strive and try harder. Because that is what we do. We mother. And sometimes there is fear and we wonder if it will be enough.

But it will never be enough. Only God can be enough. And we are reminded once again and try and let go a little bit more.

God knows. His heart is more mother than ours. And because He let go of His Son… we can hold tighter to Him.

Happy Mothering.

Goodnight Moon

It’s one of my favorites. That little book. I used to have it memorized, now it’s only parts I remember.

Bedtime has always been my favorite time of day.

It’s still a favorite. But I think my reasons have changed.

Before it was because I was tired. I mean, really exhausted. Mommy was done. I had been going since my feet hit the floor. Giving, giving, giving. There were battles over bowls and cups and the right color. Toy wars had ensued. Sometimes I came out the victor. Sometimes. Discipline had been accomplished. Spankings, timeouts, no t.v., no snack, come inside NOW!

We may have gone to the grocery store, if we absolutely had to. That meant one car seat captive in the back of the buggy, a walking 20 month old beside me and the older 3 year old in the front seat of the buggy. Believe me, this was how it had to be, as funny as it may have looked.

I endured the stares and comments… My you have your hands full! …You must be military, he’s home just long enough to get you pregnant! (really, do people have no couth these days!?) …God bless your SOUL!  I repeated my rehearsed replies, Why yes I do and I’m so thankful! … No, I’m not military, but am so thankful for their service to our country, military wives included … God HAS blessed me, yes. That shut them up, most of the time.

After several melt downs along the way, the kids included, we would arrive home. It was usually nap time by this point. I would quickly deposit the kids in their nap locations, some on my bed with books, others in cribs. Then I would tackle the bags and bags of groceries, which would hopefully last more than a week. This is why I didn’t need to go to the gym.

I would try and take advantage of the quiet to get dinner started, but usually got distracted at some point while putting things away. I’d end up cleaning behind the dryer or something and would later wonder why my back hurt.

By the time dinner was well under way there was usually someone on my hip and another one clinging to my leg. I had the other watching Cinderella for sanity purposes.

Daddy would come home. We’d try and have a conversation while inhaling our food over the high volume level of little ones and in between the 20 times I had to get up and go back to the kitchen for something. I’m sure someone had spilled something or picked that time to want to try and go potty and don’t forget about the nursing baby who’s internal radar senses the precise moment you sit down to eat.

Bath time was essential after dinner. Mashed potatoes were now in ears and caked over eyebrows and they smelled like whatever chicken dish I had haphazardly thrown together. I couldn’t risk a tiger picking up their scent in the middle of the night. We would all be wet by the time it was over. But they were clean and smelling so good and I would just breathe them in.

Some nights we would rock and sing and read books before bed. Most nights we would. I would pray over their fuzzy heads as I laid them down in their beds, 1, 2, and 3.  I would sigh a huge sigh of relief as I tiptoed out of their rooms, crossing my fingers in hopes of not having to return sometime in the middle of the night.

Walking down the stairs I felt satisfied. Another day done. I had survived it. A smile would creep over my potato crusted face. I would get to that later. For now, it was the kitchen that must be tackled and then the slippery bathroom and the 10,000 toys that seemed to multiply by themselves which were scattered across the floor, just beckoning you to come and step on one. It may be quiet, but the work was not done.

Many hours later I myself would crawl in bed. I may have tried to read, but wouldn’t get very far. The book would have fallen across my chest. I would turn off the light after waking around 2am. I’d make sure the monitor was on. I may have traveled up the stairs just to make sure that tiger hadn’t found them and would again revel in their stillness.

During the rest of the night my mind and body would be renewed by precious sleep. Unlikely uninterrupted, but precious all the same.

I would wake again the next morning to more diapers and tantrums and laundry and spit up and… well you probably get the picture.

I’m not proud to admit the survival-mode mentality I lived with in those first few years of mothering. But I was a different person back then. A different mother. I was in a very different season of life and I’d like to think that I’ve seasoned over time and matured just a bit. Just like with every other thing, I’ve grown better at mothering the more experience I’ve had.

Many have commented on how differently I’m doing things with number four. Again, it’s a different season, I’m a different mommy.

Tucking them in at night is different too. I’m still tired at the end of the day. They are still loud and still fight and we still battle through the grocery store. But my perspective has been tweaked just a bit. I’m not always in such a hurry to end another day.

If you combine all of my kid’s years, then we have celebrated 22 birthdays so far. That’s a lot. And I can’t believe Judah’s first is next month! The more years that flash by, I think the more a Mama realizes just how fast it really goes.

You also realize that no matter what mess or catastrophe may happen in a day, you will survive it. Even if you’ve been up all night with a sick one, you know you will sleep again. You know the crying will stop and the food throwing and the booger wiping (well, maybe) and the constant bickering and running through the house with muddy shoes… one day we will all have clean houses and we will hate it.

There will be an end to this crazy season of ‘mothering’. We will never stop being mothers, but will stop the mothering part. And we will stop tucking them in at night too. They will grow too old for Good Night Moon and I Love You This Much and all my other favorites. Some of mine already have.

That’s what I think of when I tuck them in sometimes. So I don’t mind laying just a bit longer and snuggling a bit closer. And don’t mind giving one more kiss or hug or listening to one more thing that happened in their day or meeting the challenge of tickle me too! They just love that. But I think I love it more.

So as we say good night to our young ones, let’s remember that we will one day say good bye to these precious days. We will heave a sigh of relief I’m sure, but I think we’ll miss it more. This shouldn’t make us sad. Great things and great hope come with every season of life. But maybe it will help to give us a better perspective as we fight off the temptation to rush things and wish it away.

In the great green room there was a telephone
And a red balloon and a picture of–

The cow jumping over the moon

and there were three little bears, sitting on chairs
and two little kittens and a pair of mittens

and a little toy house and a young mouse
and a comb and a brush and bowl full of mush
and a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”

Goodnight room goodnight moon
goodnight cow jumping over the moon
goodnight light and the red balloon

goodnight bears goodnight chairs
goodnight kittens goodnight mittens
goodnight clocks and goodnight socks
goodnight little house and goodnight mouse
 
goodnight comb and goodnight brush
goodnight nobody goodnight mush
and goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”

goodnight stars, goodnight air

goodnight noises everywhere