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!

 

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.

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…”

A Time

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for the things that happen in our lives.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the sun.”

This brings me comfort.

Especially when I get in a hurry for something to happen, or disappointed when it doesn’t.

Not much writing as been happening around here lately. There is a very big part of me that is sad because of that.

writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing is one of those things for me that water is to a fish, or oxygen is to lungs, or love is to a lover. Without it, the other just can’t exist.

Ok, well maybe that sounds a little dramatic. I’m not dead or anything for goodness sakes. But maybe just a part of me feels a little, well, dead.

I have always written things down. Lists are one of my favorites. And I’m a great note taker. I had a professor in college even tell me so. And I have always kept a journal. That journal has taken on different forms through the years. First it was a diary with a lock and key, hidden under the mattress. Gosh, how fun it is to go back and read that! After that they were always leather bound, some with lines, others more on the eccentric side without lines. Now, it’s here. In the cyber world of blog land.

And I love it. But I really miss it when I am kept away from it.

This past summer I went to a writer’s conference. I was a little embarrassed to tell people at first. I think I still feel a little embarrassed. It’s just one of those things.

You want to do something, but are afraid. Afraid of failing and of what other’s might think. Fear of rejection and of making a fool of yourself. Just all around fear.

I know God has given me a message, just like He gives each of us one. And He’s given me a unique perspective, because no one else has my thoughts and feelings and perspective. We all have that uniqueness and I just love that. He’s given me a passion for things and an urgency to share that through words.

But I’m still just a little fearful.

Ok, a lot.

And now I’m mad at myself for that. Because it’s keeping me from what I love and have a deep desire to do.

There have been different times in my life when I haven’t been able to write. Like in the throws of pregnancy sickness or the newborn baby fog. During deeply painful times in my marriage when I was angry and bitter. While having three kids 3 and under, when all I could do was scribble down little notes here and there. And different times when it just didn’t happen.

So I’m familiar with that feeling of frustration of wanting to, but not being able to.

I don’t know what it is about driving down the road or taking a shower or when I have suds up to my elbows or cooking dinner or cleaning a toilet that inspires me to write. I can always count on those perfect times for a fresh thought to hit me, only to watch it swirl down the porcelain throne with the flush, never to be retrieved again… Ugh!

But this is different. This fear. This insecurity. This less-than-confidence. It’s threatening to take root and so that’s why I must write it out. Process. Bring out into the light that which is threatening to overtake me in the darkness.

This past summer has been a hard one on some levels. Part of me has been shaken to the core. And I really don’t mean to sound dramatic. There is nothing that’s happened that is life threatening or deeply depressing. We are ok and life is so good. But it is life, after all and sometimes things are hard to process and deal with. But everything is for a reason and God can do so much and I am thankful.

When people you love doubt you. When they blame you for wrong and your intention was only for the good. When you never tried to be perfect, only helpful and humble, but are rejected for it. It does something to your soul.

It has done something to mine.

It has brought me to a new place. And I feel a little naked, exposed. Shy and timid. Who am I? What do I have to offer this great big world? What do others need that only I can give? Is there even such a thing? Is it still ok to be me? And what if it happens again?

So here I am. In this place. And I am asking these questions to which I have no answer. Well, not right now anyway. But I know it will come and I am waiting for that moment. When the quivering stops and I feel firm once again in His grip and nothing else even matters.

And I know it will come.

“There is a time for every event under heaven… A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance… A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A TIME TO BE SILENT AND TIME TO SPEAK…”

It will come.