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!?!?!?!”

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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

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.

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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.

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.



The Weight of Chains (Part 1)

When I start writing on topics like this at first I am really excited. I have all of these words and thoughts and feelings tumbling around in my head that just can’t wait to pour out on a fresh white screen.

I start typing and words start flowing. But before I realize what’s happening, my thoughts have gone into 32 different directions. I get lost trying to follow each trail of thought. My eyes start hurting from squinting at the now cluttered screen, so I close them and close the computer, determined to try again tomorrow.

And I do. But now 50 some tomorrow’s have come and gone and I’m still hopping from trail to trail like a little bunny rabbit. I want to get it right. No, perfect. And because that is an impossibility that will never happen, I never finish. My thoughts stay locked up in a muddled mess in a little folder on my computer.

Well, I’ve decided to do some spring cleaning (a couple months late).  I’m kinda tired of having little folders like that cluttering up things. So here we go. It may be a little unfiltered. You may have to step over some briars and thorns as you walk along my trail. But hopefully you will be able to see through to my heart and what I’m really trying to say. And maybe I’ll figure it out too along the way.

This is a topic very close to my heart. It’s personal. I’ve had experience where this is concerned. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and am still walking this long road.

It’s a hard topic to discuss. People get offended and get their feathers ruffled. There’s a lot at stake here.

What if I am? What if you are?

No one wants to admit that they are legalistic. That’s not really something nice to be identified with.

There is a lot of fear tied up with that word. Fear that we really might be. Fear that someone might think that about me. But mostly fear is what motivates our being legalistic. And how do you overcome that? 

I think it’s important before we ever explore a topic like this, to first truly explore our own hearts. I don’t want anyone to feel the heat of my pointed finger in their face. Because, believe me, the rest of the four are stabbing me hard in the chest.

Our hearts represent our true person and reveals so much about us. But to be honest, I’d rather not explore that dark cave. It’s too scary, sometimes dirty and going there can make me feel isolated, cold and alone. But I must. I must enter that dark heart-cave, I must explore the caverns and crevices. Otherwise, how will I know?  

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

I’d rather not believe that. It doesn’t necessarily conjure up nice feelings to think about the fact that I’m beyond cure. I mean, where are we supposed to go from there? There is no recovering from that.

The next verse says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind…”

I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
 
Proverbs 4:23 tells us that the heart is the wellspring of life and that above all else, we must guard it.
 
One definition describes wellspring as, “A continuous, seemingly inexhaustible source or supply of something.”
 
It’s where it is, people. And I mean everything.
 
Glancing in my concordance at the back of my Bible I’m amazed at how many references to the ‘heart’ there is. It would be impossible to list each one. But here is a little recap of what God says about our hearts…
 
Our hearts can be::
 
hardened, prompted, opened, unified, cut, circumcised, uncircumcised, changed, made pure, examined, stirred, broken, contrite, undivided, divided, upright, joyful, thankful, bitter, jealous, wounded, steadfast, secure, set free, wise, sick, at peace, happy, good medicine, anxious, given, hasty, stolen, awakened, sealed, calloused, carried close, revived, washed, deceitful, a fire, luke warm, focused, confused, lost, new, glad, pure, impure, gentle, humble, laid bare, encouraged, sincere, enlightened, set, refreshed, senseless, faithless, faithful, willing, poured out, searched, far away from God, written on, known by God, troubled, ruled by peace, guarded, set on things above, grateful, sprinkled, cleansed of a guilty conscience…
 
They Can::
 
hate, murder, serve, love, observe, turn away, look for God, hold a grudge, obey, know with all of itself, be glad, meditate, receive, hold God’s law, hold secrets, hold wisdom, cherish sin, fail, extol the Lord, deceive, seek, hide God’s word, cry out, keep commands, ache even in laughter, guide the mouth, stay on the right path, love, pound, rejoice, know God, produce evil thoughts, forgive, doubt, waver, ponder, believe, anguish, grieve, make music, do the will of God, work at it, have thoughts and attitudes, yield, crush another heart, hold eternity in, burn, make room, condemn us…

Our hearts are powerful. And it is more than just an organ that pumps blood and gives life. It is the wellspring that all of our soul-being comes from. Our thoughts, feelings, motives, decisions and so much more that I will never understand.

That is the part that scares me. I will never truly comprehend even my own heart.

Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Knowing the true contents of our hearts is only a God-size job.

We may think we know something about it.  But we must be careful. Because we’re probably fooling ourselves. We are never as good as we think.

Maybe you are like me. And right now I might be tempted to let my heart give up. I am so thankful for Scripture in moments like these. Especially this one.

1John 3:19-20
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

For all you Bible scholars out there, yes, this passage is definitely dealing with more than just feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. (Bless our hearts) But for all our hearts sake, no matter where we are in our walks with God, I think it’s safe to say, that God is most definitely greater than our hearts… and what they are capable or incapable of.

That sure makes me feel better and is quite a good note to end on for today. I hope to come back to this topic soon. It appears life may be slowing down a little to make that possible with school and baseball ending. But I don’t want to say that too loud!

When we do come back to it, I’d like to look at what legalism is and is not. And to see what it may look like in our personal lives (and by that I mean sharing what it looks like in my own). And I really hope not to get lost along the way of this tricky subject. The roads can twist and turn quite a bit and I wouldn’t want to lose anyone (myself included) to motion sickness!

Come back if you so dare!

 

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.

Toiling.Hoping.Waiting.

It’s amazing how you set out to do certain things in a day. Important things, because, well, they are important. And then in an instant it all changes. And none of it is important anymore.

It is amazing how your heart can feel, well, normal. And then in an instant it is hurting. It’s swollen with grief and you grasp it, holding tightly willing it to keep beating.

It’s amazing how you have no need for the tears resting just below the surface and then in an instant, they are there streaming down your cheeks, running down your neck and you are gasping in anguish.

This, my friends, was the start of my day yesterday. But so much worse for my dear friend Rebecca and her sweet family as they received that call in the middle of the night that told them that her brother, their son, was gone forever.

We are reeling. Me from a distance, watching the tornado wreak havoc on their souls. Them caught in the middle and being pushed and torn and battered by fresh grief.

In moments like these I am forced to wonder. Understanding escapes me and I am left with a gaping wound of wondering. The heart is bleeding out and you look up to heaven seeking the pressure to stop the flow.

My eyes have landed on James 5. God has been using this sweet book in so many different ways to bring me comfort and healing and conviction as of late.

 
Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it,
until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is at hand… Behold we count those blessed who endured.
You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings,
 that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful…

We are toiling in this life. We are farmers planting things, plowing, digging, pulling, aching, hoping. The crop has not been guaranteed us. We wonder if the rains will come or if the hail will come first. We do our best, we work hard and often we are disappointed, because our efforts did not grant what we had hoped it would. It doesn’t make sense, because the formula should work. You prepare the soil, you plant the seed, you water the ground… it should then produce fruit.

But often times we do not account for the scorching sun, the wreathing winds, the crushing storms that devastate us. And how do we recover from those?

The how is in the …compassion and mercy… of our God.

And in the knowing that this is not the end… strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand

I was listening to a Focus broadcast just a few days ago. They were talking about heaven… how timely. Have you ever said, “When I get to heaven I’m going to ask God…”? Randy Alcorn, author of the book, Heaven, said that really, we wont have to ask. Just seeing God face to face will make it all clear. Just the sight and full, unfiltered presence of the Lord will quiet our questioning hearts, will silence the “what if’s”, will reassure our doubting wonderings.

In our unglorified state we do not even have the capability of understanding the dealings of the Lord. The why’s, the how’s.

That is why he tells us to be patient. There will come a day… there will.

In the meantime, there are tears and toiling. The grief cuts us open leaving us raw. We ache for truth and for healing. And I ache for my sister who has ached for me in this real-life friendship we share.

I will go to her tomorrow. I will cry with her. I will listen. I will bear her burden as if it were my own. I will pray and beg for healing. These are the important things now.

And I will be patient as I eagerly await the coming of our Lord.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.