Saturday, December 29, 2012

So I Had A Birthday...

On Christmas Eve, I turned thirty-three.  That's three years removed from thirty.  Three years past what I remembered to be "old."  Or at least, as old as my mom.  Or my dad.  As old as a parent.  A grown-up.  And I'm now, most definitively, three years older than that.


There's something that happens between twenty-three and thirty-three.  It's a phenomenon I think some would call, "maturing."

You see, the older I get, the less I seem to know.  The more years I put between adult motherhood and my college self, the less I know what the heck I'm doing...or which route is the correct...or which parenting guru-author is grounded in truth.  Twenty-three year old me had it all figured out.  Thirty-three year old me?  Not so much.

If this is maturity, maybe I don't want it.

I kind of liked knowing it all...or thinking I did.  There is a confidence that comes with having everything mapped out.  Black and white makes the world a little easier to navigate.

Nowadays?  There is a little more gray.  A little more uncertainty as I try, again, to find my footing on holy ground.

So I find myself going back to the basics.  Our pastor used to always say, "Do what you know and you'll know what to do."  In other words...these days?  I'm sticking to what I know.

I know God is good.  I know He has preserved His Word for this generation.  I believe in redemption and in restoration.  I know Jesus has walked on water, out of a tomb and into the hearts of all those who have called upon His name.

I know He is faithful.

I know that, at the end of it all, if the glorification of a Holy God has not been my focus, all my efforts are futile.

So right now, as years are beginning to scream by faster than I can time slips through my fingertips before I can grasp the moments and hold on...I cling to Truth.

Maybe growing up is about letting go.  Letting go of guilt...of perfectionism...of thinking I know anything about anything.

The road from twenty-three to thirty-three is paved with whole lot of failure and falling down.  And once we get here?  We've been bruised and battered, healed and restored, crushed and repaired so many times that we stare down the next ten years with a little bit of hesitation and a whole lot more faith.

Maybe it's not so bad...all this growing up and maturing.

It does seem odd to me that the wisdom I need right now, in the thick of mothering, mentoring, and muck, will not completely descend upon me until I no longer need it.

But then?  Maybe someone else will need me.  Another twenty-three year old mother will stand at the back of the church, clinging to her baby, looking for all the world both scared and solidified in her stance.

Maybe I'll have to guts to walk up to her, take her baby, bounce her on my hip and whisper, with a twinkle in my eye, "Honey, you don't know anything..."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Learning to Walk

She begged. She pleaded. She insisted. She would wear nothing else.

No matter how much I encouraged and explained, it became quite obvious...she was going to wear flip flops to the neighbor's house. Socks or no socks, one size too big, Hello Kitty embossed...they were her method of transportation this morning.

Oh I could have insisted...I could have played the mom card, picked the battle, emerged victorious amongst a myriad of tears and protests. But I chose to let it go.

As I watched her stumble across the driveway and into the grass, barely staying upright, I kind of wanted to shout, "I told you so!"

But I didn't. Instead, something clicked and I muffled a giggle.

She turned and shouted, "Do I look funny!?" I smiled and encouraged her, "No! You look great."

And she did.

She made, not the wisest choice, but the one she thought best. She'll learn...maybe next time she'll choose different shoes, remembering her difficult trek across the yard. Or maybe she'll choose the same shoes and walk it a little taller, having gained the experience.

I have to think our Father looks at us the same way occasionally. We moan and complain. We demand to have things our way, try it this way...just this one time. While our choices aren't always the wisest, they also aren't always directly in defiance of our Savior. So, occasionally, I think He chooses to let it go.

Maybe He picks His battles, too.

And as we walk through our season of life, draped in our clunky, ill-informed choices, perhaps he stifles the desire to whisper it into our souls, "I told you so."

Maybe He just lets us walk. Let's us stumble and even fall. He giggles (this I'm sure of) as we fumble along...and as we become uncertain, we turn and ask, "Do I look funny?"

"No," He says. "You look great."

Perhaps He gives us this autonomy, this freedom to stumble around in shoes that don't fit, so that we can choose more wisely next time. Or maybe He lets us muddle through, knowing that eventually we'll learn how to walk in whatever shoes present themselves.

Maybe the point is that we keep walking...keep moving forward. Refusing to stand still. No matter the less-than-ideal choices we've made.

But maybe...quite possibly...I'm taking analogies too far these days.

Perhaps it's just a four year old in flip flops...golden hair blowing as she puts one foot in front of another, learning to walk in a world unstable.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Today was the third day of our second term.  It was also the third day of our  newfound schedule.  I want to post about our schedule...about how I've learned that the children having their own schedule to carry around was very helpful yesterday.  I want to share the order we've found this year and how it is so very freeing to me.

But I can't to write about that today.  Today my schedule was broken, my plan disrupted, and my soul almost unraveled.  This is the story I want to tell.

While eating breakfast, I gave the girls their own task.  Since my foot is fractured, I can't walk or stand as much as usual.  So I gave them the job of making the crescent rolls for dinner.  I explained how to roll them out, how to butter them (lavishly) and how to cut them into triangles and roll them back up.  This, they have all done before with help.  Today would be their first day going it alone.  It was a proud moment for me as I tried to hand over a task I knew they could handle...until it began...

The unfairness of who was doing what, the discontent utterances, the flailing four-year old...I almost gave up and resolved to do it myself.  I about handed out a consequence of no cooking and made them believe they are incapable.

But instead I grabbed by Bible.  I read about envy and self-seeking and the confusion and unhappiness that accompany.  I read about being transformed and about choosing to be happy with the tasks handed to us.

The clock ticked as I launched into the story of Corrie Ten Boom and how all she could do was hold out her hand and the Lord was faithful to supply forgiveness in her heart.  I assured them that if we would only hold out our hands and hearts, God would be faithful to supply good will towards the sister deemed bearer of the yeast.

Then, quite suddenly, we were propelled into World War II and The Holocaust.  Before I knew it, I was helping them start their own lists of things for which they can give thanks.  The clock continued to tick, my checklist stood blank, yet minds were active and hearts were being filled.

I added to my own journal and there, among the words, I scratched boldly, "broken schedule."  

It's always the broken, disrupted, and cast aside that are used for His glory.  And it is no different with our best-laid plans.

My oldest ended up finishing most of her schoolwork, although she insisted on three days of grammar (I have no idea where she gets that...ahem...) and now they are at a neighbor's making play dough.

As for me, I have much to accomplish today...too many things went undone as my schedule unraveled before me.  But "today" are the days I love my job the most.  When I think it's all falling apart...when my spirit is almost unraveled...when I choose to give thanks and open the Word instead of give reprimand and open my mouth...these are the times the Lord opens my eyes to the glorious wonder of things undone.

I'm learning, slowly, to hold loosely to my plans and tightly to the cross.  After all, it's the clinging that frees us, redeems us, and makes us whole.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear Teenage Me

I've been visiting Emily over at Chatting At The Sky over the last few months.  She recently wrote a book for teenage girls and encouraged bloggers to write a letter to their own teenage-selves.  So, here's my over-active, distracted, confused, lost, loving, eccentric, hide-behind-the-chaos teenage self...

Dear teenage me,

Hi there.  It's me.  I mean, it's you.  I mean...oh just listen.  No really.  Stop asking questions and, for once in your life?  Just. Listen.

First things first.  Please stop wearing those bright orange and purple Adidas pants everywhere.  They aren't that cool and are too big.  Really.

You will be elected to student body president your senior year.  Being on the stage in front of the school will never bother you.  But at 32 years old, you'll think about it and you will feel nervous.

In several years, cell phones are going to have capabilities unlike anything you've ever seen.  Everyone will be carrying them.  And instead of calling each other on them, they will stare at them and type messages to each other.

A kid will write horrible things about you in an underground school newspaper and years later, your feelings will still be hurt.  Try not to let it bother you.  Everyone doesn't have to like you.

On that note, stop trying to make everyone like you.  Their approval is not the end of your worth.

You don't have to always be the one talking.  Spend more time listening.  You'll be glad you did.

Slow down enough to see the world around you...or at least enough not to crash into it with your car.

You will go away to college, only to go to three colleges.  What you are looking for you will never find in the next town or on the next campus.

You will sit on a bed in a college dorm room with a Bible in your lap, afraid to open it for fear of what you might find.  Open it.

You senior year, you will get up in the middle of the night to scribble some notes about a paper you are writing for your English class.  You will continue to do this.  Always.  And when you are older, words are how you'll make sense out of life.

You'll get an A on that English paper and your teacher will say you have a gift.  Listen to her.  Major in English or Literature.  Skip Psychology.

One significant conversation with a best friend is more meaningful than a group party.

You will learn the art of placing a tissue on your pillow when you cry yourself to sleep so you won't wake up to a soaking wet pillow.  No, I'm sorry.  You will never outgrow unleashing the day's burdens into your pillowcase.  But the burdens you carry now are not significant compared to the ones you will carry as you grow.

That guitar player at Young Life?  In a few years, he will take you to the mountains and ask you to marry him.  He will love you more deeply than you can fathom and you will spend years wondering why.  He will call you from work three times per day, every day, just to see how your day is going.  He will love dogs and mountains and music and Jesus.  And you will fall in love with him every time he opens your door.

You will have three daughters.  You will homeschool them and grind your own flour for bread.  No, I'm dead serious.

Denim?  No.  You'll dress normally.  You're one to talk, Miss Purple Pants.

You will listen to your babies breathe as they sleep and feel as if it's your own soul breathing in and out.  You will never tire of that sound.

Go ahead and break up with that boyfriend your senior year.  You will break up soon enough anyway, and there is no sense in dragging it out.  Oddly enough, he will die in his twenties from a heart condition.  You will go to the visitation and see his mother, pregnant with your third child.  You will feel guilty that you carry life when she just lost hers.

Your best friends will not be the ones you have now, save one.  This best friend will hate that guitar player...just for a short time.  Her grandfather will die soon and you will feel guilty you weren't there.  Try to be there.

One day, believe it or not, you will long for solitude.  Sometimes you will want to be quiet and just sit.  And knit.  Or read.  Or write.

Your Bible will be your most prized possession.  You will read of blood and sacrifice and a cross and a hill and it will all make sense to you.  And you will weep.  For the orphans, for the oppressed, for the lost...and for you.  For the teenage you that never really embraced Truth or understood the cross.

Put down the phone.  Don't get in your car.  Stop worrying about boyfriends and spats and squabbles and pep assemblies.  Find the hill.  Run to hard and fast and don't stop until you sit on a mountainside and stare headlong into the eyes of a Redeemer.  Tell Him your story.  And listen as He tells you His.


Me, You, Me,

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Quiet

There's something about the sun.  The way it rises and falls every day.  The way the life of all in this world depend on its rays.  Dependable.  Constant.  In it we find life, rest and warmth.

It's no wonder Jesus called Himself the Light of the world. It's not at all surprising that our savior compares His love to the source of all warmth.

This world is fallen and lonely and sin permeates every ounce of resolve.  The sun beating ceremoniously upon my is here I find peace. The light of the world burns out my worries as the Light of the World speaks clearly from the throne.

This place.  It cannot be replicated inside walls.

Likewise, our Lord cannot cannot nourish our withering souls unless they stand clear in the open air.  We can put up walls...mount defenses...sit inside our air conditioned castles surrounded by moats of self-righteousness...and, while always shining, the Rays will bounce off the stone-cold walls of our hearts as we stand emptied and sick.

Healing can only come as we venture we remain vulnerable and clothe our weariness with humility.

Only when the screens fade and we sit in silence can our Savior be  heard.

He speaks in the quiet.  Our souls receive nourishment in the calm.  And our hearts are more stilled as we embrace the solitude.

Let us take a moment midst of the hurry...and sit quiet in the Son.
"The warmth cascades over my shoulders.
The light burns bright as my soul responds.
Drops of tranquility slice the stillness and ripple into the blue beyond.
I, lone and purified, sit
And marvel as the beauty hangs low in the clear, vast blue."



Monday, August 6, 2012

Encouragement for the New(er) Mother

My baby turned four this summer.

Something happens with the turning of four (in my house at least.)  Rationale becomes easier, fits start to dissipate, and in the place of the flailing toddler, there stands a little girl.

As outings and dinners out start to become pleasant and effortless, I find myself lamenting the loss of the babydom in our home and recalling with a sad smile the times I was humiliated at Target by someone's antics, or was so tired my eyes crossed after being up all night with a teething baby.

I'm thankful for many things as I journey into, what seems to be, a completely different season of mothering.  But mostly I'm thankful for other mothers who, through the pages of their books, taught me to never fear the trenches.

The trenches refine us.  They perfect us.  And they are necessary in this eternal endeavor. They are not to be feared, but embraced; and so wholly that the trenches fall away to billowing prairies and we find ourselves having come through the impossible into a connection inseverable.

Fear of accomplishing the impossible (the spoiling of a baby's heart and mind) drive mothers back from their God-given instincts every day.  Every day a mother, somewhere, cries as connections are slowly altered.

The fear and trepidation to simply parent from instincts alone has permeated American motherhood.  What if she never learns to sleep by herself?  What if I nurse him when he cries and he learns all he has to do is cry and he get what he wants?  What kind of toddler, young person, adult, am I raising if I give in to all of her needs?

I stand here now (okay, I'm sitting, but you get the idea), eight years after the birth of my oldest daughter, and I can, with a clear conscious, proclaim the above fears to be lies.

The tie that binds us to our babies is that of nurture and response.  I'm a failure on many levels (if you've read here long, you know this), but one thing I am thankful for as it all passes away, is that I am (mostly) free from regret.  I don't have to worry if I held my babies enough, if I loved them enough, if I gave enough.  I gave everything I had and, truth be told, sometimes I still fell short.  Not because I had needy babies.  But because babies need.

They need to be held.  They need to be fed.  They need to be nurtured.  They need to be rocked and soothed and cherished.  They need a mother.

So I encourage any of you today who are reacting.  You, tired and fearful mother, who, all day long, move from one emergency to the next.  As your child makes you look like a horrible mother inside Wal-Mart and as your parents and friends tell you to stop rocking your baby or she'll die, smile and know that your child will survive it.  You will survive it.

And as the babies disappear and leave young children in their place, the twisted truth is that you might actually miss the tantrums and all-nighters.  Just a little.  Just enough to assure yourself you gave it all you had.

I have to think it's all the giving that connects us so forcefully to our children.

And, as I always say...deep in the well that is mothering, there is Living Water.  Give fully, immerse daily, and drink heartily.

Monday, July 2, 2012

She Swims

She stands shivering on the platform, her blue swimsuit sitting wet on her petite frame, skin shimmering in the smoldering light.

The water looms deep and she falters. "I can't."

The words slip out, barely audible, and she turns back towards the way from which she came. She thinks of giving up.

Her head snaps up as her name is called from the water. "I wouldn't ask you to do it if I didn't think you could."

Her instructor comes a little closer and speaks again into the silence as the trepidation mounts.

"I'll be right here if you need me."

The words elicit a new resolve, however meek. She returns to the edge of the board and hesitates again. She looks hard into the blue, her eyes full of determination mingled with fear.

Then, quite suddenly, her legs pulse and her arms stretched our far into the unknown...she jumps.

Her eyes squeezed tight, she hits the water with a vivid splash. Her head emerges from the water and she flails.

"Swim to the side!" comes the cry from the mentor she's known so well. The flailing intensifies and the voice touches her ever so lightly on the arm.

Her eyes open wide, her head barely visible above the water, she refuses to move toward relief.

"I can't!" Lack of faith...lack of resolve...breaks forth from her tiny body and time stands still.

The instructor leans in close and speaks. "Yes you can. Now GO."

Harsh and gentle. Strong and sure. The truth hangs long in the stifling air.

She lets go and the child...the baby turned little girl...she swims. Realizing there is no other way out, she calls on what she's been taught and moves fast to the rhythm of her heart, beating fast and furious in this transitional moment.

Her kicks are strong. Her arms sure. And she is safe.

I replayed the scene all day. Proud mother reliving the accomplishment? Yes. But more than that, I keep hearing the words of her instructor. Harsh-seeming words in the moment, buried deep in the well of encouragement, they hold lifelong implications.

I'm a hand holder by nature. I nourish and I respond.  I rock babies and carry them incessantly on my hip.  My role, however, is slowly quickly changing.  I've spent a lot of time pondering the fading away of all things baby.  As the rocking chair gathers dust in the corner and I find my arms perpetually empty, I often wonder where this new journey will take me.

Perhaps it will take me here. To the edge of an endeavor. To a moment where a pair of big brown eyes stare searchingly into my own as she flails in a sea of unknown.  Longing to swim, but afraid to drown, she'll falter.  No longer a baby...a girl turned woman...she'll stare hard, breath deep and whisper, "I can't."

I only hope as these moments arise, as the vast blue looms and the heart aches, I'll have the courage to let go and whisper it with forceful hope and love.

"Yes you can. Now GO."

Friday, June 1, 2012

Keep Running

I started running again.

It's amazing to me how quickly habits fade away and how readily our endurance wavers. It's also amazing to me how after one run...the first after a long hiatus...I feel stronger.  It's as if running one day (and I use the word "running" loosely here) shed ten pounds and made me healthier.  After that first run, I half-expected my too-tight jeans to fit loosely again.

Obviously that's not how we are designed.  It takes weeks of training...hours of reap the benefits.

However...there is something about simply running that keeps us healthy.  That makes us feel strong.

The day we surrender to Jesus, we begin a journey.  We set our feet upon a path from which we cannot return.  Some days we sprint.  Other days, our run is a little slower as we are burdened by the cares of a fallen world.  Some days we feel exhilaration as our feet pound lightly on the path and carry us closer to our destination.  No matter our speed, the fact is that at the end of one run...we are not a whole lot healthier than when we woke up.  But there is something about simply running that keeps us healthy.

My husband calls it an enduring race.

Each day, we wake up, our path stretched out before us.  We begin our day anew with a steadfast resolve to chase after the heart of our God.  We read our Bibles, care for our children, sweep up their crumbs, hold their hearts, converse with friends, and journey a little closer to our Jesus.  Some days it's almost as if we ran a little if a proverbial ten pounds is shed from our loads.  But most days?  We fall into bed at night, exhausted from our run, the results of which barely inched us along in this journey called motherhood.  But we can smile as our head hits the pillow...because the race is one of endurance.  Because our feet never stopped moving.

It's the daily running...the pursuit of a Holy God...that defines our goals, perpetuates health and sends us headlong into holiness.


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Tulip

Her tiny fingers fumble towards the petals.  She touches the edge of yellow velvet and starts to peel it back.

I place my hand upon hers and explain the deep truth so many of us fail to see.

"You can't peel back the tulip petal before it's ready to bloom." 

She looks at me confused.  "But...all the others are already in bloom...I just want to help this one..."

Her dark eyes, so innocent, so pure, look searchingly into my own and I explain further.

"The flower blooms when it is ready. When the sun shines upon it at just the right time and the rain falls in just the right way and the flower is nourished and ready...then it opens. You can't force a flower to will only break the petals."

Oh that we mothers would all take a lesson from the tulip.

We can't force our children to learn any more than my daughter could force that tulip open.  But the tulips...they all bloom don't they?  Some earlier than others...but eventually...when the time is right...the flower opens toward the sky and spreads her petals.

Every day we have a choice about our efforts.  We can pour ourselves into nourishing the soil.  Or we can force the petals open.  The former encourages blooming.  The latter disrupts the process and crumples beauty.

The child is forced to sit for hours and "learn" when she has not the capacity.  Phonics forced down the throat of a child who isn't ready.  Handwriting demanded of a child who has not the fine motor skills to produce anything legible.  We've all done it.  We've all sat at a table and stared across it at a child whose eyes are glazed over and who isn't processing.  And at that moment, we have a choice.  We water the soil...or we force the petals open.  

I read a quote a couple of years ago in Elaine Cooper's book, When Children Love to Learn that sums it up well.
"No children should be kept in, sitting on a chair, anywhere in God's world because someone has decreed that they, even though not developmentally ready, have reached "the age" when they should learn how to read."  (p 32)

I love this.  Nowhere, on God's Green Earth, should a child be forced to learn something before he is ready.

The tulips want to bloom.  All of them.  Their stems reach upward, their petals growing closed, there they stay until the day of their fulfillment.  The day which has been ordained for them to push forth and blossom completely.  And let us not forget that, when it clouds over, the rain threatening to pound against their vulnerability, they close up yet again. They protect the beauty resting within...that which we all strain our eyes to see as we pass by.

When it is safe.  When the sun shines bright.  When the roots are nourished...the growing complete...then, and only then, do the petals open.  They stand tall against the blue sky, bright and bold.

We behold their glory...and in it we see our Creator.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning to Savor the Journey

I was a horrible mother this week.

The state of it all...the house, the schoolwork, the meals...I struggled through it, dragged my children through the day and barked orders.  I lamented about time, about mess, about toys and books not put away properly.  I felt crushed.  Burdened.  Buried.  I tried to dig my way out, but I couldn't get to the top of my laundry pile or to the edge of my sanity.

I failed. 

A dear friend offered to keep my kids for a couple of hours today so I could dig a little more. Get a little closer to the surface.  And what I found was startling.

After de-cluttering toys in the basement, filling two boxes for thrift stores, I climbed the stairs.  I was working fast...hard...only 2 hours and so much to get through.  I entered a closet upstairs, prepared to rid it of all its unnecessary necessities once and for all. (I know that, one day, if I'm not careful, the owner of this closet will end up on t.v., crying as the Hoarders Police carry away the puzzle she never liked but was "too much in her memory" to part with.)

I walked into the closet and faced the shelves jam-packed with items, books, toys and things with zippers.  I sighed as I stared, wondering where to start.

Quite suddenly, the scene faded and another took its place. Images flashed and startled.

The shelves looked pristine. White.  Empty. Clean.  Bare.

The image loomed and I couldn't rid my eyes of its sight.  I stood, paralyzed as the box dropped from my hand and the truth of that image burned straight into my heart.  The clothes hung improperly on the hangars, the stuff placed precariously on the shelf, the shoes piled in the was all gone.  The mess was cleaned up, the clutter removed, the shoes but a memory.  And my heart ached.

My spirit broken, my resolve crushed, I stood and stared.  More foreshadowing thoughts invaded the scene.  In the wake of perfect shelves, cleaned and pure, I saw a woman with time.  Full and in abundance, she was blessed with the commodity.  She was able to contemplate a never-ending stream of thoughts without interruption.  But there was less to contemplate.  She walked through a pristine house.  But she was alone.  She wrote to her heart's content.  But she had less to talk about.  

The mother who, just some short years ago, yearned for clean and put together suddenly longed to see crumbs on the floor.  She ached to see messes, to hold hands, to teach multiplication and read stories.  She longed to  go back, do it again, this time with a calmer spirit...with a heart that understood the brevity of these years.

I'm not sure how long I stood there, staring, before the rightful image took its place.  Slowly it came into focus...the mess reappeared and I saw something different.  Instead of a messy shelf and unruly clothing, I saw a sensitive heart and a mad dash to save the memories lest they cease to be.

I glanced at the empty box in my hand...back to the heavy-laden shelf...and through my spirit into the longing that lingered.  I closed my eyes tight...yearned for a new heart, a new beginning, a chance to do the week over and embrace the messy that is motherhood.

Beckoned by the cross, running to the throne, I chose grace.  Cleansed...washed white...a new beginning.  Oh that I would embrace it fully!  That I would refuse to let the enemy steal my sunrise and knit regret together with failure.

I resolved to try again.  To make more effort to hold the hands responsible for the mess and help them, yes, learn to clean up their own...but more than that I desired oh so desperately to love them unconditionally. To live this out experience a peace and calm in the bits of chaos that envelope this life.

I left the closet as I had found it, carried the empty box back downstairs, and journeyed to gather my children.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Glory Shines Dark

I was disappointed with the sunrise this morning.

The clouds overshadowed the glory and spread the foreboding message of a quenching fall.  Over the whole land, there was light…the clouds did not succeed in eradicating the rays of fire altogether…they managed to escape and somehow, someway, the land was getting brighter.  But there was not the shining, powerful glow of so many other mornings.  The sun, drenched in beauty and power, remained hidden by moisture-laden clouds come to cleanse, purify and nourish this dry world.

I sit here, most mornings, and it is almost as if the desire of my heart alone pushes the glorious orb into the morning…almost as if it dawns just for the sake of my soul.  The light cleanses and in it I see redemption and a new beginning.

But not today.

To keep reading, follow me over here.  I am guest posting at Sisters In Bloom today.  Come be part of the community!
Sisters In Bloom

Friday, February 17, 2012

They See Me

"Watch mommy!"

She climbs, unhindered, high into the tree and my breath catches.  I worry about scrapes and bruises and broken arms.  I worry she is climbing too high, that the next branch might be slightly out of reach.  But I smile.  "I see you!"

She beams.  She needs this.  She needs to hear her mother ooh and ahh over her accomplishments, praise her efforts and support her endeavors.

The truth is...we need it, too.

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the math lessons, the history readings, the laundry folding, the food preparation.  We feel invisible or, worse yet, buried under it all.  And sometimes we just need someone to praise our efforts.  Ooh and ahh over our accomplishments.  To whisper heartfelt words of encouragement.  To say it out loud.

I see you.

We walk home, basking in the sunshine, carrying our tokens of nature, and I wonder who sees me right now.  I wonder if anyone cares that I'm constantly sweeping the kitchen floor and wiping away crumbs.  I wonder if anyone notices the long hours I spend in the kitchen or the effort put forth in the education of these minds.  I wonder if I'm truly being buried under my workload...invisible to the world as I labor and love.

"First one to the house wins!"  She voices the challenge loudly as the house comes into view.  We all take off and I, the last one there, come rushing into their joy.  My baby girl throws her arms around my leg and says it into the cool air. "I love you mommy."

And the Voice I have come to know so well speaks tirelessly and the words quicken my heart.

They see you.

We all walk into the house together.  I gather up the jacket and gloves and begin, again, in the kitchen.  I smile as I work and I know it is true.  They are watching right now.  They can't comprehend the work or the effort.  And they know nothing about selflessness or motherhood.  But they see me.

The life I pour into their souls and this home is worth the effort for a lot of reasons. But today...the reason that touched my this truth.  A mother chasing hearts and nourishing souls is a woman to be noticed.  Not by the esteemed of this world fallen...but by the hearts of these children given.  And that is reason enough.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When There Are No Words

I sit outside, under the warmth, in the midst of song and I struggle for words.  The leaves scuttle across the walk in front of me and my soul aches to etch it all, make it timeless, help me remember.

For whatever reason, words are how I make sense of life.  Maybe you too?  Maybe you make sense of it all a different way.  But as I sit in the midst of beauty, my kids playing underfoot, my fingers itch to make sense of it all, breathe life into it all, by giving this glorious moment words.  And I have none.

So I scratch it onto paper bound and sitting precariously on my lap:
How do you give words to the song?  How do you reduce the scattering to mere verbiage? How does the wind on my face permeate my pen and find life?

Perhaps the moments God truly comes near and enters in are too big for words and are best left just to be.

Perhaps the act of "just being" is worship enough and the inability to fully remember only increases the majesty of future moments.

Sometimes fear drives my pen.  I am scared I will experience moments in life and forget them.  That is how I feel right now...amidst the leaves, the birds and the sun...that it will all dissipate as soon as I enter my home, fallen and messy and work-filled, and I will forget.  

But maybe forgetting is the gift of brand new.

It may be that those moments serene that capture our hearts are best left alone to discover again another another moment, surprised by beauty.

It may be true that we should read more than we write, listen more than we talk, be still more than we are busy.

Maybe sitting at the feet of Jesus is enough.  Maybe I should try to be more like a Mary and less like a Martha.

I turn to the oh-so-familiar story as the wind rustles my pages and am comforted to see something I hadn't noticed before.

Luke says that Martha was "distracted."  But Mary?

"But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42, emphasis mine)

Mary didn't sit at His feet in vain...a memory that will fade into nothingness as her days stretch out into years.  A serene moment only to be pushed out by living and striving.  A promise...this moment, tranquil at the feet of our Savior..."will not be taken away from her."

Sometimes in a mad scramble to remember sacred moments, breathe life into an experience, they can almost become desecrated.

It is true that the giving of words to all lessons and moments holy in my life is an act of worship.  It is true that God is glorified when we stop and give credence to our thoughts and experiences by recording them.

But it's also true that maybe...sometimes...our words are lacking, our vocabulary too minute, our pens to slow to capture true beauty. is enough to just experience the beauty and sit at His feet.

Perhaps there are moments where, instead of penning words for worship, we ought to forsake words for the sake of worship.

Maybe, sometimes, it's enough to whisper thanks.  Say it is good.  And breathe deep of His splendor.

Continuing to count in 2012 at slow, but steady pace.  Searching for every place the Lord leads me...
69. Friends who make me a better "me"

70. The sound of rain

71. Wisps of little girl hair, smelling of sunshine

72. Sixty degrees in January

73. Homemade pizza with neighbor friends

74. Warm fire

75. Rosy cheeks

76. Clean sheets


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Missing Bible

Its absence is hardly noticeable in the stack that stands before me.

I think back 12 years and see a young girl, barely college age, walk into a bookstore. Heading straight to the shelf marked "Bibles", she looks around, her ignorance in this task falling hard on her soul as her eyes squint to make out the titles on the shelf above her.

She chooses.  It's is white, paperback, with trees on the cover. It says something about "College" in the title and was one of the least expensive on the shelf. She buys the book and, in the car, crinkles up the pages so it looks well worn.  So the others at the Bible Study might not know hers is brand new.

It was the first Bible I owned.  I read it sporadically, made notes randomly and carried it everywhere.  But it would never become well-loved and worn like the ones that stand before me today.

I smile faintly as I see the my favorite, the one I've had now for ten years, and I think of how many times I've run my hand of the words, as if I could drink in the glory from my fingertips.

My eyes roll over the titles and I know that first Bible, white with trees and the few sporadic notes among the purposefully folded pages, is missing from this stack.

Another memory flames  bright and I see a young girl, not much older than the one who sought out the Bible in the bookstore, speaking with an almost-stranger in a jewelry store.  They both sit behind the counter, the customers sporadic at best, having spent the bulk of their coin during the Christmas season that had now, quite suddenly, come to an end.

"So, why exactly did Jesus come to Earth?  Just to see what it's like?"  The questions erupted honest from her tongue and the girl, void of theological training and barely sure of simple answers herself, answered her the only way she knew how.  She spoke simply of a Savior, muttered something about Jesus standing in the gap, and spoke plainly about sin being a condition of our souls more than individual acts during our day.

She continued to pepper the poor, ill-prepared girl with questions.  She answered the best she could and drove home that night, heart aching from the empathy, spirit crushed from feelings of inadequacy.

Armed with No Wonder They Call Him The Savior by Max Lucado and the white, tree covered Bible that was one of two she now owned (due to a Christmas gift that year), she entered the jewelry story one day later.  And she lent them to the curious girl.

The book was returned...but that first was kept a little longer.  And the young girl, new in her faith and unsure about a whole lot of doctrine, knew this.  She would never ask for it back.

And I never did.

It was never returned...she moved away, got married after a whirlwind romance and I've not seen her since.  Sometimes I wonder about the Bible, where it is, if she ever picks it up...if she's ever scoured her house looking for something else entirely and come across these words of life, etched onto paper.

And today, again, I think back to that time...think back to a gift accidentally given...and know it was no accident.

I stare at my stack...the God-breathed words of our Savior layered upon my shelf...and think about the people of Vidunda.  These people have no Bible that can be accidentally given to them at a jewelry store, on the street, or anywhere else.  Because no Bible contains words they can understand.

What if they had even one verse? What if they could read, in their own language, the words of our Savior?  What if the Sword of the Lord would come alive in their hearts and in their lives and what if they, too, would have the privilege of scouring their house and finding His love letters poured out?

Make no mistake about it...Jesus is faithful and speaks to this ravished nation.  David declares in the Psalms:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
-Psalm 19:1-4

The people of Vidunda see God.

But imagine tears rolling silently down the face of a man reading these words for the first time.  Imagine how he nods his head and whispers, in his own language, "It is true." He opens the new book, gathers his children on his lap and read them a story they have only felt in their core and seen in the heavens.  Suddenly, the glory of God is manifest through words.  Life-giving words that bring healing and a Sword to a people lacking both.

This is why we preach to the nations the glorious deeds of our Lord.  This is why we work tirelessly in our endeavors to see God proclaimed among the nations.  It is why He came. Jesus, himself, quoting Old Testament scripture, said it was so.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
Luke 4:18-19 

Today, the One Verse bloggers embarked on this project: to find every Bible we own and blog about the experience.  The other bloggers' stories are linked up at My Journey to Authenticity.  What about you?  What if you scoured your house for every  Bible you own? What would you learn?  What stories would rush forth and demand to be told?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nourishing Sisterhood

A game board rests on the floor, the pieces weary from the constant interruptions.  The game is taken up again, occasionally, when someone remembers its presence and calls us back to the task.

One woman speaks.  “Remember that meltdown I had a week or so ago?”  We all smile and nod and listen as she confesses the same truth we all know to be true in our own lives now and then.  “It turns out, it wasn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought.”  We all laugh and smile and someone tells her she has an excuse for dramatics since her husband is out of the country.  We all giggle like girls and embellish upon what could be excused by this truth.  And I think we all hurt a little inside as we say it, but we keep smiling…keep upholding her in love as we walk this journey together.

Then we talk of mothers and how we overcompensate for our own and their shortcomings.  It grows quiet for a moment and I think we all are contemplating our own weaknesses and how our children might overcompensate for the ways we continuously fail them.  I think someone whispers something about grace…or maybe it’s just my soul whispering it inside my own self…but I know we all hear its song.

A sister mentions her mother-in-law and we all groan a little and laugh and smile and, in loving jest, remember our own moments of angst with the mothers of our husbands.  Then we look to the mothers of boys in the room and say the things their daughters-in-law might say about them and we all laugh at the thought and know that, even then, we will be there to hold each other’s hearts.

We talk of being grandmothers and how we will love our children and theirs and the legacy we want to leave and I think we all wonder what that day will look like.  We remember forward to a time when we might all sit in the same way, on the floor, and tell stories of a new generation.

We speak of Biblical wonders, of falling hard, of receiving grace, of failure and of triumph.  We look into these weary, loving yes and we whisper it silently.  I know.

You see, only another mother knows what it is to be up all night in sacrifice.   Only another mother knows the crushing pain of guilt as we fall hard every day in our endeavors.  Only a sister can see inside your soul and know, even without speaking, the hurt that lingers and the joy that abides.  We know and we empathize and our empathy is the most forceful of its kind because it flows from a heart of having lived it too.

I think briefly how tired I might be tomorrow as someone runs to the kitchen for chocolate and another gets out a new game.  We joke about who is winning and who has lost but we all know it doesn’t matter because the game is not why we are here.  The game is not what dragged us out in the rain late on a winter’s night away from our families.  The game is not what anchors the mother with the nursing baby to this carpet, rocking her cherished, the fourth one she’s birthed.

It’s this.  It’s the loving, the living the laughing and crying.  And I forget about being tired and think about being real.  We eat chocolate in the warmth, our faces aching from the joy, and are nourished.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Real

It's Friday again!  I,  miraculously, had five minutes today.  Five Minute Friday is the brainchild of  The Gypsy Mama.  The idea of writing straight, for five minutes, letting our minds run wild void of the worry of editing and re-writing.  It's fast, fun and oh so freeing. In her words:
Around here we write for five minutes flat on Fridays.  We write because we want to, not because we have to. We write for fun, for joy, for discovery.

We just write without worrying if it’s just write or not.

Today's word:  REAL

My daughter's birthday is tomorrow.  Today we baked a cake...created beauty and made a mess in the process.  This is real.

Real is understanding our messes are what make beauty tangible.  Real is living life beside our children and letting them see us fall...and watching as we cry out to the Lord to be lifted up again.

Real is never pretending and always embracing the messy kitchen that is life.  Real is setting aside perfection for the sake of grace, striving after our God for the sake of redemption.

Real loving...real living...real mothering means never being afraid to pull out all the dishes, spill cocoa all over the counter and eggs on the floor.  Because, at the end of it all...after the messiness dissipates, all that's left is the rising splendor, baking our mistakes and spills into miraculous beauty.

Real memories invade our souls as we make messes and grace raising up our own for His glory. Childhood is fleeting and sometimes we forget the memories and the mess will, someday, be all that is left of now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Confession and Grace

I was talking with a friend recently about sin...about looking sin full in the face and calling it what it is.

Without this...without the confession, there can be no redemption.  There can be no grace for our transgressions unless we admit them.

It's easier to make excuses for our sin...hide behind them and claim they are not sin at all, but something else.  We call them personality flaws, the result of too little sleep, the fault of someone else.  After all, the first thing sin always does is blame someone or something else.

I am learning this...and I want this truth to infiltrate the hearts of my children.

I want to take my children to the the place they can find freedom.  If I allow them to continue to make excuses and hide behind faults...they will forever be caged within a wall of sin they cannot break down with their own strength.

Today...I was blessed to take my youngest there.

I glanced over and she had that look.  You know the one...the one that says, "I just did something and I am really hoping you didn't just see that."

I was busy this morning cleaning the kitchen after breakfast...and I could have just left it alone.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't let her hide behind her sin, lest she fail to find freedom.

"What did you do?"  I asked.

Her reply? "I'm too nervous to tell you."

Oh sweet girl.  How many times I've been too cowardice to admit my own sin...too scared to stare it down and call it what it is.

"Just tell can tell me anything.  You don't need to be afraid."  

Fear not, my child, for I am with you always.

Tears.  "I just can't.  I just can't tell you."

My heart breaks as I leave her on the chair.  I finish my task of cleaning up the kitchen as I cry inwardly.  Please...please let me take you to the cross. Please let me give you grace. Please give me a chance to show you the power of a God who came down.

I come back and sit next to her...and after twenty minutes and a lot of coaxing, out it came.

"Did you eat ice?"

Eyes wide, tears brimming, she nods slowly.  I smile inwardly at a child who feels such remorse for a small transgression.  But I know the feeling...she wasn't sorry she ate the ice. She was remorseful for the disobedience.  Sin.

I look deep into her eyes and speak, "Ice can hurt our teeth...we aren't supposed to eat ice, are we?"  She shakes her head...eyes searching mine.  Then...I take her there.

"I forgive you."  

Her tearful, soulful eyes open wide and reflect relief and adoration.  She throws her arms around my neck and buries her face into me.  Eyes squeezed tight, I hold her as grace washes over both of us.

She doesn't know it. She does know the ground on which she stands right now is holy. She doesn't know that, in this moment, she is being washed in this grace only because her mother, years ago, swam in it.  And that her mother, even now, every day, drinks deep of Living Water and is washed cleaned...again.  She doesn't know that this moment foreshadows all the moments she will need redemption...that this is not the last time she will confess and be restored.  She doesn't know that this grace permeates her mother's heart and leaves her breathless.  She doesn't know the blessing of giving grace back to a daughter after it's been lavished up on her so.

All she knows is that...right now...she's forgiven.

May we all be like this little child.

I wish that, more often, I would fail to see the future transgressions and just live in one moment of grace...that this moment would be enough for now.  That I would ignore the stifling voice that beckons me to remember this isn't the first time I've messed up and it won't be the last.  

That I would breathe deep of the redemption and let it completely cleanse before moving on.

Today this is my prayer.  To receive grace fully and completely.  To acknowledge my sin so I may be redeemed and set free.  To spend my free moments at the foot of the cross and exploring the empty tomb.

And I pray these moments are given back to my children as I take them to the cross, through the empty tomb and straight to the Throne of God.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Moment Redeemed

Tears brim as the clock ticks.  The chaos beckons and I sigh wearily.

In this moment...I'm not thankful for anything.

Truth be told, I want it all to go away. To dissipate into the air I breathe and leave nothing but peace and contentment in its place.

Unfortunately, that's not how it's designed.

I close my eyes and remember.  Remember the truth Ann discovered and shared with the world. I scratched it into my journal and breathed deep of its truth and yet I still forget.  Forget the wonder of the power of a simple word, spoken in the depths of my soul, that brings healing to all moments.

I grit my teeth.  Hard.  My insides scream and I yearn to do anything but give thanks.  My insides all twisted with the heat of frustration, I steady myself.

Then I begin.

As I walk about and put the home back in order...I start naming.  One by one the tormenters of my soul become nourishment by the method of naming. 

46.  Toys to clean up

My heart clenches tight and I almost quit.  I almost quit the thanks for the sake of total abandonment.

Grace washes over me and I begin again.

47.  Laundry to wash

48.  Persistent three-year-old

My breath starts to ease and I feel the beat of my heart slow.  Just a little.  Just enough that I hear it.  The beauty that always cleanses...that of the outside world.  I listen...and a faint smile touches my lips.  I give it a name.

49. Wind rattling the windows

I walk upstairs and am confronted with more to count.  More mess.  More frustration.  I breathe deep and begin again.

50.  Rooms littered with clothes...dolls...stuff...creative play

The floodgates open, they gush forth.  This naming...this opening of the eyes of the soul to that which the Savior puts in our path...the embracing of the ugly as beautiful...the turning of every moment into a reason for always leads us straight the cross.

51.  Opportunities to serve

52.  Hearts to teach

53.  Souls to nourish

54.  Moments of despair and frustration

55.  The cross

56.  Redemption

57.  An empty tomb

58.  Lessons on patience

I whisper thanks and drop an anchor into time and feel it all slow.  The ticking clock...the heart beating fierce...the elevating lamentation...the quickening falters and I breathe easy.  I am anchored here, to this moment...and the miracle of it all leaves me breathless.

Thanks always precedes the miracle.

I run to my journal of thanks, children and chores pulling me in every direction.

I put the pen to paper and breathe life into my thanksgiving.  Words spoken in our minds are fleeting and, no matter how profound, remain elusive.  When we take the time to etch them onto paper, they are forever etched onto our souls.

The truth is harsh, but real.  It is not difficult to give thanks for the obviously beautiful that stares us full in the face.  The leaf wafting into a ravine as I bike a trail with my family...the crunch of leaves as my children romp in the autumn wind...the tinkling laughter of a small child.

It's this.  This mess that beckons us to joylessness...the trials that either bring us to our knees or bring us to our knees.  The weariness that invades our life and begs acknowledgement.  The pain...the mess...we will take notice of its infiltration.  Will we choose lamentation and complaint...or will we embrace the mess and let it be redeemed by the power of thanks?

Counting.  Searching.  Seeing with new eyes the beauty wrapped in all packages. Right here.  In every moment...there is joy.

Will you take the Joy Dare with me this year?  Count 1000 Gifts in 2012...and watch the miracles unfold.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Living Water

I stare out the window before daybreak, eyes searching for the first hint of light on the horizon.  I contemplate the dream I had last night.

There was a heart…broken in half and filling up with water.  As the water filled up the crevices, it began to overflow profusely.  The water ran faster and spilled out and over the bowl-shaped, half empty heart and into…the soul.

The outpouring of water into a broken heart fills up an empty soul.

This very odd, crazy dream seemed everything but.  It seemed so very real.

As I sit and contemplate, one eye on the horizon and the other on my keyboard, it reminds of the Samaritan woman at the well.

She sits by the source of life…thirsty.  As she works, her mind must have wandered to her life circumstances.  A wandering woman, void of a home.

He comes.

He comes, a Jewish man, shows the Samaritan woman love and reveals Himself to her.

And as He speaks, the river of living water rushes forth and fills her half empty heart.  The heart that has been rotting away for years is healed by a Jewish teacher…sitter by the well…comrade of thieves…Savior of the world.  And her soul is quenched.

I sit, wait for God’s majesty to fill the sky and feel like the Samaritan woman.

My heart is half full…battered and broken as I struggle to thrive in a fallen world.  I sit by the well…thirsty.  It’s quiet and I wait for the glow to fill the sky and cleanse my heart.  Beauty…Jesus manifest.  I wait.

This is where I am made whole.

Before you can be made whole, you must be broken.

The truth pierces the quiet and I flinch.  I know its truth.

Before Jesus could climb out of an empty tomb, He had to hang on the cross.  Bruised. Beaten.  Nailed.  Bloody.  Broken.

Before my soul can become nourished with living water.  Before my heart can be made whole.  Before my I can live a grace-filled life before my children.   I must allow myself to be broken.

This means admitting I don’t have it all together.  This means allowing messes to invade my perfect plan.   It means surviving…thriving…in the chaos that is life.  And allowing my heart to be broken, battered and torn in the process.

Then…and only then…can we truly be made whole.

When we allow our hearts to be broken for the sake of servanthood…for the sake of being transformed...this is the place Jesus dwells.  Waiting to mend us.  Waiting to pour living water into our hearts and watch it spill over into our souls.  In the quiet places of our lives…the torrents of the world gushing through us…this is where we find life.

The sun rises.