New Things

I was at a friend’s house this week in the historic part of our little Midwest town. As we caught up over the sound of squealing and under the sound of small elephants racing above our heads, I smiled wide at the memories our kids were making upstairs and the conversation we were having downstairs.

I will admit to being slightly distracted though. Not by the cacophony above our heads, but by the fact that it took a minute to distinguish exactly where each noise was originating from. You see, this house is a plethora of old wood floors, charmingly squeaky and winding staircases, clever little nooks and lots of original cabinetry disguised as furniture. I love it even more for it’s scarcity. One of the things I miss the most about New England is it’s history. The way nothing is torn down, but made new. How old homes change with each new owner. Everything here is new construction. And though I love our own home here, it has not yet achieved the character that this one has.

I’m falling a bit in love with it’s noises when I remember another favorite house of mine. My grandparent’s house when I was growing up. Oh, the sweet memories of racing around that house with little cousins! Laughter bouncing off walls as we bounced down the “hidden” staircase. Screaming scared at having to retrieve something next to that old boiler. The endless circles as we raced and explored every crooked inch of that house. Every corner a hidden treasure.

I think what I love the most is how these old houses have morphed, changed, grown and adapted to their occupants. A wall here, new shelves or flooring there, they evolve with the families they hold.

And over time, as their contents grow, they often do too. An extra room for an extra child. Maybe a garage when Dad’s paycheck grows too. Eventually, they’ll burst at the seams with big kids, big personalities and big future dreams.

And just like a new birth, just when there’s no more room in there, they send forth bright, shiny new (hopefully) adults.

And….now I’m all misty. Forgive me while I have a mom moment. There were lots of big “firsts” in my house this week. Loss of last baby tooth, loss of first baby tooth, etc. Also, I may have just fully comprehended that I am sending Oldest Son to High School.

I’m also sending Baby Girl to Middle School.

And as if that’s not enough for one poor mother to handle…Mini Hubby is starting Kindergarten.

Feel free to send me Kleenex.

And waterproof mascara.

So, I’m waxing nostalgic and thinking of how quickly this time thing goes. About big, old houses giving birth to new generations. Yup, sappy. Maybe more like a brand new car off the assembly line? Except each one completely unique. Boasting a sticker, Hand Crafted, Handle With Care, or maybe, Organic (If you’re considering smell).

Yes, I’m a tad emotional this week. I’m also worrying about our house. About what it will look like someday. And are we making the right choices to ensure the best outcome and best possibility for our kids to be fully independent someday? We have a lot of unknowns. But I’m also grateful. Because as I’m tempted to worry about the future of my own little unique creations, I am reminded that they bear another sticker, SOLD.

They don’t belong to me. They have a Father who loves them more than I’m capable of loving. One who knows exactly what’s best for them and is with them even when I can’t be (like in kindergarten, middle school or high school). They’ve been paid in full. And the cost that was paid for them was phenomenal! You don’t make that kind of investment and then not take care of it. Whenever they leave this nest, I know they’re in good hands.

Buying Into Busy

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I pulled into our local big box store’s parking lot and being a creature of habit, pulled into our usual spot. Also as usual, the begging for junk food and toys started hardly before I’d put my beloved minivan in park. This time though, I was distracted by “the smell”. If you were ever a teenager with no money, you know the one. That hot, greasy, mechanical smell that indicates (far more reliably than those lights on the dashboard) something expensive is wrong underneath the hood. If you’re like me, and you smell it while driving, you hope that it’s the guy in front of you. But if it’s still there when you’ve parked, you know you’re in trouble.

I was in trouble.

I sent a quick text to Hubby to break the news. Then, an SOS to Auntie Mamie in case I wasn’t able to go pick up Oldest Son. Whom we had just dropped off at tennis practice. And in that three minute timespan my other two darling offspring decided this was an opportune time to fight over spilled water. It’s almost as if they can smell my nerves fray as strongly as “the smell” coming from the van. I hustle them out of the van, past the Expect More, Pay Less sign, and into the air conditioned entry so they can argue over who is going to clean the germ infested handle of the cart. Really, have they no sense of self preservation at all?!

Considering our property taxes are due the end of the month, Hubby has a bad tooth and no more dental for the year, the dog needs a trip to the vet, and my van has “the smell”, I am now seriously counting on this store to live up to it’s pay less promise. Herding (now wet) cats through the store and trying to remember my grocery list, I’m also texting with Hubby and Auntie Mamie about the van. In light of the impending cost of repairs, I’m mentally crossing off batteries for the Xbox controller as I make plans for Auntie Mamie to follow me home and promise Hubby I will do no further driving. He’ll stop on his way home for parts and we will have to postpone our fishing trip with grandpa.

I’m distracted by the fact that no matter how I rearrange my plan, there is just not enough time, or money, in this day. But still I’m trying to squeeze a few more minutes and a few more dollars for what they’re worth as I squeeze more into my cart. And almost walk, distracted, by a sister. As we talk, I’m reminded of meals I’m getting ingredients to make. And the sweet lady that needs them. I share the request for prayer for that family and possible needs they may have in the future. In those five minutes of conversation, God purposefully drew my gaze from me. And toward Him. Away from my texts, away from my shopping list, away from my undone chores at home, my schedule Tetris, and away from my bank account.

How easy it is to fill my cart, fill my life, with anything but Him! And isn’t that exactly what the enemy would have me do? Fill my every moment, my every thought with something else?

If time is money, where am I spending my time? What am I spending it on?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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What am I buying with my time?

I look into my cart and I realize I’m too often buying busy. I’m buying distraction. I’m buying into probably the biggest lie of our age. I don’t need more time. I need less “stuff” to fill it.

This road we’re on the last couple of years has taught us so much. When you walk through the fire, God has this way of burning off a lot of the excess. Out of necessity mostly, we’ve purged not only a lot of “stuff” as far as possessions, but a lot of “stuff” that took up our time. The result being we have less “stuff” to take care of, to spend time on. And, we’ve been trying to be very purposeful in stewarding our time as well. Limiting kids’ activities, electronic time for all of us, and saying “no” more often to things so we can invest our time wisely. (The learning to say “no”, even to good things, to say “yes” to better things, always reminds me of Jesus leaving the multitude to pray.) Turns out though, that this learning and adjusting is apparently a continuous process? Sigh.

Finally in the check out lane I pry Mini Hubby’s hands from the totally fascinating toy he has to have but would forget about by the time we got home and get an email from another box store telling me the things I need to get because I “deserve them”. This is when I may have asked Baby Girl to go put back the box of Peanut M&M’s I may have impulsively grabbed to make me feel better about “the smell” on the way home. (You know, because I deserved chocolate.)

I’m much less frazzled on my way home with Auntie Mamie tailing us to make sure we get there and the post tennis, smelly, teenage boy in her vehicle, not mine. The kids get to work unloading groceries and unorganizing my pantry while I talk with a friend about her latest trial and make plans to have coffee and talk in person. I take a break to video tape Mini Hubby’s latest Imaginext superhero adventure so he can watch it when he’s done and then promise to listen to Oldest Son’s latest favorite song after he’s done showering. Lunch and a nap for Mini Hubby leaves me with a little Minecraft time with Baby Girl before spending some time in prayer.

My van is still in need of repair, Hubby’s tooth still hurts, the dog hasn’t gone to the vet, we still have to cancel fishing plans, my chores aren’t done, but somehow I feel like I’ve made the right investments for the day?

Trying not to buy into “busy”. Jesus, help me!

Treasures-in-Heaven

Blessed by Less

This 4th of July morning bloomed sticky hot in the Midwest. One thing I’ve learned in the 20 plus years of living here is that when the humidity hovers anywhere near summertime Fahrenheit in these parts, folks run for water, ice cream and air conditioning. You see, that long, hard, winter freeze gets right into our blood while we’re hibernating up here and thickens it right up. As a result, our inner thermostats consistently read approximately 20 degrees above the rest of the country. You laugh, but wait till you see us in shorts and flip flops in 50°. (How else will they get a full month’s use?)

So, this morning everyone is running to family cabins, lakes, boats, and barbeques. We’ll celebrate our Independence Day with loads of red, white and blue, fireworks and food. If we have a veteran, we’ll bring him or her an extra hot dog and thank them for their service. Later, at a more reasonable temperature, we’ll break out the Smores and probably some apple pie and sparklers. Off and on today I’ll think about the privilege of living in the land of the free. And because of God’s grace, I’ll also think of the responsibility that implies.

Just a few years ago I bought the kids their “Fourth of July Outfits” that they’d never wear again. Hubby spent a ridiculous amount of money on things that would literally go up in smoke and we had just gotten back from a rather expensive, but fun filled week long family vacation. Things were good. I called myself blessed. I was thankful. I’m even more so now. But a lot has changed since then. The things I considered myself blessed with are quite different. These last few years we’ve been richly blessed with LESS.

I realize this is a very anti American sentiment on a very American holiday, but let me explain. I have this thing about comfort. Sometimes it gets all confused in my head with security and love. And it wasn’t until God removed many of my comforts that I realized the depth of this confusion of mine. If you’d asked me if I believed in a prosperity gospel I’d have told you, “No!”. But, I did on some level, believe that if God loved me he would provide for me the way I wanted. Turns out, since He loves me very much, he allowed me to learn that my security and love comes from Him alone, and not my circumstances. Since I’m a rather slow learner, and I really do desire comfort far more than I should, this is a process that will likely continue until He calls me home.

Here’s the crazy thing. Our lives will never look the same as they did a few years ago. Our bank accounts will never be so full, our credit will likely never recover and all those future plans we had will look completely different. Yet, I feel so richly blessed by less.

Today, I can say “no” to my children and know that it’s okay. That just because I CAN give them something, doesn’t mean I should. I know that even without a penny to my name I’ll still know my Father loves me because I’ve felt that love when I didn’t even have that penny. I’ll watch the town fireworks somewhere and be unafraid. Seriously, this is a big deal for those of you that know me. (Whoever thought explosives were FUN and decided to incorporate them into a celebration for a country that earned it’s freedom through deadly explosions…. well, you see the irony, don’t you??) And I’ll celebrate more than just my freedom of speech, right to assemble and bear arms. I’ll celebrate my freedom from a few idols and fears that held me captive for a long time. A little rain might adjust my plans for the day, but not by any means ruin it. There are far worse things than getting wet.

Yup, I’ll be celebrating my anemic checking account with a day at home, sparklers (hazardous sticks of flaming metal I’ll let Mini Hubby hold) and hopefully a good barbeque and quality family time. Thank you, Lord, for functioning air conditioning and a roof that doesn’t yet leak!

The Other Mothers

This mother’s day is a bit different than the past four. In a good way. Or a mostly good way. It started a few days ago when Oldest Son and Baby Girl had their latest appointment in neurology.

Neurology hasn’t been my favorite. This place of MRI’s, EEG’s, spinal taps, bloodwork and few answers but more questions makes my heart race nervous in the parking ramp. That day though, kids touched noses, hopped on one foot and images stayed the SAME. This momma breathed deep, exhaled grateful and smiled to her eyes for holding steady. Steady hands, steady legs and steady labs. This momma stayed up late overflowing grateful. And guilty. Heart rejoicing and heart weeping. Oh, she sang praises on the floor of her closet, wrapped warm in undeserved grace. Then prayed hard for the other mothers.

All of this mothering is hard. SO hard. But there is some mothering that hurts more than others.

The kind of mothering that happens when you lose a child to mother. I saw that this week. Prayed for that momma and hurt for that momma as she stood in front of a school she no longer had a child at. What does one do when you have a lifetime of love for that child and the lifetime is far too short?

The kind of mothering that happens when a child goes their own dangerous way. Prayed for one of those beautiful mommas this week too as she watches and prays and waits. Waits for that child’s saving, fully aware that she can’t be the one to do it.

The kind of mothering that happens when one does all the things to be a mother, but hasn’t been given the gift of the child. I prayed for one of these precious ladies too. For she has helped mother my own babies. Will continue to pray that she understands the beauty of mothering whatever children God gives you, no matter what that looks like.

And finally, the kind of mothering that happens with a special needs child. These other mothers weighed heavy on my heart this week. Because not all of them get to hear good, steady, news.

These other mothers stare fiercely brave into the hardest things. Things they won’t tell you. But I will. So you can pray for them too.

Their sleepless nights last far longer than those infant years. These warrior mothers navigate hospital halls, insurance denials, government paperwork and medical equipment. Always advocating, always fighting. They have grieved a diagnosis, mourned a prognosis. And if it’s a degenerative condition, they’ll grieve the loss of each ability, one by one, over and over again. And at the end of their hard days, their want to give up days, they might break a little knowing the only break they’ll get is when their heart breaks.

Or, they don’t have a diagnosis at all. Oh, I’m hurting for these other mothers too this week. You see, our diagnosis is CTX. And after years of research, I know about all the mommas before me that knew something was wrong. That did all the things to find the answers. And lost their babies before they found out what they were. I also know that there are likely hundreds of mommas out there right now, praying for this diagnosis and might not get it in time.

You see, I know I’m the momma that’s had a few hard years. But I’m also the one that gets the diagnosis, the treatment, the good doctors and the steady news.

So this Mother’s Day, I’m rejoicing and grateful for good news. And I’m praying for all the other mothers. That they know The Good News. That they find their rest in the only One who can give it to them. And that they know that there are mommas praying for the comfort and strength they need to persevere.

Birthday Suit

Trigger Warning!

If you fear aging, or vague references to female anatomy, this blog post may not be for you.

If, on the other hand, you are brave and have a sense of humor, forge ahead!

Today I’ve turned 38. I’ll wait for the applause to die down.

I know, big stuff, right?! Believe you me, I’m as surprised as you are. (This is even more shocking for anyone that spent time with me as a teenager.)

Unlike some people, I’ve always really enjoyed my birthday. Even as I’ve gotten older. Maybe it’s the cake and presents. Maybe it’s because I value life a little more than I once did. Kind of strange, but I even love the lines by my mouth and eyes that prove years of laughter. Even my many scars come with great stories. I truly desire the wisdom gained by experience.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take both the 18 year old body as well as the wisdom if given the opportunity, but since I live with a teenager it is very evident to me that one cannot have both a youthful body and wisdom. What I am saying is, that normally I’m very content with the trade off.

Now, all this to say that this is the first year I may have freaked out a little as my birthday approached. I believe it’s completely warranted but I’ll let you decide what you think.

For the past several months I’d been experiencing pain on my left side. As there was a lull in the kids’ medical care, I decided it would be a good idea to get it checked out. After a couple ultrasounds, a CT scan and plenty of bloodwork, it was determined that I had a cyst that needed to go, along with some girl parts that were no longer required (Congratulations, you survived the vague female anatomy reference). After some watchful waiting and discussing and a lot of sitting on the couch with a heating pad we decided laparoscopic surgery was necessary. I’ve had a few surgeries over the years so this was less upsetting to me than it was to Hubby. (Maybe because he knew he’d be mom for a bit?)

Surgery was a same day affair and really went off without a hitch. I generally have no issues with anesthesia and have actually been told I’m kind of a good time while sedated. After a little trouble getting my bladder to shake off the anesthetic, I was discharged and sent home that evening. This is when things sort of went downhill.

I was sitting on the couch, propped up with a half dozen pillows a day later when I started to cough. If you’ve ever had abdominal surgery you likely just winced and recoiled a little. And you’d be right. I drained a couple more glasses of water coffee, soda and juice as I tried my best to brace with a pillow for each cough but as the day wore on, the coughing grew worse. At this point, I am mentally cursing every drug addict that has been part of the opioid crisis that has left me without pain medication after surgery. I’m short on sleep and long on sarcasm. Not a great combination when I call the surgeon’s office begging for a cough suppressant. I may or may not have been a bit unkind when the very helpful nurse asked if I’d tried hot tea, bracing with a pillow over the incisions and a humidifier. She called in a cough suppressant.

Fast forward a couple of days and the cough has turned into the most horrible cough you have ever heard. The very helpful nurse calls and gives me the good news that the pathology of the cyst was benign. Yay God! But that endometriosis was confirmed. (Ha! Tricked you with another female anatomy reference! Don’t Google it. Trust me.) This did not make me any more kind.

Now, I’m gingerly “rushing” around the house to get the kids ready and out the door for school when it happens. The most horrible cough starts up. And this time won’t stop. Literally one after another, until I can’t breathe. My chest is actually sucking in as I’m clutching my sides in a vain attempt to stop the searing pain. I’m pretty sure I’m a goner. When I realize I’m going to throw up. I actually do run to the bathroom and almost make it. Almost. While I’m steadying myself to try to get down onto the floor I’m sucking in breath like a fish out of water. I know at least my eyes are bulging. And tearing. And because it can always get worse, my poor little over worked bladder decides it has also had enough.

So, there I am, gasping for breath, shaking, exhausted, in pain and covered in my own bodily fluids. I give up on the idea of getting the kids to school and stick them in front of the Xbox. I climb into the shower and I start to cry and pray and cry some more. When I’m done, I call the clinic for an appointment.

My sleep deprived brain goes right from the city of Molehill to the top of the mountain. I spend the remainder of the day looking around my house at all of the mess. The overflowing laundry baskets, the piles of stuff EVERYWHERE, the stack of unpaid bills, the children going on 6 hours straight of electronics and am certain that I’m worthless. I am falling apart. I can’t clean, cook, drive, do laundry or paperwork. I can’t even hold my bladder! By the time Hubby gets home I’ve just about taken the train all the way to Crazy town. He can’t possibly be attracted to me. Half my girl parts are gone (Sorry!) and of course I’ll just end up losing the rest of them because, well, endometriosis. Sigh. Hubby does his best to annoy distract me and I make it to my doctor appointment the next morning.

Insult to injury, I’ve accumulated another 4 lbs. Apparently even the most horrible cough and the vomiting are no match for my couch and church lady cooking. Feeling bad for myself, I was texting a sweet friend about my body falling apart and feeling a bit worthless when she re-reminded me of something.

“He can ONLY use a broken you.”

And when I got to the exam room:

I started thinking about how He couldn’t use the put together me. The had it all figured out me. The didn’t need anyone else, I’ll do it on my own me. The whole body works well me.

I started thinking about how focused I’d been lately on how the world saw me, instead of how the world would see Him in me.

This very sweet lady came in next and gently reminded me that I’d just had major abdominal surgery, with a complication of bronchitis. That I needed to give myself, and my body, some grace. Not to mention time. She sent me home with instructions to REST.

So, here I am, resting. In God’s grace. In His presence. And thanking Him for the present of a rather damaged birthday suit. He can work with that.

Multiplied

basket-bread-rolls-fish-750x330.jpgI unloaded the kids’ school paraphernalia out of the back of the van to make room for the two black construction size bags filled with clothes that needed to be dropped off at our local clothing center. I was already fighting a panic attack before I’d even left the driveway.

Before you ask, no, I don’t always panic at the thought of being separated from the clothes I’ve dug out of the bowels of my children’s closets. Nope, you see, the donation was a well timed front for my true destination. Which was giving me all the early symptoms of a panic attack.

I pulled into the parking lot at dusk, wishing it was just a bit darker. Shutting off the van I took a deep breath and opened the driver’s side door, right next to a sweet girl I went to high school with. Because that’s what happens when you don’t want to be seen in a small town. All one has to do is not shower, have a bad hair day, or forget to put deodorant on, and you’re guaranteed to run into someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Every. Time.

Except this time I was showered, my hair was presentable and though I was sweating, I was still okay in the odor department. This time, I had something bigger to hide than poor hygiene. No worries! I have my two bags of donations, they’ll never know what I’m up to. It’ll be fine! Until she kindly offers the services of her husband to carry said bags for me. Still okay! I will just drop the bags and they’ll be on their way. As we walked through the parking lot catching up a bit she tells me they’re headed into the building too, for a community education dance class for the adorable toddler holding her hand. My nervous brain finally processes the pink leotard and leg warmers. My too bright smile masking the new panic as I realize they’re headed in the same direction I am.

I drop off the bags, say my goodbyes, and head back to the safety of my van. That’s it. I’m not doing it. I even start the van again before I realize I don’t have a choice. The refrigerator is as empty as our bank account and pay day isn’t for three more days. This is when I start to think I’m suffocating. That someone has snuck up and sucked all the air out of my van and caused this crazy fear to grip my throat. I jump back out of the van, sucking in deep breaths of air. You know the kind. In through the nose, out through the mouth. I stuff all that fear back down to wreak havoc on my stomach instead and jog to the entrance of the food shelf before I can change my mind… again.

That’s right. My super secret, anxiety provoking mission is this tiny little grocery store replica tucked into our community center. I step quickly inside and take a seat with my back to the front door. I fill out the required paperwork and wait for my number to be called. The worst part seems to be over, as far as anxiety goes, but now I’m battling a new fun thing. Shame. I can’t even meet the eyes of the sweet ladies helping me. What I really want to do is curl up and cry. Then, I want to explain why I’m here. Then I start a running dialog with God on why I’m there.

How did this happen?

I did all the right things!

(Whine. Whine. More whining.)

Just as the tears start to win, a lady from the desk comes and stands next to me. It takes me a minute to figure out what she’s saying. And when I do, I’m a little confused. She’s asking about my purse. I think she likes it? I struggle for a minute to remember that I had inherited it from my mother’s closet. I told her I’d considered it a step up from the diaper bag I’d been carrying for what seemed the last 12 years. She laughed. I laughed. And I finally looked into her eyes. Where there was no condemnation, no pity, just kindness. Once she had my attention she started showing me the “ropes”. That it’s just like grocery shopping, only there’s limits listed on the signs. When you’re done, you bring your shopping cart to be weighed to “check out”. And then there’s a very sweet gentleman that will help you carry your things to the car, or you can pull up if there’s room.

As we’re loading my bags, in full cover of darkness now, I still take a few glances around hoping I haven’t been spotted. I thank the volunteer for his help and make a quick exit.

It occurs to me on the drive home that there is something probably wrong with my reaction. That though we’d routinely supported the local food shelf in the past ourselves, I had quite obviously had a few misconceptions not only about the “kind of people” that used it, but the way it was run. As the days and weeks passed, I became more and more convicted of my pride and self righteousness.

As the months wore on it became more and more clear that my faithful, thorough, relentless and loving God was totally committed to purging me of some of these blemishes of my character. Trust me, by the time we’d sold anything with value, come perilously close to losing our house, borrowed from our parents to get our daughter to the latest specialist and still had to dig through the change in the van to pay for the hospital parking fees… all semblance of pride in our circumstances had pretty much evaporated. Everything I have is a gift.

Now, this has been a couple of years ago now and God is continually chipping away at some of these ugly parts of me (which can be depressing) but sometimes I have to look back to see how far He’s brought me.

This week I was reminded of this day when I was feeling enormous guilt. Why? Because we bought new appliances. Like, brand new and delivered. There was a time I wouldn’t have truly appreciated them. A time I would have been the most excited about the way they looked and telling everyone about them (And now, as I’m typing, I realize I’m telling everyone about them. 😅 But in a totally grateful, praise be to God for His provision kind of way, right?).

I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at the invoice or agonized over what this money could do for someone else; where it might be better spent. I wouldn’t have thought long and hard on if I truly NEEDED them or not. I certainly wouldn’t have waited until only one burner on the stove worked and the dishwasher was continuously leaking before trying to replace them. And that crack in the sink? That wouldn’t have lasted a week, never mind three years!

Now, I’m not saying I don’t still roll in the mud of pride and self righteousness. That I don’t still care far too much about how my life “looks”. That I don’t regularly hourly need to be washed clean by the blood of Christ. But, every once in awhile I’m reminded that I’m a work in progress. The key word there being… progress!! I may not be who I want to be, but I’m not who I once was! Praise God!!

ef671dea865e9b7c31e033f5d1df6a7b.jpgIn celebration of the gift of another year of sanctification, 😉 I’m asking anyone that might be considering a card or gift for me to instead support our local food shelf. They were not only there when we needed them, but they showed more kindness than I’d imagined. Let’s help Five Loaves continue to multiply.

5 Loaves Food and Clothing

 

Friends in low places….

There’s this thing that happens when your world gets a lot shaken up. When the ground beneath your feet shakes, gives way, and everything kind of starts to fall down around your ears. Some people are going to run. These same people may have been there from the beginning. May have helped you build all those crumbling things. But when things really got scary, they headed for safer ground. They may have glanced back over their shoulder, hearts in their eyes, but they half jogged away. Now, I’m not blaming them. Really. I’ll explain why later, but first I want to tell you about the others.

Then, there are the other people. The ones on the outskirts that happen to hear the roar, that even as the ground is giving it’s last rattle, are already calling out to you in the rubble. The ones that rush forward, roll up their sleeves, and start digging through the debris. When the dust settles a bit and the Son starts to break through in rays of light shot through darkness and you start to stumble your way out of the mess, they meet you with open arms. They brush off some of that dirt to clear your eyes and start feeding you living water. You start to catch your breath.

And these people, they stick like glue. Even as remnants of the past are raining down on your head, they drape an arm across your aching shoulders and walk beside you through it. As the aftershocks rumble through what’s left of your life and you’re standing shocked and overwhelmed, they start picking through what’s salvageable, identifying what’s not, and arranging for what’s needed. They work tirelessly to meet your needs, physical, emotional and spiritual. The labor of their hands surpassed only by the labor of their hearts.

They don’t stop there. Remember, like glue. They stand ready to help you rebuild. They point out the defects of the previous structure, and make sure, this time, you’re building on solid Rock. A firm foundation.

We’re rebuilding, from the ground up. It’s quite a process. One, I’ve heard, that takes a lifetime. We’re learning that these people are part of the process. Strategically placed, by a loving Father, to bless us in ways we’d never imagined. We thank God for them daily. For their encouragement, support, prayer and almost constant help.

And here’s why I don’t blame the ones that ran. We can make terrible friends. If you don’t know and follow Jesus, there’s really no worldly reason to stick by us.

What’s happened to us is likely one of people’s biggest fears and something they’d rather not come in contact with. Not that we’re contagious, but we’re a reminder that hard things happen. Could happen to them. Something they’d rather not think about. People who love Jesus tend to have less fear of the unknown and more trust in a loving God to get them through whatever He allows for them.

Also, we often give little back. Put plainly, we’re needy. We have seasons when all of our energy, both physical and emotional, necessitates our total focus on the kids. That leaves little time to invest in others and begs people to invest in us. Unless you are giving of your resources, time and energy to follow Jesus, you will quickly tire of these things not being reciprocated. Frankly, there’s not always much to be gained by caring for us.

And recently, it’s come to my attention, that it’s just plain hard to do life with us sometimes. So, if you ran the other way. I understand. You’re forgiven. Completely. Because I’ve been forgiven. And because I can’t say with all certainty, that I wouldn’t have done the very same thing before I’d been saved by grace myself.

Now, just one more thing….

Dear friends that stick with the power and love of Christ,

Thank you. And stop it. No, not the sticking. We sincerely appreciate that. But the “survivors guilt”. When the ground isn’t actively shaking beneath our feet, allow us to love and care for you in any way we can. This is the truth in love right here. It is a kindness to help us not only keep our gaze up, but out. When our entire focus isn’t absolutely required for some major thing we might have going on, it’s not healthy for us to be focused on ourselves. We welcome those seasons! And we welcome the opportunity to talk about the “normal” difficulties we all encounter in a fallen world. Please don’t let our different circumstances separate us. We are, after all, headed in the same direction. None of our journeys are easy. And we might not be able to help at that moment. But what a blessing for us if we are! And if we can’t help in a tangible way, we’re privileged to pray! One of the greatest gifts God has given us is a community of people who not only grieve and rejoice with us, but the ability to come alongside and grieve and rejoice with them. We want to be part of both. Even if our grief and joy may look a little different. Allow us to be your friend in your low places (and the high ones too). We’re eternally grateful to have you in ours.

Love,

The Blanchards