When you feel a little stuck

A couple weeks ago I was really discouraged.  One of those weeks when I was finding it difficult to see any growth or heart changes.  When it seemed every evening guilt and shame streaked down my face and parted worn out make up on my face over critical, impatient words that rushed past lips that should have remained closed or selfishness and my own desire for comfort that kept me annoyed and inconvenienced over the needs of a family of five.  Or how about that fear that still pops up? That unbelief after being shown hundreds of times that I’m never alone? So there I’d find myself feeling stuck.  With this frustrating pattern of sin daily confessed, repented, forgiven. To repeat.

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How much longer, Lord? How much longer before I’m complete? Before I don’t have the daily struggle with self?

Because I’m pretty tired of me. And in this world of instant gratification I’d really like to be fixed now. I mean, I was born again, right? I know I have a whole lot to fix but couldn’t the process go a little faster?

Or am I the only one?

If I’m not, keep reading because this gets really good!

Just when I’m almost sure I’m a hopeless case, that I will forever hold onto these chains, He reaches down and… moves me.

Literally.  And shows me that sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

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sometimes you don’t realize chains have been broken until you move and don’t feel the weight of them anymore.

Somehow, in my regular, every day life I had become unaware of the sometimes slow healing. The gentle touch of His hand in those unsettled places.

So in His infinite kindness and answer to my prayers, He showed me.  He plucked me out of my everyday Midwest routine and put me on a whirlwind of a Make A Wish trip for our daughter. I was incredibly grateful for the gift to her,  but had no idea what an amazing gift He had in store for me.

I’ve always been a worrier.  Anyone who knows me well knows this. I contemplated officially changing my middle name to “careful” when I changed my last name. What some might not know is that my careful was born of fear. Of just about everything. Oh, some of it was common.  Bridges, roller coasters,  car accidents, etc. But whenever I was out of my comfort zone fears took flight to crazy town. I could actually see horrible, very unlikely,  things happen.  Shoelaces in escalators, falling overboard, TV’s or fans falling off walls, fires in public places and not able to find an exit….I could go on and on to convince you of my incredible imagination but I think you get the picture.

I was crouched down behind Mini Hubby at the bow of a glass bottom boat in The Keys when I noticed it. Cruising along through mangrove trees dotted with birds I’d never seen, laughing in utter joy over the dolphins that came to escort us out, I had never felt so LIGHT. I assure you I’m not talking numbers on the scale.  Turns out vacation calories do, in fact, count. Just ask my jeans. Nope, it wasn’t until I’d moved out of my normal, out of my comfort zone, that I realized the weight of the chains was gone. There were no random,  crazy fears to steal my joy.  To take my eyes off of the beauty around me.  For the first time on a vacation I soaked every beautiful gift in without it being tainted or dulled by fear.  Never has the ocean smelled so amazing. Never has the sun felt so warm and enveloping.  And never has my children’s laughter sounded sweeter. I was free to shed thankful tears of joy for the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of creation. Because I now know the Creator.

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So I stayed crouched behind my four year old, our heads side by side, unafraid, the sea spray mixing with my own grateful joy filled tears and laughed over hair whipped crazy and looked into a bright blue sky and beyond to the One who breaks every chain.  In His own time. Which just happens to be totally perfect. I can wait for that. 

Perfect Storm

God has called us to waters so deep that they are rarely calm. I still often long for the sight of crystal clear, calm seas but am learning that sometimes He calms the storm for me and sometimes He instead, calms me. Just when I think I’m gaining my “sea legs”, learning to trust in His plans, accept His will for us, the wind picks up and I need to learn how to navigate these waters again.

I’m standing on the decks and feel them start to pitch and rock. The skies darken out of nowhere and I can no longer tell which direction the winds are even coming from. Assailed from every direction, the winds are ferocious and relentless; whipping my hair and my heart, covering my eyes. I struggle to see clearly but am buffeted by the salty spray of my own self pitying tears. In an attempt to find shelter I try to move on planks now wet and slippery. Unable to discern which direction to go, my arms reach out, grasping for something to break my fall. My mind so scattered, my heart so weary, I’m unable to even cry out to the One that holds me.

But I’ve been through storms before. This time, I reach for the many hands and feet of Christ that have helped steady me in similar waters. And as my pulse slows and I catch my breath, I can finally hear it. Trying to absorb the frantic rocking beneath my feet, I remember the anchor. The harder the winds pull, the further it’s embedded into the shifting sands below.

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We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

Hebrews 6:19

As I feel the tug of the anchor my heart grips back and I forget the listing deck and the churning waters. When my gaze is focused on the horizon it becomes easier to maintain my balance. I start to see the beauty of white caps, of the magnificent power that drives the sea, and the light breaking through the solid mass of angry clouds. Though the storms still rage, I’m no longer driven by fear. I stand in the eye of this storm and praise the One who will bring me through.

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Now, this is the pretty, poetic picture gifted to me in the last few weeks but I assure you it came with the perspective of time. It actually looked like this…

Over the course of two weeks Hubby was laid off, our daughter had surgery for cataracts due to her genetic disorder and we received our son’s neuropsychological evaluation. As we were reeling from results that revealed far more than we were prepared for, our oven broke and we had two birthday parties for the boys. Hit from what seemed like every direction I made my way home from the appointment with the neuropsychologist in a daze. Overwhelmed and struggling to take it all in, I found myself in a familiar but not particularly welcome place.

I managed to get the kids fed, escaping to the bathroom to mop up tears as necessary. My mind and stomach would not stop churning and I struggled to even focus on menial tasks such as bath time and pajamas. Anxiously waiting for bed time I was hoping if I could just let loose these emotions, I would be able to pray and find calm.

Instead, I found myself sobbing on the floor of my prayer closet. Once again, I had no words. For an hour I laid there, surrounded by Kleenex, waiting for the words to come. A year ago, I would have given up and given in. To the anxiety and heartache. I would have let it push me to sleepless nights and tormented days. This time I waited. This time I remembered.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Romans 8:26

So I lay in His presence, comforted by the truth that the Spirit would intercede. That God would meet me where I had no words. Then I reached out to my beloved sisters in Christ. Brought to light my inability to pray. And they prayed for me. Sent me scripture and songs of worship. Encouraged me to pray through Psalms until the words became my own. And as I cried and sang, prayed through the scripture and read through Hebrews 6:19, gradually my tears slowed and the words did become my own. In just a year He faithfully taught me to ask, seek, and knock until my heartbeat and breath slowed and He calmed the storm inside of me.

Several years ago if you’d have told me I’d weather a storm laying on the floor of my closet for hours I would not have believed you. In fact, if you’d have shown me a picture of myself that night I would have jokingly asked who made me drink the Kool-Aid. Thank God for the work He has done in my heart. For never leaving me alone and for the anchor for my soul.

****UPDATE****

And sometimes He calms the storm raging within me, then calms the storm around me.

Within fifteen minutes of sharing our need for a stove, we were offered three different ranges for free and picked one up two days later. Hubby was called back for a couple of weeks worth of work and it appears that more work is coming in every day. Last night I attended parent/teacher conferences with no small amount of trepidation only to receive some much needed encouragement on our oldest son.

As I was driving home, lifting up praises, I was reminded of what I’d read just a few night before.

Beloved…you cost your Lord too much for Him to lose you. He bought you at too great a price and values you too much to see you broken to pieces on the rocks. Therefore, He has provided a glorious safeguard for you so that when Satan’s temptations, your own sinful nature, and the trials of the world attack you, hope may be the anchor of your soul, both secure and steadfast.

Charles Spurgeon

And for today…..

Here you are today, accompanied by grace, provisioned by mercy, steered by heavenly wisdom, and propelled by the Spirit’s power. Thanks to the anchor, or rather to the God who gave it to you, no storm has overwhelmed you. Your ship is under way for the port of glory.

Charles Spurgeon

Can I get an Amen?!

Pray First II

PROGRESS REPORT 2017

**Please see Pray First for last year’s blog post.

5:00 a.m.- Mini Hubby sneaks into bed

5:30 a.m.- I am awakened by a head butt, pajama clad foot, or small fist to the face.

6:00 a.m.- Oldest son is rummaging for breakfast.

6:05 a.m.- Mini Hubby decides it’s time to get up and I stumble into the bathroom to help him get out of footie jammies. Make rookie mistake of squatting in front of him while he does his thing. Change my pajamas.

6:15 a.m.- Remind Oldest Son to match, brush teeth, wash face, put deodorant on, take meds, finish breakfast. Put down the electronic! Pack backpack, get lunch, and put boots on.

6:30 a.m.- Daughter is up, sort of.

6:45 a.m.- Remind Oldest Son of several of above. Have a great day! Kiss your mother goodbye!

7:00 a.m.- Breakfast for other two. Meds and clothes for Daughter. Wrestle all eight arms and six legs of unwilling toddler into clothes.

7:15 a.m.- Braid four feet of Daughter’s hair. Pack backpack with folder, snow pants, gloves, hat and lunch. Remind her to wash her face, brush her teeth and put deodorant on.

7:30 a.m.- Start van. I’m on the clock now. I have fifteen minutes, give or take, to check in.

7:35 a.m.- Mad dash to my closet! Turn on worship song of choice (Lately, this has been Give Me Jesus **Note: On really tough mornings this is played while I’m hiding under my blankets in the fetal position**) and focus my heart and gaze on the One I’m kneeling for. Thank God for another crazy day, for the air in my lungs and fifteen minutes with Him. Pray for help serving this family with joy and selflessness and for guidance throughout my day. If it’s a really good day, I will finish and have a chance to just rest a moment in His presence. Or, today, my phone will ring.

7:50 a.m.- Oldest Son calls to see if I can drop off his forgotten glasses. Find Daughter with an entire box of crayons emptied onto table and request she get ready for school instead. Find Mini Hubby sans clothes watching cartoons. Retrieve discarded clothes from one end of house to the other and tickle the octopus on steroids into submission (clothes). Who gave him yogurt?!

8:00 a.m.- Coats, boots, hats and out the door!

8:05 a.m.- Run back in for Daughter’s school shoes and Oldest Son’s forgotten glasses.

My day continues the way it starts with more chaos and more prayer. I’m truly grateful for a God that doesn’t require an appointment. He takes walk-ins and is never over booked, or too busy. I pray in the van (a lot), the kitchen, on the floor folding laundry, in waiting rooms, drop off and pick up lines (yes, I’ve been honked at) and at the foot of little beds. Actually, it may have been easier to list where I have not prayed. But though I’m thankful for these moments, they’re not my favorite. Because you see, God gave me another gift this past year….

The foot of closet space I claimed, painted, hung up a cork board and found clearance lights from Target for. My quiet place to pray!

This is my favorite. Though someday I may get that hour in the morning to start my day, for now, He meets me here after the house is asleep. It’s just me and Him. And He uses every minute. Oh, the things I’ve learned this year!

For example. The piece of scripture that has most influenced my prayer life. Psalm 116:2 Why?

Because He bends down to listen!

He wants to hear me, to hear from me! I can no longer imagine God too busy taking care of much bigger things to listen to little insignificant me. Or that He is bending down and checking His watch at the same time! Waiting for me to untangle my thoughts into words, while tapping his foot. After all, He’s never required me to have my ducks in a row before coming to him in the past, why would prayer be different? The best thing though, is sometimes when I’m gathering thoughts and stop talking, He responds! This is so exciting, I have (maybe once or twice) squealed, “Love you, Bye!” and popped up off the ground like a Jack in the box. Like I just got great news on a long distance call from a relative. Then I have to settle back down and thank Him properly.

Not every night is a revelation. He’s also taught me that I need to bring my heart. And to be honest, some nights that’s all I have to bring. Some nights my Bible remains unopened, my prayer journal not written in, and my prayer list forgotten. But I still bring myself. And the knowledge that He knows my heart, my mind, and everything I can’t yet put into words. That’s okay too.

I am extremely grateful for the chance to look back at last year’s Pray First blog and to be encouraged by progress, not perfection. Because at this year’s Pray First I was convicted once again with a growth area for me. Praying aloud. In front of people. Without getting hives or hyperventilating. I wish I was exaggerating. I truly am getting better at this. I can do it. For a short period of time, and not eloquently. But I am still so very aware of the ears around me that I struggle to dig through the complete black hole my mind becomes to find every word. Why is this so hard for me?!

A part of me does not want to share my  vulnerability with anyone but God. My time in prayer is still very private and I cry (a lot), and do things like jump up off the floor in excitement. These are things I don’t particularly want to do in front of other people. So that had me thinking. Is it me being self conscious? Because I don’t want to be. I want to be God conscious. I want to be able to focus solely on Him regardless of who is next to me. So, I think this will take practice and time for me. And a lot of benadryl?

What ways have you grown in prayer this last year? What areas of growth do you have? Come on, don’t be shy! After all, I told you about being peed on!

Light Glorious Light

Maybe it’s being immersed in a frigid Midwest winter. Or maybe it’s being a couple of weeks into our current series, Life Giving Light, at church in which we’re walking through the book of John. But as the snow piles up in subzero weather outside, I’m spending a great deal of time inside, thinking of light. The physical need for it, the Creator of it, artificial sources of it, the absence of it, and the reflection of it.

It’s a mix of sleet and snow which will undoubtedly wreak havoc on morning commutes, weigh heavy on power lines, and lay sheet-like on windshields. Scattered, wet, remnants of snowman construction and snow angel creation are littered in the entry and no matter how many times I try to get them to remove their boots before they hit my hard wood floors, dry socks will meet cold puddles at least a couple of times tonight. Rosy cheeks and running noses are now bundled into jammies and watching a movie snuggled on the couch. The overworked, tired, “builder special” dishwasher struggles loudly through another cycle and I can hear the jet engine spinning of the last load of laundry for the day. I, myself, am on the laptop checking things off of a never ending Mom list. As I pay the electric bill I glance up at the wildly blinking, multi colored Christmas tree, the several other strands of lights throughout the kitchen, and the crazy “light show” projection light the kids were sure our house needed. I wonder if they’d notice if I unplugged a couple?

The lights flicker, hum low, and go out. The TV shuts off and all of the noise comes to a sudden halt. And, because my laptop is almost as old as the dishwasher and needs to be plugged in, it shuts off as well. Plunged into quiet darkness, my pulse quickens as I reassure the kids it’s okay. To sit still while I find a candle. Eyes unaccustomed to total darkness, the room seems distorted and things much further away or closer than I thought. My stocking foot finds a wet puddle and I know I must be getting close to the table. I fumble to light the decorative Christmas candle. christmas-candle2

It sputters, spits and flickers bright, mellowing to a soft glow that reaches every corner of the room. Relieved faces smile back at me. And we start a puzzle.

I’ve written a lot about my experiences in the dark, and God’s incredible love and grace that shone through the haze of suffering to literally pull me free of it. There is truly nothing more beautiful than His saving light. Sometimes I mourn the years I didn’t see it. How many things did I miss? Opportunities to see His glory? Sitting in the dark, illuminated by a single light and distracted by no others, I realized.

What if I couldn’t see The Light, for the light? Bear with me here. I spent thirty years blinded by artificial light. Think about it. We live in a place of distraction and we’re attracted to bright, shiny, pretty, fun, things.

I can give you a list of mine. Family, money, career, house, cars, vacations, nail salons, restaurants, clothes with tags, shoes with boxes, shopping carts, “perfect” family photos, etc. Things that, plastered all over billboards and websites, shone bright, flashed joy, and fizzled out soon after. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still like pretty things. I am about as “girly” as a girl can get. I have not given away my marbles in exchange for new sight, I will joyfully accept a pedicure any day of the week. What I’m saying though is, these things kept me from seeing that One source of light that would truly bring me joy. The down to my pedicured toes kind. The eternal kind.

Now, here’s the hard part. For me, I did not fully embrace His light until it was the only one left. Until, enveloped in cloying, hopeless darkness, there was nothing I could do to bring myself joy. I couldn’t buy any, I couldn’t eat any, I couldn’t see any.

matches-lightThen there was that beautiful, merciful light….It sputtered, spit and flickered bright, mellowed to a soft glow and reached every part of my heart. Since then, I’ve noticed three things. How incredibly void of true light this world is. How incredibly beautiful that makes every small reflection of God’s glory shining through. And just how desperately I need that grace and joy filled light to live.

Every act of kindness, every gift of generosity, every reconciled relationship, every laying down of self. Whenever I catch a glimpse of His light my heart warms, my eyes spill, and I know a familiar joy. Whenever I am blessed by that joy, I want to reflect that light. What a beautiful design.

What if we were such a bright reflection of God’s glory everyone could see it? Even past all of the artificial light we are bombarded with?

For this child I have prayed

As a young child I longed to know that there was someone in control. My little heart cried out for comfort, security and protection.

When I got a little older I heard mention of God. Surely He would set right a world that didn’t make sense? Small hands asked for big things. That didn’t happen.

With the certainty and independence of adolescence I had decided that God must not exist after all. Convinced my circumstances proved me right, I stopped praying, crying, or hoping for change. I was on my own and it would be up to me to obtain what I so longed for.

It would be years before I cried again. Still longer for me to hope in someone other than myself. And a marriage, a toddler, and another pregnancy before I would pray again.

Twelve weeks into the pregnancy of our daughter I finally waded out of nausea and exhaustion to lunch with a friend. Pale, weary, and chasing a toddler, I was excited for some adult conversation and food that would stay, hopefully, down. Timidly finishing my lunch I scrambled to get our toddler son to the bathroom in time. After our third round of hand drying with the very entertaining blow dryer, I stood up and knew something was wrong. A quick check confirmed my fear. I was bleeding. Too much.

Heart sinking, hands shaking, I ushered our oldest back to the table and tried to bravely tell my friend I needed to get to the doctor. Thankfully, she took charge. All calm, reassuring and full of reason she told me to go right there, she’d meet me. Call Hubby and she’d watch the oldest until he got there. On auto pilot, I followed directions and shortly thereafter found myself in an exam room hearing the doctor echo my thoughts. Too much blood.

Sent to the hospital for an ultrasound I waited barely breathing to see the life still breathing inside of me. There it was! The tiny flutter of a bravely beating heart. Exhaling, my own started to beat again. Tears streaming down my face, I watched her bounce around oblivious to the turmoil she was causing outside. The technician did a thorough check and I was told “the pregnancy is still viable”. What she meant to say was, my baby was still alive. I needed to go home and rest and return the next day to check again. To call if anything changed.

As I laid in bed I prayed.

God, please don’t take her from me! I already love her!

For I knew she was a girl from the first.

Then I begged.

God, I don’t care if there’s something wrong, I don’t care if I need to spend the next six months in bed. Please let me hold her in my arms!

Finally, I bargained.

God, I know I’ve complained of the discomforts of early pregnancy but I will never do it again! She is worth every lost meal and I will be so much more grateful for the gift of her! Truly, every little flutter and bump of her exploring has been pure joy! Even when I’m laying on the bathroom floor. Please don’t take her away….

The next several weeks I rejoiced as the bleeding stopped, blood work came back fine and every ultrasound showed her contentedly growing, nestled in my womb. I thanked God, praising Him for His kindness and mercy.

Then, when given the gift of holding her in my arms, my heart overflowed with gratitude. This perfect tiny girl with the delicately arched eyebrows, pouty lips, and beautiful blue searching eyes was my miracle. My answer to prayer.

Several years later, I was still praying. Growing in my relationship with Christ when I found out that little miracle wasn’t perfect after all. How could He give me a healthy child, let me believe all these years that He answered my desperate prayers, and then just pull the rug out from under me? Betrayed and heartbroken, instead of turning away again I would fire off these questions, waiting for His answer.

And it came. Gentle like a whisper at the hairs on my forehead.

This IS the child for which you prayed.

Soft as a caress on the side of my damp cheek.

I formed her in your womb.download-5

Slowly, so that I’d understand.

I know every hair on her precious head. images-33

This child is still my answer to prayer. The same one He placed in my womb, the one I prayed to hold, the one He gave me.images-34

Through this child He’s answered so many prayers I thought had gone unanswered. For through her, He called me to Him. And through my journey with her, has taught me comfort, safety and security can only be found in Him.

So, for this child, my perfect answer to prayer, I will continue to pray.

When I see beyond me

I was barely five years old and I can still clearly see her standing in that old farm house kitchen. My Mom was all sharp angles and over processed 80’s bleach blonde hair. She was turned towards the wall where the worn out rotary phone hung. One hand with glossy red fingertips worrying the cord stretched and kinked from years of users trying to gain privacy and the other clutching the receiver and the ever present Misty. Even before she glanced over her shoulder with the miserable, apologetic eyes saturated in tears I knew something was wrong. I was already in the process of trying to hustle my four year old sister into the other room. Maybe it was the still clear memories of the past year or so, or maybe it was a carefully honed survival skill but I could usually sense trouble with just enough time to make a swift exit.

Over thirty years ago and I can hear the tinkle of the bell on the door of the local Ben Franklin the next day. In case you didn’t know, Ben Franklins were the Midwest’s small town one stop shop back then. We passed the register, aisles of fabric and yarn, and racks of clothes to the very back of the store. Down a slight incline and past the reaches of sunlight streaming from the front windows, it smelled of musty old carpeting and even older building. But, it housed tall shelves lighted by flickering fluorescent lights and full of toys! Instead of being excited, this made me suspicious. My five year old senses were ben-franklinscreaming that something was wrong. We did not go to a store and buy toys. In fact, I don’t remember even knowing this area, in the bowels of the store, even existed. And not only was my very quiet mother showing us the treasures back here, but she was telling us we could each pick out one thing. My sister immediately latched onto a My Little Pony play set. I already knew I didn’t want anything of what was going on. Whatever it was. But, Mom insisted. So, I gave in to the lure of the Cabbage Patch stuffed horse. I was relatively certain a stuffed animal would prove more useful than a My Little Pony carry along play set for what was coming and I tried to convince my little sister to do the same with no luck. My stomach dropped a little further as Mom pulled the necessary money, which she couldn’t spare, out of her black fringed leather purse.

I was right. My five year old brain struggled to understand what she was saying but I knew I was right. I didn’t want any part of this. We’d be going to live half across the country with our Dad. Just for a little while. While Mom got “better”.

In the main terminal of the airport in Minneapolis there was a large clock and a large plane. Well, at least they seemed enormous to my five year old memory. Clutching my airplane-in-airportstuffed horse, I was trying to figure out the plane inside the terminal, while I caught bits and pieces of the conversation at the ticket counter. Mom grabbed our tickets and we headed to the gate. In my child’s brain, I can hear the echo of her high heels to what seems the ticking of the second hand on that large clock.airport-clock As we approached it, this is when my little sister started to catch on and start to cry. A sympathetic stewardess with bright red lip stick met us. “Unaccompanied minors”. She’d be responsible for seeing us safely from one parent to the other half across the country. A half hour later, in our seats across from the airplane’s galley so they could keep an eye on us, my sister was still hiccupping and trying to catch her breath. I’d given her my stuffed horse and the stewardesses had done their best to distract us. Including telling us they had a couple of extra first class breakfasts they’d get to us as soon as we took off, and would we like to meet the pilot and see the front of the plane? And look here, we’ve even got some pins just like pilots wear! Throughout the flight they gave us the promised breakfast, blankets, pillows, and headphones that plugged into the armrest. Then, took turns trying to entertain the two scared, heart broken, confused little girls holding hands.

I’ve flown out of that same airport, same terminal, a couple dozen times since then. And every. time. I fight panic attacks and nausea. Just the thought of flying out of there would cause me anxiety for weeks beforehand. As soon as I’d come through the doors, I’d fight to see past the blur the crowds of people would become. To hear more than just the clicking of high heels, my head spinning to try to focus on their source. Is it high heels or that dreaded clock? I’d make my way sweating, through security and to the plane where I’d focus on chewing my gum and disappearing into a book.

This last week I had the opportunity to fly to Chicago to attend a Patient Advisory Board meeting with the pharmaceutical company and an organization called Global Genes which provides support and advocacy for rare diseases. As soon as I got my flight information I heaved a sigh. Terminal 1. By the night before I was to fly out I wanted badly to stay in and hide in my blankets for the night. Instead, I decided talking with my sixth grade girls in my youth group about Jesus was preferable to self pity. Instead, I spent the night worshiping and learning alongside young disciples.

The morning of my flight I was packed and ready to go an hour early. I listened to my favorite worship songs on Youtube and went over my flight information, hotel reservation, and meeting times a couple dozen times. Hubby, my mother in law, and Mini Hubby dropped me off. I cried for missing my babies already and made my way through the double doors. I was at the gate before I realized….nothing happened. No panic attack. No nausea. No flashback. No blurring of vision and weird hearing. Instead, my check in kiosk was at the far end of the terminal, right next to security and far away from the dreaded clock. While in line in security, I was entertaining an adorable two year old protesting her confinement to a stroller and listening to a couple dozen students excitedly anticipating their first flight behind me. A beautiful old woman in a wheelchair was wheeled in front of me at the TSA agent and I was wondering if she would have to take off the couple dozens of bracelets, giant earrings, and matching necklace she wore. I wonder if she’s headed to see family. Her bright pink lips and smile says she’s going to see someone special.

So I’m sitting at the gate, in awe of my calm, and pull out my “Show Them Jesus” book I’m committed to finishing while I’m away. I pull out my earbuds and pull up Youtube to the next song on my “suggested” list.

I can’t even make this stuff up! Thank you, Jesus!

 

 

When Love Doesn’t Look The Way You Want It To

It was autumn and I’d barely registered the change in seasons. That quiet place in the upper Midwest was full of trees shedding leaves and smelled of cold, damp earth. The cold sun shone bright, reflecting off of morning dew but did little to take the chill out of the air. It was October and I had apparently packed for September.

Hustling to the conference center after everyone else had gone for breakfast my breath came out in short puffs. When had it gotten so cold? And when was the last time I truly felt the air outside and in my lungs?

Out from the cold and into the warmth of the conference center I could hear women’s laughter and smell the frankincense. Coming down the stairs I could smell the food and my stomach turned over. Skipping breakfast had been a good idea. I was sick. The bruises on my legs and the thinning of my hair confirmed the number on the scale. Those could be hidden by clothes and a little rearranging of hair but the dark circles under my eyes wouldn’t be camouflaged by the best concealer. I’d tried. Waiting in the hallway for the food to be cleared away I picked up a sweatshirt in the gift shop. The first strains of music drifted through the corridors and I made my way in.

A year later and I can still hear the song. Echoing off walls and into my heart.

Your love is 

Like radiant diamonds

My heart broke some more and spilled fresh tears when I thought I had none left. Because this didn’t feel like radiant diamonds.

Your love will

Surely come find us

And the tears wouldn’t stop. Because I didn’t feel found.

God of mercy

Sweet love of mine

Nose running, soul wrenching tears. Because this didn’t feel merciful.

I have surrendered

To your design

Ah, yet more tears. Because I didn’t like this design. This design hurt. Bad. This design included genetic disorders and fear. Not for myself, but for my child. How could this love be like radiant diamonds and merciful? It didn’t feel like it. And how do you surrender to a love that doesn’t look the way you think it should?

I’d been crying out for Him to take this from me. From her. I was looking for the fairy tale love. You know the one. Where the damsel in distress cries out for help and He comes charging in on a magnificent white steed, swoops her up and carries her to safety. I wanted Him to swoop down and take away these faulty genes and carry them far away. I was certain that was what love should look like.

But I was wrong. A year later, I have a better understanding of love. Instead of carrying me, He asked me to follow Him. Instead of saving me from this short term suffering, He is saving me for eternity. He was calling me to die to myself and live for Him. An internal crucifixion. Surrender to His design. Because He is love. Because He never leaves me alone. Because His plans for me are good.

A year later, He has pulled me from the depths of despair, showered me with grace, and given me peace and joy in Him. And I’ll continue to pick up my cross and follow this

Sweet love of mine

Even if

Even if it doesn’t look the way I want it to.

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He Gave Me Wings

I spent over thirty years learning how to survive and succeed in a fallen world. How to protect myself from the hurt and disappointment that goes along with living in a world saturated with sin. This world taught me that I’d need a tougher skin. To reach the safety and security I craved, I’d need to find success. And to find success, I’d need to somehow cushion myself from an onslaught of pain and suffering and aggressive, hungry souls seeking to protect themselves as well. Over the years this resulted in creating a cocoon of sorts. Block the hard things. Bury the hurt and disappointment. Don’t cry useless tears. Believe what is being spoon fed in every media outlet and social platform. Protect yourself.

The result was a thirty something woman, wrapped tight in an unraveling cocoon. Desperately trying to control everything that threatened the “safety” of that cocoon. That safe place became a breeding ground for fear and depression. Every story that filtered through, of things uncontrollable, would give birth to a new fear, a new anxiety. Even ensconced in this “haven”, she knew this wasn’t working anymore. From the depths of that cocoon, her heart cried out.

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Now, I wonder, did He miss me in there, like we missed “Chris”, or was He excitedly waiting for the transformation?

 

When I first started my journey with Christ, things unseen from that dark place of fabricated protection, written on my heart, became clearer. His light was breaking through. Six rows back, on the left side of the worship center, I’d catch glimpses of light. Hands and hearts in front of me raised in worship, Truth poured out in messages. Drawn to the light, I’d come back. Oh, how I wanted to bottle it, that held, just as I am love, and carry it with me for the next week. Absorb His word and love and wring it out when the fear and darkness were too much. But fear of getting too close, giving too much, held it illusive, confined to the worship center.

I’d come back. Drawn a row closer. So close! How do I hold onto it?

Because the more light I let in, the more I felt again. And though the joy ran deep, the pain did too. But like a moth drawn to light, I drew ever closer to Christ. Slowly unraveling years and layers of insulation, He called me out into the light.

Emerging scared and reborn, He gave me wings. To reach higher than I thought possible, to dive lower than I’d ever ask to go. It’s bright out here. And in contrast, the dark things stand out like never before. Some days, my heart just hurts. Those years of tears not shed seem to be making up for lost time. Most of the time, they’re not for me. But for the palpable suffering of those around me. Both for those who are saved and those who are perishing. And other days, the tears are joy that can’t be contained. Every time I get a glimpse of the light of God’s glory, the beauty and joy run so deep I’m a moth chasing the light again.

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We waited in anticipation for “Chris” to lose the last remnants of his former life and take flight.

 

Every day, my heart is grateful. Grateful for the wings that brought this woman to a heart wide open. That carried her to the front of the sanctuary, tears streaming, her soul crying out in worship and joy to the One who made her. This woman knows more pain than she ever feared, knows more love than she ever dared give or receive and knows true safety. Not in the artificial safety of her own making, but the true safety in living and walking with Jesus.

So, I’ll continue to take these wings and follow where He leads. I’ll just have to invest in some really good waterproof makeup.

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Tentative at first, hanging out on my finger testing his wings, “Chris” soon took flight.

As I was writing this, I was blessed with the chance to see this video at church of another incredibly beautiful transformation. LOVE His timing. If you have the time, it’s absolutely worth the twenty minutes to watch.

 

Freedom

In the United States we celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from British rule on July 4th. This celebration typically includes things like cookouts, barbecues, potato salad, pie and fireworks.

In the upper Midwest, participating in the requisite fireworks usually requires a bath in deet or running the risk of being carried away by hummingbird sized mosquitos. Having two kiddos with neurological issues, we try to avoid the deet bath. Instead, we have been taking the kids to our local dirt race track for their “Fireworks Spectacular” event. Where, either the noise, diesel fumes, or dirt, deters the pesky bugs and the kids also get to watch the races. fireworks5

We load the van with blankets, clear protective glasses, sweatshirts, sunscreen, ear protection for five, and more money than I want to part with. Once everyone has used the bathroom one last time we make it out the driveway with only three trips back in for forgotten items. As usual, we arrive about an hour before the races start which is not early enough to avoid sitting just downwind of turn four, but just early enough to stuff some food into the kids before the race starts and it’s filled with dirt. This year, the toddler complies with the ear protection requirement, which means all five of us are able to watch the races and make it to the fireworks portion for the first time since Mini Hubby was born.

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Well past Mini Hubby’s bedtime, he’s curled up on my lap, waiting for the promised fireworks. My chin resting on the top of his little blonde head I can smell the unique “Speedway Smell” of diesel fumes, exhaust, dirt and burnt rubber with the underlying earthy smell of toddler, i.e. sweat, sunscreen, more dirt, popcorn, pickles and something sticky which I’m bound to be covered in as well. Preteen has let his “I’m too old to be excited” mask slip and is trying in vain to find popcorn at the bottom of the bag that isn’t too gritty to eat. Baby Girl has moved past tired into overdrive, squirming on the unrelenting (even with blankets for padding) aluminum bench, and grinning from ear to ear and has only asked “How much longer” approximately eight times in the last fifteen minutes.

As the first firework is lit, shoots out of it’s tube and covers the sky in bright, loud, red, white and blue, three expectant faces follow it’s trajectory and smile. Eyes bright, mirrors of the cascading light. I smile. Watching joy spread across their faces and fill my heart. In between the repercussions and the patriotic music being piped tin through speakers, I hear it.

Soft and sweet.

Do you feel it? No fear.


Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


Lamentations 3:57
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”


Just joy.

There had been no fear all night. No stray fears about crashes and random parts flying into the crowd to sneak in and steal the joy of watching my family pick their “winning cars” for the next race.

No stray fears about someone stealing one of the kids to sneak in and steal the joy of watching Mini Hubby play in the dirt by the fence five feet away between races.

And now, no stray fears about tipped over fireworks or big explosions to sneak in and steal the joy of watching precious upturned, dirt filled, excited faces.

I’ve lived a life afraid. Afraid of bridges, wall mounted speakers in movie theaters, car accidents, kidnappings, wrong decisions, mistakes, and fireworks. Over the last few years I’m slowly learning to live a life of hope, in Jesus. To be brave and courageous. To walk this journey with perseverance and endurance. With Him. Until this blindingly beautiful gift of a moment I don’t think I’d really realized just how much work He’s done in my heart. I can get caught up in the mess of who I am, the frustration of fighting the desires of my flesh, and just how far from complete I am and forget that I am a work in progress. And that He’s been working all along. feartofreedom

I look up into crackling flashes across the sky, slightly blurred from grateful tears and celebrate true freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom in Christ.


2 Corinthians 3:16-18

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


 

WE Are The Church

Below is an open letter to our church family along with pictures of the gift that accompanied it.

July 6, 2016

 

Dear Faith Community Church,

Six years ago I brought my family to Faith Community Church for the first time for a Christmas Eve service. At the time, this was going to be my third, and final, attempt to see if God was what was missing from my life. The Holy Spirit revealed The Gospel to me that day through a creative portrayal of life before the coming of our Savior and the sharing of The Gospel throughout the message.

By nature and experience I am a cautious person and had zero knowledge of the Bible. So, for the next several years Jesus met me here, as I was, where I was, and FCC became my classroom. I learned the importance of obedience and through small (yet significant for me) acts of obedience I made enough connections to become comfortable here. Eventually taking a Bible 101 class that made me more comfortable digging into His Word on my own, my classroom extended into my everyday life. An invitation by a beloved sister in Christ to coffee led to my first Bible Study. In September 2014, we made a large step of obedience in dedicating our children, Jordan, Joelle & Jace to the Lord and acknowledging that they truly belong to Him. An entire sanctuary of you committed to help raise them in Christ, as part of this church family. I wonder now, if you realized what you might be called to do, and that you would follow through so beautifully?

When we received Joelle’s first diagnosis, you wept with us, you prayed with and for us, you paid for and encouraged me to attend a women’s retreat during which I was able to surrender to God’s will and start our family’s healing process through His peace and comfort.

When we received a second diagnosis, this time for both Joelle and Jordan, you continued to lift us up in prayer, lead us to His word, and remind us of His great love and plans for these children.

Then, when financial stress in the form of years of expensive medical testing and astronomical prescription costs overwhelmed us, you opened the doors to FCC and your hearts. You gave incredibly generously of your time, giftings, and resources for two fundraisers that have helped us to more fully rest in God’s grace and provision for our family. You showed us, and many others, the beauty of Christ’s bride; that through a building of broken sinners, God’s glory can shine.

FCC was the building I brought my family to years ago. But, you the church, through your love and obedience to Christ, have been our teachers, brothers and sisters in Christ, and become our church family.

Words can’t express our gratitude for the blessings given to us through you and your willingness to walk this journey beside us, helping us to walk with Jesus.

This glass was originally installed in a church sanctuary in Minnesota in 1922. The original panels were salvaged, re-cut, and reset by Tim, for you. We do not have the means to invest in the

ministry here in a substantial financial way right now. But, we pray that this gift to FCC, and the history behind it, would remind you and all of those that come in the doors in the future, not just of the aesthetic beauty of the glass, but the beauty of Christ’s bride, the people of the church. The hundreds that once sat beneath this glass in the past, those here at FCC now, and those that will come in the future.

 

Blessings,

Bobbi, Tim, Jordan, Joelle, & Jace

The response of our church family over the last year, and our gratitude for God’s grace and provision, through them, was as beautiful as it was humbling and more than a little overwhelming.

God has been so good to me in gifting me with words on paper to express my heart that I fear would overflow at times with gratitude if I didn’t have a way to get it out. Hubby had no such outlet or way to express this. The stained glass panels had been sitting in storage in a pole shed for several years. At the time, Hubby appreciated their history and beauty and knew I would love it too. He planned to have something made for me for my birthday or Christmas but over the years was unable to find someone that could work with the old, fragile, glass and lead.

His timing and grace never cease to move me. Hubby, with no prior experience and more than a few cuts and broken shards of glass, was able to make these panels. Blessed with a way to express his gratitude, both to the church family, and God, this was as much a gift to the church as it was to Hubby.