Identity Lane

I take a trip every fall and it seems every year it is slightly different. Oh, the smells are the same, the colors of the leaves don’t change and the destination is always a welcome one. But, it’s the road to get there that is always changing.

These are my thoughts as we sit in the bus. Hubby and I. As passengers pile on and settle into seats I start to people watch, because that’s what I do. People fascinate me. For example, there’s a young woman opposite the aisle of Hubby and she has wasted no time in pulling out her laptop and ear buds and is checking her Apple Watch; no doubt waiting for her next Zoom meeting to start. As she taps her beautifully frivolous, brand name, high heeled shoe, she radiates anxiousness and I notice the carefully manicured nails that almost hide the chewed corners of her fingers. She glances my direction and I smile what I hope is a warm smile and turn away, acutely aware that I’ve been caught staring. Staring at a younger me. Oh, how I remember the dreams of grandeur of the young IT professional. Fresh into a career, enjoying my first financial freedom and all the temporal possessions that come with it. And realizing that it did not offer an ounce of the security and peace I thought it would bring.

While I reminisce about a thinner, more energetic and selfish me, and our bus finally departs the station, Hubby has started up a conversation with a gentleman in front of us. As is typical of any laborer I’ve ever met, he is telling him about one of the office buildings we just passed. How he worked on it years ago, who he was working for and with and where he used to eat lunch. As his work roughened hand grips the seat in front of him and he laughs at his own dad joke I smile. Not because it was funny, but because I love and appreciate things that stay the same.

I’m distracted by a tapping. Because I’m a mother of three, I instantly know the source to be someone under three, whose feet are conveniently located directly behind my backside. Hence the tapping. On my backside. Thankful for padding, I slowly slide down in my seat, turn towards the back of the bus, and peek my head up enough to see pigtails and a tiny face sticky from the lollipop clutched in her chubby right hand. We commence a game of peek-a-boo and mom appears visibly relieved I’m not annoyed by the tapping. She reminds the little with pigtails to keep her feet off the seat and I ask her where she is from. They’re close and new to the area and I inquire as to whether they have found a church home. Because I am a Director of Children’s Ministry and I very much want to tell pigtails about Jesus. Invitation given and my stomach starting to roll from facing backwards I take deep breaths and turn back around to hear the chiming of my cell phone.

I’ve got mail. Emails to be precise. Regarding the newly formed CTX Alliance. Of which I am now co-president. Did I forget to tell you about that? Very exciting stuff. I quickly scan the emails, because, car sickness. There are details on a video that needs to be made and a couple of upcoming meetings. Oops, and a couple of emails I’ll need to respond to for work. Which reminds me to interrupt Hubby’s conversation about his favorite service opportunity, Ruby’s Pantry, and inquire about when we can coordinate a video recording, drivers Ed, our homeschool field trip up north and the kids’ latest lab testing. Now my stomach is upset and my head starts to hurt and Hubby gathers his stuff to get off. We’ll have to coordinate via FaceTime. Here we part ways for a few days as he heads out of town for work.

And here is where I look over and see the younger me and long for the simplicity. Because selfish me is still very much alive and kicking and right now she is sure that the Lord has made a mistake in all He has called her to be. There is a beautiful weight to wife and mother. I feel a rightness and peace in caring for the day to day, practical, educational, emotional and physical needs of my family. But all these other things? Ministry in the church both to children and their families, Mother to children with rare diseases and all the extras that entails, Advocate for the undiagnosed and diagnosed too late…I am not enough. I do not have enough time, enough energy, enough IQ points, enough patience, enough selflessness to be what He has called me to be. He must have made a mistake. Now I’m frantically looking for a way off of this bus. An escape from the weight. But all I see is a road unknown and I’m sure I’m traveling it alone.

September 5, 2021

Then all at once there is a brightness and a warmth and an inaudible Voice. I am all at once alone, yet the least alone I’ve ever been.

“Here is where I called you first.”

And the Truth of the words rush silent through my head.

1 Peter 2:9-10. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

I closed my eyes and bowed my head to the overwhelming beauty of Truth and now I can see it. As clearly as if it was right in front of me. How and who He created me to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

There can be no doubt that I am exactly where He means me to be. No mistakes, not if He has ordained every one of my days. But who has He called me to be FIRST, in all its complex simplicity? A chosen daughter of the One True King specially equipped to declare His praises to all whom He places before me. How do I continually forget?

My destination once again reached, I step off the bus into Identity. As a wife, mother, special needs parent, home schooler, family advocate, and ministry leader. But first, and most importantly, as a Child of God. By His grace….that I can do.

No More I’m Sorry’s

I seem to spend more time reflecting on eternity when I reflect on the passing of time. And I am more aware of the passing of time when I’m approaching a birthday. In this case, mine.

Most people who know me, know that it bothers me when people detest aging and even more when they detest the aged. I spend enough time with people who celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month to think of more time with loved ones as anything but a good thing. Enough time praying my children into adulthood not to appreciate every wrinkle and every grey hair signaling my own. Enough time trying to glean wisdom from the aged to think of their time as anything but a treasure.

Yet, as much as I appreciate and value the moments here and desire to fulfill the responsibilities set before me (especially those responsibilities related to my family), an enormous part of me longs for my true home. At times I feel like this is contradictory and I sympathize with and understand better what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.”

To be here, enjoying the good gifts my Father has given me here, and to take seriously the ministry He has set before me is a beautiful thing and not something to desire ending prematurely. But to die, if that is gain, what can that mean?! If it’s to gain, it has to mean that it is better than anything here. That it would, in no way, be a loss. It would mean there is no need for a “bucket list”, no need to do all the things and see all the things before time “runs out”. Because that would somehow imply that the room our Lord prepared for us in our Father’s house is somehow “less than” what we have here. Wouldn’t it?

So, if I war within myself on the subject of death and eternity, how then does one explain it to an eight year old? Mini Hubby, as usual, has had big things going on in his little, developing mind. He knows that we are promised no more pain and no more suffering. But lately, that has not been enough to stop his fear of death and an unknown/unseen place.

No problem, as a director of Children’s Ministry, I’ve totally got this. Hopefully.

We made a list of what we think heaven would not have if there was no more pain and no more suffering. Not necessarily in order of importance.

  • No puke
  • No blood
  • No hunger
  • No thirst
  • No bee stings
  • No mosquito bites
  • No stubbed toes
  • No COVID
  • No rust
  • No hang nails
  • No cancer
  • No car accidents
  • No doctors
  • No lawyers
  • No prisons

(I’ll admit to not thinking about those last three until we were brainstorming. Fascinating.)

But, simply the absence of pain and suffering was still not enough to relieve his fear. So, I suggested we make a list of what we think it might feel like to be there. This time we did it separately. This is mine:

Rainbows! Sunrises and sunsets that can’t be duplicated by man. The smell of freshly mowed grass, baking bread and salty wind off the ocean and into your face. The breath stealing moment of awe at the power in Niagra Falls or the carving of the Grand Canyon. Your hand in grandpa’s. Warm feet digging into cool sand. Sliding into fresh bedding after a hard day. The smell of grandma’s house. Hot chocolate in the cold. That moment when you exchange the rings, hold the baby and cheer for the victory. Reunions. Happy tears. Oh, Lord! That too brief moment of worship in Spirit and truth. When the world melts away, time ceases to exist, and you’re in full communion with the One who made you. For a few seconds. As close as you’ll be this side of eternity. Breathtaking. All of the best things about this world all at once.

Now, Mini Hubby will do most anything to get out of writing. So, his thoughts could be seen as a reflection of his aversion to a pencil, or, they could be further proof of what I’ve experienced with children time and time again…

Child like faith. With less exposure to this world, they seem far less tethered to it than we are. It just seems to make it all less complicated to them.

He wrote simply:

Jesus. No more I’m sorry’s.

And with that, my eight year old grasped heaven with both his sweet little hands. Because heaven includes our sin washing, heart renewing, saint shepherding Jesus, we will not enter with our sin. Nor will anyone else who has trusted in Him. We will no longer hurt others and they will no longer hurt us. And I just can’t imagine a better feeling combination than the presence of our Savior and the absence of our shame. Especially in the hurting, fallen world we currently inhabit.

So, did I help Mini Hubby with his fear of death and the unknown heaven? I’m not sure. Time will tell. But, I know he sure clarified things for me.

And I just can’t imagine a better feeling combination than the presence of our Savior and the absence of our shame.

Or, no more “I’m Sorry” ‘s

“He has adorned you with the gift of grace and adopted you as His child.He has given you His own Word to educate you for heaven; He has opened your eyes so that now you see. By His grace and your cooperation, your soul will gradually develop into a more perfect resemblance to Him. Finally, your heavenly Father calls you home where you will see the angels and saints clothed with the beauty of Christ Himself, standing around His throne and hearing the word that will admit you into their society: Well done, thou good and faithful slave; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matthew 25:21).” D.L. Moody, Heaven

For my birthday I’m fundraising for some of those families that celebrate their children’s birthdays by the month. Join me here:

https://www.facebook.com/donate/286126489718958/?fundraiser_source=external_url

Rock of Ages

Maybe it’s because we’ve just experienced the longest stretch of sub zero temperatures in almost a century, or maybe it’s because of all of the Facebook posts of people’s warm climate escapes, but I dreamed of an ocean last night.

Knee deep in calm, blue waters the ebb and flow gave little relief from the glaring sun. At that depth, the water was more like bath water. It was a new to me beach though and I’d spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide if there were any dangers below the surface. Behind me, there were a group of children using drift wood to examine a washed up jelly fish and I was keeping an eye out for any of it’s more fortunate mates. I had no idea where along this coast we were. Could it be shark season here? There were many people, far less cautious than I, that had entered these waters at the same time as I had and were now enjoying their relief from the heat, dipping below the surface and swimming in cooler water further out.

But there I stood, searching for unknown dangers, studying the water and what lay below the surface and looking longingly at the playful couples splashing in the distance. Distracted by all of the noise behind me, I glanced back to see a boardwalk full of people and a beach packed with blankets, umbrellas and countless families. There was volleyball playing, sand castle making, sun bathing and shell hunting. Shops crammed full of souvenirs destined for the landfill were teeming with customers in tiny bikinis and giant jewelry. The smell of fried food from several food booths mixed with the salt in the air and my own sun screen. Every time I looked longingly back out across the ocean, uncomfortable in the heat, my attention was drawn back to the commotion on the shore. So I stood in the in between. Not quite in, and not quite out.

That’s when I heard it. You’ve probably heard it before too. The “Oceans” song. If I closed my eyes I could hear it more clearly…

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand”

And there I stood, worried that venturing further, my feet would fail. Certain that my faith would. But drawn none the less. So I stood still and sang along.


“I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”

That’s when it happened. Looking down, I watched as the water pulled back as if Someone had pulled out a giant plug somewhere out in the great unknown. Suddenly, all people and their accompanying sound disappeared with the water and I was left with a foreboding empty silence. The sand beneath my feet had been drawn along with the water and I watched the ground hollow beneath me. My heart raced as my gaze lengthened to the sea bed in front of me. A myriad of things revealed in the stripping of the sea. Some beautiful, some ugly. I stood exposed, alone, in the quiet open. Waiting. And then I heard it. A roar of rushing water. Louder than anything I’d ever heard. I looked up in time to be enveloped by the wall of returning sea. The wave that slammed me into the Rock of Ages.


“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”

And there was incredible fear. Floundering, there was no place for my feet. No up or down, no left or right. No air in my lungs. No solid ground. No foothold.


“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

I vaguely remembered hearing and singing along to the song. If only I’d known what it might look like when I’d asked to be taken deeper! Would I have sung along? Would I have asked for faith without borders?


“I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”

Then there was a letting go. Not a giving up, but a giving in. I once again closed my eyes and heard You call. But this time, I called back.

Wherever You call me, Lord.

Then I woke up. To the quiet peace around me and in me. Grateful to keep my eyes above the waves, I was reminded of my favorite Charles Spurgeon quote:

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

I don’t know that I’ve learned to “kiss” the wave of special needs children. I still pray earnestly for healing. But I’ve certainly learned to be grateful for it, and what it has accomplished. I am far less distracted by the people and the commotion on the shore. Lord knows it has never been more ridiculous and frivolous than it is now. The things of the world still appeal, but don’t pull like they used to. I’ve seen them fade in comparison to the eternal. I am no longer terrified of the unknown. I’ve seen what lies beneath the surface and experienced the grace hidden there. I am no longer standing in the in between and there are others that are “all in” beside me. Now we collectively beckon to those stuck in the in between. We help each other on the long days when the persevering is hard and celebrate all the victories in between. On the hard days I’m content to wade in the deep waters surrounded by these brothers and sisters and on good days… I’m walking upon the water with my Savior and there is no earthly joy that can compare.

Who needs a warm weather destination anyway? This morning, I just spent a little longer snuggled into blankets and basking in the warmth of God’s promises. I will, however, still need a coat today.

Good Gifts

There is something special about being seven that makes my kids believe in magical things. Each one at that age has sprung a last minute Santa list on us that has included the impossible. Mixed in with Oldest son’s requests for a myriad of Pokemon and pasta was a request for his baby sister not to cry. Baby Girl, in the throws of her only girl-like obsession, handed over a one item list on Christmas Eve for Pixie Dust. This year, Mini Hubby asked for a turtle, knowing full well that mom does not allow any critters in the house that don’t have fur. There must be something about being seven that makes one willing to ask for the impossible.

The funny thing is, even though none of my seven year olds got what they wanted, they all loved everything they ended up getting. Watching Mini Hubby open his Lego gifts and spend an entire day putting together several Super Mario courses with a joy only surpassed by his focus made me think about the many things I’ve asked for, and not received. And how good it has been.

I don’t know about you, but somewhere along the way my Heavenly Father not only took my entire list of requests but also much of what I’d thanked Him for, and gave me something drastically different. I handled it with far less resilience than my seven year old children. I had this beautiful picture in my head and heart in which we were a successful, healthy, family of six. You know, comfortable home, sizeable savings account, honor roll students, good life insurance, new cars, weekend sports tournaments, warm destination vacations, promotions, the occasional cold and basically, nothing we couldn’t handle. On our own.

There was the problem, wasn’t it? My Father only gives good gifts. And a good gift does not include one that leaves me unaware of my daily, moment by moment need for Him. So, He mercifully gave me what I needed. Only, at the time, it didn’t feel like mercy. Children with a genetic disorder and the financial devastation that comes with a medical crisis felt more like crushing disappointment and pain than grace. Less like a gift and more like punishment.

A good gift includes something that makes me more into the image of my good Savior and less into the image of what the world defines as good.

So, sitting and watching my family open Christmas gifts this year I was overwhelmed with the good gifts I’ve been given. Some days, I still don’t want them, but by His grace, most days I am at least grateful for them. Grateful for the way Hubby and I are learning to plan for the future, but live in the grace for today. Grateful for the need to wake every day and surrender my family to the One who loves them more than I do. Grateful that He has not only used every one of our hard gifts to show us how loving and faithful and kind He is, but also to show us how everything else we’ve desired in this world pales in comparison to Him.

Today I’m thinking about you all. I’m thinking about how so many of you have gotten hard gifts this year. I’m praying that someday soon you will be able to stop grieving the gift you wanted, but didn’t get. I’m praying that you will be able to see, although dimly, how the gift you have is being used (If you are Christ’s) for your ultimate good and God’s glory. I’m praying for your perseverance in the hard things, but I’m also praying that you will find joy in the gift you didn’t ask for. Though 2020, for many, has been much more like walking on Legos than getting the coveted pet turtle, I’m praying 2021 will find everyone picking up all the sharp pieces and discovering what our Lord intends us to make with them with the same intense focus and joy as a seven year old that believes in the impossible.

Merry Christmas!!

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Matthew 7:11

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Seeds On The Ark?

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks as a youth ministry leader. There was a Sunday school teacher meeting after church while my family was at home in their jammies recovering from influenza. It actually felt like my couch was calling my name.

Wednesday night was youth group during which teenage boys overdosed on sugar and caffeine and decided to throw Oreos at each other, teenage girls dissolved into tears over the strain of twenty first century adolescence and all of its cruelty, and a myriad of leaders, including myself, did their best to share the gospel with all who weren’t relentlessly poking each other and giggling or braiding each other’s hair.

The next Sunday I stood outside my first grade room, coffee in hand, when little Johnny breezed past me telling me, “I threw up last night, but I’m good now!” and during the twenty minutes of a somewhat focused lesson, little Jenny leaned close to ask if there were fruit snacks today and promptly sneezed in my eyeball.

Immediately following first service I grabbed my bag full of lesson plans, fruit snacks and stickers and headed to our large group space where I, who cannot hold a note to save my life or operate anything with an apple on it, would endeavor to figure out the world’s smallest Macbook and dredge up every last drop of the caffeine I just drank to lead the next service of kiddos in their worship time. Complete with singing and dancing. Me. Singing and dancing. Like a crazy person. For Jesus.

Next was a leader meeting for youth group after which my heart broke into hundreds of little pieces for our community’s middle school and high school students who are burdened with such big, adult, worldly, things and a couple of hours praying about those big things after my own house was quiet and before I went to bed.

I know, I know, what’s not to love about youth ministry, right?! I mean, it’s really a dream service opportunity.

It made me wonder….

If I knew a few years ago (when that sly youth ministry director told me I’d be great with sixth grade girls) what I know now, would I still have jumped in? A million times, yes. Because it turns out that my God has an incredible sense of humor.

Why? Because me, the serious, sarcastic, practical and efficient one that loves schedules, order, reading and writing and cups of tea with quiet time? The me that dislikes germs, bodily fluids, silliness, messes, wasted time, chaos, noise and… glitter?

That same me has also been given this incredible love for sharing Jesus with young sinners and saints. Incredible joy in walking alongside them as they learn to view the world and themselves through a gospel lens. I love the privilege of rejoicing with them over each of their victories and praying with and for them in their struggles. This me, that Jesus is growing, loves youth ministry. In spite of all of it’s beautiful messiness.

On these harder weeks, I also remember the seeds. Because even on the messiest youth ministry days, there are seeds, right? My Lord just needs to make them grow.

I have also been remembering, as a non believer, dropping Oldest Son off at a new preschool because he had separation issues. That preschool, Noah’s Ark, happened to have smaller class sizes, and was not in a large daycare, but in a quiet Lutheran church. At the time, the Christian curriculum neither drew me, nor repelled me. It just seemed a better fit.

I remember walking in the entrance at pick up time and hearing the piano playing and little voices singing. Some with the appropriate words at the appropriate time and others… not so much. I could relate to the “others”. I remember descending the stairs would always reveal a handful of children sitting on the rug, a helpful helper with at least one cuddly toddler on her lap, a table full of created treasures waiting to go home and be displayed on the refrigerator and sweet grandma-like Mrs. Klopp playing away on that piano. It never failed. There was always one rambunctious kiddo, too restless for the rug, too upset over hurt feelings, or too ready for nap time, pulled up close on that piano bench. And I’ll never, ever, forget hearing that wonderful saint lean down at the completion of a song and whisper close to the wiggling ear, “Jesus loves you, and I do too.”

I don’t know if there were seeds on Noah’s Ark, but I happen to know there were seeds on Bonnie Klopp’s Ark and I thank God that He so loved my children that He placed them on that beloved piano bench and let her plant the seeds their momma didn’t yet know to plant.

Though I often think I’d give anything to have known about the love of my Savior earlier I can’t help but feel so incredibly blessed with the privilege of planting seeds in other young hearts, so they might know Him earlier. And though I may not be anywhere close to our precious, piano playing, craft with glitter making, saint of a seed planter, Mrs. Klopp; I’m so very grateful for her faithfulness in the messiness of youth ministry.

I can almost imagine the harvest from the seeds on the Ark. Can you? Praying that God will help me be faithful in sowing. Even without glitter.

His hands

We were on our way to dinner at a friend’s, traveling carefully down country roads packed with snow and reflecting headlights off ice that wouldn’t melt until May, when the “highs” climb above freezing and the salt on the roads finally does it’s thing. There were kids bickering in the backseat and Christmas music on the radio and somehow in these sixteen years of family car rides, we had successfully learned to ignore both. And as he’d been doing for the last 21 years, he smiled, reached across the console, and laced his fingers with mine. A couple of miles down that winding road he pulled his hand from mine to turn at the barely visible stop sign and as we rounded the corner he gave me a sideways glance while he absently flexed and straightened the fingers on his right hand, then turned his attention back to winter driving.

And I know what he’s thinking, because, well, 21 years. He’s thinking of the ache in those hands and wondering how long they’ll hold out. About the stiffness after a day of using them and the way they just don’t cooperate the way they used to. Or the way that one finger just won’t warm up anymore since injuring it, and it’s circulation, years ago.

In my mind’s eye I can see the frustration when his fingers don’t grasp and hold what he’s reached for, instead seeing it fall to the floor. I can hear his sigh when he retrieves what he’s dropped and tries again. I know he’s counting those vested union hours and praying hard he can make it until then. That things are still working enough to enjoy some semblance of retirement. That these hands will continue to provide and care for a family of five, six with Auntie Amy, and two with special needs.

So I reached across the console and grabbed that hand again. I see it differently, of course. So much bigger than my own, I have come to love every thick callous and scar. I’ve seen those hands wrestle my tires and my toddlers. Move refrigerators and move me to tears holding our new babies. They’ve moved in incredible gentleness and strength and awed me in both. Those tired hands have worked hard to provide pleasure, comfort, safety and income.

And just within the last couple of years, I’ve had the great joy and privilege to see Jesus through those hands. Seen them do things they’d never done before. I’ve seen them scrape up just enough for bills and be satisfied, sit for patient hours with a pencil doing middle school homework, faithfully hold and study his Bible, fold in prayer over food and friends, placed on shoulders in comfort and serve countless brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve watched as God has somehow made my husband’s hands even more tender, more gentle, and given them greater impact regardless of how well they function. He’s made them spiritually stronger in their physical weakness.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the last week alone, they’ve been required to plow, change tires, replace bearings, brakes and turn signals. They’ve worked hard cutting, scraping and lifting at work to come home and shovel out a chicken coop. They’ve brought home the bacon, figuratively and literally. They’re not done yet. I know my Lord has much more work for this servant. I also know He’ll provide the means for him to do it.

During this Christmas season of not enough time, money, patience and health, what greater gift could I ask for than to be able to rest in the loving hands of not just my Lord and Savior, but the God fearing, Jesus following hands of the husband He gave me?

Star Gazing

We live out in rural Wisconsin. It’s kind of easy for me to get caught up in some of the negatives of Midwest living.

Think subzero, hurts to breathe, snot freezes in your nose kind of winters and two week long summers.

But I’m getting better at learning to stop and appreciate the things I overlook in my hypothermia. Like the fact that our view of the night sky is unobstructed and undiluted. Unobstructed because we’re in the middle of fields and undiluted because we’re a fifteen minute drive from a gallon of milk and subsequently any “city” lights.

We’re currently experiencing our two weeks of incredibly gorgeous summer in which we have defrosted enough to turn the air conditioning on and break out the bug spray for our state bird, (the only one that survives the winter) the mosquito. We often stay up and outside as late as possible to enjoy every moment of it.

So yesterday I got to look at that beautiful night sky, not from behind iced and snow blown windows, but from the patio, reeking of “Deep Woods”.

It was magnificent.

How often do I pass a cursory glance over that expanse and only see those scattered few, bright, blessings shining down?

I sat listening to children bouncing on a trampoline, squealing with mock outrage over an overzealous sibling with a hose full of teeth chattering well water. I sat laughing, as our newly acquired (officially egg laying) chickens squawked over the commotion and ran crazy poultry circles around their coop.

And content, I gazed up. Focused in. To those bright, obvious, stars and then past them. As I panned across that sky, a thousand more came to my attention. These blessings aren’t as bright. They seem to get lost in the vastness in which they’ve been scattered, but the sheer volume of them is breathtaking.

Lord! How I overlook your blessings!

Oh, I see those that are closest at hand, that shine the brightest from here. I see the obvious food on the table, clean water from taps and roof over our heads. I see the ones that are measured biggest from my current vantage point.

But what about the others?

The ones that from here, under the heavens, appear so much smaller and less significant.

The gift of less. Is that a star, or a meteor? I can’t quite tell from here…

The gift of trial. Perhaps it’s a passing plane or satellite? Maybe if I squint…

The gift of the broken AC, water heater and car. The disability denial. The breast lump. The endless special forms that come with special needs. Certainly if I had a better vantage point, I’d see them more clearly?

And I think, someday I will. Someday I’ll look down on them from above and I can’t help but think those stars that wink so small from here, will flare brightest in light of eternity. Those blessings so much harder to distinguish living in the world will be clearest in their proximity to the Light of The World.

But some of them He shows me here. When His telescoping Spirit reveals small glimpses of what it must be like to gaze down on the twinkling blanket of blessings He’s laid over me.

Remember that lump of last month? That sure didn’t shine brightly as my biggest blessing when first I glimpsed it.

Then they told me it was precancerous. That these lesions are only found via mammography because they spread outward, instead of up, without forming a palpable lump. That I was two years from my first mammogram and if I hadn’t had that cyst that prompted the imaging, which found the lesion…..

And that cyst? It disappeared a few days after the partial mastectomy that removed all trace of the lesion with clean margins and no further treatment.

Some blessings sure shine brighter than others…. depending on my vantage point.

The lumpy, bumpy road…

This road we’re on sure has a lot of stones in it. The narrow path can be hard to navigate. Trying not to fall to the left or the right is tough when this road less traveled never seems to stay straight. Instead, we’re full steam ahead on a journey that has more twists and turns than the county fair roller coaster. I heard someone say once that if you’re bored as a Christian, you’re not doing it right. If there is any Truth to that, I have to believe we’re really rocking this following Jesus thing.

But the really cool thing I’m finding about maturity is that my reflexes have greatly improved. Usually, at a new bump or bend at break neck speed, I start with crying out. Right away I know to approach the One Whose stamp of approval has been placed on this detour. I occasionally start with the “Why me”, followed by (a little bit whiney), “What is it about me that requires THIS much correction?” Or maybe “What am I NOT learning?” and sometimes, “How long, Lord?”. This is a much quicker stop than it used to be. Because, well, reflexes. Muscle memory? Practice?

Next, I move on to remembering. Because when I’m nervous or scared or just plain tired, I know that I fail to practice some basic safety measures like looking in the rearview mirrors. Looking at where I’ve been reminds me of how I’ve gotten through, and Who is always traveling WITH me. Over every rough patch, through every close call, I can find strength in remembering that those situations seemed precarious at the time too, so surely there is hope yet for this one.

Then I slow down and remember to check those side mirrors and watch my blind spots. Because, in remembering, I’m reminded that this is when the enemy delights in trying to destroy. Destroy my peace, destroy my calm and destroy my deep breathing exercises. A bit of defensive driving here is absolutely crucial. I grab hold of that manual, that map, that Word of God and speak Truth to myself where lies threaten to sneak up on me.

This last couple of weeks I had some difficulty navigating. We hit a few bumps. The A/C went out in my van. Which isn’t such a big deal unless you have a kiddo that doesn’t regulate their body temperature well. Then, there’s the water heater that suddenly quits. And in the midst of a cold shower, another bump. Or rather, a lump.

In my breast.

And if any of you have experienced this kind of bump in your road, you may know the kind of road I traveled this week. It took a twist at the ultrasound, after the mammogram, when the radiologist ordered the core needle biopsy. Though I’d been in regular prayer over all our bumps lately, I will admit that the big medical words like radial scar and inter ductal carcinoma had me doing more of what would be considered, praying continuously.

I prayed continuously as they prepped for biopsy. I prayed continuously when that room looked more like a crime scene than an exam room. I prayed continuously that I would not lose my lunch, that I would remain conscious, and that they would finish soon. And as it was all over, I prayed for wisdom for the staff that would interpret the results.

Curled up with a couple of ice packs that evening I was still praying. My busy mind in direct contrast to the stillness of my living room, I made a familiar stop at “Why me”. Because I was feeling a bit…. afflicted.

Why us? Why finances? Why always medical problems? Why SO HARD? Why can’t we have “those” problems instead? You know, the ones those other people have? How much longer, Lord? And this whole pity party collided with gratitude for a Father that tolerates the questions of His struggling children.

So I finished my devotional. I finished my daily reading and I prayed for the ability to hand it all over to Him. For a peace that surpasses circumstances. Because I knew He could provide it, I turned off all the lights and crawled into bed.

When Psalm 41 flashed insistent through my head.

I don’t know Psalm 41. Is that in the first book, or the second? I’ll look tomorrow.

I tossed, turned, fluffed and got back up to take some more Motrin. Then tried again.

Lord, I know You already know those biopsy results and You’re already ahead of our every need. Please help me remember that and rest in You.

Psalm 41

1, 2 & 3…

That seemed rather specific so I picked up my phone and looked it up quickly on Blue Letter Bible.

Psalm 41
Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The Lord protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The Lord sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.

Giggling and crying, because that’s how I roll when the Creator of the universe lowers Himself to not only hear my prayer, but whispers comfort in illuminated text. I shut my phone off and went to bed. And slept.

The air conditioning is still broken, the water heater still needs to be replaced and biopsy confirmed what’s called a radial scar. Benign, it should require no treatment, but will at least need to be removed.

But I have it on good authority that we are being protected and preserved and we will be delivered in our times of trouble. Not to mention being sustained and restored. I’m feeling far more peace about the road we’re on.

Hand In Hand

Twenty years ago our paths intersected somewhere the other side of Early Adulthood and there was something attractive in the easy, confident, way you walked. Even if I left a safe, observable distance between us for a bit. Eventually though, your persistence closed the gap and we stepped out together hand in hand for the first time. Hearts and fingers tentatively entwined and overlapping. Questioning, sideways glances through lowered lashes revealed a contrast of broad, safe shoulders, thick, strong forearms, but genuine, kind blue eyes and gentle smile. Always smiling. How does a girl resist a combination like that? A girl whose road up until that point had been a little dangerous and lonely?

We continued into a new territory, Together, me and you. Though I’ll admit my focus was most often on you, I was quite amazed at all the new things I could see. With you beside me. Shadows weren’t so long or menacing and you taught me to jump over puddles and sidestep hazards, smiling all the way. Before I knew it, I had almost stopped looking back over my shoulder and was learning to live facing forward.

This next leg of our journey, though, brought us into Commitment and required a quick jump over a broom. Youth shiny new and dressed in finery we glowed and holding hands, made the leap and the promise to stay the course together, forever.

Then, holding our forever hands with new joy and confidence we continued on. The whole world seemed to open up, spacious, in front of us. Oh, how beautiful those days were! The way the sun shone on Possibility in the distance and all sorts of lovely trails appeared as we checked the map. We spent hours wandering along the way, discussing and deciding which one to choose. There were a couple of rough patches (much easier to navigate together) in the beginning then, but nothing that slowed our progress.

Feeling like we could conquer, together, any path we chose, we went for what appeared the most challenging. We took a deep breath and passed the sign welcoming us to Parenthood. Things sure speed up a lot then. Sometimes I wondered why there wasn’t a better description on the map, or more warning signs at the entrance, for it sometimes felt like we’d picked the diamond run as amateurs. But for the most part, we navigated all of the obstacles “Dirty Diaper Ditch”, “Pacifier Pass”, “Sleepless Slide” and several “Trust Falls” together. The going was tough, but the rewards were great and we emerged on the other end with three precious people we’d been entrusted with for the rest of our journey. They’re loud, expensive and exhausting but we found they definitely make the trip more beautiful.

Checking our map again, we realized our choice to visit Parenthood limited our next steps briefly and the terrain looked slightly more winding and definitely slower going (as we’d come out with more baggage than we’d thought). Given our three extra hands to hold, we decided to stay awhile next to Family Forge and focused on raising up and providing for our pack of five. We settled in and made plans for “after”. For when they finished school, chose paths of their own and found someone to travel with. We worked, saved, spent, planned and enjoyed the time and things we amassed here.

Looking out across the hills one day we watched storms gather menacing in the distance. We’d been relatively protected from extreme conditions in that forge but as soon as I saw that horizon turn purple, the little hairs on my arms stood up and I glanced at you scared, waiting.

Giving my hand a quick squeeze, you didn’t smile, but turned away and set to work. This time though, the broad shoulders and work rough hands were no match for the approaching storm. We sold what we could, searched high and low for shelter, to no avail. As the forge flooded and filled we held on to each other for dear life and even though we still had each other, we were tossed so violently to and fro we could barely keep our heads above water. Terrified, my foot brushed up soft against an Anchor. I’d picked it up a few years before, had moved it into our home and had been studying it when time allowed as it seemed to lend a constant, quiet comfort. That moment though, it seemed to come alive and hold me fast. The storm didn’t cease it’s battering, but held firm by the Anchor I was able to once again grab your hand and those of the children.

The waters receded, we caught our breath, but we’d be forever changed. You kept on moving, working, fixing, taking on anything you could to restore what we’d had, to forget about the change of the landscape as if by sheer force of will you could move the mountains that had shifted directly onto our path. We often held hands in the quiet, without words. You with the weight of us on your shoulders and me with my gaze on those mountains. Exhausted, we had no idea what to do or which way to go next. Gone seemed our confidence and definitely our joy.

But during the clean up. Sifting through the debris, I kept resting on the Anchor. The workload for the days seemed unchanged, the mountains remained immovable, the horizon still tinged grey, but there was always the promises of the Anchor to hold me fast. In those promises I found the joy I thought carried away. And it remained, regardless of circumstances.

I’ll never forget the day you tripped on that Anchor. The way you wrestled with it for days.

You didn’t need the Anchor.

It was enough that it was in our house…right?

But that load you were carrying left you too worn out to fight it for any longer. Led to the Word to study the Anchor of our souls, the Creator of our mountains immovable and the love of our Savior, you invited Him in. Into your heart, into our home and into our marriage.

We’re working our way now, hand in hand, following Christ, around our mountains. Sometimes hand in hand is through tears. Sometimes it’s through laughter. But still together. Always thankful. Because now we both know our final destination (even if we don’t know what will happen in between), that we’re never alone, and our God is bigger than any mountain we come up against.

A couple weeks ago you insisted we jump over that broom hand in hand again. Renewing former promises and making a few more that are meant to last the rest of our journey together and acknowledging the source of the love that has, and will continue, to sustain us along the way.

Blessed to make this journey hand in hand, with you, Hubby.

Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time in a kingdom not very far away lived a young king named King Hubby. Known throughout the land for his hard working, honest and straightforward manner, he was liked and respected by most. Even if he lacked the (sometimes vital) brain to mouth filter common among most nobles. Young and idealistic, he was ever an optimist and in his optimism took to wife a stunningly beautiful young peasant girl (creative liberty taken). Queen BB was somewhat vertically challenged (creative liberty NOT taken) but what she lacked in height she made up for in qualities that complimented her king. She immediately set to work organising, planning and smoothing any ruffled feathers. There was definitely order in the court! In fact, everyone in their court knew what a splendid match they made. Soon they welcomed Prince Oldest Son, followed shortly after by Princess Baby Girl. The kingdom continued to prosper under their reign. Continually adding to their lands and their castle treasury, Queen BB was amazed at her change in life circumstances. At about this time she discovered she might not be as low born as she’d thought. In fact, she just might be the adopted daughter of a King! A surprise to her, she set about investigating this new information. Basking in the details her research revealed, she also welcomed their third and final child, Prince Mini Hubby.

King Hubby and Queen BB had now amassed an extremely large amount of responsibility. The larger their kingdom grew, the greater the weight on their shoulders and the more demands on their time. It was during this time that tragedy struck the castle. Princess Baby Girl became ill. No expense was spared and no distance too great to find the best, most knowledgeable doctors of the time to find out what was wrong. For years, this quest continued until they were forced to sell off their lands, drain the castle treasury and the castle itself fell into disrepair. Many in the land moved to more prosperous kingdoms and King Hubby worked feverishly to retain their current holdings. When they finally located a doctor that would bring them an answer for Princess Baby Girl’s deterioration, it was not good. Even worse, Prince Oldest Son was discovered to be afflicted as well. Distraught, Queen BB set her organising and planning abilities to work on caring for the kids needs. When her Father walked in, He found her wasting away in a crumbling castle and revealed that He’d loved her from the moment of her conception. That He’d kept track of her all these years, and now during this heart wrenching valley, when much of her family and court had left for a less dreary environment, had come to walk beside her through it and brought much of His family with to help.

Having never met her Father, King Hubby was somewhat skeptical of His ability to help any of them. You see, since the doctor brought with him the diagnosis, King Hubby had been working constantly in the outlying lands. Returning only when his presence was necessary. Setting his mind and energy to preserving those things seemingly within his control he had no interest in getting to know Queen BB’ s Father, no matter how many times she told him of how kind, loving and trustworthy He is. Queen BB talked with her Father regularly. Often about King Hubby.

Finally, one morning as King Hubby was weighed down with fear for his children and worry over his kingdom, The King of Kings walked into his life, removed his heart of stone and gave him a heart of flesh. The scales disappeared from King Hubby ‘s eyes and he could finally see The Father for himself, in all His splendid glory. Queen BB watched in awe as King Hubby was brought from darkness to light. Fully awakened, this King Hubby came to life before her very eyes. As if he’d been sleeping these many years, he was looking at the world through a new lens. Clearer now, he could see past the haze of lies to truth all around him. The King of Kings was not only holding his kingdom, but the entire world in His hands. He need only abdicate his throne to the rightful King. King Jesus. He would carry the weight. Hubby would be free to take on the greatest responsibility. To love and care for the family entrusted to him. With a strength and endurance provided to him through King Jesus.

Then he heard about his inheritance! Holding onto the gift of faith, he would one day receive a crown in a kingdom more impressive than anything created by man. Spending eternity with his King!

Kissed by grace, Hubby now walks and talks as a man fully awake. Finding beauty where there was once darkness, strength where there was once avoidance, and joy in the presence of his King with his bride by his side.

In fact, Hubby has recently requested (again) the hand of BB. (I mean, after 16 years she’s still really quite a prize) As they are both now walking fully awake, aware of their heritage and committed to serving each other the way their King intends, Hubby figured some new, more appropriate, vows may be in order.

So….

You are cordially invited to the very informal, not yet planned, renewal ceremony on June 15th. Details to be announced.