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.

In The Garden

In-the-Garden-thumbnailLately I’ve been feeling bad for whoever sits next to me in corporate worship. I never used to. For years, I came to church and sat and stood at the appropriate times and even sang quietly with the rest of the congregation. Somewhere along the line though, it stopped becoming simply singing and became worship. I don’t know how it happened. Really, one day I was reading the words off the screen, keeping my volume to a very respectful whisper and my hands and emotions nicely contained. Then, the next thing I know, I’m standing in the front row, swaying to the music, eyes closed, arms up and “singing” like no one is watching. You see what I did there with the quotation marks? That’s because I can’t sing. This is not me practicing humility. This is me confessing. I can’t sing. At all. Which is why I suddenly feel rather sorry for the people close enough to hear me. This is also why I’m thankful for our more modern service with it’s music equipment that drowns out much of my noise. But, as my family will confirm, my concern for the ears around me hasn’t discouraged me much. Why? Because I was made to worship. I know, it may not SOUND like I was made to worship, but I was. You were too! I understand your confusion as this truth had once eluded me too. I’ll direct you to my first glimpse for a more detailed explanation but here’s a condensed version if you’re short on time.

There was once this fiesty, fire cracker of an old woman that used to walk barefoot through her acre large “garden”, her hair in militant rows of tiny curlers and her apron pulled up as a make shift basket. house-and-rowsBut it wasn’t her appearance that would puzzle me. She seemed to fit in that garden like she was born there. Her first toddling steps squishing dirt up in between her toes. Even at her advanced age she seemed to sway along with the stems as she threaded herself between the rows. And the fruit of her labor gathered in the folds of her apron seemed to bare witness to the fact she belonged there. What seemed to me to be at odds with the whole scene was her “singing”. It was how one could locate her among the produce. You certainly couldn’t miss it. In fact, I’d venture a bet that dogs on neighboring farms a couple miles down the road could lead you straight to her. It was less like singing and more like high pitched yelling. But as long as she was in that garden, she was singing her favorite hymns. When asked, it has been reported that she said, “If God didn’t want to hear me, He’d have made me mute.”. It’s taken me a few years but I’m finally starting to understand. That brilliant lady knew a thing or two about worship. She had figured out that it wasn’t the quality of the voice raised in praise, but the heart beneath it.

“There are some who cannot sing vocally, but perhaps, before God, they sing best. There are some, I know, who sing very harshly and inharmoniously – that is to say, to our ears. Yet God may accept them rather than the noise of stringed instruments carefully touched…When praise comes from the heart, who would wish to restrain it?”

Charles Spurgeon 

I don’t wish to restrain it. Not only because it pleases God but because I’ve found it’s as close to the garden as I can get here. (Now, I don’t have an actual garden. I may have inherited this sweet lady’s voice, but not her ability to make things green. Also not humility. It is a well known fact in my house that the only things I can keep alive have heart beats. Which really, I think should count for something??)

I play worship music in my van, in my kitchen, in my closet before prayer and as I “sing” the rest of the world kind of melts away. It’s just Him and I, walking through the garden. In the garden I’m free to rejoice in His presence, sing His praises and focus solely on Him. And in this place full of distractions, trials, pain and loss, I don’t want to waste a precious second of these opportunities to worship. My soul longs for His presence!

So here is my apology. Sorry, not sorry! And my best advice. Lift your voice and arms like you were made to worship (you were) and dance like no one is watching (or for an audience of One). Because, like a wise woman once said, if God didn’t want to hear you, He’d have made you mute.

Here, try it with this song. You’re welcome! 😊

Love Like A Hurricane

IMG_0025

The blaring music bounced off of slowly filling stadium seats, vibrated the grass beneath our feet and mingled with voices raised to accommodate the volume. Careful to stay on the correct side of the yellow painted line we wove our way among the throng of people jockeying to get a good position to see their favorite players on the field. Even to a non-competitive like myself, the excited, nervous anticipation was a palpable thing. One could almost smell the testosterone mixed in with the concession foods. This was prime people watching territory and for a detail person like me, quite overwhelming. I can only imagine the rush of emotions for Oldest son, the “Wish Kid”.

I’m embarrassing him completely by taking goofy selfies on the 30 yard line and pushing him at a large group of bouncing cheerleaders for yet more pictures because even though he’s taller and wider than I am, I still have some authority and I take full advantage. As we’re doing our best to match names to faces of men covered in football gear on the field and kicking balls into nets, we turn to see Oldest son’s favorite player. And this momma’s eyes fill and spill over at the smile on my man/boy’s face. All of a sudden there are TV cameras and a circle opens up in which he gets to be the center. He and this player he has memorized stats for, watched countless plays of and whose last name he sports on his jerseys. I’m doing my best to snap pictures of a ball and jersey being signed but in truth can’t see the screen of my smart phone anyway. Instead I’m wiping tears and running nose on my sleeve because I know that this particular man/boy knows that being in the center does not always feel good and I wasn’t quite prepared for the look of relief and joy he would shoot me.

Because I’m his momma I know. I know how much this means to him. Being diagnosed with a genetic disorder in Middle School does not generally place one in a position of acceptance by peers. Missed school does not help one to excel academically. Missed practices and extended periods of restricted activity do not help one become the star player of their team. And the differences in the way one’s mind and body function do not make social interaction any less awkward than they already are at this age.

But because his Heavenly Father loves him more, knows him more, He knew what our man/boy needed. And because He is sovereign, loving, faithful and totally extravagant in His grace, He could provide it. Oh, it wasn’t necessarily the amazing trip, the sideline passes or the meet and greet with a favorite player. Nope. He needed to know just how much he’s loved. That even if he can’t see how God’s plans could possibly be good for him or glorify God in any way, God is still very much for him. Present and active in his life. Because when you’re a man/boy with a genetic disorder that creeps into so many aspects of your young life, it can sure seem like that’s not the case. No matter how many times your momma tells you.

Then there are fireworks at one end of the stadium and it turns out this is the signal to vacate the sidelines. It also means that if you’re not quick enough in the tunnel, the opposing team will, in fact, overtake you. We hustle to seats provided, laden with trays of food and bags of merchandise into rapidly filling stands. Over the next few hours I get to watch Oldest son scream, jump and fist pump his way through four quarters of football. Caught up in his excitement and a new love for a team that showed my baby such kindness I will confess to praying for the outcome of a football game for the first time ever. So, if you’re a Jaguars fan, you’re welcome!

But, there was far more than one victory that night. As we got into the relative quiet of the limo (Yes, his Wish was complete with limo ride), and the conversation centered on the events of the night it hit me. Just as powerful as the hurricane that had recently swept through the lower level of our hotel. God’s love for us just about took the wind out of me. The words to David Crowder’s song came forcefully to mind.

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Palm trees staked up and stripped bare but still standing flashed by tinted windows and this time my heart turned over with the sheer force of His love for us. All of us. Grateful for every moment on this trip that His love spoke louder than any circumstance, good or bad.
And we are His portion
And He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
When heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that He loves us

Tangible reminders of His love for Oldest son litter our entire house. Rather than pick up the tee shirts, water bottles, caps and bags, I am leaving them out. Thanking God for the gifts and praying that each time my confused feeling man/boy looks at them he remembers the Love that gave them to him.

Fierce.

     Relentless.

          Powerful.

 

Plans, Preparation, Predictability… and Purpose.

2017-11-02-11-09-31-

I just made an appointment for our sixth surgery in eight months. “Our” meaning our family.  More specifically, there have been two for oldest son and this will be the fourth for baby girl.  I’m not really digging it. Once again, this wasn’t part of my plan.

I really like plans.

Things like predictability and preparation are some of my favorite things.  No joke. I really enjoy schedules,  lists, calendars, highlighters, etc. I get super excited when I get to use my label maker. I know,  some of you are totally cringing right now.  You are likely those people that do crazy things like ride in hot air balloons, jump out of FLYING planes or off of perfectly good bridges with rubber bands on your ankles.  It’s okay, I don’t understand you either.

Yup, you can take your mud runs and your “spontaneity” and I’ll be perfectly comfortable with a nice boring day,  free of chaos, reading a great book.  If this life thing were up to me, that would be my plan.

But it’s not.

So my flesh (every extra fluffy pound) often sits in waiting rooms or on route to appointments re-rearranging my mental schedule for the hundredth time and crying out for just a little bit of boredom. A little less crisis.  My flesh wants to be the Mom that’s at home instead doing the laundry, putting together a nice healthy dinner,  looking up birthday party ideas on Pinterest,  volunteering for ALL THE THINGS, welcoming everyone home to a nice, relaxed, stress free house and never dropping any of the balls. (I am constantly dropping balls. Very frustrating.)

I feel like it’s a good plan. I also often feel like I could really do some amazing things with God with this plan. Just think of how big my mission field could be! I could do the mission trips and serve in all sorts of ways I just can’t right now. I could be that child of God that is running around with the Good News in far away places instead of running around chasing my tail, struggling to serve just the few in my reach. I’ve tried to convince God of the brilliance of my plan but either this sounds a lot like bargaining and whining to Him or He is just pretty confident that His plan is still better.

So my faith will keep reminding me that I may have plans,  but God has a purpose.  On days like today when my flesh just really, really, wants a little boredom, I will instead cry out in prayer and ask my merciful Father to show me just a molecule of His purpose in all of this. To help me re-remember that His plans are for my good and His glory.

Because my best laid plan has nothing on His purpose.

cropped-banner.png

Do you see things unseen?

As Christians we base our eternal lives, our very souls, on things unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:18

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We believe not just in God, but every truth He reveals to us through His word, prayer, worship and Spirit. I believe He raised mountains, parted seas and tore down walls; though I didn’t see it happen. I know people who lived thousands of years ago. Their struggles, failures and the way God used it all to reveal Himself to me. I believe His Spirit lives within me to help and guide me, though it is a still, small voice to which I’ve never laid eyes on.

But I struggle with unbelief every day in a myriad of ways that might not be as obvious. Because I have yet to see. I worry about my family’s future because I have not seen it. Though I know His plans for us are good.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I push to the back of my mind the suffering of others because I have not heard firsthand their cries. I have not felt their tears, smelled the smoke, felt the earth shake beneath my feet or the gnawing hunger in my stomach. I have not seen their trauma or felt their particular broken heart and the hopelessness left in its wake.

It begs the question then. Do I believe in God, or do I actually believe Him?

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

What makes my belief different than that of a demon? Do I believe everything He reveals to me? Do I truly believe it as if I’ve seen it first hand? And if I’m truly believing Him, what does that look like?

To truly believe is to follow. It is to take every God breathed word of the Bible as truth regardless of whether I’ve actually seen or known personally the people within it and to respond in a way that I’ve been instructed to. It is to hear the cries of God’s children whether they are within my own home, in my community, or half a world away.

2 Corinthians 1:4

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

It is to give freely the gifts of grace showered upon me by a loving, generous Father because I know that He will provide for me. I have received His comfort in more ways than I can count. But have I given it as well?

James 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

It is to take up the great commission and share hope to the hopeless.

Some of us are called to the mission field into our own home, serving in a hundred ways no one but God will ever see. Some of us are called to serve our own communities, neighbors written off by the world. Still others are called to mission fields far away from the comfort and privilege of Midwest America. But all of us are called to believe and live a life broken and given to Christ. To live free of the chains of this world. This is great news! But it takes a commitment from us to live a life of belief. Believing the ultimate in unseen suffering, the suffering of Jesus, and staking everything we know and have on that truth.

lbw1lbw2

Sometimes I am deeply grieved by the products of my own unbelief. Selfishness, pride, worry and fear can keep me shackled to this world without me even being aware of it sometimes. But thankfully there is no need to despair of the condition of my heart! Thanks to Christ’s willingness to live broken and given for me, this condition is not terminal! In God’s infinite loving kindness, He even gives me a treatment for this condition. A way to help me experience the true freedom of the Gospel and sharing that healing freedom with my neighbors. Both seen and unseen.

lbw3

Mark 9:24

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

*emphasis mine

Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Please help me listen to and be guided by Your Spirit. Please give me Your eyes to see and soften my heart to feel for all of Your children. Reveal to me these things I’m holding more dear to me than You. Show me how to honor You with the time, gifts and resources You’ve given me. Help me to see beyond me, to hear above the noise and to run hard after You. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you see, and if you are feeling so lead to believe in the unseen suffering in the images above, I’d ask you to prayerfully consider helping! You can find out more about the need, and how you can help by visiting the link below.

http://livebeyondwords.org/

 

Good And Faithful Servant

She lays in a bed, her breath slowing, filled and surrounded by what love built. Love of the Father that filled her and has spilled out to the children and grandchildren currently at her bedside. Love that has fueled a life of joyful service.

A veritable whirlwind of energy, she has loved in a thousand ways of laying down herself. Short on words she has always been long on movement; constantly loving her family by meeting their needs. Before this flesh started to fail, she had a key to every house and on any given day you could find her in one of her adult children’s homes cleaning and doing laundry. Running errands from behind a steering wheel she could barely see over. Ferrying grand-children to appointments so their parents wouldn’t have to take time off of work. Caring for close and distant relatives alike. She delighted in her service and as far as I know, never refused a request that was within her means.

20161011_202229FB_IMG_148958293884720160508_085422

She lived to serve and lived because she served. Because of the love she had for Christ she modeled a life crucified to self. Some may think this way of life, this selfless love, would leave a person tired and empty of joy. Unless they understand, like this beautiful woman does, that this crucified life brings more energy and joy than a life of serving yourself ever can. Never have I believed her to be unhappy. In fact, you needed only to watch this tiny spitfire of a woman on a dance floor with a good Polka band to see the joy she had in life.

20170427_102638

So, from half a continent away, I am grieving that I can not be there to hold her hand. Hands that worked and loved so long. To whisper I love you and thank you. For the milk shakes after the dentist, the french fries to “hold me over” on car rides home, for so many apple pies and the dozens of other ways she cared for a grand daughter that was often as short of words as she was. And most of all, for showing me what a life as a good and faithful servant looks like.

image

Lord, I pray that if these are, indeed, her last breaths here you will fill them with moments of supernatural peace, confident in Your love for her. In the days to come please help us all to celebrate her life over the grief. Bring to all of our minds memories that make us laugh and remind us of how well she has loved. Jesus, please give us a comfort and peace that can only come with the truth that all who believe in You shall not perish, but have everlasting life. In Your name, Amen.

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.

images-1images-5

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.

images-4

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.

images-3

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.

Anchor.jpg

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.

eye-of-storm

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!

Let this cup pass…

I know that as followers of Christ we are to expect trial and suffering. But I find that expecting it and being prepared for it are two different things for me. Part of me conveniently forgets this truth until I’m staring at it, blinking in shock because it’s happening again.

A dear friend of mine, who has walked through no small amount of trial and suffering herself, recently was hit with more. Her walk through trial has so greatly encouraged my own and her wisdom, support, and encouragement have been such a huge blessing to me. My heart literally hurt to hear she was facing more. Yet through her pain, I was blessed yet again. This time through a conversation we had about cups (Yes, cups) and the resulting picture I was given.

I’m in a large upscale banquet room filled with tables covered in crisp white linen. Rows upon rows of us are seated. Expectantly waiting. Suddenly, there’s a shifting and murmuring as hands start passing along cups. From left to right and around to the other side, each table passes them one by one. Intrigued, I examine them as they pass through my hands.

Some are fine china, light and delicate with gorgeous, hand painted designs and gold rims. The handles so fragile I hold them on the bottom to pass them along. Others are of sparkling crystal creating orbs of prisms as they move along catching and throwing the light from the overhead lights. Still others are ornate goblets with designs that tell stories and inlaid with precious stones the size of robin’s eggs. I’m in awe of the differences, the uniqueness of each one, as I pass it to my right. Eventually I’m holding an earthen cup, more of a vessel. It’s edges are crude and it’s surface so rough and porous I’m sure that it can’t possibly hold anything.images-31 It’s ugly and it weighs far more than I think it should. In no small hurry, I look to my right to pass it along. Only to find their hands are still full. Looking around, I realize that everyone now has a cup. They aren’t moving anymore. Uneasy now, I glance to my left, hoping to pass it back the way it came. They actually lean away, protectively holding the cup they have. Increasingly alarmed, I look for sympathetic eyes, someone who might be willing to trade. I see pity and judgement in eyes averted. Overwhelmed, unable to bear holding it any longer, I place it on the table. My own eyes overflowing, I think if this is my cup, I don’t want one at all.

Head bowed, I rub my hands on my legs to try to rid myself of any remnants of that cup and I feel a hand on my shoulder. A gentle pressure. I look up through blurred lashes and make out an arm reaching in front of me and taking my cup. Startled, I look up into merciful, kind eyes looking straight into mine. “I don’t want it.” I whisper in explanation.

“I know.”

And His understanding kindness undoes me and I weep anew.

“It’s okay. Follow me.”

And because there is hope there, I do. Past curious glances I follow Him through the maze of tables and people and cups and I realize, they don’t even see Him. Puzzled and out of sorts, I follow Him through a doorway, into another room. The light is somehow softer here, but no less bright. There are people here too, but the tables are not covered in linen and they’re seated close together on benches. These eyes look right at me, and shift to my cup. But they’re not afraid. Instead, they shift to make room. Uncertain, I hover behind Him until He holds out a hand, calloused, yet soft, with remnants of clay under His nails. I take it, and my place at this table.

The people here, they lean in close while He dries the tears from my eyes. Through the open doorway I can hear music and too loud laughter. There’s clinking of dinnerware piled high with food and beautiful cups filled with drink. I can smell the abundance and see the chandeliers hanging high and glinting in florescent light. There’s a woman standing in the doorway with one foot in each room, her eyes distracted and pulled to the merriment next door. And I see Him get up, and hold out the same hand to her. Uncertainty and longing flashes quick in her eyes but she remains still.

“When you’re ready, follow me.”

The warmth here is greater than that next door and has little to do with the fire blazing in the hearth. There are no plates piled high with food or waiting in silver warmers. Instead, the fare is simple bread and wine and fills more than my stomach. I watch these people at the table with me as they share what they have and what they know. You see, it’s a work table and they’re looking up instructions in the books at their sides, helping each other. And their cups?

They’re being transformed by a master potter. Expertly washed and painted, they’re made new. Rough lines and crude material are made into the most beautiful of creations. And the fire?images-45 I’m now kneeling with a friend next to it, holding her hand. While He is reminding us that though it burns destructive hot to the wood within it, it’s bringing out incredibly unique colors and patterns. And when our cups emerge they will be more beautiful for the process and hold far more than they did before.

In the waiting, we’ll grow together and closer to Him. And maybe someday, when complete, we will no longer want to pass on these cups?

John 18:11

Jesus commands Peter, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”