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.

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.

When you feel a little stuck

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

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

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

Or am I the only one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I see beyond me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

He Gave Me Wings

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

D-Day

This week marks the anniversary of what I think of as my personal D-Day, or diagnosis day for our daughter. The day our world seemed to turn upside down and no longer made any sense. The repercussions causing me to land in the dark, and the next year learning how to rest in God, over and over again.

Reflecting on the last year, it has been on my heart to share some things with those of you who have, or are, experiencing your own trauma and suffering. Who may still be in that dark place. This letter is for you.


Dear Friend,

I see you. Always a compassionate person, I can now feel you in a way I never could before. The pain you emanate is palpable. I see the blank look in your eyes in a crowded room, not really taking in anything around you because the darkness you’re caught in has swallowed up the people and conversations around you. Your shoulders are hunched forward, curled around the pain and grief trapped in that place with you. Your smile a mere up turning of your lips. You’ve turned completely inward in the upside down. I don’t know if you’ll hear me, but I want to gather you in my arms and whisper past the shadows under and in your eyes. You’re not alone in there. Keep looking for the light and call out to Him.images (4)

Be careful. There may be bright sparks of anger, resentment and blame. Don’t follow them.They may lead you out, give you fuel to keep going, but they’ll only lead you to a life trapped in a place similar to where you are. Void of hope and truth and love.

Wait for His light. Maybe just soft at first, teaching you truth on your way to the surface, or for some people an all enveloping ride full of grace and love.downloadimages (13).jpg

Whatever that looks like for you, you’re bound to run into the hard but necessary truths. How utterly fragile, helpless and weak we are on our own. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you are unloved, or worthless. Just the opposite. You are so precious and loved Jesus will be with you through all of this. There’s no need to do it alone. When you look to the Lord for your strength, lay all your fears and pain at His feet, you can do all things through Him. Even THIS.images (8)

There may be friends and family that, unable or unwilling to absorb the shock, will distance themselves from it. But He will take that anger and resentment you may be tempted to and instead lead you to your knees in prayer for them and thanksgiving for those He’s placed in your life for this instead.

I assure you, His perfect sovereignty has the power to reach down and save you from this dark here and carry you all the way home. When you’re ready, He’ll be waiting. His love so powerful, perfect and faithful, He’ll take it all. And His yoke is infinitely lighter than yours.

There, in that place, you’ll find indescribable joy. The joy that comes solely from Him and has nothing to do with your current circumstances.

Dear one. I don’t know what your personal D-Day is. I don’t know if it’s a child’s diagnosis, your own, loss of a child or loved one, a life changing phone call at 2 a.m. I don’t know why God has allowed this in your life, but I know that He does. That regardless of how this feels now, His plans are to prosper you and give you hope and a future. Even if you can’t see any possible way for that to be true.

Look for, embrace and give thanks for every gift of grace. Big or small.images (7)

Hold onto Him, as He is always holding onto you. Remember His promises written on your heart and commit them to your mind.

Love and Blessings,

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I wish I could say that this particular anniversary came and went without any unwanted or uninvited memories for me. It didn’t. I woke to fresh memories of that day a year ago. Fear and pain springing up in place of my hope and faith. Sure that despite the blessings rained down on me over this last year I still didn’t have enough faith.

But in the remembering, I realized just how far from the dark He’s brought me, and how much joy I’ve found in His light.

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Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

Soft and sweet.

Do you feel it? No fear.


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


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


Just joy.

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

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

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

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

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


2 Corinthians 3:16-18

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


 

What I Told My Kids Today

As headlines, graphic images and special reports flooded the airwaves today my kids couldn’t help but catch wind of tragedy. Of pain. Of loss. Of hate and anger.images (4).jpg

“Mom, why are so many bad things happening?”

Ugh! How to explain a fallen world to innocent, soft confused hearts?

“I don’t know baby. God tells us we live in a fallen world where bad things sometimes happen.”

“What do we do?” Anxious words from a tiny heart that wants to help. To DO something. Don’t we all?

“We pray. We can pray for protection and pray for all the people who are sad and angry and hurting.”

“What do we do if something bad happens here?” Oh, to wrap them in bubble wrap and bolt our doors. But no.

“We look for God. ”

“But we can’t see him. What if we’re still scared?”

“He’s promised to always be with us. We look for Him in the people we see. Look for the helpers He’s sent. Whenever there’s something bad, look for the people helping. Sometimes they’re a police officer or fireman, sometimes they’re a man in a suit, a man covered in tattoos, or a teenager with baggy pants. Sometimes they’re black, white, brown or yellow. They help people out of fires, pull people out of car accidents, help fix their injuries, carry babies to safety, hold people that are crying, pray with people who are scared. But they’re there.”

“Does God send helpers everywhere?!”

“Oh yes!! He sent us too! Remember? We’re strong and brave because God is with us and loves us! And we love everyone as much as we love ourselves so we will help if we need to!”mms_20160709_001718

“I’m a helper?! God’s helper?!”

“Yes! We are! And there are lots of us. Just remember to look for them, and be one!”images (1).jpg

“Because we can do all things with Christ who gives us strength….right?”

“Right baby.”


2 Corinthians 13:11

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peacewill be with you.


Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.


Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”