Multiplied

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did this happen?

I did all the right things!

(Whine. Whine. More whining.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Loaves Food and Clothing

 

Friends in low places….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, just one more thing….

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

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

Love,

The Blanchards

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

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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.

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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.

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On Healing, Laughter and Joy

I wonder when August 19th will pass without me noticing.  Some of you can probably relate to an anniversary of something you don’t celebrate.  Two years ago, after searching over a year for a diagnosis for our daughter, we received a phone call with her test results that turned our life upside down.  Honestly, some days I still feel rather out of sorts.  But, for any of you that might be going through some rug pulling out from under you stuff right now, I want to share something with you on our anniversary.

You will laugh again. And if you continue to trust God through this, you’ll find joy in Him again too.

Oh, two years ago I was certain I would never laugh again without it being saturated in sadness.  That it would never quite reach my heart again.

I was also very unsure that I would ever find joy in my relationship with Christ again. For sure, there was a long period where I sought Him solely for comfort and peace I could find nowhere else. But would I ever rejoice in His presence again? Ever bask in His love for me? I just couldn’t see it.

In case you can’t see it either, here’s a story of healing, laughter and joy.

Last fall I traveled out of state for a meeting with the pharmaceutical company that makes the medication for two of our children.  Because of my past, I had a thing about flying.  Lots of things actually,  but mostly panic attacks and a whole lot of anxiety.  It wasn’t until I had made it to the gate on this trip that I realized I had made it sans attack.  There’s a blog post somewhere about it.  So, naturally, I was praising a healing God and feeling pretty good about this whole trip by the time wheels were up.

By the time wheels were down though, I had already forgotten Who I was traveling with and that I could totally do this thing. I looked at the time on my phone and was already calculating how much time I had to make it through the terminal, to baggage claim, procure a cab, check into the hotel and make it to the first meeting in time.

As I was exiting the plane, I happened to hear the flight crew talking about a certain president, major pop star and local baseball game all in this city over the next couple days. I became less and less sure about my timeframe.

Why did this airline decide they needed MY particular carry on to be checked at the gate?! Nevermind.  I’ll hustle.  Keeping in mind I’m only five feet tall,  my “hustle” isn’t as fast as I’d like.  By the time I make it to the baggage claim I’m sweating and out of breath and that’s only partially because I’m terribly out of shape.  Anxiety has returned.

No worries! My bag is one of the first on the carousel.  Hallelujah! Now, to find a cab. I happen to see a sign as I’m frantically reorganizing my paperwork that says something about this airport only permitting licensed taxis in designated areas for our safety,  blah, blah, blah as I head for the closest exit. I look left, then right, not a taxi in sight. Darn.  Where is this “designated area”? I head back in and down the line of baggage claims further, looking for a sign. I see nothing.

Okay,  I’ll try the next door and then I’ll just ask someone. As soon as I step out the doors a suspiciously well groomed man asks me if I’m looking for a cab.  All of a sudden, I feel like I should not tell him that is exactly what I’m doing.  It must be written on my face though because he then tells me he happens to have a cab,  just there across the loading area,  in that nice creepy parking ramp and if I’d just follow him he’s got great rates. Hmmm… what was that sign about my safety??

After politely and quickly refusing I actually do hustle back inside this time. I am dangerously close to a panic attack when I finally see a sign for the taxi pick up line. I make a dash for the line and put as much distance between me and the potential serial killer as I can. Although once in line, I see he has (suspiciously) disappeared.

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I am safely deposited into a “licensed” cab, give the gentlemen that isn’t so keen on hygiene the hotel name and try to take deep, calming breaths. I say “try” because I am suddenly being whipped around by a cab driver that must be practicing for the Indy 500. Every time he comes to a sudden, neck breaking, stop, I need to brace my foot against the seat in front of me and every time he goes, my empty stomach gets splattered all over my backbone. I am anxious and sweaty and now turning shades of green.  He must be color blind because in an effort to avoid traffic he starts cutting off the exits,  looping around and coming back on the freeway.  The fourth time,  my water bottle breaks free of my death grip and is being slammed all over the minivan and my purse takes a nose dive. I catch most of the contents mid air. I don’t dare close my eyes, but this is when I start praying. That I don’t throw up.  That I can start to breathe normally again. That I would survive to the hotel….

And the driver stops the cab.  In the middle of the freeway,  in rush hour traffic and reaches back and throws open the back door. I am absolutely stunned and my poor brain can’t figure out what in the world he’s doing except maybe throwing me out?

Then he points.  And asks me if I want to take a picture.FB_IMG_1503174027370

Of the brilliant rainbow.

Fumbling for my camera on the floor,  crying and belly laughing like a lunatic I squeal, “Yes!”. And I remember that I serve a God that brings healing.  Who also has an amazing sense of humor that has me belly laughing and rejoicing in His presence again.

Oh, and I made it on time, breathing, without throwing up.

 

 

You are MORE….

She wakes up in the morning short on sleep because of a late night and a restless sleep. Making her way to the mirror in her master bathroom she stares at her reflection and starts to remove the remnants of the night before that haven’t already rubbed off on her pillow.

There’s an uneasiness this morning that she just can’t shake. Looking at the face sans make up that appears in front of her she critically assesses her reflection. Her face has changed subtly over the years as gravity has worked and shaped the angles but it has done little to take away from her beauty. If anything, it has softened sharp edges and made her more approachable. Sometimes to the wrong people.

No, the nagging unease today is not her appearance.

Perplexed, she shrugs it off and goes to work laying the foundation for another day. She leans in closer for finishing touches to emphasize almond shaped eyes and olive toned skin and for a second sees further than herself. Past her familiar face she can see an equally familiar world behind her. In the glare of the late morning sun she sees her beautiful home and family. She smiles and gazes past them to the luxuries she’s worked so hard to acquire. The fun things that she knew would give her happiness. The hot tub, the pool with bar for entertaining, the right cars and boat to enjoy with friends and acquaintances. The right brands hanging in her closet and stamped prominently on her purse.

I’m thousands of miles away and watching and praying for this girl. Oh, not the one with the straight, white smile and flawless skin, the one inside. I love this girl overflowing. The one that radiates energy and passion that spills out onto everyone around her. Whose surprised laugh rushes forth, straight from her belly, genuine and contagious like a toddler’s. As long as I can remember, people have told this girl how beautiful her reflection is. In jealousy, people have passed her off as just a pretty face. In selfishness, people have told her what she wants to hear. I’ve seen her underestimated and valued for the wrong things. Shallow relationships dot her past. So I watch and I pray.

I pray for the breath of God to breathe life into those dry bones. Real life.

And then, he does.

I’m watching from the corner as her face and her reflection change. In grateful tears I look past her confused face into the fringes of her life in the mirror. I can see it too. The mirror briefly fogs up, then refocuses like a camera lens. Suddenly, her world, the people and things in it, look a little different. This world has something wrong with it. Things once bright and shiny have dulled. Things once exciting and new have started to fade. Mistakes once easily justified have become shame. This world is clearly not what she wanted. What she had longed for. In tears, she is wondering what went wrong. How did she get here?

And I’m rejoicing in answer to prayer; a life awakening. Our tears are different because she only sees the potential loss of the familiar. She is grieved by the thought that what she’s always believed has been a lie. My tears are ones of thanksgiving and anticipation. Thanksgiving to a God merciful and loving. Anticipating the joy of watching this girl learn truth.

That she was made for  so much more than what the world can give her.

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That the happiness she’s been chasing so hard after can’t be found in a party, a place or the next exciting relationship, but in the One that made her.

God who sees me

That she’s more treasured, more loved, than she has dared to imagine. And it has nothing to do with her appearance.

That there is relief and forgiveness for the guilt and shame acquired by living according to the world.

Dear, beautiful, friend of mine,

I pray that you will continue to ask, seek and knock to find the truth. Pour all of that beautiful, passionate, energy of yours into finding the joy everlasting. You’ve never shied away from a challenge or given up the opportunity of adventure. I promise this life of following Christ will be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done. Keep looking in that mirror and let Him show you the way.

i love you in mirrow

I need to stop bailing water…

I’m sitting in my favorite place. My feet and hands buried into the soft, warm sand. My head tilted up to absorb sun filtered through wispy clouds, my hair brushed back by gentle winds. I can hear the rhythmic rolling of waves and the distant begging of seagulls somewhere further down the ribbon of beach. The air is rich with the smell of heat radiating off of warm sand and beached seaweed below. This week has been two years since I washed up on these same shores and I’m amazed at the difference those two years make.

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As I’m reminiscing there’s a commotion behind me. A flurry of excitement and a vaguely familiar voice draw my attention to a group of men making their way to a fishing boat not far from shore. I hadn’t planned on going out on the water today but as He looked back I found I couldn’t resist the invitation to join them. I was not the only one. As I gathered Hubby and the kids and scrambled to find a boat of our own, there was a small fleet of vessels preparing to follow those men out to sea. Out on the water, a quick glance observed many from the beach wondering at the procession. Staring at us from behind big sunglasses and under bright umbrellas, holding fruity drinks in fake coconuts they quickly decide to return to their conversations.

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The day progresses and the shore shrinks on the horizon when a storm whips up, seemingly out of nowhere. Two years ago I weathered a similar storm and it pulled me under, depositing me on the distant shore. Today, I am not as worried about the storm as I am the water the boat is taking on. I’m furiously bailing water, trying to keep up. Our storm is one of special needs and each scoop of the bucket is another need.

Surgery, scoop.
Social Security appeal, scoop.
Medicaid, scoop.
Attorney, scoop.
MRI appointment, scoop.
EEG appointment, scoop.
Neuropsych appointment, scoop.
Leukodystrophy Foundation conference, scoop.
Newborn Screening advocacy, scoop.
Prescriptions, scoop.

Even the “normal” needs add to the rising water in the boat.

School supplies, scoop.
School shoes, scoop.
Soccer registration, scoop.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop….

I know there are many people safely on shore that think there is something different about us in the boats. Still others that believe somehow we have been uniquely prepared for our storm. Even a few that believe we have done something to deserve it.  Or maybe that we have a superhuman ability to withstand this storm on our own.

We don’t.

I don’t.

This becomes crystal clear as the water level increases in the boat until my heart is racing and I’m absolutely exhausted from the fight. I find myself examining my sinking ship. All of the ways I’ve failed. I’m not fast enough, strong enough, skilled enough to keep us afloat, to save these precious souls in the boat.

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So I sit in the rising water, paralyzed with fear, turned so far inward that I almost don’t hear Him. That familiar voice in the middle of the storm. Reminding me that I’m not supposed to be able to do it alone. That I don’t have to. Why do I keep trying to? And despite the storm around me, the storm within me quiets. I stop looking at my own boat and trust the One that calms not only the winds, but the waves as well. I look up and when I see Him I’m reminded why I’m here. I followed Him. No matter what the seas look like, no matter how distant the shore, I need not fear the journey because I know the destination.

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That’s when I see it. I’m reminded of the other boats in the raging sea. Some are much further out into the waters. Some have been tossed ruthlessly and it’s a wonder that they’re still in one piece. I can vaguely make out a much smaller vessel starboard, slightly foreign in its design, it’s battered and falling apart. The screams of the occupants are swallowed by the sounds of the sea as they hold tight to anything close to them that hasn’t been loosened by the ruthless waves.

But it’s their eyes, not their voices, that call out to me. Because I can see it. Beyond the fear, beyond the despair, is the hopelessness. And it hits me harder than any of the waves. They haven’t seen Him! They have yet to hear that still, small voice that calls out to them in the middle of the storm! Suddenly, I’m frantic to get to them. Oh, not because I can save them (no more than I can save Hubby and the kids next to me), but to tell them about the One that can. About the One that can not only make you brave, but fill you with a hope and peace that defies circumstances.

I’ve been doing a lot of bailing water lately. Even though I know where my strength comes from, that I can do all things through Christ, I still occasionally fall victim to lies from the pit. More often than I’d like. It isn’t until my anxiety returns, that I’m in tears and on my knees that I realize I’m trying to do this life alone again. The whispered lies that I’m useless, a failure, not smart enough, efficient enough, organized enough,

not enough,

have me convinced I need to appear more than I am. If everything is okay on the outside, I will be okay on the inside. And the enemy has me just where he wants me. Paralyzed, focused on myself.

Then, God reaches down, lifts up my face, and reminds me that I’m His. And because I’m His, it’s my joy to follow Him out upon the waters, no matter what they look like. And it’s amazing what, and who,  I see when I’m not focused on me.

This last week I had the privilege to hear an update and a sermon (which inspired this blog) from some beautiful people from an amazing organization called Tutapona. They provide trauma rehabilitation to refugees from war torn countries in Uganda and Iraq. Widows and orphans. The least of these. These refugees have suffered unspeakable trauma, the most unimaginable storms. They’re left with wounds far deeper than a surgeon can reach. They have reached refugee camps where they’re provided with their most basic needs. Which is amazing. But they’re left with fear, shame and hopelessness that is crippling. Please take a moment to watch the mini documentary below and consider supporting people who are weathering some of the most violent storms. We all need to be tossed that lifeline of hope.

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You, with those walls….

You, with those walls…I see you.  Fear has kept you behind them but I hope love will draw you out.

I hear the exhaustion in your voice from a lifetime of battling alone. I see the anger burn bright in your eyes and fuel the strength for another day. To wake up again and build and maintain all of the walls of defense that tower so high they block out not just the perpetrators of pain, but any light and joy as well.

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I see the protective prison you’ve locked yourself in and I see the hurt hidden deep within the fortress, nearly hidden by all of the anger, resentment and bitterness blowing outside the walls.

All of this fire, brimstone, bluster and force to protect a heart broken, of course.

I know where you are because I’ve been there too. You and me, more alike than you knew. Have you felt it before? That there’s something wrong with this world and you don’t quite belong? That you were made for more than betrayal, pain and suffering? That it’s all just a bit too much and no one seems to be in charge? So we create our own little kingdom of safety, block out the bad and try to control everything within.

Constantly striving to create that one place where everything goes as planned, in the proper order, in its proper place. No surprises, no disappointments, no pain. No light, no joy, no freedom.

But now I’m outside the gates and my heart breaks seeing you still fighting to stay within them. Because I love you, I’m willing to weather the possible storm and share something with you.

You want to know what happens when the walls are built, the gate is closed? You’re trapped inside. It’s lonely and it’s dark. You exhaust yourself maintaining your defenses; going over battle plans. You have yet to realize that safety is not synonymous with happiness. In fact, those wounds unhealed fester and bleed new because you’re all alone with them, picking at them, making them raw and not letting them heal. I know you’re worn out and I pray every day that you are tired enough to stop fighting alone; that you would realize that what you’re doing isn’t working.

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I long for the day that you will realize that all of your seeking, struggling, wrestling and striving to find happiness has led you to a prison of your own making. That you would see your defenses have kept you from not only giving, but receiving love. Worse, in your need to protect yourself from hurt, you’ve inflicted hurt on the very people you love most. How I hope you would learn that safety, rest and happiness are not found in a climate, a location, a bank account, the condition of your house, but a Person!!

That you would know that the way to healing is straight through the pain with the only One with the power to heal it!

There is freedom outside those walls of yours! A life free of anger, resentment, bitterness and pain. True joy in life! Freedom to remember the hurt inflicted by others but not let it rule your life and keep you from your own peace; to live the life you’re meant to. A life where forgiveness and grace abound. I pray that God would tear down your walls more formidable than Jericho’s. That He would soften the tender heart you’ve worked so hard to shield. I pray that you would see past those walls to the abundant blessings you’ve been given and know that God has been with you all along. That every step of your journey, every heartache, every hardship, every mountaintop and valley has been used to bring you closer to the Father that loves you.

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So, now I pray that the Spirit would reveal to you the God who longs to walk with you through healing and true living. The God who can remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

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Oh! If you only knew the abundant blessings within your reach should you just forfeit your kingdom for His.

**Names of the guilty have been omitted, except myself, which has been one of the greatest offenders of all.