Thursday, May 11, 2017

Wave-tossed whispers


I don’t know why the beach always lends itself to long, contemplative blog posts.

Maybe its because, as the waves crash and the wind blows, I cannot hear any of the things my children are saying to each other, and therefore ‘mommy’ brain is on vacation.

Maybe it’s because I have to sit perfectly still in order to soak up the sun’s rays in the exact right quantity and on the exact right surfaces of my body, and so the only things that can move are the thoughts whirling around inside my head.

Maybe its because there is a well-paid staff of cleaning ladies who will make beds and empty trash cans and wash dishes when we leave the condo to spend the day in the sand, and so I can spend time pondering rather than cleaning.

Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.

I’ve been thinking about the waves, and the tides, and the crashing surf. Their perfect harmony amazes me.

I’ve been marinating on the sun, beating down on the sand and scorching toes and shoulders and noses. It’s beautiful heat thrills me.

I’ve been carefully watching the water, looking for anything black and pointy that may break the surface. I’ve been worrying, as only a mother can, that the sinister things, lurking beyond the perfection of the playful waves, will try to take their pound of flesh from one of my frolicking, laughing, sandy, sun-kissed babies.

All of it rolls around inside me, clanging, whispering, boiling, and then finally settling, until all the turmoil becomes truths for my spirit to soak in with the rays of the sun.

God is so perfectly personal in all He does, isn’t He? When we embrace that He created the sun and the surf and the tides and even the stupid sharks, and we ask Him to reveal something about Himself to us in it…it’s easy to see.

The sun beats down, hot and unforgiving, on the sand. And it scorches out the impurities that washed up on the shore with the water. And when the tide comes in and carries sand back out, its clean again.

The waves beat on the shore, ruining sand castles and lodging silt in bathing suits and carrying off misplaced shovels and sunglasses. But they can only come in so far. They can only do so much damage.

The pointy black fins of the creatures who want their pound of flesh are a very real presence, to be sure. But they, like the waves, can only come so close. They threaten, they strike fear, they are always lurking. But often the sun itself reveal their dark presence. And the waves, so perfectly timed, break over the fins so that they are revealed, and seen clearly for the danger that they are.

Oh, soul, can you see what He’s saying?

HE is the One who scorches the impurities from our lives.

He is the One who tells the waves “this far, and no further.”

He is the One who reveals the dark things that wait to destroy us, and He is the One who keeps us from being overcome by them.

It’s Him. He is all of it. The wind and the waves and the sun and the sea creatures…they shout of a perfectly personal God, who burns impurities from my life while also kissing my skin with warmth. He holds back the crushing waves while also allowing the water to clean and wash me, and rid my heart of things not needed. He sees the dark threats lurking, and He reveals them to me, reminding me to stay close to Him, and not venture far from the boundaries of peace and love and kindness and holiness that He set up for me.

And when I close my eyes, the waves and the wind sound like clapping. They sound like worship. 

And why not? 

He planned it all so perfectly. 

So that I, so that we all, could feel and hear and see Him in every moment of our lives, in everything that surrounds us. 

"He alone has spread out the heavens, and marches on the waves of the sea." Job 9:8

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Becoming Known - Part 4

Have you ever felt like you started something, and somewhere along the way it took a turn you weren’t expecting, hadn’t planned for, and couldn’t stop from happening?

I feel like that almost every day...when I fix my hair.

Seriously, if my hair could talk, it would tell me daily: “Sorry. I realize this isn’t what you envisioned, but this is what I’m doing today. So…”

I think anyone who is a creator of anything has felt like that. A painting has a plan and vision in the mind of the artist, but it often ends up looking very different by the time he signs his name to the canvas.

A song starts out as just a melody and a few words, and even though the songwriter thinks she knows where she’s headed, it ends up being surprisingly altered once its complete.

I’ve personally witnessed a potter begin forming a piece on a wheel, and then, either from an accidental slip of the hand, or from something not quite right within the lump of clay itself, a change happened in the piece. “It was going to be a bowl, but it’s actually turning into a vase, I think.” I’ve also seen potters decide that the direction they were heading wasn’t salvageable, and so they smashed the partially formed piece of art/tableware, and started over.

I’ve done that SO MANY times in the years I’ve been writing. Either started and then decided it wasn’t salvageable, or started and ended up somewhere totally different than I planned.

A few weeks ago when Jamilla and I began a series, sparked from a revelation I had in my heart, we had a pretty clear idea of where we thought we were heading.

We talked, cried, laughed, rejoiced, and wrote our hearts. Parts 1 and 2 were shared…and then we waited.

“What else?” we kept asking each other and the Lord. “There’s more. What is it?”

And then…then she got new revelation, new words from the Lord, and she texted me in a flurry. And the same way that my first revelation sparked words and thoughts and feelings in her, her new revelation set off something in me.

She wrote about identity. About moving ahead while setting behind the things that had shaped her past. About stepping forward, with her eyes on whom she had been created to be, not on who the world had told her she was or conditioned her to be.

She’s so brave, my friend. Always willing to pull out and examine and share her scars and her journey, in order to exhort others toward something new, something more. Then she asked me what I would write about next.

“I need to marinate,” I responded.

And I did. And the Potter went to work.

He has been adding water to this lump that is ME for a few weeks now, softening me and getting me ready for proper molding…but I’ve been ignoring the direction He was taking me.

“It’s funny that you think that will do any good,” my friends said to me.

But like my hair does to me on any given day, I simply looked at the path being asked of me, and said, “Actually…I’m not really feeling like doing that.”

And the Lord just continued to mold, and shape, and pour on water for softening.

I FEEL like He’s smashed me back into a blob, to start over from scratch.

He wants me to do something. He wants me to walk His path for my life, rather than mine. And I don’t want to do it.

I don’t want to be brave. I want to be safe. I want to decide the shape I will be made into.

Except that He is spinning the wheel, not me. And His hands are doing the forming, not mine. And, unlike me, He has never been confused about what He is making me into. His plan, His creative design, has never changed. Only my understanding of it.

What began as my revelation of a bridge to understanding God’s heart for racial reconciliation…has come to a moment of clarity on another piece of God’s heart.

His plan for me…as His ambassador. As a reflector of His heart.

Jamilla assures me it’s safe to set aside what’s holding me back. She tells me God is changing her to understand His heart better, and because she’s brave, she’s saying “okay.” And she’s letting Him move her in a new direction than she thought she was heading.

I’m not brave. I’m brutally aware of my stubbornness. I don’t want to become a vase. I want to be a bowl.

But the Potter never planned for me to be a bowl. He always saw a vase when He looked at me. Even when He was speaking to my heart, giving me a glimpse into understanding the struggle of my friend’s life as a minority, He always knew that it was only one piece of what He was doing.

His revelation to me, when shared with my friend, was like a mirror to her heart, and she saw a reflection of God, and it soothed hurts in her.

And then the Potter began shaping something in her…and when she shared it with me, it was like a mirror for me, showing me a reflection of God…

…and I suddenly see the vase He wants me to be.

And, while weeping and shaking and scaring my kids with my emotions, I find that there are only a few words I can say out loud. Because where He is taking my heart is too terrifying to fully contemplate now.

“Your will, Lord. Your plan. I see it. I choose it.”

If this was His plan for me, for this day, what in the world might He want to do next?

What reflection of His heart will He show me next? And how can I look away?

I can’t. He’s the Potter. And His heart is more, so much more, than I can understand. And I want to be brave enough to say: “This is what God is doing in me” so that others can hear what God is saying to them through it.

We will say more words, she and I, and hold mirrors up for each other on this racial reconciliation issue, and the Lord will keep shaping us both, and hopefully others.

But here’s my takeaway from today…

Her heart is covered in blood red, and it bears a striking resemblance to a sacrificial love. And mine is the same. Because we both are called to resemble our Savior. And when I forget that, she reminds me. And when she forgets, I remind her.

We are sisters. And we are clay. And we are mirrors. And we are bearers of the image of the Almighty Potter.

And that’s enough to make me brave. Because I’m known, and I’m understood, and I’m loved, and I’m accepted.


And His heart is the same for you. Do you see, in the mirror, what He’s making you?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Becoming Known: In Black and White - Part 1

Have you ever had a moment of absolute, overwhelming realization that reached to the very core of your being, and left you reeling and shaken and all-but-unable to verbally explain it?

I had one of those this morning.

And it's too exciting not to share.

But its still all jumbled up, barely sorted, in my mind, and it's a crap ton to try and process with words. I keep shaking my head, trying to get it all to settled down and become orderly and succinct.

It's way more than one blog.

And it's way too many words for me to say them all myself.

So I won't try and say it all at once, or all by myself.



This is the beginning.

This is the story that led me to this trembling, tearful, teeth-jarring morning.

I've always been a person who wants to understand the WHY of a given situation. If there was a math problem, and I was taught how to arrive at the solution, that was great, but I always wanted to know why it had to be just that way. Knowing that 4 + 1 =  5 is a memorized fact. Understanding that when my mom had my baby sister, we went from being 4 kids to being 5 kids...that resonated on a whole other level.

Because of that particular quirk about me, I have always tried hard to use examples when I teach my children, especially if it is a concept that they CLEARLY are struggling to grasp. Fractions, for instance. Do you have any idea how much easier it is to explain 2/4 being equal to 1/2 if you cut up an apple or a king sized Snickers bar? (I always use apples. Never candy bars.)(<---that is a lie.)

I want them to understand. Not just know that a certain thing is a certain way...I want them to SEE WHY, and really get it.

And I think God is that way with us too. I've been a student of the Bible for many years, and one thing is penned over and over, with such singular focus that I cannot possibly misunderstand: He has always had a plan, from the beginning, for every moment and step and event and crisis and triumph and fear and question and struggle and blessing and detour and failure...and He wants us to see His plan, and understand it, and live it.

He saw my whole life, from before the foundation of the world. I can almost imagine Him smiling indulgently as He looked at the length of my days, and I can see Him carefully orchestrating every person and event and defining moment. He has always had a plan.

Sometimes, a LOT of times, I don't see His hand clearly. But sometimes, like today, I become so physically AWARE of His hand in my life that I literally cannot stop laughing and crying.

I've been wrestling with a problem, you see, for quite some time, and 4 + 1 = 5 is not an acceptable solution to this problem. I need to understand it...REALLY understand.

A conversation about cultural and racial diversity within churches is what sparked this internal wrestling match. And it led to much deeper grappling in my heart. For a long time, MONTHS, I've been asking myself "Why? Why is this such a hard thing? Why is it such a polarizing topic? Why so much anger? Why so much ugliness? Why, even within the church where we are SUPPOSED to be living the truth and love of God our Creator, and embracing the beauty of the diverse world He made, do my friends still feel unsure?"

I wanted to understand. But I didn't. I KNEW how my friend felt. I had asked her. We had conversations. Because I wanted to know. But KNOWING wasn't understanding, it wasn't resonating with WHY being a minority in America is so challenging.

You can ask her, I've been beating this drum for many, many text conversations. Because I cannot let something lie until it makes SENSE. Until I cut up and consume my 2/4 of the candy bar (errr...apple) I cannot really see that I have eaten half of it.

I've been praying, and asking the Lord for relief from this yearning inside me, or for some clarity...

I WANT TO UNDERSTAND.

And then, this morning...this morning I got a glimpse.

During a text convo where I was once again beating that drum of "explain that statement to me, please," my friend said to me that it felt like there was an inability to be "herself" sometimes. Like all of what made her HER wasn't a discussable topic.

I literally gasped out loud.

 I've felt that way. In fact, I had JUST been talking to another friend about that very feeling not 3 days ago.

When my sister, Joy, died 6 1/2 years ago, the person that I was before...she died too. That person, that 29 year old me, didn't know what it felt like to hold her mom's hair while she threw up, or write an obituary that explained the life of an amazing missionary who died tragically but was my cute and shy kid sister before she was any of the rest. The old me had never had to unpack a suitcase full of clothes that still smelled like the sister who was gone, or hold an urn in her hands that were the remains of that sister, or bury that urn, or be unable to eat for so many days that she was no longer able to breastfeed her child, or wake from nightmares about the death of her sister, wailing so loud it woke her husband...my heart was shattered, never, ever to look the same again.

And for a while, I was able to talk about it, sometimes, to some people. But for the most part, as I went about the things that were still required of me, I felt like I was hiding part of who I now was from the world. Because if I brought that out...if someone asked me "How are you?" and I told them how I really was...it would make them uncomfortable. They would look away, or shift back and forth from foot to foot, or try and change the subject, or make a joke to get me to smile, or SOMETHING.

It is a lonely feeling, being in a room full of people and knowing that they don't truly understand half of what makes you YOU, and they are blissful in their lack of understanding. I can talk all day long about a million topics with people...but I'm still only partially KNOWN, because my scarred, mosaic heart isn't a topic that anyone wants to discuss.

Probably their intentions are good. They don't want to make me sad, or uncomfortable, or draw attention to something I may not want to talk about...but losing my sister is part of my story, its relevant to every prayer I pray, every song I sing, every decision I make.

Sometimes I even think, as I talk to my daughter-with-the-heart-of-a-missionary, that God gave me Joy as a sister to prepare me to have Faith as a kid. It's all intertwined into my very being, you see. A dead sister, my grief that will always be with me, my daughter who wants to follow her aunt's footsteps, my pride and terror about that...they aren't things that happened. They are part of ME.

I started to cry, and I blabbered a bunch of words with my fingers, because I suddenly felt like I understood a little bit. And when I explained what I was thinking, I ended with, "Is that kind of what you're saying?" And she said one word.

"YES."

And then I cried harder.

God saw what my heart would want to understand, and so YEARS before, He strategically placed a friend in my life who I could ask questions of. And also, He used an example, from my own life, of what it felt like to be in an emotional minority.

How can He be so big? And so good? And care so much about all of the things that we care about?

When I thought all along that Jamilla and I became friends because she thought I was funny and I thought she was funny and we had the same sarcastic tick in our faces...all along, it was for more.

He continues to waste nothing in my grief journey. I knew He was doing it, I just never knew He could do it quite like this.

Today, I am left rattled and breathless by all the things I see differently. And there's more. More to share. More to learn. More to understand.

But for now...for now, take a minute. Ask yourself what thing is burning in your heart, longing to be understood.

CAN IT BE that the Lord is standing there, patiently, waiting to reveal that He has set understanding in motion for you, from before your first breath? And that somehow, He is going to use all the things in your life for His glory, for His fame, for His plan, so that you can better understand the hearts of the people around you? Can we realize that as we learn to really KNOW each other, the heart of our Father will be better known?

I have one word for you.

"YES."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

To Serve or Not to Serve

I've been pondering servant-hood a lot recently.

We all know, I suppose, what the term means. We've heard it, we've said it, we've promoted it, we've done it, and we have decided not to do it.

Depending on where you find yourself in your life, it's either a term that evokes excitement, dread, ambivalence, or something in between.

I'll be honest, serving isn't one of my love languages. I have friends who find great fulfillment in serving others. I'm not one of them. It generally just makes me feel tired.

But, recently, the Lord and I have been revisiting the word, and the subject it refers to, and I will tell you that my heart is undergoing a revolution.

Let me back up a tiny bit, and explain what has sparked all that is going on inside me.

My family is full of missionaries. As far back as Hudson Taylor, who makes an appearance in our ancestral tree, members of my clan have gone across oceans and continents and countries and cities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people who might never hear otherwise.

My husband and I met on a mission trip to China 19 years ago.
My 14-year-old daughter has the missionary heart beating inside her.
My sister, Joy, is my favorite missionary of all time.
Even as I type this, my parents and my sister, Sarah, are serving in Bangladesh as short term missionaries to the Muslim people there.

I wanted to go with them on that trip. I wanted it badly. But...life is full of things we want but don't receive. So I remained behind, to pray for them, and to fill in the gaps for them while they are away as much as I can.

And it feels like the "serving" that the Lord is asking of me right now is more exhausting than I can handle. Because I'm sad, and when I'm sad and hurting, everything becomes too much.

Do you know what I mean?
Of course you do.

We've all said it, or at the very least felt it.

"I have way too much going on in my life right now. I can't add one more thing."

We can't take that meal, or watch those kids on Sunday morning, or clean up that house for someone, or sit and listen to a person share their pain, or stop and pray for the person that's been on our minds.

And, at the risk of stepping on my own toes, I will say that I'm much more likely to listen to some one's pain, or pray for the person on my heart, than I am to do the PHYSICAL things serving sometimes requires.

It's impossible to feel like volunteering in the kids ministry at church when you are overwhelmed by your week, month, year, LIFE, and all you want to do is hear worship music and a sermon, and then go home.

It's ridiculous to add making a meal for a sick or hurting family to your schedule when you can't afford it, or when it means you'll end up feeding your own family drive-through.

Cleaning a house that isn't your own when you can't remember the last time a toilet brush graced your bathroom...that is simply out of the question.

I totally get it. I resonate. We all do. Serving is hard. For some more than others, but it's HARD for all of us.

This tangent I've been on in my spirit started when I hugged my family goodbye last week, sending them off to do missions work that I really wanted to be a part of with them.

My parents go on lots of trips. I always miss them, and I always cry when I hug them, but I've gotten used to sending them. THIS time, though, I was sending my sister, Sarah, too.

And I was not prepared for the feelings that would dredge up inside me.

The last time I sent a sister on a missions trip, I hugged her, and I told her I loved her, and to be safe, and to call and write and come back soon...and she died.

And so as I hugged my sister and told her all the same things, terror rose up inside me.

And after they drove away, I climbed into my car and proceeded to have a full-blown panic attack, witnessed by members of my church who were there for the send off as well. (Not my finest moment. Even sharing it is a lesson in humility for me.)

The whole way home, I kept saying to the Lord, "It's enough, Lord. I've sent enough of my family to do Your work. Stop asking this of me. It's enough. My heart can't take anymore."

Wow. If that isn't a peek into how selfish a heart can be, I don't know what is.

And the Lord was kind to me. His presence enveloped me, and my heart calmed, and the panic subsided a bit, to be a bearable, swallow-able feeling.

And days passed. And even though I wasn't voicing my specific dissatisfaction with His ways, I was still feeling it.

My family and friends across the globe posted pictures one day, of the work they had been doing...and my heart couldn't hold the ugly in anymore.

"It's enough, Lord. I can't give anymore of my people to you. I won't survive it."

And He responded to me. "Haven't I given everything for you? So that you could come into my presence? So that you have access to my throne? My Spirit is with you now, in your sadness, because I gave My life for your redemption. Is anything I ask of you more than that?"

And I wept.

Because doesn't our pain often, always, feel like its more unbearable than ANY pain that has ever been? Don't we feel overwhelmed to the point of breaking down by all the weight on our shoulders?

Didn't the God of all creation feel that same weight? Didn't His Son sweat drops of blood because of the agony He knew was upon Him?

When Jesus knew He was walking to His death, preceded by scourging and nails, and followed by a trip into HELL, He still stopped to heal the ear of one of His adversaries.

When God watched His own Son breathe His last breath, His heart was so broken that the sky went dark. But He didn't stop serving us. His pain, His burden, was great, and yet, He reached down and RIPPED THE TEMPLE VEIL in half, for me, for you, for us all. He served, even in His agony.

So that we could bring our gripes and complaints and hurts and fears and all the rest to Him.

And does He tell us not to come to Him with our burdens and needs and requests because He has more on His plate than He can possibly handle?

Of. Course. Not.

He pulls us onto His lap, and He soothes our hearts.

And (here's the toe stepping about to happen again) often times, we stay there, and we rest in His peace, and we drink in His presence...and that's it.

But, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that is NOT what He is asking of us. That's NOT why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit.

YES, He is the Comforter. But He's also love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and all the rest. And we aren't supposed to horde that. We are supposed to share it.

We should be FUNNELS for His presence.

Even, maybe especially, when we are hurting ourselves.

Could it be that nothing will soothe our burdens as much as helping to soothe the burdens of others?

Could the scandal of grace be that it isn't meant for you to only receive, it's meant for you to spread?

Why would we ever assume that the Lord Jesus, who said "If any of you want to be my disciple, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24) would find it acceptable to merely be a recipient of His servant-hood, rather than a giver of it?

I know, this isn't popular, or compassionate, or particularly gentle. But I'm talking to myself too. The Lord has been saying it to me. Am I willing to give Him everything? Am I willing to serve Him, and His hurting ones, even when I am in pain myself?

Truth? If serving Him means giving up another person I love...I don't know if I can do it or not. I don't know. I can't think about that without panic and pain.

But I do know a woman who serves out of her own pain, and I have seen the beauty of it. 


This is my mom. She's in Bangladesh right now. My sister, Joy, served there when she was alive. She was on her way back there when she died.

That's one of Joy's scarves that my mom is wearing.

And she's planting flowers in the "Joyful Garden" outside the school, for the children there to tend to.

I can see her sadness, because she's my mom. I know it's hard for her to be there. It causes her pain to serve.

But. She's still doing it.

Are we?

Are we turning from our selfishness, and following after the example of the Son of God?

If not...shame on us.

Our serving here is much less grandiose. It's toilets and meals and kids ministry. But it's serving.

We have been COMMANDED to serve each other.

Not when it feels good. Not out of our surplus.

We are to serve, even in our pain, even when we're burdened, even when its uncomfortable and inconvenient and much more than we can possibly handle.

Because Jesus did. And because our all-knowing Father KNOWS that being His servant is better for US than simply receiving from Him.

Are you tired? Burdened? Hurting? Overwhelmed? Paralyzed with fear? Complacent? Angry? Comfortable? Guilty? Ashamed?

The throne room of God is available to you. And me. And everyone.

But don't just go in and get what you need from Him, and then walk out again.

Let's be His disciples. Let's serve each other, even when we don't want to.

"Father, if it is possible, let this cup of suffering pass from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine." Matthew 26:39

Friday, January 6, 2017

Motherhood Musings

Motherhood is exhausting.

I know I'm not the only mom who feels this way. It doesn't make us incompetent or ungrateful or lazy or anemic or sleep deprived or overworked or any of the other things to admit it.

Periodically, my husband and I will have an evening conversation (while snuggled in bed or on the couch) that goes like this:

Hubby: "How was your day?"
Me: (slurring from dozing off against his shoulder) "Fine."
Hubby: "What did you do?"
Me: "I can't remember. I'm too tired."
Hubby: "You say that every day."
Me: (long pause to contemplate) "Yeah, that sounds about right."

It's just a LOT, isn't it? And at least once every single day, I wonder how much longer I will be required to address a certain area of a certain child's life.

Examples? (As if you don't have twenty of your own rolling around in your head right now)

My 4 children are all potty trained. (Thank you, GOD, for the retirement of diapering) My youngest, who will be seven in 2 months, still has to be reminded to wash his hands, flush the toilet, put the seat down...nearly every time he uses the bathroom. He's been hearing that list from me for YEARS now. And if you add in all the years his three siblings had to be reminded of the same things (minus the toilet seat lowering for my daughter, obviously) I've recited that list about a million times. I'm tired of saying it, people...TIRED.

Last week I was having a conversation with my almost-10-year-old son, and I noticed his hair was looking particularly wilted and greasy.

"Nate," I asked, "when was the last time you took a shower?"
"I took one last night, like you told me to," he responded.
"Really? Because your hair looks like it needs to be washed again," I mused.
His reply? "I didn't wash my hair. We are out of shampoo."

How long had we been out of shampoo? Over a week, according to him. He had been cleansing  himself with WATER ONLY for at least 5 showers, without ever bothering to inform me that the kids bathroom needed shampoo.

I remind my children to put on deodorant, brush their teeth, load their dishes in the dishwasher, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, wear clothes when they go outside, wipe their hands on napkins instead of their clothes, wipe their NOSES on tissues instead of their clothes, put their shoes where they belong so they can find them again later, cover their mouths when they sneeze, don't eat food off the floor, chew with their mouths closed, don't slurp their drinks, don't talk to me disrespectfully, don't talk to each other unkindly...and all the rest...ALL DANG DAY LONG, EVERY DANG DAY.

Plus, we have all the other pressures on us.

Cooking.

Cleaning.

Laundry. (yes, I consider it a separate item from cleaning)

Bible study.

Working out. (which then adds a shower requirement to the day, and muscles that are screaming obscenities for the next three days, because, lets be honest, we don't ever have enough time to work out as much as we need to in order to avoid the day-after soreness)

Hobbies. (Not because we have time or energy for them, but because if we don't have them, we then hear the social lectures about the need for balance in our lives.)

Friend time.

Family time.

Intimate alone time with hubby. (which requires legs to be shaved and teeth to be brushed, which means something else in the day must be put off into tomorrow.)

And when kids are little its a different list, like whether to let them sleep on their stomach or not, and reminding them to not putting their fingers in outlets, and remembering to measure and weigh them for their baby book...

And as mine get older, the list continues to change to include things like how to drive, and reminders to tithe, and why it's not appropriate to wear certain lengths of clothing items, despite the cuteness of legs and booty, and also, apparently, that it is important to use shampoo on hair when showering.

My gosh, I'm exhausted just typing things, and I'm not even scratching the surface of all the things.

And it only adds insult to injury when you spend all day juggling all of it, and your kids seem to not recall that you told them ONLY YESTERDAY to put on deodorant every. single. day.

It makes us want to sit on the couch and watch HGTV and drink coffee and eat sour cream and onion potato chips as a meal. (not that I ever do that...I'm saying it about another mom I know...)

During my bi-weekly church Bible study meeting this week (which I prepared for by doing the ENTIRE previous week's lesson all at once that same morning because I had neglected it until that point)(and during which I received no less than 5 texts from my daughter (who was babysitting her brothers at home) telling me of the bad behavior the boys were displaying that would require my attention upon my return to the house) the teacher made a statement that SHOUTED into my heart with a megaphone, and continues to ping around inside me days later.

"You are not responsible for HOW your life turns out. You are responsible to be obedient to WHAT God has called you, and given you, to do. He is responsible for HOW those things play out in your life, for His glory."

Whoa.

All I have to do is WHAT I'm called to. Obedience.

HOW it works is up to the only One who is an eternally patient Parent to the most forgetful children.

Now THAT is some food for relieved thought.

Motherhood remains exhausting today. (Seriously, yesterday I arrived at the checkout line of a store, only to realize I didn't have my wallet because a child had been looking for change in it and forgotten to return it to my purse)( and this morning I asked a child to get started on their school work (at 9 am) and he replied "But I haven't even had coffee yet!" and I couldn't reprimand him because I say that EXACT sentence to them when they ask me to assist them with anything before I've finished my coffee)

But the voice of my Father whispers in my ear, patiently, reminding me to take a deep breath, and keep being obedient to the task He has given me, and He will continue to faithfully work it out for His glory.

And really, in the grand scheme of motherhood, that's WHAT we want. For our lives, and our children, to be used for the furthering of the Kingdom of Heaven, in eternity and here on earth.

HOW my stinky, dirty haired kids, and my potato-chip-eating, coffee-addicted self arrive at that...is up to Someone besides me.

THANK GOD.

Happy exhausted mothering today. I pray that you can find a moment of rest in the Presence and Promise of the One who is Patience.

And that your kids remember their deodorant without a reminder.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Focus

It's New Year's Eve, and I find my thoughts are taking a different turn than they usually do.

Normally, I would grouch about the futility of resolutions or the exhaustion of having to stay up till (GOD FORBID) midnight, or the irritation of Christmas decorations that will become unacceptable to display once the calendar year changes.

And, if the news and Facebook and many people I know are to be believed, the year 2016 has packed quite the crap-filled punch, certainly worthy of some ranting and griping and good old fashioned mud-slinging.

We did have a nasty election season, followed by an even nastier post-election barrage.
Sickness continues to threaten, and overtake, people all around.
Finances are stable for some, and in upheaval for others, and that fact alone causes tension.
Marriages struggle. Marriages grow.
Children behave. Children act like...children.
Churches fail. Churches thrive. Churches barely survive. Churches go stagnate.
People we love hurt us. People we love enrich our lives.

Beloved ones join our families.

Beloved ones leave this earth, leaving us shattered and wishing and aching and wanting time to move us years into the future where we no longer hurt so much.

Opinions abound on all fronts about all subjects. People hurl insults or hold grudges or choose a side of a matter that places them at odds with those around them, and then choose to allow opposing views to be cause for an actual wedge between them.

And so much more. So many things. Too many things.

Let's pause and look at that list once again. Really look at it.

How is that different from any other year? From EVERY other year?

Nothing is new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

And so I've discarded all my own personal thoughts on all the above mentioned situations in which we may find ourselves this day-before-the-new-year-begins.

Instead...I'm leaning in. Into the only One truly worth focusing my time and energy and heart on.

Because He is still on His throne today, the same as He was yesterday, and at the start of this year, and the same as He will be at the end of next year.

Even though nothing is new under the sun...EVERYTHING is new under the Son.

Every day.

And that's worth celebrating. Even if 2016 sucked. Even if it was a banner year.

I don't care about any of it.

THIS is what I am focusing on...

"The grave could not hold You.
The veil tore before You.
You silenced the boast of sin and grave.
The heaven's are roaring the praise of Your glory,
For You are raised to life again.
You have no rival. You have no equal.
Now and forever, God, You reign.
Yours is the kingdom, Yours is the glory, Yours is the name above all names!"
(lyrics from 'What a Beautiful Name'-Hillsong)

Happy New Year's Eve to all of us. It's happy for only one reason.

Because He has already made ALL THINGS NEW.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Coincidental Christmas

You know how you are reading a book and you think "Huh, that's an interesting coincidence," and then you find out, as the pages turn, that it wasn't coincidence at all, but a carefully executed story line, a plot woven strategically and painstakingly to keep you guessing but intrigued...and ALWAYS coming back for more Do you know what I mean?

Maybe that never happens to you. I am sad to say that, as an author, I have trouble just enjoying any plot line, and instead spend entire movie viewings and book readings attempting to figure out what is going to happen next.

And when it all comes together seamlessly and exactly as I predicted/hoped it would, I will sigh in relief and smile and nod, all the details having been perfectly worked out.

But sometimes we just don't GET the vision of the writers/plot creators. A book ends, movie credits roll, a television series airs it's final episode...and we sit, frowning, thinking "What. The. Heck?"

Sometimes I will read a book or watch a movie a second time, paying closer attention to the coincidences that really aren't, and trying to make sense of what I had considered a total plot FAILURE the first reading/viewing.

And sometimes, the second time around, I will see some new things that I had missed the first time, and I'll feel slightly less disenchanted with all of LIFE...but only slightly. Because, seriously, have you ever watched the TV series "LOST" ??? After viewing the final episode of that series, I was so confused that I vowed never to watch it again. Talk about a plot/story line gone WRONG.

I think sometimes that I read the Bible that way too, thinking "something else should happen here, not this...this doesn't make sense. I would feel so much more satisfied with different details and an alternate ending to this story."

I have been pondering the Christmas story lately (for obvious reasons) and this coincidence-within-a-story-line thing has been marinating in my heart.

Because if I have learned anything from growing up with Dan and Patty Bausum as my parents, it's that God crafted His book perfectly, and none of it was ever just coincidentally recorded. (I have learned lots more things than this, by the way, this is just one of my favorite things that being their child has taught me.)

EVERYTHING in Scripture has purpose. All the stories are meant to be so much more than stories. They are meant to speak to us, to our lives here today. My parents are masterful at explaining the way the Lord chose His plot to unfold before us. I am way less masterful, (WAY LESS) but I have been turning the Christmas story over in my mind for a few weeks now, and I have some coincidences to point out.

Maybe you've seen some too, in your reading of the story. Or maybe not. You might be a person (like my husband) who never asks themselves "WHY?" during a movie or book, but simply enjoys the story.

Not me. I am always, forever, trying to put myself in the author's shoes and understand what went through their minds when they made their artistic choices. And because He knows His story is perfect, God doesn't mind that I'm sometimes taken aback by the twists, and I question the plot choices made.

Examples, you ask?

Well, there are the obvious things to question in the story of Christmas.

A stable? Really?
A census taken right at the time for the baby to come?
A virgin? Why?
A little tiny town with not nearly enough hotels?
A new star?
A low income carpenter for an earthly father?
Smelly shepherds heralded by Heaven's Host?
Wise men from far away lands?
A manger? Yuck. how much animal saliva was mixed in with the new baby smell? WHY A MANGER?

If all the details of God's book matter (and they do, FYI, because my daddy told me so. ;)- ) then what is the significance of all the strange details in the recorded events of Christ's birth?

I certainly don't have all the answers...but I know a few things I have begun to see differently, since the pondering began. This is kind of how it's been going around in my head...

"A stable. Where the beasts of burden live...hmm...Jesus, the Son of God, born where the burden carriers dwell." Coincidence? "Cast your burdens on the Lord, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

"A census? Right then? Requiring Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem...Bethlehem... the city of David...where the Messiah was predicted to be born..." That's an easy coincidence to see as anything BUT chance.

"A tiny town given the great honor of hosting Emmanuel? Tiny...small...barely significant...like me, and still He breathes in the middle of cold, dark, lonely nights, the ones in my heart..."

"A virgin? Obvious prophesy fulfillment again, so not coincidence...but WHY was that part of the prophesy? Why? A virgin...life growing in her body...life that wasn't of her own making. Growth that was from the Holy Spirit, that all her striving could never accomplish. Her surrender was all that God Almighty needed, and then the Holy Spirit did the rest...like me...like every day of my life...the only life that comes out of me is from the Holy Spirit..." Holy crap. That's one to ponder on for a while...

"Smelly shepherds? Dirty and poor and overlooked...the first to hear the announcement...honor given to the least...like me...He honors me with His presence, though I am filthy and worthless..."

"Wise men? Giving gifts that would sustain them financially...a practical coincidence...except...they saw a new star, a light that they simply had to follow, and they laid great riches at the feet of the One who is worthy of all our traveling, searching, looking for.."

"The star...the star that proclaimed the birth of the Savior...a new light. It could've been anything to announce His arrival. An oasis springing up. An animal talking. An earthquake. A mighty rushing wind. But instead...light...Light...the Light of the World...shining new. Bright, but silent and peaceful at the same time." Coincidence? "Jesus said to them, "I am the light of the world." John 8:12

"A carpenter for an adopted father? A trade learned by the boy King...to build...to take a rough piece of wood and turn it into something else, something useful for life...like me...rough and useless, but hammered and chiseled and cut into something that He chooses, something He can use."

"And while I'm pondering the carpenter thing...Emmanuel, adopted by a carpenter. Though they shared no DNA, He was raised as the son of Joseph. Joseph gave his name, and protection, and provision, to Jesus. The same way God, the Great Builder, gives His name and protection and provision to me...I'm adopted too...Jesus grew up understanding what it was like to be adopted..." Whoa. That's some food for thought. "This High Priest of ours understands...for He faced all the same testings we do..." Hebrews 4:15

"A manger. A feed trough. A place where the beasts carrying the burdens received nourishment...food...life...I'm burdened too, and hungry, and in need of sustenance...and the Bread of Life is there for me, ready to nourish my spirit...A baby, God wrapped in flesh, laid out as the food for all mankind." Oh, my heart. "I am the bread of life." John 6:48

I won't go on. I could, but I won't.

Instead, I'm going to sit here and read, once more, the greatest story ever told, with the most unexpected event choices, and I'm going to see each as a step made just for me, to teach me something new about the character and CARE of my Father.

Not only did He love me so much that He sent His Son to live and suffer and die for me...He also chose every detail of that story to draw me to His heart.

That is no coincidence.