Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Life-giving ruins

I was talking to my sister today.

Not the one who lives an hour away.

Not the one who lives in Hawaii.

I was talking to my sister who lives in heaven.

Confession: Before we lost her, I thought it was supremely strange when I heard about people talking to their deceased loved ones. I shook my head and blinked, and wondered how that helped, and why people thought it worked.

But now...now I talk to my sister...a lot.

I tell her I miss her.
I tell her I love her.
I tell her I wish I could hear her voice.
I tell her I wish she could see how fast her nieces and nephews are growing up.

But most of the time, I tell her about the miracles that God is working in my life, the miracles that started when she died.

I say "Do you know what you've started?" "Do you know how many people have been impacted by your life and death, you skinny little thing?" "We're still spreading His story, Joy, because you would want us to, and because you challenged us all to do it because HE wants us to." "See what the Lord has done, Joy? All because you were brave enough to live His life for you, and recklessly follow Him wherever He wanted to take you..."

Today I had a moment of overwhelming sadness, choking me and taking my breath away. It was only a moment, so much less than the hours and days that used to be filled with that pain, but as I sat and let the feeling subside, I was struck with a thought that was depressing.

What will happen when her story gets old? When everyone has heard it, and enough years have passed that the impact has lessened? When we aren't all walking around WEARING our sadness and living with it...people won't remember anymore, and the miraculous stories of lives being changed will stop...and the statement "Nothing is wasted" won't be true anymore.

I spent a couple good hours in that funk. Wondering, grieving, mulling over the impending loss of blessings and mercies soothing our heartache and making the hole in our family almost...almost...bearable.

But something happened an hour ago. Something that took my breath away all over again, and filled me with overwhelming emotions.

Someone told me that God is speaking to them through MY life...and my parents lives, and the way we are living with our loss and still serving the Lord.

What?

Are you kidding me?

I'm a wreck.

I still have moments where I have to sit down and let panicking pain pierce my insides.

I'm not a person who inspires people.

I'm a regular, sometimes sub-par, person.

I'm a country girl who has a weakness for four-letter words and shocking behavior. I let my kids watch WAAAAY too much TV.

I'm not brave. I'm not a world changer. I'm not Joy.

I'm just trying to survive losing her.

How in the world does that speak to anyone?

And then God spoke to me.

"Your life is ruins. And I bring ruins to life. And My name is glorified best, and My story is furthered most, and My will is walked out clearest, when you are in ruins."

And I laughed.

Because the God of the universe told me I am a disaster.

And that is exactly where He wants me.

And somehow, because He is just that way, He is miraculously touching people's lives through my messy ruins and sloppy survival.

And so my ruins are a miracle that won't stop being a miracle, because they won't stop being ruins.

And yet...they are alive.

He breathes His life into my ruins, and that life flows out to people.

I don't know how He does it. But it's not my job to know. Its my job to embrace the ruins, and let Him bring them to life for His glory.

He will do it with your ruins too. Your mess, your pain, your sloppy situation.

Embrace the ruins. They are His speciality.

They are where He brings life.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miracles

When the holiday season begins, I get a little bit sad.

Because holidays are family times, and our family, even when we all get together, is no longer complete. There's a hole, and it's present every day, but it's never quite as noticeable as it is when we are drawing names for our gift exchange, or planning who will be cooking what on Thanksgiving, or hanging ornaments on  the tree.

When I get sad, and my heart misses my sister, I usually find comfort in the Word.

Confession: It hasn't been working lately. I'm in a Bible study group that is going through the book of Luke (my favorite gospel) and recently we've been reading a lot about the miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth.

I love reading about His mighty power displayed in people's lives.

Until we get to a story of Him raising someone from the dead.

A lump fills my throat.

My heart races.

My jaw clenches in an attempt to keep it from shaking.

There's something inside me that has a hard time reading those stories.

Because, when my sister died, we prayed that God would raise her from the dead. And I believe that He can still do that miracle, and I had faith that He could do it for her...but He didn't.

And so, even though it's not rational, whenever I read about Lazarus, or Jairus' daughter, or the widow of Nain's son...I get sick to my stomach, because I am trying so hard not to ask Him,

"Why couldn't you do that miracle for ME?"

It's impossible to understand. It's too unimaginable to accept. The God of the universe, the ultimate Creator, the All Powerful I Am...chose not to heal my sister of her brain hemorrhage, even though thousands of people were praying for Him to do that very thing. And He chose not to raise my sister from the dead. Even though I know He could have. Even though I asked Him to.

He had great compassion on the widow of Nain, and he raised her son from the dead. (Luke 7:11-15) He told Jairus not to fear, to just believe, and He raised the little girl up again. (Luke 8:40-56) He told Mary and Martha "Your brother will rise again." And then...Lazarus rose. (John 11)

Did He not feel great compassion for my family? Was our grief not great enough? Were we not afraid enough to move His healing power? Were we not good enough friends of His to warrant a death-defying miracle?

These are the hard questions, the ones I don't verbalize because they're ugly, and because I know, logically, what the answer is.

But, oh, how hard it is to swallow that I didn't get my miracle.

Today, something happened.

A reminder. A whisper from my Savior.

I met a wonderful woman today, a friend of a friend who is in the middle of reading my book. And even though she hasn't finished it yet, she told me that it is ministering to her heart, and rejuvenating her faith, and she is so inspired.

A lump filled my throat.

My heart raced.

My jaw clenched to stop it from shaking.

I wrote the book to tell the story of my sister's life, and to spread the story of His work in the life of anyone willing to walk His path for them.

If she hadn't died, I never would have written the book.

And if I hadn't written the book, people wouldn't have been able to read her story, and be inspired by her courage and love and passion.

And their lives being changed by one simple girl's story...that's a miracle.

And a sweet wonderful woman being moved to tears as she tells me that she can't wait to meet Joy in heaven...that's a miracle.

And the real miracle, the one that I can't stop crying over today, the one that He keeps whispering to me...she isn't really dead at all.

She lives.
I GOT my miracle.
His way.
And I got so many more miracles that I never even asked for.
And people's lives are changed...because she died...because she lived for Him.

"Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this...?" John 11:25-26

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Real Story - Friendship

Okay, for the sake of consistency, I titled this post the way I have titled all of The Real Story entries, but this one is going to be a little different, and should really have been titled: Real Friendship.

There are people you are friends with - You hug them when you see them, you swap favorite movie and book stories, you have them over for meals or play dates, you clean the house before they come so they will be impressed and not judge you, you threaten the lives of your children if they aren't on their best behavior during the play date or meal, you take them dinner when they are sick or just had a baby, you laugh together about things, and you enjoy being part of their lives.

But then...then there are your FRIENDS - you rarely hug them when you see them (it's more like eye contact followed by a frazzled 'Hi' from across a room) you don't talk much about movies and books (because you know they don't have time to read or watch TV, and they know you don't either) You do NOT clean the house before they come over (and you know they won't judge you for the dirt) you threaten the lives of your children if they aren't on their best behavior (but you also know the kids will still be wild, and the friend will still love you) you take them a meal when they need it (but you also pick up their kids and take them back to your house so your friend can have some rest time, and you may or may not smuggle fattening goodies or alcoholic beverages into their meal basket) you laugh together about things (mostly inappropriate things) and you know you are a part of each other's lives even if you haven't seen, talked to, or spent time with them in weeks, months, or years.

Here are my top ten REAL facts about Real Friendship (in no particular order)

1. A real friend is the one you ask to check your teeth after a meal, and they gladly point out which teeth are housing chunks of herb chicken for all the world to see.

2. A real friend lies to you when you tell them you've gained weight and ask them if they noticed.

3. A real friend judges you for your high school music choices, and tells you about it, and you aren't offended. You just tell them you judge them for theirs too, and you both laugh.

4. A real friend gets mad at your husband when he does or says something that hurts your feelings, but she also reminds you that you LOVE that man and to figure out how to work it out.

5. A real friend frequently deletes all text conversations between the two of you, because if anyone else picked up their phone and read the messages, they would be horrified.

6. A real friend doesn't sugar coat their feelings. If they are crabby, they say mean things to you. If you are crabby, you snap at them. But you both know that you will still be friends the next day, and that your apology will be received and the incident forgiven.

7. A real friend is one who can be absent from your daily life for months and even years, but when you get the opportunity to spend time with them...it's like you were never apart.

8. A real friend doesn't have to call you on your crap. Just being around them makes you aware of it, and you admit it on your own without them having to say a word.

9. A real friend makes time for you in their lives, no matter how busy. And the other side of that is, a real friend isn't offended or insecure when you CAN'T make time for them in certain instances. They are there for you, and you are there for them, even if you cancel plans with each other multiple times in a row.

10. A real friend makes you want to be a better friend, Christian, spouse, parent, house-keeper, and all the rest...but they accept you when you are sub-standard versions of those things, and don't judge you for your below-par rating.


It takes work to become a REAL friend. It takes time. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable. It takes a deep, shared love for the Lord, and requires an honest appreciation of a few key things: chocolate, coffee, wine, shopping, appropriately placed curse words, Christmas music, texting, jewelry, family, and board games. (or at least half of the above list...I'm willing to bend on wine, Christmas music, and jewelry...the others will require some prayer.)

I am blessed to have a list of wonderful REAL friends in my life. If you don't have that, I'm truly sorry. Take a minute and examine my thoughts above, and then ask the Lord to give you the courage to BE a Real Friend, and to bless you with someone who will be one for you in return.

And, don't be afraid to let your friends know "If we are going to be friends, I'm going to need you to..."

You fill in the blank. I have finished that sentence with: 'learn to like coffee' 'watch and enjoy the Star Wars movies' 'read this book and love it' 'never say the word sensual to me, for any reason' and so many more...

The Real Story about friendship is: it takes time and courage and energy...and you won't regret it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Real Story - Grief

Well, this is a terribly depressing topic. I went back and forth on whether or not to include it, but I heard a song today that made me realize I had to write about this subject.

Grief is something we all face in our lives. And its something we can't really, truly understand until we've faced it. And its something most people don't spend a lot of time processing out loud. I don't know if I can either, but I'm determined to give it a try.

Sometimes its a loss that is expected. My grandmother (paternal) died after a long battle with cancer when I was a 12 or 13. We knew it was coming. We were relieved that she was no longer suffering. But we still cried. We still grieved the loss of her in our lives.

My grandfather (maternal) was killed in a car accident when I was 10. That was a shock to my family. A reeling, breathtaking, unfathomable shock. I will always remember walking in from the backyard to find my mom laying flat on her back in the floor, her hands over her face, sobs seeping from between her fingers, tears running down into her hair.

Everyone says there are stages of grief. I can't remember what they all are, but I know anger is in there, and denial, and acceptance is the last one listed. I know this, because somehow in my mind I just assumed that once you'd gone through all the steps...grieving was over.

Boy, was I wrong.

Losing a grandparent is hard, and I can only imagine how hard losing a parent is. Losing my 26 year old sister...breathtaking, unfathomable shock.

The Real Story about grief is...it takes a while to really sink in. At first, there is sadness and tears and pain and loss...but there is a significant amount of numbness too. The adrenaline is pumping, because you are suddenly having to think about funeral arrangements and accommodations for out of town family members. There is quite a bit of distraction which keeps the numbness from wearing off or the adrenaline from dying down.

But after the funeral is over, and after people stop bringing meals, and all your family members go home...

That is when grief sets in. The soul ache, the deep, dark pit of pain and loss, the hurt so all-consuming that you can feel it in your bones. You can't eat, you can't sleep. When you do eat, it goes straight through you and makes you sick, when you do sleep you dream about your lost loved one and wake up sobbing in the middle of the night.

Every single moment you can remember with the one you loved and lost replays in your mind. Every unkind word or deed causes you to feel nauseous. Every moment you were less than interested in them carries a surge of regret - regret that you were so blasé in your time with them, regret that you can never get a do-over, regret that you didn't hold them close and never let them go.

The searing loss and pain are also marked by unexpected things. The children take care of their parents. My mom did it for her mom after the car wreck that killed my grandfather. I did it for my mom when Joy died, and my sweet little daughter, only 8 at the time, cared for me. She would sit beside me and hold my hand while I cried. She would run to turn off the radio if a song came on that might remind me of my sadness and/or my sister, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) she would crawl out of her bed late at night after I was asleep, and sit beside her daddy on the couch, crying out her own tears of loss and pain that she kept back from me because she didn't want to add to mine.

Also unexpected was the fact that acceptance of my grief didn't, in any way, mark the end. Truly, that was the beginning. Because accepting it meant I had to figure out a way to live with it...

You lose a part of yourself when you lose someone you love. Because the part of you that they brought out...can't be brought out by anyone else. You are now missing a piece of who you are, literally. The closer you were to that person, the bigger the piece you lost. And it's gut-wrenching...and that never goes away.

And I guess that's one really shocking REAL fact about grief, and the one nobody wants to tell you, because there doesn't seem to be any hope in it.

Grief doesn't end, once it's started.

I'm 3 years and 2 months into my life since I lost my sister, into trying to be the new person I am without the part of me that died with her, and I still have moments, and days, when I cry a lot, and I miss her, and I can't stop wishing and regretting and hurting.

There are fewer days like that than there were at first. But I still have them. I made a greeting card last week that was something she would have loved. As soon as I finished it, I thought "I have to send this to Joy." And then...the reality. The ache. The strength sapping remembrance.

So the reason I didn't want to share the real story about grief is because it seems, at first, like a DOWNER beyond compare.

But...

There are more real facts. They aren't fact you can really understand until you have lived them. But if you've never experienced a deep loss, I want you to read this, and I want you to store it away in your heart, because someday...someday you will need to know.

You will never feel God more clearly than you do in your deep pain. You will know Him more intimately than you ever have before. You will find comfort in His presence. You will be held.

And, you will turn and rail at Him...and lash out in anger at Him...accuse Him of making a mistake...doubt His goodness...

And He will still be there.

You will be so tired of feeling pain that you will shut your emotions down, and you won't be able to feel anything at all...

And He will still be there.

And when a long, painful, battle scarred road stands behind you, and you know there is still more of the  journey to live through...you will be able to say to the person who is still numb with shock...

"Never once will you ever walk alone."
"You don't have to feel Him. But He is still there."
"It's okay to be angry. He isn't afraid of your pain. He's there with you in it."
"He is with you in this moment. You have enough grace for right now, and that is its own miracle."

He is faithful.
He is good.
He is true.

The Real Story about grief...it's where you find Him. He's in the weakest, hardest, darkest moments of our lives. And in His mercy, He holds us. And in His grace, He blesses others through our pain. And in His love, He heals our pain so that it's bearable.

I have several songs that I have listened to on my own grief journey. If you need some reminders, listen to them. If you are filing things away for when you do need them, add these to your list.

"Sovereign" (Chris Tomlin)
"Beauty Will Rise" (Steven Curtis Chapman)
"Never Once" (Matt Redman)
"Arms That Hold The Universe" (Fee)
"Faithful" (Steven Curtis Chapman)
"In Christ Alone" (Avalon Hymns)

There is hope in grief. There are promises so faithful that we can drop our anchors in them. There are Arms mightier than anything we can ever face. There is a story that is eternal, and our journey is only part of it. There is more to this life...after this life.

And so, The Real Story about grief has two parts:

It doesn't end once it starts...until it ends
for good,
for everyone,
forever.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Real Story - Exercise

There are people who work out consistently, and people who don't.

There are people who never gain weight, despite the fact they never work out and they eat whatever they want, and there are the rest of us.

There are people who enjoy exercise, and there is the normal, not-crazy, majority of the world.

And the people who never have to work out or watch what they eat to stay the shape and size they want to get dirty looks from the rest of us.

And the people who LOVE going to the gym or going for a run or going to yoga class are usually on the receiving end of silent hatred from the normal people in the world.

Most people don't like to exercise. I know I don't. I hate sweating, especially since I am the kind of girl who sweats till it pools in my belly button. It's gross, and smelly, and I DO NOT enjoy it in any way.

But if I could receive instant gratification from a good hard workout (like, maybe my jeans would fit a little looser the first time I used the stationary bike) (or, maybe my arms would look a little less like flabby, saggy skin, and a little more like Jillian Michaels' biceps after 10 push ups) then I would probably be more prone to working out on a regular basis.

But those things don't happen.

I just get a belly button full of sweat, and my jeans still give me a muffin top.

I don't eat a single dessert, or drink a single sugar-filled soft drink, or eat the bread that comes with a restaurant meal...and I still hold onto the flab in all the places I wish I could shed it.

The Real Story about exercise is...it sucks.

Most of us walk quickly up a flight of stairs and then tell ourselves "that counts as my workout."

I consider house cleaning a workout. And walks with the kids. And (clears throat suggestively) one-on-one time with my husband.

I know people who park at the back end of the Wal-mart parking lot and walk briskly to the store, so that they "got in their exercise for the day."

And if we are honest, we all wish we had one of those muscle-shocking machines that they sell on infomercials. Then we could sit on our butts on the couch and the machine could shock our stomach muscles into flat, six-pack loveliness, and we could avoid sweaty belly buttons altogether.

I secretly wish I could take expensive, magic diet pills, and that they would work.

I DO NOT secretly wish for a personal trainer to get me into shape, because that would require the belly button sweat.

I work out (sometimes) because otherwise I'd have to buy new clothes in a bigger size, and the only thing I hate worse than belly button sweat is trying on jeans in a store dressing room, and not being able to button them.

But, most of the time, I avoid working out, and I also steer clear of full length mirrors, and I try not to look at the size-tags in my clothes.

 I do my best to avoid sugar, which I then use to make myself feel better about the exercise avoidance.

And when I get belly button sweat from walking up and down my stairs...I count that as a workout.

And anyone who doesn't have to work hard to stay the shape and size they want to be should never, EVER, tell the rest of us about it.

And the people who really enjoy a good hard workout shouldn't be allowed to encourage the rest of us to try it. Seriously, keep it to yourself, weirdos.

And THAT is the Real Story about exercise.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Real Story - Parenthood

Alright, in preparation for this post, I have taken the liberty of enlisting some truly wise help. Please, take a moment and watch this clip.

**Disclaimer: the sound dubbing is slightly off. I'm sorry if that drives you as crazy as it does me. I find this a valid bit of insight and have decided to share it, regardless.***

***Disclaimer number 2: there is cursing in this video.***

http://youtu.be/oxo9rO0qouk

Hehehe. Giggle. Chuckle. Hold sides to keep love handles from jiggling while gasping for breath. Wipe laughter induced tears from eyes. Repeat as needed.

I. Laugh. Every. Single. Time.

Because anyone who doesn't admit to having that EXACT day as a parent...isn't being honest.

First of all, I wouldn't put quite as many 'awfuls' into my overall description of parenthood.

But I also have days where that wasn't nearly enough uses of the word.

The Real Story about being a parent has a lot of similarities to the Real Story about marriage.

It's shockingly different than you think it will be, both in a wonderful way, and in a "what the holy crap did I get myself into?" way.

If you're not a parent, I have a few of the shocking, REAL facts for you, just so you don't say "No one ever told me..."

1. You will have no privacy, ever again.
2. You will learn the theme song to every cartoon imaginable.
3. You will come to despise shopping and eating at restaurants.
4. You WILL say "because I said so" regardless of how much you hated it being said to you.
5. You will not be permitted to be sick, and if you are, you will still have to be a parent, complete with diaper changing and nose wiping and butt wiping and toy fixing and blanket hunting and food preparing. You might be able to fit a minute in the middle to puke, or cough, or blow your nose, or medicate...but you might not. My advice- Don't. Get. Sick.

Kids are loud, and messy, and way too curious, and altogether too much work.

And also, they are loving, and forgiving, and hilarious, and helpful.

The moments of AWFUL are absolutely present, I am here to tell you. If you meet a parent in the store that says otherwise, and they are smiling with recently brushed teeth, and holding the hands of their perfectly dressed children, and those children are reading educational books while standing quietly, and that parent with the clean teeth also has combed hair, and they are wearing socks that match, and they tell you that being a parent is the most wonderful, rewarding, easy thing they have ever done...

Run. They are aliens.

Being a parent IS rewarding. When your child tells you they love you with their little grubby hand pressed to your cheek...that is one heck of a reward. When you witness them putting into practice a discipline or attitude or action you taught them...you feel such pride and joy that its impossible to describe. You can only know it if you are willing to brave the WHOLE parenthood package.

I have four children. A daughter and three sons, in that order. And I know, without doubt, that I am blessed abundantly.

Without them in my life, I wouldn't laugh HALF as much.
Without them, I wouldn't be able to look the Target cashier in the eye while buying fruit snacks.
Without my kids, I would feel a lot less cool, because somehow they think I ROCK, and knowing someone thinks that about you never gets old.

They love me, even when I screw up. And boy do I screw up.

They know, when I am standing in a room with my face buried in my hands, and they can hear me muttering, that I am praying for the strength not to kill someone, and they better run away, FAST.

Here is the truest thing I can say about being a parent: It will shine a light on how SELFISH you are, like nothing else ever could, and it will give you a glimpse into what unconditional love truly looks like.

I have been peed on, pooped on, puked on, spit on, slobbered on, snotted on, cried on, farted on, climbed on, burped on, sneezed on, and bled on.

I have been the recipient of back rubs, of hugs so tight I couldn't breathe, of kisses that tasted like heaven and Cheetos, of wild flowers picked just for me, of homemade cards with half the letters written backwards, of smiles that light up my heart.

Parenthood is awful, awful, awful, awful, awful.

And...it's priceless.

You can believe me, because I don't have recently brushed teeth, or combed hair, or matching socks, and my children are watching cartoons instead of reading books, and in ten seconds they will be eating candy they found on the floor, and my youngest will probably pull down his pants and pee on me while I am telling you this...

I am not an alien.
I am a mom.
And being a mom is FREAKING HARD.

And...it's worth it.

And yes, I do tell my children it's not okay to play with other people's s*%#.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Real Story - Marriage

Marriage...

If you are married, you can HEAR the tone of voice in which I thought the word, and I don't even need to say more, because you totally understand.

But I'm going to say more, because the point of this whole series is to tell the REAL story. And most people who aren't married never, ever, hear the real story when it comes to marriage, and once they get married they are SHOCKED, and wonder why no one ever told them what it was really like.

Here is what my mom told me when I got engaged: "Everyone has a full list of expectations with regard to what marriage will be like. You have a list, and he has a list. They probably don't match up in very many places, and neither of your lists of expectations are likely to be met. You need to decide what is really important to you, and what is just some romanticized notion. Because that is what marriage is really about. Figuring each other out as you go, and making changes and adaptations accordingly."

Right...blog post adjourned. Because what else is there to say, really? That sums it up.

Still, lets marinate on this for a second.

We have expectations, and they have expectations, and where did we get them in the first place?

Well, Hollywood has done a fantastic job of making marriage look like a fairy tale. And they have done a wonderful job of showing how marriages fail. The highs and the lows, that's what they are good at showing.

But...those aren't marriages. Those are moments.

I am going to tell a couple stories on my parents. (I cleared one with them, and the other one is a story I don't think they know that I know, but I doubt they will mind. (gulp))

I was twelve-ish when I witnessed the one and only full blown FIGHT I have ever seen my parents have. They profess to having fights, of course, but they were usually pretty good about having them behind closed doors instead of in front of us kids. But this day must have been a really low day, because they were arguing while we were setting the table for supper. Now, as only kids can, I have forgotten most of the details. I wasn't tuned into whatever they fight was about, and that is unimportant.  Here is what I remember: We were having tacos for supper that night, and as we were carrying things to the table, Mom and Dad were having a heated discussion. Mom said something, and it was clearly the last straw, because Dad turned away and tossed the bowl of toppings for the tacos against the wall. It wasn't a glass bowl, thankfully, so it didn't break, but there was a lovely smear of tomato juice running from the wall to the floor, and lettuce leaves were everywhere.

Mom left the house. Seriously. She went outside, and then she got into the car and drove out of the yard. Dad went to their room and closed the door. I cleaned up the lettuce and tomato and us kids ate supper, shocked into silence by the whole episode.

We laugh about it now, of course, and I have even been known to say "Don't make me mad while I'm holding the lettuce and tomatoes."

The other story happened at the same table. Its a much shorter story. We sat down for supper, and after Dad said the blessing, and we all started shoveling food into our mouths, he leaned over to Mom and whispered "I love you, and I think you are sexy."

Okay, pause for a moment while I shiver. (these are my parents after all) (blech!!) My mom was undoubtedly tired, and sweaty from cooking, and she had given birth to FIVE children. And my dad still found her sexy. For some reason that is a moment I will always smile about, and remember with a combination of heart-warmth and gagging.

That is a high-low glance at the marriage of my parents, which now has 35 years under its belt. But neither of those stories make up their marriage. They are only moments along the path.

We say "for better or worse" when we get married, but we don't specify what that means. We say it that way BECAUSE we can't specify what that will look like, but I can pretty much guarantee that none of our wildest imaginings can tackle what marriage is like.

So, what is the real story about marriage?

Laundry.
Bills.
Dishes.
Exhaustion.
Flu.
Grief.
Business trips.
Misunderstanding.
Irritation.
Sex.


Laughter.
Friendship.
Snuggling.
Comfort.
Date night.
Whispered endearments.
Companionship.
Inside jokes.
Back massages.
Sex.

Yes, I put sex in both categories. And because I do have a brain-to-mouth filter (contrary to popular opinion) I will leave it at that. But it wouldn't be the real story if I only put it in one category. If you're married, and you've never had a fight about sex...Im' calling b.s.

I've been married for a little over 15 years, and I in NO WAY have anything figured out.

But I think that's possibly the point I am trying to make.

We can't figure it out, not really.

When I married my husband, I said "for better or worse" just like everyone else. But I didn't know how wonderful better would be, and I certainly didn't know how hard worse would be. We have had years of bliss, and years of pain, and you know what? None of the bliss years were filled with bliss, and none of the pain years were only pain.

It's not all highs and lows. Its all just a step. And another. And another.

Its dirty socks on the bathroom floor, and stolen kisses in the hall when the kids aren't looking. Its crying on each others shoulders, and laughing so hard you pass gas.

It's still finding them desirable after witnessing them vomiting, or giving birth, or snoring so loud they wake you up from a dead sleep THROUGH a pair of earplugs, or being a really big jerk.

It's listening to them when they say they think YOU are being a really big jerk, and attempting to change whatever you did that was jerk-ish.

It's whispered come-ons at the kitchen table, and lettuce and tomato tossed against the wall.

It's waking up every day and choosing, with every breath and decision and action and moment.

Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of your will.

Marriage is not a feel-good romantic notion. It's a choice you make.

Some days I choose not to speak to my husband for multiple hours because I am furious with him, and when I finally do speak to him, he is shocked to learn that I am mad at all. He "just thought I was busy with the kids." (clearly my cold-shoulder technique needs some work)

Some days I choose to listen while he tells me about a big acquisition he's been heading up at work and how great it's going, and I pretend like I know what he's talking about, and I grasp hard for facts I can ask follow-up questions on so he feels like I really do care about what he's saying...when all I really WANT to do is go to sleep or read a book or watch TV.

The point is, I said "for better or worse." And even when worse kicks us in the teeth, we still choose it. And we all have to decide to ACTIVELY grab onto better when it comes, and choose to see the better even in the midst of the worse.

My parents have been having many of the same disagreements for years. My mom still fusses at my dad for eating food that isn't healthy, and my dad still reprimands my mom for worrying about stuff she can't change...

And they still get up every morning and choose, one high-low-normal-uneventful-tragic-painful-joyful-boring moment at a time, to be "Dan and Patty Bausum."

I got up this morning, woken by the snores seeping through my ear plugs, and I made coffee. Not just enough for me, but also enough for the snoring blonde guy in my bed who woke me up at 5:08.

And he goes to work every day, not just for himself, but for the family he leaves at home to consume all the money he makes.

I choose. He chooses.

And we love better today than we did the day we got married, and hopefully we will love even better 20 years from now. One choice at a time.

And we don't ever put lettuce and tomatoes in the same bowl.

And that doesn't tell the WHOLE story on marriage, but it's a little bit of REAL.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Real Story - Christianity

This has the potential to be really long, but I don't have time for that today, and I'm sure you don't either. So, I will keep it short and simple...err...I'll try anyway.

Being a follower of Christ is easy. And, its hard.

I was six years old when I asked Jesus to live in my heart and wash away all my sins. I remember it very clearly. I also remember being 12, and deciding it wasn't enough anymore to just have Him in my heart, washing away my sins. I wanted to know Him more, and hear Him speak to me, and understand His Word, and live a life that was pleasing to him. Those desires came from a childhood of watching my parents model for me what Christianity should look like.

My parents have different stories. My dad grew up in a Baptist preacher's home, and also got saved as a boy, but he had what he would call "a wild youth," followed by a rocky divorce between his parents when he was in college. By then he has reformed his wild ways, though, and had met my mom, and if you know my dad now, you know him as one of the most deeply rooted men of God you've ever known.

My mom did not grow up in a Christian home. Her parents didn't take her to church, and they didn't tell her about Jesus, and they didn't model a life that is devoted to Christ for her to see and desire for herself. No, she was invited to church by a friend from high school. And she went, and she accepted Jesus as her savior, and she began inviting her parents and siblings to church. And if you know her now, you know that the rest is history. She models for everyone around her a life lived to serve her Lord.

So, how did two people, from such different upbringings, manage to make such an impression on their own child that she wanted to have exactly the same kind of relationship with the Lord that they had?

It was easy. And it was hard.

It wasn't a prayer they prayed and then that was it. It wasn't a long drawn out ritual of purging their life of every single thing that didn't have Jesus written on it.

It was, it is, a walk. It's a journey. Its putting one foot in front of another, and it's knowing that sometimes you can't walk, you have to crawl. And sometimes you have to be still. And sometimes you stumble, and sometimes you take steps the wrong direction. And a lot of times it feels like you're hurtling along with no idea where you are going or if you're even on the right path.

It's screwing up. It's reconciling. It's messy. It's whiter than snow.

Its the ultimate sacrifice. It's the deepest depths of love.

Walking with Christ will require nothing from you except your willingness to accept Him.

Walking with Christ will require every single ounce of your life.

The Real Story about Christianity is this : it looks different for everyone, and it looks the same. And no matter how bad anyone thinks they have been in their life, the blood of Jesus is thicker, and covers it all. And no matter how good someone thinks they have been in their life, their sin is black enough to require the same blood, covering over it all.

And there are days when a walk with God looks a lot more like a stroll off a cliff wearing a blindfold. And days when it resembles an opossum playing dead in the road. There are days filled with laughter and peace and blissful joy. There are days when we doubt...there are plenty of days of doubt. And there are days filled with relief and forgiveness and thanksgiving and reconciliation.

The point is...to walk.

Fail. Succeed. Keep trying. Cry. Scream. Laugh. Dance. Forgive, because you have been forgiven.

***The Real Story about Christianity isn't our story at all.***

It's the story of a love so powerful, so overwhelming, so all consuming, that it couldn't do nothing while we drifted away. Love had to ACT.

And if that Love lives in you, then it will compel you to act as well.

It will be simple. It will be impossible.

LOVE tells His story through your life.

That's what Christianity should look like. That's the Real Story.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Real Story - Housework

So, I decided to start off safe, with a topic that will make you smile, I hope, and make you all feel a little better about yourselves and your home after reading.

My mom taught me about house cleaning when I was young. She had five children, and she didn't want us to grow up believing that toilets and floors and dishes cleaned themselves, so she taught us how to clean them, and how often, by giving them to us as chores. I am grateful for that idea now, because I have done the same with my own children. They each have assigned house cleaning jobs that they do, not to earn allowance, but to earn a place to sleep and a meal to eat. My daughter unloads the dishwasher, as well as being responsible for 2 of the 4 bathrooms in our house. My oldest son son does the dusting, the next one takes up and empties the trash cans, we all work together to pick up clutter periodically, and the youngest...well he goes behind the other kids and un-does everything they do.

Here is the real story, though. There is a LOT more to housework than dusting and dishes and trash cans and clutter.

A. Lot. More.

There is mopping. And laundry (which should really have it's own category because there is no way in "the demon's lair" (this is what I say when I mean 'hell' but don't want to say it)(my daughter came up with the code name for me) that I can roll laundry up under the 'house-cleaning' umbrella and still stay sane). And organizing. And vacuuming. And organizing again.

And dusting doesn't just cover the tables and bookshelves. What about the corners of the room? The baseboards? The pictures on the walls? The fans? The curtains? The exercise equipment? (oh man, that's touching on another real story topic - exercising...or lack thereof, which leads to dust on the equipment.)

And what about the windows? Isn't there some rule about spring cleaning, and how you're supposed to clean your windows, inside and out, every year?

And then there is what is UNDER all the stuff you're dusting and de-cluttering and vacuuming. Like under beds, and couches, and couch cushions, and refrigerators, and stoves, and area rugs. Seriously, you want to see how tough your gag reflex is? Pull out your stove or refrigerator. Oh. My. Word.

And if you have small kids, or boys of any age, or ANY PEOPLE at all living in your house, there will also be dirty fingerprints on the doors and light switches and walls.

I am a bit of a perfectionist. I'm not one of those people who can rotate house work. I want to get the whole house cleaned all on the same day, because then I can sit and bask in the clean rooms...for about 10 minutes until my kids escape from prison (aka their beds with video games). But...no matter how clean the bookshelves are, or how much the floors sparkle, or how much like bleach the bathroom smells...my house is never really truly clean. The work is never, ever, ever done.

And the real story, the legitimate truth, is that I have decided not to care. Because if I attempted to stay ahead of the grime under the stove, or the crumbs between the couch cushions, or the dust bunnies in the corners of every room, or the blasted WINDOWS...then I would never shave my legs or brush my teeth or eat a meal or go pee or speak to another living soul. All I would do for my entire LIFE is clean.

The only way for all the deep cleaning to get done is for me to hire a house-cleaning service, which I wouldn't do even if I could afford it, because then they would come in and pull out my refrigerator and I would die of humiliation.

Want to know a few fun, REAL facts about the Martin home? (insert deep, fortifying breath of courage here)(and now insert a moment of prayer that people will still come to my house to visit)(and finally, a raised eyebrow that means 'don't even pretend like this stuff doesn't happen to you too')

1. I have lived here for 4 1/2 years, and I have never, ever, cleaned the windows inside and out...or even just inside.

2. This morning there were some crumbs on the floor as I was walking through the kitchen, and I kicked them under a chair with my foot, then kept on walking, already having forgotten what had just happened.

3. Once, there were two spiders in webs in the corners of my bathroom. I named them, and told them hello every time I went in there, for over a month.

4. My son, Nate, has been known to throw food items he didn't want to eat underneath his dresser. I have never once pulled out the dresser to vacuum behind it, even though I am aware of the above mentioned fact.

5. Out of sight, out of mind, is my favorite saying in the world. In other words, a guest in my home could potentially be bodily restrained from opening closets or drawers or cabinets or the garage.

6. I mop my kitchen fairly often (because otherwise I would have things growing in the dirt, and my feet would stick to the floor when I was trying to cook) but I cannot remember the last time I mopped the hardwood floors in the rest of the house. Seriously...it might have been within the last year...maybe.

7. The blinds on my uncleaned windows also remain uncleaned. Sometimes I write notes in the dust. It's fun.

8. I don't iron. Ever. If you have an article of clothing that is rumpled, the only thing I can do to help is throw it back in the dryer with a damp wash cloth in an attempt to knock out the worst wrinkles.

9. The fingerprints on walls and doors and light fixtures make me smile, because they are reminders of the little hands that live here, so I leave them intentionally, and plan to never, ever, remove them. (the first part is a lie. The second part is the God's honest truth.)

10. A few weeks ago I found a petrified banana in a window sill in my living room. I was really happy, because I had finally solved the mystery of why we had ants in our house.

Okay...you would think that this REAL look into my own house-cleaning habits would make me feel like cleaning all day, but you would be wrong. I might do some laundry. I might do some dishes. But I will not be cleaning underneath any pieces of furniture, and since there are no longer visible crumbs on the floor, I will not be sweeping or vacuuming either.

The real story about house-cleaning is this: Its impossible for it to be the ACTUAL definition of clean, so why stress about it?

Clean up the petrified banana when you find it, kill the spiders before they have babies, turn your blinds up instead of down so you don't have to look at the dust or the notes written in it, always have natural oak floors so that dirt doesn't show and you don't have to mop, and every once in a while remind yourself that, however bad your house might be, it can't possibly be as bad as mine.

I hope you are all feeling better about your houses now. And just in case you're wondering, I still feel fine about mine...although my mother will probably call me sometime today and tell me its high time I cleaned the windows, and my spider-shy friends will probably never come over again.

But at least now you know "The Real Story."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Real Story - Introduction

This week, as I was enjoying a rare and wonderful conversation with my sister-in-law, Sarah Ashley, I devised (with her help and through our enjoyable conversation) a series. She and I toyed with the idea of making it into a series of books, and while I love that concept, I am too recently removed from the all consuming, overwhelming task of my most recent book taken from rough draft to publication, and the idea of doing it again right now makes me want to DRINK, so instead I am creating a series of blog posts with this title.

"The Real Story"

The possibilities are endless with this title, truly. I already have several in my head, just waiting to form into full blown blogging confessions. Parenting, marriage, homeschooling, Christianity, friendship, house cleaning...and because I am known (by ALL who know me) for my brutal honestly, this series promises to be revealing, shockingly so, and will almost certainly land me in trouble with someone...probably more than one someone.

I would like to say, as a disclaimer, that I will probably share stories told to me by a random collection of people, not just my own personal life experiences. I will change names as needed (maybe) and I will attempt to draw from a wide variety of ages and stages in an effort to get a more REAL real story on a given subject.

So, anyone have a topic they want to hear 'The Real Story' address? Anyone have a story they think would benefit the blog world, that they want to share with me in the hope that I will share it in this series?

Just to get your juices flowing, here is a preview, a teaser, a glimpse extraordinaire  into the coming series...The REAL Story.

"No one talks about it, but there is no denying that we all feel it at one point or another: This is NOT what I envisioned it would be like. When I (got married, had kids, became a Christian, decided to home school, made friends with this person, picked up a dust rag, went for a run) (you fill in the blank) I had all kinds of dreams and ideals and visions of what it would be like, look like, feel like...and it ISN'T. Why the heck didn't anyone tell me? Does that mean I am the only person who feels this way? What is wrong with me that I can't make this turn out the way it SHOULD?"

Alrighty, if you have any subjects to add, or thoughts on any of the possibilities listed above, shoot me a message on Facebook.

Hold onto your butts, people, we are telling the REAL STORY.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Melodies and Reminders

There's a country song that has this line in it: "It's funny how a melody sounds like a memory..."

Isn't that the truth?

Don't you hear "The Time of My Life" and remember Johnny and Baby dancing with her in a pale pink dress, or "My Heart Will Go On" and imagine Jack putting Rose up on the plank while he is slowly freezing to death, or the first two notes of the theme song from Jaws, and recall teeth, and screaming, and bloody limbs, and an unrealistic looking, demon-possessed shark?

You know you do.

Something about music always triggers memories.

Whenever I hear "Shout to the Lord" I smile, thinking about it playing during my wedding. (yes, that's an old song now, but 14 years ago it was pretty awesome to walk down the aisle to, so stop judging)

All bluegrass music transports me back to my early childhood, and I have vague, treasured memories of my late grandfather playing and singing.

I read Mother Goose poems to my kids these days, and when I start singing them in the same tune my mom used to sing them to me in, (which she made up, because it had to get boring reading the same poems over and over...or maybe just because she's the greatest...) I suddenly feel like a girl again, sitting in our freezing cold living room, wrapped in afghans, listening to her voice.

Every country song about bare feet, and worn out jeans, and sweet tea, and fried chicken, makes me remember our old house at the Pisgah Crossroads; the red roof, the front porch, the big oak tree, the tiny bathroom, the idyllic childhood.

Every old school Carmen song makes me want to get up and dance. (now I know you're judging me, and I don't care. "Addicted to Jesus" is still a legitimately fantastic song. Deal with it.)

When I listen to the cd of my Uncle Tom singing, I have about 750 life flashbacks, all of them wonderful, of family sing-alongs.

And there are songs that give me heartache flashbacks too. The songs we sang at Joy's funeral, the ones sung in her honor since then, and the ones I listened to over and over when I was just trying to find something to cling to in my sadness.

There's a verse in Psalms (I can't remember the reference, and I'm too lazy to get up and go search for it in my Bible, so you'll just have to take my word for it) that says "Songs of praise and victory are sung in the camp of the Godly."

Hmm.

I wonder if they sang the songs even when they weren't feeling victorious or in a praising mood. I mean, it doesn't say they only sang them when they were feeling it. It says they sang songs of praise and victory in their camp.

Probably because the melody sounded like a memory of victory. Possibly because a song of praise reminded them of times where they FELT like praising, even if they weren't feeling it right then.

Last night, members of our church gathered together in our partially renovated building, ducking under hanging light fixtures and stepping around piles of insulation and construction materials, and we prayed, and we sang. We haven't seen the victory yet, but we still sang about the goodness of our God.

And those songs will be attached to those memories now, pictures in my mind and heart of people who are hurting, but still chose to praise; people who are sick, and still smiled and danced; people who are feeling hopeless, but still lifted their voices to magnify the Lord; people who are TIRED, but still gave their energy to songs of victory.

Today I am going to pull out the melodies that bring back the memories of praise, and hope, and love, and peace, and I am going to play those melodies over and over, and I am going to remember...

And my camp, the Martin camp, will be filled with the songs of praise and victory.

What melodies sound like the memories of victory in your life? Sing them today. And be reminded.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Morning

I dreamed about my sister last night, or maybe it was this morning.

It happens sometimes. Not as frequently as it did right after she died, but still, occasionally, I will awaken with remnants of her voice or her smile or her laugh still resonating in my mind. And as the dream fades, and wakefulness seeps in, I am always happy that I got to spend time with her, and then I am always sad that it was only a dream.

The first time I dreamed about her was the night that she died. That was really more of a vision, I guess, because I was half awake, and I was standing in her Malaysian hospital room, telling her I loved her and I wished I was with her. And she wasn't laying in her bed, with tubes going into her body and her head shaved from emergency brain surgery. No, she was standing up, and beside her was an angel, and all around her was the presence of the Lord, and I was hugging her and telling her I loved her. And then...then I woke up, and it was 4 in the morning and I couldn't go back to sleep, and I sat in the living room waiting. And then it was 5:30 and my parents were coming into the house, telling me she was gone. And when they told me what time it had been that she died, I realized she had already been up out of that bed, and walking with the Lord, when I had my dream/vision, and I curled up on my couch and cried until I had no more tears. Except that I had more tears...a lot more, for a long time.

Now, more than three years later, when I dream about my sister, Joy, it's usually something funny, or silly, or trivial. We are trying to decide where to go shopping, or what to have for lunch, or we are just sitting around talking. And when I wake up too early, I don't sit and stare at the wall, waiting and hoping and fearing what the morning light will bring.

If you had told me, at 5:30 a.m. on August 18th, 2010, that one day I would dream about her and wake up smiling, I wouldn't have believed you.

Because I woke up in the dark, and even when the sun came up, it still felt dark. And after that, for a long time, it was dark when I woke up, and I opened my eyes already crying, and it seemed that the morning would never come, the sun wouldn't break through, the well of tears was endless.

But this morning, it was 4:45 when my eyes popped open, and I could still hear her laugh resonating in my mind, and I was still gripped with happiness and sadness all at the same time, but...the sun came up.

And I am left breathless. Seriously, gasping for breath, as I realize something altogether unbelievable and awful and shocking and yet such a blessing; the morning has come, and the mourning is fading.

And a part of me wants to crawl back into the night, because I feel closer to her there.

But, this is the way the Lord set it up. The night is dark, and cold, and wet with tears.

But the morning is warm, and dry, and bright with hope, and it always comes.

We can't imagine the light, and the warmth, and the hope, when we are deep in the night. And sometimes night lasts much longer than we think we can live through. And sometimes we want to cling to the night, because it keeps our hearts connected to someone we lost, or something we think we need to hold close.

But the Lord made the morning. He IS the light. He shines hope.

Are you still in the night, the dark, the deep well of tears and pain and hopelessness?

Please believe me when I say...the morning is coming. Hang onto Jesus in the night, because He's there. And when the light breaks in, and you realize that morning is coming, He's still there. You've never been alone, and there is great hope in that knowledge.

"Sing hallelujah, the sun's breaking through,
to take back the dark sky and make everything new.
We knew joy was coming, we just had to wait.
Now we sing hallelujah, for its a brand new day.

So let's sing hallelujah, the dark night is gone.
Creation is singing, so come join in the song.
The Father is calling to come out and play.
So we'll sing hallelujah, its a brand new, beautiful day."

(song lyrics by Steven Curtis Chapman, "Morning Has Broken" song, written a few years after the death of his daughter. Here is a link. Take a minute and watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=CXoUX8Ch7uk )

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Frozen in Time

Time stood still yesterday.

Not literally, of course, because I'm not Joshua asking God to make the sun halt in the sky while I defeat all of Israel's enemies.

But you know what I mean, right? A moment where you can hear your heart beating in your ears, and the rest of the world fades to fuzzy, and your brain slows its firing...time stands still.

It started out like a lot of days around here. The boys woke up too early, and I hadn't had enough coffee yet, so I was moving slow.

I made breakfast, set out clothes for the kids to put on, made my bed, brushed my teeth, broke up a fight, cleaned up breakfast dishes, answered a question about something, poured a cup of juice, took a gulp of coffee, muttered a prayer under my breath, found a cartoon for the 3-year-old, and herded the 6, 9, and 11 year old upstairs to start school. All this happened at a normal pace, without a pause in the space-time continuum. (since I don't have a flux capacitor handy)

School was more of the same multi-tasking. Explain the math lesson to the 6th grader, remind the 1st grader how to form the letter 'b,' listen the the 3rd grader reading his book, mark the day on the attendance sheet, break up an argument, sharpen a pencil, take a gulp of coffee, mutter a prayer under my breath, give a spelling quiz, write math problems on the white-board...

After a half hour everyone was started on some seat work, and I decided the cartoon I had started for the 3-year-old had probably ended and I should check on him, so I gave instructions for the other three kids to finish what they were working on and then take a break, and I headed downstairs. In the hall, I picked up three socks laying in the floor (without pausing to wonder where the 4th sock was), then I picked up a shirt (I knew that had come off my 6-year-old's back on his way to the school room, because he is always peeling off his shirt in random places) followed by an apple core (it had certainly been laying there since the day before) and a used and discarded band aid (which could have come off any of my kids, since they all seem to be injured right now.)

I was still holding my random collection of items when I entered my bedroom.

And time stood still.

Because my three-year-old was nowhere to be seen, but the evidence that he had been busy was still present.

Covering my carpet in a random pattern was a lovely shade of bubble-gum pink fingernail polish.

I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I could feel my chest rising and falling. I could smell my brain heating up, I could see the room becoming fuzzy, I could taste the blood from where I was biting my lip.

Moments passed.

(In fairness to Gabe, the carpet really needed some pink. I mean, it already boasts lovely shades of black sharpie, bronze powder, gray eyeshadow, blue juice, and several brown vomit stains from the last round of stomach flue. What it was really missing was some bright pink fingernail polish.)

When time began to move forward again, I realized I had mutilated the apple core, squishing it together with the bloody band aid and squeezing the juice between my fingers. I quickly discarded it in the trash can, added the now empty bottle of nail polish, and tossed the three socks and one shirt in the dirty clothes hamper.

"Kids!" I called. "Get your shoes on, we are going for a walk."

It took a good 5 minutes to get them all ready. Two of them had to stop by the bathroom, one had trouble locating his shoes, and the youngest was hiding from me because he knew better than to show his face.

Sunglasses on, I walked out the front door, (and found the fourth sock on the front steps) and the kids scurried to catch up.

We hadn't even made it to the next mailbox before I started crying. (but at least I had my sunglasses on, so no one knew it, right?)

The weather was beautiful, an absolutely perfect fall day. And as the breeze blew in my face, tousling my kids hair and shaking leaves loose from the trees, time stood still again.

Because, I swear, the Holy Spirit was in that breeze.

And as I cried, and the kids ran, and walked, and jogged, and squealed, and giggled, the Lord stood beside me, and His presence blew through my heart, calming and soothing and just BEING there.

There were no words of revelation. There was no instant disappearing of the stains on my carpet, the sun didn't literally stand still in the sky.

But it was so much better. Because my sweet Lord knew that all I really needed was a reminder that I wasn't alone, and He gave it to me.

He's in the stillness. He's in the craziness.

We aren't alone. We aren't multi-tasking in our own strength.

He's beside us.

He's soothing our souls when we are hurting.

He's calming our hearts when we are overwhelmed.

He's reaching out His hand when we are drowning.

He's pausing the sun in the sky when we need time to win a victory.

And He's reminding me today, like He did yesterday, to take a minute and breath Him in.

And so I'm reminding you. Take a minute.

The apple core won't rot further in the next ten seconds. The stains won't get bigger. The school won't get more or less accomplished. The house won't burn down. The world won't stop spinning.

But time can stand still. And He's there with you in that frozen moment.

And for today, it's enough.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Books, and Rocky, and Revelation

I read my favorite book of all time this week.

I have read a LOT of books in my life. I'm one of those people who enjoys sitting, curled up in a chair or under a tree or on a beach or in a bed, lost in the pages of a good book for hours on end. I read somewhere around 200 books as part of my high school curriculum. Between my husband and myself, we own at least 500, probably closer to 1,000 books, if you include all our kids books.

Through the years, there are several books that stand out in my mind as some of the greatest. There was "King of the Wind" when I was a girl, and "Ben Hur," and "The Emancipation of Robert Sadler." I will never forget how much I cried, or how many hours I spent engrossed in the pages, or how moved I was by the story.

But, of all the books I have ever read, there is one that is my favorite. I read it for the first time when I was 13 years old. And this week, 20 years after that first time, I finished my 11th reading of it.

No, that is not a typo. I have read my favorite book 11 times.

How, you ask, can I still enjoy it after so many readings? Why, you wonder, would I read the same story over and over? Doesn't it lose its impact? Don't you get bored?

I find, every time I open my favorite book and begin the story, that I feel like a kid again, reading about, discovering, the story as if for the first time. I am nearly brought to tears, I am certainly brought to the edge of my seat, and I am consumed with devouring all 375 pages as quickly as possible, with as few trips to the bathroom and as few interruptions by life as I can manage.

Maybe this makes me weird. Or maybe it just means that its the best book. Ever.

As I was reading it this week (it took me 48 hours to finish it, because I have four children and life responsibilities) (otherwise I would have read the whole things straight through without stopping till I was done) (don't judge me) my daughter walked in and said, "What are you reading?" I lifted the book out of my lap for her to read the title. She said "What is it about?" And I tore my eyes away from the pages to briefly describe it for her. Her next question was "When can I read it?"

This one gave me pause. Because my favorite thing, besides reading my favorite book, is introducing it to others, and watching their world be rocked the same way mine was the first time, and all the times since. "Well," I finally decided, "I was 13 the first time I read it. So I guess you can read it when you're 13 too." "That's less than two years away," she said with a smile.

I sat staring at the door as she walked out. How the heck did my daughter get so flippin' close to being a teenager? I must have been reading a book for the last decade and didn't notice. Where is the pause button on life? (I'm ending this rabbit trail before it becomes a blog post of its own.)

My nine-year old came in next. "What are you reading, Mom?" So I told him. "What's it about?" I told him that too. "Are there any pictures?" he asked with interest. "No," I told him, "but there are tons of words that describe things, and I have the pictures in my mind." He understood this, and was satisfied.

After finishing my favorite book, I picked up its sequel (a book of equal impact, with an even more intricate plot, that I have read nearly as many times). But, in between the finishing and the starting, I paused.

And the Lord and I had a wonderful time of fellowship, spurred on by truths my favorite book reminded me of, catapulted into action by His Spirit whispering to my heart.

Because I've been in a battle, a battle against the enemy of my soul, and I haven't been winning. In fact, I've been feeling a lot like Rocky Balboa, who gets pummeled in every single movie about him. Seriously, its like the man can't win a fight until his eye is split open and his whole face is swollen into an unrecognizable mess of blood and bruises. (oh dear, rabbit trail number two...)

But that's how I've been feeling. Like I am getting punched over and over and over and my single solitary life goal is to stay upright until the end of the round. And then I plop down on the stool in my corner, sweating and bleeding and gasping for air, and all I get is the tiniest breather before I have to stand back up and get the crap kicked out of me for another round.

Until Wednesday night. Until the round where I realized suddenly that I was going to lose, because I was trying to win on my own. Until the Lord reminded me, through pages and words I have read 11 times, that I didn't have to fight at all. He would step in, and fight for me, if I only let Him.

And so I did. And the fight lasted until almost midnight. And...my enemy was defeated.

And in the morning, I felt like I had lost 10 pounds. (too bad I hadn't lost 10 ACTUAL pounds...oops, rabbit trail number three)

And undoubtedly my enemy has gone to his corner, to lick his wounds and regroup, and prepare to fight another day, and undoubtedly I will need to be reminded again that I will lose if I try to fight alone, and certainly I will have occasion to get my eye split open, and my face beaten into a mass of swollen bruises and blood...

And, because He is just that faithful and merciful and gracious, I will be saved again, if I will but fall back on Him who has paid it all, and stepped into the ring in my place, and allowed Himself to be beaten, and bruised, and who didn't stay standing, but went down, and through His loss, He was victorious.

His words echo in my mind today. They shouted in my spirit in the middle of the night, and they continue to whisper through me now.

They are enough on their own. They are revelation. They are truth. They are the corner you can run into to be saved from the giant, steroid-shooting Russian you are battling. (we are still on the Rocky metaphor here, in case you are wondering)

Are you ready?

Are you tired enough to give up trying to fight on your own?

Are you really?

Because if not, then the words that can rescue you aren't going to get through.

You have to stop.

You have to listen.

You have to give up, drop your tired, battle weary hands, and admit that you can't take another hit.

And He is there.

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Do you see? Do you really SEE your enemy? Take a good look at him. And then, when you're ready, really ready, tell him this:

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness HAS NOT overcome it." (John 1:5)

We win. Our enemy loses.

There is darkness. There IS a battle. It rages on and on all around us, and often in front of us, and at times INSIDE of us. And the darkness seems too dark sometimes. And the rounds seem to never end. And the break between them doesn't give us nearly enough time to catch our breath. And our enemy is much taller, and stronger, and meaner than we thought he could be.

And we will lose.

BUT FOR THE LIGHT.

He shines in. He pierces the darkness. He fights for us.

He wins.

I'm letting Him fight for me today. I'm sitting safe in my corner, reading a good book.

And in my head, I'm yelling "We did it, Adrian! ADRIAN!!!!!! I love you!"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Healing Scars

I have a lot of scars.

I grew up in the country, after all. In the deep south, a land of blackberry bushes needing to be picked, dirt roads waiting to be explored, and trees begging to be climbed, its hard to grow up without a good assortment of injuries that leave permanent reminders on the skin.

I have a scar on my knee from falling down several pebble-stone steps when I was six. I have a scar on my arm from a dermatologist procedure. I have several chicken pox scars. I have a few scars on my face, from bug bites or pimples I couldn't stop messing with. (come on, don't be shocked, we all have those) I also boast multiple scars on my hands from one kitchen accident or another.

My favorite scar is on my collar bone. It used to be a small mole. When my son Clay, who is now 9, was 18 months old, he was running toward me and tripped, falling into my arms with his mouth open. His sharp little teeth connected with the mole on my collarbone...and after a trip to the doctor, complete with a numbing shot, scalpel, and cauterizing tool...that mole transformed into a scar.

True story.

My kids really like to hear the stories associated with the imperfections marring my skin, and they can't wait to point out their own scars to me, telling me how they acquired them, as if I wasn't there for each and every occasion. They have plenty of their own testaments to southern childhood living, and each little scar earns its own story at one bedtime or another.

Imperfections, reminders of pain, unsightliness.

War wounds. Battle scars. Ugliness.

Sometimes I wonder if people see the scar on my arm and ponder how I got it, or if they zero in on the nasty puckered skin on my knee and imagine what fall led to that unfortunate flesh imperfection.

But most of the time, I wonder if they can see, in my eyes, the evidence of the scars on my heart.

We all have those too, and they are easier to hide and harder to heal. And maybe they are harder to heal BECAUSE they are easier to hide...I don't know.

All I know is, when I am sitting in a group of brand new acquaintances, and introducing myself for the first time, I don't lead with "My name is Charity, and I got this scar on my collarbone when my son bit off a mole accidentally."

I don't want to draw attention to my imperfections, on my skin or in my heart.

I don't want people to know that every time my husband is late getting home from work, I have to actively remind myself not to have an emotional breakdown. There is a scar on my heart, you see, from a time in our marriage when he was fighting to save his company, and I rarely saw him, and I barely stayed afloat emotionally, and our relationship took some hits that we've had to battle back from.

I don't want anyone to see how hard it is for me not to imagine there has been a horrific car accident when someone is more than half an hour late. My grandpa died in a car crash, you see, and a close friend nearly did, and I have the scars those pains left inside of me as reminders.

And I really hate it that my debilitating scars show themselves when I hug a family member goodbye. The people in the airport cannot understand why I cling to my sister so ferociously, why I kiss her so many times, why I tell her I love her over and over and over, and stand watching her for as long as I possibly can as she walks away toward her gate. The reminder of the last time I hugged a sister, and kissed her cheek, and told her I loved her, and recalling that I only did each thing once, and the knowing that I won't ever get to kiss, hug, or say I love you to her again until I reach heaven...those are scars in my heart that I wish didn't come rushing to the surface in airports for dozens of people to witness.

But the other night, I was laying in bed with my little boys, snuggling and tickling and talking, and Nate, my 6-year-old, put his hand on my arm, and my eyes were drawn to the very large, very noticeable scar on his wrist. When he was 7 months old, he pulled my hair straightener down on himself, and the device left sever second degree burns on his arm. I reached out and kissed those scars, and said, out loud, "Thank you, Lord, for your mercy to my baby. Thank you that it was his arm, not his face. Thank you for sending your angels to protect him from something much worse." Nate tried to pull his arm away, to cover the scar from my sight...but I love that scar. I cherish the reminder that the Lord was gracious to me and to him that day, and I need to be prodded into recalling His faithfulness in the every day, and often unexpected, and sometimes painful moments of our lives.

Just like my dining room table is well-worn, marked, scarred over time and use, so my life is marked, worn, shaped and scarred by the living of it. And if an antique has more value because of its scars, then so do I, if I choose to embrace them and their lessons.

They are the evidence of something. Not that I am a tomboy (though I certainly am). Not that I am terribly clumsy (although thats true too). Not that the weirdest things happen to me (and who can deny that is the case?). Not that I have been through painful things (we all have, haven't we?).

My scars are evidence that there is a HEALER.

They are a witness to His power at work, His merciful presence, His strong right arm, His grace.

When the pain comes screaming back, reminding me of the once open wound that is now a dull red scar, when I ache inside from remembering how much pain, how many wounds, are inside me...I will remember Nate's arm, and how I thanked the Lord for that scar and its reminder of His mercy.

And I will thank Him for my scars too, because they are the evidence that the Healer still heals.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Strangers and Self-control

You know the saying "When it rains it pours."

And "The hits just keep on coming."

And my own personal favorite (courtesy of Ross from 'Friends') that you may or may not know, "Jump into my nightmare, the water is just getting warm."

Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables, duh) calls them "Jonah Days."

I am having a Jonah Day.

My baby sister left today for her long, meandering journey cross-country to California, with stops at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and others, before finally heading back to Hawaii, where she now makes her home.

My mom and my kids and I took her to the airport this morning. It was not a dry-eyed goodbye. In fact,  the kids were crying so loudly and so hard that every other person in line for the security check was looking at us. More than few had tear-filled eyes at the sight we made, clinging together and crying openly, and at one point Nate whispered loudly "Guys, everyone is staring at us. We have to stop crying."

SO, in an attempt to cheer us all up, we met some friends for lunch at Chic-Fil-A after we left the airport.

After they inhaled their food, the kids skipped happily to play in the sound-proof, glassed in play place, and I breathed a sigh of relief at the silence, and the company of my sweet Jesus sisters.

And then, because on a Jonah Day it is impossible to get 5 seconds of peace, my daughter burst from the play place and informed me that there were other moms in there YELLING at my boys.

I blinked.

"Did they do something bad?" I asked after taking a moment to swallow my french fry.

"No," she responded. "They are just playing, being boys. And those women started yelling at them to stop running around so much."

Oh. My.

I took a very large swig of my Coke Zero, wishing it was regular Coke, or possibly spiked Coke, and then I took a deep breath.

"Okay, Faith, go and remind your brothers to watch out for other kids, just in case, and then stay in there and supervise. And if anyone else yells at them, you come tell me."

Deep breath. Blink back the red haze clouding vision. Deep breath again. Additional swig of non-sugared, non-spiked Coke. Swallow. And repeat.

Several moments after I became aware of the situation, one of the above mentioned moms came out of the play place and walked, smiling, to our table.

"Just wanted to let you know, in case any of your kids says anything, that they were running and jumping around, you know, being boys, and they got fussed at. Okay?" And she walked away. At least, I assume she did. I refused to make eye contact with her, or even turn in her direction.

Not because I was being a jerk, but because I was actively biting my tongue, and I didn't want her to see the blood dripping from between my lips.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

Who on the face of the earth EVER thinks its okay to yell at someone elses' kids? And if they do, what moron then relays what they have done to the parents of the STRANGERS they were attempting to discipline?

Now, in fairness to every mother on earth who has ever seen a bigger kid playing rowdy games near their much smaller child, I have been in that situation and I have said things like "Hey, buddy, would you mind paying closer attention? You are a lot bigger and stronger than these little ones, and I don't want anyone to get hurt." I have even said "Please watch what you are doing, okay?"

But never, ever, ever, would I yell at a stranger's child. EVER. I wouldn't even yell at the children of my friends or family members. EVER.

Oh, the things running through my mind as she turned her perfectly toned self around and walked proudly away.

"If its bothering you so much, get your uptight butt in your pretentious car and leave."

"Lady, you are gonna raise a bunch of pansy, whining brats if you stand inside the play place yelling at anyone who gets close to them for the rest of their lives."

"Regardless of what they may or may not have done, if you speak to my children again ABOUT ANYTHING, my fist is gonna connect with your snobby, snarly, holier than thou nose."

"Ma'am,  I've had a really stupid-y day, and my self-control is hanging on by a thread. Its in your best interest to go back to your table while you still have all your teeth."

Sigh...alas, as previously established, I said nothing, and she left.

Shortly thereafter we retrieved our wild monsters from the pits of hell where they were apparently residing, and left the play place where only two year old girls with giant bows and zero people skills, or three year old boys who have never had to share or hear loud noises in their life, are permitted to play.

Come on now. Really?

Granted, my boys can be rowdy. Admittedly, they could accidentally knock down a smaller kid during a light-saber battle. Absolutely, they are loud. Definitely, they have the capacity for causing stress to others. Yes, they might need to be reminded to pay attention the others around them.

BUT...

Just so we are totally clear going forward: The fact that I didn't cause a giant scene today in Chic-Fil-A had nothing to do with whether or not my sons deserved to be yelled at by a stranger. NO CHILD should ever be yelled at by a stranger.

The reason I held my tongue also had nothing to do with my desire to be a good, southern, Christian lady who doesn't cause drama, or because I was trying to be a good example to my kids of how to respond to conflict.

The truth, the real reason I said nothing to the hateful woman who yelled at my children for being children and then had the audacity to explain and justify herself to me, is much simpler, and much more likely to cause my mother to gasp and my husband to shake his head and tell me I shouldn't admit all my internal sins to the entire blogging community.

At the time, in that moment, the only words I could think of had four letters.

Now, as I sit here blogging out my frustration to cyberspace, my boys are having a very intense battle with pistols, and no one is yelling except them, and I can think of many, many, many things I wish I could have thought to say to that woman.

But, I had to bite my stinking tongue.

The upside is, at least I'm not a hypocrite who rants and rails to strangers about how totally unacceptable it is to yell at strangers...

Oh. Oops.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Repeat...and repeat again

Sometimes I feel like my daily conversations with my children are really just a tape that keeps repeating, or skipping, over and over.

"Don't fuss at your brother."
"Eat over your plate."
"Go outside and play."
"Put your shoes in your room, not in the middle of the floor."
"Apologize."
"Go to the bathroom."
"Take a bite."
"Flush the toilet."
"Stop whining."
"Because I'm the MOM and I said so, that's why."

These are just a few, obviously, but by the end of any given day, I have been exasperated more than a dozen times because I've had to repeat myself, repeatedly. 

"Are y'all listening to me?" I have been known to ask. "Am I even speaking English?"

To which my kids have been known to reply, "Our ears aren't grown up yet, Mom. We can't always listen." 

I won't shock you with my response to that particular comment, but I can tell you that they get their smart mouth tendencies from their father. I am totally compliant and never, ever smart off about anything. I am also never sarcastic...and I never lie... 

It's so frustrating that, no matter how many times I tell them to flush the toilet more than once in order to avoid clogging it...I end up using the plunger at least once a day.

It drives me crazy that, regardless of how many times I say my bed is OFF LIMITS for wrestling matches, I have to re-make it because the sheets and quilts are twisted into a knotted pile in the floor.

It's terribly annoying to have to remind them, over and over, to brush their teeth and put on deodorant and take a shower. In fact, I recently gave my 11 and 9 year-old an ultimatum. "The two of you are old enough to remember this on your own. I'm not going to remind you anymore. If I ask you if you brushed your teeth, or put on deodorant, and you say no, I'm gonna smack you on top of your forgetful heads to help jog your memory." Confession: I've said that sentence more than once, as well.

In my moments of internal ranting about the injustice of being ignored, or the exhaustion of having to say the same things repeatedly, I am usually seated firmly on my self appointed pedestal. The one where I never have to be reminded of the same thing twice, and I never screw up the same way more than once, and I am always quick to know the right thing and DO it.

But, just yesterday I was in SERIOUS need of a smack on the top of the head about something...and when it came, I was smacked with more than one thought. 

I've heard this before.
I've been here before.
I know this already.

Crap.

I am just like my kids. I have to be constantly monitored, and reminded, and reminded again, and again, and again.

And my Father is repeatedly patient in His reminders.

He smacks me on the top of my head, sure, but always in love, and always because He wants my life to be full, and fully abandoned to Him, and willing to listen and obey His voice, and devoted to reminding others of who He is, and how He loves, and how great His mercy is, and how strong His arms are, and how deep His rivers of grace flow.

I know who He is. 
I know who I am because of Him. 
I know that He is the place I find peace,
and wholeness,
and healing,
and rest,
and love,
and hope,
and comfort,
and strength,
and refuge,
and mercy,
and forgiveness,
and help,
and joy...

But even though I know, I need to be reminded. I've forgotten, and I need a smack in the head to jar my memory. And sometimes, I need to just obey, without understanding, because HE'S THE DAD AND HE SAID SO. Even if I don't know why, I just need to do what He says, and trust Him. 

Because KNOWING is the parent's job. And TRUSTING is the child's job.

So, today, when I am reminding my kids to brush their teeth and put on deodorant for the tenth time this week, I am going to remind myself that I need to spend some time in fellowship with my Father, listening to Him, and focusing on the things I already know.

The things that give life to my soul when it is weary and thirsty and broken and desperate...I know them. They are wrapped up in HIM, and sometimes I forget, and need to be smacked on the head.

I'm very glad He loves me enough to give me that smack, over and over, every time I need it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons from a wave

I like to think that I am a person who is easy to please. Simple things give me great pleasure in life, and I am very vocal about my love of them. Ask any of my closest friends, and they will be able to give you a list.

Coffee
Twizzlers
Flowers
Wine
Chocolate
Sweat pants
Bare feet
The beach
A good book
Time with people I love

So, in case you didn't know the quickest way to my heart...now you have a list. My friends know, and they often solidify their place in my life through one of these avenues. In fact, my best friend, Sarah, brought me a goody bag filled with things from this list just a few days ago.

I am currently enjoying ALL of the things on my list, thanks to the above mentioned goody bag, and the wonderful thoughtfulness and love of my husband, Heath.

He brought me to the beach for a week. (insert every single form of smiling emoticon here)

There are sun burnt noses and shoulders, sand is a film on everything, its more surprising to see people wearing shoes than not, towels are hanging over every single chair, every little boy has a tan back and a white backside, and when you inhale, you can smell salt even if you're inside.

Sigh. I'm in heaven.

We spend hours on the shore, piling up seashells, building sandcastles, moving our blanket up the beach when the tide comes in, moving it down the beach as the tide goes out, fishing in the surf, watching dolphins swimming by, rinsing our hands so we can eat a snack, rinsing our snack because it dropped in the sand, applying and reapplying sunblock, body surfing on big waves, and baking in the sun.

Yesterday I was siting in the shallow surf, laughing when the kids got bowled over by a wave, smiling as I watched my husband enjoy some fishing time, soaking up some much needed rays, and in general feeling pretty relaxed.

And then, when I wasn't looking, a much bigger wave than those before it crashed over me. I sputtered and spit out sand and salt. I squealed at the shocking cold, and I scrambled quickly to a safer distance, while my kids took the opportunity to laugh hysterically.

A few minutes later, it happened again. But this time I was glad, because the previous wave had left behind a layer of sand, and the next one, while still cold and shocking and carrying its own sand, washed away what the one before it had deposited on my legs and midsection.

And suddenly, in the midst of the screeching birds, crashing surf, frolicking children, and beating sun, came the whisper of the Creator.

The wave crashes. Its shocking sometimes. It takes your breath away. It messes up what you were doing. You want to run from it.

But.

You are washed by the water.

The pain comes, the tragedy takes you by surprise, the anger batters your heart, the anxiety threatens to choke you, your life is turned upside down, or rearranged, or altered forever, and all you want to do is scramble to safety, out of the way of the stabbing, burning, drowning unexpected.

But the waves also wash you. They peel back the layers of your heart. The "I can handle it myself" bravado is shattered, and underneath, "no one needs to know about that" secrets are exposed, and when the next wave comes, it washes those away. And you are left with two choices: fight the waves (which accomplishes nothing, but will exhaust you in about five seconds) or accept their coming, and embrace their work.

God is so clever, building lessons into all of His creation, and whispering its truth to us. The waves pound the shore, and they wash away sand castles, and steal buckets and flip flops and goggles and shells, and get towels wet that were intended to stay dry.

But they also clean the shore, washing away impurities, and they shape the shore, forming it differently than it was the day before.

The Lord is in the waves. They are His mercy, His blessing, His way of shocking us into hearing Him, and then cleaning away the debris that was unearthed by the shock.

So today, when the tide takes me by surprise, I think I'm going to stay where I am, just for a moment, and listen for what the Creator of the waves wants me to hear.

"Even when the rain falls, even when the flood starts rising, even when the storm comes...I am washed by the water." (song lyrics by Need to Breath)

Friday, August 9, 2013

This changes everything...

Sometimes, I wish there were cameras in my house that could document the events of a single day.

Like when my husband gets home from work and he asks me how my day was, and I make a sound that comes out something like "blecharggrrpllll" ...he looks at me like I'm probably exaggerating, and I wish for just a moment that I could show him a tape to confirm my articulate expression of the craziness.

The other day my youngest son poured himself a drink from a jug in the pantry. It wasn't juice, it wasn't coke, it wasn't water. It was olive oil. When he realized how nasty it tasted, he promptly spit it all over the kitchen floor.

Yesterday I walked into my bathroom and noticed that the toilet had been filled with an entire tube of toothpaste. I still haven't cleaned it up.

While I was taking a shower, the boys used the contents of our fruit bowl as baseballs to toss back and forth through the hall. They aren't very good at catching them, though. Every single apple now has a giant bruise on it, and I'm pretty sure I saw one apple laying underneath the bench in my entry way. It, like the toothpaste in the toilet, is still there.

My bathroom mirror has a half dozen fuzzy spots on it from a child attempting to "clean the mirror for me" ...with hairspray. Its a big mirror, so I just step to the side if I can't see in a certain spot.

There are multiple articles of children's clothing in my backyard, because something about playing outside gives my kids the urge to strip down to...nothing. Eventually I will have to go get the clothes and wash them. Eventually.

The kids took all the cushions off the couch to make a "jumping pit," and then they got distracted by all the stuff they uncovered under the cushions. It was almost snack time anyway, so I wasn't too concerned that they decided to eat the old chips and goldfish and skittles they found.

The boys took a very exciting and creative shower the other day, where they used conditioner to make the whole thing so slippery they could barely stand up.

My oldest son came into my room last night and said "Mom, there's something crunchy in my hair." I examined the spot, then leaned in to smell it...yeah, it smelled like a hot dog with ketchup. We haven't had that for supper in at least a week.

On our way to the grocery store, a child rolled down his window and tossed out a toy...onto the road...as if it was a totally normal thing that he does every day.


Truly, it boggles the mind, this day-to-day life that I have. I am a crazy person most of the time.

In the rare moments, when I am not giving myself a sore throat from shouting over top of the madness, I wonder if it will ever be peaceful, relaxed, and normal in my house. Will I ever go to bed WITHOUT a headache caused from clenching my jaw all day long? Will my house ever be clean for more than 5 minutes? Will we ever have an entire gallon of milk in the refrigerator for more than an hour? Will I ever NOT know the words to every single PBS kids song? When will I be able to stop saying the sentence "Go to the bathroom right now before you pee your pants." ???

Will. There. Ever. Be. Peace?

Yesterday I heard a single sentence that changed everything.

It was during a 5-minute-escape time, where the kids were left to their own devices while I made a reservation online, and during which they rummaged through the contents of a kitchen drawer and had a battle with rolling pins. It was in a blog that I follow occasionally, this sentence, and I was skimming through it, hoping for something to calm my tumultuous emotions.

Because I've been feeling pretty beat up the last few weeks. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Just a general wearing down, curled into a ball so when I get kicked it hurts less, crying for no reason whatsoever, snapping at my husband for stuff he didn't even do, impatient, isolated, hurt, sad...blecharggrrplll.

Then, one sentence.

PEACE IS A PERSON.

Time stood still, I'm telling you. My heart stuttered. My breath hitched.

I've been turning it over in my mind since yesterday, and I won't expound on everything Peace has been saying to me since then, because He will say something different to you, I'm sure. But, suffice it to say, all my searching, and hoping, and clenching my jaw, and yelling till my throat is sore, and STRIVING, is useless. Totally unnescesary, and utterly unsuccessful. I can't create peace in my house.

He's already here.

I just forget to look for Him.

I see the olive oil on the floor, and the toothpaste in the toilet, and the apples covered in bruises.

But I miss Peace. Because when I hear "Mommy, you're so pretty," I am too busy cleaning up to really HEAR Peace speaking to my hurting heart. And when I am asked "Mommy, will you snuggle with me?" I am too overcome with stress to recognize Peace whispering for me to stop for a moment and offer the love to my little ones that is freely given to me.

Peace is a person.
And He's already here.
We just aren't looking in the right places for Him.

Stop.
Take a breath.
Peace.
Is.
Here.

What does it mean to you today?