Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Lights have been twinkling on both sides of my street at night.

The UPS truck has made multiple appearances each day.

The stores have been crowded, but the shelves have been picked nearly bare.

Wreaths grace every door.

Perfectly, and imperfectly, decorated trees brighten rooms in almost every home.

Presents spill out from under those trees.

Stockings, once hanging straight and picture-worthy, are now starting to twist slightly, and they are bulging in the center, and no one can use the fireplace because the stocking contents will melt.

Travelers are weary from trips, long or short, to see family.

Christmas Day is upon us.



I drink in this time of year like the holiday flavored lattes from Starbucks.

I recognize that it becomes more commercial every year...but I don't really see that.

I smile every time my eyes rest on my decorations, or those of others.

I jump up and down like a kid when snowflakes fall.

I get excited about cooking for parties.

I love seeing the presents under my tree.



I SEE Christmas present, but I also see Christmas past.

I see a weary woman traveling beside her husband.

I see the miles stretching out in front of them.

I see the urgency on their faces, and the lines of fatigue and the hollowed cheeks. I see the pain of the past year still haunting their eyes. The names they have been called. The invitations they haven't received. The struggle to make ends meet. The difficulty of sharing a life, a name, a home, without being truly intimate. The awe of watching a miracle grow inside her, and the fear that accompanies it.

Their faces may not show that they know Egypt is coming soon, or, before Egypt, a birth in a stable, or after Egypt...so much more. I may not see the memories of a star, and foreign kings bearing gifts, and angels singing in the night sky, but I see in their faces the knowledge that something is coming. Something that has already changed them forever.

They've been living lives altered completely by what hasn't even happened yet. So they KNOW that when it happens, nothing will ever be the same.

I see her hold her stomach, cradling the miracle, protecting the blessing that came with its own heart ache, the way it seems all miracles and blessings do. And when I look at her, and him, I see all that is yet to come.



Do you see what I see?

I see Some One who will quake across time and space and creation, burning up the centuries of hopelessness with His arrival.

I see love in its most helpless and most powerful form.

I see sweat, and blood, and tears, and pain.

I see laughter, and happiness, and relief, and peace.

I see a tiny little baby, a life so precarious and delicate, so dependent on the love of those around Him.

I see the Strong Mighty Yahweh, stretching out His hands as an offering for all of mankind.

I see the lowliest of workers, told by heaven's trumpeting host, to come worship Him.

I see the richest kings, bearing gifts, bowing down to a child without an earthly penny to His name.

I see what He has done. The sacrifices made, and those that will soon follow.

I see the Love that WOULD NOT sit by and suffer the absence of fellowship, but stepped into the confusing, messy, painful, lonely, anxious world and said...

"ENOUGH. I am making all things new again."

I see tiny little baby hands, and when I do, I also see the nail scars.

Christmas isn't just about His birth.

It's about everything that came before, and everything that comes after.

It's the striving, and uncertainty, and fear, and loss, and pain, and worry, and hurt, and death, and longing, and waiting...those are all there in the Christmas story, and in our story.

Do you see them? Of course you do.

Now look at them through the eyes of the Baby.

And really, truly SEE the Christmas story.

Redemption. Grace. Peace. Hope. Mercy. Love. Strength. Faithfulness. Protection. JOY.

My heart jumps every time.

Because the story of His birth is really the story of OURS.

He came to DIE.

So I could LIVE.

I look at the manger, and I see the cross.



I look into the eyes of the Son of God, and I see that He left His heavenly home...but I also see that, by leaving, He opened His home to US.

I see my sister there, rejoicing, singing, laughing, dancing, playing...I see so many faces that I love, and miss, and long to touch again.

I look at Bethlehem. But I see heaven.

And an empty grave.

And a defeated foe.



When Satan looked at the manger, he probably thought there had been a mistake. He was a bit leery, sure, but not too awfully worried. God had messed up. Satan was still on top.

And he certainly felt victorious at the cross.

And the people- the man and the woman who's faces had already shown so much confusion and hurt and worry- their faces were etched in grief, and loss and terror.

HOW COULD THIS BE? All of this, all this time, all for nothing? I wonder if they saw his tiny, perfect hands at the same time as they were gazing upon the bloody nails. Did they see the beginning at the end?

If only they had seen, and maybe they did, that the end really...was the beginning.

Jesus stretched out his hands to grasp his mother's fingers...and to grasp mine. And to make it possible that one day, oh some long-awaited day, I will clasp hands with my loved ones again.

You will have your reunions with those you love. When you see the manger, do you see their faces? I do. Every time.

The coming of the new-born King adds a thrill of hope to the lines etched in the faces of us all.

Do you see what I see?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Truth

You know how you have good seasons in life, where the grass is green and the birds chirp cheerfully and the breeze is warm and the scale says what you want it to say when you step on it and the brownies don't have calories and you never get new zits or gray hairs and you can't stop singing songs about how joyful and happy you life is?

Yeah, this is not one of those seasons in my life.

(Actually, I don't think I've ever had a season where the scale said what I wanted it to say, but the rest of it has been true from time to time. (Well...the brownies probably did have calories, but I choose not to think about that. Ever.))

The weather outside reflects how I feel. Its cold and dreary. The grass is dead and the birds have flown south for the winter. I have new zits and gray hairs every single unfair morning. And I'm fighting a cold, so there isn't much singing of any kind going on in my life.

Poor, poor, pitiful me.

I was chatting with my mom on the phone this morning, and something happened inside me while she was talking. She didn't have to say anything specific. She just speaks, and because she's my mom...I hear her like a daughter hears their mother's words.

And I remembered.

All my life I've watched her run to the Word when she was hurting. And I've seen her sink into the Word when she was afraid. And grief-stricken. And alone. And sad. And confused. And anxious.

I've known, my whole life, where to go when I needed comfort, because its where she always went, and I SAW the way she found breath and strength and hope and shelter there.

Maybe you're having a summer season of life. If you are, I'm glad for you.

But maybe you're in the dead of winter, like me. And if so, I have some summer for us to HEAR!

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are being consumed, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary struggles are producing for us a glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18

"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends. His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my inheritance. Therefore I will hope in Him." Lamentations 3:21-24

"Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103:2-5

"Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy. I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations." Exodus 34:5-7

"You light a lamp for me. The Lord my God lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush any army; with my God I can scale any wall. God's way is perfect. All the Lord's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection." Psalm 18:28-30

"I will praise Your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness. For Your promises are backed by all the honor of Your name. As soon as I pray, You answer me..." Psalm 138:2-3

"Do not be afraid as you go out to fight...today. Do not lose heart or panic or tremble...for the Lord your God is going with you. He will fight for you...and He will give you victory." Deuteronomy 20:1-4

"Praise the Lord! Praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms. Our God is a God who saves. The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death." Psalm 68:19-20


There are no other words that give life.

Only His words.

And so I'm doing what my mama taught me today.

I'm sinking deep into my favorite chair, wrapped up in my favorite blanket, with The Words of Life in my lap.

And I'm clinging to the summer He offers. Maybe not around us. But WITHIN us.

It's enough, O hurting heart.

It's life, O desperate soul.

It's breath, dear gasping spirit.

It's hope, dear suffering brothers and sisters.

HOPE.
LIFE.
BREATH.

It's there for us, in His word.

Dive in. Sink deep. Let Him breathe summer into your inmost being.

HEAR. TRUTH.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

Last night I was reminding my kids that today is Thanksgiving Day, and they needed to start thinking about things to be tell us that they are thankful for.

Nate, who is 7, spoke up immediately. "I'm thankful for my mom and dad. And for the world."

"Really, buddy? The whole world?" I responded. "Can't you be a little more specific and personal than that?"

"Mom, I AM thankful for the world. Otherwise we would have to live on Mars or something."

His look of incredulity as he explained makes me smile again this morning.

Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. It always has been.

Possibly because of the massive amount of food involved. Bausums looooove to eat good food.

Certainly the fact that it is traditionally a time for extended family to gather together makes it a particularly sweet holiday for us. We Bausums like family reunions almost as much as we like good food and good music.

We are an extended family that isn't extended at all. The saying goes that "cousins are siblings too." And to us, that's not far off the mark. We've spent our whole lives eating good food and singing good music and playing good card games together. Anyone who can't bond over a game of spades, a piece of pie, and a verse of a well-loved hymn...well, there's something wrong with them, I think.

I've been pondering this morning, thinking on how it is that the entirety of my extended-but-not-extended family remains so close, and so very committed to family gatherings and relationships.

It's because of our parents, obviously.

My dad and his siblings. The 5 of them, and their spouses. Their love for each other and desire to hang out and do life together for all of these years.

Without that, I wouldn't have grown up playing cards or singing or eating pie with my 30 first cousins.

Today, as I prepare for a small Thanksgiving meal (Just me and my own little clan) I am also preparing for tomorrow, for heading to reunite with all my extended-but-not-extended family. There are so many more of us now than just 5 siblings, their spouses, and 35 first cousins. Now more than half of us have spouses and children of our own. In fact, the number of extended-but-not-extended family members at this weekend's gathering will be somewhere around 100.

We can't fit in anyone's house anymore. We have to rent, or borrow, church fellowship halls for our family reunions. We are busting at the seams of every place we go.

And...we love every minute of it.

Now, truth be told, there are a few cousins-in-law (my husband being one of them) who get a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole event. They haven't spent their entire lives in the middle of the chaos-that-isn't-chaos like we have. And they don't know everyone's names and middle names, and they can't chime in when we sing some of our family songs. (Although many of them have been in the family long enough to know some of the songs and some of the names.) They can't really understand. They just have to endure it, because it's their family now too, albeit loud and enormous.

The nostalgia attached to my family-gathering memories cannot adequately be expressed.

And as the years have passed and the family has grown and spread out and become too large to all fit in one house anymore, the gatherings have become less frequent, and some cousins can't make it, and that always makes us a bit sad.

We understand, of course. It's a long, expensive trip from another country.

It's an even longer trip from heaven.

But, we cling together, despite our missing links, and we remember them in conversations, and we carry on our cousins-are-siblings-too motto, and we play cards and eat food and sing songs, and our spouses sit in the corner staring at the chaos with glassy eyes, and our kids run around playing with their second cousins whose names they may or may not remember, and when a young one gets hurt, an older one brushes them off and kisses the wound and then sends them to play, and when a joke is told, we all laugh, and when a song is played, we all sing, and when someone asks if its time for dessert, we all say yes, no matter what time it is, and when we have to leave to head home, we all linger, not wanting it to end.

Yes, that is what a Thanksgiving holiday looks like to me.

We don't sit around saying what we are thankful for, necessarily, but we are overwhelmingly thankful.

For laughter. And music. And food. And chaos.

For our parents. Our spouses. Our children.

We are thankful for the safety and quiet in our hearts when we are together. These are our PEOPLE. Any one of my cousins would fight to the death for me. And I would for them. There is something very calming in that knowledge. It's worth more than I can express.

We smile wistfully at each other occasionally, thinking of our extended-but-not-extended family members who aren't with us, and though we may not say it, we are all thinking the same thing.

We are thankful for heaven.

We are overwhelmed with longing for that reunion.

We are ever-aware of the missing pieces of our family, and ever-grateful that they have been repositioned from our past and our present, into our future.

So, this morning as I prepare to start cooking for today and tomorrow and the next day, I find that I am thankful for the same thing as Nate was last night.

The world. MY world. The people and memories and promises for the future, and hope for tomorrow, and even the pain and the sadness and the broken hearts and the hurt...all of it.

I'm choosing this:

"I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:17

Sometimes it is a sacrifice to offer thanksgiving. How well I know it.

But we can call on the name of the Lord. And THAT, my friends, is reason enough to be thankful.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quiet

If you know me at all, it probably will surprise you to learn that I LOVE quiet. But I really do. It's one of my favorite things. I almost never, ever, get to experience it. But I do really like it.

Thirteen years ago my husband and I visited the New York Stock Exchange during a trip to NYC (Obviously, I didn't really care at all about seeing it, but, if you've met my husband (CPA, VP of Finance, money-man extraordinaire) you can understand why we made that stop) and I will never, as long as I live, forget the chaos and sheer overwhelming craziness of that trading floor.

And I thought, at the time, "Seriously? People do that all day long? How do they not lose their minds? They really need some quiet."

A woman shouting across the tops of 50 other people. A man shouting back at her. Both of them waving papers above their heads. All the people in between them doing the exact same thing with other people across the room from them. (Seriously, how hard would it be to WALK to where the other person is standing and discuss whatever they need to discuss? Why the shouting and waving? Aren't these supposed to be smart people? Where is the logic in this particular course of action?)

The images remain with me still, and I mention them now because, in an effort to compose a blog this morning, I find that my thoughts, and emotions, and focus, are having a NYSE level episode.

There is so much going on inside this head and heart that I cannot, for the life of me, narrow the focus down to any one thing. I can't quiet myself enough to hear anything...

My favorite season of the year is upon us. The boots, and sweaters, and scarves, and cider, and leaf piles, and apple pies, and pumpkins, and family get-together plans, and decorations...sigh. It's just the best. I think I feel that way because, in my mind, it's an entire season that is a teaser for the holidays coming up. All of fall is spent preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and those are just the most wonderful times of the year. (There is a song that says so, so it must be true.) The Hallmark Channel started their countdown to Christmas movie marathon ON HALLOWEEN! How fantastic is that? My kids and I have been watching the cheesy, bad acting, terrible plot movies every day, and will continue to do so, and we love every second of it, despite the bad-acting and cheesy content and terrible plots. (Although, this weekend my 10 year old did wail (while burying his head in a pillow) "Why do all these really good movies have to have KISSING in them?!?!?!")(But he still sits down and watches the movies with me, so he clearly doesn't mind TOO much.) My daughter commented, as we were eating a batch of ginger snap cookies I had just taken from the oven, "If Christmas had a taste...this would be it." The fireplace was warming the room, and we were sitting together as a family, enjoying a rare evening at home together, eating freshly baked, Christmas flavored cookies, and I could almost see that scene in one of our beloved, cheesy Hallmark movies.

Of course, ten seconds later one of the boys burped as loud as he could. And the whole moment was ruined. Which leads me to yet another topic: how in the world can any humans on this planet be so LOUD? No matter what they are doing, my children manage to accomplish it with a sonic-boom level of volume. Playing, fighting, singing, even just talking, is loud enough and continuous enough to cause permanent eardrum damage. I may or may not have been known to say the sentences "My ears need a break, kids, so can you please stop talking altogether for at least 10 minutes?" and "We are playing the quiet game. It's mandatory, and its starting now. Ready? Go."

My closet is busting at the seams. I don't have space to hang another single clothing item. Things are piled in the floor and on shelves and shoved into corners. And also, I have hardly anything to wear, ever. Which either means that I'm way too picky about my outfit choices, or I need to get rid of 75% of the things overflowing my closet. I think its the latter. Which would then give me space for NEW items...

Shopping. I love shopping so very much. It's probably part of the reason I love the Christmas season so much. I get to shop, and my husband doesn't make his 'yelling' face at me. (Actually, that's not true. The money-man almost always makes his yelling face at me when I shop, even for Christmas gifts. But at least I don't feel guilty and remorseful about receiving the FACE during the holiday shopping season)(that's not really true either...it's a terribly intimidating face, y'all. He makes it well, and I shift my eyes and squirm internally every single time he aims it in my direction.)(but at least I have a justifiable reason for the shopping, and that makes the face easier to handle.)

My 12-almost-13-year-old daughter is a BALL of hormones these days. Holy cow. It boggles the mind.  She came down the stairs sobbing because we watched the first 5 minutes of a CARTOON without calling her...except that I did, in fact, call her, and she just took too long coming downstairs...and she was crying uncontrollably. I was so flabbergasted that I laughed. For future reference, this is NOT the appropriate way to deal with a hormonal-sobbing for no reason-preteen. 

I have friends who are awaiting scary test results from their doctor.
I have friends who are praying for miracles for their loved ones.
I have friends who are making plans to attend funerals.
The desire to wrap my arms around these people, and try to shelter them from the pain and the fear and the uncertainty, is strong. I would carry their burden for them if I could, because I know how it feels to carry the pain, and I wish I didn't know, and I wish for their sake that they didn't know either. My heart won't stop hurting for them, and my spirit is filled with the urge to pray...and so I pray, and I cry, and I ask the God of all comfort, who has comforted me so completely, to wrap His arms around these friends, and to shield them as I wish I could but as only He can, and to remind them that He is not absent, even in their darkest places...especially in their darkest places.

It's a cacophony inside me. The good, the hard, the over-the-top dramatic, the quiet perfection, the gut-wrenching pain...it all swirls around inside, and bubbles to the surface unexpectedly, waving arms and shouting to be heard and trying to drown out all the other things...

And this morning, as I sit and type, I hear the Lord's voice above the chaos, over top of all the other noises and distractions and emotions.

"We are playing the quiet game. It's mandatory, and it starts now."

And I laugh, because it is quite a relief to me as a parent, knowing that the Lord is putting me in a noise-time-out the same way I do my kids. And then I sit, eyes closed, breathing in the quiet in my heart, grateful that He knows I need it and reminds me of it.

And then the moment ends, interrupted by a little boy running down the hall. He climbs up beside me as I type, and snuggles next to me...and then he passes gas.

And I laugh again.

And I imagine the Lord does too.

Because He knows how loud my life is.

And He isn't asking me to spend all day sitting quietly.

He is just asking me to hear Him above the rest of the NYSE level shouting, and when I hear Him, to listen, and respond, and take a second to let His peace seep in. 

Today my prayer is that we can feel His embrace, shielding us from the cacophony of life for a moment, reminding us that there is peace to be found inside the storms, if only we will tune our ear into His voice above all the others.

"Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation." 
2 Thessalonians 3:16

In other words...the mandatory quiet game starts now.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Rant

Oh, the internal rant I have just engaged in.

My husband is getting ready for work, and my kids are all still sleeping, so the rant has remained internal for the better part of 5 minutes, until the coffee seeped into my foggy morning brain and I remembered something.

I have a blog.

My genius husband set it up for me so that  I could rant to it instead of him!

Ding. Light bulb.

Warning: the rant is about to commence.

I was watching a show, and one of the characters was asked "What is your biggest regret?"

And you know the response? "Nothing. Regret is pointless. I don't regret one thing in my life."

That seems, at first, like a healthy way of thinking.

And its also a lie. And also stupid beyond belief.

EVERYONE regrets something.

Don't even pretend that you don't. That's the dumbest load of crap I've ever heard. It's Hollywood's way of saying "Don't feel bad about anything. Just live how you want, and then move on. Embrace your mistakes, and don't live a life of regret."

How lame. And cliche. And totally wrong. And no, in case you're wondering, I don't care that, perhaps, the writer of this particular show was attempting to send a different message; a message about not living a life wishing to change the past. If that was what the writer was hoping to convey, then they should have SAID that. No. The writer was sending a clear message about right, and wrong, and how there isn't really any such thing. As long as we don't FEEL regret. The feeling itself is what is actually wrong. Instead of wishing we could change something about our past, let's just all accept everything we've ever done and everyone else has ever done as part of life...and keep on doing whatever we want, and regretting nothing, and if we all do it that way then no one will ever have to wonder if anything is right or wrong. Life just IS. Make whatever choice you want. Just DON'T regret it. And definitely don't apologize, because that implies the regret that we are now saying is the ONLY thing wrong with choices made in life.

And so, with the expressions of my face, I ranted at the TV. (And that is not an easy thing to do, let me tell you. It involved every single facial muscle I have, and they are all pretty tired now.) (and my fingers will be joining my tired face muscles by the time I finish this post, because they are typing rather aggressively.)

Are you kidding me? You're saying that you never once said something that hurt someone that you wish you could take back?

Even if you choose not to regret your '80's hairstyle and clothing choices, or indulging in too much food or wine or...whatever else, you should at least have the decency to feel bad about hurting some one's feelings.

Gosh. What a crock.

And I turned the channel.

Because the only thing worse than having a child wake up too early and interrupt my solitary TV-and-coffee time, is having that time ruined by lame lines on shows.

OF COURSE we all regret things.

I sincerely regret many of my hair style choices.

I will always regret stirrup pants.

And tube socks.

And certain shades of nail polish and eye shadow.

And riding certain rides at the fair.

And I will forever regret multiple movie choices. (Seriously, "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" ? Ugh. I can never get those hours of my life back.) And because of my feelings of regret with regard to many movies I have seen, I am a much more selective movie viewer now. "Is it scary? Or stupid? Because if so, no thanks."

And now I will write something that could potentially cause someone else to have full-facial muscle rant. (I guess that is the risk that all writers take. I wonder if they ever regret it?) (insert snarly-eye-rolling-face here)

Regret is something to be embraced.

It is a tool that helps us learn. And change. And grow.

The night before my sister, Joy, left on what was to be her final trip overseas, my family planned one last 'out-to-eat' bash. I had a newborn baby, and three other little kids, and my husband was out of town on business, so I opted not to go. I knew I would see her the next morning before she left for the airport. So I stayed home that night. And now there is a family picture taken at that restaurant of everyone but me, and it's the last picture that will ever be taken on this earth with her in it.

And I will always, always regret that. It makes my heart ache every time I think about it.

But you know what? I make different choices now, because of the regret I feel with regard to that choice. Now, I make more of an effort to spend time with people, even if it puts me out, or adds stress to my day and life.

I never, ever hang up the phone with one of my family members without telling them I love them, because I am always aware of how many more times I WISH I had said it to Joy. And while I can't say it to her any more times on this earth, I can allow my sadness about that to change the way I speak to people now.  I choose to say kind words rather than hurtful ones, and I choose to apologize for the hurtful things I DO say, because I regret those words and the pain they caused, and wouldn't it be just awful to say something hurtful, and then never get the chance to try and make it right? That's a regret I don't want any more of. And so my remorseful feelings, with regard to the past, change my future.

When I get angry with my kids and raise my voice, I always regret it. And I apologize. And you know what? This isn't a bad thing to teach our kids. I want my children to see that I screw up, and I know it, and I wish I hadn't done it, and I'll try not to do it again, and I am remorseful about the damage caused by my actions and words.

I would much rather them regret mistakes and learn from them than go through life as if there is nothing WRONG except the feeling of condemnation they heap on themselves for choices they made.

Don't misunderstand. I don't want my children, or myself, to live their lives under the burden of their past mistakes.

I want them, and myself, to live with the awareness of mistakes, and consequences, and let that SHAPE   future steps and choices.

And now my rant has run out of steam (or at least my fingers and facial muscles have).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Self-perfection

"If I had a nose like Alice Bell...oh I shouldn't say that. I was comparing it to my own nose, and that is uncharitable. Someone complimented me on my nose once, and I"m afraid I've thought about it far too much." (Anne of Green Gables)

No, no one has ever complimented ME on my nose. (Obviously. I have a Bausum nose, and that is enough to exclude it from compliment-worthiness.) 

But compliments, in general, that have been thought about far too much...yeah, that rings a bell.

A friend once told me I had nice armpits. Promise. It was the weirdest compliment I've ever received. I never before knew that armpits were something that could gain admiration. But now that I know...now I check my armpits for un-admirable sights before I leave the house. This particular compliment is one of my favorites, because it still makes me giggle, and then check for pit-falls (see what I did there?) I've clearly "thought about it far too much."

Another favorite compliment of mine: Someone once told me that I am a very self-aware person. (I always thought of it as self-deprecating, but self-aware sounds cooler somehow.) I take that to mean that I am AWARE of my flaws. And I am. Promise.

For example, I totally know that I am loud.

I know that I have a brain-to-mouth filter with a serious mechanical malfunction.

I am aware of the fact that I am sarcastic.

And crabby before coffee.

And a terrible, terrible dancer.

And not very compassionate by nature.

Or merciful.

Or sweet.

Or able to easily conceal my true feelings on a subject. (because of the malfunctioning filter, so technically NOT my fault.)

I know that kids think I'm mean. I am never intentionally mean, but I am frank, and cut-to-the-chase, and kids think that's mean. I am aware of that.

I am aware that I am a polarizing personality. I have people in my life who really love me, and people in my life who really don't like me much. Even if they never say so...I am aware.

You would think all this self-awareness would be accompanied by self-acceptance...

You would think.

But even though I know the things that are less-than-likable about me, (and I am even the first person to point them out most of the time, just in case anyone was wondering if I KNEW a particular disgraceful tidbit about what makes me...me...) Even still...

Just like the compliments seep in, and are thought about far too much, so too are the opposite-of-compliment comments.

Those are even harder not to dwell on.

And, in all objectivity, I can, (because I am self aware, duh) see the point being made, and accept my flaws as a person, and concede that I screw up with regularity, and even understand that the opposite-of-compliment points are only going to help me in the long run.

And still I find myself reeling.

Which makes no sense.

Because I'm already aware of the fact that I'm difficult to like, and hard to understand. And while I am accepted by some, I am held-at-arms-length by others, and because I am a forthright person who embraces total openness (and I'm pretty sure that's a flaw, not an asset) I inadvertently open myself up to opposite-of-complimentary comments. 

I deserve it, my husband points out frankly. If only I could fix the mechanically malfunctioning filter! I would be less likely to reference something someone might judge me for, or dislike me because of, or find appalling.

But...

Then I would be less KNOWN.

Hmm. More accepted. But less known.

How can those be my only options?

And the reeling has led to some pretty intense emotions, let me tell you. And some serious self-recrimination. And some grueling self-evaluation. And self-awareness has been replaced by self-judgement.

Because if SO MANY people have more things to dislike about me than like...clearly it can't be ALL them that are mistaken.

And I promise, honest to goodness, that I am not fishing for more compliments here. (Unless you want to tell me I have nice earlobes or something.)

I'm actually arriving at the point, and am just taking a round-about detour before coming to it, because another flaw of mine is being long winded. 

One of the people in my life who has decided to love me despite the afore-mentioned laundry list of flaws, told me something this week, and its the thing that has helped the most in settling the reeling self-awareness-turned-self-browbeating.

"Remember who you are." (oh man, I cannot resist the urge to pause for a "Name that movie" trivia...it's from The Lion King. Did you get it right? My kids all did, btw.)

"Remember WHOSE you are."
"Remember what He says about you."

Those words are pinging around inside me with all the others. And they are having a calming effect on my reeling emotions.

Because what HE says about me...its the longest list of the most unbelievable compliments. He says I'm lovely, and worthy, and sacred, and wonderful, and treasured, and fought for, and worth dying for, and redeemed, and grafted in to the Royal Family of Heaven, and protected, and...

It's enough. 

It really is.

The other stuff is all still true. I'm a mess. I'm a screw-up. I'm unmerciful and I lack compassion.

But you know what?

I am more merciful and compassionate than I was 15 years ago.

And I am actively working on the mechanical malfunctioning of my brain-to-mouth filter.

The One to whom I belong is still working on me.
And He's working out His perfect will IN me.

And while I am acutely aware of my imperfections and flaws, I am also glowingly accepting of the fact that He still wants me to bear His name, and carry His heart, despite all the additional junk I carry with me.

And He's whittling away at that junk, and someday, when I'm very old and wrinkled and totally aware of the fact that I am very old and wrinkled...someday He will finish His work in me. And I will meet Him face to face.

Until then, I'm a mess in progress. And I'm aware of it. Tell me, if you want to, that something in my life needs work. I am in total agreement with you. LOTS of stuff in my life needs work.

And...He says I'm perfect to be His child.

"He forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sing with me...

"How great is our God. Sing with me..."

We all know this song. It's on the radio a lot, and has been for quite a few years. It's kinda old, in fact.

It's a song that brings with it a flood of emotions.

We sang it at Joy's funeral.

And I remember singing the words with all of my soul and spirit and emotions, and focusing on the "Name above all names" and reminding myself of the splendor and majesty of the One I served, and feeling His arms wrapped around me.

And after the service ended, a friend came up to me and said, "When we were singing that song, it felt like Joy was up in heaven, telling us "SING WITH ME!!! HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!"

And now, 4+ years later, every time I hear the much loved and over played song on the radio, I think of Joy, up in heaven, smiling and saying "Sing with me!"

I always get teary eyed, and I always do just that, I sing of the greatness of our God.

Last night I heard it again, driving home from working at my church.

(We are up-fitting a warehouse into a church, and its a LOOOOOONG and grueling and expensive and overwhelming and frustrating process.)

(And our entire church leadership team has been feeling the weight of opposition at every turn.)

(The enemy does NOT want us finishing this project.)

So, as I was driving home, itchy from insulation and coughing from all the drywall dust in my lungs, I was thinking of all that still needs to be done. (and by thinking, I really mean worrying and stewing and feeling totally helpless and paralyzed.)

And then the radio belted out these words: "The splendor of the King..."

The tears flooded, as they always do, and I saw, in my minds eye, my little sister up in heaven, grinning at me. But this time it wasn't just "Sing with me!" that I could hear her saying. No, she and I had a full-on conversation. (at least, in my mind we did. And before you think that's weird, its totally okay to have conversations in which you speak for your sister...ask anyone who has a sister. We know each other, and we speak for each other.)

"I'm not sure you're really understanding, Charity. You aren't here. You can't really see. But I can tell you, if you could, you wouldn't be worrying. You wouldn't be wondering how it was all going to turn out. YOU HAVE NO IDEA how great God is! There is so much light that I am glowing all over just from being near Him! Darkness flees before Him. Time is in His hands. He sees the whole world, and He loves and cares for every one of His people. If only you could see! You wouldn't be able to stop singing it with me! HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!"

I smiled, and I cried, and I praised my great God the rest of the way home.

Because my God is so very great.

And He does hold time in His hands.

And He wraps Himself in light.

And darkness tries to hide. And it trembles at His voice.

And He stands from age to age.

And still He sees my heart. And He speaks to me in exactly the way I need to hear Him.

If only I could see, through Joy's eyes, the greatness of our God.

But, the same way that sisters can speak for each other, sisters can also trust each other.

She's telling me that I can trust Him, and that He is greater than I can even understand.

And I believe her.

Today, in the stress, and in the worry, and in the hits that keep on coming from the enemy who stands against us...today I am choosing to sing. "How great is our God."

Sing with me...


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Crisis

I may be having a mid-life crisis.

The fact that I have not yet arrived at what most people consider 'mid-life crisis' age...that doesn't matter  to me one bit. I'm a rebel, after all, and one of my favorite things in the world is bucking what convention says or expects or accepts.

So yes, I am having a full blown crisis, at the age of 33almost34.

I do NOT like this crisis.

There are no sports cars, or plastic surgery, or any of the things most people associate with mid-life crises.

There is only me, in an emotional state of upheaval, unsure of who I am or why, surrounded by people who just think I'm having PMS.

Poor me. (insert my husband's voice saying "you're being ridiculous" here) (followed by my Uncle Paul: "Suck it up and go, kid.") (aaaand, finally, my own self: "You're losing it. No wonder you feel like no one wants to be around you right now. Snap out of it and get it-the-frip-together.")

Ah, the sweet strains of compassion and understanding. :(

Why am I having such an identity crisis, you ask?

How in the 'demon's lair' should I know?

Don't you think I would've snapped out of it by now if I could figure out why?

I think I've decided, as I've pondered my craziness this week, that all moms must have the same crisis on a pretty regular basis. Most of us just don't tell anyone, or maybe we don't even realize what is causing our absolute inability to be normal human beings.

Life is flippin' crazy. There's no other way to say it that is publicly-shared-blog-post appropriate.

You think I'm exaggerating?

I went to brush my teeth yesterday and found that an entire family of sugar ants were dining on my toothbrush. Why? Because my 4-year-old had brushed his teeth with my toothbrush and hadn't rinsed it when he was done.

An entire roll of toilet paper was deposited into the toilet. So, like anyone in their right mind would do, I broke it into flushable sized wads and flushed it down the toilet one section at a time. No, I was not wearing gloves while doing this.

One of my children didn't finish their sandwich and I threw the leftover half away while I was cleaning up...and then the child came back, found the half in the trash can, and finished it. I'm dead serious.

During a particularly sweet goodnight kiss, one of my children deposited a huge, hard, pea sized booger on my cheek. I didn't even know it until the next child came to kiss me and pointed it out with a horrified look on his face.

The milk went bad this week. Twice. Neither time was it actually past its expiration, which means the only way I knew it was bad is that I used it for feeding my children breakfast...I won't tell you the inevitable stomach issues that followed, but let's just say I'm going to be checking the milk from now on, that's for dang sure.

My daughter, the official laundry folder in our house, put a pair of my husband's jeans in my pile. Yes, this may seem like a slightly less traumatic incident than the booger on the cheek...but I cannot express to you the depths of my depression this mistake has caused.

Thirty seconds ago my son, in an act of anger toward his brothers, created a water trail down the hall...with his own saliva. Spit, step, spit, step, spit, step. What the crap? How did this hurt his brothers, you ask? I don't know, and neither did he when I interrogated him. Luckily he had just finished a tootsie roll, so the saliva was filled with stickiness. (insert dripping sarcasm here.)

You see? I am having an identity crisis because most of the time it seems as if I have no identity other than mother, house-keeper, chef, referee, jailer, and booger depository.

That isn't exactly the person I thought I would be when I grew up...

This morning I was brooding over a cup of coffee, cataloging the tragedy that seems to follow me around through my days, taking stock of my current state of crisis...and I wasn't getting any less crazy or having any major epiphanies as I sat there.

And then one little blond kid made their way down the hall, sleepy eyed, scratchy voiced, dashed into the bathroom for a moment, and then shuffled over to where I was deep in thought.

"Good morning, Mommy. I love you." And there was a booger-free kiss deposited on my cheek, and a few moments of snuggling, and all at once my crisis vanished.

Because I saw myself through those heavy-lidded eyes.

Eyes that don't even notice the house-cleaning (or lack thereof) or the food preparing (or lack thereof) or the disciplining (or lack thereof) or any of my many moments of less-than-ideal-or-acceptable mothering.

In my children's eyes, there is only the sum total of the parts, not the parts themselves.

I am their mommy, and they love me.

Somehow, despite all the odds, they feel safe and loved and confident enough to curl up beside me and initiate an "I love you" and a kiss.

Because they know who I am.

Even when I don't.

Thank you, Lord, for sweet, simple, perfect reminders. Thank you for grace unending, mercy unfailing, love unshaken, joy unspeakable, peace unwavering.

And thank you, most of all, that this morning's sweet, simple reminder was not accompanied by a booger.

Amen.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Courage Under Fire

"...Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9


I've been thinking about courage a lot lately, especially the last few weeks as I am preparing for a history class I'll be teaching this year.

Reading about the heroes of our country, the battles and wars, the sacrifice and the firm resolve of so many hundreds of thousands of Americans...something about reading aloud the words spoken or penned by the ancestors of our nation...it stirs my soul, and it gets me thinking.

"I thought, as I saw them come again and again to their death, that they deserved success, if courage and daring could entitle soldiers to victory." (Confederate General Longstreet, after the battle of Marye's Heights in the Civil War.)

So many men and women have sacrificed their comfortable lives, courageously taking up posts on the front lines, defending our freedom, fighting for principles they believe in, fighting for their families and for mine. It overwhelms me sometimes.

And sometimes it fills me with rage, hearing and seeing the negative words about our nation's military. Say what you will about the moral decline of this country. Speak out against things that you don't agree with in our government, politics, and even the way America is represented on the world stage. But when you start talking against the men and women who wear the uniform...we are going to have a real problem, me and you. Those men and women are the REASON we have the freedom to speak against the things we don't agree with. And even in peace times, they REPRESENT those who have given their lives to protect our liberty. As such, they should never, ever receive anything but honor for the courage they show every day. (phew, that was quite a soapbox rant...)

We, as a nation today, have lost something of the courage that America was founded on. We know nothing of 6 month wagon train rides, where we bury a child who fell under the wheels one day, and we move on the next, leaving our heart in a grave we will never see again. When we kiss our children and husbands goodbye each day, we don't even think about the women who hugged their husbands and sons goodbye, who held onto the hope that what their loved ones fought for was just, and so they would do the plowing and the roof repair and the hunting, and they would be both mother and father to their small children, and they would pray that the cause their men stood for would prevail, no matter the cost, because their sacrifice and courage couldn't be for nothing.

I've been studying, and I've found myself rocked by the courage of the ancestors of this great nation.

And I've also been a little sad, thinking about the difference in our country today. Because of the bravery of our heroes and heroines in history, it is likely that most people in our nation today will never experience anything like the tragedy of sacrifice that so many lived through in the past. Some will, and some have, and I am in no way trying to say their sacrifice and courage isn't as great as that of our past heroes and heroines. I am simply saying that it is much more rare today, this call to true courage. It is more common for a family to go through their whole life without ever losing a loved one in battle than it is for them to experience it multiple times, the way that families did in the past.

So I've been thinking about courage. And I've been turning it over and over in my mind, trying to understand the word, and the meaning, and looking for places to show it, and to teach it to my children and my students, today in this relative comfort we live in, this absence of a need for battlefield courage.

Are there places in my life where courage is needed? Will I ever be given a chance to lift my chin and rush headlong into the unknown? My days are ordinary. They do not ring with inspiration. They are filled, certainly, but not filled with anything of note. How will I ever teach my children to be brave?

My sister Joy was brave. She was...is...a hero in this house. She rushed headlong into the world, taking the most important Cause, the Cause most just and worthy, to people who may reject her, to people who may laugh at her, to places that had never before heard of the Cause...she was a heroine of our faith. I strive every day to remind my children of her tenacity for spreading the gospel.

But what about today? What about ever day? How can I be courageous? How?

And then, in the midst of my pondering and wondering and disappointment with the monotony of my days...the Lord is speaking to me.

It isn't in the way I usually hear Him. It isn't a song, or a verse, and it isn't a thought dropped into my heart.

It is in the daily actions of my 10 year old son. A boy who has been exposed to hurt, and disappointment, and pain, the way no little kid should have to be. All my hoping that my children will come to understand courage in their lives pales in the face of my desire to protect him. I want, selfishly, to never need to teach him about being brave in the face of his hurting heart.

But he is living courageously anyway, despite my desire that he never need to.

His heart is open, and loving, and willing to be on the line, even though he knows, from experience, that he may be hurt. Even though he has been exposed to pain, and rejection, and disappointment...still he lifts his chin and faces the inevitability of future heartache.

I am so proud of my little man. He is teaching me something. He is telling me, every time he blinks back his tears and smiles at a new moment, that there is still opportunity to show courage in an everyday life.

I want to be like that. I want to wake up every day and look disappointment in the face, and lift my chin as I stare into the pain that is sure to come, and blink back my fear, and choose to live courageously.

Once more into the fray...



Monday, August 18, 2014

Take it All

August 18th.

A day that will live in infamy. (in my family, anyway.)

It's my parents wedding anniversary, which means that without it, none of us would even BE.

It's also the day my sister went to heaven.

It was 4 years ago.

Sometimes is feels like she's been gone forever.

This week it has felt a bit like reliving the whole horror all over again.

I hope that will get easier to bear as the time passes...it's been 4 long years, after all, and I think basically everyone is ready for me to NOT be this version of myself on this day every year.

My memory is like a steel trap, (which isn't meant to sound boastful, as I am not the One who created the steel trap memory) and I can't shut off the replaying of that infamous week...when I heard and saw and experienced the deepest sobs I've ever known, when words to prepare my children for what was coming failed me, when shock and disbelief and terror paralyzed me...It all spins around inside me, step by step in order of events unable to be forgotten, until all I can do is remember, and cry again.

It isn't all bad memories. I mean, pretty much all the ones from this day and the days preceding it are bad, but last night, in an attempt to focus on a good memory, I was telling my kids this story:

Me: "Clay, you were only 6 years old when Aunt Joy died, so I know you don't remember this, but on this night 4 years ago I was sitting in the bed, and you asked me if Aunt Joy was better yet, and I told you that the doctors said she was probably not going to get better. You looked so confused, and I could see your little brain trying to figure out why she wasn't getting better, since you had prayed. And so I told you that sometimes God's plan is different than ours, and we don't have to understand it, but we can trust Him to do what is the best plan. And then you shut your eyes, and you prayed, "Dear Jesus, I really hope you let Aunt Joy live. But you do what you want to do, Lord. Amen." And then you went to bed, happy in your knowledge that God would take care of the best plan."

As I was telling him this story last night, tears leaked from my eyes and trailed down my face. He was listening, playing with my hair as he does every night, not speaking. So I said, softly, mostly to myself, "I wish He had had a different plan. I am not a big fan of this part of His plan."

And Clay said to me, "It's okay, Mom. Someday we will see how its for the best. I miss her too, but someday we will see how God did what was best."

*Ah, Lord, how many times will you speak to me through the mouths of my little ones? Thank You.*

This morning, with swollen eyes and a tired heart, I am thinking on the memories again. And I'm trying hard to think on the best ones, my favorites, things about my sister that are nearest to my heart, and bring with them a smile along with a pang of longing.

She was a bony little thing, and when I hugged her I was sure she would snap in half. But she always said "I'm tougher than I look." And she was.

She could sneeze louder than anyone else in the world, and she did. A lot.

She loved sour cream. I mean, her taco meat/sour cream ratio was a sight to behold, truly.

She had the most hilarious "You have got to be kidding me" face. When she was shocked by something I said or did, and she dropped that jaw and raised those eye brows...ah, I loved that face so much. I would go out of my way to do and say things, just to see her stare at me like that.


She had a very distinct way of worshiping. And she did it. A lot.


There are so many things that I loved/miss about her. But there is one thing I never really understood until she died. Not in the way I do now.

That girl was willing to do ANYTHING to advance the gospel. And she did it. Even with her death.

And so Clay's words to me last night are ringing inside me today, added to the collection of memories that I can't and don't want to forget.

"Someday we will see that it's the best, Mom."

We are seeing it already, I know that. The quake of her life and her death keeps echoing, and that is the most amazing comfort and blessing to our family.

HIS story is spreading because of her story, and her willingness to let Him write it exactly as he wanted, all for His glory, all for His fame.

There is a song that has been on the radio a lot lately. And every time it comes on I think "If Joy were alive, this would be her current favorite worship song."

Every word could have come out of her mouth.

Every line WAS walked out in her life.

Oh, the challenge that bony, sneezing, shocked-face little girl gives me every day.

I want to live like she did.

I want to lay down my life. And take up my cross. And surrender all to Him.

I'm challenging you. Joy is challenging you. Can you say it? Do you mean it? Will you live it?

Even if it means you live through pain you never think you'll survive?

Even if it means you will die?

"I lay down my life. I take up my cross, Jesus. For You are my God, whatever the cost. My heart it Yours. Take it all. My life in Your hands."

Listen to this song. Sing it. She would have. I want to be as brave as her. I want my kids to see that they can be brave for the gospel too.

http://youtu.be/64vBcNn-1AQ




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Rooms Tell All

I've been looking around my house for the past few minutes, and thinking that anyone who did an innocent walk through of this dwelling would leave with a quite clear picture of who we are. I don't know if that's true of your house...but here...well, let me just show you a few mental snap shots, and you decide.

One look into my closet would inform you that I have a very successful, very busy husband. On his side there are racks and racks of dress clothes, and also one whole section of racks laying on the floor because it collapsed and he hasn't had time to fix it yet.

One look in my loft would be a clear sign that my children love Legos. We cleaned them up yesterday...but they seem to be appearing from thin air and covering the carpeted play area, just waiting with an evil Lego chuckle for me to walk upstairs, barefooted, in the dark.

The deck reveals several things. 1.) I love potted flowers. 2.) I regularly forget to water them. 3.) My sons had a water gun fight this afternoon and were required to strip out of their soggy clothing before entering my house, and they did not hang up said soggy clothing to dry. 4.) I didn't pick them up either. 5.) All three of my sons have a boxer briefs preference

All rooms in my house tell a very similar story on the subject of dusting; I don't like doing it.

My daughter's room shows that she's artsy, and organized, but shares my disinterest in picking up clothes from floors or decks or closet carpets.

My oldest son has a room filled with Star Wars decor, his collection of "special" Legos, and about a million stuffed animals which he claims are all 'special' as well. He's clearly a hoarder in the making, which he inherited from his father.

The younger boys also have a Star Wars themed room, as well as a multitude of blankets that are basically sacred, and their carpet is stained and worn threadbare and their shoe basket is overflowing with shoes they never, ever wear. The shoe hatred they inherited from me.

My kitchen has mostly clear counter tops. I say mostly because, as all husbands do, mine has adopted one whole section of the bar for his evening 'unloading' and it always ends up spilling onto much more of the counter than he was planning to take. The mostly clear counters will tell you that I dislike clutter. But if you open the drawers or cabinets, you will also discover that I don't actually mind HAVING clutter, I just don't want to LOOK at it.

My dresser says that I LOVE comfy, over sized clothes.

My bookshelves say that I thoroughly enjoy crime dramas, love stories, mysteries, and a wide variety of non-fiction.

The pictures in the house say that I have a deep love for my family.

The baskets of unfolded clothes in the laundry room say, obviously, that I have a deep hatred for folding laundry.

I've been musing about this for a few moments now, and right when I was starting to think I could make a deep, insightful blog post out of my musings...well, that was when a completely naked four-year old came running into my room, and said something totally inappropriate and not-repeatable.

Sigh...so, a passerby who walked into my bedroom would witness the most telling thing about me that is to be found in my house: I don't care if my kids run around naked, and I laugh out loud when they say highly inappropriate things.

Take a minute and walk through your house. What does it say about you?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Desert

I have written and erased 4 beginning sentences of this blog post...because I am struggling to find the right words today, which is enough out of character for me that its causing my metaphorical feathers to feel a little ruffled.

I want to set up this post with a witty anecdote, or a attention grabbing quote, or a funny story...

Except I'm not really feeling like it. At. All.

What I'm feeling is...

Tired.
Sad.
Afraid.
Confused.
Worried.
Lonely.
Off-balance.
Anxious.
Angry.
Resigned.

If I were to close my eyes and form a mental picture of my internal state of being, I would envision a person stumbling through a desert with no water, no companions, no hope in sight, with only the wishful thought that maybe, just maybe, an oasis will appear before the sun and thirst lead to death.

Yes. I am aware of the supreme dramatic nature of my mental image.

That doesn't make it any less how I feel. We all feel like that sometimes. I'm just feeling too DRY to try and sugar coat it with softer metaphors, and too exhausted to try and ease you into what I'm really thinking and feeling.

Don't you ever just get tired of the monotony of it? The spiritual mountain tops and the "valleys of the shadow of death" and the flat roads that breed complacency in between?

Why must that be the way of it? Why can't it all be mountain top moments, where God feels nearer than ever, and we can hear Him and talk to Him and know He is with us?

Why do we have to walk through the desert?

Why do we experience the flat, calm road where we feel strong and capable and accomplished, and we forget to be intentional about time with the Lord...and we walk ourselves right into a searing, life-sucking desert?

Last night, once the kids were in bed and all was quiet in my house, I crawled into my bed, and I closed my eyes tightly, and I shouted. (in a whisper, because the kids were in bed after all, and I am way too smart to disrupt that by raising my voice, regardless of how much I wanted to)

"GOD!!! I am too tired. I can't keep walking. I am going to die in this desert. Do You care!?!?! Are You even there?"

And for a moment, I actually wished for the fall of 2010. Because that was a "valley of the shadow of death" for me. But you know what else it was? It was a time where He was so near that I could feel Him with every breath, and hear Him clearly.

That wish was followed by a torrent of tears. And the mental me sat down in the hot desert sand and sobbed out the very last remnants of hydration, thereby ensuring a quicker desert death.

And there was no sudden miraculous oasis that grew up to give me shade and water.

There was no booming voice from heaven to guide me on.

There was no mysterious horse to carry me though the hot sand and burning, scorching sun.

Sitting alone on my bed, my eyes shut tight and my spiritual desert yawning wide and unending in my mind's eye...there was barely even a whisper of a breath of a thought.

But I heard it. Just barely.

I picked up my Bible, and opened it to where my husband had been reading to me earlier in the week.

And I read and read and read.

And after a while, the me in the bed grew heavy-lidded.

But the spiritual me in the desert...

She stood up.

Not because there was water flowing suddenly, or a breeze soothing the heated air, or an oasis visible on the horizon...

No, the desert remains this morning. But I am not sitting down waiting to be consumed by the dry sand dunes.

I am trudging forward again.

Why?

Because I remember the hope in front of me. The sweet waters of refreshing that are available to me. The soothing Presence that is aloe for my soul.

I BELIEVE His word, His promises, and I will cling to them in the desert, while my skin is burnt and my lips are cracked and my feet are blistered and my eyes are filled with grit.

I don't want to keep walking. I am exhausted. I am spent.

Here is a word for your desert place, and mine. I pray to the Lord, God Almighty, Creator, Friend, Strong in Battle, Mighty to Save, Faithful, Peace, Full of Compassion, the God Who Sees...I pray that you will hear the truth, and that it will be enough hope for you to...

GET UP.

Take another step.

There is hope in front of us.

"Let us, therefore, hold tightly without wavering to the hope we have, for He who promised IS FAITHFUL." Hebrews 10:23

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tantrums, Time, and Truth

You know the fit that a child throws when they are forced to share, or comply with a request from their parent that they don't want to heed, or give back something they have taken that doesn't belong to them but they feel altogether entitled to?

Yeah, I've been throwing one of those lately. (mostly internally, since its frowned upon when a child does it but would be downright horrifying for an adult to indulge in.)

Something about returning from a once-in-a-lifetime, 12 days of romance, kid free trip to Europe, and being instantly greeted by real life, has thrown me headlong into an "Oscar the Grouch" kind of mood.

Real life is kicking my butt.

Laundry.
Groceries.
Discipline.
Exercise.
Bills.
Toilets.
Yard work.

Those things all had to be restarted, as if from scratch, after 2 1/2 weeks out of town.

Which is just plain unfair.

But, on top of that, it seems we have been in a full blown "how much extra craziness and drama and calamity can we cause before we start back to school?" phase. And the answer is...A WHOLE LOT.

Skulls nearly cracked on bottoms of swimming pools.
Eyes accidentally sprayed with laundry detergent and requiring an hour of saline flushing.
"Accidental" urine aiming malfunctions, resulting in a child's ARM being peed on.
Flooding of a bathroom, with the cleanup using every single towel in the house. (19, to be exact)

Yes...I am suffering from a severe case of European postpartum.

Because I never had to ask the question "Did you pee on her arm on purpose, or was it an accident?" while I was in Italy.

I'm totally in denial that it's only a matter of weeks before I start back to home-schooling for another year. I'm irritated that time seems to be marching on fast-forward. I can hardly fight the longing to sit on my couch and watch movies while painting my toenails and eating chocolate. All. Day. Long.

I am pitching a full blown fit.

When kids do it, we recognize it instantly for what it is.

Selfishness.
Rebellion.
Irrationality.

It's easy to see it in a kid's tantrum.

But I don't want to see it in my own.

And there-in lies the problem.
I want to call it "European postpartum" rather than good old-fashioned selfishness.

I want to say the kids have been extra out-of-control, rather than admit I have been extra irrational in my expectations of their behavior.

I want to believe that the summer actually did fly by on fast-forward, thereby justifying my foot stomping at the arrival of August, rather than admit the truth; time is moving as it always does, but I am rebelling against what the forward march requires of me.

Ick.
I'm a big baby.

I need someone to look at me and say "You're being totally irrational, and selfish, and rebellious, and you need to snap out of it right now."

Okay.
I heard you.

I'll be happy to help you out with the same pep talk if you need it.

Because the truth is we all experience the blasts of selfishness and rebellion and frustration.

If you say you don't...I think you're also experiencing denial.

Take a deep breath.

Take another step.

Repeat as needed.

This morning the Word has spoken, and this is what He says to me, and to you:

"Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

"Why am I discouraged? Why is my soul downcast? I will put my hope in God!" (Psalm 42:5)

"I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken..." (Psalm 16:8)

"You, O Lord, are a shield around me. You are my glory, and the One who holds my head high." (Psalm 3:3)

Don't just breathe in and out. Don't just muscle through your steps.

Breathe in His promises.

Walk His steps.

And know that we all have the selfish, rebellious, irrational moments.

And still...still we can trust His promises.

"Thank You, Lord, for Your Word that doesn't fail, even when I am stomping and complaining and pouting. I am grateful for Your grace, and it's unfailing work in my life. Your mercy is enough for today, Lord, and new again tomorrow. Thank you. Amen."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sound of Music


You know the opening scene from “The Sound of Music?” Where Maria is twirling on a hilltop and singing about the living, breathing, singing hills all around her?

Yeah. She was totally right.

Heath informed me, with a typical amount of lecture in his voice, that Maria was singing about the Austrian Alps, not the Swiss Alps.

I told him they were all alive, and all singing to me…and then I sang a few bars of the song at the top of my lungs, just to embarrass him. I would have done some running and twirling as well, except we were sharing our particular hilltop with fifty other hikers, and my public spectacle-making only extends so far.

But, in all seriousness…the Alps, people. Saying they are spectacular doesn’t do them justice. There aren’t enough words.

We took a train to the top of a mountain near the Matterhorn, where we were able to see for miles. We were above the timberline, which means there wasn’t enough oxygen for trees, or even grass, to grow. Walking up the short ramp to the observation deck left us both breathless. That’s how thin the air was. And it was cold.

Like, 45 degrees cold.

In July!

We stood for a long time, just gazing around us (and trying to start breathing normally again, instead of gasping like a couple of wimpy American tourists), and then we started hiking down.

The trail was single file, and Heath kept stopping to take pictures anyway, so I had time to listen as I hiked.

And I heard the Lord, there on the mountainside.

It started out small, barely a stirring in my heart. But as I walked it grew, until I had no choice but to stop, and to listen harder, and to really hear what He was saying to my soul.

“Do you see the mountain?”



‘Yes, Lord. It’s covered in snow. Its cold and forbidding and barren of green, void of life. I see the mountain. It frightens me with its loveliness, and with its danger.’

“Walk a few steps more.”

And so I did, and then a few steps more, and as I descended the mountain slowly, carefully picking my way around rocks in the path, the landscape started to change.

Now it wasn’t only rocks and dirt and cold blasting wind.

A few patches of moss appeared.
And then a few sprigs of grass.

And, shockingly, defying the odds of freezing temperatures and thin, oxygen deprived air, flowers poked their heads up, straining toward the sun. Pure white, shades of purple, and deep yellow dotted sparsely over the terrain, and I was charmed…but still I walked.

And then. Then I rounded a corner.

And there was a stream. Trickling happily along, tripping over rocks and sand. And on its banks…oh the colorful array of flowers here I beheld.



I stopped. His voice was stirring again.

“Do you see the stream? And the flowers?”

‘Oh, yes, Lord. Beautiful. This is much better than the mountain. So much more alive.’

“But, the stream was once the snow. The mountain waters the flowers.”

I sat down a few steps beyond the stream. A lump had formed in my throat, and I wanted to take a moment to process the words spoken to my heart.

The snow on the mountain, that makes it so forbidding, treacherous, even deadly…without it, there would be no stream, and no flowers.

The flowers grew here because there was water and more oxygen.

BUT…if not for the freezing temperatures above that kept the peaks capped in snow, and if not for the thin, lifeless air where trees couldn’t grow to absorb the melting drifts…

Without the deadly, cold, isolated mountain, there would be no life here where I sat.

And the lump turned into tears, and they trekked silently down my cheeks as I raised my eyes to the mountain again.

This is the same as our lives, isn’t it?

We embrace the air that is easy to breathe, and we celebrate the flowers and streams and the lovely sights and sounds and smells that go with them…

But we shy away from the cold, lifeless places; the hills too hard to climb, the bleak, isolated moments where we can barely catch our breath and nothing can shield us from the cold wind.

But…BUT…the lifeless, cold, barren, suffocating places…

 Its there that we FIND HIM.

And HEAR Him.

And SEE Him.

He is the sound of music, alive on the mountain, singing to our lonely, dying hearts.

The wind blows icy sometimes, and travelers are weary, footsore, starving, breathless and afraid.

But He is not absent.

We must have the snow.
We must feel the wind.
We must embrace the lifeless steps.

Because those shape us, and mold us, and when we descend a bit…then a single yellow sprig will shoot up.

And then another…

And another, joined by white blooms, and shades of purple…

Until we are once again walking by a trickling, bubbling stream, and we could pick a bouquet of the flowers we find there, and we can breathe easily and fully…

But we must not forget the mountains.

Because there are some behind us, yes, but there are more in front of us.

That is life.
That is the walk.
It’s His plan, and it’s singing to us in the hills.

The cold, the desolation, the fear, the hurt, the confusion, the loneliness, the pain…
It is necessary.

It is how there can be life in the other places.

Wherever you find yourself today, whether cold, bleak mountaintop, or sparsely adorned hillside, or lush green valley, I pray you will hear what He is saying, and understand.

The hills ARE alive.

HE is the music.