Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Focus

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

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

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

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

Beloved ones join our families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every day.

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

I don't care about any of it.

THIS is what I am focusing on...

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

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

Because He has already made ALL THINGS NEW.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Coincidental Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples, you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is no coincidence.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Careful Chaos

It's chaos every day in my life, but the crazy is amped up during the holidays. I don't mind.

I am, unashamedly, a lover of all things Christmas related.

Movies, music, decorations, special flavors of coffee and cookies, seasonal scents of candles and lotion...even the crowded stores and biting cold are part of the charm of the season. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I mostly shop online from the comfort of my warm home, so I enjoy those last two sparingly.)

And every year I hear the reminders from commercials and radio hosts and books and blogs, to "slow down" and "don't forget, in the rush of the holidays, to enjoy the time with the ones you love."

I try to be conscious of those reminders all through the year, not just during the most wonderful time. I have four children and a very full life, after all, and the tendency is to do everything a mile a minute because a minute is ALL I've got. If I could eat standing up while washing dishes and brushing my teeth and catching up on my Bible study and picking up dirty laundry and exercising and assisting in math homework...I would.

I like to work hard and fast, in order to get to, and be able to enjoy, the slow moments.

One particularly slow moment that has become part of our lives is "snuggle time" at the end of the day. It happens in some form every night, and after a while we don't really think about why we started doing it. It's just a habit.

It all began a little over 7 years ago, when Faith was 7, Clay was 5, Nate was 2, and Gabe was a brand new bun in the oven. All the kids were excited about adding another baby, but Clay began to struggle, behaviorally, and for several weeks he wasn't his normal kind, loving, happy self. One day, while I was praying about what to do, the Lord dropped a thought into my heart.

What if he needed extra reminding that he was loved and valued and that his place in y heart was never going to be taken?

That night, I sat down on the couch and asked him to come and sit with me. We cuddled together and watched TV, under a blanket, him twirling the ends of my hair around his finger.

The next night, he asked me if we could do "snuggle time" again...and the rest is history. We usually snuggle in our king size bed now, rather than the living room, and now that the kids are way bigger and there are 4 of them, its a two shift process. Snuggles with Nate and Gabe first, and then Faith and Clay come in after the younger two go to bed.

Last night...last night I called for the big kids when the little boys headed to their beds. Clay came first, and he had a funny look on his face.

"Mom, I don't want to do snuggle time tonight."

"Why not?" I asked, sure that he was in the middle of something and just needed a few minutes to shut it down.

"I'm not a little kid anymore, Mom. I don't have to do snuggle time every night."

My. Heart. Broke.

In a flash that seemed to last forever, I saw his sweet little face, asking to snuggle, and I saw all the years before and since, moments I've cherished, and moments I've glossed over, and many, many more that are just a part of our daily lives, that  I can't ever recount. I saw them all on his face, and it was almost more than I could bear.

You can never be reminded to savor moments enough. Ever. Because even in all my attempting to slow down and be present...somehow I missed that my firstborn son had outgrown something that was started for the sake of HIS heart.

I've been sad all day today, and trying so hard to move through moments more carefully.

I want to see all my lovely decorations, and sing "Peace on earth" and actually FEEL the peace that reminders of Christ's birth should bring.

I want to sing "Silent Night" and not think snarky thoughts about how I've never had a silent night since I had kids.

I want to cherish the moments with my children, because Lord knows I can never cherish them too much.

If you're a mom, you can understand my heartache.

Certainly, the mother of Emmanuel knew even more pain.

I wonder if she held Him on the night of His birth, and promised His Father that she would keep Him safe and let Him know He was loved by her. Did she ever despair of how to handle a certain behavior or action or personality trait? Did she WISH a day would just be over so there would be some quiet? Did she hold her breath so she didn't gag when she caught a whiff of teenage boy stench? Did she give up on toenail clipping reminders? Did she think "some day, please God, I won't have to remind him to shower" or "we will go bankrupt before He gets full."

And did she, when she watched Him suffer and die...did she grieve that she ever took a moment for granted? Did she LONG for the teenage boy stench again?

Of course she did.

And so it's no wonder that God reminds us to "be still" and to "wait on the Lord" and to let Him be "peace" for us.

Because how much more would we grieve if we hadn't ever once slowed down to enjoy the moments?

It would be more than we could bear. And The Lord knows it, and so He reminds us.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

London, baby!

Confession: this particular leg of our journey is the one I, personally, was most excited about.

London, United Kingdom.

A city filled with history. Exactly my speed.

Speaking of speed, let me back up and share a few details about the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi (Not to be confused with Abu the monkey.)(I HAD to get that in here somewhere.)

It was much more exhilarating than I thought it would be. The guys were, of course, totally stoked, and I was excited that they were excited...but I've never followed racing much, and only care about it in a "yeah, my husband and boys watch that on the weekends sometimes while I'm cleaning the kitchen and getting groceries" kind of way.

But it was a spectacular experience. Every time the cars, going over 200 miles an hour, raced toward us down the straightaway, then braked sharply to turn the 90 degree corner, jockeying for position and screeching their tires, I gasped and clenched my hands together, thoroughly enjoying the rush of adrenaline.

All in all, I'm glad I went. It was very cool.

After the race, we walked to the adjoining mall for supper, where we realized, for the second time during our visit to the United Arab Emirates, that their malls are the size of our cities. (I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit. I've never seen anything so gigantic. And we walked the entire dang length of the building, I swear.) In the food court, because we are clearly Americans, we ordered Burger King and Pizza Hut. (insert self deprecating, bemused eye-roll here.)

We rose before the sun and boarded a plane in Abu Dhabi. A fancy plane. A double decker, with a bar in first class and apartments available if you were willing to pay 60 THOUSAND dollars for it. We were NOT willing, (duh) but even economy class was swanky. (by the way, why do they have to call it economy, like that dresses it up? Just say cheap seats, people. That's what they are, and we all know it. No reason to try and make it better with flowery words.)(Tangent ended.)

And that brings us up to London. Where I turned into a total history geek, as expected. I read all the things I could find to read, and when there was no information available, I made Heath turn on his WiFi hotspot so I could use it to google information.

Our first cab driver of the day called our accents funny. And he regaled us with jokes, historical information, and boasts about his city. When he told us that London was the best city on earth because no one was allowed to carry a gun, I wanted to remind him: "Um, sir, we are Americans. You know, the home of the wild, wild west? We are a bunch of cowboys, according to the rest of the world. We have the 2nd amendment...we aren't really impressed by that last little tidbit. Move back to the jokes." Ah, the diversity of world culture.

I wish that we could've spent several more days in London. I am pretty sure I will always want more time in historically rich cities.

But what we saw...was magical. We hopped on a double decker tour bus outside our hotel, and away we went. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey...and much more. We ate fish and chips and drank mulled cider at a local London Pub. We ordered lattes from a tiny, owner operated cafe. We rode the London Eye after dark. We walked around shivering because it was so flipping cold. We had the time of our lives.

It was a perfect way to celebrate Heath's 40th birthday, which, if I haven't said so already, was the main reason for the entire eight day adventure. We finished off the celebration of my favorite man in the world with supper at a nice restaurant, and another harrowing cab ride.

And now we are bound for home.

Customs in the London Heathrow airport was just shy of being strip searched, and all four of us find ourselves as excited to be on our way back to the land of the free and the home of the brave as we were to depart on our whirlwind, globe-trotting, birthday bash.

The United States of America is calling to our hearts, as everyone's homeland calls to them, I imagine. But mostly, we long for our sweet kids; for their kisses and hugs, and the way they smell, and how loud and rowdy they are. We cannot wait to hear their voices calling us "Mom and Dad."

We are ready to be home.

Where everyone is free to choose how to worship. And everyone can drink the water straight from the tap. And our phone chargers work in every outlet. And we have a WiFi package. And guns. And we drive on the correct side of the street.

London was fantastic, but there really is no place like home.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Abu Dhabi

I wanted to add, after the title "not to be confused with Abu the monkey" but I knew only my kids and a few others would understand the Aladdin reference...and so I didn't.

My second title idea was "more of the cultural phenomenon," except it doesn't have quite the same ring to it as my first idea. So I settled for terribly boring. Sigh. I feel like a titling failure.

Abu Dhabi is surprisingly different from Dubai. We had to drive through a legitimate desert to arrive here, and the haze of sand is present in the air...and in my eyes every time the wind blows.

The call to prayer rings out much louder, which either means they have better speakers at the mosques, or that there is a mosque much closer to our hotel here than in Dubai.

The breakfast buffet is another difference. In Dubai it was an international spread, featuring pizza and egg rolls and baked beans (yes, on the breakfast buffet...) but here, in the more traditional Abu Dhabi, I was interested and excited to see an entirely authentic assortment of foods. There was an olive bar, several bowls of dates, hummus (YUM), fruit, and platters of sandwiches and pastries and cheeses. Bacon and sausage are clearly labeled either "chicken" or "turkey" as there is no pork to be found or consumed in the UAE. I loved the breakfast experience here. I wished I could've discussed it with my kids, and shared the cultural differences with them.

The Grand Mosque we visited last night was one of the most beautiful architectural buildings I've ever seen. Breathtaking. Intricate. No expense spared. Magnificent and awe-inspiring. We took hundreds of pictures which won't do justice to any of it.

There were very strict dress code rules. We knew about them beforehand, but forgot to take a couple of things into account. Women had to be completely covered. Long pants, long sleeves, a scarf covering neck and hair. We knew that. But we didn't know that they had to be loose fitting (baggy) clothes...and so we had to adjust what we were wearing, or risk being asked to don a traditional robe and head covering. Many, many other women visiting the mosque either didn't take the time to research proper attire, or they didn't care, or they WANTED to wear the garb, because for every two women we saw in long sleeves and pants and scarves of their own, there were at least 5 women in abayas that they were instructed to put on over their clothes before entry was permitted. Also, we read that men could wear short-sleeved shirts, but didn't account for the fact that visible tattoos would not be allowed...and so our friend, Patrick, was able to experience the long white robe kindly forced on him by the guard.

The long, droning wail of the call to prayer rang out while we toured. We watched in awe as men began to run, desperate to arrive at the "Male prayer hall" in time for the evening prayers. The "Female prayer hall" was located on the opposite end of the mammoth building, and women headed that way with equal haste. I can't begin to describe the sadness that overtook me as I witnessed the haste. The people were devout and excited and committed to go into a room and pray...but, they had to go into a certain room, dressed a certain way, and be separated from their spouse in order to do so.

A lump rose in my throat, thinking of all the times my husband and I have grasped hands together, wherever we happened to be, and prayed to God, the Almighty, the ever-present Lord of Hosts...and He heard us where we were, however we were dressed. I won't spend time on this particular tangent, although I could. I did turn to Ashley and whisper, "I hear the call to prayer too. Aren't you glad we can stand right here and pray if we want to?" And she agreed. And then I said "I think the guys should go into the men's prayer hall and pray. They don't have to go in there to talk to God. But they can take the Holy Spirit and a few angels with them." And she smiled, indulging my Patty Bausum moment in the way all my true friends do.

Not being able to touch my husband while in the mosque was another thing I knew to expect, but found much more difficult than I had expected. I didn't realize how often I touched him out of habit. Interlocking fingers, occasional hand placed on shoulder or arm to make sure he was still close by and aware of me...I do that a lot, apparently. Finally, after barely catching myself several times, I crossed my arms tightly, and spent the remainder of our tour that way. I watched Patrick reach back, probably not even realizing he was doing it, holding his hand out for Ashley to take. And when she didn't, he turned, looking for her...and then remembered.

I left the mosque feeling amazed by the beauty of the structure and skill of the craftsmen, somber thinking of the inability to pray anywhere and with anyone I wanted, and supremely relieved to be able to uncover my head and wrap my arms around Heath.

We visited an old market, called a souk, this morning, and that was one of my favorite cultural experiences. Shops devoted to selling fresh spices, shops that sold every variety of dates, shops with silk scarves in every color combination you can imagine. I could've walked the corridors between shops all day long, and never grown tired of it.

Alas, though, there was a little thing called Formula One racing...the main reason we made this trip in the first place. And so we changed from our conservative, souk appropriate garb, into our racetrack attire, and headed there for the qualifying round.

At the gate, we were separated into male and female entrance lines. At first we thought it was because we had purses that needed to be scanned, until we noticed several men carrying backpacks in other lines. Ashley looked at me and spoke in hushed, vehement tones. "I do NOT like the way they treat us here." Indeed, there were 4 lines devoted to taking the tickets and credentials of the men, and only one for women.

There are too many things to document them all, too many wonderful experiences, too many moments of emotional upheaval, and even if I could somehow find all the words and had all the screen space to fill with them...I am just too exhausted.

And so I am posting this at midnight in Abu Dhabi, which is early afternoon in the USA, and bidding you all goodnight!

Tomorrow is race day. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dubai

I wonder if the shock of another culture ever becomes less dramatic.

Being that I am not what most would consider "well traveled," I find myself acutely aware of the differences between my own little "world" and the multi-cultural world outside the American South.

And, certainly, this particular trip boasts the most glaring differences of any place I have ever visited.

The United Arab Emirates is literally on the other side of the world from North Carolina.

While there will occasionally be a displaced Yankee gracing the streets and restaurants and grocery stores south of the Mason-Dixon line, saying "you guys" and forgetting to say "yes ma'am" and driving aggressively and staring blankly when someone offers grits as a meal...that cultural gap pales in comparison to the hotels and streets and beaches and airports of Dubai, UAE. (I giggle now at my own metaphorical turn of phrase, because it is ironically true in the most literal sense here. In the USA, I am a relatively olive-skinned person. In the United Arab Emirates...people probably want to blink and squint when they see me walking by. I am, quite accurately, pale in comparison.)

Because I am nothing if not a person who wants to be over-prepared and completely informed about a destination I will be visiting, I read as much as I could, and asked as many people as I knew, what to expect, and how to dress, and all the rest of the truly important things.

And still, the shock remains.

From the first moments of boarding the gigantic airplane, where the people pressed in on every side with no claustrophobia or thought of personal space, to the arrival in the airport and the stringent security enforced by Arabian garbed border patrol...I am feeling very much like a little bitty country girl with two left feet and an accent no one, not even the English speaking, can understand.

SO many languages present themselves to my ears. French, and Spanish, and several I can't recognize...and differently accented English from my own.

It's a sun-soaked melting pot, Dubai, much more so than anywhere I have been before.

After 13 hours on a plane, which included the most miserable night of sleep of my life,(and by sleep I mean dozing off long enough for my neck to get a crick or my arm to fall asleep or my forehead to smack onto someone else's shoulder or the people walking back and forth to the bathroom to smack into me on their way by) I was nearly too exhausted to mentally catalog all I was seeing for the first time...nearly.

But I made the effort, because I knew I would have a moment to reflect, and record, what it was like to visit a Muslim country.

We brought appropriate clothing, even if many of the other visitors to our hotel did not. (see above mentioned statement about being properly prepared) but I still feel under-dressed when walking by women with their heads covered, and entire families in religious garb, and men who stare at us strangely.

I wonder if they are as unused to my appearance as I m to theirs. Surely not. There are people from every part of the world here, and everyone looks and talks and dresses differently.

It's more than appearances I wonder about, though. I wonder, as I make eye-contact with, and smile at, every person I can, if they ponder the type of person I am the way I ponder them.

Are they angry that I made eye contact in the first place? I didn't read about that being taboo here...but I didn't read EVERYTHING.

Are they praying for my eternal soul when they see my in a knee length skirt and my hair uncovered? (And because I am nothing if not my mother's daughter, you can rest assured that I AM praying for the souls of everyone I see.)

Are they glad for the tourist business that I represent, or do they feel put out by the way their city has become so modern, losing some of its culture to the concrete and lights and peoples of the world?

It's Thanksgiving Day in America, at least it will be when the sun comes up there. Here, there is no turkey cooking, or football on television, or family arriving.

There is a crowded beach, and a cool Indian Ocean breeze, and every color and shape and language and bathing suit type you can imagine.

I love it all. I wish I could soak it into my pores the way I am soaking in the Arabian rays. I wish that some of who I am would seep out of me and onto others, so that a little of my culture becomes theirs, and a little of theirs becomes mine.

That is what a melting pot is all about, after all.

The days are jammed full ahead of us, and its exciting and overwhelming and EXPENSIVE, but for a few hours today, I am able to stop and think, and enjoy, and ponder, and pray.

I pray blessings on this country, and it's people...and I pray that the love of Jesus would seep out of me, and somehow, because He is powerful enough to do it, the Holy Spirit would begin to move here. It's a rather large prayer, and certainly more than I could ever begin to hope to see accomplished...but maybe my smile to the sweet lady who exchanged our money this morning will shine Jesus on her, the same way that I felt the kindness in the words of our waiter at breakfast. THAT isn't too much to pray for.

And even though I am an uncultured, little American southern girl, I know that my Lord sees me here the same as He sees me at home, and that He hears me...because I am His princess...even here.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our people back home. The world is wonderful, and filled with adventure and beauty and shock and all the rest...but YOU are home. And we love you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nothing is wasted

"What is it you want to say through my fingers, Lord?"

I whispered the question to the computer screen just now, and I sat...waiting for Him...

Four years ago, for many, many hours, I would ask that same question, and I would sit and wait...sometimes the peace and the words would come quickly. Sometimes they didn't come at all. Sometimes I waited for long, silent moments.

For an entire year, from start to finish, I asked the Lord what story He wanted to tell, and offered Him my hands to tell it.

And He used me, in spite of me.

And the story of the life, and death, and legacy of one little girl, who I loved desperately and lost too soon, became more than just words on a computer screen. They became a book.

"His Life For Mine."

My book. My sister's life. God's story.

I can't even begin to describe the agony of writing; the camaraderie I felt with Joy while I was walking, mentally, in her shoes, the heartbreak when I knew I was nearing the end of the story...

She was in heaven almost 3 years when the book was published, and its been just over 3 years since then.

And I miss her still.

And even though I would give back my childhood dream of becoming an author if it meant I could hear her laugh and see her smile and hug her bony little shoulders...it is still, frequently, an overwhelming blessing to hear that people read her story and were...

touched...changed...shaken...inspired...moved...amazed...humbled...

Every time someone approaches me with their thoughts, I always smile, and I always thank them, and after every conversation, a phrase rings inside me...

"Nothing is wasted."

It started in my heart as a whisper, and it grew slowly, over time, until its a sentence so meaningful that I am not sure I can really share it well enough.

My sister died, young and unexpectedly.
My heart was broken. My family was shattered. I felt as if every single day I was beaten up, bleeding and dying, even though it was only on the inside.

SO many tears. Carpet, pillows, walls, towels, my hands, were soaked with them.

Have you ever been there? Sobbing, gut wrenching cries in the silence? Trapped in what seemed an endless pit of pain?

You're never, ever the same once you've had your heart, your world, destroyed in an instant. It doesn't have to be the death of a loved one. You know what your pain is.

And scars eventually form. Angry, bruised, bloody wounds become angry, bruised, puckered evidence of healing.

The scars become less visible over time. And, if you'll let me be totally vulnerable for a moment...I HATED when my face stopped bearing the signs of my grief. I felt like I would always be a broken person, and so my face should always reflect that.

And I was angry. All my life I have known God, and I know He is good, and loving.

But my sister died.

And people lose children. And parents. And friends.

And innocence is stolen.

And we are betrayed. Abandoned. Forgotten.

HOW CAN IT BE THAT GOD IS STILL GOOD? How can He love me...and still have this in His plan?

And how can we ever accept the life we must now try to live? A life with pain, with scars as forever reminders of our broken hearts...How. Can. We. Bear. It?

Sometimes we can't. Sometimes its too much, and we sit down and sob into our hands again.

And sometimes we get to stand beside someone else who is sobbing...and we get to say "I know. I know."

And can I tell you, from personal experience, that nothing ministered to me more than someone who had felt my pain...sitting with me...just BEING there. It was like my wounds were soothed by the recognition of their scars. I don't know how else to explain it.

And so, for 6 years now, I have struggled with all that is inside me. And for the 3 years since the release of my book, I have wrestled with all the emotions.

God used, and is still using, the story of the life and death of my sister, to change people's lives.

"Nothing is wasted."

God allows me to walk beside people through great pain, and for my scars to soothe their angry, bleeding wounds.

"Nothing is wasted."

He accepts that I will always be mad at Him for choosing to do it this way. But He still uses me.

"Nothing is wasted."

And so today, I sat down at the computer, I asked the Lord what story He wanted to tell. Not Joy's story this time. Mine. My journey. My new place, years in the making, of understanding.

He is loving. And wise. And He revives me, every day. And He doesn't mind that "WHY?" will be part of our dialogue from time to time.

And the scars are still, always, there on the inside, but now...





Now I have the scars that are also words of hope on the outside too. Pain, etched into my skin, so I will always remember that God didn't forget me in my great sorrow.

Instead, in His wisdom that is too much for me to understand, He used my pain as part of my story.

And so...

Nothing. Is. Wasted.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Quiet reminders

The house is quiet and dark when I wake up.

It's my very favorite time of day.

It's so promising, the silence. No dirty dishes clutter the counter or fill the sink, (unless my husband had a late night snack and didn't remember to load his dishes...) no irritation-filled words fill the house, no one has cried, no one has burped or farted or been in desperate need of deodorant or breath mints. Nothing has gotten broken or dented or ruined or burnt or mangled.

And also, the silence that fills my pre-dawn house is FULL of words.

Words from the Lord.

Whispers for my heart.

Peace and mercy and strength for my day.

How often I forget to sit and soak in the silence that isn't quiet at all.

So many times I immediately busy myself with the cares of the day ahead, and the spiritual fullness is drowned out by the sounds of busyness.

Today I almost did it again...I almost went straight for the things awaiting me.

But. I didn't.

And I'm so glad.

Because the silence of my house was, as it always is, filled with the presence of God Almighty, and today I sat with Him, and His presence was a balm to my heart.

Thought after thought ran through my spirit as I paused and listened. As if the Lord were giving me a Bible story overview and then applying it to my life.

I thought of all the women I know, and love, whose hearts are tired and sad and lonely and hurting.

Tear filled eyes and pain soaked words seem to surround me, and seem to be inside me.

So I asked the Lord about it. My heart whispered into the darkness of my house, and the fullness of the spirit realm.

"Why is it, Lord? Always so much struggling. So much sadness. So much hurt. We don't understand. We don't know how to believe that You are good, and that You love us, when all we feel is sad and heart-sore and weary of all the HARD that life brings."

And then the Bible lesson started in my heart. I was reminded of Daniel, and then Noah, and Moses, and David, and Elijah, and the three guys in the fiery furnace whose names I can say but refuse to try and spell, and so many more...

They suffered pain.
They lived with loss.
They were disappointed and unsure and overwhelmed with what life sent their way.

There were floods, and lion's dens, and murder, and fiery furnaces, and dead children, and threats to their very lives.

And even though they are the heroes of the Bible, because they were also human, we can assume that they asked the same questions of God that we ask.

And they probably didn't have any more of the answers than we do.

How do we accept that God is good...and that heart-shattering pain will still come?

That seems to be the question of the ages.

Our understanding of God's love is so limited, though. We can only think as people.

I don't ever want my children and family and friends to feel hurt. Ever.

But God's love desires for us to be more like Him. For us to walk closer with Him. For us to grow in our understanding of Him.

Why?

Not just for our own sake, though that is an obvious result...no, His love sees ALL of the pain, and He walks beside us in it SO THAT WE CAN WALK BESIDE OTHERS.

Selfish love wants no pain or struggle or yearning for anything more. Human love desires to shelter and shield.

AGAPE love desires to mold us. His love, sitting here with me in my living room today, isn't soothing my anxious heart  for the sake of my heart alone. Rather, He's reminding me that His presence is enough, even in the storms, ESPECIALLY in the storms. The reminder has tears streaming down my face. Because it's not just for me, His love.

Its FOR YOU TOO!

He sits in the dark with me so that I can share with you...

He's with us in the fiery furnace.
He shuts the lion's mouths.
He forgives our greatest failings.
He redeems our mistakes.
He speaks to us in our moments of crisis.
He saves us when the flood rises.

For us, yes, but also for those around us who are drowning and burning up and being devoured. So that we can remind them.

His love...it's in the silence. It's in the pain. It's in every breath and heartbeat. It doesn't make sense that He would allow us to hurt so much...

Except that maybe, just maybe, He was thinking of YOU when He sat beside me in my darkest night.

Perhaps He is thinking of someone you haven't even met yet when He stands with you in the fire.

Maybe His love sees the person who will come into your life feeling destroyed by their failure, as He sits beside you in your failings.

He has not forsaken you, sweet hurting heart.

Even when you don't want Him there. He's there all the same.

Shhh...

Can you hear Him in the silence? Can you feel Him?

The quiet is filled with the voices of children now.

But I am clinging hard to the silence that is full of sound in my heart.

I pray the same for you.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Eternal Emotion

I have ALL of the feelings rolling around inside me this afternoon, and it has left me edgy, shaky, and unsettled.

Usually that means there is something the Lord is wanting to speak to me. Over the years I've become slightly better at recognizing the signs of the Holy Spirit whispers, and marginally quicker at responding to those signs.

As only a mom truly can, I decided to multi-task during my time with the Lord. (Don't judge me, people. God knows the busyness that is my weeks right now.)

I have been planning to paint a couple bookshelves in my guest bedroom, so I prepared all of that, turned on some worship music, and sat down in the floor.

2 hours later, I emerged. Bookshelves steadily drying in their lovely new color, hands still shaking, heart sore, and yet peaceful, face tear-streaked.

Yes, indeed, the Lord had words to speak to me.

Now I shake for fear that I won't be able to adequately write them down.

My family lost a friend this week, in a motorcycle accident, suddenly and with no warning. His wife was critically injured in the crash, and his daughters, who are the friends I've had my ENTIRE life, are, of course, devastated.

Their daddy is gone. They didn't get to say goodbye. Their children, his grandchildren, will grow up only remembering his laugh and his hugs and his love for them.

There is nothing more agonizing. Nothing more terrifying. Nothing that saps you of the strength quite as completely. Grief is an all consuming monster sometimes. It yawns wide in front of us and lasts forever and makes everyone who faces it cower.

I remember, in my grief journey, wanting to die. I know that sounds extreme, and I never contemplated suicide, but I can recall opening my eyes some mornings, and thinking to myself, "If I were just gone, I wouldn't have to face this. And not facing this...it would be easier."

My heart is broken for my friends. I send them songs, and scriptures, and words of love, because I KNOW what they are feeling. But nothing can really, truly, help.

It's HELL to walk, and breathe, and eat, and speak. To do anything, ANYTHING, feels like being set on fire. I don't know how else to describe it. You want to be numb one minute, but you can't stop feeling shattered. You want to feel your emotions the next minute, but all you are is cold, dead, and lifeless inside.

All of this has been going around inside me as I pray for my friends today, and it has also sparked some reflection in me. Some reminders. Some perspective.

Those are all words that really just mean the Lord has been whispering to me, and I have heard Him.

We aren't guaranteed tomorrow, not on this earth. We aren't promised an easy, pain free life. We are, in fact, assured of the opposite.

"Here on earth you will have trials and sorrows...but take heart because I have overcome the world." John 116:33b

I could be taken from my children at any moment, the way my friends lost their father...I could be here on earth one heartbeat, and standing before the throne of God the next...

Eternity is so close. Its a breath. It's the time it takes to blink.

Why, why, why in the world do I struggle and strive and worry and fear and fret and CARE about the things that don't matter?

Why do I fuss at my children for building a fort with every single blanket in the linen closet?
Why do I stress about how much sugar they eat or the amount of TV they watch?
Why do I get pissed at my husband for forgetting to take out the trash?
Why do I get cranky when he asks me to do something for him that I don't want to do?

If I got in the car today, and was in an accident and died, would I want my family to remember that I made them clean up their fort and take the trash to the road?

What am I focusing on? What words do I want them to hear me saying in their heads if I'm not here to say them aloud?

"Kids," I called to them as the Lord asked me these questions, "Come here for a second."

They did. And I swallowed. "If I die...if I never get to say anything else to you on this earth...I want you to remember these things. I love you. I think you're smart and funny and and such special people. I'm so proud to be your mom. THAT'S what I want you to remember."

All four of them began to cry, and I was weeping as I spoke, but I had more.

"And the most important thing I want you to remember is this: love Jesus. Serve Him with your whole heart for all of your lives. I will be in heaven waiting for you, and we will be together again someday. So you just hold onto the Lord, and to each other. And remind each other that I love you, and that I spent my whole life being glad that I was blessed to be your mom."

There weren't questions of why I was saying these words to them. They know. They lived through their own grief journey when I lived through mine. They cried. And they hugged me. And they promised to remember my words, and to serve the Lord.

And then they went to play, their hearts touched and then sent back to the bliss of childhood.

But I am shaken. Still. Because how can we ever say the important things enough times?

How will Nate know that I think he has the best sense of humor, if I'm not here to tell him?
How will Gabe remember that I think he's the toughest little boy around, if I'm not around to remind him?
How will Clay recall how kind I think he is, and how caring, if I don't tell him every day?
How will Faith know that I find her lovely and smart and sweet, if I can't tell her?

My heart hurts, wanting to spare them the loss of my love. But...my heart is literally SWELLING with love for them, and no matter how much I tell them, it can never be enough.

All I know is, I'm going to try to say, every day, the things I want them to know when I'm not here to tell them anymore.

Because our time with them could be brief.

But...if we teach them the ways of the Lord, and if we lead them to His arms...some day, we will be in His arms together. And THAT'S what Jesus meant when He said "Take heart because I have overcome the world."

This life is a moment. God has given us, through His Son, the gift of eternity, endless moments to tell our loved ones the things in our hearts.

Let's live today like eternity is at hand.
Because it is.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Take Heart

Why is it that knowing something to be true, logically, and really KNOWING it, deep down in the depths of heart and soul, are so very different?

Why can't we know truth, and accept truth, without having to live through the reality of its existence?

For example, why is it that my children know, in their brains, if they say inappropriate words I will punish them, but they don't really commit the knowledge to their hearts until AFTER they use a certain word and are promptly punished within an inch of their lives for it? Now they have the heart knowledge. Now they understand that what I said to them was true.

Why did it take that pain to truly bring them to acceptance of truth? 

Why do they begin remarking on how near they are to starving to DEATH an hour before meal time? They know, of course, that I plan to feed them, and that I have yet to allow them to die of starvation. They trust me, I think, to care for them...but still, 11 a.m. rolls around, and the "what's for lunch?" "do you know what time it is?" "are we going to have lunch today?" questions begin.

I want to respond, and sometimes I do, with; "Are you kidding me? I always feed you. I always take care of you. You can trust me. You know this. Now GO PLAY and I will call you when lunch is ready!"

I arrive at my wits end with my children on a regular basis. Because I know that they KNOW the things that are true and certain in their lives, but most of the time they act as if they don't really understand, and rely on, those truths. They need to have tangible proof.

But aren't we all that way? Don't we wonder, and question, and worry, and remind God of a need, or a hurt, or a fear, as if He doesn't know or has forgotten or has just decided to let us struggle through on our own for a while? 

We know who He is. We know what He has done in our lives in the past. And even if we don't know, He has given us a vivid, rich, thriving picture of Himself in His Word, so that we cannot possibly misunderstand.

"All the Lord's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection." 
(Psalm 18:30) This is just one verse about His promises. There are so many more. 

He tells us He's faithful.
He tells us He's a strong right hand to save us.
He tells us He loves us,
He cares for our needs,
He calms our fears,
He catches our tears,
He sends angels to guard around us.

There are so many truths that the God of all creation says about Himself in His Word. We know them, if we are His followers and have devoted time to reading His words to us. And still...still we don't really, truly KNOW the truth until we have experienced it firsthand.

For example: I have been a follower of Christ for almost thirty years. Childhood faith has taken root into a walk that, while never perfect or anything glorious to speak of, has been true in my heart and life since the beginning of the "Lord, I believe in you and I thank you for washing away my sins" prayer on the night before my 7th birthday.

I have read the Bible, all the way through, at least three times.
I have studied the Word.
I believe what He says about Himself, and about me, and about everything on which He speaks. I know He is good, and faithful, and true, and holy, and loving. I know it.

And still, still there was a morning, not so many years ago, where I sat in the floor of my living room, having a panic attack, gasping for air, unable to calm down, and all I could say was "Don't leave me alone. I can't be alone."

My sister was dead. The reality had been true for 6 days. The numbness of memorial services and relatives coming in from out of town had faded. Time off work had come to an end, and suddenly, suddenly I was faced with the horrifying reality that my husband was leaving for his job, and I would be alone with my children, who, at the time, were 8, 6, 3, and 5 months old.

"You can't go," I gasped through my terror. "I can't do it alone. I'll die."

I've never felt such fear. I knew, I just knew, that if he left me and went to work, I wouldn't be able to breathe. How was I supposed to love my children well when I couldn't feel anything but agony? When all I wanted to do was sleep, because at least in sleep I could forget, for a while, that my sweet little sister had died, unexpectedly and tragically, a million miles away in a hospital bed on the mission field. 

What happened next must have been a God inspired move on my husband's part. If he had come to sit beside me, or called into work, or tried to calm me down...I might never have understood, really KNOWN, what I knew in the next few moments.

He walked into the room, holding my Bible in his hand, and he set it on the floor beside me. He kissed me, and he said "You're NOT alone."

And he went to work.

And for a few heartbeats I was shocked that he had gone, with my gasping, and begging, and the tears I didn't even know were running down my face. 

But then self preservation kicked in. I couldn't breathe. I was drowning. I had to find a way to survive...and in that moment I reached for the Anchor.

I opened to where I had been reading the week before, before my life, my family, my heart and soul and spirit changed forever, and when I began to read...

"Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land. The wind had risen and they were fighting heavy waves. At three o'clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the water...the disciples were terrified...but Jesus spoke to them at once. 

"Don't be afraid.
Take courage.
I am here." (Matthew 14:24-27)

And I swear to you, in that moment, I was the disciples. I knew I was going to drown under the weight of my storm. The wind robbed me of stability, the waves stole my breath, the blackness of the night had caused me to lose my way. 

But Jesus came. Walking on the water. WALKING INTO MY STORM. Unafraid of my panic, or my terror, or the angry words I would eventually hurl at Him. 

He came.

And He spoke.

"Don't be afraid."    And my panic began to ease.

"Take courage."      My tears flowed silently now, without the gasps.

"I. Am. Here."         I felt the words inside my chest like a bass drum, resounding in my heart.

And He climbed into the boat with me.

All the years of knowing that Jesus calms storms and walks on water, all the readings about the promises of God and the faithfulness of His word, all the songs sung about all of the truths I had known and understood and even spoken to others...

All of it paled in comparison to that moment. When Jesus climbed into my storm with me, and I truly, truly KNEW that I wasn't alone. That I had never, ever been alone.


Now, almost 6 years later, when I have the privilege of speaking to a person in great pain, I remember that day. Every time. And when they gasp and rail and panic and cry, and when they are afraid and angry and lost...

I tell them: "I know. I know." And then I tell them: "But He is with you." 

Knowledge has turned to understanding. The lesson I could only really learn in my moment of pain has settled so deeply into my heart that it has changed everything, EVERYTHING else.

I'll need to be taught again, I'm sure. I'll forget to remember that I know He is with me.

But He will remind me. He will climb into the boat and sit with me. He understands that we need the lessons over and over, and even if we know the truth, in our heads, we need to feel the truth in our hearts. 

And because He's so loving, 
and faithful, 
and merciful, 
and kind, 
and compassionate, 
and strong,
and mighty,
and all the rest...

He will be there. With me. With us.

"So take heart. Let His love lead us through the night. Hold onto hope. Take courage again." 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Necklace

It's been two months since my last blog entry.

I've had nothing of interest to report in more than 60 days.

Even now, as I sit facing the mostly blank screen in front of me, and force my creaking, under-used fingers to strike the keys of my laptop, I am struggling to find words.

And that is SOOO not like me. I've got words. LOTS of words. Ask anyone.

Except...I'm at a loss.

Let me see if I can come at this from another angle, and arrive at where I am trying to get, another way.

My 14 year old daughter (pause for a moment and totally flip out with me that I have a child who is FOURTEEN...thank you) and I have been listening to an audio book for a couple weeks now. We did the same thing last summer, and we decided to start this summer indulgence a little earlier this year.

Last summer, for 16 hours (broken up, obviously, because...life) we listened to my favorite book of ALL time, This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. 

I have read my copy of the book 12 times. No, that isn't a typo. Since the fall I turned 13 years old, I have read my favorite book 12 times, and after my daughter passed her 13th birthday, I suggested we listen to it together. 

This summer, we are embarking on it's sequel, Piercing The Darkness, a book I have also read 12 times. (Because logic dictates that if a book is good enough to read 12 times, and it possesses a sequel, that sequel MUST be read.)

We are only a few hours into this 18 hour project, and already, I am yearning for more.

Not because I don't know what happens next. (In fact, nearly every new section of text, the reader starts reading and I mutter "oh man" in anticipation of what he will read next...and then my daughter 'shushes' me.)

This afternoon as we concluded our listening time for the day, I found myself struck into silence by a thought that entered my spirit. It has been pinging around inside me for an hour...

(By the way, I just have to say; Isn't the Lord clever? I usually think I have all these great ideas and little brainstorms of exciting, bonding things to do with my kids...but usually I look back and chuckle as I realize the Lord totally directed me toward that thing for my own benefit, because He had something He was trying to get through my thick skull.)

I've been feeling the weight of life pretty heavily lately. We are working hard to wrap up another homeschooling year. I'm trying my best to feel the weight of my legs a good bit LESS, (translation, I've been working out a lot, including running sprints on the advice of a workout friend...and my legs hurt. All. The. Time.) and so I'm physically run down by the end of the day. And, you know, life...it just gets heavy sometimes.

I've had people, who I am sure are trying to give me a compliment, tell me that they can't believe I don't have the perfect life, or the perfect kids, or the perfect...whatever. 

But...my kids aren't perfect. Today, one of the boys "accidentally" urinated ON HIS BROTHER. (I can't say more about that...none of the words are acceptable.)

I'm not perfect either. If I were, I wouldn't be running sprints, you can BET on that. And, yesterday, I curled up into my favorite reading chair...and I cried silently into my hands for 20 minutes.

Because...life.

And then today, today the thought...the pinging around of it inside me, the considering, the marinating, the awareness of the sovereignty of God to lead me exactly where He wanted me to arrive, in such a way that I was caught off guard by it...

I am wearing a spiritual chain around my neck.

That's the thought that the Holy Spirit whispered.

On the chain, there's a chalkboard sign hanging.

It's heavy, this chain and sign.

There are words written on my chalkboard. They change periodically, depending on the day, or a particular circumstance, or my emotional state.

Today, as the thought from the Lord swirled around inside me, I instantly knew what this day's word is.

Failure.

That's what I'm carrying around with me. And, people, let me tell you, it's making me tired.

Like, sink into my bed wearing yoga pants and never get up again tired.

It doesn't matter why that's my word. It's totally irrelevant to the point I'm meandering around and trying to arrive at. The word hasn't been failure all week. Yesterday it was discouragement. Monday, it was sadness. Tuesday it was complacency. 

Today I'm a failure.

As I've been cleaning the kitchen and closing up the house because it's starting to rain, I've been fully, utterly aware of my neck chain, and the word on the chalkboard, and I've been pondering it.

Waiting.

Wondering what thought would come next from the Lord.

Because He never hits me with too much at once. He gives me time to recognize His voice, and accept what He has shown me, and then...then He waits until I have turned it all over and over and over and over, and arrive at a quiet place, where I'm waiting for Him.

I'm waiting for Him now.

What do I do with this heavy chain, Lord?
I didn't even know I was carrying it around.
What about the chalkboard? 
It taunts me. I swear it has speakers and a slimy, raspy, demonic voice that whispers the word of the day to me repeatedly until I become so used to the sound that I just accept the word as truth about myself.

I close my eyes and admit to the Lord that I have been believing this chalkboard chain, and I'm weary, and I feel beat up, and there is an ache inside me, because I don't want to be a failure. 

And He doesn't speak, not at first. But, I feel Him. He smiles, and He reaches out and wipes His hand across the word. 

Failure disappears. 

Now my chalkboard isn't smeared with a chalk word that has been wiped away.

Now...it's covered in red.

And the red, the blood, it doesn't spell out any new words...but I know them all the same.

Love. Sacrifice. Acceptance. Peace. Belonging. Healing.

Those are the words I see in the red.

And my chain...it's a lovely golden color now, and light and delicate against my skin.

All these 60+ days, I've been carrying around the wrong chain, and reading the wrong words.

And with one smile, and one touch of His hand...He made all things right in my heart.

And I'm not really sure if this blog makes any sense to you at all...but I am overwhelmed by His presence, and the tears are flowing, and despite the fact that no leg weight has disappeared...I feel lighter than I have in a while.

My kids may not ever pee on each other again (Please, God) but they will continue to be imperfect. I will continue to be a wreck.

But...I'm a wreck wearing a lovely necklace with a red colored chalkboard. 

And so are you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Help Needed

Who has four kids, 2 cars, 1 cat, 1 house, negative hours leftover every day...and HATES asking for help?

This girl.

Seriously. I almost can't do it. Ever. 

Even if I am nearing the edge of cliff which I will undoubtedly fall off without assistance, I will probably grit my teeth and dig in my heels and believe all the way up to the moment I am hurling into the abyss below that I can stop the death fall without asking for help.

Once, during a time of serious emotional crisis in my life (basically a metaphorical cliff) I found myself sitting in the floor of my bedroom, leaning against a wall, experiencing a full-on panic attack. As I gulped in breaths and tried to slow my heart, I dialed my brother's phone number. He lived the closest to me at the time, and would be able to come to my aid the speediest.

He answered the phone, and without waiting for him to interrupt, I began to sob out how overwhelmed I was by the situation I was currently facing, and how I absolutely could NOT do it for one more second, ad how I was fairly certain I was going to have a nervous breakdown at any moment. He listened without interrupting, and when I had finished, he asked me a question.

"Are you asking for me to come help you?"

And do you know what I said? "No, it's okay. I'm calming down now. I just needed to freak out for a second. I'll be fine. Thanks."

I absolutely was NOT fine. After I hung up the phone, I don't even remember how long I continued to sit in the floor and tell myself not to pass out, or freak out, or throw up, or cry until I couldn't move...

But when it came right down to it...I didn't ask for help. I wanted to. I needed to. But I couldn't do it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I DO enlist help sometimes.

Today we cleaned house, and I definitly asked my kids to help with that.

By ASKED, I mean required.

By required, I mean I informed them, with raised voice and brows, that I was moving all their crap to a tent in the backyard if they didn't help clean it up. 

So, you see? I can ask for help when the Spirit moves me. 

In all seriousness, though, I know I can't be the only person who finds themselves completely inadequate to a task, but struggling to request the needed assistance in accomplishing it.

I am paralyzed by indecision. By fear. By doubt. By uncertainty. I am overwhelmed by how ill-equipped I am.

I have a path before me, and I can choose not to try and travel it at all, and then I won't have to seek help in navigating it successfully.

But, if I choose to try...I will FAIL without assistance. 

Maybe I will even fail WITH assistance.

(It's possible that it scares me to fail with people watching more than it frightens me to ask for help in the first place.)

What should I do? Should I try and do it on my own? Maybe I could.

Should I ask for help, knowing full well it might not be enough anyway?

Should I do nothing? Turn away from the path and never have to feel the angst of inadequacy, or the sting of failure?

The thoughts swirl round and round inside my head, and my own brutal self-honesty demands that I admit the truth: I don't want to need help. I don't want to rely on others. I want to be strong enough on my own. Smart enough. Capable enough.

In my heart, I admit this truth to the Lord.

"I want to be able to figure it out without needing help, God. I even have an idea..."

And my spiritual monologue is cut short before it even begins. The Lord speaks sternly. 

"Why would you want to try and accomplish My plans for you in your own strength? Do you, in your great self-sufficiency, really believe you are more able than I am to work out My will for your life?"

And I find myself breathless from the words, and how I feel like a reprimanded child.

Who am I kidding? I AM a reprimanded child.

I'm ashamed. Ashamed of the pride that would keep me from letting others see an area where I cannot do it on my own. Ashamed of my fear, my uncertainty, my worry, when I have witnessed time and again that God takes care of me better than I could ever take care of myself.

And so, here I sit, feeling almost like I have been spiritually dared to make a move...

I am wearing slippers because it's cold in my house.
I am eating jelly beans because they are leftover from Easter.
I have more hours of things to accomplish than hours remaining in this day.
I'm exhausted, physically and emotionally and spiritually.

I am unsure. I am afraid.

But...I'm asking for help.

I need help. I've been talking to a publishing agent about a potential second print run of my book, and she has informed me that she has contacts at big publishing houses...but that if I want any of them to take a serious look at me as author, I need an online presence. 

I need to blog more and tweet more, she said. Check. That I can do. (Not that anyone cares what I tweet or blog, but at least that's within my ability to accomplish.)

But, I also need people to follow me. On Twitter and on my blog. Not just read my tweets or blog posts. But actually take the time to follow me.

(Enter the internal rant about how I have nothing interesting to say or time to spend trying to THINK of anything interesting to say, and why do I want to ask my friends and family and the poor innocent population of the Internet to listen to how flipping boring it is to be me? I'm wearing slippers and eating jelly beans, for heaven's sake!)

That internal rant has led me to the place of indecision and fear and "well maybe it's not a big deal if we don't print anymore books" that has caused many a restless night and anxiety headache...

And all of that led me to today. To now. To the dare from the Holy Spirit to TRUST HIM, and to stop acting like I could do anything on my own, when we all know it's not true.

So, if you are asking me if I need help...

I am gulping in a breath.
I am shifting back and forth in discomfort. 
I am shoving a courage-fueled hand-full of jelly beans into my mouth. 

I am saying yes. Yes. I need your help.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday morning ponderings

Saturday mornings are made for pondering, I am completely convinced.

Reflections back on the week that has passed, wonderings about the week looming in front, quiet, peaceful, philosophical pondering that can only be enjoyed on the one day a week when nothing, or almost nothing, is required of a person: THAT is why God gave us Saturday morning.

My pondering never takes the same route twice. Every Saturday morning is greeted with a different collection of thoughts and questions and decisions and quandaries. This is largely due to the fact that my weeks are never the same, and one must spend time reflecting on the week just past...or else one isn't appropriately using the Saturday morning...

Lest you have begun to worry that this will be a flowery, poetic, filled-with-too-many-large-words kind of Saturday morning blog post...fear not. The topic that has occupied most of my coffee sipping, fire-gazing moments this morning is simple.

It isn't only one topic, per-say, but a collection of topics with the very same starting point. Rather than tell you the punchline, however, I must take you on the journey, because otherwise I wouldn't be making appropriate use of my gift...(the gift of way too many words...yes, I consider this a gift. Please don't ask my husband whether or not he agrees with me. Or, if you do ask him, don't tell me his answer...never mind, I already know how he feels about it.) (You see what I just did there? I had a moment of pondering which resulted in a conclusion...ah,  the beauty of Saturday morning...)

Why does the cat insist on being fed the moment he sees the light going on in the kitchen? Honest to God...I don't get but five seconds to begin perking the coffee before he is freaking out about his breakfast. Irritation knows no bounds.

How in the world am I expected to survive the hormones of a teenage girl? I swear, the abundance of laundry that needs to be folded cannot possibly be a reason for a girl to lay down in the floor and burst into tears...right?

Laundry. There's a subject on which one must spend time pondering. How in the world can six people produce so much of it? Why does it seem so dangerous to reach, bare-handed, into the basket retrieved from the boy's bathroom? WHAT IS THAT SMELL? Where the heck are all the extra socks? It boggles the mind, the quandary of laundry. (I just giggled at my own corniness.)

This leads to the next topic: Boys, in general. No matter how much I search, I cannot discover what the odor is, or where it is coming from, in any of the boys' rooms. I have finally determined that it's in the walls. Somehow, the scent that is BOY is uniquely engineered to be absorbed into porous surfaces...and to never, ever, come out.

And further on the boy topic; WHY IN GOD'S NAME can't they aim? How is it that they possess the ability to pee standing up, but lack the genes to make that pee go where it's supposed to? Every single Friday I ask this question, as I am cleaning toilets...and every single Saturday, I arrive at the same conclusion: Boys were given the inability to aim...by God...in order to test and grow the patience of their mothers. I am completely convinced of it.

Does the sentence "Don't ask me again!" somehow get lost in translation as it passes from a mom's lips to a child's ears? When it reaches the brain of a child, do they, in fact, hear "If you add a whining tone and the word 'please' as you repeat the exact same question, your mother will change her answer." The evidence would suggest that is precisely what happens.

What is the law of the universe that insists a recently swept, vacuumed, and mopped surface is in need of crumbs and sticky drinks spilled on it?

How can the tiny humans never remember your instructions to...put on deodorant, change underwear, brush their teeth, flush the toilet, wash their hands, load their dishes in the dishwasher, FEED THE CAT, chew with their mouths closed, don't pick their noses and eat their boogers, never junk punch people, say 'yes ma'am' and 'yes sir' ...but when you slam your finger in a door, they remember exactly what you said, and how you said it, and they repeat it at every opportunity?

My children occupy my pondering this morning.

They make me laugh every day. AND they make my blood pressure skyrocket.

I receive an unexpected hug or kiss frequently...and also, I am crop-dusted on a regular basis.

Sometime they remember not to eat their boogers...but when that happens, my arm or leg is usually where they wipe their snotty finger.

After the hormones have gotten the best of my teenage daughter, she almost always comes back from her 'behind-closed-doors' meltdown with apologies and offers to help in any way she can. Until the next crisis-the ending of her favorite television show, for example.

There is simply no solving the great mystery of motherhood...

Which brings me to the end of my pondering. Not because I couldn't spend a great many more moments thinking on it, but because the boys have ceased their obligatory cartoon viewing, and are now clamoring for breakfast, and informing me that one punched another accidentally (how does that work, exactly?). There have been no hormone incidents yet this morning, because my teenage daughter won't awaken until at least 11 a.m., which is apparently the sole reason for Saturday mornings in the life of a 13 year-old-girl.

Happy pondering (and hopefully chuckling) Saturday to you.