IMG_6856

A Birthday Tribute to My Man

April 30th, 2015

 

IMG_6856

 

Fifty years ago today, this guy entered the world.

I’m pretty sure God knew from the very beginning he was going to be an easy human being.

Content

Thankful

Happy

Trustworthy

Humble

Optimistic

Hard-working

Honest

Dependable

Fair

Wise

Selfless

Kind

Gentle

Brave

I’m also pretty sure this guy had no idea how marriage would challenge every part of his natural being.

I’m thankful this morning for a husband who has taught me many things that didn’t come as naturally in my original mold.

When I read Psalm 33:18 this morning, I thought of Tim.

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,

on those whose hope is in his unfailing love…..

If I know one thing for sure, I know this:

The Lord’s eyes are on Tim and they are smiling.

Tim fears God while constantly putting his hope is in His unfailing love.

Even in the deepest grief and in the painful agony of watching me, his wife, grieve so deeply,

Tim’s faith has never wavered…………not once.

Even when his birthday became the anniversary of losing our precious daughter,

he kept pressing on with an unshakable belief in God’s ability to bring joy from our pain.

Even in the darkest days of worry with our children,

Tim’s trust in God’s protection, mercy, and grace has remained steady.

He knows that he knows that he knows……………..

that no matter what happens on this planet, God is with us.

While God is my Heavenly fortress and Rock,

Tim is my earthly one.

He is my anchor in a storm-filled sea.

He makes me laugh even when I’m determined that nothing about a situation could possibly be funny.

He reminds me of all that is good when I so easily can focus on all that is bad.

He calms my anxious heart when I’m sure there are a million reasons we should be worried.

He counsels our children from wherever they happen to be in this big world with wisdom and truth.

He prays for them and me daily.

He believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

He wants the best for us even if it means less for himself.

He’s not afraid to cry when something moves him.

In the midst of all that life has brought our way, Tim chooses joy.

Every day.

And even when it irritates me to the core to see him smile in moments when I feel no happiness,

I’m so thankful for his ability to see beyond that moment and remind me that things will get better.

I am who I am today,

because fifty years ago today this guy entered the world.

To our sons I say, “Be like your dad.”

To our daughter I say, “Marry someone like your dad.”

Happy birthday, Tim.

I love you so much.

I had no idea what I was doing when I said “yes” to your proposal when I was only 18 years old,

but I’m so glad God knew what He was doing when He led you to ask that life-changing question.

We’ve truly grown up together.

I know our marriage isn’t perfect, but I’m so thankful we both cling to Him who is.

I look so forward to growing old with you.

And if you leave this earth before me, 

I will for the rest of my years be “only half.”

20140510_3249We’ve been friends for a quarter of a century.

I babysat her children who are now adults.

She has been by my side through every tough chapter.

When life is hard, I know I can count on her to bring me back to a center place of peace.

Last night, I sat by her bed.

She is once again undergoing difficult chemo treatments and feeling very rough.

We laughed last night.

We talked about both big and little things.

We shared life, and it was good because life is just better when it is shared.

Face to face.

As we talked about life, Martha shared these beautiful words written by Mother Theresa with me.

Watching Martha reach for her journal and turn to the page on which she had written these profound words will be etched in my heart forever.

Martha lives these words.

I want to live them too.

People are often unreasonable and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you.

Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Theresa

This morning, Martha has blood work and her journey to the hospital isn’t going to be easy.

Please say a prayer for her as you go about your day.

And as you encounter people today…………no matter how hard it may be,

love them anyway.

DSC_0871

I’m Listening, God

April 28th, 2015

 

valley springBlessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Psalm 84:5-7

I’m so thankful this morning for the verses above from Psalm 84.  I love the image of the Israelites traveling toward Zion and how their journey is such a perfect picture of my present-day journey toward Heaven.

Imagining their hearts set on a pilgrimage reminds me that I need to have my heart set on my own.

Every day I’m one step closer and when I keep this in the front of my mind, the things of this world really do grow strangely dim.

Suddenly my load feels a little lighter and the road becomes a lot less rocky.

—————

As the Israelites passed through the Valley of Baca, which is also called the Valley of Weeping, they made a life-changing choice.

They chose to transform their valley of tears into a place of springs.

Today, I have the same choice every time I find myself in a low and barren place.

Will I choose to focus on my sadness or allow my tears to become pools of living water?

—————-

On their own, the Israelites were weak people, often slipping away from God.

In their weakness, though, they allowed God to carry them from strength to strength.

I love this image too.

Me, often weak.

God, always strong.

There’s something freeing this morning about knowing I’m not alone on this journey.

Neither are you.

God is in our valleys, and He’s also in our weaknesses.

He longs to give us springs of cool water and He longs to give us strength.

When our hearts are set on the pilgrimage toward Zion,

we are blessed.

And when we’re not sure where to turn next on this often-painful journey,

He’s right there whispering…………………….

“This is the way………….walk in it.”

Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 31:21

————————-

God,

Our hearts are set.

We’re leaning on you,

And we’re all ears today.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saline_Valley,_California
nepal

 

I woke up to an inbox message from a friend in India asking for prayer.

In her note, she said,

“Please keep praying for India as it has 30 earth quake in last 3 days and a massive disaster and more than 2500 people died in Nepal and near by places. We are safe here.”

I’m ashamed to say that it took her message to make the whole event seem real to me.

After reading her message,

I’ve sifted through so many photographs and videos of Nepal.

nepal

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32475030

nepal two

http://whatstrending.com/news/18953-earthquake-devastates-nepal

I’ve watched several videos of the avalanche on Mt. Everest as it happened.

I’ve spent the last hour soaking in the horror of this natural disaster.

Over 3,500 people have lost their lives, and here I sit………………

fully aware that my weekend was filled with anything but horror and destruction.

I thought about my Facebook wall and how it is currently filled with photographs from a princess tea party and senior pics.

I thought about my Sunday afternoon and how I sat in a restaurant with friends and family and laughed about meaningless things.

I thought about my heart and how the things that have consumed me have been incredibly trivial in comparison to the despair these people are facing right this minute on the other side of the world.

How do I balance the normalcy of my day with the absolute nightmare of my friend’s day?

How do I step into my Monday in a way that makes a difference to a country filled with hurting people I will never know this side of Heaven who need help right here on earth?

As I pictured Heaven, I imagined thousands of angels waiting for the word to go.

And I realized we do have some power to help these people, because I do believe prayer moves angels into action.

So, this morning as I get ready for a regular day of work,

I am also whispering prayers for Nepal and India……………

and for all those trapped on Mt. Everest.

One woman reached out and asked for prayer, and I know that there are millions more asking their friends and family to do the same.

What if their requests are followed by thousands of prayers that move Heaven in such powerful ways that the stories that unfold from this tragedy become testimonies to the power of God.

Today, I can pray.

You can too.

That’s what we can do as we step into our somewhat normal Mondays.

I love you, Blessy.

You are not alone.

Do not be anxious about anything,

but in every situation, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

Phil. 4:6

 Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,

for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

DSC_0881

The Motherhood Hike

April 24th, 2015

 

20140430_063456-1When I first heard the words, “It’s a boy,”

I was in many ways still a child myself.

Yes, I had a college degree.

Yes, I had a job.

What I didn’t have, though, was any kind of credential qualifying me for motherhood.

I had little experience with children and practically no experience with newborns.

I had no answers for tough questions or solutions for tough problems.

My view of the world was limited to road trips to and from Oklahoma and a few vacations that took me as far as California and New York.

I was a young girl still trying to figure out who I was and why I was even on this planet.

I started the journey of motherhood much like a hiker who sets out on the Appalachian Trail having never hiked before.

Unprepared,

Unequipped,

Naive,

And yet extremely excited and ready for this new and scary adventure.

I’m almost on the other side of full-time parenting; and just like a hiker who finishes an expedition,

I now realize that my journey was more about what I learned along the way than it was about what I completed.

Branches had to be cut away as I blazed this unmarked trail,

but the pruning was often parts of me that had to go……

God used and still uses my kids to shape me into who He wants me to be.

As I stumbled along an unfamiliar path,

my search for water often took me on detours that left me feeling lost and alone.

It was these very times of loneliness, though, that taught me Who I really needed to survive.

There was always something, even in the times of feeling lost, that brought me back to a place where I could find my way again………………a guidepost, a marker, something.

I just had to learn to live with my eyes wide open, constantly aware of His presence and His voice whispering,

“Walk this way.”

I realize now that all along the way, as I thought I was teaching my kids about love. honesty, selflessness, kindness, and humility, they were actually teaching me those very things themselves.

There’s something about NOT having all the answers that forces a mom to look to the One who does.

There’s something about falling short time and time again that causes a mom to reach out for the hands of Someone who is always there to soften the landing.

There’s something about wanting a do-over in so many conversations that turns a mom to the Person who says, “My mercies are new every morning.”

There’s something about NOT being able to provide the perfect home and the perfect life that sends a mom running to the only place of Perfection.

My kids are almost all a part of the adult world now.

I’m nearing the end of the trail of “mommy-hood,”

and I’m seeing a different kind of light in the branches up ahead.

I started the hike with new boots and a not-so-impressive backpack of supplies.

Somehow, God kept my boots from wearing thin and my backpack from running low.

He provided just what I needed every step of the way even when I thought I couldn’t make it another step.

I wouldn’t trade this hike of motherhood, though long and sometimes painful, for any other experience………

and I’m excited about the hike that’s still ahead of me.

The hike with adult children.

But for today, I want to say to all young mommies,

Spend less time trying to teach your kids and more time sharing life with them.

Every time life gets tough or the day seems way too long, stop and ask yourself this question,

“What am I suppose to be learning on the motherhood hike today?”

If I could go back in time and be a mommy all over again,

I would talk less and listen more.

I would get out of the way and let my kids lead me down more uncharted paths.

I would stop along the way and climb more trees.

I would taste more berries.

I wouldn’t be afraid of what I couldn’t see up ahead,

because I realize now that I was never, ever alone…………

even in the darkest moments.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,

along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;

I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

These are the things I will do;

I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16

DSC_0398

 

DSC_0394

There’s something incredibly special about standing near other grieving moms.

They help me feel normal…………….

And safe…………

And loved.

And when these grieving moms also love Jesus,

it’s almost too good to be true.

It’s as if we’re connected from the inside out.

It’s like traveling down the road of life and all of the sudden being forced onto a very scary exit ramp and being relieved to find other travelers there who understand your fear and want to help you find your way.

Their worlds were also turned upside down by devastating news,

so their smiles remind me that it’s okay to still be happy.

They’ve cried until they thought they could never cry again only to find themselves waking up in tears,

so their laughter gives me permission to still feel joy.

They wake up every single day fully aware that feeling “whole” is impossible,

yet they continue to reach out and love others in spite of their brokenness.

They understand the power of words,

so their conversations are compassionate, careful, and easy.

They “get” not throwing away things that others might consider silly, like expired Hamburger Helper from the year your child died.

They wear jewelry that tells the world that part of their heart is missing from this planet, and they love when you notice and want to talk about that part of their heart.

DSC_0398

I love to be near other grieving moms.

I love to think of our children worshiping God together.

I love to reflect on all the ways our children were blessings and how we wouldn’t trade our pain today for a life without them yesterday.

I’m thankful today for women just like Janet and Diana who encourage me and inspire me and remind me that I am loved with an everlasting love.

We were chosen to be the parents of Zach, Adrienne, Nick, and Erica……………..and we KNOW they are cheering us on today!!

What more do grieving moms need?????

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  

II Cor. 4:7-10

 

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”[a]

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Cor. 15:55-57

 

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:5

IMG_1640

When We Walk to the Gate

April 7th, 2015

 

IMG_1641The sunset was amazing as I waited for Olivia to come to the car.

When I looked up, I could almost imagine God saying,

“I created this moment.

 I painted the sky all shades of purple……………….

and carefully arranged the clouds so that sunlight would peek through in just the right places.

Please notice Me.”

A peace washed over my whole body right there in the parking lot of a baseball field, and I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be at this particular moment in time.

It was like having a worship experience all by myself.

I stepped out of my car to get a better look;

and as I walked to the fence, I pulled out my phone to snap a few shots through the fence.

The framing of the sunset in the spaces of the chain link fencing seemed like an artistic angle for taking a picture.

At the very same time, it seemed to limit the majestic moment in a way that diminished the power of God to a one-inch square.

 IMG_1641

I stepped away from the fence, thinking a wider angle would capture the beauty more perfectly.

IMG_1642

IMG_1640

I tried taking the photo a couple different ways before finally deciding to walk to the gate for a clear shot of the whole expanse of the sky.

IMG_1643

As I stood there, I thought about my own life and how I so often put up fencing between me and God.

And I thought about how wonderful it feels to step closer to Him , removing all barriers.

Is anything blocking your view of Him today?

Step away from the fence.

Walk to the gate.

Don’t diminish the power of God to a one-inch square.

Lift up your head.

Let the King of Glory in.

Psalm 24:7-10

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
 Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

IMG_1511 (1)

 

When I entered the world of motherhood,

I felt a lot like a brand new can of soup.

Filled to the top and overflowing,  my label quickly began to define me.

soup can

_________

Mom.

Mommy.

Mother.

_________

I loved all these names.

I was proud.

I was thankful.

I felt secure,  wrapped in a lining that announced to the  world exactly who I was and why I was here.

Day in and day out,

my soup-can life pressed forward…………………

And just like God had attended to the widow’s jar of oil, He faithfully kept my supply of soup  replenished year after year.

Along the way, though, I realized my can was becoming dented by life.

My label was beginning to peel away.

The security of the metal surrounding me was punctured time and time again as I found myself hurt by words, by actions, and  by the reality of living in a broken world.

One day,  I woke up and  realized  my label was so mangled  and  my can was so  banged  up  that I no longer knew who I was.

I began searching for meaning in a pantry full of cans that didn’t seem to match me.

Not that I wasn’t a mom or that I loved my kids any less, but something had changed.

My purpose was different.

Being a soup holder was no longer my role.

No one needed me to tie their shoes or kiss their boo-boos or plan their birthday parties.

Sure, they still needed food cooked  and laundry washed  from time to time,

but even those types of needs were becoming favors rather than necessities.

At first,  it was hard to sit on the  shelf of life  and feel anything other than expired, out-dated, and used up.

I watched  newer soup cans, labels bright and metal sturdy, and my heart ached for what use to be.

As I focused on all they were, I became more and more aware of all  I wasn’t.

Faded pictures and a few Rubbermaid containers had  replaced the hugs and laughter that once  filled every corner of our home.

The more I focused on all that was gone,  the more I noticed new  holes appearing in  my already deeply-punctured lining of tin.

What was I to do with my label-less life?

Where could I turn for help?

As I searched for meaning, I  began to notice more and more labels around me that had also been  shredded.

I saw more cans with dents and holes.

I began talking to them ; and as I  listened,  I realized that maybe, just maybe,

this peeling away of the outer covering,

this puncturing of the tin,.

was a necessary stage in the life of a can.

Labels, if clung to too tightly, limit potential.

Metal, if depended upon for security, leaves  no room for trust in something stronger.

My soup can is almost empty.

My label is nearly worn away.

Who I am can no longer be defined by what I once was.

 I have a decision to make.

Do I stay on the shelf and hide from a world that seems to move along just fine without me,

or do I move to a table and allow  light to shine from all my broken places?

                      Deep inside, I know  what I need to do.

  • IMG_1511 (1)

Now ………………..

how to get there…………..

that’s the question.

IMG_1588Words haven’t come easily lately.

I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve sat down to write a post and just stared at the screen or started to type and found myself backspacing every word away.

Blogging is a complicated endeavor and when I find myself struggling to string words together in a way that makes sense, I begin to second-guess everything about why I write.

I see specific readers in my mind and I dodge topics that are pressing down on me for fear of stepping on toes or hurting hearts.

I never want to write to make a statement…………….

even though I have a lot of statements I’d like to make.

I never want to write to incite a revolution………………….

although I see a lot of things that could be made better by radical change.

I never want to write just to be seen or even heard………………

and yet I’m fully aware that every word I add to this blog will be read by at least one person.

SO WHY DO I WRITE?

Why do I continue to come back to this little corner of the world even after I’ve made it over a week without adding one new thought?

Why do I sit here so early on a Saturday morning, clicking away at a keyboard, when I could be running to the store or doing something else productive in my house?

I wish I knew.

I wish I knew what woke me up this morning before the sun even began to peek through the window and nudged me out of bed as if to say,

“This is the day.”

“Today you will write even if you think you have no words……………”

I wish I knew why I tried to curl up in Tim’s arms and fight this feeling.

“There’s nothing here,” I could feel my heart whispering to the air.

“I’ve got nothing to offer that hasn’t already been said.”

And yet, it wouldn’t end.

The pressing in.

The restlessness.

The reality that sleep had ended while it was still dark and whether I liked it or not,

there were words to type that I couldn’t ignore.

So, I moved through the early morning quiet of our house, making a cup of coffee and wondering where this all would lead me.

I read my Bible first.

I’ve definitely learned that His Word needs to be in me before my words even matter.

I turned the pages softly, surrounded by silence except for the sound of the early-morning birds chirping outside my window.

I’ve been buried in the Old Testament for so long in my chronological Bible that everything I read seems so far away from my own world……..my own Saturday.

David, being pursued by Saul.

Fighting one “ite” after another, while hiding in caves, gathering followers, and gaining wives and plunder along the way.

What in the world do I do with all of these old stories?

How in the world does anything I read in the Bible line up with this crazy life of mine filled with things like

my kids’ busy schedules,

my job and classes,

and my husband’s love for March Madness?

Did David ever wonder how his life lined up with God’s plan?

Did he ever crouch in a cave and think back to the day he was anointed king and think,

“How does this make sense?”

I’m sure the disciples felt the same way the day after Jesus’ crucifixion.

I’m sure their Saturday was a day of wandering and wondering.

I can’t even imagine watching everything I believed to be true being nailed to a cross, leaving me with a sealed tomb and a lot of people mumbling,

“Bless her heart.”

I’ll never know the confusion David felt as he knew he had been called out by God only to find himself being hunted down by Saul.

And I’ll never know the pain of the Saturday after the crucifixion as the disciples struggled to make sense of all they had believed to be so true about the promises of Jesus.

_____________________________________

But I do understand having questions.

I do “get” feeling confused and dealing with pain.

I’ve spent a lot of hours of my life trying to figure things out that don’t make sense, and I’ve come up short almost every single time.

There’s so many things about life that just don’t make sense.

I’ve sat with many broken people listening to their stories and found myself wondering how the story of a man on a cross over two thousand years ago could really change anything about what they’re facing.

This Easter story can’t pay bills, take away hurtful words, remove unkind actions, or erase bad memories.

No matter how much power we find in the story of the cross,

we still walk on a planet where crosses can be burned and His story can be muddled up by the very people who claim it’s healing power.

Those days of fearing death at every turn had to be the hardest days in David’s life,

and the day in between the crucifixion and the resurrection had to be the saddest day in the lives of the disciples.

I’m thankful to live on this side of David’s legacy and Jesus’ resurrection.

I’m thankful to hold a Book that contains more than a portion of God’s plan.

And yet if I’m really honest this morning, in spite of all I know and believe, I still struggle.

I still find life very hard.

I still have more questions than answers.

I still over think and worry and wonder.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s why it’s been so hard for me to write lately.

It’s the settling down of the whirlwind that leaves the debris;

and when I force myself to write, the whirlwind suddenly stops.

So, this morning, as I hear the keyboard clicking and feel my whirlwind subsiding, I’m faced with a dilemma.

Do I keep walking a life of Saturdays when I know what happens tomorrow?

I’ve celebrated His resurrection for over forty years, and yet I wander back to Saturday time and time again.

I make the choice to sit beside a sealed tomb when I’m sad or unsure.

I choose to stumble on the road to Golgotha when I beat myself up for everything about me that isn’t quite right,

as if every rock under my feet was placed there just for me.

I feel the pain of every step that leads me closer to the cross.

A life of in-between days is just plain hard.

Tomorrow the world celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.

But today, and every other day, I want to learn how to celebrate it too.

Phil. 3:10a

I want to know Christ–

yes, to know the power of his resurrection.