Monday, December 30, 2013

straggly hairs, life interrupted, and all those other little things

It's 8:00am.  I sit here and type away in a dark hospital room while my son sleeps in the bed next to me.  His best friend today, Dilaudid.  This pain narcotic, a step above morphine, provides him the relief and comfort needed to sleep through this vicious episode. The monitors beep every 3 seconds it seems, and the room is frequented by medical staff.  Interruptions.  This life is made up of a lot of them.

I'm doing ok.  "Been here, done that" keeps echoing through my mind.  That taste of unwanted familiarity lingers on the palate of my heart.  But this time around, it's not the hospital or the blunt reminder that my son has a chronic illness that threatens to weigh me down.  It's all those other "little things" that go along with it.

Those little things have power in their punch. I want to punch them back.

It's the disruption of the family unit.  The sleep-deprivation. The physical and emotional exhaustion.  The strange loneliness you feel in the midst of the whirlwind.  The ache that's found in all those "little things."  Like your 8 year old sending you texts like this:

Or this:

It's the dark, cold drive home from the hospital at 5:00am just to find myself exhausted and spent and locked out of the house searching (by light of cell phone) for the spare key that may or may not be under a mat, flowerpot, brick, or stone somewhere hidden around the outside of the house.  Why is it my mind draws a blank now?  It's crashing into a half-empty bed and getting up four hours later to return to the hospital and all of her stagnant familiarity.

It's the daughters who break my heart each time they tell me they miss me and want me to come home.  Or cry when I am home because they miss their daddy.  Or have a meltdown in the middle of a late night game of yahtzee, not because they had to scratch their full house, but because they are having a hard time processing their brother being sick again and their mommy and daddy being away.  The fact that it takes a mighty big toll on them as our focus is centered around their brother.  The fact that it takes a whole lot of courage and strength for a 4 and 8 year old to muster up each day, braving their way through this ordeal once again.

It's going till 9pm at night with nothing to eat but a salty, greasy, MSG-filled beefstick because you don't dare leave the hospital room for fear of missing a doctor or the cries of your son who suddenly awakens and needs you there.  Or the fact that this Christmas vacation has been riddled with illness since day one.  Or the probability that your New Year's Eve plans will most likely be spent in a hospital room apart from friends and family and all things sparkly and bubbly.

It's the daughters who wake several times in the middle of the night for kitties and bathroom breaks and under blanket snuggles because their life has been interrupted too.  Thrown off kilter.  It's the 8 year old's hug that doesn't seem to end and squeezes me breathless as I walk into the house at night.  Or her sudden awakening at 5:30am when she finds me out of bed and begs me not to leave without saying goodbye to her.  And then lays in bed silently crying so she won't wake her sister.  And then just flat out pleads for me not to go at all.  Squeezes my hand tight and hushes deep sobs within.

It's all these other little things that weigh this mama's heart down.

And yet, still I find Him near.  And I will myself to take on His perspective and re-shift my thoughts. To focus on Him, and His beauty and grace, that is sprinkled along this life interruption.  And once I do, I sense His nearness.  Yes, it can be found.  Even in those little things.

It's found in hospital floors and straggly hairs.  In swooshes of grace and those "hardly hanging on" moments.  It doesn't take much to find Him when you are set on the looking.  It happened yesterday morning on the way back to the hospital.  As I set off on my commute, I looked out the driver's side window and found one lone, fine, thin, straggly, blonde hair of mine hanging off the sideview mirror outside my car.  It blew about and hung on steady throughout the 45 minute, 50mph drive to the hospital.

And it reminded me of great things.  And the Great One.  Who knows exactly how many straggly hairs are on this 38 year old head. ("Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Luke 12:7)  And if He knows and cares about those little details, surely He knows and cares about the rest.  This, I am certain of.

So, for the past couple of days, I have been intent on watching that straggly hair hanging on my sideview.  She lingers and holds steady.  When I left the hospital late last night, it had been raining.  Darcy and I have been trading shifts, so he had already taken the car back home and driven it back to the hospital that day.  And that little hair was still there last night.  She had weathered through a rain storm and through the winds of the commute.  Wet, matted, and tangled, but she was still there.

This morning, I left the house before the sun had even woken and graced us with her glorious face.  You better believe I was looking for that straggly hair as I drove my way back to the hospital.  And there she was outside the bottom of my window.  She held fast and blew about for the entire drive.

And I thought to myself, we are not much different than that straggly blonde hair.  There are moments and seasons in life where we feel we are just barely hanging on.  The storms of life and blustery winds of change come pressing through and leave us feeling beaten down, thin, frail, tangled, matted, and alone.  But, somehow we hold on.  God gives us strength to keep persevering.  And in those moments when we have nothing left to hold ourselves up, we find Him holding us along.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"...and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deuteronomy 33:27

So when all those little things start getting to me, I've been trying to focus on all the other details.  The fact that after a day of beefstick diet, I came home to a warm bowl of homemade soup.  And while my bed may be half-empty, it's still a warm familiar bed I can sink into at night.  And though it hurts to let go of a girl who is giving desperate hugs and begging me to stay home, at least my arms will find their way back home to her.  These arms are not as empty as some.  For that would be a deeper and more desperate hurt than I can even fathom.  I know loved ones mourning through this anguish even now.  So I thank God for blessing me with the greatest role and privilege of motherhood, even in the hard and straggly.

And though the demands of the job force my husband to have to return to work today, at least he has a job and God is establishing the work of his hands.  And though the commute to the hospital is dark and cold, one glance out my window this morning while passing by a bus stop where others shiver outside in 18 degrees makes me thankful I have a car and a way to return to this unwanted familiar. And although our Christmas break has been spent in illness, at least my son isn't missing school and having to deal with the added stress of "catching up."  And I don't have to worry about getting my girls to and from school and making sure homework assignments are completed daily.  And although our New Year's Eve will not be as once hoped and planned, that doesn't outline and define the good plan God has in store for our family in the coming year.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

What matters to us, matters to Him.  He knows and cares about those big and little things.  The hairs on your head, the hardships and heartaches, the losses and the struggles.  So if you find yourself in life interrupted. If it's left you as frail and stretched thin as that straggly, blonde hair just barely holding on, hold fast.  He's holding you.  God is still good.   Life is still good.  And there is still beauty to be found in the tangled, dark, and matted places.  And in all those other little things.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Are you willing to take Him into your boat?

This month I've been reading Max Lucado's "Celebrating Christmas with Jesus."  It's an advent devotional that reminds us that God not only came to us (the reason we celebrate Christmas), but that He stayed with us because He cares for us and wants to experience life with us.  The devotional walks  through the life of Jesus and the monumental moments of His story, beginning with His birth and ending with His death and resurrection, and His activity through others since.

This morning I was reading from the book of John, where Jesus walked on the waters. John 6:16-21:

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[a] they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

I've heard and read this story so many times before.  Yet today, something stood out that hadn't before.  I am sure there have been hundreds of sermons written on this already, but this was new revelation to me.  Verse 21 states that once Jesus' disciples were willing to take Him into the boat, immediately they reached the shore where they were heading.  This left me pondering many things.

If you look more closely at this scripture, it gives us some solid direction.  Digging into verse 21 I see two major themes.  First, Jesus' disciples:

(NIV):  "were willing to take Him into the boat..."
(The Message):  "they took Him on board."
(KJV):  "they willingly received Him into the ship..."
(NLT):  "they were eager to let Him in the boat..."

And second, once they did this:

(NIV):  "immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading."
(The Message):  "in no time they reached the land- the exact spot they were headed to."
(KJV):  "immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
(NLT):  "immediately they arrived at their destination."

How many of us have walked through seasons in life where we are just aimlessly wandering?  Where we see, know, or dream of our destination and it seems we will never reach it?  Where the waters rise and there seems no hope for an end in sight?  Where darkness and storm threaten to overtake us and we can't see the way ahead?  We feel stuck.  Or frightened.  Hopeless.

I wonder if Jesus' disciples felt this way that night on the rough waters.  The NLT version of this scripture states that the disciples "went down to the shore to wait for Him.  But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum."  I wonder what would have happened had they waited for Him before heading out.  Perhaps they wouldn't have found themselves caught in a storm.

Sometimes in life, there are storms we can avoid if we would just wait for Jesus to lead the way and go before us.  But we grow impatient.  We don't wait on Him.  We rush in and try to take matters into our own hands.  Our own way.  In our impatience we choose to trade in future Isaac shores, and then find ourselves in immediate Ishmael waters.  But I also know that God wrote this story for us because there will be times in this life in which storms cannot be avoided.  They are unavoidable.  So He gives us hope and direction in the midst of them.

Looking at the first half of verse 21 gives us a clue as to what to do when we find ourselves in rough waters.  Just as Jesus' disciples did, we need to be willing to take Him into our boat.  We need to invite Him on board and willingly and eagerly receive Him onto our ship.  He waits for us to call Him and and invite Him in.  He doesn't desire for us to walk through this life alone.  He wants to be our anchor, our light that shines in darkness, the calmer of our raging seas.

The second half of verse 21 tells us what to expect when we do just this...we reach our destination, solid ground, the place we are heading.  The place He has assigned to us.

A few versions of this verse say that Jesus and His disciples reached their destination immediately.  I'd like to think that if we keep our eyes on the Lord and invite Him in to steer our ships, this too will happen for us.  But this isn't always the case.  In fact, rarely it is.  While it's true that sometimes we prolong our personal storms and delay our own journeys, sometimes there is no fast route out of troubled waters.  We just have to ride them out.

But don't stop here, there's more hope to be found.  The Greek word for "immediately" is "euthos."  And yes, it does translate to "immediately" and "shortly,"  but it also means "straightway."  Jesus is our straightway.  Through calm or sea, He is the one who makes our paths straight when we place our trust in Him.

(Proverbs 3:5-6:  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not onto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.")

Even in troubled waters, we have One who can walk upon them and carry us through them.  He keeps us afloat.  He is our straightway.

A few things I learned from this text is that we need to let God go before us and lead the way.  This means we may find ourselves in a season of waiting.  But, wait on Him.  His timing is perfect for you.  It may just keep you away from unnecessary storms and strife.  We also can't try to take on life's storms on our own.  Sometimes, we see and believe that Jesus walked (walks) on water, yet we stand by and are unwilling to let Him into our boats.  We fail to invite Him in.  The waters rise and we cry out in doubt and despair, yet never fully receive and believe (or ask for) the help He has to offer.  We have to let go.  Of dreams and plans we have of our own.  We tend to whiteknuckle them (as if they are better and wiser than His).  We have our own crooked destination and we rage on trying to swim (drown) our way there, contrary to the straightway and destination He has intended.  Let go and wait.

The Jesus Calling devotional today runs tandem to this scripture in many ways.  The author writes,

"When you are plagued by a persistent problem- one that goes on and on- view it as rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side.  The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable.  In faith, thank Me (God) for your problem.  Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty.  Once you become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down..."

So, if you find yourself in troubled waters, here are a few practical tips:

*Keep your eyes on Jesus
*Ask God what it is He wants you to learn from this?  Ask Him to open your eyes to the ways He is growing and using you.  Surely, there is spiritual purpose in it.
*Invite Him into your heart, and into your storm.
*Take Him on board and let Him lead the way (the "straightway").  Receive Him and all that He has for you.

They don't call Him the "Calmer of the sea" for nothing.  When Jesus approached the boat that night, He told His disciples, "Don't be afraid. I am here!"  He is here for you too.   Be brave and don't lose heart.  Let Him walk on your troubled waters.  He is the Solid Ground we are after.  And in Him we are sure to find our true destination.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

the grace dance

this grace
it gallivants
waltzing into undanceable places
with a beat and a rhythm all her own

she brushes up against you
taking hold

to God's heartbeat
toward all that's His

she keeps no time
just lingers
and swirls
and catches you up breathless
like the blustery deep winter wind

she births awakening
into hardened hearts
and wandering souls

like hope that pivots in
on spring's horizon


resurrecting the dead
and asleep

giving sight
and life
and newness

to the broken
and hungry

this grace
that gallivants
is there for all who choose
to open their eyes to her wonder

come open those eyes

embrace her
as she tangos
and tangles
her way into the core
of who you are

and whose you are

and winds
of circumstance
and change
can't whisk you away
from her presence

this grace
it gallivants about
asking you to dance

to partake
and behold
the beauty and wholeness
that she so boldly has to offer

partner with her
she begs for your hand

she'll glide you along your way
right into the arms
and the heart
of the One
who created her

who breathes her

join her as she gallivants
allures you
and sweeps you off your feet



Friday, December 6, 2013

hospital floors and a "swoosh" of grace

I remember when Brayden was in the hospital this past April.  I hated the familiarity of that place.  Knowing where to park, which elevator to use, the familiar faces of staff, the stagnant, sterile smells.  It flooded my mind in a wave of unwelcomed emotional nausea.  We had been blessed with a year of health in between Brayden's episodes.  But the blessings didn't stop there.  It also had produced a year of increased faith and resolve. That long arduous season of leanness and lacking, of grasping, wrestling, and fighting for truth...while I'd never want to go back to that place, even in that very moment of walking through those hospital doors this past April, I could look back and count it all as joy.  For I had been changed.  God had moved me from a place of insecurity, doubt, discouragement, despair and bitterness, to a place of awakening, contentment, wholeness and betterness.

And as I took my first steps into that familiar hospital, I felt like a different person coming into battle.  More readily armed and strengthened.  Despite all the familiarities, I immediately took notice of something I hadn't before.  It struck me enough to stop and snap a picture with my phone as a reminder, yet I don't think I've shared my thoughts about it with anyone until now.

During that first long stretch of corridor, as I was making my way to the North elevator with it's awful shiny golden doors (the ones that shine brightly in a rich hue of glistening gold, but remind you that they will not lead you to anything shiny on the other side), I looked down onto the polished floors of the hallway and saw a repetitive pattern of blue "swooshes" before me.  And I felt God's presence.

With each step I took as I walked that long familiar stretch, I came closer to another patterned "swoosh" on the floor.  I wondered why I hadn't noticed them before.  And I couldn't help but be reminded of His grace.  That swoosh of grace that sweeps in like an ocean wave and carries us along each step of our journeys.

Swoosh.  Swoosh.  Swoosh.

I was surrounded by them.  Wrapped up in them.  They went before and behind as I made my way to my destination.  A destination I wasn't desiring, but one that had been assigned to me nonetheless.  And in that moment I knew I'd be ok.  I was covered.

Within my own extended family recently, there have been swooshes of grace that have come in and flooded the hearts of the ones I love and know best.  Swooshes of grace that have swept into dark barren places where no grace should be found.  Only God.  With Him and in Him there is no separation from such grace.  It's part of His divine DNA.

And as I reflect back and look at the experiences within my own immediate family of five, I realize that those swooshes of grace were always there.  I may not have noticed them in the thick of our storm, but they existed.  My vision was just clouded. Those hospital floors hadn't changed in the past year.  But my heart had.  And a heart that has been awakened suddenly takes notice to the evidences of God that once were overlooked.

If you find yourself in a dark place, where the drought seems unending and the sun has yet parted through the storm clouds.  Be encouraged that you are not alone.  Even when you don't see, feel, or hear God, He is present.  His grace surrounds.  Your season will not endure forever.  There is hope on the horizon.  And when it comes...

Blinders are lifted.
We begin to find Him in ALL things.
His beauty.  His work.  His handprint.

And that mysteriously marvelous swoosh of grace.

"You hem me in behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me."
Psalm 139:5

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hope is what we crave.

The contemporary Christian band "For King and Country" has a new song playing on the airwaves called, "Hope is What We Crave."  It's a great song, with a simple melodic chorus packed in truth.  I think our ability to successfully cope through the ups and downs in life is dependent on this.


Isn't this what we all crave?

A glimmer of light that a storm will pass, that a season of drought will end, that good will come out of our bad?  That there is more to this life than what our eyes can see?  That what we are doing matters.  And counts.  And is making a difference.  That our efforts aren't in vain.


It's the charge that keeps us going.  Keeps us climbing. Propels us forward. To persevere.  Even when the odds are against us.  Or our track record, our past experiences, and our current realities beg to differ. We crave this kind of Hope.

In any given week we will have many arrows of discouragement aimed in our direction.  They come in all shapes and sizes, and through many means.  Words.  People.  Experience.  Mishap.  Disappointment.  Unmet expectation.  Failure.  Setback.

Some days, some seasons, it may feel as if we are spinning our wheels but not moving forward.  Despite the effort, the momentum never builds.  The change isn't evident.  We may find ourselves continuously working, putting forth effort, prayer after prayer, sweat & tears, yet do not see the desired results we are striving after.  We crave Hope.  We need evidence that what we are doing matters, and will make a difference.

About a year ago, a close friend sent me a link to an Andy Stanley podcast.  The sermon was about the Old Testament biblical character of Nehemiah.  Prior to this, I had independently completed a Bible study by Kelly Minter on Nehemiah.  The theme of the message I am sharing today does not originate from me, but what I learned from these teachers has stayed with me and has impacted me since.  It's often become my "go to" when faced with times of discouragement.  So, I will share with you today what I took from it, in hopes that it will encourage you too.

Nehemiah was a man called by God to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem after they had been destroyed.  It seemed like an impossible task, and he was opposed by many, even Jewish nobles and prophets of his time.  Despite verbal assaults, physical threats, discouragement, abuses of power, and economic distress, Nehemiah stayed focused and devoted to this work.  We are reminded to look to Nehemiah as an example and to not be so easily drawn from the work that God has put in our hearts to do.

When the arrows of discouragement and fear were coming in from all angles, Nehemiah did not lose his focus.  He continued to rebuild that wall.  In the midst of all the discouragement and distraction, he stated, "I am carrying on a great work and I cannot come down" (Nehemiah 6:3).  Nehemiah did not come off of his wall.  People and circumstance attempted to make him waver, lose focus, and give up, but he stayed committed to his work.  He chose obedience over fear and discouragement.

"I am carrying on a great work and I cannot come down" (Nehemiah 6:3).

This has become my "go to" verse.  We all have our own wall.  It may not be an actual city wall. It probably looks a lot different in our individual lives.  Some of our walls may be more in shambles than others.  But we all have one.  Our wall may be the rebuilding of our finances, our faith, our career, our health, our home, our marriage, our relationships with others, our church.  Or the great task of training up our children (which happens to be my own personal wall).

The good news is, the broken walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.  They didn't stay in shambles.  The work was completed.  And Nehemiah 6:16 states, "When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God."  The same is the case for us.  When we are faced with the difficult, or the impossible, and we triumph over it, others will look at our stories and realize that it was the work of God in and around us.  That God stands behind what we do, even the "impossible" and that which is strongly opposed.  He gets all the glory.  And the more "impossible" a situation, the greater His glory is revealed.

So, stay committed to the work you are doing, in the wall you are building.  Tell the enemy that you are doing a good work and that you will not come down.  When evidence around you is telling you it is all for loss, go to God's Word and find encouragement in what He says.

For He says He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  He says He can turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).  He says He will deliver us from our troubles (Psalm 34:19).  He says, when we seek Him first He will take care of all other things (Matthew 6:33).  He says He will meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19).  He says He can work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).  He says that if any of us lacks knowledge, ask Him for it and He will give it to us generously without finding fault (James 1:5).  He says train up a child in the way they should go and when they grow old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).  He says nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27).  He says do not grow weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). He says we can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

Choose to walk by faith and not by sight.  Let His Word trump your feelings and your experience.  I promise there you will find the Hope that you crave.  And it will be just enough to keep you on your wall.

Friday, November 8, 2013

this is amazing grace

music has a way of ministering to my spirit, reaching and dancing upon places of my heart most in need of it.  take a moment to let these lyrics settle into yours.  they'll lace melody into your thoughts and your day, and give you another reason to rejoice in it.  this is amazing grace.

the Only name

hope you enjoy this song as much as i have these past few weeks.
a sure mood lifter.

"This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it!"
~Psalm 118:24

there will be One name.  Jesus.  be glad today!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

be a grace giver

I was shopping at Target today...made a return, picked up a couple of things.  I was alone, the perfect time to grab those items I don't want my little ones to see.  Like Christmas pj's.  Ya know the ones that magically show up on your doorstep every Christmas Eve hand-delivered by Santa's sneaky elves?  At least this happens in our home each year.  Does it happen in yours too?

The cashier ringing me up at Target wasn't all that pleasant with me.  A couple of the items I was trying to buy did not have tags on them.  This frustrated her.  Each time she scanned an item, she heaped it carelessly into a pile.  Normally, cashiers bag your items immediately after they've scanned them.  Kills two birds with one stone,  I'd think.  But today, my items stacked up into a big lump before her and were thrown into two bags at the end of my order.  Usually, a "goodbye" or "have a nice day" brings closure to a shopping experience.  But not today.  I paused for a minute before leaving because I wasn't sure my order had been completed.  It wasn't until I saw my two bags on the counter with the receipt stuffed on the top, and the cashier mindlessly checking out the person behind me that I realized my turn was over.  So I picked up my bags and left.

It was rainy outside, and I was glad that I had decided to run back into the house this morning to change into my rain boots.  I was quietly wishing I would've sent my girl to school in hers.  (Maybe they'll have indoor recess and her new "faux" UGGs won't be ruined.)  I loaded my bags into the back of the car and began to paw through them to find the Christmas pj's.  I wanted to separate them from the rest of my items so that I could sneak them into the house unnoticed.

What I did notice is that one of the items I had paid for was missing.  Actually, two items.  I searched through my two bags once again, carefully refolded the wadded up clothes inside, moved my smooshed bananas from the bottom of the bag up to the top, looked at the receipt to make sure I had indeed paid for the items missing, and walked back into the store to inquire.

The same cashier who rang me up seemed annoyed with me when I told her what had happened.  We had to go through every item on my receipt.  And as she did, she thumbed through my bags, yanking my carefully folded garments back out, and wadding them back up on the counter.  There was no evidence of my items being left in the store.  I am certain they were given to the lady who checked out after me.  So, I had to go back through the store to pick up the same items and present them to the cashier to make sure the barcodes matched before I left. I was compliant.

Moments after I pulled out of the Target parking lot, I heard a loud, blaring, long and overextended honking of horn behind me.  You know the kind that drags on and has heavy oomph and emphasis to it?  Yep, that kind.  Not the polite little "beep-beep." Although I was mindful of the slick roads, and cautious that there was a large enough gap between me and the oncoming car before pulling out into traffic, this angry driver must not have thought so.  It seemed that blaring horn was never going to stop.  Boy, was he telling me!  I wasn't trying to offend anyone, and I really thought I was being careful and considerate.  I'm still not sure what I did wrong, but the message was clear that this person thought I was at fault, and he wanted to let me know how much that offended him.  Despite the darkness of the sky, the day was still young.  Too early to let others get to me, so I dusted it off.

As I started to drive home, I thought of that Target cashier once more and felt prompted to pray for her. I have no idea what is going on in her life right now.  I have no idea what thoughts are consuming and preoccupying her mind, causing her to be unfriendly toward me.  I don't take it personally.  There are so many things we don't know about one another's lives.  We are all broken, in one way or another.  And no one goes without struggle as we journey through this life.

I know I've talked a lot on the subject of grace lately, but it certainly seems there is quite a lack of it in this world.  People get too easily offended with one another.  Too easily angered.  We are quick to lash out and retaliate every time we feel wronged, slighted, or inconvenienced.  We think about ourselves, how things make us feel,  and rarely take time to picture ourselves walking in someone else's shoes.  We don't give others the benefit of the doubt, and often choose to assume the worst.

I know that when I am struggling with something, I am more apt to get easily angered and offended.  When I am "stuck" in my own junk, I tend to lack that grace that Jesus calls us to offer to others.  I also lack clear perspective and it becomes more difficult to "bear all things."  So, it had me thinking.  The people I come across who may (in small or large doses) offend or disappoint me, might actually be the ones struggling the most.  They are probably the ones who need our prayers the most too.  And that beautiful gift of grace may be just what they need to lighten their burdensome load.

I wonder what this world would look like if we actually started doing this....If we could start dusting off our offenses, extend a bit more grace, and pray for one another?  As I found myself praying, I noticed that the ways I have been offended had begun to pale.  And my heart was softened toward the people who had offended me.  This isn't the first time this has happened.  God has worked wonders in my wounded heart when I've committed to pray for those who have hurt me.

Prayer is most certainly the remedy for all offenses.  Jesus instructs us to pray for those who hurt and offend us.  To love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  While this might very well be for their benefit, it is for ours too.  It unlocks and breaks loose those chains of unforgiveness, bitterness and strife.  It softens us and makes us capable of reflecting Him better to this world.  It frees us.  It gives us a fresh lens to see the world and others.  And with it comes His peace.  While there have been some rockiness to our roads lately, that's one thing that hasn't left me.  His Peace.  That indescribable, unsurpassing Peace.  It makes all things more bearable.

I think a popular song of 1965 had it all right:  "What the world needs now is LOVE sweet LOVE."  It's not just for others, it's for us too.  Extend grace to those around you...even the unlikeable and the unloveable.  We are called to do this.

The rain, smooshed bananas, and horn honking haven't dampened my spirit today.  Despite some of the obstacles before me, my heart has been full and grateful.  Join me today, determined to be a grace giver to a world in need of a heaping dose of it.  And watch your burden be lifted as His Peace settles upon you.

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, 
and slow to become angry."
James 1:19

"But I tell you, love your enemies 
and pray for those who persecute you."
Matthew 5:44

Saturday, November 2, 2013

beauty in the small

There are few things we never do in our household.  Running out of milk for my littlest is one of them. For it would surely ruin her world.

While the kids were at church last night I ran up to the local grocery store to grab this necessity.  I was in and out in record time (it's amazing how quickly one may run errands without little ones in tow.)  As I loaded my bags into the back of my car, I met the sweetest most innocent young man working hard and proudly collecting grocery carts that had been scattered about the parking lot.

To my surprise, he approached me with his cartload and engaged me in conversation.  It all began by him simply asking me who I'd be routing for in today's big football game between Michigan and Michigan State.  From there, we moved on to talk about bone spurs, his late Grandpa, Aunt, and cousins... club feet, surgeries, Detroit, prayer, and the purpose he's found in life to carry on his Grandpa's legacy by "making people smile."

The air was crisp and cool with late fall breeze, and the evening darkness was upon us...but in his presence I found a simple warmth and light that took away the autumn's chill, and made me forget that winter was peeking around the corner.

Too often in life, I am on the go, in a hurry, running places, and running late.  There are times I hardly have time for a conversation with my own, let alone a complete stranger.  But despite the slight shiver of cold, and the social awkwardness in the dialogue exchanged, I couldn't think of spending those moments anywhere else than in the Kroger parking lot listening to this young man share his heart and his affection for the Wolverines and his beloved Grandpa.

There are many shades of beauty to behold.  It can be found anywhere when we open up our eyes to her wonder.  Last night, I just stumbled upon it at the local grocery store, in the fearfully and wonderfully-made person of "Mike." just so happened that I left with a smile.  Job well done Mike.  Your Grandpa would be proud.

Beauty can be found in the small and unsuspecting.  Where has it graced you today?

"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."
~Cecil Frances Alexander

"I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful; I know that full well."
~Psalm 139:14

Friday, November 1, 2013 be or not to be?

Whether blatant or subtle, purposeful or unknowing, deserved or unwarranted, that sharp blade on the dagger of rejection still cuts deep and stings.  That same glistening blade may be disguised in a shiny smile, but all the same, the reflection in it sends the message that something is wrong with you, you are flawed, unwanted, unlikeable, have messed up one too many times, or just plain don't measure up.  Or perhaps this is the case for someone you love.  Which makes the pain drive even deeper.  For when you hold someone close to your heart, especially your own flesh and blood, their rejection becomes your own.

Rejection in this world, it's a given.  And it can become an unruly fan in your heart if you let it...causing seeds of bitterness, doubt, insecurity, questioned worth, and defeat to take root.  Wiping your holy confidence right off of the playbook.  But rejection from the Maker of this world, not a chance.  In Him, we find an opposing stance.  For True love bears all things, and keeps no record of wrongs.  He pursues and chases.  He chooses us for His team and equips us with strength to be victors.  And He cheers us on, champions us, and delights in us despite our imperfect record.

In our flesh, we fail in our ability to love this way, and fall short of it daily.  I know I do.  But, I find comfort in the One who never fails.  Our Heavenly Father understands this cruel and brutal ache, as His own Son was rejected in His hometown and by those who knew Him well. And best.  His neighbors.  Friends.  Family.  (“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown..." Luke 4:24)  And just as we may hurt when rejection knocks on the doorstep of our heart (or the hearts of our children and the ones we love and know best), it pains Him too.  I'm thankful we have a Savior who is not unfamiliar to this.

Sometimes it feels that in the scoreboard of life others are just waiting to mark another tally of wrong and penalty to your side.  That no matter how many right plays you make, or good you do, the things remembered and counted are the instances and moves in which you fumbled and fell short of a field goal.  A sure lose.

I have a hard time reconciling the fact that when it comes to receiving grace, we are often at the front of the line, palms cupped, open-faced,  eagerly asking for a second helping.  Yet when it comes to extending grace to others, even believers, we stingily white-knuckle it and deem the person unworthy of even a crumb.  Perhaps it's a form of self-preservation, but I don't think we are called to love this way.  And this saddens me, because I've been on both the giving and receiving end of this.  In our own strength, we are powerless to love, forgive, and offer grace as He does.  But a believer knows we aren't called to walk in our own strength, but to tap into His.  And in Him, there is always room for second helpings.  70 X 7 helpings.

In my disheartedness, as I took this poisonous thought of rejection to the Lord, a great truth occurred to me, took my eyes off of the pressing hurt, and allowed me to rise above it with a heart of gratitude.  I'm going to fall short again.  I will fail others.  My kids will too.  I expect this.  And I'm also OK with this.  I'm not aiming for perfection, but I'm honestly striving daily to keep my eyes on the One who Is perfection.  And as long as I continue on that long road of obedience, there is grace enough for all the stumbling.

I also know that no matter how much good I am able to do in this lifetime, it would never be enough.  No amount of good could ever cover over all of the "wrongs" that we can't make "right" ourselves.  But grace does.  And it comes in the form of nail-pierced hands spread about a cross.  It makes right everything, and everyone, through forgiveness, salvation, and His wondrous story of redemption.  And proof of the empty tomb and resurrected life offers us Hope for a lifetime. For eternity.  My heart shouts in thankfulness for this gift.  And I was surprised to find that a thankful heart can blur and put distance between our hurts and struggles.  Chases them right into yesterday.  So I rest in this.

That beautiful, undeserving, undeniable graces comes and covers.  It dulls the rejection of others, suturing up those bleeds of the heart.  His throne is a place of acceptance and approachability to come as you are.  And when your ugly imperfections and unfavored tally marks on the scoreboard seem to be under a scrutinizing JumboScreen by others, He looks upon you and is enthralled by your beauty (Psalm 45:11).  For He sees us with eyes of intention and potential.  Clothed in His jersey of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  A sure win.

John 6:37
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” 

Romans 15:7
“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” 

Philippians 2:3
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves."

Colossians 3:12-14
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

I Corinthians 13:4-7
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." be or not to be? I guess it all depends on what side of the field you are choosing to stand.  Today, I choose His.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

even in the small...

in a small town just north of us, there is a street that draws crowds by the hundreds this time of year.  nearly each house on this street goes "over-the-top" with their Halloween decorations and displays.  this past saturday evening we decided to bundle up and venture out as a family to check out the latest "tricks and treats" this stretch of pavement has to offer.

prior to going, i asked my husband if we could stop at our storage unit so that i could dig out a Halloween costume.  i've dressed up as the "Twister" game for the past five Halloweens and decided to change things up a bit.  last year my mom made an adorably beautiful peacock costume for my 8 year old daughter.  it was time to snag it for myself!

dusk was upon us and there was little sun left to light our way through our storage unit.  i wasn't expecting the wave of emotion that swept over me as we opened up that door.  but, there before me I found my whole life packed away into boxes.  temporarily stored and waiting.  a stack of boxes had started to collapse and one of the top ones had fallen over, spilling it's contents. my "thanksgiving" bin.  i was hardly feeling thankful.  i had to climb high to reach it.  as i began to collect and re-box it all, i just about lost it.  the air all around thick and stale.  breathe. my heart felt as heavy as all of those drooping boxes being sucked down deep into gravity.

i felt wearisome, and irritable, weepy, and a bit frustrated.  i found the skirt to the peacock costume right away.  but i was unable to find the matching hat.  it was dark.  i was in a funk.  i quickly and quietly returned to the car, not wanting to spoil the mood of the night.  i knew i had placed that peacock hat somewhere "safe" where it wouldn't get smooshed and damaged.  and here it was, less than a week away from Halloween, and i couldn't find it.  great.

over the next few days i scoured the house looking for that silly hat.  it was nowhere to be found.  i was beginning to think that for the 6th year in a row,  being "Twister" was not so bad.  on monday morning, i began untangling my heart through pen and page.  pouring out my latest concerns and heart struggles to the Lord in the wee morning hours before the rest of the house awoke.  toward the end of filling up my prayer journal with thoughts and requests, i prayed, "Lord, this may seem silly, but please help me find the hat to that peacock costume.  Halloween is this week and I have no idea where it is.  Lead me to it."  then off i was to making PB&Js and joining in on the mad morning rush.

i was meeting a friend that morning for breakfast, and after the kids were whisked away on the school bus, i went down in the basement to grab a card.  i grabbed a bin off of the shelving unit that houses all my craft supplies, and crouched down on the floor to open it up.  as i glanced to my side, i saw a box.  underneath that covered box was a clear bin filled with my girls' retired dance costumes.  and there i saw glorious feathers peeking up from under the lid.  my peacock hat!  He led me right to it, just as i had asked.

immediately, i lit up and a smile spread wide across my face and danced along my heart.  God had heard and answered my prayer.  and within an hour's time!  instantly i thanked Him.  and a great truth resonated from deep within.  if the God of all the earth cared enough to listen to my measly little prayer about a silly peacock hat, and could take care of that...surely He was concerned about the greater struggles of my heart.  and those, too, were safe with Him.

if you are quietly or outwardly struggling, take courage in the Lord.  He can handle all of your "stuff," and He is worthy of being sought after and trusted.  with all of the "big" matters in life, and even with the little ones.  if it matters to you, it matters to Him.  He takes notice of every detail of your life.  it doesn't escape Him or go unnoticed.

it may be a marriage crumbling, an unruly child, or a struggling career.  perhaps it's disappointment after disappointment because life looks different than how you had imagined it to be, and you're just plain tired of the "same-old, same-old," and have begun to lose hope.  maybe it's an illness, weakened faith, financial strain, a great loss, an emptiness you can't quite put your finger on, or a gaping wound of the heart.  it may be an unfulfilled dream, a lost loved one, a lost vision and life purpose.  or something as simple as a lost set of keys, or a silly missing peacock hat.  just call upon Him. in the big, and even in the small.  and watch Him show up.  He will.

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
Jeremiah 33:3

Father God,
Thank you for being a God that can do what we cannot do.  Help us to admit our dependence and inabilities, and to call upon You in all times.  You are the answer to all of our needs, both great and small.  You give us access to hidden things...knowledge, heavenly treasure, and even silly lost peacock hats.  We are grateful that You respond to us when we call upon You.  Thank You for being worthy of our trust and praise.  Our hearts are safe with You.  Let us never grow faint in approaching You with our needs, or in praising You for Your wisdom and provision. You are so faithful!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Armored up

Have you ever been coasting through life through smooth waters, and then suddenly something happens that sucks the wind right out of your sails?  Yeah, we've all been there.  And, here I go again.

It has taken a good month and a half to find our groove since the kids return to public school.  I am adjusting to this faster-paced lifestyle, and while we still have our moments of "hectic," the past couple of weeks have been filled with more peace and balance.  Life has been good.

I hate to be the pessimist, but after a decade of parenting, I know that the smooth waters don't always last.  At least not in this family.  There will always be waves and storms and moments that threaten to rock our boat and capsize it.  This won't change.  But what has changed is my ability to cope with it.  To quickly find my Anchor and Lifeboat that will shine Light and steer me to shore.  And instead of getting swallowed up in a wave of discouragement, I fight to stay afloat, knowing that those waves will come and go, and sometimes, we just have to ride them out.  In time, they always subside.

Never before have I prayed so fervently for the hearts of my children.  It's war time, and I am well-aware of my opponent and his schemes.  But, even still, there are times he sneaks up on me with added "oomph" in hopes to knock me down in defeat.  These finicky waters of life.  Some days we take a few strokes forward, and other days it feels like we are paddling upstream against a raging current.  It grows to be exhausting.  This waterlogged heart.

My youngens are 10, 8 and 4.  My job in training them up is not even close to being completed.  This parenting hike is an upward battle, and I'm not done with the climb.  An incident may push me a couple of steps back, but it doesn't mean the top of the mountain will never be reached.  Have you ever been there?  Don't lose heart, weary one.  This perseverance takes grit and muscle.  And sweat and tears.  This long obedience in the right direction is a tall, and sometimes arduous, climb.  There may be moments we feel like digging in our heels, or sliding right back down to the bottom defeated.  Afterall, descending takes a whole lot less effort.

But there are little hearts at stake here.  And they deserve a mama who won't give up.  One who will believe in them and their potential, despite their shortcomings and mistakes.  Who will love them through the "hard."  Who will fight for them, battling for their hearts as if their lives depended on it.  Because, eternally, they do.  So I keep pushing forward, with a heave and a ho, and a thousand million sighs and prayers.  Step by step.  One heavy foot in front of the other, looking for those breaks and plateaus.  Where the clouds part and you reach a place (even momentary) with beautiful, breathtaking view and perspective that drives you to forge further ahead.

So I do.  Like a soldier in battle.  Feet firm.  Armored up.  Unsure of what lies before me, but certain in the cause I fight.  I push aside those voices from the enemy.  Ya know, that bully in the back of the classroom.  The one who points at you and snickers...and when no one is looking, sneers at you quietly mouthing, "You lose. You'll never win. You might as well give up.  You're inadequate. Incompetent. A failure.  Haha...Told you so."

Give me sticks and stones, cuz this name-calling, these taunts and lies, they destruct like no other.  And they take longer to heal too.  So, what do you do when tempted to believe these things about yourself, your life, your circumstance?  You take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.  Don't let the enemy cloud and skew your perspective, your purpose, your worth, your identity. Who does God say you are?  What are His promises for you?  Listen to that voice of truth.  I promise there is life in it.  And you hide His Word in your heart.  That's ammo, my friend.  A holy sword.  It cuts through those lies and slices them right in half... So take that, ya big ol' bully.

And as I do just this, the waters recede and the quiet waters find me.  I catch my breath.  He wrings out the heaviness in my heart, and shines light and warmth back into my spirit.  It spreads across me like noonday sun.  And Peace covers.  I am ready to set sail again, strengthened by His grace.  That big ocean of it.  It quietly laps across me, watering all the right places.  Providing nourishment for me to continue to plant seeds into fragile, tender, imperfectly beautiful hearts.  And I am prepared to forge ahead.  Until that next wave appears on the horizon.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 34:19
"The righteous man will have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."

2 Corinthians 10:5
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Ephesians 6:10-18
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."

Psalm 23
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul."

Quieted.  Restored.  Armored up.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a new season: finding our wings

I didn't even need an alarm clock this morning.  Between a husband's relentless case of "restless leg syndrome" and an anxious heart, I think I was awake to greet the sun this morning before she even arose to kiss me.  Today was the kids first day back to public school.

Most parents have been counting down the hours for this day.  Two years ago, I probably would've been joining them in their happy dance too.  But to be honest, I have been very anxious about their return.  We homeschooled the past year and a half, and as previous posts indicated, just very recently made a decision to send them back to their old school due to the changing life season and needs of our family at this time. I won't lie, part of me felt like I was sending them out unprotected to a pack of hungry wolves.

This has been a month marked by physical and mental exhaustion.  We just moved.  The move was much rougher than I ever imagined physically, and much easier than I had predicted emotionally.  It's the closing of another life chapter.  And as this one closes, I can't help but reflect on it.  So much life, heartache, and hardship packed into a two year span.  Sometimes, it all makes my heart stop for a minute and just fills me with a dull and lingering ache.  But it was also a season of rich spiritual growth, redemption, and discovery on many levels.  This lathering of sweetness covers over the twinges of bitter that sometimes tries to rise to the surface and leave a bad taste in my spirit.  I forge ahead, swallowing quick and hard the bitter that arises, and chasing after the sweet, letting it linger a bit longer on the palate of my heart.

The kids were so excited to go back to school.  While I've spent the past month up to my elbows in boxes and bubble wrap, packing, moving, loading, and unloading (and have the bruises to prove it), they have been running the season wild...soaking in golden rays, friendship, and the ways of summer. Every last minute, every last drop.  Brayden expressed a mixture of excitement and nervousness about going to school.  I shared the same sentiments.  Since we decided to send them back, I have been earnestly praying over so many things.  So many worries that keep me in bed lying awake at night.  Some worries valid, others a bit far-fetched.  Yet, they have threatened to consume me all the same.  Philippians 4:6-7 has been etched upon my heart this season.

Even yesterday, I woke up and the anxiety was stifling.  I knew I just needed to write, release, pray, and let go of some things I have been struggling with.  So many recent hurts and worries.  Both causing me to clam up and harden if left to my own.  I pulled out my prayer journal and just started shedding it all.  Even bullet-pointed the wounds and anxieties and wrote them out, willing myself to leave them right there at the foot of the cross before they took on a heavy, permanent ink and life of their own.

I was a knot of tangled worry.  Worry about the kids return.  Worry about their safety with all that has transpired in the past year with tragedies and scares that have occurred across our country in elementary schools.  Worry about the possible gaps in their academics...asking God to fill in the voids and cover over my areas of weakness in teaching.  Worry about Brayden...his physical health, his illness and future episodes.  Worry about his mental health and his ability to function again in a traditional public school setting.  Worry about peer influence, worldliness, making poor choices outside the values of our home and our family.  Worry about riding the school bus...what they'll see, what they'll hear, what they'll be exposed to outside of my protection and the sheltering of our home.  This worry list goes on and on...The more I poured, the better I felt.  And after a good 4 pages written, I felt God's peace rising within me.

To let go.
To trust.
To give grace.
Even when it's hard.
And even when I really don't want to.

I remind myself that God's the one in control.  And He loves my little ones even more than do I.  So,  I lean into Him and choose to trust Him to protect and provide.  To cover gaps and smooth over rough edges.  And He does.  Grace does.

I've learned that life is about change.  Some change is by choice, some by default, and some is forced upon us against our will.  There will always be chapters closing and new ones beginning.  Changes in circumstances, relationships, family, needs, health, and heart.  It's a challenge to hold loosely to the things of this world.  For as quickly as something becomes hot, it can just as easily grow cold.  Or meander in lukewarm longer than you'd wish.  So, holding loosely to seasons, recognizing that this journey is about constant change, that people and things will fail and disappoint, is a lesson I've learned.  And along with it, I've realized how critical it is to find beauty and grace in the midst of it all, and to live with purpose and intention through these changing seasons. Even when your heart is jaded, torn, weary, or anxious...there is One who remains constant.

Our soul's anchor through life's transitions and storms.
The One who never fails or disappoints.
The One whose love can never be separated from us.
The One who is capable of working all things out for our good.
The One who is our ever-present help in times of need.

Hold tightly to Him.

I've learned that holding loosely to changing seasons doesn't necessarily exempt us from grieving over the closing of them.  Any time a chapter closes, we are bound to feel a sadness with it.  Hope may eclipse it, but there is a mourning that still exists.  I've been caught between the two.

The kids rode the bus to school this morning and I met them there and walked them to their classrooms.  I am amazed at God's faithfulness and provision in aligning all the details for their return.  So late in the season we decided to send them back.  Long into the summer, and long after "teacher requests" were made by all the other students.  Yet, I contacted the principal after our decision and laid out our requests.  There were two beloved teachers I desperately wanted my kids to be placed with.  Teachers who know our family.  Know our circumstance and our story.  Teachers who would ease my anxiety and provide a comfort level that would make it easier for me to place my kids back in public school if they were to have my children in their classroom.  By the grace of God, those requests were honored.

And God did even more than that.  I don't recall if I mentioned before, but the only way we would consider sending Brayden back to public school is if we placed him in 4th grade.  Technically, he should be a 5th grader.  But, he has a late fall birthday and has always struggled socially/emotionally/behaviorally with being so young for his grade.  My husband and I often had wished we would have waited a year before enrolling him in kindergarten.  We even asked his teachers each year if we should hold him back, as we were told he was a bit "socially immature" for his grade.  But, we were always told the same thing, "academically, he is doing fine."

With Brayden's illness being a concern, and the need to keep his stress level at a minimum, we felt the best thing to do was to reenter him into public school as a 4th grader.  He initially did not like this idea, and felt his peers would think he was "dumb."  We reassured him that this was not the case, but rather for his health.  And, because he had actually never been a 4th grader in public school, this would be a "first" for him, not a repeat because of bad grades.  But, a gateway to his success and a smooth transition.  He worried about not knowing anyone in his class since all of his peers would be a grade above him.    But God was gracious in placing two kids from our church into his classroom with him this year.  He entered the school year with at least two friends he knew.  As for Brooke, she was placed in a classroom with three of her best friends (two from church, and her BFF from her previous years in public school).  She even got so "lucky" as to be placed in a desk right next to one of her friends.

After dropping the kids off at their classrooms this morning, and reconnecting with their teachers who offered nothing but hugs, smiles, and encouragement (even unexpected words that pierced right through the anxiety of my heart and brought forth life and reenforced purpose on many levels...I am still pondering), my heart felt lightened.  I left the school and couldn't help but feel that things just felt "good" and "right."  More peace rising.

I came home to a distraught, angry 4 year old who couldn't believe I didn't take her to school with me.  She hugged, clung, and cried on me with her little bare self.  She had gone upstairs to get dressed when I left this morning.  The pure shock that I didn't take her rendered her unable to put on clothes until my return.  After a lot of snuggling and quite a few zurberts I decided to take her back to our old house.  Something was pulling me there...I told myself it was the mail that had been sitting in the mailbox for a few days, or the fish needing to be fed in the aquarium we still have to pick up, but something deeper inside was compelling me to return.  So we journeyed out.

On the way there I listened to a great message on the radio about grace. It was timely as I have been struggling through some personal things on top of this move and the kids transition back to public school.  I felt His presence near, and gentle.  A coming together of new seasons and a closing of old intertwined with ease within me.  A keen sense that He sees me, knows me, understands my heart, and meets me wherever I am was clear and present.  A healing moment of closure was upon me.

Last week when I had gotten everything (besides that darn aquarium) out of the old house and had cleaned and polished it up sparkly and new, I decided to walk through each room and pray.  It was cathartic and therapeutic.  So many moments and so much life lived within the walls of that big ole yellow house.  I walked through each room and thanked God for the moments/children/activity/memories that had permeated that room.  I reflected on His faithfulness and prayed over our family and our future.  I had just about finished my prayer walkthrough when my phone rang and interrupted.  I took the call and then left the house and said goodbye.

It wasn't until later that I realized that there was one room I had missed.  The front piano room.  The place I retreated to every morning to spend some quiet time alone with God.  How could I have missed that room? It was a room that contained much more than furniture.  This was the place God had showed up and met me time and time again over the past two years.  This was a place I hit my knees and poured out my heart through tears, sobs, and prayer.  Prayers over heartache, healing, cancer, and brokenness.  A place where I filled up one too many prayer journals and dove deep into His Word through Bible study.  A place where conversations were held and hearts were unraveled.  A place where I repeatedly found fresh grace, forgiveness, clarity, wisdom, strength, peace, direction, and revelation.  I wanted to say goodbye to this place. To this holy ground.  To this room that had taken up so much room within my heart.  I wanted to be in this place one more time and talk to my God who had met me there on so many occasions.  And thank Him for it.  And so I did.

When packing up my belongings, there were a few things I refused to take until the very last minute. One of those things was my "You Shall See Wonders" print.  I needed the reminder in the midst of life's transitions, that God was still there, still wonder-working behind the scenes, still capable of doing the immeasurably more.  To serve as a reminder to myself to keep believing it.  I left that big ole yellow house today more certain than ever of it.  I seemed to have found that last piece of closure.  And somewhere along the way, my heart didn't feel as restless, but seemed to have found wings.

My 4th grader

My 3rd grader

First day

My "wanna-be" grader

Off they go; letting go

Familiar faces

New graces

Coming home

As I let go of things, give them over to God, trust Him with my children, my circumstances, my heart and my life, the "good" and the "right" and the Peace envelopes and rests.  There is freedom found in letting go.  Embracing change can be difficult, but have hope that there is One who goes before us and walks with us into each new season of this life journey.  Placing my children back into His hands may not have just given my heart wings, perhaps it's giving them a chance to find theirs.