Thursday, March 27, 2014

Oh Midnight Moon

Oh midnight moon,  
Queen of the night,  
In sliver or fullness, 
You crack open darkness 
With glisten and gleam.  

Glinting in valor, 
You tenderly tuck in the work day, 
Claiming reign over 
Those small hours.  

Night after night, 
And waxing 
About this hushful slumberland sky.

Oh wandering moon,  
Before blackout gets its boots on, 
You bend from silent billow 
And lift shadows with 
The smallness of your silvery chin.  

Humbly bowed 
In slit and arch, 
The stars salute you.  

The vault of heaven 
Joins eagerly 
In this stargazing glory,
As you crawl up into place.

Oh old moon,  
You gloss the night in loyalty. 
Even with face as long as a fiddle,  
Twilight doesn't deter you. 

Exquisite in nightfall, 
Darkness no menace, 
You glow forth in confidence,
Kindling light in the blackest of corners.

You mirror your Creator,
Who hung you into place.
Resting in purpose eternal,
Where no murky cloud distracts.

Oh meek moon,
teach me the ways of your Maker.
That I may reflect light
Even when the guest of darkness 
Taps uninvitedly
And seduces to come in. 

You are hope in lightlessness.

The dark night of the soul
Can't stay forever locked in darkness,
For there is hope-light enough 
In the starless of spaces
Just waiting to uncoil.

Oh midnight moon.
I applaud your tenacious spirit.
You do not shy away from darkness,
But find a way to shine forth in it.

Hero of the night,
You know the arms 
that faithfully lift you,
The One whom you belong.

You drink in light
and pour it out from within.
By the power of the hands that formed you,
You were born to overcome.

I have much to learn from you,
Oh midnight moon.

Monday, March 24, 2014

To Unite or Untie...(and a hairbrush of grace)

All it took was a missing hairbrush to untie an already fragile heart today.  It was a slow unravel really, just scanning the morning for a place to come loose and undone.  And it did.  Bouncing locks of flowing, knotted ugliness on its bare back.

All over a silly, missing (already broken and old) hairbrush?

In harsh words and tone I unravelled right onto the heart of my littlest.  I knew in the instant I frustratingly spit out, "I am going to buy a brush of my own today and no one in this house is ever going to lay a finger on it!," that this really wasn't about a hairbrush.  But rather a fine, paperthin heart drenched and saturated in heaviness.  Nonabsorbent to grace of the moment...(life's quicker-picker-upper.)

So unbecoming to plop my weary tangled load onto her innocent lap.  Her quick and justified tears told me so.  And beckoned me into instant remorse, repentance, and intentionality to brush the day up in a ponytail of gentleness.  We had to use comb to fight through our knotted strands today.  But I knew there was more in knots than just our dirty-blonde beadheads.

Lately it seems, without warning, a certain area of knotted hurt or struggle flashes in my mind throughout any given hour of the day. And I have to wrestle through these thoughts to regain my focus.  When this happens, it's like a wave of nausea churns within, flipping my heart inside out in that very moment and dropping it into the pit of my stomach.  It's getting very old.  These unwelcomed thoughts are like commercials in my day.  They interrupt life's programming and try to sell me on some false illusion, convincing me to buy into the lie.  It sends me on an emotional demon-drop-of-the-heart ride.  Each one tempting me to give into the unravelling.

It made me think of a text I recently sent to my husband...reminding him that God is using all of our "hard" to unite us as husband and wife and unite us to Him.  I remember typing out that text.  As my fingers tapped the keys to spell "unite," I thought to myself, "Wow, if you switched two of those letters around you would get the word 'untie'."  A stark contrast to unite.  In that moment I was determined not to let the enemy use our hardships to cause us to become untied.  How easily this can happen.  How desperate the enemy of our souls desires for such.

Yet, here I found myself this morning allowing this very thing to happen.  Perhaps I need to go back and reread that original text.  The sad reflection in the bathroom mirror today needs this reminder.

I can become untied by the things I can't control or I can become united to the One who's in control.

Life is a bubbling over brook of moments and circumstances that can cause us to come loose in our hurt, discouragement and frustration.  I have a choice to either become untied by these things, or allow them to unite me closer to the One who laces all things together.

The One who gift-wraps beauty in papers of ash.

The One who tied His Only Son to a tree in a bow of scarlet sin as the ultimate gift for me.
For you.

When my heart feels the heaviness of the world and the split-ends of struggle press in and pull in all directions, yanking the wind right out of me...When I feel stretched, squeezed, and wrung out raw of strength,  I can rinse myself in the One who detangles life's knots and deep conditions the dry, brittle soul.  I'm working up a lather.

I pray for Him to sweep me into an updo of truth, where I become one with Him in thought and heart.  He alone knows just how many strands it'll take for the hairbrush of grace to slick back and untie the knots of hurt and hard.  And unite them into a redemptive braid of smooth and sleek blonde glory.

I hold tight to Him in the wait.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Finding the Sacred in the Silence

I don't think I'll ever be able to braid together words and sentences to adequately describe the experience a family goes through in having a child with a chronic illness.  I feebly attempt to bring melody and meaning to my words, but in it there is always a lacking.  Seems the asphalt of words fails to properly fill the potholes in the experience of the heart.  Maybe there are things that can't be described or illustrated, but only known and felt.

I dread the after-moments of each hospital discharge.  They are always bittersweet.  And eerily quiet.  We feel so thankful that our boy is well enough to come home and another episode is over, but we know the emotional aftermath that awaits.  There is an ache that sits perched and stuck on the dry branches of the heart.  Too much to untangle.  These moments always leave me feeling strange.
A bit more unrelateable.
A little more scarred.

I've been chewing on this silence all day.
Gnawing on it really.

During each hospitalization it's as if life gets put on pause.  Bills, laundry, exercise, cleaning, sleep, routine.  It all just stops abruptly.  We find ourselves caught in a pitstop of pause needing to run and catch up with life's fast train racing by.  Entering back into "normalcy" feels a bit like trying to jump into a game of double dutch after spinning around in circles blindfolded.  It takes a while to find our bearings again.  There is a dizziness in words as I search for balance of the heart.

For as long as I can remember I have had a love affair with words.  As a little girl I kept a diary, journaled, and loved to read and write.  Words make up my primary love language too, so to find myself without them feels off.  Amiss. a gangly-limbed adolescent.  Words painted properly will move, stretch, dance, play, comfort and convict.  They evoke emotion and make sense and rhythm out of life and her experiences.  The untangling of feelings and experience into smooth strands of words helps me to make sense of things.  It irons out the wrinkles.  Tidies things up straight and neat in my heart enabling me to move forward.  They act as a comb to those knotted emotions.  So how does one work through the knots when the comb is missing?

I find myself stuttering in this space of silence.

My husband reacts much the same.  He has a hard time talking about our experience and often retreats in the days following as he processes all that's occurred.  I get it.  We get each other.  There's a known-ness that unites us, even if words are absent, because we just walked through and lived out an experience together.  We find comfort in being in each other's presence where words aren't necessary.  We crave this silent togetherness.  It's not that we shy away from sharing and don't want to talk about it...we just find ourselves void of adequate expression.

In a space of silence.

I've been thinking a lot about this silent space today.  It may feel strange or awkward.  But sometimes there's comfort in it, as described between my husband and I.  Silence can create or indicate a nature of intimacy.  And as I wrestle in silence in my search for words it made me think that maybe this is the way it is supposed to be.  Maybe God intended it to be this way.

It was as if I heard Him whispering, "Let Me come into the silent spaces of your heart.  You don't need words; you need Me." Maybe the void of words is necessary to remind me that only He can fill those silent spaces.  That that space is reserved for Him alone.  Perhaps those vacant holes of silence give us breathing room and serve to keep us united to Him.

In the absence of words, we create space for His presence.

He alone can cover and smooth those empty places.  I don't need to find words to find healing.  And I find comfort that even in the moments I am wordless, communication still flows through the groans of His Spirit who's interceding for us.  He hears what I cannot say.

Being reminded of this allows me to rest in this silence.  To view it as a gift of sacredness.  Not something to awkwardly shake hands with, but rather something to crawl up into the lap of.  Maybe this is part of what it really means to "Be still and know that He is God."  

I'm learning that the process of healing and moving forward can be found even in the absence of words.  Where we create space to hear His voice.  I'm finding it to be a balm to the brokenness.  Salve to the spirit.  Healing to the hurt.  And in the heart's silence, He often speaks the loudest.  For when we find ourselves in His presence, quiet before Him, we are able to hear above the noise of the world and the noise of our own wordless hearts.  He speaks in these quiet places and gives rest. I'm listening.

Silence can be a space for the soul to find rest in the sacred.
Instead of shunning the silence, I can find sacredness in it.

I'll nestle up to this possibility.
Allowing Him to fill and speak to those quiet spaces of the heart.
As I learn to find the sacred in the silence.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Mother's Letter To God

Dear God,

He's far from perfect.  He frustrates me and pushes my buttons. (He seems to know all the right ones.) Some days we clash and collide more than we love and listen.  There are days he says and does things that make me question, "How on earth did this child come from my very womb?"  I admit, there are moments I don't even like him. Yet, he's my son.  A part of me.  A gift from You.  And I can't help but  love him with that wild and senseless motherly love.  You give me windows into his heart.  And I know that it is good.  For I see glimpses of You and Your work in moments and places I wouldn't have expected to find them.  I thank You for this.

I never knew motherhood could be so hard.  Blood, sweat, tears hard.  It's gritty work.  One must be armed with courage and resolve on this brutal battleground.  There are days I want to throw in the towel, and I question if I am doing anything right.  Or anything good.  He wears ADHD out in the open for all to see and impulsivity could be his middle name.  Yet, I know there's not a label, diagnosis or mistake that will ever define him.  For he has been lavished with love and called Yours.  His name forever tattooed on the palm of Your righteous hand.  Lord, please let that identity take root in the deepest recesses of his heart.

He often feels like a big disappointment. I know this because he's told me so...on more than one occasion.  And it breaks my heart.  He frustrates even himself with the choices he makes.  Often in good intent to be liked and to find laughter and approval in others...but always at his own expense.  I think of Paul and his words, "I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do." (Romans 7:15).  I think my boy can relate to that.  He doesn't get away with much of anything.  Seems to be a target under a microscope that is studying "all things wrong."  I believe these things will build humility and integrity into his character as he's had to learn young to bend into this process.  Lord, please help him to seek approval and find worth in You only.  Let Your voice and Your opinion drown out all other voices and get buried down deep into the fiber of his bones.  That he will know and believe that he is special, chosen and loved.  Not for what he does or doesn't do, but for the simple fact that He is Yours.

Father, before he drew his first breath You marked all the days of his life.  Not even his worst will surprise you. You see into the depths of that young tender heart with eyes of mercy and compassion.  And You remind me to do the same.  That underneath that mucky sand and shell there is a treasure of pearl and promise and potential.  You use the hard and the struggle to layer up and build a polished jewel within.  You pry open the outer cases of our hearts and brush away the things that blemish and hide.  To reveal in time a heart refined and more resembling of Your Son.

I'm thankful for the individuals You've placed in our lives who love and accept him through his quirks and mistakes.  The ones who give second chances. And third and fourth ones too.  Those who see beyond the outside and know You are doing a good work on the inside too, as spoken and promised in Philippians 1:6.  I'm grateful for the parents who have raised kids similar in nature and offer wisdom, insight, hope, and direction to us when needed.  And for all of the ones who haven't given up on him.  Or our family.

I thank You for making me his mommy.  For a mother is able to take in those flaws and mistakes and love beyond them.  You give her vision to see so much more.  My snuggler.  My sensitive one.  I look at my son and see he's still just a boy who is trying to find his way in this great big world.  I see a leader.  Lord, let him grow to lead others to You.  I see a boy who is full of energy and life.  Lord, let his life be abundantly found in You.  I see a boy who is witty and wise.  Lord, may he grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with You.  I pray that He will learn to always choose what is good and noble.  That He will walk in the path of righteousness and never turn from it.

I pray You give him a burning passion for You and Your Word above all other things.  That He will seek, love, serve, and trust You all the days of His life.  That You will be his greatest passion, joy and desire.  Build in him a faith that far surpasses mine or his daddy's.  A faith as deep as the Hebrew Greats.  Use him in big ways to impact others for the sake of Your kingdom.  Shape and mold him into a man after Your own heart.

Before heading to the hospital this last time around, Brayden was questioning so much..."Why do I have to go through this?...I'm tired of being sick...I just wish it would stop...When will it stop Mama?...I just want an answer...Why is this so hard?"  I had no answers.  I don't understand it all myself.  I never stop praying for his healing.   But I put my hands on his shoulders, looked him square in the eye, and with confidence I told him that he is a mighty warrior.  That You are making him a conqueror and a fearless overcomer.  That You will bring good out of this and will make him stronger because of it.  You don't waste pain and heartache.  You are building in him a heart of compassion so that he can help others some day. With all that is within me Lord, I beg you to make good of this.  Use this illness for Your glory.  I am believing You to come through on Your Romans 8:28 promise here.  And grant me the days and the years to see this promise fulfilled.

When other boys look back on a childhood that was colored in memories of frog catching, tree climbing, and baseball games, I worry his will be stained in memories of emergency rooms, hospital beds and IV needles.  In those moments his heart grows heavy with questioning, help him to see You in it all and to trust Your purposes.

Maybe my boy was right...sometimes Your plans do seem "weird."  For it seems weird and wrong to watch just one child leave for school in the morning, knowing the other is lying in a hospital bed and should be climbing those bus stairs with her.  I'll listen to the advice my son gave four years ago when he was the one writing a letter to You at the tender age of 6, before any of this even began.  That "Your plans work"...even if they seem "weird."  This "weird" and hard to understand plan of Yours must have purpose and meaning.  There is good and glory to be brought out of it all.  I claim it now over Brayden and our family.

Ever since he was just a wee little boy and I would tuck him into bed at night, I would often tell him that out of all the little boys in the world, if I had to choose just one to be mine, I would always choose him.  That even if there were a million boys lined up before me, I would scan that crowd and find him.  He would and will be the only one that I would ever want.  Because he is my favorite, and he is mine.  And as much as I claim him as my own, I understand he is really Yours...entrusted to me on this short side of eternity.  I need Your wisdom and strength to train him up in Your ways.

I know in the days to come I am going to need Your strength in other ways too.  The medical bills will role in like a tsunami wave.  We haven't even received the ones from his last hospitalization two short months ago.  The house is disastrous and every room bears witness to this storm.  My bed hasn't been made in days; the sheets may get up and walk to the washing machine on their own.  I am neck-deep in laundry and bills still waiting to be paid.  My girls are a day or two short on their baths and have lived off of hot lunch and breakfast dinners all week.  The pantry's a bit bare and waits to be replenished. Help me to breathe in Your grace as I tackle my "to-do's."

And when the storm calms and the waves no longer rush in...when we try to go back to normal and pick life up where we last left it...when stillness covers the outside, let it calm what lies within and underneath those troubled waters.  For I know the after-moments all too well...the ruins of messy, tossed about emotions still looking for a place to settle.  When I am overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired, help me to rise above.

It's late.  I'm utterly exhausted.  I know You hear my prayer tonight as it echoes in my heart and shoots straight up to heaven.  My son lies miles away in a hospital room with his daddy as I lie in bed tonight sandwiched between my girls of 8 and 4.  One nestled snuggly right into the nook of my arm; she can't get close enough.  I can feel her breath against my skin.   The other, who prefers her space and distance, reaches over to feel me near and soon gives way to the sleep that seduces. I just received an endearing text from my husband and we exchange words that encourage and build. Tomorrow may be discharge day and I press into this possibility with hope.  I think, write, untangle and spill over keys and lighted screen until I can't hold my eyelids open any longer.  In this very moment I will surrender to your gift of sleep.  For my heart is full.  Joy is brimming.  I will fall into deep slumber tonight rich in the things that matter in this life. And maybe, dream in colors of glory.

Faithfully Yours,

Tonight I write this letter about a son who was birthed from my womb and birthed from God's heart. It was inspired by this video that resurfaced in my memory after I found myself talking to God, sharing my heart, and praying these things over him during these last few days he has been hospitalized. This video was made 4 years ago when Brayden was just 6 years old.  I've found comfort and inspiration in his words, not realizing how greatly they would reach and impact me so many years later.

Love, Brayden from Macomb Christian Church on Vimeo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Rainbow of Hope for all the Unlucky

It's Saint Patrick's Day and I'm most certainly not feeling all the bit Irish or lucky.  But rather unlucky. My fingers type gently as my sick son lies restlessly in bed next to me trying to get comfortable and stave off another CVS attack.  I hate chronic illnesses.  Even in periods of health they loom over you like a cloud of misfortune just waiting to break through and shower down. I'd take the healing of this disease over any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Good fortune.

I don't really believe in these things.  And although my heart wrestles with understanding why my son has to be sick, or why loved ones around me have to suffer, or why anyone on this earth has to struggle, I trust that God is in control of all things and that He brings good and purpose out of each of them.  Yes, even the unlucky moments are colored in His favor.

Another toss and turn.
Another groan.
Another cry out.
A mother never grows comfortable or desensitized to these sounds.
The look of sheer fear and worry in her child's eyes.
They never find acceptance in her heart.
But rather crack and splinter a heart up something fierce.

The day's not over and I cling onto hope for healing.  For this bout to pass.  Perhaps hospitalization won't occur.  But the sure-tell rash on the right side of his face and the numerous trips to the bathroom already make my heart race with worry and dread.  I keep a written log next to me.  I'm a timekeeper of sickness.  Marking and matching each trip to the bathroom with the face on the clock.  Anxiously worrying that the gap between these times will grow too close.  To the point on no return.  Where he has reached his threshold and is in full-blown-attack-mode.  Bags packed and hospital-bound.  But, we're not there yet.

So I pray.
And pray.
And pray some more.
And rally up all the prayer warriors I know to follow along.

He cries out, "This isn't fair." No, my son, it isn't.  I couldn't agree with you more.  He says,  "I don't want to hurt.  I don't want to be sick again. I hate this!"  And everything in me does too.  He's 10. Full of life and adventure.  Growing up too fast, yet I still see so much littleness in him.  It's in his "snuggle" he sleeps with nightly and holds against his face this very moment for comfort and familiarity.  It's the big stuffed puppy, "Jackie," who loyally lays by his side.  What a good dog.  And it's in the very name my ears still love to hear spoken from his lips. "Mommy."  For some day soon, my name will be shortened for good.

He wants me near.  He cries and wants his daddy home.  He wonders what got him sick this time.  He asks me if he will be better tomorrow.  He doesn't want to go to the hospital.  He doesn't want an IV.  No, he wants blueberries.  But he can't have blueberries right now.  That's not fair either.

My heart sinks and somersaults within me.  I won't even get into the insurance issues that complicate and exasperate the stress of this all.  I stroke his forehead and speak words of calm and comfort.  We play music to help still our hearts.  I soak the words in like they are cool water in the desert:

"Don't you worry about anything.  Instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done.  And the peace of God far beyond what we can understand will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus."

So I do as the lyrics suggest.  I pray. And thank. And tell God what we need.  And with confidence and expectant faith, I wait for Him to follow through on this Philippians 4:6-7 promise.  He is faithful to it.

On this day of good fortune and all things lucky, in the thick of worry and fear of what could come, I reach for the pot of gold that's available to me right now.  A rainbow of hope and promises found in Him and His Word.  It's available for you too.  It's treasure for all who come to Him in need and believe in the saving name of Jesus.  If you want to know more about this, I'd love to share.  I'd love to hear your story.  I'd love to pray for you.  You can click the facebook link on my blog above and private message me there.  I welcome you to do this.

When life isn't dropping much luck into your lap, please know there is always a rainbow of hope to be found.  No leprechauns or four leaf clovers necessary.  Just a God who is big enough and mighty enough to meet all of your needs.  Give Him a try.  He's worth searching for, and will be your greatest treasure...through all those lucky and not so lucky days.

And that's where this post was supposed to end...Unfortunately, the tides quickly changed since I was able to post this entry above.  I'm no longer sitting at home bedside my sick boy but sitting bedside in a hospital room.  It's been a pretty "unlucky and unfortunate" experience here so far, and I am sure my heart will need to untangle this through words, in time.

I have felt ever so helpless.
But please don't confuse this with hopeless.
There is hope to be found even in the darkest, most unfortunate places.

Sometimes our helplessness leads us right to the very Source of all of our hopefulness.

For that hope lies in God and in the love He has for us.
A love that is boundless and which nothing can separate.
Not an illness, a hospital, or any other form of "unlucky" can separate us from this mad and fathomless love.
Despite a weary, aching heart, this is my rainbow of hope today.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Papercut of the Heart...and Permission to "be"

Anyone who's had a papercut understands the lingering sting it leaves behind.  It may not bleed or cut too deep, but it marks us with the reminder that we've rubbed up against something the wrong way.  Life, too, has a way of quickly and suddenly rubbing up against us when we least expect it.  Leaving in us, a papercut of the heart.

We may go a while forgetting that that cut even exists.  That is, until life rubs up against us again.  It seems to always cut the same finger, doesn't it?  Or, we may temporarily lose memory of our wound until the saltiness of life reminds us that it is indeed still there.  And that all familiar sting throbs through us once again.  I wish there was a bandaid for that.

Last night I was blessed by a friend to go to the Casting Crowns concert. My hubby was behind this surprise and ok'd it ahead of time, even though the concert was the same day as his birthday.  Recent happenings in life have exposed certain papercuts of my heart.  And I sat at that concert feeling torn.  Half of my heart was at home with my husband and my family, the bandaid that covers and soothes that newfound sting.  The other half of me willed to be fully present in the moment, soaking in the gift of friendship and music as it ministered to my wounded soul.

The work of His Spirit gets down deep to not only clean and cover all wounds, but heal them too.

I've found that this life is filled with moments of feeling cut and torn. Some days, a war wages within me trying to tear God's truth into shreds.  My mind battles between thoughts of life and death. Constructive and destructive.  Futile and faithful.  Truth and lies.  Big, fat, ugly ones.  Ultimately, I get to choose which side to fight on.  In all honesty, some moments I'm tempted to join the team that appears to be a fully-equipped army in which I have no hope in winning against. Even though I know victory won't ever occur on that side of the battlefield.

A messy misfit.

There are days when life around me appears to be a savory steak, cooked to perfection, and served up on fine china.  And I feel like a cheap cut of raw hamburger plopped down on a paper plate.  Definitely not your grade A meat.

But rather marbled in flaws.
Rough around the edges.
A fat, bloody mess.

There are moments when I get overwhelmed too easily.  Anger too quickly.  And cringe when I look in the mirror.  Some days I am too melodramatic and take on a "glass half empty" view of life.  I hate these things about me.  At times I wrestle with feeling forgotten, rejected, isolated, unrelateable, and that I just don't plain measure up.  That I am failing completely in every area of life, and just barely keeping my head above water.  Inadequate, incompetent, insecure.  That there's just no place for me.  No right fit for chuck beef amongst a world of savory filets. That life looks at me with disdain and regretfully whispers, "Sorry, we tried, but this just isn't working out. We are going to have to move on without you.  You are no longer needed or wanted in this circle.  There's just too much wrong with you.  What could you possibly have to offer for our benefit?  But anyways, feel free to get back with us when you have things more together and life figured out." Convincing lies.  On days like this it feels as if I just plopped that papercut heart into a heaping bowl of salt.

My feelings, fickle and foolish.
My thoughts, threatening and thick.

I know I have a choice to make:  Will I be convinced by lies or convicted by truth?

As I sat and wrestled through these feelings at the concert last night, wading in a sea of unspoken longings and achings of the heart, I felt God's presence swoop in and meet me with understanding.  He gets it. He gets me and all of my messiness.  And in that moment, I felt peace as He gave me permission to just "be..."

To be broken.  To be messy.  To be flawed.  He reminded me that although I feel like a broken jagged piece that doesn't fit perfectly into the puzzle of life, maybe this is the way He wants me.  And accepts me. That it's ok to be completely broken.  (And reminded of it regularly.)

For my very brokenness is what He uses to keep me connected to Him.

And though I may not fit the mold, my broken jagged heart is being held with care and precision in His hands.  It fits beautifully into the mosaic He's creating over me as He positions me perfectly into His plan. These pieces need to be chiseled and broken in order for Him to shine more brilliantly through me.  As this truth sunk in, I felt covered in His love. As if He just came in, took me into His arms, and wrapped me in a big, giant, holy hug.

A warm embrace and truth spoken can solder brokenness of many kinds.

I learned this today as I picked my youngest up from preschool.  She was solemnly quiet as we departed from the school parking lot. Moments after we pulled away, she melted into tears and her brave walls began to crumble and fall. Apparently, it was "a horrible, miserable day."  Someone did not get the class "Me Bag."  I tried to console her on the car ride home, but my words didn't help much. Another day, another week, another disappointment, and another papercut of the heart.

When we got home, I knew only one thing to do.  I picked her up, held her tight in my arms, and rocked her slowly.  As I gently stroked the back of her head, I whispered into her ear, over and over again, that I loved her and that it was going to be ok.  That sometimes life is hard, but that I would always be there for her to pick her up and carry her through.  As she cried in my arms, I fought back tears myself because I understood the ache of "hard," the sting of the heart as she watched her name be passed over once again and that deep longing within her went another day unfulfilled.  I understood.

I asked her if she was hungry or if there was anything she needed. But, she couldn't answer.  She just pulled me closer and cried into my shoulder.  Sometimes we can't put words to the hunger we feel within, and we find ourselves helpless to articulate our deepest needs.  So, I curled up beside her on the couch, pulled her close, and just gave her permission to "be."  I knew just what to do in that moment, because this is exactly what the Lord had done for me the night before.

As I held her in a hug and spoke truth into her heart about my love for her, my little four year soon calmed and settled.  She nestled me closer, hugged my neck in her tiny hands, and wouldn't let go.  A few eskimo kisses later and she was smiling again, ready for lunch.

There are times when all we really need is His presence, and we find comfort in simply knowing that He is near.

Whether a deep bleed or a papercut of the heart, I've learned that the best place to go for comfort and understanding, is right into the arms of our Father.  Where He waits for us to come.  Loves and accepts us as is. And gives us permission to just "be."  Broken, messy, and altogether His.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When life gives you the unexpected...or goth blue hair

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you suddenly kick into extreme panic mode and ask yourself, "What on earth have I gotten myself into?  This is NOT what I expected!"  I think we all have.  Not so long ago I found myself screaming these thoughts, along with a little inner dialogue that went something like this: "My husband is absolutely going to kill me!  What kind of mother would do this?!"

It all started with an innocent trip out to see my sister and her family. When visiting, the idea came about that the girls could dye their hair.  My oldest daughter looks up to her 12 year old cousin and thinks the world of her.  This is something my niece has done several times to her long gorgeous locks. It's nothing but a little temporary dye added to the bottom couple inches of the hair.  Some kids use kool-aid or even sharpie markers to accomplish this effect.  My sister already had everything there at the house, and after a little begging, prodding, and pleading from my 8 year old, I caved.

So begins the process of coloring.  My brave and experienced sister, bare hands and all, dove in and began to apply a bluish color to the ends of my daughter's hair.  My niece and my youngest daughter were next in line.  Yes, you read that right, I was even going to allow my little 4 year old to have this done too.  Go ahead, say it..."Are you kidding me?"  At the time, I was just thinking to myself, "There's no harm in a little temporary color?  It's actually quite fashionable!"  I mean, I have a friend who sports hot pink hair like a rock star.  Who knew?

Well, right from the start, the couple inches on the bottom of my daughter's hair soon covered half of her head.  This may look ok on someone (like my niece) who has miles of long hair flowing down her back.  However, when you have shoulder-length hair, it is no longer subtle, but overtakes the entire head.  It was a lot more than I thought it was going to be.  But, this mama stayed calm.  Afterall, once it was rinsed, it would fade and lighten, right?  Wrong.  I began to rinse my 8 year old's head as my sister began to apply color to my 4 year old (gasp)...This time, I did ask that it only cover the bottom inch or so.  Go ahead, you can say it again, "What were you thinking?"  

After we rinsed my 8 year old's head, I proceeded to blowdry it and instantly felt sick to my stomach and regret rose from deep within.  My daughter looked like a child of goth...or rather, a very angry cookie monster.  I panicked.  And when a mama panics, it's only natural for her kids to panic too. I know my sister saw the terror in my eyes and she immediately went searching for her color remover. We frantically began applying and rinsing, applying and rinsing.  My girls were in tears as they bent their heads over that frenzied bathtub of color debacle.  There was blue splattered all over the place.  My 8 year old was in tears because she didn't want all the color to be removed.  My 4 year old was just plain terrified, beside herself, and fearful of getting soap and water in her eyes.  Neither of them were listening well or cooperating with me, making my job a whole lot more difficult than it needed to be.  Hunched over the bathtub, we were maniacs on a mission of "rinse and repeat."

As we scrubbed I looked over at my sister and told her, "One day we will remember this day and laugh about it."  Though at the time, there were no smiles in that little stress-filled room.  Only tears of splattered goth blue.  I wish I had taken a picture of the scene.  But when in panic mode, one does not think or dare to do so.  However, my brave and gloveless sister took one of her stained hands, so there is proof to mark this "Are you kidding me?" moment.  Just take a look:

As I was out running errands yesterday, I came across this:

I took a picture of this and texted it to my sister.  Both my sisters and I have a whole library of "you have got to be kidding me" moments.  But as I read this plaque, our hair debacle incident took center stage in my mind.  I think there is a lesson we can pull from this story...

Some seasons in life feel permanent, that the struggle will never fade.  When we find ourselves stuck, paralyzed by fear, the unknown, or life not turning out as we had expected, there are a few things we can do to press on:

1) Stay calm.  Invite God and His peace into your moment or circumstance.  (Don't panic like a crazed mama who has just ruined her pure and precious girls.)

2)  Listen to His voice.  (In the midst of our hair hysteria, I just wanted my girls to listen to me.  Despite their protests, I knew what was best for them.  And God knows what is best for us too.)

3)  Cooperate.  (If my "bent over the bathtub" girls would have just cooperated with me and followed my instructions, things would have gone much quicker and smoother.  Sometimes, we just need to bend  before the Lord and follow His lead, even when we don't understand where He is taking us.)

4)  Let God do the work that needs to be done.  (Let Him work in you and your circumstance.  Do the work He is calling you to do, and let Him handle the rest.  Ultimately, it is He who holds the color remover.)

We are all going to walk through this life and find ourselves stepping into those "Are you kidding me?" moments.  Some may be tiny stumbles that barely scrape our knees,  others may be of gothic proportion that land us hunched over in pain, discomfort, and disbelief.  Remember that God is the One who permanently washes the stains out of our hearts and makes our paths straight and clean.  He will always be there, through the good and the bad, and even in our "you have got to be kidding me" moments.  Our seasons of struggle are temporary.   And just as the fine print on that box of hair color promised me it wasn't permanent,  He too, is true to His everlasting Word.

All for His glory,

*for those of you left wondering, after only two short days there was no trace of goth blue lingering on any strand of hair.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How to find and keep JOY...even in the bathtub

I'm not going to lie, some days I have to fight for joy.  I may wake up and feel prone to irritability, frustration, and negativity, as if one little thing could pull the trigger and send me spiraling downward. Other days I wake up and immediately feel crushed under the weight of the world and overwhelming circumstances.  I find myself teetoring on a fence, just one little misstep away from falling facedown into a thick, muddy pit of defeat and despair.  Such a pit exists that can pull one so far deep that she is unable to get out of bed for an entire day...or two...or three.  I know because it wasn't that far in my distant past that I faceplanted in that pit.  It's a place I never hope to return.

So, how do we rise above these things and live a life of joy?  Where do we find it, and how do we wrestle through to the other side?

Research says that many things in life are contagious.  Joy is one of them.  Somehow, when we are joyful, it bubbles over into the lives of those around us.  I want to be bubbling over with joy, don't you?  Happy people are easy to like and pleasant to be around.  Some people's hearts are filled with a natural tendency and disposition for joy.  My daughter is one of those people.  She wakes up happy each day, naturally in a good mood,  and it takes a lot to steal it away from her.

My son, on the other hand, is not.  I remember when he was just a baby, I'd go into his bedroom to pick him up out of his crib in the morning, or after a nap, and he would have a scowl on his face.  It was as if he was just naturally predestined to be in a bad mood.  I would lift him into my arms and in my high-pitched mama voice I'd tell him, "You're not allowed to wake up grumpy.  You need to be happy!  Let me see you smile for mama!"  And usually, he would.  I routinely spoke these words to him.  It was as if he needed a little jostling to flip him back over onto the right side of the bed.  Sometimes, even as adults, we need a little jostling too.

While we may not all be wired with a propensity for joy, I believe it can become a choice and a habit.

In the moments I struggle with being joyful, I have found a few things to help change my perspective, keep me out of that pit, and steer me onto a path of joy.  Let me share 5 tips that have helped me in my wrestling through:

1) Keep a GRATEFUL heart.  Someone once said that whatever it is we focus on becomes magnified in our lives.  In the moments I find myself dwelling on my problems, I know I need to shift my focus.  I have to remind myself of all the blessings I already have.  I begin to thank God for all that He is, all He has given/promised me, and all He has done.  At times, I've even made a written list of these things.  Never have I walked away from doing this without having a changed perspective and a more grateful heart.  It's an instant mood changer.

A free-flowing record of our blessings will open the door to joy and lock away the futile thoughts that threaten to imprison and overtake us.      

Start making your list today; add to it and re-read it over and over again as needed.

2) Be fully PRESENT in your now.  In most instances when I am wrestling for joy, I am either preoccupied with the past and something that has occurred, or I am worried about the future and what (may not) or hasn't happened yet.  When I dwell on something in the past that has hurt me, I re-live it over and over in my mind which just exasperates the problem and causes more unnecessary pain.  When I spend too much time worrying about my future, I am just as distracted and unable to appreciate the beauty that's before me.

Focusing on the past and the future keeps us distracted and robs us of the joy concentrated in today.  

In moments I catch myself dwelling on past hurts or future worries, I try to take a moment to pause and embrace the simple things in my present that bring my heart joy.  I listen more intently to my children's voices and laughter, study their faces and actions, and freeze-frame their smiles.  Suddenly, I take notice of the curvature of my four year old's dimpled little hands and the way I need to constantly sweep the loose snarled hair away from her eyes. It becomes a blessing and a moment in time I begin to appreciate more fully.  For one day, that little dimpled hand will lose its dimples, and she will no longer need me to tuck her hair behind her ear for she will be doing it herself.  And I'll miss these days.  I don't want to miss them now while I'm living in them.  There's much beauty to be found in the small.  Taking notice of the simple joys in all of life's "ordinary" keeps me focused and fully present to gather more joy in my today.

3)  PRAY.  There is power in prayer.  It can change circumstances, the hearts and lives of others, and ultimately, it will change you!  God knows you better than you know yourself.  And He cares about every detail of your life.  He understands your fragile, complicated heart, and He wants you to share it with Him.  Everything we need is found in Christ.  Instead of chasing after temporary substitutes to heal our hurts and fill our voids, we must first go to Him to have our needs fulfilled.

When we go to Him in prayer, He covers and soothes the broken and empty spaces within us.

Sometimes, I am tempted to take matters into my own hands.  Often times, I have done just this and fallen even further down.  But I've found that when I go to God first and foremost with my concerns and struggles and place them into His hands, I am relieved of the burden and the outcome is always better.  This increases my faith and builds my trust in Him because it confirms that He cares deeply for me, has heard my heart cry, and that He is working on my behalf.  There is great joy in knowing you are treasured, known and heard.

4)  INVEST in your relationship with God.  Our only true and lasting joy comes from having a relationship with the Lord.  Everything in this life is shifting and changing.  We fill never find lasting security or joy in things that can ultimately be taken away from us (our health/beauty/youthfulness, career/wealth/possessions, marriage, friends, and family).  All of these things are temporary and there is no guarantee they will be here tomorrow. But...

Our relationship with God is something that can never be taken away.  He is our true source of joy and the only sure thing we have in this life. 

Like any other relationship, it takes time to build. It's not something that occurs overnight, but through countless hours, conversations, and experiences.  It's a lifelong commitment.  So, let's take time to invest in our relationship with God.  It begins by talking with Him regularly through prayer, studying Him through reading His word, and learning more about Him from other believers.  When we take time to get to know God, we stop focusing on ourselves and our problems, and our focus turns toward Him.  Our problems lose their intensity as He becomes magnified in our lives.

His Word is truth. By reading and studying scripture, we write truth on our hearts that sets us free from the things that entangle us and keep us from living a life of joy. These things take time and intention.  But, ultimately, a deeper relationship with the Lord leads to deeper joy in life.  Let's invest in it. I promise, it is worth it!

5)  Dare to SHARE.  We aren't meant to walk through this world alone. Yet, sometimes it feels like we do. Sharing our struggles with others may leave us feeling vulnerable and open for judgment, but bottling them up can actually cause more harm.  What we hold in can consume us.  Perhaps that's why I love to write.  Relief is found in the process of release.  In the "getting it out" I feel better, even if my problems or circumstances haven't changed.  I think if we were all a little more open with our heart struggles, we'd be surprised by the common ground we share.  We probably wouldn't feel so alone as we'd be comforted in knowing others, too, have shared in similar struggles.

The sharing of our stories can act as a bridge of comfort to a troubled heart.

Too easily we can look around us and assume that everyone else has it "all together" while we are just barely hanging on.  When others have opened up to me about their own struggles and how they have overcome, I have found comfort and hope and that I am not alone in this wrestling.

On the occasions I have allowed another person a glimpse into the window of my heart,  I have been surprised to learn how that person has similarly struggled.  It has bridged the gap and opened the door for that person to share their current struggles and be equally vulnerable with me.  In my daring to share, I have been blessed by many opened doors of unexpected friendship.  Authentic friendships birthed and welcomed on the doormat of struggle.

When I found myself stuck in a pit, I was deeply encouraged by the individuals who rallied around me, listened, prayed, and spoke truth to my hopeless, troubled heart.  Connecting with others, having a safe place to vent, and feeling understood yields to greater joy.  Sometimes God places a person right in front of us who is desperate to hear our story.  We have no idea if the sharing of our story is exactly what that person needed to hear to keep pressing on.  Hope springs from a heart that connects and no longer feels alone.  Dare to share.

To conclude, I want to share a story that has been retold in our family for nearly 60 years.  While in Sunday School one morning when my mama was just 3 or 4 years old, her teacher asked the class, "Where do you find joy?"  (Thinking that someone would respond, "down in my heart," as the age old song goes.)  However, my sweet little mama proudly responded, "In the bathtub!"  Seems accurate enough, since her mama used to put JOY, (a tried and trusted brand of dishsoap), in the bathtub to suds and bubble her up squeaky clean.

So, I ask you today, what are you bubbling over with?  Just as joy is contagious, so too, is anger, stress, bitterness and discouragement.  This is not the overflow I wish to spill out onto others.  Joy may not be our natural disposition, but with intention, we can make it our habit.  Through keeping a grateful heart, being fully present in our now, praying, investing in our relationship with God, and sharing with others, we can experience and gather joy for ourselves and joy to be shared.

Let's take the advice of a three year old who found simple joy in the bathtub of her heart.  A joy that resides so deep within us that it spills out onto the lives of those around us.  The bubbling over kind.

All for His glory,

Friday, March 7, 2014

you take the good, you take the bad

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them all, and there you have the facts of life!"  Anyone raising kids or growing up in the 80's is probably familiar with this popular tv sitcom theme song.  I bet you're singing along with me right now.

This life is filled with "good" and "bad."  Moments of sailing and moments of sinking.  Especially if you are a parent.  Keeping the right perspective in the midst of it all is key to staying afloat.

One of my new favorite authors/teachers is Lysa TerKeurst.  In one of her books I recently read, she offered two simple, yet profound, perspectives for parents to keep in regards to their children:

1)  Don't take too much credit for their good.

2)  Don't take too much credit for their bad.

I've marinated on these two perspectives and have found them refreshing and encouraging.  Taking too much credit for the good in our children (their strengths, accomplishments, talents, gifts) can lead to a prideful heart and an inflated ego.   And taking too much credit for the bad in our children (their mistakes, poor choices, shortcomings, and weaknesses) can lead to a defeated heart and a deflated ego. Neither of the two benefit us in any way.

I think these two perspectives stretch beyond the borders of parenthood as well.  When life is going well and we feel abundantly blessed in smooth-sailing, bright, sunshiny skies, we can be tempted to think this is our own doing.  That we've worked hard, made good choices, and are reaping the benefits. There is truth to that.  But ultimately, all the good in our lives is a gift from God.  Each blessing, each victory, each accomplishment, and each talent is a gift from Him.  We need to be careful not to hog God's glory and steal it for ourselves, but to properly and rightfully give it back to Him.

When life is filled with adversity and struggle, we can be tempted to think it's our fault and we are being punished for it.  I do not want to discount the fact that sometimes we do cause conflict and problems on our own, and there are consequences for them.  We reap what we sow, and it's vital to take ownership over these things.  However, in these moments of hardship, it's also easy to be weighed down by feelings of failure, inadequacy, and rejection.  When we do this, we may find ourselves living in defeat, which is not God's plan for us.

Sarah Young, author of the "Jesus Calling" devotional, writes:

"Nothing, including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials, can separate you from Me (God).  Some of My children find Me more readily during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me.  Others feel closer to Me when their lives are filled with good things.  They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the door to My Presence.

I know precisely what you need to draw closer to Me.  Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you.  Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.  When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful.  Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation."

When life is going well, take the good and give God the glory and thanks for it.  When life is hard, take the bad and allow it to increase your faith and dependency on the Lord.  Acknowledge your need for Him to come into your weaknesses and show Himself strong.

John Bunyon writes,  "If my life is fruitless, it doesn't matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn't matter who criticizes me."  Stay humbly encouraged in your moments of sailing and sinking.  Lysa reminds us that when life looks messy on the outside, what matters most is what God is doing on the inside.

Perhaps we need to rewrite the lyrics to that old 80's sitcom theme song to this:  "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the FAITH of life."  Both the good and the bad are gifts from God to draw us closer to Him so that our trust deepens and our lives become fruitful.  These are the building blocks to our faith.  Take them as a gift today, and give glory and thanks.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

to love or hate autocorrect?

I have a love-hate relationship with autocorrect.  Anyone with a smart phone may be able to relate.  In those moments where careless, lazy typos and grammar deficiencies get the best of me, it is my best friend.  But there are also times when I am trying to convey something and autocorrect takes over and steps on my toes in areas I just hadn't desired for it to do so.

In many ways, the Holy Spirit is just like autocorrect in our lives.  Though I do not share the same love-hate relationship, I do feel the pain of interruption and discomfort when I fall out of step and the Holy Spirit pulls me back into His correction.

"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
Galatians 5:25

Sometimes in life, we slow our pace, get stagnant, and stop moving forward with God.  Other times, we rush on ahead without Him.  Galatians 5:25 reminds believers to keep in step with the Spirit.  The NLT version translates the latter part of this verse to, "...let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives."  When we are doing this, our lives will bear evidence of His fruit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." 
Galatians 5:22-23

God has a way of gently pulling us back into Autocorrect in those moments when we are careless, lazy and deficient.  He also chases and brings us back into tandem step in those moments we rush ahead of Him.  Sometimes, it interrupts and delays.  Other times, it is a bit painful and brings discomfort.  But, always, it's for our own good (Hebrews 12:10).  He does it out of love for our lives will bear fruit and we will be equipped to share His message of hope to those in need.  A message He has always intended and desired for us to send, even when we try to step on His toes.

God, thank You for being our Autocorrect.  May we grow to crave, love, and obey You, even when it interrupts life and brings discomfort.  Though we are imperfect messengers, let us keep in step with Your Spirit and bear fruit, so that we may be equipped to share Your perfect message to the world around us.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"The Prayer of Jabez": Part 4

Well, I would have liked to have gotten this last post up before now, but life and mommyhood has gotten in the way.  Thank you for coming back and not giving up on me!  Today we conclude with the fourth and last part of the Jabez prayer model.

To refresh your memory, here is what we have covered so far:

Part one, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed!"
Part two, "Oh, that You would enlarge my territory!"
Part three, "Oh, that Your hand would be with me!"

And today, we end with part four:

"Oh, that You would keep me from evil!"

Wilkinson explains that while the previous part to this prayer asked God for His supernatural power to bless us and work through our weaknesses, in this last portion of the prayer, "our petition is for supernatural help to protect us..."  He states that success brings with it greater opportunities for failure...that when you are walking through open doors of ministry and opportunity, "you are going to experience more attacks on you and your family.  You are going to become more familiar with the enemy's unwelcome barbs--distraction, opposition, and oppression."  

Distraction.  Ugh...I am definitely guilty of this.  The past week has been filled with distraction that has left me feeling a bit off and in need of more concentrated focus with the Lord.  When talking with others as they asked how I was doing, I couldn't quite put my finger on it, except to answer, "I just feel distracted."  Life has a way of doing this.  We are often on the go, working around our calendars and chaufeeur schedules.  This is why it's so important to stay anchored in Jesus.  A bit more intentional distance from social media and things of this world, mixed with a bit more intentional closeness with the Lord through prayer and His Word, and I am feeling centered again.  Hence, my ability to write this post today.

Wait, how is it that in writing about distraction I become distracted again?!  Let's get back to the purpose of this post... "Oh, that You would keep me from evil!"

The author shares a conversation he once overheard in seminary.  A student was telling a professor how well his life was going and exclaimed, "When I first came here, I was so tempted and tested I could barely keep my head above water.  But now--praise God!--my life at seminary has smoothed out.  I'm not being tempted hardly at all!"  In hearing this, the professor became deeply alarmed and shocked the student when replying, "That's about the worst thing I could have heard!  That tells me you are no longer in the battle!  Satan isn't worried about you anymore."  There may be some truth to this.  In addition, I often find that as soon as I think I have an area of life "under control," there are usually stumbling blocks right around the corner reminding me that I am very much in need of and dependent on Christ to carry me through.  Staying rooted to my Anchor helps me to get back on track more quickly.

Elaborating further, someone once said, "Your danger is not in being on the edge of a precipice, but in being unwatchful there."  Sometimes those stumbling blocks sneak up on us simply because we haven't been vigilant and watchful once we've stepped out of the valley onto higher ground.  It's important for us to be watchful and on guard against temptation and attacks and to continuously pray for God to keep us away from these things.  And while nobody likes to be tempted and tried by the enemy, I believe that when we are walking in God's will and stepping out into the great unknown He has called us to, we are viewed as a threat and become an easy target for such attacks.  When you are up to God's good,  the enemy will do all he can to thwart the plans God has for you.  It's important to stay watchful in all seasons.

Wilkinson brought up another interesting point in his book.  He mentioned that many Christians often pray for strength to endure temptation and for victory over the attacks of the enemy, but sometimes, "we don't think to ask God simply to keep us away from temptation and keep the devil at bay in our lives."  He further tells us that in the model prayer Jesus' gave us, we are instructed to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)"  That without temptation, we would not sin.  So, daily, we should be asking God to lead and keep us away from it.  

While we won't ever be completely removed from all evil in this world, we most certainly can be prayerful in asking for God's protection against it.  Last week I volunteered in my 8 year old's classroom at school.  As soon as I stepped into the classroom, a voice booming from the loud speaker announced an impromptu all-school "internal threat" safety drill.  As about 15 students and I huddled into a small room taking cover under tables and shielding our bodies behind chairs and boxes, it saddened me that the world has even come to this.  That evil of this sort even exists...but, it does.  We aren't guaranteed exemption from it, but we are best to pray against it.  I am fortunate to drive by my children's school daily.  And each time I do, I pray aloud for their hearts, their minds, and for their safety.  Oh Lord, that You would keep them from evil!

And though Wilkinson mostly touched upon evil that comes from outside sources, he did mention a certain truth we should not overlook:  "a tiny indulgence of pride or self-confidence can spell disaster."  I think it's wise to remember our own sinful natures and how evil can just as easily rise from within ourselves.

The Holman Christian Bible translates the verses of this Jabez prayer as this:

"Jabez called out to the God of Israel: 'If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain.' And God granted his request."  
1 Chronicles 4:9-10

Other versions say, "so that I will not endure pain" or "so that it will not grieve me." Let us not forget that some of the pain and grief we endure is caused on our own.  We are prone to wander and sin.  Following our flesh often leads to more pain and conflict for ourselves and for those around us. We all have blindspots that keep us from clearly seeing our own flaws and weaknesses.  We need God and His Holy Spirit to protect us from ourselves and the world, to keep our mirrors clean, and to lead and guide us onto the intended path He has for us.

Whether we are talking about the evil of this outside world, or the "no good" that lurks from within, let us petition God for His protection.  Oh, that You would keep me from evil!

Though I didn't realize it, the four components to the Jabez prayer model are things that I have prayed for regularly in the life of my family.  However, my prayers and thoughts were often independent and segmented.  I like the idea of using this scripture as a basis to cover over all of these areas in prayer.  Often times, it's easier to ask for one thing above the other, depending on our circumstances or feelings at the time.  The Jabez prayer model reminds us to go to God and petition these areas in equal importance.  It also acts as a catalyst to elaborate and deepen our prayer lives as we enjoy unparalleled intimacy and communion with our Maker.

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

1 Chronicles 4:10

Join me in petitioning our Lord for blessing, opportunity, His hand of power and presence to lead us, and His protection over our lives.  And always let it be with a heart of praise and thanksgiving for all that He is, all He will do, and for all He has done.