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The Trembling Thanks

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So Mondays are a little crazy this month and I’m a day late. No one’s counting, right? ūüôā This was a week of exuberant thanks, and a bit of lip-trembling thanks too.

This past Saturday, my little brother, the fifth of us out of eight, graduated from high school. And while we were all so proud and a bit gushy over him, I could sense the bittersweet heartache that everyone in the family was battling. Yes, over his proud achievement and that he’s nearly ready to stretch his wings. But these happy times also bring our broken family all together. Our divorced parents sitting on opposite ends of the bleachers with their new spouses. Times like these are full of the bitter-sweetness of a wedding or a graduation, or some other happy event. And while you try to process all that goes along with those sort of beautiful familial milestones, the being proud, the immense love, and the letting go – the brokenness of the family is also made glaringly obvious. You’re rather forced to accept the new look of the family on some heart level. At one point on Saturday, I couldn’t hold back the tears of pain, but neither could I hold back the exuberant laughs of a graduation day. It all came out in one, strange-sounding, tear-ridden, soppy, happy mess.

“Mama, why are you laughing and¬†crying at the same time?” Firefly asked.

How do you explain that sort of thing to a three-year old? Little children only seem to feel one thing at a time. Side-splitting laughter. Gut-wrenching sobs. Maybe that’s part of the growing up. The feeling more than one thing at one time. Mourning and rejoicing all rolled into one. Sometimes, it is overwhelming, isn’t it?

But isn’t that the beauty of this believing life? That He comforts us in all of life’s reality, and fills us with the hope of all His glorious, exquisite, redemptive work? He is enough for our heartache. He is enough for our joy. He is more than enough to take all the beauty and pain that this life brings and transform them into something beautifully creative. Something that only He knows. Only He could form. The mysterious beauty of joy made more complete, more perfected – through pain, redeemed.

So I try to process while still trying to go on with life. All I know to do is pray. Write. Give thanks.

#533 little sister, Sarah, back in town, bringing her crazy sense of humor

#534 that she is happy where she is

#534 uncle arriving, always, for every boring graduation ceremony ūüôā

#535 friends who care so much

#536 sibling pictures, the littlest brother outstretched in all our arms

#537 my “little” 6 foot, 3 inch brother

#538 that somehow, I feel him stretching and growing and suddenly this always-the-oldest sister feels like she has the big brother she’s always wanted

#539 Firefly, skipping down the hall, through the store, skipping, skipping everywhere

#540 Her hair, swaying back and forth with every skip

#541 Dove and her jumps off the ground and her dimple-framed smile

#542 my sweet husband and how he humbles me with his love

#543 sitting down, writing out love for my little brother

#544 homemade cinnamon rolls

#545 Him helping me organize my thoughts

#546 two new mamas-to-be

#547 excitement

#548 longing

#549 prayer for the waiting

#550 coming home

#551  how hard it is to say good-bye

#552 spray n’ wash and borax and their miraculous stain-lifting properties ūüôā

#553 that there was only ONE crayon in the dryer

#554 that his love drives me to learn to love

#555 a bathtub full of My Little Ponies

#556 Dad-grilled hamburgers

#557 that He knows every heart

#558 that His grace is enough for them all

#559 red caps, flying

#560 that He holds our hope

#561 that He is our Redeemer, our Restorer . . . that He is making all things new

Joining the gift-thankers

Breaking Through

I still remember her warm face and kind smile. She, at her husband’s side, her comforting spirit all exuding. He, sick.

Sick and quickly dying.

We did what we could from our third floor office, but there wasn’t much we could¬†do. Comfort was all that could help and she knew it. She knew it deep.¬†But¬†through her tears falling and her soft voice quavering, she kept smiling. And while her heart clung to him as firmly as the heart of a wife of decades would, she somehow loved him enough not to hold on too tightly. When it was time, she let him go with all the grace and beauty I’ve ever seen.

I should have checked on her more. She didn’t live far from us at the time. But I remember, the struggling . . . me, a young, twenty-one-year-old newlywed, just learning to leave and cleave. She, the mature, seasoned wife, learning to navigate a solitary life that had been built richly alongside a man she’d just had to bury in the earth. I felt the weight of my empty hands.

My husband, he went to her house today, neither he, nor she, knowing how our lives had once shared a criss-cross. In the winds of the recent storms, four trees had fallen on her property. Right onto her car. So my husband went along with a friend’s husband, met another friend, and they took a chainsaw or two in their strong hands and wrangled those trees, cutting and splintering and sharding all the storm’s devastation as best they could. Until they came to a thick trunk of tree. Their chainsaw just couldn’t do it. Couldn’t cut through . . . wasn’t strong enough.

The widow, she left our determined, young husbands and came back to them with an old chainsaw in her hands. Red.

“I’m not sure if it still works,” she says. “It was my husband’s and it hasn’t been used in years….”

They power it up anyway. And that old chainsaw? It sputters and revs and slices clean through that tumbled wood.

We may bury and we may let go and we may even build walls around our hearts, but love? Sometimes it manifests itself in sudden tears or an aching heart. Sometimes, it presents itself in an outstretched hand, or a burst of joy, or a deliberate laying down of stubborn pride. But sometimes?

It appears out of dust and dark corners and it’s not certain whether it holds any effect. But when brought to the Light, it revs and it roars and just like that, what stands stubborn and unbending, shards and splinters and fragments under its very resolve.

I could learn a lesson or two from that old chainsaw.

No Hold

Your feet hit the ground at the side of your bed. It’s Easter Monday and all the heart-soarings of Easter Sunday plummet to the Metaphorical Monday of life. The age-old in your life, the things you’ve been working through for years, surround you and try to suffocate the very life out of you. How does Resurrection Sunday shape our gritty, sometimes perpetual, Monday-filled lives? The day-in, day-out wrestlings? How does Resurrection Sunday help those we love in their pain and their wrestlings and the hurt we feel while watching them struggle for breath?

How does laying our sin at the cross of the God-With-Us Savior, help us in the Still-With-Us sin nature? This crazy, pain-filled world?

I know I don’t have any complete answers.

But don’t we cling to hope? And trust in His good promises? For if He loved us while still sinners and laid His life down for us while we were still writhing in our own filth, how much more must He hold us dear when He, Himself, has overlaid us and cleansed us with His blood?

And while the Marys did buy spices and perfumes for the final burial preparations for the Savior, the religious laws of the day and the approaching Sabbath didn’t allow them to actually caress his body with them. There was no beautifying His death. And no optimistic naivet√© can gloss over this life’s grittiness.

We struggle for breath between life’s hard-pressed seasons. We groan with friends and family and try to hold their hands through their own loads. But it’s too much.

Too much for us.

But not for Him! No. Somehow He took it all upon Himself.

Sin.

Pain.

Wounds.

Dashed hopes.

Shame.

All that is ugly and twisted and deformed in this world . . . all that satan has in his contorted grip.

Jesus took it.

Straight to hell?

And that Sunday morning, when His lungs first breathed in that tomb’s rank and musty air,

all this world’s stench

was done for.

And nothing, nothing, can overpower the pleasing aroma of Christ and His redemptive work of Life.

A new Creation has begun its springing forth.

And while we still ache and plod through sin’s seeming hold on this planet . . .

in us . . .

He has redeemed us.

Made us new.

Death could not hold Him.

And because of that

AMAZINGLY

BEAUTIFUL

fact,

It won’t hold us either.

Here?

No. For we have hope.

There?

No.

Alive.

Complete.

Whole.

Clean.

Blameless.

How great must be His love for us.

Continuing the learning, the choosing . . . the thanking….

#461 He came

#462 because He loved us

#463 the Hallelujah chorus

#464 Firefly singing, “Alleluia”

#465 His blood . . . nothing but it.

#466  no condemnation, no wrath for those who believe

#467 beautiful, warm days

#468 family – in all it’s hugeness ūüôā

#469 an obliging doctor’s office

#470 antibiotics

#471 Motrin and medicine droppers

#472 a compliment from a not-so-little-anymore, “little” brother

#473 coordinating Easter clothes – my children’s’ and my grandparents’ =D

#474 heavy starch and irons

#475 trampolines

#476 that I have the sweetest neighbor here on God’s green earth

#477 brown eyes

#478 that He will meet us, come to us . . . that He heard my murmured plea

#479 a nine-year-old uncle and all of his playfulness and wonder in the eyes of his three-year-old niece

#480 provision

#481 An Easter life. In all of its strenuous, very real wrestlings and its steadfast, clinging-heart hope.

Click here to join others in the hope-filled thankfulness

Pressing In

Today was not a good day at our house. Nothing hugely catastrophic by most people’s standards (or really even my own if I really think about it!) I haven’t felt very thankful, nor have I had much time today to post anything. But I’m determined to say thanks. Even if my teeth are a little gritted. I don’t want to be hypocritical. But I also think that sometimes, when feeling the most ungrateful,¬†the only way to feel the way out of the ungratefulness, is to call out the gratefulness.

Not hypocrisy.

Choosing.

Today was just a blip in what a day can sometimes be like in a household of three females (ranging in age of 16 months, to 28 years) and one, over-worked daddy. One female is currently a little hormonal, one is three years old (enough said) and one is teething. It was a day of crying, whining, fussing, griping, lamenting, pining, losing control, crying, and wiping away tears and racoon-looking, mascara smudges (Yes, I’m describing me here. Not who you thought, huh?).

You see. I had more than enough reason to be upset. But you know what? I’m the mama. And I didn’t look one bit like a Jesus-filled, loving mama today. Nope. I looked like one of those crazy-eyed mamas you see on reality TV. I don’t want to see her¬†again. She needs to go. Far, far away. I’m slowly starting to realize that this reality TV version of myself seems to appear after eating one too many chocolate chip cookies. Whole wheat or not, they’re wreaking havoc and I think that reality TV woman needs to take her plate of cookies and go on home. Yep. She’s not welcome here in this house anymore. I don’t like her. And neither do my kids.

So, I’m announcing to the world (because I think that may be about what it takes for accountability for me on this one) that sugar is leaving my vocabulary and my diet for a bit. Not completely . . . you know, it’s going to be in certain recipes and things (and *definitely* still in my coffee creamer), but sweets and treats? I think they need to go for a while and maybe we’ll see if a nicer mama appears at our door with a plate of carrots and dip. Because I know I definitely have some heart issues to work on. And believe me, the Lord’s getting an earful on those. But I’m beginning to wonder if too much sugar is part of the issue. I’ll let ya know.

Yeah, so I know this doesn’t have much to do with a Multitude Monday. But this was a bad enough day that I’m desperate. If you know me at all, you know that if I’m willing to give up my chocolate chip cookies for a while? Even for just an experiment? That must be one, mean mama that was here in this house today.

And right now? I’m having to press hard into being thankful…. ¬†Thank you, dear readers. You bring accountability.

#422 that her emotions are so keenly felt . . . God can redeem . . . someday, into deep-felt compassion and all-out passion for Him

#423 driving, driving, driving me to my knees . . . nowhere to turn, but Him

#424 the beautiful, heart-melting moments when they laugh and play and love on each other

#425 Firefly, trying to teach Dove to share

#426 the super powers of a protein snack and an early bed-time

#427 the “just checking-in” call from a friend

#428 that he didn’t mind picking up the forgotten sour cream

#429 Dove trying to get the beloved neighbor’s dog to play fetch with her

#430 the way Dove says, “Ouch”

#431 that Dove’s head is hard enough to withstand all the falls onto hardwood floors and running full-speed-ahead into door¬†frames

#432 that Princess band-aids finally won over Firefly’s confidence

#433 waving palm fronds in the car, little white teeth gleaming in the spring sunlight

#434 that my man is such a hard, meticulous worker and provider

#435 that coffee night with girlfriends came on just the right day

#436 little girl excitement over a new toothbrush

#437 the wonders of a tent made with a rose-covered sheet

#438 a recently-turned picky eater, gobbling down poppyseed chicken

#439 that He knows my weariness

#440 that He covers my sin

#441 that my children show me my need for Him

#442 and entrench the comfort of knowing that He is in control

#443 their daddy-given dimples

#444 their soft skin

#445 that love is spilling over in tears . . . this moment

#446 the way she recites John 3:16 . . . “loved the woooorrrrlld”

#447 how Firefly tells me she loves me out of the blue

#448 that Dove just has to come tell me she’s watching Veggie Tales (“Mama, Mama!” Deh Dee Deh!”) and then runs back to¬†the couch

#449 truly spill-proof sippy cups (they’re rarer than I thought)

#450 how Dove leans into my kisses

#451 that I have been given such two, amazingly created, intricately made gifts

#452 that He knows my weaknesses

#453 and maybe He’s given strengths?

#454 and He made us for each other

#455 that He can strengthen bonds

#456 and has

#457 that He asked for our cares and burdens

#458 He knows my fears

#459 that His love casts them out

#460 that He can use, even me

The Accountability

Completion

For it is He who has made us (and our children) and not we ourselves.

Psalm 100:3

 

By 9:30 this morning, I am *done*. Early this morning, I waken the girls so that we can go meet my out-of-town grandparents for breakfast as they travel through our city. And my little ones aren’t bad per say, but they are into everything in the Cracker Barrel gift shop. Everything imaginable is right within grasp and they run circles around me. The oldest needs¬†way too much coaxing to give a simple thank you to her great-grandmother for a sweet gift. Dovey fusses and whines and tries to wriggle out of my arms and I can’t gulp the coffee down fast enough to keep up with them.

 

How do these types of mornings always and so quickly leave me with my head hanging and my heart heavy with feelings of failure as a mother? This role of motherhood is not easily evaluated, is it? In my nursing days, a job well-done was much more easily gauged. Pneumonia cured? I must have done a good job administering antibiotics, forcing fluids, etc. Child pitches a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart? I feel like a failure and walk out of the store with my tail between my legs. But maybe (maybe), I did everything just right. Child wins an award for being the most well-behaved child at school? I may leave the building with my head held high and chest puffed up. But maybe I did everything wrong and it was all grace. Children have a sometimes aggravating, sometimes healing, certain kind of something called free will.

 

This morning, I feel the enemy’s daggers searing into my heart and mind, trying to instill lies of despair. Trying to convince me that I really am in control and simply failing.¬†How can I do this differently? How can I take more control over everyday situations? Why do I feel out of control??? I’m not cut out for this.

 

We ¬†stop by the library and pick up story books before coming home. As soon as we walk through our door, books are plopped in the doorway and Dovey steps on Firefly’s book, just to get a reaction. She gets it. Firefly lights into her with her words and I take a deep breath and say something about how yelling doesn’t help the situation. But haven’t I been known to do the same thing all too often the last few days? My words sound feeble and hypocritical. I let out a long exhale. Because I realize that Firefly’s learned the yelling from none other than her mother.

 

A few minutes later, I’m busy attending to something, but my breath catches as, completely of her own initiative, Firefly cuddles up to her little sister on the couch, gives her a kiss and says, “I’m sorry for yelling at you, Dove.”

 

I had almost missed it.

 

Isn’t this what I’ve been doing all¬†week too? Asking forgiveness from Firefly for this very same thing?

 

And I know it’s true but how quickly I forget: kids’ hearts are welded to what is¬†caught, not taught.

 

I will preach sometimes, I will disciple others. Sometimes I will bend low and others I will be in my own world. Some days I may remember to spend time on the floor in the middle of blocks and baby dolls, and others, I will forget. I will sometimes fail in disciplining, I may succeed in others. I may have a clean house or a dirty. I may be a gourmet cook in a gourmet kitchen or a gourmet PB&J maker over stained counters. I may hold fast to philosophies of attachment parenting or its counterpart. I may decide to homeschool, or I may send my children to public school. None of it matters. Well, it does matter. But it really doesn’t.

 

Because, as a parent, all that really matters is our loving Jesus. Trying to instill in them a love for Jesus. Trying to be an example. Praying hard. Letting go.

 

Of course, we as mothers and fathers will guide and direct and teach as much as we are possibly able, will we not? But there will be more failures than we care to count. But our children are His. And we must remember that we His.

 

May He be theirs.

 

And our God?

Anything He puts His hand to?

It’s made perfect. It’s completed. He never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Think it’s Called Grace

Last week, I work hard in my own, small domain. I organize closets and scrub the fridge (how did I not know the possibilities of its shininess?!) and try to be a good mama. I completely fail the latter quest (and really, the first one too) in moments where I contort, all ugly. Moments where my mouth screeches and only berates, doesn’t bend low to disciple. I ask forgiveness from two little girls, their soul windows opened wide, taking in my fleeting words of humility. The oldest says she can forgive and I thank her, knowing that I’ll have to ask the same thing of her tomorrow, and the day after that. It’s 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed, as Dr. Seuss would say. He said that a kid could move mountains. I think on another, more laudable person who said I could move the rooted things, the seemingly immovable mountains, if only I ask.

 

I ask. And somehow? He can use the broken, constantly failing people – like me, and I daresay, you – and if we ask for things with the faith of the smallest of mustard seeds . . . HE moves. The Timeless One. The Ever-Abiding One. I ask, falteringly, hesitantly, more than a little doubtingly, but with just a small spark of hope in His power. And He moves.

 

He takes my stubborn, prejudiced, ungrateful heart, and transforms it, in an 180 degree sort of fashion. The kind of spin on my soul’s axis that only He can direct.

 

He works wonders in the heart of the one I love. Like only He can do.

 

Does He completely perfect things . . . us? By no means. But He hears heart cries and . . . He moves. How can He be such a Servant-King?

 

He serves us every day in this earth beauty. Common grace, I think they call it. I drink it in.

 

 

The common grace of a flower. Of petals opening and their sweetness wafting on warm, spring breezes.

 

 

And the grace of friends supporting, praying, lifting you up. Holding fast to you when you don’t think you can do life like this anymore – let alone, live it to glorify a Humble, Servant-King.

 

 

Of answered prayers and seeing the Gardener till and aerate our hard-caked hearts. A softness and life-giving richness is opened to light and beauty grows.

 

 

How does a Sovereign, all-powerful God, bend so very low and breathe His life and give His grace and shape our hearts? How do I not live in more constant gratefulness? I can only try.

 

Little, meager thank-you’s to an All-Powerful King, yet our humble Bridegroom.

He has bent low and I must count.

I whisper thanks.

 

#397 sunlight on all-white dogwoods

#398 water flowing over fountains

#399 hammock-rocking, side by side

#400 bubbling over giggles

#401 little arms, reaching up

#402 loving being home, with this little family all tucked and breathing deep

#403 the Gardener, tilling, aerating our hearts

#404 giving sisters who make wonderful aunts

#405 long walks with my girls

#406 side by side, stroller-riding girls, leaning over to love on each other

#407 also, more opportunity to lean on Him – call on Him – in learning to direct their anger away from each other

#408 that I can ask forgiveness, again and again. and again.

#409 yellow finch hopping on branches

#410 old, sturdy vines, hugging, clinging all the way up

#411 laughing, laughing, laughing with friends

# 412 the day-in, day-out, continual learning that I am not in control . . . giving up those I love, letting Him work

#413 a changed heart . . . mine. learning to love right where He has me

#414 that it could only possibly be His work

#415 balloon excitement

#416 flowy skirts in warm, Southern spring breezes

#417 silly pictures

#418 praying friends

#419 little girls in new hairbows

#420 being surrounded by beautiful brothers and sisters in Christ

#421 that we can take turns holding up each other’s arms

Whispered Thanks

 

Twirling

This space feels empty to me and it makes me a little sad. There’s a lot on my mind (maybe future posts in the making?), but this Life full of its own (very real) limits is busy learning how to manage a life of new, seemingly small, mommy-ing things….

 

Like Firefly phasing out of naptimes, but still desperately needing one. Even with a “quiet time” in her room early in the afternoon, by 5:00, she is a basket-case. I mean, can’t-stop-crying kind of tired. By 6:00, she is a jumping-around-the-house-singing-at-the-top-of-her-lungs kind of hyper, merely trying to keep herself awake.What bothers me about this the most, is that I find myself losing my temper a lot more than usual….

 

Like Firefly having neighbor friends knock on the door to ask if she can play outside (wasn’t I just the one going door to door trying to find a friend, free to play?!). Having times where she is completely independent is a little freeing (a whole new era!) and a little saddening at the same time. It’s only a small step in letting her go. Letting her branch out and play all on her own and prove herself . . . or maybe not. It’s never too early to pray for good influences and that she will be one herself.

 

The youngest cutting down to one naptime, when she still desperately needs two (are you catching my theme here? -grin-). She’s also learning to play on her own a little bit, while Firefly’s romping around outside with friends…. ¬†She’s learning to be the little one, poor thing, while all the big kids are playing outside. We usually make it outside too, but for some reason, I don’t have quite as much time to play around with the neighborhood kids, so we’re not outside as much as Dovey would like to be.

 

Like trying to be a better meal planner. I cleaned out the fridge a couple of days ago and it literally made me sick to think about how much money I threw in the trash can! I am always beating myself up, chiding myself that our grocery expenses should be better. Silly me. Maybe it’s not the grocery shopping that needs more tweaking? I’ve suddenly realized that I have *got* to be better about making sure we eat up more leftovers, or freeze them, or SOMETHING! The hubby’s not too keen on leftovers (don’t tell him, but . . . shhhh . . . neither am I), so I think I need to do more freezing. Maybe I’ll start cooking for “tonight’s” meal, and “next Thursday’s” meal, instead of cooking for two nights of the same meal, back to back.

 

It all sounds so small and trite, doesn’t it? Not anything huge to learn to navigate, right? But of course, as much as I want to be transparent and all “Upside Down” of a blogger, there are some things that can’t and shouldn’t be shared on the world wide web. So of course there are the things, the day-in and day-out kinds of things, of marriage, and possibilities, and struggles, and hurts, and plans, and joys, and surrendering, and steps of faith with no assurances of the destination, and all the wrestling there goes with that, and all the praying, and everything that every single person on this planet deals with every. single. day.

 

So while, this blog remains a little quiet, there is an unseen step-by-step life, just like yours. I find that sometimes, there is a time to write it all out (and oh, how I always want to!), and sometimes, there is a time to simply be still and ponder and let the Potter twirl this life around for a few days on end, feeling His fingertips groove into me, smoothing and shaping and cupping and emptying and filling.

 

Just spinning right now.

Round and round.

His Hands cup.

I learn to like the grooves.