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Category Archives: Prayer

Processing Freedom and Grace

I don’t write this post for any sympathy or empathetic comments. I write it because I know I’m not alone and maybe you and I can process together??

 

It’s been one of those kind of weeks. The kind where you’re just left depleted and you feel there’s nothing left to give. Your very soul is raw and sore . . . the kind of sore you’d imagine from a deep surgical incision. You’ve received somewhat alarming news, your toddler just doesn’t *get* how to pee in the potty and you’ve cleaned carpets and sofas and several pairs of underwear a day. You get your feelings deeply hurt in a creep-up-on-you sort of way and you feel like the doormat whose “Welcome” was stomped on the way through the door. Your life feels like it’s been hijacked and how do you get off this plane ride and regain control? Where do your boundaries lie, and more importantly, where do your *loyalties* lie and how much do you push yourself to keep on giving, or how do you find the strength to just say, “no” ?

 

Familiar words seep through and begin to fill:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Oh. Oh yeah. Just pray. So I do.

 

I sit Dove-turned-Pixie on the bathroom counter and cut little toenails straight across. I knock glass and it falls, straight into the sink, shattering open. It’s my favorite perfume and it all washes right down the same drain where I spit my toothpaste. I want to cry. Perfume’s expensive and this one in particular was a Christmas present and I can’t believe it was me and not two-year-old Pixie who breaks the bottle.

 

The irony is not lost on me. The perfume’s name is Amazing Grace.  I walk into the bathroom a few minutes later and I can smell its sweetness, resting in the air. But not because I released it slowly, spritzing it on my neck and wrists. It was violated. Violently spilled down porcelain and now it’s gone.

 

And I realize, I’ve been literally shattering myself down the drain, trying to be that Grace. I try hard to be the bottle itself. I try to give it all away til there’s nothing left in me to give and I feel emptied way too fast. I know this is not a rare feeling. I think it’s one of Woman’s most beautiful strengths and one of her strongest vices – trying to be all and fill all and love all.

No one else has depleted me. I’ve depleted myself. There’s only One who has already violently poured down Grace – and rather than wasted disaster, it was perfect rescue. The rest of us, we’re finite, and grace has to first be poured on us before we can share it with anyone else. I can only bestow little grace-spritzes from the Source. It seems obvious, but how hard I, Woman, fight it:

 

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

I am not the Source.

 

 

I sniff the remaining scent of Amazing Grace and I shed a few tears. Not because of the lost perfume (well, okay, yes, mostly because of the perfume), but because He gently shows me that Freedom does not come from complete self-sacrifice or giving your life away to every person’s needs. There *is* joy and freedom in those things, if we’re doing those things for all the right reasons, but otherwise we’re imprisoning ourselves to everyone’s whims.

 

No, freedom comes from allowing Him to be the Grace toward all we love. And if we’re lucky, we get to spritz some grace too.

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Whimsy Prayers and Fleet-Footed Answers

There have been times in my life, really the majority of my life, where money was tight. I grew up the oldest of eight children, so you can imagine that I grew up on hand-me-downs and learned not to ask for much. But He still always provided through our hard-working father and through people who truly loved our larger-than-average family and I never wanted for necessities. I grew up and Jonathan and I walked down the aisle, arrived home all giddy from our honeymoon and suddenly panicked because we thought we didn’t have anything left in our newly joined bank account. We thanked God as we found $500 automatically deposited from my one-week-behind nursing paycheck. Our first week home, together, and we breathed thanks to the Provider of all things.

 

Then we were DINKS. You know? Dual Income, No Kids. So, we went to the movies a lot and ate out way too often. But 2 years passed, and oops, we were going to have a baby! We saved, saved, saved every penny we could so that I could stay home with our baby girl when she arrived. She came and I stayed home and we survived on one income while simultaneously trying to become debt-free (that ‘s a whole other story!). We didn’t buy things like fabric softener or extra snacks. We stayed home from the movies and my daughter wore wonderful hand-me-downs (I’ll *always* love hand-me-downs!). I learned as a fairly new wife and mother that there are a lot of things we think that we need to run a household, but really don’t. But now, our season has changed and God has provided. Now the fabric softener makes it into our grocery cart, but still rarely actually goes in with wash. 🙂

 

Before, there were things I thought we needed, but learned we didn’t. Now there are things we don’t need, but have anyway.

 

A girl can get lazy in asking her Provider to provide when He’s already providing more than she’s used to.

But I’m about to dare you.

Low on our priority list of “needs” has been a children’s table for our girls.  With two little budding artists and no current kitchen table, the only place the girls have had to draw is at the dining room table (which the littlest one has a tendency to crawl on top of -gulp-), or the kitchen floor (which is, as I’ve mentioned before, a linoleum parquet and creates little rub-on indentions into their artwork -grin-).  So the girls are often in the dining room, eating or drawing alone, while I’ve gone about making the morning coffee or unloading the dishwasher. Either that, or their guilt-ridden mother has placed two little, good-natured girls in front of their breakfasts and they’ve eaten their cheerios off the kitchen floor (Out of a bowl, out of a bowl!) .  So, for awhile now, I’ve been on a rather low-key hunt for a children’s table, but I just hadn’t found a good price on one and with each morning that passed, I was a little bit saddened that my children were left eating in the other room.

(Side note: Do you really think the girls cared about this?!)

Could I just have gone out and bought a table? Sure! But as I’m sure you know, there are lots of purchases in this young-parenting season of life and a children’s table was pretty much at the bottom of my priority list.

But one day I just casually told God that I’d really like to find a table for the girls. Would He help me find one? Of course, my caveat slipped in and I added something about how, of course, He knows what we truly need, so you know. Whatever. 🙂

Yesterday, one of the young neighbor girls knocked at our front door. We greeted each other with smiles and she said,

“My mom and I were just wondering if you could use a little table for your girls? I’ve outgrown mine and we can’t find a place for it in the house and we just thought your girls might be able to use it.”

You better believe I snatched that table right up! And I can’t tell you how THANKFUL I am for that little table. Yes, because now we have a nice little nook for the girls to eat and draw, but even more because it was simply God’s gift to me. How often do I not ask Him for things simply because I can just go out and do it, buy it, or manage it myself?

But I’ve asked for things on whims and He whizzes right in and in His non-fumbling way, just gives. 

There are some really large things looming in my life and I’ve been knocking on His door about them for quite some time. It is easy to grow weary. Apathetic. But when He answers our “little” prayers, He gives us the gift of hope. It is almost more humbling. That He the Master and Creator of the Universe would supply something so insignificant to one who merely asked on a whimsy.

So, I dare you. I dare myself.

Let’s ask and just see what he does.

Because He dared us first.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11

 

So today, I am thankful. That God hears my “just-talking-out-loud” prayers. That He shows me He’s our Provider in all things. He gives me courage and builds my faith.

 

And I ask for more.

 

#620 summer sunlight, drying the wooden, freshly hosed highchair

 

#621 sidelong, wry smiles over their heads while watching “movies” that only little girls would want to watch

 

#622 homemade pizza

 

#623 unexpected lunch with a friend

 

#624 the way she loves us and the way we all love her

 

#625 long, hot baths

 

#626 the way words stir the soul

 

#627 day-in, day-out, just being with them

 

#628 barefoot girls, running to welcome their daddy home

 

#629 lemonade

 

#630 cucumber blooms (finally!)

 

#631 fresh, flavorful, local tomatoes

 

#632 hence, lots of homemade salsa

 

#633 this messy house

 

#634 celebrating new babies with old friends

 

#635 our littlest one’s initiated night out

 

#636 spontaneity

 

#637 rocks, ages old, right here

 

#638 coffee with a friend and having to be hinted at by the staff to leave

 

#639 Target runs

 

#640 sitting down, playing the keys

 

#641 giving myself grace, which is really HIS grace to me

 

#642 making it through his hard-working week

 

#643 a new, just-for-them table

 

#644 that HE HEARD! that little, barely spoken prayer

 

#645 that He’s just so unexpected

 

#646 How He must love to delight His children

 

#647 and how He must be hearing those big prayers too

 

#648 fuel for hope

Click here to read of more thankfulness!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparrow

*Heads-up: This post is a bit long – just a story in the life of a regular-everyday mama like me. I promise it has a point. And I’d love for you to join me . . . learning the art of prayer….*


I’ve called her my grace because she has taught me so much about the One who is grace Himself. When my second daughter came into this world, I had a multitude of requests surrounding her birth. Little Mama-prayers – nothing monumental.

 

Of course, I prayed for a healthy baby. I prayed for other things though too – things important only to me.

Like, please, let my doctor be on call when I go into labor.

Please, let me have good nurses.

Please, please, keep my body whole.

Please, let me get the one larger mommy-baby room on the floor (my husband and I both come from gargantuan families and would have lots of visitors).

 

And there were more. Little, simple prayers that weren’t really huge requests in the grand scheme of things. They would just be, oh, so nice.

 

I woke up in the middle of the night that night and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was having a few contractions. “Hmmm . . . better keep tabs on those,” I thought. But more importantly, I was hungry. I rolled my nine-month-pregnant belly out of bed and padded my way to the kitchen.

 

Granola. I needed granola.

 

So, I ate granola at 3:00 in the morning and watched (what else would a pregnant woman watch in the middle of the night?) The Food Network. Giada De Laurentiis and I traveled all over New England from the comfort of my couch and we ate granola and timed contractions. I have to admit, between the two of us, she wins hands-down for looking amazing at 3 a.m.  😉 Giada didn’t know it, but as she talked of lobster and fish and oysters, I was slowly realizing that this was going to be the big day.

 

The contractions slowly progressed until all of a sudden, they came in a flurry and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t walk. Perfect! My doctor had told me at my appointment earlier in the week that he was going to be on call just the Saturday of this particular weekend! One prayer answered.

 

We rushed down Georgia and Tennessee mountain roads to get to the hospital.

 

But by the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, all of those frenzied contractions had all but ceased. I was determined that I was not going into that hospital just to be kept in a bed. I wanted to be more than convinced that this was the real thing before being admitted to the hospital.

 

So what did we do?

 

We went to Sonic, of course.

(For those of you not from the Southern U.S., Sonic is a drive-in, fast-food chain where the waitresses still come out to your car on roller skates! They serve a mean Cherry-Limeade over mouth-watering pellet ice. If you’re ever down this way, you gotta try one.)

 

And as we sat waiting for our order, I realized. I could not possibly be in labor. If any other woman was sitting in a Sonic Drive-Thru ordering a morning shake instead of waddling through those hospital doors?

 

I’d pat her sweet, little shoulder and sympathetically say,

“Honey, you need to go on home. This isn’t it.”

And I hated to admit it, but it was true.

 

So after an hour or so of walking at the mall, trying to get something going, we went home and I crawled in the bed. Exhausted.

My husband went to get his hair cut (Yes, I gave him permission – if this was the day, I didn’t want him scaring our new, little one with scraggly hair. <sheepish grin> Oh, okay, you caught me – it was really all about the pictures.). Our oldest was with family. I tried to nap.

 

But I was disappointed. I  had thought this was the day.

 

“Lord? I thought this was it. What’s happening? I’ve done this once before, why is it so different this time? My doctor’s on call. My husband’s off of work already. This would be the perfect day.”

 

The contractions were only every 20 minutes apart and far from noteworthy. The doctor called and told me I could come into the hospital and he could check my progression if I wanted him to. I was tempted. But also terrified. I wanted as natural a birth as possible and didn’t want to get stuck at the hospital, or be pressured to be induced, etc.

 

I told the doctor that I needed to pray and I’d let him know what I decided.

So my husband and I, we cuddled in our bed and prayed . . .

“Lord, you know that we think this would be a perfect day for our daughter’s birth. We pray that you would show us what is going on here. If this is real labor, we just pray that you get things going because the doctor isn’t on call tomorrow. If this isn’t the day, please stop all contractions for now and give us peace in your timing.”

 

We closed our eyes for about five minutes.

And then my eyes flew open to the bedside clock. Hard contraction.

Five minutes.

Contraction.

And another and another.

Within an hour of that prayer, I was in that hospital bed, very close to holding our baby in our arms.

She came.

And she would have come, regardless.

 

But, I had my doctor. I had good nurses. I got that big room. My body did more wonderfully than it did the first time around. And I had a healthy baby girl. And there were other prayers too.

 

Every single prayer? Even the small, it-would-be-so-nice-but-it’s-so-small-I-probably-shouldn’t-even-bother-asking-You requests? He answered, “Yes.” He has said yes to me before. He’s said no to me plenty of times. But surrounding her birth, He showed me more of His loving-kindness. He showed me that He *truly* listens. He showed me that He cares – even about someone like me – that His eye is truly on the sparrow. He showed me that nothing is too small to ask.

 

Let us not be afraid to ask of Him.

 

Am I saying that He will answer every request with a “yes”? No, I’m not saying that. He sometimes has to say no to our requests, but I have no doubt that in those instances, He says yes to something better. I’m also not saying that prayer is only about asking of Him, but that is a subject larger than the scope of this post, or my understanding for that matter.

 

What are your requests? Big or small? If there is something on your heart, would you please give me the honor of taking you before the Father? Because seeing His faithfulness in my life and in the lives of others strengthens and encourages me. If you feel comfortable, feel free to share your request(s) in the comments, so that whatever readers come this way may pray for you as well. If that is too public for you, please feel free to email me at lifeinlimits@gmail.com.  Either way, I promise that you will be taken before the Father. Let us take advantage of this blog community….

 

~Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16~

~Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublim-est; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities-they are limited only by the omnipotence of God. ~E. M. Bounds~