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Your Beautiful Life

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Hebrews 3:14

We were newlywed neighbors. Just a couple doors down and about fifty years apart. When I told you that Jonathan and I had moved into that honeymoon nest of an apartment of ours, you giggled and those blue eyes of yours sparkled. The memories of your own newlywed days in that same brick row of apartments brought a certain calm happiness to your voice as you reminisced with me about barbecues with your friends on the green lawn. You told me I’d love it there.

I did.

You’d come to the doctor’s office occasionally, to see another doctor in the practice, and when I’d get a minute (somehow I always knew when you were there), I’d sneak away from that desk of mine and run over to see you. I’d give you a knowing look and ask how your doctor was treating you and you’d give me that side-long glance of yours and ask me how that doctor of mine was treating me. The difference was, you were seeing a doctor for your health and I was merely working for one.

Then, after Firefly was born, you and Billy came to visit. I remember you both, walking up that L-shaped sidewalk, Billy with that certain little gait of his, and you in all your calm vivaciousness. You graced our small living room and sat on our enormous green couch and held our new bundle of pink and said all the things a new mother loves to hear. Those seemingly small gestures of yours . . . they meant the world.

I didn’t know you as well as some others. And I feel a bit out of place here, sharing anything about your life, while the entire church reels at the aftershocks of your passing. But I can’t stop thinking about your beautiful life. You were just that kind of person. Even if a person didn’t know you intimately, what they did know of you, they just simply loved. We couldn’t help ourselves. I can still hear your “HI!, Darlin’!!!” when I’d walk through the church nursery doors . . . you, decades older than all of us young moms, but there anyway, serving children as you’d been doing in this community for longer than most of us moms have been alive. You’d greet me from across the classroom and in your spunky, “glad to see you” steps, you’d patter over to the door and you’d ask me again how to pronounce my girls’ names. And you’d sort of shake your head in disbelief . . . I’ve never been sure if that little head-shake of yours was at how I’d named my girls such unusual names, or at the fact that you could never remember just how to pronounce them. It didn’t matter.

Because Firefly, the one you had in class all last spring just loved Miss Mancy, as she called you. She couldn’t wait for Wednesday morning Bible Study so she could go see you . . . and  watch Veggie Tales. 🙂 Often, when I’d come back to the nursery to pick up my girls, we’d all be tired and hungry and I’d have a difficult time getting the little ones out the door and into the car without a bit of a meltdown. Even while chatting with all the other moms coming to retrieve their little ones . . . did you notice?

One day, I came to pick up Firefly and you came to the half-door and just said, “That Firefly.” And you sort of smacked your lips with this proud kind of look and that side-long glance on your face again. “Don’t you just LOVE her?!”

Did you know that I needed a reminder that my oldest is one of God’s own wonderful creations? Full of her own gifts and talents and that she is more than just a little person to be herded from the nursery classroom to the car? Because you made me stop dead in my tracks and I know my very soul paused in all its frenzy. That someone would love my child like that and take the time to make sure I knew…. You made me love my own little girl all the more – helped me honor that little soul of hers all the more. Yes, you served our children and it kept you young . . . but you served us in your serving.

Now, your race is done and we reflect on the beauty of your steps and thank God for the places where your tread crossed each of ours.

I hope you know.

You are sorely missed.

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

 

Questions at the Keyboard

It was 52 degrees yesterday and the sun was shining in all its blue sky. The girls and I had a fairly quick errand to run, but after the better part of two weeks spent indoors, I needed just a few more breaths of that fresh air. Instead of steering the car up the mountain curves, I made an impromptu, hard left turn and drove to a local playground. We frolicked and played for all of about 20 minutes in the usually elusive, but actually present, mid-January sunshine. And it was heavenly, I tell you, simply heavenly.

 

As yesterday’s glum mood lifted, my heart also sank a bit as I thought back to my recent mood and how it has presented in my recent blog postings. Why have I been so downcast? And while I want to be an Upside Down Blogger, what is the balance between being too real, too vulnerable, too sappy, too much of a downer, and still being a blessing to others? I wanted to delete a few posts. Maybe all of them.

 

And yet God gives so much grace. In this space, where I so want to be used for His glory and be a blessing to others, He calls me to be vulnerable and real. It makes me blush and I am humbled . . . I am the one who is blessed. A few emails. A friend bringing over a pot of soup. Flashing texts sent from friends and family, checking in on us. Even my daughters reaching out in forgiveness after I’d snapped too harshly. In my wallowing, whiney moments, grace upon grace. You know who you are. Thank you.

 

But what is the balance? How do you write of your life, your moments, your struggles when it involves others’ lives as well? How are you honest about parenting struggles while honoring details and struggles of just-sprouting little lives placed in your care? How are you honest about marriage battles while respecting your spouse and the sacredness of marriage? And on the flip side, how do you talk about the good gifts of life without sounding like you’re bragging or trying to rub something in someone’s face? This is where honest blogging, and really community in general, gets sticky.

 

Any wisdom anyone?

 

So, dear readers (and Heavenly Father), please forgive me for the meandering through. Thank you for the grace.

 

You shine light.

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~