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Tag Archives: Endless Gifts

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

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

 

It Came

The Sunshine finally came our way . . . just in time for the weekend. 🙂

 

#373 birds, all alive and chirping and building nests in our yard

#374 the way Dove’s lips pucker when she says “tweet”

#375 getting all dirty . . . playing hard

#376 freshly washed hair

#377 surviving the fog and living to tell about it

#378 WONDERFUL, GLORIOUS sunshine

#379 picnics and pears

#380 the little one and the way she “had” her big sister

#381 laughing before falling asleep

#382 pull-out sleeper sofas and that we all fit

#383 little girls peering at me through the window

#384 that he heard me last week even through my immaturity

#385 that it’s still good to speak up anyway

#386 boundaries

#387 a new globe

#388 books, books, books

#389 little, hand-scrawled signatures from long ago

#390  unexpected, tear-jerking generosity

#391 the comfort of coffee

#392 hostas, sprouting up

#393 seeing the passionate, intermingled love for the Gospel and the world

#394 a half hour, in the car, pouring my heart out

#395 running into friends when you were *just* thinking about them

#396 a roomful, laughing at ourselves

Simply thanking, along with others

 

A Simple Monday Thank You

Continuing....

 

#342 seven little girls, all playing happily

#343 getting to visit with their mamas

#344 that I get to sit next to my husband during church

#345 little hands, playing in sand

#346 small confirmations that make it all worth it

#347 white petals snowing down

#348 lemon in my water

#349 bread, cake, and enough chicken . . . that He hears the small requests

#350 and that #349 gives me hope for the bigger heart-cries

#351 new, soft-pink ballet slippers and all her glorious excitement

#352 new, little hands at the piano

#353 an evening walk and that it was warm enough without a jacket

#354 falling asleep to thunderstorms

#355 that thunderstorms make me stop and hold her a little closer

#356 little breath words, like “shoe” and “juice”

#357 laughing together over little-boy communications!

#358 a full living room of friends and making room for new ones

#359 toys, strewn and scattered

#360 hot showers

#361 pink, purple, and orange nail polish

#362 a mama and papa bird, nest-building at our back door

#363 gas in the fuel tank

#364 emails from blogging friends (you know who you are and I just *love* you!)

#365 the way she worries over Japan and pictures of children with cleft lips

#366 Dovey’s arms-around-the-neck hugs

#367 that sometimes arguments give rise to solutions

#368 that he and He can forgive my tantrums

#369 clean sheets

#370 40 full hours of Pandora . . . praising vicariously, when I just don’t feel like I can

#371 and that now I want to . . .

#372 breakfast for dinner and enough to feed a spontaneous two more

 

The Hard Thanks

Joining others in the hard thanks

 

It happened again last night. A group of people getting to know one another and the typical “couples” questions came up.

 

“Tell about yourself. Let’s get to know one another. How did all of you husbands and wives meet?”

 

We, my husband and I, don’t like telling our story. It’s gritty. It’s ugly, really. And our hearts still feel raw at times. I skim just the top off the story, and I’m still reeling a few hours later. It’s not that we mind the question. It’s hard to answer, but in order for anyone to truly know us as a couple, or even as individuals, the chapter must be told.

 

It’s not the question we mind.

 

It’s our story itself.

 

It started out all well and good. I was seventeen and I had all the butterflies and hopes and dreams over a certain brown-eyed, brown-haired, brilliant young man. We were best friends. And then . . .

 

we fell in love.

 

We planned on marrying from the start.

 

It felt like a fairy tale. Our families loved each other. Our families spent lots of time together.

 

And then.

 

It all fell apart. Our parents’ marriages disintegrated right before our eyes. Within two weeks of one another, both sets of parents were separated. Accusations flew. So did denials. But, relationships between parents became too close. It can no longer be denied.

 

We surveyed the devastation and thought it was all our fault. If it hadn’t been for the two of us, falling in love, our families would still be intact, we thought. We broke up. Again and again. Wondering how we could ever navigate a marriage in the midst of two families that were now feuding.

 

But we loved each other.

 

We couldn’t stay away.

 

God sent us counsel.

 

And in September, after Hurricane Ivan left our hometown flooded and our honeymoon destination shutdown, we woke up to a beautiful, blue-sky kind of wedding day. The kind of wedding day every girl dreams about. Ivan means, “God is Gracious.”

 

Yes.

 

We stood on the rocks of a Mountain church and pledged our vows to one another. Looking back, I realize we kept the vows before we ever even said them. I hope to live them for the rest of my life, by God’s grace and only His.

 

 

When the seemingly normal questions come, my hearts shrinks back in the wanting to hide. In the wanting for the simple beauty of just a regular love story. In simple family ties.

 

But God gave us something different. And I’m learning to accept that a little grit, a little lightning, make the most beautiful vessel-like glass.

 

Ah, yes. I must find the eucharisteo of the past  . . .

 

that I might live it in the present.

 

#327 the necklace with nine and twelve . . . my comfort in the not understanding

#328 that we had two years before each blow

#329 Jonathan’s roommate’s encouragement, when we thought we were crazy

#330 that we can understand each other’s wounds

#331 that our siblings have never blamed us

#332 for truth-speakers when we didn’t know what to believe

#333 that He helped us to hold onto one another through it all

#334 that we actually went through with it, we said the vows

#335 that we can be honest about the wishing our story was different

#336 that we recognize that it made us stronger

#337 that our story is not finished

#338 that God builds on chapters

#339 that I love him more than ever

#340 two beautiful baby girls

#341 that if I knew this would still be the result, I’d marry him all over again

Just Continuing

Merely continuing the count….

 

#303 rain, rain, rain

#304 a wide-mouth Ball jar, brimming with yellow-gold forsythia

#305 the drawings, the flowers, the drawings, the flowers . . . her always bringing

#306 the “Mom? I wuv you.”

#307 Dovey and her necklaces. All seven of them.

#308 That he still needs me

#309 old friends, gathered around our table

#310 That Borax and Scotch-Guard even work with red wine and curry chicken. And really? That I wouldn’t care if they didn’t.

#311 Five little girls, playing strong, growing friendships

#312 That He listens to my cries, my griping

#313 That He can calm my heart . . . heal it

#314 That he still has the touch . . . his stove-popped popcorn is the best! One less thing for me to do in the kitchen. 🙂

#315 A house.

#316 A roof.

#317 Four walls.

#318 Clothing.

#319 Clean water to drink . . . even ice.

#320 Little girls, dancing with smiles and giggles, tutus twirling

#321 good, long talks with my sis

#322 cardinals hopping on our patio

#323 beautiful, March sunshine

#324 That I could pull out the Chacos!

#325 the way He keeps turning my heart to Him in the waiting

#326 that only He can satisfy

Joining others in thanks

 

Colors

Joining others in thanks

 

I’ve called her Firefly. My oldest daughter with her artistic bent and her sometimes intense emotions. Her eyes twinkle and her dimples appear and she entrances me in her light. But just as quickly, her light flickers and her face and heart are suddenly dark and brooding. Sometimes, I think she is art embodied.

 

 

And I have a confession to make. These Thankful Mondays? They’re wonderful and all, but I have not been living the thanks. My ingratitude colors my days much, much more than the gratitude has. Mondays come, and I reflect on His gifts to me, try to develop an eye for Jesus, but the gratitude has been more like quick, Polaroid snapshots in my life.

 

Today, I am grieved over the ways I’ve allowed my heart and mind to dwell on what I’ve perceived as the Hand behind His back.

 

Yesterday came and because of sickness in our friends’ household, our normal Sunday church small group routine was changed. We were still able to meet, but the children would be at our house instead of our friends’, and Firefly’s little girlfriends would not be coming.

 

Enter 3-year-old, little girl heartbreak. Bitter disappointment.

 

She cried.

 

And then she got angry.

 

Disrespect toward me entered her tone of voice and she lashed out at me in anger.

 

But I saw her, trying to fight back those disappointed tears, trying to hide them behind her little-girl-fury.

 

Over the course of a couple of weeks, the Lord has been showing me how to better parent this emotional child. I’ve (finally) learned that the anger is her defense. It is her coping. Does it excuse her behavior? Uh, that would be a *big* no. But thankfully, the One who teaches me is slowing giving me insight into how this little girl of mine chooses to paint with whatever colors life throws at her. Hopefully, this insight will help me teach her how to better handle life’s disappointments, and consequently, her emotions.

 

But simultaneously, as my heart achingly watched my beautiful girl lash out in anger as she choked back tears of disappointment, I saw myself.

 

The ingratitude, the disappointment, the things in life not happening the way I’ve wanted them, or expected them, or life not happening in my own swift timing . . . these things show up in my crankiness. My seeking for more. For something else. My anxiety. My insecurities.

 

Ah, yes, my paint-choosings.

 

My lack of trust and gratefulness colors my world in ugly brushstrokes of black, dark greens, and browns.

 

And these Mondays help me brush some different colors. My Monday afternoons are cheerier. Yellows, reds, and purples.

 

 

But I want my whole life to be full of the beautiful brushstrokes of thanks and trust. The living in grace and truth.

 

It takes time to paint a masterpiece. It takes a Master. I’m asking Him to use His brush. Chisel, if need be.

 

I do, indeed, have so very much for which to be thankful. Eternally grateful. But for today . . .

 

just . . .

 

#302 that I can go to Him, confess what He already knows, and it’s like a blank canvas. again. and again.

 

Rod and Staff

Getting back from out of town and catching up on life today. And there are days – even when I have every reason in the world (and more!) to be incredibly thankful – that I just don’t feel all drop-to-my-knees grateful. I’ve been given so much and want for nothing, and I still wrestle for contentment and peace.

 

I am angry with myself for being so ungrateful for all His good gifts and for always wanting more . . . more.

 

The wind is howling around our house walls and the storm’s clouds have moved in and I wonder if tomorrow’s March will come in like a lion or a lamb. I wonder what our future holds and just want to know that the Shepherd – the One who is both the Lion and the Lamb – is still leading us. Still guiding us.

 

At breakfast, Firefly plays with a bread bag’s twisty tie and shows me how she’s formed a candy cane. I say that I think it also looks like a Shepherd’s hook and she smiles and turns her toast into a Shepherd walking along our wooden table with his red hook at his side. I inwardly beg Him to use His hook and keep us, we, His sheep that so desperately need His leading, ever close to Him.

 

He stays ever close and where He leads, I want to follow. I will look for Him along the way . . . His rod and His staff, they comfort me….

 

#282 little sister’s birthdays

#283 spontaneous family togetherness

#284 His leading to make just a little extra . . . and then being able to share

#285 little girl curiosity

#286 a weekend getaway

#287 a giving friend who loves my girls

#288 sleeping in!

#289 time together

#290 a small sunburn from late February sunshine

#291 the chance to ask for the power to forgive

#292 that we had the money to pay the parking fine

#293 Firefly’s excitement over a dress-up birthday party!

#294 the chance to seek Him in the hard-pressed limbo

#295 the discipline and accountability of counting, even when not feeling all giddy with thankfulness

#296 library storytime

#297 missing two little girls

#298 that peace lilies are so very forgiving

#299 the excitement of getting away and the comfort of coming home

#300 pink tulip tree blooms

#301 the first of yellow daffodils

Hungering

It’s not really early morning here, but the girls are still sleeping (!!!) and I sit to myself for a quiet few moments. I wake up, hungry. I never really realized what a gift hunger can be until this week when sickness again emerged and my lack of appetite kept me from eating and my lack of eating left me lifeless. The baby sat on my hip, feeling two times heavier, and merely standing wore me out.

 

But if I just could have eaten….

 

How often do I do that to myself in other areas of life? Do I dull hungers, longings, dreams until I’m a shell of the person God made me to be? I’m away from His Word for days on end, and I don’t even crave it anymore. Or Him. I try to deaden God-given passions – maybe even needs – but they only manifest in other not-so-God-given ways. My apathy and fear halt me from the running after, and leave me sitting, lifeless and bored, mindlessly groping for something to bring breath.

 

Sometimes, you have to train yourself to hunger again.

 

This morning, I’m eager for breakfast. And I’m thankful.

 

And my physical hunger compels me to peer into soul’s dark, hidden corridors, looking for vaults that need the exhaled Breath of the Forever Light.

 

He awakens me….

 

We speak words . . . truth . . . and like a candle in the darkness, shine it into the forgotten and dulled.

 

The light shines through the darkness, and darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5

 

And I offer thanks.

 

 

#256 little red finch-like birds flitting on my front steps . . . the curiosity to learn of them

#257 to live in a community where the singing of birds can actually wake. you. up.

#258 the way the girls love their daddy

#259 phone calls from Dad, just checking up on me

#260 to make it through another round of a stomach bug

#261 a warm, fresh from the oven baked potato

#262 that Dove suddenly *loves* books

#263 Goodnight Moon

#264 even for “Happy Birthday, Big Bird!”

#265 finishing the Old Testament

#266 Starting the New!

#267 being indoors, being sick, making me realize that I need to get the girls *out* of doors more often

#268 U2 and little girls’ dancing in their car seats

#269 HGTV

#270 exciting music possibilities

#271 the way she puts a curve on her “R”

#272 realizing a bit more of my role in Firefly’s little life . . . that I’ve been going about it an unneeded way . . . hope

#273  hunger

#274 a full meal

#275 running into friends at a park! in the middle of February

#276 that because He has made it so, my words, my prayers hold weight

#277 His strength for the waiting

#278 black and white photos of Dove’s little face

#279 that our passions, our longings, are from Him . . . that we can lean into them and find Him in our lives

#280 to watch him

#281 that I don’t want to stop counting….

 

Joining others in soul-awakening thanks

Rejoicing Always

It’s been a crazy week and I’ve been busy and not given Him much of my heart’s energy. But He is so faithful. And sometimes, I wonder if instead of worrying about how little time I’ve had for Him, if He’d rather I just rejoiced in the gifts and life He’s given me. We’ve been singing a lot of “Rejoice in the Lord Always” around here lately. My heart buoys and the girls clap and we search for Him and thank Him for our cups overflowing.

 

Continuing to count the ways . . . His gifts . . . His presence in our little, everyday lives….

 

#226 “let’s just veg” nights, cuddled on the couch

#227 holding a newborn baby . . . that wonderful, new-life smell

#228 that he would gobble up, even my over-baked lasagna.

#229 two unexpected mornings at home . . . the opportunity to exemplify flexibility

#230 little boy falling sound asleep in my arms

#231 the waiting for (I hope) a someday-coming little boy of my own

#232 the way her voice lilts when she says “Mama”

#233 the way his aftershave lingers on our skin, long after he’s kissed us each good-bye

#234 sunlight, shining through peace lily leaves

#235 little fingerprints on glass

#236 clean floors

#237 that he came with me

#238 family around the table

#239 a working vacuum cleaner

#240 watching her arabesque

#241 her little dancer’s excitement

#242 a warm, cinnamon dolce latte

#243 an ever-present second father

#244 hugging Dad

#245 Dove’s loving exuberance for others

#246 the way they both touch the ceiling by the strength of their father’s arms

#247 a full house

#248 a teenage boy and his sweet heart’s soft spot . . . the real him shining through

#249 snake-in-my-bed pranks (yes, especially this)

#250 seeking direction and that we get to do it together

#251 3 1/2 years . . . nearly every Sunday night, all gathered

#252 goodbye tears

#253 that He is in the winds of change

#254 He is more than worthy of my trust

#255 resting in His goodness

 

 

Joining others in offering gift-thanks