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The Seeing Grace

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Is it really Monday again? The weekend was heavenly. The busyness, and the unexpected quiet of my husband’s presence beside me. Not just him, physically by my side . . . but mentally. Emotionally. Busyness and soul-quietness, all at once.

But the afterglow of the weekend fades and Monday morning startlingly jars us into gritty family life. The little one shuts a door, not knowing that her big sister has her hand in between the door and the door frame. And the pressure on Firefly’s fingers blows her top and she screams and wails and I run to the door to move the little one’s body away from the door in order to release Firefly’s fingers from between the hinge. I cringe. I thought I’d heard a crack. Her knuckles are indented and already swollen.

We go ahead and try to ice it. She screams louder. She’s never liked ice. She never seems to realize that we’re trying to help her when the ice pack makes its appearance. Its presence always seems to add insult to injury and her cries make our ears ring and our patience wears thin as she fights and screams against us.

None of us handle it well. We all sit on the couch, Firefly on my lap, squirming and combative, and the fault lines in each one of us quake and flinch and there’s no taking it back. Family fault lines tremble in the stressful moments and make themselves more than evident.

She moves her fingers. The swelling goes down and she begins her lighted smiles again.

Jonathan leaves for work through the back door. I don’t say goodbye. I make the fault lines deeper.

But He comes in those moments. I begin to believe that when the family ruts arise to the surface, that their very existence made evident is simply pure grace. Sometimes a smaller, stressful moment shines light on deeper rifts . . . deeper things that need addressed. And He comes in the Monday morning earthquakes, shifting familial, underlying tectonic-like plates, and healing is brought to the light of everyday life. This is when we have a choice.

When plates are shifted, we can try to smooth over the cracks and fissures with resentment and bitterness . . . a sort of stagnant form of “moving on” with life . . . or we can leave the cracks and fissures exposed, a hands-held-open sort of giving up, and ask Him to bring His healing.

Jonathan calls a bit later to check on her. We talk. We apologize. And we realize that we have some work to do and some prayers to pray. And there is grace in the seeing. In the not being blind to our faults. By His grace, the deeper ruts will heal and a Monday morning quake will bring a life’s worth of healing.

He is good.

#562 that it was just the door frame’s crack I heard

#563 grace in the seeing, a humbling in the knowing

#564 quick apologies

#565 that when we ask for wisdom, He will give it (James 1:5)

#566 that parenting keeps us on our toes . . . and our knees

#567 unexpected unity

#568 answers to a prayer I’m not even sure I prayed

#569 our small group’s wonderful potlucks

#570 a fun stretching

#571 painting with a friend

#572 swinging from a tall tree and long, pink ropes

#573 three nights in a row, eating with friends!

#574 sand in the sandbox

#575 sweeping the back porch

#576 weeding the flowerbed

#577 that there is delight in our work

#578 baby smiles

#579 married love

#580 warm summer sun

#581 her dancing on stage for first time

#582 sweet, pink flowers in a vase

#583 sore shins from a long, mountainous walk 🙂

#584 Cherry-Limeades

#585 His undeserved Presence

Joining the gift-thankers

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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? 🙂 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 🙂

#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 🙂

#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

Let Me Be Little

Typical Mommy days here lately. Playdates and baths. Preparing food and pushing little bodies on swings. Spring is here in full force and we are loving it. The sandals are being worn, the sandbox is being played in. Winter is fun in its own right and I love the scarves and the warm sweaters, but give me flip-flops and a tank top any day!

 

But just the typical mommy days are being lived here. Probably the same ones many of you live. The cooking meals. The cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. The “Oh, I’m so sorry, I meant to wash that shirt for you yesterday!” The reading books, the brushing teeth, the changing diapers, the planning meals, the fitting in naps, the tending to little hearts, the continual setting aside of good conversation, waiting for a quiet moment to run to the restroom, the putting the computer to sleep to turn your face to a child asking for help.

 

It’s not easy work, is it?

 

Some days it’s mundane.

 

Sometimes, it feels impossible.

 

Some days, it feels like my role doesn’t even matter.

 

Some mornings, I don’t even want to get out of bed.

 

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Because I also have the privilege of tucking little souls to sleep each night. And sitting on the couch in the middle of the day just to read a book with little ones tucked in my lap. I get to hear their funny little sayings and watch their sibling relationship develop. I get to match clean, little baby socks and wrestle little arms into sleeper pajamas. I get to play games and be silly to my heart’s content and am loved more for it. I get to sing songs at the top of my lungs and little children giggle and join right in. I get to pour cups of water again and again and again and fill little bellies and teach new words. I get to sit on the floor and color whenever I want and play hide and seek and wiggle my toes in the sandbox and quote little kid movies.

 

Something tells me, that this is the best job in the world.

 

But they’re only little once.

 

Let me be little with them.

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

Big Picture Truths

Some days, I desperately feel like I just need my fellow mama friends around me in a huddle. You know, a pep talk. Arms on shoulders, heads bent into our circle’s center.

 

I guess some days, I need to feel that cloud of witnesses cheering me on (Heb 12:1) – albeit my personal race is small and everyday compared to others’. Because I’m just a stay-at-home mom. And sometimes the gloomy thought raises its ugly head and I wonder if we stay-at-home-mamas try to glorify our vocation a bit much. Maybe we merely seek to make ourselves feel better in our daily humdrum. Believing that shrewd lie, even for a minute, causes my soul to crumple in weariness. But, He lifts my heart to dwell on truth. Because whether you are a stay-at-home mama, a working mama, or a single mama, we truly do have a high calling.

 

So if you’re having a day that’s got you down and dog-tired, come join me in the huddle.

 

 

C’mon girls,

 

 

We are driving the future.

 

We are bringing up the next generation of doctors and preachers,

teachers and researchers,

or maybe even more stay-at-home mamas.

 

The atmosphere of our homes is set by us.

 

We are memory-makers.

 

Our children are people –

little, yes, but someday, they will be all grown up with real thoughts and ideas, dreams and solutions –

we lay their foundations.

 

Others will come alongside us to help raise up our children

– teachers, peers, family, pastors, etc. –

but we are the underpinning.

 

We shape future mommies’ and daddies’ views on home.

 

To our boys, we lay the groundwork for their views on women.

 

To our girls, we teach what it is to be woman.

 

We are often given the honor of hearing a soul’s first prayers.

 

We see ambitions light in their eyes and we can either stamp them out, or fan the flames.

 

We can teach boys to be gentlemen.

 

We can teach girls to wait for one.

 

Every day, we can either fill their love tanks, or let them empty.

 

It may feel like our little mama-lives are hidden in the looming shadows of the world’s great humanitarians, missionaries, politicians, and blog and movie celebrities . . . but He brings power to the small, life to the dying, strength for the weary.

 

We plant a multitude of seeds.

 

Let’s water and illuminate.

 

Go get ’em, girls.

 

 

Deliverance

I shook my head again and again. “I can’t do this,” I kept saying – only internally, because the pain wouldn’t let the words leave my lips. Wave after wave of uterine contractions. One hand gripped the bedrail, the other clutched onto my husband’s poor hand. I searched his eyes, begging for help. He encouraged and said all the right things, but I just wanted to run away from myself. The baby was coming, nonetheless, and I could only be delivered from the pain by embracing more of it. I had a job to do . . . liberate a baby from my body-cocoon, but I was in the dreaded “transition” and I had run out of resolve. I had done this one time before, so I knew where I was, what was coming, and that the memories of the pain would fade. Regardless, I was in that frantic, feverish state, just wanting someone to deliver me.


Any woman who has ever delivered a baby knows that you have no choice in the giving up. You have no power to stop that baby from coming. And you don’t really want to. But you do. Because childbearing is one of the most taxing things you will ever do for the good of another life.

 

But the urgency for deliverance doesn’t end in the delivery room, does it?

 

The last couple of days, I feel like I have been in emotional transition in this childbearing phase of life. Delivering those babies of mine was only the beginning. If you are raising children, you know, you are giving up your body, mind and spirit every. single. day.

 

Because when that sippy cup is dropped on the hardwood floor for the twentieth time and the sound reverberates and the very vertebrae of my spine rile, I need to swallow that “contraction”, pick up that dropped cup, maybe say, “No, no” and let it go.

 

Every time the contraction of arguing with Firefly about whether or not to wear leggings under that dress, or wearing her brown sneakers instead of her adorable black boots, wears upon my soul, I need to take a deep breath, be the parent, not react, maybe let her decide, but definitely direct her heart.

 

Every time the contraction of seeing those toys on the floor that I just picked up (not three minutes ago) comes around, I need to stifle my murmuring and hold tight to the One whose grip will not let me go.

 

These are just the little contractions of motherhood. But they are constant. The seemingly little things can wear a mother thin, dissipate any semblance of confidence in her abilities, and make her want to run away and hide from the very things that she treasures with all her heart.

 

Whining.

 

Load after load of laundry.

 

Crumbs continually on the kitchen counter.

 

Toothpaste in the bathroom sink again.

 

That afore-mentioned sippy cup battle.

 

Battles of the will.

 

Another dirty diaper?

 

Knocks on the bathroom door when you’ve only been missing for 30 seconds.

 

“But I wanted such and such for dinner!”

 

Forgetting to stash the diaper bag.

 

And the wave after wave of giving yourself up for these simple tasks, directing a child’s heart, or the overwhelming desire for just a little break, is enough to make a girl wonder if she was cut out for a 24/7 job like this.

 

But I keep thinking on this passage:

“And women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Timothy  2:15

 

What on earth does that mean?????

 

I wonder if it means more than just physical labor and delivery . . . do you think it means childrearing? Because I certainly feel like motherhood helps me see more and more of my need for His cleansing sanctification than anything else.

 

I desperately need to have faith that he has given me enough strength and will give me enough wisdom to raise these two beautiful, little lives.

 

I desperately need true love for these two girls of mine. Love that guides, disciplines when needed and helps me lay my own wants and desires down at the foot of the cross.

 

And I desperately need a holy propriety in daily living with my children. All too often, I’ve been known to yell, become frustrated too easily, react and give in to plain, old grumpiness.

 

Oh, dear Father. Rescue me from running away from true deliverance. Because the more I fight to have more “me time”, or quiet, or a spotless home that bears no resemblance to one housing a busy, living family, the more the contractions of motherhood take the breath of your Spirit from me.

 

Please, yet again, bring life to my limits.

Hiding

I’ve found myself counting down the days to Mondays. Every day last week, I was wishing it was Monday so that I could list my thanks!

 

But Monday came today and I was grumpy and weary and didn’t feel like giving thanks. Snow fell here in the South yesterday, and all is calm and everyone is bundled indoors. And while the snow days usually bring a sense of peace and stillness to this crazy heart of mine, it only brought discontentment, weariness and restlessness today. In efforts to save my sanity, a brown Amazon box was opened and one of the girls’ Christmas gifts made it’s debut 12 days early. I now sit staring at a Megaland tent, complete with tunnels, doorways, 50 balls, all in primary colors, taking up my living room space. It’s much bigger than I ever dreamed it’d be!

 

And today I just wanted to go sit in the middle of that tent and hide for a bit. To still this weariness and the “everything is meaningless” mentality that crept in with the bitter December wind.

 

Because why should I keep washing clothes, and sweeping crumbs, and chasing away the same old insecurities, and fighting the same ol’ marriage battles, when they just keep piling right on in on top of me?

 

But there is a God who brings life to the ends of us. And the strivings we try to keep safely hidden in our own quarantined spaces, He does not leave alone. He quietly opens the flap and motions us toward real shelter under His wings. He breathes warmth onto our frozen cloaks of pretense and painful, but healthy, growth begins to sprout.

 

He holds my hand and helps me give thanks:

 

#48 new baby words

 

#49 a houseful of the effects of life with a family!

 

#50 early Christmas!

 

#51 a beautiful washer and dryer that someone just gave to us

 

#52 fresh snow

 

#53 down-feather

 

#54 a shared dinner with friends

 

#55 a beautiful Christmas concert

 

#56 greenery and red bows lacing the music

 

#57 an impromptu shopping trip

 

#58 a friend who cries at the drop of a hat =D

 

#59 homemade pizza

 

#60 movie night on the pullout couch

 

#61 Monday kept on the mind

 

#62 that he loves me and is still glad he married me, despite myself

 

#63 life-giving words about a day that occurred six years ago

 

#64 a love that will not let me go

 

And just like that, the burdens are lifting. =D