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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

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

Just to Be

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Right now, when you happen to live in the Southern U.S., how can you be anything but thankful?

Thankful we are alive.

Thankful for four walls and a roof.

Thankful for power.

Thankful that all our loved ones are safe.

It is more than humbling to be surrounded by tornado destruction and be one of the luckiest people around. While we had a lot of wind and terrible weather and were hunkered down a few times in our hall bathroom, we came out unscathed. Somehow, we only lost power for about four hours total. And while we’ve tried to help however we can, our hands and feet feel incredibly small.

Counting our very blessed blessings….

#482 Candles shimmering in a storm-dark room

#483 Glo-worms, comforting little girls who didn’t have a nightlight

#484 snack picnics on a blanket in the bathroom

#485 our power company’s hard workers

#486 chainsaws

#487 again . . . four walls, a roof

#488 weather sirens

#489 live-streaming weather announcers

#490 that we had room in our freezer and fridge

#491 friends and family over to eat

#492 cousins in the bathtub

#493 just one pile of sticks and tree limbs

#494 little hands coloring pictures of marshmallow peeps – so silly!

#495 hearing Firefly sing Do-A-Dear in her mahvelous, British accent

#496 Dove and all her new words

#497 simultaneous naps – ALL OF US! =D

#498 Cardinals and Braves fans, side by side 🙂

#499 little feet, swinging at the piano

#500 little hands, holding white flowers

#501 Psalm 46 and all it’s truth

Joining the thanks

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 naiveté 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 🙂

#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

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