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Why I Thought I’d Failed the Counting

If you’re a regular around here, you know that my Multitude Mondays have been a little . . . ummm . . . lacking. I haven’t even been able to put my finger on why, but I just. couldn’t. do. it. I couldn’t formally count. I’ve found little things to be oh, so thankful for over this course of thanking-silence, but I just couldn’t come to this space and actually number them one by one. I thought I had failed the counting.

 

Looking back over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that it wasn’t that I’d failed. But it WAS that I was being ungrateful. While there have been AMAZING blessings in our lives over the last few months (and I’ve been extremely thankful for those), I was silently resentful toward God because of my perception that He’s been holding out on me. You see there’s something I’ve wanted for a long, long time.

 

Our own home. You’ve heard me speak of it before.  This quest to stop renting, to buy our own house, one where we could settle and make our own home . . . life . . . became my greatest want. I lived and breathed it.

 

I could think of hardly anything else. And although, yes, I can’t deny it, I’ve grown weary of our, ahem, vintage bathrooms and linoleum parquet, it hasn’t been so much the house that I’ve been so desperate for. It was the feeling of certainty. The assurance that we were free to plant good, solid, long-reaching family roots. Yes, for me, but even more so for our daughters.

 

And while I knew in my head that a house could never provide true security or certainty, inside my heart was pinned to the floor with the suffocating, relentless, false weight that we had to have this house to make us a truly rooted family.

 

We’ve been working toward it. We’ve looked at enough houses that I feel pretty bad for our realtor. 🙂 I have every zip code in the area memorized. If you showed me a picture of a house anywhere in our hometown (in our price range), I could probably quote you the listing price (Isn’t that pathetic?! I’m thinking maybe I should become a realtor?). But we just weren’t finding the one.

 

Then, Jonathan and I jointly decided to make a large family purchase and much of our savings needed to be put toward it. We decided this together. I watched him write the check.

 

But, I grieved. Because I knew, this was putting our home on hold. Just on hold, mind you. I guess a friend was right in dubbing it the “death of a vision” because for a few days, I was in tears. I had a hard time functioning.

 

But I am so thankful. That God wrestled me to the ground and one by one, released my fingers’ death grip on my self-made idol. He pulled my hip and rescued me from my false footing…. And in pleading with him to “bless me” with what I thought I wanted or needed to provide our security, He blessed me with something else . . .

 

Release from a misplaced passion.

 

A freeing demolition of my self-elevated idol.

 

Because it was an idol. When He didn’t seem to be giving me what I wanted, or thought we needed, I doubted His goodness. Even more than doubting His goodness, I doubted His good work in me. I wondered if I was doing something wrong, or if He wasn’t pleased with me or if I didn’t deserve a home.

 

Writing this even now feels so silly. So American. So often, I’ve reminisced over shacks I’ve touched in Peru. Dirt floors. Children drinking water in which I could see things floating. Women begging on street corners, holding borrowed babies, hoping to make a dollar or two. And here I’ve been in a nice home, in truly the best neighborhood I could ever imagine, and in a beautiful community — all gifts the Lord has freely given me — and I’ve wanted to throw it all away.

 

For something I could call mine.

 

Do I still want that house? You bet. But in the meantime, He’s teaching me to trust Him. To be content, right where He has me. To be used. Right. where. He. has. me. And He gently opens my eyes to the truth that I can’t be truly thankful for the “smaller” gifts He gives . . . the birds chirping in the trees, little pitter-pats down our long hallway, mocha frappuccinnos . . . if I’m also resentful that He hasn’t given me something greater. And neither can I be truly thankful for the greater gifts, if I’m flippant in my gratefulness for the smaller. He says to give thanks in everything. Yes, and now I know why. Because there is no distinction in what He’s given or what He’s not given. He gives good gifts. And what He withholds is also His goodness.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I have tasted Him. In this refuge.

 

Again . . . taking up the count . . .

#614 His withholdings.

#615 Because He is a good Father and knows how to give good gifts to His children.

#616 What He gives is good.

#617 What He doesn’t give is good.

#618 That He rescues me from myself.

#619 That He loves, even me.

 

Giving thanks in all

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Morning by Morning

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Mornings.

Every one.

More compassion.

More prying away of all we hold on tight,

all we think we need.

All we think we know.

Water, cold, refreshing, splashes awake.

Coffee percolates.

Romans.

All grace and how faith fulfills all the rules we cannot keep.

Throw a load in.

Washer spinning, cleansing all the dirty, preparing for another day of play.

Repot the rescue plant, pray for life.

Repot the older plants, roots deep, all the way through the soil, needing fresh space, room to grow fuller, to bloom once again.

All of them, lined up.

Still.

Soaking in the morning sun.

Breathing deep the fresh aerated soil.

He sets us free from things that bind.

Liberates us from our self-made pots, giving us room to bear more life.

Not mere sustaining life.

Not mere sufficient life.

Life abundant.

The Seeing Grace

Posted on

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Now Beauty

Earlier this week, I write of letting go and cradling close.

 

The next day, I take a pen in my hand and write out my plans for our future. A list of ideas, of pros and cons. The list is made, I lay down the pen and nod my head in satisfaction. I text my husband and let him know I have things on my mind.

 

I immediately regret it. I feel like a hypocrite.

 

I am hypocrite. My husband hears me talk repeatedly this week of being broken. Of God breaking me. I wrote of it. And already I am back to my not-so-old ways.

 

It’s really not funny . . . but is sort of is. I can’t help but smile ironically at my human ways. That I could so quickly forget that I laid my will to rest.

 

But I leave the list on the dining room table, proud to show it to the man who lives life with me, thinking he might like my thoughts anyway. I go back later to wipe off bread crumbs and gather crayons and little-girl-drawings. It’s then that I laugh . . . sheepish.

 

 

The Abundant-Life-Giver sends a gentle message so obvious, that I simply have to stop and fully take it in. I bought that pen on a whim just last week. I had picked up birthday cards on the way to a party and grabbed a pen in the checkout, just to have something to write with in the car. I had never even read its words.

 

He keeps me on path. And I see, ah yes. The daily dying. The daily letting go. The daily opening of my clenched hands that He may fill them with whatever He so desires. That I may abundantly live in the present. It is not a simple, one-time sort of thing.

 

When we don’t receive what we pray for or desire, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t acting on our behalf. Rather, he’s weaving his story. Paul tells us to ‘continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2). Thanksgiving helps us to be grace-centered, seeing all of life as a gift. It looks at how God’s past blessings impact our lives. Watchfulness alerts us to the unfolding drama in the present. It looks for God’s present working as it unfolds into future grace.”

~Taken from A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. “Future Grace” is John Piper’s language.

 

I am learning to be watchful. To look for what He is doing in the seeming everyday moments.

 

 

I look for Him in the beauty of now.

 

 

This Present Grace.

 

 

Cradled

Apparently, one of our pastors has been known to say something to the effect of,

“True brokenness is when you no longer have any possible plan in your head of how God could possibly work out a particular circumstance.”

 

I think that the Lord has *finally* taken me there over the course of the last couple weeks. You see, for the last 8 months or so, I have been striving and wrestling to work out my own desires (the ironic thing is, I don’t even really know what those true desires are). Not only that, but I’ve been rebelling at the mere thought that His plan could possibly be the one thing that I didn’t think I wanted.

 

It’s taken a full 8 months, and maybe really longer than that, but I think I am finally at peace for whatever might be around the bends in our road.

 

I have taken His silence – His seeming lack of direction – as a hard case of discipline. It’s even made me wonder if I’m truly following Jesus.

 

Short story:

My striving – even at the thought – against certain possibilities in our lives, sent me into a frantic searching. A spiraling depression. Doubts.

But He sends truth-filled words and He helps me develop an eye for Him in my life. He allows me to groan through nights of insomnia.  Until, I just can’t do it anymore. Like a young toddler, my temper-tantrums and wrestling against the waiting . . . the possibilities . . . did nothing but lead me into sheer exhaustion. He held me through my fighting, lovingly waiting for me to surrender.

I’m done striving.

I’m letting go.

I’m done trying to figure out what He wants.

I don’t even know what I want.

But, of course, it’s not about what I want, now, is it?

It’s all about bringing glory to Him.

In the waiting.

The not knowing.

The surrendering.

I know nothing better

than to

rest peacefully in His arms.

Where He leads, I will follow.

By grace.

 

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