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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

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 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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine

We are living in a fog today. And no, I’m not speaking of my usual metaphorical fogs! =D I’m talking about days and days of living in a wet, rainy cloud. You see, when you live on a mountain in the southern United States, you experience weeks’ worth of dense fog during the colder months of the year. The “I-think-I-need-another-cup-of-coffee” kind of fog. The “I-can’t-see-10-feet-in-front-of-me, would-you-kindly-turn-your-fog-lights-on, are-you-crazy-walking-alongside-the-road-like-that-oh-black-jacket-wearer?!”, and “if-I-don’t-see-some-sunshine-soon, I’m-just-going-to-turn-to-mush” kind of fog.

 

I’m a little bit more affected by the weather than I care to admit. (-sheepish grin-)

 

In highschool, my best friend and I dubbed the Mountain fog, “romantic mist”.  Ah, yes, sweet, innocent girlishness.

Please excuse the trash can hiding behind the bush. I was too lazy to go move it simply for a picture!

 

Because now I live on this mountain and this “romantic mist” drives me to decorate windows and leave them just-so for months on end:

 

 

Or set out fruit like this and literally try to drink in liquid sunshine:

 

 

Yes, it’s getting pretty bad over here.

 

Firefly asks me, “Mama, why isn’t the sun coming out?”

 

I chuckle at how her little questions mimic my grumbling heart sometimes. She’s sometimes like a mirror, that child of mine.

 

I speak to both of us that which I know to be true.

 

“The sun is out, sweetie. We just can’t see it because the clouds are flying all around us. It’s still there and it’ll shine again soon.”

 

And my metaphorical fogs (of course, I couldn’t *not* write of them) are no different. The clouds are sometimes dense and I wonder if He’s leading and I wonder why He doesn’t “show up” a bit more clearly or when I’d like Him to. What’s that quote? Something about how when we wonder where He is, it is then that He is carrying us?

 

Not led. No immediate fog-lifting miracles. Carried right through the split of the clouds.

 

And you know, they say the clouds are what will carry Him back to us.

 

 

Yes, I get to live in a cloud.

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.