Fear

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Within context, the Lord is commanding Joshua, and the people of Israel to be courageous. Not because there was nothing that would normally cause fear or discouragement for someone facing such opposition, but because GOD WAS WITH THEM, they had nothing to fear.  That’s the key.  God was with them.  God already knew the outcome and he wasn’t going to abandon them.  He had it.

When God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

There will be circumstances in this world, every single day where we could have good reason to fear.  Good reason to be afraid, anxious, worried.  And yet, God’s word says, we have nothing to fear but God himself.

I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:4-7

With all the damage and potential for harm, injustice and pain, God’s answer is, “do not be afraid, you are with more than many sparrows.”  We are his kids.  Now this is in the context of the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, Jesus warns them that they will be flogged, thrown in jail and some even martyred, however I believe it applies to us as believers.  We have God with us, of whom or what do we have to be afraid?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline.  For me, I think fear can be a drug.  It’s not even a nice one.  The irony is I literally hate real drugs because they can make my body feel out of my control.  And yet fear is a drug in itself that can cause us to loose our grip of control.  It distorts reality, and then starts everything spinning so much that then what is true and what is a lie are no longer distinguishable.  And it takes discipline and prayer to not give into it.

Once I felt God say to me, “do not take counsel from fear.”

I say all this because I feel like recently the Lord has spoken to me regarding my fears.  I am planning on getting lasik eye surgery towards the end of next week for my birthday.  The outcome sounds fantastic, and I really believe it will be.  When I prayed about it, I felt like the Lord showed me that I’d say, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”  So that’s a good end in my book.  The thing is… I haven’t gotten it yet.  Screeeeech!!!!

To get the surgery I have to have lazers shoot at my eyeballs while a vacuum holds them in place.  There are a lot of people who are not bothered by this in a bit, however when I think through having to take the drugs to numb my eyes, (something that is not my favorite feeling) and then not pass out from the loss of control over my body (which I’ve done in the past!) it freaks me out a little bit!  My eyeballs!!!  The smell of burning flesh!!!

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So naturally, I talked to the Lord about it.

He gave me an awesome word picture.  He showed me two different pictures.

In the first one, I’m waiting in a dark, cave-like hallway set up to be a fun waiting zone, like a cave or hallway at Disneyland.  It’s a bit dark, but has lights and is completely safe and a little boring.

The other picture is of a fun house, but it’s not really fun.  Mirrors are warped, tons of neon colors, music that is way too loud, stuff spinning, florescent lights, it reminds me of a cheap fair ride.  Inside, it is difficult to get anywhere and very disruptive and the fun is more for the maker and less the patron, almost to mock those who enter.  As though the creator could watch and laugh at those who enter.  And yet, outside, it’s a cool night, still, quiet and calm.  That is reality.

I feel like the fun house word picture is fear.  It seems like fun, but inside everything is warped and disorienting.  Outside, reality, is calm, cool and still.  Reality doesn’t change because you step into a fun house, but stay long enough and it will begin to mess with your mind.  It doesn’t make any of it true.  Outside remains a perfect calm night.

The darkness in both word pictures may represent that there will be instances where we wont see all the details, and yet there is no danger in it because God can see all of it.

The first word picture is safe.  And it’s designed with the purpose of making it fun for the patron.  Every detail was thought of (just like in Disneyland) and it was safe.  For the record, I REALLY like Disneyland, and I’m always impressed how even the tunnels and waiting areas are set up for the amusement of the patrons, they take every effort and energy and pour it into the finished product all for the amusement of the patron.

And that’s the difference.  In the one instance, the joke is on the patron and the maker gets to enjoy the foolishness and make fun of the one inside the “fun house” and it’s not really fun for those who enter.  In the other, the maker goes over every single detail, with the patron in mind, all for the patron’s pleasure.  The maker does all the work, just so we can enjoy it, and even if it’s just a waiting area for a fun ride, the details are all there, everything thought of in advance.  He did all the work for us to just enjoy it.

Isn’t that how God is?  He even has the details of the waiting set up to be perfect for us.  And that’s God’s grace.  He cares more about us than himself.  Jesus died for our sins, so we might enjoy life everlasting.  He gave of himself, for us.

The Lord spoke to me a few times just today about the upcoming lazer eye surgery.  Because it’s been keeping me up at night.  This morning, I was going through old photos and I found this one.  It’s of my dad holding Ellie because Davin was acting like a sleeping monster, and she was legitimately scared.  The older two were having so much fun with the “sleeping monster”, however Ellie really did become afraid.  So my dad held her.  He didn’t stop the game, he picked her up and held her.

When I saw the picture, the Lord prompted my heart reminding me that he holds me in this way.  That he loves me with that same compassion and that he’d hold me while having lazers shoot at my eyeballs.  That I didn’t have to be in control, but just to trust him.  That he would be with me.  I’d have nothing to fear even though I would be in the dark about so much of it.

Tonight as I walked to my car alone, leaving my dad and Davin with the kids, I felt the Lord walk with me, arm around my shoulder, “I’ve got you.”

Later this evening, I held my youngest before bed.  Just rocking her in her chair, savoring her beautiful hair, and soaking up the sweet cuddle moments.  I felt the Spirit remind me, “I love you just as you love her.  I made you, I adore you, I’ve got you.”

I say all this not because I am special or that lazer eye surgery is terrifically terrifying – it’s not.  I say this to tell you, God CARES, SOOOO much even when we are afraid of stupid things.  He feels the same way about you.

But we have to believe him.  We have to walk in that truth and reality, otherwise things can get distorted.  We have to have the self-control to not let our mind go to a fun house.

In all reality, when I’m not psyched out, I’m actually excited for lazers to shoot at my eyeballs and make my vision clear for the rest of my life.  That’s going to be SO crazy to wake up and be able to see in the morning.  I’ve never known that.  I can snorkel and swim without having to worry about loosing a contact, or travel without having to bring extra glasses and solution. That’s the Disneyland ride I’m waiting for in the hallway word picture.  But I have to go through the somewhat boring hallway (the surgery) to get to the fun part.

God loves me so much, that even when I am unable to calm myself down, when I am so afraid I can hardly think straight, when I feel like I might pass out in fear – God cares enough to wrap his arms around me and ease my fears.  My silly fears.  All in SUCH love.  He doesn’t mock me or tell me to get over it, or even minimize the concerns, he simply reminds me of who he is and who I am to him.

You’re his kid that he loves, and that just like with Joshua and the Israelites, “ God is with you wherever you go”.

You have nothing to fear.

 

 

In the Waiting

Today we all woke up to these gorgeous, huge, looming clouds in the sky, blues, grays and whites all contrasting against the another.  My son was so energized by the change in weather that he ran out into the backyard and began crowing like Peter Pan, running around the fire pit, jumping in the small drops of rain that fell for about two minutes.  (And now our neighbors are joining us in prayer that we sell our house, because it was 7:15 in the morning;-)  Thank you, son.

Something has shifted.

I feel like the Lord is doing things unseen regarding our house selling, the rental we will need and the property  and house we want to build.  We may or may not actually see those shifts in the physical today, but I just know in faith he is moving things on our behalf, behind the scenes.

It’s felt like a long wait.  But in the process, the Lord has been purifying our hearts and minds.  Waiting is not usually something I enjoy in the moment, but I am grateful for it in the end.  I am so grateful for God’s perfect timing, even though it is not my perfect timing.  If I were running my world, it would look so different, and boring and easy and simple and I’d probably still be very, very selfish.  I don’t want to live in my world, as much as my flesh wants it easy, my soul wants more.

Hebrews 12:6

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Not that waiting is necessarily discipline in the way that we think of discipline, but I think biblical discipline looks more like training for an athletic event and less of a punishment for no reason.  We have to train our bodies, put in the sweat, pain and uncomfortableness to be ready for the event and be successful.

1 Corinthians 9:27

“I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

It’s uncomfortable, but training will change us if we allow it.

Davin and I have grown loads in this season of waiting.  Have there been parts where we’ve wanted to grasp at control and change everything?  Yes.  Have we acted just like the Israelites in the desert at times?  Yes.  We are certainly not perfect, but God is growing and changing us to be more and more like him and he is faithful when we are not.

So, perhaps you’re in a season of waiting.  In a holding pattern, wondering how long this must go on.  Ask to see God where he is in all of it.  Because he’s not against you, holding you back.  When you bow your head in prayer to God, Jesus stands at your back with both of his strong hands on your shoulders, pouring his love and strength into you, interceding before the Father on your behalf.

He is for you, not against you.

Thank goodness God does not sign us up for a Spartan Race in high altitude, and not train us.  I personally would FAIL so hard right now if I had to complete that race.  I’m sure I could finish it, but it might nearly exhaust all of me, and I certainly wouldn’t win.  I wouldn’t feel victorious in the same way I would had I trained for it.

God has amazing adventures for us.  He’s setting us up to do our best, not walk away feeling like we could have done better if we’d only trained.

Hebrews 12:11

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

He allows us to experience the pain of discipline, the pain of training for a reason.

He is always good.

His timing is always perfect.

He is always on your side.

So even though our house has not sold, we have no offers and everything looks like it’s been a huge fail, I still have faith that God is doing something bigger than what my eyes can see.

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

With his grace, I stand in hope that he has something better than I had imagined.  He is too good not to believe that.

As always, thanks for reading!

Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!

Red Solo Cup

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Today I write out of obedience.

I’ve felt the Lord call me to sit down and write over the past few days.  I think not because I really have anything to offer, but perhaps because he wants to speak to me.  And sadly, sometimes the only way to get me to listen is to give me inspiration to write.  You all probably thought I was writing this blog to inspire you and partner with you in our walks of life, and I do LOVE sharing life with you, but honestly, I’m learning so much in the process.

Three days ago, a super quiet nudge.  “Write.”

“I can’t.  The babies room isn’t done yet, and I have to sort through all those bins of baby clothes.”

Two days ago, “Sit down and write.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, do you see the amount of work to be done here?  I’ll write after everything is done, that’s my FUN hobby.  No time for fun.  Besides, that’s probably not even you saying, “Write”, it’s probably my inner self or something I ate because writing right now seems absurd.”

Yesterday, a pretty clear, “Write.”

“I need to just finish all these chores, have you SEEN our kitchen floor?!?  It has transformed into the bottom of  a hamster cage.”

This morning, while attempting to put fresh sheets on the kid’s beds, and finish their laundry with a to-do list still fairly long (the baby’s coming after all!) I hear the Lord say to me a quiet yet interrupting, “Write.”

“I’m literally in the middle of putting sheets on my son’s bed.  Just let me finish all the kid’s beds, then make a grocery list, go grocery shopping, get the kids from school, take them to the doctors for their booster shot, feed the kids lunch, clean up, unload groceries, clean the fridge, wipe down the cupboards, fold all the kid’s laundry and then if there’s time put on some makeup to get ready for a birthday date tonight, I’ll do that, AND THEN, if there’s any time left, and no one needs anything from me, then I will write.  So Lord, maybe in a different season of life, like when all my kids are all in college.”

A quiet response, “Write.”

“Have you seen our fruit bowl?  It has two lemons in it… that’s all.  We’re bare-bones’n it over here.”

“Write, I have something to say to you.”

“Don’t make me cry God, you know how it cuts right to my heart that you’d actually speak to me, and have anything to say, especially when I feel ZERO percent inspired to type a thing.”

“I will speak to you, write.”

“Okay, I’ll go against the very grain of my being and leave these un-done sheets right here on the bed, as an offering of obedience.”  That part was physically painful, I didn’t know whether to cover them up with the comforter or just leave it all.  I just left it, it looked miserable.  I had to walk out of the room with my eyes closed.  I gave my littlest a snack and put on an educational show.  “I’ll give you thirty minutes, even though I really should be making  a grocery list.  I’m going to have to trust you on this one, and let go of my perfectionist desires to power through my to-do list… I will stop for you.”

If you’d had the ability to be around me any amount of time in the past few weeks, you’d see that the countdown to baby arrival has put me into task mode 2013.  That’s when I started writing this blog, and the Lord showed me the hot dog stand word picture, gently reminding me that this life isn’t about perfection, best efforts and a to-do list, it’s about the gentle rhythms of the Holy Spirit and not stressing about little stuff that doesn’t matter.  It’s about truly living each day with him by my side, not pushed to the side.

I’ve made progress, I really have (insert convincing voice to myself).  But I clearly haven’t learned to fully resist the temptation of a thick to-do list and shiny stars of accomplishment over obedience to the quiet voice of the Lord.

Dang.

And it’s not even good for me.  God’s ways are SO good for me, and when I hear his voice to slow down and chill, and I ignore it (because it’s gentle and quiet), I get more and more wound up, and then eventually I snap.  And the snap is never ever pretty.  It usually involves me wearing a grouchy face, my oldest daughter saying to me, “Mommy, I don’t like the sound of your voice.” and my husband giving me that look, like I need to be sent out of the house for a few hours… to release the Kraken somewhere else.  At worst, it involves tears and yelling about why life has to be so stinkin’ hard.

Maybe the Lord is trying to teach me that It doesn’t have to be THAT hard.

Circumstances don’t actually make us happy or unhappy.  The bible clearly says that joy can be found in any and all circumstances, the easy and fun, the miserable and challenging.  We are offered joy, but it’s a choice.  And not the simple kind like, “yea, I think I’ll have an iced tea.”  It’s a painful choice of self-surrender.  It is no simple and done, easy choice.  We have to choose joy.

And when I actually make that tough choice to walk with the Lord and listen to his voice, even when things are a challenge, I don’t stress.  It’s amazing, like non-human awesome.

But the trick is, I have to listen.  I have to actually lean into the Lord.  I have to be IN the Word, GO to him in prayer, seek him and ask him to be near.  It doesn’t just magically happen because I’m a Christian, and a mostly nice person and think Jesus died on the cross for my sins. It’s all choosing.

I have to intentionally seek him.

Still.

Even though I’ve sought him before, read the bible before and prayed before, and had amazing moments of deep inspiration and worship with Jesus before.

Each day is a new day that I desperately need to deliberately seek him.

It doesn’t just happen.

I once asked God about this, saying, “If I know you and I believe in you, how come I can only last a few days on my own?  It’s pathetic.”  He showed me this word picture of a red solo cup, with a few holes poked on the bottom.  Here’s the message I took from it.  It was like the Lord was saying, this is you, your cup is full because you’ve met with me, but after a few days it’s drained and empty again.  You need a refill.  You can’t last long without checking in with me, because you have holes in your cup.  You aren’t designed to just hold stagnant water.  You are designed to use what I pour into you, for yourself and for others.  I pour it in, you pour it out, repeat. You are not self sufficient.

I have to go to him when I’m empty, and probably shouldn’t be all too surprised by that since that is how he designed me; to be in a relationship with God.

He doesn’t force me to action either like my toddler does at seven 6:23 am in the morning, yelling from the bathroom, “MOMMY!!!  I’M AWAKE!!!!!!  I WENT POOP IN THE TOILET!!!!” (any dear parent of a newly potty-trained kid knows one now has to RUN to the toilet in hopes that the arrival was swift enough to save the floor/bathroom/house/world from any… thing messy (ahem).

No, no dramatic urgency, forcing me to run.  He’s just there, waiting for me, when I’m ready to talk to him.  Waiting for me to ask for some more of Him.

And sometimes it’s so easy to think I can do it on my own, and just ignore the re-fill aspect of our relationship.  I think I’m the water source, and am always quickly shocked at how dry my own well is.  I just want to do it on my own, but at the same time I want God helping me, so why the double-mindedness?

Makes me question who the fake mob-bosses are in my life, and why I let them run and schedule my day instead of doing what I know I should.  I think I’ve named them “pretend-righteous obligations, and they are big and have fake guns.”

And where are they rooted?  In fear?  In desire for approval from others?  In the fear of failure, disappointing others, being useless, not being worthy of love.

There we are.  Not worthy of love.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt unworthy of Christ’s love, showers of blessing and just being in his general presence, but I have.

I think the Lord is trying to present a truth to me that my heart currently has no space for, because I have filled its spot with a fake mob-boss lie.

The truth is, “I am valuable, because Christ loves me.”  That’s it.  That’s where all of my identity should come from.

The lie I believe is, “I am valuable because I accomplish things for Christ and others.  I am a valuable member of this world because I contribute and work hard, and get things done.  I EARN this love.”

How, oh how do I root out this lie?  It’s thick on me like a tough jerky or the bark on a tree.  It covers me and shapes me, but what if that’s not the way God wants my tree to look?  When he peels of the bark of lies, I’m just there, exposed for what I am… it’s like uncomfortable.

But what if it could be beautiful?

The uncomfortable truth is that I have value, simply because Christ loves me.  That’s what the bible says.

That is beautiful indeed.

My value rests solely on the truth that HE LOVES ME, and that’s it.  He puts his arm around me in a big crowd and says, “THIS, this is MY girl.”  And even if others look on and say to themselves, “why would he choose HER?  Look at that scraggly hair, bad manners and she’s not even wearing shoes!”  Jesus is none-the-less proud of me, because HE sees me as made new, even when the enemy or the world doesn’t.  And as we walk together I begin to see that I look more and more like Christ, (Galatians 3, highlight on vs. 27) perhaps he gives me shoes, and I actually choose to wear them.  Maybe comb my hair.  You get the idea.

The truth is, we all come to Jesus looking a little (or a lot) scraggled (Romans 3:9-31).  The bible tells us that.  But once we come to him, we are made new, and beautiful, and the temptation is real to feel out of place, to go back to seeing ourselves like the scraggled kid and try to work so hard for the love we’ve already been given.

Instead, we need to look into the mirror or faith to remember our value.

Thankfully, he is gracious and doesn’t hold it against me that I try to find value all by myself. He just waits for me to remember to go to him.  And even though I come to him dry as a bone, he manages to fill my cup right back up to the top, and within moments I’m left full of life, hope and love for others again.  It’s like taking a nap and waking up refreshed, only better.

As always, thanks for reading.

When things don’t seem to go as they should

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A little song for you as you read:

As we are approaching Good Friday (the day Jesus was crucified on the cross) and Easter (his resurrection), I am astounded by what the actual story looks like to me at this point in my life.

It’s funny how we filter stories in the bible with our own life experiences. We see them in different and new lenses as our lives shift and change.  I don’t think is actually a bad thing, as long as we keep the truth in front of us.

When Jesus was taken to the cross, his 12 disciples scattered.  One had already betrayed him in the garden of Gethsemane, and the rest ran in fear for their lives.  Jesus was mistreated, given a sham trial with fake witnesses in the night and the Roman officials couldn’t even find any real charges against him.  Pontious Pilate even tried to release him back to the Jews and they would not have it.  Jesus was betrayed and crucified by his own people.  The very men and teachers who walked around saying they loved God and were the most holy were the ones to nail him to the cross.  Well that’s lame.  Religious people for the win.  Nope.

Jesus was beaten and mocked with a crown of thorns.  He was forced after all that, to carry his cross to the hill called, Golgotha to die.  Placed between two criminals, he was then pierced for our transgressions.  With his mother present, and a handful of those he loved, he let out his last breath.  As a mom, I can’t even begin to think what Mary must have felt, but that’s a post for another time.  Here’s a link to the whole story, the bible version of course.

In all this chaos, injustice and pain, it seems as though the devil has won, and good has lost the battle. It must have appeared that way to anyone who loved and cared for Jesus, his ministry or even just had a hope that God was really walking among them.

Their Christ was dead.

Their hope was gone.

And they were alone.

Alone to cry in their grief, with no Jesus to comfort them, to guide them, to speak truth to them the way he had over the last three years.  As they wrapped his pierced body I’m sure they covered it with tears, feeling like all they had believed in, must have been a lie.  How could it have turned out like this?  In death?  Such disillusionment they must have felt.  How was any of this God’s will?  What kind of God would send his son, just to die?  How is this a Kings burial?

How they must have questioned, yelled, cried and cursed.  It all looked lost and hopeless.

And then, three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.

There was a bigger plan all along.

He showed up to his disciples, he showed up to the women who had loved and followed him. Many saw him after his resurrection.  He then sent his Holy Spirit to guide and direct those who believed in him.  They became alive as well.

All of this.  What a tragic, gut wrenching, soul ripping story.

And I think, when has a similar thread played out in my own life?  When have I had hopes that didn’t turn out the way I’d believed they would?  When did I doubt God’s goodness and his love because things weren’t going my way?  When did I doubt that God was really at the wheel of this ship steering it in a good direction?

There are things in my own life right now that don’t make sense.  Nothing close to the story of Christ’s death and how hopeless it must have looked, but in seeing this thread, I am reminded that even when things look like chaos, look like the enemy has won, look like God has turned his back and walked away, He hasn’t.

He just has a better story.

I believe there’s a resurrection of life somewhere in my story and I just haven’t reached that chapter yet.

The truth about the enemy is that he comes to steal, kill and destroy.

The truth about God is that he breaths life and hope into everything he touches.

Every time Jesus is put into a situation, wether it be a dying marriage, a damaged friendship, a rebellious child – he brings hope and life.  Just try it.  I promise it freaken’ works.  You just say, “Jesus, I’m not even sure I know you’re good, I’m not even positive your real or loving or anything that you say you are, but if you are indeed real, would you come into this situation and bring life that I might see that you are real?”  It may be slow and grow like a tree from winter to spring, but it always begins with a promise of hope, and always ends in life.  If you invite him into any part of your life, you will most certainly see it change for the better.

He is King of resurrecting the very things that sin has killed.

It’s like his deal.

And so I look at some of the situations in my own life, where I had a set of expectations, a list of words strung together as prayers that I believe God heard, and yet even though something different has occurred, I can’t help but think the battle is not over.  That there’s something else, something better than what I could see coming around the corner.

I’m sure the disciples plan for Jesus was not the cross.  I don’t doubt it.  Anyone who’d spent five seconds with Christ and knew him would never dare to imagine he would or could be crucified. And yet, that was God’s redemptive plan.

His plan to save us.

What is it in your life that God wants to resurrect?

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As always, thanks for reading.

So I went to Chicago all by my onesies

You all might think part of this story sounds kind of, “out there”.

But it honestly scared the crap out of me to write it out, so that probably means I should. Besides, I can never let this stuff go once it’s in my head, so there.

I recently went to Chicago.  All alone.  Like by myself.  I haven’t gone anywhere by myself to a place where I physically know not a soul since college.  I’ve grown accustomed to having Davin, or the kids or friends around all the time.  Apparently I like being surrounded by people.

I flew to Chicago to attend the Storyline Conference and Writer’s Workshop.

When I was 24 and lying by my parents pool one summer day with my best friend Jen, I read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz in pretty much one sitting.  I remember telling the Lord that there were lots of authors I would love to meet, but that most of them were already dead, however, Donald Miller was still alive and if I could meet any author, it would be him.  That was over ten years ago, before authors were on facebook and twitter and were accessible.  For all I knew he was in a cabin in the woods and I had as likely chance of meeting him face to face as I did meeting a mermaid (yet another dream of mine).

So then Storyline comes up, like it did last year, except this time it’s different.  It includes a writer’s workshop – with Donald Miller as the main speaker.

One of my favorite authors is going to share his secrets on how he writes books and I could potentially meet him.

I was in anguish.  See, I’m not a hired writer, no one pays me, this isn’t a real job.  How in the world could I justify spending a bunch of money to fly to Chicago, pay for a conference, hotel and rental car, AND leave my kids for five days over Halloween when my actual main job is to be the stay at home, take care of the day-to-day life mom?  Writing at this point is just a hobby. This was crazy.  But there was a part of my heart that wanted it so bad.

Then I saw this talk by Shauna Niequest.

And I voxed two of my praying friends in tears.

“Why am I crying right now?  I’m literally crying over a video on the internet (and I wasn’t even pregnant then).  Why am I crying?”

Shauna had said something in her video that hit me deep to the core.  I’ll summarize as best as I can, although it’s worth watching the video if you have any dreams.

She essentially talked about what she’d learned from her mom who raised all the kids while her husband did full time ministry.  She dedicated everything to it, setting all her other dreams to the side, assuming she’d just pick them up when all the kids were grown.  They grew and she realized she didn’t know who she was anymore.  It took her two years to discover who she was again. ( I started crying at this point because I felt like I was on that path and it didn’t look so good for me come 20 years from now).

So, just because you’re a mom, doesn’t mean you have to let all of your dreams die or put them on hold for 25 years.  Dreams need to be kept alive, even if it’s just one hour a week because they are a part of who you are meant to be.  You’re not only a mom, a wife and a homemaker, you are a human whose other gifts are meant to bless the world.  Letting your dreams die will slowly kill you inside.

That was her message.

I took a brave breath and prayed.

Jesus, if I am meant be at this conference please make me not afraid to dream and pray about it.  I don’t want to scrape up my dead dreams at 50.  I want to live my whole life fully alive, even if it’s currently harder than letting my dreams die.

So I prayed.  For a while.

Then I got a little more brave and I straight cold asked God.  What happens if I go, and what happens if I don’t?  And that’s a little crazy to some of you but I really do ask God questions like that and I really do feel like he gives me answers sometimes.

I felt like He gave me two word pictures.  They were both long allegories, so I won’t tell them both.  In the first one, I go to the conference.  In the second one I don’t, and I wander for quite a long time before anything happens.  It was a little boring until the end.

I preferred the first one because of how I felt at the end of it.  In the second one, I end up in a dark cave full of riches, like Aladdin, but the road there was long and lonely and I had to meet a grumpy lady who didn’t like me.  57099205Meah.

Here is the first word picture, summed up.  I am outside of a huge warehouse, it’s night.  I go in the back door.  I wander through a long twisted hallway.   The kind where you walk and walk and think, where is this going?  Where is the end?  I finally get to another doorway.  It is blocked by two huge bodyguards.  They don’t want to let me in.  Inside is a dance club, a big party. Somehow, I get in, after a bit, past the bodyguards.  There is a table there for me, with my name on it, but the person who was scheduled to meet me there never shows up.  So I leave the table.  No one notices me.  I feel a bit lost.  Everyone is socializing and talking and I am just watching people.  I feel alone.  I walk to the dance floor and because I don’t know anyone there, I look down at the ground and see a coin.  It’s shiny.  A few people above on the second floor see me pick it up and are jealous because they didn’t find it.  All the sudden a giant chandelier drops down out of the ceiling and I can stand on it, it takes me up to the roof outside on the top of the building.  It is still night.  On top, the man who is in charge of the whole conference tells me all that I need to know about writing.  He shows me the entire landscape of the land. Every direction.  At this point I am overwhelmed with excitement.  I am bursting.  It’s as though I just learned everything I’ll ever need to know about writing, to finally just write without feeling like I’m missing something.  It is an amazing feeling.  I could explode.  Then all the sudden, I am somewhere else, like an Alice in Wonderland type of maze, except it’s morning now.  I walk through the landscaped walls and find myself at a dead end, with a boat to one side and a small stream.  It is set up for a party.  Creatures come and serve me a tea party.  It’s nice.  Then just like that it’s over, I get into the gondola next to me and sit in the stream for only a few seconds as it takes me past the dead end.  Then I get out.  It is still morning, so although I was deterred for a short bit, haven’t really lost any time.  I’m now out of the maze and completely free.  It’s totally open, the whole landscape.  Hills, trees, a sunrise the whole landscape is open for me to explore and I feel a complete sense of peace, satisfaction and capability to go anywhere.  It is like a crazy exhilarating feeling.

I wanted that feeling.  I wanted that end.

To me, that represented the feeling I would have in writing if I attended the conference.

So I talked to Davin and I’m pretty sure in the end we were both the bodyguards.  It was hard to justify leaving my kids.  It was hard not to feel selfish for taking a trip like this.  It’s not like we’re super loaded and can just drop two grand on a spur of the moment trip.  We researched, we prayed, I debated, I prayed.  I finally sorta-kinda committed.  I signed up for the conference.  I kept telling myself I could always back out if I needed to.  Then I reserved a hotel room.  All things I could still back out of.  Then two different rental cars.  We didn’t buy my flights until it was almost too late.  Now I couldn’t back out.

In the end, I knew I had to go.  Even though I was six weeks pregnant and beginning to feel the sharp pangs of morning (see: all day) sickness, and excessive sleepiness.  I told Jesus that he was going to have to help me A LOT on this trip.  When I travel, Davin takes care of everything.  He checks flights, carries my bags, drives the car.  All I have to do is walk next to him.  I’m like five years old in responsibility world when we travel together.  Now I had to do it all, with a preggo brain and uneasy stomach.  I put on my very tight big-girl pants and got on the plane.  I just took it one step at a time.

The conference was amazing.  I did walk away feeling like I’d finally gained the insight needed to just write confidently, not worrying that I’d be missing some obvious skill or rule that all the other writers knew.  I do feel more free to just write.  But I don’t think the whole process is complete yet.

My head was filled with so many good ideas and inspiration over those four days that I came home in a bit of a daze.  I’m still sorta in that daze.

One speaker told us to say yes to almost everything, just for the experience.  Some speakers told us to say no to almost everything, so we could say yes to only what was best.  I resonated with Shauna Niequist the most when she spoke about being very good at efficiency – getting everything done, while in the process only allotting a specific short amount of times for silly-play or fun with her family.  She shared how she’s become very good at managing everything and everyone in her life but not really living it.  I could have cried.  I know that person oh so well.  I’ve been working this past year and a half of blogging, to NOT be that person anymore. To slow down, to do less, to savor and enjoy the simple little moments more.  She talked about how we are always going to disappoint somebody, we just need to choose who.  This struck me. How many times have I chosen the wrong person to disappoint?  She also said, “only do as much as you can do in love.”  I’m not operating in love when I am rushing, getting to the next thing, or charging through a to-do list.  Shauna was inspiring and honest.

The way I’m going to apply what I’ve learned from Shauna is to start my days with Jesus.  I usually do this anyway, but I’m going to be a little more intentional about it.  Not just reading my bible like I’m pretty religious about, I want to also then spend time just talking to God.  I don’t mean praying to ask him for things which is still important, I mean praying to ask him his opinion about things, like what should my pace be today God, what’s on your heart today God? Maybe it will look more like me sitting and staring at the oaks in the field across our street and just thanking him for the beauty of the day, just resting in his creation.

In the writer’s workshop they talked all about using words, and only a few words, and only the best words… it all made me a bit intimidated to ever put a sentence on a page again.  They talked about how writing is a horrible, painful process.  By the end of it I was thinking to myself, “Why the heck do I want to be a writer?  This sounds miserable!”  But, these speakers do it for a living, and I get the pleasure of only doing it when I want, as a hobby.  So, I decided that it was okay that I still loved writing, and maybe that didn’t mean I was doing it wrong, maybe I just am just going to have the pleasure of loving it?  Let’s hope so:-)

And lastly, my favorite concept that I took from the entire conference was this: we are all telling a story with our lives, and your story matters.  They said we all have God given gifts and talents in us, and that if we are fully operating in those, we will be telling a meaningful story.  They had so many examples of people living their dreams, and changing the world in the process.  They were all unique, just a person pursuing their passion, and in the process doing something huge to help others.

So, along with me, let’s ask ourselves what truly lights us up?  What do we daydream about? Donald Miller said he daydreamed about making trails in his backyard.  He said he thought that was dumb until the life coach he was speaking to said that was exactly what J.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would do as they came up with ideas for Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

So, what do you daydream about?  It just may be the thing that helps you change the world.

Here are some obligatory photos from my trip (most of them were taken to send to Davin, and I have to say, I feel totally ridiculous taking selfies, by MYSELF.  It’s really awkward and embarrassing.  I had to keep myself from telling others around me, “these are for my husband, I’m not just in love with myself…”

Here is Portillo’s and the “meatless choices” they offer: halibut and tuna.  Not exactly what I’d call “meatless” ha!

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This idea actually makes me nervous… how do they get the food to stay fresh?IMG_4731

Full on pregnant lady meal.  A chocolate cake shake.  They literally blend chocolate cake INTO the shake.IMG_4732

The best view I actually had of Chicago – didn’t really get that close.

IMG_4746View of Shaumburg, where I was most of the time.

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Willow Creek is more like a campus, less like a church building.  Pretty cool concept.IMG_4670

Definitely sneaking pictures of Donald Miller and two directors… not really all that sneaky!
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The writer’s conference.IMG_4715

The only shot with Donald Miller, of course, it’s blurry;-)  Whateve’s I didn’t want to take up his time.  He had a looooong line of people waiting to talk to him.  Had there been time, I might have said, “Snap!  You are an amazing writer – thank you for introducing me to a type of writing that I actually felt like was a voice similar to mine.  I love your raw honesty and your writing has inspired me to write myself.  Thank you.”IMG_4734

Photo of Chicago taken in the rental car office.  IMG_4653

I love Coke slurpee’s!  At the film festival.IMG_4660

The toilets here have extremely high handles… maybe it has something to do with the cold?  It mystified me.  TMI?  Perhaps.IMG_4661Airplane ride!  I survived!!!  
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The end!

Thanks for reading!

What Really Matters

Today I came across a card I’ve had for years.  I love cards, and I collect them.  Mostly to give away, but this one I’ve kept because it has a glamorous picture of Grace Kelly on the front, and it was like over six bucks.  For years, I’ve always looked at it and thought of how she was such a beautiful woman, and how wise and gracious she always seemed.  Every time I’ve looked at the card, I’ve looked at her as though she were older and wiser than myself.

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Today I looked at it and realized she wasn’t older anymore.

When I looked at the card, closely, I realized that I am now older than the Grace Kelly on my card.  When did that happen?

I’m not in my twenties anymore.

I always thought once I was older, I would actually FEEL older, more confident of the decisions I made, more sure of myself, that I would know how to live my life and not mess up.  I would feel the way Grace Kelly looks on the front of this card.  Fully put together and wise, never letting an ungracious word come from my mouth.  Now, I know that no one is perfect, but this is just what I’ve thought.  I really believed that I’d reach an age where I finally didn’t feel like a little kid just trying to learn what I’m doing.

But I haven’t.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and wonder where the parents are in our house.  And then I realize that Davin and I are the parents.

I have another card, it’s from Hawaii.  I bought it because it reminded me of one of my best friends, mostly because there is a beautiful brown Hawaiian girl and a cute little blond girl on the cover, and whenever Jen and I take photos, I feel like we look like that, beautiful brown and pale precious blond together.

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When I looked into the eyes of the little girls, so sweet and young, hopeful, I realized something else.

We are still young.

We are so much like those little girls on the front of the Hawaiian card.  We don’t have all the answers, she and I make mistakes.  We try to cook dinners like my kids do in their pretend kitchen, we invent games to make life fun and try and go camping and have baby showers, and we have best friends that we look forward to seeing.  We are really just like children trying at life.  Especially in the areas of marriage and motherhood.

(Andrew Belle, Sister)

 

I think often times, Jesus looks less on us like adults who should have their lives together, and more like kids who are just playing at life, trying to learn and grow and explore.  I don’t think he throws up his hands in exasperation every time we do something wrong, like when I say the wrong words in a moment of frustration, or choose impatience when I should be stopping to rest in Him.  I think he sees that we are still learning and is gracious.  I think he loves that we are trying.

I think he loves that we are trying.

And when we don’t get it perfect, I think he still loves us with the same love that he always has and always will.

We don’t love our kids more when they win an award, we love them because we spend our days with them, because they are our children.  We are happy to see them succeed, mostly because it’s fun to see your own kid feel successful, but I love my kids because they are there with me in all the little moments of life, the dinners, the swim lessons, the getting ready for bed baths and brushing teeth.  We do life together, and just being around them makes them so very, very lovable.  I love them just the same at the end of the night whether they have made a million good choices or twenty bad ones.  I may be more tired or frustrated, feeling like I may have missed something or be failing them, but I never feel like I don’t love them with all of my heart.  And, since Jesus already knows how to do his job perfectly, he doesn’t get frustrated, wondering how he could possibly do it better.  Nope.  He just continues to love and chase after us with his fierce, unrelenting love.  I don’t think he’s he’s worried that he’ll loose us.

I think I beat myself up too much.  I give myself a hard time every time I don’t do something perfect.  And I imagine Jesus is thinking the same.  When really, instead of looking at myself and my mess-ups, I’d do better just to look at Christ, and see his deep love for me reflected in his eyes, in his real life actions towards me.  In the sunset he made to say, “I love you and I want you to have beautiful moments” in the surprise part of the day when my son comes running into the kitchen while I’m cleaning up breakfast and says, “Mama, I love you” and then gives me a kiss for no reason.  When I find myself with my head against my husband’s chest and his arms wrapped around me tight, thinking, this is how much God loves me, he loves me like this.  Or even in the quiet moments when I can hear him say to me, “Peace, be at peace.  You don’t need to rush in this life.”

When my toddler brings me a toy kitchen pan with a pretend apple in it and says with all the enthusiasm IN THE WOLRD, “MOMMY!!!!  I MAKE YOU A WOOSIE!!!! (smoothie), I don’t think to myself, “shoot, this girl doesn’t know an apple from a frozen beverage!”  No, she’s just trying, she’s playing and pretending.  It’s not the end of the world.

I think Jesus knows the whole picture.  I think he trusted us enough to give us free will, to get it wrong sometimes, but I think he knows that we are going to choose him.

One time I had a dream.  It was years and years ago.  I was at a point in my twenties where I felt like my life was a waste because I had everything physically that I wanted, but not relationally.  I wanted a husband and a family.  I had the house, the job, the car, the friends, but not what my heart truly, truly wanted and there was nothing I could see that I could do to make it happen.  I was so frustrated at God for not giving me what I thought was so important in that moment.

In my dream, I found myself in a completely white place.  It was nothing of this world that I have ever seen, the basic rules of science and gravity on earth did not exist in this place.  Every being was under God and his authority.  I couldn’t see him, but he was in front of me.  I was suspended in the air, and nothing looked familiar.  I knew that I knew, there was no way I could lie, or get around what was the ultimate authority in front of me.  I wasn’t getting out of anything here.  Everyone and everything was in agreement that God was the authority, and I felt very, very small.  He then called me into question, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

I thought of my whole life on earth.  Everything I’d ever done, good, attempts at good, any of it.

It all amounted to nothing in the place where I was.  NUUAAHHH-THING.

It was if I was the defending lawyer in the case of the century, the whole world involved, and I brought kindergarden coloring scribbles.  I was like, “Here, this is my evidence.”  That would be absurd.  It wouldn’t even begin to be close to anything even remotely helpful in my position as a defending lawyer.  I’d be laughed at.

That was what ALL of my life amounted to in front of God, kindergarden scribbles.

Then, I could feel someone standing behind me.  I recognized him.  It was Jesus.  I said, “He knows me!  He knows me!”  That’s all I could say of any value in that place.  He was the ONLY reason that I was allowed to continue standing where I was.  Because I knew Jesus.  I knew him well enough to recognize him standing behind me.

I say all this to remind myself about what truly matters in this whole life of menu planning, diets, exercise, sleep schedules, ironing clothes, sweeping the floor and trying to do everything right according to this world and Pinterest and Facebook and Martha Stewart and Pottery Barn catalogues.  And no, my house is not decorated for fall, and that’s okay.

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I still don’t even have a coffee table for our upstairs media room, for over two and a half years, we have held our cups and popcorn while watching movies.  We have unending projects and sometimes I just don’t want to cook dinner or sweep the floor, and I’m pretty sure I found a spider under the kitchen cabinets who’s been living there for the last four months.  My life is so messy, and it doesn’t really, really matter on the big scale of things.

But what really matters?

That I know the One who really matters.

Romans 12:2 The Message (MSG)

Place Your Life Before God

12 1-2 “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

As always, thanks for reading.

All of your pieces.

I have some embarrassing news.

I’ve been doing this thing, (well up until God revealed it to me this weekend while praying with Davin), that when things were getting stressful, I’d imagine I was somewhere else.  I did this for like, weeks.

Now, I know that sounds harmless enough, but assure you, it’s not.

It was killing my life.  Like, my real one.  Because when my real one was getting to stressful I’d imagine I was just… somewhere else.  Anywhere.  A beach, a spa.  A desert.  I didn’t care, as long as in my imagination, I was alone.  And it was silent.  And no one needed anything from me in my imaginary world.  It could be a foreign country where I don’t even know the language and that seemed easier in my mind than wherever I was at the moment.  I was just gone in my mind.  Because it seemed easier than facing my real emotions on what was really happening.  It seemed safer.

Sometimes I hate that I have emotions at all.  I just wish I didn’t feel stressed or angry or anything.  I’ve told God more than once, “why did you give me emotions if I can’t even handle them properly?”  I know, what a whiner.

Instead of praying, I’d just sigh a sigh of discontentment and then imagine myself away.  It didn’t really make me happy, it just seemed easier than really accepting that I completely fail and that I still need God.  I don’t like that I still need God.  I wan’t to be perfect on my own.

Here is a first world problem example from last Thursday of a time when I mentally tried to escape, if you don’t feel like hearing a negative parenting experience, read on past the italics. Here’s the scene: Last week, we arrived to swim lessons 20 minutes early because we had to pay for lessons on new credit card because the old one was hacked.  Swim is stressful because everyone has to go potty before they swim, and there is a fine line between on time and too early.  Too much time sitting and waiting with three small persons in bathing suits can create mutiny.  So, I took the kids potty and had something like fourteen minuets left.  More than enough time to handle the payment, I am such a responsible mother who has her act together.  Not so. We waited in line behind ONE person for like over twelve minutes because they had a thousand good questions and were brand new, but didn’t want to be on a schedule, just pick a day once in a while and come… so they are looking at calendars and I am trying not to say negative things in my mind about people who can’t just make a decision and pick a day!  After this person who has no lessons scheduled gets a full tour of the facility, the receptionist comes back in a leisurely manner.  I then attempt to pay as quickly as possible and it still takes over five minutes to figure it out because computers are confusing and her’s was unfortunately from the 1990’s, then… wait for it, Ellie poops her swim diaper.  Perfect.  Once we finish, I rush the kids to pick up the mess on the floor, rush them back to the bathroom, attempt to put Ellie in a new swim diaper (at least I had an extra), and we are now LATE for swim.  I accept absurd defeat.  We are now wasting money on swim lessons that aren’t happening.  This should not have happened like this.  I tried so hard to be responsible. And now the older two kids are looking under the stall at some other woman and her child (I’ve told them NOT to do this a million times), then they are touching bathroom floor, Ellie’s poop falls onto a bench and I’ve about lost it.  We are late to lessons even though we were here TWENTY minuets early!  There is poop on a bench, a toddler is laughing, and my kids faces are near the bathroom floors!!! AGGGGHHH!  All I said was, “SIT DOWN NOW.” and then point my finger to a space on a bench.  It not only put fear into my children, who quickly acquiesced, but I believe also into the poor woman and her daughter who probably thought I was the most stressed, frazzled and grumpy woman to ever parent children.  She cowered out of the stall and went on her way.  When we finally made it to the pool, we were late and I was not smiling.

As I hashed and rehashed how in twenty short minutes I went from relaxed and happy to stress-case, I told God all about how all satan has to do is get me in a bathroom alone with three small children and I will loose my mind all up in he-ah! But that doesn’t matter.  God is bigger than bathrooms, and late swim lessons.  But in my mind, I wasn’t even giving him the chance to be.

I just sighed, told God again that I obviously wasn’t fit for this job and he should just retire me and send me somewhere that doesn’t involve me being perfect.

I didn’t take the time to hear him tell me that he hasn’t called me to perfection.

I was already gone.  In my mind I was just in some trees, staring.  It was quiet and I was alone.  And at least there I wasn’t ruining little peoples lives by not being able to handle my emotions in public bathrooms.

My kids were happy swimming.  I was watching them and wishing I was a perfect parent who never made mistakes.  I was disqualifying myself again, telling myself how I should have done better.

So, this is bad for a number of reasons, I get that.  And giving myself a mental lobotomy/vacation is not the answer.  Going away in my mind didn’t even make me feel any better, it just made me feel nothing, which is the gateway to apathy.  Scary.

Over the last few weeks, I had been slowly detaching myself, and my emotions from my own life.  From my children, from my marriage, from anything that made me feel something negative.  And it was beginning to affect my actual life, at least on my end.  Fortunately, it quickly caught up to me and God revealed the problem.

I would never in a million years actually leave my family, not physically.  But I was doing it.  In my mind.  In my spirit, I was basically checking out.  They were all there, yelling, touching bathroom floors, doing whatever was too much, and I was just like, “I can’t even handle this anymore, I want an imaginary life where I don’t feel frustrated.”

After a weekend of feeling down and restless, the Lord revealed in prayer to both Davin and I that mentally checking out was not helping us.  It was detaching us from our family.  From each other.  After we prayed, we committed to holding each other accountable, by texting or calling when we felt like mentally escaping, and instead just asking for prayer and then waiting for God to show up.

Here’s how my week has been.  Besides amazing.

And here’s a song for you to listen while you read, if you’re into that kind of thing.  It’s called Pieces by Andrew Belle.

So, I currently have a horrific cold, the kind where your entire face is leaking.  I took medicine to help and I haven’t taken cold medicine in like over three years, because normally I just deal.  So, I felt pretty hideous, but here is Dani.  I spent some one-on-one time with her in her room.  She put her crown on me and said,

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“You look like a beautiful mommy.

You look better than anything.” 

I had to stop and take a picture, and then type out what she said, because I wanted to remember that moment forever, and share it with her when she was grown, to remind her of who she is.

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Here’s Ellie this morning during our date (the twins were in preschool) and she’s wearing my old baby bonnet.

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Here is Dani kissing my leg this afternoon because I don’t feel good.

We read this in a book last week and started saving our boxes for a town…

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We made the town today

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It was messy and chaotic, but we all enjoyed ourselves.

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I asked Ellie what she wanted her store to be called, she said, “green.”

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I made a streetlamp.

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My church slogan was inspired by Kid President’s post, An Open Letter to Moms.

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I feel it’s also necessary to share that I made a hair boutique with a drawing of a poodle and an glorious old woman with big white hair, and a slogan that says, “the higher the hair, the closer to God.”  I plan to have very big hair when I am older.  It will be the biggest.

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When I asked Dani what her store was called, she said, “a hand store, where if your hand is hurting, they make it better.”  I feel like she might be in a nurse or a surgeon when she grows up.

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This firehouse is an ode to my Grandpa Jack.  He was a fireman in Alameda, CA.  He once did a safety demonstration of how to jump off a building onto one of those fireman catcher things.

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It’s called a life net.  He jumped down three stories and landed wrong, breaking his leg.  He never let the crowd know, he just jumped up smiled and walked off on a broken leg, everyone left feeling safe thinking that life nets were probably a good option and not to be afraid of them.

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“Home of the Famous Jumping Jack Reason”

I saw the film, The Giver a few weekends ago.  It was perfect timing.  I was really down and not sure why I was so despondent over life.  It wasn’t until the end of a day by myself that I realized I was still mourning the loss of our baby.  I was driving home in the car, and I started singing.  It was a love song.  I started crying, singing it to my baby in heaven.  Then I knew.  I knew why I was feeling everything I was.

I came home to an empty house and cried over and over to God,

“I just wanted that baby.”

“I just wanted that baby.”

“I just want MY baby.”

I accused God of taking him or her because I wasn’t a good enough mom. That if I had just made better dinners and didn’t get angry, then maybe he would have let me keep this precious, precious baby.  I knew it wasn’t really true when I said it all out loud.  But that didn’t keep me from feeling it.

I told him everything I felt, even though I knew it wasn’t all quite true.

Then I felt his peace wash over me.  A peace that maybe this baby wasn’t healthy and whole enough to be born.  A peace that maybe it wasn’t all my fault.  A peace that this baby was in heaven and that every time I kissed one of my babies on earth, maybe this baby in heaven could know and feel how loved he or she was too.

Watching The Giver reminded me why God gives us emotions in the first place.  So many times, I’d rather do without them.  Or at least that’s what I think.  Because it’s no fun to feel these types of emotions.  They are like a storm at sea.

A wise friend recently told me to ride the waves.  Not to stand there and fight them, letting them overtake me and drown me, but to ride them out and know that they will take me somewhere.

So, it’s okay to mourn.

It’s okay that I feel sad.

It’s okay to feel angry.

It doesn’t mean I make all of my decisions on my emotions, or justify acting in anger.  It just means that I’m human, and I can ask God to meet me there, in the middle of my storm, and calm my seas.  And wait for him to say, “It’s okay about all the mess ups.”

And know that I don’t have to be perfect.

And it’s better that I need him.

Anyway, this film reminded me of the beautiful messiness of life.  And how sometimes it’s a perfect mess.  I recommend it.  You should see it.

As always, thank you for reading.

Cornerstone

How’s it going?

This is a pretty normal question that lots of people ask me on a regular basis.  My answer is usually, “things are going pretty good, it’s been a nice summer…”

However, if I’m in a moment where I’m thinking about the baby we lost, I might say something more like, “Things are getting better.”  Sometimes I forget who I’m talking to, and if they knew or not.

Then I remember that not everyone reads my blog or knows what happened.

It’s strange to experience such a great loss, and realize that the whole world didn’t stop.

After the loss, we went to church a few days later on a Saturday night.  It happened to be celebration weekend at our church.  We were celebrating everything God had done and was doing for our church.  Lots of people were really happy.  There was an air of joy in the building.

I didn’t feel like I belonged there.

I wanted to leave and not ruin the party.

I didn’t feel like celebrating anything.

But I felt something in me tell me to stay, and decided that it was okay if I was sad and everyone else was happy.  It was still my church, and these people loved me weather I was smiling or not.  I was safe here.

During worship, we sang the song, Cornerstone by Hillsong.

Here are some of the words:

Christ alone, cornerstone
Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love
Through the storm
He is Lord, Lord of all

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

My husband sat on my left and held my hand, and my dear friend sat on my right and held my other hand as I sat and cried/ attempted to sing.

“This is the hardest part” she said.

She would know.  She’s had three miscarriages.

She knows my pain.  She’s cried these tears.

She held my hand as I sang all the words as full as I could with a lump in my throat.

My eyes were blurry with tears, knowing the words were true.

She was right.  This was the hardest part.  Believing that Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.

But I was choosing to believe it.  Right there, right then.  In that very difficult moment.  I knew God had not abandoned me, and his love for me pierced something deep in my heart.

After a while, I felt God speak to me.  He said, “the angels are singing over your baby.”

I started crying, sobbing.

My baby was safe.  My baby was with Jesus.

I tried to sing again, and asked if maybe the baby could hear my voice too.  I sang as best I could, crying and cracking and singing, imagining that my baby could hear his or her Mama’s voice praising God among the angels.  I sang the words over my baby,

Then He shall come with trumpets sound
Oh, may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless, stand before the throne

I will not sit in sorrow, refusing to believe what is good about God.  I will not let my sadness drag me into a place of misery, believing lies that God doesn’t care.  I will choose to take God at his word.  He’s been there for me before, he will be here with me now, he will never leave or forsake me.  Not ever.

I am His.

our baby’s in heaven

IMG_4538A while back, I felt like I should take a break from writing.  We had a lot going on with birthdays, vacations and the end of the school year.  I felt the Lord whisper to, “take a break and just rest”.  Funny, a week after I decided to listen, we found out we were pregnant… with our fourth.  We were excited and a bit overwhelmed at the idea of four kids, but mostly just stoked.  I was really wanting another baby… and so was Davin.

These last few months have been gloriously free from most social media, blogging and all the “writing thoughts” that go on in my mind during the day.  I took a step back from all that I was engaged in and just rested with my family.  I played with my family, took naps and ate snacks.  Not much to worry about except what I should eat.  Pregnant ladies get really, really hungry… all day long.  It’s a serious business, that eating.

A week ago, we discovered that our baby had gone to heaven… with… out… our permission.  He or she most likely went to heaven around nine and a half weeks, because that’s what the ultra sound showed the growth rate at the day before our miscarriage, information we didn’t have until the following day.  I was fortunate enough to have a natural miscarriage, without any medical procedures.  Since we had never experienced one, and still didn’t have the news from our doctor that the baby had stopped growing, we at first were still hopeful that maybe the baby was okay even with the spotting, since it can be normal in pregnancy.  (Warning: the rest of this paragraph may be TMI for you… warning… warning!)  By 2:30 am when my water broke, we were pretty sure things weren’t okay.  By 4:30 am, after much bleeding and contractions we knew I was miscarrying our baby.  By 8:30 that morning, my contractions stopped, and the bleeding subsided, our baby was in heaven.

We cried when it was happening.  We cried when we realized our hopes for our little Dude or Lady in January were crashed.  We cried to think of the sweet child that we would never get to know on earth.  We cried just thinking about telling our kids that the baby they loved in Mommy’s tummy was in heaven.

It was sad.  But you know what else?  It was inexplicably covered in peace.  Literally just how the scripture that says in Philippians 4:7,  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  A peace really did come over us and that transcended ALL understanding.  

I know it’s early in the process, and I’m sure there is more grieving to be done.  I am not minimizing that.  I am just saying that in the midst of physically experiencing a miscarriage and not realizing what was going on right away, in the midst of understanding the truth that our baby wasn’t with us anymore, in the midst of grieving the loss – I still felt surrounded by peace.  If that doesn’t transcend all understanding, I don’t know what does.

Worldly logic says I shouldn’t be able to feel any peace in the midst of this sorrow.

Here’s something else.  The day before when I was getting the silent ultra sound, (I say that because the tech only asked me three questions, then never spoke again…) the tech finished and went to see if the radiologist wanted to share any information with me, which he did not. While I waited, I stood there thinking, hmmm, this wasn’t like all my other ultra sounds where the sweet lady says, “ohhhh, here’s the baby’s heartbeat!  Here’s the hands!” it was just some weird dude saying not a word.  Thoughts started to cross my mind that the spotting might have actually meant that something was wrong.  When I started to panic and get sad, I heard the Nat King Cole song, “Smile” on the speakers in the hallway.  It’s a pretty tragic song guys, if you start playing it while you read this, you might just cry.  So only do that if you want a good cry.  Once I heard the sound of Nat’s voice, I felt this crazy peace rush over me and I was back at my grandparents’ house, as a kid, listening to their records.  My grandpa is already in heaven and I felt like that was God’s way of saying, “Yea, this is rough, but it’s going to be okay.  We go way back, I was there with you then, and I’ll be here for you now.”

Guys, I didn’t walk through this miscarriage alone.

God surrounded me with his presence in so many ways.  Jesus showed up in Davin as he sat near me the entire night, holding my hand, taking care of my every need, being unbelievably supportive, loving, amazing and strong.  He showed up in the love and support of my family and friends through texts, muffins, flowers, cards and a friend watching our three kids so Davin could go with me to the doctors to make sure I was healthy the next day.  God was gracious to take the baby to heaven earlier in my pregnancy, when it wasn’t as difficult to miscarry naturally.  He timed it so we’d still have space to heal before we go on the crazy awesome tropical kid-free vacation we’d planned for this summer.  I even still get to  look forward to and celebrate a baby right around Christmas, since my brother and his wife will be having their second then (#babyfix)!  And, I felt his grace when I held my three kids the next morning in the kitchen, thinking that some women experience a miscarriage, and don’t yet have a child to hold and thank him for.

I keep thinking of all the ways that he was so gracious to me, even in the midst of this sorrow. And, it doesn’t make me not sad that my sweet baby is in heaven.  That I’ll never hear this kid laugh or see he or she smile on this earth.  But seeing God show up in so many different ways made me feel like there must be something bigger going on than my plans and purposes. Because those weren’t my plans and purposes.

God is sovereign.

Does that mean he wanted my baby to die and my pregnancy to end in a miscarriage?  No. Not at all.

We live in a non-Eden world.  It’s not a perfect heaven just yet.  God’s given us the power of free will, making our world a messy, sin-filled, sometimes crappy place that we get to bring light into through Christ’s love.

God is sovereign means that he has a bigger plan that he is working out in spite of sin’s effects on this world, making room for his love in the tough stuff.  And because he sent his Son to die for our sins, we know that his whole plan is motivated around his love for us.  Even when it doesn’t look like it.  Even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

We toss the word love around like it’s whatever, but when you really, really think about it – God loves ultimately, fully, completely and perfectly, each one of us.  And somehow, I think that truth resonates with you, somewhere deep, deep down in your heart.  And if you want him in your life, you don’t have to be perfect, it’s as simple as this prayer,

“Jesus, please forgive me for all the stuff I’ve done that didn’t honor you.  I’m sorry.  Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.  Please come into my life and begin to make stuff right.  I want to see you transform my life into something beautiful.  Please be Lord of my life.  Amen.”

That’s kinda a, “Jesus Take the Wheel” type of thing, giving your life over to him;-)  It’s sorta a big deal, so If you did pray that for the first time, you should find someone who reads their bible and let them know so they can help you find a church.  Walking with Jesus is never an orphan experience, you need a big family around you, reminding you about God’s love and truth in word and action.  And, some churches are awesome and some are not, or can be super old-school and if that’s not your thing, keep looking until you find the one that feels like home.

And, like I told Davin after we’d finished crying, “Hey, that’s the BEST kid we ever raised!  That baby is in heaven!  SUCESS!”  God can bring good out of anything.  We high-fived with tears still running down our faces, knowing that there was still joy in our future.

Now I am a mom of four (actually maybe five, we thought we were pregnant before this one and then weren’t after a few days, so maybe number four has a sibling in heaven).  Either way, I have three little ones on earth to raise-up to know the Jesus that their little sibling or siblings are hanging out with right now.

And that’s a huge job.

Thanks for reading.

And for those of you who just love to cry… I give you

“Smile” by Nat King Cole

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile