Tribute To Mom

Dear Mom,

You taught me everything I need to know to make picnics fit for Kings and Queens and that a blanket spread is a feast prepared even if it was of simple fare, love added all the richness needed.

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You showed a listening ear is always the best gift, especially to the least of these laden low with heavy burdens.

You lived “home is where the heart is” and investing ones life in the small and mundane yields returns beyond measure.

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You taught grey hair worn white is a crown of glory and nothing a woman need be ashamed of.

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You said there’s always room at the table for one more mouth and entertaining strangers may be really feeding angels unaware and doing all this to the least of these is as doing it unto Jesus.

imageYou gave me the thrill of broken earth dew soaked beneath my toes and Tennyson and Dickens late into the night.  And when all else fails, a bowl of homemade ice cream topped high with hot fudge goodness or strawberry shortcake after a long day of berry picking will cure all that ails you.

imageimageYou showed me work could be play and being a team makes heavy loads light. And in those moments when all around seemed to crumble, you were there showing strength comes not in standing but in getting down low on knees.

And it was you at the end of the day when we were blessed who taught we don’t get-to-keep, we get-to-give and there in that moment you reached deep into pockets emptying to fill.image

And so today whether you realize it or not, so much of who I am and who your grandchildren will be is all because of the love poured out day in and day out when knees were bloodied from daily battle and you kept right on charging ahead and caring for us in spite of or because of.

And for that I say thank you mom.  Well done! Well played! Well lived!

I know I have big shoes to fill…

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But somehow I think you’ve given me everything I need (with an overflowing portion of grace from above.)

xoxo

Your Jo

Hope For The Dark Days

This written exactly one year ago, and me…perhaps you too?….needing reminders that there is hope! We just rearranged our living area for spring and brought back up this chalkboard with words of life scrawled line by line out in the open where we can all see it clear as day.  And a gentle nudge from this friend to you to write your own? For you? For your brood? After all…we need a map to know where we are going.

They shout and rail against each other these three of the same seed. The “she did” and “he didn’t” hurl through the air and I wince as doors slam and feet stomp hard and all this before day has dawned. I pull covers tighter and hope beyond hope that it ceases before I have to be the one to crawl out of my cozy cocoon and halt it. How are we to live in peace when even flesh and blood tear each other word by word with actions louder than megaphones? This mother’s heart is laid clean open, fractured fragile, and I wonder what will be the glue to piece it back together. Another war of words begin and I join tit for tat because sometimes when you are hurting all you know to do is hurt back and I am in this moment that one I hoped to never be.  It’s there in all this broken jumbled mess, I run. Run from shame and failure and not getting it right day after day after day gone by. How does one go from stellar mom to stellar failure in one sure blow?

We muddle through the day…barely…and I chop vegetables and tears mix with meal prep and I am brought low for there is nothing like a day gone south to remind that in all this striving and struggling to be..to live…I cannot do this. My frail body can’t begin to muster the strength, the right living I need to teach my children how to love for I am failing at every turn drenched in selfishness and my own desire to not be inconvenienced by the needs of others.

I find myself whispering Romans…this book that has become like a dear friend of mine since lent…and there He cuts through to the heart of it all and I begin to feel life filling these veins again. There is hope and a promise that I can’t but HE can in me because I am in Him and He is making me…US…new! Husband comes in to the wafting smells of shepherds pie and I think how much we need our Shepherd right now.  These frazzled sheep needing someone to lead them to cool waters and green pastures, spreading a table in front of the enemy who would seek to destroy through lies and says instead have no fear for I have overcome so you can have victory here and now.

It’s then I grab chalk and write words that speak life to the dead, words that we can’t escape because they are forefront in the room visible to all where we break bread because God knows that if we don’t write it on the door posts of our home, if we don’t tie them to our hands or carry them with us we will forget and isn’t forgetting the first step to forfeiting peace? We must talk about them from the moment our feet hit the ground running for oatmeal to the last second we are kissing wearied brows before bed for these words are truth that pierces darkness and if we do not pause to renew the mind, it will whither dry.

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This brood of ours gathers solemn over dinner and we begin to read it together, this manifesto, our new family motto:

 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12

Food fills the belly, chatter commences and hope is dawning in the heart of this Mom.

What I Want My Kids To Know About Marriage


He leans close on cold tile as she retches until nothing is left and then gracefully leads her as she stumbles to bed him half asleep pure moonlight keeping watch. Back and forth they traipse all night him soothing fevered brow with cool towels and making runs down twisted stairs at ungodly hours for seltzer water, then sprite, then ice as the possibilities of keeping anything down become futile. And before dawn comes he drags himself out of warm covers to clothe and feed and pack three snacks and three lunches and marches them all off to the bus without one complaint, one grumble.

And she is humbled low that love could look like this.

Groundhog day repeats longer than either think they have strength to make one more step but they plod along to the Doc her feeling more like a dead lump of flesh than anything else, while IV’s pump life-giving saline into her wilting frame. But he’s sitting patient reading by dim light slanting through cracked blinds. image Because this is marriage. image This is where rubber meets road. And no amount of rings or romantic dinners or rambles in the park can prepare one for the seasons of suffering. But it’s in the willingness to suffer together, each other fading to bring out the color of the other that you find the heart of marriage. The heart of God.

They gather their brood after the storm is passed under a sun slipping an egg yolk through purpled skies to debrief, to grieve, to give thanks. And where two or more are gathered in His name there He is.  And He was there as little fingers laid hands on her fractured frail body, him leading the way to the Throne Room.  And He was there as roles reversed.  And He was there and He was and He is enough.

And if there is anything these youngins need to know about love is that true love never looks back. True love pours out their life for the other sacrificing all. True love hangs on when the cake and candles and glitter fade.

And that is a love worth laying your life down for. It’s a love worth finding. And it’s a love worth keeping until the last page of the story is written.  

Happy Birthing Day Momma!

No one tells you when your belly swells thick with life, that before the sun slips out of sight and skin sears torn by a ruddy wrinkled babe all covered in vernix, you are being delivered.

That at your child’s birth it’s you who is being born.

And you will never be the same.

And this process of birthing will never cease.

Because no one says how much her tears will be yours and in her flailing to figure out what this whole thing is being a child, you’ll crawl bloody kneed to the Father in desperation of how to be her mother.

And there are no directions come in this bundle all sugar and spice, but that is exactly what keeps you humbled low. And in that uncomfortable place of humility a quiet confidence is born in Abba Father holding the whole world in His hands, stooping low to listen, to comfort, to make you know the one He formed bit by bit, limb by limb in the holy quiet of your womb.

And no one says that in this dance of parenthood you’ll step on toes and trip each other up, but that’s not the end. The band plays on because of forever mercy that gives you both second chances. A do-over. 

It will be messy but oh so beautiful as the ugly duckling becomes a swan.

And it’s all sheer grace!

All this birthing and being delivered from self and control and petty pride. Then in the still darkness you wake knowing you would lay your life down for this one born of you.

All this come from the day of her birth.

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All Is Grace

There’s times when you know you’ve grown.

Like the time you were strong enough to say no to that extra slice of cake (I’m still working on it) or yes to truth telling when a lump in the throat is sure to hold you back. But you know you’ve really grown when you stare your deepest darkest fear square in the face and the monster that was hairy and green with fiery eyes and horns growing clean out of its head is simply a girl…your girl…retching in the parking lot of a gas station. And you find yourself not shaking a bit or breathing hard to stay present, but stooping to push soiled hair from a tear stained face whispering it’s going to be ok only this time meaning it instead of wishing it. And in this out of body moment you grasp for the first time that ALL the crazy good and bad sum up the adventure of life.

And we only get to live it once.

I’m usually the one picking the red m&m’s out of the bunch instead of swallowing them all down together.

I turn to glance out the window and there they are. All lined up on the sill, healing in these bottles. It hits home, it really is all grace. We’re all sick as dogs and I’m giddy with joy.

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Amazing the freedom when fear’s set free. And I can’t believe it’s taken me a lifetime for it to sink in and take root.

Drink.It.In!

Embrace each moment for what it is. This ugly turned beautiful with pure lavish grace all joy for the taking.

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Hope Blooms

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live. And she did.” Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

We walk them to the bus their shoulders bent, laden with cares of a Monday and my heart is breaking before the sun climbs high in the sky.  It’s not as easy as handing them their blankies anymore to ease pain, and hugs only go so far.  But I do know who goes with them and I need Him right now as much as them so I grab coffee in hand and stumble out into this drizzly grey morning to pace the streets and whisper His name.

My friend Sally knows it better than most that what we really need above anything else is Jesus.  And sometimes the best prayer for someone is His name.

In the middle of pleas for “help Jesus” and “increase my faith” and “don’t let me get stuck trying to live the safe life for myself….for my children” I stumble upon themOut of weeds and summer’s grass fading hope grows.  Hope lives.  Hope blooms where it is planted. And Hope changes everything.

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Suddenly I’m alive. I can choose to really live or just live to get by.  I can keep wishing the days away until we’ve all arrived or relish in the stops along the way however painful they may be.

It truly is all in the journey and fear will forever steal joy.

I pause, tears mingling with rain, and somehow I’m all smiles this girl surprised by joy.

Season’s Change and Root Beer Floats

The drive home is long and everywhere there are subtle signs the season is changing.

A few leaves here and there turned color, and I’m holding on with all I’ve got and I’m not ready to let go. Not ready to say goodbye to days spent under the sun with watermelons in hand and swim bags packed at the door.  Hours lingering long over coffee with dear ones. Camping out under brilliant stars only to eat breakfast near a crackling fire with cousins’ laughter spilling from fields.  I’m not ready to leave the familiar, the safe, the comfortable. Because in less than 48 hours we jump into the unknown: new schedules, new teachers, new friends and me and him empty nesters with all our birds flown out into this crazy wobbling spinning world and this heart is trembling.

I unpack bags of dirty laundry, nurse a sick child on the couch (how is it someone always ends up ill from too much fun) and think about the rhythm of nature and how it teaches us about letting go, about surrender.  For I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I’d be content to set up camp and stay put. But with each season comes the call to abandon all we know, and embrace moving out of our comfort zone believing there is beauty to behold.

Wide eyed and bushy tailed they wake the day.  Nervous excitement filling the air we tie shoes, pack lunches, and whisk to the corner little man holding tight to this hand of mine. I study every line and detail, how tiny it was and still is clasped in this hand of mine starting to show the years. It’s then the bus glides around the corner and I let go…this hand opening to all that is ahead. Unfolding, releasing in order to be filled. And in that leap from the known to the unknown there is faith that the God who got us here will take us there and that sure as rain there will always be root beer floats at the end of every first day of school.

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We Are Family

The fever spikes, hot tears spilling from her pain wracked body drenching the pillow beneath.

“She’s not going to make the drive” he whispers to me.

Instinctively I know this too, but I push forward with plan A because there is no plan B in the works for a sick kid and a mom left alone at home without a vehicle and a husband away for work.

Somewhere between packing the van to drop him off and five minutes left before departure I surrender.  “Take the van and go honey. We’ll figure this out somehow” I mumble breathing a prayer.

Sometimes all one can do is believe these wordless sighs become prayers. That HE takes our groans and turns them into beautiful petitions carried straight to the throne room.

I pick up the phone frantic and I know just who to call.  There are those friends like family who risk anything, and all it takes is courage to ask. She assures me there is nothing we can’t figure out together.  That there’s a car free to use for the doc this morning and kids and groceries and visits to the pharmacy will all work out one way or the other.

We make it to the doc and stumble through blood draws, throat swabs, urine samples and there I am thankful for all the years of health struggles because I know what it is like and I whisper words of encouragement to this girl right growing up before my eyes through needles and pokes and prods.

The strep we thought it was comes back negative and everything suddenly becomes complicated with a follow up appointment and more tests as we wait and see what 48 hours will bring and this momma is right weary on a Monday morning before noon.

The rest of the week is a blur with fevers, pain and words like “appendicitis”, “CT scans”, and “make sure she drinks that smoothie two hours before you arrive at the hospital so the contrast will work”.

In the middle of all this THEY showed up.  The family of God tangibly present with meals, cars, kid sitting, hugs in the middle of emotional melt downs in front yards, texts, prayers…

It’s easy to say you’re part of a family, but until it functions like one, you can’t know for sure. Until you’ve bared your soul and they’ve opened hands and hearts you’ll never know. How can one begin to trust unless family bonds have been tested and found true?

The tech comes in at the hospital waiting room to tell this hungry and tired mom and daughter that all is well.  We hug and celebrate over Macdonalds singing long and loud to the radio all the way home.

Then there’s this guy who calls to say “keep the car an extra day…and take the kids berry picking just because…”.

I hang up smiling.

It’s then I know. We ARE family. A family that’s bigger than blood lines and geographic locations and maiden names and homes of origin.

It takes a family and we belong.  This heart beats all joy.

Why We Really Need To Face Our Fears

They laid her all warm and new into these wobbly arms of mine and I knew life would never be the same for she had changed me in the enlarging as I waited nine months to meet her. I never knew fear like I did as a new mom. The feedings, the sleeping (or lack of), the cries of all kinds and through all hours, and the questions clouding the small piece of sanity left after sleep deprivation. But the one always lingering I dared breathe, let alone whisper: what if something bad happens, and worse yet, if it’s on my watch? And I trembled and shook and got hard on these knees because that’s what raising up a child does. It exposes every fear you’ve ever buried and someday somehow you have to stare it down long enough and know that bigger than IT, is a God who is watching for you. Who longs to give rest. And regardless of what you do or how you control, He’s really the one who’s got it!

The millionth doctor (or so it felt) finally had a clue that something was wrong. These infections and days upon endless days spent in bed were not normal. He sent me off to another specialist and I was scared. What if they found nothing…or worse yet, what if they found something? And he did. And it was scary. And I wanted to run but there was nowhere to go. So I got hard on these knees and found a God watching, working in the dark for my good and as prednisone healed this body from cryptogenic organizing pneumonia blessings upon blessings, gifts beyond number were scattered along the way. I take my last treatment today a new person. We can either let illness enrage or enlarge the soul. The challenges in life can be what makes us bitter or beautiful. We have a choice: choose fear and control or surrender and rest.

I tuck them in tight, bellies full from the celebration of a hard season past over steaming bowls of homemade pasta with new friends, and she asks it with tears streaming…”Momma what if something bad happens?” The lump forms and my voice falters because what do you say to the one you love when you’ve wrestled and battled these fears yourself time and again? It’s then I remember truth I stumbled on when I forged into this thing called motherhood and I pull it out and read it slow:

If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

“God’s got this” I say to her, and no amount of controlling or trying or fearing will keep us safer, or make us better. It’s in the opening of the hands, the surrendering we find rest. Ahh, how far I’ve come and yet still so much farther yet on this sojourn.

One season down….how many more to go? Only He knows and I’m ok with that.image