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.

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What I’ve Learned About Love Suffering Long

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She’s a single mom who just lost her job and yet it just keeps coming.

The meals and the texts and the running to grocery stores just for me…for us…and this cup is clean spilled over, humbled low by love.

Because love suffers long.

And it’s those who have been through fire that are often the ones who understand it most. Who know without a doubt that love isn’t always convenient, or to be rationed until all is neatly wrapped
in a package and tied up in a bow.

Love is in it for the long haul.

Love simply suffers long.

And as one who has been through deep waters again and again, I’ve found comfort in those precious souls willing to journey through the hopeful and hopeless days. Through the bloody mess until beauty rises. Who have said they are  waiting with me until Monday, or until the treatment starts working, until a doctor figures it out…or doesn’t.

No matter they’ll be there.

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And what I want all of you dear ones to know, you are bearers of light in the darkness. For when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you believed for me. You stood in the gap when I couldn’t even whisper a prayer.

And it’s you who have taught me it hurts less when friends cry with each other than when they say “it will be better soon” or try to rescue from pain. And I know all this because you hoped for me and saw a place where suffering ends…and there were days I needed you to remind me of that…but it soothed my weary heart when you quietly hoped and believed when I couldn’t, because you knew that it’s often in the laboring, not the rescuing where beauty is born.

And in case you didn’t know? Some of the kindest things you’ve given are simply sweet words of affirmation. Words that remind me of who I am apart from illness. Words that uncover truth when I was shrouded in sadness. I have bottled each and every single one to hold onto in the middle of sleepless nights or tedious tests and loooooong doctor visits. Because there is nothing more beautiful than the one who bears good news in the middle of suffering.

And you friend? The one who just showed up with meals or a car, to clean or simply to listen? You are a beautiful soul who gave brave when I who was too weak to know what I needed but I found courage in each act of kindness. In each reaching out, I did not feel alone.

imageSo go out there and be bold. Be brave. Be the beautiful self only you can be because you never know just who’s life you might change by all this love suffering long.

Popsicles

Hey friend! We made it to a Friday and sometimes it’s worth throwing housework to the wind for a mental health day. Or for crying babies or the kid that always throws a temper tantrum at the most inconvenient times (of course)!

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imageAnd for the first time I’m not going to feel guilty about it. In fact I’m celebrating! ‘Cause you know what? It’s not the tidiness they’ll remember. They’ll remember the times that you took to sit on the floor with your sobbing pre-teen to sort out all this hormone messiness, or turned on The Little Rascals in black and white for the one who needed time with mom, or that they saw you talk with the neighbor instead of finishing dishes just because. It’s time we choose love over lists.

My sister says it’s Popsicles were raising. One more lick and they’ll be gone. It all goes by so fast. So go out there and seize these moments with grace. You’ll never regret it and there’s always tomorrow for that neat little house you’re dreaming of.

 

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.

A Prayer As You Send Your Child Off For Testing

imageAs these ones we’ve born, we’ve carried and cried over and sung songs into the night to still their racing hearts; as they pick up pen and pencil, as the screen stares and questions emerge be their strength. Grace them with your presence.  May they collect all their thoughts in you, taking each one captive to the truth that they are more than the scores of a test. That character and praising lives and hearts won for you are what really matters. That it’s not performance that wins your love, because that road will only lead to bloody bruises and broken hearts with trying and failing again and again for perfection, but rather your grace that covers and completes and puts lives back together as all the pieces are laid before you. Remind them they are loved, more valuable than gold, that every hair on their head is numbered by the God who formed each intricate part of their precious bodies.  Give them courage to leap into the unknown because failure is just another opportunity for redemption and you are the God of second chances. Still their minds on you the Shepherd of all lost and weary and stumbling blind sheep.

For Days When You Stumble More Than You Stand

Today was a day of stumbling more than standing. Of wobbling through minefields in conversations and second guessing every single word and making calls of apologies long after friends parted. A day of not being sure of much. Of hearing little more than noise and enough of it can make one nauseous this clamoring for sanity—silence! Before long the internal quarreling builds enough tension and one feels alone in a sea of faces, insignificant, a blubbering fool, a complete failure. And yet as the last glow from the sunset slips behind the western mountains there are sweet whispers of truth and I’m held fast in a love eternal not dependent on performance but on his presence, not on merit but on mercy, not on a life filled with fanfare but one lived ever aware of His forgiveness. So I drink deep and know that with the light of dawn there are fresh mercies, new grace, waiting to wake the day.

He forgives your sins—every one…God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet…God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. ~Psalm 103

From Fear to Faith

Lord when all would consume and shake this being to the core, give courage to move from fear to faith. In you I find safety; a quiet haven for this spirit to rest from struggling and striving and serving little mouths…and hands…and feet. With you I can breathe in, exhale out, bare my soul to its depths and know I am still loved.

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Your love covers warm like clouds blanket the sky and I am held tight in and through the unknown for nothing is hidden from your sight. Even as darkness comes you are the light that pierces bringing hope, the promise that you are still near.  And where you are, fear has no home.

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What You Need To Remember Most About Love

So we had Easter (one of the best ever as I feel we might.just.have.really captured what it is all about this time..perhaps?), and then delightful visitors and a cold or two in between to fight off (MY BODY DID IT THIS TIME FOR THE FIRST EVER IN YEARS WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS???!!!! NOW THAT’S SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE) and then more visitors coming and before I knew it days have passed without a post.  So before it becomes a week I wanted to say hello to all of you out there and let you know I haven’t forgotten. It’s just that this sojourn of ours does get a little messy and busy and it can all add up to a lot of cacophony which often leads to knees bent seeking forgiveness.  And THIS is what I don’t want to ever stop doing in the middle of it all.  Take a minute friends and read one of my favorite writer’s thoughts on all things marriage and the life that happens in between because as Ann Voskamp says “Love is more than simply a warm feeling, love is ultimately a daily forgiving.”

Dancing In the Daffodils

Yellow-Daffodil-2009I wake to rain drumming on roofs; mountains shrouded in mist birthing new life in hues of greens and pastels and this heart has burst its banks for today spells relief! I can breathe…I can walk through woods without fear of toxic pollen no longer a prisoner to the home even if it is only for 24 glorious hours. And this IS the day the Lord has made. A gift just for me. And it is right on time just like He always is. Exactly when needed not a moment too soon or too late. And then I stumble on this:

Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
Since he’s your lord, adore him.
Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre;
rich guests shower you with presents. ~Ps. 45:10-12

Ahhh, the KING…wild for me! I had forgotten but I think I will stay here with Him for I’ve been living too long in a country that is no longer mine and I want to breathe in this new home where I am adored and loved and cherished and sung over even in the valleys and on top of mountain overlooks. And yes, I will accept the gifts of today, violets blooming by brooks and branches dazzled in beaded rain and I will give thanks and bask in Love and hold on with all I’ve got because the pull to leave and not cleave will come with the challenges and I need today to remember. So if you see me dancing in the daffodils and among the red buds smile cause I’m just soaking it all in.

When you think you can’t hold on any longer

blog cover pic 2Hey there beautiful you. The one hanging on with fingernails about to lose grip. I know this life is beautiful and it’s messy and sometimes it’s impossible to sort the good from the bad and there are days when only truth telling will ease the pain of the soul. So grab a cup warm my friend and let’s breathe deep and ease the ache with balm from the word because we, the believers, are the truth tellers and if we don’t speak it, who will? This speaking life comforts and heals, it soothes and lifts burdens cause the days are long and one too many straws become heavy and we still have a sojourn ahead. So let’s pray this together shall we? In the quiet of our hearts let’s water our thirsty spirits:

“Be still and know that I am God.”*

God in the middle of illness, smack dab center in the chaos of kids, sitting near as grief tears the heart in two, present in the mountains of never-ending laundry and bills that twist one into balls of anxiety, there as you wait for answers…or closed doors or open ones. Be still. Know! He is God!

“Be still and know that I am.”

I am the light in this very dark situation, I am the way out..the way to life. I am love and beauty and righteousness and by My hands I hold everything together…yes even that broken bleeding heart of yours. I am patience and peace and joy and in my presence is hope eternal.

“Be still and know.”

Know that I am with you even until the end. I have loved you with an everlasting love and nothing can separate you from me. Not sickness, not today or tomorrow or hunger or danger…nothing can take you away from me. I am your beloved and you are mine and with me on your side you cannot lose!

“Be still.”

Cultivate a quiet heart in my presence. Do not run into the future for grace is given only for this moment and it is being lavished on you. Drink, receive with open hands. Bask in the loveliness of this moment for fear will only take you away from me. Embrace my perfect love. I am singing over you with songs of joy! I have called you by name. You are mine and I’ve got this…whatever it is…I’ve got you!

“Be.”

Be the beautiful you I made you to be and in all the messiness of being, know that in me you are forgiven and have the amazing gift of second chances because failing is just an opportunity for redemption. Stop comparing yourselves to others and striving to gather. And remember it is never about what you do for me, but what I am doing in you! Relax, sit back, open those clenched fists, you are my masterpiece in progress.

*Psalm 46:10 quoted in this diminutive form by Saint Patrick