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.

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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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.

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

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

Seize the Date…or at least the Brownie Pie

You know those moments you realize it will all slip by too quickly and be gone in an instant? That if you don’t seize the day, the moment, the night it may never pass this way again?  Well I’ve been living too long on borrowed time.  Thinking that David and I will spend quality time tomorrow, or the weekend or next week and it hit me in an instant.  Why not now, why not today, why not tonight? For this snapshot in time will be history and cannot be lived again, and sometimes capturing the moment means you don’t have time to find a sitter, or plan a date out. So I did the next best thing.  I made the dessert I’ve been craving for weeks now (discreetly of course so the little people would have no idea the plan), bought the ice cream, made certain that electronics and any other distraction was turned off so we could just be. Nothing fancy, no high in the sky expectations but to just enjoy the company of each other and celebrate the week we’ve had. Of course this meant bedtime with kids had to happen first.  And THAT had a lot of expectations (which quickly became apparent as each minute ticked by).  A quick brush and tuck and prayers and kisses and it’s funny how up-ended things get at 8pm at night. Kids wailing about not wanting to go to school in the morning, and why oh why do I never get to stay up with mom and dad…”You all always have such fun after we go to bed.  I’ll even help with the dishes if you let me stay up”. And then there were the toenails needing trimmed a month ago that one never sees until the bed covers are ready to be pulled over so out comes clippers and here I am frazzled a few minutes before nine lining up all three trimming toes and nails. In all this hurry and bustle to close the day in order to seize the next moment it dawns on me that I am missing the present one and perhaps this is what they will all remember most. The hugs and prayers in the middle of tears, the taking care of little things they can’t do yet like nails and braids and this moment is too sacred to rush. So I slow and breathe and pray a few more prayers and kiss the tears and tuck covers, and before you know it it’s time to sneak down to this amazing chocolate brownie pie waiting that will certainly make everything OK.

Brownie Pie

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup toasted pecans

2 large handfuls of mini-marshmallows or enough to cover pie

Mix together all the ingredients except the nuts.  Fold those in.  Pour batter into large greased pie plate.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.  Add marshmallows to the top of the pie and place back in the oven just until they begin to melt.  Pour warm frosting over still warm brownie. Serve with or without vanilla ice cream.

Fudge Buttermilk Frosting

In a saucepan add:

2 TBL butter

1 1/2 TBL cocoa powder

1 1/2 TBL buttermilk

Bring to boiling.  Remove from heat and add 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Stir until smooth and pour over warm brownie.

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All In the Day of a Mom

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Somewhere in between the meat and dairy rows at the grocery my little man blurts it out:

“Mom, if you just eat worms would you live?”

And I’m stunned speechless. Where in the world do our little people get these thoughts? I suppose I should by round three already expect these sorts of odd questions, but until I can consult google or my philosophical husband or the kind reader who will inform, the answer is “I don’t know.”

And that my friend is that and nothing more.  I think I’ll eat another gingerbread cookie fresh from the oven and ponder this question further…

For when the days are long…

Today I get it even though most others I forget amid all the crazy chaos and I nod remembering what someone wise once said

“the days are long but the years are short.”

And these three I’ve born and carried, caressed and consoled sit across from me with happy meals in hand and this heart couldn’t beat any faster because I know it’s just a matter of time before all this will be gone and they will have slipped through my fingers like sand and the home we nested to spread their wings into the wide unknown and I don’t want to miss a moment. It’s been a blur really this coming of age, so much of it shadowed by illness and days of defeat, but it’s been days like today….rainbows sprinkling hope that says

 I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust ate,
the young locust, the destroying locust,
and the devouring locust—
My great army that I sent against you.
You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied.
You will praise the name of Yahweh your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you. Joel 2:25-26

So I’ll take each second of this moment treasuring these faces smothered in ketchup, these voices talking just a little too loud, these hands…these not so tiny hands anymore… that still grasp mine as we cross streets and into new adventures and I breathe a prayer that this will be the year, the year where joy comes in the morning. Where I cherish  the common and slow the sacred. Where laughter wakes the day and chocolate chip pancakes are the reason to whirl early out of bed and requests for sparkly hair is a light burden…even if you’re tripping late to the school bus. The year where we say yes to more and no to less and never lose sight that failure is always the door to a second chance and you can always always have courage to try one more time. I want to love without fear of it getting messy, hope relentlessly and believe that each day is a gift because I know all too soon in a blink…it will be gone.