Monday, December 19, 2011

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.  This verse from Psalm 46 has been echoing in my mind and in my heart for weeks.  I can't stop thinking about it.  I hear it as I go about my day doing all of the ordinary things I do... making beds, doing laundry, preparing meals, taking the dog out.  The words "Be Still" follow me everywhere.  The problem is I haven't taken the time to be still enough to really think about them and the message I need to hear.

"Be Still!"  I can still hear my seventh grade English teacher shouting these words as she hit her desk with a ruler.  She was in her seventies and trying to keep control of a room full of adolescents.  And her patience was wearing thin.  She would get so frustrated and shout at us to be still and for a few moments it worked.  But she also had another method of getting our attention.  It was a Christian school so she was allowed to pray and that she did.  Quietly.  Calmly.  And we would be still.

Sometimes, I think God does shout to us, "Be Still!"  It takes something big to get our attention and make us slow down.  Something like cancer or a death.  Life as we know it stops and we have no choice but to be still and catch our breath.

Other times we hear a still, small voice.  It whispers to us.  Like this verse that won't leave me alone.  I hear God whispering to me throughout the day, "Be still.  Wait for Me.  Listen for Me.".  But I keep on going.  Doing my thing. 

Part of the problem is I don't know how to be still anymore.  Even when my body is still, my mind never stops.  I have facebook to catch up on, books to read, shows to watch, email to write, and blogs to read.  It never stops.  My mind is never still.  I've forgotten how to be quiet.  It feels odd and uncomfortable.

One of the things I miss the most about my precious Emma is the stillness she created.  Everything about her was slower and calmer.  She brought a peace into my life.  I could sit and hold her and do nothing else.  She didn't require anything from me except my presence.  I loved the time we spent just looking into each other's eyes.  And it was enough.  She wanted nothing more.  And I was still.  My mind was quiet and content.  I miss that.

God is whispering to me.  He is telling me to turn the world off and to just be still with Him.  He wants me to make my mind quiet and just look at Him.  I feel it within me and there is no better time than the Christmas season to turn my eyes upon Him.  I have been struggling to feel the Christmas spirit this year and I think I know why.  It can't feel like Christmas if you haven't been still in His presence. 

So, that is my goal this Christmas.  To be still and feel the peace of Christ.  To listen to His whisper so He doesn't have to shout!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Photo Card

Flourishing Frames Christmas
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Simple Perfection

I can be so hard on myself.  I want to do it all.  And I want to do it right.  No, I want to do it perfectly.  And because I am human, it is never perfect.  I am never perfect. 

I fail.  I disappoint myself.  I disappoint others.  Sometimes, I fear I disappoint God.  Oh, how I want to please Him and others and myself, but I know I disappoint.

But I was reminded of something on one of my favorite blogs tonight...  He doesn't want my perfection;  He wants my praise.

Instead of all of the striving I do in vain to reach the impossible goal of perfection, He just wants me to acknowledge Him for who He is and to give Him praise.

When I am standing in the wreckage of my own attempts at perfection I can look on His perfectness and choose to praise Him.  Somehow He picks up the pieces and gives me peace.

In my imperfection I can give my praise to a perfect God.  And I feel His smile on me.  He delights over me in all my mess and mess-ups.  Just because I chose to praise Him.

He doesn't want my perfection.  He wants my praise.  Perfectly simple

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Post where I talk about being a Pastor's Wife

I have been trying to write this post for over a week now.  I want it to say something on my heart that I can't seem to put into words.  I don't want it to be misinterpreted or misunderstood.  I want it to be God-honoring.  I would just skip it but it won't leave me alone and that usually means I need to write it.  I am hoping my thoughts and experiences may help another pastor's wife out there.  Or someone else.  Or maybe just me.  And that's good too.

I feel like God's brought me to the other side of some things.  I don't know if that makes sense.  I guess I have felt like I am constantly going through things.  I am always in the middle of it, trying to fight my way through it, and it is hard to get perspective when you are in the thick of the battle.  But, just lately, I have been feeling like I'm on the other side of it.  And I have time to think.  And gain some perspective.  And figure out what I've learned. 

One of the areas of my life that I have learned about is my role as a pastor's wife.  I have struggled in this area.  I don't write about it often (maybe never) because I don't want to say the wrong thing.  What I am talking about has nothing to with people in the church.  It is a battle I have fought within myself. 

I have always felt inadequate.  I'm not cool enough, outgoing enough, spiritual enough, talented enough, never ever enough.  This has played over and over in my head until I believed that God and my husband made a huge mistake by making me a pastor's wife.  I tried my best to do what I could to help Dean with his calling.  But there was always that voice... telling me it wasn't enough.

Then came a break.  I was so relieved for a respite from the constant demands I placed on myself.  And the guilt of never doing this thing right.  I thought I would love it.  But I didn't.  I missed it.  No, not the feeling inadequate part. 

I missed being a pastor's wife.  I missed the people and the way my husband and I could talk about his vision for the church.  I missed leading the women in Bible study.  I missed the relationships and sharing peoples' lives.  I missed watching my husband lead and knowing that he was doing exactly what he was made to do.  And I was helping him to do it.  I missed being forced to step out of my comfort zone and do something new.

So when the time came to step back into church ministry I was my husband's biggest cheerleader.  I knew, without a doubt, he was supposed to do it.  I prayed for him and listened and, together, we heard God calling us.

And, now that I am on the other side, I realize what the difference is... it is OUR calling.  Not Dean's, but OURS.  I'm not just trying to help him fulfill his calling.  I share it with him.  I realize that all those things I missed were things that God created me to do. 

I feel so blessed to be where we are today.  I treasure the church and people God has called US to serve.  I truly look at it as a gift, something to be protected and nurtured.  I want to grow and learn and do my best.  I am excited to be stretched and pushed to do things I never thought I could.  Not because I married a pastor, but because God called me to this awesome ministry of being the Pastor's Wife.  And I still feel so very inadequate.  I hope I always do.

So, that is what I've learned as I look from the other side.  And I'm smart enough to know that I will be in the middle of something new.  It is simply a part of life.  But I am enjoying the view from here as long as I can!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Sweet Life

Sometimes it is so easy to only notice the things that are wrong in this world and to focus on the negative. I know I get caught in this trap so often. The problems and annoyances can take the joy out of living if we let them.
And there are times that we try so hard to make our lives look good to others. We paint a pretty picture for others to look at so they don't see what is really happening.
It is hard to find a balance but I am trying. I want to be real. I want to be authentic. I want people to see me as I am. I am flawed. My life isn't even close to perfect. But that doesn't mean that I don't have moments that are just perfectly sweet...

Like this view...

Or watching my little one sneak up on my big one....

or throwing stones in the lake... just because....

or watching a caterpillar just be a caterpillar....

or sitting on the porch eating an apple you just picked....

Or trying to upstage your big sister....

Or taking a sweet picture of your sweet daughter....

Or just pure sweetness...

Or cooking a family favorite together...

Ahhh.... that's the sweet life. And it's mine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why am I doing this?

"One of the great uses of twitter and facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time." John Piper

A friend of mine put this quote as her very last status on facebook. She felt convicted to close her account after she read this. I have been haunted by it ever since I read it.

We joke about facebook addiction. But is it something to joke about? Are there eternal consequences to the amount of time we spend on it? These questions have been bothering me. I don't want to get to the end of my life and wonder what I could have done with all that time.

I don't think it is a call for Christians to give up twitter and facebook. There is value in being connected. These are tools that can be used for God's glory and to share Him with the world.

I guess the question for me is, is this what I am doing? Or am I wasting my time. Am I honest about who I am when I carefully word those statuses? Do I hide myself and my imperfections or do I let others see who I really am?

Do people see that I am not perfect, not together, not who I want to be?
And do they see that I am perfectly forgiven, loved, and a beautiful work in progress?

I am not saying I am giving up facebook... yet. But I am evaluating myself. Examining my motives. My honesty. My use of time. My prayer life. My authenticity. So many things.

Because if it is not bringing glory to God, then why am I doing it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?

We just sang this song on Sunday. Little did we know that on Tuesday we would experience it firsthand. I, myself, did not feel the earth moving under my feet but I heard from many friends who did. The news headlines were fixated on it. And, in my head, I kept singing this song.

The news kept the focus on the terror people felt as the buildings shook and tiles and pictures fell to the ground. I am sure that would be a scary experience. But I kept thinking of the mighty hand that can make the mountains tremble.

Living in the valleys of Central Pennsylvania, you cannot help but be moved by the beauty of the mountains all around you. I am amazed every time I see the sun setting behind them or see a rainbow dancing from peak to peak. It is truly breathtaking. As I looked at them last night, I tried to imagine what it would be like to see one actually tremble. I know it would be terrifying. We would run for shelter. But, still, it would be amazing to see.

And the very hand that moves the mountains will be our shelter.

I may not have ever felt the mountains tremble in a literal way but I have stood in the valley of this life and felt the mountains shaking all around me. I have felt as if the earth beneath my feet is slipping away and I am falling into a pit. A pit so deep and dark that I cannot see a way out. I have grasped for something to hold on to, something steady and unshakable. To pull me up and set me on solid ground again.

And the very hand that moves the mountains has been my shelter.

The news may have focused on the science behind the trembling we felt, but I knew there is only One who can make the mountains tremble and the earth quake. Some day all will see Him and bow before Him. The quaking will be our knees as we tremble at His glory and fall at His feet. I long for that day when the mountains will tremble because the people of God are praising Him.

But, for now, I look at the mountains surrounding me. I feel the earth beneath my feet. I enjoy the splendor I see. Knowing that it is just a taste of what is to come. Knowing that there is no reason to fear the trembling of the mountains. Or my own heart.

Because the very hand that moves the mountains is my shelter.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I am...

I am so overwhelmed, busy, stressed, but I also am happy, excited, optimistic, and at peace. Life has been moving at the speed of lightning with so much to do and take care of but I am trying to take it as it comes and enjoy the chaos.

I haven't been a good blogger, I know. So much occupies my day and mind with all the organizing I am trying to get done. Blog posts pop into my head but by the time I can sit down and write my mind is tired and numb.

In all my organizing I have found so many of my journals with random posts from different points in my life. I came across this entry and thought I would share it here. I don't even know when it was written but it shows the heart of someone who is broken and desparate for comfort. I don't remember writing it but I remember feeling this way. Maybe someone you know, or go to church with, feels this way. Maybe they need you today.

I am the Mother

I am the mother of a child with special needs.

I've often wondered why we use the word "special".

I don't feel like our situation is "special".

Different... yes.

Overwhelming... yes.

Exhausting... yes.

Scary... yes.

Lonely... most definitely yes.

But "special"... no, not very.

Don't get me wrong. I love my child. I fight for her. I adore her. I would die for her.

SHE is special.

Her disability is NOT.

I am her mother. I need help. I need hope.

Church, where are you?

Will YOU love my child? Love Me?

Will you be the hands of Christ and help me and my child?

Can you offer us some hope?

Some answers?

Are we SPECIAL to you?

I am the mother who has lost a child.

"Lost". I hate that word.

I haven't lost my child. I know exactly where she is.

She is in the ground. She is gone.

I can't see her... touch her... hear her... hold her.

She isn't lost. She is gone.

But I am lost. Lost in the grief.. the sadness... the numbness.

Part of me has been cut off and I am left with a gaping hole.

Nothing seems to fill it.

Church, I need you to step up and comfort me.

I need you to put your arms around me.

Can you offer me some hope that she isn't lost?

Can you show me some hope that there is something more?

I am the mother.

And I am waiting.

For YOU.

Please don't let me down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

His Plan Prevails

I used to be a planner. An organizer. But not a dreamer. My feet have always been firmly planted in reality. I see things as they are, not what they could be.

Maybe there was a time when I dreamt. I vaguely remember visions of traveling to Paris, feeding starving children in Africa, raising a big, happy family...

But there was a day when my dreaming stopped. A day when the harsh reality of what my future would hold hit me square in the face and I became a planner. I looked at my reality and I started seeing it for what it was, and dreaming was not going to fix anything. I had to plan. I had to research. I had to make lists and charts. I had to organize schedules and appointments. There was no time for dreaming. Planning was a neccessity. Being a realist was the only way to survive.

So I took charge of the situation. I made the plan. I created order out of the chaos and I survived...

Until a day I did not plan on brought everything to a stop. In all my planning and realism I had not planned on this! I could not accept it. I could not take it. And so began the end of planning. Or dreaming.

I can relate to the feelings of Job, "My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart." (Job 17:11). I wandered through my days, just waiting for each one to pass. I didn't make plans. I didn't dream of anything different for my future. I felt broken, dazed, and hopeless.

In all of my planning, I had forgotten one important piece of the puzzle. It is found in Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Wow, no wonder I was so lost. I had tried so hard to take control of the situation but, in truth, it was never mine and never could be. I was making plans but God was in control. And, though I didn't like His plan a whole lot, I had to accept it. I had give Him back the control and let it go.

And slowly, so slowly, I felt life coming back into my soul. If God was the one making the plans and He loved me then I had to hope that the plans were going to be good ones. I had to believe that there was a bigger purpose for all the messiness I had experienced in life. I wanted it to be neat and orderly and pretty, but it was a mess like no other. I was a mess. But, lucky for me, God loves messes.

He doesn't stop planning or dreaming for us. Even when we do. He keeps on loving us and holding us and moving us forward. I had always loved the verse in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I held on to this promise with everything I had. I had to believe that He had a plan, and it was a good plan. He started filling my heart with hope and I started to see that there could be a future. And it could be good.

I started to plan again. But this time I planned differently. I didn't forget the truth of that verse in Proverbs 16:9. I knew I could plan but God would direct my steps. And I let Him. Not perfectly, mind you. I have taken some missteps along the way. I have stumbled. But I am learning to get back up and get back on the course He has for me. One step at a time.

I"ve even started dreaming again. Big dreams. Inklings of what could be pop into my head and my mind starts to wander to new and exciting places. Places I believe God is leading me. And if He isn't, that's okay too. It's still fun to dream. I think I may share those dreams with you soon.

But maybe, just maybe, those dreams are part of the plan. Maybe it's okay to start making plans as long as I know they are part of His plan. His plan to redeem the pain, the mess, the tears. To bring me good and not harm. To give me a hope and a future.

And so, I dream.

And I plan.

But I know "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21)

And I thank Him for that every single day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here Comes the Sun!

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It's alright

Little Darling

It's been a long, cold lonely winter

Little Darling

It feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It's alright

Little Darling

The smiles returning to the faces

Little Darling

It seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It's alright

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Little Darling

I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little Darling

It feels like years since it's been clear

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It's alright

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

It's alright

It's alright

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beautiful Hands

I noticed something new about myself tonight. My hands are changing! They are starting to look, well, older. They are looking, a bit, like the hands of my mother. At first I was kind of bothered by this new revelation. I am getting tired of finding these new things about myself that remind me of how old I am. In my mind I am still 34. And then I see something like my hands and I remember that I am not even close!..... But seeing my hands and their new resemblance to my mom's was kind of nice. You see, I've always loved my mom's hands. She has the prettiest hands of anyone I know. She always has her nails long and manicured and takes care of her hands...... Her hands are a part of so many of the good things I remember about growing up. I loved when she combed my hair in the morning and I could smell the oranges she had just peeled for our school lunch. And when she washed my hair in the kitchen sink she rubbed my head until I wondered how I had any hair left. Her hands covered my back in Noxzema when I stayed out in the sun too long and felt my forehead when I was feeling sick...... My favorite memories of her hands involve a lot of food! Her hands made the best cut-out cookies and bread. She would wait up for me to get home from work so she could make me a grilled cheese sandwich and listen to all of my silly stories. And when I was sick she always crushed my ice and put it in a glass of coke with a spoon to soothe my nausea. I can't forget all the hours she spent mixing and rolling and cutting my very favorite food... homemade noodles!..... My mom used her hands to make us dolls and clothes and blankets and all kinds of crafts. And she could fix anything with those hands! Her hands are full of talent and skill....... But they are also filled with love. Taking a walk and holding my mom's hand was something I was not ashamed to do, even as a teenager. I remember as a little girl sitting in church and playing with those hands, tracing them and playing with her rings. I loved to have her run her nails up my arms and along my back leaving a trail of goose bumps....... I have, as an adult, had her hands hold mine, and hold me, when I didn't know how I was going to take another breath. I have watched as those hands held my babies, and bathed and fed them. She amazed me when she learned to use her hands to feed my daughter with a tube and push her medicines into her with a syringe. She is far away now but one of my greatest treasures is a letter she wrote to me, with her hands, to tell me that she is proud of me and the mother I have become...... Her hands. Yes, they have aged. They have lines and spots, but they are so beautiful. Her hands. They hold my world. They hold my memories. They hold my heart...... So, my hands are starting to look like my mother's hands. And that is one sign of aging for which I am so very, very thankful and proud!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Inner Princess

We have a little princess living in our home right now. She wears her tiara with pride and flashes her wand about as if the world is at her command. We watch princess movies, play with princess toys, wear princess clothes, and read princess books. Her dad, sister, and I are often enlisted to be the prince or king. But NEVER the princess. That role is taken!

It is so fun to watch her and play along. We all love a good princess story, don't we? It has got me thinking though. Where do we learn this whole princess thing? Why is it that it seems little girls have a natural desire to be the princess and to be loved and treasured by a prince or king?

Could it be that deep in our hearts we know, even as a little girl, that we are daughters of a King? Before we hear the voices of the world creeping into our hearts telling us that we are not good enough or strong enough or pretty enough, do we hear the whisper of the King telling us that we are loved and treasured and enough? As I watch my three year old princess I believe she believes that she is a princess!

How do we find that inner princess again? NOT our inner diva, but our inner princess! How I want to know in my heart that the King loves me and treasures me for exactly who I am, who HE made me to be!

In Romans 8:15-17 I read that I am a daughter of the King. I am a co-heir with Jesus, His Son! I am a member of the Royal Family, yet I live like a pauper. I go about my day expecting nothing extraordinary. I don't seek the things He has to give me because I don't see all the treasures laying at my feet. I am so consumed with me and my feelings and my worries that I walk right past the palace so that I can sit in the rubble. The rubble of all that I have tried to create myself instead of trusting my Father, the King.

God has chosen US, His princesses, a royal and set apart people (I Peter 2:9). My three year old knows she is a princess and she is not afraid to tell us! Isn't it time for me to start living like the princess that I am? Shouldn't I be showing the world in the way I act, talk, and live that I am different? Shouldn't I be living in a "set apart" way?

How does a princess act? She is full of grace, compassion, inner strength, and kindness. People are drawn to her because they feel loved. A daughter of the King has a relationship with her Father that is seen in the way she lives. She has a passion for the things that her Father cares about and she goes about her day doing the work He calls her to do. Yes, she is beautiful, but it is the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:4).

In all the good princess stories, it takes the love of a true prince to save the princess. I am so very grateful for the true love of a King, a love that has saved me from myself.

And I am so very thankful for little princesses who teach us big lessons!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Riding the Waves

They say that grief comes in waves.
I'd have to agree.

For several years we lived close to the Atlantic Ocean and we spent many hours there watching the waves come crashing to the shore. I never found much pleasure in getting in the water but I did enjoy my time just sitting and listening. Seeing the bigness of the ocean before me.

When I think of the first few years of my journey with grief I think of that ocean. I think of standing in the water and seeing that big wave coming towards me and there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I could only stand there and try to brace myself as it hit me with all its power. And most of the time it knocked me to my knees and I felt as if I was drowning under it. My hands and feet searching for something solid on which to stand.

When I did find my footing I stood there gasping for air, searching the shoreline for something familiar. Some sign of where the wave had taken me. Trying to figure out how far I was from where I had started. And, just as I was starting to find my way back, I would see it coming towards me. Another wave. Coming to knock me down again.

That's how the grief was for many years. I would see it coming. I could feel it building and it would hit me with all its force. I would find myself on my knees, on my face, laying there holding on to a little stuffed monkey that held the smell of my tiny girl. Gasping for air, trying to breathe. Looking for something to hold me up and help me stand again.

I would search for any sign of the familiar. Anything that felt normal. So desperate to fill the aching hole in my heart. I would cry out to God to make it end. To take the pain away. And He was always there. Even when I tried to push Him away, He was there. Helping me to my feet and holding me up. Even when the next wave hit.

I remember visiting a beach on the west coast of Florida and seeing a whole different ocean. This one was much calmer. I remember just floating there in the beautiful, blue waters. Feeling the gentle waves rocking me like a baby in her mother's arms. Soothing, comforting, calming. There was no fear of being knocked over and pulled under the water. Just peace.

As I have entered this fifth year of grieving I am realizing the grief still comes in waves. But, like this ocean, they are calm, soothing, reassuring. When they come I find myself just giving in to them, laying back and letting them carry me where they take me. They are my friends now. Reminding me of who I am, how far I've come, and where I am going. I don't look out in to the future and dread them. I welcome them.

Like the waves of the ocean, they remind me that there is someone bigger than me who is in control of everything and I can trust Him. He is holding me in His arms as I face the waves, be they big or small. There is no wave to big for Him. They also remind me that the one I long for, grieve for, is being carried in those same arms and I am only one breath away from seeing her again.

I can't even imagine the ocean that she is playing in today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I trust You

I think maybe living here in the quiet of the mountains is changing me. I don't know. But I hope so. Sure, it gets a little lonely but lonely isn't all bad. I feel as if the air is clearing some of the cobwebs in my head, helping me to see things more clearly.

I notice things about myself I haven't noticed before. Not all good, but not all bad. I know that my time living here is going to be brief but I am grateful for the rest and healing and growing I am experiencing here in the quiet, the stillness, the solitude.

One of the things I am learning about myself is that I crave security. I want to know that things are going to be the same today as they were yesterday. From what I have read I guess that is pretty normal. Especially for women. I won't beat myself up for that.

But what I don't like is how I let that craving for security interfere with my trust in God. I don't like how I try to control or manipulate my circumstances to create a false sense of security. I don't like how my first reaction to change is always fear or worry or anger.

But this mountain air is changing me. Or maybe it is age. I don't know. But I see now that life will never be secure here on this earth. The security I crave will always elude me here. It is something I will only find when I move on to my real home.

And, knowing that, I feel secure. I feel safe. This life seems to be a never-ending series of twists and turns. Just when it seems we have it figured out we are faced with a new decision. An unexpected change. But that is life here on this earth.

But I am slowly, and painfully, learning to rest in the security of trusting Jesus. Instead of worrying, planning, and plotting, I find myself simply trusting. When a new twist in the road appears I am learning to just say, "I trust you.". I am not going to keep listing all of my concerns over and over, as if saying them to Him one more time will change anything. I am simply going to trust Him.

I trust Him with my past.

I trust Him with my future.

And I trust Him today.

Right here. In the mountains. Even though it is temporary, I trust Him.

And I am grateful for this time to learn and grow. Right here in the quiet of the only place I know that never changes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Welcome Home

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was lost. I had allowed myself to become involved in a relationship that was hurtful, demeaning, and had robbed me of my very self. I didn't know how to find myself again. The girl who believed the best in people was gone. I so desperately wanted her back.

Weeks before, my parents had made the six hour drive to pick up their shell of a daughter. I will never forget the phone conversation with my mother just the day before. So hurt and broken, but too proud or scared to tell her I needed her. But, thank God, she read between the lines and she asked a simple question, "Do you want to come home?". And I broke down in tears and all I had to say was "yes". She did the work for me. She made it easy for me to admit my brokenness. I will be forever grateful to my parents for their willingness to put the past behind us. To forgive and bring me home. No questions. No "I told you so". Just love and grace. I know it was hard. I know they were hurt. But they put it aside and brought me home.

Home was a place of comfort. I let my mom cook for me, do my laundry, even sort through the piles of unopened bills and mail. I let them take care of me. As much as they love me, though, they could not fix a wounded heart or bring peace to an anxious mind. They couldn't fill the empty spaces. I know they recognized this because after several weeks of watching me wander around the house trying to figure it all out, they suggested I go to the camp I had gone to all of my growing up years. I was too old to be a camper but I could be a counselor.

So, I packed my sorry self up and made the drive to camp. I remember it was such a pretty day and driving through the hills of Western Pennsylvania was like a breath of fresh air. I took deep breaths and tried to let my mind rest and enjoy the beauty around me. And when I pulled into the gates of the campground I felt my body begin to relax. I started to feel a sense of hope that maybe here I would find myself again. Maybe God and I would make peace with my past and I would find what I really needed. His grace. His love. His forgiveness.

And, as if God wanted to outdo Himself that day, I got out of my car and saw a familiar face. A friend. And as we started to talk I knew that I was supposed to be there that day. During that week, we talked and talked, and talked some more. We shared all of the things you can share with someone you may not see again for a very long time. But we did see each other. Less than a year later we were married.

God had brought me grace and forgiveness and love. But he also gave me a new beginning. He brought me home. Dean and I have had many places we call "home" over the years but we know that a house is truly not our home. Our home is in each other and our love for God. No matter where this life takes us we are always home when we are together. Serving our God wherever He puts us.

So, every time I see that familiar face I hear my heart telling me those precious words, "Welcome Home".

Monday, January 31, 2011

Grace and Gratitude

This morning felt like a test that I failed. Miserably.

I was switching laundry when I heard a little voice, sounding so proud, "Look, Mama, look!" And, as I turned to look, I found a face covered in red lipstick staring back at me. Well, it was more of a dusty rose but, for dramatic purposes, we'll say red. Did I look at that face and exclaim what a beautiful job she had done with the lipstick? Did I take a picture so everyone could see how incredibly cute she looked?

No, I did none of those things. Instead I allowed my anger and frustration to take over. I sat her on the sink counter and washed her face with a washcloth. All the while telling her, in a not so lovely and kind voice, how she was not allowed in mommy's purse and she knew it. How she had ruined her shirt and my jeans and my purse. I went on and on. As if a three year old could really understand anyway. And the look on her face should have melted my heart. But it didn't. I was angry and I wanted her to know it.

Even later, when she came and laid her head on my leg and said "I sorry, mama", I patted her head and gave my forgiveness in a begrudging way. I still felt angry and I didn't want to let it go quite yet. Not very gracious. Not at all.

It is three hours later and she is down for a nap and I find myself struggling with an area of my life that I have struggled with for thirty years now. An ugly area. One that I think I have conquered and it keeps coming back. As if Satan is taunting me with my own weakness and I give in once again. And I feel awful. Unforgivable. Ashamed.

I go to my heavenly father and after all these years he should be so angry with me. He should give up on me. He should throw all of my failures in my face. I really kind of want him to because that is what I deserve.

But, instead, I find grace. I find forgiveness. I find arms that wrap me in their love. I find a new beginning. Totally undeserved, but given anyway. It brings me to my knees again and again. How can I ever show myself worthy of this gift of grace?

I know that I can't ever earn it. It wouldn't be a gift then, would it? But I can give it. I can show that grace to others. To a three year old. Did she deserve it this morning? No, not really, but I can give it anyway. Because she is my child. In need of grace. And I can give it to her. I can teach her what grace looks like even in my own imperfect way.

I failed this morning. But, thankfully, God has shown me his grace. And when that three year old wakes up from her nap we will have a new start to our day. I will ask her for her forgiveness and, as always, I will hear her say "It's okay, Mama". Grace still comes naturally for her. And I am so grateful for that.

I have been reading a book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It has challenged me to start a list of one thousand things for which I am grateful. I only started last week and I can feel this process changing me already. I find myself going through the day looking for those gifts so I can write them down. Even in the worst of days I am on a hunt for the good. And I am finding there is always good. Even on days when you have to dig deep.

On Mondays I am going to share some of the gifts I am finding and what I am learning while on my search.

1. Tears of a daughter trying to remember her sister
2. Washing dishes with a cloth that was made with love
3. Snow covering the world in a blanket of pure white
4. Playing princess with my princess
5. Watching birds feast on the seeds we leave for them
6. A husband who works to provide so I can raise our children at home
7. God's voice speaking to me through the writing of others
8. The loving heart of a little girl- Anna, full of Grace
9. Grace, so undeserved, but always given
10. The smell of vegetable soup cooking on an icy day

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Snow

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could have come like a forest fire
with the power of Heaven in your flame

But you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
or an ocean to ravish our hearts
you could've come through like a roaring flood
to wipe away the things we've scarred

But you came like a winter snow, yes, you did

you were quiet and soft and slow

falling from the sky in the night

to the earth below

Oh no, your voice wasn't in a bush burning
your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
it was still, it was small, it was hidden

Oh, you came like a winter snow
quiet, soft, and slow
falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
you came falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

-Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Growing in Love

Falling in Love... is easy. A glance in his direction, eyes connecting, a flutter in the stomach. And we fall.

Growing in Love... is the hard part. It takes patience, kindness, perseverance... so much more.

I have these two pictures on my shelf. One of them shows me so much younger. With the one I fell in love with. Before the growing.

We saw each other. We talked in firelight. Held hands on a bench. Talked of the future. Dreamt of the days ahead. Stood at a cross in the rain. We made promises. We had fallen. We thought we knew each other.

We stood there in a church and committed ourselves to stay together. To grow in love. I see that picture and smile. Smile at our innocence. Smile at those two who had fallen in love.

In the other I see an older version of those two. I see the lines in the faces, a little less hair on his head, hers a little darker. I see more than that. The things you can't see in a picture.

I see the stretch marks from carrying two babies. I see the jagged scar from the birth of one. And the scars on the two hearts of those who buried that same precious one nine years later. And all the years in between.

I see the laughter. Secrets shared. Battles won. And lost. I see the dreams still there and those that have died along the way. I see prayers whispered and shouted and left unsaid. The faith waivering and then standing strong.

I see the tears cried in the dark and the arms that held each other quietly because there were no words.

And I see that we have grown. In love. We are the same, but different. We are still learning each other. Still discovering the hidden parts. And growing in love.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ordinary Moments. Becoming Extraordinary Moments.

Just a normal everyday activity can become something more. I don't know why this happens at some times but not others. Maybe it is the state of our heart. Maybe there are moments when our hearts and eyes and ears are open to more. Moments when we see beyond the meaningless into the meaningful. And a moment becomes full of meaning.

Like last night. I was in another room doing the usual mundane tasks of keeping house. I could hear my husband reading our littlest one a book. Not just any book. A favorite book. A book we read over and over and over. So many times that we read it from memory, no longer paying attention to the words. Just mindlessly saying it once again. He was reading it with his usual dramatics. Making her laugh and scream in all the right spots. And I was just listening because there was nothing else to hear at that moment. Listening because I had no other choice.

And then I started to hear the words in a new way. It is a simple book. I'm sure you have read it too. Maybe even sung it, I imagine. It's the story of a family going on a bear hunt. Ringing a bell? They face all kinds of obstacles; tall grass, water, mud, snow... you remember now? And each time they say these words...

We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
Oh, no!
We've got to go through it!

As I listened to my husband reading these words over and over throughout the story something happened in my heart. They spoke to me. I realized that all these years I have been on my own bear hunt of sorts.

I am not hunting for a bear. But, in my heart I am searching for something just as elusive. Happiness, contentment, acceptance, peace. I set out each day on my search for these things and something or someone stands in my path.

And what do I do?

I stand there. Trying to figure out how to get over it, or under it, or around it maybe. Anything but going through it. I don't want to do the hard stuff. I want a way out. And so I stand there. Thinking. Analyzing. Wasting time. Maybe even contemplating giving up or turning back.

Because going through it looks scary. Impossible even. I don't believe I can do it. But, in the end, I realize going through it is the only way to the other side. I have to take the step forward into the unknown and just go through it.

I'm so grateful, though, that I don't go through it alone. I have One who is with me. Guiding me. Making my path straight. Holding me up. Picking me up. Believing in me. Every step. Every day.

So when the obstacles come, and they will, I will remember an ordinary evening. Listening to an ordinary story. But learning an extraordinary lesson.

I can't go over it.
I can't go under it.
Thank, God!
I will go though it!