Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ebenezer


"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12

I am sitting here in my usual spot in my peaceful home with my husband and girls sleeping. As tired as I am, I have been craving this time and space to be alone after days of Christmas activity. I have always loved the week between Christmas and New Years. I love the idea of "tabula rosa", a blank slate. I love to get organized and make lists of things to accomplish in the coming months. I don't really make resolutions, but I do set goals and realistic steps to meeting them. Even more than looking forward I am challenged to reflect on the past year and all God has done in my heart and life.

In Keri Wyatt Kent's new book REST she tells about a ritual her mentor, Sibyl, practices with her family. "So sometimes on Sundays, when Sibyl and her husband, Dick, gathered their children (and often guests who were living in their home temporarily) around the table for dinner, they'd pull out a bowl with smooth stones in it. They'd read the story from I Samuel and then give each person a stone, noting that they were Ebenezer stones, meaning, "God has helped us thus far." Then they'd ask each person to answer the question, "Where has God helped us this week?" As each child and adult told their story, they would place their stone in the bowl, thereby building a little altar of remembrance to remind each other that God does help and always will help.

We are hardwired to love stories. And this simple exercise is a way to let people tell their stories. It's a way of praying without droning on, without eyes closed. It invites participation, rather than demanding stillness from restless children. It asks us to engage rather than just be quiet.

When we answer the questions, Where has God helped us? Where have you noticed Him? we are reminded of His work in our lives and how we joined in that work. We are gathering evidence, solid as stones, to confirm what we long to know: He is helping us; He is worthy of our praise.
"

I am a lover of ritual. I was taught as a child that much religious ritual breeds Christians just "going through the motions." I am sure that may be true in some cases, but I need the structure of going again and again to a place and repeating truths and practices that over time become more than words and actions but life blood. Just like the ritual Delaney and I have had as long as I can remember of verbalizing what we are thankful for every single night before we pray, I love this idea of dialoguing in an even more specific way how faithful our God is. I love the symbolism of the stones. I want an Ebenezer in my home.

Thank You for Your constant faithfulness. Help my life to be an altar of praise and thanksgiving to Your loving kindness as I look forward to a new year. Help me to teach my children to be able to articulate Your goodness and grace and give You glory in all things.

Monday, December 22, 2008

O Simplicitas



"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." II Cor 8:9

The Christmas message at church yesterday was on this verse. In my stress of so much work this morning, I open my Bible to read these words again and meditate for a moment on their truths. I am hungry for time to just be still with wonder at the incarnation of my God. Still reading Madeleine's writings and poetry I find this:

An angel came to me
and I was unprepared
to be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God’s Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
the birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
it was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
my cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
the town was overflowing.

God’s Word, a child so small
who still must learn to speak
lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
and moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd;
a stable set apart,
the sleepy cattle lowing;
and the incarnate Word
resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
the folly of the Lord,
wiser than all men’s knowing.
-Madeleine L’Engle

Thank you for Your wise plan, my King becoming a child in a manger so I could be rich beyond measure. Help me live every moment of my life as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the wealth I have in You.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adoration

This time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we needed
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
There are some who are wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him–
Christ–the Lord. -Luci Shaw

Friday, December 12, 2008

Glorious Impossibles

And the angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And the Holy Thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” What an amazing, what an impossible message the angel brought to a young girl! But Mary looked at the angel and said, “Be it unto me according to your word.” And so the life of Jesus began as it would end, with the impossible. When he was a grown man he would say to his disciples, “For human beings it is impossible. For God nothing is impossible.” Possible things are easy to believe. The Glorious Impossibles are what bring joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, songs to our lips. -Madeleine L’Engle

I wonder how different my life would be if at every word of the Lord I answered as Mary did, "Be it unto me according to your word." When I look back over the last year and how many "impossible" things God has accomplished in my world I have only praise for my Father who works His perfect will in the everyday miracles of His saving love and sustaining grace. Our move to Ohio, God's provision of jobs for Dan and I, our home, our health, and daily manna--these all seemed impossible just a year ago. Yet, just as in the birth of our Savior, God's plan was already made and His promises were sure.

Thank You for choosing to work Your will through glorious impossibles. Please help me to take You at Your word and dwell in peace that passes understanding and joy unmeasured.

The Gift of Gifts


O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.


Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 16.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mary's Song

If you have never read Luci Shaw's poetry you must find her book Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation. This, one of my favorite of her poems, reminds me of why "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Cor 5:21


Blue homespun and the bend of my breast

keep warm this small hot naked star

fallen to my arms. (Rest...

you who have had so far to come.)

Now nearness satisfies

the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies

whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps

whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so light it seems

no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps

to sprout a world. Charmed by doves' voices,

the whisper of straw, he dreams,

hearing no music from his other spheres.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes

he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,

all years. Older than eternity, now he

is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed

to my poor planet, caught

that I might be free, blind in my womb

to know my darkness ended,

brought to this birth for me to be new-born,

and for him to see me mended

I must see him torn.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A star to discover


"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life." Author Unknown

On this day after Thanksgiving I am so grateful to be sitting here in my usual spot with no hurried shopping planned or any place we need to go. The house is quiet with Danica napping and Delaney at the table drawing pictures of her favorite ornaments from the tree we decorated as a family yesterday. Later we will bake gingerbread cookies while we play Christmas music. Tonight we will begin our month long celebration of the Advent of our Savior, the life which brought eternal life.

Although we celebrated Christmas growing up we did not observe Advent in any way. As a lover of ritual when it brings me closer to truth I am searching out new ways for my own family to make the Christmas season more about Christ. (This has been a wonderful resource in my preparation for celebrating Advent in our home.) The anticipation, preparation and longing of Christ's Advent depicted through rich symbolism and imagery is a beautiful way to keep our hearts and minds focused on the coming of our King. It calls us to be still and reflect--to REST in the gift of gifts.

I received in the mail today an advanced copy of Keri Wyatt Kent's new book, Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity, to be released a week from today by Zondervan. (Stay tuned for Keri to stop by on her blog tour sometime in January.) I am only about half way through this convicting and encouraging book all about the real purpose of this present wrapped in a command called the Sabbath. As she describes the purpose of the Sabbath and the heart of God behind it she returns over and over again to the concepts of observing and remembering, the same truths that draw me to make celebrating Advent a new focus in our home. She writes, "In the Hebrew tradition, Sabbath is not simply a day but a mindset, a living and lived-in symbol. The day is the centerpiece of the week; anticipated for three days, practiced for one, and remembered for three days after." Our Christmas should reflect this same mindset of anticipating with prayer and longing, joyful celebration and then remembering. Oh how I long to live in the symbol of this season all year long.

I love this prayer by Henri J. M. Nouwen, "Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

Thank You for showing me new truths about how to celebrate You. Please give our family the grace to be still and discover the Bright and Morning Star during this season and always.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not just covered but cleansed

I am looking out my front window at the wrecked car still sitting in front of our home. The snow has been falling for several hours and what was a mangled mess is now covered in a beautiful white blanket so you can barely tell from my angle the car was in an accident at all. This makes me think of Isaiah 1:18, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the Lord, 'Though Your sins are like scarlet, They shall be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'"

The snow on the car will melt and the ugliness of the wreck will be revealed again, but in Christ's blood my sins are not just covered for a day or two they are completely wiped away. No past sin will be dredged up and no future sin will melt away the forgiveness offered by His sacrifice for me. It is finished. His work is done and my salvation is secure.

Thank You for assurance found in the cleansing power of Christ's blood that washes me whiter than snow.

"Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow!" Psalm 51:7

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My hands are holding you

After college I was working in Harrisonburg, VA as a property manager for off campus student housing. The office I worked in was literally less than one minute from my townhouse, and I would go home everyday for lunch. As I sat on Port Republic Road with my left blinker on waiting to turn back into work a 16 year old playing hooky from school plowed into the back of me and threw me across oncoming traffic and up a utility pole.

I imagine finding out you have cancer is something like that day. You are living life, planning what's for dinner that night, what you'll do next week or next year, and then without warning it hits you from behind and mangles your life. When the dust settles from the surgery and the treatment and the months of life you have lost you take inventory. Am I totaled? What's the blue book value of this crazy life, and do I have any equity left once the loan is paid? Can I get a new life? And you wonder why this happened. Deep down inside you feel this might be a result of a lopsided checks and balances sheet where God and sin are concerned regardless of what you know in your head about Christ's saving love.

Last night our car, parked on the street in front of our home, was demolished by a drunk driver. It made me think of the accident 10 years ago. In my crazy head, especially after all we have been through in the past year and a half, I think immediately God is "punishing" me for the spiritual hissy fit I pitched the day before when I found out my dear friend Angie has more cancer. I have lived my life this way. Always thinking my circumstances are about cause and effect, behavior and consequences, and I never measure up.

Angie has been battling breast cancer for more than a year and had a biopsy on her neck Monday for a new growth. Last week I prayed so hard and believed so much that she would call me on Friday morning and the news would be good, and we would praise God. Did I really think if my faith and prayers were strong enough I could somehow influence God's plan for her life? So, when her news came, I became full of doubt and questions and fear. It was sin. I was angry and Satan began attacking me from all sides telling me this Christian life is just too hard and to give up.

Last night I sat and wept. My girls are both very sick again, and I haven't slept. The car situation ripples to cause all kinds of waves for us financially. My friend must endure more than I can imagine. "God, where are You? What are you doing?" He answered to me deep into the night, "My hands are holding You." After hours of crying Danica finally fell asleep around 4:30am, and I rested in His loving arms. "Stop striving, Monica. Stop trying to earn grace. Don't turn away!!!"

Tenth Avenue North - By Your Side

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I'll never let you go

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow


"The snow reminded me of the beauty and mystery of creation, of the essential joy that is life." From Snow, a novel by Orphan Pamuk

It's been snowing on and off since last night. It's beautiful. I love watching Delaney, this dear daughter of mine, who also embodies "the essential joy that is life" experience something as simple as daily weather. As we snuggled in her bed tonight with the peaceful piano compositions of my friend, John Thomas, playing softly in the background we looked out her window into the night sky and watched the snow softly falling. We began talking about why it snows, and she asked all kinds of questions I should be able to answer but couldn't. I suggested she ask the librarian tomorrow at school for some books so we could study together. (I resist the urge to run to the internet for information because oh how I treasure the search in a real book found on real shelves guided by a librarian who loves the hunt as much as I, and I want Delaney to treasure this too!) She says to me, "If God were here in my room I would just ask Him how he makes all this snow. I think He is just up there sprinkling it with His hands." Perhaps it's better left as a bit of a mystery, this blanket of white that covers us tonight making us be still and quiet and remember our Creator.

Thank You for snow. I know I have grumbled before because of the cold and wet and inconvenience but tonight my daughter reminded me it is from Your hand, another gift reminding me to be still and know You are God.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Calvary stills all our questions



I have been reading Amy Carmichael's Rose from Brier this week and the above title of one of the chapters has stuck in my head and my heart. So many questions pressing in on me and every single one can be answered by Calvary.

One of the most difficult recurring questions I face each day is in regards to what Amy's book is specifically written about, continued physical suffering. I ask God why He has given me chronic physical pain in the form of severe fybromyalgia. I am presently in a horrible flare and my body has deteriorated in the past days so that I have constant shooting burning pain in my legs and hips and knees and even my toes. I can barely lift Danica and when I do it hurts so bad I want to cry. My face and my back is twitching. I cannot sleep. I have made my peace with this thorn in the flesh many times before but somehow I always end up back here asking "Why?"

Amy writes, "What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see Him who endured the Cross, see the scars in His hands and feet and side, see Him, our Beloved, face to face. I believe that in the revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall "understand even as all along we have been understood." And till then? . . . There is only one way of peace. It is the child's way. The loving child trusts. I believe that we who know our God, and have proved Him good past telling, will find rest there. The faith of the child rests on the character it knows. So may ours; so shall ours. Our Father does not explain, nor does He assure us as we long to be assured. . . But we know our Father. We know His character. Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable. . . There is only one place where we can receive, not an answer to our question, but peace--that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. "Oh Christ Beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions." Love that loves like that can be trusted about this."

A Father who loves me enough to give His only Son to die for me can be trusted. And so once again I lay it all down here at Calvary. I surrender my body to Him, a living sacrifice, and offer thanksgiving for this pain which helps me see more clearly the price that was paid for my sin. I breathe gratitude for an affliction that keeps my eyes fixed on things above and not on this earth.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Interviewing


I just pulled one of my "power suits" out of the closet freshened up with a new scarf I bought on Friday. I picked out my shoes, my trench and a matching hand bag. This is the first time in over a year I have even thought about what I was going to wear the next day the night before. Tomorrow morning I have an interview. It's strange for me to feel nervous about meeting with someone for any reason. I love people. I love to hear about their business and share my experience. I am not afraid of what is not meant to be so I rarely feel bad if after the interview I am told I am not qualified enough, overqualified or not a good fit for whatever reason. So, I am not sure why I feel so uneasy about stepping out into the work world again.

EXCEPT. . . when I think about leaving my Danica all day with someone else I begin to cry and feel sick and frantic. I am terrified to hand this precious child to a stranger. I have to admit there are days I long for meaningful work and an office full of adult conversation. I miss wearing nice clothes, having a quiet commute alone with my thoughts and being recognized for good ideas and hard work. None of those things could ever compare to the gift of caring for my Dani Jean. Yes, there are moments of drudgery but every time she smiles I feel rich and know my work is blessed.

There is a certain amount of money we must have to meet our basic needs. We have cut back as much as possible and to keep Delaney in her school I have to work. My database telecommuting job has been such an answer to prayer, but as things have slowed and the checks are shrinking barely making it will quickly turn into not making it. I am a realist.

God knows my heart. He knows my desire to be here answering my most important call as a wife and a mother. He knows the balance in my checking account. He knows my willingness to work as hard as I need to to help provide for those I love. He knows my physical limitations. He loves me and He will lead me and give me grace whatever His will.

Thank You for granting peace in my core even when surrounded by fear and doubt. Thank You for faith to believe even when I don't feel.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How do people get rich?


I have been sleeping in Delaney's room the last two nights since she has been so sick. Last night as we were laying in the dark Delaney began a funny conversation that went like this.

"Mom, Does dad have to work again tomorrow?"
I answer her, "Yes, honey, daddy is working extra hours to help pay for our bills so we have a house to live in and food to eat."
There were a few moments of silence.
"I wish we were rich so you and dad never had to work and we could be a family all the time."
More silence
"How do people get rich anyway?"
I think for a moment. "Well, people have all different kinds of jobs that make different amounts of money. Mommy used to make a lot more money when I worked in real estate, but now I stay home to be with Danica and only work part time. Doctors and Attorneys make a lot of money but they have to go to school longer too. How much money you make is not as important as really liking your job."
Delaney says, "Well, how much does a dolphin doctor make?" (This is the profession she talks about the most.)
I answer, "I think marine biologists make pretty good money."
She quips back, "How long do they have to go to school?"
"Well, I will have to look that up, maybe only four years of college."
She says with all seriousness, "Ok, so that's January, February, March, April, and I would be done, right?"
I am laughing, "No honey, four YEARS, not MONTHS. We will have to pray about what God wants you to be when you grow up. Now get some sleep."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

God Songs


I was tucking my sweet Laney in tonight and for all her independence and very grown up ways she turns into such a little girl at bedtime. I crawled in next to her to snuggle and she said, "Sing me a God song, mom." With the ocean sounds playing from her sound machine in the background I sang through the songs I have sung to her since she was a baby--Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Oh Be Careful Little Eyes, The BIBLE, Seek Ye First and Sleep Sound in Jesus.

Thank You for my dear daughter and the desire of her tender heart to drift off to sleep to God songs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Knowing the heart of God


“God is too wise to be mistaken, and too good to be unkind. When we cannot trace His hand, we can always trust His heart.” Charles Spurgeon

I read this quote in a comment posted on my dear friend's blog in response to her battle with breast cancer. I have chewed on it for days now asking myself, "Do I know the heart of God?" Knowing God is the root system of my salvation and any growth I will experience in my Christian life depends on it. I am realizing how shallow and hungry and thirsty my roots are.

Growing up I was saturated with teachings about who God is as I sat in church twice on Sunday and every Wednesday night. I remember the primary message was constantly directed to sinners in the hands of an angry God. Years of this picture of God as a judge who would never be satisfied instead of a forgiving Heavenly Father became a stumbling block in my faith. I now realize to truly be saved by grace through faith alone you HAVE to know who God really is. Yes, His anger with our sin and our deserved judgment is a critical part of His nature but never when painted without the focus being on the redeeming love offered in the gift of His Son, Christ Jesus.

In J.I. Packer's book Knowing God he writes, "A study of the nature and character of God is the most practical project anyone can engage in. Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives...We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in the world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life disappointing and unpleasant business for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul."

I can look back in my life, even recently, and see how my distorted view of God made everything unclear. As I am in the Word and my eyes are opened to the person and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God, my loving Father, I am amazed at how different my perspective is becoming.

Thank You for showing me more of Your heart as I seek You in Your Word. Help my knowledge of You to grow deeper and stronger each day until I see You face to face.

This Is Our God - Chris Tomlin featuring David Crowder

Monday, October 20, 2008

Faithful in the small things



"We shall not waste our time in looking for extraordinary experiences in our life, but live by pure faith, ever watchful and ready for His coming by doing our day-to-day duties with extraordinary love and devotion." ~Mother Teresa

Thank You for glimpses of what being a faithful servant is all about. Forgive me when I long for something more important and more glamorous when Your will for me is clearly the here and now, serving You in laundry and lists and simple suppers. Help me show Your great love in every detail of my daily work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Empty Spaces


"Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes the void." Simon Weil

I have felt hollow the past few days. I have felt myself on the verge of a depression I cannot completely explain. I know myself well enough to allow for the sadness and not try to fake my way into some kind of contrived joy. I know my God will meet me here in these empty spaces of my heart and life if I am still and seek to know Him. Today as I tried to pray and no words would come I began to cry. "God, You are Enough." I said it over and over.

The decision for Dan to have a vasectomy was well thought out. We were told it would be very foolish to ever try to have children again. It was a true miracle I did not lose my kidney or die from complications with my last pregnancy. We are blessed with two beautiful girls. We needed to wisely protect my health so I will be here to mother them. Why does Satan try to trick me into thinking I need more? It's like I'm Eve back in the Garden of Eden, and I want the one thing God has clearly closed the door on. God is God, and I am not. He is Enough.

This word "Enough" that I have bound on my heart this past year appeared in a post this week from my dear blogger friend, Ann from Holy Experience, Dawning in the Dark. He is Dayenu. "MORE THAN ENOUGH." Not just enough but exceedingly abundantly more than I could ever need or want is given in my Savior to me. Given to me, a woman who would surely eat of the tree if given the chance. A woman who would turn her back time and time again on all the gifts freely given to try to taste the one God has forbidden. Yet, in amazing love He meets me here in my nakedness and shame and gives me grace for my empty spaces, and He fills me up drop by drop.

Thank You for lessons learned through emptiness and grief. Thank You for grace overflowing for those who thirst. Thank You for thirst, the gift that proves You are alive and at work in my heart and life. Thank You that all of You is MORE THAN ENOUGH for all of me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Do Over


I used to have the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson on my bulletin board at work, "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." Basically, he was saying to try to treat each day as if it was a do over. Of course this is a great attitude to have but not completely realistic in the world of business and certainly not always achievable in personal relationships.

Today was one of those days I wish I could just erase and live again. It began calmly enough at 6am rolling out of bed to get Delaney ready for school and going through our morning routine, but I quickly realized my cold is really not improved and my cramps and headache from the night before brought their monthly "gift" with a vengeance. My sweet husband who is usually so helpful, especially when I am debilitated by the "gift", had his own cross to bear with a long planned trip to the urologist to end his ability to procreate. So, with a bag of frozen peas waiting in the freezer and plenty of anxiety, he was in his own funk, and we were quite a pair. Danica is teething and was running a fever and so she too was grumping in her own sweet way. When Delaney came home from school I was so cross and rushing around trying to just get through the evening until I could curl up and rest. I was unkind in my harsh words and nit picking about little things and the entire time I began to feel worse and worse about how I was behaving.

Once I got the baby to bed I snuggled up with Delaney on the couch to read, and I told her I was sorry for how the evening had gone. I reminded her that mommies and daddies need forgiveness too when we disobey our Heavenly Father and our love is not patient or kind. As I tucked her in bed we went through our nightly ritual before saying prayers of telling one another what we are thankful for. Tonight Delaney was thankful for dolphins and the beautiful sunny day. I told her oh how thankful I am that in the blood of our Savior each new day is a chance for a do over!

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 43:25

The Boys of Summer . . .and Indian Summer


It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ~A. Bartlett Giamatti

I have always loved sports. One of the reasons my husband says he fell in love with me was when we first began dating I would snuggle and watch Sports Center with him and really enjoyed it (maybe even enjoyed the Sports Center more than the snuggling). I like college football and the NFL. I like college basketball, especially the ACC and March madness. I like hockey games in person or during the playoffs, but I LOVE any and all baseball.

I don't know how it started really. I remember as a child listening to Indians games when my dad or grandpa had them on the radio. I learned to love the sound of the game. When I was 15 I started going to see a local college league play called the Staunton Braves. College players from competitive schools around the US would come and play in a summer league and stay with families in the community. I fell in love with the field, the smells, the setting sun on summer nights, and I was hooked. I loved the pitching most of all and the exquisite detail of the game. I began following the Atlanta Braves who had arguably some of the best pitchers ever during the summer of 1993 and almost a decade following. I had a poster of Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine hanging in my room. My friend Becky and I would drive down to see the Richmond Braves, the AAA team under Atlanta, and we swooned over Chipper Jones and Javier Lopez. In college I began following the Indians closer since my parents had moved back to Ohio, and I made friends with Marty Dzurenko whose dad and brother worked for the Indians and could always get us into the games. Who can forget when Manny Ramirez was part of the Tribe and the excitement of those chilly October playoff games at the Jake?

I will argue with you about which field I have visited is the best and tell you about the fields I still dream of visiting. I will tell you why I hate free agency and why if I could go back in time to do just one thing I would would go to a Yankee game and watch Joe Dimaggio, my lucky number 5, play. I will talk about baseball books I have read and the Ken Burns baseball documentary. I will tell you about watching the movie Field of Dreams 100 times and quote my favorite lines. Most of all I will tell you about how I love October baseball. No matter how tired I am I will stay up to watch the playoff games, and they have become as much a part of the season's routine as a trip to the pumpkin patch and planting mums. And when the last game of the World Series is played I feel sad, like a friend has gone away.

Walt Whitman said, "I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us." Granted he wrote this in a time when baseball was played with a "purity" we will never see again, but the heart of the game remains the same today. As I watched the Dodgers, Phillies game last night I did for a time forget about the failing economy, my day to day worries and even my horrible sinus headache, and I found it was a blessing to me. Part of my Simple Abundance journey is recognizing the gifts wrapped in the ordinary. This is the first time I have ever been consciously thankful for the simple gift of a game and relaxation and joy it brings me. And so I add the boys of summer . . . and indian summer to my list of a thousand gifts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More on Seeing


And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (NAS, Mark 12:28-31)

I like to think I am not a very judgmental person, which of course is not true because I make judgments big and small all day long, but I try to temper my thoughts with constant remembrance of where God saved me from. I think we all have hot spots though, things about other people that drive us crazy. Often, without knowing someone's story at all, I know I make conclusions about why they are behaving a certain way, and it sticks under my skin and eats away at me.

Our neighbors to the right of us drive me nuts. I don't know the details of their familial relationship, but I know the older lady who lives there is the mother of the adult son who lives there with his two children, Ava and Buddy. There are other "girlfriends" who filter in and out, none of which I can determine is a mother to the two kids. Delaney and Ava are almost exactly the same age and every time we get home from somewhere or are outside the little girl asks if they can play. Well, those of you who know Dan and I know we are super careful about who watches our kids, who they play with, safety outdoors, and on and on. I had pretty much dodged the situation for the most part and then I hear through an open window Ava yelling at her little brother, "Get over here, @#%! head," and my mind was made up once and for all the girls were not going to be "friends".

The thing that most peeves me about the situation is the adult father who does not appear to work at all. The yard is a mess. The trash is left out BESIDE the cans so an animal rips them open making a mess. The kids always look disheveled, and he goes to get fast food seemingly every meal to bring back to them. The older lady is clearly not in good health and still works and hobbles in and out, trying her best to make a home for the kids. I have a HUGE problem with lazy and this is my judgment of the dad.

I have prayed about the situation and my heart, because it's a classic example of how I could be a missionary right where God has me, but I don't even know how to reach out of my Pottery Barn, Clorox wipe existence even far enough to touch a neighbor. So, last Sunday I see a bus pull up from a Nazerene church and the two little kids run out and jump on by themselves. Did the grandma send them? Was she a Christian and trying to influence her grandchildren for Christ? Why had I never invited them to our church? How do I even do that?

I thought back to my childhood. We lived in what seemed like a fine neighborhood, but I now know it was pretty close to "the tracks." There was some kids in our neighborhood who were very rough, especially two girls, Darby and Shelly, who lived in a little house down the street. I think their mom worked and their dad was an alcoholic. I know there was a guy, Tim, in the neighborhood who would go in their house when they were there alone, and I know he took advantage of them. My mom had a rule, the kids could play in our yard as long as they didn't take God's name in vain or use bad language. Somehow, poor as we were, she always found another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for any one who straggled over and looking back I see our house as the shining light to the kids who had never had a front porch swing where a mom just sat and talked with them and made homemade chocolate chip cookies and taught them cat's cradle.

I need new eyes. I need to see EVERYONE as a soul. I need to step outside my comfort zone and show God's love in practical ways to those He brings into my life day to day. I have been listening to Brandon Heath's song Give Me Your Eyes. This is my prayer today.

Looked down from a broken sky.
Traced out by the city of lights.
My world from a mile high.
Best seat in the house tonight.
Touch down on the cold black-top.
Hold on for the sudden stop.
Breathe in the familiar shock of confusion and chaos.
All those people goin somewhere, why have I never cared.

Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.


Step out on the busy street.
See a girl and our eyes meet.
Does her best to smile at me.
To hide what's underneath.
There's a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie.
Too ashamed to tell his wife he's out of work, he's buyin time.
All those people goin somewhere, why have I never cared.

Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me your love for humanity.
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.

I've been there a million times.
A couple million lives.
Just movin past me by, I swear I never thought that I was wrong.
But I wanna second glance so give me a second chance to see the way you've seen the people all along.

Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me your love for humanity.
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.


Give me your eyes for just one second,
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah

Saturday, October 4, 2008

In My Daughter's Eyes

A year ago today I saw my sweet baby girl, Danica Jean for the first time. She was born in the afternoon of October 3rd, but I did not get to see her until the afternoon of the next day. It seems strange to say the day your child was born was the worst day of your life, but it truly was. I think God knew I needed time before I could see this child as the gift she truly is. I needed a day to bridge the pain and confusion to why it was all worth it. I have loved the following song since Delaney was small, but the lyrics are perfect for Danica and I. Everything in my life and my heart was completely changed the day I found out she was growing inside me, and I know I will never be the same.

Thank You for this child and the amazing journey You took us on to make her life possible. Thank You for a year of health and happiness and love on top of love for our family. Thank You for the pure joy I feel every time I look into my Danica's eyes.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord


"I have heard of you by hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You." Job 42:5

When I was 7 years old I got my first pair of glasses. I remember the day we picked them up at Hunley Optical on North Augusta St. I kept putting them on and taking them off to compare the miraculous difference in everything that was once a blur and now was crystal clear. My eyes have progressively gotten worse and now I am about as near sighted as a person can be without being declared legally blind. Over the past year and a half or so I have not seen well at all. I ran out of my disposable contacts while in the hospital and could not afford to replace them so I went to wearing a four year old pair of glasses most of the time. Finally, yesterday, I went to the eye doctor and $350 later I have new sight again. It's just as miraculous as that first day. I could see blades of grass and read the signs as I drove, even the small print. Everything was crisp and focused again. Most of all I wasn't straining and my eyes felt comfortable. I had forgotten what a simple blessing it is to really see.

As I thanked God for sight I thought of the above verse from Job which has been my life verse through our recent trials. I know there were and still are many unrevealed "reasons" for what I was enduring, but I can already understand one of the primary goals of my suffering was what St. Augustine meant when he wrote, "The whole point of this life is the healing of the heart's eye through which God is seen." Everything in our lives, big or small, joy or pain, is all to help us see our God more clearly.

God is also teaching me I do not necessarily need a mountaintop experience or a retreat to see Him face to face. He has shown Himself clearly everywhere I look in this great world and my daily life, but most of all He meets me in His Word. As I have begun to study the book of Hebrews with a group from church I have been blown away at how I have heard the words over and over but never once really saw the clear picture of my Savior depicted there. Meeting my God is as simple as opening His gift of Scripture and praying for the Spirit to show me the light.

Thank You for soul glasses that help me know You better. Help me to seek You more and see You clearer each day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When God Ran


One of my favorite passages in all the Bible is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke. "There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father give me the share of his property that will belong to me.' So he divided the property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spend everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son, treat me like one of your hired hands."' So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still a far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called on of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.' Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed you command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'"


I often refer to this passage as my testimony. I left my godly home and loving family and spent years in deep sin and sadness. The parallels in the passage and my choices are very similar. The prodigal son ended up working with pigs which in the Jewish religion was about as low as you could go. I ended up working for a known cocaine dealer, using drugs and doing all kinds of immoral things to survive. In my most desperate moments I would pray for help to find my way home, but it seemed impossible. In His perfect time God worked to move me from the depths and He ran to me. I am still amazed. I have never once questioned why God allowed me to stray so far for so long. I know for sure I never understood the meaning of God's mercy and forgiveness until He met me on that road stinking of sin and starving, and He put His finest robe on me and prepared a feast for me at the table of grace.

The father in this story is saddened by his son who has followed the letter of the law but who's heart rejects his father's decision to welcome his brother with open arms. Our Father's love, just like the father in this story, chooses the sinner not the righteous to be saved and celebrated. One of my greatest stumbling blocks to returning home and to the church was a deep fear of telling my story. Growing up in a church full of what seemed like "good" people, I had never really seen God's children with open arms for truly "bad" people--people who maybe smell, have lots of tattoos and skirts too short. People who were maybe in the bar the night before or even on the street corner. I love that Jesus was never afraid to be with those kinds of people, for they are the ones He came to seek and save.

As I read this again tonight I began to pray that I would not be the other brother in the prodigal story of someone else trying to find their way home. I prayed that God would give me opportunities to tell of when He ran to me, especially to sinners, people who really need to be rescued and redeemed. Thank You for being the Father who gave Your own Son's life to adopt me. Thank You for returning those "wasted" years of my life in lessons learned about amazing love and unending forgiveness and grace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Delicious Autumn



Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

--George Eliot

Thank You for perfect September days like today and old friends like the hardy mum who come to visit as the season changes. Great is Your faithfulness!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Small Enough



Small Enough (With Fernando Ortega) - Nichole Nordeman

I pick up Delaney from the bus everyday at a church about 10 minutes from our house. I make sure I leave plenty early in case there is traffic and to allow for the bus if it arrives a few minutes early. In the past few weeks I have come to treasure this 10 minutes or so sitting in the car waiting. Sometimes I take my Bible or a book to read but usually I park, roll down my window and breathe. Today I closed my eyes and prayed as tears fell down my cheeks. I needed God to touch me. I have been in so much physical pain. I have been so tired. I have been striving and working so hard. As I opened my eyes, a beautiful Monarch butterfly flew in front of my windshield and stopped to flutter for a moment.

Thank You, O great God, for being small enough to show Yourself to me today in this gorgeous creature that has always symbolized to me Your transforming power in my heart and life.

(If you have never heard this song turn up your volume and prepare your heart to pray these powerful lyrics. It's one of my favorites.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is the chief end of man?


As I began a new Bible study at church last night the leader took us through hermeneutics as a foundation of our study. She reminded us of the catechism question I had learned in childhood, "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Or translated, why am I here? What is this life all about? I spent last week in the doldrums. I wasn't feeling well physically and could not discipline myself to read or study the Bible. As a result I felt further and further from God when I tried to pray. On Saturday as I began all the chores I usually undertake on that day I realized something. I didn't FEEL like doing laundry or dishes or cleaning the bathroom, but I would never really consider not doing those things because I KNOW they are necessary. Here I was neglecting the one place God promises to speak to me, in His Word, because I didn't FEEL like doing the work necessary to meet Him there.

This morning I read the following and it reiterated what God began showing me the past few days. I am here to glorify God and become more like Him. I need to make this the focus of my priorities and discipline before anything else.

Thank You for more lessons in WHAT REALLY MATTERS. Help me to seek You first and KNOW everything else I need will be added to me.

The purpose of God for our life on earth
(J. R. Miller, "Garden of the Heart" 1906)

We should get it settled in our minds, that the purpose of God for our life on earth, is to have us grow into Christ's image. We are not in this world merely to accomplish a certain amount of work--but to be fashioned into strength and beauty of character. If we would always remember this, we would not be perplexed so often by the mysteries of our lives.

If joy is ours--it is to make us better and a greater blessing to others.

If sorrow is ours--it is to purify us and bring out some line of Christ's image in us more clearly.

If our hopes are disappointed--it is because God has some better things for us, than that which we so earnestly desired.

If we are called to endure pain--it is because the best in us can be called out only by pain.

If bereavement comes and we are left without the strong human arm we have leaned upon heretofore--it is because there are elements of strength in our life, which never could be developed unless the human supports were taken away.

If our burdens are heavy--it is because we grow best under burdens.

If we are wronged by others--it is to teach us better, the great lessons of patience and sweet temper.

If our circumstances are uncongenial and our condition hard--it is that we may be disciplined into self-control, and may learn to be content in whatever state we are in.

The Master is always teaching us new lessons, making us into the beauty of the pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

We had cupcakes for breakfast today, the last indulgence from a birthday celebration that seemed to last a month. Here's my sweet Delaney Jayne in a montage of photos from the last year of her life and a song we love to dance to.

Thank You for another year of wild and precious life with this girl made from my flesh and my heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Will these feet wear . . .

Feeling emotional about Delaney's birthday tomorrow I pulled out her baby scrapbook after I tucked the girls in, and this page (click on the photo to see it up close) made me cry buckets. Lately Delaney is full of conversation about her future and tells me she wants to be a "dolphin doctor" when she grows up. If she gets fired from that she wants to be a clothes designer, and if she gets fired from that, a vet. (I'm not sure why all the terminations.) Oh yes, and she wants to live in New York City. I began to tell her she couldn't be a dolphin doctor in New York but would have to live at the beach. She set me straight by reminding me she could work at an aquarium in the city. I love that nothing is impossible in her world. The following is from her baby scrapbook as well, and it too struck a chord with me tonight.

dream big

i hope you'll dream a thousand and one dreams for your life . . . but, remember, dreams don't come to those who sit and wait for them - you have to go after them. i would be foolish to wish your every dream to come true; that would be setting you up for disappointment. in the past, i've dreamed some dreams that i now thank God didn't come true. now i trust my heavenly father to know which of my dreams are best for me . . . and that's exactly what i wish for you. dream big, but don't dream for just a fairytale . . . real life can be so much more exciting than a fairytale; it just depends on your perspective. most importantly, just dream . . . if you don't, you'll never know how it feels to have a dream come true.

I pray my girl will learn to dream big and with God's grace and a grateful heart her story will write itself like a fairytale. ("Happily ever after" is a sure thing when God is the author of our lives!) Sitting here in Ohio with 11 list rentals to do tonight, a tedious and very uncreative job, wearing frumpy jammies with my hair too long and my feet aching for a pedicure, I let my mind wander for a minute to where I could be had I chased other dreams. My heart stops. I wouldn't trade this place in my life--this day with these precious girls for ANYTHING. I remember my mom telling my sisters and I, three of us 18 months apart, that on some of her hardest days as a mom she was so thankful she could look out her kitchen window and know the world was larger than where she was right then and she was more than who she was for those fleeting years. Now she is still a mom and a grandma but following her dreams as a school principal and working on her PHD. I never forgot her words, and it is the same knowing that brings me peace on hard days when my heart grows restless for a "real" city and the boardroom and the spa. I want Delaney and Danica to see this amazing world and then put it in perfect perspective with the kind of joy I know being a wife and mother in a little rental house in northeast Ohio. I want them to know life is about seasons and they don't have to choose which shoes to wear because they can wear them all!

Heroes


“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." Christopher Reeves


I woke this morning at 5 am and felt next to me for my husband. He was still not home. He went to work yesterday at 8:30 am and had now worked over 20 hours straight. I could not go back to sleep so I began my morning prayers. I prayed for this man who cheerfully works so hard to provide for his family even though it seems like it's never quite enough. I prayed for my sister Rochelle and her family. She has spent the last two weeks, day in and day out (nights too), caring for her very sick father-in-law and mother-in-law with Alzheimers. Her exhaustion is palpable yet she keeps putting one foot in front of another. I prayed for my friend, Angie, through the first year of her breast cancer treatment and now doing the hard work of trying to live and LIVE. I prayed for all the families of September 11, 2001. Their wounds are only 7 years young, and they must painfully remember not just on an anniversary but every day what they have lost and what they must move forward without.

As I drove Delaney to school this morning I kept thinking about heroes. These people who sacrifice for others, fight daily battles and survive and thrive are just as heroic as the ones who give their lives. There are no ceremonies for them and very little affirmation they are doing something brave, but they are heroes just the same.

Thank you for the courage of these everyday people. Please give them strength and grace for each moment today.

Friday, September 5, 2008

PEACE

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27

Yesterday morning I had a doctors appointment at 9:30 am, and I had to drop Delaney at school by 8:00 am. I ran a few errands, and then I parked in front of the doctor's office. I sat in the quiet car. I was still, but I felt like all my synapses were firing. I had been nights without any real sleep. I had shooting pains through my trap muscles and down my arms. My hips and knees ached. I felt like I had forgotten to breathe for a very long time.

When I find myself in a fibro flare like this I seem to keep going on autopilot. I keep working, keep cleaning, making dinner and giving the kids their baths. I push and push through the pain, but I feel myself slipping further and further away from PEACE. I know if I stop for even a minute I won't get up. I will curl up in a fetal position and let myself go to the place that offers no real comfort but Satan tells me is understandable and even deserved. I want to complain and despair.

So I stopped, and I exhaled. My body relaxed, and I prayed. "God, give me Your peace." As my prayer made it's way through the years of pain since my initial diagnosis and the periods of reprieve, for which I am so grateful, I realized a pattern. Not one explained by foods I was eating or amounts of exercise or weather patterns, although those certainly play a part, but a map showing me my flares have often been times when I have tried to make up my own answers for the questions plaguing my heart.

In the past month I have felt unrest with our financial situation. Suddenly, what I prayed for continuously and finally came, the provision of ENOUGH, has left me wanting more. I feel anxious about the collection calls. I want to pay everything off and really feel like I am "in control" again. I know to do this I would have to put my dear daughter, who I fought so hard to bring into this world and who I believe still needs me full time, in day care. I have prayed some about my inner struggles but not really, because I already know God's will. He wants me to be truly still. He wants me to revel in His daily manna and the amazing privilege of being here moment by moment with this child.

My fibro is His answer to me. Most people who suffer from severe fibromyalgia are type A stress monsters. We need to keep going and doing and being and our minds cannot quit at night so we don't sleep and our bodies refuse to rest and restore and so we break down. Bottom line, I need to take the peace freely given from my loving Father as my primary treatment. Real rest cannot be found in my Ambien or the past due medical bills being paid or any other temporary worldly rest but only in complete surrender to the peace that passes all understanding. This physical affliction is a blessing, a gift from a God who lovingly reminds me He is the Prince of Peace.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Holidays

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart,
The secret anniversaries of the heart . . .
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A year ago today I was at Shady Grove Adventist hospital. I was alone. My daughter was 400 miles away in Ohio. My husband had to sleep and work. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most painful days I had. I had no visitors. My faithful few called me to say "hello." The minutes of the day ticked away one by one. I cried and I prayed and I survived.

It wasn't different than any other day except that I felt like every one else was having picnics and swimming for the last time and gathering with family and friends, and I was forgotten. These memories of my hospitalization still haunt me but after a year they mostly make me celebrate secret anniversaries that prompt a more grateful heart.

Thank You for reminding me today of just how far You can bring me in a year. Thank You for Your healing and Your blessing of my dear Danica. Please be with those who are alone today and help them feel Your comfort.

Friday, August 29, 2008

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

"Stupid" is a bad word in our house, but it comes to mind when I think of this common acronym I learned in a sales 101 class many years ago. It describes my motto for anything technical. I am the first to admit I am not great at using very technical things. I am pretty computer savvy and clearly have made great strides recently since I work as a database administrator, but I still have trouble with the crazy remote control and once technical things are set up and I learn to use them I want them to stay that way!!!

My dear husband works as an IT analyst. Like most men he loves technical things. He loves stereos and speakers, gadgets and putzing with computers. More than anything he loves messing with our home PC. Granted, I have my own laptop I work on but our home PC is beefed up with all kinds of extra hard drive space, and I still use it for photos, music and other storage. I also have my own ipod. It's the 30GB one, now a dinosaur, that came out almost 4 years ago. I was not even near the 10K songs it would hold, but I have lovingly added the soundtrack of my life in that time.

My music is gone. My husband decided within one week to do something crazy to our home PC, and lost our itunes library. I don't know how that happens especially if you are a "computer expert" (AIR QUOTES), but it did. In the same week he decided for some crazy reason to clear my ipod and "fix" it (IT WASN'T BROKEN!!!!). I am furious. I am mad and sad and mad again. I feel like my photos were burned in a fire. These songs were so dear to me. They are gone. I know I could replace them, but it represents money we don't have and lots of time to search and find them and make playlists. Playlists that represent days and weeks and years of my life and even playlists made for people who I love.

I love my husband to death. (Ok, maybe I shouldn't say death right now.) Through tears I beg him, please KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID and leave my stuff alone! Another lesson for me in letting go of control, releasing things that ultimately don't matter and not wasting emotion spent on something passing away.

Thank you for teaching me about forgiveness through this silly loss. Help me to turn my eyes upon you today so "the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of Your glory and grace."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tag, You're It

Ok, so I have never really done what I now know is called a meme (does that mean ME, ME like "pay attention to me"?) on my blog, but SuzyQ from Sailing by Starlight has kindly tagged me for this honor of sharing some quirky things about myself.

Here goes:

1. I have OCD. There is rarely a day you would knock on my door to surprise me and my home is not "company clean". I wipe my kitchen counter off with a clorox wipe at least three times a day and my bathroom sink and counter each time I use it. I do not expect you to keep your home this way, but I must.

2. I am so brave about most things (like traveling alone to places I have never been, dark parking lots, new situations with new people, etc.), but I'm a complete scaredy cat at home alone at night.

3. I once had my belly button pierced, and I still really want a tattoo--a butterfly for Delaney and a dragonfly for Danica.

4. I absolutely cannot eat at any kind of buffet or pot luck. Not knowing if you washed your hands before cooking or if your cat walks on your counter completely freaks me out. (I told you I have OCD!)

5. One of the THINGS (and it is only a thing!) I am most proud of is my Louis Vuitton handbag. I worked so hard to afford it, and I am proud of it because of what it symbolizes to me not others, but I know others are thinking, "I can't believe she would pay that much for a purse." It's a classic, and I will carry it forever. (PS. I would NEVER pay that much for a purse again.)

6. I grew up dreaming of being a children's librarian but somehow I fell into real estate and got stuck. I still believe I will end up back in those beloved stacks of books someday.

Ok, here is who I tag. I know it's not the six, but it's a start. I am new to the blogging world and honestly began blogging as another form of journaling for my family and not for others to read. I have been blessed to meet some amazing kindred spirits through this medium and reconnected with some old friends too. If I tag you and you are completely annoyed, as I hear people are with this kind of thing, I am sorry in advance. ;)

The best days of my life

The Journey of a Superhero Mom

Spring of Joy


(Here are the official rules:1. Link the person who tagged you.2. Mention the rules on your blog.3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged. )


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Redeeming Love

"God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:8-10

I stayed up after my work to read last night, something I used to do regularly but with the kids and lists and our very early morning schedule I have not done in awhile. A friend gave me the book Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I don't really read Christian fiction, so I was skeptical. I have to admit I could not put the book down. I am half way done and will write more when I finish because this book is speaking to me in powerful ways about God's love for me. The book is a retelling of the book of Hosea with the central theme of God's unconditional, redemptive love. As I read Ann's post at Holy Experience this morning her words about being exposed to one another as we are to Christ were resounding in my heart. I hear God calling me to tell the story of His amazing love for me out loud. I hear Him asking me to be braver to show my scars and give Him glory for saving me from the depths. Oh how grateful I am this quiet morning for the healing that comes from the One who will not let me go. Why am I so shy to uncover the very wounds that make me approachable, real, like my neighbor and friend, and then tell of the miracle that took place by touching the hem of Christ's robe?

Thank You for Your redeeming love. Thank You for running to me when I was in the depths of sin and sadness and saving me. Make me bolder to share my story with others so they too may know this kind of love, for "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have not heard about Him? And can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?" Romans 10:13-14

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Somewhere in the Middle

This morning it was 51 degrees as I set out on my walk through our neighborhood. I was chilly, but I didn't wear a hoodie because I wanted to feel the cool air on my skin as I turned my face towards the warm sunshine. Oh how I love these days as summer turns into fall. I listened to the Casting Crowns East to West album on my ipod as I walked. One of the songs that speaks to me every single time I hear it is Somewhere in the Middle. Today it made me think of the scale of my life. I have felt caught in the middle of many things lately.

I thought of the literal scale and the last five (ok, seven) pounds I cannot seem to lose since having Danica. I thought about my half-hearted effort to really make the change through exercise because I know that is what will really make the difference for me. I have become comfortable with the scale that no one else sees, the few pounds that my clothes hide, that are easily justified and explained. Every one looks at me and sees a "tall and thin" woman, but I know I am not my personal best, and I have been making excuses as to why I have not disciplined myself to take control of this area of my life.

I thought about how this is just like the many ways I get close to obeying God or disciplining myself spiritually, but I refuse to let go of the "last" (and by last I mean currently plaguing) five (ok, seven) sins that I am hanging on to. I mean they are mostly hidden by my outward efforts to be "good" and are easily justified and explained, right? I hear God calling me to DO HARD THINGS, and I find myself somewhere in the middle of answering Him. Sometimes I even take up the cross, but then I just stand there too afraid to follow, or too tired, or just too bogged down in things that don't really matter or even things that do matter but don't matter the most.

I love the part of the lyrics that sing:

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

As I walked a little further this morning I played the entire song again praying through the words. Only the "God who is" can help me lay it all down and move me forward in my quest to really know Him and love Him and be like Him. I praise Him for the desire He has placed in my heart. I praise Him for the grace He so willingly gives each day to help me answer His calls. I want to be a fearless warrior! I want reckless abandon and deep water faith! I want to dream God's dreams for my life.

Thank you for the lessons learned even from the middle ground. Please help me know Your love wherever I am and give me the growth and grace to take a step closer to You today.

Here are all the lyrics:

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle

Monday, August 25, 2008

A plain, common Monday

Only a plain, common day(J. R. Miller, "The Every Day of Life" 1892)

Perhaps the every-day of life, is not as interesting--as are some of the bright special days. It is apt to be somewhat monotonous. It is just like a great many other days. It has nothing special to mark it. It is illuminated by no brilliant event. It bears no record of any brave or noble deed done. It is not made memorable by the coming of any new experience into the life--a new hope, a new friendship, a new joy, and a new success. It is not even touched with sorrow, and made to stand out with the memory of loss or struggle. It is only a plain, common day--with just the same old wearisome routine--of tasks and duties and happenings, which have come so often before.

Yet it is the every-day, which is really the best measure and the test of noble living. Anybody can do well on special occasions. Anybody can be good--on Sundays. Anybody can be bright and cheerful--in exhilarating society. Anybody can be sweet--amid gentle influences. Anybody can make an isolated self-denial--for some conspicuous object; or do a generous deed--under the impulse of some unusual emotion. Anybody can do a heroic thing--once or twice in a lifetime. These are beautiful things. They shine like lofty peaks above life's plains.

But the ordinary attainment of the common days--is a truer index of the life--a truer measure of its character and value--than are the most striking and brilliant things of its exalted moments. It requires more strength to be faithful in the ninety-nine commonplace duties, when no one is looking on, when there is no special motive to stir the soul to its best effort--than it does in the one duty, which by its unusual importance, or by its conspicuousness, arouses enthusiasm for its own doing. It is a great deal easier to be brave in one stern conflict which calls for heroism, in which large interests are involved--than to be brave in the thousand little struggles of the common days--for which it seems scarcely worth while to put on the armor. It is very much less a task to be good-natured under one great provocation, in the presence of others--than it is to keep sweet temper month after month of ordinary days, amid the frictions, strife's, petty annoyances, and cares of home-life.

Thus it is, that one's every-day life is a surer revealer of noble character--than one's public acts. There are men who are magnificent when they appear on great occasions--wise, eloquent, masterly--but who are almost utterly unendurable in their fretfulness, unreasonableness, irascibility, and all manner of selfish disagreeableness, in the privacy of their own homes--to those whom they ought to show all of love's gentleness and sweetness! There are women, too, who shine with wondrous brilliancy in society, sparkling in conversation, winning in manner, always the center of admiring groups, resistless in their charms--but who, in their every-day life, in the presence of only their own households--are the dullest and most wearisome of mortals! No doubt in these cases--the common every-day, unflattering as it is--is a truer expression of the inner life--than the hour or two of greatness or graciousness, in the blaze of the public.

On the other hand, there are men who are never heard of on the street, whose names never appear in the newspapers, who do no great conspicuous things, whose lives have no glittering peaks towering high--and yet the level plain of their years--is rich in its beauty and its fruitfulness of love. Likewise, there are women who are the idols of no drawing-rooms, who attract no throngs of admirers around them by resistless charms--but who, in their own quiet sheltered world--do their daily tasks with faithfulness, move in ways of humble duty and quiet cheerfulness, and pour out their heart's pure love, like fragrance, on all around them. Who will say that the uneventful and un-praised every-day of these humble ones--is not radiant in God's sight, though they leave no memorial--but only a world made a little better by their lives?

It is in the every-day of life, that nearly all the world's best work is done. The tall mountain peaks lift their glittering crests into the clouds, and win attention and admiration; but it is in the great valleys and broad plains, that the harvests grow and the fruits ripen--on which the millions of earth feed their hunger. Likewise, it is not from the few conspicuous deeds of life, that the blessings chiefly come, which make the world, better, sweeter, happier--but from the countless humble services of the every-days, the little faithfulnesses which fill long years. By the simple beauty of their own humble lives, by their quiet deeds of self-sacrifice, by the songs of their cheerful faith, and by the ministries of their helpful hands--they make one little spot of this sad earth, brighter and happier!

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Thank You for this plan, common Monday. Help me to live my life in Your pure love today.