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    Archive for December 2014

    A Clean Slate

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

    Yesterday was the day.

    The day to decompress, reorganize and clean out all that was the clutter of the Holidays and of 2014 in general. I do this every year at about this time.

     My hands find themselves busy, tangibly working toward something that I can feel crowding in my heart.

     I took down trees, dusted shelves high enough that required a ladder and washed windows. I even bought one of those fancy organizer units and compartmentalized the kids toys. It was all getting to me. In my narrow mind it had to be done now. No waiting on another day.

    And since I'm being completely honest here I'll go ahead and tell you that I called in the reinforcement, aka Grandma. She's good at this sort of thing and Mama knew she needed some help.

     Along the way there were the typical messes of the everyday: spilled milk, laundry piles and sibling fights. There might have been a proclomation to put everyone to bed at 6 pm if the fighting didn't stop. There might not have been too. I'm just pitching that out there as food for thought.

     I might have been a bit intense as I "decompressed." Because my process of freeing the heart to sing and the home to have white space probably needs a little work in itself. Everybody knows that it's no fun when mama is on edge. Beware of the woman who carries a duster in her hand.

     So I worked diligently, excited for the end in sight. Anxious to be rid of the anxiousness in my heart. 

    At the end of the day after dinner was eaten and bath's were given and I was just about done with the day, the kids asked if we could play Old Maid. The truth is that I really wanted to wait on the silly card game.

    But deep in my mind I knew better than deny two tiny pleading faces the chance to put the smack down on the old folks with their mad card playing skills. So we played.

    The more we played, the more we laughed and I could feel my anxiety leaving.

    With every deep from the belly laugh, the tension began to ease, muscles began to relax and as I looked around late after the kids had gone to bed, I realized that there was way more gone than a Christmas tree and a house full of clutter.

    I stood for a moment and relished the fact that even in my messed up, jumbled up state of mind yesterday, God had sent me just what I needed. And what I needed was a clean slate in my heart, not only one that I could see with my eyes. I needed one I could feel in my bones.

    My prayer lately has been that God will help me to be a mother who doesn't sweat the small stuff so much. One who sits down to play the Old Maid and belly laughs with her littles.

    One who lets the kids stay up way past bedtime because Christmas break will be over soon enough.

    One who makes cookies with them after dinner instead of rushing to clean the kitchen first.

    When the question is asked, "What do you do with your days?" I'm afraid that my answer would have to be that too much time has been wasted already on filling up the blocks on my calendar with endless tasks that wont be fruitful in the end.

    The new goal is clean it out. It's time to reorganize, refocus and shift some things.

    The white space is going to the Old Maid.

    The Shoebox

    Saturday, December 27, 2014

    (Written at the time of Operation Christmas Child's annual Shoebox Drive in early December.) You see them everywhere this time of year.
    Those neat little red and green shoeboxes are passed out at churches, grocery stores, book stores and various marketplaces. All with the intention of being taken home and filled with goodies for an precious little soul on another continent far away.

    Last Sunday Tim and I worked a booth at church gathering the shoeboxes. I marveled at the large amount of people who, unlike me, are NOT procrastinators and were delivering said shoeboxes left and right to our table. The stack behind us was ever growing and by the time we went home it was almost as tall as me.

    We had our box and I was full of good intentions. We would take it home and talk about it. Then take it to the store and fill it up with goodies.

    My motivation was twofold. Not only were we blessing a beautiful child who we do not know, we were also staying a step ahead of the curve known as narcissism. I love to jump on any opportunity to serve with my children because I want them to be able to see outside their own little world.

    That thought in itself is another post for another time. Back to the shoebox and my good intentions

    Somehow Sunday turned into Monday and before I knew it we were neck deep in the busyness otherwise known as life as usual. We did make a trip to Wal-Mart and we did have a grand time filling our shoebox.

    It's just that we were hurried. I felt like we rushed it and in the end as I was taping the label to the top of the box my heart was anything but content.

    Because what good does it do if we just rush through the checklist of things to do in December and miss the whole point of the matter?

    It's not really about the gift. It's about giving.

    Nevertheless I sent our shoebox in with my boy as he got out of the car for school this morning. His class is a part of this project and he was excited to take it in. Thankfully, I don't think his little heart knew that mama was a bit disappointed in herself with this process. All he knew is that there was a football and a cool flash light in that box and from the mouth of a six year old that sounds something like:

    "Man that kid in Africa or Asia or Mexico is going to be soooo excited."

    (Oh and he was a bit regretful that we hadn't put a toothbrush in the box because apparently dental hygiene has become a priority.)

    After I ran an errand and dropped my princess of at preschool I was walking through the lobby of the church, headed to the gym. I turned a corner and heard a sweet voice say, " So tell me young man, why did YOU pack your shoebox?"

    I turned around to find about fifty kindergartners gathered together with their sweet teachers and a mission representative. She was explaining to them the process of Operation Christmas Child and they were captivated.

    I walked on. My mouth slowly turned up into a smile and tears stung my eyes. The Holy Spirit let me know that although I was disappointed in my own efforts and even though my efforts alone will never be enough, HE IS.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses for being too busy or in too much of a rush. The truth is I should have made it a point to slow down enough to take on the task of explaining this process better to my children.

    With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit I will do better next time.

    Until then, I'm so grateful to have a bridge to fill the gap that I have left empty.

    Today it is a shoebox and tomorrow or the next day I'm sure it will be something else. The truth is that according to Phillipians 2:12 I will be working out my own salvation with fear and trembling from now until I make it to Heaven.

    I will never be perfect.

    I'm just so glad I know the One who is.

    He knew where I would come up short and He took care of it. He always does.

    The First Christmas

    Thursday, December 25, 2014

    “There it is Mary, can you see it?” 

    She lifted her head and nodded. Surely they were almost there and he was right.

    They had traveled for so long now that everything was beginning to look the same. It wouldn’t have been so much of a weighty task of a trip but there was this man next to her. A man she barely knew-had really never known fully-and he was suddenly everywhere she was, all of the time. (Can you imagine?)

    Bless his heart; he was doing the best he could after all. He’d just been handed a life size task by an Angel in the middle of the night! What was a boy supposed to do with such news? He was sure to put his life and hers both in danger if he didn’t obey because there wasn’t a chance anyone else was going to believe them. He wouldn’t dare to do such a thing.

    It wasn’t every day that an Angel of the Lord appeared and delivered such news as:

    Dear Joseph and Mary: your lives are about to change forever. The Chosen One, the one we’ve all been waiting for? Yes, that One. I’m about to place him inside of you to be birthed to the waiting Universe. Don’t name him John or Frank or Harry, name him Jesus. Because he is more than a baby, He is a Savior and he will save people from sin!

     “How much longer, Joseph? Are we almost there?” 

    She looked up at him, her eyes weary. She hoped they were almost at Bethlehem because there was this baby and he was coming. This precious unborn baby lay still inside of her and she didn’t know much about all of this yet, but she knew his birth was near.

    Her pain was more intense now and the minutes felt like hours as they made their last steps into Bethlehem. If getting there weren't hard enough they were rejected time and again once they entered the city. Turns out that tax season makes a room hard to come by.

    "Please, sir. I'm afraid you don't understand."

    If I close my eyes I can almost hear the desperation in young Joseph's voice. The weight of the world must have been on his shoulders. Here he'd been handed this task from on high. He'd listened and obeyed every glaring step of the way and now he couldn't even find a place for this Son of Christ to be born.

    But he didn't have time to panic. He was much too composed for that anyhow. He had heard that  when babies come they sometimes have a mind of their own and he knew that meant it couldn't be much longer. He looked around quickly as plan A turned into plan B and right in front of his eyes he saw it and he knew.

    They found their way into the stable barn and there on that starry night in Bethlehem, the Christ Child entered into Mary’s arms. Into the world he came on a mission. Soft cries filled the stable room and the young parents fed him, wrapped him in manger clothes and stared straight into the face of God.

    The Angel’s sang, the shepherd’s bowed, wise men brought gifts and Heaven rejoiced.

    Mary counted ten fingers and ten toes. She looked at his tiny face and her heart flooded with love. Her questions of "Why me" turned into silent grateful tears as she rocked the small body of the one who would save her soul.

    I love to daydream about what that first Christmas was like. Can you imagine the marvel and the wonder? The fear of such a task coupled with the awe of who He was must have been overwhelming. Surely there would be moments of pure bliss mixed with sheer terror. A dichotomy of sorts, it must have been, to hold and parent the Christ child.

    My heart warms as I think Mary. Anyone who has given birth knows there are not enough words in any language to string together to really capture what the heart feels in that moment. If that weren't enough, he was what the whole world had been waiting for too!

    I wonder if it ever occurred to her the day he was born that she would have to stand at the foot of the cross one day and watch Him die?  She knew that he would save people from their sins, the Angel had told her that much already. But did she know how? When?

    What a mighty young man of God Joseph must have been. Frightened out of his mind, he didn't take the easy way out. He could have, but he too was determined to accomplish the mission of the Most High.

    So he raised Jesus. Can you imagine raising Jesus, and teaching him how to read a book and tie his shoes and clean up after dinner each night?

    No, it was no ordinary day in Bethlehem on this anniversary day marked over two thousand years ago.

    It was the most extraordinary situation ever on the face of the earth. We're still reeling from it. We'll never get over it. We still celebrate it with pomp and circumstance and awe each year because it is just as real to us now as it must have been to them so long ago.

    He was born to them and He lives in us.

    That's a gift I will treasure forever.

    To Know Him Better

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014

    “Is this the day my stent comes out mama?” 
    Five a.m. came early and my boy wiped the sleep from his eyes as we piled into the car.
    “Yes buddy. Just go back to sleep and I’ll wake you when we get to the hospital ok?” I gave him his fuzzy blanket and buckled his booster seat. 
    It all seemed so routine to him now and while that should have made my heart thankful for the ease of the process, it really just made me sad. Sad that this was our new reality. 
    I’m a fixer by nature and in my mind I wanted to A) find and diagnose the problem and B) fix said problem. Sort of like a cavity in a tooth, fix it and move on was the way I visioned this going in my head.
    I hadn’t let go of the hope that pretty soon we were going to be cleared and told to go home and told not to return unless a small list of symptoms ever occurred again.
    That’s what I’d been expecting for so long now, but that just hadn’t been the case yet. It wasn’t how our year of health problems for my boy was turning out and so I drove. I drove across town to a big tall building with the word Children’s Hospital on the side and prepared myself for another day of what lay beyond those sliding doors.
    I walked through those doors with my little’s and my man not too far behind. As we stopped to marvel over the big tree and presents in the lobby I caught a glimpse of a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She’d brought her kids there to give gifts to children like mine. 
    A few warm smiles and “Hey y’all, how do you do’s” later and my heart begins to warm because it’s so evident that God is all in this place. It’s hard to stay frustrated and sad when you can feel Him so near. 
    Sometimes in the normal routine of everyday life you can walk right through those Christmas trees with twinkling lights and hum to the sound of Silent night, Holy night in the background- and you can miss Him.
    And while I would have given a lot not to be there and not to be experiencing everything that my child has gone through at this place in the past year, I wouldn’t trade the awareness of Him so near for anything.  Anything at all.
    What’s worth more, the absence of pain and suffering or the evidence that Christ is near in our pain? More than that, do I want my child to know a life of ease and comfort…or do I want my child to know Him?
    The truth of the matter is that our whole family has felt the Presence of the Lord in a more powerful way this year than ever before. And while it has come with a high price, I don’t think there’s a more valuable truth that I could have ever given to my children. 
    God is near is something that can’t be wrapped up in a pretty package and laid under a tree. Heaven knows that if there were such a gift on the shelf at Wal-Mart or Target we’d all pick it up and buy it and give it to our children. 
    But it can’t be bought from a shelf. It can’t be wrapped up and placed with the other gifts with pretty paper and a big shiny bow.  It has to be learned. It has to be lived.
    While this isn’t the road I would have chosen for my child, I’m beginning to realize its more.

    Yesterday I watched as his tiny hands picked fuzz from a blanket while he recovered. He’s carried that old blanket with him for so long now that it’s nearly torn to shreds.  There are bare places on it where he’s gone to and received the comfort he needed time and time again. Places that are so bare that you can see the light coming through… and what I can’t capture in one still picture is how I’ve seen him grow in his trust this year that The Lord’s plan is always, always good. 
    This has been a vulnerable ten months for my sweet child and at times he’s had to learn a lesson beyond his years: God knows what’s best even when we do not. I’ve heard him surrender his tiny little plans to the Lord and watched Him shine through as it all began to make sense in the eyes of a six year old.
    About three weeks ago as we were driving to school one day he gave me an impromptu bible lesson about how God always knows best. “Like even when I don’t want to have surgery again mama, if God knows that’s what’s I need then I will have it because He knows whats best."
    He’d learned more than my words could ever teach him. 
    I saw Him shining through in that moment so brightly. Like holes in a blanket, the rough places of our year laid bare for the Presence of Christ so that He could pour beautiful rays of hope through the life of this child of mine.
    Surely the Christ child came to us all those years ago because he knew there’d be days we would need more than a fuzzy blanket to get us through. We would literally need Him wrapped all around us and living in us so that we might overcome the sufferings of this present world, that we might experience Him so near and dear in a way that we never could have before.
    I’m thankful that He put on flesh and came to us, and I’m thankful He is near in Spirit as his grand big plan unfolds. What a gift we’ve been given this year-to know Him better. 

    The Best Gift to Give Away

    Thursday, December 18, 2014

    As much as I love the lights, all the twinkling bright, clear and colored red and green lights, they are only a small part of Christmas.

    The trees and the garland too make me marvel for hours. Tiny little manger scenes and the vintage photos of Santa Claus make our homes warm with the spirit of the season.
    Christmas music tickles my ears and candy cane candles tickle my nose.
    There are parties with the voices of those I love dear filling my home.
    Candlelit Christmas Eve services with the sound of worship filling my heart.
    All of this and more make up what is great about Christmas-but it’s not what is Christmas.
    To me Christmas is wrapping up this big old gift of a Savior and handing him to someone else for them to know and love and enjoy.

    What good is our precious gift if we keep Him to ourselves? True, he might minister to us. We might grow our relationship with him until our hearts feel like they might burst out of our chest.
    But when they do get so full of Him and when our hearts do indeed beat right out of our chest, that’s when we will begin to give Him away. That’s when we know that there’s got to be something more and the only way we will ever find out what more is – is to give it away.
    When my little’s gave shoes to the homeless last Sunday, they were doing more than dressing the soles of feet.
    They were putting clothes and shoes on the embodiment of Christ in us so that He might find His way into the hearts of others through that shoebox and dress the souls of men and women as well as the sole of their feet.
    He longs to clothe us in His righteousness. What better way to do that than to introduce Him with a warm pair of shoes for the winter?
    Last week it was a shoebox, but tomorrow or next week or next year there will likely be another opportunity. There will always be some kind of opportunity to wrap Jesus up in a box and hand him ever so gently to another precious heart with the prayer that they too, will learn to treasure Him and love Him and know Him like you do.
    That’s Christmas not just in December but all year long.
    That’s more than a day set aside to celebrate Jesus’s birth. It’s a way of life to celebrate why He came.
    And when we get to share Him with others? That’s the best gift of all to give away.

    Finding Christ in Christmas

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    It was an evening we’d had on the calendar for weeks. 

    The night to drink hot chocolate while riding around looking at Christmas lights in surrounding neighborhoods is always a highlight for us this time of the year. We wear our pajamas too. 

    We’re classy like that.

    I’d like to say that the pajama thing is a total nostalgic move but that wouldn’t be completely honest. Truth is, one of our wild children usually passes out before we make it home and I’d rather just carry them in and lay them down without having to change their clothes.

    We ate dinner quickly and mapped out our plan. That was when I had my first hint that things might not go off without a hitch as they did last year.

    There is a website that lists all homes in our area with the best Christmas lights. Said website had shut down business sometime in the past year.

    Not a family to be deterred by such a thing, we set out on this venture with the trusty old iphone map in hand. Not sure where it was taking us, or if it even knew itself, but we had it open nonetheless. 

    Somewhere less than a mile from our driveway began the beautiful back and forth between my little’s otherwise known as bickering. It went right along with Christmas music, giving it a lovely effect. 

    There’s a house not far from ours with a giant blowup snowman. That house happens to be where Quinley’s teacher lives. When we told her how much we’d been enjoying the snowman she told us he is twenty feet tall. Tanner insisted he is actually only nineteen feet instead of twenty. He does this sort of thing when he gets tired. It’s lovely.

    At one point in their discussion I might have threated to pull over and make them kiss if they didn’t settle things quickly. That was met by tons of giggles. Score!

    We drove on down the road diligently searching for a house we had so much enjoyed last year. It had been so amazing that at one point we parked in front of their house along with TEN other cars and just watched in amazement. It was set to music and everything was synchronized. It was just awesome.

    When trusty old iphone left us wondering we stopped and asked a gentleman walking down the sidewalk if he could point us in the right direction of the house that had been known to stop traffic.

    He smiled, pointed toward a direction and said, “its right down that way but they moved this year.”
    He was such a kind soul and we talked to him for a while before we drove on. 

    I looked over at my man and asked if he was disappointed. Because clearly this wasn’t going as it had in years past.  He shook his head and I could tell that he was honestly not disappointed at all. 

    What makes Christmas memories special isn’t whether or not things go as planned. If you can check that you saw twenty fabulous light displays along the way but haven’t laughed and enjoyed yourself then what good did it do at all?

    If there hadn’t been the argument over whether the giant snowman was indeed twenty feet instead of nineteen I would have missed getting to hear my kid’s belly laugh at the suggestion that they kiss each other to settle the issue.

    If the amazing house last year still had its previous owner, true we would have seen some awesome Christmas lights, but we would have missed talking to that nice gentleman taking a walk.

    Sometimes the best memories are made when plans are changed and things don’t work out the way we think they should have.

    That’s what Christmas is really all about. When we learn to change our plans long enough to see Christ in everything, we’ve truly learned about the greatest gift of all

    He is here with us. He lives among us and in us. 

    And I don’t want to be so focused on the destination during this season that I miss Him along the way.

    Seventy Times Seven

    Monday, December 15, 2014

    She lay in her bed, eyes open wide and watched the minutes slowly tick by. She should have been asleep hours ago but peace wasn’t coming. Tomorrow was going to be busy, why couldn’t she just fall asleep?
    Tick tock. Tick tock.
    She played and replayed an earlier conversation in her head and knew that she hadn’t gotten it quite right.   Judgment’s had been made. Harsh words had been spoken and what had started as a “discussion” turned into a heated argument. And she’d gone to bed on it.
    That never made for a soft pillow to sleep on.
    Especially when as the minutes turned into hours and the hours gave way to dawn and the realization that “I should have handled that differently,” began to settle in.
    It was always so annoying when that happened. Things were just always easier to deal with when a finger could be pointed at someone else to take the blame.
    But tonight that wasn’t the case and try as she might to place the reproach on her man, it just wasn’t fair. And she knew it.  So along with a void of peace came the sister burden of guilt and another rock was added to the pillow.
    It wouldn’t have been so bad if perhaps this was an isolated event.  But she was beginning to feel a lot like Peter when he asked Jesus if he must forgive up to seven times in one day.
    She thought of Jesus’s reply back to Peter.  It was/is perhaps one of the most astounding pieces of conversation recorded in scripture. “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
    Jesus knew that we would live in a fallen world and that there would be days that we would try our best and just not get it right. He knew that married couples, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, neighbors and church families would have spats. We would all need forgiveness and need to be forgiven.
    The trouble doesn’t lie in the act of saying, “I was wrong and I am sorry.” There is nothing wrong at all with having to do it more than one time, more than seven or seventy times even in ONE day.
    There is a problem however when we think that we’ve figured it all out and no longer need the grace of Jesus. When we point our fingers at others as if to say, “This is where I am and this is how you get here,” we are only setting an example of perfectionism that is unattainable.
    Will there ever come a day when we absolutely get it all together and are no longer in need of grace?
    She read Matthew 18 and thought of many times when she had needed it before. And the many times she knew that she would need it again.
    Tick Tock. The clock was blinking slower now. Or so it seemed anyways. Her eyelids began to get heavy.
    It’s sort of funny how relieving it is to realize we’ve got tools to deal with the mess of these trenches.
    We are ok as long as we realize that’s just it. We are all fighting the good fight of faith and will be until the day we are all made perfect in Heaven.
    We fall into trouble when, like Peter, we put a limit on God’s forgiveness. And how many times it should be given.
    She closed her bible and did what she knew she’d have to do all along.  She asked for the forgiveness she’d been needing so desperately, realizing it was only a whisper away.
    The pillow was softer now.

    She fell asleep knowing that He would be right there for her if she had to repeat the process seventy seven times in that very day.

    Pointing The Way

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    I'm not one to watch the news a lot, therefore I'm usually only mildly aware of world events at a surface level. Sometimes it's not even that much and I'm completely unaware.

    Unfortunately though, I would need a rock larger than the one I'm living under to miss the case otherwise known as Ferguson that's been in the news lately.

    What a tragedy.

    I always find it saddening when the enemy is able to (John 10:10) steal, kill and destroy.

    What I think might be even more troubling is if we missed the opportunity at abundant life that Jesus talks about here in that same passage.

    What I'm not doing here is justifying bad behavior or making excuses for either side.

    What I do propose is that there is a lesson to be learned. There is a cry to be heard and a difference to be made.

    As I was learning of this case and playing out the scene of events in my mind, I had to picture things differently for a moment.

    I saw a young man wandering aimlessly down a street. His clothes were dirty and his pockets full of belongings that weren't his. He was doing what he'd seen done many times before. 

    His face would have been full of tears if he'd had the chance to know any emotion at all. Instead his expression was blank and void from years of this empty life. Disappointment, regret and anger will take the sparkle out of the brightest eyes.

    His shoulders were bent, his steps were slow. He dreaded the day ahead. 

    An older gentleman walked by and reached out his hand. " Come with me young man. Let's get something to eat and sit to talk for a while."

    He didn't respond. What did this man want from him and why? Nobody ever offered anything good without wanting something in return.

    The gentleman persisted and touched him on the shoulder, "Tell me your name son and what it is that you like to do. I've got all the time in the world."

    The young man thought it was strange but he didn't have anything better to do so he followed the gentleman down the street and into a diner. He'd been a follower all of his life, so why not see where this man might lead. Probably not, but just maybe, he had something new to offer.

    Did he ever.

    You know the rest of the story.

    In my mind more than a hungry belly is fed. Living water  and the bread of life is offered. A relationship is formed and Christ himself is shown in a very tangible way to a young troubled life that day.

    Change doesn't happen overnight but ever so slowly the young man accepts Christ and follows the discipleship offered by the older gentleman.

    As he graduates college and interviews for his first job he thinks to himself, "If someone had not taken the time to show me The Way…"

    Are the people of Ferguson unlike any other town in any region of this country? Aren't those involved just like us? For the most part I'd say we are all the same. We live our lives and we do what we do mostly because we want to gratify our flesh.

    A young man makes a bad choice to fill a void. A young cop does his job justly but carries the repercussions of doubt for the rest of his life. A town, a nation rather, rises up with years full of pent up  bitterness and anger screaming in anguish, "Lets go and make this right."

    And all the while Jesus is saying, "Come."

    "Bring your burdens to me and I will make you whole."

    And he's looking to his people to be first responders to the scene. How will they ever know Him if we don't take the time to make Him known?

    So, about that abundant life I was talking about in John chapter 10? Here's what I propose:

    I'd say we live abundantly by giving our own lives away. It defies logic but it works every time.

    When we see a lonely soul walking down the street, down the aisle at the grocery store, or just anyone that the Spirit prompts us to move toward, I'd say we go.

    "But what if I'm rejected, Angel?" Go anyway.

    "What if they don't like me?" Sometimes they wont at first. Sometimes never.

    "I don't know what to say." Talk to them like a normal human being, the push past awkward usually wont take long.

    You just do your best and the Spirit will equip you to do the rest.

    Honestly, the problem of young and un-discipled souls is bigger than any one or two of us alone will ever fix.  But does that mean we shouldn't even try?

    I think not.

    The world is changed one life at a time. Now go. Go and live abundantly. Love on one unloveable soul today and see the sparkle light up in a dull eye.

    That's what we're called to do; point the way to the One. That's the only thing that will ever make a real difference.

    The Beauty of Broken Trust

    Friday, December 5, 2014

    "I trust you and daddy and Jesus."

    Her big blue eyes peered into mine and I knew she meant what she said.

    She's four years old and she already understands that there are boundaries and sometimes boundaries can be broken. So in her mind, for the time being anyway, it's easiest to just trust those that she knows all too well will take care of her: mommy, daddy and Jesus. She's a thinker for sure, and I'm glad that my sweet girl is perceptive.

    I vividly remember being a little older than her age and while riding the school bus home one afternoon, I suddenly had the realization that  not every person in the world was good.

    There was a little girl that I shared the seat with on that big yellow bus. She had beautiful olive skin and tightly ringed curls framing her face. Even at such a young age I was captivated by her warmth and beauty. I deeply loved my little friend.

    What I don't remember is if it was something she said to me or if it was just the way she slowly got off that bus and dreadfully walked up the driveway that triggered me into the realization that something just wasn't quite right. Somewhere behind the smiles and laughter was a heaviness and my little heart was full of longing to make things better for her.

    I remember watching her walk up to her front porch and making a mental checklist of all that she needed to make her happy.

    Looking back now and I do think it was a wee bit odd that I wondered such things because at the time of this memory I was at most, six years old. 

    I'm an encourager by nature and if I'm being completely honest, it still haunts me that I could have made a hopeful difference in that child's life. I hope that somehow, in some small way, I did.

    We were teeny tiny of course. I didn't know what I could do to help my little friends troubled soul. I just knew that something wasn't right.

    When my Quinley stopped me with her simple words of wisdom this morning I took myself back to my own childhood.

    Somehow in the midst of the baby dolls, barbies and cartoons there is an awakening that begins to develop in a young mind. I love how the Creator made this a process. A person couldn't ever handle at one time all of the emotional and spiritual development that takes place over the years.

    Even in infancy a need surfaces, a cry is heard, soothing takes place, the child calms down and TRUST is born.

    It's a beautiful thing when it all happens the way that God intended for it to. In our fallen world though sometimes  a lot of times life get's messy and people misuse this beautiful gift. Someone get's disappointed and once the process happens a few times what was once a beautiful vibrant gift of God to humanity fades and is left a dull, dingy gray full of emptiness and void.

    Sadness and disappointment turn into slow moving steps up to that front door. Dread, fear and suspicion take the place where trust once was.

    "So where's the encouragement in this Angel?"

    Well I'm so glad you asked.

    Because as believers we have the promise of a faithful and loving God who with the beautiful plan of Redemption gave us a promise we can trust in forever.

    He is good. He is faithful and He is coming back again to take us home forever to a place where trust will never be broken again.

    But what about the meantime? In the meantime, this I can promise you. And it isn't good.

    Humanity will fail you. People will disappoint you. Life will sometimes let you down. Sometimes it will let you down a lot. My mother once told me that if you have a handful of friends in your lifetime that you can trust you are a very blessed person. I'm an optimist by nature so I will increase that to two handfuls just for good measure.

    I've been fortunate enough to make some deep and lasting friendships in my years and I'll go out on a limb and say you might just be able to-or have already done so- as well.

    In the meantime I can also make you another promise. This one is good. 

    God will NEVER break your Trust and he will NEVER let you down.

    He will be your GOD
    Psalm 31:14
    But I TRUST in you Oh Lord; I say, "You are my God."

    He will be your JOY
    Psalm 13:5
    But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.

    He will be your DIRECTION
    Proverbs 3:5-6
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

    He will be your PEACE
    John 14:1
    Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and also in me.

    Sometimes I stop and wonder about what happened to my little friend on that school bus so many years ago.

    Did what was wrong get better? Did she grow up to be an overcomer? Is she suffering somewhere still to this day?

    The truth is that my family moved to another state the following year and I never saw her again. While my heart grieves at the brokenness that was so apparent to me at the time, I also rejoice at the fact that we have a Savior who is our Sovereign God. He is our joy, He is our direction, He is our peace and so much more than words could ever permit me fill up in this tiny little space known as a blog.

    Friends he is and forevermore will be all of that. All of that and so much more.

    You can take it to the bank every. single. time. For as long as time will last.

    So I tust. I TRUST that He made Himself known to her. That he pursued her or is pursuing her now just like he did until He captured my heart. I know that when He did or when He does she will find that he is so much more than enough. 

    He alone is enough. And when you learn just how much you can trust Him….well, you really don't need much else.

    Glory In The Garbage

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    I stood in front of the kitchen sink, hot tears pouring down my face and felt like a failure once more.

    "This is not how Martha said to do it," I told myself. "I've failed again."

    (Martha would be Ms. Martha Peace and she'd been speaking to me through the pages of a book I had been reading. A book titled, The Excellent Wife.)

    It had been a whole lot of a day and it wasn't about to be over yet.

    You know the kind of day I'm talking about. The one where your coffee spills down your shirt, the toilet overflows, you are late to drop off your children for school and that's all in the first hour. It's bound to be down hill from there.

    None of those things will make you cry frustrated tears in front of the sink though, because in the grand scheme of things we all know that none of that really matters.

    Spills can be cleaned up, toilets can be plunged and a tardy or two wont send your child into academic failure.

    Those types of things can mask the real issue for a while but the crux of the matter was that I'd had a word or ten with my man, it wasn't my finest of moments and I was carrying a lot of guilt.

    What really made it even worse was that it was MY fault. I knew it. Ms. Peace had been on to me about some of my issues and quite frankly, I seemed to be having a hard time learning.

    Somewhere between the tears at the sink and putting dinner on the stove I remembered that I'd lost the keys to the car earlier in the day. It wouldn't have been so easy to blame that one on me except for the fact that I was the last one who drove said car and now no keys were to be found. I hate it when that happens.

    So rather than talk to the Lord in prayer and let Him help me with my failure right then and there, I started to mask my disappointment in myself again.

    "I'll search for the keys," I thought.

    Because everybody knows that a task like turning the couch cushions over and searching through pockets of jeans and sweatshirts for a tiny little object can be extremely therapeutic at times.

    Shockingly, it just made matters worse.

    When I came up empty handed time and time again I started to realize that the only place the keys could possibly be was the trash.

    They had gone missing a day or two earlier so this meant that the trash I needed to go through was in the garage well on it's way to the dump by now.

    Thankfully, there were only two bags in that big can and I pulled them both out and sat right down on the concrete floor and began to dig.

    The first bag was full of school papers and some cardboard box that had been ripped up and thrown in. It was easy to go through and not too ferocious, as a big bag of garbage can sometimes can be.

    It also didn't contain my keys.

    The next bag was not so easy. I'd thrown a leftover container of self rising flour from Thanksgiving dinner into that bag. I had also decided to fix lasagna the next day and my Ragu sauce must have splattered nicely when I discarded the remnants. It coated the flour well.

    I sat there slowly pulling things one by one out of one messy trash bag and putting them into a brand new white one when The Lord of Glory began to tug at my heart.

    "Look inside that mess! That looks a lot like your heart doesn't it?"

    "Yes Lord, it does. How can you ever take all of this mess that is me and use it for your good? There's NOTHING good in me."

    "Keep digging, look again."

    I pulled a few more items from the trash bag.

    "But there's just remnants of broken pieces Lord, and it's messy on top of that."

    "Yes it is my child, but I took all of those broken pieces, covered them in my grace and made a lot of beauty out of what lies in those remains in the last few days."

    I remembered the cake I had made with the flour and the big pan of bubbly lasagna that we had eaten the evening the before.

    "Left alone my child your heart will always fail you and without my help it will be difficult to make anything good."

    "But when you let me cover you with my grace I can bring things together, cover them with my Spirit that lives in your heart and together we can make beautiful things happen."

    I was almost to the bottom of the bag by this time and there underneath a big heap of flour a glimmer of metal caught my eye.

    It was my keys.

    I picked them up and carried them inside. I quietly handed them to my husband.

    He grinned, took them to the sink and washed them off, dried them with a paper towel and never have I seen the embodiment of Christ more evident in my man.

    Oh how He loves us. How He covers us with grace.

    Without Him my life would be a big pile of garbage for sure.

    But because of Him beautiful things are made of my messy heart.

    To God be the glory.

    The Hope Within Us

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    The excitement over Spirit Week's "Tacky Tuesday" was at an all time high yesterday morning. I let my littles happily dress themselves in the clothes of their choice, fed them breakfast and then shepherded four little feet out the door to start our day. 

    Our day was normal, just like a lot of other folks around town. There was nothing too horrible and nothing too fabulous; we just enjoyed the beauty of the mundane. 

    The warm spirit of Christmas is in the air and that coupled with the fun festivities of spirit week left me tangled up in my own little world. 

    In our same little town somewhere a few miles down the road another woman woke and dressed her children yesterday. She fed them breakfast and followed pretty much the same routine that I did, but her day ended so much differently. 

    Instead of giving warm baths and brushing teeth before bedtime last night, she sat in a holding room waiting to see if a name released was that of her child. 

    It was. She cried. She probably will be for a long time.

    As I sat and watched the news last night about the school bus tragedy in Knoxville my heart grieved and I'm sure yours did as well. There's just not much else that compares to the empathy for another parent knowing that they are picking out grave-sites when it should be Christmas presents and Angel costumes. 

    It's times like this that we begin to ask ourselves the timeless questions that don't surface on brighter days. Questions such as:

    What is the purpose for our pain?
    What is the reason for a tragedy such as this?

    While I don't pretend to have all of the answers to these questions and more, what I do know is The Holy One who does. 

    I was led to the eighth chapter of Romans this morning as I was praying for the families and The Message version of verses 19-22 says this: (emphasis mine).

    That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

    22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
    All of creation knows that we are longing for the day when Jesus returns and we will all be made whole. 
    When times are good we get comfortable. We don't necessarily experience the pains of birth as discussed in this passage because, quite frankly,  we are living pretty comfortable here on planet Earth. The "coming good times" are overshadowed by the present good times we live in. 
    On a day like yesterday however, we are reminded that we are all living in eager expectation for what is to come. The joyful anticipation deepens. 
    As long as we are waiting for that glorious day there will be tragedy and disappointment. It's likely that it could be you or I the next time. We do live in an unperfected, fallen world. But we have this glorious hope…..the hope in Christ in whom we believe. 
    My prayer for our town and especially those families who lost a loved one yesterday is this: While we groan in anticipation, may the hope of what is to come overshadow the pain of what is present.