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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Drama

When I can’t sleep or things are tough, I write.  Oh, I write a whole lot more in my head than I ever actually get onto paper, er well, cyberspace these days.  And this morning things are feeling really real.  Sometimes life just stinks.  I woke up early having a pity party this morning.  We have really been looking forward to getting away to my parent’s house in Alabama for Thanksgiving this week.  We take turns rotating Thanksgiving and Christmas between my family in Alabama and my husband’s family in South Carolina.  We have only had 7 years since the twins were born and for three of the previous years when it was my family’s turn someone in my immediate family has had the stomach bug. Two times we thought we were all better and went to spend the week with family only to give the gift of Norovirus to everyone else.  So a few years ago when Cameron called at work to say Eliana was throwing up the Friday before Thanksgiving week, we didn’t even try to go home.  We made lemons from our lemonade and did some fun things with our kids, but we basically cancelled Thanksgiving to save the extended family from our misery.

Fast forward to this October, we had our first family vacation involving a plane ride planned for fall break- the week after Cameron’s mission trip.  I start running fever the day before he left.  The day after he got to Poland I got diagnosed with the flu and bronchitis.  Yep.  4 kids. Husband in Poland.  I got the flu (and yes, for those who are wondering, I had already had the flu shot).  That week was HARD.  I prayed every day I would have the energy to pack and get these kids on a plane the following week to meet him in Massachusetts.  We did make it there and no one else got the flu- which is a small miracle!  On day 2 my sweet husband got food poisoning and spent several days in bed.  To add insult to injury, the beautiful fall leaves in New England decided not to change for us even though we were a week past peak.  Now we weathered this trip, and for the most part we had a good attitude.  We still made great memories with the kids and grandparents and we (well, not really Cameron but the rest of us) ate good food and didn’t work or clean house for a week.

It’s been a month and I have managed to hang on to some type of flu induced fatigue.  Our bank account got cleaned out by some person who thought they could put their bills on auto-pay out of our checking, and we wouldn’t notice and would just keep them up!?!  (Thankfully we are getting that back after a big ordeal).  The kids have had some sickness and scary asthma attacks this month.  So when Alena started throwing up this Saturday night at 1 am, I could have just cried.  Sunday both Cameron and I were down for the count and the three kids standing ran the house.  I think my 7 year old (who wasn’t puking) put the 4 year old to bed.  I think.  Yesterday everyone was better and I started feeling a little hopeful we might still have Thanksgiving.  Until the other twin woke up sick at midnight last night.   Let’s just say I am pretty sure neither she nor I will ever eat macaroni and cheese again.

So that is the long dramatic opening for what I really have to say (I don’t know where my girls get all their dramatic tendencies from!).  I was not sleeping in the wee hours this morning and thinking of all this and feeling so disappointed and then I remembered about a family I read about on Facebook recently.  They lost all three of their children in a house fire a few months ago.  What are they feeling like facing this week?  And the parents of the chronically sick child who may not survive the holidays? And then I remembered my own quiet Thanksgiving  eight years ago when Makiah had just been killed, and we were still reeling in shock.   We didn’t do anything traditional that year.  We couldn’t.  Both sets of grandparents gathered at my in laws.  It was warm, and we went for an evening boat ride on the still lake.  It’s the only time I ever had thoughts like this, but I remember wishing I could throw myself into the dark water and never come back up.  Those placid waters closing over my head seemed better than taking another breath in that moment.  I shudder now and suddenly my pity party is taking a shift.  At least I have kids to clean up puke after.  At least we can cancel Thanksgiving together.  At least we can hole up and watch Netflix and sip Lipton noodle soup by our fireplace. 

When the thoughts come of all we will miss this week- the late night grown up talks or the raucous laughter and running of cousins’ feet through the house, I will choose to steer my heart towards thankfulness.  Cameron and I joked this morning about how children are unable to start throwing up in the daytime.   There must be some hidden rule of parenting that it must start in the middle of the night… but at least I have him to share the irony and sleeplessness with. At least we can cancel Thanksgiving together.

And as I lay there this morning I realize four pair of little eyes are watching me so closely.  They cried when I told them we couldn’t head to the grandparent's on Monday.  They asked why God made us sick.  Oh what an important conversation!  It’s the enemy who comes to steal and kill and destroy.  And also mommy doesn’t have all the answers for pain.  It dawned on me this morning that what I do with this week will be remembered far more than the many words I say to them every day.  I have a chance to teach them that it is okay to be authentically disappointed.  It’s also okay to tell God how we feel, but that’s not all.  I truly believe we aren’t victims of our circumstances.   No one can make our choices for us and no matter what happens, we always have a choice of what we will do with ourselves.  I tell my students this all the time.  Now it’s time for me to eat my words and choose to be thankful.  It’s not the week I hoped it would be, but the real life stinks part can only take my peace and joy if I let it. 

So here’s to a Thanksgiving Day of thankfulness regardless of what the events of the day hold for me or for you because what we have to be most thankful for is settled in heaven.   May we hold our loved ones a little closer and choose to focus on what matters most this week!

P.S. In another ironic twist, we had family photos done Friday afternoon for the first time in three years.  If you look at our pics on Facebook, you might be tempted to think life looks perfect.  This makes me want to LOL for real!  So when social media tempts you to think others have it all together, just remember a picture is not always worth a thousand words!  

Monday, October 8, 2018

Makiah's 8th Heaven Day- Rivers of Adversity

Seasons are a funny thing.   I get up at the same time every day… well, give and take a few snoozes.   I either pray and walk or else pray and eat a small bite of goodness- mini pumpkin donuts lately- that I’ve hidden from my kids!  The one thing that’s consistent in my morning routine from day to day is the coffee.  Whether I am sneaking treats or walking, there will be coffee.  I guess that says a lot about the pace of my exercise!

But it seems like just yesterday I was having a hard time beating the sun up in the mornings.  And suddenly it’s dark until it’s time to get dressed and wrap up my morning routine.  The changing seasons seem to sneak in when I am not looking. 

There is a verse in the Old Testament about understanding the times and knowing what to do. It says…the men of Issachar understood the times and they knew what to do.  About two weeks before the accident this verse jumped out at me when I was looking through a Beth Moore bible study I had done.  It beat in my chest like a drum beat for the next two weeks.  I found myself praying relentlessly that I would understand the times and know what to do.  The night before the accident I shared it with Cameron- that this verse and prayer had gripped my heart.  I prayed it without knowing why or what it was about.

And then she died.  October 8th, 2010.  A date etched in blood in my heart and mind.

Suddenly the season changed.  It snuck up on me and took me by surprise.   After a long battle with secondary infertility, we had just had the thrill of our lives in July to discover we were pregnant with twins!  Indescribable joy… and maybe a little physical exhaustion!  Around twelve weeks pregnant I started to hemorrhage- ironically as I was parking for an appointment with the neonatal specialist.  Makiah was with me, and I was scared.  I can’t describe the nauseous anxiety as we waited for the ultrasound that day.  The babies were alive and well, but I had a hematoma.  The doctor said it was connected to the placenta of the baby on top.  He didn’t think she would make it.  And if I lost her, he said I would lose the one underneath as well.  Makiah was excited to see the babies and to be the first to hear that they were likely girls.  I was shaking in my boots.

We went home and I plopped myself on the couch were I would stay for several weeks.  You can read about what Makiah did here if you like.  Somewhere in there I had a dream that was basically a warning sort of dream.  I thought that it was about the babies because of the bleeding.  I knew we were under attack, and I prayed like I had never prayed before.  And well, I had a lot of time to do that since I pretty much wasn’t moving.  Finally, the bleeding miraculously subsided, and the week of fall break came.  I was a week away from a doctor’s appointment where I hoped I would be cleared to go back to work.   We went with my in-laws to the beach for the week of the break.  I never actually went down on the beach.  I sat mostly at the condo reading books on parenting twins and watching my sweet girl play with her daddy in the sand and waves.

And then the trip home.  The longest, most horrible trip of my life.  The one with the detour to the hospital and the proclamation by the doctors that my baby girl was gone.  When we finally pulled into the driveway in the wee hours of the morning, we were no longer the family of three that had left the beach the morning before.  They sent us home without her.  Forever.

And I entered a winter that was the coldest, bleakest, darkest season of my life to date.  Nothing was off the table in terms of questions.  There was so much pain to wade through that it was a while before I began to wrestle with my prayer to understand the times and know what to do.  Everything seemed to scream that I had failed.  I had not understood the times, and clearly I had made the wrong choice somewhere.  When tragedy pounces on you, it is easy to feel that we should have had the ability of God to see the future and somehow made some different choice that would have changed our circumstances.  I played every detail of that day and all the things we could have done differently over and over in my mind a million times and a million ways.   I won’t know the answers for sure until I get to heaven.  But I know this tragedy was uninvited. 

Fast forward almost eight years to a conference we just hosted at the church.  Pastor David Garcia was the speaker.  He also happens to be very special to us because he is the pastor who dedicated Makiah to the Lord with us when she was a baby.  He talked about being grounded in the word.  He shared about the parable of the men whose homes were hit by the storm.  You know, the one where the guy whose house was built on the rock of Jesus did not collapse while the man whose house was on sand was washed away.  He said one thing you cannot do is prevent the river of adversity from coming.  The flood will come and there is nothing you can do to stop it, he said.  Jesus promised us trouble in this world, but he also promised us that He has overcome the world. 

And somehow when he spoke, a weight lifted off of me.  I had shared that same parable with Cameron in the car just minutes before the accident.  That both the believer and unbeliever were hit with a flood.  But I hadn’t considered that the flood was out of their control.  Nothing they could have done would have changed it.  Understanding the times and knowing what to do didn’t mean our fate was in my hands.  It meant I needed to see that it was the enemy who brings darkness and in my season of winter I needed to run or weep or scream or however it came out Towards and not away from the God who made me and loved me and gave me the promise that He has overcome this world. 

He hasn’t set this world straight yet.  He didn’t make that claim.  But He has promised that He will. And He has made a way for the kingdom of God to invade our domain as we invite Him in.  I am not a fatalist.  I believe that God speaks in dreams and visions and that our prayers can change things.  There are too many stories where that has happened.  But sometimes the change we want is not the change we get.  Sometimes the warning is for our souls and not for the outward appearance.  Sometimes it is for the spiritual battle and not the earthly battle.  I wanted it to be different for me.  But it wasn’t.  This is the story I have been given.  And ultimately we aren’t called to write our own story, but to Trust the One is the author and the finisher of our faith with even the things we cannot understand.  If we have no mystery, if we can explain it all, then we have no need for God.

I believe God has answered that prayer the Holy Spirit gave me to pray with fervency over my heart for the two weeks before she died.  I believe understanding the times meant to throw myself with whatever little strength I could muster on the grace and mercy of God and not on my own understanding.  I believe knowing what to do meant that I was called to declare the truth and goodness of God in the face of opposing circumstances. 

Today is Makiah’s 8th heaven day.  I do not deny that it was the most terrible, pivotal day in my life.  But sitting here 8 years later- and yes, typing in Panera so that I am forced not to lose it in public- I can honestly say that I would never trade the gift of her four short years for anything- even for a life without pain.  It has been the greatest invitation I have received to look beyond what my eyes can see and to listen with my heart.  It is true what has been said… it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Especially, when the promise of God is that this is only the introduction to the story He is writing.  I don’t know how many more heaven days we will walk through, but I do know that an eternity of together days await.

Rainbow Toes for Makiah
Click here to see the beginnings of Rainbow Toes.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Weighty Moments

Every breath is precious, but not all moments are created equal.  Some are just plain weightier than others.  I mean clipping my toe nails and saying I do just do not equivocate!  I think part of appreciating life is recognizing when the moment is pregnant with meaning.  Yesterday held some of those for me.

Both of my twins prayed when they were smaller to ask Jesus to come into their hearts.  One of them had an almost immediate change in behavior.  Before that she could throw a tantrum like a bull in a rodeo.  Only it wasn’t 8 seconds!  It could last for an hour! No discipline seemed to make a dent in her little temper until after that day.  Now it wasn’t a silver bullet, and she can still blow a fuse.  But boy, the tendency to go all fire cracker on us really improved, and her heart seemed to be softened.  To this day she remembers that prayer, and it has seemed real to her and she is full of faith.

The other sweet little also had some serious heart change after making the decision.  She is my big thinker, though, and as she has grown so have her many questions… and doubts.  God is not afraid of our questions.  So we talked and discussed and pointed her back to the truth.  I know you are probably wondering how deep a 7 year old’s questions could be, but she was seriously hitting on the major questions- the problem of pain, the questions of death, the existence of God.  It blew me away really. 

The week before we sent her to church camp for the first time this summer, I found myself praying that God would just give her a powerful encounter.  Words are good.  Teaching and prayer is good.  But at some point every person needs to have an Encounter.  Sometimes we don’t need the what or the why to answer our questions.  We need the Who.  And she was there.  It was hard for me to send her.  She has a serious bee allergy and moderate asthma.  It was a stretch to pack up my baby and her epipen and inhalers a week after an asthma attack and send her off to a camp in the woods.  But we felt it was the right thing.  So I bargained.  “Ok God,” I said.  “I am trusting you, and I am sending my baby down there and I need you to touch her.  I am expecting a return on this investment!”

The last night of camp it happened!  A counselor prayed for her and my little said it felt like lightening went through her head.  The Holy Spirit filled her and she began to pray and weep.  She couldn’t stop crying for almost a half hour.  In her own words, before that she thought if she died, that would just be the end of her, but after that night she believes!  So this past Saturday was their baptism!

Which leads me to the weighty moment.  I was drying my hair and getting ready to go to the church- no that’s not the weighty part- and a message that a friend of a friend sent me almost 8 years ago popped in my mind.  This lady wrote me just after Makiah was killed.  She had lost a daughter as a baby and years afterwards, when another child of hers was getting baptized, she had a dream of a little girl sitting on the side of the pool during the baptism and splashing her feet in the water.  When she prayed about it, she felt it was the Lord showing her the baby she had lost and saying that He had let her watch her sibling’s baptism.  Now I am not here to discuss theology, but this email from 8 years ago just came so clearly across my mind just before my girls’ baptisms.  And I had such a strong sense of God’s presence and the impression that perhaps Makiah would be allowed to watch her little sisters get baptized.  Perhaps.

Later after their Daddy baptized them with several other children, we sang a song that gripped me to my core. 
“The enemy can’t take what I have,
Change who I am,
I belong to you!”

 He thought he did.  Thought he could.  When he stole her body, he thought he would change us and take our life.  Our joy.  Our purpose.  Our faith.  Our children.  Their faith.  The next generation.

But he didn’t.  He hasn’t.  He won’t.  He can’t.
The words poured off my lips and a resolution filled my heart like I can barely explain.  We sang, and it became for me a declaration. 

                “You called me out of darkness
                You silence every lie
                And no other voice will define me
                I belong to you, I belong to you!”

Tears leak out, and I know this is prophetic.  A declaration of victory that makes him shudder. 
These baptisms.  A reminder that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
We were alive to sin, died and buried with Him, and now we are raised up alive to Christ.  And one day our bodies will follow.   Resurrection power is real.  This mama who was once dead inside but who is now bubbling with life is here to testify. 

Don’t close your eyes.  To the weighty moments.  They are there for the taking.  And there is a gift that is waiting that no man can or devil in hell can take away from you. Let the lies be silenced and the Truth ring out!

Listen to Iron Bell's Belong to You Here

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,"  Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Where Rainbows Hide

The hum of the motor.  The warmth of the sun beating down.  When I look out from the front of the boat the beautiful view of the placid lake is breathtaking.  I lean over the side and dance my fingers in the spray of water coming from beneath the boat.  The view this way is nothing  spectacular.  Dark water.  Hazy spray.  Kind of like life.  When our nose is to the grind,  head down, there is often not much to see.  Perspective can be elusive.  We see just what is right in front of us.  

A new school year is fast approaching. The grind.  The rushing.  The challenge to be organized.  School. Meals. Laundry. House. Sports. Work. Breathless.  Hazy.  The feeling that what’s in front of me is the most important thing- even if it’s not.  

I tilt my head as I peer into the white spray of water cascading over the lake.  And then I see it.  Just a glimpse.  A glimmer.  A rainbow!  With all of its beautiful colors dancing right there in the water by the edge of the boat as we whir along.  It disappears just as fast as it appeared.  I keep staring and every few minutes when the light hits the water just right, I see it again.  

And it’s there in the monotony, too.  Amidst the whir of life as we speed along.  If we look hard enough, we can catch a glimpse.  Of the beautiful.  The surprising.  The promise of God to not stop loving us.  To refresh us and fill us with life and hope.  To remind us that the eternal is all around us.  Laundry and homework and meals will not be remembered.  But the laughter and the kisses and the hugs after work will be impressed on the hearts of our loved ones. Futures will be shaped by the prayers that are uttered... not the clothes that are worn.  When we peer deep into His word and whisper His promises into the ears of those around us,  something awakens in them.   And in us, too.  

A purpose beyond what we can see.  His glory waiting to burst out with brilliant colors.  To refocus the eye and the heart.  Lord help me not to miss the magical moments.  Help us to take our eyes off the screens and peer into your Word and into the eager eyes of our loved ones- your loved ones.   To look.  To see the gold within them.  To really listen.  To wait for You.  Pull us deeper and cause joy to spill over into the mundane.  To be refreshed.  And to refresh others.  Cause us to find thankfulness amid the everyday tasks... 

  • Psalm 19:7 NIV
  • The law of the Lord is perfect,
        refreshing the soul.The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
        making wise the simple.
  • Psalm 23:1-3 NIV
    The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
        He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
        he refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
        for his name’s sake.
  • Philemon 1:7 NIV
    Your love has given me great joy and encouragement,
  •  because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of 
  • the Lord’s people.

Somewhere between the laundry and the hairbows....

Friday, May 11, 2018

Heaven and Birthdays and Happy

From where I sit in my bed I can see real life all around.  The pile of dirty laundry spilling out from the laundry room into the hall.  Pictures I bought for the twin’s room lean against the wall chiding me for not managing to hang them yet.  Clean, neatly folded stacks of kid’s winter clothing waiting impatiently to be tucked into bins.  And then I close my eyes.  And I try to imagine.  What your view might be like. 

Pristine water flowing over perfectly rounded rocks.  Sparkly “tiny fings” hidden like treasure among the stones just waiting for curious fingers to find them.  The patter of little feet and the rolling of laughter as children race to the water’s edge and plunge in without a care in the world.  The perfect feel of warmth as your feet dance their way into the stream… stepping effortlessly on rocks as smooth as solid silk.  Reaching for the sparkly surprises that He knew you would find.  His eyes full of merriment and all the anticipation of a parent delighted to surprise their child.  Ohhhh the squeals!  Perhaps you can peer inside the little gems and see scenes of wonder.  One minute you see a majestic mountain view.  Then inside another a funny scene in motion that pulls the laughter right up from your belly and spilling onto your lips.  Then you grasp a purple stone and peer deep within to see a mystery of the universe being explained in a way that your beautiful childlike mind can grasp- a way no earthly teacher could teach.  Not just knowledge, but Revelation.  Wonder and awe fill your face and light up your eyes.  You rush out from the water to share your treasures with eager friends.  The instant you leave the water you are as dry as if you had never stepped in. 

And maybe you rush to Him.  His arms are open wide and He embraces you and spins you around effortlessly. Your looks and laughs are full of thanksgiving and adoration as your heart swells in response to love that is so complete.  And perhaps He tells you that we whispered your name in the wind today.  That we love you and can’t wait to join you.  And the news brings only joy because there is no sadness and the boundaries of time have been erased. 

Maybe one stone He had hidden for you to find carried pictures of your sisters picking out balloons to send up to you.  Or of the preschool class where you sat and the very teacher who hugged you each day and how today they had a cake with your name on it and a party and they brought in money they had saved for the well project.  The project you started when you gave all the money in your piggy bank to build wells for kids with no water just two weeks before you went home!  Oh Makiah, how those loaves and fishes you gave have been multiplied!! 

And I am so proud of you!  Your tiny gift has been magnified so many times over and so many people have been reached with water and the Good News.  Your life here was short but the return for the kingdom has been rich.  And I am so challenged not to question the value of the small things- a small act of kindness, the far reaching effects of simple giving.  We just can’t see in our life time the ripples or how it will be used.  But your life reminds me of that often. 

So today I will close my eyes on the laundry and the to do list and endless stacks of dishes.  And I will wipe away some tears, and I will let myself feel the peace that I imagine is just a glimmer of what you are immersed in daily.  And I will let it spark a Hunger… for the Eternal. For what is Really Real.  For Perspective.   For the Desire to know Him as you do.   For the Belief that He is Good and that this Adventure is but a precursor to the Story that is to come.

And I will keep telling it Little One.  Because it is worth being told.  The story of Him.  And the story of our Love and Loss and new Life again.  For both of us.  You there and me here.  And all day you have felt so far away, but in this second the wall between us feels so paper thin.  In Him all things were created and move and have their being.  And we are both in Him.  A mystery.  Profound yet simple.  And so I know tonight that you know my love, and I know tonight that today was indeed a happy 12th birthday for you, my sweet Makiah.  I’m sure far better even than Mommy can imagine.  Sweet dreams and kisses my princess in heaven!

Isaiah 64:4 From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!

1 Corinthians 2:9  But as Scripture says: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him."

Thank you FUMC Cairo Pre-K for Raising Well Project $ and Remembering!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Not Anymore

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  The mom of four who is about to face one of the hardest days of her life.  Or the littles who cling to her and how they cannot possibly understand.  Neither do we.   But they feel and they cry.  Perhaps she lies awake tonight,  too.  Her pillow wet with tears.  The sunrise brings with it a funeral.  The light ushering in an hour that makes all of our knees tremble.  She lays her young husband to rest today. Remembering all the good and treasuring his memory and love.

I can scarcely stand to think of the day I awoke to a funeral.  The day we buried my baby girl.  So I don’t and I won’t.  Not even here.  It is too painful still to let myself go back.  And perhaps not wise.  I don’t live there anymore.  There was a time when I had to grab my thoughts daily  as they reached backwards and remind them constantly that that is not where I live.  Not in Those Moments.

But. Not. Anymore.  I hurt for my friend because she is in that day.  I weep for her because the road is long.  But I rejoice for her because of the secret I can whisper across the miles.  There is Hope!  Hope of heaven.  And Hope for Here.  On earth.  We aren’t doomed to carry our sadness to the grave- as I once believed.  Jesus came to defeat death.  And all the grief that it brings with it.  It is not fast.  It is not easy.  But it is sure and true and I can whisper Hope across the miles- the same hope that ushered in the resurrection life of Jesus in my own deep brokenness.  I was once the living dead.  But not anymore.  My joy is a miracle and makes no sense.  Except that He is real and He really will bind up our wounds.

The link below is to the Easter message my sweet husband preached this week.  It’s our whole service (both I think) but you can skip to the message easily.  He shares about our daughter and things about the accident that few have heard him utter. And he shares about Resurrection.  I pray you will be filled with Hope as you listen....

Cameron’s Easter Message at Newsong

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


I am thrilled to have one of my favorite people do a guest post today!  My mom is one of my dearest friends and heroes!  This is a reflection from her this week...

"This morning I woke up to a magnificent Winter Wonderland! The snow blanketed everything with pristine white.  I walked outside with my morning coffee to breathe the cold, crisp air.  I was very thankful that I did not have to go anywhere.

Just two days ago our family celebrated the life of my father-in-law, Bill Arnold, after his home-going a few days before.  He was a good man who loved his family, contributed greatly to our nation’s defense as an aerospace engineer working in the fields of radar and magnetics, and he grew from a rational relationship with God to a deeply personal one. 

I am reminded that our life has seasons, just as nature does.  The Winter season where all the leaves have fallen, the air is frigid, and no flowers are blooming, can also have its own beauty – the pristine clean smells, the crisp white snow rarely seen in these parts, the wonder of small ducks perfectly at home in the freezing waters of the lake outside our house.  The blue birds and red cardinals stand out against the stark background of trees with no color.

I truly believe God wants to open our eyes to the beauty that exists even in our darkest seasons, when we bring our hearts to Him, cry out to Him, and ultimately choose to trust Him – regardless. After our little granddaughter Makiah died in a seemingly senseless car accident caused by a driver on drugs, I fell into a dark place and tasted a despair I did not even know existed.  Where was the loving Father I had known and trusted most of my life? Where were the angels that fateful day? Why, oh why, did He allow such a tragic loss of our beautiful little Makiah, and such intense pain in the hearts of our family, particularly Rachel and Cameron, our daughter and son-in-law? I grappled with it for months.  Finally I surrendered my right to understand and began to choose thankfulness – at first just for the small things like a red bird outside my window, or a flowering plant.  Gradually a grateful heart began to grow in me and I could see the mercies all around and the love of God through other people that poured out comfort and support.  Finally, I knew that I could, would, MUST trust in the unfailing love of God – even if, no, especially if I could not understand!  There is pain all around in our world – pain I can relate to in a way I did not, could not before.

And I know that an everlasting beauty and peace awaits those whose hearts belong to Jesus. My father-in-law knows that first hand now; he and Makiah are in that great cloud of witnesses! Seasons – all of them – have their own beauty."  - Jeanie Arnold

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 KJV
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 TLB
“In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror, but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.”

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Christmas Picture

The twinkling lights.  The humming of familiar tunes.  The smell of cinnamon and spices.  Late  nights of wrapping after littles are tucked in. Christmas movies in pj's with snuggles and hot chocolate.  Warm embraces of loved ones who live far away.  

The things I love about Christmas float through my mind and land gently on my lips in a smile. Oh, there are hard things, too.  Loved ones who aren't here anymore.  Relationships that have changed.  The stress of spending.  The need  to meet magical expectations.  

One of my littles trying to play a game she was given declares, "This isn't how I thought it would be."  Neither is most of life I find myself responding.  The words jump out of my mouth before I think.  But we can't despair.  "Keep trying and when you figure it out it will be worth it," I say.    

It's in the hard that we wake up.  When entertainment and busyness and life lull us to sleep on the inside, the hard sends little shock waves through our spirit that cause us to Look.  For more.  For the deep.  For the real.  And the magical  moments are a hint that there is more.  That heaven is real and happiness that isn't fleeting is possible.  We make choices all day long.  We can choose to let the good and the hard birth hope.  

And focus.  On Truth.  The One whose life mingled the good and the hard from the very beginning.   God himself made a choice.  To chase us.  Down into a stinky, cold barn where he would lay in a feeding trough peering through bleary eyes and facing the long years of growing up in a poor, displaced carpenter's family.  I sit in my silky, Biltmore sheets from Belk and shudder. I would never choose that for myself or my baby.  But. Someone. Did.  He chose it. He did not run from the hard.  Not from the pokey, scratchy straw or the rough splintery wood of the cross.  From His first cry to His last,  He chose the hard to birth the hope of heaven. In us.  

I found it displayed on the outside of the stairs facing into the living room.   Propped up against the iron bars just below the velvety stockings hanging from the stair rail.  A simple drawing with words misspelled.  But it grabbed my heart. A treasure of truth right out from the hand of a six year old.  And the letters in red.  A quiet gift declaring what we all need to acknowledge this Christmas.  It was for us.  The hope of heaven.  Given from the One. So we could have an eternity of Christmases.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Not Enough

Do you ever feel like you are running a rat race?  And you just can't seem to win?  For me that looks like flying around trying to get all the lunches packed, breakfasts made, folders signed, hair fixed, barely making it and wishing I had time to do more than just pray with my kids on the way to school in the morning.  Even when I'm in a good rhythm of getting up uber early and walking and praying, I can't seem to make devotionals with the kids happen in the a.m.  At night we are trying to make sure everybody reads to us for 15 minutes each, gets a book read to them, squeezes  in a bible story and says prayers before I'm too grumpy and tired from sitting on kids beds in the dim light and trying to keep myself awake.

The goals I have in my mind are so lofty.  I envision what it looks like to keep the main thing the main thing.  But then reality comes screeching in, and what I feel is it's not enough.  And when I am not paying attention, that little feeling can begin to whisper something subtly different.  "You're not enough."  Just a sly, seemingly insignificant switch of pronouns.   Such a profoundly different implication.  One that can keep me up at night.  Or open the door for that opportunist called guilt who is ever lurking just outside my thoughts.

A few Sundays ago I thought I pretty much had everything under control.  Until the girls and I pulled into the church parking lot,  and I decided to back into a spot.  Just before I did
Eliana, my three year old, said "Mommy, you are a good driver."  About three seconds later I heard the crunch of metal as my giant tank of an SUV smashed the rear tail light of a tiny, silver car.  The worship pastor's car.  I walked around my vehicle in disbelief- thinking how great this was.  Pastors wife smashes worship leader's car during first service.  I just couldn't believe I did it.  As I am saying that over and over, Eliana pipes up and says, "Mommy, you're still a good driver."  "No I'm not!"  I exclaim.  "Don't you see what I did?"  But she holds firm and repeats herself again.

Now fortunately for me I hit the most gracious person ever.    I mean, she couldn't have been kinder.  I don't advise running into staff members cars at your church just because they are nice about it though!  So anyway, a little later in worship, the whole conversation surrounding the fender bender floods my mind.  It's strikes me that it's so strange Eliana said I was a good driver just before I hit that other car.  And that she kept insisting it was still true afterwards.  While I'm wondering, a little heart tug interrupts me, and all of a sudden I get it.  There is a picture here.  A lesson if I will see it.

God calls us His beloved.  Everyone of us is the one He died for.  Even if we don't know it yet.  And if we have wrapped ourselves in the gift of Jesus, then all He sees when He looks at us is goodness.  His goodness.  His loved ones.  His destiny over us.  His beautiful, unmarked creation.  And when we wreck things, when we do something that seems to scream we are someone different, what He says about us Does Not Change.  Because it doesn't depend on us.  It depends on the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  He is enough.  Enough to cover us from everything we have or ever will do.  Enough make us new inside if we will let him.  Enough that our new identity is impenetrable.  Enough to fill in the gaps with our family.  Enough that when that little feeling starts to whisper I am not enough, I can shout back with confidence that He is enough, and I am His!

And I feel lighter and a little more free.  Knowing that it doesn't all rest on what I do but on who and whose I am.  And humbled that he would use my littlest one to paint me such a clear picture of this deep truth.  Lord, help us to hear your voice and not the voices that try to distract.  Focus our hearts on the truth of your word and help us believe we are who you say we are!

"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Makiah's 7th Heaven Day

It's gray outside today. As if the world is wearing a shroud. And in someways it's appropriate.  It used to be gray, dark and heavy in my heart.  A hidden abyss of brokenness. For so very long.  Breathing was painful and wetness never left my eyes.  I thought that stabbing heartbeat might stop.  Wished it would.  

But then the sunshine broke through.  And gifts from heaven came.  To convince me I was still loved.  Not forgotten.  Four little girl gifts to be exact.  Wet kisses straight from heaven brought through lips that were new.  And I got an inkling. A wild hope.  Just the faintest scent of it.  That a resurrection might be in progress.  

Slowly.  One weeping step forward at a time.  He has done it.  He has wiped the tears from my eyes.  Not Father Time.  He has nothing to offer but bitterness.  And reliving.  And wishing.  And regret.  Time does not heal all wounds.

But Abba does.  The one who calls himself I Am that I Am.  The only God who cares enough to come after us.  The only One who would bear our pain so that we can catch a whiff of hope.  The scent of heaven.  Of resurrection. 

And today, Sunday, was exactly 7 years.  The number of perfection in the Bible.  And I was a bit nervous this morning.  How would my heart do around so many?   But God's presence was so sweet in worship. And we sang about His eyes like fire and His hair like snow and His voice like waters.  And in my imagination I felt I was in His lap.  On one knee.  Being pulled in tightly for a daddy hug.  Peace rippled through me.  In the next second I was surprised to envision Makiah on the other knee.  Just across from me.  Tossing her blonde waves and laughing with delighted giggles at my surprise and the joy of His embrace.

And for one second I felt the wall between us was not fathoms but paper thin.  Like the distance of one breath.  Or the time between a heartbeat.  And it became so real to me again.  That all this is fleeting.  Such unfathomable joy awaits us.  In the Father's embrace.  If we will have Him. He is reaching out. If. We. Will. Crawl up in his lap with all of our disappointment.  Or anger.  Or brokenness.  Or questions.  This is not the end.

And my heart knows it now.  Not just my head.  There is a miracle waiting for you.  

7 years since I held her.  Maybe 70 will pass in all before I hold her again.  But the day. Is. Coming.  And it will feel like 7 seconds.  And today it never stopped raining.  But my heart felt victorious.  And I have a hope.  That does not disappoint.