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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heaven's Nativity

I could wrap my heart up in Christmas carols this time of year.  They are like a warm cup of coffee to my soul.  We were singing O Come Let Us Adore Him one Sunday and my imagination began to wander.  No.  It began to wonder.  And I stumbled into wonder.

Imagine with me.  For a minute.  What Christmas in heaven could entail.  This is not what heaven is like.  Heaven is better!!!  The Word says…

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

So go with me for a minute down the rabbit hole, if you will.  And know that nothing we can imagine can even come close to the glorious reality that is…

The backdrop is breathtaking- a bit like the terrain from Lord of the Rings.  A sky with strokes of brilliantly mesmerizing color spreads out as a canopy across the heavens.  The vibrant hues are not flat but almost have movement and texture that drape the sky the same way a set of luxurious curtains look when they gently pool against the floor.  A ring of sloping mountains reach up to the sky.  The inner face of the massive formations are covered with people like moss cloaks a rock.  The crowd stretches farther than the eye can see in every direction... a great sea of color and faces sloping down towards the valley in the center where there is a stage.  And yet there is no fear of heights or falling.   Pain has no jurisdiction here.

The hearts of the people are full of joy.  So much so that is can be felt in the air almost as an audible hum.  Perfectly synchronized, it’s melodious undercurrent ripples through the vast outdoor theater.   Although the crowd surrounds the center stage in stadium seating like fashion on the mountains, every person has a fantastic view.  With the toss of the head it’s as if each one has swooped down the mountainside at the breakneck speed of an eagle skimming just over the others to look directly at the scene below.  Yet they haven’t left their seats.  It’s almost as if each one’s eyes have their own zoom feature. Distance does not impede here.  

The crowd is completely absorbed in the drama below.  It is a reenactment of the birth of  a miracle.  Of the day when God stepped out of Heaven and into a body confined by time and distance and suddenly vulnerable to pain of every kind.  Perfection took on limits and embraced suffering with great intentionality.  Heaven stooped down to crawl in the dust of earth in pursuit of the very heart of man.  All eyes are riveted on stage as they watch the ultimate love story unfold and the revelation that they were the ones being pursued vibrates through each being.  Hope fills the air like water rising in a rushing tide as Mary cradles the bundle in her arms, a King in swaddling clothes, and the wise men bow down with noses to the ground before him.  

Suddenly, angels fill the air, wings flapping.   Everyone catches their breath at once, and wonder grips each heart.  Awe.  The tremble of anticipation.  


JESUS steps out on the stage- a grown man as He is now.  Emmanuel.  God with us. The hair on  his head is white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes are like blazing fire. And the praise thunders from every direction.  A torrent of song bursting forth from the four corners of the heavens. 

O come let us adore Him!
O come let us adore Him!

What? You recognize that song from earth.  Why yes. Perhaps God allows men to hear the melody of angels and those men teach them to us without knowing they were not the first to write the melody.  Or perhaps the Holy Spirit inspires unique praise from men and the Angels like it so much they add it to their heavenly anthems.  They often worship with us on earth you know. 

O come let us adore Him!
Christ the Lord.

Jesus.  Messiah.  The One who came to save.  The Perfect Lamb of God.  Without blemish.  Redeemer.  The One who takes back what was stolen. He holds up His hands.  All eyes can see He was pierced for Our transgressions.  He has indeed inscribed us on the palm of His hands, that we can never be forgotten.  He tilts His head and although there are multitudes, it's as if He is looking each one in the eye.  In a second that gaze from His flashing eyes has penetrated to the deepest core of every being and hearts swell instantly with the tangible, overwhelming presence of His love.  It’s as if we can't contain it.  And we can't.  Out it pours from our lips like liquid praise, an offering of sweet smelling incense rising before the throne.  

For He alone is worthy.  
For He alone is worthy.  
For He alone is worthy, 
Christ the Lord.

And the multitudes fall to their knees in awe and worship all across those great mountains… and you.  Feel the penetrating gaze of His love.  Put down your screen and fall to your knees in worship.  Let the song in your heart over run your mind and your mouth and pour forth from lips touched by His love.  Embrace. Awe. This. Christmas.  Because He is reaching to embrace You.

We'll give you all the glory
We'll give you all the glory
We'll give you all the glory 
Christ, the Lord

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving- When what's Real and really important grips your heart

The air is crisp and cool.   Brightly colored leaves crunch underfoot while a handful still cling to their homes overhead.  It was almost time to pack for the trip home for Thanksgiving.  Warm hugs.  The sound of little running feet and giggly cousin laughter.  Muffled laughs after the littles have been tucked in.  Too many cups of piping hot coffee.  I love the fall.  I love family.   I couldn't wait.  

Then I got the call at work last week that the baby was throwing up.  I almost cried right there in my little office.  We have so generously shared the stomach bug with our family the last three years at the holidays.  I just couldn't believe it was happening again.  Sure enough, the kids began to fall like dominoes, and I knew we couldn't bring this gift home again.  What are the chances of this timing!? And then I remember... In the words of John Eldridge,

We have an enemy who is hunting us.  And as Priscilla Shirer says in her book, Fervent, it almost seems as if there is someone scheming against us.  Because there is!  The bible says our adversary roams the earth looking for those he may devour.  And one of his favorite strategies is to isolate us.  From God's love and the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers first of all.  But if he fails there, then he sets out to isolate us from family...  both natural and spiritual.  And to steal our joy.  And our peace.  

And for a little while I forgot all this and had myself a good pity party.  But then the little nudge of the Holy Spirit and the wise words of my husband came.  Why not make lemonade from our lemons?  So we did.  We waited a few days after all the stomach action had subsided and headed to a lodge in North Carolina.  It's only two nights, but it saved us from the little girls' tears and disappointment.  

As I was chasing the baby around the lobby at 5am this morning so the others could sleep (let's get real about what family vacation looks like at this stage of life),  I was reminded that in all things we have a choice.  To roll over in defeat or maintain with a white knuckled grasp our perspective and the joy that He gives.  Suddenly I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.  Thankfulness for this beautiful lobby that celebrates the nature God made for us to enjoy.  Thankfulness that it had a Dunkin Donuts that opened early! Thankful that I  could be up early praying before my other kiddos have opened their eyes (chasing a toddler and praying...  Who says it has to be  done kneeling by a bed?).  Thankful that I live in a country where I feel safe and where I can freely blog about the life inside me that Jesus has given.  And thankful most of all that I have little girls living and breathing that I can clean up after when they are sick or sneak out of the room with in the predawn hours.  

Breath prayers.  I exhale the thanks and inhale the peace.  

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear what is really going on around us.  May we not take our loved ones for granted or waste a minute of this precious life.  Surrender.  May we let you in.  Our hearts and our thoughts, continually, Holy Spirit. May you fill us with the joy and peace that only comes from you.  And may it make those around us feel hungry for what is Real.   Thank you that you also are chasing us.  With your love.  Perfect love.  That casts out fear.  That conquers even the grave. 

Romans 8:38-39New International Version (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

From our 5:00 am adventure aka lobby exploration...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Makiah's 5th Heaven Day

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Sweet Makiah,

Every year it takes hold of me a little deeper.   No, not your death.  The weight  of the Truth.  In His great mercy.  I have been Given.  A new birth into a Living Hope.  Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I don't deserve the Grace that has met me in my pain.  Oh, the crushing blow of losing you in one horrific moment!   But oh, how much stronger was the gift that already had taken up residence in my heart.  A new birth.  Like tethers of steel binding me to His love.  Love that is stronger than death.  Love that has conquered death.  Resurrection life that has overcome even your death.  Even the separation of a mommy from her beloved child.

Your body is dead and daily mine is dying.  But I am born into a Living Hope.  What is inside is Life.  The black grip of death squeezed my heart until I thought it would not beat again.  But I underestimated the Living Hope.  I did not count on the Everlasting Arms arms that were waiting there, underneath, at the bottom, to catch me.

And I am born into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade... Kept in heaven for me.  We only take people with us into eternity.  You are part of my inheritance, sweet Makiah!  Kept there in heaven where our relationship, our time together, and the memories we will make together are waiting.  For my arrival.  They can never die, be spoiled, or fade like memories here!  Oh, the adventures we will have in eternity!

The tears trickle down as the smile takes my face.  An oxymoron?  Perhaps.  Even as verse four says we are shielded by God's great power and verse six says " though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials."  His shielding is not always what we expect.  The darkness descended and the storm beat with fury against our house.  But He has kept me.  And my faith is more genuine than before.  Refined in the fire.  Makiah, your life and death has brought a gift like no other.  And it is of greater worth than gold.  Every time I tell our story, I  know your life has more meaning than the moment before.  And one day we will hold hands and give praise, glory, and honor to Jesus together when He is revealed.

Though I cannot see Jesus or you, I love Him and I love you.  I believe in Him.  And I believe I will see you.  And I am filled by faith, even in the pain, even in the shielding that is both protection and suffering, with inexpressible and glorious joy!  Because this Life that has swallowed up the death in me confirms that right now I am receiving the end result of my faith, the salvation of my soul.

Makiah, I will think of you all day on this, your fifth heaven day.  And I will blow kisses to the sky and ask Jesus to hold you tight for me until I get there.  And I will not take lightly the task of teaching Truth to your sisters so they, too, will hold you one day.  Maddie Grace has been heard talking to your picture on the wall about her toys.  The twins ask often when you will come back to play.  It is hard to explain eternity and weeping forward to little ones.  Although, a few weeks ago Abby  told me the reason she slept late that morning is because she was wishing you could come back from heaven because she loved you so so much!  She said she cried happy tears because she wanted you  to come to earth again.     And Alena has dreamed of you.  Maybe our hearts are knit together in a way I cannot understand.  When I had to leave for work and you would cling to my leg and cry, I always told you that no matter where we were, there would always be a string connecting my heart to yours.  It is true, Makiah.  Even death cannot sever the strings of love that bind us.  Earth and heaven are more closely connected than I once thought.

Bound by love,
Your Mommy

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Beautiful Sash

The past month has been nuts.  Four tiny kids... three of them starting back to preschool, and we have had every germ under the sun this month!  I think our pediatricians' office loves us because we are paying their light bill single-handedly for September!

Sitting on my porch this morning, sipping hot coffee, feeling the cool breeze blowing and hearing the pitter patter of rain as it falls lightly.... Draping my porch with a misty curtain of tears it seems.  I have been chatting via messenger with a friend of mine who is on the other side of the world about emotions.  If you would like to read about (or support ;) this lovely, young couple who is giving a  year of their life to serve and minister to children in the West Bank, Click here. Through the miracle of technology we can have a Saturday morning, or well, Saturday night for her, chat free of cost about what God is doing in our hearts.  That blows my mind in itself!

Whether we have kids or don't have kids, if we live in the US or the Middle East, we all have this thing called emotions that we wear like a sash draping from shoulder to waist.  It is both beautiful and sometimes heavy.  Often it is the first thing that catches a person's eye when they look at us. There is also a hidden layer underneath close to the heart that no one sees but us. And Our Maker.

 I would love to tell you that I have braved this month of sleepless nights and sick children with peace and calmness, quoting Scripture, and facing it like a champ.  But that would be a lie.  In truth I have felt like an emotional wreck many days.  I have cried on the way to work, hidden tears under my sunglasses while taking my kids to the doctor, and unfortunately even cried in the doctors office.  I'm sure that pediatrician was thinking she needed to prescribe something for me instead of my kiddos! Haha!

Hormones (I am weaning this baby),  terrifying asthma attacks, sleep shortage, and Makiah's heaven day looming have taken a toll.  We are only a few weeks from having the twins pass our oldest in school.  It will have taken nine and a half years for me to attend a four year old pre-k Christmas program.  But I am not alone. There is not one of us with breath in our body who does not face the challenges of grief or the difficulties of life in season.

Sometimes these emotions feel like a curse, but I know that in truth they are a gift from our Maker.  As I sit here sipping my coffee, I feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit reminding me that emotions can help us draw close to the heart of God. We can internalize their heaviness, which we were never meant to do, or we can allow the weight of them to push us down on our knees.  If we let it, this beautiful, heavy sash can help us to prostrate ourselves with humility before the One who wants to take our hearts of stone and exchange them for a heart of flesh.  A heart like His that beats with compassion for others and lends itself to constant intercession.  There is nothing God cannot use. There is no darkness He cannot turn to light, and no mourning He cannot turn to joy.

We must give Him our world weary woundedness... exchanging our rags for His garment of praise.  He is the lifter of our heads!  It is in surrender to Him that we find sweet victory.  It is on our knees that we can finally stand.

Isaiah 62:5. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 61:10. I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus.  It is his mission.  And if you are His follower, it is also yours...
Isaiah 61:1-3
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Carpenter

My fingers run gently along the top.  Feeling the smoothness of the wood grain.  The smell of sawdust fills the dimly lit garage.  Back and forth the sand paper rubs across the old dresser.  Sweat beads form on my forehead, but I love the work.  I see potential in this old, ugly dresser that was practically worthless.  I picked it up from a consignment store for $20, but it is solid wood and the right size.  Good bones.  It just needs a little TLC.  Well, maybe alot of TLC!

And I am almost giddy with excitement.  I want to finish it tonight!  But I know that’s impossible. Transformation takes time.  I remove the back so no dirt can hide away from my careful cleaning.  Now for the sanding.  I am struck by a thought…  Jesus invested a considerable amount of his life doing this very thing!  God could have sent Jesus to be the son of anyone, but he choose to send him to a carpenter.  In those days you generally apprenticed under your father and learned his trade.   Interesting that the earthly profession God choose for his son was carpentry.   

Jesus spent many of his days building and sanding things from wood. He spent hours and hours making something out of nothing or perhaps refurbishing old things that seemed useless.  Bringing them back to life again.  As I stand watching the old layers of varnish disappear I think of how the Lord uses difficult, irritating circumstances to remove the ugly things from our hearts.  He allows us to be rubbed until we are smooth and fresh and clean and new again just like the wood on this dresser.  Then he primes and paints and sands and coats and waxes.  It is such a process to bring us from something old and dingy and ugly to something beautiful.  It is not quick and easy, and it is probably painful. 

The Son of God did this very thing with His hands over and over and over again.  With only about 33 years on the earth, He spent many of His hours doing this.  Why? Perhaps it was a picture of what He intended to do with us and ultimately the earth. Beauty from ashes.  Light from darkness.  Rebirth.

I love the work and the grind of the process because I know what the end result will be if I persist.  Painstakingly and by the sweat of my brow transformation will occur.  And so the Master Carpenter does with us.  He persisted all the way to Calvary.  He persists even now in loving us when we are broken and filthy.  Taking us as his own when we were practically worthless.  He calls us his bride and sees us that way though we are still covered in sawdust.  He patiently removes those things that would hide the darkness deep inside and painstakingly cleanses us through His life poured out.  The sweat of His brow.  He patiently sands us,  runs his fingers across and feels the coarseness of the grain of our character, and He persists.  Allowing us to be transformed by circumstances but never leaving our side.  Preparing.  Us.  For the layers of beauty and glory that will ensue as we are transformed into His likeness.  

In the hot garage, my dresser taught me a little about the One who is so patient with me.  And I couldn't help but remember the hours I spent in another garage making a doll house for Makiah.  While I was refinishing her doll house,  I had thought of how much I loved making it for her, and I had been overwhelmed with the strong impression of how much God enjoyed creating her for me.  We are His joy!  His creation.  The workmanship of His hands.  His.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”     2 Corinthians 3:18

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”    Hebrew 12:1-3

***the joy set before Him is us!!!

I admit I got a little stencil crazy, but contact paper is not twin proof!

Two Sleepy Princesses

Princess Makiah and her doll house

Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Such a Time as This

“Mama, watch meeee!”  Muddy water splashes every where as little bodies slide down the glistening piece of bright orange plastic that drapes over the grassy hill in my back yard.  Squeals of delight drift across the yard and a warm breeze seems to blow them right up into the sky maybe through the clouds and into the heavens.  My heart is smiling.  The girls and I are all off for the summer, and we are having Fun!  

FIve summers ago I called it the “Summer of Makiah.”  I felt in my heart that our family would be expanding soon even though we had battled secondary infertility since Makiah was a baby… so I determined that this summer would be all about her.  It was 2010, and it was just me and my little buddy all day every day.  We played barbies and mermaids and swam and visited grandparents and played with friends.  The news that I was pregnant came in June and a few weeks later we had the ultrasound with the fantastic surprise that it was twins.  It was the summer of Makiah and the summer of fun!

Then for two summers it was just the twins and I.  Those summers were frigid and dark for me.  We were lonely and the walls of our home often seemed like a tomb.  Empty.  Isolated.  Stained wet with tears.  Except that those little babies didn’t know it.  I would cry and they would coo and laugh.  The second summer Hope seemed to grow slowly, quietly as my belly swelled with our miracle baby, Maddie Grace.  The ice in my heart began to thaw.  

Then in the summer of 2013, we moved!  The hot days were filled up with packing and house hunting and goodbye hugs and meeting new faces.  Last week my mom read to me the note in her prayer journal for July 8th, 2013.  It was the day we drove to our new home, and I had forgotten.  We passed through a storm, but just as we approached our new home, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky.  With every turn we made it felt as if we were following the brilliant streak of colors that actually seemed to end on the very street where we were renting!  And my heart felt full of the promise of new beginnings.

Then I spent last summer hobbling around nine months pregnant and hot!  On July 21st, my fifth daughter, my precious Eliana Bree,  was born!  Her first name is Hebrew for “my God has answered” and Bree means “strength.”  Every time we breath her name we are saying out loud “my God has answered with strength!”  We intended it to be a declaration of truth when we named her, but perhaps it was even more prophetic than we knew.  

This year is full of landmarks you see.   In March we passed the day when Makiah had been dead longer than she was alive.  That day fell on my birthday.   Makiah lived exactly four years, four months, and four weeks. Ever since the twins were born, I have wondered about the day when they will have outlived their sister.  If you have lost a child, you know this is significant.  Our counselor has warned us about even subconscious grief as the time approaches.  Once again when I looked at the calendar, I just could not believe what I saw.  The day that Abby and Alena will have outlived Makiah by one day (well 6 hours actually), is Eliana’s first birthday. 

Let me write that again in case you missed it.  Ok, really let me write it again for me because I am so amazed!!  The morning that I will wake up and know my daughters have outlived their oldest sister will be the very day that we are celebrating the one year birthday of our little “my God has answered with strength” baby!  We couldn’t have planned her birth or known when we named her that this would happen.  But my God did!  I think I need to say it again… my God has answered with strength!  This day that could be dark or dreaded was sent a package post marked by God himself exactly one year ago.  I don’t know what to make of this except that somehow He wants us to know that our pain will be Redeemed.  Our tears are not lost and we are not without Hope.  And that is what I will carry with me in my heart when the sun rises on July 21st, 2015.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Hope of Heaven

Every time I have a baby, which seems to be a pretty regular event around here, my whole schedule seems to be dumped upside down and in some ways my life is turned on its head. I have read a ton of books on making your baby sleep all night and live on a perfect schedule, but it seems the problem is my baby hasn't read a single one of those books!   So it is easy to feel that my time alone with God and my spiritual life regresses with every child!

I feel such a struggle here. Even when I get up early it seems the little people wake up even earlier,  and I am often frustrated because I can't get much time alone with the Lord.   Doesn't it to seem like there should be a bargain here? That if I get up early to spend time with God surely he would make all those little people sleep just a little while longer? But it doesn't work that way! At least not on this earth…  I'm sitting on my porch this morning watch the pink ribbon of sunrise ripple across the clouds in the sky and sipping my cup of steaming coffee.   At least for a few minutes I am alone... Well except for Makiah's little cat with the black mustache nipping at my toes when I'm not petting him with my foot.  I admit I'm getting irritated with this little cat. Can't I have a few minutes where nobody wants something from me?  And I wonder if we lived out in the country instead of in a bustling neighborhood if maybe I would feel that it was easier to be alone... Easier to escape for a few minutes.  But it is so wonderful to be close to friends and neighbors to hear the sounds of laughter…

And then my imagination wanders to heaven.

And I feel like in heaven I won't have to choose. Now I'm not saying that I know what heaven will be like.  But Just imagine for a minute a place where there is no frustration and the constraints of time do not exist.  There would be plenty of time for love and laughter and friends and family, but also it would be easy to suddenly be alone with The Lord when we need to be.  That might be a scary thought for you sanguine-life-of-the-party people, but for phlegmatic melancholies like me who have our batteries recharged by being alone it sounds, well, quite heavenly!

I imagine myself on top of a beautiful mountain looking at a gorgeous blue mountain range with something like the brilliant colors of the sunrise in the background, and I am getting time alone with Jesus. But what if it it had only taken me an instant to get there and I was not afraid of being on the mountain and was not uncomfortable in anyway.   And I could be immersed in a sense of peace and  his presence! Oh what amazing joys await us in heaven! Things I can't even begin to imagine here!  And there will not be an end.  There will be no breathless rushing because we will have eternity.

I feel encouraged about what I think of as  my wake  up call, or what I used to call "the love call" before Makiah died.  The baby is almost one, things are evening out around here a little bit, and I'm beginning to wake up with that sense that I need to get up and spend time with the Lord more.  The frustration I feel when it seems like I am surrounded by little people who want to squeeze every ounce of alone time out of me begins to dissipate.  Maybe that wake up call is more about training in obedience rather than the amount of actual time I get to spend with the Lord.  If I think that the success of my day and my spirituality depends on how much time I get alone with the Lord, doesn't that mean I'm putting him in a box?  Isn't God big enough to put into me what I need in a few minutes just as well as in 30 minutes or an hour?   My salvation does not hinge on my performance. Nor does living in abundant life depend on my ability to control my circumstances.  I am  justified based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and finding my identity in Him.  Inner transformation is not something that is necessarily  bound by space or time. But it is bound by obedience.  We are a new creation in Christ and our spirit is immediately transformed when we put our faith in Jesus. However our mind is transformed little by little as we obey him more and more.  Isn't there a verse that says God loves obedience more than sacrifice?  What is God calling you to do today? It won't be the same for all of us because we are unique. And it won't be the same thing today that it was last year or the same thing that it will be for you next year.  And the bigness of it is not what is important. It may be a teeny tiny thing.  What is important is that we hear His voice speaking to our hearts and we follow him.

I would love to tell you that I sat on the porch in the cool crisp air and wrote this blog in peace… in truth I was interrupted at least a half a dozen times by little people wanting a hug, yogurt, or to tell me all the breakfast foods that we are out of that I need to put on my grocery list!  I take a deep breath in and out and breath in the Hope. Faith is the evidence of things Hoped for…. This morning I am full of the hope of heaven. The hope of a place where there is no more pain or suffering, no more tears, no more failure, and no more frustration.   Our time here is so short. It is just a window, just the preface of the story that is to come.

And my heart feels a little bit lighter. I hope yours does as well!

"But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice..."  I Samuel 15:22

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  Psalm 16:11

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy 9th Birthday Makiah!

Sweet Makiah,

It’s your birthday, Baby.  I hope you are still four up there in heaven, but you would have been nine here today.  Alena wanted to make you a chocolate cake, and I happened to have a Dora butterfly topper so it just seemed all perfect.  I can still see your blonde hair sticking up around that headband, your little legs in purple striped leggings, standing in the kitchen chair and licking your first beater. You would have loved the mess of chocolate mustaches your sisters made today!  

Mommy and Makiah baking

While your cake was baking, we sat on the  back porch and painted our toes pink for you... even little Eliana Bree!              Abby traced her feet with chalk and drew you a butterfly.  Mommy turned on the sprinkler and told the girls how much you loved to laugh and have fun.  It didn’t take two seconds for the littles to strip down to, well, not much and fill the yard 
with crazy laughter.  We had a picnic with your cake and then did a water slide on the swing set.  I hope God let you hear them sing happy birthday to you… and maybe even see them splash down that slide and glide through the muddy puddle at the bottom!  It reminded me of when the hurricane came through and you and Daddy played for hours in the water pooled across the street.  My girls all love the mud!

Then we cleaned up and went out to eat some good french fries because they were your favorite.  And I read to the girls about heaven and eternal life.  I remembered one day when we were swinging in the yard, and you started talking about Jesus coming in the clouds.  Then you asked me about heaven.  I sang a song to you that I had learned when I was little about how heaven is a wonderful place (anybody remember Salty the Singing Songbook??).   Now our conversations about heaven seem so ironic.  I was trying to teach you.  Oh, what wonderful things you could teach me now!

I miss you, sweet Makiah!  Abby talked today about when you come back from heaven, she will give you the flowers she picked for you.  We looked at your pictures,  and Maddie Grace talked tonight at bedtime prayers about you and our beach trips.  Mommy is teaching your sisters about you, and about Jesus, and I even showed them pictures you drew of our family with the twins in my belly.  One day we will be together sweet little one.  I will dream of the day when I can hold you tight and hear you all laugh together.  Until then, I trust Jesus to tell you happy birthday for me, Makiah!

Love all ways always,

Makiah with her Daddy after the hurricane

Makiah having messy, water fun

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes it's hidden away in a children's book.  The truth I mean.   We hunt for it like the littles hunt for eggs.  And sometimes it's right there underneath our noses.  Staring at us from the colorful pages as our fingers skim across.

The picture shows that hill where Jesus died.  Three shadowy crosses are silhouetted against a dark sky.  And I read about the exchange between the three dying men; the one in the middle is the God-man.  How odd, I thought, that Jesus would share his crucifixion with these strangers.  That God would orchestrate the other men's crosses being forever remembered in books about the resurrection even 2000 years later.

What a curious conversation as they hung there with life ebbing away.  The final breaths struggling in and out while voices cracked and blood dripped. One spending the last of himself to ridicule the God-man hanging between them.  The other asking for mercy even as the sun was setting on him with finality.

And the God of the universe made sure the words were captured.  Right there in the pages with the picture of the three rugged crosses.  Suddenly I saw it.  All of mankind wrapped up right there in that illustration.  We all are mortal.  We all will face the last sunset.  And we all respond to the God-man.  There are only two choices.  Either we push him away and cling to our bitterness and our wounded pride or we humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness and mercy.  Rebellion or Remembrance.  What will we say to the God-man in our critical moment?  He is the chief cornerstone.  Either Jesus is the foundation for a life or a stumbling block upon which we are broken.

We can close our eyes to the cross but still it looms before us.  And we all make a choice.  Between those crosses I mean.  Which one will we crawl up on?  For it is appointed unto man to die once, and after that to face  judgement (Heb. 9:27).  Jesus hangs in the middle.  Two roads diverge.  Two destinies stand ruggedly before us against the back drop of life.  He alone is the central point upon which we will determine our future.  History is divided by his life and death.  And so we are divided by his life and death.  Two thieves on two crosses but two very different eternal outcomes.

Don't close your eyes.  The truth is hidden right there in plain sight.  Captured in the bright pages of a child's book.  The fate of all humanity wrapped up in the image of those three crosses.

He didn't stay there, my friends.  There is resurrection.  It is real.  It is for you.  What will you choose?

"Choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord."    Joshua 24:15

James 4:6
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
 But he gives Grace to the humble.”[c]

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Tipping Point

I have been dreading this day for weeks.  Not just because it's my birthday. Not because of the getting older thing.  No.  It's one of those things that only a mother would think of.  Who else counts the days in their subconscious?  Well, God.  And me.  A few weeks ago I looked at the ticker on the top of my blog, and I knew it was getting close.  This year is full of landmarks again.  Then I did a quick guess at the time and had a terrible thought.  It was impossible.  No, too horrible.  It was late at night and I was up alone so I scrambled for a calendar and frantically started counting.  I counted how many days she was alive... again.  Yes, it was four years, four months, and four weeks.  Makiah lived in my house and snuggled in my bed and stole all of my kisses and my heart for four years, four months, and 28 days exactly.  Then she went home.  October 8th, 2010.   I started calculating how long it had been since she died and when that day would come when she had been dead longer than she was alive.  Twenty seven, twenty eight...  I could not believe it.  It landed on my birthday.  Exactly.   March 6th.  How was that possible?  I breathed.  In and out.  And I secretly started dreading.

And then came the shocking news that a young man from our church in Cairo had been hit by a car and gone to heaven.  He was the sweetest boy you could ever meet.  I picked him up and took him to church on Wednesday nights while his mom worked for years.  He and Makiah were carpool buddies.    He was a big teddy bear.  He even lived with us for a short while during his senior year.  Ohhh the pain I know his mother is feeling.  We made a trip to Cairo for his funeral.   I cried for him.  For his family.  I couldn't cry at Makiah's resurrection ground.  The girls were running around like caged animals that had been set free after the long trip.  Every time I blinked they had pulled flowers or a trinket off someone's grave, and I couldn't keep up with where they got them it happened so fast!  Then Maddie Grace got in a fire ant bed and started screaming.  We had to strip her completely to get the ants off.  So there she was buck naked in the grave yard screaming her head off.  Then the other two wanted to show me the coins they had "found" so they could put them in their piggy banks!  Let's just say we left in a hurry.  New flowers on the grave but no emotional room for tears!  I really hope no one was watching!

The twins turned four on February 22nd.  The last birthday I got to have with Makiah was her fourth. On February 19th, I went upstairs to check on Abby about 11:00 at night because she was coughing so much.  When I went in the room she was having an asthma attack.  Her first.  She was sitting up crying but she couldn't vocalize.  She didn't have enough air.  I yelled for Cameron to get her inhaler that had just been prescribed per the coughing.  She couldn't breath it in and began to vomit up mucous.  We tried the nebulizer but she started turning purple.  Literally.  Still she didn't have enough breath to talk.  Cameron threw her in the car and headed for the emergency room.  My other three babies were asleep so I collapsed on the floor in the dining room as the front door shut.  I called my mama and asked her to pray as my voice broke and the tears began to flow.  I lay there on the floor and prayed.  My whole body shook from fear.  I felt like I was back at the accident scene in a flash.  I tried to push away thoughts of a student from my school that had just passed away two nights before from an asthma attack.  I.  Begged.  God.

Maybe it was a miracle.  Maybe it was the cold air.  It was freezing that night.  For some reason the attack  stopped before they even reached  the hospital.  Her oxygen was 100 when they checked it.   I hardly slept that night.  Or the night after that.  I was a wreck.

And then a few of you sent me messages that you were praying for me.  Almost as if you knew somehow.  And I began to think I was not forgotten.  By Him.

I woke up this morning early.   My hair was still wet from the shower when my sweet hubby surprised me with breakfast.  We snuck downstairs to eat together and it was snowing!  And for some crazy reason my kids slept until 7.  That in itself is a miracle, but The Snow!  You see, it didn't even really snow much in our county or the rest of Atlanta.  The weather station even said it was sunny and 50!  But they were wrong.  Right there at our house it snowed giant flakes that stuck and blanketed the whole yard with white.  Redeeming, cleansing white.  On my birthday.

We lit a candle.  I showed Cameron the scripture that happened to be what I was learning today... James 2:13  ...Mercy triumphs...  It grabbed me.  Then he showed me what he happened to read this morning.

Jeremiah 31:15-17The Message (MSG)

15-17 Again, God’s Message:

“Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah,
    wild and bitter weeping.
It’s Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace.
Her children are gone,
    gone—long gone into exile.”
But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping,
    hold back your tears.
Collect wages from your grief work.” God’s Decree.
    “They’ll be coming back home!
There’s hope for your children.” God’s Decree.
And I felt Hope.  And Mercy.

Then tonight I read an email sent yesterday from a friend in Cairo.  She said we had been heavy on her heart for a week.  She talked about my sweet Makiah and how she was crying out to God for us.  She copied me this scripture:
Psalms 116.
I love God because he listened to me,

    listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
    as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
    hell was hard on my heels.Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
    then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
    “Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
    our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
    when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

Today my ticker on the top of the blog says four years, four months, four weeks, and one day.  The scales have tipped.  Somehow this moment is only really monumental to me.  But God knew.  He orchestrated things in a way today, on my birthday, that no one else could.  Couching my day with scripture and threading sweet friends throughout.  This milestone has passed.  Midnight has come and gone again.  Though it is not easy,  I know His love is real.  It is for me.  It is for you.  He is for you.  There is only One we need in our corner when the scales of life are tipping.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

His Ruah

I am sitting here in our office (we use that term pretty generously in our house) sipping chamomile tea with honey because that’s what Peter Rabbit’s mom gives him when he is sick.  I am trying to win the match against a second round of the cold that has given half my house bronchitis and one a diagnosis of asthma over the last few weeks.  I am staring at a pile of little girl’s coats- leopord print, silver vests with pink hoods, hounds tooth with a fluffy collar, a coat that could be little red riding hood’s- piled high on the old wooden box that serves as our filing cabinet of sorts.  They aren’t in their usual place hanging on the little, wooden hooks that line the walls of our closet under the stairs because a certain two year old decided to climb the shelves in there while I was at work.  And the shelves collapsed.  And all of our games, puzzles, arts and crafts, and speech therapy stuff came crashing down.  It really was organized so nicely.  But the little one is fine so that’s what counts.

In the corner of the room is a peace lily that was given to me when Makiah died.  It’s sadly drooping and begging for water.  Our black and white cat, who has a mustache just like Charlie Chaplin, has been staring at me through the window to remind me he needs a meal.  I have 298 emails in my inbox  and 10,000 mismatched little girl socks piled outside the laundry room in hopes of finding a mate.  But the kids are all in bed, and my sweet husband is doing the dishes.  At last, I have found my way to a computer to write.

It has been woefully too long since I wrote anything.  The date of my last blog seems to chide me nightly as I try to fall asleep with my sick Little who has needed momma more than ever.  There were pieces of a Christmas blog swirling about in my thoughts for a while, but I guess the end of January is a little too late for that.

And one of my dear grandmothers has gone to be with Jesus.  She left the Saturday before Christmas, and it all seemed to eclipse the holidays.  Except for the children.  The children are gloriously free of the sort of baggage we adults like to hang on to.  I should have written a tribute to her, my grandmother, I mean.  Barbara Gwynelle Smith Arnold.  She was an ER nurse who loved to square dance and taught the grandsons how to burp.  She was smart and witty and loved to laugh almost as much as she loved her family.  I can see her now sitting at the end of her kitchen table with the orange leather spinning chairs right out of the sixties.  She’s sipping her coffee and laughing at something with that slightly raspy maybe I sneak a smoke every once in a while voice.  But we never caught her.  

We knew she was dying, and she told me last spring that she had a dream of heaven.  She could see her parents waiting there and a little blond haired girl.  She said it seemed so close but there was a line she couldn’t cross.  It wasn’t quite time.  

I think of her often and fondly these days.  No longer trapped by the cares of the world or burdened by her failing health.  She, too, is gloriously free.  And Makiah spent Christmas for the first time with a family member she knew and loved on earth.  Bittersweet.  

Sometimes we let the little things weigh us down… or freak us out.  Like the other day when Abby began screaming hysterically over a tiny little bead.  Well, the problem was not really the bead itself… mostly it’s location.  Namely her nostril.  Oh yes, both twins had found beads (from a bracelet of mine that a certain two year old, yes the same one who climbed the shelves,  had broken a few hours earlier), and decided that they fit nicely up their noses.  Until they couldn’t get them out.  Normally, I would have panicked, too, but this exact scenario had happened to my best friend when we were five.  My dad was the hero who thought to tell her to blow her nose.  And the trick still works all these decades later!

Maybe it’s all about perspective.  We took the girls to the movie theater for the first time as a family to see Paddington Bear this week.  As we left, Alena said, “That sure was a great t.v. in there!”  And this morning I decided to sit in the nursery to watch the sun come up and sip my coffee.  It’s upstairs, and I could see so much more of the beautiful streaks in the sky that usually hide behind the trees.  When we focus on God in worship, He elevates our perspective into the realm of the eternal.  We are eternal beings.  He has set eternity in the hearts of men the bible says.  And sometimes what seems like an enormous obstruction in our hectic lives, just needs a little of His breath, His Ruah, to blow it out of the way.  And we, like a small child, just need a little awe… and a little more thankfulness.   

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. “ Colossians 3:1-4

"Bebe" and her Great-Grand Makiah
Together in Heaven this Year
This was Bebe's last profile pic on Facebook.