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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.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Messy Grace

Fall is here!  School is in full swing and if you have kids, then so is your life.  I miss the long,lazy days of summer break, but it's nice to finally get into a good routine.  Well, at least that sounds nice on paper!  The truth is life is unpredictable.  

I  am not exaggerating at all when I say one of my four kids has knocked their whole cup over at the table once a day for the last week!   And last Sunday one of my twins came running to tell me Eliana was eating someone's half chewed up candy from the grass!  I seriously had to dig in her mouth to get it out.  She did not want to give that thing up!  Then there was that quick bath on my sweet middle daughter's birthday... it turned into an ordeal when she jumped out screaming that little sister had pooped in the tub!   I told her happy birthday.  Her sister had her a present all right!

As much as I love my kids, children truly are disgusting!  At least in  that early stage until we teach them some social norms!  But I have a confession.  I am afraid I took the award for gross and parent of the year all at once during the first week of school.  The second afternoon after I picked the girls up, I was standing in the kitchen, and Alena opened her lunch box.  She pulled out a bag, and said, "Mommy, why did you send me this for lunch?!"  I glanced up from the dishes to see something horrible.  It was a ziplock bag with a sandwich inside that was absolutely black with mold!!!  "Where did you get that?" I asked in horror.  She informed me it was in a small zipper pocket on the side of the lunch bag.  I suddenly realized I never looked in that pocket, and it must have been a sandwich from last school year!!!  And here is the real revealing thing.  My first question wasn't did you eat any but did your new teacher see that?!?  I laughed until I cried.  I mean what mom does that?   Who sends their kid to school with a moldy sandwich from last year? Well,  yours truly apparently.  

Just when I get too focused on trying to do things perfectly or make things run smoothly something like this happens!  Something to remind me of how Much I need grace.  Grace to love those around me when life is messy.  And a sprinkle of humility to remind me how much God has grace with me.  

When I was sitting by the side of the tub feeling completely irritated with my three year old while I cleaned the poop up, she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, "Your a good mommy."  It totally caught me off guard and also made me thankful I happened to not be yelling in that moment.  "Why do say that?" I asked.  "Because how you are cleaning me up!" she replied.  And all my frustration melted in a second.  Thank goodness she couldn't read my mind 10 seconds before.  

And I can't help but be reminded that we have a good Daddy.  How do I know?  Because of how He cleans us up.  Only he isn't irritated on the inside while He is doing it.  He is looking at us standing in the mess we have made of our lives and even if it stinks, He is cleaning us up with eyes full of love.  And when we respond with thankfulness, we invite Him to pull us closer.  And I can breathe a little freer in the craziness because I know I have a good Daddy right there with me, and I am not in this alone.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Treasures in the Sea

On the beach outside of Wilmington, North Carolina

Walking by beautiful houses all in a row with perfect white porch rails and muted pastel colors. Each house sitting up tall and peeking over the dunes as if to get a look at this great thing we call the sea. The sunlight glistening all bright and shiny with an almost silvery trail through the water as it begins to rise.  So powerful and majestic. White foamy waves crashing gently on the shore. Giving just a hint of the strength that lies beneath. But their gentle whisper is calming and soothing to the soul.  Washing away anything ugly on the shores and leaving behind colorful, sparkling treasures for curious little ones to find in the sand.

And it reminds me of You.  I see but the surface of You.  Only a hint of the greatness and power that lies within is evident to my frail, human eyes.  But what I can see is so awe inspiring.  Heart quieting. Be still my raging thoughts!  Hear the sweet whisper of His calming voice beckoning me to peace.  A gentle whisper that also roars with strength.  

And even when the weather is cold or stormy the sea remains.  Unmoved.  Hidden from me.  The waves continue to pound relentlessly with their whisper call regardless of sun or clouds.  I just don't see it because I don't come very often. Only when it's warm and the conditions are right in my life. And so it is with the Lord. You are ever present. Ever steady.  Ever here.  Ever calling.  We should slip down to the edge of Your presence to sit in the quiet more often. Wind, rain, storm, heat, or cold... You never change. But the opportunity for us to be changed by coming close to You is always there.  Your love.  Beckoning.  Deep calling to the deep hidden in us.

David said my heart pants like a deer for water.  It longs for you, Lord. Stir up a hunger within us God.  To visit your shores daily.  Your word says it is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to find it out. Help us to dig  our toes into the sandy beaches of the knowledge of You and unearth the treasures that You have waiting for us.  Hidden in your word and in Your presence.

Some treasures are for us, and some are for us to unearth and take to others. The thrill of excitement in my children's eyes is priceless when they find a whole shell.  They marvel that even far away from the beach they can hear the echo of the waves when they cradle it close to their ears.  And it's His plan for us to find treasures and take them to others.  When they hold it up to their own ears, they can hear the sound of their Daddy's powerful whisper calling to their hearts.  Echoing over and over again with a heartbeat that says I love you. With the whisper that is inviting them to the shore themselves to find the many treasures awaiting them. 

 For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Awaken our hearts, Lord, that we might be wise and not miss those hidden things that were meant to be found.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When you try...

I picked my sweet Alena up from her final dance rehearsal yesterday.  The big recital is tonight, and we have lived and breathed her dances at our house for the last few weeks.  When I was helping her buckle in she asked, “Mom, it doesn’t have to be perfect does it?  Nothing on earth can really be perfect, right?”  It’s amazing to me how profound questions can come from the mouths of little children who just finished kindergarten.  And there was such earnest seeking in her eyes.  Sometimes you know your kids probably won’t remember what you say but that you have a chance to plant a weighty seed that will burrow deep into their little hearts and bring fruit later… for the good or the bad.  It was one of those moments.

After a quick talk- there were  four of them in the car and Eliana was screaming for Dora while Alena herself was actually crying from a fall- we headed home.  While I was walking this morning and praying about a follow up conversation and pep talk for tonight, I thought of the last morning I spent with Makiah.  I was 16 weeks pregnant and not feeling great.  We snuggled up on the couch for a few minutes before breakfast.  She ran her little fingers all over my face and when I pulled back so she wouldn’t mess up my makeup, she said, “Mom I just want to feel your face.”  It was so unusual thatI let her and pulled her close.  Then out of no where she declared that I was perfect.  Sort of taken aback, I assured her that Mommy was far from perfect but that I did try.  She said. “Mommy, when you try, it’s perfect.”  Sometimes kids questions are profound, but sometimes their answers are too.  Words from heaven that have rung in my heart many times since then.  And words that I determined to pass on to her little sister today as well.

Sometimes we feel that a little is not significant.  Or that what we could do is so far from perfect that we shouldn’t try.  What we forget is that our Daddy God is pulling for us.  That he is not that parent on the sidelines screaming at their kid on the field.  Zephaniah 3:17 says He rejoices over us with singing.  When we are in relationship with Jesus, we get to wear his team name on our jersey and every attempt we make on the field of life brings encouragement from our coach.  Each play we learn to hear his voice a little more clearly, and we literally bring joy to his heart.  No nothing is perfect on earth, but in our weakness, He is made strong.

On Makiah’s 11th birthday last month, her four year old teacher, Laurie,  and one of her babysitters, Jenn, both “tried and it was perfect.”  They both did special things with their students to raise money for Makiah’s Wells (to hear more about the well project and how it started just keep reading) and if the joy in my heart is even the smallest drop of how God feels when we “try,”  then it just blows my mind how happy he must be with us!  I have been bursting to share some pictures with you…

Jenn and Phillip teach school in Israel and their students raised 622 shekels ($172) for the well project and sent me a video of the kids singing happy birthday to Makiah!!  What compassion they are teaching these precious children!!

Makiah's Spot on the Rug
Makiah's sweet preschool teacher, Laurie, also sent me a copy of the post she made for the parents of her current class and I just have to share...

“Today we made a birthday card for a sweet little girl that used to sit on the butterfly spot of our classroom rug.  She loved bugs, tiny “fings," butterflies, and Jesus.  She was a dancing princess.  Her name was Makiah Kaitlyn King.  She will celebrate her 11th birthday in heaven.  

It amazes me that our classroom curriculum has us studying caterpillars and butterflies almost to the day of her birthday.  So many things about her celebration of life seem to be hugs from heaven.

Each year we take time to teach the children about Makiah’s sweet life and one part in particular… the day she gave her piggy bank.

At church one morning Makiah learned that little children like her didn’t have clean water.  And they sometimes got sick because they had to drink dirty water.   Her mommy said that Makiah showed up in the kitchen with her piggy bank in hand.  She wanted to give it all to help those children have clean water.  And she did.

Since her heaven day many wells have been dug in her honor.  With clean water came renewed hope.  The hope opened hearts and many souls have been saved.”

This precious lady went on to explain to me that when she shared the story she also told the kids they would be having a big birthday celebration the next day on Makiah’s birthday!  They each took home a butterfly bag and brought it back full of change.  The class gave Makiah a birthday gift as they sent their “piggy bank” money to help dig a well.  She said one of their precious children said, “We’re gonna help her finish her job!”  With her eyes a little wet and her heart so proud, the teacher gave this tiny one a big high five!  

Weighty words.  Hope from heaven.  We get to help finish her job.  (Click HERE and scroll to the bottom to join us in building wells.)

And we get to finish the job of Jesus.  He entrusted us with the last task.  To re-present him.  To proclaim the Father’s love.  To try.  And when you try, it's perfect.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Happy 11th Birthday Sweet Makiah!

Dearest Makiah,

In a few minutes it will be your 11th birthday!  We started celebrating you tonight.  I brought home tiny chocolate cupcakes after work, and we ate them before dinner.  The girls and I decided you would have liked that!  Your sister’s decided they want to send their balloons they got at the Mother Daughter Tea up to heaven to you tomorrow.   It was completely their idea!  Abby wants to tie a french fry on hers because you loved fries.  I guess she thinks you’d like a little french fry snack in heaven!

She also told me that a boy at school told her he was in love with her today.  Oh kindergarten!  It reminded me that you came home one day saying your sweet friend Isaiah had asked you to marry him on the playground, and you said yes because you loved him.  It also made me wonder what sort of conversations we would be having now if you were finishing up the fifth grade.  Would we be chatting about boys or sports or dance?

Tonight I read the girls part of a book that Emmy and PawPaw gave you on your last Christmas- The Little Red Book with the Big Red Letters.  It’s about a little book who has to find out his purpose… Emmy wrote in the front that God has big plans for you, Makiah.  And the words sort of grabbed me tonight.  If we believe the bible and we believe Jeremiah 29:11, then truly God’s plans for us transcend death.  What kind of powerful God would he be if His plans were limited to this short, frail life on earth?  I could feel the sting of the words begin to recede a bit.  Of course God has big plans for you… still!  Because this is just the prelude.  And God’s divine intent for each of us extends beyond the constraints of time and place.  We pray, “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Why would Jesus say to pray this?  Because heaven and God’s kingdom are awesome, and purposeful, and exciting, and adventurous, and full of love and connection and perfect grace.  All the things we long for here.  They aren’t lacking in any way.

When I think of heaven, all that you are missing here pales in comparison.  I know that God created you for many beautiful purposes, Makiah.  Although I only have glimpses here, I believe.  And I know one day I will see.  Together.  With you.  When I was pregnant with you, before I even knew you were a girl, a lady spoke over you that you were going to be an Esther.  Surely you were beautiful.  And I have not unpacked all the meaning yet.  But Esther interceded to the King on behalf of her people.  Prayer is but talking with God.  And I know you do that.  Probably sometimes on behalf of your loved ones still on earth.  Revelation tells us the martyrs cry out to God to intervene on the earth.  Who knows but that you have come to your royal position but for such a time as this?  I can only speculate what earthly matters your prayers from heaven may have changed.  

I know more and more with each passing year, that your birth and death have solidified in me more than any other experience the revelation that Jesus is who He says He is, and He does what He said He would do.  Save, heal, restore.  Beauty for ashes.  Exchange garments of mourning for the the garments of praise.  I know you know, my dear.  But my eyes still see dimly.  Shout with me little one.  Although we are apart in body,  in both of our hearts we can proclaim the truth.  We can do the only thing that lasts.  Make plain His offer of love and life to all those whose hearts are still broken or searching or not sure if it can be real.   Your story.  Our story.  It is not all tears and sadness.  It is hope and certainty.  And a peace that surpasses understanding.  A peace that guards my heart and mind.  I will lend it my fingers and together we will lend it our prayers.  

I love you my oldest little one.  My precious precocious one whose name means “who is like Yahweh?”  My first baby.  My pre-teen.   My one who loves to dance and loves Jesus and chocolate and “tiny fings” and hair all the way down to the ground.  My sunshine who woke up singing and happy and loved to pop up beside my bed and say “The sun is up!  It’s time to get up!”  My little who touched my face with her hands so carefully on our last morning.  Who said I was perfect for trying.  Bringer of joy and miracles that we have only begun to see.  For if I have been set free from the darkness, how many more are there to come?  Promised one.  Who still lives.  With Him.  Happy birthday from one who wouldn’t trade our four years, four months, and four weeks for anything!  

Happy birthday from your mommy!

Love always all ways,


Makiah just born
One Year Old

Two Years Old

Three Years Old

Four Years Old

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fresh Perspective

I am sitting in a class listening to Danny Silk from Bethel Church in Redding teach about the Father’s love.  At the end he begins to describe a father son athletic team.  The son was born with cystic fibrosis, but together they have competed in 206 triathlons, 20 duathlons, and 26 marathons who.  I know in a second who he is talking about.  I have seen this video twice before, and I contemplate slipping out.  I am not sure I can handle watching it.  Tears slip out before it even begins to play.  

The first time I saw it was in an educational setting.  I imagined myself as the father and wondered if I could ever love anyone with that sort of sacrificial love.  The second time I saw the video was  a few weeks after Makiah died.  That time it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was not the father.  I was the boy.  I was totally incapable of accomplishing anything on my own.  Completely dependent on the love of a father to carry my broken self across the finish line.  

I stayed to watch it a third time.   I am no longer viewing with a broken heart.  God has worked the miracle of resurrection life in me, and my heart swells with thankfulness and hope as I reflect on the last 6 years that He has carried me.  He has held me as we waded through tumultuous waves that I could never have even imagined before.  Never letting me slip away.  

Sitting here now I am reminded of a different truth.  Now that I have my legs under me again, I hear Him whisper that this is still the picture of Us.  My spiritual walk does not depend on my works.  It depends on His grace.  My job is not to peddle furiously to make it through the next leg of the journey.  It is to remember that I am still the boy.  It may get hot and I may sweat and I can’t quit.  But my role is to lean into Him.  To thank Him for the work He is doing.  To Look where He is steering us and to Listen to the words of love He is whispering as He runs.  To know He will not let me fall out of the boat.  

When the father in Team Hoyt  was asked what drives him, he shared that his son is able to communicate through a computer.  He told his father, “When I run with you, my disabilities go away.”  The love of a father.  The passion of a daddy to liberate his son.  I was struck with the realization that in my weakness, He is shown strong.  When we run this life race together, my disabilities, my weaknesses, disappear.

My burden is easy and my yoke is light.  I hear Him say.  Trust me.  Be Mary.  Not Martha.  We can all be Mary.  We can all sit and soak and be still and know that He is God.  

If the pace has made you weary, it’s time to see the Truth.  To get a glimpse of reality.  “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32.  The Greek word for truth here also means “reality” as opposed to “illusion.”  When we feel that it all depends on us, we are living in an illusion.   Perhaps we need to have a change of PERSPECTIVE.  We need to see reality.  That we are yoked together with One who calls us His beloved.  The One who says, “It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6).   

The circumstance may not change.  It may be as permanent as losing a loved one.  Or perhaps your miracle is just around the corner.  But either way He changes US.  How?  Through His Word.  Through His presence.  Check out team Hoytt and when this father’s love blows your mind, remember that if we can give good gifts to our children, “how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mathew 7:11).  Even if you have seen this before, I encourage you to watch it with fresh eyes.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about Daddy God’s love for YOU as you watch.  Our hearts need a new infusion daily.

28Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…”  Mathew 11:28-29

Cameron and I are launching a website together,   It is under construction and more will be coming soon about our new joint venture!  If you look now, consider it a sneak preview and not the grand opening!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Love Covenant and Hope

There are gifts and then there are GIFTS.  I felt so blessed this Christmas by family and mostly because I was able to see the faces of my little ones glow with the anticipation of Christmas morning.  The excitement of knowing that there are special surprises just for them is a precious thing to watch as it dances in the light of innocent little eyes.  There is a sweetness when their tiny feet are hit with a burst of joyful jumping and their lips with squealing.

This fall my heart had it’s own Christmas of sorts.  Two surprise gifts of love whose depth of meaning and kindness still leave me astounded.  And they were both given on October 8th.  Yes, Makiah’s heaven day.  Each year that passes it seems the Lord unwraps more layers of meaning to her life and death. This year there were two very special weddings on her heaven day.  My cousin and his precious wife who are beginning their sweet love story as they dive into their early twenties and a dear staff member who has been a widower for several years and his new love both tied the knot that day.  

Last summer at our family reunion… yes, we meet in Alabama. No, we don’t wear matching t-shirts- no offense if you do!  And yes, we actually love our extended family get togethers!… my sweet cousin pulled Cameron and I aside to tell us what was on his heart for his wedding day.  I will never forget this six foot five young man with tears in his eyes as he asked if they could do something special to remember Makiah at their wedding. We insisted that it really was not necessary, and he needed to focus on beginning his happily ever after although we were touched to the core.  But the words he said next had never crossed my mind before.  He said as he was praying about it, he felt impressed by the depth of meaning that marriage has in the bible.  Scripture says that marriage is a picture of God’s love for his bride, his people, the church.  And on October 8th six years ago, Makiah had met her groom in person.  There wasn’t a dry eye among us as he shared, and we hugged.  It has taken me some time to dip my toes into the depth of the picture of love that God was painting.

Here is a picture of part of the wedding program from my cousin and his beautiful bride’s special day…

A Close Up

The other wedding was close to our home.  In fact Cameron officiated for our dear friend whom our children affectionately call “Papa Jim.”   He has served as a pastor for many years before retiring and working as volunteer staff at our church.  His feet never faltered on their faith journey as he walked through the painful loss of his first wife to cancer.   And God in his goodness has brought him new love and a promise of new beginnings.  A redemption of sorts that speaks hope to all of us.  If you had been there that day, you would have walked to the back of the church and into the fellowship hall for the reception.  Your eyes would have lighted on a table where instead of gifts for the happy couple, there was a basket to collect donations towards building a well in Makiah’s memory through the well project.  This couple was merging two households and so graciously decided to  start their marriage with a gift of eternal value- bringing clean water and the good news of the gospel to a people desperately in need.  And in memory of our sweet daughter.   When the final count was in, the gifts were enough to build an entire well!!

Thank you doesn’t even come close to expressing how deeply we were touched by both of these couples.  On a day that often makes me swallow hard, my God sent a message of the depth of his love covenant with us and his promise to redeem the hard things and bring about good even from tragedy.  If you don’t know a God like this, ask him today to make himself real to you.  You will not be disappointed.