Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Mercies

Lately God is showing me that He is Good. I tend to see the names of God that reflect how I view people and life and Good usually isn’t on the list. But this season seems to be about one of what I maybe would have described as his softer virtues, yet I cannot live without it and feel myself embracing goodness anew.

I am in a writing group with six other ladies and recently posted a piece on the truth that I exist in the midst of a heap of broken relationships. No one in my life can escape my brokenness. And no one in my life can escape from their own brokenness. And therefore, none of us can experience relationships of any kind apart from a broken state. And especially when we are asleep to it and are daydreaming about the sincerity of our false goodness to one another. Even the “good” relationships we have have constant struggles and obstacles and disappointments. Looking at people in my life, it’s like I saw one side of the pancake burning and then when I finally flipped it and saw my side, it was burnt too. I was also rotten to everyone. It was both sides of my relationships. And let me tell you what an exhausting moment of realization that was.

But simultaneously the piece was about the genuineness of God and the greatness of his goodness towards us. I didn’t write it to be depressing. I said it to keep my confessions true. Because no one is good to us like Jesus. And I am good to no one like Jesus. And the rest of our goodness is just broken glass reflections of his grace trying to shine through us.

So his genuine, persistent, loving goodness means everything to me while I navigate the brokenness in myself and all of my relationships in my life. After I left the week I was in when I wrote that overwhelming piece, the theme kept following me and haunting me some. You can’t realize something like that and move on, because it’s a theme that touches every conversation, phonecall, word, visit or lack of them.

And again God was good. As my mind was wrestling over this, a particular verse kept being mulled over in my mind. He kept whispering to me, “My mercies are new each morning.” It stayed in my mind over days and days and then just yesterday I glanced up to the paper Jason had posted on our bathroom mirror and smiled. It was the whole section of Scripture around that verse. “Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God made us to take only so much for one day and then he makes us to go down and rest. Sleep is a gift of grace from Him that he designed our bodies for. I saw that Him designing my life to be broken up into what we call “days” is one of his beautiful mercies to us! If we really were able, and allowed ourselves, to see the brokenness of this world and of our days, it would be to much to bear if we never rested from that. If all our “days” were strung together in a constant awakened state and the burdens never were fresh to address on a new day, but instead went on and on.

But His mercies are new every morning.

Each night I get to sleep and rest from the weariness of life, whatever it may have been that day. Maybe one day it was just a long, but normal day, of diapers and cooking. Maybe another day it was a number of loaded conversations that worried my heart. Maybe another day it was dealing with a lack of intimacy with people and feeling alone. Or another just working through the same issues in the same relationships. And at the end of those days I get to lay down and close my eyes and rest. That is the design God made for me. And I see it as a gift of goodness to me!

And when I awake, his mercies are new. 2 Peter 1 says His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness. Ephesians says that I have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. This means that whether I need grace that day or the ability to be kind or to be patient or whether I need God’s love in the midst of my hurt or whatever it is, I have it because those are benefits of knowing Christ. His mercies are available to me every single morning. It’s not just sleep that is a gift, it is the mercy that comes as I wake up to a new day.

When I became a Christian, God did not rescue me from my trials. These are the days we’ve been given. But he did bestow upon me access to Himself and with God come the benefits of who He is and what He has done for us. With his mercies in my hand, I find forgiveness for my brokenness and I can accept it for myself. With his mercies, I can forgive others for their brokenness towards me. And I can anticipate that my brokenness and their brokenness to come will be addressed by God’s same mercies and he can redeem and restore all things. These are my mercies I can rely on each morning. And with my mornings to start again and with His mercies held tightly in my hands, I know that this outlook is in fact not depressing, but it is hopeful and it has created in me a grateful heart to a God who is genuine and ever GOOD towards me.

Thank you for this morning Lord. Carry me today with your mercies until I lie my head down again tonight.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Hardest Thing

When it’s all over and we all stand up, I know what my heart is supposed to be doing. There is just a lot going on to keep me sitting lazy. Lines form in the rows as one at a time sliced bread is dipped into either wine or juice. Children enter the room twirling and doing knee bounces to the music. I look over at my love. Head bowed. Hand on my knee. Other hand on his forehead. I turn my head down and start blocking. My to do list thoughts. My chair being knocked by the family behind me. The singing that has started around me. Though it is my favorite song, I have much to say to the Lord. I need to say it. I need to lean in. My thoughts resist. Even trite thoughts and make believe prayers fill my mind. I end them to start real life ones. The conversation feels hard. But I need to do the right thing in this moment even though it is a hard thing.

Last Tuesday as the usual group lit into a conversation about raising children, what she said struck a bell with me. Sometimes it takes up her whole morning to discipline one thing and those hours are gone, but she didn’t let the thing – whatever it was – slide. She let it take up her morning to deal with it. This was her love for her child.

I had already been thinking about this lately. That the right thing to do in my life is very often the hardest thing for me to do. Rarely does doing the right thing or the obedient thing or the selfless thing feel easy. It’s a pulling and a fighting and a submission hold of the flesh.

My daughter didn’t want to eat lunch today, like most days. Her boney legs dangled from her booster seat. She ate some after doddling a while and then finally got a bite too big and threw up the entire meal. At dinner we did all we knew to do to get her to eat. Act like ridiculous ADHD cheerleaders for every single bite. Probably like twenty seven of them. And every bite was followed by our bright eyes, as we wildly slapped her hands over and over and threw her arms up in the air multiple times. You could see she thought of quitting numerous times. But then she’d see my eyes start to light up. She’d prep her lips, clear out her mouth – as is her usual habit before each bite – and open up wide, looking at us expectantly. She finished that container. Bite by bite. Cheer by cheer. And we wanted to collapse at the end of that darn meal. But she’d eaten. One container of yogurt. And our hearts triumphed. It wasn’t the easy thing. But it was the right thing. And I knew it was how we could love her through her stressful trial of mealtime.

I feel this pushing to do the right thing all the time. And it feels awful, how difficult it seems to choose that, but nonetheless the challenge towards it comes again and again. When I am writing a friend an email reply and know they don’t need to just hear “I’m praying” but instead need to know if there is any encouragement or counsel from my heart. When my husband and I cannot seem to get our thoughts to overlap in harmony and it takes hours of talking to wind our hearts together. When the girls disobey for the thirtieth time that day and I choose not to ignore but again and again go to teach and discipline so that their hearts understand what is right and good. When I have wronged someone and I feel that maybe they would just overlook it or maybe they have even already forgotten it, but I know in my heart of hearts that I am called to confess and reconcile with them. When someone insults me, to overlook their words and do the work of seeing their pain and misery under the conversation so that I can absorb the blows. When I would rather “get something done” but little beauty girl is saying “up” and handing me books.

I don’t want to do the lazy thing. As I “sit there” and all of the distractions and wills of life call around me for my attention, I know it will be difficult to bend my knee and bow my head to die to myself. To block the thoughts that becon me to be about myself. And to say and do the things that the Spirit in me is requiring me to do. In those moments, I want to put my will in a submission hold until it passes out and does the right thing. Even though usually it’s the hardest thing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Out on a date

Jason and Kanah are out on a date right now. I know he's most likely going to blog about his daddy dates with both of the girls, so I won't steal his thunder. But I just have to say that it is the best feeling in the world to enjoy watching your bugs be loved well by their daddy. I know not all children get that joy and I just feel blessed and don't want to take it for granted one day that Kanah and Grace have such a loving, present daddy who really takes joy in their little lives. Mars Hill just had a great sermon on dads and daughters in the last of the Song of Solomon series and it would be a crazy great idea for any parents to listen to.

Friday, December 5, 2008


My lady babies keep teaching me about what they are capable of when I'm not noticing.

I was talking to my mom and Andy today while I was cooking dinner. Kanah and Grace were in the living room playing and waiting for daddy to get home. I was chopping up some onions and didn't crunch the tips of my fingers in like they show you how to do on the Food Network. Big shocker, I sliced into my thumb. Yelled a word that most Christians would be appalled at me for, and burst into tears. I got off the phone and held my hand under the sink, letting my tears annoint the pain and maybe also some of the stress of the day. Next thing I know I hear a softly mumbling Grace at my side and her arms are stretched up to me. I can't pick her up since I'm still stopping the blood so she just holds onto my legs and is quietly talking in her own language, looking up at me often, wondering about my tears. Finally I am able to pick her up and she holds me. Grace has shown me a couple times before too that she is a sympathetic little one. She seems to know what pain is and is quick to be at my side to make it better for me. And her efforts, in her own fashion, really do minister to me and I feel like she understands me.

Once dada got home, they played for a while and then he put on Cinderella, sitting them in his lap to watch it for the first time. The girls loved it and watched it forever. There was a long scene between the cat and a mouse that was building with anxious excitement as the mouse was almost caught a couple of times. The music grew the emotion around it and at one point in the scene Kanah started crying a little bit and then a little more. At first I just thought it was random but when she started up again right as the scene got heated, Jason and I looked at each other and realized that she was really scared of the cat or maybe scared for the mouse and it brought her to tears. I guess I was just surprised that a one and a half year old is starting to experience fear in watching a scene on television. She was able to recognize that this wasn't happy anymore but it struck a cord in her to cry. Jason said in that moment, "Kanah is our emotional one, isn't she?" She can be so firey. When she does her lion roar, it's crazy ferocious (whereas Grace's sounds like...well, just not like a lion). When Kanah throws a tantrum, it's all over the floor. She grunts when she doesn't like something or when the puzzle pieces won't go in right. And when she smiles it shows all of her teeth back to the molars. She says "hi" with a loud, clear voice and when you're on her good side, you are hugged and snuggled with all of her might. What an emotional little being, both happy and sad.

After Cinderella and then dinner, Jason took the girls up for a bath. I cleaned up the kitchen and then took a few "me" minutes. I could hear them up there but my brain soon was in its own world as I read blogs and wrote emails. Finally I heard a "MAMA!" from Jason and followed by a long series of "MAMA!" shouts from the girls. When they get done w/ their baths Jason has them start yelling for me so I can help with bedtime. I smiled from my chair in the living room. I just love being called mama. I love that some little dittles are acquainted with me in such an intimate way to call me that and to need me to come to them. I just treasured up the little shouts coming down to my ears. I got up to the bathroom where the little voices were still fixated on that one word and as I made eyes with Kanah she yelled with both a fury and a huge grin, "MAAAAMAAA!" and I thought my ears would burst.

These little girls have such determination and emotion inside of them when they set their hearts on something. And I enjoy it when their hearts are set on me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Confession on thankfulness

After thanksgiving was over I realized I did not spend one moment that day being thankful apart from an agreement in spirit during the prayer before our feast. Jason and I are always thinking through what we would like the traditions of our family to look like and although we have already begun to enjoy some of those, I think this year's day of thankfulness snuck up on me. So I confess an unthankful heart and wish to express my gratitude now.

Thank you, Lord...

For my faithful husband and precious daughters. I never, ever, ever thought I would get to enjoy a family this beautiful and it's a continual surprise how much my heart longs to be close to them and to enjoy them fully.

For this baby boy you are creating in my womb. He was a surprise from the beginning and the fact that we were going to get to be the caretakers of a little boy was an even greater surprise! And Lord you know how I like to be surprised but I always ruin them, so what a great gift of grace and I never saw it coming!

For our church. Anytime I start to get puffed up and think I know something about anything I am humbled to realize that it is because of the scripture, teaching, instruction, correction, and wisdom you have placed in my life at Mars Hill. As my friend Annie posted today from Proverbs, "He who walks with the wise grows wise."

My friends who pursue me from both near and far away. I need you in my life. I appreciate your calls, emails, play dates, and endless pursuits of me. I am a sinner who doesn't know how to love you as well as I should but I am practicing grace and I know God is blessing me through your life, words, and actions.

My families. I am blessed to have so much family in my life, both from childhood and also family I have been adopted into through Jason. I could not have survived the beginnings of motherhood without you and I still can't find enough ways to express this.

For the little things...A sunny day today. The smell of our Christmas tree. The silence in my ears right now. The comfort and safety of a home (okay, not such a little thing). My VAN ;). Hot coffee. Mint chocolate chip ice cream. My energy you give me to take care of the girls even though I am pregnant. Worship music on my ipod in the kitchen. The beautiful mountains I can see from here. So many things Lord...

Thank you Jason...

For enjoying me more than anything else in your life. I know this because your favorite place to be is at home and it blesses me to know you love me so much.

For staying faithfully persistent with me. I know I am a handful!! This is for sure! But you never give up on us, no matter what the season. I am so thankful for this diligence in you to press through trials and to always always reconcile and be close.

For loving the girls. For enjoying having them with you as you get ready in the morning. For wrestling with them right when you walk in the door even though I know you could use some rest. For taking them so I can have time. For feeding them when I just can't do it one more meal that day. For getting on your hands and knees to clean up their messes. For kissing and hugging them constantly.

For going to work everyday. I would not want to trade places with you and I treasure getting to be at home with the girls. I cannot explain how thankful I am for how you shelter me from stresses that you take on yourself to provide and protect.

For little, washing dishes, taking out the stinky diaper bags, putting up our Christmas lights, drinking water (hehe), making the girls' morning milk every night, always always being a part of bedtime and morning time, complimenting my cooking, telling me how great I look, following through on the things around the house that drive me crazy, picking up if I leave off on a task or chore, calling about the multi-chopper piece - still sorry about that one, being graceful graceful graceful with your imperfect wife who loves you very much and who is doing her best to show you that ;).

Thank you Kanah and Grace...

(Yes, I have so much to thank you girls for too! I have felt from the beginning that I should let my daughters know how they are changing my life for the better, how the Lord is using them to teach me, love me, and grow me as a woman. So here are some of the ways...)

For all your hugs and kisses. It feels so good to be loved by children. To have your arms thrown around me and for your head to be resting so heavily on my shoulder. Touch in human relationships is so brief and momentary but with you, you linger on me and show me how to be still to enjoy holding and being held. I love your weight on me.

For all of your words. For pointing to me and saying mama and waving and saying "hi" with that long, two syllable vowel. For learning to say sorry (sa sa). For the cute ways you say "bite" and "down" and "hug." Your voices are little treasures, I can't get enough.

For helping mommy to not be lazy and selfish. You help me rise in the morning, spend my days wisely, and go to bed knowing I have been encouraged by your presences to put my priorities in order.

For your hands of worship. When any music comes on (we'll have to work on showing you the difference) you raise your hands to heaven. You remind me to worship the Lord and to know when "the music comes on" in my life to praise Jesus for all I have been given, with a thankful heart.

You show mommy how to be still, how to put my lists and agendas aside, and how to practice a new way of life. I believe getting to be your mommy has actually eliminated a lot of stresses that used to be in my life because the Lord uses you to teach me the discipline of sitting and enjoying.

Even for the times you are disobedient or sinful with each other, even in those moments I sense the Holy Spirit teaching me to be humble about my own pride, stubbornness and sin. As I discipline you, I feel Him teaching me that I am not perfect either and we all need to be turned constantly in the direction of humility and to grace.

Lord, thank you for all the unspoken as well. Right now as I have taken this time to turn my heart to thanksgiving, I actually feel you transforming my heart away from a negative focus and onto your blessings. Please help me keep a heart of praise, using these lips to bless, not curse. You are a good God, giving good gifts to your children.