Monthly Archives: June 2015

It’s a Messy Life

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It took 6 minutes for this many tissues to explode onto my living room floor.

Life sure can be messy, can’t it? My kids find themselves in all kinds of scrapes every single day. Sometimes you’re stuck under a picnic table or in a pot. Sometimes you fall and get a boo-boo. Sometimes you spill cereal or throw tissues all over the house. Little messes, in the big picture.

 

Sophie in a pot

Stuck in a pot.

But sometimes the messes in life are much bigger and can’t be cleaned up with a vacuum, paper towels, or a bandaid. Sometimes the messes are little, but sometimes they are big. I’m not sure which category today’s mess falls into, in the grand scheme, probably little. Although this morning it did not feel, or smell, like a little mess. Messes can be that way. They can feel pretty big when we’re in them.

There I was minding my own business (probably the instigation of the mess), fixing some breakfast. My children, I thought, were happily playing in the living room, dressed, fed, and needs met. Suddenly, my three-year-old daughter comes into the kitchen, crying. My first guess is a fight over a toy. This happens so frequently that I’m considering purchasing a referee’s outfit.

But then she holds up her hands.

“Sophie, what is on your hands, honey?”

And then the aroma hits me. It’s poo. She’s got poo all over her hands. Fabulous. Breakfast forgotten, comforts aside, my gears shift as I begin to clean her up.

Sophie made a mess, and she did not know how to get herself out of it. Thankfully she hadn’t tried wiping her hands on the carpet or the couch as we do with the grass when our hands get messy outside. She knew that this mess was going to need some assistance from mommy. Amazingly, I wasn’t mad at her. Maybe her tears softened my heart. She was so upset about what she had done, that all I could feel was compassion as I cleaned her up.

We’ve been talking in church lately about how life can be so messy. We’re all a bunch of sinners down here. Our lives are messy, no matter how much we try to control or hide the mess. Yet, in the midst of our mess, there is One who loves us so very much. When we come crying to him, the dirt of our mess all over our hands, unable to help ourselves, his grace floods our lives, and he takes care of us. No, Jesus is not just a boo-boo fixer. It’s not as though we should just continue making mess after mess because we know he’ll be there to clean us up. But, as I felt so much compassion this morning for my daughter, I was reminded that, while our messes do have consequences, God is not angry with us when we come to him in a mess. He’s not thundering down at us. When we come crying to him, he opens his arms with a love and compassion that are deep and genuine. He knows that we make messes, and he’s not inconvenienced when we come to him. Rather, he made a way, he sent his son Jesus to cover that mess. No amount of my own trying can ever get rid of my mess, but Jesus’ blood, it can cover any mess. He is the one who washes my soul.

Why do we try to hide our messes from God and from each other? Each of us is equally broken, equally sinful. Why do we thunder down judgment on each other for the messes we inevitably will make? Where is grace in this world? What if we quit trying to hide our messes and lived out a genuine life before our family, friends, co-workers? It’s not as though hiding my mess makes it any less real. And if, in showing it to others, I can also show them the love and grace of Jesus which covers my sin, then maybe they can know that his grace covers their life too. No matter what their mess is, it’s not bigger than his sacrifice.

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Climbing the Wall

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Camp: The place where many silly crazy things happen. This gem is me along with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Hilary. I had just defeated her in a fierce minute to win it competition.

 I spent many a summer at a wonderful church camp called Cross Training Camp. Countless memories run through my mind of my experiences there from age 9 onward. Even after Sophie was born three years ago, I still participated on a part time basis. I spent 20 years of my life involved with this camp.There is no other program that impacted my view of myself more than this program.

While I love nature, I’m not what I would consider to be a “super athletic” person, but camp challenged me to do physical things that I never thought I could possibly do. This camp ran a military theme with marching and a drill competition, and taught survival skills, canoeing, archery, and fire building. It’s not a “girly” camp. (Is there a girly camp out there??) Yet, I found myself never feeling more like the woman God created me to be than when I was participating with this program. Camp always made me feel so alive, so right. And I miss that now that it’s done.

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Here is one squad going over the wall at CTC. Looks tall, doesn’t it?

I remember as a child the first year that the obstacle course was built in the woods near the church. I heard rumors of this 10 foot wall that we’d have to climb. I was terrified. I never thought I’d be able to do it. But you know what, I had some awesome counselors who got me over that wall, year after year. And then, the tables turned. It was my turn to lead young ladies over the wall. I met girl after girl who felt just like me: “I can’t do that.” And I would tell each of them the same thing: “Let’s focus this week on seeing what you can do rather than thinking about what you can’t do. If you go outside your comfort zone a little, I will help you see what you CAN do. And you just might be surprised.” And girl after girl went over that wall. They faced their fears head on with the support of their team behind them. The pride they exuded in that final night of camp, racing over the wall with their team, it always brought us all to tears. It was the picture of perseverance and overcoming.

We now have a little itty bitty climbing wall in our backyard that’s part of our swing set. This afternoon I helped Sophie scale it. So many memories of camp came rushing back as I encouraged her: “You can do it! That’s it!” all the way up the wall.

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Sophie scales the wall

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Bunny does everything Sophie does

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little wall is a huge challenge to her. I’m sure when she looks at it, that wall feels 10 feet tall. But she doesn’t give up, in spite of how big the wall seems in comparison to her small stature and weakened muscle tension. One hand hold at a time, she reaches the top of that wall. She’s so pleased when she gets to the top. And I’m right behind her, cheering her on.

The walls look different these days, but some days they still feel 10 feet tall and insurmountable. But I learned something over the years that I climbed and helped others climb that wall in the woods of Cross Training Camp. The walls are not insurmountable. Apraxia feels like a 50 foot wall to me. Can I even see the top? How will we ever scale this wall? From my camp days, I know the answer. We will climb the wall, one hand hold at a time, together, me behind Sophie supporting her, and a whole host of people behind me, cheering us on. Together, we will persevere.

You see, there was a rule at camp regarding this wall: If you helped your campers get over during the competition, then you had to go over the wall yourself, too. It’s a challenge that I would never forgo, despite the difficulty that it brings. And although this wall looks different, the same rule applies: I will scale this wall with my daughter, whatever it takes.

No feeling compares to those that rise upon seeing that determined face pop up over the wall, teeth gritted, dirt and sweat abounding, climbing that wall with all she has, team cheering her on. For many years, I’ve had a picture on my desk of one young lady in this exact moment, and the caption reads, “Always remember what perseverance can achieve.”

Camp wall 2As we scale this wall that is apraxia, our teeth are gritted. We are, some days, weary and discouraged. We will experience wounds and pains along the way. Some moments will seem so scary that we can’t keep going. But we will. And one of these days, in my mind’s eye, I’ll see Sophie’s little face popping up over that wall. Because we won’t be stopped. We will persevere. We will climb this wall.

Although camp is in my past, it’s lessons remain: No obstacle is too great. Let’s not be bound up in thinking about what we can’t do. Instead, let’s just see what we CAN do with a little perseverance.

“I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Phil 4:13

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At the Foot of the Cross

crossThis week in church we were challenged to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross. As we sang our worship songs and I processed this idea, I had a striking realization. Leaving a burden at the foot of the cross doesn’t mean that the issue causing the burden is going to be removed. It’s the burden, the weight, that will be lifted.

Often I think we wishfully hope that in leaving something at the cross, it will suddenly no longer be an issue. But that’s not reality, is it? What does come is freedom from that entanglement with fear and anger and anxiety and stress and confusion. Those are all ploys of the enemy to derail us from our trust in the Lord.

As we have been processing the decision to seek an apraxia diagnosis for Sophie, my heart has felt so burdened. There is a heaviness, a finality, that comes in processing a speech disability that will impact my daughter for a lifetime. It is heavy.

My heart’s cry is that Jesus would just touch her mind and she would be healed. I know he is able. But I know that in surrendering my burden at the foot of his cross, he makes no promise to remove her disability. But he does promise to carry the burden, the weight. There is freedom at the foot of the cross.

No matter how long it takes Sophie to learn to talk, I will trust in Jesus. I will let him carry the burden so that I can walk in freedom. I will not allow the enemy to manipulate me, to consume my thoughts and my life with fear and anxiety and anger.

Let’s just say it: It is what it is, folks.

Being angry and fearful and anxious changes nothing. Those are the burdens that I leave at the cross. I lay my daughter and this wicked apraxia at his feet, trusting, knowing, believing that he is so good. His plans are so good. It doesn’t look like good to me through an earthly lens, but, oh, how limited my view must be. I will trust that it is good.

After our most recent testimony at church some months ago, a fellow church member shared with me a word that God had given her as we were sharing Sophie’s story. She said, “It is well. It will be well.” And I have held onto those words. I believe them with all that I am. My Father has a good plan for Sophie’s life. I cannot process the fears and question marks of the future, and so I’m  putting it at the foot of the cross, and I’m walking away, free.

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Under the Fig Tree

fig-tree1Have you ever had the realization that God set something in motion somewhere, long before you were ever there, because he saw that down the road, you’d need it to be that way? Maybe you get cold chills when this happens. Maybe, like me, you cry a little, or a lot. It’s touching to see that we have a Father who sees us and our road ahead so clearly.

I love the story of Philip and Nathanael’s calling in John 1:43-50. Jesus calls Philip first, who then goes to get his brother Nathanael, wanting him to be a part of Jesus’ ministry. Nathanael is skeptical of Jesus because he’s not from the best part of town. He asks, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” His cynicism about Jesus could perhaps cause us to think that he wouldn’t be good disciple material. But Jesus sees Nathanael’s heart and says of him, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.” I would long to hear Jesus say those words of me, “one in whom there is nothing false.” That’s incredible. When Nathanael wonders at how Jesus could make this judgment, stating that Jesus doesn’t know him, Jesus tells him, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Jesus says, “I saw you.” I love that. Before Nathanael ever entered that scene, Jesus saw him, saw his heart.

I often find myself wanting to know that Jesus sees me. And so, one of my favorite prayers to pray is “Lord, I need to know that you see me today.” He never fails to answer that prayer. Whether it was a student coming to help me grade papers, or a mentor encouraging me, or a friend giving me just what I needed, Jesus has always been faithful to show me that he sees me. I love these moments when my eyes are opened to see how God has seen me, back while I was still “under the fig tree” so to speak.

The last Sunday in May was just one such experience. Our sweet children were leading worship in church with their awesome little songs and fun motions. And it touched me like never before because I realized that God placed us in a church that already has a children’s program using sign language for their songs. We won’t have to ask the Sunday school coordinators if they could somehow work that into children’s church when Sophie moves up from the nursery. She won’t be out of place one bit when she signs her worship to the Lord. All of her little friends will worship with their hands in addition to their voices. Our church has been using motions in children’s church since its beginning several years ago, back when we were still “under the fig tree.” We didn’t even have any children when we started attending this church, yet God saw. He knew what was ahead. He prepared a place for us. This touches my mommy’s heart so deeply.

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Our “Little Lifers” leading worship

I’m so thankful for our church and for a Father who cares enough to see us while we are back up the road a piece, under the fig tree. He’s always working for our good. So even though I can’t see down the road nearly as far as he can, I can just take one step at a time, trusting that he’s got the way prepared for us.

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“Sharing is Caring”

IMG_0354How many boxes of cereal do you have in your house right now? The number at our house varies, but most of the time we’ve got at least three boxes going, and sometimes more in reserve unopened. Right now we have a household record 7 boxes open. Lots of cereal. That’s great for a family with little kiddos who love to snack on it. My kids are in a serious cereal kick right now. From morning ’til night it’s all they want to do — snack on cereal. This cereal fad poses a potential problem for Sophia because her brother has taken to chasing after her in an attempt to steal her cereal cup. Of course he’d rather have hers than his own. And, of course, she finds this greatly offensive. In order to help her cope with her brother’s lack of manners and social skills, we taught her just to share a piece of cereal with him when he comes hounding after her. Then he will be content and leave her alone.

At first, you would have thought we were asking her to give away gold. Perhaps, to her, cereal is gold. She looked at me like I was crazy. “You want me to just give it to him? Just give it to him?? You’ve got to be insane.” In my own explanation to her, I heard God’s truth resonating in my own heart: “There is plenty of cereal in this house, so you need to share yours with your brother.” I realize that we are never going to run out of cereal. I have, to my two small children, an endless supply. (Realistically it does have a limit, but there’s SO much more than they could ever eat by the time I get to the store in a few days.)

And so it is with our own resources coming from God our Father. He has an endless supply of whatever it is we may need. Everything in this world is his. Yet we walk around hoarding our little cereal cups, because heaven forbid we might run out! Just as my pantry is stuffed with more than enough cereal boxes to last my children many weeks, God’s storehouses are full to the brim. So why are we hoarding instead of sharing? Why are we so concerned with protecting what’s “ours”? Our fists are wrapped so tightly around our little cups of cereal. And there’s God with his giant pantry, full to the brim. We must look ridiculous.

Once Sophie made the choice to share, a magical thing happened. The cereal did not run out. She made her brother happy, and their bond grew that much closer as brother and sister. It is precious to see her take out a piece of cereal and place it carefully in his mouth. He exclaims, “MMMMMMMMM” and usually giggles. And she finds that she still has plenty to satisfy her own desires. Mommy isn’t going to let the cereal run out.

IMG_0349What if I opened my hands? What if I gladly shared what the Father has given me, knowing that his storehouse is brimming with more than I could ever need?

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
Proverbs 3:27

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