Finding My Rhythm

About a month ago I had the pleasure of attending the Breathe Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, MI.

When I got home from the conference, I was challenged to find “my rhythm” or, in other words, a specific and consistent time of day to sit down, gear up and write. As a mom of two young children, my writing time is sandwiched in here, or squeezed in there, and is sporadic, at best.

Hopped up on magical conference “mojo,” I decided to try, for one week, to find my rhythm from 5-7 am. (That’s right, A.M.) My husband laughed at my plan, but I was determined to show him, and me, that I could do it.

The first two days went great. I set my alarm. I (rather eagerly) got out of bed. I tip-toed through a sleeping house to my writing desk, and for two UNINTERUPTED hours I worked on my writing. (Go me!)

Then came Wednesday.

My alarm buzzed at my 5:00 am.

Snooze.

5:10. Buzz. Snooze.

5:20. Buzz. Snooze.

“30 minutes won’t hurt me,” I dreamily reasoned with the clock.

At 6:25 I was roused once again, this time by my three-year-old daughter, Aletheia, drowsy and looking for mommy.

One important drawback to my 5-7 writing time is that it coincides with what has become a ritual in our home. It doesn’t happen every day, but once or twice a week, Aletheia and I love to start our day with a morning snuggle.

As I stayed in bed, wrestling with my alarm, my sleep, and my goals, the thought occurred to me, “It sure would be nice to stay in bed this morning and maybe get a chance to snuggle with Aletheia.” Was I being lazy? Maybe, but as Aletheia crawled into my arms, I knew I was right where I needed to be.

“I was so hoping you would come and be with me,” I whispered in her ear. She smiled, nodded her golden head and drifted back to sleep. I slipped back to sleep myself, but not before I heard God whisper in my ear, “That is exactly how I feel about you.”

I was so hoping you would come and be with me.” These are the same words I hear Him saying to me, whenever I pause and take the time to crawl into His arms.

At the writers conference I attended one of the speakers talked about the spiritual discipline of silence, of taking time to simply BE in the presence of God. No questions, no requests, no prayers spoken, or verses read. Just Him and me, together.

At first I resisted the idea. To be honest, it sounded a little crazy to me. Something reserved for monks and super spiritual folk. But the more I considered it, the more it made sense.

When I’m with Aletheia and we’re snuggling at the start of our day or at the end of our night, so often nothing is said. It is enough just to be together, wrapped in love and the comfort of each other. I’ve experienced similar moments with my husband and even a close friend or two.

Doesn’t it make perfect, holy, divine sense to experience this with God?

Once again, I feel challenged to find my rhythm. Not just in writing, but in seeking silence with God.

Tattoo Days

Many readers have fallen in love with Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts. I am one of them. I love books that I can honestly say have changed my life. With its message of grace, joy, and eucharisteo (The Greek word for Thanksgiving), Voskamp’s book has forever changed my perspective on what it means to be thankful.

It has also changed my perspective on tattoos. I have never wanted a tattoo, but the day I finished reading One Thousand Gifts, my desire for a tattoo changed. Not only do I now secretly wish to get a tattoo, I know, without a doubt, that if I ever worked up the guts to actually have ink needled into my skin, I would have ‘Eucharisteo’ tattooed on one wrist and ‘All Is Grace’ tattooed on the other.

It seems extreme, I know. I can imagine my tattoos lightly imprinted across my wrists. Some days, it is simply hard to be thankful, and days when thanksgiving comes hard, I can’t help but believe that the permanent ink reminder of a tattoo would be its own sort of grace.

Today is one of those days. The call came just minutes ago. Brokenhearted, the voices of my brother-in-law and his sweet wife informed my husband and me that their babies, unborn at six weeks…twins…are gone, miscarried.

Gone? Miscarried? Thanksgiving? Grace?

The staggering news came as I sat down to rock my own baby, my breath of Heaven, now twelve months old. I hold her, I rock, and I pray.

“Lord, be with them, be with all of us.” While no one can understand my brother and sister-in-law’s ache completely, I know this loss will affect the whole of our close-knit family.

As I continue to pray, I can feel my mother’s heart beating steady against baby chest. I hold her tighter and my prayers rest on my sister-in-law. “Lord, I don’t know the pain and agony of a miscarriage, but I do know the pain of a hope that seizes every inch of your heart, and the agony of that hope deferred. I know the road that lies ahead of my loved ones will not be an easy one.”

Praying is all I can do, so I keep praying.

“Lord, don’t let Satan get a foothold.”

“Lord, walk with them through this.”

“Lord, when the whys come without answers, don’t let this push them away from you.”

“Dear, Lord, use this to draw them closer to you, to show them more fully who you are and what your love is.”

I think of eucharisteo, of grace and how hard it is to be thankful, to believe that this too, is grace. How do you say ‘thank you’ for children unknown? For names never given? For babies not held? This doesn’t feel like grace.

 Still tighter, I hold onto Heaven.

I am not going to claim to know the answer to this question of how to say thank you when thanksgiving is hard, but in the moment, as I hold my baby, and my family hold’s their broken hearts, and God in Heaven holds our tears, I can be thankful for something:

“Lord, thank you that even though we, on this earth, will never know these children, that you know them.”

“Lord, thank you that even though we will never know their names, that they are called by you.”

“Lord, thank you that even though our human arms will never hold them, that you are holding them, even now.”

“Thank you, Lord, that because of you, death is transfigured to victory, and that someday, (soon, Lord!), this stinging ache, this loss of now, will be redeemed, restored, set right.”

 Thanksgiving. Grace.

My baby asleep, I lay her down and grasp at words. I look at my wrist and run a finger over blank skin. Today would be a good day to get that tattoo, permanent ink, to remember permanent scars, which make even the hard thanksgiving possible.

Everyday, Election Day

IMG_4076For the last few weeks, as we all know, our country has been held captive by the recent Presidential Election.

I know we are all weary of the topic, but in the days that have followed the election my soul can’t seem to shake an overall sense of fear, worry, and discouragement. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The concerns I have felt since the election are not new, but seem to have deepened as of late.

~ My husband and I are starting our own business. How will we manage to stay afloat in today’s toxic economy?

~ It’s already hard enough to make ends meet. How will we weather the rising cost of EVERYTHING?

~ In the midst of all that is happening in our country (and in the world,) I wonder and worry for my children. Will we be able to provide for them? What kind of future will they inherit?

~ What kind of future do I face as a writer? Will I ever publish my book? Who’s going to buy books when it’s a struggle to feed, clothe, and house our families?

~ What’s happening to my country? The America I know and love is becoming more foreign every day.

~ And God…

How can God bless, and work, and use a nation so seemingly hell bent on leaving Him behind?

Amidst these questions, worries, and fears, a familiar verse keeps weaving through my troubled mind, stringing together truth and hope.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 NKJV

Choose? Elect? Maybe every day is an election day. Not for man or candidates but for God.

By choosing each day…electing… each day to serve God, I am choosing and electing to put all my hope, all my trust in Him. Here in lies my chance for peace, my chance to silence the worries.

When my hope and trust are placed in man, or in the rulers of this world, I become a servant to worry, fear, and discouragement. When my hope and trust are placed in Him, I become a servant to God, His love, and His peace.

What a difference Election Day makes.

A song I love by Jack Savoretti says:

“Don’t believe in only the things that you see, believe in me.”

I can hear these words as a message from God in the middle of all that surrounds me.

designIt isn’t easy, to see only God, to believe only God. The temptation to worry and fear is almost always there. I guess that’s where “Choose for yourselves this day,” comes into practice. Ultimately I know that my God is in all, and above all. He is bigger and greater than my worries. He has gone before all my fears.

After all, I haven’t been asked to find the answers to my long list of questions and worries. I haven’t been asked to solve the brokenness of the world. I have been asked to choose this day whom I will serve. I have been asked to be found faithful to our business, our children, my writing, my country, and most importantly my God.

Could it be that by being faithful to God, and all the things He’s called me to, the list of worries grows shorter and the brokenness gets healed? Maybe? Just a tiny bit?

Every day is Election Day. Today, in the midst of earthly rulers and world wreckage, my vote is cast for a faithful God.

Joy and Pain

A few nights ago my husband and I sat around the dinner table, sharing supper and life with two of our closest friends.

With hearts the size of Texas, this couple has become ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ to six different foster children over the course of the last twelve months. Their deepest hope is to someday adopt a child, or most likely, children through the foster care system.

From the outside looking in, I know that this special couple has become two of the most loving parents a child could ever know. I also know that the past year, since opening their home to their first set of foster children, has been full of joy and full of pain.

I know there are two sides to every story, but the side I have witnessed, is that of our friends and the rollercoaster ride they have been on this year. So far, each of their placements has ended with the child or children being returned to the home of the birth parent(s). After months of loving these children as their own, my friends have had to say good-bye to these precious ones, severing their carefully woven ties, often not knowing if they will ever see them again.

As the four of us gathered over a meal of pizza and Vanilla Cokes, (a staple amongst close friends and parents alike), our conversation turned to the latest developments with their current set of two infant boys they have loved and cared for since birth.

We listen with heavy hearts as this couple, trying so hard to be brave, tells us that these boys, the ones they brought home from the hospital, the ones we all fell in love with at first sight, the ones who up until now have known only love, are expected to be placed back into the home of their birth mother sometime this fall.

Joy…and pain.

I look at my friend, and our eyes rim with tears. I know that her mother’s heart beats every bit as true as mine, and I know that mine couldn’t take this, so I ask my friend how in the world she can continue to do this.

The answer, she told us, is simple. “I realized I could either have no heartache, but have no family, or I could have heartache, and hopefully, someday, have a ‘forever’ family. When I was able to see the pain this way, I knew it was worth it.”

These words struck me, not just because they were spoken by my friend who I love and admire, but because I believe they are true for everyone.

Years ago I found a greeting card with the following quote:

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”  ~ Jane Howard

I bought the card and have kept it where I can see it often. I’m not even sure who Jane Howard is, but I believe she’s right. No matter what you call it, we all need some kind of community to which we can belong. I also believe that no matter how close you are to that community, no matter how Godly the relationships, or how much love is shared, there will be heartache.

When it comes to relationships, Godly, authentic, and deep relationships, there is always a choice: Have no heartache, and have no community, or have heartache, and have community.

My husband and I have not journeyed the same road of foster parenting that our friends are now traveling, but we have known our share of broken relationships. We’ve known heartache and pain, but we’ve also known joy. Deep, deep joy.

When I look back on the relationships that have caused us the most pain, yes, I see the heartache, but I also see hours of belly-aching laughter, moments of true-hearted honesty, hugs, words of encouragement, countless meals shared around a table or campfire, trips taken, and adventures shared. I see us praying, worshipping, and crying together. I see me, being me, and iron sharpening iron. Joy! Joy! Joy!

As our friends expressed in their desire to have a family, and as my husband and I have decided in our desire to experience authentic and deep relationships, the heartache that comes with each is worth it.

My friends see it in the eyes of their children. I see it in the eyes of my friends: The ‘windows of the soul’ bear witness, that when the heart is willing and love is true, joy trumps heartache every time.