March Madness: For When Your Life Feels Like a Buzzer-Beater (and You’re on the Losing Team)

 

NetSince the last time I posted:

~ My husband fell in our garage, severely spraining his ankle and breaking his foot

~ My mom-in-law was in a bad car accident fracturing her foot in six different places

~ I received emotionally distressing news related to my writing life

~ All three of my girls followed by Chris and me came down with chest colds that won’t go away

~ Two birthday parties for my little ones have been cancelled and rescheduled due to injuries and sickness

~ In addition to the cold I came down with a painful mastitis infection

~ Chris’s grandfather became seriously ill while traveling away from home

~ Our homeschooling schedule has been turned on its head

And yet…

~ There’s also this:

IMG_5648~ And this:

Blue Eye Belle~ And this:

Blue Moon Smile~ There’s the super-cool ice machine my husband’s business associate sent him to help with icing his foot

~ There’s medicine and immune boosters helping all of us heal

~ There’s a chance for me to grow as a writer and make my novel better

~ There’s our pastor friend who prayed over us

~ Family and friends who understand a change of plans and give us grace (times two)

~ A special guest speaker at my writing group and a wonderful evening with friends

~ Little girls that keep being golden despite their stuffy noses

~ Prayers for Grandpa and signs of improvement

IMG_5649~ The first glimpse of spring in Michigan

~ Supernatural pain relief for my mom-in-law after her recent surgery to repair her foot

~ My mom who has kept our clothes clean and our bellies full

They call this season March Madness and our March, so far, has been just that. We’ve been attacked emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It’s been one thing after another and at times my spirits have sunk pretty low.

But there’s also been a lot of good, a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. In the midst of the madness, in the midst of the storm, I’ve been reminded this week that we do have a choice.

~ We can choose to focus on the good or focus on the bad.

~ We can choose to keep our eyes on God or keep our eyes on all that’s going wrong.

~ We can choose to give our hearts away to Satan and his attacks or we can stand in the name of Jesus and fight to keep our hearts intact.

 Anyone can praise God when things are going great, when life is good and beautiful. I want to praise Him in the midst of the madness. As the popular lyrics of Matt Redman’s worship song says, “let me be singing when the evening comes…” * I want to be found signing at night regardless of the day.

My life, as of late, feels a bit like a buzzer-beater. It’s been fast! Dramatic! And crazy! And it feels like we keep coming up short, like we just keep losing. 

But with God nothing is ever lost. Anything and everything is always there, working together for good.

* 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

The Miracle of Skin-to-Skin (and Why It’s Not Just for Babies)

 

Skin to SkinA few nights ago My Promise ran the first fever of her ten month old life. It came on at bedtime and for the length of a sleepless night all she wanted and all I could do was hold her while she struggled to sleep. 

Cuddled in my arms she looked so terribly pathetic. Her eyes were weak, her skin was hot, and as she breathed she whispered the saddest whimper.

For a mom these are the moments when you’ll do anything to bring comfort to your little one. Around 3:00 am her fever spiked to its highest mark making sleep impossible for her and for me. Remembering her newborn days and how much she was comforted by skin-to-skin contact I stripped her down to her diaper and pushed back my shirt to lay her bare on my chest. Within minutes she settled down and drifted back to sleep. By morning her fever broke and the worst of her illness was over.

As I cuddled her in the dark, our bare skin touching, comforting both of us, my thoughts wandered out of our nursery and into the stable where Christ was born. 

I thought of the infant king, the Prince of Heaven, now wrapped in human flesh and I realized this miracle, this breakthrough from heaven to earth, this God with us, fleshy, and human, and born like us, was and is the ultimate skin-to-skin care the world has ever known.

Christ, who could have remained in heaven, who could have loved us from afar, chose to enter in. Chose to take on skin. Chose to live skin-to-skin among us.

In a mother to infant relationship the benefits of skin-to-skin contact in the first weeks of life are nearly endless. It comforts, it soothes, it promotes all kinds of biological goodness. It creates security, bonds of closeness, and helps and infant adapt to life outside the womb.

And when Christ came to earth this and so much more is just what He had in mind. To cradle us, weak and whimpering and helpless from sin, in His arms. To secure us. Heal us. Make us well. To help us cope and adapt to a world outside His kingdom no longer alone but with Him all around us, beside us, inside us. 

And perhaps most importantly, most amazing of all, was in Christ coming to earth, in Christ becoming human everything that existed between us was pushed back, stripped away. 

He entered in wholly and vulnerable so that nothing could keep us from Him.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote,

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

 

Dear ones, as you celebrate this Christmas Day may the miracle of Christmas comfort you, secure you, redeem you. May you find yourself in His arms, on His chest, cradled and cured by His love.

Forever changed, made well, made whole, by the touch of Savior skin. 

When You Find Yourself Walking a Broken Road

 

Winter 10The snow? It just kept falling all big and heavy and white. And we? We just kept laughing and dancing and shaking our heads that this beauty, this land could be ours.

Thirteen years (18 if you count the dating, doe-eyed, dreaming ones), three states, three major moves, four apartments, one rental house, two months that turned into seven years living with mom and dad, five employers, three children, and one self-started business led us to this.  

To a real life winter wonderland and a place to call our own.

Winter 4 Winter 7 Winter 8 As I held my baby close watching snowflakes melt on her cheeks. As little girls laughed and dug their hands in mounds of snowy white. As husband snapped photos of tears in my eyes and I craned my head back to catch flakes on my nose and eye lashes.

As we all stood for this slice of time and wonder, wonderstruck by the beauty of this first snow of the season, by the beginning of this season in which we leave one home and create another all I could think was: this...

He knew it would come to this. This is what He had in store, set aside, waiting, planned, created for us.

The jobs, the moves, the states, the dwellings some of them, many of them, broke our hearts. But now we see how He worked it for good.  How He made a broken road and blessed it to bless us.

Winter 9Winter 13Winter 12There’s a country song that says it: “that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”*

And He did. He has. He will continue to.

He takes the broken, the lost, the forgotten, and makes it new. Makes it good. 

New, as snow on evergreen branches.

Good, as the feeling of home.

*”Bless the Broken Road” Lyrics by Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna, Robert E. Boyd, Marcus Hummon

 

When You Just Need Time to Slow Right Down

PlaqueTwo weeks have gone by since my last blog post. Chances are good no one has noticed this tiny, little fact.

But I’ve noticed. And it was this tiny, little fact that had me to turning to Chris around 9:00 Saturday night saying, “What the hell has happened to me?”

I used to blog every week…twice! For over two years I never missed a Sunday.

(A little background: my eight month old is teething and when she finds she’s not in my arms she cries like the sky is falling. Thus any activity that requires, two hands, two arms, and/or my undivided attention has become a challenge, to say the least. And sleep…Oh, yes, I remember sleep! Fondly.)

Anyway…I get that it really is okay. The world has indeed kept turning. Life goes on as they say.

But what of my world? My life?

What should I make of this nagging anxiety I keep feeling over all the things that aren’t getting done?

My blog?

My book?

My laundry?

Homeschooling?

Date night?

A shower?

In the pit of my stomach I have this deep seeded fear that I’m failing. That I’m trying so hard to do and be so many things that I’m not doing any of them well.

Think Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring when he tells Frodo he feels like butter scraped over too much bread. Yes, my dear Bilbo, that’s exactly how I feel!

It all came to a roaring head when I bumped my baby girl’s precious noggin against the corner of the wall a few nights back. It was an accident, of course, but a stupid one. A should have known better one. An I need to get another load of laundry in the wash so why don’t I balance the baby on one hip and the laundry basket on the other while I head down the stairs one.

When my sweet pea started wailing something wild broke loose inside me. After a few minutes of tears she was fine but I wasn’t.

I was weary and broken and tired of losing. In a house full of people I felt so alone. I felt unseen, unheard, unmattered. I was failing them, failing me, failing everything! I mean, really, blowing it big time.

It was one of those rock bottom moments when all you can do…and the last thing you want to do is pray. You don’t want to because you’re convinced you’re so far gone it won’t really help. But you start to pray anyway because that one shred of faith and trust you have left just might turn the tide. And, really, when you’re this bad off who can save you but Jesus?

So I prayed and asked for forgiveness, for help. For less fear and more love. For less stress and more joy. For plenty of butter to cover the bread.

And what I heard from Him were two tiny, little words: Be present.

Be present.

As in not thinking of all I did wrong, messed up, forgot, didn’t do.

As in not focusing on all that’s waiting ahead, stacking up, growing dusty, going to bring down the stars if it doesn’t get done.

As in stop and be all here, all in, right this very moment now.

Be present.

As in, stop, and be present to the baby girl who won’t sleep in her crib but will sleep in your arms because God picked you to be her mama and your hers and she’s yours. All yours. Listen to her sleepy breathes. Admire that skin so creamy. She’ll out grow those arms in no time so rock her while you can. Then sit and rock some more.

As in stop and be present to the first grader as she sounds out that tricky new word. Marker ‘e’ makes long ‘a’ and these days aren’t long but fleeting. This moment here with her golden hair smashed soft against my chest as we sound out homeschool together is but a fraction, a sliver in time. Don’t miss it!

As in stop and be present at the kitchen sink, the laundry basket the dinner table. Feel the hot water pouring from the tap. Close your eyes and breathe deep the scent of the detergent that conjures memories of Mom-Mom and all her magical loveliness. Fall head over heels in love again with the man so hungry from a day of hard work that his plate is empty before yours hits the table. (And ignore the mud he tracked on the floor.)

Whatever it is you’re doing be present. Be all there.

And watch how time slows down. Watch how things get done, or don’t. Or whatever? Who cares?

Watch how things that matter, matter and things that don’t, just don’t.

Watch how the world keeps spinning and joy keeps ringing and love casts out fear.

Because the tiny, little fact that can’t go unnoticed isn’t the blog, or the laundry, or any of the stuff that seems so important, that’s not getting done.

It’s Him.

It’s here.

It’s now.

Don’t miss it! Don’t waste this gift of right-this-second-now.

Cradle it like a baby. Like a sleeping, slumbering gift. Fragile and fleeting and worth slowing down for. Worth stopping everything for.

Be present.

Unwrap the gift of now.

Open wide the abounding, sprawling, to-do-list defeating gift of Him.

Why Now Is the Time to Dream

 

DreamThis summer my husband and I came extremely close to buying a large chunk of land less than a mile from where he grew up. We were excited; so excited to see these plans come through.

For months we talked and planned and dreamed. We walked the property and checked with the owner time and again working toward a deal.

This dream of owning land, of building a house, of having a place to call our own has been in our hearts since the day we wed almost thirteen years ago. And really it was a dream long before then.

We’ve come close to seeing this dream realized several times throughout our marriage but somehow it always falls through. 

At times this has shattered our hearts to pieces and other times it’s been okay because we knew God had better plans, but even still our hearts continue to dream and hope and long for that day, for that place all our own.

Again, this summer we thought we had it. And again this summer it didn’t work out.

Overall, we were kind of relieved when the deal didn’t go through. Too many red flags kept waving and we walked away from the land with all kinds of peace in our hearts.

I am so thankful for this but still we wonder what’s next. If not this land, this deal, then what? Will our dream ever come true? 

 It’s definitely been a time of trial and drawing close to God. Of choosing again and again to trust Him with our desire, to be open with our hearts, and believe His plans for us are good. To prosper and not to harm us.

And in this time of drawing close I keep hearing Him whisper a special message just for me:

 Now’s the time to dream. 

Having His permission to dream is both freeing and affirming. It inspires me to picture that place I long for so deeply. 

To see in my minds eye (and a Pinterest board or two…okay three) that one part cabin, one part castle, one part cottage home which is so perfectly me.

To picture my bedroom, my girl’s room, my writing nook.

To picture a spacious yard for my girls to play and an apple orchard just for me.

My list of dreams goes on and on filling my heart with light and hope. 

 And it’s not about not being happy where I am now. Indeed it’s being more than okay with waiting to see these dreams come true, but as I wait it’s also okay to imagine, to wonder, to trust. To dream big dreams that spin me around and point me to Him.

As I dream about my someday home I’m reminded that His permission to dream also holds true in other areas of my life where I find myself waiting. 

There’s the dream of another baby… perhaps a little boy.

The dream of spoiling our family and friends with trips, and blessings, and gifts galore.

And the dream of publishing my book.

So I let my mind run wild in the quiet and waiting places. In moments with Him and those Pinterest boards.

And I picture a little boy in cowboy boots who smiles just like his daddy.

I picture my parents on a cruise ship, my family in Germany, my best writing buddy and me in a tricked out glamper doing book signings from coast to coast.

I picture my book, printed on leafy pages, looking right at home on a Barnes and Noble shelf.

Will these dreams ever come true? Lord only knows…

But this I know for sure…

His heart for me is good.

His promises are true.

And now’s the time to dream.