For When the Season You’re in seems Desolate and Void of Love

Winter 8While reading the other day I came across this quote by Celia Thaxter:

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”

Liking it, I texted it to my friend with the following question: Can I have an eternal fall and winter in mine?

I’m sure she rolled her eyes. She knows how much I adore the fall with its pretty leaves, rosy-cheek breezes, and pumpkin spiced everything. But winter? She, and pretty much everyone else I know, can’t understand the crazy obsession I have for this cold, dreary, never-ending season.

 Our conversation continued:

Her: Not winter!

Me: But I love it!

Her: But it’s desolate and void of love. 

Green LeavesI get it! Winter is hard especially here in Michigan. Winter means you can’t go outside without pain. It means you (and your kiddos) are stuck inside for months on end. It means constant shoveling, tedious driving, and dealing with ice and snow.

Winter means days and days on end when sunshine is scarce and pretty much everything you look at is colorless, dead, and gray. 

And for my friend, the season of life she’s in is kind of like winter too. Hard things are happening in her work and her family. People she loves have betrayed her. Right now there’s no end in sight.

Despite all of this when I read her response something in me snapped. I had this sudden conviction, this knowing with all my heart that her words, no matter how right they seemed, simply weren’t true. 

Lake MIWhich is why I wrote: Oh no! Winter is full of love and far from desolate. Think of all those bulbs in the ground, in the dark just waiting to bloom. I was thinking about it this morning, how beauty and transformation and miracles always start in a dark place. So is winter desolate? I don’t think so. It’s full of life just waiting to happen. And as for love? Think of “Jen” snow! Of icicles shining in sunshine. Of how good coffee tastes and feels on a cold winter morning and how snuggly warm your most favorite blanket feels at night. Each of these and millions more are God saying, “I love you” all winter long.

Jen snow? Yes, I love the falling flakes so much my friends have coined a name for it.

At any rate, this was my knee jerk response to her comment, but I can’t stop thinking about it. About the life and the love that happens even in desolate seasons.

Snowy PumpkinIn seasons that seem like they’re void of warmth and all things good.

In seasons when life is hard, and cold, and dark. When we’re forced to wait for sunshine, to wait for spring to come.

In seasons when we feel all alone as though the ones we love…as though the One we love…has abandoned us.

I’ve lived these winters. I’m watching my friend live one now and I hope she can know what I know. I hope she can see and feel and experience the life and the love that’s still there. That’s happening all around her.

In the dark, in the hard, in the terribly lonely, life IS waiting to bloom. Love IS calling your name.

AmarilysOn my kitchen windowsill an amaryllis bulb my family was given for Christmas reaches just a little bit more for the sun each day, a reminder that spring is coming.

A perfect gift for those in the middle of winter.

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

 

What We Have to Remember When Evil Breaks Loose

 

Nativity“Tell me, Annabelle, how is she?”

“She’s different, my lord. I’m afraid her time in Lukenwalde, and that horrid Prince Silvano, has changed her dramatically.

“I was afraid it might be so.”

“Tell me, my lord, is it time? I hate to see her languish like this. She can’t even look at her gifts. She insisted I burry them in that wooden chest of hers. Hidden in darkness, they have remained there since the day she came home.”

“It saddens me to hear it, but no, ‘tis still not time.”

“Forgive me, but I can’t see the sense in waiting much longer. I know you have your reasons, but I don’t understand.”

“Trust me. ‘Tis all I can ask. I know ‘tis hard. I know you don’t understand. But trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.”

~*~*~*~

As I watched the headlines light up the screen last Friday night all I could think was: Again? It’s happening again?

Innocent people murdered. People doing nothing but living their lives, attacked by pure evil.

I thought of the school children killed in 2012.

The marathon bombing of 2013.

The heinous acts being carried out against men, women, and precious children throughout the Middle East.

And now Paris.

I thought of what this world has come to and the evil we’re facing and how we desperately need a rescue.

And I thought of my story, of this scene I edited just a few days ago. About the king and his beloved that fill the pages of this tale I’m writing.

In this particular scene the king’s beloved, Princess Merrily, is in trouble. She needs a hero, a rescue. Her friend and confidant, Annabelle, implores the king to come. 

But the king, he’s patient and wise. He has a plan and it’s a good one. And while Annabelle doesn’t understand, the king asks just one thing: “Trust me, dear Annabelle. Please, just trust me.” 

When evil strikes like it did last Friday I think we’re all inclined to implore our King and Savior to come. To come and rescue His beloved. To come and recue this weary world. We don’t understand the evil or why He’s waiting so long.

But our King, too, is patient and wise. He has a plan. A good, good plan. To prosper and not to harm. To give hope and a future.

And our King, too, asks us to trust. 

To trust him and Him alone.

Not our government. The headlines. The next election.

Not our trendy beliefs. Our Facebook posts. Our celebrities, our leaders, our heroes.

Not the rock of dread in our gut. The voice of fear in our ears. The image of horror before our eyes. 

Just Him.

“Trust me,” He says. “Trust my tract record. My truth. My promise.”

“Trust my unfailing love for this world, for you, for my precious beloved.”

“Please, just trust me.”

 Trust that the King is coming.

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.

When You Need A Little Mercy

 

My Mother's CamFor the past several months I have spent my days adjusting to life as a mother of three. Seven months have passed since my baby girl was born and for the most part I feel like “Allen Party of Five” has settled very happily into our new normal.

Just the other day, during a family stroll around the block, I grabbed my husband’s hand and with a contented sigh told him how much I love my life. How much I love being a mom of three.

It’s good to be in this place but believe me I’ve had my moments. I knew all along this season of adjustment would be tough at times, what I didn’t know was how discouraged I would sometimes feel.

Surprisingly, at least to me, the discouragement I’ve felt the most hasn’t come from late night feedings or nursing dilemmas or middle child meltdowns, but from a lack of time to write.

Before Promise was born I had a solid writing routine that supplied me with the chance to work on my novel almost everyday. I didn’t know how spoiled I was or how vital this time had become to my ability to function. When my routine went haywire, replaced by feeding times, rocking times, and a few extra minutes of much needed sleep, I found myself feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Without my time to write I was suffocating.

I needed a little mercy. Just an hour, please, to sit and write.

In the midst of this season God has been good, giving just the mercy I need. His mercy has surprised me, coming not in hours to write, but in hours to sit and read.

For a writer reading is the next best thing to writing, and while I don’t get the chance to write everyday, nursing and rocking my newborn has given me a newfound chance to enjoy the words and pages and joy of a book. 

You see, God and me, we have this thing. This thing with books. This thing in which He always seems to bring just the right book at just the right time into my life.

Most recently He’s done just this thing through My Mother’s Chamomile by Susie Finkbeiner. For almost a year this lovely novel sat on my shelf, and now I know God was saving it for a time such as this. For a time when days go by without putting pen to paper because so much time is spent being a mom to three little ones.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that God wants me to read nothing but non-fiction books that help me grow in my walk with Christ. That draw me closer to Him through a better prayer life, a cleaner house, a smaller waist, a thankful heart. And while these books have their place in my life, My Mother’s Chamomile has reminded me that God also speaks to me and draws me close through stories.

It wasn’t until I picked up this book that I realized how starved I am for fiction, for story. For words that make my own words better. For a book that reminds me to dream, to write, to keep writing, even when I feel discouraged.

So many heart lessons were learned as I read this book. Lessons I know I’ll return to again and again. Discoveries my heart needed to wake up to. Reminders of what I already knew to be true.

God knew I needed this mercy. My need wasn’t lost on Him. He knew what my heart needed, (even more than I did), and came through with just the thing. With a book that spoke to my heart. With waters of mercy for a thirsty soul. With grace so I could breathe.

All of this is to acknowledge the fact that we all need a little mercy. 

Whether you’re discouraged, grieving, drowning, or just needing a reminder of what your heart is for and Who’s for your heart we all need His mercy. His gifts of grace in our lives.

No one knows this more than He does and that’s why He’s waiting, that’s why He’s here. That’s why He keeps showing up morning by morning with brand new mercies and baby fresh grace. 

Mercy for this mama’s heart. 

Mercy for all hearts in need of more of Him.  

 

~ From the cover of My Mother’s Chamomile ~

“Desperate for the rains of mercy…

 Middle Main, Michigan has one stoplight, one bakery, one hair salon…and one funeral home. The Eliot Family has assisted the grieving people in their town for over fifty years. After all those years of comforting others, they are the ones in need of mercy.

Olga, the matriarch who fixes everything, is unable to cure what ails her precious daughter. She is forced to face her worst fears. How can she possibly trust God with Gretchen’s life?

A third generation mortician, Evelyn is tired of the isolation that comes with the territory of her unconventional occupation. Just when it seems she’s met a man who understands her, she must deal with her mother’s heartbreaking news. Always able to calm others and say just the right thing, she is now overwhelmed with helplessness as she watches Gretchen slip away.

They are tasting only the drought of tragedy…where is the deluge of comfort God promises?”

Susie Headshot 2

Author Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner is the writer of fiction, both short and long. Her deepest desire is that her fiction reflects the love of Jesus in a broken world. She and her husband are raising their three children in the beauty of Michigan.

With many thanks to author Susie Finkbeiner I am SO, SO, SO excited to giveaway a copy of Susie’s latest book A Cup of Dust to one of my readers. (Now that’s a mercy AND a grace! Thanks, Susie!)

To enter my Cup of Dust giveaway please leave a comment below and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. The winning name will be drawn next Saturday and the winner will be announced in next week’s post.

Cup of DustA Cup of Dust is available online and at Baker Book House and releases everywhere October 27th. 

Also don’t miss an exciting chance to make a Kindle version of My Mother’s Camomile your own, October 9-14th for just $.99!