For When You Just Want to Shut Down and Stop Your Heart from Bleeding

 

Tarheel PinA few weeks ago I posted a blog about what to do when your life feels like a March Madness buzzer beater and you’re on the losing team. Little did I know this was just the fate that would soon befall my beloved UNC Tarheels.

For anyone not into the drama of college basketball and the NCAA tournament, last Monday the University of North Carolina went head to head against Villanova in the championship game. With just seconds left on the clock Carolina’s Marcus Paige made an epic three point shot to tie the game and force what everyone thought would be an overtime square off.

But it wasn’t to be.

As the last tenths of a second ticked away Villanova’s Kris Jenkins shot a game winning three pointer destroying hopes and dreams of a UNC victory.

Going from the ultimate college basketball high to the ultimate low I watched my favorite players leave the court looking stunned, distraught, and dejected; my feelings, tumultuous as they were, surely only a fraction of what they were feeling.

To say the least it was heartbreaking.

Now I know the world of college basketball and all that transpires in the throws of March Madness is small cookies compared to the battles taking place in the real world. It’s a micro issue, respectively, but even still it stirs the hearts of those invested. I know it rattled mine.

And if nothing else, it has served this week as a reminder to me of a truth that matters in all of life’s battles both big and small:

Those who love deeply, hurt deeply. 

 

It happens all the time, the temptation to save your skin and your heart from pain. To check out, give up, ignore, don’t look, don’t touch, don’t feel. Don’t listen, don’t see, invest, get involved. Don’t go deeper. Don’t be real. And for heaven’s sake don’t let yourself be vulnerable. Because pain is always involved when you give your heart away. 

All day Monday I fought a subtle urge to not even watch the game. If they lose, I thought, I don’t want to see it. The disappointment that would cause the players…Coach Roy…me… would just be too unbearable.

But that game? That game! And, yeah, I got burned in the end…But how could I miss that game? 

When you find yourself hurting deeply, take heart! It means you loved deeply. And what has the Savior shown us about life but that loving deeply is the only way to really and truly live? 

All the things we love, the big and the small, it matters! It matters to Him. It matters to the story of your life.

When you start to get that feeling, that temptation to stop right there, to go no further, to look away, stop and think for a minute. Don’t just think about what you want to avoid, imagine what you’ll miss by shutting down your heart:

That relationship

That sunrise

That victory

That wholeness

That health

That smile

Laughter

Kisses

Welcome home hugs

Knowing what you’re made of

Knowing what He’s made of

Knowing what forgiveness feels like 

A life with as few regrets as possible

For all my Carolina dreams of winning the national championship, for all life’s battles both big and small, for all the deeply hurting, perhaps Garth Brooks said it best in the words of his classic song: 

“And now

I”m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end

The way it all would go

Our lives

Are better left to chance

I could have missed the pain

But I’d have had to miss

The dance” *

Lean in. Invest. Be open. Stay open. Stay. In. The. Pool. Be you. Be real. Give your heart away. Give your heart to Him.

And whatever you, no matter what, don’t abandon the big dance for the sake of all the madness.

No, grab your Cinderella slippers and linger after midnight.

*Lyrics from The Dance by Tony Arata

A Prayer for the Start of School

 

First Day of SchoolToday is the first day of school here in Michigan. In my house we never really stopped our homeschooling over the summer but even still we’re ready for a new year, a new grade, a fresh start.

For many moms out there, I know today is hard. Many of you have already put your kiddos on the bus, some for the very first time. (Gulp!) Others took big kids to middle school or high school or watched as the child who was just a baby yesterday took their first steps across a college campus. (Even bigger gulp!)

As I sit here in my little corner of Michigan, in my classroom for two with the comforts of home, my heart is with you, friends! I’d like to give you a great big hug or pass a tissue or two. I’d like to tell you it will be okay, that they will be okay.

I’d like to cheer with you and celebrate or sit at the table in your unusually quiet kitchen for a grown up conversation and a hot cup of coffee.

Unfortunately I can’t, at least not really. But I can pray. And mamas…I am! I’m praying big time for you today. And I thought maybe, just maybe, we could grab a collective cup of coffee and take a few minutes to pray for each other. 

Because whether you’re a homeschooling mama, a preschool mama, an elementary, middle or high school mama, a college mama. A special needs mama, first day of kindergarten mama, an empty nest mama. A working mama, a stay at home mama, a single mama. A grandmama, an auntie mama or a hope to someday be mama.  We all need prayer. We need the support and love and encouragement only a fellow mama can bring. 

So will you take your mama’s heart and come before the Father with me?

 This is my prayer for you. A prayer for the first day of school and all the days thereafter… 

Dear Father, 

 Thank you for this day. Thank you for your love and your grace. Thank you especially for the fresh grace you gave us this morning as our children went back to school. 

 Please, come now and be with us. Meet us in our hearts. Bring us your peace, your comfort, your courage. Be with all the mixed emotions we’re feeling. The sadness, the fear, the doubt. The happiness, the excitement, the joy. Be with us when we think of all the things we could have done or should have done. Be with us in all the things that fill our hearts with pride. Meet us in our desires and help our ultimate desire to be found ultimately in you.

 Lord, take all these thoughts, these feelings, and cover them with your presence, your wisdom, your grace. 

 Be with our children today. Help us release them to you. Take all our hopes and dreams for them, Lord, and help us remember your way, your timing, and your will is perfect. Remind us, Lord, that our precious children were yours long before they were ours and that your heart for them and for us is good, that you love them and us more than we’ll ever know. 

 Protect them, Lord. Draw them to you. Let them walk in relationship with you all the days of their lives and use them, Lord, for your kingdom. 

 Lord, help us to claim, today, the truth that you’ve got this! You’ve got them and you’ve got us, and help us to rest in this fact. 

 Give us strength, Lord. Give us joy. Help us as we mother. Today, tomorrow, and always. Find us faithful to our families and faithful to you, Lord Jesus. 

 In your beautiful, powerful, and precious name we pray. Amen!

See you again tomorrow? I’ll be here, friends, praying for you!

If there’s anyway I can pray specifically for you please feel free to leave a comment below. And also check be sure to check out the giveaway I’m hosting here for your chance to win a copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All by Brenda L. Yoder, the perfect resource for busy moms.

Happy first day of school, Mamas! May each day to follow be blessed!

The Truth About Suffering

Fairyland QuoteThis past June my husband and I found out we are expecting our third baby and while I was excited to share this news with our family and friends there was one friend I couldn’t tell.

Within days of discovering our happy news I received an email from my friend, Caye. In this email Caye openly shared the devastating news that she had just lost her baby at seventeen weeks.

I have journeyed with Caye through one miscarriage and to hear that she was now facing another, when she had just started to grab on to the hope that this pregnancy would last, broke my heart for her and her husband and their dream of having a family.

In a desire to be sensitive to the grief and loss she was going through I decided not to tell her that I was pregnant until I knew she had some time to heal. It was hard to keep my news from her. I didn’t like the feeling of not being open, of hiding something so important from a friend I felt so close to, but I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting her, of adding to her pain.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of spending some time with Caye. After weeks of not being able to get together it was good to see her and I could tell that something was different. Instead of sadness she was full of joy. Instead of grief she had hope in her eyes. I sensed in my heart that the time had come to share my news with her.

“Caye, I have something to tell you but it’s kind of hard.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “What is it? Tell me.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said with my hands literally covering my face.

“Oh my gosh!” she said. “I had no idea. How far along are you?”

“Nineteen weeks,” I said with an apprehensive smile.

“NINETEEN WEEKS!” said Caye.

Together we laughed and hugged and I know my sweet friend well enough to understand that she was genuinely happy for me. I explained to her why I waited and how I’ve wanted to tell her for so long.

“Thank you for waiting,” she said. “It would have been hard. There was a time when it would have really hurt but now…”

I watched as tears filled her eyes.

“But now, I’m over-the-moon happy for you. God has done such a work in me through this suffering and it is so, so good. I can’t believe what He’s done.”

For a moment we were both quiet, because really, sometimes there just aren’t words. But there is friendship, and there’s this way that two hearts that know Him and love Him and love one another have the ability to understand.

I’m not sure how to express what her happiness meant to me. What her words spoke to my heart. What her courage and openness inspire in my life. I am honored to be her friend, to walk with her through suffering, to walk with her through joy. And my own joy feels more complete now that she is a part of it.

Caye’s words on suffering remind me of what Mr. Beaver says about Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis pg. 86)

When we make the choice to walk with God through this life on planet earth we are not choosing a God who is safe. On the contrary we’re choosing a path that is marked with pain and suffering. There are pitfalls, and trials, and tests. There is adversity, darkness, and danger. But even in the wild, even in the pain, even in the darkest night He is there, working in us, molding us, shaping us. Creating something beautiful, creating something good.

And in the end, isn’t it the good we’re after? The beauty? The wholeness? The satisfaction of staring down adversity and finding what we’re made of?

The satisfaction of finding Him?

I’m currently reading a book by Catherynne M. Valente titled, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship of Her Own Making. (Awesome title, I know!) And in this book Valente writes of her main character, September:

“There must be blood, the girl thought. There must always be blood. […] It will be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it’s the wonders I’m after, even if I have to bleed for them.” (pg 36)

This life, it is hard and bloody. And sometimes we’re left wondering why. But in it all and through it all there is One.

There is a Lion, who isn’t safe. There is a King who is always good.

There is a Savior who went to the cross, to prove once and for all, that there are wonders worth bleeding for.

For more on Caye’s story please visit http://www.cayeser.wordpress.com.

What Are You So Afraid Of?

The King's SpeechFor the past two weeks my church has been hosting their annual “At The Movies” event.

It’s something I look forward to every year and last week the featured movie was the The King’s Speech. As we watched clips from this movie, which is one of my favorites, our pastor, Lee Cummins, wove together a message about fear and how it doesn’t have to define us or determine our futures.

It was a message I needed to hear and there was one scene in particular, toward the end of the movie that spoke straight to my heart.

King George of England, who suffers from a severe stammer, is about to deliver the most important speech of his life by way of public radio. His country is about to go to war with Nazi Germany and he knows his people need to see him as someone they can trust. As he stands before the microphone his speech therapist and friend, Lionel, tells him, “Speak as though you are speaking only to me, your friend.”

For me this scene was a picture of Christ and the way He stands by us. In the midst of our fears He is there, reminding us we are not alone.

As I writer I go through phases where writing comes easy, where ideas flow freely, and inspiration can be found in anything from a dustpan on the floor to a profound moment that must be put into words. But the opposite is also true. There are plenty of times when writing comes slow, tedious, and hard. Ideas dry up. Inspiration gives way to hesitation, procrastination, complacency, doubt.

For the past month or two the progress I’m making on my book has seemed painfully slow. My blog ideas seem to fall flat. And while I feel inspired to write my chances to actually sit down and work seem few and far between.

As I write these words I can see a pattern of what “seems” to be and what actually is. And I know this is where the fear comes in. When writing becomes a challenge all kinds of fears invade my mind:

What if I never finish this book?

What if I run out ideas for my blog?

What if I’m only kidding myself with this idea of being a writer?

And when fear creeps in all kinds of doubts and accusations seem painfully true:

You’ll never publish this book and if by chance you do, NO ONE will ever read it.

You don’t have anything new or interesting to say.

Your work as a writer is pointless.

There’s one more scene from the King’s Speech that spoke to me last week. King George has just seceded the throne and in a private moment with his wife breaks down in tears saying again and again, “I’m not a king, I’m not a king, I’m not a king.”

But he was a king.

Fear, doubt, and accusations were taking over his mind, defining the way he saw himself, determining what he believed about his role as king, his future.

But none of it was true.

When I give into fear, and doubt, and accusations all I want, at least on the inside, is to sit and cry like George. With my heart in my hands I shake my head and think again and again, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer, I’m not a writer.

But I am a writer. I’m a daughter of the king and I. Am. A Writer.

Seeing this, catching this truth in the scenes of the King’s Speech, in Pastor Lee’s message, in God’s words just for my heart, makes me feel like I can breathe again. Like I can write wholly and confidently in the truth that this writing life was His idea long before it was mine and because I am His I have nothing to fear.

And this is the truth.

So what are you afraid of? How are you letting fear define you? Control your thoughts? Determine your actions, your future?

In the face of this fear, in whatever it’s keeping you from, I hope you’ll remember King George.

I hope you’ll remember that you are a child of the King. You have nothing to fear.

With your courage, your calling, your life, you can stand before the microphone and speak as though you are speaking only to Him…your King, your Father, your Friend.

What a Dad Sometimes Can’t See

This week I am so excited to welcome my brother-in-law and friend, Landon Brown, to Once Upon a Writer. Landon is an amazing father of three, and when I first read his account of my nephew, Garrett, and his dragon fighting adventures, I knew it was a story of whimsy and wisdom…a story I couldn’t wait to share with you.

~ Written by Landon Brown ~

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” C.S. Lewis

I caught a glimpse of skin, stripes, and shiny plastic as I turned from the kitchen towards the living room. 

It was 9:00 pm on a Saturday, traditionally a day to gather up the pieces of family life dropped along the path of the week.  This Saturday, however, found our family scattered to the four corners of our world with Melanie away at a conference and my two oldest children with friends.

I almost missed it as my mind registered the scene of my seven-year-old son and his nine-year-old best friend. 

The call of adventure woke these boys at 7:30 am and they…

Rode bikes through a battlefield fighting the enemy with a Nerf gun…

Scorched the putt-putt course and won a pair of swords…

Broke the swords in a dual…

Ran from an imaginary villain through the Monkey Joe obstacle course…

Fought WW2 after they got home…

Built a fort using blankets, and pillows, and chairs…

All while making those shooting and sword fight noises only boys can make. Now (whew!!!), they were home and not far from bedtime.

It was what I didn’t see as I entered the living room that made the day worth remembering and cherishing…

I didn’t see the band of pirates chasing these “scalawags…” 

I didn’t see the ocean teeming with hungry sharks and giant tentacled octopi (cool word) that dared them to teeter off the ship (couch) and fall into waiting jaws… 

I didn’t notice the helpless princess they were protecting and trying to rescue…

Nor did I see these things for most of that tiring Saturday.

I almost missed it.  I almost saw nothing but a messy living room, and I almost got upset to find two broken swords scattered on the floor. But something (the Holy Spirit) reminded me that this make-believe world in the minds of these boys was given to them by God. 

One day these two “warriors” will grow up to be men…protectors and providers. Families will look to them to fight the enemy of their souls with no less energy and determination.

So let them fight.

Let their imaginary battles rage on, and let them dream of rescue. Let them imagine enemies, and castles, and sword fights. Victory and defeat.

Because the enemies will one day come, and they will be real, and the stakes will be high.

Let’s teach them about The Lord of Angel Armies, who warns us of the ultimate enemy, who fights our battles for us, who rescues us from peril. Let’s teach them about miraculous victories and impossible odds overcome by His power and might. Let’s teach them about the final victory of Jesus over His enemies and of the final restored kingdom of God on this earth.

Tell them stories…don’t lose the opportunity while their imaginations soar.

Tell them God’s story.

Give them hope.

And, dads…remind yourself of these things often. May God grant all of us eyes of faith that we may wonder at the things we cannot see.