What You Have to Know About Today

 

IMG_5847For God’s Message of Hope…

So what is it about the summer that makes the kids grow?

Clearly, there’s the sun, the sky, the gobs of fresh air. But there’s also the fact that summer was made for childhood, and inherently a child knows they must rise to the occasion. As they rise they have this way of growing like rows of emerald corn. Bright. Tall. Wholesome. Sweet. They stretch to the sky before our eyes.

This summer My Blessing grew into the pureness and fullness of seven. She grew into books and adventure and a love for testing the laws of nature.

God’s Promise grew into one. Leaving baby days behind a little more each day she embraced the wonders of a toddler’s world. She grew into words, and slides, and big attempts, despite her little size, to do just what her sisters do.

And Hope…oh, my Hope Girl As the heat of summer fades, Hope’s days of being four are dipping below the horizon like a shining sliver of orange sun.

Skin to SkinI don’t know what it is about the change from four to five but it gets me every time. It catches my breath and startles me, catching me off guard.

I remember this moment when My Blessing was about to turn five. How the hot arrow of realization struck me and singed my heart with knowing that My Blessing, age four, was about to be gone forever. Never to be seen or known again.

And now here I am with Hope savoring her fourness. Savoring her suckin’ fingers, and golden hair. Her faithful friend Froggy and twirling dresses. Her Barbies, and dolls, and princessy, glittery, has to be every-shade-of-PINK-under-the-sun-things.

Her tiny wisp of a voice.

Her heart that beats for Daddy.

Her half-pint size still not quite too heavy to pick up and squeeze and hold.

And I know these things won’t leave completely as she flutters her wings into five. But five brings us ever closer to that dreaded precipice. To that place and time when Barbies and dolls and dresses that twirl will lose the fight to friends, and make-up, and dresses that twirl boys’ heads.

Tenley HandLast night at bedtime I held her. I snuggled her so close she squeaked. I kissed her all over her face and looked long and deep into her sapphire blue eyes.

“Mommy, what are you doing to me?” She said with half a giggle and half a groan.

“I’m memorizing you,” I said. “I know I’m going to fall head over heels in love with Hope, age five, but boy am I going to miss, My Hope Girl, age four.”

To this she simply smiled, grabbed her Froggy, and rolled over, ready for the sweetest of dreams.

And, sure, she can roll her eyes and shake her head over her crazy mama. (Two gestures of appreciation, I am sure, have only just begun…) Of course she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand. But someday….

Someday God’s Message of Hope, age 34, will sit on the edge of a bed. She’ll look long and deep into eyes that look just like her own and she’ll know.

Mama wasn’t crazy. These days ARE fleeting and few.

 Each one a masterpiece, a summer sunset.

 Created, given, and meant to be savored.

For When You Need a Break from the Same Old, Same Old

 

IMG_3824“Mama, I think today’s a good day for a date with Papa,” My Blessing said as she licked the last morsel of breakfast from her sticky little fingers. 

I glanced across the table at my dad, deciphering his thoughts on the idea. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for some time with my girls. He nodded, ‘yes’ leaving the decision up to me.

For a moment I weighed my daughter’s request with all I had planned for the day: homeschooling, laundry, afternoon naps…was there space and time for a lunch date?

I looked at her hopeful face. “I guess a short lunch outing would be okay. We could do Steak N Shake, McDonalds, or…”

 “Or Barnes and Noble?'” she asked, ever my little event planner. It was clear she had the day mapped out.

I checked the clock and smiled. “If we hurry, and if it’s okay with Papa, we can make story time…”

Belle Toes“Did you hear that, Hope?'” She cried to her sister. “We’re going to Barnes & Noble for story time. I’m so excited!”

Just shy of an hour later we were loaded in the van and on our way, my dad, my girls, and I. For the rest of the morning, we enjoyed story time, craft time, and snack time. Dad laughed as the girls designed and executed two funky looking art pieces. I laughed as Dad did his best to help.

Next we huddled around the train table as the girls played and looked at books.

“Ten more minutes,” I called as we closed in on noon. “It’s just about lunch time. Time to head home.”

“Or time for a cookie?” My Blessing piped up, eyes never leaving the long line of cars she carefully pushed up a hill.

Again I glanced at my dad. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for cookies. Again he nodded, ‘yes.’

Minutes later at B&N cafe I watched as my girls dove into gooey chocolate chip cookies the approximate size of their faces. Not wanting to leave ourselves out Dad and I sipped coffee and enjoyed a treat of our own. We totally spoiled our lunches but for once I didn’t care. 

IMG_5847“This is nice,” I said. “Thanks, Dad.” Then looking at my girl, “And thank you, Blessing, for coming up with the idea.” She smiled a chocolaty smile and beamed, “It was a good idea, wasn’t it?”

It sure was.

When my girls were really small I often read them a book at bedtime titled, What Could be Better Than This by Linda Ashman. One of my favorite verses from the story went like this:

“And when they could listen and move at your pace,

the world held a new sort of grace.

It seemed quite a magical place.”

 As I sat at that cafe table with my girls and my dad these words came to mind. Homeschooling and laundry seemed worlds away and everything before me seemed tented with magic and grace. It was like looking at the world through sunglasses, everything a different hue. The hue of childhood wonder.

As a parent, a mother, a homeschooling teacher it is certainly my job to keep us on track. To dictate our days, stay focused, stay fruitful. But days like this remind me that it’s also my job to teach them how to live, how to enjoy the good things God’s given us, how to chase after wonder on Tuesday mornings.

Belle at BeachFor this I’m hardly a teacher. I try but more times than not I find I am merely the student sitting in THEIR classroom where simple grace and fun are always the topic of study.

Finding yourself longing for a break from the same old, same old? Spend a morning, an afternoon, a day following the plans, the ways, the eyes and heart of a child. There’s no better way to make the world seem new. To wake up to life and living, laughter and joy, magic, enchantment and wonder.

On this Tuesday morning laundry piles waited at home. 

Schoolbooks remained untouched.

Class was in session at Barnes and Noble. And as I listened and moved at their pace I learned it all over again…

How the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 

What You’ve Got to Remember When You Think He’s Forgotten

Hands“You just don’t care about my birthday!”

 The words came hot and fast from the mouth of my six-year-old girl. She crossed her arms in a huff and stared out the window of our van.

“What did you just say?” I said in that you’re about to get it sort of way. I eyed her in my rearview mirror amazed by what I just heard. “Where in the world is that coming from?”

“You don’t care,” she continued. “You haven’t found anything Princess Jasmine at the store and now you’re just not doing anything…” 

I knew by the squeak in her voice and the tears in her eyes that she was serious; honestly convinced I was failing her.

In my mind questions flew like arrows. How could she think that? Doesn’t she see? Doesn’t she know how much I love her, how much I really do care?

Sunshine SmilesTruth is I’m doing all kinds of things to make her birthday magical. The cake, the games, the gifts…it’s all there in my head waiting to become a reality as her special day draws near.

Trying to keep my cool I consider pulling over. “Are you kidding me, Blessing?” I check the mirror, make sure she’s listening. “Did you ever think that maybe I don’t want you to know? That maybe I want to surprise you with something really special. It’s your birthday for heaven’s sake! You’re not supposed to know right now. Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you know I love you so much that I don’t just care about your birthday, I want to make it as special as I possibly can for you? Just because you can’t see what I’m doing doesn’t mean I’m not working hard to do something amazing for you, something beyond what you’ve asked for, what you can even imagine.”

And suddenly I knew. As the words left my mouth, it hit me. This message, it wasn’t for her, at least not completely. These words were also for me.

IMG_2068My husband and I are in the midst of a project. Several projects really. I’m writing my book. He’s building his business. And together we’re making plans to build a home on our property. At any given moment it seems like something…if not several somethings…is going completely wrong. Something isn’t coming together the way we thought it would. Some challenge must be addressed, reworked, dealt with, fixed.

It’s overwhelming to say the least. Just that very morning I found myself on the brink of a meltdown. One problem too many was pushing me to the edge. 

What are you doing, God? I wondered. We’ve asked for your help. We want to see this dream come true. Why does it seem like you don’t even care? 

As I looked at the face of my daughter I imagined our King Papa, shaking His head, amused by my antics. By my huffing and puffing and crossing of arms.

“Oh daughter,” He seemed to say, His words echoing mine. “Don’t you know how much I love you…

Mom:DaughterWith everything happening around us I had lost my trust in Him. So focused on what I could see, I lost faith in all His unseen. His arrows of truth hit the bulls-eye of my heart and I drove home lost in His unfailing promise.

For as much as I love my daughter, He loves me a billion times more. For as much as I care and am plotting and planning to make her birthday special, He’s behind the scenes of every moment of my life working all things together for good. For my great good. My best good. For dreams come true beyond what I wish for or imagine.

And sure, I have my questions. I have things I don’t understand. But the details are not for me to know right now. The answers are coming but they’re not here yet. 

We pulled into the driveway and before we went inside I held my dear girl close. 

“I know there are things you can’t see. There are things you don’t understand. I feel that way too sometimes. But when that happens we need to trust. You need to trust me and together we need to trust God and His love for us. Can we work on that together? ” 

She nodded her yes and I nodded mine, and together we sat for a moment held tight in each other’s arms just imagining what lies in store.

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 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!