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. 

For When Christmas Comes Up Empty

MangerThe stress of the week had left me empty, had drained me dry. Work challenges, family challenges, and holiday pressures had taken their toll.

Desperate for peace and joy I retreated to the nursery to rock my daughter to sleep for nap time.

With Promise sleeping soundly in my arms I opened the playlist on my phone and scanned my albums for music to bring back the spirit of Christmas. For me, this music is found yearly on Michael W. Smith’s album: Christmastime.

Somehow it never truly feels like Christmas to me until I set aside a sacred time to still, and slow, and listen. To let this music stir in me the feelings of snow and warmth. Of family and coming home. Of worship. Of Christmas.

And on this rocky Thursday morning, with tension filling every room of the house. With stress running rampant and discouragement decking the halls, I needed this balm. These tidings of great, great joy.

 

“Fragile finger sent to heal us,

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us,

Unto us is born

Unto us is born”

 

As the lyrics from Welcome to Our World fell over me and the sleeping babe in my arms, I found myself overwhelmed with how much I need Him. With how much my family, my household, this crazy, smoldering world needs Him. How we all need Him to come and fill not just the manger but all the empty, the lost, the broken.

Christmas, it brings with it so much joy and yet there is always this beautiful ache. This ache for Him to fulfill all we truly long for. 

The manger so long ago was such an unlikely place for a Savior King to fill. And yet He did. He came in the most unlikely way to the most unlikely place and even so fulfilled every need, every ache of the world. 

And this is what He continues to do. And this is what we celebrate. This is what we need at Christmas and every day of the year. For Him to come and fill the manger of our hearts, our homes, our lives.

Anything, anywhere can be a manger if we but open for Him. Make room for Him to come. If we stop being so afraid of the empty, afraid of the ache and go to Him ready and waiting and asking of Him, “Lord, please just come.”

The only time Christmas comes up empty is when we look to lesser things to fill our greatest ache. 

And the best way to remain full this holiday season is to remember the truth of Christmas. To remember the baby who filled the manger, who filled the empty, the open, the cracks in all this broken world. 

My daughter expressed it perfectly this week while listening to an instrumental version of Away in The Manger. “This song reminds me of baby Jesus,” she said. “And when I hear it all I want to do is pick him up and hold him in my arms and love him forever.”

So simple. So profound. So very full of Christmas.

Sweet friends, may your heart, your home, your life be full with Him this holiday season.

When all else leaves you empty may you remember Baby Jesus, may you hold him close to your heart, love him forever, and let your manger be filled with Him.

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.