Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hope in the Unseen

This past week has been one of the most emotionally draining I've experienced in a while. I wrote in one of my posts from last week that I'd been experiencing an inner turmoil of sorts, like I was waiting for something to happen. And something has. Nothing that I ever would have hoped for or imagined, but the unthinkable. The tragic.

You see, I serve as Co-Coordinator of our local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, which is an amazing ministry of women who support and love one another during all of the ups and downs of motherhood. We introduce women who may not know Jesus to a Creator who loves them unconditionally in a non-threatening, neutral environment where many simply need conversation with another adult and time to recharge. Many women who've never stepped foot in church or simply stopped going are drawn to it as a result of MOPS.

Last Friday, I was informed early that morning by our Coordinator that one of my friends and very active members of our group had experienced what I can only comprehend as the worst kind of loss. Her son had died.

I had woken up several times the previous night and unable to fall back asleep, had prayed. Although I didn't know what requests to bring before God or what was making me so restless, I felt the unspeakable need to pray. When I awoke the next morning and checked our MOPS Facebook page, I discovered why. The mom had posted that her son was in the hospital, had coded and was on a ventilator. So again, I came before God, not sure what the status of the situation was. Until about fifteen minutes later.

When I volunteered to become a MOPS leader, I knew that difficult times would arise. It never fails. I began my leadership experience in Utah about a year after giving birth to my first son. But I never dreamed anything like this would happen. My immediate response, which was the repeated sentiment of the leadership team, was that we did not feel equipped to respond. We had no words. We were grief stricken, spent much of the morning in prayer and tears, and any condolences we could offer felt trite and hollow.

As I sought wisdom from the Lord through prayer and spoke with family, our Pastor, and a friend who had also lost a child, I heard the same reply repeated over and over. Be there. That's it. There is nothing you can say that will do much to ease the pain. Just be there. So that's what we did and will continue to do throughout this process.

Over the course of the week, as acquaintances have responded with questions, comments and support, I've experienced emotions ranging from sadness to anger to grief, and I cannot, I will not presume to know what the family is going through. I've been made painfully aware that there is indeed a difference between curiosity and concern, and that while some people will try to mask one as the other, it doesn't take much guessing to see where the heart really is. Concern says, "What can I do to help?" Curiosity says, "What happened? What are all the details?"

One question which we all ask, and one I know the mother has already grappled with, is, "Why?" Why would God allow this to happen? And that I simply cannot answer. My heart feels as though a weight has been placed on top of it, and glimpses of my children running and playing over the past few days remind me how blessed I truly am.

What I do know as that God is good even when life isn't. And although that may sound cliched or simple, if I had faith only when life's circumstances were joyful, well my faith wouldn't really be worthwhile or helpful. If I trust God only when life is easy, where will I go when life is hard? Although I've never experienced loss of this magnitude, I've gone other places when existence is painful. Places that further added to my pain.

Jesus is my hope because nothing else makes any sense when everything crumbles. If I had all the answers, it wouldn't be called faith.

A few days after all of this happended I received my quarterly MOPS magazine. Wow, what a blessing that was. Filled with great articles and encouragement. I was near tears, reading an article entitled, "Don't Lose Heart: The Unseen Truth" when I found just the verse I needed to hold onto in the coming weeks. It has become my mantra.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

The only words that have brought any peace to my heart are His words.

Although I cannot see Laken, I know his Heavenly Father sees him. The Creator who made him and loves him with a love so deep and wide I cannot fathom it. Although I don't always see the good in the ashes laying all around me, I trust that the Spirit will bind and mend and heal in a way which only He can.

If there has been a light in the midst of the dark this week, it has been my MOPS group. Any differences have been put aside to focus on what is important, and wow, what is important has become starkly clear. There is an unspoken unity among us. We share the same heart and purpose, and I've been honored to work alongside such a compassionate group of Godly women. 

I know that our entire team is devastated by the events of last week. We grope along, trying to find the best ways to comfort this wonderful mom who has just had her heart broken. Sometimes, we just have to take the next step in faith, even when we don't feel as though we have the equipment. When we don't think we have what it takes. Those are the moments when the Spirit steps in, he takes our hand, and reaches through us.

Toward those who need us the most.

We place our hope in the unseen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Last Visit

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: visit


Today a sweet little boy's visit on earth came to a close and he reached his eternal home, his Father wrapped his loving arms around him and took away every hurt, every fear and pain. Today two beloved parents, along with their three kids, made a trip home from the hospital with one less passenger in their vehicle. And as her friends try to process, try to grasp something tangible in this bottomless loss, we are continually stuck with the truth that words cannot do much at a time when the grief is so deep.

We lift up our hands and we question but the why is just a vapor in the dry air of winter right now, not finding any place to land or comfort to ask.

We reach out, we love, through our actions and our presence. We lift up her name and the names of each of her family in prayer, trusting our Sovereign Lord to do what only he can.

Words are weak. God is strong. He is more than capable.

Jesus, help us.


I ask anyone who reads this to please say a prayer for a dear friend and her family who are hurting right now. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Restless in the Wait

My mom is on a purge cycle that has lasted for the past few, oh I don't know, years? She likes to go through their attic and mail me her findings from my school years. Most of the things she sends me I look at, think, "Why?" and throw in the trash. Moving as much as we have over the past six years does that to you. However, several months ago I made my trip to the mailbox and discovered this little treasure, which I wrote circa 1992.

So I was 13 years old. And apparently unimpressed with the church service which was taking place while I scrawled it out on the back of their bulletin.

I chuckled off and on for the better part of the afternoon after receiving this poem, which my mom had saved all these years.

It made me think about church, faith, and even after decades have passed, the boredom can still seep in if I allow it. My spiritual life can become as dead as the leaves lying under the six inches of snow in our back yard if I am not constantly stimulating that muscle, that need, that ever thirsty, never satisfied taste for living water.

Sometimes I feel as though I'm waiting for that next "big" thing to happen. That next milestone or move or valley or opportunity. I become restless, searching for the next door or window, only to find it isn't there. But the great cost in living this way, in feeling this constant internal turmoil is that I miss the grand moments that are happening right there in front of me. Tiny miracles. A sunrise over a fresh blanket of snow. A new word or phrase from my two-year-old. A question from my oldest son which needs a well thought out answer instead of being brushed off.

Cuddling with my little ones on the couch and chasing them around the play hut as they play hide and seek? That's important. Making sure my son understands his homework? It matters.

Today, after being stuck in the house for the better part of three days between sickness, snow days and school cancellations, we went to Chick-fil-a for lunch. Although it was blistering cold out, the sun was shining the the fresh snow, the sky was a clear blue, and a beautiful day for a drive. On the way home, Jaden requested to ride on the "bumpy road." An unpaved, dirt road which is haphazardly placed between our road and one which runs parallel to ours. My kids love it. So as we're bouncing around, putting all of our SUV's four-wheel drive capability to the test, I let myself soak it the joy of this little fragment.

In this life, we will never fully "arrive." We aren't satisfied because we are eternal beings, our souls ever aching, always hungering for our Father and home is in Heaven. That next "like," next hit, next trip or pair of shoes or event? It will come and pass, but we'll still be craving more. In the same way, as followers of Jesus, our journey to become more like him never ends. There's always another step, another leap, another leg of the race. He is the only One that can truly satisfy, but that the same time we must constantly refill our cup until we reach our everlasting destiny.

There are seasons when we need to act, to move, and moments when we simply need to be still. To listen. To wait. Oh God, do I loathe waiting. Ironically, one of my favorite verses in Scripture is Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God." Perhaps because so often I cling to those words, knowing they will quiet my spirit, even if just for a little while.

God, give me the wisdom to know the difference. To not look down at my pedometer and see that I've taken twenty steps when you prompted me to take one. Help me not to become spiritually vapid during the stillness but ever anticipating, ever hungry, ever yearning for You.

As I wait on God, I am comforted by these words from Sidewalk Prophets. I hope for anyone else out there who is feeling restless, they give you peace as well.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Outside of Yourself

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's word: Encouragement


I wasn't expecting the knock on the door that afternoon in mid-September when the Utah leaves were just beginning to turn the vibrant shades of orange and red. I almost didn't answer it. But when I peeked out, there was my new friend standing there, goodies in hand for the new mom, her own two kids standing on either side of her.

The new mom. That was me. And although I wasn't sure what day it was and couldn't remember the last time I actually slept and was feeling pretty embarrassed by the fact that I was still in my p.j.s at that hour, I let her in. My deep seeded need for human contact, adult contact, any type of contact, really, was so loud it ached.

Although I tried to make excuses why I needed to stay at home, to clean or do dishes or something, she got me out of the house. In to the bright sunlight and the brisk fall breeze. And as I began to walk, I felt better. Exhausted, but alive.

It takes a special kind of person to see outside themselves, even for just a moment, and take off the blinders of everyday life. To not worry about everything in any given day of the week and to reach out, to see what's in the peripheral, to see the woman right beside them who is lonely, weak, and in need of encouragement.

I thank God that on that September day, my dear friend extended her hand during my time of need.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sharing it All

I lost count of the number of unfinished books I have sitting on the shelves and in the library tab of my Nook. Oh, I've finished plenty at some point or another. But it's crazy to think of how many I've opened, excited by the smell of the newness of it or the title glowing on the tablet, only to put it down several weeks later and leave untouched for months or even years. There are so many aspects of life where this habit is easy to fall into. Our health. Our fitness. Our finances. Our relationship with God. We think that our in our inertia, something will change despite our lack of effort and unwillingness to act. 

I'll quit smoking after I have one more cigarette. I'll start my new exercise regimen right after I eat this donut and watch Grey's Anatomy. I'll talk to my kids about Jesus as soon as I read this article about how to talk to my kids about Jesus.

That last one? Me. Guilty. It's not that I don't share. But I sometimes I hesitate or stumble over my words. It's awkward when I feel as though it should be easy.

You see, and I'm going to be completely honest here, when it comes to sharing the Gospel with my kids, I often struggle. I overcomplicate it. I confuse even myself. There may be some moms out there who have it all figured out and impart the greatest news of all eternity to their children with grace and ease, but me? I'm not one of them. Maybe it's because to me, telling my kids about my Savior is one of the most important things I could ever do, and I don't want to mess it up. And seeing my kids follow Jesus is my life's greatest desire. 

Let me just interject here and say I know it is not up to me. That it will be the act of faith my children take and the grace of God that saves them. Not me, certainly not me. But do I believe I play an oh so important role? Absolutely.

One fact I've learned about kids: Kids are simple. They haven't taken philosophy 101 and will not bombard you with questions about why God allows bad things to happen to "good" people. Kids, at least at my boys' ages, believe because you believe. And while I know it will not always be this uncomplicated, at this stage in their lives I need to embrace where they are.

Having discovered that, I found a series of books that Chris and I began reading several months ago with Jaden which he absolutely loves: The Hermie the Caterpillar books by Max Lucado. I discovered Lucado's adult writings a few years ago and have grown leaps and bounds in my walk with Jesus as a result of them, but I recently found that he also has books for children. The Hermie series does an amazing job of explaining prayer, forgiveness, and growing into the unique person God created you to be. When we first started going through these books with Jaden, he wanted to read them every night.

I also found a great children's devotion, which is a little above Gabe's level but is perfect for Jaden: Five Minute Devotions for Children by Pamela Kennedy. It is filled with beautiful watercolor pictures and draws parallels between various animals and the way God cares for  each of us.

Another hard lesson I've learned: comparing my kid's spiritual walk to other kids, or whatever I perceive theirs to be will not only drive me nuts, but will not accomplish anything. When I see another mom post on Facebook that her four-year-old just accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior I think, "That's wonderful. Beautiful." I really, honestly do. But I also wonder, "Am I missing something here? Is there something I should be doing that I'm not?" 

Then I remember, that with all the moms and dads God could have chosen to parent our two amazing boys, he chose us. He chose us for a reason. 

Our kids are as special and unique as the fingerprints their messy hands leave all over the house. They, through their own act of free will, will make the decision to follow Jesus in their own time. I believe it. I trust it to be so.

Lastly, if we earnestly seek God's help in our parenting, He will give it. He will give it abundantly. If we need encouragement and reassurance, He will give it freely. A few weeks ago I was beating myself up about all of the aforementioned things, and my boys left for a couple of days with the grandparents to give Mom and Dad some much needed alone time. When they returned, we were refreshed, missed them terribly, and after showering them with hugs and kisses sat down to dinner with family, which included two of their cousins. One of them suddenly says excitedly, "Can we say the grace?! Can we say the grace?!" And then I realized my little Jaden was saying the dinner prayer with them while he was away. And they were joyous about it. It was just what I needed at that moment in time to say, "Keep going. You've got this." It was huge.

With any aspect of my life, if I want to see growth I have to act. I have to be intentional. And my kids? Well, if I'm not talking about Jesus then chances are they aren't going to be either. I can take them to church, AWANA, Sunday school and the like and all of those activities are time well spent. But the people my kids look to at this oh so important, fleeting stage in life for the answers, the lessons, the grace and the discipline are their parents.

God has carried me this far, and I know He will be just and faithful to guide my steps on the journey ahead. I cannot do it on my own, but with His strength lifting me up, all things are possible. Things beyond my wildest imagination.

"Come to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do You See?

It's Friday.  Where hundreds of writers come together every week over at the lovely Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to spend five minutes writing about one thing.  One word.  No hyper-editing.  No getting in your own way.  Just writing, flat out.  The most important rule: encourage the writer who linked up before you.  Won't you join us?

Today's prompt: See


It was a question that darkened the corners of my mind during those long winter months with the sub-artic temperatures.  Do they see me?  The moms at the play dates chasing their kids around the mat room.  The family members on the phone as I listen to countless stories of heartache and worry, uttering prayers they'll never hear, never know about. My two little beacons of joy, running around the house chasing each other with boundless energy.

These people I do life with, do they see me as an open book or a closed door? Do they see my spirit reaching out between the lines and words, searching for that glimpse of grace? That knowing nod that says, "I get you. I'm here."

When I put on a brave face for my oldest son after he tells me he was teased on the bus ride home, does he see how my heart breaks, how I long to wrap him in my arms and protect him from the evil of this world, from ever being sad or lonely or rejected?

As I look at my blog statistics and see the numbers plummet, the comments non-existent, I wonder if people see what I'm trying to convey. Does the essence of my message shine through the black and white on the page?

Suddenly, I hear a whisper coming through the dark thoughts, first so faint I can barely hear it, then louder, clearer. 

"I see you."

"I have searched you."

"You are mine."

As the tears stream down, I am filled with gratitude that He found me.  That he chose me.  And through his grace, I see that I am part of something even greater than I can imagine. Each act of love, each step to reach out made through Him. He knows. He sees. He will shine.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Clearing the Clutter

Replenish me with your living water, O God.

I love the ambiance of the Christmas tree and the quiet glow of the decorations that surround the house during December, but honestly, I also love the way the house feels after I take it all down.  Uncluttered.  Returned to it's normal state. More spacious. Our tree was so dried out from the weeks it tried to survive until Christmas that I practically needed body armor to remove the decorations from it's prickly branches. To me, taking the tree down is symbolic of the New Year: A fresh start, new beginnings, a clean slate.

Although the holidays were filled with amazing memories, lots of extra calories, and trips to see loved ones we don't have the opportunity to visit often enough, they also left me feeling a little drained. When asked by a friend what my husband got me for Christmas, I realized how well he knows me. A 90 minute massage. When I first saw the gift card in my stocking I wondered, "Will I even be able to move after that long?" But maybe not being able to move wouldn't be such a bad thing. I am cashing it in. And soon.

I wrapped up the end of 2013 by completing a Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. During the one of the last chapters of the book, she has her readers complete a personality test, with the goal being to learn more about the person God created you to be and embrace the personality traits He's given you. I'd taken the same test when I was in high school, and I learned that while I have grown spiritually, become more confident, and less introverted, my personality is the same. I am a Phleg-Mel. You can read more about this personality here. In a nutshell, my personality type strives for peace and perfection, which are often at odds with each other.

With these character traits, the holidays can often be a stressful time.  I want to make it to every holiday party so as not to disappoint everyone. I want to find the perfect gifts but stay within our budget. And at the end of it all, I just want to lie down and hibernate for the rest of winter.

One of the important truths I learned from that last Bible study of the year is that "not all good things are God's things." (Renee Swope) While meeting the expectations of everyone who enters my life may feel necessary and important, not only is it impossible, but it's likely not in line with what God wants for my life. My goal? To walk in the Spirit. To respond to His still small voice and pursue the calling God has for my life. Often, that means saying "no" to people I care about so I can focus and doing what God's wants me to do, and doing it well.

Often, I feel as though I'm being pulled in a hundred different directions, and that still voice fades into the distance, drowned out by the noise of the demands of little mouths, the running of the dryer, and the endless annoying dinging of my phone. These responsibilities are important, but my goal, what I strive for, is to always put God first. As I was reminded by a recent devotion, it's ok to tell me five year old that I need a few minutes to read God's word. And how awesome is that for my child to see me making time for Him?

God, as I immerse myself in your Word, I know that I will hear your voice more clearly. You have stated that if I seek your Kingdom first, all these things will be added to me. Things I worry about but should place at the foot of the cross. I pray 2014 will bring me even closer to you. Amen.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34