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The ministry of tears

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 | 1 comment


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I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee?

I wish I were kidding on that last one.

It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years.

I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part.

Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me.

As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.

As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.


The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat.
So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . .

Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades.

We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown. 

I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house.

I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me–

Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis.

Tears are an incredible pressure valve and every single one of them tells a story. Tears are a way of my body expressing itself when words are insufficient.

Please continue reading The Ministry of Tears over at incourage.me.
You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the benefits of an ugly cry :).

 


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When You Don’t Feel the Love

Feb

25

Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 | 0 comments

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There’s little doubt that familiarity breeds contempt, but recently I found myself wondering if familiarity can breed contempt even when it comes to Scripture. (Gasp!)

There’s part of me that scolds myself — a heretic at best, guilty of apostasy or blasphemy at worst — but if you hear me out, maybe you can identify? When I’m brutally honest with myself, I see how easily it can happen. It’s not a matter of disdain or unbelief, but more a case of having read or heard “go-to” passages so many times, you gloss over it or think there’s nothing new to learn or that you already know it all as it relates to that verse or this chapter.

But here’s the kicker: we might not even realize we feel that way. It’s as subtle as speed-reading through familiar words or skipping a section altogether because you “know” it so well.  Oh, our enemy is a wily one.

I was thinking on this because I had sensed that Holy Spirit tug to write about 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest treatise on “love” ever penned. I’d wager even new believers or unbelievers immediately think Love is patient, love is kind, upon hearing the Scripture reference. It felt incredibly cliché to write about love during the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, except . . . except . . . the battle in my head and heart was so fierce, it seemed important to listen.

Why would God want me to write about love? And perhaps a more telling question, why would our enemy not want me to write about love?

When I realized the simple answer to both questions was identical, the wrestle was over: 

 

 Oh, I hope you’ll click to keep reading this one. It’s something I’ve found myself sharing in so many different situations lately.

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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?

 

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Superpower

Jan

01

Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 | 6 comments

Bloom where you're planted image

You have what it takes to f l o u r i s h when you embrace who you are and rest in Whose you are.

 

Regardless of circumstances. Despite events from your past. As long as you draw breath, you’re impacting the world around you, and it’s up to you to determine what that looks like. You may not be able to control most things, but you can control the most important thing: your response, to others and circumstances.

If we believe what Scripture teaches, as believers in and followers of Jesus, we’ve received supernatural power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s not intended to reside in dormancy; but to be exercised in the way we love and live, making a difference in who we are, the choices we make, the way we treat others.

The Holy Spirit is incredible superpower, intended to change the world by changing me and changing you; not for the mere sake of change, but for our good, God’s glory, and the advance of the Gospel.

 

I am convinced there is an enemy whose greatest wish is to steal and kill and destroy me (and you) by defeating us before we begin. He’s cunning and subtle, an expert in deceit, a brilliant observer of mankind, and it’s not hard to identify and exploit our weakness. He wins when we forget that HE is our enemy. How can you win a war when you’re fighting extraneous battles?

Be who you are. It is not trite to say you are one of a kind which makes you inherently amazing. Can you imagine a world where every individual realizes their unique potential and uses their natural gifts and talents for the benefit of others? We waste precious time and what we’ve been given when we make comparisons, when we’re snared by envy and covetousness. They’re an effective weapon.

Remember your enemy. He’ll break your heart six ways to Sunday when you forget who you’re fighting, when you forget who you’re following.

 

Weeds who wish to be roses are doomed before they begin. No matter how hard they might try, they can never become something they weren’t created to be in the first place.

Consider the dandelion who digs in deep and sprouts a tiny sun before sprinkling a thousand wishes in the breeze.

Be who you are. Bloom where you’re planted. It can be magical.

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 | 5 comments

Clay pieces

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. ~ Thomas Merton

 

I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art.

Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity.

Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you.

As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance.

Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves.

Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember.

This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers.

Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity.

I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades.

A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it….

I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution:

Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.

 

My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.

Clay angel

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Picasso

 

I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is. 

Joseph and a sheep

 

Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).

Mary and Jesus in manger

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ~ Michelangelo

 

Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…

Glazed but not yet fired

 

And after.

Handmade Clay Nativity

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~ Aristotle

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Greater Love

Sep

14

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 | 0 comments

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Sometimes when you get what you hope and pray for, it’s not just hard, it hurts.

 

I’m a mama to three — two brothers born before their big sister turned five. Babies, then toddlers, are so active, aren’t they? Endless demands and never enough sleep, a constancy of care and attention. If you see a woman with raccoon eyes and a coffee IV, she’s probably a new mama.

Every day is a learning experience for both child and parent.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of parenting has been how much my children teach me. I presumed this teaching business was a one-way street, where I played the role of teacher, and they, always the students. While our home has certainly been a classroom, often it was me learning the lessons of love and life and forgiveness and sacrifice through them. The hardest lessons were those of self-discovery, where conflict or circumstance revealed my own sin.

Sometimes parenting is knee-bending humbling. 

 

Time plays tricks on mamas. Days stretch forever long but years end impossibly quick. And then one day you wake up to beds already made, an empty laundry basket, two glasses, and two plates in the dishwasher . . . and quiet.

On brutal days of parenting, you’ll wish it would come faster. On days stitched in joy and sunshine, you will time to stop, if only that were possible.

Yes, you will know this empty nest thing is coming a mile away. You’ll steel your heart for the inevitable.

The Day will come softly with no fanfare, the way summer sneaks into fall. In nature and in life, seasons are creation’s evidence that change is good and necessary.

Our youngest son started college last month, our middle son began his junior year . . . and on Tuesday we returned from a cross-country trip to move our firstborn into her new apartment.

Sometimes parenting means letting go all the way.

 

We must let go of tiny hands so they can walk. We’ve got to release the seat of the bike so they can ride. When it’s time for them to leave home, we can’t attach strings of manipulation or guilt.

We began praying for our children when they were only sparkles of hope in our eyes. When they were old enough, we kneeled right beside their bed or lay side by little side, our nightly prayers a bedtime ritual, a necessary prequel to sleep.

That’s something not often marked in a visible place — the last time you say nighttime prayers with your children. I don’t think you recognize it as such; maybe because it’s more gradual than that. And maybe because you never actually stop praying.

It’s safe to say that most parents pray their children will follow the Lord’s will for their lives, that they will love and serve Jesus for all of their days.

Our world is a broken one and, increasingly, our culture seems to fight Judeo-Christian values. It is no small thing when our children leave home with their faith intact. When they’re on their own, free to experiment and explore, it is reason to downright celebrate when they still choose Christ again and again.

Throughout their lives I’ve prayed for my babies to follow Jesus, but it never occurred to me that might come at a cost.

Keep reading Greater Love over at incourage, won’t you?

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