When It’s Easter Week And You’re Short On Hope

I sat across from her. An 8:30 breakfast on Wednesday of Easter week. But we didn’t talk about weekend plans. Instead she tells me her story. A story no one should have. A son taken from her too soon. Despite all the prayers lifted up, despite all the attempts to save him, her baby gone from this earth and all she’s left with is an ache.girl-865304_1920

So everyone celebrates life this week while she breaks.

My stomach tightens, not from the chain-restaurant omelette, but from the knot of longing. I wanted to say I understand. But how can I? Who can understand such pain? I wanted to have some great words of comfort, but none came.

What do you say to a mother who lowered her son in a grave long before his time? What do you say when it seems the whole world is erupting with spring life and hers is cloaked in winter’s chill?

Nothing.

So I listen. And I pray. And I realize that her story is sadly not rare enough. I realize that all around me lie the ruins of brokenness. I realize that the journey through this world is one split by selfishness and greed and hatred and heartache. And too often, hopelessness.

And then I remember the story.

The one where Hope stepped onto the landscape of the world, took on its brokenness and stretched it out on a cross. The one where the sky split open and grace descended.cross-828894_1920

I don’t believe most stories. I think incredible stories are mostly just that—in-credible. And this one is most incredible of all. I mean who can absorb the notion that God would come to earth and pour Himself into flesh?

Not just flesh, but infant flesh. And that He grew into a divine man with the power to heal and to forgive? And then in that power He looked behind and ahead to all mankind—to me and to you—and saw each moment?

Each broken moment. Each unholy moment. Each gunshot fired. Each drug injected. Each harsh word or cold slap. Each tear shed. That He had the power to see my pain and my disease and my injustice and…my sin, and declare it wiped away?

Who could believe such a story?

But I believe this one.

Not because someone told it to me, although I’m glad they did. Not because of a Sunday school flannel board, although it was fun. And not even because I read it in an ancient document, although I now treasure that holy book.lamp-872946_1920I believe it because His story collided with my story and it became our story.

I believe it because there was a time when I couldn’t find my way through the senselessness of my broken road and all I had were whys. There was no making sense. There was only doubt and fear and a sense that I would never be okay again.

And then that story. A man who died on a cross, yet lived. A man who stretched out His arms and declared it finished, yet just beginning. He looked though the corridors of 2000 years and saw my tears and desperation and I saw Him. And it wasn’t just a story anymore. It was Hope and Resurrected Life.

It was God with me.

Emmanuel. God with us. Then and now. Reminding us that we are not alone.

And that this is not the forever world. But there is one waiting for us that needs no words to explain it or make it make sense. A world where a mother who walked this earth years past her prime stretches renewed arms out to her young son who never reached his in an embrace that knows no sorrow.mother-and-son-887058_1920

A world where there is no more death or grief or tears or pain. A world that makes sense of all that is and was.

A world that once only existed in my make-believe mind. But I’ve glimpsed it. I got a peak into that world during my deepest suffering. The curtain was pulled back and I knew. I knew the story was true. I knew that it was possible to live when everything else was dying.

My friend knows it too.

Our breakfast dishes had been cleared away and we sipped the last of our coffee through tears and through laughter. She knows the story. Heaven came down when her son was taken up.

She suffers. She longs. She questions. Yet she knows. She believes. This broken road ends in wholeness.church-750251_1920I hope you can believe that.

I hope you can take it all in despite how in-credible it sounds. The suffering, the heartache, the senselessness. It won’t always be so. It’s only part of this journey and it isn’t forever.

If something in you has died, if all hope is lost, I hope you will believe the story. I promise you, when you look through faith’s eyes, you see what can not be seen with your own. And you can find joy despite suffering, hope despite hopelessness, and life despite death.

I’ve created Hope For the Hard Places just for you, and I’d love for you to download it or share it in anyway you find helpful.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you believe the story. Or if you’re not sure. I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letter To My Grown-Up Children

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Kaila and Kieran–Austalia, January 2016

Dear Kieran and Kaila,

I hope you don’t mind that I’m openly sharing this personal peek into my heart. I was going to mail this letter, but then I thought about all the other mamas who are where I am or will be one day and I wondered if they needed words to attach to the jumble of emotions that are inevitably part of this “letting go” process.

I can’t believe this moment took me by surprise. After all, I’ve had two decades to prepare for it. Still, it hit me pretty hard that you two are turning 18 and 21 in just a matter of days. The reality of what that means has left me a bit breathless, and to be honest, a lot scared.

I feel like I’m short on time, and I wonder about all the things I left unsaid and untaught and undone. Never did I think it would be so hard. I always thought moms knew instinctively what to do to settle their babies, and to conquer life for their children, and then to launch their adults, ready to face life’s challenges.

But I quickly found out I was not one of those moms!

I was a blundering mom, trudging my way through every new phase wondering what the right thing to do was. I was sure I was going to have to pay for your counseling sessions one day (thank you for sparing me that expense…so far 🙂 ). Every day, I asked God to parent you because I was certain I was messing it all up on a large scale. It’s okay if you agree. You still turned out amazing despite me.

But here I am again.

Kayla's first day in the world--Feb 8, 1998

Kaila’s first day in the world–Feb 8, 1998

Trudging through.

Scared.

Asking myself questions like,

“Did you know how much I loved you or were you unsure of the priorities of my life?”

“Did I hold you enough while there was still time or did I let my to-do list trump my heart?”

“Did I model to you how to love your spouse and live with their best in front of you, or did you see me seek my own way over Dad’s too often?”

“Did Dad and I prepare you to be a servant in your homes and communities by modeling that or did you see too often that our flesh and selfishness took over?”

“Did we authentically live out our faith before you, or did we cripple your faith with our own weaknesses and doubts?”

“Did Dad and I teach you how to really build a life and a home and give you the tools to do it?”

Those questions and more keep wiggling their way into my consciousness and making me feel a sense of urgency at the disappearing days. I can’t take back the years. I can only pause in this blink of a moment to tell you what I hope you already know, but want to make sure you do.

1—I have failed you and will continue to fail you, but God never will. He is a perfect parent who is never too tired to listen, or too selfish to see what you need, or too insecure to handle all your emotions. He is always good, always kind, always right. He will never let you down. Ever.

2—I’m sorry. I am. You know I could list a gazillion ways I got it wrong. I never meant to. I’ve prayed through the years that the scripture be fulfilled that claims, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” If my love isn’t enough, I know God’s is.

3—Love others better than they love you. Love without fear of getting hurt or getting behind. Love when it’s hard. Be the one who says, “I’m sorry.” Be the one who forgives first. Be the one who gives in. It may not gain you the promotion, or the recognition or even any appreciation, but it will allow you to live a life without regret.

4—Be patient with me as I release you. I once was your home. My heart beat to keep you alive. It always will. Only, you’re grown-ups now. You don’t need me for survival anymore, but I’ll forget that sometimes. Not because I don’t trust you, but because I’m learning how to trust you to the One who has been the true Sustainer of your lives all along. It’s hard but I’m trying.

Friends always.

Friends always.

5—I am so, so proud of you. You are amazing. There aren’t enough words to fully convey that to you. Of all the things I’ve accomplished in my life, nothing compares to our family collectively and individually. Not because I take the credit. But because you are evidence of a Living God who can and will do what I cannot. He traded my inadequacies for His sufficiency. I asked Him to parent you and He did. The proof is in the fact that you look more like him than you do me.

So, you two, it is with some yearning that I look back on years that went by much too quickly. But I also look with promise into the future that is before you now. You are ready for it. Be patient if I’m a little behind the curve; I’ll get there.

I love you both so much,

Mom

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Kieran-always a snuggler.

Sweet Kaila.

Sweet Kaila.

Turn Failed Resolutions Into ReVolutions That Change Your Life

We’re already past that point in January where most of us have abandoned our New Year’s resolutions and feel defeated by our lack of ability to drop those 10 pounds, start that new project, get our marriages back on track, you name it.

Before you get too discouraged though, let me assure you that you haven’t failed and it’s not too late for a re-do. This time though let’s have a reality check and make sure we’re doing what it takes to see real change rather than just pursuing a phantom wish we hope comes true.

What if instead of a half-hearted resolution, we decide to usher in a revolution?pablo-3

What if instead of making a resolution to lose weight, we revolutionized our approach to health and wellness? What if instead of making a resolution to have a better marriage, we revolutionized the way we treat our husbands? What if we stopped giving in to a defeatist mentality and finally revolutionized the way we see ourselves and determined that this is the year we stop saying we can’t and take the first step toward that thing we always wanted to do?

What if?

Merriam-Webster defines revolution as “a sudden, radical, or complete change” and “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something:  a change of paradigm.”

So how do we start our revolution?

  1. Make a specific plan and make it a real priority. Let’s be clear on this. Our priorities aren’t determined by what we claim, but by how we spend our time. We may claim that our marriage is our priority, but if spend our free time on Facebook rather than on a date with our husbands, we fool ourselves and nothing changes. However, a complete change in how your time is spent will mean a complete change in what you can achieve.
  2. Find someone you trust to hold you accountable and give support. It will be far too easy to quit if you are the only one who knows the plan. Ecclesiastes 2:10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help…”(NLT)
  3. Start today. Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Procrastination is the great enemy of great things. I tell my children (and myself regularly) that you can’t course-correct a still object. Don’t be afraid of all the what-ifs of getting off course occasionally. That is far better than standing still and getting nowhere.
  4. Get past the past. Don’t allow past failure or disappointment to define you. Failures are just opportunities to learn a better way and grow. It doesn’t matter that you completely blew it up to this point with your children or nearly bankrupted financially. Life is a series of chapters. Learn from the experience, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and write the next chapter afresh.
  5. Keep the end in sight. Yogi Berra supposedly said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Know where you’re going from the start because it will get harder before it gets better. You will reach a plateau and want to quit. But there’s only one thing that guarantees our failure, and that’s quitting. You may need to rest and re-focus, but get back up and get back to work. It’s worth it.

How hard is this? Well I guess that depends on the revolution, but nothing worth having was ever gained effortlessly. But it is not impossible.

You CAN do it!

You’re turn. What in your life is in need of a “sudden, radical, or complete change”? Decide and then start your revolution today.

 

 

Choosing Contentment–What My Daughter Has Taught Me

thumb_FullSizeRender-6_1024I’ve had a rather grumbly morning. Nothing has changed since yesterday except my perspective, and I’m finding it more difficult than usual “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11).

My daughter Kaila is halfway around the world on a 6-week trip to Australia, and in her absence I’ve realized how much impact she has on my level of contentment. You see, I’m not naturally content. Instead, I lean toward restlessness and have to choose to quiet my heart and be content.

Kaila, on the other hand, at 17, is a picture of a heart at rest, and I have much to learn from her. She has an innate sense of what matters most—God and people—and she is content with knowing that God controls her life and the people in it for her good. At any moment, she’s perfectly happy with what she’s doing, whom she’s with, and where she is.

Watching her over the years, I’ve learned much about how to quiet my soul and be content, but days like today remind me I am still on a journey.

If you also struggle with contentment in your life, I hope you’ll appreciate these lessons I’ve learned from Kaila. I know what it produces because I’ve witnessed it. It produces a contented spirit that is peace to the struggler, rest for the tired, and a source of quiet strength to those who know her.

I am blessed to be my daughter’s student and to learn:

1—To enjoy the moment instead of yearning for the next adventure. Kaila lives completely in the moment. It’s not that she doesn’t dream, but her focus is always on living in every moment and engaging every person in that moment with her.

2—To enjoy what I have instead of longing for something more or better. Whether it’s stuff or station, I have never known Kaila to look around and want for anything that isn’t hers. As a matter of fact, she is constantly sacrificing in order to give and yet feels no lack because of it.

One of this girl's many talents--YES those are her arms :-)!

One of this girl’s many talents–YES those are her arms :-)!

3—To appreciate my talents and accept my weaknesses as part of God’s divine purpose for my life. Kaila knows that she knows that she knows that her talents are God-given, and conversely, so are her weaknesses. She is a gifted singer, talented musician, and craft-sy artist among other things, but she is also disorganized, a slightly clumsy athlete, and a lousy joke-teller. She neither shows off her gifts nor hides her weaknesses. She is who she is and she is perfectly okay with it.

4—To enjoy a job well done, instead of focusing on all that’s left to do. While Kaila is constantly honing her skills, she is always content with where she has come instead of frustrated by how far she has to go. She is motivated by the joy of learning, not by a standard of perfectionism.

5—To celebrate the accomplishments of others without a single moment of insecurity or jealousy. People matter to Kaila. She loves to do a good job, but she loves it just as much when others do. If given the chance to shine or let another shine instead, Kaila will always choose the latter. She may not win the prize or the glory doing so, but she always wins our respect and admiration.

Nearly 18 years ago, I started this journey feeling the weight of responsibility to lead and teach this precious gift of a daughter. Little did I know that in so many ways, she would do the same for me.thumb_IMG_2277_1024How about you? Could you use some lessons in contentment today? I know I’m sure missing my little girl who keeps her heart–and mine–so content.

 

 

For The Fixer-Upper Family–5 Things You Need To Know

I live in a turn of the century farmhouse with an old charm I love, but I also remember the work that went into making it that way. My parents bought this fixer-upper house when I was 15 and invested countless sweat hours, money, and tears into making it our home. It was stripped to undo the years of neglect and refurbished from the ground up. Since my husband and I bought it 14 years ago, we too have worked to make “our” space a place we always want to be.

4681572110_1e72d91afe_zRecently, I found myself looking at “This Old House” for ideas on updating our kitchen. I couldn’t help but see the parallels between making a fixer-upper house functional and beautiful and making a family the same. With a little knowledge and a lot of hard work, we can be assured both will become a place of sanctuary and rest instead of a dilapidated mess.

5 things to keep in mind when working on a fixer-upper:

1—They’re all fixer-uppers. Whether homes or families, they all need constant attention. It’s easy to look around and think you’re the only one with problems like yours. Don’t believe it. Every home, including the brand new ones requires work. The same is true for families. Your family is unique, but your problems are not. And remember that just because something is beautiful on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not a landmine on the inside. Comparison is the surest way to envy what you don’t have and be ungrateful for what you do have. If you were to switch places, you’d quickly find yourself with just a different set of issues.

2—Start with the foundation. My husband was a builder for 25 years, and he can tell you that the foundation is the first thing to get right and keep right. No matter how well everything else is done, it all will eventually crumble without a solid foundation.

For us, it’s a home built on the principles of God’s word. We believe that “everyone who hears these words of [God] and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

3—It requires constant inspection, maintenance, and investment. There is never a time we’re not working on our “fixer-upper” home. We seem to constantly be fixing cracks in the walls, leaking faucets or pipes, or unsealed windows and doors—you know what I mean. We’re often tired and without the money in the budget to make repairs, but to ignore the problems means bigger problems later.

We’ve found the same is true in our family. Problems don’t go away just because we ignore them. They simply build up under a façade that’s waiting to collapse.

We routinely seek to inspect our family for “cracks” to determine what’s getting in that we aren’t aware of and what’s leaking out that we want to keep. When attitudes and behaviors that we are uneasy with begin to creep in, we try to take stock, assess the cause and go to work on repairs. The longer it goes unattended, the longer it takes to fix, but be patient. Nothing falls apart overnight and nothing is fixed overnight either.

4—When the job is too overwhelming or beyond your expertise, call in the professionals. Why does this seem smart in regard to a house, but like a failure in regard to a family? Can I just revert to my growing-up-country-girl-days and say plainly, “That’s dumber’n a doornail”?

My husband is the best carpenter and fisherman around, but let him under the hood of our car and someone might die. He doesn’t have the knowledge or skills for it, so why jeopardize our lives to prove himself in this area? We can be just as stubborn in our families. We lack the knowledge and skills we need but we jeopardize everything rather than ask for help.

Let’s face it, we can’t know everything or do everything and it’s just smart to ask for help.

5—It’s all worth it. We’ll never be done fixing up our homes, and we’ll never be done fixing up our families. But with the time and energy and money we invest, both grow in value.

My kitchen is a mess right now. After sanding and painting, and sanding and painting, I think I may find sawdust for years. But it’s a good reminder that this process of improvement is a slow one and things definitely always look worse before they look better. Keep the end in sight and don’t grow weary. The dividends are worth the investment.

 

Where are you today in your fixer-upper family? What do you think might need a little extra attention? Happy renovating!