Steady Arms

There was a situation with one of my boys that left him feeling insecure, hurt, and a bit angry. The words he used, the expressions on his face, and his slumped shoulders unsettled some past dust in my own life. Feeling his pain and my own, I embraced him and prayed for guidance before I spoke. The first thing I could think to say was that I knew exactly how he felt. He straightened up and looked me in the eyes. I nodded and repeated my sentence. I spoke about not feeling like your enough for some people. His head plopped down and rested on my shoulder. We talked a little bit more, but it was one of those moments where I felt he needed my quiet presence more than my words. It was one of those moments where I felt my husband, his dad, needed to do the guiding. Boy, that’s not easy to do as a mom.  It worked though. Dad to the rescue!

The feeling of not being enough for someone hurts. It hurts more than I like to admit out loud. No matter how far I’ve come in my life, no matter how much I’ve come to accept my weaknesses and limits I struggle with this still. I know with full confidence that I cannot be enough for everyone all the time and yet I wish I could be.

Maybe it is natural to feel this way, maybe we all feel this from time to time. I know it is okay to be hurt and embrace hurt feelings. I think it leads to becoming more sensitive in the treatment of others. I just don’t want it to paralyze my kids like it has me in the past. I guess this can be where I try to shift their thinking or at least teach them to be aware of the instability of self-confidence.

Our weaknesses will inevitably come to the surface at times. Trying to rely on our fickle feelings or the opinions of others can lead to more pain. Learning to lean into pure confidence in Christ, into His steady arms, is what I want for my kids. Heck, it is what I want for myself as well. You know, no matter how far I’ve come in my faith journey there’s always moments that remind me of how much further I can still go. Hmm…thank God for that.

 

 

This World Will Tell You

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This world will tell you strength lies in control and power.

I say real strength lies in submission and humility.

This world will tell you to put your needs first.

I say you should put others’ needs first.

This world will tell you to do whatever makes you happy.

I say you should use self-control and do what pleases God.

This world will tell you there is no God–just look at the science.

I say it’s ridiculous to think chance could create such detail, beauty, and intellect in its design.

This world will tell you to do and think many things,

but I’m telling you this world is wrong.

Towards the Living Water

48CAFEDC-7FF8-4F2B-8EBF-9344D283AFD4Slowly, ever so slowly, I lift my foot then quickly place it back down. I try again. I succeed. I then lift my other foot to follow. It is heavier than the first. I wait. I pray. I pick up my bible. I listen. My foot lifts and moves forward. The process repeats.

Why does God sometimes allow us to stand still not knowing when the next step will come? Why do some steps have to hurt, while others feel as though you’re gliding?

Last week, I had two dreams. I’m not saying they were prophetic in nature, but they certainly reflected inner turmoil over a decision I have been struggling with. The first dream my youngest and I arrived somewhere. It felt familiar as a home would feel. Someone approached us and said, “Welcome home.” Then this person looked at me with distant eyes and walked away. We sat. Uneasiness coursed through me as I watched everyone around us. Nothing felt right.

The second dream occurred the very next evening. I was in a different place. I was brought to a medical chair. Someone approached me and began examining my arms. She tapped on my veins and then gently looked into my eyes and said, “You’ve been trying to do this all on your own, haven’t you?” She then started an IV and hooked me up to some fluids. “Just sit here for a couple hours and you’ll be better,” she said. When it was over I was guided to an unfamiliar auditorium and sat next to my family and peace washed over me.

Sometimes the familiar and easy is not what we’re supposed to choose. Sometimes we are called to do what doesn’t make sense to ourselves or to others. Although scary, we must close our eyes and cling to the One who is always there patiently and lovingly guiding toward the living water.

The Beautiful Mundane

We moved into our house about 4 years ago. Four years! It struck me quite hard a while back when we began planning the remodeling of our home. I started to think of the time and in many ways my mind went blank. That really resonated with me because I love memories and I love thinking––so rarely do I draw a blank. It led to an anxiety and an itching to just pack up and move again. Was this not the right place for us to put down roots? Because as far as my past goes, there have been moments and vivid memories that I can almost physically relive in every single house that I have ever lived in. I’ve lived in a lot of houses. So that speaks volumes!

The vagueness of the time passed pulled me into a deep evaluation of my life. The moments, events, and just other things I thought would end up being significant or at least lead to a sort of compelling conclusion ended or passed rather dim. The odd thing is the vagueness itself became quite profound. It led to a deeper understanding and love of life as I know.

My parents were in town last month. My dad had a couple VHS tapes from my uncle that we decided to watch. There was no sound to the movies. The smiles told more than any sound could have told anyhow. It was just my family doing what families do. Most were in my great-grandma’s old kitchen filled with many people who are no longer with us. Some of them passed old and a couple too young.

There was one clip with my grandma sitting at the table. At the time she was a wife and mom of three kids visiting her parents and other family. She was happy. I felt it through the screen. Since I too was visiting with my parents who live out of state, I connected to her in that moment even more. Being a mom when your mom lives out of state is sometimes hard. When you get a chance to visit, there’s a sense of relief and weight that temporarily lifts from your shoulders. At least that is how it is for me. I imagine it was the same for my grandma. I imagine there were many things the same for her at that time. She was in the same stage of life as I am. She was a wife and a mom living an ordinary life. She very well could have thought back at the last four years of her life and had only vague memories of the time passed in her home, just like me.

Those vague memories, my vague memories of the mundane are what create a beautiful life. To think, all it takes is a table filled with loved ones. If only we all could have those moments recorded to be seen years later. We’d realize how simple it all can be.

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Luke

 

My oldest turns nine tomorrow. How is that even possible?

Earlier today we were at the park with some friends. We were catching crayfish and Luke wanted help over a rock. We somehow ended up with me carrying him like a baby. We joked about how I never get to hold him anymore. As I held him, I almost dropped him because he was so heavy. It was a moment of laughing on the outside and weeping a bit on the inside.

There was another moment. He climbed inside the Gaga Ball pit. The other kids were talking to each other, not Luke. A friend of mine asked if I wanted her to go over there to make sure the others would include Luke. I smiled and said she didn’t need to and told her to watch how Luke wiggles his way in with ease. He did. A minute later they were playing. I don’t think he realizes how brave he is.

And, one more moment. His brother had a rough start to the day. Nothing was going the way he wanted. (Don’t we all have those days?) Luke looked at him and gently said, “Listen, Oliver. I would say about three-quarters of life will not go your way and that’s normal and okay. Nothing is supposed to be perfect. We just have to learn to be okay with it.”

The mother in me wanted to step in and lighten it a bit. Three-quarters? That may a bit of a stretch. Then I thought of Luke’s life. He has Ocular Albinism and knows he may never drive. Seeing is hard for him which makes everything harder for him. He has ADHD as well. So, thinking is hard, learning is hard, regulating his emotions is hard, and on and on. So yea, maybe three-quarters isn’t a stretch.

Like I said, I don’t think he realizes how brave he is. Nothing stops him from living life full of love, fun, and spunk. Did I mention that he does great in school too? I’m thankful God chose me as his mom.

The end.

 

Do We?

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Do we blame the murderer?

Or do we blame his alcoholic father who beat him and his mother?

Do we blame the weak mother who stayed with the alcoholic father and allowed it to happen?

Or do we blame the mother’s stepfather who raped her every other night for three years?

Do we blame the stepfather’s uncle who snuck in his room one night when he was visiting from out of town?

Or do we blame the uncle’s mother who died, or his father who abandoned him for a life of drugs?

Do we hate and look down on them for not having the strength to break the cycle?

Or do they hate and look down us for not loving them, our neighbors, as ourselves?

Do we think our sins are less than theirs?

Or do we see our pride and judgment for what they really are?

Do we think it’s okay to hide in our ignorance and in our safe bubbles?

Or do we see what it means when we ignore or condemn the freaks, the one’s we don’t understand, or the ones whose sins are “greater” than ours?

Do we think we are good or better than anyone?

Or do we see our own sins and especially our “lesser” sins that contribute to the sins of others?

Do we blame us poor pitiful sinners for what we’ve done or haven’t done, for what’s been done or not done, and for whats been given or not given to us?

Or do we go to the beginning and blame the serpent who orchestrated all the sins of yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

Do we strive to do better once we know this?

Or do we know we can’t trust in ourselves to do better, but only in God’s love, goodness, and power that works through us?

Again I ask, do we?

 

 

 

Until We Fully Bloom

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Dreaming of one fine morning, my impatience wildly grows. This spring has produced icicle covered branches far beyond the expected span. I long for the beaming of the warm sun on my face.

I think of springs past. I see my great-grandma slowly rocking on her back porch staring into the mist-filled mountains. Her soft shaky voice told stories of family history. There was good and there was bad. The happiness of waiting for a baby to arrive. The painfulness of waiting to see a loved one again. There was always some sort of waiting involved.

A spring like ours pulls us into a different sort of waiting. It is still waiting, nonetheless. Our anguish grows and we struggle to feel anything other than the cold and dreary. It will eventually melt away, although it feels otherwise. The buds will emerge and bloom. Then fall will come back around and the petals will wither and blow as winter forces its way in once again. The cycle, by nature, will carry on until one day the seasons as we know will cease. Closing my eyes, I try to imagine how it will feel. The light that will envelope and lift me up. My little brain cannot know exactly what it will be like or what it will feel like. Though, it brings me peace and joy trying to conceive a glimpse.

I wonder if in this waiting there can be more––if we can be more. My wonder is probably less a questioning and more an urging from the Holy Spirit. There’s no need to dig deep to find the answers are yes there can be more and yes we can always be more.

Christianity should always be a quest to push away the weak, dull, and cheap grace and to lean into the powerful, sharp, and rich grace that cannot be obtained by worldly standards. It’s the type of grace that shines through us and evokes wonder in others. We want people to want what we have in Christ and yet we are scared. Like Rudolph, we cover our light to fit in with the rest of the world.

While we wait to fully bloom or while we wait for our next season, we should be continously humbling ourselves. In humbling ourselves we are shown control, power, and faith in this world (or ourselves) will never bring us peace. It is in humility and a repentant heart that we gather the strength to defeat this world. Our load is lightened and we can further the kingdom. Just think of Hebrews 12:1 which says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  

We will indeed fully bloom one fine morning. Until then, remember our waiting doesn’t have to be in vain.

Prayerfully yours,

Stacy

That’s The Kind Of God We Have!

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When I first asked this question to a group of kids, most of them answered a week with Jesus. One kid turned the question around on me and asked what I would choose. I quickly answered that I too would like to spend a week with Jesus. I thought it would be life changing. I pictured myself sitting across a table with a cup of coffee chatting with my savior. Just think about how cool that would be. The kids giggled at my enthusiasm as I explained my reasons.

Last week during bible study we read Jesus appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-39). I’ll bold the part that stuck out to me the most.

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Doubt. After all the disciples had seen and heard. They had doubt. They thought Jesus was a ghost! I mentally jotted down the question, “How often do we doubt His presence?”.  Bible study continued on then it was over. Matt and I left, commented on how good it was, and went on with our day––err shall I say days?

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Yesterday, as I was cleaning my house, it was like a strong breeze swept over me. Then as forceful whisper I heard, “How often do we doubt His presence?”  I fell right into my chair and my bible flew open to just the right page. Just kidding. Actually it was a lot less exciting. It is more like this: My mental notebook has a way of recalling things much later than I want it to at times. See, I wanted to come home right after church and jot down my question. Nope, didn’t happen. Yesterday I decided to review the bible verses simply because I wanted to. I grabbed my bible, sat down, and my dog nestled in my lap. Before I read the verses I remembered the question and jotted it down. It was an ordinary moment, like much of life is. Those are the moments we can doubt the power of His presence the most. Right?

As I was flipping through my bible, I found the index card and I began thinking about my answer again. I still would choose a week with Jesus. I still picture sitting across a table from him with a cup of joe in hand. I feel a bit differently now. I automatically assumed it would be life changing. Maybe it would. I hope it would.

I now see how doubt crept into the disciples, not just here but other times as well. I see how doubt creeps into me. I wonder if my story was in the bible, what parts of His presence and power in my life would others see that I simply overlook because I’m in the midst of it? Reading these verses again,I also remembered something that came after this. The Holy Spirit came! Like really, we have the Holy Spirit and how often do we overlook this gift?

All I can say is thank God for His working through our weaknesses (despite our weaknesses). Yeah, that’s just the kind of God we have!

Questions:

  1. Would you rather spend one hour in Heaven or one week with Jesus on earth?
  2.  Is there anything different that sticks out to you the second time reading this?

Jesus Appears to the Disciples (Luke 24:36-39)

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

 

 

 

My Dear Stranger

Lying awake in the middle of the night, I think of my stranger. I wonder how he is doing. His words replay in my mind. Are you a praying person? Will you pray for me, a stranger? My name is Matthew. I looked for him after that day, but never did I see him again. My stranger is a part of me now. He changed me. He opened my eyes and I will forever be thankful to him for that.

Dear Matthew,

Little did I know the impact a stranger could have on my life. I almost didn’t walk Luke to school. He fell walking out to the garage and had a bit of a meltdown. It was an act of tough love. I knew he wasn’t as injured as he was acting. He was a dramatic three year old and I was a mother who wanted to run off some of the extra weight I had accumulated during the pregnancy of my second child. I put my baby in the jogging stroller and told Luke he was still going to walk to school. Luke’s “pain” quickly diminished and he returned to the boy who loved walking to school. That alone was enough to turn my day around.

Then there you were. Standing at the edge of the church’s parking lot with your head down. I noticed you right away. Why is this man just standing there? I almost didn’t cross the street at my usual spot. What is he doing? But then, I looked at you again. You looked sad, but gentle and composed as well. My motherly instinct felt no harm. There were people all around. I decided to cross. I glanced over at you once more before we started to walk toward Luke’s school. Our eyes met and then you spoke. Your request was simple, as was my response.

I told you I would pray for you. I did. I still pray for you. It is just, I didn’t exactly do it with love at first. Well, maybe my first prayer was sincere. Then I began to question you. I judged you for asking me, a stranger, to pray for you. I wondered what horrible thing you had done, I even checked the internet for missing kids in the area. But then, shame crept in. Not only for judging you, I felt ashamed for all the judging I had ever done.

I will never know why you asked me and I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with that. I am thankful I do not know. Vagueness can have a way of making things more profound. Plus, it is never our job or right to determine who’s worthy of sincere prayers.

Since our encounter, whenever I feel the urge to judge someone, I see you. I feel your presence. I hear your words and I am humbled all over again. Because of you, I love more and deeper. I realize I need people, even strangers, to strengthen my faith and to show me the error in my ways. I will continue to pray for you. Thank you, my dear stranger.

Broken Wings

6AB7FB23-80D2-4A5E-9C1F-E8C885DFF0BB.jpegIt was early morning and the boys energy was rising quicker than the sun. I went into our room to grab something and noticed my husband in peaceful slumber. I decided to change out of my pajamas and take the boys down to the beach so Matt could catch up on some much needed rest.

Walking along the shore and simply soaking up the peace the morning brings, I listened to the waves rolling in and my boys laughter as they fell into the rhythm of beach life. Luke ran up to me with a large piece of something and asked what it was. As I recognized it, fragmented childhood memories arose of walking along the shores of our favorite island with my two brothers collecting the same wonder my son was now holding it his hand. “Those are called sand dollars, Luke. There’s a beautiful legend of them, but I cannot remember all of it. When we get back to the condo I can look it up. Okay?” I described what they look like when they are whole and Luke became determined to find one or as many pieces as possible to put together.

Back at the condo, Luke gathered all his pieces and began placing them together in a circular shape. I grabbed my phone and began reading the legend:

“The legend of the Sand dollar
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of Jesus Christ
Found in this lowly shell.
If you will examine closely,
You’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by a Roman’s spear.
On one side the Easter Lily,
It’s center is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
And led them from afar.
The Christmas Poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday,
Our joyous Christmas tide.
Now break the center open
And here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread good will and peace.
This simple little symbol,
Christ left for you and me.
To help to spread His Message
Through all eternity.”

-Author Unknown

The remainder of our vacation, Luke tried to find a whole sand dollar. The place most likely he could have found one, we weren’t able to make it to this trip. I found some in a shop and surprised him Easter morning. When we broke one open, there was one perfectly shaped “dove”. We held them in our hands and basked in the awe of how much they resembled actual doves. We then set them aside and got ready for church.

Throughout the day, I began thinking of creative ways to preserve the fragile reminders. The one was so perfect, I wanted to display it somehow. Necklace maybe? Frame it somehow? Just thinking of possible ideas was exciting me.

Later in the day, the neighborhood boys showed up at our house. It was their after Spring Break reunion. They shared vacation stories and ran around our house playing. Luke was in the kitchen and saw the doves. He picked up the “perfect” one to show his friend. I looked over and saw our perfect little dove dropping to the ground. Both wings broke at the tips. Luke was devastated.

Luke became quiet and Oliver stepped in explaining the significance of the dove. I whispered to Luke that it was okay. He nodded and then explained to his friend as well. After their friend left, I told the boys how proud I was of them of how they handled the situation. It wasn’t perfect, but they still managed to share their faith. That is what matters most, I told them.

Sitting here today after I have fully come to terms with our perfect dove being broken, I decided I’m still going to find a way to display the dove. Why? Because now there’s even more value to the dove. Think about it. That is the beauty of the gospel. That’s the beauty in spreading good will and peace to others. We have to see and accept our own broken wings to grow our faith and trust in God. And, we need to see and accept everyone else’s broken wings to share our faith and to love the way God loves us.

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