Gratitude is a lot Like Raspberries

 

raspberries

I hesitate to take the thin plastic container from the fridge. I bought them for eating, but then there’s the matter of rinsing them clean. They’re not always the easiest fruit to snack on either. Somehow my kids find a way to spread the pink juice on their fingers and around the corners of their mouth. My grown up toddler smashes them on her tray and then runs her sleeves in it.

Raspberries. They’re even spelled differently to emphasize their explosive nature. They look like innocent pink clumps, but under a bit of pressure they burst. Eating them is a sensory overload of texture and taste. Tart, sweet, crunchy, juicy, messy…yes…raspberries.

This morning as my kids popped them in their mouths, pleasure spreads like gratitude, all over their hands and faces…

Finish reading this post over at Fresh Hope for Mental Health!

 

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I’m More Like Jonah than I thought…

jonah

Her quilt swallows her tiny body. A large pink gingham mouth envelops her head to reveal her three year old face.

“Mommy I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” I bend down and kiss her brow, creased with a comma.
“I’m afraid because Jonah keeps getting swallowed again and again, because he doesn’t listen to God. He keeps ending up in the whale’s belly.”

My trained words respond “No.” “No honey, the whale spit up Jonah,” but in my head I’m shouting “Yes.” Exactly yes. That is the truest thing I’ve heard all day.

As my body sits there with her, my mind is deep, deep underwater, in the warm, dark, damp insides of a giant fish.

I’m afraid. I’m unsure, and my mind is lonely, but my body is flooded with touch and affection from two little bodies. My mind feels overwhelmed and bored. My heart feels lost and found, and achingly empty and spilling over full, all in the journey of a day.

My body puts away laundry, washes dishes, and cleans sticky hands and faces. While my thoughts float, and dip, and sink into the noiseless depths of obscurity, weighed down by fear and questions.

Do I love my children enough? Am I going to be enough of a mom to form them into good people? Am I the wife my husband needs— the sister, the daughter? What if my people weren’t mine anymore? Or worse, what if I blinked and they disappeared?

These questions flood my mind and steal my identity. I become a hungry whale that swallows and fills myself up with people, and approval, and validation. So full, and sick, and empty again.

I turn out the lights in my daughter’s bedroom and find my way to the living room in the darkness. I fold my body into the corner of the couch. A lamp seems too bright for my mood. The wind whips the branches of the trees and rain beats a dramatic tempo overhead. I wake up my sleeping computer and pull up the story of Jonah and the whale. I read these words from the Bible. Funny, I never noticed them before.

“Notice all through this story that, although Jonah was God’s servant, he was always thinking about himself. God protected Jonah and saved him, not because he was such a good man, but because he wanted to teach him a great lesson.”

A heart turned in on itself is rendered useless. I think of my fifteen month old, how she wobbles from foot to foot, eyes affixed on her bloated belly as she walks into whatever is right in front of her. Sometimes I am so unsure in my own skin that I clumsily stumble through the world, oblivious to the needs of others, rendered useless by my own fears and insecurities.

As I read these words about Jonah, they resonate with my soul. Maybe I keep entering into the same dark places so that God can teach me a lesson too. A lesson about how to resurface. How to look up.

But maybe a fish’s belly is where I need to be sometimes too. In the depth of uncertainty, to be alone with my creator; letting Him form and reshape me.

I think about how God himself entered a woman’s belly to reshape the world- and I crack a smile like the moon. My daughter is smarter than she knows.

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Mommy I Need You

mom-i-need-you

  “Mommy I need you.”

I am a hummingbird.
Floating, deceptively still
Brain vibrating and fingers whirring
Over the keyboard.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am an ant.
Tracing figure eights about the house.
Resolutely hauling
laundry baskets and brooms back and forth.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am a tiger.
Crouching, staring at my phone screen.
Eyes tracking and fingers pouncing
On colored icons and buttons.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy I need you.”
I am a butterfly.
Flapping wildly.
Entrapped
In a net of tangled thoughts.
“I’m right here honey.”

“Mommy, I really need you.”
I am eyes, looking in her face.
I am arms, holding her tightly.
I am the wet kiss that stamps her forehead.
“I’m right here honey.”
“Yes, here you are”

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God Will Never Leave You Alone

young-free

Dear Child,

The doctor shows you to me on the black pulsing screen.
His pointer finger traces a small circle over a tiny dot and tells me
It is you.

I just want you to know, you may be a dot on a screen,
but to me you are the world.

You’re tucked safe inside me like a secret.
I wrap my hands around my belly
and whisper to God to please keep you safe.
When I feel afraid, I ask God not to leave me alone.
Because Moms get scared too, especially new ones.
But God reminds me we’re in this together.
And I don’t have to be alone.
You’re with me now.
And so is He.

pregnant

Soft and warm and squishy faced.
Bow shaped lips pucker into the shape of a pink heart.
Cries sound like a growling kitten as eyes peak through heavy lids.
A searching mouth finds me.
It is you.

I just want you to know, that my stomach feels
so, so empty after the fullness of 9 months,
but my heart is so, so full.

In cries of uncertainty and pain, as you enter the world,
I shout to God to please keep us safe.
But God reminds me we aren’t alone.
You and I are together.
And He will never leave us alone.
screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-7-53-21-am

Teetering, and climbing, scooting, chasing, and tumbling.
My stomach is in my chest watching uncertain movement.
Chest puffed out, bottom wiggling back and forth in a proud waddle,
Up-stretched arms reach me and gesture wildly.
It is you.

I just want you to know that you give me a heart attack every minute you are free.
Out of my arms and into the big world.
I have trouble letting go.
But then you come back to me, wrapping your legs and arms around me
so I know you’re still mine.

Each uncertain step, each tumble, and surprised cry of pain
I ask God to please keep you safe.
But God reminds me you aren’t alone.
I am with you.
And He will never leave you alone.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-7-58-43-am

Blue jeans and damp hair,
Fingers that smell like maple syrup,
And two shoes with the toes pointing the wrong way.
It is you.

I just want you to know that I am not ready to be away from you.
My eyes fill with tears, buy my heart is proud.
You cling to my leg and then off you run to the arms of your teacher.

As a tear slides down my cheek I look up to the bulletin board,
With the Words,
God Lives Here,
I think, “Yes God, Please live in her heart.”
And He quietly reminds me, He’s in mine too.
He is with me.
He is with you-
and God will never leave us alone.

boy

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Rejected by Men, Chosen by God

stone

My family collects rocks. Not just any rocks. Rocks that are shaped and sized for a special purpose. One that fits in the palm of my hand, or in my daughter’s two miniature hands put together. A rock that’s mostly smooth, with a flat surface.   On hot days, we lay out one of daddy’s giant drop cloths on the tiled kitchen floor, and my girls strip down to underwear and diaper, and we paint our collection. Layer over layer of paint forms swirls of color like the blur of a moving pinwheel. When they dry, I take a Sharpie and mark them with words. Words that carry stories, purpose, and promises, more than their one syllable can contain: HOPE, GRACE, TRUTH, LOVE, JOY, TRUST.

I set them in plants and throughout the garden. But somehow our rocks seem to find their way back to the doorstep beside the welcome mat, like a cairn that marks our way home.

Our rocks remind me of lasting truths, in a rapidly changing and fast moving world of unspoken challenges to do something; to be someone.  

One word commands twist in my head like the roar of a  helicopter’s spinning rotors, their deafening demands distract me from my true identity as a child of God. Produce. Create. Solve. Smile. Do. Achieve. Demands that suffocate my passion and purpose and create a vacuum for my soul.

Before David was the famous giant slayer, or a great king, he was first a humble shepherd. I don’t know when David wrote Psalm 23, but I do know that of all the illustrations he could have pulled from, David tugs at his experiences as a shepherd, to unravel a poem that challenges the notion that contentment is found in castles and admiring crowds.  No, he doesn’t find rest in his bed made with silk sheets, or on the shoulders of the cheering crowd at the feet of the fallen Goliath. He finds rest in the quiet of God’s creation under the reassuring whispers of a Father that loves him.

“(The Lord) makes me lie down in green pastures,
heleads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”

When I don’t take the “green pasture / quiet water” kind of time I need with God for soul restoration, I allow my heart cup to be filled with the praise and approval of others. I look to others for my truth and my identity.

When I don’t look to my Creator for a reminder of who He is, I begin to believe the lie that I myself am the creator. I create my life, I manufacture my own success, and I merit my blessings. I smugly fill myself up with my own achievements and the high fives and compliments of a job well done. I become bloated with the pride of my own performance, while my soul starves for truth. In this state I can go through the motions of life, propped up by expectations of others and fueled by the pressure I put on myself, but deep down I know that its an elaborate performance. Under the thick makeup and exquisite costume is a girl that longs to be free.

Like a cat, I’ve lived nine lives. Each of them torn down when the illusion was no longer maintainable. High school cheerleader. sorority socialite, party girl, actress, college creative, traveler, devoted girlfriend,  business owner, perfect pastor’s wife. Again and again God gently whispers to me, reminding me that my true life is at His feet, in the truth of His light.

But even in the Old Testament, we see God’s people needing that reminder. In the book of Joshua, when the Lord miraculously parts the Jordan River for the Israelites to pass to safety, God commands Joshua to have the leader from each of the twelve tribes, pick up a stone from the center of the river bed as they cross. God commands them to put the stones at their camp by the waters edge, to stand as a reminder for them and future generations of Who God is, and what He has done for His people.

Yes even when God is in my midst working miracles, I can become forgetful and complacent. I need to be reminded by His Word who I am in Him. I do this with bible verses scrawled on my mirrors, on chalk boards, post it notes, and notebooks. But sometimes it means pausing and remembering all the rivers God has lead me across, the dark valleys He has lead me out of. and the people He has lead me to. My people collect rocks to help us pause and enjoy something simple, together as a family, as we let God’s truth soak in, rock by rock.

Recently I visited a dear friend’s house for the first time. As I walked up the path to her front door, I saw colorfully painted rocks heaped in a pile on the edge of the steps. When I asked about them, she explained that her in-laws collect the rocks at the beach every summer with the kids, and then they paint them together. “They help my kids remember,” she said simply. I smiled. My rocks help me remember too. Remember that I am a mom, a wife, a dreamer, a believer, a storyteller. That I am chosen, cherished, precious, forgiven, and called. But most importantly, that he picks me for a special purpose; and that He holds me in the palm of His hand.

“As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”…1 Peter 2:4-6

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Let My Life Song Sing to You

lifesong

I want to have a Bible that is tattered and care worn, its soft tissue pages scrawled with different colors of ink, its exquisite leather exterior wrinkled and worn like a second skin. But in moments of weakness or doubt, too often I grab my phone and  numb my mind with the easy distraction of Facebook,  or I call and spew my worries and fears to my mom or sister, who patiently listen and “mhmm.” After a long, stressful day, I’ll sink my mind into a romantic comedy to anesthetize the pulsing ache of worry and stress. Too often, my stiff , clean Bible sits among the polite line of of patient books with their stripes of colored jackets.

But even though my Bible isn’t the tattered life map I’d like it to look like, I realize that its verses are a song that breathe life into my days.

lifesong

Psalms sung along to the bass of music in the car.
“Bless the Lord Oh My Soul, Worship His Holy Name” Psalm 103

Encouragement scrawled on chalk boards, mirrors, on post it notes, and framed on walls.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you” Deuteronomy 31:6

Reassurance whispered to my daughter to calm her fears in the dead of night.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Commands that give our lives the shape of discipline and integrity.
“The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:6

Grace breathed in words of forgiveness to one another.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Ephesians 1:7

The early church didn’t have a Bible that they pored over with the sunrise. This argues why we should take advantage of this amazing tool- but it also points to how as Jesus followers we are called to live out the Gospel in our daily life. More than just words on a page, we can live out the scripture as the Holy Spirit lives in us.

In Romans, Paul tells us how we are God’s poiéma, a Greek word meaning “creation,” or “workmanship.”

As His workmanship I pray that my life can be a poiéma to Him who created me. I pray that His words aren’t merely a book in my life, but breathe the very life into my tired mama soul.

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She’s A One-der: My Second Chance Baby

elyseone1blog

Happy Birthday Elyse!

In a movie called “About Time,” the character has the amazing ability to time travel back to his past. At first he tries to memorize and control every aspect of his future to get it right, but then his Dad (also a time traveler) gives him great advice. He says instead of trying to change his life, to repeat it twice in exactly the same way, “The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” This gives the character the amazing ability to overcome fear and uncertainty, and to simply live moment to moment, soaking them up with all of his senses.
I see Elyse as my second chance at motherhood. As she grows, I don’t worry about well meaning advice, or following a book, or ticking off the milestones. I get to soak her up one day at a time and relish her living out who God created her to be, on her own timetable.

Bree is my first, and its exhilarating, and challenging and exciting. Just like my Bree. But Elyse is my take an extra moment to cuddle, nurse her in bed, cleaning can wait, take your time to grow up baby, and I’m loving every second with her.
But even though I get to have a repeat on motherhood, I love to experience how absolutely different God makes each of my girls. Where Bree is bold, my Elyse is tender; Bree is brave, and Elyse is more tentative, Bree is moody, Elyse is mellow, and yet they are both mine, full of Daddy’s mischief, and my sensitive heart.
Elyse stretched my belly beyond capacity. Now she is stretching our lives, to a point where it sometimes feels beyond capacity. But I laugh at the question I asked, just days before her birth, “Will I be able to love this one as much as I love Bree?”
God stretches us and in the process He grows us.

And the best part is He grows our hearts, so that we have the ability to love more and more.

Happy Birthday to my attached to my hip, cuddle all morning, slobbery kisses, cling to my leg, second chance baby, that makes life even richer and fuller than I ever thought possible

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Are You Listening?

are you listeningOn average women speak 20,000 words a day. That’s 13,000 more daily words than our male counterparts! But I would argue that as mothers, we earn every. single. one. of those extra words.

Yet, how often does it feel like our words fall on deaf ears? Especially when we’re asking our kids to put on their shoes, or our husbands to put their laundry in the hamper (not that I’m speaking from personal experience).

We all WANT TO FEEL HEARD.

One of the biggest fights I pick with my husband is when I feel like he’s not listening to me.
(DISCLAIMER: I’m totally guilty of doing the same thing!)

“But hun, I can watch Netflix, type up an email, and listen to every word you say.”

And the amazing thing is, he actually can. The man is actually able to repeat back to me every word I just spoke. And yet. And yet- I don’t feel heard. And maybe thats because I don’t just want my words to be absorbed, but I want my words to accomplish something. I think we all do.

In the past couple weeks I’ve been feeling fearful. With lots of change in our lives I’m letting doubt and fear creep into my thoughts. But I’ve had a song that I sing at the top of my lungs (when I’m home, or driving in the car, not in public-that’s just weird).

“I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR, FOR I AM A CHILD OF GOD”

My three year old daughter looks at me like I’m crazy. But then she looks at me like I’m crazy a lot, so I just shrug and take it as a compliment.

But then, last week my little girl was struggling with fears of her own. One day as I stirred the crackling ground beef on the stove, down the hall, I heard a sweet little voice, singing a tune I knew well. It went a little something like this:

“I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR, FOR I .AM A CHILD OF GOD.”

I realized, that my words really do stick. Yes ladies, our words stick

As moms we are the encouragers of our homes.

Our words shape and mold our children into the people God has destined them to become.
Our words embolden our husbands to make brave decisions, and to do the right thing.
As daughters, and sisters, and friends, our words inspire each other to keep going, even when life feels too heavy, or our bodies feel to weak.

But at the end of the day, after we’ve pushed and scraped, and given all we have to give, and still feel like we’re coming up short. When we lay our heads on our pillows with our thoughts reeling and accusing and questioning our efforts, our worth, our words– I want us to grab hold of 6 words.

“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Because God has the last word.
And He looks at us and says- “My child, in my grace…You Are Enough.

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Taking Time to Doodle


doodle

When I reached in the pocket behind the driver’s seat, my hand found a confusing tangle of different shapes and sizes. From the hard round beads of a strand of a necklace, to the the hard corners of a deck of cards, my fingers read the brail of a three year old’s heart. I had mistakenly stumbled upon the treasures she had tucked carefully away for safe keeping. A pastel Yogurtland spoon licked clean, daddy’s favorite cherry flavored chapstick, a small oval stone were among the trinkets she had ferreted away in her secret hiding spot in our family’s minivan.

Anyone else gazing on this collection would see clutter, even trash, but in them I saw the joy of a three year old. I saw the time we stayed up way past bedtime on a sticky, hot night for a frozen treat with rainbow sprinkles, or daddy reaching in his pocket to sacrifice his chapstick to an impatient toddler. I saw long walks searching for smooth flat rocks to paint for our garden, and the necklace her cousin gave her along with a kiss, last time we pulled out of their driveway.

This random mess formed an unexpected beauty, like the tangled nest of bedhead hair when she stumbles into my room early in the morning, or the art she creates for me with bold crayon scribbles. Each trinket formed a string that tied to a bright helium balloon of memory that floated in my consciousness and made me smile.

As I went about my day today, my time was consumed with executing one task after another in an endless stream of to do’s. With kids, it doesn’t take long before my to do’s are undone again. Its easy to become exhausted and for my emotional tank to hit empty. It can begin to feel like my life is a random jumble of activity as I whirl from one task to the next.

But amid the activity, God reminds me to slow down and appreciate the treasures tucked among the everyday moments.

Tonight I had my hands in soapy water, while my daughter perched on a stool at the kitchen counter coloring. “Mom draw with me!” she pleaded, in a voice a decibel louder than necessary. I almost put her off with a promise of “later,” but then I realized that “later” isn’t a good time either. There will always be laters, but there will also always be dirty dishes, counters with crumbs and footprints on floors. I dried off my hands and picked up the purple crayon. My eyes curved around her smile and traced the tips of her pointed toes, Then I pressed the sticky wax onto the scrap of paper and  drew an “I” and a “U” with a heart in the middle.

As a kid, I doodled hearts on everything. I “heart” trolls and I “heart” Hello Kitty. As a teen I used hearts to dot my “i’s” and to finish my notes. But as an adult, my pen usually has time for only the serious business of signing checks and scrolling out grocery lists and chores. Its funny how as kids we are so eager to take on responsibilities, until we become so responsible that we forget how to be kids again. Finding my daughter’s pocket of treasures reminds me that the whimsical, even silly things in life are valuable too. It reminds me that just because I am a responsible adult, doesn’t mean I should give up coloring and doodling, giggling and relishing. Because I can cram my day full of to do’s that eventually become undone anyway, or, I can find opportunities for hidden moments that form memories, and shape hearts.

 

 

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Growing in Grace

 

growingingraceI was tired of looking at our ugly, dying grass. Like an overused carpet, it showed only patches of the green it once was. In its vibrant place was a dull and lifeless yellow and brown. I tried to lift the edge, and to my surprise, it ripped up in a long strip. As I pulled, it snapped out with a pop like cracking knuckles. As I stacked the thick layers of dead sod along the sidewalk, I sighed with cathartic relief. Before I knew it, my yard was a clean patch of dirt.

I left it forgotten. But after a quick week, my front yard had erupted in a thick garden of weeds.

Its easy to tear down, to criticize, to walk away- yes to tear out what has been planted. But even if we walk away or turn our back, the empty soil is still there.

Its impossible to leave that space empty. We have a choice. When we face a hurt, or challenge, a loss, frustration, or broken heart- a space that feels lifeless- we have a choice to leave it empty and let it erupt into painful weeds that choke out life, or we can water the soil with gratitude, with hope, forgiveness and love, and see what God can grow there. We can bury the hurt and shame, the hopelessness and anger, we can put a stake in the middle of it in the shape of a cross, and see what God resurrects.

I realized how easily ugly weeds can take over when I’m not looking. I have a choice to fill those empty places with flowers, or let them get ravaged by weeds.  Weeds grow deep gnarled roots that leave me breathless and hurting. Weeds that leave thorns that tear hidden wounds that scar me.

But I don’t have to leave hurt places empty. My weed patch in the front yard  reminds me that I can’t ignore the raw and empty places of my heart, but need to take the time to sit with God in them. To let Him  fill them up with His truth and a beauty only He can create..

God blows seeds into my life every day.. With love, patience, and forgiveness, over time, I can allow Him to grow gardens, even in the raw, empty spaces.

He can grow wildflowers, forget-me-nots, and fiery red tulips shaped like love notes. He can raise up white elegant lilies, and sweet pink gerber daisies like my baby’s pink petal lips. He can grow bushes that burst with big ripe strawberries, and grape vines that stretch out with a sigh of fullness and life. When we’re desperate its easy to think life looks desolate– but He can use our tears to grow dandelions. He can paint that cross white like a picket fence, and scroll across it the word grace.

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