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How to Be Content

BE

“Dove,” she crooned in her sweet baby voice.

“What? Dove? No, what did you say?”

“Dove, dove, dove,” she insisted, pointing at the mantel above the fireplace.

I thought my 18 month old daughter was pointing to the small wooden bird standing there beside the carved books, shaped in the letters “B,” and “E,” for each of my daughters. But, was it possible? I don’t remember even showing her a picture of a dove, and for goodness sake, wouldn’t she just say bird?

She was getting frustrated now, gesturing wildly, and saying the word again and again, gaining more and more confidence, “Dove, mommy. Mommy! Dove!” 

I stood and picked her up, carting over to the direction her chubby finger pointed. I left some distance from the bird, to see if she chose it herself. She lunged with open hands toward it, and so I plucked it from the shelf and handed it to her. She cradled it and gazed at it lovingly “:Dove.”

I could have missed it. This gorgeous moment with my daughter as she dazzled me with who God is creating her to be. I could haver hushed my baby’s persistent babbles, and swept her up to rush her to bed, and misplaced this moment like a doll’s lost shoe. For some reason, tonight, I lingered, and witnessed a fragile miracle.

Earlier as I sprayed and wiped my counters as my girls busied themselves with preparing a meal in their play kitchen, I prayed out loud, “God show me where you want me to be. There are so many things I love and long to do, but I want to be present with what you’re asking me to do right now. If its being the best mother and wife I can be, then help me to find joy and fulfillment in that.”

You see friends, I’ve been falling into the trap of gazing at other people’s grass. I want to do something impactful with my life. You know, something with a flash and a bang. Lately I’ve been thinking if I didn’t have the responsibilities before me, then I would have time to do something, more significant. Cringe. It sounds worse on a page before me, but sometimes I need to face my ugly truths to be delivered from them.

We all long for significance. To be known. And often in our culture of mega blogs, self publishing, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, we think the way to prove our worth is to be known by a thousand of our closest friends. We have platforms, and events, we want more likes, and shares, and followers. Church ministries count the number of heads to measure impact. We want to be fabulous, popular, right, knowledgable, and valued instead of simple, humble, open, seeking, and small. But when we look to be known in the way our world packages it, we can miss being known by the person right in front of us.

Life on life, hand in hand, sip by sip, we find that the heart of what we really crave is in the sweet moments wrapped in friendship, and motherhood, lost in moments we rush by looking for the next best thing.

This afternoon I met a friend for coffee and told her secrets. We watched our kids dig in the dirt and plant imaginary seeds.

I came home and danced with my girls. Watching Elyse learn to move again is a tiny wonder. Bree copied my goofy dance moves and helped me make waffles for dinner. 

And each moment was significant. It was beautiful, and small, real, and meaningful.

I long to be known, but then, time and time again I hear the dull thump of a hollow dream as God reminds me that nothing else but Him will fill me. 

The dove is in the story of Noah’s ark. It returns to Noah with an olive branch to show him that there is dry land. The dove represents peace to show God’s reconciliation with man after the flood. The dove is also the form the Holy Spirit takes over Jesus during his baptism in the Jordan. A dove could be another bird, but in the Christian faith, it isn’t. Its because of faith, that we see something more- we believe in more.

Elyse could have seen a bird but she didn’t. In a simple wooden bird, she saw a dove. I could chalk this up to a weird coincidence, but I don’t. I see my baby girl reminding me that I am already known, and I see God using a simple moment, to remind me that He is in our midst- among clumsy ballerinas, golden brown waffles, and a carved blue and red dove- perched beside the word “BE.”

Chasing the Sun

ales-krivec-14570-2
In the dark tomb of fear,
Waiting for light of day,
The dark chill whispers; waiting
For mercy to appear.

Sing me a night song
Until it is daylight,
Hum to me hope
This night is so long.

Faith never waning,
For you I will wait,
Redemption in the mourning,
Roll the rock away.

Black fades to grey
A tapestry of dawn
The glow of sun is coming
Night turns to day.

Night flees without a trace
The sun rises boldly
Trickling water to a river
It tastes like Grace.

A New Reality

 


Elysecloseup

 

Its not often that I’m without words, but recently I have felt quiet and contemplative. The two words that have been on my lips most, are a diagnosis I struggle to pronounce, let alone understand: Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM).

These last few days since we’ve been home have felt like I’m underwater holding my breath. The same house, the same rituals and to do’s, the same family, but a very different reality.

I’m preparing myself to emerge back into the world with Elyse. It almost feels like when we introduced her to the world as a newborn, watching her every move with careful optimism, wanting to keep her within arms reach.

When you see her it might seem like you’re meeting any 18 month old toddler, her belly pooched out as she marches with a proud waddle. She makes one word declarations, wearing the world on her face with exaggerated expressions. When you see her, she’ll probably say “Hi” three times with her wide smile. You’ll notice her face is fuller and less blotchy,  her big wide eyes reflecting her enthusiasm, the shadows beneath them hint at tiredness . She might make wide circles around you, gaining momentum and confidence with each step as she clucks and coos with glee.

In these moments we get to celebrate life with her as it should be, an energetic baby enjoying and exploring the world around her.

hospital

At home we also deal with another, new reality.

Each morning and evening we give her Prednisone, a steroid with undesirable side effects such as insomnia, weight gain, aggression, blood sugar changes, osteoporosis, and stomach upset. To counteract unwanted effects we give her Calcium, Vitamin D and Zantac. Prednisone suppresses her immune system so we have to protect her from being exposed to unwanted cooties- meaning avoiding crowded enclosed places or large groups of children. 

Because the sun can worsen the effects of JDM we need to avoid the sun during peak hours, and be vigilant about protection. E is embracing the hat as her new accessory.

Elysehat

Once a week, we give her a shot that is a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate. We have to wear gloves to avoid contact with the very liquid that we inject into our baby’s skin. This is designed to work with the cortisteroid to quiet the overactive immune response that is attacking her skin and muscles .

The needle is tiny and the dose is very small.  Though difficult, we agree these are the steps we need to take right now. After 30 minutes of practicing on fake plastic skin, Nate played the brave daddy and gave her the first injection (I played the pregnant for 9 months card).

nateandehospital

Once a month we will go to the hospital for Elyse to receive a 6 hour IV drip of Intravenous Immune Globin (IVIG) which is a lot like a blood transfusion, but IVIG is made up of the plasma of up to 15,000 blood donors. Our nurse calls it liquid gold. I keep telling Elyse that it makes her sparkle.

E gets to play with a Physical Therapist twice a week until she rebuilds muscle strength and mobility, She thinks its pretty cool to have a personal trainer that gives her undivided attention, and beach balls.

E will have good moments, and moments when she is uncomfortable and fatigued. We hope the good days will be more and more. 

We’re still taking time to absorb our new reality; to figure out how our lives will be the same and very different.

Right now the words Juvenile Dermatomyositis taste bitter and unnatural. The doctor confirmed she’s the youngest child he’s seen with JDM, as the average age of onset is 7 years old.  I know that God lets us taste the hard things in life to help us appreciate the good. As we learn about suffering, we learn more about love. There is no turning back from this road that we’re on, and so we will trust God through this journey. We will celebrate God’s goodness; we will taste His fullness as you feed us; His faithfulness as you pray for us and walk beside us;  we will grow to understand how wide and how deep, how long and how high His love is, as we love our daughter, knowing somehow He loves her even more.

John9:1to3

 

Simply Love

 

simply love 

Love is complicated,

Tangling us in knots of fear and uncertaity,
Nervous knots of joy and anticipation,
Love changes answers, challenges reason.

It is small like a dimple, it is big like a swollen belly,
Bitter like coffee, salty like tears
Sweet as syrupy pancakes.

It afflicts the strong, it comforts the weak
It breaks us, it makes us whole,
Love empowers us, changes us, humbles us.

Love is at the edge of our fingers,
 Its the next right thing, the hardest choice.

Love is brave,
Love is simple,
Love is life.

 

Learning to Fly

 

bird
This is what I know.
I know my heart aches to watch my daughter crumple to the ground, her legs too weak to skip, or twirl, or run till she can’t catch her breath.
I know a mother shouldn’t have to sing lullabies to calm her baby as she twists and wrestles to be free, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes as she’s poked again and again.
I know the mom in the crowded waiting room of the ER, with her head bowed over the sleeping pile of a sick child, belongs at home with her feet propped on a table, her son tucked in his Thomas Train comforter in his bed.
I know I’m not alone in suffering. I know we can only drink life in as bittersweet cocktail of overflowing joy and aching emptiness.

But I know so much more.

I know I am blessed more than my words can ever express.
I know a daddy that pushes his baby around the hospital floors for hours on end, who wears an ash cross on his forehead, his eyes filled with tears, but his heart full of unwavering loyalty and trust. A husband that stays all night on one half of a twin cot because he knows his wife needs him.
I know a doctor run ragged with slumped shoulders, walking home, used up and tired, who’s hands have healed more lives than faces he can remember,
I know the warm blanket of peace wrapped around me amid the chorus of children’s cries and the dull ache of fear and uncertainty.
I know more food than my belly can hold, more prayers whispered than I can imagine, more kindness than I can repay
I know that when we’re broken, the love that binds us back together, makes us more complicated, and more beautiful.
I know a little girl who can’t walk, but believes she can “fly” through the trees in a blue plastic swing.
I know a girl who will walk, and skip, and run again, with a life story that sings like a love song,
I know a God that gives me the eyes to see His grace tucked in this corner of a hospital room lulled to sleep by the hum of IV monitors and the snores of my little bird.

fly

The Baptism of Lucy Love & Ruby Grace

 

baptism

Love was afraid,
but Grace led her by the hand,
and said, “Perfect Love casts out fear,”

Love humbly bowed her head as the water kissed her braided crown,
and Hope captured her heart.

It was time for Grace
She faltered, crying out in pain,
But as the water trickled in a song down her cheek, 
She felt the warm gift that Faith gave her,
And Amazing Grace hummed with Joy,

We smiled as Love and Grace stood before us like sisters,
Held up in trusting arms, carried by the Grace & Love of their Father,

Baptized at last!

 

A Prayer for the Lost & Found

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We convince ourselves we have all the answers,
And then you remind us we don’t,
Control wrapped around our white knuckles,
As we tug an imaginary rope.
Help us relax our grip,

Help us to find your face in the dark formless places,
When we sit in the dark, on the hill of a question mark,
Eyes burning, head hurting, life blurring,
At the end of our rope we feel like we’re falling,
But then we’re found,
In You.

 

It All Amounts to Love

Yawn

Ten Weeks,
Two Heartbeats,
My joy complete,

It all amounts to love.

Ten fingers, ten toes
Two Eyes, One Nose,
Two lips like a rose,

It all amounts to love.

Hungry cries,
Whispered lullabies,
Sleepless nights,

It all amounts to love.

Five loads of laundry, just today,
More to do’s than I can say,
Too tired at night to even pray,

It all amounts to love.

Smiles and tears,
Long days, short years,
Conquering fears,

It all amounts to love. 

 

 

 

Wasn’t I Made for More than Dirty Dishes?

made for more hope hopeless life faith Moms

“We were made for more than just ordinary lives. Its time for us to more than just survive. We were made to Thrive.” Casting Crowns

Today I have felt itchy. 

Not the kind of itch thats relieved with the good scratch of untrimmed finger nails, but an itch that feels like a buzz under my skin. A holy discontentment that I can’t summarize with words.

For part time work I write ad copy. My job is to make things appealing and relatable with words. So while doing my real life job as a stay at home mom, I keep my creative mind busy turning over words and ideas, to craft something new and unexpected that convinces you life is better with (fill in the blank). Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my work that I begin to believe I need to do more, or be more to have a better life.

January has been a slow month for work, and my mind feels restless. Like a bored cat pounces at a bright ball of yarn, my unoccupied brain takes my fears captive, pulling out threads of worry and insecurity.  

When I don’t have an assignment to write, my time is freed up to blog, or write that book I’ve been dreaming about. I’m without excuse….And now…I find myself without words.

When I haven’t written something in a while I begin to wonder if my fingers still know what they are doing. Will I be able to sit before the bright blue tiles and string together a story, or poem, a blog post, that summarizes all of the joy and love; all the uncertainty, doubt and fear that twists and pulls and tugs in a confused jumble of bright emotions in my heart? Will my words still be enough? Will someone be able to really see the real me so that I can be known? I begin to believe the lie that who I am is what I do. Its what I write, its the money I make, its what I look like, or the kind of mom I am.

In my itchy, wordless, weary place I read His word:

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147
“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomea it.” John 1:1-5
“14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

As a writer I wrap my identity up in the words that I write. But then God Himself is the Word.  My own words are just a mirror to catch and reflect His light. God doesn’t want my pretty package of words, He delights in my reverence. His word reminds me that my identity can’t be written with my own two hands– no, I was made for more than anything I can create. 

If I try to follow the script the world writes, then I will never be enough. Even if I sacrifice my life to being enough, there will always be more to do, accomplish, earn, and achieve, like the incessant stream of social media updates that hunger for attention.  My worth is reduced to the next best thing. 

But then God delights in those who put their hope in His unfailing love; a well that never runs dry. A horse and a warrior will cripple with age. My words will get lost like the hundreds of unread books that sit on my shelf. But the Word who is God and spoke this spinning ball of an Earth into existence; yes the word of God that made darkness, light, and life, breathes life into my lungs, His Word reveals my purpose and Who He created me to be.

When I get itchy under my skin I think its my soul feeling how ill fitting this flesh really is. Its my heart longing to just sit at His feet and weep and laugh and rest. I get so tired of being the daughter of the one true king, deeply loved and divinely called, and yet burdened with dirty dishes and hungry mouths, with unpaid bills and unmowed lawns. I want to shout to the world about God’s love. I want to see hearts healed and lives transformed, I want to usher in God’s redemption and grace and embolden other women to let their blood burn in their veins for Him too.

Then I remember that Jesus took on burdensome flesh too.

Divine God took on human inconveniences like eating, washing, and sleeping. Jesus, Son of God, God Himself, made His dwelling among us so that He could know the discomforts of human flesh.

He came to bring us a hope that burns brighter than this pale human world- He came to be among us, and remind us, that we’re not of this world. So that we can remember that who we are isn’t wrapped up in human flesh. Its not wrapped up in the things we do in this world. We were made for more. We are clothed in Christ, Word made flesh, who exhaled, “It is finished.”

God, who submitted Himself to us, so that we could be His once and for all.

Christmas Blues

 

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My daughter was playing with the felt heart on our advent calendar. She held it up, closing one eye to inspect it in the ray of sun filtering through the window.

“Look mommy, this heart means love.”

“Yes, because love came down at Christmas time.”

“Where is love Mom?”

“In Jesus”

“But how can I see love?”

“Hmmm…I see love in the Christmas tree we put up together. I see love in the pictures of us on the wall. I see love when I look at you. Can you find love in this room?”

“I see love in the water in that cup on the table.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we need to drink water to live…right mom?”

“Absolutely.”

The conversation I had with my three year old reminds me that I’ve been going through the motions of Christmas, but I’ve been forgetting the most important part, the love. 

As a busy mom, I can go half the morning without downing anything but black coffee. My body eventually reminds me it is desperate for water, with a foggy brain and pulsing pain at my temples.

I’m terrible at drinking quickly. If I was ever challenged to a chugging contest, I would forfeit, because, my body doesn’t even know how.  Chugging hurts my throat and makes me feel suffocated. So, when it comes to water, I’m forced to drink it slowly, sip by sip. 

Love slows me down too. When I live in love, I sip up each moment with relish. I don’t realize how desperately I needed it until I start to take it in.

Its easy to go through the motions of Christmas without the feelings. Sometimes we hope that the feelings will catch up somehow. We can feel dried up and numb of emotion, or flooded with unexpected melancholy and sadness. Its not always easy to teach our heart to feel the right emotions- it can misbehave like an unruly child. But love is patient with us. It sits there and waits like a glass of water on a table, ready to be picked up and sipped in.

Jesus didn’t wait for ready hearts to come onto the scene. He certainly didn’t wait for a room twinkling with candles and strung up with garland and lights. The stars and stable were enough. Announcements didn’t go out, Bethlehem was busy and bustling with a census. No, shepherds and livestock would do as an adoring audience. He surrendered himself to the care of a scared new mom who cried out in pain and felt the sharp sting of love mixed with uncertainty and fear, pure awe and wonder. Jesus came down as love that first learned to breathe, and suckle, to eat, and toddle, walk and talk and live as our flesh.

So easily, I simplify love as the warm fuzzy feelings. I want to wrap Christmas in tinsel and tradition, and happy thoughts, but the truth is Christmas is about a Savior who patiently endured pain and struggle to be among us. True love is enduring the good and bad, and the tedious to be with someone. Love is waiting and walking alongside someone. 

I can find love in decorating a Christmas tree, or the happy snapshots of memories as a family. But my daughter reminds me that its in everything. Its in shedding tears as you say goodbye to your brother, or dad, and hold out the hope that one day you will share a table with them again. Its in watching those you love grow older, its in forgiving, and washing dishes, in sitting with the pain of loss and still getting up to make breakfast for the family. Love is quenching our thirst, our need for more than what this world can offer. Love waits for us patiently. It puts on our flesh and learns to walk with us. Yes, love comes down in an infant, is lifted up on a cross and buried in the earth. Love rises again, to draw us home. Love sustains, it fills us up, it overflows and it quenches our thirsty souls. Love makes everything complete.