How Babies Are Made

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Two people wanted a moment to last forever,
So they curled together in the shape of a heart,
and made a promise,

No matter what happens, for this moment, we aren’t alone,

Some people carve their love on a tree, to watch it grow.
But they planted a seed to grow something new.

And in their frail whispers and uncertain moments,
God with his great power used small intimate hands,
to gently knit together an answer to their questions,

A growing promise that breaks through the temporary into eternity.

And as they whispered to one another a question “I love you?”
He said, “Yes,” with a gift of love, a baby; a girl; a man; a name,

A branch that shoots from a stump, and burgeons into a wild green tree.
Reaching its feet deep into the Earth, Stretching its fingers up into Heaven.

Elyse 1 hospital

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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.

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Christmas Blues

 

welovelogo

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.

 

 

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Conversation (with my 3 year old) Over a Sugar Cookie

sugar-cookie wonder poem

A pink frosted heart, A rainbow sprinkled star.
Mommy I’m having love first.
Yummy. Who made your heart?
God of course!

Did He make Love?
God made the stars.
How did He make the stars?
He sang, “twinkle, twinkle”
and then He wondered.
What’s wonder?
Why?
Yes.

But He made Love first Mom,
He made everything with Love.

Can I have milk?

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Gratitude is a lot Like Raspberries

 

raspberries gratitude in motherhood

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.
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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.

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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

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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