You Don’t Always Need to Know: GOD KNOWS

God knows

Whenever I feel anxious, I pick up my baby Elyse. I rest her head on my shoulder and I brush my face back and forth across her soft furry head. I breathe in her new baby smell of sweet milk and I kiss her smooth, warm cheek. Sometimes if I’m really upset, I’ll have her nurse. Her body against mine with its soft rhythmic breathing takes my thoughts out of the dark rabbit holes, and brings me back to living proof of God’s goodness.

God’s goodness through fears of suffering from another crippling depression during my pregnancy.

God’s goodness as we tried and tried, month after month, waiting for two candy pink lines.

God’s goodness when I was able to experience the joy and anticipation of sweet Elyse without the paralyzing sadness of my first pregnancy.

God’s goodness when my baby entered the world healthy, and whole, and beautiful.

When we enter a valley, Satan wants to trick us into believing that God isn’t with us. He deceives us with lies that we’re not enough; that God is punishing us; that what we do doesn’t matter.

But what if God brought us into this dark valley so that we could be drawn to his light?

A sweet friend sent me a beautiful message this week:

“These words of yours, have helped mold who I am as a mother. Your reflective, critical self, I find truly inspiring. Thank you for taking time to write your heart out on that keyboard. Like I said, you don’t know who you actually touch, and you don’t always need to know. I got some great advice recently; GOD KNOWS.”

These words of hers, they mean more than she knows. But God knows.

God knows who we are and what we’re going through. He knows our “innermost being.” He “knitted us together in our mother’s womb,” He “perceives our every thought.”

The days can feel monotonous, and tedious. Day after day we try to cultivate and plant seeds in our lives through our words, choices, and actions. But sometimes we look around us and the landscape looks barren.

We start to question God’s faithfulness. We start to question our own faithfulness to God.

But in those moments He whispers to us, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

That very God plants His light within us. He uses our dark places to create something beautiful. He “weaves us together in the depths of the Earth” and uses us to create beautiful things.

I didn’t do anything to deserve this beautiful baby girl that lays wrapped around my stomach right now. I couldn’t have earned her with the right words, or kind deeds, a vegan diet or by running a marathon. I couldn’t have bought her with wealth or power or the approval of others. Yet here she is. God’s precious gift, reminding me that God is the miracle worker.

And since its Christmas, it of course reminds me of another baby. God made flesh, to dwell among us. His mother embraced His small helpless body. That same body we would nail to a cross. People questioned the Father’s plan for Jesus’ life; they questioned if Jesus was the real thing or a fraud. But God knew the plan, and Jesus trusted.

In the same way, He calls us wait on Him to reveal the plan for our lives. Because “we don’t always need to know; GOD KNOWS” and thats enough.

 

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It’s (not) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

 

bree

An advent calendar sits in the pantry amidst candy, and birthday candles, and the things we reserve for special occasions. The occasion, advent, is here and yet it sits untouched, the first four doors remain stitched shut in their cardboard frame. I haven’t felt like celebrating advent, if I’m honest, this year I’ve been dreading Christmas.

I know, it’s terrible, especially coming from a pastor’s wife– but if I’m honest, as much as I look forward to December, Christmas time also stirs up anxious thoughts and sadness. I wish I felt the warm happy feelings sung about in the songs that spill from my car radio, that their merry notes would fill the parts of me that feel empty.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. But when you put it in those large, square terms it feels like an empty box, void of the painful reality that is contained within them. There are good days; days that I think I’ve finally fled the darkness, but then, there are the days that the darkness tries to cover me and to cloak all the bright and beautiful things in my life.

And while I battle my own sadness we also have a world that tries to manufacture happiness with the counterfeit versions of a Christmas reality that are impossible to live up to, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and  “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” to name a few.

And then we’re forced to grapple with recent tragedies that seem even more tragic at Christmas time. In the midst of our “Winter Wonderland” people are shot down in the light of day by hate and evil, leaving behind the pieces of broken families and broken hearts.

And what about our own tragedies that many of us relive at Christmas time:  the seats at the table that now sit empty or the Christmas tree that has no presents beneath it.

For many, Christmas can be a sad and lonely season. A season when darkness threatens to cloak the bright and beautiful things that Christmas has to offer.

But in those dark moments we need only to remember one dark and lonely night when a woman had no choice but to give birth to her son in an animal stall. In that dark and humble moment, she gave birth to a small and innocent baby. One light shone above Him to light the way for the lost. A humble baby boy took on the word’s darkness to dwell among us and to conquer darkness once and for all.

 

On the days that I am stumbling in darkness, I pray that God would light a match to guide my next steps.

Each step is an act of obedience. But as I remain in step the light grows brighter.

Today in obedience, I took out the calendar. I asked my daughter to find the number 1 and pried it open impatiently. Her face lit up under the warmth of my attention as her eyes fixed on the chocolate train tucked beneath the door. I nodded and she popped it in her mouth. Together we searched for number 2 and she laughed as I ripped open the stubborn door. She hungrily ate the small mold of chocolate and we continued until all four doors were opened. Her chocolatey smile illuminated my next steps, as I walked over and plugged in our small plastic Christmas tree, complete with an illuminated star.

As I examined the star that I carefully planted in place only days before, I questioned how I find joy amidst the anxiousness and sadness that I struggle with this time of year.. Then, I realize, that maybe in order to appreciate the miracle of Christmas, we don’t need to walk through a winter wonderland or cozy up to a fire with elaborate decorations and Bing Cosby. Maybe we first need to visit the dark and humble places, like a feeding trough, where God first dwelled among us. And in that place, we can find His light to guide our steps.

I look at her sweet face and examine every delicate contour as she gazes delightedly at the cardboard calendar beneath the twinkling lights of the tree. I whisper “thank you God; thank you for using me to perform a miracle.” As I look at my baby girl I’m filled with hope, and light, and maybe a bit of the Christmas cheer that the songs are talking about.

Because God sent his own son, to dwell among us, so that we can be called “children of God.”

 

 

 

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Mistaken Identity

By Guest Writer Sarah Bourne

As human beings, we spend so much time in our own heads. Our thought lives are full to the brim with repetitive notions- worries, preoccupations, regrets, wishes, hopes, criticisms, and more. How we view ourselves is a big part of that. Our identities are constantly being defined as we ask again and again: Am I enough? Are we defined by the outcomes in our work? Do we judge ourselves based on how well we parent?  Do we look at what we own and measure our worth there? Do we look in the mirror and look to our appearance for the answer? (I know that one never fails to get me!) Do we dress in trend or behind the times? And the self-doubt goes on- it’s quite consuming isn’t it?
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Take these socks from the “Bourne family bucket of socks without matches”, for example. You’ll notice that one sock is kind of “special”- it has a hand-drawn design on it, courtesy of my son and a permanent marker. And if you can imagine an eight-year old creating it, you might recognize it to be one of the most famous sports brands symbols known….yep, “Just do it” is right, That’s what he was going for….But what broke my mama heart was when I discovered why my son was doing it.

As I found him one morning before school, my little man wanted so badly to identify with other children wearing brand names, that he was willing to draw that label on, just so that he could feel more like he belonged in an effort to identify with the other kids. It was so sad to realize how badly he wanted to “look the part” even at such a young age. It was the perfect example of mistaken identity.
As Believers, we have already trusted the Lord with the biggest thing there is: the saving work that only He could do. He offers us a complete rescue from our sin-soaked hearts, so that we can one day have eternal life. Yet, when it comes to defining who we are, day to day, we usually claim that job for ourselves. We use standards to measure who we are from everywhere BUT Him.

Have you ever thought about what your life would look like if you were not already identified as a child of God? Think about it. It’s not a pretty picture: isolated, without a holy identity, lost, helpless, powerless to the enemy, unknown and a stranger to God. Think about being without a place to belong, with only your own self to focus on, seeking ways to be identified and belong to something, anything. I can’t imagine it. I have a hard enough time remembering my true identity, even with knowing Jesus as my Savior.

It becomes obvious why so many exhaust themselves and struggle with trying to figure out “who they are”- they really don’t know! It’s such an insecure reality.

So here I am, a child of the One True King, and every day, I wrestle with answering the question of “who I am” even though I already know.
Then I think about catching my son in that desperate act- it was heartbreaking on one hand, but an incredible wake-up call as a parent. Oh, how I need to remind my children every day of Who they belong to and how dearly they are loved—that their identity is not based on anything anyone else decides. And the same goes for us grown-ups- when we forget that our identity is not based on our work or performance, how spruced up our wardrobe or how beautiful our home is- we need to allow the Lord time, to come to us though His Word, and give us that sweet reminder. We are His beloved, His people- Children made righteous by the Almighty and Merciful Creator of the Universe, Rescuer of the World- no additional markings necessary! We are clothed in righteousness… more than conquerors…we are His.

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Sarah Bourne is a momma to three kooky, wonderful kiddos, and a wife to loyal and loving Don.
She’s a lover of words— singing ‘em, writing ‘em, painting ‘em on wood, or reading God’s.
She’s a hope-er and a dreamer and she prays that through her flubs and flaws she might somehow point others to Jesus every day of her life.
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A Homemade Kind of Love

Marriage Love

He squeezed my hand as my body shook with pain. I clawed at the sheets as the fire grew in my belly. My breaths came in labored gasps. I tried to focus on the conversation through the static of my throbbing brain, as phrases like “history of anxiety” and “panic attack” jabbed at my consciousness. My rolling eyes found his steady gaze; his clear blue eyes collected tears while his brow knotted together in a question mark. As I took another heaving breath and let out a sob, I anchored myself to the weight of his clear booming voice. “You need to treat her breakthrough pain. Call the doctor and give her something now.”

1930926_618040769213_9604_nWhen your chart says “anxiety” you get other unspoken words that dangle from it like “hypochondriac” and “over-dramatic.” But as the new nurse tried to affix a label and file me away with her other patients, my husband stood firmly in her way. He knew what it looked like when I wore real pain, and he wouldn’t stand by and watch me suffer.

He put his lips on my temple and shushed and rocked me like an injured child. “She’s taking care of it, it will be better soon,” he whispered. I squeezed my eyes shut until the delaudid coursed through my veins making my arms and legs heavy and my mind numb. I drifted off into a painless sleep, my heart wrapped tightly around the man who stood at my side.

My mom always told me “don’t marry the man who makes you feel loved, marry the one who shows you love.” I felt doubly blessed when I met the one who not only made me feel adored, but proved his love by moving his life, packed neatly in his  dusty blue Oldsmobile across 2,000 miles and 6 states.

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In the beginning of our marriage I clung to the butterflies, to the dreams of the future, and the feelings that were so powerful that they fueled me through each day. But as time passes, the butterflies can slowly become dormant, the dreams give way to reality, and the feelings that were once so vibrant, become less palpable. The love that we wrap tightly around ourselves for security, can become threadbare with the trials of time and struggle, and a love once visceral, can become hidden in the fabric of everyday life.

In the happy moments we celebrate our love; in the difficult moments we just love1736_634449585813_7635_n.

What my mom tried to teach me, from the lens of 30 years of marriage, is that love isn’t what we feel, its what we do. The winsome feelings that bubble over when we love someone are light and beautiful and airy and whimsical. But just as bubbles took my breath away as a little girl, they were also illusive; paper thin and fleeting fragments of beauty that popped as I tried to grab hold of them.  What’s left is the love that digs in and makes itself at home. The homemade love thats knit together by the choices we make every day. But also, love is seeing the best in someone when they can’t find their own reflection, and love is knowing what someone needs, when they can’t ask for it themselves.

We don’t always find love in the sparkle of an evening dress  and beside a candlelit dinner, sometimes it surprises us in the warm embrace of a fleece robe and under fluorescent lights in a hospital bed.

10551015_10102951303945063_2314241828432024367_nThe “falling in love” part is easy. Choosing to love someone every day, year after year, that takes hard work and commitment. It’s like comparing new shoes to an old favorite pair. New love is exciting, it’s clean and bright; but, love after success & disappointment, life’s surprises & day-to-day monotony, after realizing dreams & enduring the sharp pain of loss–well that’s the sort of love that you want to slip your feet into after a long day. It knows your grooves, it’s leather is worn and soft, and exquisite. That kind of love is ineffable–it deserves its own place on the shelf.

So to celebrate six years we’ll get a sitter and I’ll wear my heels and he’ll wear a tie and we’ll gaze at each other in the glow of a candle with wine warming our bellies. But I won’t just see my husband’s cleanly shaven face, I’ll also see his boyish smile at the altar, his worried frown as I curl up in a dark room, his awe at holding his two girls, and his tired face after praying with someone for their last time. I’ll know that he’s with me to delight in good food and butterflies, but by God’s grace, he’ll stand watch at my bedside during the seasons when pain intrudes. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9

 

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Letting God Flavor My Life


godflavor

When I think of summer I think of sun filled days at my mom and dad’s house up on the hill overlooking the groves of avocado trees. I think of Bocce ball, and floating in the pool, and long lazy meals garnished with fresh fruit, and always completed by mom’s ripe, homegrown tomatoes. From greek salads with kalamata olives to margarita pizza loaded with pesto and fresh mozzarella, each of her signature meals are completed with her prize tomatoes that grow abundantly in her carefully tended garden.

One quiet afternoon, I took my daughter along the winding brick path that led to the small collection of fruit trees and the wrought iron gate that wrapped itself around the  overgrown tomato bushes. I plucked two plump tomatoes from the vine and wiped the dirt from them on the corner of my shirt. Keeping one for myself, I handed her the other, and watched her hold it in her small hands, her face transformed by a look of delight. I bit into it like an apple as the sweet and savory flavor exploded in my mouth. I nodded at her to do the same. After a reluctant bite, she began to devour it. The juice dripped down her chin and onto her white shirt as we shared a conspiratorial smile.

Whenever I see the supermarket’s perfect collection of identical red tomatoes, I add a few to the shopping cart in hopes of capturing the bright flavors of summer; but they always come up short. These mealy and tasteless counterfeits make my mouth water for the real thing. Unlike my mom’s sun-ripened, colorful and imperfect tomatoes, many breeders have cultivated a mutation in the tomato crop to make the fruits ripen evenly, allowing for a faster and cheaper harvest of beautiful and flavorless fruits. 

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

 

 

 

But I realize that sometimes I too get focused on what I look like on the outside rather than my own flavor. Instead of concentrating on the process, I focus on the results. Too often our culture points our attention to appearance and results, while compromising on the means that we we get there, and the meat that its made of.

But God calls us to fix our eyes on Him and entrust our lives to Him, believing that He will take care of the outcome.

Some of my writing comes out in an easy stream, and other times it’s a long labor of love written one sentence at a time over days and weeks. Sometimes God blesses us unexpectedly, and at times we have to lean into Him in prayer and petition, and even then, things don’t turn out the way we envision. Too often I try to take shortcuts, and force my own results.  I try to breed and cultivate the crop with my own hands, in my own time, rather than allowing God to harvest it; rather than waiting for it to ripen in the sun, in God’s time.

When we focus on results we concern ourselves with output rather than input. We measure our lives by the size of our salaries, how many friends we have or likes we get on Facebook, the grades on our children’s report cards, our pant size, and the make and model of our car. And no matter what, it comes up short. Because no matter how many zeros are behind the dollar sign,  no matter how many friends or adoring fans we have, and no matter how desirable we are, it will only make us beautiful shells of people, with lives that other people envy, and we ourselves hate. Kind of like the big..shiny…red and utterly tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store.

Don’t get me wrong money and friendship, even popularity and fitness can all be blessings, but for me, they aren’t the sum by which I want to quantify my life.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

 

 

 

As I drift from God with distractions and aspirations that aren’t rooted in Him, God has a way of gently drawing me back to Him. He gives me a choice whispering “you can chase after this stuff that leaves you empty, or let me fill you with My Word, My Spirit and My Grace.” I don’t want to settle for a life of tasteless tomatoes. In His Word He reminds us that if we remain in Him, by the Spirit, and by His Grace, we bear much fruit for his glory, “showing ourselves to be His disciples.” (John 15:8)

 

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Mommy Leave the Light On

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Her screams woke me from a deep sleep. Alertness came over me as my feet found the cold wood floor and padded quickly to her room.

“I need Jesus! You forgot Jesus!” she bellowed as tears saturated her scrunched up face. I enfolded my toddler’s warm body against mine and kissed her salty face. She clung to me as her heaving breaths slowed to a quiet rhythmic tempo.

As she gave back into sleep, I disentangled myself from her grasp and tiptoed to the window where her nightlight was plugged into the wall. My fingers fumbled until I found the switch to turn it on. A mural of Jesus in a white robe, surrounded by sheep, glowed golden in the light bulb’s illumination. I glanced once more at the peaceful curves of her face in the soft light and returned to my warm bed.

Finish reading this post at the following link:

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I’m a Bad Mom…Sometimes

badmom

I stopped at the red light and exhaled. All the anxiousness and guilt expelled from me in a sob as my burning eyes released the tears I’d been blinking back. I turned up the radio to muffle the sounds of my convulsive gasps as I replayed her latest tantrum from moments before.

“Mommy needs you to hold my hand in the parking lot to keep you safe,” I beg, my voice dripping with the chemical sweet taste of cough medicine. “If you don’t hold my hand right now I’m going to carry you,” I try again, hysteria tinging my falsely syrupy voice.

I picked up her flailing body, angling my head to avoid her helicopter arms that batter me again and again. I fixed my eyes on the car, blurring out the periphery of judgemental stares as my daughter screeched and yowled like an angry cat. I pinned her body in the carseat to buckle her, back arching and fingers clawing at my grasping hands. As the engine hummed and the car began its rhythmic forward motion, her body became motionless, her gasping breaths slowing to the purr of a heavy sleep.

The light turned green and I felt suffocated by the weight of the emotions that piled on my chest one by one. Pulling over, I put the car in park and closed my eyes as I allowed myself to suffer the weight and jagged edges of each feeling that threatened to bury me.

“Other moms don’t need to manhandle their children.” Guilt. “If you were a better parent she wouldn’t behave like this.” Insecurity. “Your going to screw her up for life.” Fear.
Each lie pulled me deeper and deeper into frustrated resignation.

After a long moment I looked back at her peaceful, sleeping face. I inhaled deeply and wiped away the tears of despair and frustration. I put the car in drive and kept going.

That evening as I dried and put away the dinner dishes, I overheard my daughter’s quiet chatter as she played with her dolls. I paused and listened more closely as she picked up the wide eyed doll in the blue paisley dress and smoothed its silky, chestnut hair. She whispered to her doll, “I love you and I forgive you.”

I remembered the guilt and despair that weighed on me earlier that day. In the glow of lamps and quiet blanket of evening, the feelings lost their weight and jagged edges.

I am far from the perfect mom. I yell, I grow impatient, and I give in when I should hold my ground. I turn on the TV when I should read her a book, I heat up a hotdog when I should cook a meal, I yell when I should ask questions, and I allow precious opportunities to slip through my fingers.

But as I look at my daughter, her hair damp from a bath, her night gown gathered around her feet, lips curved in a sleepy smile, I thank God for all the times I do get it right.

And as I hear her speak words of love and forgiveness, I whisper thank you. Thank you God for listening to me, for equipping and empowering me. Thank you for blessing me. Thank you for looking at me in my worst moments, covered in shame and hopelessness, for holding me and whispering “I love you and I forgive you.”

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Our Life is a Beautiful Mess

dandelion

dear b

I see the trash bag sitting on our flagstone patio and I’m filled with the dull ache of dread. I hate the small trek from my back door to the side yard where the trash cans are kept. Releasing a sigh, I step outside and sling the heavy white bag over my shoulder as I plot through the mounds of dirt and rock. My chest tightens with anxiety as I take in our yard in all its desolate glory. Holes and capsized trees litter the landscape, their stalky roots jutting out like the masts of sailboats.

I hate messes. From a small pile of coffee grounds on my kitchen counter to the chaotic scene of strewn toys and crumbs left behind from one of your playdates, messes make my skin crawl and trigger an immediate impulse to obsessively clean.

But I especially hate in-between messes– the untidiness that comes with an unfinished project. Your dad has the logical thought that there’s no point in cleaning up when a project is “in progress.” We should save the overhaul cleaning for when the job is completed. Part of me agrees, but then there’s the compulsive-anxiety-ridden-super-clean me that can’t stand leaving it. We’ll just say “under construction” is not something I do well with.

Since the birth of your little sister, it feels a bit like our life is under construction. Everyone says, “just survive the first six weeks and things will get better.” As I cocoon her in our home, I anticipate the days we can go in public, the nights when I can sleep, and the morning I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans.

You’re struggling with sharing mommy and daddy and making your feelings known in the only way a two year old knows how. With temper tantrums and visits to our bed at night, you ask again and again, “Do you still love me?”  And as we give you love and reassurance, people tell us, “just give it time, when the baby can interact more they’ll get along great.”

So we wait away the days for a moment that our lives will fit the happy family snapshot in our heads or on our Facebook page.

But if I’m honest, isn’t all of life kind of an in-between mess? If I took a snapshot of this moment it would show me, tired and unshowered, you in your underwear and a face smeared with food, and your sister in a spit up crusted onesie, and in desperate need of a bath.

There will always be manic Mondays, grocery lists, and smaller size pants to fit into. And as you and Elyse grow there will always be another milestone to check off, from rolling over, to giggling, to starting kindergarten, going to sleepovers, driving a car, kissing a boy, and graduating high school. But the reality is that life is really the sum of those moments in between. Too often I fix my eyes on the next big thing instead of pulling up a lawn chair and settling down right in the moment I’m living in now.

We’re ripping out the bushes and trees to lay sod in our yard. I dream of the day when the two of you can have a tea party in the grass, or lay on your backs and look at animal shaped clouds. But as I walk from the trash cans to the back door, looking down to carefully avoid tripping in a hole, I see a single dandelion standing proudly in a  mound of dirt and pebbles.

The summer after we were married, your dad and I went to visit his family home in Michigan. As we went through boxes of his old memorabilia, I found a square of crumpled paper that he had thrown discreetly into the “throw away” pile. I smoothed out the angular folds and read the small, boyish writing. It was a poem about finding a person who could look past his imperfections to love him for who he is:

“I’m just a dandelion.                                                                                                     But one day in the distant future,                                                                                    I will sit across the table from the one,                                                                  She will see a flower, when others saw a weed.”

Precious moments are hidden beneath the dirt and pebbles of a life that is under construction. They’re under piles of laundry, and dirty dishes, and unpaid bills if only we have eyes to recognize them. As I sit here in the quiet dawn of morning, I leave an unmade bed and a pile of dishes in the sink. I run my fingers through your hair and watch your sister’s chest rise and fall, her warm little body tucked snugly in the crook of my arm– and I thank God for my garden of dandelions.

 

 

 

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Dear Elyse: Your Story

Yawn

Dear Elyse

As I lay immobile on the bed, it felt as though I were on a carousel with the world spinning around me.  I fixed my gaze on one immutable point, your daddy’s eyes, as I mouthed over and over to him, “I’m okay, I’ll be okay,” as the stream of tears threatened to blur my vision.

Despite my words, despite his steady eyes, the tears wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. I heard a healthy cry and I saw you from across the room, all ten fingers, all ten toes, your pink skin and head of dark hair, and then my consciousness gave way to the hazy background.

The long summer was marked by the dry California heat, and the long wait for you. The drought caused a strict watering schedule that turned the landscape from lush green to yellowed and dead. The trees’ leaves were dry and spotted as they scattered the streets with their lifeless forms. My own body felt huge and achy; my mouth and throat were parched with an unquenchable thirst.  My days were filled with to-do’s and restlessness, as I waited  for you to make your radiant appearance, like a small pretty bud giving way to a bright and beautiful bloom.

But in my waiting and quiet anticipation, my own life and perspective began to look stale and dried up. The longer I waited, my focus shifted from living to expecting, and my days became consumed by preparation and obligation– stealing the each moment  of its own vitality.

On a Sunday morning, at 39 weeks pregnant, my slow bloated body ambled through the streets of Old Town Orange in a feeble attempt to “walk the baby out.” The Old Town  neighborhoods seemed to be the one place that hadn’t been affected by the drought.  As my eyes drank up one green manicured lawn to the next, my focus halted on an ugly brown tangle amidst the tidy landscape. The gnarled dead vines wrapped around the splintered edges of the decayed wood siding. A dusty sign on an old stake poked out of a wheel barrel in the center of the dreary scene. It had only one word in bold lowercase letters, “grow.” I snapped a photo because it seemed significant- and then I left it like an unfinished sentence, to go about my business of walking.

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That evening I went to church. My heart felt heavy with the anxious anticipation of when you would come. I hadn’t had any contractions, and I was afraid I would need a c-section. I wanted to be in control over what would happen, and I wanted to know what to expect. Yet as we sang the worship song, “The Sound of Grace,” my racing heart and worried mind gave way to an overwhelming feeling of rest and peace.

Grace, sweet grace; A fountain for my soul.                                 Grace, sweet grace; A mighty waterfall.                                         Drops of mercy all around; Everywhere the sound of grace.

As the tears streamed down my face, I looked up and smiled. For the first time in a long time I was soaking up the moment for all its goodness as God nourished me with his love and assurance. Deep in my heart I knew that no matter the circumstances, His abundant blessings wouldn’t run dry.

I awoke to your weight on my chest, your soft warm body and hungry suckling mouth. Tears ran down my cheeks as I heard the heavy pounding of rain outside the window.

You came to me like the much anticipated rainstorm that refreshed us that Tuesday morning, quenching a deep thirst and washing me with relief and gratitude. And since you’ve been here the tears flow unbidden from my eyes. Anxious tears, tears of relief, tears of fear and pain, of fulfillment, and tears of pure joy. But every drop that falls from my face, whether born out of gratitude or struggle, I collect in an alabaster jar;  knowing that they bring me the nourishment I need to grow.

Despite the gnarled vines that threaten to choke out new life; the thorny weeds of shame, fear, and mistrust, God scatters new seeds in my life; He  waters them with His grace, and grows my life into an overgrown garden of beautiful blooms.

As I rested in my hospital room, I stared at your peaceful face. Your perfect lips pushed out little puffs of breath.  My phone lit up and buzzed quietly with a text message. Auntie Erin had sent a picture, with the caption: “Look at the full rainbow over Orange today!!”

Elyse's Rainbow

My arms were full of you, and my heart was full, knowing that God never leaves us exactly where we are. Through the waiting, through the tears and the struggle and the blessings, I never stop growing and He never stops pouring down His Grace.

God gives us rainbows to remind us of His promises, but all I need to do is look into your face and I know:  God is good.

 

 

 

 

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Cracked & Beautiful

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dear b

As I wiped the tears, and snot, and blood from your dirty face I felt the heavy weight of dread in the pitt of my stomach. Your once perfect smile was broken, your front baby tooth jagged where it was once a pristine little square.

Smelling of lavender and wrapped sweetly in your pink princess nightgown, every sign of your fall earlier that day was wiped clean, except for your crooked smile. And while I was grateful that you were unharmed, the crack remained, reminding me of how helpless I really am.

Because even if I stand at the bottom of the slide, waiting to catch you, you can still crash, and bleed, and cry out in pain, and there is nothing I can do about it, but hold you and comfort you, and say “I’m sorry.”

And your cracked smile reminds me of my helplessness. It reminds me of how helpless I am in protecting you in this big scary world; it reminds me of how little control I have over my own little world, and it reminds me that no matter how much I fight to keep things pristine, and perfect, and straight, they can become cracked, and crooked, and broken.

I try to control my life, to keep it neat and tidy like a pretty photo, but it doesn’t fit in the neat little frame that I try to package it in. Despite my efforts to make everything just so, reality shatters my  plans, leaving a web of cracks on the high polished surface of my life.

But then I look at you in the rearview mirror, with your wide, crack toothed smile like a ray of sunshine,  and you say to me “Mommy, I have a new, bigger smile.”

I peer at that smile that is no longer the picture of perfection. And I take a deep breath as the warm sun floods our car and I let a laugh explode from my mouth. I laugh with God, because he is full of so many surprises. I laugh because I am so helpless, and cracked, and yet through HIM I am hopeful and whole. I laugh at you, your fearlessness, your innocence, and your new, bigger, beautiful smile.

I look at the crack in the windshield, that I’ve been meaning to fix, and I smile as I see beams of light refract from it.

 

 

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