Monday, January 30, 2012

Simple Blessings - God's Gracious Gifts

Life is best when the house is scattered but the people inside fit together, 


                                    and we take time to share, really share, time and hearts,

and we're lost in it and are better for it,

          and we understand that these hushed, simple blessings are among God's gracious gifts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Give and Take Grace - Happy Birthday Karen

A couple of years ago, my men forgot Mother's Day. I sipped coffee and waited. Got dressed for church and waited. Dropped hints like a flower girl drops petals and waited. Nothing.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Then, at 10:00, we headed for the van. But before I climbed in, before we went to church and I pasted on my best I'm-so-hurt-but-I-have-to-smile face, I melted.

First class fire. On the driveway. For all passers-by to see.

I cried. Kicked the tire. Called my boys and my man dogs.

It wasn't pretty.
And I'm ashamed.

But it's true.

My guys are always thoughtful. Lonny is forever romantic. Not that time. Even Sam and Logan, who never miss a beat, missed that one. They are well- meaning men with good intention. They just dropped the ball.

And I didn't understand.

Until the next January, when I forgot my friend Karen's birthday.

Karen is a tried-and-true pal. When I was immobile for months with back trouble, she visited every day. Brought Twizzlers and yogurt. Climbed right in bed to talk. But we go back further than that. She drove me to the hospital when I was in delivery denial with Grant and two hours later held my son. And there have been a million times since.

She's faithful.

And I forgot her birthday, during what was, for her, a hard time.

When I called days later, she didn't cry. Or kick. Or call names. "You're busy," she said. "And I know you love me."


So, as Karen's birthday is near (this year I didn't forget), I'm thinking of my friend. Of her grace-based reaction. About how she looked past the calendar and saw the heart.

Happy Birthday my dear, dear friend.

Your example teaches me of grace.

Sometimes we need to give. Sometimes we need to take.

And I want to be like you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When Friends Are Family - A Sweet, Sweet Song

It was almost Christmas, and the night was deep, starry and bright. We stood on stairs and knocked on the door. Our friend greeted us with warmth, and we were quietly whisked inside.

Their home is like ours, old and tall and strong. Twinkling lights and Christmas greens hung in the arched doorways. Candles flickered warm.

And we quickly took our seats in the living room.

 The concert was about to begin.

Our boys were in front, on a long bench, to hear their friends play. Lonny and I took seats in the back, with the children's grandparents, all proud and ready. His hand wrapped around mine.

And the music began. Sweet songs strummed by small fingers. Voices lifted to the Lord Most High. Silent Night, Holy Night. I closed my eyes to listen, though it was just as dear to see.

It was precious, being in that room. In that home. Something sweet had happened. An overlap of friendship and family. Relationships bound with love.

And it's a gift from Him.

I was blessed, that night, to stretch into the lives of those children. To celebrate their gifts and talents and passions and hearts.  I'm blessed that this family reaches deep and long into the lives of my sons, too.

Friendship turned family when grown in God's love.

That's a sweet, sweet song I'll always want to  hear.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Sweet Fruit Is Far And I Need A Lift

The day is a blank slate, unwritten, with potential to be beautiful.

January temperatures have gone deep and cold. But the calendar is clear, not jumbled with wild scribbles of busy and commitment and time.

There is potential to sit. Love. Build. Refresh.

But it's not like that.

Not today.

The boys are bent on damaging each other, and they're going straight for the heart. Words cut deep, hurled hard, again and again. Sharp edges. Tough punches.

And I'm weak and tired.

The sweet fruit of all this effort seems far.  Too far to reach. Too far to see. Impossible to taste.

Today's fruit seems bitter.

And my own words and hard heart surface, too, and I'm not sure how to press them down.

I feel guilty, when life is so good. We are not sick. We are not in grief. The house is warm. Tummies are full.

But yet I need help, to be lifted, out of a pit we've carved, made with deep, slippery walls.

David's words comfort me, given  this morning, before the day was born. I didn't know how I'd need the  hope. I didn't know how I'd need the grace. I didn't know how I'd need His promise.

I waited patiently for the LORD, he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire,
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a place to stand.
Psalm 40:1-3

So I'm waiting, Lord, for that gentle lift, to a sure-footed place, out of muck and mire. I'm waiting, Lord, for a standing place, where there is peace,and love, and the taste of sweet fruit is not so far...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Learning to Be Still

"Listen," our little friend says. He presses one small finger to his lips. "I hear something. A bird." His eyes grow round and his body grows still.

Isaiah goes silent, too. He wants to hear what his friend heard.

Two small faces turn upward. The other three boys move ahead.

We are on a nature hike with friends. The weather is kind and mild for January. Bright sunshine pushes through winter-bare branches. The sky shines cloudless blue. And five little boys appreciate nature.

God revealed strong in creation.

We listen. Walk a bit more. Hear  water rushing and bubbling under glass- thin ice. Smile over moss, still green, on the bark of a tree. Find a brown leaf bigger that even the oldest boy's hands.

Then we climb a short hill and find a flat parcel of land. The boys sit, whisper-quiet, and peer into the ravine below.

Days like this are gems. The frienships, too.

And as I sit and settle beside the boys, cold from the ground pressing against the backs of  my legs, I'm grateful for the Creator.  I'm grateful for creation. And I'm grateful for those in our lives who encourage us to be still and know that He is God.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wild and Crazy Ride - A Breathless Prayer

It's Saturday morning,the first Saturday in January, and the threads of the day unravel before the coffee machine has brewed my first cup. DMV with Grant for his permit by seven. Lonny to ticket sales at basketball tournament by seven, too. Samuel to games at ten, two,  and three. Grant to catch bus to Champaign at nine forty-five. Gabe to game at eleven. And Zay, poor Zay, hanging on tight because he's caught in the whirlwind, too.

Christmas break feels a million miles away.

And I'm breathless. Already.

I like to sip life slowly but this day is moving too fast.

As I start my van, scrape windows,  buckle in, I know I need to talk with the Lord. To dedicate this day to Him. To ask for safety. Blessing. But there's more...

I don't want to miss Him in the rush.

Let me see You, Lord, in this full, full day. Open my eyes. Open my ears. Touch my life with Your love and truth.

 Today is a wild and crazy ride.

 But I know You're here. 

 And I don't want to miss a thing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

After Christmas - Forward in Faith

I sat in church on Christmas Eve, my family pressed beside me. Logan held Isaiah on his lap. Gabe leaned into my side. I looked across the sanctuary and saw my parents, too, and my heart was full.
Christmas was in front of us.
The celebration was near.

And our pastor spoke of going forward in faith – after Christmas.
I wondered, as I sat in that sanctuary that was filled with the warm glow of candles and Christmas greens, joy and reverence and cheer and love, why he would speak of faith after Christmas.

We weren't even quite there.
But today, I remembered our pastor’s message. As Lonny drove Logan back to Wheaton.  As strings of lights were pulled from the house. As the Christmas cds were stacked in a box. As ornaments were lifted from still-reaching branches and I longed for sweet moments with family and friends.

I remembered…
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said of the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”  Luke 2:21-24

After the birth of Jesus, after the manger and the angels and the shepherds, after the silent night and the stars, Mary went to the temple to present infant firstborn Jesus. And to offer a sacrifice for purification (after giving birth to a son a mother had to wait 40 days to do this). She put one foot in front of the other, took the next steps, and moved ahead.
Mary went forward in faith.

After the birth of Jesus.
After Christmas.

So today,  as I prepare to return to real life, school books, chores, and schedules, as I miss the warmth and goodness and holiday cheer, as I close the door to Logan’s room and pray for him while he’s away, I’m grateful for that Christmas Eve message, for Mary’s example, and for the opportunity to lean into the Lord
And walk forward in faith.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Unexpected Blessing - One More Day

It was the day after New Year's Day. And the alarm sounded at six. By six-thirty, Lonny was out the door. It was hard to see him go. He'd been home for a week, and Christmas vacation was over.

The boys and I shuffled through the morning stuff. Time to return to some kind of routine. Then the phone rang.

"Morning," Lonny said when I answered.

"Hey, how is your first morning back?"

"Quiet," he said. "When I got here, the parking lot was empty. Guess today is a holiday. I caught up on a few small things, but now I'm coming home."

I knew that he was smiling. Big. Awesome. Wonderful. One more day.

"We should do something fun," I said. "While the big boys are still home from school."

"Ice skating?" he said.

"Sold," I said.  "I'll get the boys ready."

Two hours later, we were at the rink.

We laced, bundled, and hit the ice.

And as I watched my sons skate, the joy of togetherness all over them, cheeks rosy red from the cold, I was grateful for the kindness of God. For a father who loves to delight His children. For One who knows the desires of our hearts.

And for the sweet, unexpected blessing of just one more day.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Sweetest Days - From His River

The best of days are sweet and slow


when togetherness runs rich and full. There is time to laugh, time to smile, time to sit, time to enjoy.

                And God's sweet grace is in our home and on our boys and is around our table.

My heart is full for gifts so rich yet I know He offers a river of blessing, a kind abundance, so deep and wide, more than I can perceive.

And today is just a sip.

 How priceless is your unfailing love. Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from your river of delights. Psalm 36:7-8