Thursday, January 31, 2013

From the Love of Things

Zay and I are on the living room floor. We're in the center of plastic bat castles. Batman and Robin are perched high. Riddler and Joker lurk in dark corners.

And Zay looks at me with a smile brighter than the January day.

"What was your favorite toy when you were little?" he asks.

I think. Hard. But I don't recall. Maybe a baby doll named Mandy. Maybe kitchen set for my Barbies.

"I don't remember," I say. "You'll have to ask Nan. I bet she'll know."

Zay picks up an action figure. Batman soars around the castle. Then he plunks firm on the perch.

"What's your favorite, Zay?" I ask.

Zay looks off as if to peering into some distant wonder. Then his green eyes meet mine.

"That's easy," he says. "God. Daddy. And you."

Lord,  free my heart from the love of things. May affections be pleasing to You.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bull's-Eye Living

There was a Nerf ban in our household.

Until Christmas.

Lonny gave the boys Nerf crossbows. My mom blessed them with turbo launchers with some sort of laser thing. My girlfriend brought Nerf with spin holders. And Logan brought PVC mouth shooters from his dorm floor.

The ban was lifted.

It took me about forty seconds to remember why it had been locked down in the first place. It didn't take long at all to rediscover why we've been Nerf-free for so many years.

So this morning Gabe is at his desk crafting like a wild man. He has a Styrofoam plate. Construction paper. Glue. I sweep by and kiss his sweet cheek. His head is dips low. His hands are swift. His tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth in the way that it does when he's lost in creation. I walk away and leave him to his task.

A little while later I'm in the kitchen. I'm slicing fruit when a  blue bullet whizzes by. It nearly grazes my arm, but it flies past and I hear it smack the fridge tight.

I wipe my hands and go to find the boy. But I don't have to go far because the boy has found me first. He peers around the corner with eyes that are hopeful and wide.

 "Did I get it, Mom? Did I hit the bull's-eye?"

I look behind me. There's a Styrofoam plate taped to the fridge door. There are blue and yellow paper rings and the center is bull's-eye red.

The Nerf bullet is stuck well to the left. Between a basketball schedule and the shopping list.

"You missed, little boy," I say. I'm about to remind him of much I do not enjoy dodging Nerf bullets. But I begin thinking about the bull's-eye instead. My mind shifts to that homemade paper target that's hanging on my fridge.

I want to live my life on target. I want to shoot for the center red.

It's simple really. Jesus sums it up nice and neat in the book of Matthew. A Pharisee questions him - asks him which is the greatest commandment in the Law.

Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

So I wipe the counters and clatter dishes and these words, this direction, becomes the prayer of my heart. I want to love Him with all that I have. I want to love others well, too. And when I fall short there's love in sweet grace.

Gabe disappears. He's off to find the brothers or he's off to do something else.

But I'm keeping the homemade target. I'm going to leave it just where it's at.

It's a great reminder of where I want to aim my time, my decisions, my reactions, my affections, my desire, my heart, my love.

In His grace, I'm going for bull's-eye red.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weird and Wonderful Things - Finding Simple Joy

Zay and I are at the school table working on his math. It's been a tough couple of days with one of the older boys, and I'm feeling pressed thin.

"Mom, you know what's weird?" Zay asks. He looks up from his paper and slugs a drink from a plastic tumbler. When he swallows he puts the tumbler down and it thunks the table hard.

We're working on even numbers but now my mind produces about three weird things.


Zay stops me short. "Sometimes orange juice makes me smile."

And he grins.

And his mouth is ringed pulpy-orange.

And suddenly I'm smiling, too.

Lord, sometimes days are hard.  Sometimes circumstances are tough. But help me to find simple joy in the weird and wonderful things. Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Uplifted, Encouraged, And What Kind of Criminal Am I?

It's the first Upwards basketball game day of the season. Gabe and Zay are pumped. Primed. Ready to go. Zay's been at Upwards since he was a babe in arms. Watching. Waiting. But today is his day and the red and white uniform belongs to him. He'll charge through the tunnel when the announcer calls his name. Then he'll play like wild.

It's a big day in the life of my small boy.

Only my heart isn't light like his.

This morning a friend told me that "Held Fast", the story of Logan's cave rescue, was on the religion page of THE HUFFINGTON POST. This morning I decided to check it out.

Sure enough, the story was there.

So were a number of comments that pressed my heart hard.

How can people reject the Lord? How can man hold hostility for the perfect gift of grace?

So I sit and watch my boy. I clap and cheer and admire his sweet smile. But inside, something in me crumbles. Inside, I hurt for words aimed and hurled at the One I love. At the One who loved me first.

It's halftime now and the boys streak across the gym. Our family pastor takes center court, and his message holds my heart.

He begins with a joke about two little boys and a lie. It's funny. But the reality is, we've all torn the truth. We've all sinned. We've all fallen short of the glory. My sin-smudged self could never stand in the presence of a holy god.

Then our pastor talks about three crosses. The three crosses at Golgotha. They were for Jesus and two criminals. And while the Jesus and the two criminals were nailed to the crosses, one criminal hurled insults. Taunted. "If you are who you say you are..." But the other criminal believed. "Remember me," he said.

And Jesus said that he'll remember.

And the pastor asks, "What kind of criminal are you?"

I'm captivated. There's no doubt I'm guilty. I'm a criminal, of sinful thought sometimes before my feet hit the cold morning floor. Whether or not I'm guilty isn't the question. That one's not up for debate.

But what kind of criminal do I want to be?

I want to be the one who turns to Jesus. The one who believes. The one who says, "Remember me."

Half-time is over and little boys pump their legs and jump and shoot fast across the floor.

I feel so light, like I could jump and run now, too.  I know! I know which one I want to be.

The one set free by grace.


One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Luke 23:39-43


I thought it would be hard to believe in, but it's not hard at all
To believe I've sinned
And fallen short
Of the glory of God

He's not asking to change in my joy for martyrdom
He's asking to take my place
To stand in the gap that I have formed
With His real amazing grace

From "Awakening" - PAST THE WISHING by Sara Groves

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blog Break Today - And A Weekend Wish

Hi Friends,

The little boys have been sick and the week has been wild.

I'll miss posting today but will look forward to meeting you on Monday.

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for sharing your time here. May your weekend be rich in blessing and warm with God's love.


Monday, January 14, 2013

A Plan for Prayer - Gleaning and Learning from a Friend

I was sitting at a wedding reception with a friend. I hadn't seen her in too long. The conversation, like always, was rich and sweet. She has four boys - now grown to men.

And she told me about the way she prays for her boys.

And I was captivated, and I want to try, too.

"I pray for one boy each day. Of course, things come up. Struggles. Praises. Things that need to be covered in the lives of my boys. So I pray for all of my sons every day. But I schedule a day for each son. To pray for him, as completely as I can, throughout the day," she said.

I thought about that. I pray for my boys daily, too. But often it's hurried. Crunched. I imagined praying in the morning for all of my boys. Then, as the day moves on, lifting bullet prayers for an individual son.

So today I wake and decide that this will be the day.

And I'm going to shake things up and let the last be first.

So Isaiah, I'll pray for you today...

While I'm in the shower - Thank you, Lord, for Zay's kindness. Thank you for his helping ways. While I'm doing dishes - Lord, let Isaiah love you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. While I'm buttering toast - Lord, may he know and love your Word. While I'm flipping flash cards for brother - Please allow him to be a good friend, Lord. A friend like Jonathan was to David. Allow him to have this kind of  friend, too. While I'm darting to the store - Lord, when he sins, let that sin be revealed. When I'm loading the dishwasher and loading the family into the car - Lord, keep him safe. Keep him strong. May his relationships with his brothers be protected. May he love and serve others well. May he turn to you in times of trouble. May he always love you first....

So, Monday will be for Isaiah. Tuesday for Gabe. Wednesday for Samuel. Thursday for Grant. And Friday will be for Logan.

I'm a gleaner - I love to follow behind and learn from my friends.

Thank you, Kim, for this new way to pray for my boys.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
 James 5:13

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Refiner's Hand - A Very Wild Day

It's one of those days, one of those dreaded, awful days when testosterone rises so high I feel I'm sinking deep.

The boys are active. I'm good with active. But today they are breaking at the seams. They are pouncing. They are tumbling. They are rolling in a wild mess of tangled limbs.

I'm grateful for their strength and safety and their sweet beating hearts but after a couple of hours, after repeating each spoken sentence a half-dozen times, after reminding and pleading trying to rise beyond it all, I fear I'll come unglued.

"We have to finish school," I say. "Let's buckle down and get it done." But the boy child, the one who usually presses through a given task, looks at me like I've gone half mad.

I tap his math fact sheet with an impatient finger. "These are doubles," I say. "You know them by heart."

Maybe so. But his heart today is somewhere else. It's been like this since morn. One child erupts from his chair like a volcano. The other two join the flow. They are loud. There's more erupting. I direct and redirect but I feel my own neck getting hot.

It's days like this when my character is refined.

Is this the Refiner's fire, Lord? I ask. Because I'm melting hot and fast.

On a day like this I can be shaped.

I feel like giving in. Giving up. Giving in. No one is listening. I'm about to go wild and loud, too.

On a day like today I can rely on His strength. I can ask for His help. I can choose grace until His character outshines mine.

The Lord knew exactly what challenges I would face today. He hand picked my precious babes. He knew my soft spots. He knew where I'd need help. Lord, be with me today. Help me to handle myself, my sons, in a way that is pleasing to you. Empower me with Your Spirit. Make me wise.

While I'm growing them He's shaping me.

So I step into the Refiner's fire. I ask for His gifts of grace...May I be patient. May I have self control.. May I teach and train while being slow with anger and quick with love. May I be firm but still kind and good and gentle and faithful.

All while existing straight in the center of the Refiner's hand.

What a precious place to be.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweet Support - Holding Up Arms

At last the sun stretches stripes of gold over the living room floor and we decide to go ice skating. It only takes a short while to gather mittens, hats, coats, snow pants, and skates. We press into the van, tight and close, and we're on the road.

Once we're at the rink the boys are off like wild.

The big boys whir around fast while the smaller two grasp Lonny's hands and take short, stomping steps on the ice. I'm a spectator. My five-thirteen (smile) height is a wobbly mess on skates. I worry about injuring my healed back. I prefer to be in control of my arms and legs. So I stand on the sidelines and watch my crew. The Zamboni is fresh off the ice but before long there are cross hatches over the smooth surface and my boys go round and round. Now the small boys are gliding too. Each is grasping the hand of a big brother.

The little boys have stored-up winter energy but their legs tire fast and they take a few spills. The bigger boys heft them by the shoulders, steady their feet, hold their arms tight, and soon they're gliding again. The smaller boys need the bigger boys' strength. They need the support. And the bigger boys don't let go.

Sometimes we just need someone to come alongside us. Sometimes when we grow weak and tired we need someone to hold us up.

I'm smiling and waving when Sam slides close to the fence. "C'mon, Mom," he says. "I wish you'd give it a try."

I want to tell him no because I enjoy the safety of this side of the fence, but his eyes are pleading and I want to be that sort of mom. The sort that joins her family where they're at. The kind that can laugh and encourage and play hard, too.

So I lace up the remaining pair of boy-skates (outgrown by one my sons), and I teeter and totter to the ice. Sam is waiting at the gate. His smile makes me warm inside.

"You can do it, Mom," he says. "And I'll be here to help."

It's been a lot of years, and I'm stiff and afraid. But across the ice another of my boys gives me a thumbs-up so I inch along, a cling-on to the wall, trying to blend with the small kids scraping the sides, too.

And like he said, Sam is there. Encouraging. Helping. Lifting me with his kind words. He's not physically holding my arms, like the big boys and Lonny are holding Gabe and Zay's, but he's providing just the support I need to keep moving around.

There have been many times in my life, serious times, when I've needed the strong support of someone else.

After a dozen circles he's proud as can be. I'm still close to the side, unwilling to join the throng of skaters, but I'm gliding and I'm less afraid of falling, too.

"There you go," Sam says. "You officially skate as well as Elf."

I laugh and he laughs, too, and it's then that I understand that I'm having fun. We're gliding in great loops and the sky has gone dark. There are twinkling lights and Christmas music spills from the speakers in a sweet, festive flow.

The little boys and I - we've done well today.

We just needed a little help.


So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus 17:8-13


So hold up my arms, I said hold up my arms
Like Moses in the desert when the battle ran long
And hold up my arms, we can go at this together
When my arms aren't strong
When my arms aren't strong

"Hold Up My Arms" by Andrew Peterson
From Clear to Venus


Lord, thank you for the times others have held me up in physical, spiritual, and emotional ways. Help me to have a heart that is sensitive to the needs of others and allow me to be a strong support, too. Amen.