Thursday, May 30, 2013


As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. James 5:11

           My husband, Lonny, liked to offer surprises.

           Only I didn’t do well receiving them.

“Close your eyes,” he said one afternoon. Then he led me, warm hand folded around mine, to our bedroom. “Surprise!” he called. I was shocked to see that Lonny had bought me a new bed quilt and had donated the old one. Only I wasn’t ready to change the bedroom to a winter lodge theme.

Another time, a few years ago, he very sweetly farmed the children out for the weekend. “Surprise!” he’d called when I returned from the library to a too-quiet house. “We have reservations at a bed and breakfast.” Only he didn’t understand that I’d fret the whole weekend about my two-year-old’s wild, raspberry-red rash.

My husband’s way of showing love brought me stress. My response brought him frustration.

“I’m trying,” he’d say, when his latest surprise had caused my heart to thump too hard.

“Me, too,” I’d say, after the smoke of the latest surprise had cleared.

We traveled on that way for awhile, Lonny surprising and me sputtering in stress while shooting him down. Until one day, after trial and error, in God’s good grace, we hit it right.

“Surprise,” he said that day when he came home from work. He plunked his bag on the floor, tugged the zipper, and extracted a cold cylinder.

Peach tea.

 In a can.

My fave.

“Thanks,” I said. “How thoughtful and kind. You remembered my favorite. It means so much that you thought of me.”

Lonny gave me a peck on the cheek.

And when he pulled away, I don’t know who was smiling bigger.
Lord, thank you for this man and for the generous heart that you gave him. Thank you, also, for allowing us to persevere, to stick with one another, until we hit even the small things right. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Tooth Fairy and Me - EGR (Extra Grace Required)

I knew it was going to happen.


I could feel in in my mama-bones.

"Mom!" Zay shouts. He sprints across the lawn, little arms pumping at his sides. When he reaches me his hair is rumpled from the run and he's breathing fast.

"My tooth," he says between gulps of air. "It's loose!"

He plunges two garden-dirty fingers into his mouth as I put down my watering can and cringe.

Isaiah wriggles. And pushes. And the tiny white tooth, the one that was the culprit years ago when he howled all night because he was teething like mad, moves from side to side. When he's finished tugging it's crooked - like one leaning post in a perfect-picket smile.

"You're right, Zay," I say. "It's finally happened. I'm so happy for you."

And I mean it. The joy on his face makes my own heart flutter. He's waited and watched the brothers for a lot of years. But to be completely honest, I'm sad, too. Really sad. Zay is the baby-child and this is the end of the baby-teeth smiles.

"Will she come?" he asks. "If my tooth comes out, will the fairy come tonight?"

"I hope so," I say. And I do. But we've had a little trouble with the fairy. She's forgetful. Or maybe overworked. Whatever her deal is, sometimes it takes a night or two for her to get the job done.
"We might have to give her grace."

"Oh," he says. He squints into the sun and turns his face toward me. "I was hoping not to have  that fairy."

I smile at my son. It's funny, really. It's a family joke - the fairy's struggles. I start to laugh and Zay does, too. And then we're standing there, in the sun, sharing something sweet, and I make the mistake. I look at him.


My son has lost the little-boy roundness. His feet stretched into big sandals this year. He's nearly as tall as Gabe.

And now he's losing teeth.

 I can't help it. The tears mingle with the laughter for a moment and then there are just tears.

"What's wrong, Mama?" Zay asks. It's natural for him to twine his arms around my neck.

"Nothing," I say. I try to get it under control. I don't want to steal his joy. I don't like it when I do this. But seeing how fast my boys grow makes me unglue.

Zay looks confused. His eyes squint and his nose crinkles and he's about at inch from my face.

"Maybe I just need a hug," I say.

Zay's good at this. He holds me tight. Next time maybe I'll hold it together better. But for now, those arms sure feel nice.

The tooth fairy and me.

 She has her issues.

 I have mine.

Sometimes a girl just needs extra grace.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Living Crazy And Being Still

The thing about life, and the way that we live it, is that it's wild-and-crazy full.

It's been one of those weeks. Breathless living again.

And I'll just guess that you can relate.

I grab those quiet moments in the morning. Those moments when it's just the Lord and me and the house is still.

 Life is still.

I am still.

I can linger in His Word and breathe deep and feel quiet inside.

Then the morning wakes.

And the sweet wonderful is all around.

But life will run full force. Wild and fast all day.

So how do I be still, Lord? How do I be still and know that you are God?
 How can I be still with the stillness can't come?
Maybe it's in taking a moment to pause, to step out of the breathlessness. Maybe life can spin around me, but I can see His glory in the work of His hands.
                                                           Or in the wonder of a child.

                        Or in the grace of a heart expression that comes at just the right time.

                             Maybe it's seeing Him in the sweet goodness of brotherly love.

Or in the endless, everyday moments that are folded, like treasure, into the daily rush.

I know that all good gifts come from Him, and if I can just stop to see, these gifts are all around.

And it's not so hard, after all, to be still and and to know.

To be still and to know that He is God.

Have a beautiful Monday.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lesson in the Egg

The boys are doing a science experiment. They have Ball jars half-full of white vinegar. Floating in each jar of vinegar is an egg.

After a day or so the shell begins to soften. The egg is wrapped in bubbles, and the boys think this is the coolest thing.

After another day, when the boys plunge their fingers into the jars to retrieve the egg, they find that the shell is filmy.

And it doesn't take too much longer before the shell is broken down and there is just the egg. It's spongy. Solid. Springy. They can press and shape it (but only over the sink). The hard, crusty shell is gone and only the pliable remains.

So I look at this egg, and as weird as it sounds, I see my own heart.

Sometimes there's a hard covering.

Sometimes I need, I want, for this shell to be broken down. I want my heart to be soft, open, and ready for God's tender, refining work.

It's not there all the time, this shell. But when it comes, it covers hard. Like when I'm hurt and I throw words like a prizefighter throws punches. Or when I'm angry and sulk behind self-erected walls.

My boys have quite a time with these eggs. It's been fun for them to see.

But if I look a little deeper there's a lesson.

A lesson and a prayer.

God, break down the hard spots on my heart. You know where they are. Make my heart pliable and soft and open to You. 


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day to those who know how vast and deep and wide a mother’s love can be.

And Happy Mother’s Day to my own Mama, who still teaches me about this kind of love.

                                            Sea of Mother Love
                                                            Shawnelle Eliasen

The summer sun toasted my shoulders as I pushed my little boy on the swing. My friend, Angie, and I were at the play park. She stood behind the swings, too, and pushed her own little blond son. Both of our bellies were round with babies. I was due to deliver my second child any day, and her delivery was just a few weeks behind.

“Do you ever wonder,” I asked. “If you’ll be able to love another child like you love the one you already have?” It was a bold question, one that I hoped seemed more lighthearted than it was, due to the sunshine and the laughter of the little boys and the creek of the old, metal swings. But the truth was, I’d been pondering the question for months. I wondered if I could summon enough love. And I felt guilty for wondering.

Angie’s arms dropped to her sides and she let the swing coast on momentum. Her green eyes welled with tears. “Yes,” she said. “I do wonder.”

“Oh,” I said. It was a tender moment of mom-confession. I let my son’s swing coast, too. Angie and I took a seat on the grass. “It’s just that I love Logan so much. It’s like when he was born, my heart transformed to this sea of emotion, more deep and wide than I could ever imagine. I’m scared of not having that again.”

“I understand,” Angie said. “I worry about that, too.”

We were silent for a moment. Then our little boys leaped from their swings. Logan rushed toward me and wrapped his summer-brown arms around my neck. “Will you push us on the merry-go-round?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

I stood slowly, one hand on my belly. The tiny bundle rolled under my touch. I loved this child already. But would it be the same? I wondered as Logan clasped my hand in his and pulled me across the green grass.

Later that night, after we’d tucked Logan in bed, my husband and I sat on our porch swing. There was a twinge of cool in the mid-June night, and Lonny’s arm slipped around my shoulders.

“It won’t be long, now,” Lonny said. “Are you ready to be a new mommy again?”

“Ready,” I said. I swallowed hard. “Hey, do you remember when Logan was born?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said.

“What I mean is, do you remember when you first held him in your arms? When I first held Logan, I thought my heart would break. He was so still and peaceful. So gentle. Do you remember his thick, black hair? Remember his long, tapered fingers? When he first opened his eyes, it felt like nothing else in the world. There was some new connection that ran from that baby to the center of my soul.”

“Love,” Lonny said, simply. “It was a new kind of love.”

I snuggled into Lonny’s arms and wrapped my own arms around my middle. I hoped that there was enough of that new kind of love to stretch over our growing family.

By mid-morning of the next day, it was obvious that our world was about to change. We prepared to leave for the hospital when labor pains were consistent. Before I settled into the van, I caught Logan by the hand pulled him close to me. I knelt down, the best I could, and I whispered into his ear.

“I love you, Logan. It’s time to go to the hospital. We’re going to meet our new baby,” I said.

He looked up at me with wide eyes. “I love you, too, Mama.”

I pulled him to my chest and felt his little heart beat against mine.

Later in the afternoon, our second child was born. I immediately heard the wail of a babe. The cry was fierce. It was filled with passion.

I caught the first glimpse of my second son as Dr. Donnelly held him for me to see. The babe’s tiny arms were curled to his chest. His fists were clenched. His little face was bunched and scarlet as his mouth opened and closed to swallow his first gulps of breath.

Within seconds the squalling, tiny boy was wrapped in soft, blue flannel and was placed in my arms. I pulled the blanket back to drink all the details of my son. His hair was strawberry blonde. His features were round. Even his hands were different from Logan’s. I slipped my finger into his curled fist, and he squeezed tight.

Then I pulled his blanket back and held him to my heart. His tiny chest quit heaving and the fierce cry subsided into a few long, hard gasps.

My son.

I held him tight. He’d just come from my body, but it seemed that when I held him close, he pulled back into a part of me. And he had. That tiny little boy, in all his newborn fury, settled deep into my heart.

It didn’t take long to realize that this newly created person was completely different from my firstborn son. His labor was different. His birth was different. He looked nothing like his brother, and within the first moments of his life, I knew that his personality was all his own, too.

And I had never seen anything more lovely. His zest. His zeal. Apparent at his very first breath.

We named our second little boy Grant. And with Grant’s grand arrival, the question in my heart disappeared. Could I love another child as much as I loved my first?

Absolutely. Immediately. My soul was filled with peace.

The hours rolled by that day, I was anxious to share my son. Angie was the first friend to visit and to meet our newborn babe. As she sat beside my bed with her hand on her round tummy, I longed to tell her what I’d discovered. I didn’t. I knew the truth was not something that another mother could share.

A mother’s heart is a sea of love, and it is deep and wide enough for all.

But that truth, like a sweet, second son, needed to be born.

(As printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms)





Monday, May 6, 2013

Small Graces and Tender Teaching

 Samuel and I are learning about pollination.

So imagine our surprise, when on one of spring's first warm days, the Lord brings this bee to our table.

The boys and I are having lunch outside, and the visitor comes. There's a flat of flowers at the table's center, and the bee hovers close.

"Look, Mom," Sam says. He points.

Chatter stops, sandwiches rest on paper plates, and we watch.

This bee has our full attention. Three been-in-school-all-morning boy bodies are suddenly still. 

The bee buzzes. Moves about the petals. He plunges deep and stays. When he pulls away, when he's slowly circling these flowers again, his tiny legs are covered with bright yellow pollen.

Zay laughs. "Hey guys," he says. "This bee has yellow fuzzy boots."

And I'm amazed.

I'm amazed at this bee in boots, but I'm more I'm amazed at this perfect timing. First spring day. First bee we've seen. Right on the heels of a lesson from a book.

I'm moved by this tender teaching. By this sweet, small grace.

I see You here, God. I see Your activity. I see Your goodness at this table today.

I watch my boys. The lesson is not lost on them. Their eyes are bright and their smiles are slow and they know that they're seeing something wonderful.

Teach me like this, Lord. Let me see You. Teach me how to live. Teach me Your ways. Be as personal, as intimate, as You are with us now.

The bee stays with us for a bit. Then, as swiftly as he came, he's gone. The boys finish their lunches and then they're off, too.

But something inside me is different. This lunchtime lesson stays.

He's compassionate to teach us through the small stuff.

He'll guide us through the big things, too.

I gather nibbled sandwich crusts. The boys have forgotten to pick up their plates.

It' okay.

Small graces and tender teaching.

What a wonderful, wonderful way.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When God Uses His People

When I first met Mark, I walked like I was one hundred years old. My head was down. My feet shuffled in too-small steps. My back curved like an uppercase S. Mark was a physical therapist. And I did not want to spend time with him.

I'd been to see my neurosurgeon the day before.

"I'll just have surgery again," I said as I was propped against the exam table (I hurt too much to sit). An image of my back, discs bulging and protruding, was on the wall.

"I'd like you to try physical therapy," the doctor said.

"I don't have time for that," I said.

"Make time," he said.

I was in pain. The see-red kind. Make time? I had three small kids at home. Bath time meant sprawling on the bathroom floor while two toddlers splashed. Then I pulled my upper half to the rim of the tub to fish their slippery bodies out. Lunchtime meant pbj's - assembled  while I curled on the kitchen rug. Samuel, then five, had tottered on a step stool to reach the peanut butter from the cupboard.

When I'd had surgery a few years before, the relief was immediate. And I'd healed fast.

"I'll give therapy a short try," I said. "But I meant it when I said I don't have time. I need to get well. I need you to fix my back."

So I went to see Mark. He did an evaluation. I was low functioning. And I'd need to go to therapy every day for the first week. There was homework, too. Each night I'd lie prostrate on the floor while Lonny lifted my hips to align with my shoulders. And I'd stay there for a long, long time.

"I need to be well," I grumbled. "I don't want to do this. If I'd had surgery, I'd be on the mend."

Days rolled into weeks, and I saw Mark regularly. He turned out to be a nice guy. A Christian. He never said so, but I believe he prayed for me while he helped me with my back.

Turns out he was an excellent physical therapist, too.

After a month or so, I sat at the dinner table with my family.

A few weeks after that, I resumed care of my kids.

And a short while later? I was full functioning again.

I hadn't wanted Mark to help me. But in God's good, sweet grace, he did. My back recovered - without surgery.

So I've been reminded of Mark recently. I've been thinking about the amazing things that happen when God uses his people.

I'm thinking of my teenage boy and the struggles that he's had. And I'm thinking of the good people that the Lord has placed in his life. My son may not want to be helped right now. But the Lord has him surrounded by people who care. He gives us a free will choice, but God is our pursuer. He's the softener of hearts. He's the lover of our souls. He's the one who makes miracles in the beating hearts of men.

He's the one who longs after that one lost sheep.

So I'll be patient and I'll continue to pray for my boy. And I'll pray for those sweet souls God has put in my boy's life, too.

Overall, I'm encouraged.

I know, from my experience with Mark, of the healing that can happen when the Lord uses his own.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls down and has no one to help him up. Ecclesiastes 4:10