Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Some Enchanted Evening (Not) And One Blessing After Another

This one is from a few years ago...but this sweet memory reminds to today that there is blessing all around...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours...

Lovingly,

Shawnelle

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"Better get going," I say. "Time's tickin'."

Lonny looks at me and smiles. He's taking the boys to spend the night with grandparents. Then he and I are having a date.

"Love you, Mama," Zay says. He hugs me hard and pushes through the porch door with two backpacks and Mine-O-Mine, his special blanket.

Grant will drive over after work, but Gabe and Samuel go with Lonny now. There are hugs and I'll miss yous. There are kisses thrown over shoulders. There are waves. There are see-you-in-the-mornings and don't-forget-to-prays and an Oops! I forgot my toothbrush.

At last they're loaded and I walk outside and stand by the fence as the van moves down our drive. It's vehicle full of precious. I wrap my hands around wrought iron and whisper a prayer for their safety. For their grandparents.

I love these boys like wild.

But I'm excited to see them go.

I trudge through gold leaves (they'll just have to wait) and head back into the house. Lonny will be back in an hour.

There's just enough time to get ready.

Just enough time to fall flat with the flu.

It hits hard and fast and anything romantic is gone before Lonny returns. But when he gets home, he loves me with that caregiver kind of love. He rubs my back. He holds me close. He loves me well when I'm well past lovely.


And the next afternoon he returns for the boys.

They come in a burst of excitement and life and I'm still camped on the couch. They've heard that I've been sick and they come full force.

Grant bends low and wraps his arms around me. Zay rushes in with a cupcake saved from lunch. Samuel asks if I'd like some music. He finds his guitar and the room is filled with song. Gabe comes last. He's snipped the final pink rose from the bush by the walk. It's floating in a drinking glass. He walks slowly. Eyes on the glass. Eyes on me.

I settle into my blankets. The aches aren't so bad because the room has grown so full.

Lonny walks in. He's got an armload. There are backpacks and blankets and pillows and more.

The boys are home. Things hadn't gone as planned.

But there's an enchanted evening after all.


From the fullness of His grace we all receive one blessing after another. John 1:16



Monday, November 7, 2016

A Prayer for Mamas Like Me

I'm running morning-mad again, eyes shifting from the road to the green digits on the dash. My teenage son is almost late for his job. He sits beside me, quiet, and I look down to see that I'm still wearing my oven mitt. My hand is wrapped around the wheel, wrapped in a worn, ragged mitt. Frosty the snowman. One merry eye plucked off clean.

It's worn from muffin mornings.


Worn from hours before the sun comes up and before boys come down.

It's a little tired and a little frayed.

A little bit like me.

I turn the corner and my thoughts shift, too. In that moment, I remember Gabriel's prayer from the night before. He'd closed his eyes and bent his knees. And as his brother knelt too, pure and sweet in flannel pants, he'd said, "Thank you, God, for mamas like mine."

It comes to my heart, this prayer from my son, as I pull to the curb for my nearly-grown boy. Grant gets out and turns to wave. He smiles a wide smile, and I'm washed over with love. This tired - it's precious. It's serving soul-deep. It comes with blessing and honor and giving and glory. Suddenly I want to  pray for mamas. I need to pray for Mamas. Mamas who give. Mamas who love. Mamas who cherish and hold and give roots and give wings.

Mamas whose passions come in baby bundles and stretch a whole life through.

I think of my own dear mama, my Mamo, and Grandma too... rocking and teaching and loving a dozen babes. Ages of mamas, serving in silence, giving what we have, growing the hearts that came to life right under our own.

So, dear friends, this prayer is for you. This prayer is for me. This prayer is for hearts that give and give again...


Dear Father,

Thank you for children. Thank you for family. Thank you for this first, beautiful way to give and receive love.

Thank you for mamas. Mamas who hold. Mamas who grow. Those who give without hesitation from an endless sea of love. Thank you for mamas who teach. Mamas who listen. Mamas who hold hands and hearts and hopes and dreams.

Help us to be patient. Fill us to the brim. Flood us with Your Spirit so Your love can flow straight through. Give us deep wisdom. Keen discernment. Hearts that are hungry for Your life-giving Word.

Build us strong...heart, soul, body, and mind. Give us the portions we need, pressed down, measured out, to spill into the hearts You've given us to love.

Allow us to persevere, to encourage one another, to lean into Your strength, and to see the blessings that fall from Your hands.

And may You have the glory, for this love and these days...

Amen



Monday, October 31, 2016

Filled With the Spirit - Part of a Team

It’s Sunday afternoon. The maples outside the kitchen window are yellow-gold and sunshine hits the counter top in wide, gold bars. Isaiah and I are baking cookies. The weekend has been full, and this together time is a gentle reprieve.

“How much brown sugar, Mom?” he asks.

“One cup,” I say.

He roots and rattles through the baking drawer while I fish egg shells from the batter in Mamo’s mixing bowl.

“Got it,” he says. He spoons brown sugar from the canister and pats it solid with ever-growing hands.


“White sugar?” asks.

We work side-by-side. All my boys have enjoyed being in the kitchen with me, but today I’m tender inside. Isaiah is the youngest son. These opportunities are treasure.

We measure.

And sift.

And scoop.

And bake.

Later we sit at the dining room table. He sweet scent of oatmeal-chocolate-chip has drawn a couple more boys. Sam has joined us. Grant, too.

Isaiah takes a bite of cookie and grins.

“Well,” I ask. "What do you think?”

Isaiah swallows and sips from his Scooby-Doo mug. When he looks up, he wears a milk mustache.

“I think," he says. "That we make a great team."

I nod and place a cookie on my own plate. I agree. He and I do make a great team. And while I’m still soul-smiling, I remember something I’d read earlier in the day.

When we are born again, the Holy Spirit begins to work His new creation in us, and there will come a time when there is not a bit of the old order left, the old solemnity goes, the old attitude to things goes, and "all things are of God."  - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

 

As a believer in Christ, as one soul-saved by His gift of grace, I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. I’m tender to the center to think of it. God’s holiness in me! That He would take residence in my human heart! Cleansing me. Transforming me. Empowering me. Giving me new life. And because of His Presence, I can share His love in gentle boldness. I can do the work He's prepared in advance for me to do. I can work through tough circumstances and see hope in dark places. I can push worry to the wayside and choose to walk a path of peace, leaning hard into Him and trading insecurities for trust. I can grow, stretch, change.

My focus can shift from the temporal to the eternal, and I can learn to walk in resurrection joy.

Oh, the sweet glory in a life transformed!

The boys talk and dishes clank and clatter and soon the plate of cookies is a thing of the past. Isaiah has a servant’s soul, and he helps me gather plates and clean crumbs.

And when we run water from the tap and roll up our sleeves, I’m washed over with love.

There's deep and everlasting beauty in being part of the Lord's team.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Eyes Open to God's Glory

I'm reading a devotion aloud, and I'm frustrated.

The boys are not listening.

We're on the back patio. The sun is warm. October colors the trees. It's the perfect place to study. Why can't they pay attention?

I read another paragraph. They fidget. Shift in their chairs. One boy whispers. I throw a question.

"Who can tell me what I just read?" I ask.

No one answers. Their faces are blank as fresh paper.

I clear my throat and read a few more lines. From the corner of my eye I can see they are now leaning in their chairs, eyes focused on something I cannot see.

"I think, guys, that this is worth your time," I say.

"Do you see his face?" Gabe asks. "It's a pentagon. And his eyes are crazy green. He's looking right at me."

I wonder what he's talking about. I lean toward Gabe. I notice the distraction. It's a bug. He's close to two inches long, bright green, and is perched on the arm of Gabe's patio chair.




"Cool," I say. "Maybe he'd like to listen."

I read on.

"He's walking," Zay whispers. "He has a map on his wings."

I stop reading. I watch as the boys' necks crane. The bug moves and the boys' eyes are pulled like magnets.



"His wings are like leaves," Sam says. "God made them that way. Look at the veins. If he'd fly to the bush behind us, we'd never find him."

The guys are right. This guy's wings are a road map of creation. And his color is spectacular. The exact shade of the still-green bushes that fringe our patio.

"I want get my magnifying glass," Zay speaks in hushed tone. "I want to see his up-close face."

I watch my boys' faces. They're captivated. Captivated by this creation of the Living Lord.

The boys whisper. The bug moves. Then, as if pulled by invisible strings, the boys crowd around him. This visitor's details, this small wonder in a two-inch space, sings of God's glory.

I set my book down.

"Go get your magnifying glass, Zay," I say.

Sometimes even when my motive is good, I need to slow down. Drop my own agenda.

Open my eyes.

And see what the Lord has brought to the table.


How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24


God, thank you for revealing yourself to us in exciting ways. Give me the eyes to see. Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wide-Open Heart and a Prayer

It's Monday. Sunlight floods our schoolroom. The curtains flutter with fresh air. But it's Monday. The past weekend feels miles behind and the one ahead is a whisper.

I pull my chair to Isaiah's side of the work table. He opens his math book and smiles.

"So Mom," he says. He crosses his arms.  "What do you want to fill my head with today?"

Now I'm smiling too. In that moment, it's not so much what he said but the way he said it. Glasses perched on his nose. Cheeks sucked in. Eyebrows high and voice low. Isaiah is the youngest of five boys, and he's most often the one who reminds me to laugh.

I forget my Monday woes.

"Well, sir, how about math facts?" I ask.

Soon I'm flipping flash cards, and Isaiah is calling out numbers. We plunge into our workday and the workday is good.

But my son's question lingers.

I think about it when we press on to grammar. It's on my mind when we use an atlas to find the Adriatic Sea. The question seems to me, as the day moves along, a powerful question to take to the Lord.

Lord, what would You like to fill my head with today? Bring Your Word to my mind and help me apply truth to emotion and circumstance...

Lord, what would You like to fill my heart with today? Flood my soul with the peace and hope that only flow from Your love. No room for worry. No place for fear...

Lord, what would You like to fill my spirit with today? May Your Holy Spirit be powerful in me. Refine me. Mold me. Let those who share my path be blessed by the sweet fruit of grace...

Surely such questions, from a heart that's tender, teachable, and wide-open to God's glory would be pleasing to the Lord.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4 ESV

Isaiah, Gabriel and I study until the sun makes afternoon shadows and the sounds from the window are less like morning and more like end-of-day. When we're finished,  my boys bolt off to play. 

Papers are pushed into folders, and I slide our books back to shelves.

School time is over. It's time to move on to different things.

But as I go...

I hold Isaiah's question.

And it becomes a prayer.



.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Parenting - A Building Plan

Gabriel is at the dining room table. He looks downward. He’s working a tiny screwdriver with his hands. The worn oak in front of him holds a scatter of paper instruction, shiny nuts and bolts, pieces and parts of something that, in time, will be wonderful.

Gabe is our builder. His mind is patterned after his dad’s.
“What are you working on?” I ask.

“A crane,” he says.

“How is it coming?”

 
Gabe's face tilts upward. Dimples, from my dad, punctuate his smile. “Well,” he says. “It’s going to take a while.”

I expect so. But Gabe will get 'er done. He’s not afraid to put in the time. He knows that good things come slow. He knows that sometimes he’ll connect the wrong pieces and he’ll have to back up and try his best to make things right. He knows that sometimes he’ll want to give up.

But he also knows, that if he presses forward, the nuts and bolts and bars and pieces and parts will eventually take shape. The structure will be solid. The product, the result of the effort, will stand firm.

Watching Gabe, seeing his perseverance and push-forward way, encourages my own heart.

 His building seems like parenting to me.

It's been a tough week.  We're working through a struggle, years long, that has suddenly churned hard. The younger boys have worn thin on one another and my rant was fuel to the fire. We've been running fast and slipping behind.  Parenting. It's the sweetest blessing, but it can be darn hard work. There are days that I'd like to throw my hands up. Stomp off for a bit. Take a long, far break when discouragement is the color of the day. But I can't do those things. Because, like Gabe, I need to push through the pieces in hope of a wonderful thing.

I’m building men.

So, when life seems a scattered mess and the week has made me weary, I’ll continue to build standards that I believe are pleasing to the Lord, to develop my sons' moral compasses, even if it’s counter culture. I’ll build my prayer life with time set aside, daily, to speak with and listen to God. And I’ll ask the Lord to help me build a storehouse of wisdom  - straight from His Word to the tender places of my heart.

Because building requires a plan.

And when my parenting plan is centered on the Lord, I can trust that He's at the center.

I stand for just a moment and watch my young son. He chooses a small piece. Rolls it between his fingers. Squints and looks real close. Then he fits it into place, twists the screwdriver, and adds it to his crane.

The structure is growing. One tiny piece at a time.

The outcome is still far.

But there’s hope along the way.

So let us not get tired of doing what good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Galatians 6:9 NLT

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Voice of Comparison and Hearing His Song

I’m sitting with a friend, at my table, and she shares from a deep place. The tea kettle is slow to warm, but words come fast.

She’s hurting because she’s comparing herself to others.

She’s hurting because she’s hearing lies.

We sit at the table and I listen. But I don’t see what she sees. I don’t see the shortcomings. The not- enoughs. The second-rates and falling-shorts and maybe-someday-I’ll get-it-rights.
I see a beautiful woman made more lovely by her heart for the Lord.

I see a sweet soul longing to shine bright in the light of His love.
I see His grace, His love, in the way she touches her children. The way she loves her husband. The way she's reached into my life. They way she reaches for others, too.

But she’s listening to the voice. The voice that nags. The voice that lies. The voice that slips over our souls like dark, sticky tar if we let it ebb in.
It’s the voice of comparison.

And I can see that she’s tuned in because I fight the voice, too.
She’s younger. She’s more fit. She’s a better writer. I’ll bet her kids never throw fits that make her stark ravin’mad. If they do, I’ll bet she handles it better than I do.

It goes on and on. Important things. Petty things. Vain things. Spiritual things.
Her house is cleaner. She’s more successful. She looks better in jeans. I wish her talent could be mine.

So I sit at my table and listen. I listen to my friend’s heart. But as I do, I begin to hear something else, too. It’s the truth of His Word. It’s the tune of His promise. It comes loud and clear until it’s strong as the beat of my heart.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

And I begin to think.
Does the Lord ask me to pull my worth from the weight of a stack of sisters?
No.

He asks me to trust Him. To obey Him. To praise Him. To give thanks. To love Him and to love others.
Does the Lord compare me to any another woman? Does he tell me I should be more? Does he expect me to possess all the best qualities of everyone I know?

No.

Not at all.
He comes close. He takes delight in me. He gives me gifts and talents and a life that is uniquely mine. He singles me out . Lifts me up. Pulls me near. He’s given me His Word and He’s filled me with His Spirit. And he comes close enough to whisper.

Close enough to sing.

The teakettle whistles. My friend shares, and I listen. When her heart quiets, I’ll share too. But I have a new prayer.
It’s for my friend.

 It’s for me.

I’ll pray that the voice of comparison would fall silent.
‘Cause we’re lost in the song of His love.




 


Monday, August 22, 2016

When Being A Mother Means Becoming A Child (Launching Kids)

I’m in the coffee line at Sunday school when a lovely young mother shares her heart. Her first child will be attending preschool soon, and her emotions run deep. I get it. Beside me stands my twenty-four year old son, home this summer for an internship, but off for his second year of law school in two days. This week another son will attend public high school after a childhood of homeschooling, and there will be only two left at home. My children are growing and changing and it’s good. Very good.

But letting go is hard.

It's common to motherhood, and if we allow it, this stretching is a spiritual experience. We let go in varying degrees – from preschool to adulthood - but it’s still an unclenching of the fist. It’s uncurling our fingers and stretching open palms to the Lord.

Releasing our children, as they grow, means opening our hands.

As the young mother and I chat, I think of stretching times and remember when Lonny and I left our firstborn at college. He stood on the sidewalk in front of his dorm, and I watched him in the mirror as we drove away. He grew smaller and the ache went bigger.  I feared that when Lonny and I returned to our hotel room, the seams of my soul would split. And they did. But then Lonny’s arms slipped around me, and the unexpected happened.
We danced.

It wasn’t romantic. There was no music. It was just the two of us, holding one another, hurting hearts pressed close.

The Lord was with us.

Open hands are hands that are ready to receive.

I’m learning, as I grow in my relationship with God, that I can always find comfort in the promise of His Presence. He doesn’t change. Growth doesn't separate us. In fact,  as I grow, He comes closer.  There's not a life stage or experience I'll walk through alone. He's faithful to provide - for my child and for me. Sometimes the grace is within expectation, but sometimes it’s too tender and beautiful for my imagination.

Like an unexpected dance.

And I can trust in God's love, care, and provision, because really...

letting go of children means becoming a child.

At the sweet center of child rearing is the gut-drive to provide for my boys. It began before I fed their bellies from my body and stretches through a lifetime of days. It’s soul-giving. It’s offering all I have for the benefit of another. My boys can count on it - even in my flawed human state. And the Lord offers the same to me – only His love is perfect and His grace is limitless. I can rest in His arms and find comfort in His care. I can let the truth of His Word cradle me and allow me to hear His heart.
 

 And it beats a rhythm of love.

The young mother and I chat while the line inches along and soon I fill my cup. My son and I press through the crowd and find a table. He pulls my chair back, and his smile stirs my heart.
 
Next week he’ll be gone, and my life will change in a lot of ways.

But it’s okay.

Because of my Father, I can live open-handed with my child.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them your food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145:15-16

Monday, August 8, 2016

Childlike Gratitude - A Prayer for When He's Grown

I'm driving home. The van is quiet.  The evening is thick with humid haze.

"I have it figured out, Mom." Zay's voice comes from he backseat, still small and sweet and ringing with the beauty of little-boy.


"What's that?" I ask.

"The prayer. The prayer I'll pray when I'm grown."

"Do you want to share?" I ask.

I peer in the rearview mirror. Zay's head dips down. His fingers lace on his lap. "Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for our home. Thank you that when I was little, I had a good mom and dad and all that stuff."

He's quiet for a moment.

"And thank you for Jesus."

I need to be watching the road but this form of precious pulls me hard. I make a turn and notice that Zay's eyes are open now. He's watching Iowa cornfields blow by.

As I drive, I think about my own life and how my prayers of thanksgiving can often be scant or nonexistent. I think about Isaiah's wide-eyed-child awareness for what I take for granted. I think about how busyness can be a thief - ebbing away the beautiful until there's only stripped-down stress.

 I don't say a word out loud.

But in my spirit, as God's child, I think about my son's prayer. 

And soundly say Amen.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Goodness in Growth (Getting Mighty in the Lord)

We’re at our first outdoor swim meet. The water gleams still and smooth as the swimmers stand behind the blocks. The sun is high.  There’s quiet calm.

And when Gabriel takes the block, he’s confident. When he dives and breaks the water, his form is slim and sleek.

As my son moves down the lane, I remember his first meet. He’d been watching Sam for months and was excited to have his turn. But when he dove from the block, his arms and legs splayed frog-like.  He hit the water with a red-belly smack.

He’s grown so much.

He’s worked so hard.

Lap after lap. Day after day.

Watching Gabe inspires me. It causes me to consider the growth in my relationship with Lord. It challenges me to not stay in the same spiritual place. I want to grow in knowledge, strength, and sensitivity to the Spirit. I want to stretch in obedience and in trust. I want to grow to the point of peace, the kind that passes understanding, because there’s rest in the Lord’s Presence.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

This passage is underlined in my Bible. It’s scored over in neon-pink. It speaks to my soul. Paul offers encouragement to anchor and grow. Learning to live in Him takes us to new depths of grace.  When my faith grows stronger, gratitude grows, too. Learning to live and breathe in the peace of His Presence and brings joy to each day and light to any darkness.

But spiritual growth doesn’t just happen.

Like anything else, spirit-growth takes dedication. Time. Focused attention and deliberate choice. It’s a willingness to open the Word and sit at the Lord’s feet. It’s choosing to know Him, to talk with Him, to rest in His Presence and seek His face.

A thriving, growing relationship with the Lord takes dedication and time, but the reward is the sweetest under heaven.

Gabriel pulls himself from the pool. He walks toward his coach, and I see his time on the scoreboard. He’s a young swimmer in his division, but he skimmed a few seconds off his record. Gabe’s coach offers instruction, and my boy smiles as he makes his way to us, leaving wet prints on warm cement.

And prayer, bright as the day, beats through my heart…

Lord, may we always grow…

Monday, July 11, 2016

Refreshment - Words of Kindness

I stand at the pharmacy counter, curl my toes, breathe deep, and explain again that my son is on our insurance policy. There’s a mix-up with numbers and this happens every time. There’s a line behind me and a son beside me with eyes streaked purple-red.

“The eye drops are three hundred dollars. I don’t see that they’re covered,” the clerk says.

And I snap.

I’m frazzled and frayed and my tone goes sharp. I know it is not the clerk’s fault, but I’ve found the end of my rope.

In this moment, I don’t care.

It’s been a long morning. Waiting on the phone. At the doctor’s office. Now here. I could’ve predicted this problem, too. In the end, I decide it’s best to go home while the pharmacy contacts the insurance company. It means another trip into town, but we leave the store – my scarlet-eyed son and me.

It takes about a quarter of a mile for the conviction to come. I’d been rude. Short-tempered. Sharp. I try to justify my attitude, but it doesn’t settle on my soul. And later in the afternoon, it all makes perfect sense.

My youngest sons and I sit on the back patio. The afternoon sun scorches and my boys have popsicles we’ve made from raspberry lemonade. The popsicles melt fast – quick rivers down their forearms and watercolor drops that hit the red bricks under our feet.

Sweet refreshment.

And as we sit together, the pharmacy scene comes to heart. As we sit, it moves through my mind. Even though my boy still looks like the tough end of a fight, I know I’ve been wrong.

My reaction was sandpaper on the soul.

Far, far from refreshment.

A printed piece by Chuck Swindoll hangs by a magnet on our fridge, and I think of it now. The pink copy paper has faded to pastel. The edges are torn. A preschooler added art work – an army of stick-figure men. But the words are still powerful. The last two lines of “Attitude” flow with my pulse:

“The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” – Chuck Swindoll

Truth. Sweet truth.

 Every tough circumstance offers an opportunity to respond in a way that brings refreshment.

When I go to pick up my son’s meds, I look for the clerk. It’s late and she’s left for the day. But another trip into town brings another opportunity, and one afternoon I see her standing behind the counter. I know what I need to do. The apology brings tears, for her and for me. But she unlatches the gate, moves to the other side of the counter, and wraps her arms around me. We stay for a moment, holding on tight. We’re suddenly stranger-sisters brought together in a moment of real-life, heart-and-soul grace.

When I leave, I know I’ve left behind a trace of Jesus. Today my attitude has bought refreshment to another’s soul.

And because God’s mercy cup simply overflows, her reaction brought refreshment to mine.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Livin' Verbs

I have a friend who is facing a tough time. She's known the circumstance could occur. The possibility of struggle has been hanging in the shadows. But now there's no more shadow-lurking. She'll need to press through.

And the enemy whispers lies.

She and I stand in church, talking fast, voices low, opening the tender places of our hearts.

"I'm scared," she says, and then she shares the fear - the whispers that come from the one who wants to steal, kill and destroy.

"I'm praying verbs for you," I say. "When the Lord tells us how to deal with the enemy, He gives us verbs. Submit to Him. Then stand. Resist. And flee. When we submit, stand, and resist, the next verb belongs to the enemy. He has to flee."

My friend smiles. She know what I'm saying. Maybe she hasn't thought of it this way, but she's been praying verbs for me, too.

I think it's something we all can relate to. We have struggles. God doesn't tell us that we won't. And often in the struggle, we have an enemy.

He speaks lies and I've heard the whispers.

Things aren't going to get better. A good mother wouldn't have your kind of issues with her kids. You work so hard and look - your kids are surly, your house is a mess, sometimes there's more smack talk  under your roof than you can shake a stick at. May as well throw up your hands and let it all be.

Lies.

And the best thing I can do is to pull out the verbs.

Submit. Stand. Resist.

And because I stand on the resurrection side of the cross, the enemy has to flee.

My friend and I are separated for a  moment by a wave of children and mothers. We start a few new strands of conversations. Give a few hugs. Speak fragmented sentences. And when the wave recedes, we find one another again.

"I'm praying for you," I say.

She looks at me, and I know her next words will be true.

"I'm praying for you, too. Verbs."

And we're both going to be okay.


Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. James 4:7

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. I Peter 5:8



Monday, June 27, 2016

A Tough Day and The Secret to Rising Above

It's one of those days.

The boys are surly. I'm not sure why, but the unraveling began shortly after sunrise and my high noon we're shot.

There is grumbling.

Poking.

Picking.

And as usual, when the boys are frayed like this, I climb right aboard.

I snip.

I snarl.

And in this house today there's no goodness to be found.

So how do I rise above? How do teach to hearts and minister to souls and direct wayward wills when my own mood moves dark and deep?

I'm standing at the sink when I understand. It falls on my spirit like a strong ray of sun.

The rising above comes from bending low.

I've tried today in my own strength. I've disciplined. I've threatened. I've cajoled. Then I lost my temper and spewed steam.

And we only fell to a darker place.

So I go to my knees, and I ask for filling that is strong and sweet.

Right there by the kitchen sink.

Lord, I can't do this alone. Forgive me for trying. Give me wisdom. Grant me strength. Fill me with Your Spirit, cover me with patience and your rich, sustaining grace.

I go back to the dishes and we go about our day. The boys are still surly, but something in me has changed.

 I'm anchored.

 I'm empowered.

And the difficulties of the day aren't so daunting after all.

It's not the best day, but I can manage this mess.

Rising above means bending low.


Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. I Chronicles 16:11









Monday, June 20, 2016

Finding Peace in My Unchanging God

When we pull into the drive, it’s almost dark. Isaiah and I root around for our belongings, but before we open the car doors my son stops still.

“Mom! Look! Lightning bugs. The first ones! By the bushes! See?”

I turn the key and there’s silence. Isaiah presses his hands against glass and we wait. We wait for a few seconds, maybe more, and then we see them. Golden twinkles. Sweet blips of light that break through gray.

We leave the car and I sit on the steps while my son chases fireflies. He darts around our old maple and bolts to the lilac bushes along the fence. I know that if he catches one in his gentle hand, he’ll release it. And it doesn’t take long before one rests on his outstretched palm.

“Look, Mom. It’s beautiful.” Up close the light glows green. Isaiah smiles and the firefly takes off. For a moment it’s one with the night.

And in that instant, I’m taken back to childhood.

Suddenly I could be in the center of the 70’s.  It’s the way the air settles on my skin and the way the quiet has a sound of its own. The night sky is seamless and it covers all that I know. We would’ve been in the backyard of my childhood home, my three sisters and me, and my best friend Tracy. Our hair would be long and straight down our backs and our legs would be lean and brown. We’d chase fireflies, too, bare feet swift on the early-summer grass.  My mom would be with us, her inner-child strong. We’d laugh and fall lost in the wonder of this simple, precious thing.

Time moves too fast.

It’s striking to me, the way years flow and the pages of life turn. Sometimes I handle it with gratitude and grace, but most often it hits me like cold pelting rain. On the days that I struggle with children growing up, the changes that come with growing older, and fear of one day living without ones I love, on the days that life does truly feel like a mist, I’m learning to be thankful.

When time passes swiftly and changes come strong, I’m grateful for the grace of an unchanging God.

Time moves. People grow. Change happens with each breath.

But the Lord is steadfast.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11 ESV

His timeless compassion, strength, and grace are my resting place. His character is unchanging and He is home to my restless heart.  In His Presence is where I find peace.

“Hey, Mom? Catch fireflies with me?” my son asks.

His hand is on my shoulder, and joy shines in his smile. For just a moment I think of his grown brothers, long-ago invitations, and the same hazel-green eyes. But I’m not going to fret.  I’m going to run and play and live in this moment with my child. And when the night moves along, if I begin to worry over the things I’ll need to release and the new things that will come, I’ll be okay.

I’ll take the changes to my unchanging God.
 
 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Nourishment of Time

"Will you play darts with me, Mom?" Gabe asks. "When we get home?"

We're taking a family walk along the river. The sun is sinking low. The streets are quiet. All is still.
But this simple question makes me a little anxious inside.

"I'd love to, Gabe," I say.

And I would. But there's a scroll of "to do's" running through my mind. I feel pressed tight. I don't like to feel this way. I feel guilty. But chores and needs and a houseful of busy cages my heart.

We finish our walk and I shimmy a game of darts between the unwashed dinner dishes and the bedtime routine.

It doesn't take me long to be happy that I did.

"You're good at darts, Mom!" Gabe says. His bangs are falling to the side and I can see that his eyes are gleaming joy. We're in the room behind the garage. Just Gabe, June heat, and me.

"I'm not very good," I say. "But I like this. And love I our time together."

Gabe smiles and plucks my darts from the outer ring of the dartboard (and one from the wall).

I feel satisfied. Fulfilled. Glad that I took the time to nourish this relationship that is precious to me.

It makes me think of my relationship with God. I love Him. I need Him. My relationship with Him is the most important in my life. But I fear that so often in the "busy", time with Him gets pushed aside. Or even  pushed away.

Jesus took time away to spend time with the Father. He went to quiet places to pray. He separated out. Went alone. Like before he called his disciples. And when he heard about John. In the garden of Gethsemane, too. Jesus spent his limited hours to connect with Father God.

Relationships need the nourishment of time.

They need set-apart, focused attention.

When we pull away from the pressure,   precious things unfold.

And I want to follow Jesus' example.

Gabe squints an eye, curls his fingers around the dart, and lines it even with his ear.

Then he stretches his arm and lets the dart fly.

I watch it swish through the air and smack on the board.

Twenty points.

Double.

Not bad.

I think about this time set-apart time to grow my relationship with my little boy.  I've definitely scored here.

But tomorrow morning's set-aside time with my Father?

That will be a bull's-eye for sure.
----------------------------------------

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Luke 6:12

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." Matthew 26:36


Rain Rescue - The Power of a Loving Thing

The boys and I are driving home after an afternoon of errands. As we cross the bridge that spans the Mississippi, I notice the clouds. They're broody and dark and the sky in between is a deep blue gash.

By the time we're home, they've knit to a ominous mass and then there is a wild torrent of rain.

We pull in the drive and sit. The back door is down the steps and across the patio.

"I'm going to run in," Gabe says. I turn around and see he's watching the digital clock. It's three. Time for the boys' half-hour of PBS. It's a powerful thing.

"Just wait," I say. "It will slow. If you make a run for it, you'll still be soaked."


"Please?" he asks.

I pop the locks and he's out, down the steps, and  fumbling at the door for the right key.

And he's in.

And the rain hits the windshield in hard, angry pelts.

A bit like my mood lately, I recognize. A long-time struggle has left me newly stripped. The raw, inside of me can be as dark as the day.

I sit for a moment and listen to the chatter from the back seat. I watch the rain flow like a river down the the drive.

And then I see the umbrella.

It's a Fighting Illini umbrella, and it's huge. Wide slices of blue and orange move across the patio. I see small legs and feet underneath.

Gabe.

The umbrella bobs up the stairs, stops for a moment as the gate, and pauses outside my van door.

It tips and there is Gabe's smile.                             

I throw the door open.

"I came to rescue you, Mom," he says.

There he is, this small sprig of a boy, holding this canopy of nylon. He's holding it out to me, wanting to walk me in.

I've been rescued from the rain.

I hold the umbrella and it covers us both. We move fast and Gabe delivers me to the porch. I step inside and he runs back for his brothers.

The struggle, the sadness, hasn't gone away. But the edges have been soothed with a sweet salve. The sweet salve of a loving thing.

Loving others well makes a difference. Simple kindness can shine rays of hope.

Before long the boys are all in and the house is full. There's a thunder of boyness moving toward the family room upstairs. But as Gabe rushes past I reach out and snag him. I pull him close. I whisper in his small, warm ear.

"Thanks," I say. "For rescuing me."

"You're welcome," he says. And he smiles.

But he really has no idea.


Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds...  Hebrews 10:23-24

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Living Breathless (Busy vs Beauty)

I'm on the porch, on the old rocker, and the sounds from the dining room delight my soul. My two youngest sons and two friends are around the table, eating pizza and talking all things little boy.

And they laugh.

It's the kind of laughter that comes from down deep.  It's easy and free. It rolls and flows. They try to talk around it. They gulp for air. But in the end, they give in and laugh until their sides hurt.

And as they laugh, my own soul becomes lighter.

In this moment, I'm grateful for the simplicity that's stilled my world. I'm thankful for children and for joy that comes from loving life and those around you. I'm thankful for boys who are brave enough to be just who they are - little boys. There's something lovely in this, and they don't even know that once childhood is gone, it can never come again.

The week had been full.

Busy.

 Lonny was out-of-town, and even with my oldest son home from graduate school, dividing and conquering meant running wild. Two boys to the pool. One to baseball. Meetings and youth group and Bible club. Practice and games. Back and forth. Yoyo living. Moving too fast to see extravagant grace shining in ordinary places.

Like the goodness in the laughter of little boys.

If someone asked me to describe how we've been living day-to-day, I'd think of commitment. Activities and obligations that keep the calendar tight.

 We live breathlessly.

 But today, sitting here soul-still, I think of living breathless in a different way.

What if living breathless is living slowly enough to let God take my breath away?


 
 





When my boys were smaller, when they wanted my attention, my full-on focus, they'd place their small, warm hands on my cheeks. They'd lock their eyes on mine. "Mama," they'd say. "Listen."

The Lord doesn't physically cup my chin and direct my gaze, but He directs my heart. There's sometimes a whisper to wonderful and if I'm too busy, too distracted, too intent on intention, I may just miss out.

Lord, let me see your goodness and grace today. Let me live breathless - in awe of Your Presence.

The boys are finished at the table. Chairs scrape hardwood and dishes clatter-clank. In a crazy blur of boyhood, they thunder past and bolt out the door. They're free to run and free to be.

 I sit here.

Captivated.

I want to live breathless - seeing God's grace in beautiful, ordinary things.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 NIV







Monday, May 16, 2016

When Answer to Prayer Comes Slowly

Hello Friend,

This week I had the blessing of guest posting at The Better Mom. I'm grateful for this beautiful site as it brings spiritual encouragement to so many women.

Here's the link to my post:



http://www.thebettermom.com/2016/5/14/when-answer-to-prayer-comes-slowly



I'm praying you'll experience God's love in rich and powerful ways today, and I'm so glad you're here.

.



Lovingly,

Shawnelle

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rejoice And Be Glad - A Morning Song

I'm flying down the road. Late. As usual. It's seven-thirty in the morning. I'm wondering if I was half mad when I scheduled this appointment because I can't imagine willingly arranging to have my mouth probed at this time of the day.

Green digital numbers remind me that I overslept. I don't like to be late. I feel like I'm stealing the dentist's time.

There's a string of traffic in front of me. It slows. Stops. And I understand that we're going to wait for a train. The blasted train that moves at a death-crawl. The train that inches over the tracks and then goes into reverse for some hitching process.

The train that takes six or seven minutes to complete its business.

So I sit, fingers laced tight, my head running a crazy clip of the rest of my day. Places to go. Things to accomplish. To-dos that stretch far and wide. It brings a rope of stress. It tangles around me and feels altogether too tight.

And then I see him.

This man.

He's walking down the sidewalk. He's lanky. Thin. Tall. He's moving in a motion of gangly appendages. But there's a bounce in his step. He looks light. His arms are swinging. His legs are moving. He's carrying a cooler and he's dressed in washed out blue.

But what grabs my attention the most is his mouth. It's opening. Closing.

This man is singing out loud.

I want to roll down my window to hear, but his song would be covered by the clatter of the train.

I wonder where he's going. To work, most likely. I wonder what he's singing. I'm drawn in as he throws his head back and sings.

And suddenly I don't care what he's singing.

I only know that I want to sing, too.

It's a beautiful day. Crisp and clear. The sun is still strong. It's warm - a gentle spring heat. Not-too-humid. The day is fresh, ready to be unwrapped. Unrolled. There are people to love and kindnesses to be shared. God's love to be enjoyed and reveled in.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 ESV

The man continues down the sidewalk that ribbons along the road. The train finishes its hitching thing and traffic begins to move.

I'll probably be late for my appointment. I'll apologize.

But as I step on the gas, I notice that my hands aren't gripping the wheel in white-knuckled anxiousness anymore. The knot of stress, the tangles of troubles and time, have relaxed.

I press forward toward my day. Toward the good things that await.

And I drive along, I begin to sing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Building A Strong Home

My boys are most happy when going wild with cardboard boxes. Our dining room has held rockets, ships, trains, skyscrapers.

Yesterday we visited my parents. Mom has taken to stashing boxes in her closet. When the boys come to visit, she extracts a few. But when visiting yesterday, we ran short on time. So we pushed the half-constructed works into my van and they came home.

Today the schoolroom was a crazy mess of tape, box flaps, scissors, and twine.

"I'm building a stuffed animal home," Zay says. His box is a multi-level structure. On each floor he's carved a door.

"Let me help you," Gabe says.

They whisper for a few minutes. Then they hunker hard over the same box. They snip. They tape. Their bodies press close as they shimmy cardboard pieces into the box.

And I notice their ability to see the weak spots. The areas that won't hold the weight. The places that will come crashing down.

"If Greyhound Blue stays on this floor, you'll need some more tape here," Gabe says. He points to a bare spot in the back where the cardboard floor meets the wall without reinforcement.  Zay is on it. He stretches duct tape and reaches for the scissors.

"I need to make this door stronger," Zay says. "Panther Guy's too wide. He'll tear the door loose."

Strap. Snip.

They keep working and the house gets stronger.

It makes me think of our house. Our home. Our physical house has its weak spots. More than we'd like - it's a century and a half old. However it's our spiritual house that holds my thoughts. There are obvious weaknesses - the bristly stuff that happens because we live close and tight. But I know there are other places too. Weak spots that aren't as obvious. Places where sin makes the walls weak or maybe our roof  isn't shored up quite enough with living out God's Word.

Lord, let us see the weak spots. Let them be known so we can be wise. So we can work hard. So we can reinforce. So we can take them to You in prayer.

So we can experience Your strength and grace.

Gabe and Zay finish the house, bolt upstairs, and return with a basket of stuffed friends. One-eyed Tigger goes into the box. Rabbit-with-no-fur-on-his -ears is next. Vanilla Cat. Jewel Bear. Old Friend.

The animals seem to like their new digs. Gabe and Zay sit back on their heels and beam from ear to ear.

The floors are firm.

The structure holds.

And I celebrate, too. For the goodness God's given and the  goodness He'll give.

Lord, help us to build homes that honor You. Amen..


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laughter And Living Joy

We're visiting Lonny's parents and we've gathered around the table. There are cookies, coffee, and there's a stack of clean, white paper for the little boys.

The grown people chat.

The boys draw.

It's quiet. We're tired. We've raked fall's leaves under the spring sun and we're spent.

"What are you drawing?" Lonny's mom asks.

Zay looks up. Too-long bangs fall over his forehead. "It's a picture," he says. "A picture of us."

Logan and Grant lean and look. Then Zay lifts his paper so we all can see.

"Here we are," he says.

He's right. There we are. It's a family portrait by a child's hand. Rugby's tail looks life a fifth leg. Our legs are sticks with flaps at the ends. Our bodies are round potatoes. We're smiling like jack-o-lanterns and have ears big as all outdoors.

Zay smiles with pride. Then, all of a sudden, he begins to laugh.

It starts as a small bubble. A hiccup of joy. Then it ripples straight through. The laughter gathers momentum, and he's giggling now. The drawing slides to the table and his hands go to his mouth. He tries to press the laughter inside but he can't and now he's holding his middle and there are tears, real tears. Lonny and his dad talk politics. His mother and I are talk, too. The big boys are on their phones. Sam and Gabe keep drawing, but soon all eyes are on Zay.

We can't help but laugh.

His laughter is like a wave that stretches far and pulls us in.

His pitch is high and the sound is sweet and we're lost in it. Nothing is funny, really, but this glee is contagious. We laugh. All of us. It feels silly at first, but then I understand.

This is joy.

So many times, so many days, I'm too busy to remember joy. In my "grown-up-ness", I think and worry and move from task to task. And then there are the burdens. The ones I carry day in and out and the battle can go long. I often carry the weight of circumstance and circumstance can crush the soul.

Yet the Lord wants us to have joy.

I'm learning, as I lean into the Lord, that while joy can't be fabricated or forced, it's possible to have joy even in the midst of a troubling circumstance. As a children, we sing "We've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart."

Where?

Down in my heart.

Joy, the soul-settling kind, comes not from circumstance but from living in the freedom of the promised Presence of the Lord.

He's with me - no matter what.


There I'll be when troubles come. He will hide me. He will set me on a high rock out of reach of all my enemies. Then I will bring him sacrifices and sing his praises with much joy. Psalm 27:5-7 TLB
 

I understand, as my own cheeks are warm and my sides ache too, that it's not often that I cut loose and abandon all to something so precious and sweet. It feels good to laugh this hard.

I want a life filled with more laughter.

Laughter and joy.

Eventually Zay runs out of steam. My mother-in-law dabs her eyes. We mellow.. Things simmer down. Zay composes himself and takes a fresh sheet of paper. Conversation rumbles one more.

We sit up and straighten up and the moment is gone.

But something precious has happened and I'm grateful.

Laughter is a pure and simple gift.

And the joy of His Presence can be mine.






Thursday, April 7, 2016

Building and Breaking - The Power of Words

Gabriel has been to a friend's and when he gets home he turns his bank upside down. Coins cascade to the carpet.

"Parker has a robot. He built it. It walks and talks. I'd love to have one, too."

Gabe is a saver, so after the coins, he probes the belly of his bank for wadded dollar bills. There are quite a few. We count his money and browse Amazon. He's close but he doesn't have quite enough.

"Extra chores?" he asks.

I can't resist a smile beaming hope and joy.

When the brown box arrives, my boy is breathless. It's Saturday, so he begins building right away. I'm thankful as I watch him. He can do things I cannot. He's persistent, and it's not long before his robot looks like a robot. A robot without legs.

And I watch him work.

Each move is carefully calculated. He reads the instruction manual. Holds the pieces. He thinks before he makes a move.

As I watch, I begin to wonder. Oh, if we would be this careful with the way we treat others. If only we would be so careful with words.

So often in family life and in true-blue living, we're comfortable and careless and words can pour forward in a hasty rush. We don't always consider carefully. We don't examine and measure and ponder where they're placed.

Words hold power. We can use them to lift others up or tear them down. Words can build or break.

One afternoon not long ago, Gabriel and I were in the grocery store. I watched an older gentleman watch us. He smiled and spoke to my boy.

"I've been noticing how you help your Mama," he said. "Keep it up. The world needs men like you. You're a fine young man."

Delight settled on Gabe's sweet face. The encouragement spoke to the center of his soul. But then just minutes later, Gabe and I were in the parking lot lifting bags to our trunk when another gentleman passed by.

"Nice parking job, lady," he growled.

I looked at my tires. It was true that I'd parked outside the lines. But his words were a violation, too. I carried the disapproval with me as we traveled home.

Oh, the power of words...

Lord, let me use words to build others. Help me remember that what we say matters.

Gabriel and his robot hang together for most of the afternoon. The robot gets his legs. Gabriel works on parts and pieces and it isn't long before the robot dances when Gabriel gives the command. Gabe smiles and his eyes shine joy because carefully placed pieces bring forth a good thing.

True of little boys and robots.

True of the power of words.

Gracious words are like  honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 ESV
















Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Taking Time for Two

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV

There was a big box of brown bananas on the kitchen counter. My son Grant had brought it home from work.

I guessed it wasn't the season for banana splits at the ice cream shop. But I didn't have time for baking. My week was jammed tight. I let the bananas sit on the counter until dinner time. Then I hefted the box to the floor.

But the next day was Saturday and I felt ambitious. I could bake just a couple of loaves, pitch the rest of the bananas, and still get to the other things I needed to do. I pulled flour and sugar from the cupboard.

"What are you doing?" Isaiah asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"Baking a loaf or two of bread."

"Great," he said. "I'd love to help."

I thought about telling him no. I didn't have much time, and the helping, the monitoring a small one while he shoveled flour from the big bin, the fishing egg shells from the batter, the extra wiping and cleaning and sweeping from the adventure....I didn't have the hours for that.

But Zay tugged the kitchen stool across the room. He perched on the seat. He grinned at a way that pulled my soul.

"Okay," I said. "We'll work together. Two loaves."

I gave Isaiah the job of mashing the bananas. He chattered while he worked. I learned about his Sunday school class. What he's planning on making the brothers for Christmas. The house that he's going to build for me when he grows up. I learned about why his favorite color is green. About his favorite song. About the stuffed otter he mended with tape because Flash ate the left ear.

In no time at all the two loaves were done.

And I didn't want to stop.

"What do you think about working through this box of bananas, Zay?" I asked.

"The whole thing?"

"The whole box."

He pushed his sleeves up. "Well let's get to work."

Isaiah and I baked like wild. He mashed. I mixed. I poured. He popped loaves from cooled-down pans. In no time at all the counters were full.

"Guess we found the bottom of the box," Isaiah said. He carted the cardboard off to make a jet plane or something of the sort.

Yes, I guess we had. But in the togetherness, in the sharing of a chore, I knew I'd found something even more sweet.

Thank you, Lord, for willing hands and a willing heart. Amen.

FAVORITE BANANA BREAD:

1 c sugar
1 1/4 c mashed bananas
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sour cream
nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini loaf pans with baking spray. Blend bananas, sour cream, butter, and eggs. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup. Level. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and soda. Beat 2 minutes medium speed. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pans. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Search My Heart


Plunk!

Isaiah puts the vase on the dining room table. I look up from my computer and my soul swells.

“Look what we found for you,” he says.

Lonny and the boys had been running errands and this surprise delights me. The vase is a tall cylinder and there are tulips inside. Some petals and still closed in tight buds but some are opening and the color holds the promise of spring. Red-yellow. Colors of warmth and sunshine and good things to come. Logan brought be a similar vase of tulips a couple of years ago, and these speak to my spirit the way those did.

The tulips move my thoughts to spiritual things because these are not cut flowers. The tulips still grow from bulbs. At the bottom of the vase, there’s a small, round platform and the heart of the flowers rest here. Roots reach downward for water.
 
 What is normally covered and protected is on display. The secret place is exposed.





It’s how I want my heart to be before the Lord.

I think of David’s prayer and it seems to me to be most brave.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! Psalm 139:23 ESV

Sitting there, I think about how what we present to others is often the up-right stuff. The stuff petals are made of. The good, wholesome, bright, lovely-to-look at things. But deep inside, there are other things. For me, worry. Fear. Anxiety. Places where trust is a struggle and peace wears thin.

Search my heart, O Lord!

I want to invite the Lord to into this that is buried and covered and protected. Into what is hidden from view. Into the center, the pared-back place, the at-the-core place that only He and I know of.

Lord, let your healing light, your love, mercy, strength, grace and glory shine into what’s covered and hidden. I invite you into my deepest place.

“Do you like them, Mama?” Isaiah asks.

I pull him to my lap and run my fingers through his fine, blond hair.

“I love them,” I say. “Thank you.”

I’m grateful for this gift on the table.

The love-offering that prompts a prayer.