Monday, January 25, 2016


It’s Saturday and we’re dusting and vacuuming and picking up like mad. A few of the boys are having friends over and it stuns me to the center that as hard as we try, our home never gets past that “lived in” look.

Life can be messy. Messy will happen as long as we live and breathe.

A boy carries his dirty clothes hamper down the old, curved stairs. He and I stand together, feeding jeans and sweatshirts into our over-worked washer, and I think of my long-ago dreams of having a perfectly tidy home. One void of dirt and spills and stains and mess. Now I know that won’t happen.

A family lives here.

When we were fewer in number and my oldest sons were small, I believed that I would be able to keep our emotional and spiritual lives free of mess too. I believed that if I said yes to all the right things and barricaded the door against the wrong, we’d be safe inside. I had the best intention and the things we practiced were solid and good.

But the thing is, people aren’t perfect.

Life happens and can take turns that are out of our control.

The plan, the perfect plan, can turn messy.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  Matthew 7:25 NIV

I’m learning, as I stretch and grow in my faith, that following the Lord doesn’t mean that I can keep life- storms at bay. It doesn’t mean that I can protect my family from every wind, rain, or struggle. What is does mean, sweet amazing grace, is that the Lord is with us when the storms come.

The Lord is perfectly present when life doesn’t go as planned.

When I think about the times that I’ve been overwhelmed by grace, when His goodness has seeped into my soul and brought peace that penetrates peril, when I’ve needed Him as much as I’ve needed air and He’s been just as present, I understand that the most intimate times of experiencing His Presence may have been during the trials.

He’s by my side in the middle of a mess.

He is faithful.

The washer chugs and the dishes are in the rack, and when a small blond son finds me, his green eyes are wide with hope.

“Are we done, Mom? Will you look at my bedroom?”

I climb the stairs and check his room. The beds are made. The floor is clutter-free. There’s a line-up of teddy bears on the chest by the window.

Looks fine to me.

An hour later our home is rich with the sound of boys. There’s laughter. The thud of feet pounding up the stairs. Bigger boys are in the family room and a couple of small ones rush through the living room with the dog at their heels.

The house isn’t perfect.

By some standards it may be a mess.

But it’s okay.

The Lord is here.


Monday, January 18, 2016


The bitter has broken. We’ve had below-zero temps but today it’s 40 degrees and the sun shines bright. I leave Samuel in charge during lunch break from school and I go for a run. When I return, the younger boys are waiting, slingshots in hand.

“We’re ready,” a son says. “We have the ammo from Mr. Roger. Can we have a few more minutes of lunch break?”

I look into their green eyes – these two youngest sons. They’re full of hope. Yesterday, a friend from church gave them a bag of white marbles. “Be careful,” he said. “Don’t shoot at one another. Set your target in an open space and be wise.”

I think about our afternoon home school subjects. It’s a weighty load. Then I look at the sunshine that stretches over the living room rug in wide, gold bars and I have to give in.

“Careful,” I say.
The boys are off.
And as I watch these sons, standing together and slinging marbles at a pizza box they’ve fashioned to a bulls-eye, I wonder….

Am I living on target? How close am I to hitting the mark?

I think of Jesus and his reply when asked which command in God’s law is most important.

Jesus said, “’Love the Lord your God will all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:34-36 MSG

I watch from the window as my boys shoot and bolt into the marshy yard to retrieve their marbles. I watch until my breath fogs the glass.

Lord, let me live on target.

When I think about it, when I pare it all back and look at time and talents and what I’ve done with what the Lord gives, I worry that I fall short. Busyness robs my intention and sets me off track.

Lord, let me be wise and obedient. Let me love you first and others next.

I stand there a few minutes longer, watching my boys play under the unusually warm January sun. When one boy hits the target, the bulls-eye center, there’s a celebration.  A loud, heartfelt cheer.

I smile and clap and tap on the glass. I give a thumbs-up and the boys do a thumbs-up back. Their joy is bright as the day.

Hitting the target is precious.

Lord, empower me. With Your Spirit and direction, I can live well for You.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Winning the Battle of What-If Worry

We’re sitting close, four of us on two loveseats, but we still lean in to listen. This is our prayer group and what we share here comes straight off the soul. We’re transparent. We’re open. We praise together and ache together and it’s the prayers of these ladies that sustains me when the struggle is hard.

We all wrestle with a tough circumstance. We all fight an unseen foe.

I share about what’s happening in my world and then my friend shares of what’s happening in hers. As she speaks of difficult things, I’m compelled, drawn, to her countenance. My friend’s words come in a soft, even flow. Her shoulders are relaxed. Her hands aren’t curled to knots and there’s something beautiful on her face that pulls the attention of my heart.

It’s peace.

“How do you do it?” I ask later. “How have you gotten to this place – this place that appears quiet and  calm?”

My friend thinks for a moment and then shares spirit-deep. “It’s the Lord,” she says.  “I’m learning to surrender. It takes time, and I’m not always there. But it’s gotten better.”

Later that night, the winter wind howls over the dark and my what-if worry rages strong too. I get caught here often. Worrying for the future of one I love. Conjuring what could happen and getting lost in the murk of fear. But as I lie in bed, the Lord reminds me of the conversation with my friend.


The LORD shall  fight for you , and ye shall hold your peace. Exodus 14:14 KJV

The wind keeps blowing, it’s harsh and shrill, but these Words that have come to my Spirit become a salve. I close my eyes and think of the Lord’s power. His glory. His compassion and faithfulness and even His love for me. And though He is more than I can imagine, I feel my muscles relax. My heartbeat slows. I let each what-if worry run through my mind but this time I hold it against the Lord’s strength.

And it becomes powerfully clear to me that the only way to win the battle of worry is to lay my own weapons down.

To disengage.

To recognize that the One who is all powerful is powerful in battle for me.

He’s fighting the war in my mind and he’s fighting for my loved one too.

Oh, the peace that I can hold when I’m willing to let go.

I pray into the night, for some time, but the prayer has changed. It doesn't flow from a place of panic or from the ragged place of a heart consumed with fear. There is, instead, gratitude. I thank the Lord for His Presence in the battle and for the things that He will do – for the things that He has done.

And as I fall asleep, I think of my friend and the peace on her beautiful face.

The way to win the battle of worry is in the strength to let it go.