Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mama Sets the Tone

I sat across the table from my friend Amy. She had the worn, tired look of I- have-little-kids-and-Daddy’s-out-of-town. Her husband was a DNR officer and had gotten a new job. While he worked through six months of school and training in another state, Amy stayed behind to keep the kids anchored. They’d move, as a family, when the training was complete.

“Are you holding up okay?” I asked. I noticed the large calendar on the wall behind her. Not many squares held the dark, heavy X of days-gone-by.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. “The kids aren’t sleeping well and their behaviors are off.”

“That must be hard.”

“It is,” she said. “But I’m the mom and I set the tone. The kids see me first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I try to keep things peaceful. Positive. They look to me for that.”

Our conversation was several years ago, but I haven’t forgotten Amy’s words. They're powerful . They ring true, whether Daddy’s home or not. We’ve all heard the saying, “If Mama aint happy, no one’s happy.” But Amy, in God’s strength, put this one in reverse. Applied a positive spin. In their lives and in their home.

As Mamas and keepers of hearts and homes, we do carry this responsibility. Some days I like it. Some days I don’t. It doesn’t really matter. The responsibility is mine, just the same. It’s sort of like when one of my little guys takes a fall. He stops, examines the damage, and looks to me to see if he should cry. If I say “Shake it off, Buddy”, he’s usually fine. If I fret and fuss and make a major deal over a minor spill, there’s bawling to beat the band.

Mama lays it down.

Of course there are days, those days, when we need rest and grace and the Lord offers both in sweet abundance (that's another post). But in general, this honorable responsibility holds true: If I want my home to be a place of encouragement, growth, and joyful service, a rich place where God’s sweet love flows fresh and free, in His strength I need be walking the walk. Talking the talk.

Setting the tone for others in my home.

Father, only in your grace and strength can I set the tone for a healthy, strong, God-honoring home. Empower me. Fill me. Let your Spirit flow!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Marriage Candle - An Intentional Kind of Love

It's happening.

The week is spinning too fast. Commitments press into one another. It's impossible to tell if we're coming or going. Lonny and I are giving one another scraps.

And we're dangerously on the verge of being child-centered again.

We try. We really do. But this week it's a science fair. And swimming. And a dozen other very-good-for-the-boys things.

Our desire is to hold our priorities. God first. Marriage next. Then the children. But we're on a wild track and the pace is steady and hard. We need to step off.

I decide to share this revelation while the van is stacked with kids.

"Do you remember when Marilyn shared about the marriage candle?"

Lonny glances at me. The interstate is loaded with semi-trailer trucks and our vehicle is loaded with noise. We haven't talked about our friend Marilyn for a decade and he obviously has no recollection of a marriage candle. He wonders what he's in for and looks at me like I'm half mad.

"The marriage candle," I say. "She and her husband had one. On the mantle. One of them would light it when their marriage needed time."

"Okay," he says. "I can understand that. Needing some time."

 He's willing and I'm determined.

So when we get home I pull a candle from the closet. It's deep and red and heavy in my hands. I place it on the piano. Strike a match. The wick flickers. Then holds a steady flame.

The marriage candle is lit.

A secret whisper.

It's time to restructure.

It's time for us.

Lord, help us hold our priorities when our world has gone wild. Especially when our world has gone wild. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I Love You Because...

I saw the idea on Facebook. The idea of writing love notes, one for each day of the month, to the one ones we love.
It’s February.

Almost Valentine’s Day.

The day that warms winter with expressions of love.

I sit at the pool, camped on a top bleacher, while my sons swim. There are paper hearts splayed across my lap. I'd cut them from construction paper and stuffed them into a Ziploc bag. Some hearts are big. Some are small. All are irregular because I'm not good with details and I'm not patient enough to trace.
They’re all blank. Waiting for words.

Five sons and a husband.

I love you because…


Emotion comes fast. I see my little one and the way he makes us lighter, green eyes shining, joy bubbling from his soul. I love you because bring laughter. I think of another son teaching his brothers about the strength in gentleness. I love you because you reach those around you. Another boy comes to mind -  how he thinks and builds and creates. I love you because you help with the work of your hands. Another son’s warm, easy hugs are frequent and firm, even now when his arms are lanky-long. I love you because you’re not afraid of affection. I think of a son and how he strives to overcome. I love you because you push when life pulls and you know to persevere. And my husband. He lives silent servanthood. I love you because you give.

I smile while I scribble.

Affirming others, building and encouraging and speaking love, is salve for one’s soul.

And as paper hearts rest on my lap and the air is thick and the rhythm of the pool is loud, my mind shifts from thoughts of my family to thoughts of the Lord. My Spirit swells. I love Him because He loved me first. Because He gave me life. Because He saved me and promised heaven and brought blessing on earth. But today, the one that is strongest on my spirit, the one that's my pulse and my breath and my reason for peace...

 I love you, Lord, because You'll never leave.

The Lord is present in every circumstance. He is present in the blessing and the goodness. He's present in the trouble and trauma. He's with me when tears flow from joy and gratitude or grief. He's ever-present with an abundance of mercy and compassion that He's offered as a grace-gift...to me. 

And the promise of His Presence brings peace.

I sit for a bit, the power of His love changing me again, renewing me, bringing refreshment and thanksgiving and tenderness. But it isn’t long before a son emerges from the pool. He climbs the stairs, leaving footprints, water dripping, white-blond hair in short, wet spikes. He reaches the top, slings his backpack over his shoulder, and treks town the stairs toward the locker room.

But midway down he stops.
Turns around.
Climbs back up.

“I love you, Mom,” he says.

And he smiles. 

Then he’s gone again.


 His Presence is everything.

I love you, Lord, because…

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV

Monday, February 1, 2016

Connecting Heart Deep

“Want to take a walk?” I ask. The winter weather is mild. Lonny and a couple of the older boys are away and Zay and I have the afternoon alone.

“Sure,” he says. My fifth child. My easy-to-please.

We pull on boots. Mine are for snow but his are cowboy boots. As we walk down the drive, they clickety-clack. 


And we walk.

We walk down the road that runs from our house to the country. We walk until we see open space and fields and farms.

And while we walk, the sun is on our backs.

And while we walk, my son’s heart opens.

At first, we talk about the weather and the want of snow. We chat about the runner sled that waits in the garage and the hill that's a weak green. Conversation skims the surface. But as we move along, things change. Isaiah begins to share from the soul. He speaks little-boy life and childhood dreams. He speaks of things hidden deep.

I ask questions. I respond to the beat of his heart. By now we’re away from the crazy. We’ve taken reprieve from the wild. Though we’re only a quarter- of-a-mile down the road, we’re far enough from fast living that I can hear my son. I can hear his heart.

These moments, this undivided, unshared sliver of time is gold to me. It’s worth more than anything  I could hold with my hands.

And I wonder, is this how it is with the Lord?

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8 ESV

Pour out your heart.

Oh, the grace in this. The sweet amazing grace. That the Lord would want me to share from the heart.

Heart-pouring, soul-sharing, takes effort and time.

I think about this, as we walk along. As my son has grown quiet. As his soul has been shared and there’s peace.

This time of reaching past the superficial into the things that matter, into the things that make a person, into the precious-intimate things, was the result of an effort.  A separation. An intentional, purposeful act.

Lord, give me the wisdom, the desire, to walk alone with You.

As I’ve delighted in the soul-sharing of my son, I understand how the Lord must delight in the times that I share with Him. In the times that my spirit opens wide. In the times when there is no distraction, no barrier, and I’m like a child, wanting to be known.

While we walk along, our shadows fall and Isaiah reaches for my hand. We move down the hill, toward our home. The winter sun begins to slip but the two of us are settled and still.

There is value in quiet moments.

Quiet moments shared with the One we love.