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.



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.


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.


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