Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arise, shine, For Your Light Has Come



I hear the words echo in my ears, "Arise, Shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you."


I have spent far too long in a self-imposed darkness. I have allowed the disappointments, failures, and questions to blind me to the light that surrounds me. 


The darkness is fleeing. There is a breaking through in the heavens and I see light streaming through the clouds, pouring down, shining on the dirt - shining on me.



Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow. 
Isaiah 1:18


I see the light, and it's blinding, even on a cold, dark, and snowy Chicago night.

And this? This isn't just for me. This is for the one who has been weighted heavy with disappointment.

This is for the one who has been made to feel less than. The one who doesn't feel good enough. 

The one buried under a blanket of fear that blocks out that beautiful light that is shining down.


"Arise, Shine, for your light has come, 
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you."


I am being pulled out of the old and brought into the new.

Join me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today I Am Brave

Photo Credit: Sars Richardson



I live in fear.
I know I’m not supposed to, but it grips me so tight that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to function without it. With each step I take, I am painfully aware of this fear, my traveling companion. We are in a muddled, co-dependent relationship. But I want out.
I want to be brave.
I want a lot of things. I want to keep living in the city, but I am scared that my kids won’t have a quality education and that they won’t thrive due to a lack of outdoor space and that the busy streets will harm them if they accidentally step off the sidewalk.
I want to be brave.
I want to write all the things I have in my heart, but I am scared I’ll unintentionally hurt others through my words. I’m scared my words won’t be good enough. I’m scared my words won’t matter. I’m scared I don’t matter.

Today I have the wonderful opportunity to share this at SheLoves Magazine, one of my very favorite places to hear stories of strong, brave women. I am so honored to have my piece there today. I'd love for you to join me there to here the rest.......

Friday, January 25, 2013

And Then It Was Silent....




I remember when I used to pray. My hands would shake, my jaw would tremble, and I felt the Spirit guide me. I saw hearts healed. Spirits comforted. Bodies made whole.  The only thing that felt bigger than my faith was my God. It was the days of God being glorified and knowing that things would work out for our good. It was bold requests. Swift answers. God speaking.

And then it was silent.....


******

Today I am so excited to be sharing at Grace Biseke's place as part of the series, "When God Speaks { or doesn't}"




Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ramblings on the Eve of my Birthday



There are those days I feel much older than my years. I feel so certain of myself. I look at my hands as they write out words in a journal, type at a keyboard, color in pictures, and knead bread at my counter and I know them. I can see my years through them as they slowly age. I know what they have been through, and still they serve and soothe.

Then there are days when it feel strange to even call myself a woman, because wasn't it just yesterday I was in high school? How am I here, rubbing backs, giving baths and holding all these lives in my hands? 

There are days that I still feel so new to myself, still trying to figure out who I am. I want everything just to pause, just for a minute, so I can try to get my equilibrium back. I want to catch my breath and figure out what it is I am supposed to do.

There are times that I love who I have become, and there are times that I feel I need to focus every blessed minute on getting my life in order.


Here I am, at a time in life when I should know who I am and be walking in it with confidence and authority, left wordless when it comes to explaining myself, to knowing myself.



The things I thought defined me are being let go. 
The roles I've had are ending.
The philosophical leanings have shifted.
The spiritual gifts that once poured out of me have dried up.


I don't know me. And I don't know what my life will be like one year from now. Where will we be living? Where will my big girl be attending school? How will I fill my days? Will all the girls finally be sleeping through the dark and quiet hours of the night? I don't know and to even try to imagine a day in any sort of detail seems an act of folly.


But I do know this, I am a mother.


I might question the giftings God has given me at different seasons of my life, but one thing I will never question is that I am a mother.

I was made to rock babies, to sing songs, to tickle piggies, to color pictures, to tell stories.



I was made to clean up play-dough  finger paint  dirty bottoms, runny noses, last night's dishes, and smelly socks.





I was made to hold hands, hold hearts, hold in laughter, hold in tears, and hold my breath.



I was made to teach, to share, to fight for and to love on my children.



I was made to pray for, pray over, and pray into my children.





My goals might change. My city of residence might change. My vocation might change. My passions might change. My talents my change.


But I know, that I know, that I know that I was made to be a mother. 

And when I am discouraged, and wonder what else there is for me, the Mother Heart in me that grows and grows and grows reminds me that just like my girls are nuanced and multi-dimensional, so am I .




My motherhood doesn't define me - it refines me. It has softened my heart to the needs of others around me. 

To kneel down next to those who ache and help them up, strengthen them, speak life to them. This is what I am made to do. 

To give voice to the voiceless. To empower. To shine a light. This is what I am made to do.

To call out into being, even if my voice is but a whisper, the things that aren't yet. This is what I am made to do.

To be part of seeing His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. This is what I am made to do.



And so, on the eve of my birthday, I will press publish. And then I will go into the other room, where my babies wait for me. And we will sing songs, read stories, and hold each other tight. And I'll know, that I know, that I know, that I was made to be a mother.






On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so excited to be a part of this team! Want to join?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to this week's prompt: MOTHER
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your post, so others can find there way there
  • Read each other's posts and ENCOURAGE them

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blooming



Image Credit: Emily Wierenga


We sat around the table in my dining room as we did each week. Sipping tea, drinking coffee, but most importantly praying. It was a day much like today.

We were part of a Pentecostal church, where giving words of knowledge in voices that roared as if having to make their way from the Heavens themselves were common place. God didn't speak to me that way. It was never taught directly, that this was the only manner that God spoke, but to the one who didn't receive Him that way, the message was whispered to me, if only by my own insecurities.

As we prayed that winter morning, I felt a nudge. A something that most certainly was not me. I was supposed to tell her something. Encourage her. But I had no idea what. 

I walked her out that morning, down the cement steps to the driveway. There was a light covering of snow, but the sun was shining warm that week and it was melting off, leaving bits of earth showing beneath its white blanket.

That's when I saw it. Outside of our garden, lined with bricks, were small bunches of crocuses, peeking out from the snow. January. Winter. Yet underneath the snow life was budding. Blossoming. I felt a fire in my belly.


"Hey. I just feel like I am supposed to tell you that even though this season of your life feels hard and lifeless, that God is doing something that you can't see yet. There is life and it's already forming. It's already there. It's peeking out."



******


January is deceiving. It is full of dark days that leave me wondering if the sun has left, has abandoned Chicago for a more exotic locale, and if it will ever return. The darkness wraps around my soul, choking the hope out of my heart. The days feel so long.

But the crocus reminds me that the sun hasn't left. It hasn't abandoned me. There are new things going on underneath, in the places I can't see. A new season is coming.



******

Today I hear a whisper....

But forget all that - 
     it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

For I am about to do something new.

     See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
     I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
     the jackals and owls, too,
     for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
     so my chosen people can be refreshed.
Isaiah 43: 18-20, NLT 


This season in my life is about shedding the old. Walking away from the past. Not letting my failures and disappointments define me. Remembering that I have not been abandoned, but that my perspective does not allow me to see what is already shifting. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

Each morning when I wake I have a bit more hope. And I feel a bit of that fire in my belly that used to be there. I see the glory dance around me. The beauty of design and purpose and plan and partnering. My spirit is lighter and the air is crisp here. And the sun shines warm on my face. 

The crocuses are blooming.



    


On Thursdays we gather together to celebrate redemption. I'm so excited to be a part of this team! Want to join?


  • Link up a post (old or new) that relates to this week's prompt: ENCOURAGE
  • Put the "Imperfect Prose" button at the bottom of your post, so others can find there way there
  • Read each other's posts and ENCOURAGE them


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Your Arms and Heart Are Full

I'm sneaking away to write this, knowing I will be called back and my arms will be full in just a few minutes.


My beautiful baby is sick. I held my slightly cranky girl all day yesterday and her body was warm against me. I comforted my overheated girl, thinking not too much of it after a busy day of playing. But then she cried, and I picked her up again, and her fingertips were hot and I kissed her forehead and felt the heat transfer to me and I knew she was sick.





Cuddles, Motrin  juice, water, milk, and more cuddles. That's what we have done for over 24 hours. I spent the night on our couch, sitting up with her cradled in my arms - the only position that soothed her tired, aching body. And now her fever has gone, but my body is weary and sore. My shoulders ache and my neck isn't turning without pain. But that's what mommas do. We love them over and over, using everything we know how to do to ease them, even at our own discomfort.

Today I brewed an extra strong pot of coffee, made some cookie bars, and started some bread. We will wrap ourselves in blankets, watch movies, read books, and enjoy our "home day."

She'll cry. She'll fuss. She'll bury herself in me. And every so often she'll emerge smiling, sing a song with me, and play with the girls. But those are just minutes in every few hours, and before I can finish brushing my hair she will be back in my arms, head on my shoulder.


******

Last night, in the hours after the late late news, but before the early news, while I sat holding my baby, I wrote in my mind today's post. And, of course, when the light began to pour into the living room where we lay, the thoughts left my mind with the remains of the dusk. And I think that's okay. I have plans and schedules as I try to be more proactive in my writing, but sometimes those sweet moments are the ones unplanned.

I spend so much time trying to create fun and meaningful experiences for my girls. We will visit zoos, farms, museums, parks, and landmarks. We go to dance, soccer, art, gymnastics, dance, or swim. We bake bread or cookies or cakes or juice. We paint and create and make music together. And in my head these are the things they will remember and hold onto. 

But.

But what if that just becomes the background? What if all the activities that we put into their lives pool together and the things they remember are days like today, when momma held them without letting go and there was always space on the couch and room on my lap.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Clean Heart

Sometimes it's not the Scripture itself that I memorized as a child that comes back when I need it. Sometimes it the songs, the hymns, the choruses, the anthems, that whisper to me in the dark when I'm reaching out for something beyond myself.


I began this year with one word, SOAR. And I have already seen God working in ways I never imagined. 

On Sunday I was able to be in the "big people" sanctuary, and during worship I saw myself, stuck in the mud. And I felt a hand, grab onto me, lift me out, and I could see myself alone, cold, and stuck. 

"You don't see what I see," I heard whispered.

And in that moment to know that He saw the end when I only saw the beginning.....it breathed life into these dry bones.


This week has been full of a change of perspective, and I have had energy, and joy. I have felt a lot more like myself. 

And I have had so much fun with my girls.



But today. 

Today I found myself back in that mud. I was tired. And short with the kids. My husband has had school and long days and I've been alone a lot more than normal. And when I found that they had grabbed a pack of markers and brought them into their room, I saw the blue and green and orange on their bodies, their sheets, their blankets......

.........and I saw red.

I walked away, got them something to eat, and let them cuddle on the couch. I knew they were hungry and needing some chill time.

Hands still shaking, I could hear the old (was it Keith Green?) song...

Create in me a clean heart, O God, 
and renew a right spirit within me.


Create. Not try to scrub, and polish, and shine. Create.

Form.

Conceive.

Forge.

New.

And if the God of all creation can create in me a clean heart, then I can certainly form, conceive, and forge a new day.

So we start again. And again. And again. And we may never get it right, but I know He's creating a new heart in me, and that's what I want my girls to see.






Tuesday, January 8, 2013

When Living in the City is Hard



I live in the third largest city in the U.S. And I love it. There is something about this place that just feels right. Oprah once said, "I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here." I get that.


I love you, Chicago.



I love playing in your parks. 


I love that my babies can look out the window and see "the tallest building in America" each morning (even though it's not anymore).

I love that my babies know their way down Lake Shore Drive (LSD) and that they know the different exits for the different museums and attractions.


I love that despite the fact that we are in this huge city, we live in our neighborhood, and that makes it all a bit more cozy.

I love that at one point our zip code was the most diverse zip in the U.S. I love that my kids don't bat an eye at diversity, and the only time they act uncomfortable in groups of people is when they are all white.

I love that if I go a block or two north I am in one of the largest Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in the country. 

I love that if I go a few blocks south I am in "Little India."

I love that our KFC is Zabiha Halal and our Subway is Kosher.



But it's hard.

It's hard when you walk down over three flights of stairs with three kids and walk through an alley or down the block to find your car and your arms ache and your heart is just weary.

It's hard when your husband works hard at the office and at school and comes home to have to do laundry because you can't get three kids and the laundry down the stairs to the basement where the washers and dryers are.




It's hard when you feel trapped inside and don't have outdoor space to play.

It's hard when you want to be the "fun mom" you always dreamed of, but the need to keep some peace between you and the neighbor downstairs leads you to shrug your shoulders and stick with coloring or another blasted movie.

It's hard when you drive your kids to the preschool in the suburbs because you couldn't find a decent one in your neighborhood.

It's hard when well-meaning friends who do not live in the city try to give you advice, or act like it shouldn't be hard, when just getting your kids to the car feels like you deserve a medal.

It's hard when the city that you love had over 500 homicides last year.

It's hard when you have to teach your kids to avoid the broken glass, the garbage, and the occasional rat when you walk down the alley way to your car.

It's hard when you pray every day when getting into your van that's parked on the street that no one will get run over, because there was that one time she almost did.

It's hard when it's time to enroll your baby in Kindergarten and your neighborhood school, the one you fell in love with four years ago when you saw the children playing at recess, has horrible test scores and teacher to student ratios and you know that your baby wouldn't do well in that environment.

It's hard when you go from website to website, researching the good schools, filling out school lottery applications, filling out applications to test into selective enrollment schools, and you know that your whole family's future hinges on where she gets into school.



And so.

And so you start looking at the 'burbs. The thing you don't want to do. And you see beautiful homes, for the same price as an old, run down city home, with a backyard and you can walk to drop your baby off at a school that exceeds all standards.

And you begin imagining how happy your kids would be in a single family home, with a backyard, where they can run and laugh and stomp their feet and no one will complain.

And you feel better. You feel like this is the only way to keep your kids safe.



But then.

A missionary friend comes to visit. And he asks to pray for you before he hops back on a plane. And all he says is,




"Lord, help them make the best decisions for their girls. 
Not the safe one."





Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Soar - One Word 2013

Third Grade. Miss Brinda. 

It was winter, and winter in Minnesota means snow. For recess we donned our snow pants, extra socks, hats, mittens, coats, and moon boots. Yup, moon boots.
I wore purple head to toe, including the "bonnet" that I had which although was quite embarrassing from a fashion standpoint, served me well during our recess "Little House on the Prairie" sessions. 

This day, I had no interest in being outside. My best friend wasn't at school and all I really wanted to do was to stay inside and read. I guess they thought being outside was important or something.

She pointed out at the field that we used all fall and spring for kickball, softball, dodge ball - all the things I detested. I preferred using it after a rain to make roads and dams and lakes into the softened dirt as water pooled. She showed us how the middle of that field, now a foot deep with snow, was now slush. That gray part meant that we were not allowed to play in the field. She didn't want us getting wet.

Everyone went to the playground equipment. My imagination was in full swing. I stood on the outside of that field and imagined all sorts of things. I walked and I wandered. I wandered and I pondered. And soon I found myself at the back of that field. I had inadvertently walked part way through. I looked ahead and to my side. I saw that the portion that I was in was not gray and slushy; it was white so it shouldn't be a problem. 

I thought.

I was just a few more steps in when I realized I was stuck. While the snow didn't show to be slush, underneath it was. Between the slush and the muddy earth below it, my moon boots were stuck. I tried to turn around but my boot stayed in the muddied ground and my foot fell right into the cold wet snow. I didn't have momentum to turn around. I stuck that cold, wet foot back in my boot and did the only thing I could do. Go forward.

I finally made it to the other end of the field. Exhausted. Cold. Wet. Defeated. Deflated. And there she was. Waiting for me. 

I wasn't one to ever get in trouble, but the look on her face was the same one reserved for Jeff who was scolded on a daily basis, so I knew it was bad. I tried to explain what happened  How it was an accident. It was inadvertent. I tried to turn around and couldn't.

She didn't hear any of it. She made me wait in the parking lot next to her, wet foot and all, until the other kids were done playing. And then she took away the one thing that could punish me. Books. No more books that week.

I stood there. Toes frozen. Cheeks burning hot with embarrassment  Eyes stinging as tears leaked out in the cold Minnesotan air.

******

If you were to ask me to sum up the past few years in one word, it might be STUCK. Despite our intentions, our motivations, and what we thought we heard from God, we have found ourselves inextricably stuck. 

Every day, despite the good and beautiful things each 24 hours holds, has felt like a battle. It has felt like we are walking through that field, unable to turn back, going forward through and to consequences that feel undeserved. The sky is gray. Our bodies cold and tired. And there is just no end in sight.

Here, in the muck, I don't see the beauty. I don't see the good. There isn't a lot of fun or laughing. It's just hard work. I lack perspective.

This year, I want to rise above it all. I want to radically change how I view life. How I live life. I want to soar.


******

Throughout the year, I'll write about all that soar means to me. It is a change of perspective. It's an act of faith and risk. It is accomplishing the things I hold close in my heart. It's allowing myself to dream. It's big and scary and brave. It's looking up and allowing the sun to shine on me and the wind to blow on me.

This year, I am going to soar. While I will still tell stories of brokenness, I will tell stories of hope, of beauty, of healing. I will speak of what I am passionate about. I will be brave.

******



Today, I stand barefoot at the edge of a cliff. The sun is shining warm on my skin. I feel the warm rock on my calloused feet, warming my whole body. I inch out to the edge as my toes wrap around the ledge. I don't look down. I don't look behind. I lift my head up. I open my eyes. I raise my arms out at my sides. The wind blows on me, whispering to let go. To trust.

I'm ready to soar.





Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fresh Mercies

Happy New Year! 

Last night,  right before the clock struck midnight, we were in the middle of a Battle Royale with our middle child as she had woken up, and in a dazed, half-asleep state, was SCREAMING for a TV show. The mix of her unsettling behavior and the fear that she would wake up the youngest who hasn't slept through the night in a week, left us completely on edge. 

No ball drop. No midnight kiss. No champagne. And I thought I heard T.S. Eliot whisper, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper."

It's a pretty accurate description of 2012. Exhausting. Frustrating. Long.

But this morning. 

This morning I hear that same little girl giggling with her baby sister, the one I who I thought for sure would be up all night again, the one who miraculously and graciously slept until 7. The sun is shining. The coffee is brewing. 

It is a good morning. 

And I read this morning in Lamentations, as it has been swirling around my head...


The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!"
Lamentations 3:19-24, NLT


It is going to be a good year. Welcome, 2013. This will be my year to soar.


******






Y'all.....I'm doing my very first guest post. What a way to start 2013! Thank, Ed, for the opportunity! 

I'm sharing three non-fiction books that I love. The process inspired me to re-evaluate my reading from 2012 and come up with some goals for 2013. If you'd like to see what my plan is, feel free to check it out. I'd love to hear what books on the list you have read and what books you want to read this year.

Happy New Year!