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My Crown of Glory

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A few months ago my children and I observed how my dozen or so strands of gray hair had remained steady in number since their first appearance a few years back.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed with dismay that the number had increased twofold, the fierce pale strands fighting for their place amongst the mass of deep brown. A difficult season of parenting had taken place between those two surveys of my head and I knew without a doubt that out of the stress and straining of those days the silver had sprung its roots.

My 12-year-old encourages me to embrace the tale-tell signs of aging. She quotes a passage from Proverbs and reminds me that it’s a sign of a righteous life, that it is my “crown of splendor”.  If I look from the right angle, I can see the new gray stands as an affirmation that I’m not over-exaggerating that short but stormy season, it’s a marking post that I faced something truly difficult and I’ve arrived on the other side. I simply didn’t know my crown of splendor would be arriving at the age of 37.

What if the same process that produced these silver strands also worked in reverse?

For example, today was the opposite of my days a few months back. The April sun was warm, while the shade allowed a playful caress of wind. Instead of fighting, each of my kids engaged in a creative activity, entirely unprompted by me.

My six-year-old sat before me in her red wagon, first drawing a map of an imaginary land and then typing a story of giants and dragons. Beside me sat my ten-year-old (who has spent much of the last year hating any act of school-ish activity) writing chapter five of a story. The twelve-year-old worked on a “creaturepedia” for her own story and the oldest worked on a script for a project that she’s begun with friends. This is how the day began and this is how the day continued for hours and I sat near them all, reading a book and saying a quiet thanks to the Lord.

What if, with the same power that conjured those gray follicles into my hair like wild kudzu, a day like this could just as magically change a few of them back to the rich brown of youth and hope? This too, would be a kind of affirmation, that each day may brings its own mercies, its own renewal.

 

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The Space to Breathe

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(this post was written a few days ago)

At this very moment, there is silence around me.

Truthfully, it is not silent, because there is a ticking clock, the sound of a dog roaming outside, and an occasional chicken chattering in the backyard.  But the normal soundtrack of children arguing and “I’m hungry” is absent, so to me these other noises are still a kind of silence.

We are finishing up five days of housesitting for friends. They only live fifteen minutes from us, but I’m fairly convinced that when you turn onto their dirt road, away from the matching houses of the neighborhood in which their home is nested, you cross a portal into a different zone of living.

A dog reminiscent of a polar bear approaches you as you exit your car.  As you enter their sun-filled house your eyes move from the shimmering honey jars stacked over their kitchen sink (fresh from their own bees) to the big picture window where colorful woodpeckers and chickadees dance on the bird feeder outside and finally your gaze lands on the books, and then more books.

It is a home in which the doors are never locked (that’s not a metaphor, they really aren’t ever locked that I know of). The most striking feature, aside from the generous hearts that run this home, is the room to breathe.   Inside the house there is space.  Outside the house there are benches, swings, hills to climb, welcoming paths and lanterns in the woods.

For our family of six, who live in a small three-bedroom house, space is a gift. For our family, in which a step onto our driveway means we’re practically stepping onto our neighbor’s driveway, space is a gift.

For our son (a young man of ten years with three sisters), the space calls him to adventure. He’s had a challenging winter of hating school and suffocating in a small space with sisters who like to be in charge and highlight his mistakes. Here, he rises early, checks the animals, and heads out to the woods, a sturdy walking stick in hand.  He doesn’t complain about taking out the trash, or cleaning up a mess. He’s more patient and confident, in this space.

For our two older daughters, they’ve left email and other technology behind and now venture into books and board games.  “I haven’t read a lot this year,” my oldest daughter told me last week.  This week she has read for hours, diving deep into stories.

“Can I please play on the iPad,” she asks me when she finally tires of reading.

“No,” I answer, though inwardly I’m wondering if I’m drawing the line too firm. She’s fourteen and I’m trying to loosen the reigns.

A few minutes later she is building card houses on the hearth of the fireplace and I relax.

When their friends spend the night, they gather around me.

“We’re bored,” the four girls stand before me, expectantly.

“I can’t wait to see what you come up with,” I answer, as I continue to make dinner.

A few minutes later they are in coats and boots traipsing out into the wet, cool weather. Soon after that they are in a tournament of card games.

And for our youngest, our six-year-old, her older siblings are actually playing games with her, and being mostly nice about it.  She’s figured out Hot-Cross Buns and Beethoven on the piano (we don’t have one at our house, this house has two), and she proudly walks in with two eggs from the chicken roost. “They’re still warm,” she says.

From a winter that has brought regular strife amongst the kids and a lot of angst over decisions for my husband and I, this pocket of time and space is a bit of healing.  A time to slow down.  A time to remember to play. A time to sit in silence and breathe.

Tomorrow we will have to cross the threshold again, back into the world of work, school, expectations, and technology. But this time has soothed the lingering scabs of a tough season.

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What’s a Story without the Hard Parts? (Re-post)

(This a re-post from last year.)

(spoiler alert: major plot points of Jane Eyre are revealed in this post)

I re-read books.

I love to re-read books.

There are some books that have been such intimate friends over the years that I can pull one off of the shelf, open it to any page, and be transported to the world of my favorite character, the colors and details as vivid as a movie playing on a screen.

Sometimes I read selfishly, savoring the first half of the book, the build, the love story when the love is still new and unblemished, when the characters are still true to themselves and each other, and then I stop.

I stop before time travel moves from excitement to terrifying for Henry and Clare in the Time Traveler’s Wife. I click off my book light before Jane Eyre leaves Mr. Rochester and spends months in pain instead of newfound joy.

And then I flip to the end. I have the right to do it, I’ve already read the book a dozen times, suffered with her, I’ve earned the right to skip if I want to.

But the end is never as exhilarating if I skip the hard parts.

The first time I walked with Jane toward Mr. Rochester when they finally meet again-well, there weren’t any words for that moment. Together we’d chosen starvation over sin and then faced the temptation to forsake our hearts altogether for a life and marriage without love. I might smile and nod happily when I skip those parts and turn to the last chapter, but take away the hard parts and where’s the story that stole my heart to begin with?

I’ve begun to see my own story in the same way. What is my story without this middle part?

I spend a lot of time running away from pain, either present pain, or past pain, anxious to get to “the good part”. But when I look back at my story of 34 years, which parts do I skip? The past that I once wished to leave closed, present chapters included, are all intricately connected. Events, moments of impact that once (and sometimes still) cause me to cry out, “Why?”, don’t make any sense as individual stories.

When I look back now those collection of moments resemble the Extreme Dot to Dot that my 11-year-old finished last week. 636 dizzying dots that eventually revealed a complete picture. I don’t know the number of days of my life so I don’t know how many dots are left to connect, but enough to know that God’s plan has been purposeful, not one extraneous dot in this book. Each moment has brought me a little more faith, trust, love, and hope, sometimes while the pain is fresh, sometimes later.

“You cannot amuptate your history from your destiny..my past is something Jesus takes hold of and makes into a destiny.  That’s called redemption.”

Beth Moore

While reading someone else’s painful story this week, I felt challenged to be a steward of my story, instead of running from it.  As I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book about the accidental death of her 5-year-old daughter, she spoke of God making her and her whole family a steward of their story. What an amazing response to the pain allowed into their life (deeper pain than I’ve ever experienced). And they have done just that, through their lives, through their books, through their music, through their ministry. They didn’t hide, they opened their story to the world, their whole story.

Stories, both real and fictional, don’t make sense without the hard parts.

What story has God made you a steward of?

 

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The Day I Didn’t Get Discovered

 

Each year as I watch the Oscars or the Tonys, I am fifteen again, dreaming.  I imagine the style of dress I’m going to wear when my name is announced (my mom will sew my gown since I can’t afford high fashion). And, of course, I practice my acceptance speech. I thank my high school theater teacher, I’m witty and make people cry, and for my speech only, the orchestra holds the music to allow the power of my speech to finish in awed silence.

The inkling of these dreams began when I played a pointy-toed elf concerned for Santa as he contemplated leaving his job in the classic 5th grade play “Santa Goes Back to the Future.”  That same year my teacher gave us the weekly task of concocting a short story with our vocabulary words. The assignment sharpened my youthful writing skills as I blended Hamster, Circus, and Automobile into the same story.  That year, as I stared at the clouds with a wall of stiff bangs usefully blocking the glare from the sun, I saw glory in my future.

Two decades later when glory still eluded me, I thought to myself, “Now they’ll no longer say  ‘I can’t believe she’s so young!’ when I write my first play or book, instead they’ll say ‘Wow, she’s sixty!”.  The abundance of my years will be my legacy, instead of my youth, I lamented.

Nowadays, I continue on in the land of Mamahood but remain open to the possibility of being discovered.  When I saw Kevin Costner in our local pancake joint last year, I stuck around after the pancakes were gone to give him a little extra time to turn on his movie spy senses and notice me.  I gave him time to saunter over in his scuffed jeans and cowboy boots and tell me I was perfect for his next movie or that he’d like to co-write a screenplay with me (clearly I was attributing a strong spy sense to him).  That day it didn’t work out, but I like to keep my options open.

Last week I met with a friend.  She’s a friend plus a Real Writer.  I showed her a few pieces of writing I’d been working on, she gave me some positive feedback, and between our next meeting time, I dreamed of exactly how my Big Discovery would happen.  Maybe she’d encourage me to write a book or in the very least ask me to write something for her blogging community. Oh the possibilities, I dreamed.

This week we got together and we talked again about those pieces that I had handed her last week.  Last week those pieces carried a little gleam around the words because they were filled with promise. This week unraveled a little differently.  The first piece was solid but as she gave me her honest feedback about piece number 2 and 3, the glow dissipated.  These were not the pieces of promise.  It turns out, I’m much closer to the beginning then the middle or end of getting to my Big Discovery. Her words were truthful, and even as she spoke with grace, I knew every word was true.

As the hope of the Big Discovery grew cold like my forgotten cup of tea, my heart swung into motion to close-up and close-out.  But the Lord had already been at work in my heart all week, getting me ready for this moment, and I was able to recognize the gift of this friend.  She had taken a risk.  Did I wish that she’d told me my mediocre work was actually brilliant? Instead she told me how to begin the process of moving from mediocre to great (or at least better).

In the weeks since the-day-I-didn’t-get-discovered, I’ve been working my tail off to improve.  When I thought my skills were better than they were, I didn’t work very hard to improve them.  So it was also the day that I discovered that I could, and would, stick to the process even if it wasn’t the instant gratification of striking gold, but an extended excavation, a painful process to get the work done. So, I’ll work.

However, I’m still open to discovery over pancakes or maybe at this Starbucks as I finish this sentence.  And I plan to keep honing my acceptance speech.

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The Risk of Failure on the Heart

I hold my fingers above the computers keys, wondering, will I have anything to say, or should I just read someone else’s book, or blog, or play.

I flip the pages of my sketchbook and remove my mechanical pencil, pause, and wonder, will the pencil marks amount to anything really good or original?

I watch the film, mentally moving the camera to a different angle and adjust the order of the storyline, as the movie plays on, I wonder-what if I put my own hand to theater only to find my work has no truth or beauty.

Would my heart be safer without dreams?

What about a world without dreams, I wonder? No dreams, only duty. No longing for anything greater than myself, just the reality of the hard and fast world in reach of my fingertips.

To dream means to hope and to hope means to risk.

As I enter a season of taking my dreams and unfurling them into the daylight, the door to my heart tries to close hard against the risk. To keep the dream a dream, nothing more.

What am I risking?

Failure.

When I type the word it’s bathed in red light, it’s reaching out to me as vivid and invasive as a 3D, high-def movie.

This nauseous pit of fear lodged somewhere between my stomach and my heart has been with me ever since I said yes to test-driving one of my dreams.  Well, the “yes” was exhilarating.  The need to vomit came about 30 minutes later.

As the day approaches, I take out my fear and I look at it again and I send a searchlight out for my dream and it’s still there, pulsing.

I think of the parable in the Bible when the character buries his talents in the ground until his master returned, thinking himself safe and wise. Imagining my dreams inside of the cool, dark earth instead of the burning light of day sounds very tempting.

Which leads me back to my original question.  Would a world without dreams be safer?

But this time a second question shoves it’s way in.

Am I called to lead a safe life?

Is a safe life an abundant life?

A world without dreams may be safe, it might protect me from rejection and heart pain.

But as I imagine this dreamless world further, I imagine a life without invention. Without beauty. Without poetry. Or stories. Without the grace that arrives when dreams die and are resurrected into a new hope that couldn’t have been born without pain.

A world without worship because a safe heart has no need to worship.

It’s a daily choice to keep walking toward the risk instead of toward the hole in the earth ready to swallow my hope as if doing me a favor.

It’s good to be both awake and dreaming.

I feel alive.

“You must once and for all give up being worried about successes or failures.  Don’t let that concern you.  It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, for failures…”

Anton Chekhov, quoted by the character David in L’engle’s Certain Women

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Searching for Normal

I drive past the overstuffed parking lots, trees tied to car roofs, and christmas lights blinking in the store windows.

Already? I ask myself, gripping the wheel tighter.

Is it time to shift the house into Christmas decorations? I’m still looking for a normal, kind-of-tidy house.

Is it time to pick an Advent devotional for the evenings? I’m still looking for normal, unhurried evenings.

Is it time to set aside some of our regular homeschool studies and pencil in special “Christmas time” unit studies and read-alouds? I’m still looking for normal school, when the basics all fit comfortably into our day.

Is it really time to make Christmas cookies every week? I’m still trying to get a routine of meals, and a break from extra sweets.

Is it really time to think about presents, service projects, and teacher gifts? I’m still looking a few free moments when I don’t feel tired.

I’m still searching for normal, I think to myself.

But what is normal? Have I ever had it? Does it mean balanced? No, I figured out many years ago that a life of momma-hood and homeschooling doesn’t equal balanced anything.

But I do remember a certain rhythm.

Rhythm, that’s what I’m looking for. A rhythm to our days.

Just as this lifestyle doesn’t invite balance, I know the rhythm of a season is temporary as well.  Children move to new grades, birthdays bring new parenting challenges, new babies call for a break in rhythm and some improvisation.

But we usually find a comfortable rhythm for a period of months, and we haven’t found that for a long time now.  Summer always throws me with its lack of routine, then our new homeschool year arrived with friction, and our first solid week of homeschool (that finished with hope) ended a few days before my Dad died.  Weeks of grieving and planning a memorial, a few choppy weeks of school, and now it’s Christmas? Did we even have Fall?

Usually Christmas arrives as a change of rhythm from our normal routine.

I don’t have a normal to set aside to make room for all that arrives with the month of December.

The seven years of taking care of my Dad certainly felt like a constant break in anything routine, new challenges always presenting themselves.  But looking back, I can see that visiting Dad every week, and meeting with nurses had it’s own rhythm of staccato beats. Maybe some rhythms can’t be recognized in the present moment, but only when the beat is lost.

Should I keep looking for our rhythm, and keep my hope tied to it?

Or is my hope better tied to something that doesn’t ever change?  Something I might remember if I can make the shift to Christmas?

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The Life and Death of Dreams

 “So, do you feel ready to go write your play now?” my husband asked me on the last morning of Hutchmoot.

“No,” I answered.  “I’m not going to write any play for a week, a month, 3 months, could be a year.”

I went to Hutchmoot to crack my dreams wide open.  At a Gathering held within the walls of stories, I would learn how to tell mine.  I’ve been dreaming of how to tells stories for years now, while living out the dark and the light of my own.

Then Phil Vischer ruined everything.

As he talked of Big Ideas and Jellyfish, I realized that my dreams had a whole lot to do with adding to my worth, and the outcome (which had to be Excellent by my standards) of any artisitic endeavors were too important to me.  In the past few months I’ve even tried to step out before the last painful chapters in one thread of my life and begin to mold the events into a genre I can hand to others.  I can’t experience God in my story when I’m trying to write it.

I left Hutchmoot with my dreams cracked open, but what I found inside surprised me.  I need to give these to God, I thought to myself, and wait to see if He hands them back.

A time of dream fasting began.

After Hutchmoot: Day 1

8:30am: I rise from my bed with noble intentions.  Death to my dreams.

9:30am: At the breakfast table I look around for familiar faces.  I don’t see a budding filmmaker, a man in a spacesuit, a Broadway actor who knows his theology, or a red-haired beauty who surrounded me with familiar ink-laden friends a few a days ago.

My mother, who’s in town because she graciously watched all four of our kids, has just given the children their 5th and 6th donut in 3 days.  I can hear my 7-year-old sugar-loaded son from the kitchen. He’s playing ping-pong in his room, only he’s the ball and the wall is his paddle.

My husband just left for the week.

I will serve them selflessly, I remind myself, I will put the Mooters out of my head.

10:30am: We’re back from the airport, Nana is gone, and I’m the only adult in the house.  Responsibility stares at me from every pile of laundry and dirty dish.  Good thing I’m setting aside that dream thing.  How very practical.

10:45am:  I Google a few books from the conference.

11:00am: I get out my watercolors.  That’s not dreaming, it’s just a little sketching with color.

11:05am: The 3-year-old has dumped out the water and brushes all over the floor.  Her own watercolor project lasts 1.5 minutes.

11:30am: Although sketching ended abruptly, I’ve now forgotten that I planned to take even one week off from planning out my dreams.  I think of putting up a board on my bathroom wall (the only available space) for me and my husband to post ideas as we get them, an idea also via Mr. Vischer (not the bathroom wall part).

I’ve already composed the first one in my head, “Could I adapt XXXXXX book into a play?

11:35am: I’m pulled from my pondering because, by the sounds from the bedroom, three older siblings will soon hurt their 3-year old sister if she knocks down their LEGO village one more time.  And these young people seem to think they need something to eat.

I calculate about ten minutes before final impact, so I pick up my copy of Me, Myself, and Bob. I remember the section in his talk on our ‘Groundhog Day lives’ and how God is working through each moment of each mundane act of each day.

This death to my dreams thing is beginning to hurt.

12:00pm: Because there is not a chef at my house to prepare Smoked Pork Loin smothered in Fruit Compote (which led to loud moans of pleasure with each bite just a few days ago), we have macaroni and cheese.

The kids are making a not so pretty transition from Grandma time to Momma’s back in charge.  Momma’s transition isn’t so pretty either.

I’m becoming a deranged picture from one of those flap books that has pages of foreheads and eyes on the top, with different noses in the middle, and different mouths at the bottom.  The goal is to mix up the pictures to find the craziest combination of features. I have Rabbit ears and eyes on the top, a momma nose and cheekbones, and I’m not sure yet about the last flap.

The next five hours:  A blur of normal activity, with some snotty kleenexes added in for good measure (theirs, not mine).

8pm:  I’m putting my 3-year-old down to bed but I’m really thinking about writing this post.

“No, mommy, sing to me down here,” she pulls me from the edge of her toddler bed to a leaning position inches from her face.  The lights are off, but she has a nightlight in her hand so we can see each other’s eyes in the dim green glow of a Toy Story alien since she’s holding it close to my forehead.

She holds her hand on my cheek while I sing her most popular request:

“I love you Lord and I lift my voice

to worship you, O my Soul, rejoice

Take Joy my King, in what you hear

let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.”

9:52pm: Silence settles into the house.  Another idea appears in a small square on the bathroom wall.

Dreams don’t die in one day.

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What’s A Story Without the Hard Parts?

(spoiler alert: major plot points of Jane Eyre are revealed in this post)

I re-read books.

I love to re-read books.

There are some books that have been such intimate friends over the years that I can pull one off of the shelf, open it to any page, and be transported to the world of my favorite character, the colors and details as vivid as a movie playing on a screen.

Sometimes I read selfishly, savoring the first half of the book, the build, the love story when the love is still new and unblemished, when the characters are still true to themselves and each other, and then I stop.

I stop before time travel moves from excitement to terrifying for Henry and Clare in the Time Traveler’s Wife. I click off my book light before Jane Eyre leaves Mr. Rochester and spends months in pain instead of newfound joy.

And then I flip to the end. I have the right to do it, I’ve already read the book a dozen times, suffered with her, I’ve earned the right to skip if I want to.

But the end is never as exhilarating if I skip the hard parts.

The first time I walked with Jane toward Mr. Rochester when they finally meet again-well, there weren’t any words for that moment. Together we’d chosen starvation over sin and then faced the temptation to forsake our hearts altogether for a life and marriage without love. I might smile and nod happily when I skip those parts and turn to the last chapter, but take away the hard parts and where’s the story that stole my heart to begin with?

I’ve begun to see my own story in the same way. What is my story without this middle part?

I spend a lot of time running away from pain, either present pain, or past pain, anxious to get to “the good part”. But when I look back at my story of 34 years, which parts do I skip? The past that I once wished to leave closed, present chapters included, are all intricately connected. Events, moments of impact that once (and sometimes still) cause me to cry out, “Why?”, don’t make any sense as individual stories.

When I look back now those collection of moments resemble the Extreme Dot to Dot that my 11-year-old finished last week. 636 dizzying dots that eventually revealed a complete picture. I don’t know the number of days of my life so I don’t know how many dots are left to connect, but enough to know that God’s plan has been purposeful, not one extraneous dot in this book. Each moment has brought me a little more faith, trust, love, and hope, sometimes while the pain is fresh, sometimes later.

“You cannot amuptate your history from your destiny..my past is something Jesus takes hold of and makes into a destiny.  That’s called redemption.”

Beth Moore

While reading someone else’s painful story this week, I felt challenged to be a steward of my story, instead of running from it.  As I read Mary Beth Chapman’s book about the accidental death of her 5-year-old daughter, she spoke of God making her and her whole family a steward of their story. What an amazing response to the pain allowed into their life (deeper pain than I’ve ever experienced). And they have done just that, through their lives, through their books, through their music, through their ministry. They didn’t hide, they opened their story to the world, their whole story.

Stories, both real and fictional, don’t make sense without the hard parts.

What story has God made you a steward of?

 

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Thirteen Years Later

In the early years we were lumps of clay, not yet formed into anything recognizable.

In love, yes, with our rose-colored glasses firmly fixed, we ate, drank, and lived young love.  For a couple of months.

For the last thirteen years, we’ve been squeezed, rolled, allowed to set in our ways, and then pressed into helpless mounds all over again.

If a prophet had told us that in the 13 years following our wedding day we would experience trials that would strip away every ounce of surface love (for one another) and superficial faith (in God), our lumpish selves would have denied it.

Through circumstances we would never have chosen for ourselves, the Lord has gifted us with love so much greater than what we pledged in our vows.

We continue to eat and drink love, the blinding glasses removed.

We taste the Lord’s love, sometimes in tears, often in awe.

We’re smothered in the messy love of our children,

We exchange love with our eyes across a noisy dinner table,

we receive it in acts of apologies,

we give it with words of encouragement,

we hold onto it in times of pain and laughter,

we linger in what we know of each other that nobody else knows.

Two misshapen mounds of clay merging into one flesh, all by God’s perfect design.

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When I Am Weak

I sit in the bathtub and try not to think.

Which means I think about everything that I don’t want to think about.

I think about

the late hour of the morning when we all woke up

and the fighting that ensued seconds later.

I think about

the groaning over chores and school

and the rising anger in my mama/teacher self.

“Gentle,” I heard the whisper earlier that day.

I think about the tears (mine were on the inside)

and the straw on the camel’s back when we realized that the toddler had consumed a tin of mints

while we were all breaking down.

I thought about the yelling (mine, and not on the inside)

and hours later when we got locked out of the house

and there was a boy preparing to throw up in the back seat.

“Gentle,” I heard the call as I continued head long in the opposite direction.

I think about the days my mom messed up

and how often the next day a present showed up on the kitchen table.

She was speaking her love language even though it left me wanting at the time.

How can I make it up to them, I wonder?

But the warm water and solitude

pull me under to a temporary state of semi-sleep

and I decide that’s better than remembering

what I don’t want to remember.

Finally I reach for a towel with my wrinkled fingertips and

attempt to get out of the bath, without a flood of thoughts.

But we know how that went already.

Since the flood won’t stop, I pour my day out to my husband.

Then I open my devotional and read the first line,

“IT’S ALL RIGHT TO BE HUMAN…” (it was written in all caps on the page itself)

My foggy heart grasps at those words.

It is?  Can it really be okay that I messed up today?

And then I recall an echo of my pastor from a few days ago

when he said “Remember, you’re human.”

I hold this idea tentatively, the possibility that my mistakes of the day

might not be a reason for such condemnation.

I look up a verse from the devotional.

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me..I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Again the possibility that my weakness, rather than being a reason to put on shame, is actually for the purpose of sending me and all the kids to Christ who is perfect, who is patient, who is constant and never-changes, who is slow to anger, who is love.

A few years ago I began to realize that I didn’t need to measure my idea of perfect parents side by side to my actual parents and try to define the size of the gap.  Instead I began to see that my mom and dad were never supposed to be perfect because they were human. I even allowed that those holes were probably purposefully left there so that I couldn’t experience perfect love from anyone but my (heavenly) Father. A rather astounding idea after years of playing, “what if..” with my childhood, assuming that my kids would inevitably play the same game and enter counseling sometime in their life (still a prime possibility).

And now I know the gift my kids need, not a box to place on the kitchen table, but for their hearts.  They need the arrow that my weakness and their weakness both point to-they need the gift of the Lord.  I’ll tell them, “I’m going to love you more than I can ever put into words, you are my treasures. But I will always make mistakes.  The Lord, however, loves you perfectly, patiently, gently, and his love will never change, he will always  be constant.  When I let you down, or a friend, or the world, or when you let yourself down, look to the Lord, rather than lingering on the weakness of others (and yourself).  In my weakness, the Lord is made strong.”

I sit with these truths for several minutes before I read the rest of the verses from the day’s devotional.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(1 peter 3:3)

So the earlier whispers were also true. God is reminding me of His grace and also still leading me toward transformation.

But if I can walk in His grace rather than the lie of condemnation I can also believe in His power to change me daily. Sometimes the change comes from falling flat on my face.

There is a mystery.  We are completely forgiven (it only needed to done once through Christ’s blood) and yet we’re still being made into His image in the midst of grumpy kids and our own sinful hearts day by day.

A mystery that could also be called, a gift.

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