Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

It was a criss-cross evening. The children, exhausted from a long weekend filled with much food, much excitement and too little sleep, finally crashed into the wall of yuck. And so did their mama. Books were fought over, couches were not big enough for two, responsibilities were ignored, voices were oh-so-whiny, and tears spilled from more than one pair of eyes.

The immediate need, as the mama well knew, was rest. Fatigue can turn a house upside-down in no time. Though there were many other issues to address, the most crucial was to stop and sleep. The mama scooped up the little ones, holding flailing arms in an embrace that was firm but compassionate. She so understood the impulse to flail about, enumerating the injustices of the day!

But along with that rest, they all needed just one more thing. They needed peace. Thankfully, the mama had learned something from a dear friend. She had learned to keep her Bible open on the kitchen counter. Now, mamas spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So if a mama is putting away the Pyrex and happens to glance toward the Book, she'll be reminded of the important things. Things like, Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (I John 3:18). Those words, read often enough, will stick in the mama's heart.

So when the mama's heart starts to feel that pull toward the wall of yuck, she'll have something even stronger pulling her back. She will hear the words of her Lord. She will remember the words that were shared from the pulpit that morning. The chorus of words will mingle in harmony. And she'll have a decision to make. It will be hard. She will have to fight. But she can do it. She can do it because she is born of God. And everyone born of God overcomes the world (I John 5:4).

That mama, born of God, can ascend the stairs and choose to pray with her children, even as they continue to resist slumber. That mama can pray for her own heart to be kind and gentle, even though she is feeling quite the opposite. Those children will hear that their mama is struggling, but asking her God for help. Those children will finally rest as their mama kisses each forehead, praying that the hurting ones would lie down and sleep in peace (Psalm 4:8). And that mama will witness the miraculous transformation of a criss-cross evening into a peace-filled night.
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Friday, November 27, 2009


My song of Thanksgiving continues today as I reflect on the countless blessings in my life. They've always been there, but I haven't always acknowledged them. When I take a quiet moment to be still and know that He is God, however, I see more. I hear more. I feel more. I am more aware of His goodness, more overwhelmed by His grace, more humbled by His sacrifice.

As I walk hand-in-hand with Anniebeth down the Salmon Creek Trail, pointing out rose hips and herons, I savor the gift. As I watch Drew's interest in the mileage that we accomplish and the ecological efforts taking place along the creek, I savor the gift. As I watch Miss Avery Kate barrel down the trail on her noisy training wheels, leaving smiles on the faces of fellow trail-wanderers, I savor the gift. And as I watch Aidan take the lead and veer toward every single mud puddle in sight, I savor the gift.

The gifts will continue. I know this, because my Father delights in bestowing gifts on his children: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. My prayer is that I continue to acknowledge these gifts, savoring these blessed glimpses into the Lord's heart for His people.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Song of Thanksgiving

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

May our song of Thanksgiving be lifted this day to the One who is worthy of our praise, the One who continues, day after day, to give beyond measure.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

His Story

"Tell us a story, Mommy!" she begs. "Yeah -- about when you were a little girl," her sister chimes in. "A story, huh?" I lie down next to my girls. They eagerly huddle together in their nightgowns just as my sister and I huddled once upon a time on the very same Strawberry Shortcake pillowcases. "About camp." They qualify the request. My mind begins to zip around, searching for a memory on my brain's fading microfiche sheets.

Ah -- here's one. And I begin, focusing on a favorite camp experience: horseback riding lessons. I am eager to wax eloquent. I have been saving the horse stories for a special night. The girls, ever fond of horses (all girls go through a horse phase, don't they?), give my choice their hearty approval.

Not far into the story, however, the questions bubble to the surface. "What color was your horse?" I scan the file and answer. "Did you trot? Did you gallop?" they continue. I squeeze in a few more words, they force in even more. "Trotting is fun," she interjects. "I had to learn the parts of the saddle at my lesson," the child goes on. "How much did it hurt when the horse stepped on that girl's foot?" is sister's redundant concern. "This much?" she spreads out her hands.

I try to find my place in the story again. After a sentence (or was it half a sentence?), I receive further comments and questions, now straying in all sorts of directions. We are clearly getting nowhere in this story. I quickly decide to pull together my thoughts and end the tale with a sappy, sweeping finale in which I "trotted happily back to the barn and couldn't wait for a new day of lessons to begin. The End."

I kiss my satisfied audience goodnight and smile at their interpretation of a "story." It was really more like a conversation. Delightful in its own way, but it got me thinking . . . .

I'm so like my girls. I crawl up into the Lord's lap and beg, with wide eyes, "Tell me a story!" He smiles warmly, eagerly, and prepares to weave an intricate tale. Not only do I get to be in the story (another dream of every girl?), but I get to be the daughter of the King. He opens the Book, and His rich voice draws me in. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth -- "

Suddenly, I interrupt.

"But what about . . . ?" I interject, afraid that He's missed something. Then I briefly calm down. "Okay -- what happens next?" I'm ready for more story now. "But wait, Lord, it was supposed to be like this . . . ." And I continue to babble until pretty soon I'm the one doing most of the talking.

Now wait a minute. Who's telling the story here? Would I presume to edit the story of the Master storyteller? It sounds ludicrous. But I do it anyway. It's habitual. I interject my fears, my concerns, my preferences, until sadly, I can hear only myself.

Oh how much richer my story would be if I handed it over to my Creator! He knows the beginning, the middle and the end. His word choice is perfect. His plot, setting and characters? Inspired. What about conflict? He's got the resolution all taken care of. There is simply no need for me to barge in and force words into His masterpiece. It's counterproductive and shows a great lack of faith.

And so I ask the Lord to whisper to me in tones that I can hear and understand. To remind me when I speak too much or fuss too often. To comfort me with the words He's brought to my heart so many times: Be still and know that I am God. For when I am still, I get to listen. I get to listen to the world's most captivating storyteller, knowing that my name is boldly written in His matchless book.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rushing Away

I almost missed it. As usual, I was in a hurry -- on my way out the door, rushed and flustered. Yet the questions continued to fire in my direction. Why do they not see that I need to go? Why can't they ask their dad for help?

"Mom? How do you spell spaghetti?"

"Mom? Can I send my email now?"

"MOM! Can I put this clip in your hair?"

I rattle back the answers, trying to maintain composure. "'S-p-a-g-h-e-t-t-i,' Aidan. Yes you may, Bethie. Sorry, Ava, not now. Mommy has to go." Her face falls. She glances down at the purple barrette cradled in the palm of her hand. I see the look. Something hurts inside. I sigh and kneel down.

"Okay, honey. It sure is pretty." I tilt my head toward hers. And I wait. It extends my delay by maybe two minutes. A drop in the bucket. But so rich is that drop. And to think that I almost rushed away from it.

The way her small hands fumble with the clasp and reach for a lock of my hair. The way her gentle breath feels on my face as she focuses on her work. The way her long brown curls brush across her waist as she leans into me. The way her bare toes grip the floor as she stands tall to adorn her mama.

I kiss the dear, pink cheeks. "Thank you, sweetie." She smiles, content. And I know once again that to unnecessarily rush a child is to risk missing out on an irreplaceable, holy moment.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Autumn Angst

Look at the way she desperately clings to that last bit of color. The golden hue does look beautiful compared with the death that surrounds, but she has to let go sometime. And sometime soon. It's the only way to live.

Her brothers and sisters have relented, dropping their leaves according to their natural rhythm. They will sleep for a time, barren and bleak, their limbs etched in jagged charcoal streaks across a still gray sky. The earth will wait.

But does she not know what she's waiting for? Does she not know what comes after this death? Has she not felt life surge within her before? A life that can be birthed only through a dark, wintry death?

She must release the beauty for a time. She must give up the external. She must experience the pain of exposure, the reality of the ugly and the discipline of sacrifice. She must let go.

But only for a time! As the earth slowly emerges from death and draws near to its source of light, beauty will be born once again. She will feel a new strength coursing within her. She will be startlingly vibrant. She will be stunning, mature, and full of life.

As long as she first chooses . . . to let go.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Children Shall Lead

Monday's sunshine beckoned warmly through towering maples and birches. The vibrant display of yellow and gold made it impossible to stay indoors. So I rushed the children through their afternoon schoolwork with one eye on the trees, the other on Aesop, eager to embrace the woods out back.

This Woodcreek hiatus has been an incredible blessing to my family. As we wait for our next home, we pilgrims find rest here at my parents' -- a refuge on our journey. Here we find peace and quiet. The woods embrace us, and we are comforted by its strength and beauty. An occasional airplane drones overhead, but other than that the only sounds that penetrate our world are the chattering of busy squirrels and the quarreling of territorial jays. Even the deer step by gingerly, as if to say, "We don't mean to intrude, but may we bed down quietly here for the afternoon?"

So Monday we joined the deer in a romp through the woods. The children tossed on sweatshirts and rubber boots, while I grabbed a pair of old tennis shoes and a jacket, hoping they'd be sufficient for the stroll.

Now the kids were apparently prepared to head all the way down to Salmon Creek. They promised to lead the way, the boys fiercely taking on the roles of Aragorn and Legolas. I assented, naively expecting to follow a nice, winding little path through the autumn foliage, which would lead my merry party to the banks of a sparkling creek. So my hand found Avery's eager grasp and we shouted, "Wait for us!" as the others bounded ahead.

The leaves were thick underfoot, blanketing the forest floor with a distinct soggy brown. It had rained heavily two days before, but the sun seemed to have filtered through the canopy above to begin the process of drying the ground below. We trudged on, carrying ourselves deeper into the thickening trees.

As we rounded the first bend we encountered a crude but charming little footbridge. As no troll barred the way, my billy goats tramped gaily across. (I seemed to be the only one who noticed its rather slippery surface and the presence of a surprisingly deep gully.) We continued our descent toward the creek.

The boys remained in the lead and soon called back, "Grab onto the rope!" As Avery and I caught up, we saw the rope tied to the base of a large fern. Apparently its purpose is to guide travelers over the rather steep slope. "Dad put it here last time," was their encouraging commentary. Not one to back down in the face of a challenge, I led Avery along the path, showing her how to hold the rope and then reach for Drew's hand once she reached the bottom. Without the slightest hesitation, my baby shimmied down that rope.

Although a bit more challenging than I had expected, I was finding the hike to be exhilarating. The brisk air that filled my lungs felt rich and pure. I regretted not having boots, but so far I had been able to maintain fairly steady footing. Maybe we could make it to the creek after all.

We rounded another bend, and the children narrowed into single file ahead of me. "It's a bit muddy here, Mom," they called back. "But not bad!" I followed their lead and found that it was, indeed, rather muddy -- and sloped. They had the benefit of rain boots, and squelched merrily through the gooey mire, not minding an occasional slide.

I, with Avery in tow, stopped to assess the situation. The problem before me was not so much the mud. The problem was that there wasn't much to hold on to. I tried to grab a couple of branches, but they were either rotting or too flimsy. Avery would need my help, but how could I lead her down a narrow, muddy hill if I didn't have a way to steady us?

"Kiddos!" I called ahead. "I'm not sure if Avery and I can make it. It's too steep and muddy." Bethie looked back, and with steady eyes turned to me and solemnly said, "It's like Pilgrim's Progress, Mom. It's the hard but right way."

I smiled at her association, and realized that she was probably right. I might get a little muddy. I might even land flat on my backside and pull Avery along for a ride. But it wasn't impossible, and it was in no way dangerous. It was just hard. And it was the only way to get to the creek.

So I grabbed Avery's hand and stepped forward. My shoes sank. They would never be the same. My pants were soon splattered with unique mud patterns. But we kept at it. I clutched at a branch here and a bush there, thinking all the while how crucial it is to have something -- Someone -- firm to hold on to, especially when undertaking the guidance of a child.

We finally made it out of the mud and into a little clearing. The children joyfully announced, "We're almost there!" It seemed we merely had to duck through some decayed blackberry bushes and climb over a log or two. After conquering the slough of despond and choosing to remain on the straight and narrow path, I figured it would be foolish to stop now. So with a timid caution to look out for poison ivy (whatever that looks like -- lots of plants seemed to be chanting, "I have leaves of three, so let me be!"), we tackled the final leg of our journey.

The children dashed ahead and soon called back, "We made it!" Avery and I came puffing up behind, and sure enough, there it lay before us. Salmon Creek shimmered below, its swollen waters pulling the tips of thick, arching grasses into its current. The sun was just beginning to sink beyond the trees, casting a rose hue over the graying landscape. I breathed deeply, savoring the heady aroma of leaves and mosses. And we stood there together, my pilgrims and I, gazing contentedly over our Beulah.

Thank You, Lord, for guiding us faithfully. Thank You for giving us Your strong arm to grasp hold of as we traverse the straight and narrow. Thank You for the promise of beauty to come, and the presence of beauty here as we journey toward the Celestial City. And thank You for my children, who step bravely ahead, challenging me daily to follow the hard but right way.
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