Monday, May 25, 2015

A Prayer for Our Soldiers & Resurrected Dreams

“There’s nothing glorious about war, Mom.” With eyes focused straight ahead on the road, Josh spoke with all the conviction that comes from a newfound revelation.
I listened as I drove him home for spring break from the Naval Academy. A history major at a military academy, Josh was getting an in-depth education on the history of war and all its atrocities.
He continued to tell me how the evils of war are unimaginable. Hellish even. “I can’t even tell you about most of them,” he said protectively.
And I saw the dream dim.
Please join me at the God-Sized Dreams website for the rest of this story and a prayer for our military.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Messy Mother's Day Sentiments

Me, Mom, & Missy

I always worried about what to give her. So I usually sent her a book.

She said I was really great at picking out cards, the Hallmark kind. I guess I had a knack for finding sentiments expressed by other people to match my own. But over the years, it got harder.

Life has a way of taking the stuff we feel like is solid and orderly and making a big, fat confusing mess of it all. Relationships that you thought were just fine, even really good, have a way of morphing a bit as the seasons change. That’s what mine and Mom’s relationship was like . . good, confusing, messy.

In the ten years before she passed, there wasn’t a card that even began to have enough or the right words to sum up my sentiments. I won’t go into the details. I’m still figuring them out myself. But in a way it’s easier now, because they’re somewhat static. 

I read once that when someone dies you are given the gift of their entire life. Your relationship is no longer confined to what’s right in front of you and a few select memories. Instead, you have their whole life, and the present and the past begin to level out until they have equal ground. Childhood memories merge with those of adulthood into one big box of memories, both good and bad.

And for me, the more recent hurts and conflicts, the mess, it seems to have a way of blending into the background of happy memories as they've begun to resurrect.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Exactly eight months after her death on September 10, it will be the first one I’ll ever live without my mom. This year I’m not worrying about what to give her, but I wish I was.

Instead, I’m reminiscing and loving my mom in every memory of every season. I will share that detail. Love marked our relationship. That’s what kept us in it even when it got hard. 

And that seems to be sentiment enough.

I made her a mom.

She loved our family so well.

She loved Dad really well too.

Mom left us all a beautiful bouquet of memories.

My friend Laura Brown wrote a book about moms and memories. Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories is designed to help you recall memories of your mom, record them and then give her your "bouquet." But if your mom has passed or you're in one of those messy seasons right now, maybe you'd enjoy using it like I have and filling it out on your own. For you. Sometimes just a sweet sniff of even a messy bouquet can do a world of good for a daughter's soul.

I'm giving away a copy. Enter below!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mom, You're Enough

Sam's half-numb smile.

"Can you please come back?"

Hurriedly, I grab my bag and walk back to where I just left Sam minutes earlier after reassuring him I'd be in the waiting room. "If you want me just point, and someone will come get me."

"He wants you here," the dentist says, as I sit in the chair they've set just outside the room.

"I'm here, Buddy." I reassure him from behind in the hopes that my voice will be enough to set him at ease.

My presence. That's all I can give him.

The dentist continues her procedure. I watch. His foot wiggles and shakes. His hand tenses and squeezes his leg. And with every motion my teeth clench and my stomach knots.

I'm a mom. So his pain hurts me.

Sam is 11 years old and enduring a root canal. Plagued with teeth problems for years, his pediatric dentist says it's due to him being born prematurely . . that his teeth didn't get sufficient enamel. I'm sure being the youngest and having a mom who is a tad less vigilant with diet and dental care on number six than she was on kids one to five doesn't help. But I'll take the dentist's explanation and anything to relieve mom-guilt!

"Do you feel pain?" she asks.

He nods. I frown. He's always had trouble getting numb. He's one tough kid! His dentist says he's better than 99% of the adults she sees.

So I sit. And pray that God would guide her hands and keep him calm and lessen his discomfort.

She keeps asking him if he's okay. He keeps saying, "Uh, huh." I love that kid.

I'm not used to sitting still and doing nothing (hence I type out this post with thumbs on my iPhone). I'm a fixer. But I'm not a dentist, and I can't do root canals.

Even though he can't see me, Sam wants me near. That's all I can give and as far as I can go to "fix" this trying situation for my son.

I want to go rub his foot like I did earlier when he was being shot up with Novocain. But I'd get in the way. So I sit.

Soon enough it's over, and my warrior rises from the chair battle worn but triumphant. And still smiling.

But he's not offering to show the dentist card tricks like he was when we arrived. He's ready to go!

On the drive home I praise him for being strong. And then I ask him, "Why'd you want me back there with you?"

"I just did."

"It can be scary, huh?"

"I wasn't scared. I just wanted you there."

And a window opens in my never enough paradigm. A possibility.

My presence. Not my work. Not my words. Not even my touch. Just my presence.

It is enough.

A repost

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Wins

I've been watching a fat robin outside my window. She caught my eye as she sat defiantly in a snow covered tree. As if to say, "It's the first day of spring, and I will have my day!"

Ironic. We sat sunning, boys shirtless, soaking up pre-spring warmth in the 70's just a few days ago. Then last night winter heaved a final (we hope) breath and dumped two inches of pure white snow on our mountain side. That's the unpredictability of the season.

The robin isn't the only rebel out today. I woke to someone chirping loudly outside my window. The sun soaked ground stealthily melts the snow from below, leaving puddles in the white mounds. Clumps of frost fall defeated from tree branches as spring swings her invisible knockout punch.

Death and new life don't have a smooth exchange. Rather they do a funny dance, a tug-o-war, a final round with a mix of mediums . . . sun, snow, robins. Peace, sorrow, joy. Until winter relents and spring takes hold.

This is like life. We imagine this symphony of four distinct seasons and ourselves in the conductor's chair. But our seasons get mixed up, especially at the exchange. Winter and chilly death show up unexpectedly in the fall just like spring's new life surprises smack dab in the middle of winter.

The robin has been playing in the puddles. Or more likely searching for lunch. She's my hero today. She showed up.

Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller . . . the trees shook off their robes of snow. . . a bird suddenly chirped from the branch of a tree. It was answered by the chuckle of another bird a little further off. . . "This is no thaw," said the dwarf, suddenly stopping. "This is Spring."

"Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."

"in spring, down solemn avenues of beech 
and across sunny glades of oak,
 through wild orchards of snow-white cherry trees,
 past roaring waterfalls 
and mossy rocks and echoing caverns, 
up windy slopes alight with gorse bushes, 
and across the shoulders of heather mountains 
and along giddy ridges 
and down, down, down again into wild valleys 
and out into acres of blue flowers."
C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dreams & Desire

Dreams are birthed from desire. They're sustained by desire too. But desire can be so elusive. One day I wake up with so much excitement about my dream I can't hold it in. And another morning I can barely remember what my dream was. 
Desire is suspicious, especially when we haven't claimed our dream yet. Is it really a "God-sized" dream? Is it selfish? Is it unattainable? Am I up for it?
Sometimes the more we desire thing, the more suspect that thing seems. But desire is the sprout that grows from the seed God plants in our heart.
You can read the rest of this post over at God-Sized Dreams! Join me?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Where Do You Find God?

I pet the dog this morning and let him lick my chin. I did this as I sat on the deck, drinking coffee, listening to quiet strains of music, and contemplating the glory of God revealed in a cardinal. It is Monday.

My facade is falling. The masks are fading. I am learning to live from the core of who I am and have longed to be since I was a little girl.

I remember when Joe and Sam were born. Four-and-a-half years apart. Both preemies. The weeks and months surrounding their births were full of crises on a level I'd never experienced and had fearfully prayed I never would. There were hospitalizations, neonatal intensive care units, needles, lines, words I'd never heard before…and a peace and intimacy that took me totally by surprise. During that time I walked nearer to God, or He walked nearer to me, than I ever thought was possible. . . . . . .

I'm sharing over at Circles of Faith today. Join me? #FaithStories

photo credit: Kimberly Coyle Instagram

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Family Devotions . . or a Devoted Family

He tells me in a text that the day's scripture is from his favorite chapter, Isaiah 58.

I gave the yellow devotional, the same one that has sat on our dining table for twenty-four years this March according to the dedication in the front, to the three married couples for Christmas.

Mom and Dad gave us ours when Josh was barely one year old. The daily dose of scripture, a poem, and a short paragraph or two has fed our family's souls for many meals. I usually read it at breakfast and, like that first simple meal, it supplies just enough inspiration to fuel my day's beginning.

There have been seasons where I've read it religiously every day. And seasons where it's gathered dust. But over the cycle of seasons and year, it has faithfully fed and instructed my heart and mind. It's dog-eared pages (almost every one), the cover that has faded in the sun, and its broken binding all testify to its faithful service.

We aren't a family that "does" devotions. We've tried, and it didn't work well. Maybe we didn't try hard enough. I still believe the practice is powerful in the life of a family! We just aren't very good at it.

I like to assuage my conscience with the thought that we are a family of doers. I'm the only one around here that enjoys sitting still and being instructed. On the other hand . . . and the debate continues in my head. Guilty or just not designed for that kind of structure? The verdict is still out.

But whether we are guilty of "family devo" neglect or not, here's the thing . . . my oldest son has a favorite chapter in the Bible!

We did read faithfully before bed from the kids' children's Bible for years. When Josh was about eight, Jeff and I were out of town for a few days. On a call home, I asked Josh what he'd been up to. I'll never forget his answer. 

"I read Amos," he replied nonchalantly. He read the book of Amos!

More recently, our eighteen year old son Ben has been digging deeper into scripture. He was sharing his excitement with me as God's word is "coming alive." He's discovering a fresh connection and relevance. Through the Bible, God is engaging Ben in a new way in a new season of life.

Then he said this: "I'm so grateful for how you and Dad have taught us and read scripture to us for our whole lives."

I stammered, "Thank you," feeling a bit like someone taking credit where it was not due.

There are precious few things that make this momma's heart as happy as children who love and seek God. Somehow along the way of our "devotion-less" family days, we managed to instill a love and respect for God's word. Like the meals we set before them, day after day, they were nourished on truth. Not every meal was formal. In fact, most weren't. But they were mostly healthy, prepared with love, and faithful.

Our Bible instruction has rarely been formal (hardly anything around here is). But it has been served through thousands of conversations, consistent fellowship with other believers, the example of our own imperfect pursuit of truth, a few formal times of family devotions (think holidays), and faithful lives.

Family devotions are awesome! If they're a part of your family's life, that is wonderful. But if they're not, don't be discouraged. All is not lost! Your life is the loudest message to your children.  Devotions, like any other tool, are a means to an end. In this instance, the end is a family that is devoted to God. 

In Deuteronomy 6, God told His people to teach their children His ways throughout the day.

The apostle Paul reminds us to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. That's the goal. How we achieve it will look as unique as our family.

The same little yellow devotional is now in the homes of our oldest three. I secretly hope it's sitting on their dining table. And in a decade or so, I pray it's dog-eared, grease stained, and falling apart.

And their family's appetites are fed on truth, sated with His Word, and hungry again every day.

Are you tempted to focus more on family devotions than a devoted family? Does your family do family devotions? If so, how have you made it work? What are some other intentional ways you teach your children God's ways and truth?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can leave a comment here or on my Facebook page Winsome Woman.

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth and friends at . . .