Wednesday, March 5, 2014

For all who were condemned...

It’s amazing, scary even, how the little moments can be strung together.

How they can create a streaming story.  A somehow continual truth. Separate shadows, all mixed together and suddenly, so you think: the real truth.  Every deeply rooted fear, confirmed.  No myths busted here.

He comes like a thief.  Just like that.  In the night. 

He robs us so blind.  Heart and soul and body and strength.  Traitor.



I’m not more than eleven.  Standing in my parent’s master bathroom, playing in makeup and playing dress-up with my younger sister.  We take turns applying a wildly red lip.  I catch my reflection and feel my heart shrivel.  My mismatched eyes and my too-large-for-my-mouth front teeth break my tender dreams.  I stand by the sink, transfixed at my sister’s reflection.  Her naturally curly blonde hair, wild and beautiful around her eight-year old face.  Her perfect rose-bud lips, bringing out the bright, almost other-worldly blue of her eyes.  My hair hangs limp and dark and I’m only a little girl.

A lumpy bead on a necklace that begins to choke.

And then my baby sister is married at nineteen and I stand up with her on that June day and pin her bustle and hold her flowers.  Later I hear how someone commented, “I always thought Leah was prettier, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Laura during the wedding.”

My heart jumped.  Someone thought I was pretty!  But then.... they had also thought I wasn’t.

The beads slide together.  Clink loud.  I swallow hard and feel the truth against my throat.

In my mid-twenties, another bead on the strand, words from a man, a good friend.  He looks me full in the eyes, in the dimness of the moon and a street lamp and he says so tenderly, like he knew I must have been broken inside for so long, “I never could understand why they always said Leah was the pretty one.”

My heart thrilled.  Hoped.  And then drooped just a little... because even though a compliment was nice, the truth was that someone, multiple someones, had this thought.  And felt free to share it.  They didn’t see me as “the pretty one”.  

Wow.  Thanks for sharing that with me.  I guess I am thankful I have my musical talent and good humor to fall back on.

I’ve spent a large part of my life (my whole life?) feeling insecure.  Compared.  Coming up short.  I wasn’t brave and I wasn’t bold.  I was skittish and anxiety-prone and beautifully introverted.  I could write stories and draw pictures for days.  If my heart was broken or confused or if I was battling anything, you would find me at the piano.  Pounding it all out until it was gone.  A prayer sent from my fingers to the keys and beyond.  My Mom always said she knew when I was in need of time alone in the piano room.  And I would come out changed.  I would start out beating those keys to a loud, forceful death and eventually a sweetness, a gratitude almost, would emerge.

Words matter.  Words become thoughts.  Thoughts become beliefs about ourselves, about others.  They propel actions, build up our own self-imposed righteousness.  They define us.  Good or bad, them or us, truth or lies, they wrap tight.  Words can keep you bound forever.  If you listen enough to the wrong song, you’ll grow up believing you’re lacking.  That you’re weak.  That you’re less.  That people talk about you, that people compare you, that they tear you up one side and down the other, deciding what you’re worth.  

Based on a face, a life, that God designed. 

I think of all of this nearly every time I’m getting dolled up.  When I apply a bright lip, I’m suddenly eleven and I never leave the house with that color on.  It feels forced and scary and all I see is little-girl-Laura with her straight, straight hair and her awkward teeth and her not-quite-right-since birth green eyes.  When I have a good hair day, I feel better.  Bolder.  Like I did on those days when I was told, “Actually, I think you’re the fairest one of all.”

Mirror, mirror.  

But what do you do when the mirrors are people who are supposed to just love you?

We’ve probably all had moments in our life where we were made to feel wanting somehow.  We didn’t get picked for the team.  We couldn’t learn the coordinated moves for cheerleading fast enough.  We never got off the bench.  We were never allowed to swing the bat.  We audition but don’t get the chance.  We live fearful and small, convinced that’s all we are.  We may bolster ourselves, “Well, at least I have a good career.” or “At least I graduated from a good school.” or “At least I know how to make a killer apple pie.”  

At least.

If not... then, well, at the very least, I have this to show.  This crummy medal.  But it's something.

Our worth was never, ever meant to be based on our abs or lack thereof.  Your ability to mother well has nothing to do with how fast (or even if) you drop the baby-weight.  Your gifts may have nothing to do with what you actually know to do.  Who can teach someone to be hospitable?  To be heartfelt and encouraging?  I might be able to make a mean meatloaf, but is that it?  Am I really going to reduce myself down to a set list of talents?  

Are we only about what we do?  Is that how we define who we are?

Is that how we live?

No wonder we are scared and nervous.  No wonder we aren’t courageous at all.  You can’t live powerfully from a house of lies.  You can’t pull from your looks (which fade) or your awesome pitching arm or your computer skills.  You can’t dig roots deep into hairspray and makeup.  You can’t build your house upon something so shifty and so fleeting as whatever the world cries is, “So NOW.”  

But I know I know my source of clear and good and true: is found in Christ.
Everywhere I aim to dig, let it be near You, Lord.  Let me pull out a weed and drown my spade into earth that is rich with soil that will nourish me.  That will make me grow.  That will give me a new life.  Let me struggle, if that’s what has to be done, so that my wild root can twirl and twine down into the earth You carved with Your mighty finger.  Bury me so far down and so firm that it won’t ever matter what they say.  That it won’t matter how mismatched my history, my story, the compliments may be.  They can swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, but I will not be moved.  

My truth, every dripping, sopping, bucket-over-my-head ounce of cold truth is that all my fountains... all my blessings, all my deepest bruises, all of my longings, every tiny twig of a dream: comes from You.  And You alone can sustain it.  Blossom it.  Prune it back so that I’ll be ready for the next season.  And the one after that.

I stake my claim right here.  I’m not moving.  I’m not perfect and airbrushed and I don’t have to be.  Wasn’t made to be.  I was made to be and do so much more than pull together a great outfit, stand still and look pretty.  I won’t live another day not draining the life out of that ever-fountain.  I will live thankful and brave.  I won’t run scared.

I will grow strong and I will grow deep.  Free indeed.

It's going to be something.  And every kind of wild beautiful.

“She who reconciles the ill-matched
threads of her life, and weaves them
gratefully into a single cloth...
it’s she who drives the loudmouths 
from the hall and clears it for a
different celebration where the one
guest is You.” 

~ Rainer Marie Rilke

Monday, March 3, 2014

I'll love you for a thousand more...

I’ve made a decision.

I’m done.

I’m finished with saying how hard mothering is.  I don’t need to convince you or anyone that this is the hardest work of my life.  I don’t need to compare your work-day with my own 16-18 hour days, my pre-5 a.m. start times and my middle-of-the-night treks up the stairs.  I do aim to be grateful and to allow thankfulness to keep me from being pushed off the cliffs of insanity.  But let's be real, sometimes I’m calling a best friend and I’m in tears because they just turned into monsters before my eyes and everyone else’s in aisle six and I’m exhausted, humiliated and so emotionally vested that I could just lose my mind and heart in it all.

But I am finding there is a very real difference between calling a friend or your Mom for help or advice, someone to say, "I've been there, too." and simply letting our mouths run wild, throwing our kids, our husbands, our very gift of this very life, under the bus.  A bad day doesn't make a bad life, but consistently focusing on the bad days will never have a positive impact on our days.  Never.

So, no more comparing. Not you, not me.  No more trying to get others to see how hard our lives are, so we garner sympathy or affirmation.  Because, at the core, isn’t that what we’re wanting?  Especially for those of us that “just” stay home, there is that mentality that, “Well, goodness, what do you DO all day?  If we give you a blank stare when those words come out of your mouth, it’s not because we have nothing to show.  It’s because we don’t even know where to begin.  And we’re incredulous that you would ask such a thing. Think such a thing.

But we all do.  Heck, I do it to my husband whenever he wakes up from a full seven hours of sleep and says, “Man, I’m tired.”  I smile on the outside, but on the inside I’m fuming.  Really?  You’re tired?  Did you not hear the dog going bananas at 2 a.m.?  Did you not hear me go up to check on the boys five separate times in two-hours because Travis kept crying out?  Did you hear them joyfully screaming at each other at 5:40 a.m. today?  TIRED?  Have you even seen these circles under my eyes?  I mean, really.

But, I don’t need to lay out all that I do, all the ways I’m a dang good mom.

I don’t need to explain how hard I work, all the different hats I wear. 

You don’t need to hear me say it.  And I don’t need to hear me say it.

But what we all need is the truth.  

This is my best and hardest work. I prayed for this, I begged for this, I give thanks for this. 

I don’t want to be insecure.  I don’t want my children to grow up realizing that I was always watching someone else, trying to see how they were mothering, see if their kids were happier, see how in the world she got them to eat an avocado like it was a cupcake.  I don’t want my husband to come home and wonder if he’s letting me down or if he has failed to make all my dreams come true.  I don’t want him to think I’m unhappy.  I may be fatigued beyond the point of no return. But is that any excuse to do anything but love more?  These beautiful, brilliant, bright little lives... how did I get to be so lucky?  

They are napping now, but when they wake it’ll be hours until beditme.  So what.  They’re going to want kisses and snacks and more Thomas the Tank Engine.  I give thanks.  There will be tantrums and he may not listen when I’ve asked him to and we may not make it to the potty in time.  Don’t care.  I may have not mopped my floors since Christmas, but we’ve played.  I may not get to making a new recipe that I pinned on Pinterest, but we can make pizzas together.  Maybe I wasn’t so successful in getting them to eat corn today for lunch.  Not a deal breaker.  There’s always another day.

If I’m really, really lucky.  There will be another day.  

They are almost four and almost two and I feel it all slipping away faster than I can fix myself an iced coffee.  The days are blurring into years.  So fast.  So, so fast.  I feel I just held them for that first moment.  I feel we just brought them home from the hospital, just started life together.  And we’ve been talking about preschools and kindergarten and I want to cry and throw up all over myself.  No, no, no.  Not yet.  Wait. 

I want to love them more.  I have to love them more.  Better.  

Mothering isn’t about working at home or working and coming home or doing this full-time or that full-time or creating a masterful home business.  Nothing else matters if I’m not loving.  If I’m caught up in comparing, I’m failing.  If I’m caught up in recounting the ways I’m used up and demanded of too much, I lose.  If I focus on how many hours I get (or don’t) every night, I get snagged in a web of loss, when my reality is so overflowing.  

I take gifts, greedy.  

And I’m done with that.  I’m done being that greedy child.  I’ve had years now, practicing the gift, the very gift, of giving thanks.  And there are times it feels like maybe it would get old, but it never does.  Sometimes I sense the gnawing to go dig the journal out, leave it bare-faced and open on the kitchen counter, all day... just to remind me to pause as I hustle past to fill another sippy cup, to throw away another diaper, to fix another cup of coffee.

We are all like a small child at a birthday party, knee deep in gifts and bright paper.  And the crime... the one all of us mothers jump in to remind them of as we pull the discarded gift close before they can tear into the next: “What do you say?  Wasn’t this such a  nice surprise?  Say, thank you.”  They tear through every one of them, barely glancing at what has been revealed and then it’s on to the next gift.  Just one more thing to make them a little happier.  A little more distracted.  Seemingly more complete.  And they miss... they miss it all. 

We miss the whole, wild, wonderful thing.

So, I will say, "Thank You!" to a good God.  For the demands and the work and the love.

Because, really... wasn’t this all such a nice surprise?

"Endings are better than beginnings.
Sticking to it is better than standing out.
Don't be quick to fly off the handle.
Anger boomerangs.
You can spot a fool by 
the lumps on his head.
Don't always be asking,
"Where are the good old days?"
Wise folks don't ask questions like that.
On a good day, enjoy yourself.
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days,
so that we won't take anything
for granted."
~ Ecclesiastes 7:8-10, 14, The Message

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And if...

It’s early when I think it.  Dark out, still night, but technically morning.  A train trembles in the distance, its whistle, warning, awakening.  I smile, calling to mind my sweet boys, tucked in upstairs, their love of all things with wheels and particularly for my oldest, trains.

Where is it?  I dig out my gratitude journal from under a stack of clean jammies, papers and my calendar, all heaped on the kitchen counter.  I had tucked it there so in case a glass had spilled or the flowers had overflowed, my thankgivings would be protected.

Praises are that valuable.

I tug it out from under the pile and start listing.  One after another.  The coffee growing cold in the mug and I don’t care.  I’ve been up for over an hour, the darkness is still as black as it was when I awoke, but it’s bright.  So bright in my kitchen and I’m heart glowing.  Feeding it in and fueling it out.  Thank You, thank You.... I don’t deserve this, I didn’t earn that, and wow, that was a complete surprise.  

Another whistle blows in the distance.  

I pray it doesn’t awaken sleepy heads.

It’s been three days since Sunday, when I stood with our choir and praised and God split my heart right open.  During our sound check, I choked.  Swallowed it down.  No, no, emotions.  Chill out.  Don’t mess me up.  By first service I was a wavering reed, standing tall but swaying.  Knees crumbling.  My eyes closed, my throat bleating.  Over and over we sing it, that God is our help.  Psalm 121 forever memorized in my deepest heart.

Second service rolls and before the first sentences are out, I’m streaming.  I’m a cracked fountain and I raise my hands and the tears chase each other down my face, my neck.  I’m unashamed.  You can’t hold back the raging waters.  You can’t dam up the One, true Fountain.  You can’t proclaim His Words back to Him, straight out to His people, in the middle of a modern temple, and not feel humbled.  Thankful.  Pounding gratitudes with every heartbeat.  Shouldn’t I take off my shoes?  Isn’t this burning, holy gound?  I want to kneel.  I want to lay in the middle of the stage and worship, head and face into the floor.  

The song has sung itself to me over and over.  In the quiet.  In the loud.  In the normal, every day. I lay down and try to relax, find the perfect spot in the bed, whisper a, “Thank You, God for this day...” and it’s there, strumming through  my memory.  “The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy shade...”  Over and over.  He keeps.  He hides.  He heals.  And?

He stays up all night.  He stays up all day.

For me.  You.

I’m recording thanks, how precious the peace feels, not because they are asleep and not causing a ruckus or destroying my orderly system, but because they are at rest.  And I’m watching over it all.  I’m making sure I’m quiet.  Making sure their rest is protected.  I’m giving thanks and thinking about our day to come, praying I’ll be patient in it.  I’m preparing a way for the day... even while they sleep.

But I don’t stay up all night (even though it feels like it sometimes).  And I’m not awake all day (even though I am tired enough to feel like I have never slept).  

Only God.  Only God truly always, always watches.  

I hear their morning voices on the monitor.  Their brotherhood chatter.  I don’t rush to get them, not because I’m busy or because I’m not ready for the day to begin.  I am.  My heart beats a little faster.  I’ve missed their sweetness, just over the course of ten hours or so.  But I want to linger on the fringes.  Observing the starts of a brotherhood bond.

My palm on the back of their door, I push it open softly.  They are both standing in bed, staring at each other across the room.  Joel tells me that Travis needed a friend, so he was talking to him to make him happy.  I get Joel out first.  He races to Travis’ side and says, “I don’t worry about monsters, buddy!  Jesus is for me!”  

I pause in the dark, flicking off the sound machine, standing slow.

“What did you say?” 

“Jesus is for me.”  I mother-grin big.  

“That’s right, honey.  He so is.”  

And that’s how we started our day. A regular Wednesday in February. And I wonder, how many things in this life, in this day, in this morning alone, will be helped, carried, or pitted away, just by that truth.  Just by that simple proclamation that He is for us.  In the dark.  In the snow-packed cold.  Before the sun creeps up and down again.  

Our keeper.  Our shade.  Our watchful Eye every moment, of every day.

Not because of anything we do or have or can give.  Never us.  

But only ever because... He is.

And if our God is for us, 
then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, 
then what could stand against?
And if our God is for us, then who 
could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, 
then what could stand against?”

~   C h r i s   T o m l i n 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Anything you want, you got it...

It hit me one day last week while I was dusting the dining room chairs.

I made my rounds, thinking how I had read recently about one woman’s method of praying for the person who typically occupied that space.  I cleared off crumbs and replaced the booster seat on the chair that my three year old typically sits in to color and do puzzles.  I prayed for his creativity, his sensitive spirit, his artistic and methodical little mind.  It made me smile and I thought of the people I love, the people who have shared that table space with us.
I finally got to the head of the table and began cleaning off the chair that my husband most often sits in.  And you know what struck me between that moment and the two or three chairs before?  

When I got to Aaron’s chair, I was tempted to cut corners.

I mean, it’s just his chair.  I spent time dusting in between all the spindles on the other five chairs, but Aaron’s?  Well, I mean, come on, I was tired of dusting and being meticulous by that point.  It’s just my husband’s chair. It’s not like our guests sit there very often.  

I paused long and hard.

“Just” my husband’s chair?  

When did he get shuffled so low on the priority list?  On the please-him list?  On the do the best things for him list?  I felt ashamed and I just sat back on my heels, kneeling there with a motionless dusting cloth in my hands.  

And it made me think, what other areas with him am I tempted to fudge, to cut corners on?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my husband and he knows it.  I have a deep respect for him and I do a lot to make sure he knows how much we appreciate how hard he works, how faithful he is, how selfless.  I praise him to my children and I love him loud on Facebook and I don’t throw him under the bus with my friends.  I don’t make jokes about him, I don’t say thing to others that I would never say in front of him.  I truly do seek to do him good in this life.

But I can get distracted and lazy.  I can get busy with my to-do lists and commitments and house upkeep and child training and Aaron comes up last.  How many times is it, “Sorry, is a pizza okay tonight?  I didn’t even THINK about dinner today.”  And he rolls with it and he doesn’t care, but when I step back, what am I really saying?  Am I communicating in any way that providing for our children all day was number one (which he desires) but that they are always first?  Or even that my own rest time or work time is more important than providing love and yes, dinner, for this man who has pledged his entire life to me?  Is dinner in the crock-pot really too much to ask?

I’m often busy and more often exhausted.  I had two babies in two years and we moved just after I had the last one.  I get a full night of sleep only when I’m not at home, which is pretty much never.  He is forgiving with me for not getting to the folded laundry after a week (or two?!) and he rolls with the dust bunnies floating under the dining room table and he hasn’t said a word about how our bedroom has been a catch-all for everything that doesn’t have a home since before Christmas.  

And I get annoyed if he tries to talk to me once the boys are down for naps.  

For shame.

And I get it and he gets it.  He knows I deserve a break and I need a break and that I’m highly demanded of, constantly.  He doesn’t begrudge me napping while the boys nap, especially when I start the day at 5 a.m. and am up a couple times every night with the baby.  He works from home many days of the week and his office is upstairs, directly over our bedroom.  So as I’m resting, I hear him up there on the phone and I hear the constant buzzing vibration of his Blackberry.  

I’m resting.  He’s working.

I’m not saying I don’t deserve a rest or a night out with my girlfriends.  I’m not saying I shouldn’t take naps.  What I’m saying is that it’s really easy to get in the mindset of what I deserve and what he needs to deal with.  Because I’m a Mom. I’m a Mom and I manage little kids and run my preschooler to the bathroom, remember to send out birthday and anniversary cards and I own a business and I work at my church.  It’s easy to add up all that I do and expect him to be okay with what’s left.  If anything is.

Or maybe it’s just a frozen pizza again.

I want to tell you something about my husband.  When I got set up with him on a blind date, I wasn’t too excited.  I was a little bit jaded and had enough broken hearts in my back pocket to remind me that this relationship stuff was for the birds.  I showed up in a ratty t-shirt, flip-flops and sunglasses on my head.  I had an air of “I’m here for the free meal”.  And you know what?

He fell in love with me.

He’ll tell you that I was a complete pain in the you-know-what during our first date, but he was wise enough to see that I was just nervous and I was putting up walls as fast as I could.  And so he would drop everything to drive nearly two hours to come see me and take me to dinner.  He created Valentine’s Day for me in July once he learned I had never had a good one.  He drove all the way to my apartment simply to jump the battery on my dead car so I could get home for the weekend.  He gave me an engagement ring that is prettier than anything I ever thought a guy would pick out for me.  When I was heartbroken, he was heartbroken.  When I have cried and despaired, he has cried with me... and given me hope.  

He told me once that I am an angel God placed in his life and that he doesn’t know what he would ever do without me.  He wanted me so bad that he waited for me.  He loved me so much that he gave me his name and bought me a house.  He has spoiled me and protected me and when I could have died in that car accident and had months of panic attacks, he was patient and loving.  When I couldn’t drive to work because of crippling fear, he would lead me.  

This amazing man became an amazing father.  When I was craving Baconators and Chinese food and crying because I had to have Mexican or I’d die, he was there.  He stood on his feet every hour, right next to me, while we waited for our first son to arrive.  He picked flowers and brought them to my hospital room the first morning I was somebody’s mother.  

And here I am, cleaning and thinking I’ll just leave him with a dusty chair.

I know the “me” time and the resting and the please-watch-the-kids-so-I-can-finally-shower time is vital.  I know we need date nights and he needs time to watch the game uninterrupted.  I am not devaluing what I or anyone does as a mother.  I know it’s a full-time job and Aaron knows that, too.  I may have two part-time jobs, but they are not my children.  They are full-time and overtime blessings at that.  

But the “job” of my husband, my work as a wife, is not part-time, either.  And it is not, should not, cannot be secondary, even to that of our children.  

I read a quote once that said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.”  But what about their mother?  

Would it not be the best thing for my kids, especially since I have two boys right now, to show them how a  woman honors a man?  To show them through my actions how a Godly wife seeks to love and serve and protect her marriage?  To give them a living example of what it means to be supported, encouraged and respect as a man?  For them to recognize that I honor and love their Dad, not because of all he is or all he does or all he gives, but because he was intentionally crafted by God?  Just as they were? 

There’s some holy respect that needs to come into play there.

My husband is not perfect.  And in no way did he marry a perfect woman.  Even though at the time we both thought we were getting a pretty sweet deal.  But then life happens and you get busy and you get stressed and you have babies and you can get lazy.  Distracted.  Caught up with the trappings and the webbing all along the fringes, and forget what’s at the center.  Forget what’s right at home, coming home to you every night, day after day.  Doing good to him all the days of his life is my duty (ref: Proverbs 31:12).

I guess maybe it could start with polishing up that chair

"Your wife shall be 
like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be
like olive shoots
around your table…"
~ Psalm 128:3

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Morning by morning...

With a major winter weather advisory coming our way, the plans were to snuggle down and enjoy every second.  With Aaron gone on a hunting trip, the boys and I were ready to have a string of home days.  My Kindle is loaded with books to read and my coffee and hot chocolate supplies were good to go.  We had milk and bread.  Bring on the snow!

Our church cancelled services, which was to be expected, and so I resolved to make our Sunday at home a day of rest.  A true one.  Not just a lazy day, but a valuable day.  I took the time to make myself some fancy scrambled eggs.  I put paint in Ziploc bags and taped them to the patio doors so the boys could have a mess-free activity.  They colored, they played, they had snacks.  I made cinnamon rolls in a pretty pie plate and drank coffee from a too-pretty tea cup (with saucer!)  I turned on hymn music and away we went into our restful, peaceful, heart-worshipful Sunday.

And why then, after all the effort and the good intentions was I lying on my bed at 11 a.m. while the boys had lunch, venting to a best friend?  Why did I tell her I was ready to give up and that my sweet little angel babies had been “butt heads” all morning?  (Yes, I said “butt heads”.)  What happened to, well, everything?  The gratitude journal was open, I was making the effort, I had savored coffee and sweet, gooey cinnamon and I dressed the boys in clean, comfy clothes for the day.  I wasn’t striving to be a “good Mom” or anything like that.  I just wanted to add value to our snowed-in-home-day.  

To slow down our Sunday at home.

After my little time-out, I spent an extra couple seconds just breathing when I heard Joel calling for me.  I answered him softly and calmly, putting aside the chaos and spanking of earlier and said, “What is it, baby?”  He said, worriedly, “Look!  Look, someone’s truck tipped over!”  I looked at the floor, trying to see what toy he was concerned about.  “No!”, he insisted, “There!”  I looked out the window and sure enough, someone’s car had slid off the road.  They were already being assisted and I watched as they all got coated in fresh snow.

“That’s sad!” he exclaimed.  

I just watched.  I thought about how that feels when your day doesn’t go as planned.  When it all gets derailed.  When you don’t get to your destination on time.  When your shoes and socks get soaked with soft snow and your nose drips and your cheeks burn.  You’re just driving along with all your goals and all your thoughts and all your good intentions and bam!  Just like that you’re in a ditch and at the mercy of the elements.  

And at the grace of a friendly face.

Sometimes that’s what happens on a Sunday morning.  Sometimes it’s not beautiful and restful, even though it is intended to be.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel at all worshipful and you couldn’t sing one more Chris Tomlin song if your life depended on it.  Sometimes you’re just there, in your house, in a pew, in what is a sacred space but it feels tired and not at all the kind of special you were hoping for.  You might as well be sitting in a snow drift along the side of County Road 68 for all the significant it feels.

Then, I watch from my window, next to my Christmas tree that still has lights burning bright, I watch a second mercy-giver pull up behind the little car that thought it could.  Why were tears suddenly burning holes in my eyes?  Why was I taking a picture with my phone and suddenly feeling the headache ease, the shoulders relax and nap time not feel quite so elusive anymore?  

Why did I feel that rest was coming?  That it was here?

It’s what I was doing when I was messaging my friend.  Help, please.  I’ve gone off the side of the road, I’m tipped in a ditch and I’m drowning in cold and winter, dishes and whining, diapers and tantrums and I’m the only grown-up in this whole of a house.  And you just want to give up.  Sitting there in your little shell of a vehicle, your earth tilted as you sit and wonder how you’re going to get out of this hole you’ve driven yourself into.  

It may be a bad moment in your day.  But it is not a bad life.  

Wipe your eyes.  Adjust the lens.  Look up and notice the concerned face on the other side of the glass, open your door and accept the help.  Admit the need.  

I watched in tearful awe as two helpers lined up behind to give.  Because that’s what you do.  When it doesn’t go as planned for you, or for someone else, you pull up next to them and ask how you can give.  How you can change the course of their day.  It’s reaching out and accepting, giving and blessing.

I tried to do all the right things. I ate a balanced breakfast.  I drank coffee from something pretty and not ordinary.  I put together a fun, little project for my boys.  And it all backfired.  Blew up right in my tired face.  And I got angry.  

Because this is not how today was supposed to go.  

Today was supposed to be quiet and blessed.  Holy.  I wanted to create a sanctuary and all we were doing was trying to survive until nap time.  That’s all.  Just fold them into bed and collapse in a heap and pray that today was one of those miraculously long nap days.

So what.  It happened.  Hard days are still blessed days.  Headaches on a Sunday morning don’t take away the fact that it’s still the sabbath.  Breaking up brotherly fights and trying to keep stir crazy children entertained doesn’t negate the fact that they are beautiful, bright, healthy little lives.  Little gifts.  

Dirty dishes piled high because we have been blessed with plate after plate.  

The words to the doxology are large and in charge over my piano in a main area of our home.  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow...”  Not do this and get a happy day.  Not do that and never need to take two Excedrin again.  Not follow this ten step program and never feel anxiety or depressed feelings again.  No “how to drive in the snow for dummies” volume to keep you out of the ditch.  

Just praise Him.  Period.  Praise Him above, praise Him here below.
Numbering praises, giving thanks... and just like that, Someone has pulled up beside you and pulled you out of that snowy locked tilt.  And it’s all mercy and grace, forgiveness, and before you know it, you’re on your way again.  The day is saved.  Redeemed.  

And your heart finds it there, to sing a little, even just a little, song of praise...

"Teach us to number our days,
so that we may get a heart
full of wisdom..."
~  P s a l m   9 0 : 1 2