Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I see the work of Your hands...

I pick up on it days later.  

I notice and draw the dots together after I finally upload recent pictures to my Facebook photo album.

And my heart pounded in my ears with gratitude... and regret.

Because it had taken me days to realize.

On Thursday morning I pulled up to a snow-covered stop sign and rolled down my window, allowing bitter and biting 12 degree Northern Indiana air to crawl into my van.  We were headed to the store, to preschool, but I had to stop.  Not for Instagram’s sake.  For my own.  The sunrise was marvelous; other-worldly.  I snapped a picture to the curiosity of my four year old.  

“What are you doing?”  

“I’m taking a picture of this sunrise. Isn’t it amazing?”

“Did you ask God to do that today?”  My eyes feel itchy.  Tears wiggling forward.  

“No, I didn’t.  But that’s what God does.  It’s a gift.”

And we rolled on to our Walmart destination.  Phone tucked away.  

My Thursday was a roll of to-do’s and missions to accomplish.  I had a crock-pot full of mac and cheese to salvage for my son’s preschool Thanksgiving feast and I needed to shower and I had a van load of groceries to drop off at our church for our upcoming Southern gospel concert.  I was feeling a “little” stressed.  

Okay, I was pretty much living on chocolate and coffee.  Don’t judge.

With Daddy on a three day hunting trip and it was just me and the rest of the world.  I briefly thought about giving into the stress and panic and tuck myself in a corner somewhere, but I would have had to schedule that.  There was no time for a nervous breakdown.  Just keep it going.  Roll on family, roll on crew.

The evening comes and Daddy gets home and I’m able to breathe a little easier.  Off I trot to rehearsal and on my way I’m blindsided.  The sunset is from another world, from a Greater hand and I am trying to snap pictures as I drive, which is wildly unadvised. I’m blasting Christian radio and my heart is crying and soaring and begging for more.  I need more space to contain what He is showing me.  My iPhone camera is barely taking it all in. 

I pull over.  I’m sitting there in a big truck, taking pictures of a sunset as though it’s the last one I’ll ever see.  And if it was, wow, what a way to go.  The radio was loud and tuned in to a song I had never heard, one by Big Daddy Weave and it’s so perfect.... too perfect... And it was God in that moment and all I needed.  And I just wanted to hold it.  

I wanted to stay in that glow forever.

And I sing and I come home tired and the day is done.  Friday is a blur.  And tonight, with the boys occupied and playing good, I plug in my phone to download the most recent images.  I sit down with a pot pie, download “Overwhelmed” on iTunes and set to editing.  

As I upload and add dates, I realize... God didn’t just give me an amazing sunset that night.

He’d given me an amazing sunrise, too.

It was all in the same day.

In my busyness, in my rush, in my holy-cow-that’s-a-long-to-do-list,... I missed it.  I was thankful in the moment but then I let it go.  Dropped the ball.  Like a child who tears open a gifts, laughs with glee and then shoves it away, half-unopened, to tear into the next. 

What would my day have been like if I had recognized that my entire day had literally been one well-planned gift after another?

What would future days be like if I started off planning to recognize?

What if I came prepared to give thanks?

Another 5 a.m. morning.  Another cup of coffee.  Another little bit of worship via Pandora as I curl my hair.  And I think about it.  Messy notepad full of to-do’s aside.  What could the potential of this day be if I started off in preparation to be thankful. 

If I prepared to notice.

We know that an attitude of gratitude changes things.  And only for the better.  If you know something to do that is good for you... why don’t you do more of it?  All the time?

I sip my coffee and think.  

And say thank-you into the yet-to-be-sunrised morning.

~ How can you remind yourself to slow and give thanks?
~ What are five things you’re thankful for right now?
~ How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude in your daily life?

"And whatever you do,
in word or deed,
do everything 
in the name of 
the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to
God the Father
through Him..."
~  C o l o s s i a n s   3 : 1 7 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Shake off these heavy chains...

I’m wondering this morning... what is this search, this pursuit, of happiness?  What does it mean?  What would it look like if we were “really” happy?  Why do we think we “must” be happy?  Is it spiritual?  Cultural?  How we were raised?  

It’s not even 6 a.m. and I’ve been awake for an hour and a half.  The kids both were awake before 4:30 a.m. and by the time I checked on them, settled them back down (i.e. threatened them to go back to sleep or else) and came back downstairs, it was nearing 5 a.m. and my alarm was set to go off then anyway.  So I went ahead and got up.  Folded that load of laundry that I had tossed from the bed to the floor so I could sleep last night.

I thought about it as I stared at my bleary reflection and pulled my hair into a ponytail.  I felt irritated as I patted concealer under my eyes.  Why can’t they just sleep?  Why can’t I catch a break?  Why can’t I set my alarm to wake early to read my Bible of all things and not be interrupted, hassled or awakened even earlier by my children?  

I went through the motions.  Got ready.  Found the shopping list for later.  Made the coffee.  Then I made the extra motions.  Light a candle.  No, two.  Open the window over the sink.  No, open another.  The birds, the fresh air, the pinch of light beginning in the east.  I sit down, the baby monitor on low because you know, at least one is still awake and still calling out.  

I read in an old book from my church’s library, a book that hasn’t been checked out or picked up in over twenty years.  I feel enthralled pulling a book like that off a shelf.  It feels “meant to be” in some way.  Ironically, funnily, I pick up a book entitled, “Serendipity”.  I know it as a word meaning, “a fortunate accident”, coined more popular because of a John Cusack chick flick.  

The book is just about that.  How we are trudging down one path and bam, lightening strikes and we find genius or meaning or a cure for smallpox.  Our aim is to seek first the kingdom of God.  That’s our grand focus.  Our big idea.  But along the way, we find all sorts of “happy accidents”.  But happiness itself was never to be our one true pursuit.  

But we live like it is.

I see it all the time.  In myself.  I see it on Facebook and Pinterest and I hear it in the chats I have with my best friend.  We’re not unhappy.  At least not all the time.  But we feel we should be happier.  Are supposed to be happier.  We think something is wrong with us because we’re not balls of birthday party, caked-up joy 24/7.  We’re tired and we’re trying to fake it until we make it.  We have little kids and jobs and to-do lists and husbands.  We have parents and family members with trails and struggles and church groups with busted stories and broken dreams.  But we’re supposed to be happy, right?  We have Jesus.  We should be the happiest people on earth.  Joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts.

I do believe happiness happens.  I do believe we all possess a deep, abiding joy in our souls, knowing we are God’s and God’s alone.  I don’t believe this means you never have hard things to go through.  I don’t believe this means you never feel broken down.  I do believe, though, that it means we have a very useful tool for mining through those times.

More and more research and more and more mainstream and popular authors are showing that gratitude is the key to a deeper joy.  But not just any gratitude.  You can be a thankful person and note how good the sun feels on your shoulders after an icy and dry winter.  You can take notice of nature or the delicate creation of a newborn baby.  But gratitude that changes things is in noting all the ways that God blesses.  All the ways He loves us.  It’s His love that changes us and His love that sets us straight and His love that keeps us going... and makes us happy.

I’m a very grateful person.  I have the gratitude journal and an abundance of Facebook statuses to prove it.  But simply “being happy” is not my goal and it’s not my aim.  It’s impossible.  I can’t physically be boundless energy all day, every day.  I’m human and I get tired.  I get up through the night and wake early.  Sometimes I’m convinced only Starbucks will “make me happy” and so we trudge there with an excuse to buy groceries while we’re in town, but let’s be honest, I’m really just driving all that way for a treat.  A pick-me-up.  Something I feel I both “deserve” and “need”.  Neither of which is truly true.

But I’m going after it because heck, I’m supposed to be happy.  Right?  So do what you can, do what you have to, pull yourself up and order a Venti.  It’s the only way to survive the day.  The only want inject some “joy”, when really it’s entitlement that has me in that drive-thru (well, that and a little teeny bit of addiction).  I should be happy.  I have a right to be happy.  Give me a latte for now and an iced coffee for later and warm up that breakfast sandwich stat.

I don’t have to be happy.  But I do have to be thankful.  

And happiness, a different kind that is settled in, even when I’m tired and I find it hard for my smile to reach my eyes... that’s a different kind of joy and it comes from knowing all the little ways God is saying, “I love you” throughout my day.  My life.  This very morning.  

Confession: I can get irritated when my plans are interrupted.  This morning I dropped into my chair, coffee close by and that baby monitor turned down because Travis was still calling for me.  I had my Bible in my lap and was not feeling like being spiritual or being taught or being faithful.  I didn’t want to go back to bed (I was awake now!) but my day felt wrecked.  “Come on, God, seriously?  I can’t even have one morning to sit here and do my devotions?!” 

I felt Him sincere and soft.  Quick on the heels of my sassy attitude.

“When did I tell you that you had to meet Me only this way?” 

I sputter.  Well... well.  Come on!  Of course I’m supposed to get up early and seek God and read my Bible and make petitions and throw some grain on the counter and create bread.  I mean, that would be very Proverbs 31 of me and isn’t that what I’m supposed to be striving after?  Modeling?  Excelling in?

When I go to get Joel out of bed this morning, he’s laying in bed, his blankets over his head.  “There’s a present for you, Mommy!”  I could be all agenda-mom.  Come on, get-up, quit messing around, we need to get Travis to grandma’s.  I could be tired mom.  Come on, Joel, let’s go get breakfast already.  But I’m not.  I’m in the moment, trying, trying to be grateful mom.  And as I pull the full bag from the diaper pail (hey, it’s trash day!) I go, “Oh, really? A present for me?” 

I go to the edge of his bed and bend low, he’s standing in bed, his favorite blanket, the one I bought when I was pregnant with him, over his head.  “Unwrap your present!”  I peek under the corner, reveal that sweet little boy face and exclaim, “A Joel!  I always wanted a Joel!”  He laughs and hugs me and goes, “Did you wish for me, Mommy?”

Did I wish.  For you.  

Oh, honey.

Sweet boy, I prayed for you and I wanted you and even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to become a mommy quite yet, I wanted you.  And somehow with the potty training and the tantrums and the not sharing and the endless wrestling and squealing and running through the house half-naked... somehow that can all overtake what a gift a child is.  What a wished for, hoped for, please, please gift both of my boys are to me.

And I remember the gift.  I’m grateful.  And I feel joy bubbling over the fact that my day started at 4:21 a.m.  I don’t have to watch the sunrise and simultaneously be in deep prayer and scriptural reflection. Is it amazing and beneficial when I am?  Yes!  But is God demonizing my rest when I get to miraculously sleep until after 5 a.m.?  No.  I don’t believe that.  When we live that way, with our lists and our musts and our “I can’t be really worthy unless...” talk, then we’re back under the thumb of the law.  

We’re back in shackles.  Just like that. 

The Bible says we are free.  And that we should not be yoked “again” to slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)  I love that.  The first time I read it slow, I caught the “again”.  Sometimes we can read quick and just think yeah yeah, Jesus set me free and I shouldn’t be a slave to fear or sin or whatever.  No, no.  It’s not just that.  It’s being knotted down “again”.  That’s how we were.  We can easily morph back into that thinking pattern, but it’s not authentic.  We are free.  If we are in Christ, we are free.  We have His Spirit and we have every power and every possibility.  

Do you feel it?  Don’t you wish for it? That feeling that only freedom gives? 

It’s right there.  In His open hands.  Always.

"Seems like all I could see
was the struggle...
Bound up in shackles
of all my failures...
Wondering how long 
is this gonna last?
Then You look at this prisoner
and say to me,...
"Stop fighting a battle
that's already been won."
~  B i g   D a d d y   W e a v e ,   " R e d e e m e d "

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