If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

IMG_9451The kids and I went to the pool after Vacation Bible School one day. We got thundered out, and came down the driveway. There was a tree on our house. The kids all declared different things, “Mom! A Tree” “Mama? How do we get in the house?” ” What do we do?!”

And all I said was, “Well, we are not driving down the driveway!”

 

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There was a tree on our house. The first thing we did was park at the top of the hill and walk down to the house, observing the wreckage all the way down. The kids were troubled, but I don’t think they were scared. I wasn’t scared. I walked into the house and breathed a sigh of sweet relief when I saw the tree had not pierced the ceiling of the house. But when Josiah saw that his window had a massive branch lodged in it, he started to tear up. Poor guy.

IMG_9454I told everyone to change out of their swimsuits, and I paced around wondering what to do first. Joel was out of town, in Canada. My parents (who are currently living in our cottage) were in the UK. It was just me. I was the only grown up in charge. Lord, help me. So I called my friend, Missy, who had a tree fall on her house a few years back. She said to call my insurance company, take a lot of pictures, and have the insurance company get us a really nice hotel room. I told the kids they could watch a movie, and I was on the phone for a while. Thankfully, we have very good electrical folks at EPB, and they came and fixed the downed power lines in less than an hour. I didn’t have to worry about everything in my parents fridge spoiling. I was watching them pull huge trucks down my driveway, and figure out where to put the cherry picker. I saw them get a chainsaw out all while trying to talk to the insurance guy and Joel. Joel was stunned, and apologetic for not being there*. When asked how big the tree was, having the EPB guys close by turned out to be useful, “At least 50ft tall, Ma’am”. I got off the phone just in time to have the friendly EPB guy tell me that I will not lose power at all, or wi-fi for that matter. I just about crumpled with joy. When the electrical lines to the cottage were repaired, they went to work on the wi-fi to the cottage. “You know it’s gonna start pouring in a minute” the electrical EPB worker said. “That’s OK,” the wi-fi guy said,”I brought my umbrella!” and he popped open an umbrella and stuck it in the holder on the side of the cherry picker. Great guys, yeah EPB! The insurance company told me they could find me a roofer to cover the area damaged by the tree, but I planned to call my connections first. I tried one person and got voicemail, then I called Ty. I didn’t expect him to answer, but he did,”Ty!” I was so relieved to hear a voice of a trusted friend! I almost started balling on the phone. Ty told me who he knew and trusted, and instead of giving me a bunch of numbers to call, he called them himself. Ty Willison, selfless and helpful. So thankful for trusted friends!

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The guys from Live Right Construction were on the job. Caleb tarped the whole roof area. He took pictures of the damaged roof and got as much off the roof as he could without a chainsaw. It didn’t downpour anymore after the tree fell, but it sure felt good to have everything covered up well. We were dry, connected, and had plans for the rest of the week. The kids had VBS all week long, and that gave me three mornings to deal with the tree stuff.
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Because my parents were out of the country, they did not have to got through the added stress of their power being out. Also, we sent Josiah up to sleep in their cottage after Joel got back from Toronto. He loved it. IMG_9482The guys came the next day and moved through that fallen tree with the strange beauty of chainsaw gymnastics. I took the kids to the pool again, and when we came home the kids said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was another tree on our house?” No, it would not be funny. I did have to keep the guy with the chainsaw from taking all my potential firewood.

And now, about a month later, we finally have a new window for Josiah’s room. A very new and shiny (expensive) window. We will replace gutters, and do some paint still. But I’m very thankful for how smoothly this went. God took good care of us, from start to middle and He will to the finish.

*oh, and the reason Joel felt especially bad for calling me during the tree fiasco was that he was staying in one of the nicest hotels in Toronto. He was eating at fabulous restaurants, and going to see amazing views of the city from the top of the CN center. He was watching the Yankees play the Blue Jays from his hotel bar window. Yeah, he felt really bad. I’m still waiting to make up for that.

 


15 dinner

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This summer there were some of us that celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After trials, and turns of this life, we all sit together and reflect on this 15 years. We were all young. We are all friends. We made it a point to spend one evening this summer to gather and celebrate 15.

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The first 15 years are new. We grow up together, and learn to be adults. We have child, after child, and celebrate them all. We go to more weddings, and see more babies. We work crappy jobs, then get better jobs. We go back to school, we buy houses and cars. We send our little ones to their first day of school. Then there are sicknesses, and tragedy, death and sacrifice. Then, there are marriages around us that fall apart. Some heal, some do not. We see friends learn to love Jesus, and friends reject that love that they once knew. Happy things and sad things, we join together and remember them all.

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As we talked about those first years, before we were all married, when we thought we were the most clever folks around, we laughed and felt that young again. At this 15 year mark, I would not go back, except perhaps to hire a better wedding photographer and to let go of bitterness toward people a little bit sooner. I will stand here at the 15 year mark and know that Joel and I are here by the grace of God. Anything on this earth can fail. But because of God’s amazing grace, and the Holy Spirit moving and active in our world, we are still married. We have children, and they are healthy and strong and wonderful.

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There are my fellow 15ers. They are also still together by that same grace. When Linda and I talked about this idea, she whole-heartedly agreed with me that 15 years was so important. It’s not just a potluck, or a quick hang out around a bonfire (although those things are nice), it’s a 15 year anniversary dinner. We couldn’t shoot for all the stars, but we want to make it nice. So we did our best. We strung lights, and planned a nice meal. We had amazingly cozy and lovely floral arrangements. We were given an amazingly cool and happy night. And we laughed.

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We had a fun and wonderful menu:

Appetizers of Antipasto and Bruschetta. Drinks included a Sparkling Cherry Lemonade and Mint Tea. We had an amazing salad of Blackberries, Walnuts, and Arugula. Main Course involved Roasted Veggies, Blanched Asparagus with Sesame and Smoked Prime Rib. Dessert floored us all with Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes and Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate dipped Strawberries and Coconut Macaroons.

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There is a trend to have these slow, fabulously home cooked meals with others who desire the same things, the same connection, the same patience with the things that matter. People pay for this experience. The thing that seems a little off, to me, is that it is something people are trying to conjure up. Intimacy and patience with life is not something you can just buy a ticket to. It is earned. It takes time and love for those you are joining with. It takes knowledge of those you invite, and joy to celebrate with them. A joy that is deeper than the cool food you get to eat, and the fancy ingredients they contain. No matter how special your alcoholic drink may be, it won’t bring you those kinfolk you desire.

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I’m titilated by the beauty of the photographs of these artisan meals. It all looks so perfect. The pictures I took of our dinner, and those Linda took (and she’s better at it than I am) they blow me away. I feel so blessed to have been such a small part of our honoring God with our 15 years. The pictures are lovely, and I pour over them again and again because I feel so blessed. Even the blurry ones. There aren’t nearly enough moments caught by the camera. At the same time, the moments I want to truly be present in, they have very few photos. I knew that I wanted to be there, with my loved ones, not Instagramming the life out of it. The best images are those I show through the gift of giving it. To hear my friends say,”I have never been to anything like this before.” That makes my gift-giving heart so glad.

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I am thankful. Thankful for the years, the joys and sorrows. I am thankful for the relationships and how far back they go. I am thankful for my home, my family, and my five senses to take in the beauty that they all are. I am thankful that I can rejoice with my friends as they rejoice and mourn as they mourn. I am thankful for being a grown up, and not holding back, but instead being honest and being able to sit with those who agree and can say, “Amen” when I testify to the Gift that is 15 years. Here’s to another 15, and another after that. God and his bounty are rich, and may our hearts be full of the celebration that is rich also. Thanks to all who made it happen. It is a gift to my heart. It is so beautiful.

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Life with Bigs Part 2

20140708-202404-73444988.jpgThis summer started out with quite an internal struggle. I started the summer thinking I had to have everything figured out for my big kids. A schedule to match the busier pace of our school year. What I realized, starting with my last post, was that I didn’t need to do that. At all. There have been days that are painfully boring, full of tasks that I hate to do with my kids. The hardware store with big kids: just as bad as with little kids. Hunting down a seller for a Craigslist deal: ultra stressful and bribes get expensive for these trips. Chik-fil-A was over $20. Ugh. So, there are tasks I’d rather not do.

But, there are days that are slow and beautiful. Where we drink coffee, do our summer reading, do some chores, and we all stay in our pajamas. There are days we spend 3 hours at the pool and spend time with all sorts of friends, eat snacks, and come home pinker than before. There are days we do some boring stuff, and then do some letterboxing before dinner has to get going. Summer has been wonderful. I’m not ready to resume the tasks of the school year.

And then, there are the conversations we have. This is where big kids just make me feel like I have been given such an amazing gift. We talk about the way they can spend their money, the conversations they have with their friends, why they like who they do and why that is. I love talking to them about how things aren’t always fair and how heaven is a real place, and how I know it’s hard to wait to be there. It’s humbling to stop and let them explore what they think and feel when watching TV or listening to popular music. I was free to explore it, and try to relate to the simple, clumsy poetry that is contained in pop culture. Sometimes, it’s very accurate and helps define who you are as an adult, so I guess I give some freedom. I love guiding them and talking them through thoughts that might be bigger than their maturity. If a question comes up and Josiah says,”Hmm, I never thought about that, now I will.” I think I’ve done my job a little bit.

Today, I had to tell my son to do the dishes, do his math (from this past year we are still finishing), and to do his summer reading while I stepped out for a bit with his sisters and grandma. It ended up being a longish trip, and although his grandpa was around, he was not to be bothered. I know Josiah got bored, and all he wanted to do was watch TV come 5pm. I had to tell him to get out of the house and take a walk before that happened because he decided to “parent” (or boss around) his 5 yr old sister. That’s a big no-no in our house. I also let his sisters go ahead and watch TV because they had not been given some of the privileges he had while on his own. He was MAD at me. He went on his walk and came home with tears still in his eyes and said “I didn’t enjoy a single minute of that”. And then proceeded to plop himself down on the couch and watch what his sisters had put on. Which is a TV show that will go unnamed, but is not for 11.5 yr old boys, I’ll tell ya. Attitude, disrespect, the silent treatment. That’s when I long for littles all over again.

I still see my son and my older daughter (my bigs) and I marvel at how amazing they are. What wonderful people they are becoming! I had nothing to do with this. I long for them to not be affected at all by my sin, but I know that is God’s job, not mine. I have had moments of uncontrollable emotion this summer, and they just are OK with my tears. They understand if I am overwhelmed. The enemy likes to mess with me, I hate it, I pray against his taunting of me and my mind. There was one Sunday when Joel was out of town and I could have easily not gone to church. I slept like crap the night before, and I knew going to church would be a challenge. I cried on the way to church and I explained that I was feeling the enemy mess with me, but I was making the choice to put myself in a place of worship so I could focus on God and not all my worries and fears. My kids listened, they loved on me, they walked through those doors with me and stood by my side. I know my children are my friends. I want to keep them that way. I pray that God will keep those ties strong.

I look forward to this next few weeks as we have family come into town and as we go to the beach. Each year we get more free to go on adventures with the kids as they get bigger. I am realizing that my memory of what it was like to have littles is waning, and the future of big trips, big projects, and heavier work loads looms. It’ll be a tough school year, but I love that I am partnering with my big kids and seeing their gifts emerge. I love learning with them. I look forward to seeing their emotions bloom and remember that they themselves are figuring it out, I don’t have to tell them everything. Even if I did, the journey is important. I know it is for me.


Life with Bigs Part One

20140602-233214.jpg There is a phenomenon that stops me dead in my tracks these days. My boy is a tween. He no longer will be entertained by the things I have entertained him with for years. Toys, picture books, crafts, playgrounds, it’s all dwindling. I’m stunned that I have no solution. It brings me to the point of tears, what do I do now? I start beating myself up, because my son’s carnal desires are screens: video games, TV, ipad. I go to the library and it is full of amazing books that I would read if I wasn’t folding laundry and making meals. My boy picks out the graphic novels. I’m OK with this, except I have to check them out for content, or they are so bone-headed and short, there is no reason to even check them out. My boy does not do sports, this is OK with me. What can we do with these unstructured summer days? Days that I feel I should have shipped you off to camp? I should have, but I didn’t, because I’m still treating you like you’re little. My boy is not little, he’s big. 20140602-233248.jpg Josiah has a big sense of humor, a big love for people, and he is big. He’s 5 ft tall. His papa and I haven’t done the summer camps, because well, they cost a lot. But I’m realizing that many of his peers are doing camps. Or traveling, a lot. I feel like I’m screwing up my kid. He is at home with two sisters all the time. I give him chores, summer reading, and we’re still finishing math. He wants to continue to homeschool, but this year, all of his close homeschooling buddies are going to school. I am looking at new challenges, my heart is being pummeled with choices I do not feel quite ready to make. I am frantically looking for help from library clubs, a youth group leader, extra things that will encourage my non-athletic, screen loving, people person of a boy. I love my boy, he still is my little boy, but he is big. But maybe, it is all simpler than I am making it. I have held onto the belief that God has children grow at the pace you are ready for them to grow. I am ready for Josiah to be big. I need him to mature and become an amazing young man, because he is an amazing kid! He shows frustration toward his five year old sister. I think that has to do with deep longings in his heart where things are churning, angry, and disappointed. This causes me to examine ALL of my decisions for him. But maybe, just maybe, he’s just being a frustrated kid! His sister frustrated him, that could be the only thing! So I deal with the strife, hand out discipline if need be, then I try not to think too hard about it. I also believe that having a character that is consistent brings joy into your life. I believe that if I am consistent with how I treat my son, growing and changing attitudes aside, I will show love to him. He will feel his foundation is sturdy and he can become who he is meant to be. I also believe that I am not raising this boy to be a reflection of me. I have him in my life to teach me about the character of God. I have him in my life to change me too. I have him in my life to reflect the glory of God in this amazing boy! I have prayed a blessing over Josiah ever since he was a little baby:

God bless Josiah, make him a strong man of faith, may he do things for the Kingdom no one else can do.

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Josiah is living in this blessing. I have to trust what God is doing in him. I have to grow and change and love Josiah as he lives in this blessing. He won’t be like everyone else, I have been asking God for him to be different! This means I have to believe that each challenge that comes our way is another way that he is being shaped. I want to give my boy to times of helping and service. I am not raising him to be entertained, I am helping him learn how to be a helper. I have to pray for times that he can be with his buddies, that it will be joyful and fruitful (and often!!). I cannot fill the space that another boy can fill in his life. But even in times that he is alone, I need to rest my mama heart in the fact that God will show me what to do, and that Josiah will show me what he needs. He showed me when he was a baby that he was tired, hungry and uncomfortable. Just like when I would try to rock him, pat him, hold him to try and get him to sleep, until one day in my exhaustion I just put him down in his bed. He needed to be left alone. He was peaceful and he stopped fussing. My mama heart wants to mess with him until I am satisfied that I’ve tried it all to solve his problems. Sometimes, I have to leave him alone. Let go and Let God. Cheesy, but true.

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Eden is Nine

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She is such a gift, I can’t even begin to explain. Watching her grow takes my breath away and I am so thankful that I can still see that chubby cheeked toddler down there inside. She is so beautiful, and introspective. I want to hold her so close to my heart so she never ever gets hurt. And then, when in a situation that may cause her to struggle, she shrugs it off. That’s her Papa in her.

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She loves everything natural, small and precious. Flowers, acorns, animals, treasures.

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I found her on her birthday with a self made crown, in a sweet dress (she’s usually in jeans) and my green poncho, skipping from rock to rock in the yard. She greets the morning and the cat. I step away from the coffee pot and take a few phone pictures of her on her birthday. She has me wrapped around her finger.

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Then she gets butterfly wings from her friends for a birthday present. The frolicking continues for more days, all the way through the woods and up the mountain. I know someday she will put childish things aside, but I want it to stay as long as possible. Stay adventurous, quiet, mis-matchy and hilarious. Where crowns, and smiles, and freckles with pride.

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Her Creative Writing teacher gave her an award, which just so happened to be on her birthday. the “Creative Genius Award”. Of course. Oh my sweet girl, always create. Write and draw until your fingers are tired. You are so beautiful, such an oasis of love, affection and connection. You are my girl, my Eden.

 


The times, the stages

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My Tessa’s portrait. I struggled pretty hard for this one. There just came a point that I said, “It will get finished”. I have moved on, but not very far. I guess that’s ok, because I am not in a stage where I am making a lot of art. It will come when I’m ready. I feel it will burst open like a dam, a strong steady stream of energy and creativity all together. I look forward to it. Until then, I sit in a dormant state, wondering what it is that keeps me from enjoying the completion of this piece. Maybe because I haven’t reached the next stage. Like the seasons, when winter drags on too long, or summer won’t give way to fall, I wait for that true bit of evidence. I know it’s coming, and that will have to be ok.

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Fierce little blondie bird. She is definitely unique. The baby who cries out her drama because she might get more pity. The sneaky sneak who eats the hidden chocolate, draws on the wall, watches TV on the found iphone without anyone knowing. Rascal. The batting of eyelashes, the curling up in bed with us, the backwards shirts and shoes. I try to enjoy this last bit of small child essence in my home. She will be a grade schooler in the fall, and I will have a third child to truly homeschool. The battle of young parenthood is waning, the season is passing. New challenges lay ahead.

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I captured this. My daughter in the climax of her childhood. To be nine. She’s so smart, so thoughtful, so fun-loving. It’s the saturated beauty of nine. Shortly after this picture was taken we cut her hair off. She was bubbling and proud of her shoulder length bob. She is my friend and partner in our exploration of ideas. I know she will argue with me, but I hope she never hides herself from me. She is a seed that is sprouting, and I want to hold it in my hands and enjoy each millimeter that it grows.

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Homeschooling. I have had a love hate relationship with it this year. I have felt the sting of isolation and I have questioned all of my choices. I have cursed my faults, and my children’s flaws. Then, there is a day when you get everyone to agree to do something together. Reading outside, for example, is one of the most rewarding things for me as a homeschooling mama. It is so simple, but to get everyone to agree to it sometimes takes every ounce of my fortitude. Then they read, and whatever it is, their voice reading the words is like the music I hummed to myself when I stroked my pregnant belly. It’s a bit hypnotic, I wish I could bottle it and pop it open after I’ve had to scold someone, or listen to the din of their goofy banter a little too long. It is a gift. I am thankful for my children’s ability to read and their voices. Then, there is a day when I am doing laps around my house, for seemingly unimportant reasons, to serve each one of there cries for assistance. I want the silence then. If we can go back, to the day we read about beetles and butterflies in the warmth of the new spring days, I will feel the reward and take up that load again for another school year.

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I thought that the 100% pure energy, babbling and loud boy would never ease up and become something more mellow. How many times Joel and I had to play “ninja” when we were so exhausted. Today I have a boy who is almost my height. I do not need to bend over to hug him, and ever so often I have this 5 ft tall child sobbing in my chest. He feels so deeply. He knows his short comings. He feels his sin. He is a first child, but he blows so many holes in that theory. He struggles to learn sometimes. He does not have a work horse mentality. But when it comes to people he can go all night. I am praying for that outlet to show up that uses so many of his gifts, until then, he will love on every small child, old man, teenager, babysitter, teacher, secretary, cashier, and friend of mine who crosses his path. I try to stop myself and not bully him out of the conversation, after all, he is as tall as we are! There is no looking over him, no tugging on apron strings!  He has charming, funny things to say. He will always keep me on my toes

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And what a stage of growth we are all in. I watch my boy become closer to being a teenager and I get concerned. I see girls his age becoming curvier and I tell myself,”they are all still children, give them attention and make them feel important” The stage I am in is one similar to the path my children are growing. They teach me things about myself. I have always believed that children develop at the pace you are ready to see them change. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but as I walk through the zoo or down sidewalks of the busy downtown areas with my crew, I know the freedom of their freedom. No strollers, carriers, or highchairs, we are 5 fully functional people. Well most of the time. Tess still needs a boost to the sink. It makes me breathe a sigh of relief, and it makes me sad. No more simple troubles, things now get trickier. I try to not take pride in that struggle. One day, nah, everyday, we are all in the same boat.

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A mysteriously beautiful, elaborate boat that has ample room for pleasure and pain. Hop on and enjoy the times.


Important

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When I am feeling so overwhelmed by all the bad that comes in and out of my life, I feel like I am the screw up, that nothing I am doing is helping anyone in my life. In fact, I am making it worse. My husband, my children, my friends, they all would be better off without me trying to help them. Now, this of course is a lie. It’s not true at all. It’s something I believe because I see so many things failing in my immediate circumstances. I can’t see the whole picture and how I am an important part of it. And that I have the capacity to do good. We are not good, so how can I believe that I am? It’s the Holy Spirit, that is all. Because, I can do a lot of crap all by myself that truly is no good without the love of God working through me.

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I have encountered a lot of hurt, and some straight up bad stuff recently. People around me who have so much hurt, that there is no carefully constructed phrase that will make things hurt less. I remember when my friend lost her baby a couple years ago, I had no idea what to do. She is such a strong person, such a strong personality, that I didn’t want to be some coddling, cooing girlfriend whom she had never met before. I’m the friend who sat around the table with her debating things, hashing out ideas, complaining about getting older. Just being the strong personalities we are. When her community surrounded her in her grief, I saw folks craft those loving phrases, bring flowers, gifts, and meals. They offered playdates for her big kids, and showered love. These things are all good. I wanted to be her friend in a way that united us and brought a sense of normal (even though nothing ever could be). I brought my kids over to play with hers and I brought a buncha doughnuts. Evil, gooey, love from the bakery across the bridge. And we talked. Normal, it can never be in that state of grief. But can I tell you, I have no idea. Absolutely none.

The pain of losing a parent, betrayal by a spouse, caring for a chronically ill family member, suddenly becoming a single parent, giving birth to your still born baby, being a child of divorce, being abandoned, sexual molestation. I have no idea what any of these things truly feel like. I have only been there, next to those I love, as they go through the muck, the fire, the pain. I feel guilty for not knowing. But in this world, there will always be that knowledge. Pain.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
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I have only lived 37 years. I have had my heart broken many times. But for all that breaking, I also am full of thanksgiving. I am thankful for the prayers of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. My great-aunt who never married, and drove me bonkers with her pestering, she prayed for me. I feel like I have been living with a cloud of witnesses calling out on my behalf. Maybe that’s a reason that 37 years have seen less than some. Still, what can I give when I have not been in the shoes of those who now suffer? You know what, it doesn’t matter. Haven’t I learned my lesson? It’s not about me, so I cry out to God and I pray and I believe in my naive way that “everything’s gonna get better!” Actually, it’s more like, “No, no way, this can’t be happening.” Creation groans for the Lord, and so do I.

For those who are living in a personal hell of pain from sickness, abandonment, exhaustion, victimization, betrayal, I want to say that you are important. Your best efforts are really, truly, enough. For those who need you and love you, you are strength, light, hope, love. Don’t believe that you are less. Those children, parents, friends, spouses, they know you aren’t perfect. There are tears, and screams, and long never-ending sighs, but you are doing a great job. The Lord God is our perfect Father and he looks at us purified in the blood of Jesus and He holds us so gently in His hands. He does not grow weary, even though you do. He will make a way through the fire, the water, the hell, and you will be that vessel, all glued back together, that can hold everything once again. He heals, restores, builds up, and loves.

I may not always feel important. But I hope this word reaches someone who needs it. I often tell new mommies, “You are doing a great job.” That’s all I wanted to know. To all who need untethered encouragement. Here it is.

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