The Little Prayer that Broke through My Mindless Distraction

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“Pray for my arm, mama. Pray for my arm.”

I almost missed the moment, small as it started out. To most, it was no big deal, really. But as the cloud of mindless distraction dissipated, I realized the largeness of his request.

It was the first time he had asked me to pray for him with absolute insistence. He offered up his arm with deep concern, displaying the the little red badge of courage on his wrist. He hadn’t noticed it earlier when he had slipped outside on his bike. The fall didn’t even cause tears. But the small reddish scratch now so apparent to him was suddenly big enough to be an urgent matter of prayer.

So, we prayed. “Dear Jesus, heal my scratch so it feels better soon. Amen.”

After, he smiled and nodded, gave me hug and moved on to play with his train set. Of course, not without a kiss to the wounded wrist first to seal the prayer.

I could have missed this moment, a chance to water the seeds we had already been planting in his heart. I almost did.

I also could have dismissed him. The truth is he had been misbehaving when he slipped on his bike outside. He had defied direct orders not to go to the side of the house where ice made conditions dangerous for already unsteady little hands and feet.

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I could have missed it all. But by God’s grace, I didn’t.

By God’s grace, I let my son’s concerns interrupt my mindlessness.

By God’s grace, I let the consequence of his disobedience not even be a factor in our prayer.

By God’s grace, I connected with my son at his most urgent need: for me to pay attention, to love him in spite of himself, and to bring all his urgent matters before the Lord.

By God’s grace, I get to be his mama.

And that’s a pretty big deal.

The Day I Got a Glimpse into Eden

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It was just a moment but an eternity of grace, when two wild hearts met and we were both unafraid. Creation stood still as it was in the beginning, a glimpse into Eden.

Oh be still my soul and listen to the wind rustling through the trees. In the cool of the evening He walks these paths in search of us, calling out the first question of the universe: Where are you?

Here we stand, unashamed and unafraid. For the moment, completely redeemed.

Gen. 3:8-9.

Two Thumbs Up, You’ve Got This.

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Even after moving so far away, how I treasured the sound of her voice saying whenever I returned, “my baby girl is home,” accompanied by the most generous, unfiltered hug my heart could ever know. Her arms were the best place for my wounded, wandering soul to find its rest.

How long it wandered, yearning for something I thought I had not yet seen. All the things I didn’t have clouded my view of what already had on the steps of her front door.

And as she wrapped her arms around me, her calm, gentle spirit fed me hope, courage, and love. She was especially good at that. She was small in frame, but she was perhaps the strongest lady I ever knew.

Funny that her final conscious gesture to me was a two thumbs up.

That was six years ago now but I can still see the look of courage in her eyes: Two thumbs up. You’ve got this. It’s going to be okay…

You’ve got this thing called life because you are loved deeper than you can ever know and greater than you could ever dream.

Two thumbs up because in Love there is always a refuge from the cold, brutal winds of life. In Love there is always a shoulder to bear the sorrows, to quiet the soul.

To my Granny, to the one who saved me in so many ways, two thumbs up: your baby girl is home. Because in love, there is always a home. And that is what you taught me best.

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Psalm 131:2 “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like weaned child within me.”

Winter Rose

Winter Rose a Sign for the New Year

“This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.” ~Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

I have always loved this hymn, though it’s rarely sung in any worship setting these days. It reminds me, as this rose that bloomed in my garden in December does, that Christ was born to bring life out of death, especially when and where we least expect it.

It’s no accident that Christmas comes at the intersection of the old and new year. Perhaps this past year was full of ashes, bitter tributes to unexpected tragedy or burned up dreams. The pain is real but not unnoticed by the One who is our beginning and end.

This Rose that bloomed in winter is a gentle reminder that new life is possible in what is seemingly the deadest of seasons.

As the New year approaches, my prayer is for His sweet fragrance to surround you and dispel the dark clouds of old away, revealing the bright hope of His love to carry you through.

Indeed, He is our Happy New Year.

For your listening pleasure:

‘I Need a Rainbow,’ He Told Me

JayBreadThe heartbreak erupted on his face and it was enough to pierce your soul, even if the matter was not that big of a deal. Our dear rescue dog had just gobbled up his piece of bread. My two year old — Mr. Independent– had grabbed the piece himself from the pantry, found his booster seat tray, and left both on the floor while he searched for his milk cup. He was determined to make his own breakfast.

The setup was ripe for a YouTube classic. The concept that whatever is left at a furry one’s nose level is fair game had not yet made its mark on my son’s impressionable brain. And our dog Amos did what all healthy dogs do: He partook.

But Amos’s breaking of bread in the hallway broke my son’s young heart. All his plans had suddenly gone awry. His breakfast was now doomed and his belly was still empty. Surprise, utter anguish, and tears ensued.

Though somewhat comical, I thought about the poignancy of this incident later. Of course, I suppressed my laughter in that moment the best I could. Instead, I swooped him up in my arms, dried his tears, and assured him that he could grab another piece of bread, it was no trouble at all. And though it took a little while, he did forgive poor Amos for his impertinence.

“There is a season for everything under heaven,” Ecclesiastes says.

For me, this season has been a lot like my little boy in the hallway. Sudden loss has filled our life with clouds, though there is still laughter and smiles to be found. But in our grief, there’s the temptation to minimize our pain, to compare our sufferings with others whose burdens seem to far outweigh our own.

But the stolen bread incident highlighted to me how the Lord responds to us in our anguish. He doesn’t compare our suffering or respond with “Well, you don’t have it near as bad as (insert name), so it’s not that big of a deal.”

Instead, He meets us where we are, in our pain, in this moment. Instead, He bends down to us, comes beside us, and reassures us He’s always there, through every season. Each one.

Instead — He is there. This is how the Lord responds.

Today is a cloudy day and it has been raining off and on. My son just came to me and out of the blue announced “I need a rainbow.”

Where he got this I have no idea. Perhaps he wanted the sun to come out so he could play outside again.

But it stirred me. I thought how much I need a rainbow, too. Sometimes you just need a little sunshine to break out upon those clouds and reveal the promise of His abiding presence. To reveal just how much He cares about our suffering. To know again just how present He is in each season of life.

He is always there. He’s there for my 2-year-old son who lost his bread just as He’s there for us who lost so much more.

He’s there. And so is the rainbow.

The Bug that Changed My Heart

Cicada nymph shell.I hate bugs but this picture mesmerizes me. It’s summertime here, so that means it’s cicada season. The ubiquitous rise and fade of humming in clusters around the neighborhood… those are the males singing out their melodies for their mates.

But that’s a lesson for someone more interested in cicadas. I’m not really. What did interest me was the ghost-like bug shells attached in random spots around the dogwood in our front yard. These are the remnants of the cicada nymphs, what they leave behind when they finally molt into adulthood.

We’ve lived here for more than three years now, but I had not noticed them until my toddler son suddenly took interest in the tree. As it is for many boys, the bugs fascinated him.

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But these bug shells fascinated me for different reasons. Let me explain.

It has been a difficult season for us. Unexpected loss and pain have underscored my heart’s desperate need for grace and change.

It’s not that I wasn’t aware before. I know I can be selfish. I know my attitude can really stink at times. I know I can be driven–many times to the point where I become my own slave. I, against my better will, can make a slave of myself and of those around me through unrealistic expectations or demands.

I know this. But I’ve discovered I really have no power to change this myself. I need a Savior to remove this outer shell that confines my better will — what He has already been growing up inside of me. I need that change to come from Him.

Through this season, this song below has been resonating deep in my heart.

The truth is, I need His perfect love to cast off the fears that constrain me. I need His grace to be greater so I can leave the skeleton of fear and selfish ambition behind.

Back to my bug shell… when I hear the sound of the cicadas hum now, my hope is renewed. For me, it’s a melody of grace.

 

Sculptures vs Paper Mache

Jay 6-5 mos-0271The innocence you possess as a baby is a healing balm to my battered soul from the business I work in. It is sweet and comforting, something I long to protect and wish I could for the rest of my life.

They say a mother’s love is fierce. The thousand lions roaring in my chest over you makes this saying such an understatement. The fierceness is downright frightening.

But I’m not deceived to think that underneath that innocence is something terrible waiting to be exploited as you grow.

It is your own heart. Son, your precious, little heart is beautiful to me. But I know it wants what it wants and it always will. It’s a river of muddy waters where what was designed for good is lost and corrupted in the depths of self-consumption.

I hate this. And I hate the very thought of you being swept up in the mindless channels of your own heart, becoming enslaved to its passions and sins that wreck your soul.

You will be told and tempted to believe that there’s nothing wrong in drinking from these putrid waters. “Boys will do what boys do. Live and let live. All things are permissable.”

This generation, this culture is cruel and deceptive and will consume without mercy. The question is always: How in the world can a young man keep his way pure?

You’re barely 5 months old, but I think of this now. Because the work begins now in protecting what I so treasure.

I asked your dad what he would tell you if you were older. His first response was “Don’t date crazy girls.”

So appropriate. But after further reflection, here’s what he said:

Don’t accept a substitute for true beauty. There is so much calling for your attention. So many things come across your eyes. So many things claiming to be beautiful.

Don’t mistake the imitations for the real thing. Don’t mistake a paper mache statue for a beautiful marble sculpture. While both may be delightful, one is only a cheap replica while the other has lasting beauty.

Son, do not be deceived. There is truth. And there is beauty. And it is not just in the eye of the beholder. It is in the hands of the One who created it… to last for eternity.

A Seat at the Table

JayChairOne of the lesser talked about milestones in a baby’s life is perhaps the day you can sit at the table with the rest of the family.

This past weekend we got a high chair for you. I was so excited. The months of gobbling up one-handed mouthfuls while holding you during dinner, or just hoping you’d sleep through it all, have passed by so quickly.

It soon became apparent that giving you your own place with us at mealtime was the order of the day.

We had been leaving you in your swing while we ate. But as you became more aware of your surroundings, you made it known to all that you were missing out on something important.

And you were.

You see, your place is with us. You were born to have a place at the table with us. And it will always be with us, no matter how far away from home you may wander.

The other night, while running an errand, I ran across a man who had no home. He had been sitting on the curb outside the store I was heading into, resting up against the wall. He looked a little scraggly, yes. But more so, he simply looked defeated.

As I was walking into the store, he got my attention and sheepishly started asking me for help, telling me he was homeless.

Now, I’m a natural skeptic. And always preferring to be a good steward, my instant reaction would most always be to turn the person down with awkward excuses.

But this time I didn’t. I told him I’d have something for him when I returned. When I came back, I asked him his name, shook his hand, and gave him the little bit of cash I had taken out for him. His name was Joe.

Now I won’t get into the wisdom of giving money to strangers. All I knew is that Joe, in that moment, needed a place at Someone’s Table. He needed someone to fill his heart with just enough hope to get him to his next step. He may not have eaten at our table, but I pray that he finds the very place that can feed his soul.

Son, my prayer is that you always keep an open heart, that you notice the needs around you and act when it is within your power to do so. For in doing so, who knows if you have not helped that person along in finding the One who has invited us all to His Banqueting Table?

And, yes, my hope is that someday, I’ll see Joe there.

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Mountains to Climb

Life has been a bit overwhelming the past few weeks. I hesitate to commit that reality to words because the truth is, as an adult, when is life not filled with complexity and all its challenges?

I hate complaining, so I generally try to take everything in stride, regardless of the situation.

But there are times when a mountain is set before you that you did not choose. You did not see it coming, and there is no other way around it but to go over it… one step at a time.

It can make you angry. It can frustrate you. You can search for someone to blame for the situation forced upon you.

All these responses are human. But they are not productive. And at the end of the day, they will not get you over that mountain.

Son, I want to say it is true that you choose your battles in life. Challenges are aplenty, but you can be selective about what is most important. Wisdom is your best guide.

And for those challenges suddenly thrust upon you, you still have a choice. You can decide how you are going to climb.

It’s okay to cry. Be angry if you must. It’s okay to feel bewildered. But don’t let those emotions dictate how you will face the battle upon you.

Faith in the Lord is your only assurance. Faith is your only strength. Faith is your only resource.

But faith in Him is more than enough to get you through, no matter how exhausting the fight and long the climb.

He is never surprised or overcome by the mountains in our way.

Be brave, trust Him, and start climbing.