Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When Mothering is Made Ugly

There are days when mothering is the picture of what you dreamed it would be:
Bare toes dangling above the floor, messed hair, sleepy eyes, rosy cheeks that smile at you from behind fork-fulls of pancakes.
A couch full of littles all snuggled up against you, reading stories full of adventure. Listening to their giggles.
Sweet conversations about grace and forgiveness and the fresh snow all over the steam of hot cocoa.

And then there are other days. Days that make you question God's judgement in making you a mother in the first place. Days that feel upside down and inside out.
Days when mothers and children are made ugly by sin.

It's those days that look nothing like what you dreamed it would, you see yourself ugly in sin...
A sharp tongue when milk is spilled.
A harsh word when you've been asked the same question for the millionth time.
A defeated look on a little face as you lose control over the wet towels strewn on the bathroom floor.

Suddenly, that reflection is not who you thought it would be.
You step back and your heart breaks ... again ... because in that moment you lost grace.

And days when you realize your children are just as ugly in sin as you are...
Eyes flashing full of white hot anger, staring you down, screaming at you in ways that you never thought could come from an eight year old.
Flights of markers and paper and pencils as you battle attitudes and heart struggles.
Lies of the enemy poured out from mouths so young and innocent you never imagined they could live there. 
Lies that say, "I'm not good enough," "I'm not perfect," "I can't do it right," "I feel empty inside."   

And you stare in amazement at the little thing of a person and wonder who they are, who this is sitting before you. 
Rampant thoughts of, "this isn't my child!" "we taught her better than this!" "I don't know where this is coming from," run through your mind.
And you whisper in desperation, "Lord, what do I do here? I'm so ... lost."

And your heart breaks for your child.
And you are slapped in the face by the enemy as you realize that the spiritual battle is real.
And it's in your living room.

That sweet picture of what mothering would be like is no where to be found on these days, in these moments. You sit breathless, watching your child helplessly wrestle against an invisible foe and you wonder how you forgot that you're in the middle of a war; that the fight never stops; that when things are going right it's easy to lose sight of exactly who you are fighting against.
Then the battle breaks open in front of you and you are reminded.

These days, these are the trenches
Where you suddenly find yourself digging your way through tunnels of mud and muck and it's hard to move.
It's hard to breathe.
It's hard to see your way out.
Maybe you've found yourself there today; maybe you've been living there for a few years and you're in so deep you've forgotten that there's a life outside of the trenches.

When you look around you and all you see is dirt...
 and then ... look up.
Even if just for a moment, look up.
When we are surrounded by the ugliness of the mud and mire and muck we forget that there is a sun, but when we look up we can catch a glimpse of the One who designed us for these moments. The One who designed us for these children, specifically. The One who shaped their little hearts to be intertwined so perfectly with ours.
When we look up, we always receive a glimpse of His light.  
And in that light you are reminded of Who you are fighting for and just Who is fighting for you. And there is beauty in that moment. Even if you're sitting in the mud.

See, we are all broken by sin. 
We are born into sin, born with sin.
When our moments are full of smiles and snuggles and stories it's so easy to lose the truth that we will all falter, we will all lose control at some point, we will all make a wrong choice in a moment of frustration ... or pain ... or confusion. 
And our children will too. 
Over and over and over again.
These littles, they don't yet have the armor to fight their way through these battles. That's what the trenches are for.
It's in the trenches that strong hearts are forged, quivering knees become sturdy, and weak hands become strong. It's in the trenches that we are able to lose ourselves and surrender to God all that is His. 
These hearts, these knees, these hands ... they are His. 
And through my surrender of control, He comes alongside and covers all my gaps with 
His grace.
This is where sin and ugliness collide with redemption's kiss and beauty is made. 
Beauty from the ugliness.

It is on the worst days that I feel the most defeated, the most unprepared, the most inadequate, the most lost.
I wonder how He thought I would be able to handle this, mother this child, prepare these hearts for life and love and loss and all that is to come ...
But it is also on these days where I see the truth of His grace. 
For me. For my child. 
This is where He reminds me that I'm never enough. 
I will never be enough. 
I will never be prepared enough or have wisdom enough.
It's on these days where I'm driven to my knees and it's there that He meets me in my mess.
And it is in this mess, this brokenness, where I find forgiveness.

He reminds me that in Him, I have innumerable second chances. 
He reminds me that He is sufficient; 
that He will strengthen my weak knees and give me a new grip with my tired hands.  
That when I'm on my knees my children can more clearly see HIM.

And I lean into Him

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

An End and A Beginning

It moves, swings, never stops. 
A year closes and ends, another begins. 
A life ends, a new one begins. 

Yet the world, this world, it never stops spinning. 
Pain comes, knocks us over, leaves us breathless and we're left to keep going.
Keep moving.
Keep living. 

What we wouldn't give to just pause the rush of water around us. 

Twice this year I found myself opening myself up to incredible joy, irresistible joy.
Twice I found myself with tear stained cheeks and cuts that would fade to scars. 
We open ourselves up to joy and that opens us up to pain
Just as I felt that my hurt was healing, the cut was coming together ... 
the wound was ripped open anew. 
Salt and vinegar poured on my open heart. 

Three times we said hello to a new baby, a new family member. 
Three times we let ourselves imagine the new addition ... 
the clothes, the smells, the change in our family.
Three times we were chosen to say goodbye to that new baby. 
I doubted after once, I doubted more after a third.  
Especially losing so closely together these last times.  

07.2006 - we said goodbye to our first angel.
07.30.12 - we said goodbye to our second angel. 
10.28.12 - we said goodbye to our third. 

Life swirled
All I wanted was a pause button. 
But life doesn't pause, it doesn't stop. 
Everything moves forward and you feel like you can't catch your breath.
Early mornings, late nights,
clothes to be washed and folded and put away.
Dishes, diapers,
dirty faces to be wiped,
hands to be washed,
bodies to be bathed.

Yet, even as life hurts and surrounds us, 
He moves.
He breathes
He works
He shapes
He molds
He holds
He heals
He carries
He loves

He does not break us in our pain, He shapes us.  
He breathes into us, for us.

And as we seek Him, His heart, we are transformed.
Our ugly is transformed to beauty.
Our pain is transformed to joy.
Our failures, falls, and missteps are transformed to grace.

When all the world seems
and lonely
and hard
He breathes into the holes of our life
and shows us Himself. .
If we let Him, He will bind our wounds and make us whole
even through our pain.

He is faithful.

Before June 2012, I prayed for 2 years that we would be able to welcome another baby to our family.
God was faithful, He answered my prayer.
Since July 2012, my girls have prayed nearly daily for "mama to have another baby."
God has been faithful, not once, but twice!
Losing our babies does not mean our God is not faithful,
or uncaring,
or unloving,
or the bringer of pain.

It is quite the opposite.
Because of His faithfulness, my prayers were answered three times.
Because of His care, my heart was healed twice.
Because if His love, I am the mother of 8, EIGHT, children!
And because He is the author and perfecter of life,
we excitedly await the arrival of a new baby, due in August!

I have been nervous.
I have worried.
Three pregnancies in six months ...
I think those are natural emotions.
But I choose to trust.
I choose to believe, knowing it could also end in pain.

The joy is knowing He does not abandon.
He does not forsake.
His salvation rings ever true, even in pain.
I was never promised a life free of pain when I came to the feet of my Savior.
In fact, I was told there would  be heartache and trouble but ...
to take heart, He has overcome!

So, with joy and hope, I say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Man on a Mission: El Salvador

We've got a man on a mission in our house.
The leader of our pack is packing his bags and heading to El Salvador come October!
Because God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And Mike has answered, “Here am I. Send me!”
(Isaiah 6:8) 

To answer the call that God has put on his heart, Mike will be heading out to La Libertad, El Salvador on a short-term mission trip sponsored by Great Commission Latin America (GCLA). 
The purpose of this trip is to share the incredible good news we have in Christ in a community where the local church is involved in the development of families. 

They will be showing the love of Christ in a very real way - by serving the community physically. 
Serving by building necessary buildings as well as helping the members of the community through multiple service projects. 

While they serve physically they will also reach out spiritually. 

We all hear the whisper of our Savior at one point or another in our lives and wonder about who this man is. This man who was willingly hurt and crushed and bled out for our hearts. 
The people in La Libertad hear His whisper too and are hungry to see this Man and hear His message. 
Their hearts yearn for spiritual growth and this trip will provide an incredible opportunity to partner and support their local church. 

Mike's heart and hands and feet are ready to go! 
However, in order to make it all possible, we need to develop a team of support who will join him in this effort. As they travel and work, they will most be needing your hearts in prayer for safety and success, as well as for the team and the work they will be doing within the community. 
Beyond prayers we are reaching out for financial support as well, to make this trip possible.

We have been so generously blessed already with a portion of what Mike needs to be on this team and head to El Salvador, however we have some financial deadlines to meet. 

We need to raise roughly $500 by next Sunday - September 15. 
This means we only need 25 friends to give $20! 

So what we're asking of you is to prayerfully consider what you may be willing to do or give to help further this man and His mission. 
If all you can give are your prayers, we will joyfully accept them with our whole hearts! 
However, if you feel lead to give financially, we will humbly accept any generosity poured out on us. 
If you feel so lead, all you need to do is click on the donate button at the top of the page, in the upper left corner.
It's quick and easy and all up to you. 

Thank you, dear friends, for taking the time to read this blog and for joining with us in life, even if for just a few minutes at a time. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Goodbye, sweet baby.

Only a few short hours passed after my last words here before change knocked at our door. 
I answered, pain walked in. 
Pain laced black and red. 
Pain wrought in tears.
Tears of thousands, millions of women. 

Saturday writhed with the ugliness of this world. 
This broken world. 
When all feels broken. 

But the broken was preceded with grace. 
Grace in little blips on a black and white screen. 
Grace in a slow, steady beat. 
And when grace precedes the pain, we see the love of the Creator. 
The Creator does not leave us empty in pain, 
He fills us full up with grace so we can see just a glimpse of His love. 

A glimpse. Just a blip. 
A blip that is more full of love than I can fathom. 

Still, I want to question. 
I want to writhe against truth. 
I want to listen to the whisper of darkness. 
Darkness forged in lies. 
Lies that say He isn't good, 
He isn't grace, 
He isn't love, 
that this isn't right or just or true.
And he, the prince of darkness, "he sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world, and I gasp to say God is good. The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God's glory, and I heave to enjoy God ... and Satan strangles, and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor." 

When I focus the lens of my heart on the lies, I miss the whole of His truth. 
It is only when I change and use God's Word as a lens that I can see truth.
Without it, "the world warps."
"Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because the Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, 'I know. I know.'
The passion on the page is a Person, and the lens I wear of the Word is not abstract idea but the eyes of the God-Man who came and knows the pain."

So, I look for His truth.
Truth that He is the Creator. 
"You were in My care even before you were born." (Isaiah 44:2)
Resting forever in His care. 
Truth that we were never promised a life free of pain.
This life is enveloped in suffering.
We yearn to mirror Christ but what when that mirror means pain?
Those hands that cup our face are the same hands that faced
"the abandonment of God Himself (does it get any worse than this?). "
Yet, "Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him
and crush Him
and wound Him
and yield a bounty of joy."

I grapple for understanding even when my life has not been wrought with hardship. 
I am, ultimately, blessed. 
I've only glanced at pain for a moment, 
it has never wrapped me whole. 
Left me destitute. 

And even in my briefest moments, I want to question. 
How do I grasp grace? 
How do I breathe in love? 
Wrapped in truth. 
That, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) 
Even in these briefest of moments, I hear it soft,
"it is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace."

And when my eyes are clouded or my mind cannot comprehend 
I am reminded that He speaks in the wind, and His gloriousness reaches beyond me. 
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things." (Eccl 11:5)
And He makes all beautiful.
He transfigures all into beauty.
"And if all the work of transfiguring the ugly into the beautiful pleases God,
it is a work of beauty."

When I stop to breathe in His truth, 
I welcome His grace. 
He catches my breath and binds my wounds.
He heals my heart and fills the empty. 
In the weakness of my questions, His power is made perfect. 
His grace is sufficient. 
His hope is everlasting. 

God speaks to me through the words of another and I am blasted through, a cold wind seizing my lungs. It's hard to breathe.
"He takes the empty hands and draws me close to the thrum of Love.
You may suffer loss but in Me is anything ever lost, really? 
Isn't everything that belongs to Christ also yours? Loved ones lost still belong to Him - then aren't they still yours? Do I not own the cattle on a thousand hills; everything? Aren't then all provisions, in Christ also yours? 
If you haven't lost Christ, child, nothing is ever lost. 
Remember, 'through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God' (Acts 14:22), and in 'sharing in [My Son's] sufferings, becoming like him in his death' you come 'to know Christ and the power of his resurrection' (Philippians 3:10)." 

"God is always good and I am always loved."

I takes lessons from her, this writer, who writes the words of the Father.
She grapples for gratitude and I yearn to count my own one thousand blessings.
I re-read underlined words and blink back the sting when I see what I scribbled across those pages that grip my heart:
26: 6.26.12: 2 tests. 4 pink lines. 1 leap of my heart. A 5th. Blessing upon blessing. 

Can I write again? Can I add to the number?
44: 7.30.12: A life joined with Him. A life with no pain, no sorrow, no tears. 
Hope for a glorious reunion at the barrier of eternity. 

Eucharisteo: to give thanks.
"Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things - take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. I have glimpsed it: This, the hard eucharisteo. The hard discipline to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good. The hard discipline to number the griefs as grace..."

Quoted sections taken directly from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.