Monday, December 29, 2014

Under the Wrapping

It's a quiet winter day, and families are snuggled in to enjoy their favorite breakfast and watch the little ones open surprises cloaked in shimmering foils and patterns.  There's a comfort in the warmth of a hot mug, and excitement in the day of celebration that lays ahead.


As for me, I'm up early to get ready, and waking the kids so we can spend time together before I leave for work.  Christmas needs paramedics just like any other day, and I've drawn the lucky straw for today.  

The morning is nice even hurried, and I relish the joy on the faces of my brood as they enjoy the gifts thoughtfully chosen for each of them.   They are left with long hugs and big kisses to be entertained by the new smell of their treasures.  

It's a long and quiet drive on a bare road deserted for the warmth of home and family.  I have the radio turned to the Christmas music that has trailed joyous for weeks, and for some reason this morning it's all the sentimental tunes with melancholy undertones that bring tears to my eyes.

All about my day there are "Merry Christmases," and jolly hats, and baked goods, and lobbies boasting colors of the season.  I'm reflecting in my heart the gravity of this day for all creation, and quietly thanking for the rescue that it means, and the hope we received from this one little baby in the stable.

All this joy and celebration and quiet awe, and my heart is feeling heavy, feeling like that little-girl enchantment of this long awaited day has been rubbed away by the scraping of the hard sorrow that meets us in the corners of a broken world.  There is chatter of wanting a white Christmas, and I am thinking  to myself, "I would give up every white Christmas for a Christmas without cancer."  There are couples arguing over splitting time evenly with the sets of parents, and I am thinking of Kara having whispered, pleading that she would get to be home with her family for Christmas, for any amount of time.  In the decked halls and the holly hung, I still meet faces that can't enjoy the eating and the unwrapping and the telling of the ancient story, because they have to leave the glow of home for the sterile white of the hospital and the hopes of a remedy to soothe their broken bodies, broken souls.  I meet in the eyes of a sad-faced man the dashing of a silent night as he waits for the coroner to arrive.   I choke back my "Merry Christmas" and instead an "I'm sorry, so sorry it happened today."

In the dark end of packing up my day, I drive weary to get home and spend the last hours with an angel food cake and a birthday song, and curling up with the little loves of my life to feel their sweet warmth,  watching those last few Christmas sparkles in their eyes as they nod into a satisfied sleep.  The traffic is thicker as the travelers leave their gatherings to return to their own homes to finish the night.  My radio still crackles low the carols of hope and new life, and the weight of the world breaks loose the dam that held my tears from the questions of those around me.  A cry for the loss of my innocence, of the knowing that even in the glimmer of a Christmas day, when all is celebration and family and gratefulness, that it's still not fixed.  Hearts still break and pain still ravages, and families missing loved ones make the gatherings feel missing.  Then the radio is a deep lulling voice, and David Crowder is telling me to lay down my burdens and heartbreak; that Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal.  And I know it's for me, and it's for all the hurting, that in each of our days where we fight to see grace and we beg for some mercy, we are one more closer to the healing that we reach for.  That one day, some day, Christmas will be all joy, and all newness, and all the glisten and gleam of the healing we got when that baby came here, right in the middle of our mess and braved the heartbreak Himself, will be the only thing on our minds on Christmas.

Shepherds' Meal, Christmas Eve

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Right now all I can taste is bitter tears.  Just when I thought I had spilled every last one, another flood comes rushing.  That's the thing of life, isn't it?  Every day requires our tears; joyful tears, bitter tears, tears of mourning, tears of relief.  That is where we see again the paradigm of joy and sorrow, sorrow and joy.  The same hot, rolling tear can mean the both of them.

In the weeping, we hope that the rush of our joyous tears can drown out the flood of droplets that burn with deepest heartache; that someday each tear that has been counted and held will dissolve with the radiance of true healing.

There is not much that will express my true heart right now, other than the sobs which tell far more than my words can explain.

While this night of weeping seems to have no end, I rest in knowing each tender drop is captured by the only One who knows the meaning behind each one.

"He'll wipe every tear from our eyes, and make everything new just like He promised.  Wait and see..."  ~Steven Curtis Chapman 

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Can Do Hard Things?

I am a binge blogger, and when much is on my mind, much spills out.  Writing spells the words I can't find to speak, and sometimes they're words of encouragement and hope, and sometimes there is nothing to overflow but yuck.  If you're not up for yuck, or will fear for my faith, or need to correct my doubting, just skip this post...

I tell myself I can do hard things.  I tell others I can do hard things.  And maybe in the night of the doubting I am really saying that phrase to try to convince myself of something I fear I am not capable of.  Truth is, I am tired of doing hard things.  I am tired of facing valleys and begging for rest.  I am weary of feeling like I have spent it all just to face a new day of having to rally for "more" that I don't have.  What is it God is asking of me?  Does He know what I'm up against?

I want to be whole.  I want to wake not sinking, drowning in pain.  My voice is worn out from screaming for help.  I don't want another battle; to be surrounded from all sides.  I want the peace, the restoration of ashes that is promised... even for just a short time.

It is hard to trace the hand of God in it all.  Restore me. Pull me from this shadow.

The uplifting Ann Voskamp speaks reassurance through my inbox today... "It isn't about maintaining control of everything.  It's about maintaining your gaze on Him in the midst of everything.  It's not about getting through everything.  It's about letting Him carry you through everything."

Ok, ok.  I believe no trial comes except with His permission and for some wise and loving purpose which perhaps only eternity will disclose.  Armor up.  I can do hard things.

Friends, please tell me there are days your valley is so deep that you are screaming too... that my tears aren't the only ones falling... that we can get through this together?

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holiday Fear

The weather is gearing up, the stores are busy overstocking for the season of holiday celebrations approaching.

As you plan out your feasts and decorations and guests, sit back for a moment and look around you.  There is a child grieving a mother, a sibling grieving a brother, a mother grieving a child.  While the rest of the world is a flurry of anticipation and excitement, there is a heavy ache in the hearts of the homes where a chair will sit empty this holiday.

The celebrations of family and love hold moments of heart-wrench for those who have a loved one no longer present in the gathering.  Look around you this season, I know you will find one of those hearts;  the one that sits quiet in the crowd, that listens with eyes closed to the laughter, wondering how things would have been; the one who avoids the holiday aisles altogether.  Reach out.  Be brave, extend your love, and risk touching a shattered heart in a way they desperately needed.

The first Thanksgiving and Christmas after burying Ellianna were the hardest.  Well, they all have been in different ways, but that first one... the first time I realized there would be no gift shopping, no cooking her favorites, no tiny traced hand prints on Thanksgiving turkeys... well that was the toughest; a holiday season I never dared to imagine.

Much of the facade faded away.  Suddenly the decorations and the perfect Pinterest meal weren't what my mind lingered on; it was simply the being with the ones I loved.  It became a season of wanting deep memories; the slowing of sweet everyday moments. I could care less if we make a turkey and all the fixings, or just drag ourselves to feast at Golden Corral; the importance is our souls meeting each other wherever we're at, reveling in each other's company, savoring the joy of knowing you are making a memory that will long outlast the pumpkin pie.

This is the first time my family will celebrate without my little brother.  There will be heartache when his name isn't in the secret Christmas gift drawing, there will be sadness when he isn't standing there in a ridiculous apron with a fresh baked batch of "kitchen trash" in his hands.  What there will be is a coming together of the hearts that love him, miss him, and remember to stop and say "I love you" on this day, this moment.

There is something you can do for the grieving hearts around you.  For many, this is their first holiday season without a cherished person in their lives, and it's not just in death, it can be a child experiencing their first holidays having to split time between mom's house and dad's house, a wife whose husband has chosen another place to live, and yes, the mourning heart that has stood at the grave of someone they held dear.  Send them a card, let them know you are thinking of them and how things will be different this year.  Give them a sweet ornament with their loved one's name on it.  Invite them to your celebration so they aren't sitting at home grieving theirs. Sign them up for a holiday cheer box (read about it here).  It means a lot.  In a season where delight and festivity spill from everything around us, there is a pain that you can help soothe.

Let me know how you're reaching out, I'd love to hear where your hearts are reaching!

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Ordinary Amazing

Thumbing through a high school journal, I can easily see how this road I stand on is far different from the one I dreamed into existence before my heart met reality.  I could easily list about a hundred... well never-mind about that.  Truth is, I'm sure there are very  few of us, if any, who find things have gone just as we imagined for our lives.

Truth: I have somewhat come to accept the unexpected, admit that my plans probably wouldn't have been best, and trust that my God will redeem every hard chapter He has called me to walk.

Uglier Truth: I still find myself sad and grumbling when I don't like the battles that have been chosen for me.

Sooo... my heart has been wrestling, and by that I mean screaming, pleading, searching, digging, longing for a passion to call out the things in my life that are in fact incredible gifts that I overlook in my discontent.  Ordinary Amazing Graces.

While this flame has long flickered inside me, through my Blessings journal, the daily texts of thankfuls between my sweet sister and I, and the preaching to my small fries about all the gifts they have in this life, my greatest challenge to gratefulness has been found in my friendship with Kara Tippetts.  From watching this young beauty face her first diagnosis with gusto and determination, to the celebration when it was done, to the staggering beat of more cancer, more cancer, terminal, she has CHOSEN to meet each of her numbered days with thankfulness for even the simplest of gifts.  In head throbbing, gut-wrenching weakness and pain, she has lifted her eyes to meet the grace which she finds all around her.  She doesn't harbor a spirit of complaining, but looks beyond the tumors and the limits and the sickness and calls out the beauty of relationships, of food, of quiet, of snuggles, and of fresh air.

I don't know about you, but that jabs me right in the bulls eye of my restlessness.  Never will it make the deep, disappointing hurt of sickness and death and failure and pain disappear, but if our souls are meant to give thanks, this has to be the answer to looking beyond ourselves and our grievings, and having a reason to find joy.

Oh.  DUH.  Perhaps JOY has to be chosen, just like HOPE.  Oh my helpless soul!

Here is where I need, want your help.  I need reminding in the darkest of days to look for the gifts.  My sadness becomes sticky and selfish and doesn't let me look around.  How about a place where we can all learn to look for the blessings around us?  The daily graces.

I created a page on Facebook called "Daily Graces."  Please join me there to flood the screen with the moments, big and small around us that we often overlook. Hook up your Instagram, hashtag it #dailygraces, upload your photos, or share a story of what you found in your daily going that reminded you that you are loved.  Lets help remind each other of how many things permeate our hard, and have the potential to infect our attitudes with joy and thankfulness.

"Like" the page and then let your grateful gusto explode!  Annnnnd GO!

  -------->>>>>>>>>>     Click here for Daily Graces

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Oh!  And if you want to laugh and cry and smile and frown and be challenged and encouraged through everything hard, follow Kara's blog here:  Mundane Faithfulness

Monday, September 15, 2014

Runaway Bunny

My dear son,

In this chunky, well-worn boardbook there's an echo from this story that used to be our snuggling, whispering bedtime.  The tale of little bunny who's gone running from his mother, and she chasing his silliness to keep him near... now these sticky-fingered pages have some tiny salty stains, because that childhood tale has deepened in its meaning. 

I remember the first moments of looking at your squishy, heaven-kissed face, and wondering what the future would hold.  I knew what I had planned, but didn't allow my mind to wander to the places that weren't included in my dream. 

From the second you made me a mom, I knew motherhood was my favorite.  I knew I would serve to you every wisdom I could impart, and stretch myself to be the springboard for your greatest opportunities. That was it, right? You raise them right, and they grow up to be everything you dreamed for them.

I never realized how many times my heart would break for you, how many tears I would swallow in the late hours of your innocent sleep.

Your years have taught me many things, like how invincible I'm not, how much patience I still have to be grown, and how desperately little control I have over this life.  I have felt how love can be so big it doesn't even fit into the boundaries of a soul, and how a proud mama's heart can seem to swell so big it's spilling out the exhales.

I have always convinced myself that if your dad and I were doing the best that we knew how, God would work out the rest; that you would be kept in His grasp and the chasms of my shortfalls would be filled.  I will never stop believing that. 

I won't ever love you any less than that first time my lips met your cotton candy cheeks.  I hope that deep down there is a part of you that knows that is truth.

 I was vastly unprepared for this season in our lives.  Unprepared and quite possible very na├»ve.  My supermom strategies seem worthless puffs of air in the gravity of these days we have staggered into. 

In every uncertainty, I maintain a hope that these shatters are pieces of bigger and more beautiful picture; a healing of your wounded heart, and a redemption of your deepest dreams.  I know that I know that I know you will always be held, no matter where your heart is leading you. 

Don't ever think my prayers for you have ceased... on my knees, in my shower, in the dusting, and the laundry; there are prayers whispered earnest, tucked in towel folds, stirred in soup.

I will continue to be your harbor, ready to anchor whenever you need a safe place.  I will still be your favorite cook and your biggest fan.  I will listen to our song again and again, and remember you dancing me around the living room to its words.  Jacob and Mommy's song

I will love you.  Forever.  Always.  From the bottom of the ocean to the top of the sky. 


"If you become a bird and fly away from me," said his mother, "I will be a tree that you come home to."                           

- Margaret Wise Brown, The Runaway Bunny

Friday, July 18, 2014

Once in a Lifetime

When I was young, I prayed for a little sister.  Brother, after brother, after brother I prayed.  I would open my window to breathe the thick freshness, and spill the desire of my heart.  I scrawled prayers out on paper and buried them deep in the earth.

June 27, 1992, I got that sister I had prayed for.  We were instant friends, she my sidekick, and I her protector.   We shared faith and opinions, secrets and dreams.  The years separated us through our parents' divorce, but as we faded into adulthood our friendship rekindled.

 Through many joys we have traveled, as well as great trial.  She has been my trusted friend, my faithful confidant, my unending anchor.

 Tomorrow I get to walk one of the greatest joys with my sister.  I get to stand beside her as she becomes one with the man of her heart.  I will be there as the rest of her life begins.  In some ways I know this is a landmark; a day which will change the shape of our friendship, as she clings to her one,  and will share secrets that even her sisters won't know.

The "smolder"

I'm proud of the woman my littlest playmate has become, honored to be part of her life.  Her faith runs deep, her kindness eternal. With tears in my eyes and thankfulness in my heart, I will stand  by as she moves from girl to wife.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 14

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." ~Winnie the Pooh

My precious, beautiful Ellianna Grace,

This day has been written in the scars on our hearts.  The fourteenth of July will always remind me that it was the last day I got to smooch your scrumptious cheeks.  I can't help but remember the deafening fear that rose when I saw you slipping away.  That last kiss, last breath, last holding you in my arms.  I still remember the feelings of helplessness, and whispering screaming prayers that you would get to stay.  This day, this beautiful summer day will forever inflame the lasting scars that were torn in my tender heart.  But tucked within what's left, the fourteenth of July is also an Ebeneezer, reminding me of the graciousness of our God in welcoming you into His arms; His healing of your every pain and struggle.  I can celebrate in knowing that you are whole, and well, and safe, and that after all my waiting is done I will get to see you again.  My story is not a story of loss, of heartache, or pain.  It is one of absolute Grace.  Pure blessings.  Answered prayers.

I love you indefinitely, my little girl.  Sometimes I touch the things you used to touch, looking for echoes of your fingers (Iain Thomas).  I long to breathe the essence of you, trace your delicate features, and tie ribbons in your hair.  Someday, my sweet Ells.

I will revel in every joyful memory I have of your precious life, and will live with the purpose you inspired me towards.  Someday I will hold my treasure again, and I am so excited to hear your giggle as I pepper your face with kisses.  The veil is thin, my sweet.

You are adored, cherished, held dear.  Your little, magnificent life has left a beautiful impression on so many hearts.

Until Forever, 
Mommy xoxo

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Live, Laugh, Love

This sweet little phrase has become so common!  Tell me you haven't seen a hundred wooden plaques, stenciled picture frames, and wall decals with this on them!  It's well worn, perhaps overused, but really, perhaps it deserves a closer look.

Seems only in the darkest days we lament our neglect to clinging more tightly to these 3 simple rules.  As we aim to grasp hold of the ordinary amazing graces between our tears, let me urge you friends:

LIVE fully. Don't get caught up in the imperfections of the day.  Let the crumbs stay on the floor of the family car, the library books go a few days late, and let go of the guilt for hastily whipping up mac-n-cheese for dinner.  Spend those moments drinking deep the beauty in every gift to be found, the mighty swell of lungs still puffing life. 

LAUGH often.  How light the heart feels with the rush of roaring laughter.  A giggle brought to someone's lips is something long remembered.  Find those smiles, the humor, the inside joke, and engage it often.  A merry heart does good like medicine.

LOVE much.  Don't hold back.  Bear your scars and dare to let someone in, loving with all abandon.  You never know when you may be the only soul to show that person love.

We are rich, so blessed in every dawn of our days, don't wait to grasp hold of the best of life until it's too late.  We have today.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Scars and Stripes

July has been a tough month the past few years. (The Why of July)  This July though, is going to pack a different punch.  I have felt it coming the past few days, and by the tears and misbehavior the kiddos have been showing, their hearts must sense it too.  It's always been funny to me how your soul remembers the day is coming, even when your mind isn't thinking about it.

Grandpa and Ben
It started with the day of my sweet Grandpa's home going, the 4th of July.  A perfectly fitting day, since he was one of the most patriotic men I know.  Then it was Ellianna's passing on the 14th of July.  It's hard to go through that day without remembering the devastating events that took place.  This year, the 2nd of July will be another day of mixed emotion.  July 2nd is the day I became a big sister.  My brother Ben came into the world 29 years ago on my mom's birthday.  Being so close to Independence Day, it was natural that the 4th became an extension of his birthday, and his favorite holiday.    He waited all year long for the opening of the first firework stands.  Each year, his own firework show grew, to the point where he was having them shipped from the places who supply professional shows, and his small town of Sterling brought a crowd each year to enjoy his masterpiece.

This July will be a salty-sweet month of grief and celebration.  We will be remembering and honoring our precious ones that are absent, and celebrating the moments that we enjoyed with each of them.  We will cheer my little sister as she begins life with her new husband, while quietly sorrowing over the empty chair.

We are immeasurably thankful that we do not grieve without hope.   We know where our loved ones are, held close, and surrounded by joy and healing.  We will miss them in our celebrations this July, but we will fondly replay our happiest memories, and whisper prayers of thanks for their salvation.

I hope that somewhere in Heaven there is a firework show like none Ben has ever seen...

Pyro...yep, that's about right.

Birthday buddies

Celebrating Ben

My first ever attempt at a "fancy" cake was for Ben.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Joy Comes in the [Mourning]

"There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning."  That is a phrase we often hear as struggles are afoot.  I have to tell an embarrassing story... the day after Ellie died, my kind neighbor gave me a cd she had burned with one song on it.- "Joy Will Come," by The Desperation Band.  I put it in and listened to the first few sentences before ejecting it.  Anger bubbled.  I thought, how dare she!  To imply this bleeding of my heart would ever turn to something beautiful.  I never said anything, but I didn't pull that cd out again until a good two years later.  Two years when I could see beyond the crippling pain, and know there are pieces of good falling together because of our loss.  I could finally hear the hope in a song for the broken.

Ever since we went through a grief support group/grief study as a family, we have talked about someday leading one of our own.  For the longest time though, the heaviness of my heart kept me from believing that I could minister to anyone else.  Now we are stepping out.  Our awesome new church is supporting us in getting a Grief Share up and running, and we are thankful, so thankful that He can use our loss to reach out to the hurting.

There is another battle we fight, one that is only shared with our innermost circles.  A pain that brings fear, heartbreak, and uncertainty.  Right now, I don't  know how to get through the muck, but I know with certainty that one day, when we are emerging on the other side of this storm, there will be a whole new opportunity for me to share with others who are in the thick of it.  That's pretty humbling, to think He can use ME.

The greatness of life is not in avoiding the struggles, but in leaning into them, being changed by them, and then using them to bring hope to crumbled hearts.

God's plan wasn't for this world to be broken, but He has been faithful to make beautiful things from our suffering.  What will you do with your battle?

"Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning." Ps 30:5

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Grace Waves

Perusing the local thrift store in L.A., we came across one of those finds that makes you dance right there in the aisle.  A very nice boogie board. . . for about an eighth of the price of a new one! Baylie and I were so stoked we could hardly stand waiting the 10 minute drive to get to the beach!

My brave little beauty

We had so much fun!  Baylie and I were the only ones brave enough to get out deep enough for the big waves, but everybody sort of tried it at least once, even Bella just barely gliding on it while I strapped it to my foot. 

It was grace for my body, I felt like a kid, healthy and strong. We laughed and laughed.

Colby did amazing! This boy quickly got over his timid shyness of the ocean, an charged for it every chance he could.  Oh my word this kid is giving me gray hair!  I have never had one so adventurous!

No fear!


We had such a blast, and it was great to enjoy ourselves and the time together.  Mark is terrified of the ocean, but we are plotting to get him out there on the board by the end of the week!

Baylie getting read to head for another wave

Picking up to go again!
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