Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmastime or Christmas

I watched a bit of the morning show the other other day. I saw people in NYC all jolly and festive for Christmas. I saw hats, gloves, and scarves, Christmas trees, wreaths, and lots of people everywhere. Christmastime is about shopping, singing, being all warm and cozy, gathering with family, sitting by the fire, decorating, buying all the things that will help you be Christmasy, Right?

When I look at all of these things, I feel sad. I don't feel merry. I don't feel bright. I don't want to be jolly. I live every day with one of my precious children missing. The thought of fuzzy family gatherings makes me sick. Decorating? You mean I have to decorate this year? Do I have to stare at all of those decorations from over the years? Do I have to watch my children decorate a tree and hang up their sister's ornaments for her again this year? It doesn't feel merry and bright!

And, then there was the shopping. I didn't want to shop this year! What is the point? Everyone has more than they possibly need, yet everyone wants to open presents for Christmas. They ponder what they could ask for. They actually have to think about what to ask for! Mom's have to sift through their children's toys looking to get rid of a few so that they can get some more. I hear over and over, "I don't know what to get them, so I'm giving them gift cards." Is there any thought fullness anymore? What's the point of all of this?! Why does Christmastime feel so pointless?

I sure was thankful for a sweet little girl of mine who decided to teach me a few lessons this season. Just two weeks into December she had enough of all this "Christmas stuff" "everyone has a Christmas tree, but us!" I realized that I had to do this for my little girl! She needed me to decorate for Christmas. It was worth preparing for. With the tree up and the manger arranged, she asked to hear some music. I hesitantly turned it on. I watched and listened with a heavy heart as she danced and sang. She was soaking it in as if she had never heard those songs before. I realized that she hasn't heard them in three years and three years ago, she was only three. This was her first time. My heart continued to break as I realized that I have failed to give my children Christmas.

Now, it was just a little over a week until Christmas Day. I had shopping to do. The morning I set out to shop, this precious little messenger asked me a question. "Mommy, do you know why we give presents at Christmas?" I knew, but I wanted her to tell me. "It's because God gave us a gift at Christmas. He gave us Jesus, Mommy." Jesus was a gift of love! He was a gift of ultimate sacrifice. God gave us Jesus so that he could show us love, love to the point of death! As I drug myself through the stores, her words echoed in my mind. God gave me Jesus. Jesus. He is mine. He is the reason for Christmas. He IS Christmas!Giving my children gifts is o.k. I am showing them love. I am celebrating God's love.

I keep coming back to Jesus. He is Christmas. The picture that the world wants to create in my mind, that picture of Christmastime, takes my focus off of Jesus. I know that if I focus on that which seems perfect, but can never satisfy me, then I can't do Christmas. I must focus on Jesus...then, the rest of all that is broken, will fade. I cried as I imagined God giving the gift of a son, whom he knew would bear the sin of many, carry it to the cross, bleed and die as he would become sin. God knew He would turn His face to his own son, and this, this for me, for us. This is love. This is Christmas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Carry Me to Jesus

On Sunday my Pastor preached about the paralyzed man who's friends carried him, lifted him onto a roof, dug a hole in that roof, and lowered him through it, placing him at the feet of Jesus. This image has been present with me for the past two years. It wasn't long after Ashley died that I began to wonder why I couldn't pray. Why is everyone else so strong in prayer for me, and I couldn't even whisper a prayer? I didn't even want to. Shouldn't the depth of my pain push me to Jesus? I have always prayed the most when I was weak. A new friend, one that I met only because she lost her daughter only months before I lost mine, reminded me that we are too paralyzed to "get to Jesus." She reminded me of this story. She told me to let my friends carry me to Jesus. They are strong enough to pray. This does not mean that my faith is weak. When I can not stand, I must be carried. I was being challenged to strengthen another part of my faith, by laying down my pride.

This was hard for me to do. I am a very self sufficient person. I don't want to let go and allow others to carry me. In the past, I have had enough strength to bear some of my own weight. This time, I was rendered helpless. I wanted others to carry me, but I also wanted to do it myself. I had to learn that my faith was not based upon MY actions. Faith is also letting go completely, and believing that the prayers of others is enough. I began to rest. I let go of being hard on myself for not praying. I realized that now was the time to encourage others to pray. I needed to testify to them that their prayers work. They needed me to depend on them. This is God's way of making the body of Christ stronger. The picture of the friends that carried the paralyzed man is a perfect example of the way we are to live. Sometimes we are supposed to gain strength by acting. We need to carry others. Sometimes, we need to be forced off of our feet, carried by others, and gain strength in being able to testify to the healing power found in weakness. This picture is beautiful to me.

I began to see how God was working. I listened to friends tell me when they were burdened for me, and that they prayed. Often times, when they were praying, I was at rest. One of my close friends told me one day that she was hurting for me as she folded her laundry. She wondered how it felt for me to have one less pile of laundry to place into my basket. God allowed her to feel my pain and pray for me through a daily life function. It turns out, that I was indeed struggling with that exact pain at that time. She did not know that. I did. I told her. I gave her encouragement to keep praying. There were times when I would get a card or email or phone call out of the blue. It would say, "I don't know why, but I felt like I had to call you." I know why! That was God, asking you to pray for me. I needed your thoughts and your prayers. I couldn't pray, but you could. I remember getting a phone call when I was angry. I had been horrible to people that I love. My phone rang. It was a friend. I suspiciously asked her who told her to call me! I was about to be really mad at the ones I love...but, then, I realized that it was God who asked her to call me. She had no idea what was going on.

It goes the other way too. When we think of something we ought to do for someone, but don't do it. We are too busy, or we convince ourselves that someone else is going to do it, or that maybe we would cause more pain or discomfort by doing that, whatever the reason, we don't listen. I can testify to friends who were willing to share with me that they were so burdened for me, but didn't call...only to find out that I had been in pain and desperately needed what they were being asked to give. I urge my friends, LISTEN TO JESUS CALLING YOU! There is always a reason why we think of others!

There is another aspect of the picture of the paralyzed man being lowered before Jesus. There was a crowd of people watching. Some people in the crowd believed, but others were skeptical. I can imagine that some of the ones who watched these friends carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus were moved by being able to watch faith in action. This doesn't mean that we are to "brag" about what we do for others (that would bring glory to ourselves), nor does it mean that we should hide all that we do in faith. God wants us to testify to His goodness though faithfully obeying His call to carry a friend, and to encourage others by testifying to the healing power of faithful prayer. We can not hide what God can do. I count it blessing to testify to God's Grace. When I put the praise on Him, then my eyes are fixed on Jesus.

I love this picture. No one ever wants to be the one who must be carried, yet each one must take their turn. We gain strength all around when we are the faithful carriers, the one being carried, or the ones who are watching. This is such a beautiful example of the body of Christ in action. Even now, as I rotate through these roles, I continue to feel the places where others carry me. God continues to burden others to pray for me, or to write, or call....or let me know that I am not forgotten. The simple blessings in our lives can be used as constant reminders of the brokenness in the lives of others. It is not a means to pity, but to pray for them, and to give thanks to God for His blessing in our lives.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excerpt from my beach going journal...

I walked miles upon miles along the beach. I photographed shells and critters that the storms left on the sand. I didn't need to pick up all of the shells. I threw back the "live" ones. Once again, I found myself seeking the treasures in the sand that I desired for myself. I even ask them of God. I feel impatient when I ask and don't receive. When I relax, enjoying my walk without expectation, God surprises me. I stopped to admire something through a photo. I spotted a shell that I had never found before. I placed it in my bag. It wasn't the one I had in mind. I quickly hoped on finding the shells I had set out to find. I would keep this one, but I had my heart set on the other ones.

It took a much longer walk down the beach and a few conversations with strangers along the way, for me to realize the value of the treasure that I held. The shell that I had found, the one that I carelessly placed in my bag, was the shell that others desired to find. I wonder why I can't just accept what is given rather than expect what I want!

Later on a woman whom I had spoken with earlier brought a large conch shell to show me. It was vacant and pretty. She was excited to hold such a perfect treasure. She described it as she showed me. She wanted to share it with me! How often I have found treasures, beautiful, rare treasures - and I have quickly hidden them, hoping no one would notice. I am greedy. God wants me to share my treasures, and to rejoice with others over theirs. What does this reveal about my heart? Do I keep it for myself because I would I would be jealous of something they had, that I wanted? Am I greedy,selfish and envious?

How can it be that hundreds of people walk the same beach over, yet each one finds different treasures? How is it that what I see as a treasure differs than someone Else's? Why do I need to find my treasure right now?? Isn't it more realistic that I may find them years from now? And, that after years and years of waiting for the ocean to uncover that special gift, the reward would be much greater? Not in the gift itself, but rather in the long awaiting patience of the receiver?

I pray that God would help me to be patient and thankful for what He has chosen for me now. Maybe He is waiting to give me His treasures until He knows how I will handle them. Will I see them for the beauty they are? Will I understand the worth of what I hold? Will I admire their beauty? will I desire nothing more than that treasure at that very moment? Will I share it? Will I allow others to be blessed?

What is more about the woman who showed me her shell treasure...She hadn't found it! Someone else found it, gave it to her, and she accepted it as if it were her own! My pride has only allowed me to accept the treasures that I find myself. If I accepted on from another, it wouldn't really be mine. I am proud.

I keep asking God to teach me more about His Grace. Today I am seeing sin. This is the biggest picture of God's grace. The bigger I see my sin, the bigger I see God's grace. "Lord, keep showing me my sin so that I see the shadow of your Grace."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ashley's Garden

When faced with the question "how will we mark our daughter's life?" we wondered what we would do. We considered giving a scholarship to her school in Ashley's memory. It was a good idea, but would only leave and impact on one person each year. Knowing Ashley, one person was not enough! She left an impression on every person she met. Not knowing what else to do, we began with a tree. We asked the school if we could plant a tree with a plaque in Ashley's memory at the school. We also wondered if maybe a bench would be appropriate. We wanted Ashley's friends to have a place to go to and remember her. We were amazed when we were granted permission to do what we wanted in a much larger space than we imagined. The tree soon turned into many trees, a flower garden, and a patio with benches! Ashley always dreamed big...and so did we!

The garden was designed and we broke ground over the summer. It wasn't long before it took shape! The raised flower bed would be completed last, as we invited Ashley's classmates and teachers from her years at Red Lion to leave a lasting mark in her garden. What a touching day it was for us. We worked hard, pouring concrete and all, but also enjoyed watching as everyone gathered together in Ashley's garden. We enjoyed talking to Ashley's friends and their families. We shared memories together. Not only did Ashley touch the lives of these people, but they touched her life! Each one of them was important to her. She loved school. She loved her friends. She loved her teachers! Ashley left impressions in each of their lives, and now they were marking theirs!

So many things about the garden are special to me. Leaving hand prints has been a tradition in our family. Since we started our greenhouse business here in Maryland, we would have our children leave their hand prints in the concrete as we poured it. There are several places around our home and farm where Ashley's prints are found.
It only made sense to include hand prints into the garden!

Ashley often dreamed of having her own "secret" garden. One year, she even took the liberty to build her own garden behind our goat barn. She carried rocks back there, stacked them up, filled the garden with dirt, and carefully chose her favorite plants from the greenhouse to plant in her garden. She proudly showed it to each of us! We desired a flower bed, that would be carefully planted with her daddy's flowers each season. What a treasure it was for her daddy and her brother to visit the garden last week and to plant the first flowers in her garden!

When I think of Ashley's "space" it is not her bedroom. Ashley's space was outside! She loved to be outside. Ashley checked the weather each morning on the computer. She wanted to see if today she could play outside! She picked flowers, chased butterflies, caught frogs, climbed trees, played sports, imaginary games, built tents.....and so much more! When I want to feel close to Ashley, I usually go outside. The garden is a place where people can be visit, to study, to wait, to teach. A class period outside was always a highlight to Ashley's school day!

The part of the garden that most represents Ashley is what it is meant to do. The garden is a gathering place. A place to sit, relax, enjoy others, and the outdoors! I will never forget the times we were "all together" as a didn't matter what we were doing, just that we were together. I can still hear her say "look, Mom, we are all together!" It was right up her alley to have family gatherings, birthday parties, picnics, social events....whatever! as long as everyone was all together!
Ashley worked hard to be sure that everyone got along! She knew the interests of each person she was with and orchestrated the situation to makes each person fit in. She didn't like anyone to feel left out. She wanted everyone to get along. What a blessing it has been for us to watch people gather in Ashley's garden. She would love this.
It is a secret garden, a place to gather together, a place to visit....we dreamed big as Ashley always did....we gifted it to the school because Ashley loved to give, and it holds the hand prints of the friends who touched her life, and it will remain forever as a lasting impression of our sweet Ashley.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Shoes

Another grieving mother friend of mine shared this poem with me. It is such a perfect description of the life I live.

I am wearing a pair of shoes. They are ugly shoes. Uncomfortable shoes. I hate my shoes. Each day I wear them, and each day I wish I had another pair. Some days my shoes hurt so bad that I do not think I can take another step..... Yet, I continue to wear them. I get funny looks wearing these shoes. They are looks of sympathy. I can tell in others eyes that they are glad they are my shoes and not theirs. They never talk about my shoes. To learn how awful my shoes are might make them uncomfortable. To truly understand these shoes you must walk in them. But, once you put them on, you can never take them off. I now realize that I am not the only one who wears these shoes. There are many pairs in this world. Some women are like me and ache daily as they try to walk in them. Some have learned how to walk in them so that they don't hurt quite so much. Some have worn the shoes so long that days will go by before they think about how much they hurt. No woman deserves to wear these shoes. Yet, because of these shoes I am a stronger woman. These shoes have given me the strength to face anything. They have made me who I am... I will forever walk in the shoes of a woman who has lost a child.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Wonder they sing!

I am writing about the Locust again! This morning I spent several hours watching a locust emerge from it's hole in the ground, make it's way up the tree, and then wrestle itself out of it's old, mud covered shell. I stood amazed at this very small yet complex piece of God's creation. It's amazing to me that God took the time to teach the locust how to shed it's shell. While I have always taken note of the locust, this year I am drawn to them. God must be using them to teach me a very important lesson!

Today I noticed that all of the little holes in the ground around the tree are indeed the resting places of locusts! I am guessing that they are the larva that are hatching from last year. Regardless of how they got in the ground, I am intrigued by the fact that they begin in the ground, a dark hole in the dirt. They work their way out slowly, barely able to move in their mud covered shell.

I believe they must be so restless inside to the point that the pressure causes the shell to open a hole large enough to climb out of. It took several hours for the locust to slowly pull each leg, it's head, and abdomen from the shell. I watched as it would make one small move then rest for a period of time before moving again. The process was long and painful. I wanted to help it. Maybe if I would pull it out. Maybe if I would break the hole open a little bigger. I resisted the urge to help, knowing that my efforts would only hurt the end result.

The locust emerged a bright green color. It had shriveled up wings, and a soft outer shell. I imagined it must have felt so good to be free from the confines of that mud covered shell. The locust carefully stretched, taking time to gain strength along the way. The wings began to unfold. They were fully stretched, but still weak bending in half as they were unable to resist the gentle breeze. The locust climbed up the trunk of the tree slowly as it gained the strength to move on. It left the empty shell behind. Hours later, the newly hatched locust remains resting on the tree, drying it's wings, gaining strength to begin anew. Soon it will be strong enough to take flight, and to sing the music of the summer days. After watching the locust's journey, it's no wonder they sing!

God wants me to take note of this. I have taken the time to admire his work in the little places of His creation. He is making all things new. He is making me a new creation. The process is long, and painful, and often doesn't go as quickly as I would like. But, He is making me new...and I will sing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I wanna crawl out of my shell

So I woke up this morning thinking all was well. Another day. As the minutes passed me by, and the kids began to wake up. I quickly realized that "all" was not well for me today. I could not pin point why. Everything bothered me ever so slightly. Just enough to make me cringe inside.
I was looking for a specific picture of Ashley for something. As I scrolled through photos, the kids began to hover around. They love to look at the pictures of Ashley. What they don't realize is how it makes them feel inside. They suddenly become agitated with each other. Every one began to function in their own little worlds, which seem to clash with each other. I felt suffocated, out of control, and helpless. I felt overstimulated by the normal everyday things all around me. I was getting more and more restless inside. I felt like I could jump out of my skin! Giving in to my children begging me to spend time with them outside, I stood by the swing set pushing them back and forth.

Being that it is the middle of summer now, the locusts are out and about during the day. Their singing has always been a comfort to me in the summer. Just the same as lightening bugs on a summer evening, the smell of the rain on the hot blacktop, the tree frogs and bull frogs singing through the night....all of these things that prove summer is all around. This is the time of the year when the locusts shed their shell. They cover themselves in mud and then climb out of their old "shell" leaving it behind for my kids to find as summer treasures! It is all the more of a treasure when they find one that is alive! Today, as we were swinging we found a locust sitting next to it's old shell. It must have just made it's way out. I was amazed to compare the size of it's body to the tight shell it left behind. Was it restless inside? Did it feel as though the shell was too small for what was inside? Did it feel good to get out of it? The locust probably sat there and rested, feeling freedom from the constraint of the old shell.

I was jealous. Today I wished I could crawl out of my skin. I wished I could have a break from the constricting shell around me. I felt thankful for the locust, that it had the chance to feel refreshed. I imagine it gained new energy to fly and to sing. The day will come for me to shed my earthly shell. I don't know how long till then. I know that I will be made new. I long for the day.

Not every day is like this. I am thankful for that. Days like this I just pick myself up and push through the day. I will be thankful to put the day away, and I am thankful that tomorrow is a new day. I have had some good times today. It's not all bad, it's just the feeling of needing to burst out of my skin. It's there with me whatever I do. There isn't really a solution for fixing it. That is what is so frustrating!

The quiet few hours provided by a friend, allowing me to sit and write. That has been nice. The work that God gave me to accomplish today, helped to pass the time. As I was running an errand this morning, I turned the music up as loud as it could go. It seemed as though it couldn't be loud enough to match the scream inside my soul. I was thankful to feel the band aid it placed on my heart. God has provided for me today. He is making me as comfortable as He can. It doesn't take me out of my skin, but at least it holds me tight.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lesser Things

The other night a storm rolled in as I was putting the kids to bed. I tried to minimize the threat of the thunder. I tried to hide their eyes from the intense lightening that lit up the dark sky. The day had been long for me. I desperately wanted to give in to the under current of grief that was trying to pull me in throughout the day. I looked forward to putting them to bed so I could find rest for my soul.

I became aware that the storm was not just thunder. It was potentially bigger than that. A Tornado may develop with these conditions. Upon hearing this the kids panicked. I desired to hush them and make them sleep. It was getting late. They were unsettled. One of them asked me to pray for them. As I gathered them up I prayed for God's protection over us. I asked God to take away the storm. I asked him to keep us safe. One of my kids was still scared. The other one said, "it's OK. We prayed about it. God will take care of us. He won't let anything happen to us."

I sat there and agreed. I assured them that we would be OK. God will take care of us. We don't have to be afraid because He is with us always. As I lay in bed with one of my children, I wrestled with God in my head. "I prayed these things to my children. I assured them that you will keep us safe, but I don't know if I believe it! I would be lying to them if I told them that nothing bad will happen. Bad things have happened. Their sister died. Why wouldn't more bad things happen? I can't tell them that they won't. I know you are able to stop bad things from happening, but I know that you don't always. God, I know what I am praying for. I know that the kind of protection that I am praying over them is not the kind that they are asking for."

That night, my children needed to be assured that they would be OK. They needed me to pray with them. As I prayed, I knew that the promises of God that I was calling upon, were not just for physical protection. I knew I could not guarantee that. I was praying, knowing that God would be with us. I Know He promised us that. He will walk with us wherever we go. He will not leave us comfortless. I can't testify that bad things won't happen. They do happen! I can testify that God has been with me. Even in my darkest moments, even when I can't see Him, or feel his presence. Even when things continue to work against me. I know He is there.

After the kids fell asleep and the storm passed, I asked God to show my children the kind of faith He wants them to have. The kind of faith that follows even when we are unsure. Even when we doubt. I asked God to reveal these things to my children in their time. I couldn't tell them these things. These things they must learn on their own. I can live by faith in front of them and pray that they will be faithful.

The next day I had some time to myself. I decided to listen to music in the car as I drove. I usually choose silence in the car, since silence is hard to come by most days. As I listened one of my favorite songs played. A song by Laura Story, "Blessings" Please take some time to listen to it.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Expensive Investments

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet up with an old friend of mine. It was the first time I had seen her since I heard of her son's death. My eyes met hers and I felt that "empty tunnel" connecting us. She held her newborn baby as we talked. The baby was born only one day before her son died. I could go on about her story, but I need to talk about something else that happened that day. As the two of us talked, we understood each other. I heard her say things that I could hear myself saying almost 2 years ago. The more I listened, the more I wanted. It was as if I had been in a foreign land, and finally found someone I knew! As we talked, I connected myself to her pain. I wished I could spend more time with her.

After leaving her I began to realize what it cost me to connect to her in such a way. For the first time since Ashley died, I had experienced someone else's pain through my own. The two were connected. The weight pressed down on me so hard. The pain was immense. I was reliving my own sorrow through hers. It became heavier. I begged God "Why?" Why do mom's like us have to bear this kind of sorrow? I was angry! Nothing could help it. I got a message from a friend, who has a son in heaven. She had been there for me when it was my turn. She had come to me that first night, and I can remember when our eyes met, I felt that tunnel of emptiness between our eyes. I remembered. She entered my pain through her own. It was expensive, but she wanted to make the investment, no matter the cost.

Lately, I have watched other friends do the same thing. They uncover their own pain from deep down, as they invest in anther's hurt. It then takes a long period of healing, as they must work through their life's battles.

The great expense of investment is worth it. God comforts us in our trials so that we can comfort others in their trials....with the comfort that we have received from God! (2Corinthians 2:1) He intended for us to invest in one another's pain. He wants us to experience His comfort so that we can share it.

I was so thankful for the opportunity to invest. The cost was quite expensive, but I am not finished investing. I want to give more. How is it that I can spend so much, recover, and then go spend more? Am I crazy? No! I am blessed. No matter the cost. My friend who invested in me was not looking for a receipt for the amount she spent when she entered my pain. No, she went home, she cried for me and for herself, and she begged God "Why!" on our behalf. I realized the day that I met up with my friend, entered her grief through my own, came home and hurt deeply...that God had given me a gift. He showed me the receipt from my other friend, and I loved her for it! It gave me encouragement to keep investing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Strawberry Picking

"Berry picking with Mama was a delicious time. Just this once, I'll gather more than I eat, thought Suzie Mae. Quick as a wink, she placed each plump strawberry into her bucket. Caw..caw. A crow swooped down and perched on the fence, giving Susie Mae a suspicious look. "Don't worry, old bird," she whispered. "I can pick and not snitch." Mama began to hum, moving swiftly between the rows. Joining in the song, Susie Mae picked the sun-ripened berries. The singing and the sunshine made her stomach rumble. She could almost taste the juicy red strawberries with homemade ice cream. One or two won't hurt, thought Susie Mae..." (from "Just Like Mama" by Beverly Lewis)

This page in the book ran through my mind today as I went to pick strawberries with my kids. Our second year without Ashley. It still hurts, it always will. It seemed as though I went through all of the motions. I even had a good time picking and watching my kids pick. I got home, sat down to hull the berries, and realized what I just did. again. without Ashley. I missed her deeply as I sat at the table with 20 lbs of berries to put away. I could see Ashley sitting across from me. She would insist on helping. We would work together in the kitchen as we turned the berries into sauce and jam. I remembered her getting mad if I hulled too fast...not leaving enough for her to do. She was beginning to work me out of a job.
Each year, Ashley would insist on picking more strawberries. She didn't want to risk running out of sauce for homemade waffles!

I kept on asking myself why I am doing this. How am I doing this? What did I just do? Is this for real. Jake reminded me that we have to keep living. We can't stop life. Even though I often wish I could, I know he is right. Hopefully one day the memories that come along with every day will cause more joy and less pain. I am amazed at how sometimes what hurts the most are the little things in life. I felt as though I had to hold myself up, and remind myself to breathe this afternoon. I had finished the berries and felt the cost in the end.

I took some time to read the book, "Just Like Mama" to Emma this afternoon. Ashley loved that book. We read it often. Ashley always wanted to be like me. She reminded me of "Susie Mae" always trying to do the things her Mama did...following in her footsteps. I taught Ashley to do so many things..but most of all, I taught her to love Jesus and to serve Him daily. She is loving Him and serving Him today.

A song came to my heart today as I drove home. "Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage, Your defender is He, who is always the same. Mount up with wings as an eagle ascending. Victory is yours when you call on his name. Be strong. Be strong. Be strong in the Lord, and rejoice for the victory is yours." I Imagined that Ashley was singing it to me, encouraging me to press on, keeping my eyes fixed on God.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reflections about my Fathers

Great Grandpop. He lived to be 101 years exactly. What a privilege to have known him into my 30's. He taught me how to love the sound of laughter. His laugh was hilarious and contagious! I loved to say things just to hear him laugh. He laughed hard when us great grand children would say the few silly things that we knew how to say in Pennsylvania dutch. More seriously, he taught me about wisdom, strength, and silence. He taught me something about listening more and speaking less...something that I probably won't really learn until I am older.

PopPop. He taught me about serving others and certainly proved that you can never know too many people. PopPop can't go anywhere without knowing someone. He has taught me kindness and gentleness toward others. He has always taught me through his actions, to remember others. He often set time aside to do special things with us kids. I remember evening bike rides, walks, games,fishing, rides in the back of the pick-up truck, and the special "me and Pop Pop" trip to the Phillie's game! PopPop also taught me how to address my Father in heaven. I crave to hear his Sunday dinner prayers. "Our kind and heavenly Father....use this food.. there of to bring glory and honor to You." These words will never leave my heart. In some of my darkest moments, the echo's of his prayers have comforted me.

Grandpa. Although he did not live close by, he taught me so many things through what he taught my Dad. Grandpa taught me about being a good steward of what God has given to me. My Dad would often say...."Grandpa always said that it doesn't matter how much or how little you had, you must take good care of it because it is what God has entrusted into your care." Grandpa also taught me about working hard. He raised my dad on a farm, teaching him the value of hard work....being a steward of our time. In turn, Dad taught me about working hard. Grandpa also taught me to enjoy music. What a blessing it is to sit around his table as a family and hear four part harmony as we sang our favorite hymns before prayer.

My Dad. He is truly one of my best friends. I love to chat with him, and to spend time together. He taught me to enjoy nature. Growing up,we spent lots of time traveling with our camper. Dad taught me to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. He taught me how to work and how to play. Dad taught me how to provide sacrificially. Dad spent many hours away from home as he has driven a truck for most of my life. Although he would have liked to be home, he desired to be the best provider for our family as he could be. I have learned to give up things that I desire in order to give my children what they need.
Although I am still learning this one, Dad has taught me about patience. He patiently waited as I learned to do things..anywhere from riding a bike to driving my car, and he patiently guided me as I sorted through my spiritual life as a teenager. Dad taught me how to relate to others and to enjoy the company of others. Dad always reminds me to examine my ways before the Lord. He continues to guide me to be a godly woman.

My father in law. I have been his "daughter" for 18 years now. He has taught me about gennerosity toward others and about giving. He has also shown me about forgiveness...over and over and over again. I love to listen to my kids giggle as he tells them bedtime stories when he comes to visit. He taught my husband how to work hard, and equipped him with the ability to do just about anything! And, now I am blessed to see them use those talents together as they serve in Haiti.

My husband. The father of my four beautiful children. One of the first things I loved about him when I met him was the way he loved children. "He is going to be an awesome daddy someday!" That was one quality that was at the top of my list! I have always loved to watch him with little kids. What a blessing it has been to watch him love and play with our children over the past 13 years. He has proven to be more than an awesome father, not only to our children, but to others. I love to watch him father the children in Haiti. They come running to him and can't wait to be with him. He doesn't push them away. He loves them too.
He is strong, confident, and works hard to provide for his family. He teaches his children to love and fear God, not only through words, but through his example. He has bravely done what most fathers never have to do in their lifetime. He is showing us how to walk in faith each day. Even in great weakness, he has picked himself up, and walked forward. He teaches me so much about who God God loves his children, how God provides, how He forgives. He is showing us how to walk in faith each day. God has given me the best father for my children!

God has blessed me with generations of wonderful fathers. I am so thankful for each one of them, and for the things they have taught me, and continue to teach me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Give me Jesus

Mother's Day. Not always a hallmark card, really. It seemed empty, lonely, and sad. It was also sweet with hugs and kisses, homemade cards, good deeds for Mommy, picnics, and family time. I'm not the only one out there that doesn't get to live out the ideal Mother's Day. I think Mother's Day is a sad, painful day for so many. It is often unmentioned that there are women who never got the privilege of being a mother even though they would have been the best mothers if they had been given the chance. Some mothers didn't deserve to be a mother...and their children have to live with their loss each Mother's day. So many mothers have to grieve over the absence of their own mother as they raise their children without a Grandma. There are mothers, like me, who have to face each day, including Mother's Day with one (or more) of our children missing.

There is a misunderstanding about Joy in the midst of pain. Joy never left. It is here, most every day, in one form or another. Joy is chained to deep sorrow and pain. They are rarely felt apart from each other. My mother's day was filled with joyful moments with my children. It was also filled with tears, and the pain of separation from my first born child that literally shook me. I do not desire a Mother's day without tears. My tears represent Ashley. I want them.

As I began my day, I pondered Mother's day. I imagined happy families blissfully celebrating motherhood. I imagined Mom's with "all" of their children. (Not that those things are not worthy celebrating!) Mine was broken. Empty. Lonely. The words of an old favorite song filled my mind..."You can have all this world.....Give me Jesus." Being a mother WAS part of this world. This world is broken and lost.
Later on, I took a drive by myself. It was a good time for me to give in to my pain. Tears rolled down my face and I shook as I tried to imagine my sweet child. I missed her deeply. I couldn't feel her as close anymore. I missed specific things about her. I missed my perfect Mother's Days. I wanted her hugs and kisses. Soon, the song began to play on the radio..."when I am alone, oh when I am alone, Give me Jesus..."

God wanted me to know that even being a mother belonged to Him. He entrusted that gift to me, but it belonged to Him. A particular verse in Luke made sense to me..."If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." Even those good things are part of this world. I determined that God wanted me to know that I only need Him. I didn't need a perfect Mother's Day.

Ashley crowned me with motherhood. She shaped me into the mother I am today. As the oldest child, she conducted each day. Every one of my children bear her mark. For a very long time after Ashley died, it was hard for me to "see" my other children apart from her. I have been so blessed over the past few months, as I have begun to enjoy each one of my children for who they are apart from Ashley, and to also love them for their characteristics that mirror their sister. The hole is always there, every time I look at my children, one is missing, but I am not always focused on it. I see the hole as part of the WHOLE of my broken life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The years of Famine

A few weeks ago I was in Haiti. I went to the morning devotions that are held each day on the Double Harvest compound. The man who preached was a Haitian farmer. He delighted in the Lord! While he spoke in Creole, I listened through my eyes. In the background, I heard an interpreter. He did his best to give us an idea of what the message was all about. The scripture was a common one, one that I have heard many times since I was a little girl. It was the parable of sower and the seeds that fell on different types of ground. His message was different than what I have always heard. He asked, rather than what kind of seed I am, what kind of soil am I? Will my soil produce a bountiful harvest? As I would like to share more about that question, there was something else he said that I am pondering today.

He talked about our dreams of good things to come in the future. He asked us "what are you doing today?" The things we invest in today will influence the things that happen tomorrow. What you "sew" today, you will reap tomorrow. The way we nourish the "seed" of the gospel now, will be evident later. This message is full of life lessons. It made me thankful for something I did years ago.

As I was growing up, I was given scripture. Memory verses, hymns, Sunday school songs and such. It didn't seem like much then, but years of repetition filling my soul with scripture was "filling my storehouses." I remember many quiet moments as a teenager and young adult in which I bathed myself with devotions and worship time. I had no idea that I wasn't just soaking in the moment, I was filling my storehouse during the time of plenty in my life. Years down the road, the famine hit. Life became harder than ever. This is when scripture verses flooded my mind throughout the day. Sunday school songs played themselves in my heart without my prompting. I was amazed that these treasures that I stored up in my heart, managed to find their way to the surface just when I needed them! I knew that the doors of my storehouse had been opened. I have been nourishing my soul in the famine, with the fruit of the years of plenty.

Although it was hard to see the point in my younger years, I sure am thankful for it now. As a teenager, I lived for each moment, choosing to do what felt best at the moment. I am thankful for the good choices I made then....I had no idea that I was preparing to feed my weary soul later.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beautiful Day

Yesterday was beautiful. It was warm, with a light breeze. There were birds singing, green grass, flowering trees, daffodils bloomed. After a long, hard winter and a cold early spring, everyone was so happy to see a day like this! Spring has a way of making someone feel refreshed, revived, full of new life.
It was a bittersweet day for me. I couldn't wait to go outside. I dug into my flower beds and pruned the shrubs. The more time I spent outside, the harder it got. I loved it...because I love spring, but I hated it too! Every thing I did, everywhere I went, I could see Ashley. I could almost feel her. She loved spring! She could never wait to get outside. She never wasted a beautiful day. As I pulled weeds in my garden, I found some baby herbs coming up. They are the survivors from Ashley's herb garden that she planted several years ago. She loved to plant flowers. Every year, she would beg me to let her plant her own "secret" garden. One time, she managed to find a spot behind the barn. She shaped a few little gardens with rocks that she found, filled the space with soil from the greenhouse, then planted a bunch of flowers that she found in the greenhouse junk pile. She was so proud of her garden!

I worked outside as Grace played. I missed my kids. I couldn't wait until they got home from school. I began to dream up Ashley coming home from school. I remembered her smile, her laugh, her ambition to get outside to play. When Jacob and Emma got home, we went right to the swing set like we always have. The kids and I loved to spend spring afternoons playing on the swings. Sometimes we do homework outside too, so we don't waste any part of the beautiful day! As I was swinging, I stared at the spot under the tree where Ashley and I would spread out the quilt. We would sit there and read books or just chat. The kids and I went to visit our goats and ponies...then we rode dirt bikes for a while. Every piece of the day was filled with blessing, and refreshed our souls, yet the pain was intense. I felt restless, and helpless. No matter how comfortable life might be, no matter how refreshed, or how beautiful and perfect the day is, it is never enough. Nothing satisfies, it is always partly empty. As I was sitting on a chair, I saw a bug that was on it's back. He had gotten wedged into a crack. It was wiggling, and moving it's legs as fast as it could, but couldn't get anywhere. It could not accomplish what it wanted to do. I felt like that bug, pinned in place.

Spring reminds me of Ashley, not only because she loved it so much, but because it is full of life. It is bright and cheerful, colorful, and welcoming. Spring best describes my Ashley. I will never forget how her life changed the minute the warm weather set in. She loved to play outside. Everything else lost importance to her. She would get up in the morning with a list of everything she wanted to accomplish for that day. It was usually things that she wanted to play.

When I am comfortable, I am content to be where I am. When I am restless, I desire heaven, because it is the only thing that will make me whole again. It is the only place I will be comfortable again. God wants us to be in the place of restlessness. He wants us to long to be with Him. Heaven is real to us. My children know how real heaven is as well. When I was a child, I looked forward to the next driving, to dating, to marriage, to having children. My children dream up heaven. They can't wait to get there. As hard as it is to watch, I am thankful that they get it. They know what matters. I always tell them that God will come when His work here is done. Because we are his hands and feet, we need to work hard for God every day. Soon He is coming. The old will be gone, and the new will come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ever present Eagles

It started as a little girl. When I was afraid, I would say the Bible verse to myself...Isaiah 40:31 "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renu their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not be faint." I remember saying this to myself as I went into surgery, as I walked on the stage for orchestra, as I ran a race, as I faced difficult tests in school. I took comfort in God's words about the eagle. I continue to love that verse.

Coming from a family of bird watchers, we would often take trips to the mountains to hike. Spotting an eagle was a rare find. When we moved here to Maryland, I would see an occasional Eagle in flight. I was always excited to see this sight! The spring before Ashley died, I began to see eagles more often. One day Ashley and I saw an eagle perched in the tree beside our house! We were amazed! Another day, we saw several of them in field across the street from our house. We watched them together. I couldn't believe there were so many eagles right in front of me! My eagle watching days had just begun.

Over the past two years, it has been more than apparent that God wants me to pay attention to these magnificent birds! Since I spend so much of my time driving in the car, I tend to see them along the way. Sometimes I see one or two every day. There have been times when I would see no less than two eagles every day for weeks at a time! I wonder if maybe I am just good at finding them? No, I believe God has placed them directly in front of me! He wants me to see them, to admire them, to model their strength. He wants to remind me of his promise. He will raise me up on eagles wings. Sometimes I see them in flight. Sometimes I hear them scream. Sometimes I see them bravely perched on a branch. Sitting tall and strong. They are a constant reminder of God's presence, and of His promise.

One day, as I sat in the cemetery, I told God, "I don't know what to say." I was speechless. I was lost. My arms, my heart, my soul were empty. I felt abandoned, confused, disappointed, frustrated, angry. Just then, there was a rustling in the branches of the tree above me. An eagle, who was perched above me suddenly took flight. He swooped down over the cemetery where I sat. Demanding my attention, it flew off into the distance calling out with loud screams. I knew God answered my cry with a picture of what He had promised me. I was instantly angry at him for proving to me that he was there and that he cared! I was comforted at the same time, knowing I was safe in his promises to me.

When my grandmother died, years ago, my sister sang the song "On eagles wings" at her service. "And He will raise you up, on eagles wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.." God wants us to be like the eagles. They are amazing birds! I admire the way they command the sky in flight. They are graceful and strong. Their presence in the sky is respected by other birds. They are free! While I admire them in flight, my attention has been drawn to their perch. They stand strong and upright. They have such an impressive presence.

While I continue to be just where I am, taking life only one day at a time. I refuse to ignore the symbol of strength that God continues to remind me of every day. I don't have anything figured out. I am still lost and confused. But, I am thankful that God is the same. Every day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gennerations of Fasnachts

Fat Tuesday is what I know to be Fasnacht Day. For as long as I can remember I have eaten homemade fasnachts (raised donuts) this day before lent. My great grandmother, my grandmother, and now, myself made donuts on this day to share with others. As I write this, the aroma of donuts fills my house, and my kids have tummies full of them! For some reason, this year's didn't turn out quite right...I don't know why...that just happens sometimes I guess.

Growing up, my Grammy would usually walk into our home Tuesday evening with a big bag of donuts for us. She would spend the day making them, then she would bag them up and deliver them to family, friends, and to her co-workers. I loved to walk into her house and smell the aroma! One year I happened to be home from school when Grammy was making donuts. I asked if I could help. We spent the day together, mixing, stirring, kneading. When the dough had to rise for a few hours, Grammy gathered herself together and we drove to the nursing home to visit some of the elderly from our church, and her sister, who was sick. After the visit, we came home to roll out dough, cut donuts, let them rise again, and then boil them in oil. Grammy didn't want me to do the frying since I might burn myself. She showed me how to carefully place the donuts into the oil face side down. We watched them rise from the bottom up, waited for a few minutes, then flipped them over to brown on the other side.
Grammy always gave me the assignment of counting the donuts. She always wanted to know how many she ended up with! Sometimes while we were waiting on the dough to rise she would do her ironing in the kitchen while we talked. She ironed everything! She always made good use of her time!
After Grammy died, I have continued the tradition of doughnut making. Since I moved away from where I grew up, I usually had to explain to everyone in receipt of the donuts, the meaning of Fastnacht day.

Grammy left me with several treasures. She fed me donuts, taught me how to make them, and share them....but she also taught me how to manage my time. She taught me the importance of making time for visits to the elderly, sick, and widowed. She gave me her undivided attention in conversation as we spent time together, and she took time to write her recipe on paper...just for me! (which I still have that paper, and use it every year!) Included in each doughnut making day are my Great Grandmother's doughnut cutter, and my Grammy's rolling pin! I think of her every time I use it.

So, Happy Fasnacht Day, my friends. Go, eat a doughnut!

Recipe for Raised Donuts by Susan Stoudt

6c. Boiling water
1c. Instant potatoes
2 1/2c. shortening
2c. eggs beaten
3c. Sugar
2T. salt

combine above ingredients then add the following mixture:
4c. warm water
1/4c. yeast
1tsp. sugar

Then add 9 1/2 lbs. of flour. Knead until not tacky to feel. place in large bowl and let rise for 2 hours.
Roll out dough to about 1 inch thick, cut doughnuts and set them on floured counter top.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. Place doughnuts face down in oil until lightly browned, then flip them over to brown on the other side. Remove from oil with a fork and place on layers of paper towels to dry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Paging through my Bible I always stumble across a fluorescent yellow post-it note. It is one from a drug rep back in my days of working in the medical field. The note is pasted on the top of the page marking Hebrews 11. The note has Hebrews 11:1 written on it...."Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." The verse is also underlined in my Bible. I am certain that when I read this verse years ago I was convinced it deserved to not be forgotten! I believe I marked it then so that I would continue to find it now.

When I first began to pick up my Bible after Ashley died, I remember finding the post-it note. I began to read the verses on the page. It never hurts to read past a verse, and I was thankful I did. Hebrews 11 walks you through a legacy of faith driven people. Although I had read it before, it was like I was reading it for the first time. I was strengthened as I read about the people who went before me. Hebrews 11 pushes one to read Hebrews 12. As I read on I stopped at verse 2. It is also underlined. This verse has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Not because it makes me feel good, but because it is the nourishment I require for every new day.

Hebrews 12:2 says "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." The verses continue, but the underline stopped at the cross for me. I have every intention of writing this verse on a wall in my house. I need to see it every day. So often, I forget. A friend of mine, my pastor, reminded me that every time I take my eyes off of Christ, I will be lost. I will get burdened by the worries of my life. If I am not focused on Christ, I will focus on something else. Everything else in life will disappoint me. Nothing in life, but Christ alone, will satisfy me completely. These words make sense, and give such peace. Why is it then, that I continue to wander from the truth? The old hymn says it all "prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love..." It is my nature to wander from God. I am a sinner.

Getting back to fixing my eyes on Jesus. He is the author of my faith. He "wrote it." He also perfected it...that means that he completed it without mistake' something I can not do. Christ suffered through his life, which gave way to the cross itself, and his blood that covered it. The cross is not only an object of death, but is also a tangible description of our daily sufferings. Jesus carried his "cross" throughout his life. Jesus was able to endure the cross, because He knew the joy that was set before him. Being God, himself, he left heaven to come to earth. He had been there before, he had seen and taken part in the Glory of the Father.

I am instructed to "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:3). As I am called to carry my cross each day, I need to focus on Christ. He was without sin, yet bore my sin as he endured the cross. His blood was shed, which covered the cross, he defeated death, and entered the joy that was before him. Since the cross that he carried was mine, and through it, my sins have been forgiven, then the Joy that belongs to him is also mine! I no longer have to pay for my sin, but I still have to pick up my cross (no matter the size) and follow his example. The end result is pure Joy!

The one word that sticks out to me is Endure. Christ endured the cross. The definition of endure is to undergo a hardship without giving in, to suffer, to regard with acceptance or tolerance, to continue in the same state, to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding. (Merriam Webster dictionary). Endurance through suffering is what I am called to do. Luke 9:23 "Then he said to them all: "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." I am thankful that Jesus said "daily." He knew that I couldn't just do it once, I am prone to wander. I will fail.

As I carry my cross each day, I am promised joy. I believe this is where my faith comes into play. I am taken back once again to Hebrews 11:1, "being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." Jesus had seen the glory of the Father. I have been called to place my faith in Jesus, who is Joy, and who loved me enough to endure the cross that was my sin, so that His joy could be mine. He requires nothing less than for me to admit that I can not do it on my own, to believe that He did it for me, and then pick up the cross that belongs to me, and follow His lead. It must be done every day.

This journey is long and the road is hard, but it will be worth it all when I see Jesus and my faith will be sight.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A jar of broken shells

I love to walk on the beach, any beach, really. I love to go to different ones because they are not all the same. I also love to pick up shells along the way. I never know what I might find on the beach. Most beaches have one thing in common: lots of broken shells! A whole, perfect, unbroken sea shell is a rare find on most beaches.

Usually the little pieces of shells that line the water's edge are rough. They are not pleasant to walk on. Most of them are odd shapes with jagged edges making it hard to tell what kind of shell they used to be. I notice that when I walk along the beach they often catch my eye, I pick them up, look them over and let them fall back to the ground as they are not worthy of keeping. I can't help but to criticize them for their brokenness. My children, however will pick up a broken shell instead of a perfect one. They will hold onto it, pocket it, and treasure it! I used to encourage them to put the broken ones down and look for the pretty, whole shells instead. I no longer discourage their choice, rather, I have begun to learn an important lesson in life.

One beach that I visited was unusual. I didn't find any broken, rough edged shells that hurt my feet to walk over, instead the broken shells were smooth and well rounded. I bent over to admire them. I wondered what kind of shells they used to be. Even the ridges on their surface were smooth leaving me no hint of their original shape. As I ran my fingers through the layers of broken shells I noticed that they were indeed beautiful. I admired the beautiful colors that shone through their polished surfaces, colors that are usually hidden when the shell is perfect. Although the shapes were uncertain, the smooth texture gave them a new identity. They were broken and beautiful shells.

I imagined the journey that brought them to this beach. They began whole, perfect, beautiful shells full of purpose and life. They were abandoned, torn apart, thrown against rocks. Their shells were broken. Their purpose was destroyed. They were tossed by the waves in the ocean, and tumbled in the sand as they followed the tide. On occasion, they were left in mounds on the sandy beaches to be bleached by the sun until the waves washed over them again forcing them back into the tumbling tide. Each time they were left on the beach, their appearances changed.

Contrary to my usual pocketful, I left that beach with pockets full of smooth, broken shells. I didn't know why I wanted them until I got home. I placed them in a jar. I often stop by to dip my hand into the jar. I love to feel their smooth surfaces and to enjoy the mysterious colors they display. One night I had a dream that I was laying on the ground digging my hands into a puddle. In my grief,I was going crazy. I was feeling lost in my world, out of control, feeling like I couldn't make it any longer. Although I couldn't see inside the hole, I was frantically running my hands through the smooth pebbles and shells that I could feel inside.

I realized that what I live for each day, what I find comfort in when my world is breaking and my "shell" is no longer recognizable, is the hope that I have in the person that God is shaping me to be. I have become a broken shell. I have been tossed in the waves over and over. Each day, the broken edges are tumbled in the sand. On occasion I am left on the beach, to soak in the rays of the sun, to rest. The waves wash over me and I am once again tumbled and tossed, but each time I am left in a different, but better shape than before. I crave the shell I once was, but I am able to endure each day knowing that the edges are being smoothed, and in the end the colors that are within that could not be seen when I was whole will be beautiful!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

His Grace is Greater

The deeper I go into grief the longer I travel this road, the more sinful I become. How do I feel so sinful now? I am no more sinful today than I was yesterday. When we have "control" over our lives, we also seem to have control over our sin. Not that we sin less, but that we are very good at hiding it. I have often heard that in grief or pain a person tends to have little ability to filter what goes in or comes out. We say things we don't mean to say or do things that are out of character for us.

This has been more than true for me. I feel like I have reached my full capacity. I don't have any more room to absorb anything. This is evident when something makes me angry and I can't "swallow" it, process, think though my response before responding. I just react. I say what's on my mind. I feel like a balloon ready to burst. It is common to hear someone who has suffered great loss described as becoming bitter and angry. I don't think we become any more bitter or angered than we were before. People in pain just have to let out the anger they feel because they can't absorb it and hide it from others. They are a true reflection of what we really look like.

In the midst of my pain, my sin is revealed bigger than before. My filters are down. Why does such a huge portion of my hurt each day have to be the mirror image of my sinfulness? As I wrestled my emotions one day, I begged God why I have to turn into such a wretched person. I wondered why God wouldn't relieve me of that. I began to look for God's presence. Where is He? Suddenly I realized that I had just seen him...right in front of my face. He is in the faces of my children when they cling to me despite the way I have treated them. He has shown me himself through the way my husband loves me no matter who I have become. How could my husband love me when I act this way? It's because he vowed to love me unconditionally. He made a promise to me and to God. If my husband, being human could love me this much, how much more does God love me being God himself?

I pondered God's love for me. In the Bible God describes his love for us in many ways, but one of them is through the marriage of a man and woman. A man is to love his wife the way Christ loves the much that He gave his life for those he loves. God wants me to see the greatness of my sin so that I can see the greatness of His love for me! The clearer reflection of my sin is a gift from God, not a curse. It is a window into God's presence.

My youngest child's name is Grace. I am so thankful for her and her name. I often say her name and sing the old hymn "Grace, Grace, God's grace....grace that will pardon and cleanse within....Grace that is greater than all my sin." It is a constant reminder to me that God's grace is sufficient for me.