The Broken Stuff

It’s been awhile since I’ve waxed poetic in the wee hours. High time for some heart ramblings. They usually flow so easily, begging for release. Tonight, they are tumbling around in this head and heart of mine, in a nonsensical dance.

The past few weeks, I’ve felt like I’m living in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. If you haven’t read it, do so. It is one of the most accurate pictures of spiritual warfare I’ve experienced. The same taunting themes dangled in front of me again and again, a parade of mockery and discouragement. I find that speaking truth aloud steals the power from lies. Fleeing the one tempting you toward destruction quiets the noise…for a bit, anyway. Until the next wave.

“Take every thought captive into the obedience of Christ.” I cling to the reminder, run to the truth like a desperate, starving escaped prisoner, finally free.

On Monday, we started our first in a series of weekly bible studies we will be doing on the book Anchored by Erin Cushman. (If you’re local, please join us in person Mondays at 6:30pm EST at SGM…and if you’re anywhere in the world, the study will be streamed live and recorded. Week One video displayed here. You can join the discussion and find other support in our Walking With You Facebook Group.)

Anyway, as the part of the study we had to choose five words that would maybe describe us 10 years from now as a woman…after walking through loss. One of my words was brave. I shared during the study that I think my definition of the word brave has changed over the years as I’ve walked through grief and healing and life. I used to think brave meant…looking strong and tough, not being afraid. Now I find vulnerability and realness and often tears or the sharing of struggles to be brave…more courageous than hiding behind a façade. Doing something anyway when you’re most afraid and filled with doubt and fear.

After a long couple weeks filled with struggles on all fronts, I was preparing to go to lead an after school program where SGM talks with high school and middle school students about healthy ways to grieve and express emotions. I was feeling kind of broken today as I prepared to leave. Kind of emptied and unsure what was left to give. It’s often when I feel that way the most that the loaves and fishes flow from my not enough.

I had forgotten once again, in my weary, about God’s extraordinary math…the way He fills in the pouring out.

Today’s activity was to use the acknowledgment pages from my book, Sufficient Grace, to share about the ways that people influence our lives. And, how even the painful relationships or the broken things in our lives can shape us for good and can be part of the acknowledgment pages of our lives. Then, each student would take some time to write their own acknowledgment page. Who would they thank for making them who they are today?

It’s seriously a soul-searching thing that everyone should do at least once. I’ve mentioned before, it was the hardest thing for me to write in the entire book. It’s a powerful thing to do. Even to reflect on those who may have hurt us the most. Those who left some of the broken stuff we carry around in our hearts. Or the people who were there for us when no one else was, the people who believed we could and the ones who doubted our worth and abilities.

So, as I stood before them in my secret weariness, loaves and fishes came forth. They displayed the brave that few know. They with their broken stuff oozing real and beautiful. They who sometimes have been forgotten, cast aside, treated with ugliness, abuse, and neglect. They who wonder if anyone sees…if anyone hears. Finding hope in knowing that they matter. Finding hope by standing together. Finding hope by searching through the rubble of all the broken pieces for the beauty that shines forth beneath the destruction. The beauty God places in the depths of a human heart, beating hope with each defiant breath. Hope that fights to survive and shine light in the dark places. They with all the brave and beautiful broken left me with tears hanging in the corners of my eyes. Thankful once again that I didn’t miss this divine appointment. This work that matters throughout eternity. Because my God is the one who seeks to save that which was lost. My God is the King of finding beauty in the broken…of hope rising eternal…of survival…of light in the dark places…of the brave of vulnerability. And, He will hunt us down with His love.

As I see them, He whispers, “I see you.”

And, I am a puddle of humbled small thinking how I was just hours before wrestling with my need to know that the work I do is relevant or worthy or blah…blah…blah. Somehow whatever seemed so pressing disappears in the face of the raw beauty of realness and courage to speak about the hard things…the heart things. Most of the time we who teach are actually the ones learning. Suddenly all that was weighing on my heart before I walked in seemed so inconsequential in the presence of their brave, beautiful, broken offerings. The fact that they allow me to see a glimpse into those sacred places a gift of unspeakable value.

It’s easy to get distracted from the real work…the work that matters…the purpose God has laid out for us. Before we know it, our energy has been wasted on something that will never matter in the grand scheme of eternity. While fighting the good fight to resist the temptation to allow discouragement to take over and steal my focus from the sacred work there is an ongoing battle to remember to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and serving others by pouring out His love. Not to look at results or measure the worth or relevance or the number of people who will stand with you or acknowledge your efforts….but to be truly hidden in Christ…so free from being swayed by the constant distractions or whispers of doubt because I’m just His and the “me” part just doesn’t matter. It is a constant battle to die to self.

The verse below was a good reminder. Do what matters. Do what will last. Do it for the right reasons. Don’t look at anyone else. Spend your time on the precious stones, the gold and silver…and forget the wood, hay, and straw. Leave that to someone else.

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”
I Corinthians 3:11-13

broken stuff

Redemption

The following is from Kelly’s heart. Not on behalf of Sufficient Grace.

I can tell this will be one of those nights when sleep eludes me. Words, begging for release, like they do.

I’m not sure where to begin these ramblings from my depths.

There is a woman, quite dear to me, who no longer lives earthside, but has made her home in heaven. For her, all has been redeemed. Which makes my own wrestlings regarding her life and the sorting through of my thoughts on the matter seem rather futile. Except…the thing about complete redemption… It is not so this side of heaven. We still ache for full redemption in our broken state, for the day when our Savior returns to make all the wrongs right, once and for all. How it must grieve His heart, the damaged state of our current dwelling place.

Her body lies in the ground, but her soul lives. This woman who is dear to me.

When she walked on planet earth, she was never loved as she deserved. Not once. She didn’t even love herself the way a woman of her stature ought. For she carried more grit and grace in her pinky than most people do in their entire being. She just didn’t know it. She didn’t see herself the way He saw her. If she did…if she knew her worth was of far more value than rubies, life would’ve been different.

What she didn’t know, was that it was a man’s job to protect her, to love her, to treasure her. She learned a different lesson from the women she knew. And, some of the men. The men who gave her their names during various seasons of her life didn’t behave worthy of being called her blanket of protection. In many ways, they weren’t.

So, the dilemma in my wrestling is this. I know that all the broken that occurred this side of heaven has been redeemed for her on the other side, where she now lives. She is covered in the blanket of the love of Jesus, clean and set free from everything that entangled her and held her back in this life. She is all that He created her to be…and she knows…deep in her deepest depths that she is lovvvved….loved like we have never known this side of heaven. Every wrong has been made right.

So…why…why do I still long to give her back her name? To take a piece of the land back for her? Pieces that were stolen. What does that say about my heart thumping and stumbling along earthside, trying to shake off the broken and longing…always longing for redemption…even as we drink in grace?

Redemption is an interesting craving. And, I’ve been mulling it’s inner parts…the longing desire we have within us…for rightness and justice. For brokenness to find restoration.

I tend to be drawn to the broken hearts and people, seeing…always seeing…the redeemable qualities in another. (Well…almost always.)

Recently, my “therapist-ish” friend asked me about the attraction and fierce love I feel toward broken people as we sorted through my inner pieces.

She said, “Are you trying to fix them?”

“No,” I replied, “I can see the beauty…the good in them. I can see the redeeming qualities. And, I want the good to win.”

I want the person I see and love to see and love themselves…to know their own redeemable qualities, the ones God sees, the things in them Jesus saw when He laid down His life on the cross…to redeem every broken place inside every mess of a person.

I want to see redemption in the souls of those I love. Of those around me. I want to reflect back to them, like a mirror, shining light on their best side…on the potential I see in them. I want them to lift their heads and hope.

I want them to look to Jesus to be their Redeemer, for He is the only worthy one who can.

And, even still…I long to give that woman back her name. At least this side of heaven. In eternity, it likely won’t matter so much.

The Wounding Human Beings Inflict…and What to Do With all the Broken

We who wander on planet earth have all been wounded at some point by another human being. The deepest cuts, the ones that take the longest to heal, are from those we love. We all wound one another at some point. With our words, our actions, our indifference.

We all take the sacred gift one offers when she gives a piece of her heart, allowing another human being to tiptoe in, and inflict harm whether on purpose or inadvertently. Because we’re flawed. We speak from our broken places. We revisit our own wounds. We have moments of self-seeking, self-protection, self-preservation…that have nothing to do with loving one another.

People you barely know may speak words or exhibit behaviors that sting. Those closest to you, however, hold the sharpest weapons. They know your weak places. They know how to shoot an arrow so specifically to inflict the most damage. What is left behind…broken trust, broken hearts, broken fellowship. A whole lot of broken.

And from a spiritual standpoint, there is one who studies you and me…studies and waits for an opportune time, to whisper his accusations in the ear of the vessel doing the accusing…to divide…to destroy…to tear down what God is building up in us. And, in our hurt…we listen… to both the accusing vessel…and the reaction of the accused. We listen to the harmful words that tear down.

I’ve been wounded. And, I’ve done some wounding.

I think if we’re all honest, we’ve been on both sides of the battlefield. Those gifted with words can unleash the deadliest of insults. What does the scripture say about blessing out of one side of your mouth, and cursing with the other? We do it, as human beings.

Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image. 10 One mouth streams forth both blessings and curses. My brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be. 11 Does a spring gush crystal clear freshwater and moments later spurt out bitter salt water? ~ James 3:9-11 The Voice

And, when we’re wounded, we justify our reactions, lashing out like an animal in a cage, fighting back. Well…he hurt me. I have to protect myself. She let me down. I had every right. I’m not the one who threw the first verbal punch. At least I didn’t (fill in the blank).

I spent some time on my patio recently…something I haven’t done enough lately…indicative by recent failings to control my own tongue, my own reactions when backed into a corner dripping from wounds. On my patio, I received the kind of spanking a loving Father gives when His daughter’s heart is bent for a wayward path. Oswald Chambers is a good vessel for the truth-talking, no nonsense, lie dispelling necessary when one has spent way too much time listening to the accuser.

The wounds hurt. I won’t lie. They hurt and the words roll around in your mind long after they’ve been flung your way, piercing the outer layer…to the inner layer. But, that hurt is no excuse.

Because, we are called to die. Die to ourselves. Lay down our lives for a friend. Love dies to self. To the rights we think we have. To the justification we feel we’re due. To the need to speak our case, right the wrongs, claim our value.

It is humbling. It is excruciating. It is impossible without the prompting and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Especially when the words, the hurts inflicted…were soooo wrong. So unprovoked. Underserved.

I’m pretty sure the Savior I serve knows something about unprovoked, underserved wounds.

Humbling. Conviction.

So, when I brought my broken to the patio, my list of “look what so-and-so did to me, Dad” to my heavenly Father, in the ugliest of self-justified, victim-y whines, he answered with a gentle, life-giving, freeing spanking.

“From our Lord’s standpoint it does not matter whether I am defrauded or not; what does matter is that I do not defraud. Am I insisting on my rights? (In marriage, in friendship, with family, with children, at work)…or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ’s standpoint?”

“Do the thing quickly, bring yourself to judgment now, In moral and spiritual matters, you must do it at once; if you do not the inexorable process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child pure and clean and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will prevent none of the working of His spirit. Our insistence in proving that we are right is nearly always an indication that there has been some disobedience…
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Agree with your adversary quickly. Have you suddenly turned a corner in any relationship and found that you had anger in your heart? Confess it quickly, quickly put it right before God, be reconciled to that one – do it now.”

As I typed those words from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, I am thinking of the one who has been repeatedly harmed or abused in dangerous ways. Neither I, nor God is commanding you in those cases to physically be reconciled (unless He works such a healing), but in your heart…in my heart…He is saying release that anger…forgive…be reconciled…in your own heart.

Forgiveness is a gift more for the one doing the forgiving. A healthy, freeing, healing release. For you. For the one laying it down, dying to self…even if you deserved so much more…and were not in any way deserving of such pain. If you cannot have restoration with the relationship (as is not always possible or best), you can still have healing in your own heart.

And, if it isn’t too late, if you haven’t spoken words that you can’t take back, lay it all down the next time someone you love spews the ugly your way. Lay it all down, first.

And, set yourself free.

For we all have our broken places…as Oswald Chambers reminds in another entry:
“There never has been a saint yet who did not have to live a maimed (broken) life to start with. But it is better to enter into life maimed and lovely in God’s sight than to be lovely in man’s sight and lame in God’s.”

He can always heal our broken places more completely than we can we strive to do so with our own devices. After all, He’s an expert at creating beauty from the broken.

Birthing Miracles

I stayed as far away from birthing rooms as possible after experiencing four traumatic labors that resulted in five births. I was the queen of the cascade of medical interventions phenomenon spoken of in the doula realm. Pitocin and other labor inducing interventions. Check. Epidurals. Check. IV’s. Check. Forceps. Check. Long, stalling labors with ineffective contractions. Check. And, don’t even get me started on my track record. Three of my five children were born alive. Two remain alive. Two left this earth before leaving my womb.

The celebration of the miracle of life experienced in pregnancy long ago lost it’s luster for me. So, I find it rather intriguing that my heart has awakened to the love of all things birth related, some sort of redemptive path I never would have chosen or orchestrated in my limited human imagination. God loves to restore broken things. To send us into unlikely territory, stripping us of the heavy, muddy cloak holding us back, and clothing us with a new garment.

My friend, Heidi Faith, from stillbirthday.com speaks of the miracle of birth…saying simply, “All babies are born.”

I love that. And, I’ve found it to be true. I have spoken of the miracle that occurs when we enter in to walk with a laboring mother, most of the time, one expecting a child whose life will be brief, or whose life on this earth has already ended, beginning anew in heaven. It is a sacred ground, the place where heaven meets earth, and Jesus bends near to carry the wee one home as He brushes past, comforting the mother. Sometimes, he allows my arms to be felt as His, wrapping around her. Comforting her with His comfort, dressing her baby in the most beautiful hand-made garments. Through me, through us. What a humbling honor to be allowed to serve as a vessel of His love. He is ever close in the birthing room. Whether a baby lets out life’s victorious cry or takes his first breath in heaven, He is ever close. So close, we could reach out and touch the hem of His garment. So close, miracles still happen…even when a baby lies sleeping in her mother’s arms. Even when goodbye follows hello.

Because every life matters. Every life is worth celebrating, welcoming. loving, honoring, and grieving.

And, because birth is always a miracle, a powerful, divinely-bestowed gift, offered to women.

Eve, the first woman….her name means life. She is known as the mother of all living. God gave her that gift, that powerful, mighty, beautiful gift…to be the bearer of life. This world is all sorts of broken, from the moment of the fall in the garden. But, the gift remains…precious.

I’ve been reflecting on the beauty God means to weave through our lives, the purposes He has for the gifts he gives to us. Women often feel devalued and left longing for something more. We miss the gifts in front of us. We long to be empowered, significant, accepted. And, yet, what greater power (the good kind) has God given…what greater honor than to be a vessel through which life is birthed? The power to conceive and give birth should not be overlooked. I am not just speaking of the ability to birth a live, healthy baby. Not all of us have been blessed with that gift. However, the ability to birth life…to encourage and enliven this world, that treasure lies in the hearts of all women.

“God gave the woman an ability not just to have babies but also to release life in a variety of expressions. In fact, one translation says that Eve means ‘to enliven’. ” ~ This Day We Fight, by Francis Frangipane

“Women excel in intercession, in spiritual sensitivity and the release of new beginnings…To possess a national awakening, the ‘birthing’ power God has placed in women must be released.”

“You have been created by the almighty to birth breakthroughs on planet earth! God has designed you with a latent ability to release life through your intercession…Through their intercession, these godly women will prayer-birth powerful ministries on earth, of both male and female.”

“Revelation 12:1 speaks of a ‘woman clothed with the sun.’ This word is not just talking about Israel or the Church. It also reveals how God sees spiritual women: They are honored and crowned with distinction; pure and clothed with the glory of God. With confidence, they tread upon the powers of night. Dear army of praying women, it is your inherent destiny to birth that which will rule the nations.”

From chapter 13 of the book ~ This Day We Fight, by Francis Frangipane

The above book has inspired me, as a woman, not to overlook the incredible, divine gift of bearing life…whether it be in delivering a baby, or whether it be in encouraging another or going to battle in prayer for another soul. Women are treasured in the sight of our God, and we are not ever insignificant or overlooked in His eyes. He has entrusted us with a power great and mighty, a gift to be honored and cherished.

Be blessed today, beautiful woman of God, and be a bearer of life…in whatever capacity you have been called to enliven this earth, birthing breakthroughs through prayer, melting brokenness with love, covering the wrongs with grace.

 

 

 

The Cloak of Shame

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I knew the moment they left my body, two tiny baby girls who would never breathe a breath on planet earth…I looked at him and knew we would never be the same.

It was among of the first words I spoke to my friend, Ginny. After.

“I need you to know, I’m not the same.”

I will never be who I was. That day, a part of me died right along with them. And, in the death, there was also a birth. Not just theirs…but mine.

There are many things we don’t know while still living under the veil of innocence. I didn’t know a woman whose babies died in her womb would labor before giving birth. I didn’t know about standing beside a tiny grave at the tender age of twenty-one. I didn’t know about living this life in the same skin, as a very changed me and loving the boy beside me, both of us all broken. I didn’t know about the silence. Silence so thick you can’t breathe.

I learned.

The moment the nurse answered my whimper of aching arms with a cold vase placed abruptly on my lap, wheeling me passed the nursery full of crying babies, I learned. I felt the first weight of it draped across my young shoulders. The cloak of shame, whispering, “Don’t you dare be an inconvenience. Cover this. No one wants to see your broken.”
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I suppose if we dig even deeper, passed what makes sense with our minds, to the places in our psyche we rarely graze for fear of what lies beneath our layers, we would find an even more harsh accusation. Where does the shame come from anyway? Is not the loss and the pain of grief enough? Why does shame drape over us, heavy and dark? Is the healing and the breathing not enough without finding the strength to emerge from the heavy, dark garment of shame?

Buried beneath, the ugliest of questions. The wounded often carry the most shame. And, why…why is that?

“You’ve already been enough of an inconvenience. Pain in the place of joy for your family. Your body failed. You brought broken babies into this world. And, you are now broken. No one wants to see any of it. The least you can do, is cover it up, keep it to yourself.”

“If you speak of your broken places, someone may think…

…you are weak, a victim, looking for pity, wallowing in grief.”

When none of that is true, why do we believe it? Why are we held captive by it, gripped and covered and silenced by it? And, why, when we are finally ready to stop wearing the cloak of shame that never fit right, anyway, do others react in such strong ways, sometimes with opposition, or ridicule, misunderstanding, or lack of compassion?

Can we muster the courage, brave rising from the deep…can we find enough to lift the cloak of shame, to peer out from the layers that have become a familiar covering, a place to hide….falsely offering shelter? It took years for me to find my way out. To find the brave, enough to just speak the names of my children aloud. And, even more years, not to run back to hide under that tattered garment, apologetically, when faced with scorn or averted eyes.
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Shame whispers, “You’re a disappointment. A blemish.”

To be truly honest, I’m still finding my way out, still tuning my ear to listen to the “Voice of truth that says, ‘Do not be afraid’“, in place of the crippling lies shame whispers in the dark. Part of healing is to shed the weight of a cloak that isn’t meant to fit. There is nothing shameful about speaking their names. Or living beautifully broken. Or walking with a limp. No shame.

In rebellion of the shame, I seek boldness. Freedom.

In fact, I would venture even further to say, that you are courageous, not weak.

Victorious, not defeated.

Beautiful in your broken, not blemished beyond repair.

You are not the same, but you are even more precious, made of the kind of tilled fertilized soil that grows a tall, strong, deeply rooted plant.

You have value and worth…and so do the sweet babies who left a hole of missing in your heart.

Lift your head, and look out from beneath that clumsy garment stifling you. Pull it down from your face. Let your hair fall free. Feel it slide off your shoulders and fall to the ground. Leave it there. And, walk away…limp and all.
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You are more than an inconvenience. And, so are the babies you carried in your womb, and carry still in your heart.

He has sent Me (Jesus) to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

Isaiah 61:1b,2b-3a

Scars

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.” ― Elbert Hubbard

Most of the time, I’m too busy to notice them. I get dressed in a frenzy, mind full of the day’s list of “to-dos”, interruptions from husband, kids, inserting their to-dos, schedules…quick kiss, mumbled “I love yous” in the groggy crackled voice still filled with morning, grab my keys, quick prayer on the way to school, and go.

But, every once in awhile, I stop to catch them in the reflection. How quickly I traded youth, without blinking. It had no value then. From here, I would say it was worth the cost. I remember my mother’s body, filled with the scars, stretch marks, a mother’s battle wounds. She wore them proudly. She wore them with a tube top, fishing on Lake Erie. She wore them in a bikini, not even blinking when the high school carry out boys came over to watch her warming in the sun. They told her story, the scars. I noticed them, but didn’t give much credence to their existence. They weren’t pretty, but they were part of her. And, everyone thought she was beautiful. She was. No one seemed to care that she was branded with the scars.

I brush my hand over my stomach, noticing the purple ridges, my own scars, wrapping around the skin of my lower abdomen and spreading to my hips. How quickly my young body stretched to accommodate the life growing inside my womb nineteen years ago. Most of the scars came later, though. Faith and Grace left this body staring back at me with the deepest scars, scars that still sometimes sting to the touch…both the kind you can see, and the kind you can’t. No one could say my girls didn’t leave a mark on this world. They left plenty of marks.

It doesn’t matter how many Zumba classes I attend, how many miles I walk, how many gallons of water I drink, or how many salads I eat, the scars will remain.

So, when Lysa says, we need to learn to say:

I’ve found my beautiful. And I like my beautiful.

I get it. There is beauty…even in the lines of grief on my face. Each one tells the story of a life that mattered, precious, dearly loved, and greatly missed. And, the laugh lines…well, they’re my favorite. The more the merrier, I say. They tell the story of the girl who laughs. And, the tear stains…they tell the story of a girl who loved with abandon and has been moved with compassion. And, the stretch marks…tell the story of five babies born of my womb. And, the freckles tell the story of a girl who splashes freely in the sun and on the golf course and on bike rides with her boys. The gray hairs springing up wildly here and there…the bible calls them my “crown of glory”. (from this post: Finding Our Beautiful)

Perhaps someday I will be free enough to carry my scars with the confidence of my mother before me. Perhaps I will embrace all as beauty, one day. Can I do that? Can  I learn to see the gifts in the scars, the grace from a long journey through dark valleys, etched in my skin. The marks that tell a story of deep heart ache, miraculous redemption, and wayward souls who found their way Home at the foot of a cross covered in the blood that saves. The silvery purple shimmer of their indentations peppering my stomach and hips, reminders that babies lived here…those who will grow into men and those who dance in heaven. When the one I love brushes his strong calloused hands across my stomach, he only sees the beauty of the one he loves. I know…his face tells the story.  My heavenly Father sees the beauty in the scars. After all, His Son is among those most marred by the sins of the Earth, the very ones He came to save. He is an expert on making beauty from the broken.

Can I look deep enough to see the same beauty in the scars…both the ones on my skin and those on my heart?

 

 

October 15th Lantern Release

We were unable to do the lantern release at the end of the Grace for the Journey Conference, as we hoped, due to the rain. It was rescheduled for October 15th at 7:00 pm in Hamler, Ohio. We were blessed to have a few special families join us to remember more than 130 babies and children in heaven.

My family was held up by trains, making us a bit late for our own event. (Have I mentioned I live in the town of the crossroads of the B&O Railroad? Sounds cool, but it really means we’re constantly waiting on trains!) When we finally arrived, we set up, joined by the Vollmer family, my friend Dee from Payton’s Precious Memories, and another friend, Cyndy.

We lit candles, sang Amazing Grace, and said a prayer. Then we took a moment to read each name by candle light.

 

 

Then, we braved the chilly (and slightly windy) evening. Some of the lanterns were a bit unruly. My amazing husband chased several lanterns. One that even escaped into the field!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t know the Faith, Grace, and Thomas lantern was written upside down until I was looking at the pictures on the way home. I was a little disappointed, and Tim said, “It’s upside down from our view, but from their view (heaven), it’s right side up as they look down.” I like his perspective…and theirs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such a precious evening of remembrance…thank you for remembering with us.

We also added more than 100 names to the October 15th Remembrance page. Keeping so many of you in prayer.

Keep Going

I know that I’m way behind posting about some recent happenings…

The Grace for the Journey Conference

The October 15th Lantern Release

And, updates on the new SGM building space which has left me a bit delirious from painting all week!

It’s coming.

But, tonight, I have to share about something else. I had the honor, today, of cheering on behalf of Tug Robison, son of my dear friend Ginny at the Columbus Marathon. He was honored by Nationwide Hospital, with the duty of cheering for the runners on Mile 23 of the 26 mile race. You may remember reading about Tug, and his miracle last year.

It was such an honor to stand by him and his wonderful family, shouting words of encouragement to each runner. Tears filled my eyes more than once as I heard Tug say, “Finish strong…you’re almost there. You can do it.” I imagined his parents saying the same words to him as he re-learned how to walk, talk, write, ride his bike, run, play sports after the accident, and during his recovery from time spent in a coma.

 

“Keep going! You’re almost there. You can do this!” I shouted the words over and over again, until my voice was hoarse, shaking my cowbell and hand clappers, as each runner passed. I looked over at Ginny, fist pumping, jumping up and down, giving each runner a “Heck yeah!” from her gut. I nodded and smiled.

There were runners cramped and dragging their legs, bent sideways from the pain, arms frozen in position, tears streaming down their faces. Runners who looked like they may have been in the midst of chemo treatments. Runners with names on their backs and faces that told the story of one who knows about “The Missing”…like the one whose shirt simply said, “For my Beth”. Runners carrying an extra weight for 26 miles in honor of fallen veterans, runners who, even in their weariness, sweat dripping, bodies aching, lit up when they saw us cheering and clapped their own hands for Tug Robsion… survivor, fighter, hero.

Keep going. The words, I said over and over with all my heart today keep rolling in my mind, as I think of  grief-stricken mothers carrying the weight of sorrow, the ache of empty arms, women who are battle weary just from the struggles of this life. The words also bring to mind this spiritual race we’re running, and how much we need someone to cheer us on when we’re weary.

Reminds me of this verse in Hebrews 12: 1-2

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I think of those who have gone before us, spurring us on  from heaven when I read this verse. And, I also think of how much we need one another to encourage us to keep going…to say we’re doing great…to breathe words of hope into our weary, beauty into our ugly, and healing into our broken. God never meant for us to do it alone. And, He wants us to finish strong, looking to Him as our example.

Today, was beautiful…just like this man who stopped to ask Ginny to take his picture along the way.

You know I just love how God sends those unexpected gifts our way. Like the conversation I had with this beautiful NICU nurse from Nationwide, about The Missing…you know what I’m talking about…if you’re missing someone.

The motto for Tug’s Miracle Mile was “Yes You Can”!  And, it’s true. Not only for the runners of the Columbus Marathon, but for the runners of the race of life. Yes, you can finish strong, as you look to the author and finisher of your faith. Yes, you can do all things through Jesus Christ who gives you strength. Yes you can keep going, because you are not alone, dear sister (or brother).

It was such a blessing to be a vessel of encouragement today. Such a simple, tiny offering. But, it meant something. And, it makes me think that such a small thing as encouraging another human being to keep going when they want to give up is a pretty easy thing we can all do to impact someone else’s life. I’m praying God will give me opportunities to do it more often. And, that I’ll be listening and looking when He does.

Thank you, Tug…and my Ginny for letting me stand with you today , to get to feel the overflowing of blessing from your miracle. Our Father sure is good to us.

Poured Out and Spurred On

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There is a lot that could be said this week, especially from the scriptures in Hebrews. These words on the subject of faith have carried me, encouraged me, strengthened and enlightened me many times on this journey of walking with Jesus. Especially during some of the darkest valleys, I have found myself in Hebrews. At the end of myself, on my face…wondering about this thing we call faith. I have written a little before about this and I’m going to be sharing again on Thursday’s Walking With You some of what the Lord has shown me about faith through trials. So, I will try not to get too lengthy here. I do, however, wish to share just a little of the message of perseverance and hope the Lord is speaking to my heart this morning as I read through His word.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ~ Hebrews 10:19-25

Isn’t that just the way to start our day…with these beautiful words of encouragement, strength and truth?! Whoo-hoo, those words encouraged my weary heart and soul this morning. I won’t lie…I’ve been a little weary. It happens from time to time. And, not always with an easy-to-pin-point reason. But, it happens. Sometimes, even as the Lord’s blessings pour in, weariness threatens. Usually the best cure for the strength-sapping discouragement that rears it’s ugly head is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, but we will talk a little more about that next week.

As we look to Him this week, what do we find? We find hope…and not hope that is fleeting or dependent on circumstances. Not even a hope that depends on our meager faltering faith. But hope that is depends on our God, who is faithful. We are cleansed from our sin and unrighteousness by the sacrifice of Jesus…and we can rest securely in the promises of His Word. It is a full assurance we have in Him. A secure hope. Unwavering.

So, after we rest in the knowledge of our secure hope in Him, what are we strengthened to go and do? Encourage one another, of course. Take time to consider how we may encourage one anther, spurring each other on in love and good deeds. I love this. This is what we’ve been talking about. This is the beauty of the body of Christ, his people, serving in love and encouraging one another to continue serving in love. Beautiful goodness….I love this!!!!

I’ve been feeling a little poured out lately, but even as I write these words, I can feel Him ministering to my tired spirit, renewing and filling me up. As we read on in Hebrews 10, there are even more words encouraging us to persevere, to continue on with the path the Lord has for us. What do we do when we are feeling down-trodden and weary? Discouraged with wavering hope and meager faith?

Remember those earlier days after you received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. ~ Hebrews 10:32

I don’t even know if there is room in this post to write about the depth of meaning in this verse for me. The truth is that, while we would never ask for the the trials in our lives, they are the times when I can look back and see God working in and through them. I can see how closely I clung to Him, on the darkest of days. At the time, I certainly did not feel like some great example of faith. Of course, I didn’t really understand what that looked like. In the moment, we are often just clinging to Him for survival, for comfort, for hope, for the strength to take our next breath. But, as we look back, the perspective is different. I would never hold myself up as some great example of faith or the poster-child for how to walk through sorrow. I know my weaknesses and doubt too well. I know all the flaws and fears I felt. But, as time goes by and life goes along without tragedy in all of our days, I have noticed that we don’t always cling as tightly to Him once the danger has passed. Once, we are brought through our wilderness, we sometimes grow comfortable. We (or at least I) cling less tightly. So, when I look back at the day I felt most forsaken in my life, I know the brokenness. I know the weakness. I know my doubt and fear. I know my little faith. But, I also know that somehow…in the darkness of that day and heavy weight of that night, a strength arose that did not come from me. My part was small…I didn’t know much. And I was no match for the accuser before me, but I knew the One to cry out to. And, I did. I came…crawling, desperate, on my face, drowning in tears. But I came. And opened His Word. And poured out my broken heart. Sometimes, I read the words I wrote on that fateful night when we had heard that our Thomas was incompatible with life. And I stand in awe of the faith displayed. I stand in awe of the God who put it there…the God who could draw me near when I felt forsaken. The God who could, with His still small voice, overpower the darkness and stand me firmly on the ground in the great test of suffering before me. Some days, I wonder where she went…that girl. Then, He stands me up again.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
But we are not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. ~ Hebrews 10:35-39

We must hold on to the confidence we have in Him. We must not shrink back.

O.K….I meant to talk about chapter 11…the Hall of Fame for Faith. But, this post is growing way too long (sorry). So, what I will say is this: As I read these words many years ago in the dark of that night when hopelessness threatened to swallow me, something struck me for the first time. I wanted to understand what faith was. I wanted to please God. As I studied those who were considered faithful, I noticed something…they weren’t perfect. They had moments of weakness, sin, doubt, and fear. And, do you know what else? They didn’t know the beginning from the end. They were walking as we are, with pieces of the puzzle. They had to rely on God, just like we do. We read their stories and we see God’s hand. We see, just as when we look back at our own stories, how the Lord worked…His plans and purposes fulfilled. We see the promises granted. But, they didn’t know that in the moment that they trusted Him. They had to believe in what they couldn’t see. And to hope in what they were certain of. More on this next Tuesday. And also more on those who didn’t get to see the promise…stay tuned…

On a completely different note, I can’t leave without sharing this verse from Proverbs 14 (that really deserves it’s own post!): The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Praying that we would always speak and act in such a way that builds up our house (our family). Lord, strengthen me and remind me to be a wife and mother that builds up and not one who tears down.
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One more thing, and then I will leave you to ponder. Rachel at Once Upon a Miracle is still taking comments in order to support Sufficient Grace Ministries (she is generously giving $1 for every comment.) While we are grateful for her gift and we know that it will help many families through the efforts of this ministry…the bigger reason I hope you will take the time to visit her site is because I want you to read Gracie’s story…to be blessed by the love of this beautiful family and the God who has carried them on this journey. And I want the world to know sweet Gracie. This family has stepped out in faith and “love and good deeds”, and I want them to be encouraged…to reach their goal of 500…not just to benefit our ministry…but to encourage them as they have encouraged us. So, please take some time if you haven’t already, and read their story, and pray for this family…and leave a comment to support them and Sufficient Grace. Thank you so much to all of you who have left a comment, and those who have supported us in so many ways. We love and appreciate you all very much.

By Grace Through Faith…It is So Not About Me

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For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

When I was expecting our twin daughters, Faith and Grace, there were many complications. I lay awake in a hospital bed for weeks, praying, waiting, hoping, resisting doubt and fear. When we heard that we were expecting identical twin daughters, almost immediately, Ephesians 2:8 came into my mind. For it is by grace through faith you have been saved… Grace has always been my favorite name, and that verse has always spoken to my heart. It was not something I did to earn salvation, but a precious gift from our Savior. So, it seemed fitting. And, they no longer were known as Baby A and Baby B, but Faith Elizabeth and Grace Katherine. I’ve been talking a little about names and what it means to have someone know your name. Their names had deep meaning, and more than I even realized.

Webster’s definition of grace: “unmerited help given to the people by God….”. Unmerited. Undeserved. Given freely, not because of anything we did or could ever do to earn it. Grace that covers us. Grace that is given to us daily in a sufficient portion to meet our needs. Abundant, beautiful grace. Grace that saves…grace that carries…grace that comforts. I learned about His grace through being their mother. And I kept learning long after they left this earth.

At first, I thought that they were just beautiful names from a meaningful verse. When asked by one of our doctors why I chose the names Faith and Grace, I said, “Because it’s going to take a lot of both to get through this!” But, even their situation…twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome made sense with the words in the scripture. Because in the condition of twin-to-twin the “lines are crossed”, so to speak. One baby, (Faith) gets too much fluid, blood flow, and nourishment, and the other (Grace) doesn’t get enough. In essence, Grace literally received her nourishment, her life…through Faith. And they were intertwined. Needing one another for survival.

Interesting…It is by grace through faith that we are saved. What I didn’t know is that there would be more. Carrying and saying good-bye to my Faith and Grace was only the beginning of learning about the faith and grace spoken of in these verses. Carrying our Thomas, we learned about true faith. Not the pretty word we Christians throw around…thinking it has something to do with us. Somehow, if we just have enough faith. Oh boy, do we miss the boat on that one. True faith is not some pretty little thing. It is found in the nitty-gritty journey through this life. It is not never feeling doubt or fear, but trusting in God anyway, when you are most afraid and filled with doubt and questions. Trusting when you don’t see. Believing without seeing. Believing when you don’t get the answer you want or when there seems to be no answer at all. Praising Him in the storm. Trusting Him to carry you. Surrendering to the arms of our sovereign God. Blessing Him when He gives and when He takes away. It’s not about how much faith I have or how strong it is. It’s about how mighty, able, powerful, all-knowing, merciful and good my God is.

If carrying Thomas taught us about faith, then meeting him taught us about grace. The all-sufficiency of His grace meeting us in that place of unknown sorrows. And replacing what Satan meant to break us, to destroy us, to darken our hearts forever…with joy overflowing as we met our son. As he filled my arms, and as the presence of the Lord filled the room. I sang, “O Lord, You’re beautiful…Your face is all I seek…For when your eyes are on this child…Your grace abounds to me.” And it did. It abounded, surrounded, lifted and carried me.

And none of it…not one ounce of it was about the strength of my faith, or my ability to conjure up or earn one ounce of the unmerited gift of grace poured out over me. It was only the beginning of the outpouring. It has flowed freely into my life since the moment I asked Jesus to come in. The “works” we are allowed to take part in today are just gifts…immense privileges from Him. Not because of anything we have done. Not because we are worthy…we are so not. Instead, we are just His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared for us…so that we should walk in them! He made us for the purposes that we serve today. Each of us have specific works that He has prepared for us to do. We just walk in them. If we are walking along the path of this life, following Him, we will just gently stumble upon what He has for us…as He leads us. The gifts and abilities that we have been given are no accident. They are gifts…given to us by our Father…for the purpose of serving and glorifying Him. And in turn, blessing His people. All we have to do, is keep walking.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…
~Colossians 1:9-10