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.

Shaken

Tonight I’m feeling a little shaken.

I have been purposing in my heart to make some changes. To run toward the Lord, to cling to Him, not to seek comfort in the things of this world, or my stinky onion layers. I have been desiring life and joy…determined, focused, excited about the Lies and Truth Bible Study…ready for a new year, a new adventure…excited to see what the Lord has in store for our family and Sufficient Grace Ministries in 2011. I’ve been having a grand time, getting my groove on with the Just Dance 2 game on our Wii. Dancing until I am out of breath, dripping with sweat, and laughing hysterically at myself. Good stuff.

The thing is, we are not in charge. We never know what is waiting around the corner. We may think we are going to get our dance on and wallow in a season of joy, reaping a harvest of the fruit that comes from sowing our tears during the seasons of sorrow.

We think we are ready for one thing.

And, something entirely different punches us square in the face shattering our plans.

I have shared before that watching my mother suffer and die from cancer was a struggle unlike any other in my life. It changed me…for the rest of my time on this Earth. Although I have leaned on the Lord, and felt His comfort and strength. I miss her daily…yet even in my missing, His grace is sufficient for me. I dream my dreams of longing for her…some ending bitterly. I experience her days of suffering like the flashes of a veteran returning from war. And…still His grace is sufficient for me.

Paul speaks in Corinthians of his thorn in the flesh. It was something that wasn’t taken from him…something he struggled with all his days on this earth. Many of us have thorns in the flesh…illness, pain, sorrow, grief, loneliness, depression, physical and/or mental disabilities. We have imperfections, flaws, quirks. Call them what you want.

This afternoon, I heard that one of my dearest friends who has been battling cancer was taken to the hospital. She has endured radiation, chemotherapy, all sorts of procedures and medicines, and other forms of torture to fight the cancer in her lungs and brain and perhaps other places in her body over the past couple years.

This woman taught me how to be a wife, with her sweet, snarky way of telling me how it is. With her straight-talking ways, she drilled into my young, selfish, raised-in-a-household-where-women-were-in-authority mind the importance of honoring my husband and caring for my home…and training up Godly young men. She walked with me through the deaths of my twin daughters, Faith and Grace…and later my son, Thomas. She sat beside us as her husband delivered Thomas’ eulogy under the blue sky with big, fluffy white clouds while the sun shone on our grief-stricken faces. One of a handful of people whose eyes looked upon our Thomas, she saw and appreciated his beauty. Her house was always the best place to have parties…the best food and fellowship. Her special gift has been making her home a haven for all who entered. She can make the best apple pie on God’s green earth. She prays fiercely for everyone in her life…no doubt her prayers helped keep my marriage together through the toughest years. She loves and “gets” teenagers…and they love her right back. When in good health, she visited and encouraged, and genuinely loved those in prison as she helped deliver the gospel to them. Her words are part of the story…our story…shared in the Dreams of You Memory Book. Dinah and I are always saying…”The most beautiful gifts in this life emerge from some of the most difficult suffering. It’s in the hard stuff that beauty is born.” Saying it is much different than walking it.

She is my second mom. And, like my first mom…cancer has stolen much from her. She has toughed it out…much like she toughed out everything else this life has dealt her so far…with a perfect blend of grit and grace. I love her dearly.

And…tonight, she is laying in a hospital bed.

The outcome is uncertain, for now, as far as the condition of her physical body and mind. She has survived much more than doctors expected. And, we serve a God who makes all things possible.

I am trying not to look with my eyes….

Trying not to remember the flashes of the moments I watched cancer steal my own mother’s mind and body…

Praying for my beautiful friend, Dinah, and her beautiful family.

Trusting that the same God who carried my mother and I through those days…will carry Dinah and her family in these days. Knowing that He is faithful.

When my mother was in the hospice center, Dinah sent me these verses:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
~ Isaiah 46:4

Verses I whispered to my mother as she longed for reassurance of His promises in the last moments of her life…

Tonight, I am shaken…

But my God is steadfast and sure. He is not moved…

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… ~ 2 Corinth. 4:7-9

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-20

When my world is shaking, heaven stands…when my heart is breaking, I never leave Your hands…
~JJ Heller


Please pray…

Choosing to SEE

I am most of the way through Mary Chapman’s book, Choosing to SEE. My heart is so full, I couldn’t wait until I was finished to pour out the words and emotions oozing from me this morning.

I’ll be honest, I was putting it off. Not sure what I expected. I spend so much of my time immersed in the grief of others, reading the stories of broken-hearted mothers and families trying to live a new normal. Prayers for each of them leave my lips and the weight of each one tugs at my heart. I have learned to balance the heaviness of grief, both my own and others, while still embracing the joy of every breath. Well, most of the time. In truth, I suppose I’m still learning to do that…and covered in much grace as I try.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I knew that it would be another story of a broken-hearted mother carried by a loving God, comforted in His arms. I needed some time to prepare for this one.

What I didn’t expect was how much of Mary Beth’s heart was poured into her telling of the story that God has woven through her amazing life. I didn’t expect there to be so much of her shining from the pages . And, I certainly didn’t expect her to capture my heart so completely with her spirit. I was there in Columbus when time stopped as she took the Women of Faith stage to tell her story for the first time. I mean this with all do respect. But Mary Beth is not a typical wrapped up in a neat bow, smoothed edges Christian. She is beautiful…don’t get me wrong. But, she is probably the most genuine, real person…so real that it is disarming. So honest, and humble. So not a picture of a woman wallowing in grief, and yet still someone that you know battles the struggles of balancing sorrow and joy each day. She is funny and gritty, honest about her imperfections in a way that somehow endears her to us even more.

I laughed through most of this book. And a couple times, I cried. But, when she told the account of what happened on May 21, 2008 in her driveway….the words gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching took on new meaning for me as the two collided in my own body’s physical response to her words. The sobs I cried literally wrenched my heart and turned my stomach as I pictured the blow that Satan delivered to this beautiful family on that spring day. I wanted to throw my arms around each of them, and felt as if I were there feeling the devastation with them that day as I read her words. And, the mother part of me wanted to back away…run away…far away from the possibility that any mother would ever be in that moment.

And, then…came hope.

The kind of hope that rises when you are in the midst of the ugliest, most hopeless situation. The kind of raw truth….so bare and real that when it comes in the midst of such incredible devastation that you know it has to be real. You couldn’t conjure up that kind of hope when you are so hopeless. Those are the moments we know that God will meet us there. When hope falls from the mouth of a mother who has just held her lifeless child for the last time…and a father who gave his last butterfly kiss. That is the place where eternity lives on this earth. That is where we have to embrace God and know that He is. When it is the darkest and the veil is the thickest….that is when we SEE with the most clarity….our desperate need for Him. And, his complete ability and willingness to meet us anywhere.

I love that Mary Beth seems like the kind of soul that would rather laugh…which is kind of ironic, considering that she has cried many tears in her life as she battles depression and now has walked such intense grief. I love that about her…that she has a spirit that still finds a way to laugh and desires to make others laugh. I love that she finds herself in these crazy Lucille Ball moments (of which I can also relate). I love that she is a beautiful mess. And, I love that it is so easy to see Jesus through her beautiful mess. I wonder if she knows that she and her family have revealed Jesus to so many people in such a tangible, miraculous way. Those seem like just words….inadequate words. I know she would say that she is a mother who would trade all of the lives touched by Maria’s passing to hold her little girl again. But, that truth just makes THE truth even more real and beautiful.

Stephen and Mary Beth aren’t just giving some pretty Christian words like a band aid to fix everything. They are living this. They are “doing hard”, gut-wrenching, toughing it out through this pain….and still clinging to Him for breath everyday. When they say He is the way, because of where they have walked, it is believable….even for the most hardened cynic.

God’s timing is always so perfect, and He is creative in the ways He speaks to our hearts. Do you know that there is no place too far, too dark that He cannot reach you? Do you know that He will not give up….He will not stop reaching for you…even when you are not reaching back? Please let those words sink in.

I have not been the person I want to be…for such a long time. I’ve hidden behind my layers. A couple times, I ventured out…thinking I could climb out out on my own. Saying I would trust God to help me, but not really trusting Him. The layers were no match for me…with all their stinky heaviness. Even as I write this, I just ate a handful of Doritos. I am still a work in progress, but I know who to cling to. I know the Lifter of my Head.

Recently, some wonderful blogger friends attended the Relevant Conference. I so wanted to go, but it just wasn’t to be. I couldn’t make the time and resources fit into my plan, and figured it must not have been in God’s plan for me to go. Instead, I stayed home and had a very revealing conversation with my husband about the way I spend my time and the focus of my heart.

Home was where I needed to be.

Home needed to be the most relevant thing for that moment. God has been speaking to my heart about living the life He’s given me to live….even as I balance the reality of sorrow in the lives of others. He has been whispering freedom and joy into my heart in ways that I am trying to learn to embrace. I have been hiding under the various hats I wear and the many layers I cover myself with. My visits with the Lord have been few and far between…other than the prayers I lift for those who are hurting, the mini prayers I throw up on behalf of my family, and the moments He has permeated my heart during worship. My time with Him has not been as intentional…not a daily priority. Not lately. It’s hard to run to Him, when you are busy running away.

As I’ve poured over Mary Beth’s book the past couple days, it occurs to me that God can reveal His relevance and make our lives relevant where ever we are. I didn’t get to go to the conference and hug the women whom I have laughed with and cried with, prayed with, and been inspired by since I entered this blogging world. I didn’t get to go get all encouraged and filled up. Oh, how I longed to go. But, He is filling me right here….stinky, onion layers and all. Right here. Finding me, even as I’m running away. Loving me just as I am…embracing me just as I am…using me, just as I am.

I desperately want to be relevant…and free…full of joy…living this life…embracing every moment…dancing the dance He has meant for me to dance. I want to live the adventure He means for us to live…ready to go every time He says go. Unencumbered by the worldly flesh that holds us back. I want to see all that He has for us…I want to SEE Him in everything.

And, I feel Him whispering….

“Just show up. I’ll do the rest.”


He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?      Micah 6:8


UPDATED: Baby Sawyer Update ~ Women of Faith ~ and other stuff on my mind…

TUESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: PLEASE KEEP PRAYING FOR SAWYER: Baby Sawyer has another hurdle, a condition called Chyle and there are also some concerns about infection. Doctors are working to give him double-dose diuretics to reduce fluid so that he can have surgery tomorrow to clean out his chest, and close his heart surgery opening. Please pray for all of the details and that God would protect from infection, further complications and that He would guide the hands of the surgeons. Thank you for your continued prayers for this sweet baby who has had to fight so hard…
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Original post:
Baby Sawyer’s chest remains open from his heart surgery performed last Thursday. He has been retaining excess fluid, which needs to dissipate before the doctors can proceed and close him back up. Then there are some other concerns (including a possible kidney blockage) they will work on. Doctors say that it will be Wednesday or maybe even later before they can consider closing his chest. Please keep Sawyer in prayer. (Sawyer was born on April 16, 2010 and had open heart surgery less than a week later to repair TGA (transposition of the great arteries), a heart condition that is fatal without treatment.) His mother, Nicki, is one of my best friends from high school. My heart is heavy for this family, and we covet your prayers for them….

Thank you to those of you who have been praying. I have no doubt that he and this family are being carried by those prayers and by the arms of our mighty God.

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Women of Faith is coming up this weekend…and I am so excited!!! Becki and I will be travelling to Columbus…and so will Holly and some other friends of ours. If you are going to be in the area, we would love to meet you for supper on Friday evening (or actually afternoon).

If you are going to Women of Faith in Columbus on April 30-May 1st, or if you are just going to be in the Columbus area and want to meet us for supper, please let us know! We’d love to meet you.

We will be at the Cheesecake Factory at Easton at 4:30pm for an early supper. Come to meet us…or come to meet Holly…or come for the cheesecake. We don’t care why…just come! And, let us know if you plan to attend, so we can ask for a table for the right amount of people!

I am planning on taking lots of pictures…and I’m sure Holly-girl will too. You know, hers are always better than mine! Maybe we can even blog from the hotel! Also…you never know, I might even bring home a souvenir to give away. So stay tuned!
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If you’ve been wondering how I’m doing with my peeling back the layers project (as if you have nothing else going on!), I’ll tell you. Big sigh….

Sadly, I’ve crawled back under my layers and retreated. I wish I could tell you I’ve claimed victory and cast off the layers (or shackles, if you will). But, it’s been a one step forward, two steps back kind of thing. I’m admitting this for the sake of honesty and accountability. You know, knowing the truth and being set free doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes struggle. Sometimes, we don’t walk in the freedom we’ve been given. I’m no exception.

The thing about our gracious God, though, is that “His mercies are new every morning…His compassions fail not”…and “great is His faithfulness”. When I am faithless, He is faithful. When I reach for the Doritos, He remains steadfast. He doesn’t give up on me, even when I’m shrinking in the face of the struggle before me. He remains with outstretched arms, offering me strength and victory…if I will only take it. Like the prisoners whose prison walls have fallen down, whose shackles have been loosed…I only have to take the step…to walk out of the prison and embrace the freedom. Yet, I have retreated, feeling more comfortable in the prison…or beneath my layers, away from feelings that are painful to explore.

I have said many times that the only way out is through…whether it is grief from loss, illness, death, disappointments, unmet expectations, abandonment. Whatever the cause, the only way out from the pit or the layers, or the prison…is to walk through the pain and sorrow. To recognize it, experience it, and release it to the care of our loving God who is able to heal our pain and take the sorrow upon Himself. He longs to wipe our tears, if we let Him. He longs to comfort us in all our tribulation so that we may comfort others with the comfort He gives. He longs to make us into a new creation….to complete the good work that He begins in us…and to see us flying free from all that entangles us, keeping us from being the people He created us to be.

So…here I am again. Ready to let Him work, praying for strength to resist the desire to retreat under my layers, and trusting Him to complete the good work He has begun in me. It’s really not about the food anyway. It’s about going to something other than the Lord for comfort. He is my comforter…and He is all that I need.
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O.K…so there are some other things I’d like to share soon. I love watching the Lord work! And, He is definitely working. But, it’s getting late…so those posts will have to wait. (I know you’re just on pins and needles! ha-ha… =)

Shining Our Light…

Thought I’d share this little live recording of my husband and I shining our light this morning during worship at our church. Please forgive the imperfections. I’m noticing that the more I hear myself on recordings, the more I prefer a live performance. It’s just more forgiving when you are there…in the moment. But, with a recording…there’s no grace…and we all know how much I love (and need) grace! So…even though it’s far from perfect, it’s a little picture of us. I love singing with my husband. So, I’m sharing it (and us anyway)…just as we are.

Speaking of shining our light…

I feel like I haven’t been doing that enough lately. Sure, I’m busy serving, busy doing, busy running in all directions. But, in the midst of it all, my light has almost gone out. It’s barely flickering way down deep under several bushels (or layers, if you will). You see the layers have been pulled away and I’ve pulled them back on over the past few weeks…off and on…as I keep stubbornly and numbly going out in my own power to do, do, do.

How’s that working out for me?

Not so well. I’m growing exhausted, weary, making mistakes, overlooking details, drained of energy and creativity, missing the gift of right now with the people I love. My intentions are good. I desire to reach out to grieving families and encourage women with love, compassion, and biblical truth…as the Lord has laid on my heart to do. This is a good thing…a privilege and an honor to serve Him in this way. It generally blesses me more, I think, than even those we are allowed to serve. But, lately I have become immersed in the world of sorrow…driven to do more. And, I’ve rarely come up for air. So preoccupied with those walking in the valley of the shadow of death, I am missing a big part of life.

The result…. I’m drowning a little…
…beneath the weight of sorrow I see in the grieving hearts all around me.
…beneath the piles of ignored paperwork.
…beneath the responsibilities of work, home, ministry.
…beneath my own limitations and failures.
…beneath the layers I’ve once again retreated to.
…beneath the piles of laundry and dishes and layers of dust.
…beneath the unfinished lists.
…beneath the unmet expectations.

I’m not sharing this to complain or ask that anyone feel sorry for me. Certainly, I am blessed among women to do what I do. The ministry God has given me is a gift that I cherish. He has laid a passion on my heart that spurs me on, past the weariness most of the time. Why am I sharing it? Because, I suspect I’m not alone. I suspect I’m not the only woman out there drowning a little right now under all the demands she has placed on her shoulders….under all the layers she hides behind. Because we are women, after all…and we can handle it. We can handle all of it. At least we think we’re supposed to able to. It hurts me a little even to write these words…to admit that I can’t always juggle it all. I want to be able to….want to think I can. Often, I feel like a failure because I think I SHOULD be able to, and it hurts to realize I can’t.

Recently, Kate from Called Out One, shared on this topic and it resonated with me right now on so many levels. I don’t feel like I’m being very beautiful, lately. I don’t feel connected with those I love as much as I want to. I feel like I’m just surviving the days instead of really living them. And, the reason I feel that way, is because I am just going, instead of being still and knowing that He is God. I am running until I drop, instead of resting in Him. I am relying on my own meager strength instead of realizing that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. My supposed quiet time with the Lord is full of unfocused, rushed noise. This isn’t what Jesus meant for me…or for any of us (if you are indeed out there drowning, too.).

Here’s the thing, though. It’s really easy to see the answer and to write it here in lovely sounding words. I need to take time to sit before the Lord, seeking His way, going out in His strength, being filled with His peace. I need to balance some living with all of the serving and dwelling on the reality of death. I need to keep the priority list in order and take care of my home and family. I need to make a schedule and stick to it to make sure all of this happens. I’ve even said these things and blogged about these things once or a hundred times before.

Yes…that’s all true.

But, in reality…I get tired and distracted.In reality, I’m supposed to start my day with devotions and I’m tired from staying up way too late working on the ministry. In reality, I have to get up early in the morning and get my children off to school and myself ready and off to work. Energy reserves wane by the time I’ve spent my day at work in the classroom. Next, I’m supposed to exercise…and again I’m tired. (Like devotions, though, I never regret exercising once I push myself to do it…and it actually increases energy! But…it’s mustering the initiative to do it that’s the challenge!) James gets off the bus and Timothy comes home. Everyone settles in from their day for a bit. Then, homework for the kids…more ministry work for me. Dad comes home…supper…dishes (sometimes…and sometimes I just leave them, which doesn’t do the next day’s weariness any favors!). Bedtime for the kids (well the younger one)…hopefully a little bedtime devotion. Then…a little time with my husband (although not enough lately)… more ministry work…and sometime (hopefully) a little sleep.

Again…I’m grateful for my family, for this ministry, and for my job. But, there needs to be some balance. There needs to be (as Pastor James would say) a “Sabbath”. What does that mean? That means there needs to be some time set aside to rest, to enjoy time with the Lord, and time with my family, to just live and be. I’m not talking about going to church. We do that every Sunday (and often serve there as well, helping with worship and children’s worship). God places an importance on rest. He rested after creating the world and Jesus often took time to rest when He was on this Earth. He did not rush around like a crazy person until He was depleted of energy…healing and teaching and serving willy-nilly. He went forth in peace. And He took time to rest. There was a balance. So…rest and balance are what I’m seeking. A little more living and cherishing this life is on my new list of things to do. And…a little more shining my light…or letting His light shine through me, rather. Please pray for me in this area.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16

A Post With So Much Going On, It Needs It’s Own Subtitles….

Oh my word, the hodge podge of ramblings you are about to endure on this windy, snowy, bitter cold Saturday morning. I hope you’re ready!

Sufficient Grace Ministries Upcoming Events

February 20, 2010: 8:00am-11:00am the Helping Hands ladies will be working on Comfort Bears for Sufficient Grace Ministries. Even if you cannot sew (like me!), but would like to help stuff bears and put together baskets, please join us. I will be there with some other work to do that does not involve sewing. Also, I am considering having a meeting afterward for those who are able to stay. We will have a time of prayer, discuss our vision for the ministry, and make any decisions that need to be made. Come for as little or as much time as you are able! Email me if you have any questions.

February 25, 2010: We will be starting the Walking With you ~ Threads of Hope series. Click here to read more, and to enter to win a copy of the book.

March is open…for now!

In April, I will possibly be speaking at a Scrapbooking Conference in Fremont. More details to come. (Please keep this in prayer.)

April, 30-May 1, 2010: Women of Faith and a little Sufficient Grace Gathering! Click here to enter to win a free ticket to the Columbus Conference! It’s not too late to enter…deadline is Monday! Even if you can’t attend the conference, but would like to meet Becki and I for dinner (Holly and a couple other friends are coming too!), we would love to see you there!

As I write about these coming events, it seems summer will be upon us before we know it! There are a lot of things on my heart this summer for Sufficient Grace. I’d love to do some travelling, speak and share with some hospitals and women’s groups, and really get our Dreams of You resources out there to help more families. If you have any ideas how you can help us do that, let us know. Or if you have an event that needs a speaker and/or singer, let us know. I am so excited to see where the Lord takes us!

Another thing heavy on my heart is to finish the book I started a couple years ago. I am praying for direction and time to focus on this. I would like to tell our story, but would also like to offer support and hope. I may combine some of my Walking With You posts as I tell the story…not sure. I’d also like to write a book answering practical questions and just guiding families through the shock and grief…a resource to be used at hospitals. Maybe something for parents, and a separate guide for caregivers. Lots of ideas spiraling around in my head. We’ll see what the Lord does. Please pray for our work on this book and for One Way as we spend time working on music.

Closed Doors

The previous ramblings are a great lead-in to subtitle number two of this mammoth post. I shared here about the possibility of me returning to college. My in-real-life friends are used to me bringing this up about every six months. So, they are probably not getting too excited anymore. I can’t say for sure what will happen. But, I was very close to enrolling in a great distance education program. In fact, I called the enrollment department at the highly accredited university that I thought would work best for me, as I’m still working full time. I found out that the program I was interested in would give me a dual-licensure in both Special Ed. and Elementary Ed. which would be accepted in the state of Ohio, so I wouldn’t have to choose! But, then came the bad news. There was an issue with student teaching in Ohio, and it would only be allowed at a private school if I attended this out-of-state university. Since I was hoping to continue working at my current position in a public school while student teaching, this wouldn’t work for us. There was also a credit transfer issue. I hung up the phone thinking that for now, God had closed this door…again.

What usually happens after this door (which has been closed many times!) closes is that I come to my senses and realize that I have no time to devote to the consuming demands of college. I feel a renewed sense of devotion to the purposes that God has already called me to…my family and our ministry. I’m not sure why I always think I can do one more thing. But, it is a deception. The reality is that I could not juggle my family, ministry, church commitments, full time job, and college. Something would be compromised or forsaken all together. And there are some things on that list that cannot be compromised. I mean…you read the list of the things on my heart to do already…all the directions my mind is pulled in. What was I thinking?

It seems this closed door really opens doors for me to pursue the passions of my heart that God has already planted…the work He has begun. Now, I can focus on what He has for us…well at least as well as I ever can. =)

Which leads us to subtitle number three…

Where We Live

Our home should be our haven. Ours has been severely neglected by the keeper of the home. That would be me. I need to focus on making where we live…our home…a place of peace and order instead of messy chaos. We are busy, but there needs to be some balance, and I really need to make the “keeping of our home” more of a priority. Not just in the physical sense (although that is a big part of it), but in a spiritual sense as well. I need to be focused on this family and keeping our home, and careful that other demands for my time don’t take their place on my priority list. Please pray for me, girls, as I tackle the task of organizing our basement for starters…let me tell you, it is a TASK! And, please pray for me as a wife and mama…keeping a home means more than just cleaning house physically! We need an over-all “house cleaning”!

Layers Update

If you’re wondering how Operation Peeling Back the Layers (Because I like to give all my goals a title with the word “operation”…sounds more official!) is going, here’s a short little update. (Even I’m getting sick of this post!) The process is still going. I made it through the agony of week three. Week four wasn’t so bad. It seemed like some of my layers were falling off, along with a couple more pounds. I was feeling a little freedom and experiencing some victory, when I took a couple steps back. We had some illness issues last week/weekend. I was home with James, not working, out of my schedule. Some other emotional demands with the ministry and some friends experiencing difficult things, and before I noticed, I’d pulled some of my stinky onion layers back over me, tears on my face and Doritos in my hands. I’m not staying there, though. I will keep on keeping on. And the Lord will deliver and comfort me. His comfort lasts and the aroma in his embrace is much sweeter than in the middle of my onion.

Total weight loss – 9 pounds
Still need to lose – 16 pounds

Steel Magnolias

O.K., I have no idea why I feel compelled to add the following to this already ridiculously long post that most people have probably stopped reading by now. I also don’t know why I subjected myself to watching Steel Magnolias last night, but I did. Every time I watch it, I cry buckets of tears and feel the longing in my heart so fierce in it’s intensity that I try to avoid feeling it if at all possible. Let’s just say that watching this movie is quite a test for the aforementioned Operation Peeling Back the Layers.

I love the gathering of women to laugh and cry and walk through life together. The generations of women facing the trials and joys of life. It is a thing of great beauty and value to me. I love the community they share. I remember as a little girl listening to the women gathering around the table and laughing together. It was many years ago, but I miss it…being with the generations of family, a place where you are known and loved for who you are. It is different when I gather with the women of my family, now. The mothers and daughters all have one another. But the generations of women around me are missing. My mother and my daughters live on in heaven, but I am living here…without them. My aunt and grandmother were sharing about a generation picture they took of all of their hands and feet, Grandma, my mother’s sister, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter. Such a beautiful picture they described. And I’m glad for them that they have that. But, at the same time, my heart aches that I will not have that this side of heaven. My generations of women have been interrupted. And the longing I feel for them is beyond description.

In the movie, Steel Magnolias, Sally Fields and Julia Roberts embody the relationship I had with my own mother. Me always wanting my independence…mom making me crazy, but always being there when I really needed her. We even would have joked morbidly (and often did…as only family can) like the family in the movie as they played cards the night before the mom and daughter faced a surgery where the daughter would get her mother’s kidney. The only difference is that it was me left standing by her grave and not the other way around.

I also love when Sally Fields’ character shares how lucky she was to be there when “this precious soul came into the world and when she went out” (or something to that affect). Everything about that resonates with me, and it’s exactly how I felt the day I held my Thomas. Only I prefer to say that I was “blessed among women” for the gift of being the one to sing to my sweet baby as he left my arms to be placed in the arms of Jesus. Needless to say the movie seems to hit all the soft places in my heart. It’s just gut-wrenching, and I don’t know why I subject myself to it, but I do. A good cry is cleansing, anyway!

I know the One who carries me, and He is faithful to comfort me in all of my longings and meet all of my needs. But, this is my place to write and share. So, today, I just want to say that there’s no one on this earth who knew me and loved me the way she did. And, there is a loneliness left in her place. I miss the generations of women who should be surrounding me, gathering around the table laughing as those who know each other like only family can. I’m thankful for the women who do laugh and walk with me (including many of you).

But, I miss them. I just miss them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…I have a home that needs some keeping…

Peeling, Pouring Out, and Embracing…

Well, the layers are peeling back and what lies beneath isn’t pretty. The treadmill and I have had to take a little break the past couple days. Somewhere during the fat jiggling, sweat dripping, face grimacing agony, the honeymoon ended. I started thinking of the song, “(I Hate) Everything About You” sung by Ugly Kid Joe in the early nineties…wondering how I could change the lyrics to express my feelings for the evil treadmill.

It really got ugly when I noticed the leftover bagels and cake in the lounge from teacher work day. On day 2 of the taunting bagels, I exploded, “For the ever-lovin’ Pete, could someone please get rid of these bagels! I can’t take it anymore!” (You know it’s bad when I use such strong language as “Pete”…and it’s downright serious when there’s an “ever-lovin’” thrown in!) I told you, it wasn’t pretty. You see, I love my food…I miss my food…and I’m hungry. I know I talked about leaning on the Lord, but a few times this week, I resembled an addict experiencing withdrawal as I went from weepy to slightly violent to weepy again! Granted, the only harm I wished on anyone was directed at the treadmill and some tasty-looking bagels, but still…not attractive godly behavior.

God is always faithful, though. He never leaves us in our ugliness, unless of course we want to stay there. Then, He always obliges. And, no one can convince me God doesn’t have a sense of humor. He has an uncanny ability to meet us where we are, and I love how He does it. While doing devotions with James, we were studying John 6 where Jesus talks about being the “bread of life”…and he who comes to Him will never hunger or thirst. Oh…He is good. And He most certainly knows the way to my hungry heart. He knew that if He talked about bread, He’d get my attention. Oh yeah…I’m listening Lord.

The other interesting thing going on here, is that when you take away my food, or whatever it is I’m using to hide behind instead of dealing, I become aware of all these feelings. Emotions and things I’ve been avoiding start welling up and pouring out. I’m always surprised by all of that. It makes me realize that there are things I’m still holding on to, hidden hurts that haven’t been allowed to fully heal…things I’ve numbed instead of facing…things that have been buried under layers. What a crazy process this is. You’d think it would be simple just to put down the Doritos. Who knew there was so much attached?

It’s really a good thing, though. Because as it all pours out on to my Father’s lap, He is able to comfort and heal the hurts. It may look ugly right now as I sort through the feelings, but in reality, it’s the path to freedom. Yes…there is a part of me, now that it’s really getting hard, that wants to just crawl back under the layers (with my Doritos), where it is comfortable. But, I won’t. I’m pressing on.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 3:12-14

(FYI: In the spirit of pressing on, my nemesis -a.k.a. The Treadmill- and I called a truce this afternoon and I did my afternoon workout.)

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One more thing, I want to share that God has laid on my heart this week…the issue of embracing and cherishing the gift of life. Many of you know first hand how precious the gift of life is. One of our missions at Sufficient Grace Ministries is to encourage others to value, embrace, protect, and treasure life in any form no matter how brief. Sometimes I wish that I would have done more embracing and less just surviving of the time I was given with my sweet babies. I cherished their lives in the best way I knew how at the time, and I viewed them as precious gifts. I suppose my regrets over not doing some of the amazing things I see you all doing as you embrace your time with your little ones (photographs and memory-making especially) may have something to do with my desire to spend the rest of my life embracing the gifts we were given in the lives of our Faith, Grace, and Thomas.

We are all given the precious gift of life, and we have a choice today whether just to merely survive or to fully embrace the life we’ve been given. God is whispering to my heart to do a little more embracing. And, I plan to do just that.