Father’s Eyes

I woke up early this morning and the house was completely img_7238still and silent. My favorite. The sun was shining, the sky was bold and blue, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day as I stood at the back door watching the morning come to life. Four bluejays, a pair of cardinals, a myriad of sparrows, and a squirrel were having breakfast at the bird feeder. A young bunny hopped through the fence and was promptly greeted by another. They immediately engaged in a game of chase…not sure if they were looking for love or for a fight but I still enjoyed the pregame show. My heart welled up to overflowing at the bounty and beauty of all the natural scenery.

Not sure why the words came…maybe because it’s Father’s Day weekend or maybe just seeing the beauty and wonder of creation; but my mind immediately began playing the old Amy Grant song Father’s Eyes:

When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say,
She’s got her Father’s eyes,
Her Father’s eyes;
Eyes that find the good in things,
When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help,
When help just can’t be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you’re going through
And feeling it the same.
Just like my Father’s eyes…

The words are pretty straightforward but, looking back, I’m not sure I fully understood the song as a teenager with limited experience and worldview.

What does that even mean? Father’s eyes? Some fathers teach their kids about football, baseball, or fishing. History, space, politics. Relation, interaction, confidence, belief. Some don’t. So they may teach them to do or to be, but what do they teach them to see?

I recently finished studying Genesis. What a way to look at the big picture through my Father’s eyes…eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around; eyes that find the source of help, when help just can’t be found, eyes full of compassion..

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light…And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds…” And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

And it is so good. I have a shirt that says Life Is Good, so it must be true, right? But sometimes it’s hard too. I read it in Genesis, I’ve seen it on the news and in people’s lives, and I’ve lived it.

…Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around…

img_7253Sometimes I look at my backyard and marvel. Shortly after we first moved in, I stood in the backyard and cried. Cried. I loved the new house but the back yard was empty and houses were everywhere I looked. I felt so exposed but so alone. No privacy, no comfort. no cozy homey feeling. I was thankful, I was blessed; but it still wasn’t my garden, my Eden, my place to tend and nurture and commune with God. So… we created! Trees and flowers and birdhouses and feeders and cheap yard ornaments… Well we didn’t actually create trees and all the other stuff; but we created space, a habitat, and a view. Sanctuary.

What does all that have to do with Genesis, an Amy Grant song, and waking up too early? Sometimes I feel like the creator of my yard. I look at it andimg_7272 it is good. It brings me joy and peace and comfort. A healthy sense of pride and accomplishment. But like the real world, my little backyard world sees both joy and pain, life and loss.

…Eyes that find the source of help when help just can’t be found...

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Mt 6:26-29

img_7252Sometimes in the little picture of life, I see my back yard as a reflection of the big world. There is life and beauty and provision; but sometimes there is struggle, sickness, and death. I just want all the animals to have provision and safety and all the plants and trees to thrive. Birds, bunnies, squirrels, possums, raccoons, toads, even a snake  have all inhabited the yard and have delighted us all. (except maybe the snake) But they’ve also seen struggles, loss, bullying, predators, changing seasons. They’ve weathered harsh climate, circling hawks, empty feeders, bigger bullies, a prowling cat, and loud, clumsy dogs.

…Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain…

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Mt 9:36

Okay…maybe that’s a stretch to compare human spiritual img_7247conditions and worldly struggles to animals in a semi-controlled habitat; but it’s a picture of care that I believe God has put on my heart. The sadness or anger or hurt or injustice or pleasure or satisfaction I feel when I watch life unfold in the backyard is minuscule compared with the heart of God when He sees his creation…both the struggles and the victories, the sadness and the joy.

What does it mean to have His eyes in a sin-sick, broken, desperate world?

There’s a line in a popular contemporary Christian song that changed the way I look at people who may look or act or live differently that I do or think or expect.

One by one the enemy has told them lies and led them off as slaves…

Does that change the way you look at people? It does for me. Addiction, abuse, abandonment, hurt, just plain meanness…

It makes me want to be able to see good, the value, the potential.  It makes me want to have compassion, love, and forgiveness and to walk in truth and love.  I don’t think it’s easy or natural. Sometimes it even hurts. But it is freeing and is one step closer in making you who He meant you to be.

Well…the bunnies came back. I think they’re friends, flirting not fighting. I just watched them chew my sunflowers and then hop away happily.

My prayer is that my concern, my delight, my compassion will continue to expand well beyond my yard, my family, my circle of friends, my church, my community, the world… I pray that I will have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to help, and a heart to love.

Happy Father’s Day. May you have your Father’s eyes today.

 

Sacred Rest

I saw a funny T-shirt recently. It said:

JESUS TOOK NAPS.  BE LIKE JESUS.   Mark 4:38

Funny, right? A pretty familiar story, Mark 4 recounts the story of a very busy day in Jesus’ life. He had been teaching by the sea and such a crowd appeared that he got into a boat and spoke to the crowds from the water. The acoustics were probably better. The img_5732sun was probably hot, the crowd was probably tough. Well, I don’t really know that, but the story says He taught the crowd in parables. Sounds exhausting. Later when the crowd had dispersed and He was alone with his disciples and a few others, they asked him to explain the parables even further. Then later still, verse 34 says: “He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”  That’s a lot of talking and teaching. Sounds like a full days work but his day still wasn’t over:

 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Ever have a day like that? You work and give and talk and teach and care and then do it all over again at least a dozen times? Then just when you finally think you can get a little break, a little peace and quiet… a great storm arises. Maybe not a literal storm, but interruptions, nuisances, aggravations, accusations, or the unexpected. Where is the peace, the calm, the still, the rest?

I recently read a book that addressed peace, calm, and rest img_5722from a fresh, creative perspective. Sacred Rest was written by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a medical doctor familiar with the serious negative physical, emotional, and spiritual effects that lack of rest produces in our bodies.

Merriam-Webster lists several definitions of the word “sacred” but the two that seem to shout the loudest about stilling the busyness of our minds and lives are these: dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity and highly valued and important.

When I first picked up the book, I expected the typical clichéd responses about rest: you need eight hours sleep, remember the Sabbath, be still and know, take some time for yourself, you can’t give away what you don’t possess, etc… What I actually found were unique ideas about various forms of rest I had never recognized or encountered…so much more than I ever expected. As I read real-life stories of actual people who struggled img_5730with physical and emotional pain, unrest, or turmoil, I saw bits of myself through the words of the author and through the eyes of the Great Physician. I walked along side people who felt guilty for resting, who felt the need to perform, who were so busy doing…they weren’t just living and loving and being.

Physical rest we understand. Mental rest? Emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, creative? Connections I hadn’t recognized or at least hadn’t let my mind fully understand.

Being in health care, it was easy for me to see through the eyes of the author, an internal medicine physician. I recalled many faces of patients I had seen who complained of anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, poor memory, exhaustion, img_5726personal conflict, and a myriad of other symptoms either real or perceived. I remembered countless faces of people in tears about the feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or simply feeling overwhelmed by busyness, responsibilities, and hectic schedules. I also saw parents and kids, husbands and wives, friends, and other relationships staring blankly at phones and other devices rather than interacting with one another while waiting in the lobby or in the exam rooms. So many were not alone, but were isolated or lonely. Still, but not resting and at peace. They were going and working and doing and getting…and yet still wondering why they felt hollow, scattered, or heavy-laden. I have been there too.

Healing occurs when we allow ourselves the time, space, and grace to be in the presence of God in the middle of our busy lives.

As I write this, it is two days before Christmas. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The time when people are busy working, shopping, preparing, traveling, visiting. A sacred time of year when we celebrate Immanuel, God with us. But do we slow down and remember why he came?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

This is not a book review; although I do highly recommend the book. I have been both challenged and encouraged by the stories, the fresh ideas and suggestions, and the tools the author provides. But this is more of an observation, a testimony to the fact that we are busy and bustling but are still often weary, worn, and isolated. It’s also an acknowledgment and reminder that we often don’t realize the impact that the stress, busyness, and lack of true rest have on our lives, our health, our responses, and our relationships. It’s a call to recognition, to renewal, to restoration, to rest. A call to lay down the burdens, still our minds and our bodies, quieten our devices, gather our loved ones, and bask in the gift of today. Be still and know.

“Peace! Be still!”  “Who then is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” 

 

 

…may you never become so busy you neglectimg_5736 to enjoy the life you create.   Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

bit.ly/SacredRest  #SacredRest

A Prayer For My Hometown

Most of us know Proverbs 31 as The Wife of Noble Character chapter, IMG_5693but I want to encourage you all, being of noble character, to read the verses directly before that passage. Proverbs 31:8-9 says:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Few expressions are more noble than speaking up, defending, and caring.

Micah 6:8 in the Amplified says: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you except to be just and to love (and to diligently practice) kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God (setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness.)

I would like to briefly address an event happeningIMG_5564 right here in my very own hometown this week. People from outside our community, many of them paid protesters, are gathering at our beautiful, historic square to stir up, maybe even encourage, feelings of anger, hatred, and division. First of all, in the above scripture, I’m in no way calling any certain group of people destitute, poor, or needy (other than the fact that we have all at some point been destitute, poor, or needy). But God calls us to speak up, to seek justice, love mercy and kindness, and to walk humbly with him. To defend. To love. I know this “demonstration” is not representative of the people in our community.

IMG_5563
Encased bible outside Murfreesboro courthouse

In Matthew 28 when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this is what He said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Lord we thank you that you love us as a parent loves a child, and you instruct us through your word and the power of the Holy Spirit. We praise you that you enable us to love. We lift up the safety and integrity of our city and our brothers and sisters and ask you to place a hedge of protection (physically, spiritually, and emotionally) around us during this time of attempted hatred and division..


The Way of Love (1 Corinthians)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,

IMG_5694
Cannonsburgh, near downtown

but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


IMG_5689
Cannonsburgh chapel, near downtown

Lord God, we come to you in faith that you hear us. Your word says that where two or more are gathered in your name, you are there with them.  It also says that ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” You are our God. We are your nation, your state, your city, your people. We stand on your word from Galatians 3:26-29: for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Lord, we also come to you today hopeful. You assured us in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We claim that hope today. We will have trouble but you have overcome. We also stand in agreement with 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 which says: if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

IMG_5696
Murfreesboro Greenway

We pray for forgiveness. We pray for healing. We pray for peace and protection over our city, our neighbors, our families. We pray that as evil, dissension, hatred, and confusion try to invade our community that people will be overwhelmingly, divinely called and set apart to follow the path described in Psalm 34:14 and will Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 John 3:16-18 says: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

God, we are so thankful that you love us. img_5200We are a fallen, imperfect people but we ask you to equip us to love. Open our eyes and allow us to see your image in your people so that we may encourage and build up one another in the faith, hope, and love you have given us, your people. We lift our city to you for your wisdom, your protection, your mercy, grace, and love. We have humbled ourselves. We seek your face, your way. We ask that you go before us, shield us, be our rearguard and defender. In the mighty, matchless name of Jesus.

That’s a prayer for my hometown. Will you make it yours too?IMG_5692

IMG_5426

 

Soul Ties and Goodbyes

Her name was Lillian. Like Lily…a beautiful flower, a symbol of beauty, innocence, and purity. She wasn’t perfect but she was available. I didn’t recognize it at the time but it was a form of ministry: the ministry of presence and open doors. I didn’t know how to express appreciation at the time but years later I felt the need to call her, to write, img_4810to visit; but I never did. I ignored the spirit promptings because of busyness, forgetfulness, or just not knowing what to say. So I never said it. Her days ended before I was able to speak appreciation, love, and respect. To let her know what a difference her kindness made in my life. I still regret it. I swore at the time that I would always let people know what they meant to me: their influence, their significance, and how much I loved them. It’s a work in progress. I still forget or tread awkwardly in silence. My first trip to the beach…Lillian. First visit to the mountains…Lillian. Camping, a safe place, weekend retreats…Lillian. She opened her home to me for days at a time and made me feel safe and welcomed, even as an awkward, confused teenager. Her family invited me to church and encouraged me to stay involved. They saw me. How different my life would have been without our lives intersecting.

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.   -Helen Keller

This week the world lost an amazing man, a godly man, a talented man. I lost a friend. My friend lost a husband, their kids lost their dad, a church lost its worship leader, a job lost a dedicated employee, and dozens of other people lost an amazing friend. Heaven gained a talented musician, a man of the Word, a computer whiz, a deep thinker, a leader, a mechanic, an innovator, a provider and lover of his family, a man after God’s own heart.

It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.  -John Steinbeck

Weddings and funerals. How easy it is to make img_4431them our great reunion sites; but how tragic to not make time to spend with those who have impacted our lives not only for a moment, but for eternity. I was recently blessed to be able to live, laugh, love, and celebrate with these loved ones, these dear friends, these brothers and sisters, these who have walked the long road. Now there are two fewer footprints in the dust on the road, but lingering fingerprints and heart impressions of loving and living well will persist in his legacy forever.

But the shadowing questions remain, echo, and begged to be asked: Do we say enough, visit enough, make enough time, speak enough truth, love enough, share enough? Do our loved ones feel our love, img_8817our respect, our appreciation, our admiration? Do they feel loved and valued? Do they know what an impact they’ve  had on our lives, our families, our world? It takes less time to call and visit than it does to linger in loss and regret.

The term “soul tie” isn’t officially found in the bible and when it’s used in modern biblical teachings it often has a negative connotation; but in 1 Samuel it says that “…Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”  

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they img_9058-3keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Those verses sound like soul ties. Aren’t we called the family of God? The body of Christ? Do we live interlocked with soul ties and heart strings? And even with the hope we have, do we still feel a stinging pain or gnawing emptiness at the loss of our body part? As humans we don’t like the pain of loss. We don’t understand why good men, children, or innocent ones are harmed or are taken too soon. But still we have this hope…

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24

So, we hope. We know that a peace that passes understanding will eventually settle over our souls. We’re also reminded that we have only this moment to love, to live, to laugh, to hug, to speak words of life and encouragement and appreciation. Don’t wait til time to say goodbye. There is so much more to say. Love your babies, love your family, love your friends, love those who have stood by you, led you, and encouraged you and your children. Call when you’re prompted to call. Visit when you’re called to visit. Text, email, send a postcard. Hug tightly but hold on loosely. And when you don’t know what to say, when there’s no explanation, verse, or empty platitude to offer, just sit on the back porch with your friend in silence. And maybe take her a little banana pudding.

Rest well, Kelly. You’ve run the race. You’ve won. Well done, good and faithful servant.

img_4809

22 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me

This time last year I wrote a post titled “21 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me.” As the time approached this year, I questioned whether to add anything to it or to let it rest in the archives. After all, I don’t want to be guilty of continuing to update every year: 25 things…35 things…50 things! Well, you get the idea. But this year will mark major milestones in my 22 years of parenting. In the next five weeks, I will be the mother of a college graduate who will then be an RN and a married woman. And I’ll be a mother-in-law! How can so much change in a short 22 years? 😉 I didn’t really change the post much from last year. I just squeezed in an extra number. Feel free to get back with me to share some of the lessons that parenting has taught you.


Today it’s official: I’ve been a parent for 21 22 years! From first steps to first day of school, first car to college, first apartment to soon-to-be-married… I have very few regrets. I haven’t done it all perfectly but here we are: not in jail, still speaking to each other, more good times than bad, and we even like each other. Isn’t that successful parenting? I’m sure the title could read 21,000 things being a parent has taught me but I’ve narrowed it down.

  1. It’s not all about me. Oh, if everyone in the world could recognize that truth at the same moment how different the news headlines img_9638would read! Most women really embrace this truth about the time they feel the first tiny movements inside. How much more apparent it becomes with midnight feedings, a hundred loads of laundry, and a thousand diaper changes. It’s even more evident when big brown eyes look into yours and tiny fingers hold your heart.
  2. It’s not all about my children either. What a harsh realization when you discover that not everyone thinks your child is the center of the universe! This seems particularly apparent in the midst of play-dates and 4 year old soccer games. While you love your children and think they’re the best artists and athletes and scholars, sometimes other parents give their own children those titles as well. Teach them balance, respect, personal responsibility, and healthy pride in accomplishment.
  3. My heart is bigger than I thought. It was bittersweet when I first felt the deep pangs of parental love. Not that love for my own children was painful, but I suddenly became aware of all the people in the world, especially those that had never been loved as I loved my own. I saw people very differently. Either they were loved deeply and deserved my love and respect; or they had been denied that deep, unconditional love and protection and merited my compassion. The depth of that loss changed the way I viewed people in their pain and messiness.
  4. How to be brave. Noises in the night, scary looking insects, bad dreams, bad guys, and bullies can all seem overwhelming. What better way to overcome those fears than to become a fearless champion, knowing little eyes are watching? What about bigger fears? Sickness, stitches, broken bones, and bruised hearts? Parenting is not for the weak or the faint-of-heart.
  5. Spiders won’t kill me. Okay, this one should probably fall under the how to be brave category, but it was such a victory that it deserved its own bullet point. Enough said.
  6. I can’t stop all the pain. From lost stuffed animals, being left out of friendship circles, not making the team, to the death of pets and people, the sting and sadness of rejection and disappointment cannot be avoided. While I can’t stop it, dress it up, or discount it, I’m called and equipped to walk through it, providing support, encouragement, and hope along the way.
  7. The importance of presence. Availability. Attention. Acknowledgement. Who hasn’t noticed the eager eyes of children as they searched for a parent at a ballgame, a performance, or a school program? A field trip, a day of shopping, a quiet lunch for two? A funny movie on the couch?  When you are truly img_9630present, you are better able to really see, hear, learn, and know your children. You’re not only their greatest cheerleader; you also become a shepherd of their heart.
  8. Words are really important. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak life, truth, and encouragement. Tell them you love them, are proud of them, and are always available.
  9. How to say I’m sorry.  I messed up. I was wrong. Please forgive me. A little humility and humanity encourages grace and mercy. It says you can own your shortcomings and it models good communication and responsibility.
  10. Let go of guilt. “I wish I had..I wish I  hadn’t..I should have..I shouldn’t have..if only… Home school, public school, other moms, other kids..What if I make the wrong decisions? What if my kids end up in counseling because of me?” Let it go. Do your best. Pick your battles. Say your prayers. Love your kids. Repeat.
  11. Stop comparison. Younger moms, thinner moms, cooler moms, moms with more money, more time, and more creativity… Who hasn’t felt the drive to compete, compare, or self-degrade? Your children were given to you, not your next door neighbor, the preacher, or the lady down the street. You are good enough, smart enough, brave enough, and just what they need.
  12. Always eat dinner around the table. Mealtime is always good. Why? We love to eat. We love to laugh. There’s something about sitting around in a circle that encourages conversation and accountability. No television, no video games, no phone. It’s a time to recount events of the day, plan future events, and ask lots of questions.
  13. Cereal is okay for supper. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and grains. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Knowing that so many people in the world go to bed hungry, there is no condemnation in Frosted Flakes. Or pop tarts. 🙂
  14. Stepping over piles of clothes counts as exercise. So does walking around aimlessly, running in circles, and going the distance. Patience takes practice so that’s also a sport. Hiding in the bathroom counts as a cool-down routine.  🙂
  15. The car is a great classroom. It’s quiet. It’s confined. img_9636They can’t escape. The greatest lessons don’t happen in the classroom, but in the day to day moments of life when you can teach, share, and create real life and relationship. Believe it or not, they are listening.
  16. Make bedtime the best time. They’re tired. They’re vulnerable. They’ll open their hearts just to stay awake and to spend a few more minutes with you in the quiet darkness. What a sweet time to snuggle, to pray, and to listen to their hearts, dreams, and details of the day. It can be the great eraser of an awful, no good, very bad day.
  17. Take lots of pictures. There was no Facebook or Instagram when my children were little. Milestones and memories were captured in 4×6 glossy images in frames or behind plastic sheets. What seemed like too many at theimg_9635 time have proven to be never enough, but still offer glimpses into life and love and living.
  18. How to appreciate good art. Who needs expensive oils, French impressionists, and murky watercolors when hand-scribbled notes, finger-paints, play-doh shapes, fingerprint faces, and reindeer made of footprints can adorn walls and refrigerators?
  19. Laughing is the best. It reduces tension, stress hormones, and the need to hit something. Create inside jokes so no one else understands and you seem weird to other people.
  20. Remember to invest. Children are a treasure, a blessing from the Lord. Each season is to be savored and captured in word, photo, laughter, and experiencing each moment to the fullest measure. But…part of our investment is in teaching children to grow, stand, walk, move on, and create their own journeys. Then what’s left besides the memories, photographs, and holiday visits? What of the other relationships? The other investments? The spouse, the deep friendships, the knowledge and care of self, the spiritual growth that is left to explore and experience after the children marry, move, or follow their own paths? Cherish, but don’t idolize your children, as you make investments in other lifelong, life-changing relationships.
  21. Be consistent and reliable. (Not perfect) As their parent, coach, cheerleader, and advocate. Then you will have a friend for the rest of your life.
  22. How to let go. It starts the first time you leave them at daycare, with a relative, or a babysitter. It intensifies with the first “no” or “I can do it by myself”.  Then  classroom, camp, a car, college, marriage, moving away. There is beauty in freedom, success in standing alone, amazement as they fly. After all, they were only yours for a little while.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverb 22:6

img_9634

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior  are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them    Ps 127:3-5

A Time To Grieve: Reflections on Julie Hunt’s “I’m About To Get Up”

King Solomon said it best:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…  Ecc 3:1-4

As long as we remain travelers in this weary world, there will always be pain, loss, tears, injustice, and moments our brains can’t understand or reconcile to what seems logical, good, fair, or expected. Why do children get cancer, brothers kill brothers, families disintegrate, or people lose hope and succumb to addiction and death? Why do clouds of hopelessness and despair obscure our vision, interrupt our plans, darken our days, challenge our beliefs, and steal our joy? Why do loving, faithful dads, husbands, and plans for the future get swept away in the blink of an eye and the sudden flash of a rainy day?  More important than the struggle with the “whys,” is who we know, what we do, and where do we go with the broken pieces and unanswered questions.

In her newly release book, I’m about To Get Up, Julie Hunt shares her story of loss, suffering, questions, recovery of hope, and restoration of peace. The full title of the book is I’m About to Get Up! (Persevering Through Loss & Grief)  On some level, we have all experienced loss; but what does it look like to persevere through grief and loss? What exactly is grief?

grief   

noun
1. keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.
2. a cause of occasion of keen distress or sorrow.
Strong words: suffering, distress, loss, sorrow.
Julie provides a vivid word picture of how grief sometimes operates in our lives : “Grief puts the mind in such a fragile place. It feels like being on the edge of a great cliff, img_3066mostly teetering to the point that one false move, or a sigh, or leaning in the wrong direction and… woosh! You’re gone, fallen, it’s over, never to return to sanity or reality again. Just gone.”*
Wow! Ever been there? Teetering on the edge of a breakdown… or maybe a breakthrough? A place where your body is weary, your brain in is on autopilot, and your own thoughts betray you? Your emotions may be fragile and tender..or hardened and numb?
Jesus wept. Jesus also cracked whips and turned over tables. He shared uplifting times with friends. He withdrew from the crowd and prayed in solitude. Meek and mild or mean and wild, there’s no denying that Jesus felt and expressed the same raw human emotions that we experience. He grieved deeply with and for people in their emptiness and loss: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt 9:36)  He modeled a full range of emotional responses to harassment and hurt, and He extended mercy, grace, and compassion. Never did He shame people for their sin or hurt.
 What is your pain point? Where does the enemy feed you a lie that you take on, nourish, and accept as truth? Be on guard, because every time you listen to the lie, entertain and feed on it, it turns on you and begins to feed on you. *
 That’s a great question: What is your pain point? Identification and acknowledgment are the key as we prepare to wage any battle.
 ..Hurts we try to deny or hide away have a way of making themselves known. *
Personal pain can be so unpredictable that it can make the folks walking the path of grief with you uncomfortable. *
Using contemporary narrative blended with pages from her journal, Julie chronicles her own grief journey during the months that followed her husband’s unexpected death. Peaceful, faith-filled moments clashed with numbness, anger, confusion, loneliness, and questionable expectations in the days following the tragic news. While surrounded by loving, supportive friends and family, there were also obstacles, confrontations, and unknowns that made her question her ability to navigate the grief road she found herself traveling.
Ever tell yourself, I should be over this by now, others have had worse, or I shouldn’t be ______?
 
Shame can twist your thoughts and tie you up in knots very quickly. I could be a strong, godly woman, trusting and believing in God one moment. And then, minutes later, a thought , a word, a phone call, or a picture could draw me back into the doubt, despair, and hopelessness I knew so well. *
 img_3102“I was miserable, hurting, and facing a choice: continue living in the pit with the lies and pain, or start climbing out.”*
While identifying and acknowledging the grief in our hard places are the first steps toward admitting that we need healing; choosing our steps and direction is often the first step out of those dark places.
“…I started paying better attention to those longings of my heart, those areas that I needed to get unstuck, so I could make efforts to move on.”*
“…I began to unravel the tightly woven garment I had constructed to keep my pain out and a shoddy form of survival in.”*
The book is rich with interesting personal narrative that pulls you into Julie’s inner circle and makes you feel like her friend and cheerleader. She honestly shares her struggles, questions, and doubts and emphasizes the importance of a strong support system and ever-seeking, ever-increasing faith in a God who knows, sees, and cares. She then finishes her story with practical advice and encouragement for anyone who finds themselves currently walking, or revisiting, the long rocky path of grief.  Reflecting back on her own journey, she recognized and admitted her pain, found others to walk the road of suffering with her, and ultimately chose to walk out the path of healing by trusting and resting in the divine Healer for her comfort and restoration.
img_2906
Each day took tremendous courage and resolute determination, believing that in every moment God is bigger than my loss, my pain, or my disappointment.
So while we may not always understand suffering, we are assured that we will have trouble in this life, but that we don’t have to walk the road of suffering alone.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Is 55:8-9
 
He also said: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  Is 43:2-3
Yes, King Solomon was wise. There is a time for everything: a time to be born and to live, really live, before you die. A time to plant kindness, love, and hope. A time to uproot bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, and strife. A time to tear down and kill the toxic emotions, activities, and reactions that battle for your emotional and spiritual well-being as you build up your faith and friendships. A time to heal the hurts by taking time to weep and mourn to represent and experience the significance of loss; but in season, to laugh with new promises of hope and to dance with the joy of life and a new day.
 Maybe another way of saying I’m About To Get Up! is this:
“Arise [from spiritual depression to a new life], shine [be radiant with the glory and brilliance of the Lord]; for your light has come, And the glory and brilliance of the Lord has risen upon you.”  Isaiah 60:1 Amp
*quotations from Julie Hunt, I’m About To Get Up!  
#ImAboutToGetUp!
thejuliehunt.com

Heartstrings

I didn’t realize how much I liked violin music untild9fwnzushr0-adamara earlier this week. Literally…three days ago when the vibrant chords of Hallelujah awoke a quiet, slumbering place in my soul.

Fiddle…that’s what I had always called it; and my limited experience with the funny looking instrument had primarily consisted of the roar and excitement associated with group renditions of Rocky Top and the familiar southern twang of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. But I found the gentle, rhythmic chords stroked with precision by the gifted artist, the violinist, to be both inspirational and soothing.

1 Samuel records the story of how young David skillfully played the stringed instrument and describes the soothing effects the music had on King Saul’s troubled mind. Was it merely the skillful plucking and strumming of the strings or was it a deeper work, resonating from the heart of God to the fingers of David to the heart, soul, and ears of Saul?

And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.   1 Sam 16:23

img_2707Refreshed and well. That’s a good description of how I felt as I found more and more hymns played masterfully by various violinists. My son might even report that I danced around the kitchen. Just a little. The formerly deaf place inside hungered for the audible art that fed the precisely shaped hole that the music seemed to fill so completely. I was amazed at the number of hymns I found that were predominantly accompanied by the violin: Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, It Is Well With My Soul, Blessed Assurance… All my favorites! All were beautiful. All were soothing. The more I basked in the stringed harmony, the more I realized that the instrumental versions were like a timely gift of medicine for my soul. The violin played center stage and I simply let my spirit voice the words.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

Okay, so hymns aren’t scripture, but as the words of the old hymns flowed so freely from my mind and heart, it reminded me of the importance of knowing: Knowing encouraging, soul-edifying words. Knowing the Word. Knowing the Truth. Knowing ways to nourish and uplift your spirit. Knowing how to soothe a troubled mind or weary heart.

God uses scripture, music, people, nature, circumstances, dreams, visions, and countless other ways to get our attention,to  speak to us, to encourage us, to transform us, to heal us, and to equip us. This week He used a violin.

I probably won’t be attending the symphony any time soon. My kitchen will be my dance floor, my phone speakers my instrument, my heart my voice. But Hallelujah is still playing in the background, I am a captive audience, and I will choose to hear each beautiful strum as preparation for a deeper work in the deepest places. And I will sing.

uqkyemaaaoq-baher-khairy

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD Psalm 40:3 NLT