Healing balm

I just finished reading The Hunger Games at school with a few sophomore students. Two times, Katniss faces injury and needs medical help, once for herself and once for her partner, Peeta. In both instances, help arrives just in time. Both times, she’s provided with a goopy balm that brings both relief and healing. Both times she knew she needed help. She knew the situation was beyond her and both times she had no choice but to wait for someone to show mercy.

It’s been a whirlwind week and weekend. Graduation, parties, wedding stuff, end of the school year busyness and daily life kept us all on our toes and living moment to moment. We made it. We celebrated milestones and enjoyed it all. But honestly, most of the time, I was one step away from a wreck. Trying to hold it together emotionally and stay on top of home life and work and all the extras felt overwhelming. At each moment when I didn’t think I’d make it to the next without a meltdown, help arrived. Not in the form a beeping, parachuted tin of balm like Katniss received, but  in the form of people. Calming words, reassuring hugs, and surprise guests eased my burdens. My kids and friends and family stepped up and stepped in and provided an amazing graduation party for our daughter. My sisters and sisters-in-law threw a spectacular shower for my other daughter. My sweet mom did my laundry and dishes and held things down on the homefront. They were all a healing balm to my weary soul and I’m beyond grateful. I could not have walked through the last week without them.

And then, in the middle of it, we got the late-night call every parent dreads.  Our son and his girlfriend were in a car accident. Thankfully, mercifully, both my son and his lovely friend were miraculously unharmed but somewhere on CR 38 is a concussed deer who got the better of the 2005 Honda. In the dark, rainy night, Brad and I drove N & C back home and in the midst of relief, I worried. Although they were safe and sound, I could tell they were both shaken and my son was beating himself up over the accident. I tried to speak reassuring words. I tried to bring comfort, but it was still fresh and scary. Then, when we arrived home and walked in the door shortly before midnight, all his siblings were waiting to give hugs and listen to the stories. They provided relief that I could not. As a parent, it was an absolute joy to see and hear them surround their brother and friend with love and support and laughter. They were healing balm to an injured spirit and it was beautiful.

IMG_7078Paul says to the Roman people “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other.”  The entire weekend was a beautiful picture of community. At every turn, friends and family were sharing our joy, lightening our load and comforting us in our pains, insecurities, and shortcomings. We experienced servanthood and mercy and generosity and grace upon grace upon grace. Thank you, you beautiful souls, who lived life with us this weekend. Thank you for your selfless giving of time and talent and resources. Thank you for setting up and taking down and serving food and cleaning up and filling in the gaps and taking photos and making runs to the grocery store and planting flowers and giving hugs and speaking wisdom and for bringing joy. Thank you, my own dear children, for being there for one another and for providing a healing balm to one another in a fallen world. I love you all and thank God for you.

And to those reading, let this be an encouragement to show up for people. Be community for others. Share their burdens. Lighten their loads. Be generous with your gifts. Be a healing balm to a weary soul today.

When the washing machine breaks…

The washer broke yesterday. Daryl, the repairman, asked if it sounded like a jet engine when it was spinning. Yes, Brad answered. It’s the bearings, he replied.

I demanded much from that washer and it delivered. Over its lifetime, I estimate it washed almost 9,000 loads. If the old washer could talk, it would tell tales of late-night loads of barf-filled sheets and early morning spins of the basketball uniform worn the night before and needed immediately. Four kids and two adults (and lots of college kids) used it for jersey’s, Pizza Ranch uniforms, sweaty running gear, dusty work clothes, frosting-filled aprons, towels, and the occasional delicate.

It had a good run; then it died.*

And the washer dying? Almost sent me over the edge–into a full melt-down mode. In the middle of telling myself to get a grip and stop freaking out over the washer dying, I stepped back and thought of our lives the last few weeks.

In the past 16 days…
We welcomed one child back home and said goodbye to another.
We celebrated an engagement, two new jobs and a birthday.
We ate meals, worked our jobs, cleaned our house, hosted guests and made two unplanned trips.
We bought a wedding dress.
We mourned with a broken-hearted sweetie.
And the washer broke.

It was the dead washer that broke this camel’s back.

My friend sent me an Andrew Peterson song earlier this week called Be Kind to Yourself. He wrote it for his daughter, but it speaks to me in the middle of my mess. Many of us are good at being kind to others, but being kind to ourselves can be difficult. Every fault, every frustration, every past mistake, every instance of shame & regret, every dumb word spoken comes rushing back in moments of frailty and we mercilessly beat ourselves up. I’m so frail, people. I suspect, no matter the tough mask you wear or the high walls you build, you’re frail too. And instead of being kind to ourselves in our frailty and humanity, we scold ourselves and try to muscle our way through it. If you’re like me, something stupid like the washer breaking may make you doubt God’s love. It’s ridiculous, and yet I believe we all do it. We doubt that the Creator of the Universe could actually love us. I regularly doubt it. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s true. Doubt is why I write so many “It’s the Little Things” posts; the posts are my exercise in practicing belief. I believe learning to be kind to ourselves is also an exercise in practicing belief.

Yes, I need to get over myself and look at the big picture. Yes, I need to rejoice and give thanks for the countless blessings given to us. Yes, I need to remember and believe and practice faith. And yes, in all of that, I can be kind to myself and not beat myself up for feeling stretched thin.

I don’t know what your broken washer is today. I don’t know what *thing* will feel like too much. I don’t know what may cause a meltdown in your heart today. I guess I just ask you to join me in trying to remember God’s love and be kind to yourself in the middle of the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

*(side note–perhaps that should be on my tombstone: “She had a good run; then she died.”)

 

It’s the little things.

it’s warmth and shelter in the middle of the storm
it’s card games and Mario Cart and wii
it’s lingering over books
it’s baking cookies and bread to enjoy together
it’s a selfless man who constantly and consistently works hard with no need for a spotlight
it’s food for sustenance and enjoyment
it’s soothing, soul-feeding music
it’s more than enough of everything even when my warped view tries to tell me otherwise
it’s reading Truth freely and without constraint
it’s sharing memories over old photos
it’s prayers prayed with the same, loving man for nearly 3 decades
it’s the love and affection and friendship of mothers and daughters and sisters
it’s laughter, unforced and free
it’s a future Hope of more than enough Grace
it’s everyday reminders that we’re not alone…
and there is a God…
and He does love us…
it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big.

Hand-me-downs and leftovers

I’m all about hand-me-downs and leftovers. The youngest of three girls, I grew up in my sister’s clothes and, in general, loved it. Even today, I still benefit from my generous (and incredibly stylish) sister. And leftovers? They’re my friend. Chicken chili or lasagna the next day? Even better than the first time!

But hand-me-downs or leftovers in a relationship? No, thank you. No one wants to feel like they’re getting leftover time, money, affection or attention. No child wants to feel like they come second to work or church or siblings. No friend wants someone who only calls when it’s a crisis or they need something. No spouse wants to feel the leftover energy or affection or love from their significant other. Hand-me-downs and leftovers leave us feeling like we don’t deserve any better. We don’t just feel loved less, we feel unloved, un-cared for and ultimately rejected.

To recap…

hand-me-downs from your stylish sister that save you money–good; hand-me-downs of affection–bad.

leftover food–good; leftover time, energy or love–bad.

Apply that to a spiritual relationship and it magnifies the feelings of worthlessness. If you think you get God’s leftovers or His crumbs, then you constantly feel like the kid with dirty shoes who can come in but needs to wipe their feet and stand in the corner. No warm welcome or seat at the grown-up table for you. No sir. Be quiet and wait until someone more important offers you what’s left. Be happy with hand-me-downs and leftovers from God’s children who are well-behaved, more faithful and frankly, just better than you.

Yeah. That’s how I’ve felt lately. I’m not gonna lie (and believe me, I wish I could), September was a crappy month. Many times I wished someone would wake me up when it was over– just like the Green Day song. Saying goodbye to kids (real, grown-up goodbyes), grieving both old and new losses, coming to terms with past hurts, dealing with physical illness, and enduring depressing thoughts left me cold, sad and tired. To be brutally honest, the cumulative effect of all this gunk, is thinking, feeling and believing that all I get or deserve from God is hand-me-downs and leftovers. Why should I get anything else?

But here’s just one of the many problems with thinking and living this way: if you live thinking you’re impoverished, you believe you have nothing to offer. You either believe what you could offer isn’t good enough or you believe that you don’t have enough resources. And then, perhaps, you get some weird self-pitying pride mixed in there and the whole thing turns into an ugly mess of self-accusations and self-defamation and a faulty, dangerous view of God and self. Brutal.

So how do I (we, if you can identify with anything I’ve written) interrupt the cycle? One way to start is by remembering and believing Truth.

If we believe we’re children of God, then here’s the Truth:

We’re not given hand-me-down rags; we’re dressed in the King’s own robes. 

We’re not invited to a rickety table of leftovers; we’re invited to a feast.

Because of God’s love and Jesus sacrificial gift of his own life, we’re invited to share in His bounty and sit at his table.

“Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David…”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near. ~Isaiah 55 1-6

I know when you’re struggling it’s difficult to see Truth, let alone believe it, but I pray these words bring hope and encouragement to your mind and heart today, friend.

Connections

A Noiseless Patient Spider

BY Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

 

Every day, walking the halls at school, wandering the aisles of the grocery store, sitting in the chairs at church, endlessly perusing social media–whatever the activity–people are desperate for connections. People universally search for meaning, significance and a place to belong. The need for community encompasses young, old, and middle-aged. Loneliness–or the fear of it– does not discriminate based on race, religion or socioeconomic class.

Love, encourage, and speak kindly to whoever is placed in your path today. It may be inconvenient. It may require a sacrifice of time and energy on your part. It may even feel uncomfortable. But, if you claim to be a Christ-follower, this is not a suggestion or a theoretical idea, but a command.


Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. ~1 John 4:7

So encourage each other and build each other up…~1 Thessalonians 5:11

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. ~Ephesians 5:1

Open your eyes today. Someone in your sphere needs to connect with you. There are tiny filaments being launched in your direction. Get out of your own youniverse, and respond.

Celebrating a Legacy

My dad left a lot when he passed away. He left a house, a car, clothes and his beloved books.   He left co-workers and friends who loved him. He left children and grand children who adored him. He left a loving wife who deeply misses him. He left a legacy of life-long learning. He left a legacy of faith. He left a legacy of curiosity and adventure. But I believe one of the best things my dad left, was a legacy of blessing.

My dad was known for his bright, easy smile and quick wit. People liked him and liked to be around him. But beyond the winning smile, keen intellect and great personality, people were drawn to dad because he loved them. I saw my dad love and bless each person he met–literally every person no matter how minor or brief their encounter. His life exuded encouragement and mercy and grace and blessing. I remember one time he and my mom were traveling to Iowa and stopped at a Hardee’s for ice cream. While in the line, dad struck up a conversation with a younger guy. Within minutes, the man told mom and dad of his rough past and new-found faith and his desire to change. There, amid the rushed customers, mom and dad prayed with him, gave him words of encouragement and blessed him. This is one example among many; his life was a life of giving. He took time to listen and bless.

So, my dad’s love for others wasn’t just philanthropic or born out of a general love for humanity. His love  and passion to bless people came out of his love and passion for his Savior, Jesus and out of a deep gratitude. His love and blessing were intentional. Dad struggled with depression. Dad struggled with his past. Dad struggled with self-image and worth. Dad struggled with an addictive personality. Dad struggled with pride. He would readily, easily and quickly share with you that Jesus was his only hope and without Him, he was nothing. The introverted scholar, who could easily have holed up in his man-cave forever, chose to leave the safety and quiet and comfort to bless and love others because of the Love he’d been shown. He loved others well because of the great Love he’d been given.

I’m confident that his legacy of blessing reaches far beyond what we know because of this Love.

Would you do something for me today, in honor of his birthday?

Would you love people wholly and intentionally today?

When an interaction devolves into gossip, will you be the one to bring the grace and love and turn the conversation around?
Will you be the one to show kindness and grace to the person who bugs you (and perhaps everyone else) the most?
Will you greet each person you meet with kindness and openness, expecting the best instead of the worst?
Will you step out of your comfort zone, putting your own fears, busyness and agenda aside, to bring encouragement to someone else?
Will you pray with someone who needs it today?
Will you put your needs on the back-burner and live self-sacrificially today?
Will you refrain from the snarky comment at someone else’s expense?
Will you show restraint and grace when you don’t agree with someone else’s political or religious beliefs?
If you work in a school, will you look for the kid who tries to hide and try to make a connection?
If you’re a student, will you bless your classmates with kindness, respect and actual attention–yes, even the weird kid who picks his nose–in fact–especially the weird kid who picks his nose?
Will you be the one at the water cooler who brings words of life instead of criticism?

Will you plant seeds of kindness instead of selfishness?
Will you make today about blessing instead of cursing? Loving instead of ignoring? Boldly sharing grace instead of standing in judgement?

Will you intentionally share a legacy of blessing today?

Imagine the beauty in this day if we choose to live like this!

Never Once

A year ago we filed into the church pews, sang hope-filled Truth-songs, heard words of love and legacy and faith, and said good-bye to my dad. Hundreds came to the funeral. Many I didn’t know and had never seen before. People of all sizes, ages, colors, nationalities,  and social classes. People came to honor dad and grieve with us. For my own family, personally, we were blessed, touched, uplifted and comforted by several of our dear friends who traveled to share our sorrow and honor my dad. They didn’t have to come. They didn’t have to rearrange schedules, miss work, and travel from other states to minister to us, but they did and a year later I am still moved to tears by it.

My friend sent me Matt Redman’s song “Never Once” yesterday and, although I already know the song, God’s faithfulness struck me again. I know the song is primarily about God never leaving us or forsaking us, but I realize over and over again that He shows us that enduring love by sending others to be there physically. “Never once did you ever walk alone.” His love and grace and mercy are manifest in the love and grace and mercy tangibly displayed by the people in our lives. Sometimes the people are highly intentional–like my friend sending me the song–but often times, God uses prayers, phrases, songs, hugs and merciful words without the people realizing the enormous impact of their actions.

Thank you, lovely friends, for walking beside our family for the past year plus. Thank you for the grace, mercy and kindness offered through your physical presence at the funeral, through your life-giving words, through your constant reminders that you are with us in our hurt, and through your encouragement and prayers now, a year later.

I hope, dear reader, that you’ll be spurred on to offer life-giving encouragement to someone today. I *know* someone in your life is hurting and needs to know love and grace. Will you be the one to offer it?

Never Once by: Matt Redman

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far weve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much Youve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore well be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Legacy of Blessing

My dad left a lot when he passed away. He left a house, a car, clothes and his beloved books.   He left co-workers and friends who loved him. He left children and grand children who adored him. He left a loving wife who deeply misses him. He left a legacy of life-long learning. He left a legacy of faith. He left a legacy of curiosity and adventure. But I believe one of the best things my dad left, was a legacy of blessing.

My dad was known for his bright, easy smile and quick wit. People liked him and liked to be around him. But beyond the winning smile, keen intellect and great personality, people were drawn to dad because he loved them. I saw my dad love and bless each person he met–literally every person no matter how minor or brief their encounter. His life exuded encouragement and mercy and grace and blessing. I remember one time he and my mom were traveling to Iowa and stopped at a Hardee’s for ice cream. While in the line, dad struck up a conversation with a younger guy. Within minutes, the man told mom and dad of his rough past and new-found faith and his desire to change. There, amid the rushed customers, mom and dad prayed with him, gave him words of encouragement and blessed him. This is one example among many; his life was a life of giving. He took time to listen and bless.

So my dad’s love for others wasn’t just philanthropic or born out of a general love for humanity. His love  and passion to bless people came out of his love and passion for his Savior, Jesus and out of a deep gratitude. His love and blessing were intentional. Dad struggled with depression. Dad struggled with his past. Dad struggled with self-image and worth. Dad struggled with an addictive personality. Dad struggled with pride. He would readily, easily and quickly share with you that Jesus was his only hope and without Him, he was nothing. The introverted scholar, who could easily have holed up in his man-cave forever, chose to leave the safety and quiet and comfort to bless and love others because of the Love he’d been shown. He loved others well because of the great Love he’d been given.

I’m confident that his legacy of blessing reaches far beyond what we know because of this Love.

Would you do something for me today?

Would you love people wholly and intentionally today as a way to honor my dad?

When a conversation devolves into gossip, will you be the one to bring the grace and love and turn the conversation around?
Will you be the one to show kindness and grace to the person who bugs you (and perhaps everyone else) the most?
Will you greet each person you meet with kindness and openness, expecting the best instead of the worst?
Will you step out of your comfort zone, putting your own fears, busyness and agenda aside, to bring encouragement to someone else?
Will you pray with someone who needs it today?
Will you put your needs on the back-burner and live self-sacrificially today?
Will you refrain from the snarky comment at someone else’s expense?
Will you show restraint and grace when you don’t agree with someone else’s political beliefs?
If you work in a school, will you look for the kid who tries to hide and try to connect?
If you’re a student, will you bless your classmates with kindness, respect and actual attention–yes, even the weird kid who picks–in fact–especially the weird kid who picks?
Will you be the one at the water cooler who brings words of life instead of criticism?

Will you make today about blessing instead of cursing? Loving instead of ignoring? Boldly sharing grace instead of standing in judgement?

Will you share a legacy of blessing today?

I hope you will. And if you do, will you share stories with me later?

Ally, advocate and friend

Most burst into her room full of youthful energy and raging hormones. Some slink in silently, trying to avoid eye-contact, wishing they were invisible. She greets each the same: with a big welcoming smile, hearty hello, and cheerful word of encouragement. She’s there to help them; it’s her mission and they know it. She wants each to succeed. She’s their ally. And when they do succeed, they happily share their joy with her. And when they fail, she offers life-giving words of future hope. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone.There is help and it comes in the form of a lovely, resourceful, energetic ally who won’t give up on them.

If she’s gone, they ask endlessly when she”ll be back. Playing games around the table, going for walks, during class time, even when tough situations arise, it’s clear she is their first choice.  Daily, someone different comes to her for advice, counsel, and encouragement. She listens and the compassion washes over her face as she hears their words. And that’s why they come: she hears them. She truly listens and hears not only what they speak, but beyond the words, she hears their fears and insecurities. Her tender and passionate heart toward these oft’ times pushed-aside souls proves steadfast. You can see her eyes flash with anger when she learns of injustice and flicker with humor when she jokes with them and rim with tears when she hurts with them.  She is loved and beloved. She serves as mouthpiece for those who can’t always speak for themselves. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone. There is help and it comes in the form of a caring, funny, passionate advocate who won’t give up on them.

They show up at her door–at all hours– and she invites them in, both with warm words and a sweet smile. They’re mostly young women and they need a wise word and a shoulder to cry on and she’s there. Despite her incredibly busy life as a mom with young kids, she makes time and takes time to listen and nod and pray. Her kind heart draws them out and there’s safety in her presence. She offers herself to them in patient humility. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone. There is help and it comes in the form of a tender, wise, kind friend who won’t give up on them.

Day after day, I come. Sometimes bursting, sometimes slinking. Some days I come in tears, weary and insecure.  Some days I approach boldly, in confident faith and hope. Day after day I run to him, scared of the future, weary of the past and trying to live in the present. Day after day I question and search.  Day after day, I come with begging bowl in hand, needing grace. And day after day, He hears and listens and offers. His patience and kindness astound and amaze. His infinite resources boggle my mind. His passion for my heart cuts my complaints off at the knees. His tenderness in my hurts move me to tears. He’s there, day after day, reminding me that I’m not in this alone. There is Help and it comes in the form of a Wise, Never-changing, Never-failing, completely trustworthy Ally, Advocate and Friend.

 

My soul finds rest in God alone, my rock and my salvation
A fortress strong against my foes and I will not be shaken
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse
And lies like arrows pierce me
I’ll fix my heart on righteousness, I’ll look to Him who hears me

O praise Him, Hallelujah, my Delight and my Reward
Everlasting, never failing, my Redeemer, my God (Lyrics From Psalm 62 by Aaron Keyes)

Needed

Waking up this Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, I immediately think of my own dear mom. Grace and beauty personified, she lives and breathes and exemplifies Christ daily to each person privileged enough to cross her path. Blessed, truly blessed, am I to be the daughter of such a one.

But blessed also, am I, to have almost countless women throughout the years mentor, guide, counsel, love and walk beside me. Sisters, friends and fellow-travelers, these women (some moms and some not) each weave texture and color into the tapestry of my life. God uses every one–past and present– to bring depth, shed light, provide hope and share wisdom for this journey.

May you be encouraged today, dear friends, that wherever you are and whoever is present in your life, you are a beautiful, integral part of their story. Don’t shy away from offering yourself–you are needed–in this world full of hurt– you are valuable. No matter your age or motherhood status, your grace, wit, knowledge and soul-beauty are needed!