Your hands

You have called me to this place –
This assignment at this time.
It doesn’t always make much sense to me.
But You are Good
And You are Loving, and You have a perfect plan;
If only I could see all that You see.

…still, I will trust Your Sovereign Hands.

I can’t see how this will work;
Sometimes I’m so unsure.
I’ve worried myself sick yet once again.
And then I hear a sweet clear note –
A sparrow sings to say
Your love is so much greater for all men.

…and then I rest in Your Sufficient Hands.

A flood of fears of the unknown
Leak down my cheeks sometimes.
I stand here wondering what I am to do.
I know not what tomorrow holds
Or what the next day brings,
But I know each day is no surprise to You.

…and I find peace in Your Omniscient Hands.

When mistakes from yesterday
Or the fears from my tomorrow
Blind me to the blessings of right now,
I pray I will remember
Your new mercy every morning
And Your grace that’s still enough for me somehow.

...and I will find joy in Your Loving Hands.

And when I’m feeling tired and worn,
Exhausted by this world,
Tossed by the waves and spun out of control,
I’ll remember what You’ve promised,
And I will cling to you.
You are my Hope, an Anchor for my soul.

…and I am sheltered in Your Steady Hands.

I will give You every moment –
Today and all the rest.
Hands open, trusting you all of my days.
Each thing I do, each word I say
Will be an act of worship
For You alone are worthy of my Praise.

…and I fall to my knees in Your Perfect Hands.

You are my Abba Father
Jehovah Jireh, My Provider –
Adonai, Lord. Shalom, You are my Peace.
Jehovah Rapha, You’re my Healer.
El Shadai, Almighty God.
El Olam – the One True God – will never cease.

And You have called me to this place –
This assignment at this time.
It doesn’t always make much sense to me.
But You are YAHWEH,
My Lord.
My Rock, and My Redeemer.

I’m in your hands – no other place I’d rather be.

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I got this…

I’m convinced God created children for parents just exactly so we could see a glimpse of how we are to Him. (And maybe also to teach us a tremendous amount of patience, self-control, and humility. Not to mention so our lives would be filled with joy and laughter…)

But really, they need us so badly. Sometimes they are just so helpless. And despite all their mistakes, constant questions, and totally un-funny-but-never-ending knock-knock jokes, we can’t help but love them more than words could ever describe.

It is really all a wonderful picture of our relationship with God, isn’t it?  How much we need Him, how much He loves us despite our sins. (And let’s just be honest here. Bad knock-knock jokes might as well be a sin.)

Yesterday, God used Annalise – yet again – to paint this picture for me…

It all started the Friday before Christmas break. It was supposed to be a fun dress-up day at school – Pajama Day. Annalise had been looking forward to it all week. Instead, we got a snow day, and vacation started early. (No complaints from me.)

Now, it was the first day back to school. We were back home, and I was in the kitchen, mind wandering to stresses and anxieties. Grown-up things. “God? What do I do about this? How do I handle this?”  I somehow felt like I wasn’t being heard. I felt like I bring the same stresses and questions to Him, and I get no response. My eyes started to well up, just as Annalise walked in the room with a nervous and stressed look on her face.

I could tell something was bothering her. “Mommy?” She spoke slowly and nervously. “I don’t know what to do. I know you aren’t going to let me, but I’m supposed to wear make-up to school. They told us we have to.”

Huh?

Really, Mom! They did! What am I supposed to do? They said we have to wear it, and I don’t even have any, and you probably won’t even buy me some because you don’t want me wearing it yet and…”

I stopped her and asked her what she was talking about. I work at her school, and I’m pretty positive no one is requiring make-up.

“It’s true, Mom! They said this Friday is make-up Pajama Day.”  Ahh. Don’t you just love how literal 6-year-olds are?

Doing my best to hide my laughter, I leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “Oh sweet girl. Don’t worry. I got this.”

It was in that moment, as I started to explain to her that she had misunderstood what they meant by “make-up,” I realized that this was a perfect picture of how I must be to God.

Annalise’s 6-year-old worries were real to her. They seemed so big and impossible. Yet, to me, they were no big deal. In actuality, they weren’t a problem at all. She just didn’t fully understand. How many of my problems – my real human 35-year-old problems that seem so big and impossible are no big deal for God? How many of my problems aren’t even problems at all? How many of my worries and anxieties are wasted worries and anxieties, because in actuality, I just don’t see the big picture.

It was as if in that moment, when I was kissing my girl’s head and saying “Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this.” God was doing the exact same thing to me.

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this… (Jeremiah 32:27)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Don’t worry, sweet girl. I got this… (Isaiah 41:10)

In fact, He says it all the time. It’s found all throughout the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11. Joshuah 1:9. Romans 8:28. Matthew 19:26. Just to name a few.

And in case I do forget, He’ll gently use my own sweet girl to help me remember. Maybe you need the reminder, too. Maybe He’s saying it to you right now…

“Don’t worry, kiddo. I got this.”

Week 1

After lying dormant for a full week and a half as we all began the school routine, it appears every toy in the house has now awoken and burst forth in one fell swoop onto the living room floor. I can not walk through, which is totally fine with me, because I am wiped, I tell you. Wiped. Spent lots of Saturday and Sunday recouping from the first full week at a new school and the first full week as a mom to a school-age kid.

It is done. The first full week of the first year of the rest of her life. Yes, it may also just be kindergarten, and yes, she may just be down the hall from me, but I cried every day at least once. This parenting stuff is EMOTIONAL. Here’s a summary:

Day One:
Dropped off the eldest for her first full day. Waited at the bottom of the few stairs next to her room and watched as she quietly followed her teacher’s directions and found her place in line. Listened to the clicking of the camera next to me and the pounding of my own heart, waiting for her to turn and say “Bye, Mom! I love you!” Waited and breathed. Breathed and waited. She never turned. She filed right into her classroom without a hug, a kiss, a good-bye, or even a smile. The teacher poked her head out and said cheerfully, “Ok, you can all go and cry now.” Oh boy, did I. The whole way home. “Matt, I didn’t even tell her I love her! I thought we’d have a chance to give her a kiss! I didn’t give her a kiss!” I sobbed. He comforted, or tried to. I just kept crying.
Cried off and on the rest of the day while trying to stay in the moment with my boy. Posted this very true notice on Facebook:

GIRL NEWS: Dropped her off for her first full day of Kindergarten. This time, we didn’t get to stay. Cried like a baby on the way home. Why did the first day have to be on my day OFF? There will be no checking in on her. Although, I may or may not have texted some staff members to peek in and/or stand guard over her. Just one question: HOW DO YOU PEOPLE DO THIS EVERY SCHOOL DAY ALL YEAR FOR THIRTEEN YEARS? I will now hug each parent as they leave my classroom. I’m with you. Solidarity. You are the bravest of soldiers to have a little bit of your heart rip out each day.

BOY NEWS: In the meantime, I’m having a day with my boy. We’ve played cars, 4 wheelers, and Batman. He took me on a date to Woods. Opened doors, ordered for both of us, and paid with his very own Woods Card he got for being an awesome ring bearer. Total Stud.

And also, this: If you don’t hear Jacob talk for the rest of the year, it might be because he’s used up all his words in the last 3 hours. How thankful I am for Mommy Mondays. But if you notice I’m in a daze on Tuesdays, just know it’s likely because my ears are grossly overworked and shut themselves right down somewhere around 2pm the day before.

Today, I am grateful for: Time with my boy. Mommy Mondays are the best, even if my ears do get tired!

Day 2:
Drop off was a little easier. Teared up a bit, but not as bad. Made for darn sure I gave her a kiss and hug good-bye. Geesh. Told her I love her, and reminded her who walks the halls with her. Headed home for a bit, then back to school for my Tuesday afternoon shift. Ran into her in the hall as I was headed to the art room. Busted my buttons with pride when she waved and hollered from her class line, “Hi, Mommy! I love you!” Am I the only teacher-parent who dreamed of this moment? Cried happy tears walking back to my classroom.

Today, I am grateful for: The dream come true of having my girl in my own school, the security of having her down the hall, of knowing her teachers and the staff, of opportunities to see her throughout the day.

Day 3:
Drop off was the hardest this day. Not because of my own heart, but because of her tender little brother’s. In the car on the way, the sweet boy next to her got an overwhelming sad face (if you know him, you know his emotions are perfectly expressed in his face.) I was already sad seeing his look in the rear view mirror even before he’s said a word. Then he looked at his big sis and said, “Sissy. I dist miss you so much when you’re gone. I don’t want you to go to school!” His eyes filled with tears, and he squeaked out, “Will you dist hold my hand on da way?” Heart Break City. Massive tears and an even more massive lump in my throat. Spent much of the rest of my day wondering if I should be homeschooling just so as not to break my youngest boy’s heart each day.

Today, I am grateful for: Kids who love each other so much! They really, really do! Even if I did need to remind them of this later in the day when they fought over which My Little Pony shoes they got to play with and where to sit at the dinner table.

Day 4:
It was only day 4, and we already had a minor emergency causing her to be late for school. She has a pretty big plantar wart on her foot, and when she went to bed, we noticed redness around it and red streaking across her foot. Up and to the doctor instead of to school. She was so afraid she would miss something very important, “like song time, or dancing, or… or… recess!” No worries. Doc dug through the wart a bit to release any puss, (fun, right?), prescribed an antibiotic, and she was back to school just an hour late. Not as many tears from me this time. But there were more from me than from her when the doc mauled her foot. (I had no idea that girl could be so tough! She didn’t shed a single tear while the tender infected area was being poked, prodded, and squeezed. Interesting, considering she nearly faints – or at least cries and throws herself to the counter sobbing – whenever I have to brush her hair. Hmmm….) Once home after dropping her off, Jacob and I had this conversation:

Jacob: Mom! Here’s the plan. We are gonna play trains, then have lunch and cookies, then play trains some MORE.
Me: Nope. Sorry, Bud. The plan is we are gonna eat lunch, take you to the babysitter’s, and I’m headed to work.
Jacob: Sorry, Mom. I got bad news for ya. The plan is off!

Today, I am thankful for: Modern medicine! Antibiotics! Working half-time so I could take my daughter to the doctor without writing sub plans! A boy who knows what he wants – play time with mom – and makes me smile all the time.

Day 5:
My full day at work. We started the morning saying good-bye to Daddy, because he was headed out of town overnight for a wedding in Bellevue. Tears from both kids in the car as we drove toward Jacob’s babysitter. More tears on the way to school as she cried for her Daddy. Spent the morning trying to work in my classroom with a 4 foot leech attached to my side and standing on my feet. Suddenly, I wasn’t as sappy and sad as I was irritated and impatient. Funny how that can turn so quickly.

After a great but long full day, we left at 5:00 to pick up the boy. I was too tired to cook, or really to even think. Headed to Milt’s for pizza, then home, then back to the babysitter’s to pick up his blankie that I forgot, then home again. Noticed a nice note from my husband on the counter, and was so tired that I picked up a pen and wrote my response on the paper as though he was going to get it instantaneously. Modern technology has melted my brain. (C’mon. You know you’ve had the urge to rewind something that happened in real life, just like you do with the DVR, right???)

We got in our PJs and climbed into my bed, all 3 of us. I sat up in the middle with a little angel leaning on me on either side. “Momma, will you sing us a song?” she asked. I quietly sang the first song that came to my mind: Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee…

I choked up as I thought about the words I was singing at the end of quite a big week for me…

…Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be!…

I looked over at each of my babies.

…Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!…

The one on the right, already sound asleep. It had been an awfully big week for her, too. But each day, we had so much to be thankful for…

…Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided…

The one on the left, doesn’t move but quietly whispers, “Momma, when you’re done with this one, will you sing Jesus Loves Me?

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Bellingham Photographer -1

Bellingham Photographer -2

times they are a changin – Part 2

1 year ago, I started this blog. I started it as a way to clear all the thoughts in my head. I started it as a means of documenting (and saving for our future) family memories written out in stories and pictures. I started it as a way to share the laughter of our home that is sometimes just so contagious it can’t help but be spread… and because it would really be a crime to keep it just to ourselves. I started it as a way of redemption. Turning our sorrows and hurt and anger and sin into God’s glory. And I started it as a way to heal my soul and to maybe – just maybe – help heal someone else’s in the process.

1 month ago, I wrote this post: times they are a changin – Part 1* about big changes for each member of the family (except me.) “Part 1” indicating – obviously – there would a Part 2 (my changes) to follow. Part 2 didn’t come. Not right away, at least.

*Quick update on Part 1: Jacob is fully potty trained. Done. With. Diapers. And still seriously cute. Annalise’s tooth fell out and the new one has started to scoot forward into place. (Phew.) She, too, is still seriously cute. Izzy’s tooth-and-other-parts-removal was a success, and she is now a much more tolerable mutt. Most of the time. And Matt’s business changes continue. Awesome new website. Check it out!… Later. First finish reading.

Sometimes, there are thoughts in my head that grow and fester and have to be written down before they disappear. Or so I can get some sleep. Other times, they need to stay. Marinate a while. To develop fully, or at least just develop more. The Part 2 post was one of the latter.

My thoughts about the heart changes I referenced in “Part 1” were reflections on New Year’s thoughts. You know the story: End of year comes. I avoid making resolutions that I know will last for maybe a week and promises to myself that I will break in as short of a time. So instead, I decide to spend time reflecting on the past year.

I don’t know about you, but the second I begin reflecting on the past year – or really, the past anything – I instantly focus on all the things I didn’t do. All the ways I wasn’t a good friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister, co-worker, teacher. All the opportunities I didn’t take, the weight I didn’t lose (or lost and gained) and all the times I didn’t measure up. And yes, I also think about the things I did do. I did lose my patience with the kids too many times. I did snap at them and my husband. I did waste time in countless ways. (Um, hello, Facebook.) I did run late. Nearly. every. day. I did fail in a million other ways.

So reflecting on the past year – or past anything – isn’t always such a great idea for me. I’d say it actually kind of sucks. It tends to put me in a funk. The longer the period of time I’m reflecting on (and beating myself up over), the greater and longer-lasting the funk. This particular funk lasted about 3 days. For 3 straight days, I felt sorry for myself. I felt useless. Forgettable. Insignificant. In some ways, helpless. And in every way, a failure. Anxious and fearful of more failures to come.

During this 3-day-pity-party I devoted all my time and energy into… doing puzzles. Matt thought I was just enjoying the end of my Christmas vacation by relaxing. In actuality, I was trying to turn my brain away from having to think about anything except I need a piece with horizontal white stripes that has 3 outies and one innie.*

*Side-note here: I’m a puzzle pro. Seriously. Two 500 piecers and one 1000 piecer complete in three days… Um, yeah, it was a serious funk. And while not much else got done around here, I’m pretty sure the kids were fed. And I showered almost all of those 3 days.

But then, at the end of my 3-days, I had a moment of clarity. A thought that was a break in the clouds: “As long as they remember seeing Jesus.”

In that one moment, the clouds lifted and the truths I know came flooding into my mind. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” No guilt for things done or not done. “I am significant, accepted, and secure in Christ.” No more pity-parties about being insignificant and forgettable. “I am God’s child, and I am complete in Christ.” No more feeling like a failure. In Him I am complete, and He loves me completely.

And then, the thought again. “As long as they remember seeing Jesus.” My job. This is my job. However successful the world sees me, whatever my accomplishments, what I do (or don’t do) matters little if while I’m doing it (or not doing it) I’m not reflecting HIM. How people remember ME is insignificant. How they remember HIM is of eternal significance. “As long as they remember seeing Jesus. I WANT MY LIFE TO COUNT.”

For the first time in years, I made a New-Year’s resolution. Let them see Jesus. The heart-changes were beginning, but the words to write not-yet formed.

The following Sunday, our pastor shared a message that was intended just for me. I’m certain of it…

Sermon title “A Cause Worth Living For.”

Sermon point number 1: The Gospel magnifies the heart of God. In my written notes, a quote from the sermon: “We have come to know the Heart of God. And we owe it to those who don’t yet know to tell them.” Again I think, let them see Jesus. How will they know of His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His unending love if they don’t see Jesus. Oh, if they only knew!

There were a couple other points, but my sermon notes page is mostly full of chicken-scratched-heart-changing-thoughts-turned-words-now-formed:

  • When I am anxious and fearful – even of my future failures – I rob God of the trust He is due.
  • LET THEM SEE JESUS. What does it matter about me? AS LONG AS THEY SEE JESUS. HIS GRACE.
  • I WANT MY LIFE TO COUNT.
  • The Holy Spirit wants to invade our lives my life with His power. JUST LET HIM.

And our church’s scripture memory verse for the month, handed out that day: But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ~ Acts 20:24 ESV

Point taken. Message received. My job: Let them see Jesus.

But who? Who is them? For the next few weeks, I made a mental list of all the major “thems” in that sentence. My kids. My husband. Serve them. Love them. Show them patience and grace. Be intentional with the kids – why we’re doing what we do. My students. I cannot speak of God’s love, but I can show them. Show them more love and grace than they’ve ever known. Neighbors. Co-workers. Friends. Grocery clerks. 

In my mind, I’ve screamed, “But it’s not enough. My students – I can’t tell them. My husband and kids – they already know. There are too many others. Too many that don’t know. I’m not doing enough.”

Yes, there are others. But for now, I am here. I am a mom of two littles. I am a teacher of 27 slightly biggers. I am a wife. I don’t have a whole lot of time to reach a whole lot more. This is where God has me right now.

My job: Let them see Jesus. My kids. My husband. My students. And any others I may be blessed to encounter. Show them Jesus.

This is where I settled my thoughts just 2 weeks ago.

And a few days later, a friend pointed out that my blog often brought a message of hope. YES! A means to reach more. I got excited, inspired! I post. People read. Lots more than I ever thought would. And even if my parents are half of the clicks on this blog, there are still many, many more than I imagined. I don’t even know some of you! Yet, you read. Maybe God has brought you here! Maybe here you will see a bit of the love and grace and mercy of an incredible God who loves YOU so much more than you could imagine!

My thoughts further settled here. Just a week and a half ago…

But then a few days later, something happened. Something happened that made me so fearful, I took it all down. I hid all the love and joy and stories of God’s grace, and I wept and locked all the doors and closed all the blinds and held my kids tight and shook-with-anger-but-mostly-with-fear. And I decided I would not post again. It was not worth it.

Sisters called and loved. Family came and prayed. Friends told me they understood, but they’d miss reading of the laughter and the joy, and of God’s love.

And while I still shook-with-anger-but-mostly-with-fear, something else happened. Two horrible somethings that left me trembling. Left me wanting to hide. Left me hating this world and many of the people in it.

And then today my husband, my husband who shook-with-fear-but-mostly-with-anger right beside me, reminded me that even those who caused me to fear need to see the love of God. Even they are God’s children. Yes, He loves even them. And our children, they are His children, too. And just as our dear family that came to pray reminded us, HE is also THEIR God.

And our God is sovereign.

More truths flooded my heart. Yes, flooded. I battle fear often. I’ve read these truths a time or two-hundred. They come to mind more quickly now: (see full list below, emphasis my own)

I have NOT been given a spirit of FEAR, but of power, and of love, and of a sound-mind. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

…I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me… ~ Psalm 23:4

The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? ~ Psalm 27:1

Thoughts whirling in my head: Let them see Jesus. Do not be afraid.

And then my husband – who I’m fairly certain based on lots of circumstantial evidence cannot read the thoughts in my head – said to me, “You don’t know who might see Jesus when they read.”

times they are a changin’: Part 2…  I have a new job: Let them see Jesus.

And so, with still-very-shaky-legs I stand on the firm foundation of Christ and use this space, what He has provided me – at least for the moment – to magnify His heart. Some of you already know of His great love for you. Some of you don’t. Either way, I hope you keep reading.

And I pray you see Jesus.

*More Biblical truths about fear that I am clinging to:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. ~ Deuteronomy 31:6

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? ~ Psalm 56:3-4

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

No weapon formed against us will prosper, No evil formed against us shall stand. ~ Isaiah 54:17

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

And to two of you – you know who you are – I am doing what you said. I am bathing in Psalm 91. You are such a gift to us.