When I think of fog

October is not my favorite month. I’m not a fan of witches and other creepy creatures that make their appearance in store aisles, and I don’t really appreciate the previews for movies I’d never in a million years want to watch coming on in our living room when we just want to enjoy a football game with the family. Not to mention, the amount of candy that finds its way into this house, and maybe also my mouth, is more than a bit unnecessary.

If it weren’t for the fact that my favorite girl was born in that month, I don’t think October would even make it into the top 10.

This particular October was a bit better, though. Mostly because the kids and I kicked off the month with a car accident on October 1st.

I know what you’re thinking: Car accidents aren’t usually something to celebrate. True. Only here is the thing about unhappy surprises and totaled vehicles…  they sure are great reminders of what is actually important in life, and they are perfect opportunities to see God at work.

I’ve been thinking of a verse in Luke where Jesus has just performed a miracle, and the recipient of the miracle wants to continue on with him, and just be with Jesus. Because really, wouldn’t you? But Jesus says to the man, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

So here it is now, nearly 8 weeks since the accident, and I have yet to share how much God has done for us. He showed up on that foggy morning in October – in more ways than one.

It was a pretty typical Thursday morning in our house, except that we were leaving about 25 minutes earlier than usual so I could go into the school with the kids. Just 4 days earlier, a beloved kindergarten teacher had passed away somewhat unexpectedly, and we had a staff picture scheduled for that morning in her memory. We all planned on wearing matching blue shirts with a sparkly silver “1-4-3” written on them, a phrase Mrs. Williams always said to her students. It was her way of saying “I Love You.”

While it isn’t unusual for us to leave the house late, the kids and I piled in the van and left a few minutes ahead of schedule. That was a good thing, because I hadn’t realized how thick the fog was until we were already on the road.

The majority of our drive to school is spent heading west on Birch Bay-Lynden Road, a 50 mile-per-hour road with one stop sign about half way to our turn onto Custer School Rd.

I had reached my full speed after the stop sign when I saw the truck pulling out of a driveway just barely ahead on my right, crossing over in front of us to turn left and head east. He was in my lane, and I was about to plow right into the driver’s door. I remember thinking, “He’s going to die!” as I swerved to the right, trying to avoid the collision. As quickly as the thought passed, I saw what I was now headed towards. The man was pulling a flat bed trailer with a massive piece of farm equipment on it, and my thought quickly changed to the fear that I was the one who wouldn’t make it, that the farm equipment was going to crush me.

I remember the impact, the car fishtailing, being amazed that the corkscrew shape metal on the plow hadn’t gone through the windshield, and then sitting there at a standstill staring at the airbags that had deployed, surprised at how small they actually are, thinking about the Statue of Liberty being the same kind of small surprise.

The kids were screaming in the back, both holding their chests where the seatbelts had held them tightly. They were complaining of pain there, but nowhere else. I wondered if they had broken any ribs.

I tried to open my door to get out, but it was jammed shut. I could feel pain in my knee and knew I couldn’t climb to get out another door, so I decided to wait. The kids started to calm down and assured me they were okay. While I talked to the 911 dispatcher, the other driver got out of his truck and tried opening my door from the outside but to no avail.

I made a few more phone calls: first to Matt, then to my boss. I couldn’t reach either. I was starting to panic and couldn’t figure out how to work my phone. I knew coworkers would be expecting me soon, but I couldn’t remember how to call the school. My neighbor teacher is listed in my contact favorites (because she is a serious favorite.)

I called her. She answered. I went from calm to hysterical in about 2 seconds. So did she.

By the time I got off the phone, Jacob had gotten pretty worked up again, because it was all super scary. And because his chest hurt. But mostly because of the amount of panic coming out of his mother.

It was about this time – when I was panicking and getting super frustrated with the door that wouldn’t open and the electrical locks that wouldn’t work – that my 1-week-shy-of-turning-8-years-old girl calmly said, “Mom, don’t worry about the doors. I unlocked mine. I can get out. See?” And sure enough, she had opened her door and was calmly unbuckling. She didn’t climb out yet, though, because she was staying close to her brother who was pretty upset by now.

“I’ve got to get him,” I thought. I absentmindedly reached for the door handle so I could get out, and my door easily opened. It wasn’t until I was out of the car that I realized I had just exited the same door that wouldn’t open from the inside or out just one minute earlier.

As I reached in to get Jacob, I saw an officer that had just arrived heading towards us. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. Deputy Pete Stevenson is a family friend, the dad of one of my dearest friends in the world, grandpa to Annalise and Jacob’s bestsest buddies, the worship leader at our church, a guy I sing and laugh with often (usually at the same time), and a man I love dearly. He and his wife are the sweetest people you’d ever meet, both servants in all they do, and they’ve been a huge support to Matt and me. He could have been anywhere in the county, yet here he was headed towards me just minutes after our accident, before anyone else arrived.

Around the same time, I started to set Jacob down so I could hug Annalise, but he wasn’t ready to let go. He was pretty shook up and just wanted to be held. While I felt badly about it, I didn’t give him a choice: I needed to check on my girl, too. As I set him down, Pete and I saw a man walking towards us – Pete’s brother Phil. Phil is our pastor, another family friend, another guy we love dearly, and one of Jacob’s all-time heroes. As I hugged Annalise, Phil scooped Jacob up and hugged him tight.

Paramedics had not yet arrived to look us over, and Pete had just been scanning around for a warm place for us to sit down. (He has since told me he was worried about me being a “walking wounded,” internal injuries or bleeding and unaware because of shock.) He had Phil pull his car up so we could sit. Phil also called Matt and let him know what was going on and that we were all fine.

Paramedics arrived and asked me to climb in so they could look me over. By now, a third comforting face had arrived – my boss of many years. He climbed in the ambulance with me. I wasn’t alone. My kids weren’t alone. By the time I got out, they had already been checked over and were calmly sitting in the back of a warm car, Pastor Phil’s arms around them. All was well.

Matt arrived shortly after and took our family home. Home. No one went to the hospital. No one required further attention.

In the next hour, a lot happened. While I was resting with my hurting – but not seriously damaged – knee up:

  • The kids had a dance-off for my entertainment.
  • My boss, our awesome secretary, and the 2 other members of Custer’s third grade teaching team (a.k.a. the wind beneath my wings) made sure my afternoon shift was covered and plans were done so I didn’t have to do a thing. Except continue watching the dance-off, of course.
  • My dear friend (the daughter of Deputy Pete) brought Matt and I lattes and laughter. (Laughter usually accompanies her presence.)
  • A friend from church texted me to tell me she was bringing us dinner. She had driven by the accident and didn’t stop because she saw we were well taken care of by Pete and Phil, but she wanted us to not have to worry about dinner.
  • Pete’s wife Judy brought us fresh home-made biscuits, jam, and soup for lunch. I still don’t know how she whipped it all up so quickly.
  • My dad – who was on a call this way from Oak Harbor, stopped by for hugs, as did Matt’s mom.
  • Another sweet friend who heard the news brought cookies and flowers.
  • My boss texted to say someone from school would be bringing by “a meal.” (The “meal” arrived in a cooler and fed us for the rest of the weekend and then some.)

The next day, the kids and I were back at school. I was able to be in our rescheduled staff picture in memory of my co-worker. People were surprised to see us there perfectly fine, save one swollen knee, a cut on my leg, and a few seat-belt bruises.

From beginning to end, October 1st felt like one miracle after another. God’s protection from harm, provision in the form of people we love bringing comfort, warmth, care, food, laughter, and love. His perfect timing in placing Pete just minutes away on his shift that day and Pastor Phil unknowingly just a few cars behind us on the same road. Even a car door opening after it would not previously budge was so clearly the hand of God.

Miracle after miracle after miracle. So much so that I struggled to write this after our community has felt the pain of car accidents with tragic results.

Except for that verse. “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39)

I don’t know why some accidents end in tragedy and some don’t.
Or flights, for that matter.
Or illnesses.
Or pregnancies.

But I do not believe any of the events of that day happened by accident. I believe my God – in His limitless love and mercy – spared my family. I believe it was because of His great grace that He provided people we love to bring us further comfort in some very scary moments.

And I believe when I don’t understand why, it is okay, because He knows a whole lot more than I do. It is not my job to know. It is my job to trust.

On the morning of October 2nd, Jacob climbed in bed to cuddle me. He stayed quiet for a while, obviously thinking about something he wasn’t ready to say out loud just yet. Then he broke the silence. “Mom? I still can’t believe it. When you had to set me down, Pastor Phil was just right there to scoop me up and hold me tight! Me and him have been buddies for a long time, and right when I was really scared, he was there to pick me up.”

He’s right. Phil was there at the exact right moment. And isn’t that just like God? Just what God does? He picks us up when we’re really scared. Right when we need comfort and peace in the middle of our storm. He just picks us up and holds us tight. And His timing is always perfect.

As is the case for many others, this year has not been easy for our family of four. On January 3rd, we lost our second set of twins to miscarriage. On June 27th, my Auntie Jill passed away at the young age of 62. In September, Annalise’s kindergarten teacher – a co-worker and friend of mine – passed away as well.

But can I tell you what the Lord has done for us? He has provided comfort and encouragement. He has sustained us. He has answered prayers of protection. He has surrounded us with loving family and friends. He has blessed us with a new home, a new van, and an abundance of joy. The God who is great and mighty and has command over angel armies has not left our side for a moment. He has held us tightly through it all, and we will continue to follow Him through the good and through the storms. He is good, faithful, loving, and unchanging. He is our only Hope.

And because I am always a slow learner and quick to forget, I will look at these photos often to be reminded of His gifts of grace. In the first one, the van front smashed in, but not enough to cause injury. Protection. And Pete’s car, first on scene. Comfort.

car2

And in the second one, Pastor Phil’s car behind ours. God’s perfect timing. And a reminder he holds us tightly.

car1

And that thick, thick fog. Although I cannot see through it to what lies ahead, I know the One who can, and I choose to put my trust in Him. 

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. ~ Psalm 33:20-22

 

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With all my heart

As any parent will tell you, tummy pains aren’t uncommon when raising kids. Jacob has them often. Usually, a successful trip to the bathroom fixes the problem. (Sorry for the TMI.)

But Monday, his stomach pains were worse than usual, even after an extremely productive bathroom trip. (Nope, I wasn’t really sorry about the earlier TMI either.) And he was so specific about where the pain was “all around my belly button and on my side,” (while touching his right side, of course), that I made the call to the doc. They scheduled us an appointment for early evening, so I had the whole day to let him rest, watch his symptoms, and pray and trust that God is in control worry myself sick thinking of every possible horrible scenario. (And you know where the worst case scenario fears lead. Always. I swear, in their combined 11 years of life, my children have died 5,327 times in my worst case scenario fears.) (Yes, I realize that this is not a constructive way to spend my time.)

After his fever spiked to 103.3 and he was bent over in wincing pain when I tried to get him to go to the bathroom, the nurse recommended I just take him straight to the ER. After all, if his symptoms were the same at the doctor appointment that was still 2 hours away, they would be sending him there anyway for further testing for appendicitis.

I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and made a call to a friend to see if she could watch Annalise. With the rear-view mirror tilted so I could see my red-faced feverish boy alternately head bob and wince in pain, I headed to the hospital, calling Matt and the grandparents on the way. My sick boy had gone from having one worried mom bargaining with God to 2 sets of grandparents praying, a family of 6 praying, and both his parents praying with all their heart as the situation seemed more and more serious.

As I held my silent boy on my lap in the waiting area, I prayed that it would not be appendicitis or something worse. Jacob was still a bit restless, and he opened his eyes as I whispered my prayer. I told him he didn’t need to worry, that this was exactly where he needed to be. The doctors would know what to do, I assured him. Funny, I can’t seem to convince myself of these things when I’m terrified and picturing him on his deathbed.

By the time we got called back to a room, I could tell he was starting to perk up a bit. As you might guess, the absence of noise coming from his face is usually a pretty good sign he is either asleep or feeling pretty awful. (It has to be pretty bad for him to be silent. Just not feeling well means he might be laying down, but the mouth still moves.) After being quiet for most of the day, my little buddy had a lot of stored up words to get out. As I laid him in the hospital bed, he began to use them. Sure enough, his fever had gone down, and he was excited to play with the toys our friends had given him in a get-well-bag. He told me about all the characters in Star Wars, even though he’s never seen the movie. He argued with Matt about how to pronounce Han Solo. He asked questions about every. single. thing. in sight. He repeated over and over how funny it was that “they want to do a test on my pee! I had to pee in a cup! That’s so funny that they wanna check my pee!” And when there was finally a moment of silence – as in maybe 10 seconds – where nothing was being said, he just blurted out one word – the thing that is always on his mind… “Bottom.”

I’ll admit it. It sent me into a fit of giggles. Here sat my boy, previously down for the count at home with a ridiculous fever, the only sounds coming out of him were groans of discomfort and “ow ow OW OW-OW-OW”s when the sharp stomach pain would return. Now, at his most expensive doctor visit ever, he was full of life and ever-flowing words, making us laugh through it all.

On the other side of the curtain separating the two beds, I heard a lady giggle, then sigh and say, “I think I’ll take a break and walk the halls.” By “take a break,” she meant her ears. Not even kidding. Welcome to my world, lady on the other side of the curtain. Only you’ve just experienced 10 minutes. Try 10 HOURS A DAY.

The nurse offered him a popsicle. I asked her how much that was going to run us. “You don’t want to know,” she replied and handed him a blue one. Somewhere, a hospital administrator cackled.

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It was pretty clear at this point that we were done and just waiting to be given the release to go home. Sure enough, the doc headed in and said, “Sounds like he’s doing much better. I’m just going to check him over real quick, then you’ll be out of here.” Except as he felt his abdomen, he felt a bulge around the appendix area, and Jacob winced when he touched it. We couldn’t leave just yet.

The lady on the other side of the curtain returned to her father’s bedside. Jacob and I waited. He talked. I listened. More giggles from the other side of the curtain. The lady who had left earlier whispered to another lady – her mother – “Well, he is sure one very happy boy.” I could hear their quiet conversation about how much he had to say, and that it was all so happy.

I was thankful he was so full of joy, but I was dying of embarrassment just a wee bit. We really had no business being in the ER. Clearly, this kid was fine.

We headed to ultrasound, his mouth still constantly moving to the ultrasound tech about the “fun ride” he was getting as she pushed his bed through the corridors. On their way back, the tech asked Jacob how many siblings he had. He didn’t even hesitate. “I have 3 sisters. Annalise is 6, and the other 2 are Madison and Taylor. I won’t get to meet them until I get to Heaven. How old are they again, Mom?”

He’s never responded this way, so I was quite surprised, but not as much as the ultrasound tech was. It was clear she didn’t know what to say. “It’s ok,” I explained while holding back tears, “We had premature twins before he was born. They would be 8 next month.”

“Yeah.” He continued. “They are 8 in Heaven.”

They are 8 in Heaven. How come I still can’t seem to use the present tense when I refer to them? How come my kids keep showing me up on their wisdom and faith?

Back in our room with the same 3 people still on the other side of the curtain, the ultrasound tech awkwardly tripped over her words about the doctor coming in and us going home. I wondered if she was uncomfortable with the topic of Heaven, or if maybe it just got her thinking. Either way, while she was very well spoken earlier, she clearly stammered in that moment.

A few minutes later, the doctor and a nurse came in to discharge us. “It’s not appendicitis. Probably just a virus.” he said.

In my head, I thought about the insanely expensive doctor visit we just had. How much are these unnecessary tests going to cost us? I wondered. At least it’s not appendicitis.

“Nope!” Jacob stated matter-of-factly. “It’s not, because my Mom prayed it wouldn’t be!”

I just stared at him. In his hazy state, Jacob had heard my prayer in the lobby. While I was relieved it wasn’t appendicitis, my grown-up brain immediately assumed it never had been, followed by thoughts of the useless and pricey ER visit, and a little bit of embarrassment that we came to the ER for “no reason.”

His thoughts – and boldly flowing words right from his heart – immediately went to answered prayer.

I’ll admit, I don’t understand how prayer works. Our own personal tragedy is evidence to the fact that more people praying doesn’t necessarily guarantee desired results. We had hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people praying on several continents for our twins to survive. I also don’t believe that if we had just had more faith, our prayers would’ve been answered. My dad is a funeral director. I’m quite aware of the personally devastating results of unanswered prayer.

But I do know this: We are commanded to pray. In fact, we are to do so continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and faithfully (Romans 12:12). We are to trust God, who is sovereign. And while God does not need our help to accomplish His will, He gives us this opportunity to cast our cares upon Him, to join Him in His works, and to acknowledge our total need and dependence on Him. And I fully believe that if we submit ourselves in prayer to Him, we will witness miracles and the mighty works of His hand.

I also know that in God’s sovereignty, He knows each of our needs. He allows people to cross paths, experiences to happen, things to be said that will bring glory to Him.

I wonder if that ultrasound tech needed to hear of Heaven on Monday night?

I wonder if a doctor and a nurse, and three people who sat anxiously on the other side of the curtain needed to hear the faith of an ever-so-happy 4-year-old boy who contributed his lack of appendicitis to answered prayer?

I don’t exactly know how prayer works, but I know that a little boy got sicker and sicker while his mom worried herself into a tizzy. But then she finally set aside her anxieties and began to pray presenting her requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Around the same time, 11 other people also got word of the sick boy and began to pray, and that sick little boy ended up perfectly fine in the ER. And I know that he used his words to brighten the day of everyone he talked to and spoke his faith boldly where no fewer than 6 strangers heard.

I’m not mentioning any names or anything, but I wonder if a certain mom of a certain four-year-old boy needed to witness that kind of faith and boldness?

Incidentally… while in the ER, I found myself explaining to everyone who came in the room just how sick Jacob had been earlier. I was feeling like a total idiot with a super healthy chatty kid sitting there eating the most expensive popsicles known to man. Three ER nurses responded the exact same way. “Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time. People come in and have been so sick for days. They get here, and they’re suddenly all better.” At the time, it just served to make me feel like less of an idiot. But now I wonder… How many of those people did exactly what I did – waited until they started their drive to the ER to really begin to pray and ask others to do the same? How many people’s prayers began to be answered as they finally submitted their requests humbly before God?

I don’t know why some people are healed and others aren’t. My aunt – who has been in remission 3 times for her Leukemia in the last 13 years – just found out some of the “bad cells” have entered her spinal column. I know that last week, as she had part of her head shaved for the port that was put in her head so the chemo can go directly into her spinal fluid, she was trusting Jesus. And now, as she sits recovering from a surgery that left a “Frankenstein” jagged cut in her head, she is glorifying Him to those she comes in contact with in person and on Facebook. And I know that God has allowed her to be the 79th documented case of this in the world for a reason. For His purpose. He has a big job for her to do, and she has said that through it, God has given her amazing peace and strength.

I wonder, how many nurses, doctors, techs, other cancer patients, friends on Facebook, or friends of friends of friends, need to see that kind of strength come from a woman who has difficulty standing and walking on her own two feet as a result of these cells in her spinal column?

I don’t know what you’re going through, or why. And I certainly don’t know how it will turn out.

But I do know this… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13, emphasis my own.

100

WordPress tells me this will be my 100th post. Woah! I guess I have a lot to say. (No comment from the husband peanut gallery.)

100 seems like a monumental number. Like maybe I should celebrate somehow. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal if you live 100 years or throw a 100 mph fastball. I know, I know, those are actual feats. Writing 100 times and posting for 12 people to read isn’t exactly a noteworthy accomplishment.

Just the same, 100 didn’t seem like a number I could pass by lightly. And this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want, right?

I thought for a while about what I would post for this momentous occasion. 100 pics of the kids? 100 funny comments? (They’ve certainly been providing me with a lot of material lately.) 100 favorite family memories? Whatever it was going to be, it needed to be a celebration.

And then I read this blog post by Ann Voskamp. It’s titled “Why You Really Have to Keep Falling in Love.” (I’d encourage you to click the link and read this short post. Either now or later. It’s a very quick, very powerful read.)  But in case you don’t, here is a summary: Ann writes about a conversation she has with a girl in her twenties who, after telling her to stay in love with Jesus, responds, “I don’t think I’ve ever loved Jesus. So I don’t know what it means to stay in love with Jesus. I thought Christianity was about getting into heaven, getting saved, getting good No one ever told me that Christianity was about staying in love.” Ann’s post is a response to this conversation, where she writes some vitally important truths.

“Looking into the eyes of this hardly twenty-something girl, it’s about as crystal clear as it gets:

Our faith better be deeply connected to our senses and our heart, or a sensual world will destroy our faith and steal our heart.

If Jesus hasnt passionately wooed you the world eventually, definitely will.” ~ Ann Voskamp

As I read, my eyes welled up and spilled over. I’ve been that girl. I know her. I see her now in a thousand different faces. Maybe she’s in you? 

Right around the time I read that post, our pastor challenged us to “Do yourselves a favor. Tell someone how great your God is.”

Also right around that time, my kids got sick, and I stayed home caring for them, which means being secluded from the outside world. I spent a lot of that time thinking. Thinking about an upcoming 4th birthday party (which has since come and gone) and what gift to give. Thinking about being a mom and how important that job is. Thinking about our pastor’s challenge and how little I really do that on a daily basis. Thinking about this 20-something girl who knows that Jesus saves – has saved her – but she doesn’t know what it’s like to be in love with him.

It all struck me so hard. What if my kids grow up and never know? I have to tell them, show them, or the world will tell them something different. Who am I kidding? The world is telling them something different right now. Everywhere they look, they get lies thrown at them as truth. They are already beginning to be inundated with a watered-down version of right and wrong and what it means to be a Christian, and they haven’t even reached double-digits yet.

Annalise and Jacob, listen to me very carefully: Jesus saves, yes. But it’s so much more than that. He isn’t just a way to get to Heaven. You have to seek him, spend time with him, fall in love. And you’ll realize how much more he is.

“Our faith better be deeply connected to our senses and our heart, or a sensual world will destroy our faith and steal our heart. If Jesus hasnt passionately wooed you the world eventually, definitely will.”

Those words keep ringing in my ears.

I can’t make them believe, make them feel. But I can tell them, and I can show them.

I can’t live in fear for them. So I will live on my knees for them.

I’ve spent time, as many women I know have, keeping record of things that bring me joy each day. (This is also spurred on from Ann Voskamp and her book 1000 gifts.) The lists are just a way to unwrap the gifts God has given, as a way to remind ourselves of His great love for us.

But with a sense of urgency for my kids, for the world that is constantly muddying the waters of truth until there is almost nothing left resembling actual Truth, I wanted to write this: 100 Reasons I’ve Fallen in Love with Jesus.

And so, I am writing to him. And I am writing to my children, to anyone who may not know, or to anyone who just needs a reminder of why they once fell in love with Jesus. Read a little of it or all of it. Or even if you stop reading here and the only one that sees this list is the One I’m writing about, just know that I’m writing it because my God is great. He is personal. He is more than just “a way to get heaven, to get saved, or how to get good.” And I wanted you all to know, He is the best reason – really the ONLY reason – to celebrate.

And because I want to keep falling in love.

100 Reasons Why I Love My Great God

1. You are personal. You are not a distant God. I can come straight to you. There is no middle man that needs to do the work for me.

2. Despite you being perfect and holy and me being incredibly flawed (<— massive understatement), you are not repulsed by me. You do not turn away. In fact, “as I draw near to you, you draw near to me.”

3. You love me enough to die for me and pay the penalty for my sins so that I could come to you blameless and holy. My imperfections are washed away, and I can stand in your holy presence.

4. You are the giver of all good and perfect things. Every. single. thing. that is good in my life is directly from you. Thank you? It just doesn’t seem like enough.

5. Your endless creativity. I mean really, I get a little overwhelmed just going in the produce section. (Starfruit? Kumquats??? Cherimoya for goodness sake!) And then I realize, over 7 BILLION PEOPLEin the world (not even counting all the people that came before us or all those yet to come), and each of them are unique. YOU are AMAZING.

6. My own special people. You made them, and they have filled my heart to the brim.

7. You saved me from total deadness. I am alive because of you.

8. You know exactly what I need, all the time. And you will give me nothing less than that.

9. You know exactly what everyone needs. ALL 7+ BILLION OF US. Not one of us is overlooked. 

10. #9 doesn’t overwhelm you. Nothing overwhelms you.

11. When I am away from the ones I love most, you are not.

12. Your voice is never harsh when you pick me up from sin and despair. You are always gentle and loving. And you are always there to pick me up.

13. No matter how far I have or will run from you, I can never escape your hands.

14. You are patient. With me. With my faults. With this world. Oh so incredibly patient.

15. You are never too busy dealing with “the big stuff” to hear my prayers.

16. You chose to become a human and to come as a baby. You are God, yet you humbled yourself so.

17. You were fully tempted and yet without sin. I tend to gloss over that sometimes, but you could have sinned at any time. You were fully human, after all. And you are the only human who understands the full weight of temptation, since you are the only one who withstood it without ever giving in.

18. You went to Jerusalem, knowing your fate. You ate the Passover meal. You went to the garden, knowing they’d come. You went to the cross. You did not send legions of warrior angels to stop it all. You could have at any time. All you needed to do was speak the word. But you didn’t.

19. Judas. You loved even him. All along, you knew what he would do, and yet you loved him. So much that when the time came, no one knew who it was going to be that would betray you. You didn’t treat him differently than the others. (I can barely fake a smile to someone I think maybe doesn’t like me a little bit possibly. I clearly have a long way to go.)

20. You forgive. And you’ve forgiven me A LOT. (And as I’ve learned, those who are forgiven much, love much. Probably why I love you so much.)

21. When I struggle with forgiving others, I can give it to you.

22. You are just.

23. You are faithful to finish the good work you began in me.

24. I can trust that you will finish the good work you began in others, too. When I’m feeling skeptical of them, I know I can fully trust you.

25. You love children and see their pure faith.

26. You were purposeful in who you spent your time with as you walked this earth. It is so evident: You love all.

27. I love my children so much. I really really do. In fact, I can’t imagine much stronger a love. But I have to admit, when they are being naughty, I mean sooooo naughty it feels like they just gave me the middle finger, I don’t mind the thought of sending them to Grandma’s for a few hours days weeks. Yet you have no desire to leave my presence. And when I am soooooooo very naughty, you reach out your hand and draw me to you.

28. You don’t condemn me, but you do correct. It’s an important part of love, and you do it lovingly.

29. You are merciful. Thanks for not giving me what I deserve.

30. Your endless grace, which is greater than all my sin.

31. You fill my heart with joy.

32. You are my only hope.

33. You always keep your promises.

34. Any battle I face, I know I will not face alone.

35. You acknowledge those who are poor in spirit, and give them hope of Heaven.

36. You have not forgotten those who weep, and you give them comfort.

37. You recognize the meek, and you’ve promised them reward.

38. You have promised to fill those who hunger and thirst for you.

39. You promise mercy to those who are merciful.

40. To the pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who have been persecuted because of righteousness, you give a promise none other can fulfill. You give eternal hope.

41. When I was in my weakest state, you held me tightest.

42. When I couldn’t pray and had no desire to go on, you interceded on my behalf. YOU prayed for ME.

43. You are compassionate to all.

44. You aren’t a wallflower or door mat…. when tables need turning, you do it.

45. When lepers had to call out to let others know “what” they were so they could stay far away, you came to them. You touched them. You showed them love that no one else ever would.

46. You have authority over all. You are the God of angel armies, dominions of this world and all else.

47. The wind and waves must obey you. Even death is under your rule.

48. Even in your full authority and power, you allow us to make our own decisions.

49. You love us enough to let us choose you.

50. In all circumstances, you know all. You know best and I know little.

51. You didn’t just go to the cross. You asked your Father to forgive those who put you there while you were there. And that includes me.

52. You defeated death and the grave. The battle has already been won for us all. We just have to claim it.

53. Seasons. You made them. I love them.

54. You are funny. How do I know? Because we are made in your image – including Matt –  and Matt is definitely funny. And also, because of this guy:

The Tarsier. Funniest looking animal ever. Made by you.
(The Tarsier is actually tied for funniest with that monkey you made… the one with
dark fur everywhere except it’s pink inflamed rear. That is, tied for first except to boys
within the age range of 4-39. Then naked butt-monkey wins every time.)

55. You made funny people. Like my kids. They crack me up on a daily basis.

56. You are the source of all joy.

57. You have created breathtaking views, many of which I’m blessed to see in this county.

58. Pleasure was your idea. YOU created it. But may I not settle for pitiful pleasures that lead to emptiness.

59. You came that I may have abundant life – life to the full.

60. I have lost a great deal, but I know because of you, my loss is only temporary. I will get to see my girls again someday.

61. You are good. Always and only.

62. You don’t ask me to do anything you haven’t already done. Obey? Love? Live selflessly? Yep, you’re an expert at it. You lived it every second.

63. Chocolate and coffee. ‘Nuff said.

64. You know a woman’s heart. I love that when Mary found out she was going to have you – a miracle baby – she ran to her old cousin Elizabeth, who was also going to have a miracle baby. You knew she needed someone to share in her miracle. She would not feel alone. (And – maybe also somewhat conveniently – you kept Zachariah from speaking during this time. They could share without interruption. Like I said, you know a woman’s heart.)

65. You will never leave me nor forsake me. Ever. Not even for a second. Not even when I’m tired, grumpy, or really angry at you and throwing a massive tantrum. In my head, obviously. Because I’d never do such a childish thing out loud. Um…

66. Have I mentioned you’re funny? Not just because of the hilarious creatures you’ve created, but because you created man and woman. And then ask them to join together in holy matrimony. And it’s all very hysterical, when you really think about it. Because we couldn’t be more different.

67. Music. While the world does their best to corrupt it, you invented it. It’s powerful, moving, beautiful, and I love it. Especially when I get the privilege of using it to worship you.

68. You rejoice over me with singing. What??? YOU rejoice over ME with singing!!

69. When I am anxious, worn, weary, or riled up, you quiet me with your love.

70. You have promised me victory over sin. It does not have dominion over me. For I am under your grace, and I am a new creation.

71. You desire reconciliation and restored relationships. And you give us all the tools to do it. We are a stubborn, prideful people.

72. Your countless wonders, deeds, and miracles. They are not fairy tales.

73. You give strength to those whose hearts are fully committed to you.

74. Even though there are times I think I have a better way, your ways are always higher than mine. And your thoughts are higher than mine. Thank GOD.

75. You do not want me to live in fear. You take hold of my hand and say to me, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

76. You are a shield about me.

77. You only speak truth. You cannot lie. I can fully trust you.

78. Day AND night. You made them both. I love them both. Sometimes one more than the other. Like day, when the littlest people in the house fill the air with laughter and singing. And like night, when the littlest people in the house are finally quiet.

79. You are my refuge.

80. You have plans for me and my life. Plans to prosper me, not harm me. Plans to give me hope and a future.

81. I give you my requests/prayers/wishes. They are not all granted, for you are not a genie. Yet, you do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine. And your plans are always better than mine.

82. You do not change. Yet you change everything. (And it is always for good.)

83. When I abide in you, I can bear much fruit. You change me.

84. You are slow to anger but rich in love.

85. Others will fail me, break promises, hurt me, put themselves before me, make me feel unloved. But you never will. You cannot.

86. You made a day for rest. You knew we’d need it. It is my favorite day.

87. You want me to have fun. You do not want me to be bored or boring. You created fun, you gave me the desire for fun, and you are the source of joy.

88. I love your creations. The scenery, the animals, the plants, the people… Just not the bugs. I could do without the bugs.

89. You have defeated Satan. He is on a short leash, but he has not authority over me.

90. One day, you will permanently strip Satan of all power and throw him into the abyss. I long for this day. Until then, you have a greater purpose in mind, and you love all enough that you want no one to perish.

91. You do not become tired or weary.

92. You have made me your treasure. And you treat me as such.

93. You are everywhere at all times. Nothing is out of your reach or beyond your view.

94. You are holy. Perfect.

95. You are a father to the fatherless.

96. You have made yourself available to dwell in anyone who chooses to accept you.

97. While you were still God, you humbled yourself to become a man. You came to be an example for us, to point us to the father, and to save us. You have rescued me.

98. You look beyond the external and judge the heart.

99. You were God with skin, and you prayed to God the Father. You were the perfect example of what a prayer life should look like. You lived fully dependent on God the Father.

100. You loved me first and forever. Before I was born. When I was dead. When I denied you.
Now and forevermore.

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.

Great Expectations

Last week at a friend’s bridal shower, I had the awesome opportunity to share what I’ve learned about marriage. I haven’t been married all that long, but I have been married long enough to learn a thing or two. And I’m learning that when God teaches me something, it is a blessing to me each and every time I get to honor the Teacher by sharing it with others. So, I thought in addition to sharing that night, I would post it here to share with the rest of you.

Besides that, when I want to remember lessons God has shown me, I write them here as my reminder and re-read them later – revisiting this altar of stones. It’s a way of reminding myself of a personal and loving God who is continually molding and shaping me, refining me to be a bearer of His image. And it’s a way holding myself accountable to what God has already taught me. So… lessons on marriage? Um, yeah… that’s one I need to visit often…

Great Expectations
Lessons I’ve Learned about Marriage

So… 11 more days! You’re almost there. I bet you have been dreaming about this day and the days and years to follow. It is a wonderful time. A time to plan and to look forward with excitement! All of us here are so excited for you, too. It’s a time of great expectations.

I have to be honest, when Michele called me and asked me to pray about doing the devotional for tonight, I was hesitant. I told her that yes, I would pray, but that no, I wasn’t sure this was something I could do. Then I got off the phone and cried. This year marks just 9 years for Matt and I… I am certainly not the most experienced wife here. We’ve had lots of ups and downs and have made plenty of mistakes through them… I’m certainly not the wisest wife here, either. And you deserve the best. I almost said no, because I felt inadequate, like I couldn’t fulfill expectations for a marriage devotional. I thought others would have expectations of me that I couldn’t possibly fulfill. I had expectations of myself that were impossibly high.

Thankfully, I calmed down from my panicked cry and was reminded that this time here isn’t about me and what I can do or say about marriage. It’s about what God has already said, and what He has taught me in my short time of being married that I can share with you. I almost missed out on the blessing of sharing the things I’ve learned because I had misplaced and impossible expectations.

Here’s the thing… I’ve learned marriage is a lot like that. No, it’s not about lowering expectations. It’s about putting expectations in the right place. God gave me an incredible gift when he gave me Matt. We’ve had some great times in 9 years, and we’ve had some tough times too. For me, some of the hardest times were not about the actual circumstance we were facing, but about the expectations I had that were not met.

It’s not that I needed to lower my expectations for Matt, it’s that I was looking to him instead of to God to fulfill all my needs or to make me happy or feel secure. And while there were plenty of times he did those things, I was placing a God-sized burden on human-sized shoulders. I had placed Matt on so high a pedestal that my dependence on him began to surpass my dependence on God. Heartache and failure – for both of us – were inevitable. Psalm 118:8-9 says this:It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

You have a great prince in your life. Just like I do. But if I could share just one piece of advice with a new bride, it would be this: Don’t ever let that prince take the place of the King.

The King of Kings, who knows you best and loves you even more than your fiance does, more than you can imagine, has given you an incredible prince to spend your life with. And while your new husband isn’t and won’t be perfect, he is the perfect gift for you because he is from your Heavenly Father, who knows you so well. This is a gift you get to unwrap each day as you wake up next to the man God picked out just for you and spend your days getting to know the gift and the Gift Giver even more.

Marriage is wonderful. And hard and beautiful and crazy and exhausting and confusing and exhilarating and a million other things. But God is steady. A solid rock. He never fails. He always keeps his promises. We can expect that and never be disappointed. And He has given us His Word full of promises He will fulfill in our lives and marriages. All you need to do is to first love the Lord your God, and then love others, your husband included. As you obey those commandments and unwrap this gift of your prince, here are 6 of God’s promises, Great expectations you can be sure of…

  1. Expect to be blessed when you serve your husband with a humble heart. When Matt and I were first married, people told us, “Always remember, love is a verb.” A verb is an action word. That means you can show your love for your husband by serving him. Think of ways to bless him. Iron his favorite shirt. Make him his favorite meal. Leave him a sweet note on the mirror when you head off to work first. Or get up a little earlier to send him off with a good breakfast. Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” When you bless your spouse, you will be blessed in return.
  2. Expect to have fun when you maintain a joyful heart in Christ. Fun can come in big ways, like when you plan a surprise outing doing something you know he loves. Or it can come in small ways, in the daily grind, by keeping your heart joyful, especially when you don’t feel like it. These are the times where it’s a lot harder to have fun. You might feel a little less joyful and a little more irritated over dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is empty, or when a pair of white socks continually end up in the dark laundry divider in the middle, no matter how many times you’ve told him “white on the right.” (Not that that’s ever happened in our house.) But allowing your heart to be irritated over things that are minimal will only eat away at your joy and his, and will eventually lead to bitterness. I’ve done this. It snowballed to the point where I’d be irritated for how he put pillows on the bed after making it, rather than being thankful that he made the bed. Maintain a joyful heart in the Lord. Think of these times as opportunities to be a humble servant, and as reminders of things to be thankful for. Dirty dishes means you’ve had plenty of food to eat. (I haven’t figured out what white socks in the wrong laundry divider means yet, but instead of getting mad about it, I had Ari hold the bag open so I could take a picture and send it to him with a joke about the kids switching his socks over again. His response was perfect and caused us to laugh, “I’m such a moron.”) Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Keep your heart light and find ways to laugh with each other, especially when you make silly mistakes. It will make your relationship fun, and it will draw you closer together. Sometimes when I mess up, I make Matt a cup of coffee and bring it to him in a mug that says “I love my wife.” (Just in case he needs the reminder.) We already know you make a mean cup of coffee. Now all you need is the mug…
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  3. Expect your friendship to grow as you make time to communicate. Don’t expect your husband will be able to read your mind (because after 9 years of marriage, I’m more convinced than ever that men cannot do that). Instead, share with him your thoughts: your gratitude, your concerns, your dreams, your frustrations. Be his confidant and closest friend, and let him be yours. For this is your beloved and this is your friend.” —Song of Solomon 5:16. And James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Friends listen to each other. Take the time to really listen to him. Learn what he likes, what makes him feel loved, what empties him and what fills him up. As you seek to know him more, use that knowledge to find more ways to bless him.
  4. Expect your love for each other to grow the more grace you give. Marriage provides lots of opportunities to forgive and show grace. It can be hard to let go of hurtful things that are said or done, especially if they happen more than once. You may be tempted to bring up past mistakes and hold on to repeated mistakes when they happen yet again. Remind yourself of these verses. Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” When you argue or have wronged each other, instead of expecting your spouse to be the first to apologize, soften your heart towards him. Pray that your heart will be softened. Be humble and quick to forgive, and forgive as many times as is required. Know that showing grace will increase your love for each other. In Luke 7, Jesus teaches Simon about forgiveness. Remember the woman who lived a life full of sin that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair? She then poured perfume on his feet and kissed them over and over. Jesus pointed out that Simon’s reaction to seeing Jesus was much different. He did nothing but greet him. She had been forgiven more, and therefore loved more. In verse 47, Jesus says this, I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Forgive BIG. And know that not only will you be blessed because you are obeying your King, but expect that the more you forgive your husband, the more his love for you will grow.
    As a side note, my mom has said as long as I can remember, “Love isn’t always a feeling, but it’s always a choice.” There may be a time or two where Matt has told me he loves me and my response through gritted teeth was, “I’m choosing to love you too.” It’s easy to love when things are great and when others are lovely. Choose to show love in the hard moments. In the times when you don’t feel the love flowing, look at your husband and remember he is the perfect gift for you from the One who knows you best. Love him as Christ loves him, and forgive BIG, as Christ forgives. And in case you need a little help with that, (maybe when you’re just really not feelin’ the love), pour yourself a cup of coffee, read your mug, and breathe
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  5. Expect your relationship to be strengthened as you honor and pray for your husband. Proverbs 31:10-12 says this, A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.” Pay attention to all the good in your husband: his faithfulness, his steadiness, his servant’s heart, his hard work. Honor him for those things. Tell him and show him how much you appreciate and respect him for his leadership in your home. Pray for him in his role in your home, in his role at work and in other areas. Honor him in how you speak to him and about him. I love how Ephesians 4:29 reads from The Message Bible, Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” When you do that, Proverbs says your husband will trust you without reserve, and your relationship will be strengthened because of it.

You’ll notice each of these expectations isn’t about something your spouse should do or will do. They are about you. And they’re about God’s promises. They are about you being obedient to Christ, and God’s blessing being poured out in your marriage because of your obedience. Your spouse will see this and be blessed. Others will see, too. And you will point all of them right to Jesus by your words and actions. So the last expectation is this: #6 Above all, expect to glorify God as you continue to seek Him in your marriage. Because that is exactly what you will be doing when He maintains his rightful place as Lord of your life… when you first love the Lord your God – your King, and when you love, honor, and cherish the gift he has given you in your spouse.