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.”


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.”

Borders to Altars

There have been times in my life where words fail me. (I know, hard to imagine. But it’s true.) Times where I have so many questions in my head I can’t think straight enough to write them down. Or maybe it’s that I’m so overwhelmed with a feeling, thought – with GOD – that adequate words don’t exist.

Or maybe it’s both.

Today is like that. This week, this month. Words fail me. Too many questions. And too overwhelmed with awe, underwhelmed with vocabulary.

I’ve prayed 2 prayers for a while now: 1) God, break my heart for what breaks yours, so that I can see – really truly see – what matters. 2) God, oh GOD, reveal more of Yourself. More of your Truth. More of your character. More of You. Overwhelm me with YOU.

It’s funny how sometimes, our prayers are answered with a giant NO. Other times, they are answered in a way we never imagined…

And then there are the times we get exactly what we asked for. Only we didn’t truly understand what it was we were asking.

I’m going to attempt to put into words what it is I’ve learned. No, that’s not right. I’m going to attempt to put into words what it is I’m learning. Transformation is a process, right?

What I’m learning has been aided by sermon messages from our wonderful Pastor Phil (sermon series on Hebrews called “Jesus Transformational Greatness”), conversations with him or with various friends, a Bible study on Gideon by Priscilla Shirer, some song lyrics, speakers at Christian Musician Summit Northwest 2013, and Bible verses I’ve read during my own quiet time. While I will do my best to credit what they specifically said, it might be a bit difficult since it’s so jumbled right now. All I know is this: God has used a lot of different people and circumstances to teach me some things. It is, after all, the Holy Spirit who does the teaching in my heart. (John 14:26)

I have a friend who – just this weekend – heard a clear message from God. I told her to write it down. I told her that with time, our memories fade. We begin to forget the message we heard, or doubt we ever heard it in the first place. There is a real and true enemy of our souls, and he’s an expert at making us doubt or feel like we’re – or at least I’m – crazy. He’s had centuries of practice.

In Hebrews 1, many of the verses are references to other verses throughout the Bible. Pastor Phil pointed out they were all put together, allowing us to “overhear” a one-sided conversation, God the Father speaking to God the Son about him. What a gift! So I told my friend to write down what she heard and to keep doing it, so that over time, she will have a similar record of things God has said to her. A record of her one-sided (or two, if she writes what she says to Him) conversation with God.

I wanted her to write it down as an altar of stones. Like in the old testament, when people would build an altar of stones as reminders of an encounter with God, a physical way to show others and to remind themselves – of a time when God did something mighty. The writing it down – her altar – will serve as a reminder when she doubts and as a sign to others – if she chooses to share it – of the greatness of God.

I have some altars of my own. Mostly, I’ve written them here in different posts. Someday, I’ll print out my altars and keep them in a place for my children and children’s children, to point them to a history of encounters with a real and loving God. But there are other altars, too. I have some that are just reminders for me. Some altars we carry with us, like scars. Jacob’s scar on his ankle where his PICC line ran to his heart – a reminder that God is our provider and He is the God of healing and comfort.

And as I so desperately wanted my friend to build her altar in remembrance, so she would never ever forget, I began to realize that I’ve spent a month learning some things, experiencing some things, and I’ve built no altar. I’ve kept it hidden, partly so I can process it and make sense of it all. But I’ve realized there’s another reason…

Do you ever have a moment where you see something you’ve seen a hundred times, or read something you’ve read before, or hear or sing something you’ve already heard or sung, but it suddenly stands out to you as for the first time? The words cut your soul so deep, and suddenly you understand?

It happened to me with a song today. And I realized this: I haven’t built some altars because I have some walls – some borders – I need to break first. I haven’t written some things down because of my own fears of what it will mean or where it might take me.

When I’ve prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His, and to overwhelm me with more of Himself, I got exactly what I wanted asked for. My heart has been broken for the broken-hearted. For those who have lost deeply recently. I’ve wept and shook, and made myself physically sick over loss that people I don’t even know are experiencing. My heart has been broken for the wasted food, money, resources, of those of us that are “wealthy,” while others have such great need. For the pitiful pleasures we – I – settle for in this life. And my heart has been broken for a hundred other things.

But my heart has been overwhelmed with the goodness of our Creator. I sit here in awe that the same God who made the universe with His word, the same God who who sends out armies of angels at his command – armies of warrior angels – the same God who rescued Gideon and the other 299 Israelites with no weapons by defeating the Midianite army of over 130,000 armed soldiers, the same God who came as a baby, lived a perfect and holy life, died on the cross for my sins and rose again defeating death and the grave, the same God who sits on the throne today, is the same God who walks before me, behind me, and lives within me today. He never changes. He is always the same. And He is always with little, insignificant me.

And while I knew this before, I have been overwhelmed with it to the point that in some moments, it takes my breath away.

Some of you may not really believe this, but I do: There is also an enemy. The same enemy that will want my friend to forget what God spoke to her, he will do whatever he can to make sure others don’t learn the truth about God. He will do what he can to keep up any border I have, preventing me from fully trusting a perfect and trustworthy God. He will want me to have restraints on my faith. “I will trust You God, but I won’t do that.

Today, I was singing a song I’ve sung before, and as Tim Timmons says, God just totally apprehended my heart. (I tried to come up with another word, but that described it perfectly.) I started out singing with confidence, believing I believed these words..

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand…

As the song went on, the reality of the words began to hit me.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me

Oh yes, I have borders. I have all sorts of them. God, I will go with you where you lead me, but just not out of this county. God, allow me to be used to bring You glory. Only not that way. Because don’t you dare, God, don’t you dare allow one of my kids to die. If I ever lost a child to suicide or a drunk driver, God, I will not stand in the Emergency Room in worship. I will cry out and shake my fist in anger. And I will be done, God. DONE. I won’t be able to go on. So yeah, God? I fully trust you… but partly because I’ve gone through my fair share of hard times and I’m thinking my life is and will likely be smooth sailing now. It’s easy to fully trust you now that my hard times are over. You won’t let me experience something like that again… or will you?

People often say God never gives you more than you can handle. I’ve known this was a lie for sometime, but I was reminded again this weekend. God did not promise to protect us from ailments, to prevent hurt in our life. Life is full of heartache. He does promise to walk through it with us. And if we only ever encountered situations that were totally manageable, what on earth would we ever need God for? And how would His faithfulness, glory, and steady hand be revealed in a life that is never in need of Him? When David’s baby died, do you know what he did? He went to the temple and worshiped right away. When my babies died, you know what I did? I stopped going to church for months. So, God? I get that. I get that your glory is revealed in our trials. But you know what? I had a pretty big trial once. And maybe from here on out, my trials could just be littler ones.

Except that’s not how it works. Because 5 years ago, this wonderful family lost their daughter in a tragic car accident. And now, just a couple weeks ago, they lost another daughter who was hit by a drunk driver. And just today, they lost that daughter’s twin sister who was also in that car accident. And in between time, I’m sure they were holding out some major hope that God would spare her life. Only He didn’t. And I just don’t understand, God. I don’t get it! I don’t get how one family can have such heaps and heaps of heartache. And that makes me realize, God, that I am not immune to further heartache. And you know what? I’m just not sure I’m willing to go there, God. Does that make me weak? Unfaithful? Arrogant that I question You, the Creator of the universe?

And then the song continued…

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Ok, God. Hear me on this. I want to be used by you, to go deeper than my feet could ever wander, I want my faith to be stronger. But God? That family. There is nothing – no amount of a strengthened faith or… nothing – that could sufficiently counterbalance that kind of pain for me. It just can. not. happen. And even though you don’t promise to keep us from hurt, can you maybe just keep us from hurt that is that big? Why do you even allow hurt that is that big? I don’t understand!

These are the things I actually think. And so my heart was apprehended, because my trust has borders. Limits to where I will go with God. I might as well just say, God? I promise to follow you anywhere, as long as it fits with my plan, mmm-kay?

I have a dear friend who told me she has prayed for herself and her kids to have the hard jobs, because they reveal the glory of God. It got me thinking… I pray for God to use me, but I also pray – in a sense – that nothing goes wrong. How do I expect God to reveal his power, perform a miracle, do anything, if I just want life to remain hunky-dory?
Yes, God can use someone who isn’t hurting. But my borders, my limits, tell God this: Use me, but only in my way. I trust You, but only so far. You are sovereign and eternal and I know nothing and am but a vapor, but I still like my way best. 

And so, as my heart was apprehended, I decided these borders need to come down. I sang the song (or tried to) while weeping for this family who has lost so much. I sang the words while intentionally knocking down the walls that form these borders of trust. They now lay in a heap, a pile of stones, as an altar.

I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want to post it. Something about saying “I fully trust – really truly fully trust” scares me. As though by saying it out loud, it’s going to bring a tragic circumstance my way. But it won’t. The truth is, by knocking down these borders on my trust, my circumstances won’t change, but the way I view them will.

And so, when I look back at my border-turned-altar, this is what I want to remember:

  • My Savior and my God, I choose to trust without borders. Take me where you will. I will follow.
  • When I feel like I am drowning I will remember that you are the one who lifts my head above the waters. (Psalm 3:3)
  • At this altar, I remember how fleeting life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. (Psalm 39:4-5) Yet, You remain and never change. You have always been and always will be.
  • And in remembering this, I need to remember to purge myself of the things that are not relevant, and stay anchored to You, the One who is. (Thanks, Pastor Phil, for that one.)
  • At this altar, I will be reminded that my lack of trust – my borders – will not change the outcome of my circumstances, it will only change my response to it. If I should be led into waters where my iniquities have overtaken me and I cannot see, where they are more than the hairs of my head and my heart fails me, I will still seek you. I will rejoice in you and worship for you are my help and my deliverer. (Psalm 40: 12, 16-17)

But LORD? I can’t promise that I won’t hit another border on my trust in You. I just promise that when I do, I will try to work through it to knock it down. To turn that border into yet another altar. And I will kneel there and say, “YOU are my rock. YOU are my deliverer, oh God. The lifter of my head. In YOU I put my trust.” I will try to remember that in those hard times, with the hard jobs, You give strength in the moment, day by day. I am not prepared with enough strength today for what lies ahead into tomorrow. “As my days, so shall my strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25)

If you’ve read this far, take a few minutes to click on this video and listen to the song. Maybe think about what borders you have on your trust in the Lord, to tear them down, and turn them into altars of remembrance.

I love you more than that

Annalise has had a prayer for as long as I can remember her talking… She has prayed for her cousins to live by her. Sometimes it makes her so sad that she cries. “Mommy, I just don’t understand. Why do some kids have their cousins live in the very same town, and my cousins live in another state and on the other side of the world?!? I might never even get to go to their house ever!”

It breaks my heart when her little heart is broken.

We’ve had discussions about it. God sent her Uncle John and Auntie Ko-Ko and her same-age cousin Ellia that she loves just so much, and Jacob’s same-age cousin Alyssa, all the way to Indonesia for a purpose. He has them there to do the job He wants them to do. So we pray for the job they’re doing there, reaching unreached people, building churches in jungles where people have never heard of a savior, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a land we’ve never seen.

And right now, God has her Uncle Ryan and Auntie Ky-Ky and cousins Riley and Mason in Nevada. And she loves them so much, too. So we talk about that God has a plan for them, and right now the plan is to be where they are. And that even though we miss them, too, we’ve been blessed to get to visit their house every once-in-a-while.

And we talk about how blessed we really are, that even though her cousins are so far away, we’ve been able to see them lots. And sometimes we get to Skype with them when they’re home. But right now, they’re here! And they even get to come to Annalise’s 6th birthday party, the first one since she turned one!

Just the same, Annalise still prays that she’ll get to have her cousins live here, just like other kids. And I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t think that’s going to happen, to just give up on that big request of hers, because God has Ellia in Indonesia. That is where they live now.

The truth is, some days it breaks my heart, too. Because while I didn’t always grow up with my cousins in the same town, we were just on the other side of the Cascades, and we got to see them often. They were a big part of my life, and one day, my prayer was answered to live by my cousins. We lived in the same town and went to school together for the last 5 years.  I even lived in their house for a while during college. God answered my prayer in a bigger way than I could imagine. I loved the blessing of them in my life, and I have longed for Annalise and Ellia to have a similar experience.

Well, it just so happens that one of the cousins that I prayed to live by and graduated from high school with and lived with in college, moved last year from Eastern Washington back to Whatcom County.

And it just so happens that a week ago, he became the head pastor at the church he grew up in right here in Ferndale.

And it just so happens that his middle child is Jilly, another same-age-girl-cousin that Annalise loves.

And it just so happens that when that cousin of mine got his new job as a pastor, they moved into the church parsonage in Ferndale. Which meant Jilly and her big brother Josiah got moved to a new school this week, which just-so-happens to be the same school I teach at, and more importantly, the same school Annalise attends.

Annalise was already bursting with excitement when she found out Jilly would be at her same school. And then, the unimaginable happened. Josiah was put in my class, and Jilly was placed in the same kindergarten class as Annalise.

Leading up to Jilly’s first day, it suddenly hit Annalise exactly what was happening, that this was not an “it-just-so-happens” event. “Mommy! Do you know that God is answering my prayer? I prayed for a cousin to live here. I really meant Ellia, but God answered my prayer in just a different way. And I never even thought about having a cousin in my school or especially in my class. God answered my prayer, but even better than I thought, because I get to have a cousin with me every day!”

And then, Annalise became sad again. Because, “What about Ellia, Mommy?” Ellia has the same prayer. She loves her cousins just so much. She wants to live in America, to be by her cousins, too.

God has not forgotten Ellia. Several weeks ago, He answered her prayer, too, also in a different way. First, He brought her here for 5 whole months, enough time to make lots of American memories, from the Northwest Washington Fair, to cousin’s birthday parties, to starting kindergarten, and she’ll even be here for Thanksgiving. But there’s more. While she has been living here, God called her aunt and uncle and a same-age-cousin for both her and her sister to Indonesia, to the same church she is a part of, in the very same city. She will likely attend school with her other same-age cousin.

God couldn’t move Ellia here to Annalise. But He gave Annalise and Ellia different same-aged cousins to not just live close by, but to be in their same school and same class. At the same time He did this, God brought two churches a new pastor, one in Ferndale, one in Indonesia. (And by the way, that church in Ferndale was in need of a pastor because the former pastor  had moved with his family to a place God had put on their heart… Indonesia.)

Answered prayer… Two little girls pray for a cousin. Two churches pray for pastors. Two families pray for guidance on where the Lord wants them. 

Strengthened faith… An impossible prayer answered. All those prayers answered, all at once.

God’s word lived out…  He who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… I could have never imagined.

Here is what I’ve been reminded of:
1. Ellia and Annalise, your prayers have been answered, and God has big plans for you.
2. Pastor Elis and Pastor Andy and your families, your prayers have been answered and you have followed the Lord’s leading, and God has big plans for you.
3. Whatcom New Life Assembly, you have been given a new pastor, one you poured into as a child, and God has big plans for you all.
4. Indonesia, you are a land being blessed by two more wonderful families, and God has big plans for you, too.
5. God has not forgotten this land, or these families, or even the hearts of two almost-6-year-old girls. And God has not forgotten you or me, either. He knows the desires of our our hearts, and He knows our greatest needs. He has big plans for us, too.

Jacob has this little saying that melts my heart. Whenever I say “I love you,” he responds with, “I love you more than that.”

“Jacob, I love you more than the moon and stars.”
“Mommy, I love you more than that.”

“Buddy, do you know I love you more than all the waves in the ocean? And farther than from here to Indonesia and all the way back?”
“Yep. And I love you more than that.”

“Hey kiddo! Come here. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mama. I love you more than that.”

I love that boy so much more than I can describe. But even if I could, he’d just say with his joy-inducing, heart-melting, God-awing smile, “I love you more than that.”

He still answers prayer. Even prayers of little girls.
He still amazes with his creativity. Two girls, impossible prayers, answered in ways I never imagined. One boy, with a big smile, and even bigger words that melt every time.
He still can do and does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

And when His plans are carried out, and are far beyond what we could imagine, it’s almost like He is saying, right to the heart of my almost 6-year-old girl,  “I love you so much Annalise. But I have different plans. I need your cousin where she is.  I’m not going to give you just exactly what you ask for. I’m going to give you more. Because I love you all more than that.

Remember His promises. Pray big prayers for His purpose and glory. But keep in mind, His plans might be a bit different, because He loves you more than that!

“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3:14-21

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


Growing up, whenever someone made me mad, my mom would make me say 10 things I liked about that person. You know, to focus on the positive and remember the reasons I’m thankful for that person. To think about why it is that I love them.

I hated it.

Lots of times, I could only (begrudgingly) squeak out one or two good things about someone before I would need to start a whole new list in my head of 10 things I like… about my mom. For making me play such a horrible game. Obviously.

Now I’m a grown-up (or so they say.) And a mom. I may or may not have made my children do the same thing. I’m not admitting to anything.

Sometimes you need a 10-list for life…

-Maybe it’s because someone caused your “Mama Bear”-ness to kick into high gear and you’d like to teach that person a thing or twelve. Just. Breathe. 10 things. 10 reasons NOT to rip their face off… And yes, you know you’ve been there.
-Maybe you were hurt and ready to quit and you forgot that there is good or how to smile, so you just needed a little smile-reminder.
-Maybe you got to a point where you felt like what’s the point and who really cares anyway and all this work is just turning into more work and I’ve had it up to HERE with it all. And who would even notice if I just drowned in it, because it’s already at my chin and will reach my eyeballs soon… but by then it will be too late.

Or maybe, just maybe, you said too many things that tear down, and it’s time you forced yourself to say a thing or two that builds up.

I may or may not have experienced all of the above these past few weeks. But I’m not admitting to anything.

I’m reminded I need to get back to journaling my Gifts of Grace. The things that remind me how much my God loves ME. That his grace is big enough to hold even me. And even more than that, He takes great delight in meHe delights in Me. Why does that surprise me every time I read it? And when my fists shake and my heart aches and everything is anything but still, He quiets me with his love.

Here are some of the love gifts of grace that have quieted my soul these past few weeks. Things that have made me remember to smile when I didn’t feel like it. My 10-list for life right now:

1. A teacher smile. While correcting a measurement test, I got to a question on appropriate units for measuring temperature. The Super Tall Kid in my class answered in three words: “Fair In Height.”

2. I was blessed to attend several graduation parties for students I taught for two years. I was Miss Kuzina their 4th grade year and Mrs. Priestman for 5th. They threw a shower for me at the end of 4th grade, and a few even attended our wedding that summer. And now? They’re all growed up and heading off to college. I know, I know. I couldn’t possibly be old enough to have former students graduating already. Or to have others already graduated, married, and with kids my own son’s age. Just… whatever.

3. Annalise is also growing up and would like me to stop using baby words on her. I told her that the belt needed to go around her tummy. She said, without a hint of disrespect in a totally serious and surprised-I-didn’t-already-know-it tone, “It’s called a waist, Mom.”

4. Jacob and I were having a conversation about obedience. Every day. Every 3 minutes. Forever. In one of those conversations, I said he had disobeyed. “No, Mom. I unbeyed.” Exasperated, I asked him what he was talking about. “When I do what you ask, it’s called O-beying. When I don’t do what you ask, it’s called UN-beying. Mom, it makes perfect sense.” Yes. Yes it does.

5. Matt’s parents took the kids for a couple hours one Sunday afternoon just for fun, which gave me time to work. I somehow found myself alone on the patio in the sunshine with good coffee and a good book. Who needs work? Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!

6. Annalise and I had a discussion about a behavior pattern she (we) are working on. Proverbs 29:11 “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” At first, she felt the verse didn’t apply to her, because she’s not a man, of course. Um, no. So I read it again. “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.” I waited. She thought. And then she grimaced. “Mommy! I do not want to be that fool. Because you know why? His house went SPLAT!”  You know, because it was built on the sand, and the rains came and… you know the rest. Splat.

7. One of Jacob’s favorite people on earth is Pastor Phil. While getting his haircut the other day, Jacob informed the hairdresser he “wanted his hair short, but not as short as Daddy’s.” She asked how short Daddy’s hair is. “Weeeeeally short. ‘Cause he doesn’t have any hair!” She laughed. He continued, “Just make it like Past-oh Phil’s. I want it dat short.” She responded, “Make it like Buster who?” He repeated his request and told her all about his “buddy” and our church. Mom Smile.

8. When I picked Leesie up from ballet today, she was given her ballet pictures along with several wonderful compliments from different grown-ups about how she is doing in tap. My girl stood there and beamed. Sometimes, those are the things that fill a Mama’s heart the most. I can’t wait to see her perform this weekend.


9. The kids were invited to ride on a tractor in the Farmer’s Day Parade with THE Pastor Phil. (I thought Jacob might die.) He loved every second, but he was seriously cool as a cucumber once we got there. And while it was no carriage, it was the perfect chance for Annalise to master her princess wave. photo(66)

photo(67)     photo(65)

10. Friends. Friends that bail you out in a pinch. Friends that encourage. Friends that are more than willing to take your kids, even when they’re all sugared up from way too much candy being thrown at the parade. Friends who laugh with you when – after we momentarily lose our daughters – one comes outside of the building saying the other is still inside in the bathroom but has “a paper towel stuck to her bottom.” Just don’t even ask. Friends starting their day in matching hats…

photo(63)…and ending their day in matching birthday suits…

photo(64)And really, how can you not smile when you see those two faces?

Oh yes, and a bonus item. I guess it’s an 11-list.
Getting my phone to find a picture and instead finding this:


38 of them in all. THIRTY-EIGHT. Plus several videos of her singing just exactly like she’s the star of a Broadway production. Dancing and singing… a song about Princess Annalise, of course. The videos won’t be shown without her permission, but they were just too hilarious not to mention.

And so I leave you with this… A sampling of the many faces of my girl. May it bring a smile to your face too:

photo(74) photo(73) photo(72) photo(71) photo(70)