Her Favorite Sunday

There are many reasons why I love our church. If I could even put it into words just how much I love it, I would have lots to write. Because seriously. L-O-V-E.

This week, Annalise unknowingly illustrated a few of the reasons why our church is so wonderful…

Last Sunday, she and several other little people from her Kids’ Bible Class recited the scripture passage they’ve been memorizing (Isaiah 40:25-31).

*Sidenote. That sentence alone demonstrates THREE of the many reasons why we love Sunrise. 1) Emphasis – for ALL ages – on memorizing God’s Word. Because how can we really live it if we don’t really know it? 2) Kids’ Bible Class. An amazing class for little people taught by a precious woman of God, who does an incredible job of making God’s Story come alive for them. Seriously, every church needs this class… And Renee. Except we’re not willing to give her up. 3) Little people getting the opportunity to share God’s Word with others? I like the priorities.

So they recited their passage as I sat there in the front row, beaming. And crying. Obviously.

A few days later while we were on a walk, Annalise said to me, “Mommy, Sunday was my FAVORITE church day EVER. Because I got to say God’s Word to the WHOLE CHURCH… And Auntie Nee was there… Aaaaannnnd I could see Mrs. Enright smiling at me… Aaaaaannnd Pastor Phil was smiling at me, too… And Mommy? YOU were crying happy tears. And Daddy was videoing me, because he was so proud.”

Yep, love my church. Love Kids’ Bible Class. And even though I know they weren’t looking just at her, love Auntie Nee, Mrs. Enright, and Pastor Phil. And all the people here that help us grow.

And really love that my girl’s favorite church day ever is the one where she gets to share God’s Word.

We are blessed.

Isaiah 40:25-31

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you say, oh Jacob?
    And complain, oh Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not faint.

Watch them here:

Amen!

When you’re gone

I know I just blogged, but you’re gone. And that equals no adult to talk to at home. And that equals me not getting all my daily words out. And that equals too much to say and no one to say it to.

And so I blog again.

It’s just that when you’re not here, I don’t know what to do when one of the kids clogs the toilet with way too much TP so that it won’t even plunge. Yes, again. (Other toilet. Same kid.) Despite me plunging it 27 times to no avail, you were able to fix it last time. I don’t know your secret. Dish soap still doesn’t work for me.

And when you’re not here, I can’t get into the closet with the latch that locks that a certain (other) child shut while I was getting ready this morning. Thankfully, they weren’t in it this time. And thankfully, I was already dressed and didn’t need to get anything out of there. But tomorrow I will. You’d think there’d be at least an outfit or two in all the clothes on the floor, chair, and your side of the bed so that I could put together something, but you’d be wrong.

And even if there were something, it would likely be dirty. And my only drawers outside the closet are: PJs, sweats, undies/socks. At least I’ll be wearing clean underwear while I dress in a pajama top with yoga pants at work tomorrow. Or maybe I could call the fire department to come bust the door in with an axe. Do we own an axe? Because maybe I should just do it myself.

If you were here, I could just ask you that in person. Except I wouldn’t need to, because you would have gotten the closet door open by now. I just don’t know your trick.

In any case, since all the laundry bins are in the closet, nothing is getting washed. So really, I’m not in that much of a hurry. Except to have you home, of course.

Because when you’re home, we can get the mail. I don’t know when I last did that. You’re just always home – and so is the mail – by the time we walk in. So today, when I realized it was maybe something I should do, I couldn’t even find the keys to get it. Where do we keep the keys to the mailbox? This is something I should know.

It’s just that I’ve never had reason to think about it until I did today, right after I watched the garbage truck drive by and realized I maybe should have put the can out. But no worries, because I checked: The can was empty. It turns out all the garbage was still in the house. No one has emptied them since you’ve been gone. Well, I did empty them. But you know how I always set them aside and continue on with what I’m doing? The magic trash fairy never came by to take the bags to the outside garbage. Maybe she’s in New York with you.

So, I took them out myself. But now the outside can is pretty full and pick up day is another week away. Can you tell I need you home?

And also? The housecleaning. Well, you know how I already feel about that. You remember my definition of adulthood: Cleaning the kitchen even when no one else is around to see it. Going to bed at a reasonable hour when you have early morning responsibilities. NOT eating ice cream every day even though you can drive yourself to the store and have your very own money to buy it.

I’m proud to say that yesterday, I did get the kitchen and dining room clean. 67 minutes of tidying, and the job was done. Mopping to come later. And toys and books and shoes that were dumped in the living room to be put away later. But still, those rooms are pretty tidy now. And it only took 67 minutes.

It’s just that those rooms don’t match the rest of the house anymore.

And so, I decided I needed to put a little more effort into this adulthood thing. I didn’t eat ice cream today. Oops. I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night. Oops. I did make a dinner. A good, sit down, semi-healthy dinner. The kind I try to make when you’re here. Instead of cereal, I mean. (Did I tell you the kids have had cereal for more meals than I care to admit and one day we had smoothies for lunch? Only not fresh berry/green smoothies like I’ve made before. Sugary smoothies from Woods. With whip cream. And it actually wasn’t one day. It was two days. Sorry.)

But I did it tonight. A decent meal at the table. It was weird without you. And the problem is, I just don’t know how long is a reasonable amount of time to make the boy sit there and stare at his food before I let him get up having not eaten a thing. And I have no one here to discuss that with. And also? How many meals should I put that same meal in front of him before I finally throw it out? Because baked tilapia and corn and parmesan toast isn’t great re-heated over and over, you know. I like having your input on these things.

And yes, I know what you’d say about the tilapia. You don’t like it either. But the corn? He even got to pick the vegetable for dinner. He chose corn. Parenting 3-year-olds is hard all alone. They make no sense.

And the ironic thing about being a grown-up and making a good healthy dinner is this: it messes up that kitchen and dining room. Real bad. At least they match the rest of the house again.

And about that laundry? I thought maybe I should get some done. And since I can’t get to the laundry bins inside that locked closet, I washed the sheets. Yay for adult-like productivity! Only know what? It’s past bedtime now (darn you, adulthood), and our sheets are still in the dryer instead of on the bed. But why bother rushing to get them on the bed when I’m just going there alone? I might as well just sleep in the living room on the couch. I’ll have to turn the air conditioner off in there, though, because it sounds a bit like an injured cow. I’m just not sure what to do about that. You probably wouldn’t know, either, but at least we’d be not sure together.

I hope you don’t think I’m whining. Because really, I’ve had enough of that this past week. (Week? Wait. You’ve only been gone 4 days. It just seems like it’s been a week.)

How can – in just 4 days – the kids miss you more than they can express in words, but it comes out in their every behavior?

That’s really a rhetorical question, because you know what? It comes out in my behavior, too. It’s clear: We need Daddy!

But no, not whining. Please don’t think that. Just missing you bad.

And the truth is, we don’t want you to come home early. Because you’re doing important work. We’re so proud of you all, and we’re praying for you and the work you’re all doing.

And for those few minutes I did get to talk to you? My eyes filled with tears as you told me about that man who’s house some of you worked on. It’s hard to imagine losing so much and living with uncertainty for so long. I’m so thankful the team was able to help him.

And my eyes filled again, when you told me about the other man you’re all helping with a surprise tomorrow. How he just sat there while you all worked, near you all for so long after you all prayed with him. I think he might have just been overwhelmed, maybe, by the generosity of people serving. Or maybe? He just wants a glimpse of Jesus. I know that if I ever felt like I had a glimpse of him, I wouldn’t want to leave either. I might just sit there all day long to get one more glimpse. Maybe, just maybe, he saw something in all of you that caused him to stay and watch. In the midst of his poor and desperate circumstances, he could see the hands of Jesus at work and felt a little bit at peace. Maybe he just wanted to witness that a little longer. And to just be near.

So no, not whining. Because how could I when we are so blessed? When we have a place to live with dry walls and floor? A way to get from place to place? A life filled with people who love us and care for us? A Jesus who still loves when the kids whine and fight and argue and sass, and I am so incredibly unlovable.

Not whining. Just missing you. Bad. And noticing all you do when you’re here.

And also? Just a wee-bit sad we won’t see you on your birthday. But I know you’re right where you should be. In the palm of His hands is a good place to be.

So, Happy Birthday (tomorrow). I love you so bad.

And don’t worry about us. I think we can make it until Friday.

Long After

At the end of October, 2012, Superstorm Sandy ravished cities and towns on the Atlantic Coast. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. The storm reeked havoc and mass destruction to the tune of over 75 billion dollars. 275 lives ended.

I watched the news and read the headlines and saw the pictures sent around social media. My heart ached and tears flowed for the overwhelming loss and mind-boggling mess.

And then, my life went on.

But long after the waters rose and the winds came and the towns were devastated, the damage is still being repaired. Scars everywhere.

Rebuilding takes time.

Long after the storm ended, 17 willing hearts from a church in the small town of Custer, flew to the devastation to help with the relief efforts. Just one group of many who come, work, and go home while another group arrives to step in where they left off. Because even so long after, there is still much work to do.

People, being the hands and feet of Jesus. Sacrificing. Working. Serving. Bringing hope. Being love.

Long after the storm has ended and my life has long since moved on, help and hope still come.

Long after God promised Abram a child, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. And her heart rejoiced as she laughed.

Rejoicing comes after the heartache.

And long after that, another Son was born. A Son that would bring Light to the dark and stormy world. A rescuer.

Because a loving God doesn’t leave us in the dark, in the midst of the storm. A loving God sends a rescuer. A loving God sends Light.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~ Colossians 1:13-14

Long after aching loss, broken hearts, wild anger, God tells his story of redemption.

Long after the boy was sick, the scars remain, telling the story of God’s love and faithfulness, and of healing. Because God restores.

And I’m learning… Long after our storms, our scars remain. And they tell our story.

Long after the son left his father and squandered his riches, he returned. And he was reconciled to his father. And his father rejoiced for the life that was once lost, but now was found.

And when parents teach and listen and love and pour Truth into their children and pray over them and weep for them and hold them tight while letting them go, it sometimes isn’t until long after that they finally see the fruits of their labor, the work of the Lord in the heart of their grown child.

And sometimes, they don’t see it at all. And they feel like the storm is raging on and on. And all they can do is pray.

But that is no small thing, to pray to the Rescuer, the Redeemer, who can calm any wave and still any storm.

And even while it may still rage, he still holds you in the palm of his hand.

So what’s your long after story? Is it one of redemption? Reconciliation? Rebuilding and restoring? What’s your rescue story? And what are your scars that tell this story, God’s story?

Did rejoicing come after your storm?

Or are you still in the storm, in the darkness, looking for a way a way out?

Just remember, after the storm has ended, the sun shines again. It always does. And your scars will be your story.

*Sandy Relief team, you are in my prayers as you are the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing hope and being love.

The Helper

People say to look for the helpers.

I guess this originated from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’…”

Mr. Rogers was a wise man. A wise man who – it appears – was raised by a wise woman.

Find the helpers. Because we can’t let fear of one rob us of our faith in others.

There are so many helpers, supporters, sympathetic mourners.

Because people care. They grieve. They are there… to support, help, sacrifice. They are near to the broken-hearted, to comfort. They redeem this tragedy by bringing good from it, by restoring hope, joy, peace.

They LOVE.

 

And isn’t that just like our God? Just exactly what the Bible says about Him?

He cares.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:7

He grieves.

“In all their suffering he also suffered…” ~ Isaiah 63:9 NLT.

Because a Father grieves for the pain his child feels.

He is there.

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

He is near to the broken-hearted. He comforts.

“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” ~ Psalm 34:18

He redeems and restores.

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” ~ Psalm 130:7 

He is the God of hope, who can fill you with all hope, peace, and joy… if you just trust in Him! (Romans 15:13)

And He loves. Oh, how He loves!

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…” ~ Jeremiah 31:3

 

And we were made in His image. (Genesis 1:27)

These people, the helpers. Look for them. In Boston, and all over. They are giving us a glimpse of our God, our Helper. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

Look for the helpers… And see an image of a living God, full of love.

All this to say…

Whoever came up with the term “Terrible Twos” was dead wrong.

First, two is where it’s at. It rocks. Totally.

Secondly, they must have made up this term before they hit the threes. That is where the parenting challenges really kick in. (Says the mom of two kids under 6. Just shush. I don’t even want to hear it.)

On days like today, when the “threes” are rapidly approaching (we’re a mere 25 sleeps away), the “threes” make random appearances. I’m assuming to test the waters. And also to find our parenting weaknesses so they can be better equipped when they – the threes – are officially “a thing.”

Let me just give you a sneak peek into this very average day…

7 a.m. The boy awakes. This always happens simultaneously with, “The boy is raring to go” and “The boy’s mouth begins to move, not to stop until nap time… or much, much later.” I get to spend some quality time snuggling and reading with my sweet – and extremely chatty – two-year-old.

8:45 a.m. The girl awakes. This only happens because her brother and/or the dog has disrupted her sleep so much that she has no other choice but to drag out of bed to find a quieter location in which to continue her rest and – if absolutely necessary – wake up. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

9:15 a.m. Preparing Breakfast. (It’s Spring Break. I can serve it when I want. So what if we’ve been up over 2 hours already and are supposed to be somewhere at 10?) Greek yogurt, toast, carrot sticks, and an egg for the girl. She wants butter on her toast. He always gets peanut butter, because: 1) He’ll eat it. 2) It’s at least some protein. And 3) He’ll eat it. This time, he requests “the other butter.” I ask him 43 more times which butter he wants, just to be sure. Each and every time, he wants “the other butter.” Still not believing he actually wants regular butter, I carry the butter container and PB jar over and have him touch the one he wants. He picks regular butter. So be it.

9:18 a.m. Breakfast now in front of the kids, the “threes” make their first appearance. The boy looks at his plate and gasps. “But! But! I didn’t want that kind of butter!” Typically, this results in the removal of his plate, but I give him a second chance. (I was feeling particularly gracious, since he had to wait so long before I made breakfast. And also because we had to leave in exactly 32 minutes. No time to waste.) He eats his yogurt quietly (I assume to avoid losing it) then throws a fit about the kind of butter on his toast. While I know better – totally and completely know better – I engage in a discussion of “reason” with the boy about his toast, the butter, and why it is he got that kind and should eat it.

9:20 a.m. The “threes” are in full force. Demanding. Throwing fits. Refusing. Sassing. Stomping. Glaring. “Humph”ing.

It’s not even 9:30 and my patience is gone. So is, by the way, the rest of his breakfast. Not permanently, mind you. It will return when he is hungry again.

Which happened about 30 minutes later when we were supposed to be walking out the door. Thankfully, the “sweet twos” returned by then, and he ate his toast without complaint.

The rest of the day was fairly typical. Siblings playing nicely. Sibling rivalry. Some good parenting moments. Some parenting fails. Some random appearances of “irrational threes” mixed in with the sweet twos. And the “grown-up fives” (which are occurring ever more frequently) outnumbering the “selfish fives.”

And then a few situations came up that caused some stress for Matt and I. Don’t worry, all is well. But the added stress resulted in: a few extra parenting fails, arguments (which caused more stress), unkind tones (my own), and an overall down mood for me.

To avoid the downward spiral this “overall down mood” can often cause, the kids and I set out on a walk to the library. The boy rode his bike. The girl and I walked. I carried about 20 books (no joke) in a backpack.

The library is 1.5 miles away. I didn’t really think much of it, but that was probably a bit of a stretch for a 2 year old who just learned to ride. Yet, he was happy. And my girl, who had some heart-struggles today, too, was content the whole way.

It was nice, the walk. Quiet talk. Happy sounds. And a chance for me to reflect on the day…

This day. Not terrible. Not great. Slightly-below-average-with-no-major-life-stresses kind of day.

Yet, lots of mistakes. I made them. Matt made them. The kids made them. Avoidable and Regrettable.

But…

After today, (and every day), Thank you, Jesus.

Because all my mistakes? Yes, avoidable. And yes, regrettable. But also? Forgivable.

All this to say..

This day, and days like today… they make me realize just how much I need a Savior.

 

And Thank God for this:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…” ~ Psalm 103:8