Thursday, August 28, 2014

the Helper of helpers

“Jesus please help your child,” I pray, and the sickness does not vanish. 
Why did I pray aloud? Now there are questions to answer.  

Why doesn’t God take suffering away right away?

I don’t know, sweetie.

I stroke the little head with my hand, and pull him close to my breast.
I don’t know why He doesn’t answer immediately.

But God is not silent, either.
My hand running through the little one’s hair is part of His answer.
My lap, my compassion, my embrace- this is part of God’s answer to prayer.
He sends mother to comfort.
And dad brings home the bacon, and the coffee.
We are part of God’s answer in suffering.

This would be entirely too much weight if God did not help the helpers.

“Surely God is my help; the Lord the one who sustains me.” Psalm 54:4

Father, help your children who suffer today. And if we who pray are to be part of the help you send, help us help you help them. We are your children, and you our loving Father. Tend to us, Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mama controller (chaos and contentment part 3)

Idleness is not what I seek when I work to feel “caught up.” If I had nothing at all on my schedule, I would put things there. We were made to use our hands and our gifts for others. But is it possible to do it without turning into an overwhelmed, angry, frantic crazy-mom?

What is it, exactly, that pushes us over the edge?

Well, it’s complicated. I’m sure you know this from trying to untangle your own heart.

I think the causes fall in two categories.
1. Exernal Struggles: Clutter, overscheduling, unruly kids, imperfect marriage, health problems, etc.
2. Internal Struggles: My attitude, focus, mental health, expectations, or sin

In other words
1. Things you might be able to control, or maybe not, but why not go down trying?
2. Things you cannot control without constant connection to God’s Word, His grace and help.

First we will discuss some things we might be able to control, or at least make a little bit better. There must be a way to minimize the cracker crumbs, and you’d think they could learn to stop falling off the chairs at the dinner table. Get yourselves under control, kids!

Control is at the heart of this, isn’t it? We don’t like when life spins out of control. We respond with anger, resentment, or (if it’s really bad) blank stares.

If only I were in control.

God’s in control, not you. So chill out already.”

Right. But who is going to plan the meals? God’s control does not relieve us of the responsibilities of our calling as mothers. Mothers, it IS our job to control what we can in our homes! This is our vocation! We are called by God to plan the meals and the schedules and the appointments and LIFE for the good of the family!

So. “Chill out already” is not the answer.

Do you want to do this, and do it better?
I will not call you a control freak. I call you a mother.
(We will talk about the freakier parts of control in a later post.)

What sorts of things in your life right now are you trying to tweak or change for the good of your family and your own sanity?

I’d love to hear from you!

Father, bless us as we seek to manage our homes and our families for the good of those in our care. Guide our hands and strengthen our spirits as we seek to love our little neighbors. Amen

ors. Amen

This is part 3 in a series on Chaos and Contentment

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peck after peck after peck (chaos and contentment part 2 )

What would it take for you to “feel caught up?”
What is this elusive goal we chase after so hard?
I raised these questions in part 1 of this series.

I just want to feel “caught up.” I say this, feel this often, perhaps daily.
It’s a resonable request, isn’t it? I don’t need a perfect house or a completely empty schedule. I like busy, but not crazy busy. A schedule that is full, but not suffocating. I want a life that runs along at a pace that keeps me moving, entertained, and fufilled, but does not push me over into drained or exhausted.

Is this too much to ask?

What would it take for me to feel “caught up?” What does that even feel like?

I can tell you what it doesn’t feel like.
It doesn’t feel like trying to help a child with homework and then you can’t find a pencil and I know the bird is squawking so who forgot to feed the bird and - no, I said feed the BIRD… get your peanut butter cracker off your brother right now! and I know you want a drink but I have to help your sister with this math problem first but oh my WORD why can’t I find JUST ONE PENCIL in this house? No I don’t know where your kneepads are, no you can’t make cookies right now, YES please go outside but stay away from the road and don’t let the dog go to the school and you can eat the raspberries but don’t pick the tomatoes unless they’re red— oh forget it, just stay away from the garden— because I said so that’s why, YES, fine play in the hose I don’t really care if you get muddy, so now where were we daughter? A pencil! I could kiss you and I might after I finish this math problem; wait, you’ve got to be kidding me when did you start doing algebra? Why is the bird still squawking? Why can’t you all just be quiet so I can THINK!?

I could have gone on for five more pages, typing down the wild runonsentence that is my never-caught-up life, but I will stop there.

Someone, tell me you relate.

And when the loud cry of tasks undone surround like a flock of birds around prey,and the small irritations assault, peck after peck after peck… is anyone surprised when a mama explodes in yelling, flailing, and (perhaps) running for her life?

I do not always perceive a room full of children with needs in this way, but when I do? Suddenly everything is personal. Every mess, every need, every inconvenience is an attack on my sanity. Life out of control leads to emotions out of control, and that is when things get ugly. Again, do you relate?

It’s not always like that, of course. (How would we survive if it was?)
Sometimes, I’m merely on the edge of this and praying that someone falls asleep before I am pushed right over.

But sometimes- sometimes I feel caught up. Every now and then, I can sit in a chair next to unfolded laundry, ignoring the booger stains on the couch, and I can hold a child, start a book, make room for more children, read more of the book, and still feel…calm.

I am not frantic, not hurried, not wild to get it all done.
I sit even in imperfections, and I let them be imperfect.  The fingerprints can wait, and I refuse to let them rush me.

When I “feel caught up” there is space in my heart and my mind for interruptions.
A visitor is not an intruder.  A child’s injury is a chance to show compassion.
A need is not annoying but a God-given task which I respond to gladly, receiving His strength.

If there are problems too big for me, they are placed at the feet of Jesus through prayer.

I am not the glue that holds the world together.
I feel my own smallness, and accept it.
Like the world, I am created.

I see the bigger picture. I have been placed here by God who keeps my heart beating.  He made my small hands, made them to receive from Him, and to do the small jobs He puts in front of me.
He gives big gifts, pours out lavishly on me as I receive from Him moment by moment.

I receive the moment that flows over me with gratitude.
I am where I should be, doing what I should be doing.
I am content.

Feeling caught up.
What is this thing that I chase after so hard?
Feelings- blown here and there by circumstances, weather, hormones— feelings cannot be bottled and kept, nor it is worthwhile to chase them.

But contentment-
An open heart and open lap,
Eager hands,
A body happy to serve, or rest, or play, as the Lord wills,
This is worth pursuing, with the help of God.

Come back soon, as we continue to think together on these things.
Meanwhile, tell me: How would you describe your struggle with contentment?
How do you feel/behave when you are NOT content?

This is part 2 of a series on "chaos and contentment"
Part 1: I'll never be caught up

Friday, August 15, 2014

May the Lord sink you and save you

The pastor stands in the pulpit, and he begins his sermon with strong words,
words that shock my ears:

"The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks the boat."

He has my attention.
I feel a little like he's picking a fight with me.

I know that boats sink. That's part of the broken world we live in.
I think of this post-- and the feeling I have frequently of sinking under the weight of vocation, of unbearable blessing-burdens that break my back and snap my patience in two.

I sink, but it's their fault. My fault. Something we can and should be able to fix.
And so pride works, underestimates the danger.
And continues to sink.

The pastor speaks of the sinking, and the disciples afraid.
Disciples heavy with all-night work, heavy with disappointment- suddenly in a boat heavy with fish. And it is sinking.  And Peter fears, not the waters but the God who sinks.

The boat sinks, and it is God who does this thing.

Fear of God's holiness, knowledge of sin, helplessness- see the sight given to the one who sinks.
Blessed clarity.
Weakness revealed, to make room for reception of love.

The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks this boat.

Cling not to fish or fig leaf,
not to repentant feelings,
or action plans.
Hope not in child-training strategies,
or anger management theory,
or sheer force of will.

Fear the Lord, and fear the sinking of the ship.
Fear the Lord and grieve your sins.
Fear the Lord and experience the powerlessness of your own hands to save.
Fear, and yet reach for Him, for He is gracious and merciful.
He sinks, that He may rescue.
He warns, that He may save.
He dies, that you may live.

* Looking for a faithful church in Grand Rapids MI? I recommend Mt. Olive!

** this is not a transcript of the sermon, only my thoughts on one main idea presented therein.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I will never feel caught up (chaos and contentment part 1)

That’s it.
It’s settled.
I will never, ever be caught up.

Never, until I’m dead.
So I might as well just quit.

I huff, plop down in the recliner, and open a novel.  I am a mama in rebellion.

But I know I won’t quit forever, and I know that my momentary “quitting” will simply create more work for me later.

Why is it so hard to find balance?

I know how to drop the list from time to time, to seize a moment, to notice and give thanks.
And I know how to barrel through and get stuff done.

But-- perhaps this is the next level of the game--- I do NOT know how to get stuff done when it is only SOME of the stuff, and when they help me do the stuff, or when they talk constantly while we are all supposed to be doing stuff.   

How does one balance listening and loving and efficiency?

I am not afraid of work.  

But sometimes I am afraid of who I become when I work. I’m not sure how to try to get stuff done without turning into the lunatic who wants everything done right this second.

A hard working worker pushing hard after task completion is a dangerous person.

It’s not that I need an immaculate house. I just want to feel caught up.  
And so often I feel like all things and all little people in the world are conspiring against me!

I want to “feel caught up.”
What does that even mean?

What would it take for you to “feel caught up?”
What is this elusive goal we chase after so hard?

Please share your thoughts.
More posts on tihs topic coming soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


My children crawl on me, fight over who sits by me.
I make room, as much room as I can, on my lap in in my arms.
Let the little children come. 

The first hymn begins.
I kiss a little forehead before I sing,
but then I find it difficult to sing.

They are on my mind:
The child-martyrs halfway across the world.

The church sings a hymn about a God mighty to save.
I wonder why God doesn't stop these things.
why His goodness is so hard to see,
why it seems like He is silent.

Like He's above all this. 

What would I do if it were me?
If my neck, or these necks were threatened?

I look inside for an answer.
It's not pretty, what I feel, what I fear:
Would I cower, and beg, and cling to life above everything else?
Would lies, shame, fear, rage, and hate overtake me?
I think... yes.
I am so weak, and I will be overcome. 
Unless... God.

Unless He's not above all this, but right in it,
like He said.
Unless He is truly Immanuel, God with us,
God who has traveled through death 
into new life,
for us.

What if faith is a gift,
and so is the courage to stand strong?
What if this world is crumbling,
and will continue to crumble,
until it is made new when His kingdom comes?
What if I can't hide from that or stop it,
but only wait,
for God to do what He said He will do?

What if faith comes by hearing, by His Word,
and what if that Word lives?
We who cling to it, we also shall live.

His Word is here, for us, 
Jesus, for us,
body and blood and Bible,
giving us life.

Life, right now, and life everlasting.
I breathe it in, 
and it fills me,
through my ears and into my heart.

My heart beats with a new strength,
the kind that won't run out,
because it doesn't come from me.

We wait, but we are not still in our waiting.
We speak and we give and we pray,
we grieve,
for those children, and our own.

We look straight on,
at the bloody mess, 
and we make pies, tie shoes, and keep living
and we pray and we wait.

We remember the cross,
the death that could not hold our Lord,
and as we dwell under the shadow of death,
we wait.

We cling to His Word,
and His Word clings to us,
and we wait.

And we wait.


Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand a priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft, in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh.
At home above the God of Love
For aye their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy their Sabbath rest,
The paschal banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord, at festal board
Himself is Host and Guest.
(LSB 656 v.2)

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been...

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

(Rev. 6:9-11, 7:13-17)

On persecution in Iraq- repent, remember!

Anglican vicar: "Child I baptized cut in half by ISIS"
Iraq: six things you can actually do to help

Come Lord Jesus.

(Who out there is waiting with me?)

Monday, August 4, 2014

from here.

My bare feet sink into sand, but still I run, holding tight to the little one’s back before I throw him overhead in a grand under-dog.  He clings tight to the chain, laughing loud.  His brother teases, “Grandma can push higher than you!” because he’d rather tease than ask politely for a turn. But I hear the asking in the teasing, and I push him up and over, higher than his brother.

As I recover my footing I see she is watching me-- my oldest daughter, with her big brown eyes. She, too, sits on the swing, but her feet touch the ground.  Her swing moves lazily back and forth, heavy with adolescence, but she pouts at me and begs, “Push me too mommy!”  I laugh, “I don’t know if I can do that anymore, girly!”  I grab her back and give a shove, then another, and she giggles, “wheee!” but we are both only pretending.  She barely moves.  She shakes off the act and says seriously, “I’ve got it from here, mom.”

She’s got it from here.
Not all of “it,” I think, as I watch her swing higher than the others.  
She starts sixth grade this year. She’s not done with me yet.

But I watch her swing higher than the others.  I see it: she is preparing to fly.
They all are.

My heart stretches, aches.
I push the littlest ones again, while they are still small enough, and I am young enough.

We’re getting ready to fly.

Someday, they’ll all say to me, “I’ve got it from here, mom,” and it will be true. God, help me to spend these pre-flight days wisely!  Be the anchor of our souls even as time whisks us forward!  Do not let sadness or selfishness overtake me, but help me rejoice in the growth You give.  
You’ve got them, God, from here, and from there.
And You’ve got me, too.

God, grow me up as you grow them up!

Monday, July 21, 2014

this mission

I seldom feel like much of an adventurer--standing in this kitchen, pouring cereal into bowls, refilling them, handing out paper towels when the inevitable cry comes: "Uh oh. I spilled." But sometimes at night the thought will strike me: There are three small people here, breathing sweetly in their beds, whose lives are for the moment in our hands. I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot, the mission is so grave and vast."

(Mahoney, Feminine Appeal, 62)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncle Geek, the fixer-upper

Yesterday was a joyous occassion for the Cook family!

Uncle Geek-- I mean, Quinn, my husband's youngest brother, got married to a beautiful woman of God.  We couldn't be happier for the two of them!

When we got married, Quinn was ten. He surprised us at our wedding reception by singing us a song (his parents wrote the lyrics).  It was called "Emily and Josh" and it was to the tune of "Beauty and the Beast!"

His mom suggested that we return the blessing at his wedding.

Note: teasing IS his love language.

As you can see from the performance below, we love him very, very much!

(This is a dress rehearsal version. I may post the live version eventually, but it is harder to hear them then due to all the laughing and cheering!)

In honor of Uncle Geek's wedding day- a tribute to "Squinn!"

"When I was little, I couldn't say the word 'Quinn.'  But I found another word that fit better: 'Geek.' Geek has always been another kid to us."

"Now, we can hardly believe it- Uncle Geek is married!"

So- we have a few questions for Sara-

What's the issue dear? What do you SEE in such a man?

Is it the clumsy way he walks?
or the mumbly way he talks?
Or the pointy, goofy weirdness of his teeth?
And though we know he drives so well, his car ends up sorta smelly...
But you've never met a fella who's as hilarious as Geek!

Yes he's a bit of afixer upper
He's got a few quirks
His peculiar brain, dear, we just can't explain, dear
He called you a horse! That's how he flirts!?

Yes he's a bit of a fixer upper but this we're certain of
You'll be happy with this fixer upper with a little help from above!

How about the way that he runs scared
of all the birds in the air!
Or that a happy, clappy clown can make him weep?
Do you like his butt-shaped chin?
And the way they call you "Squinn?"
And the drool puddles every single time he sleeps?

He's just a bit of a fixer upper
He's a little weird
His hair is curly and his arms are girly
And we don't think he can grow a beard

So he's a bit of a fixer upper, but God knew what to do
He had mercy on this fixer upper when he fixed him up with you!

What about Sara? She's not perfect either!
Good point!

So she's a bit of a fixer upper
A bumble bee can make her FLIP!
She takes your Pepsi, when you complain, she
Smiles and says "I just want a sip!"

So she's a bit of a fixer upper
She reallly loves donuts!
And that gum snapping--that gum snapping
Is enough to drive you nuts!

We're not saying you should change, dears,
but as the seasons change
You might wake up and wonder why the other looks so strange
But we know you're in Jesus, and in Jesus Christ you're blessed!

God's love will keep you strong each day-- we wish for you  God's best!
May God grant you His best!

Everyone's a bit of a fixer upper
That's what it's all about
Father, sister, brother
We need each other
to fix us up and round us out

Everyone's a bit of a fixer upper
but when push comes to shove

The only fixer upper fixer that can fix a fixer upper is



God's blessings to you "Squinn!"

Lyrics by Emily Cook
Special thanks to all who helped prepare these girls: Pam and Larry Cook, Nikki Burkey, (Awesome) Tom Rozegnal and Amazing Jean, and the Heyboers for the use of their party room and microphones!

Monday, July 14, 2014

More than "Get well soon."

"Mommy! The pukes are coming!"

My son runs towards me yelling these words. Towards me, and away from the bathroom.

Few words get me moving so quickly as these. Immediately I switch from relaxing on the couch mode to super-ultra multi-tasking mode. I leap towards my son, scoop him up in my arms, and begin my lecture, "Honey! If you have to throw up---" toilet seat up, kid in position, "go to the bathroom first, don't---" Lysol, paper towels, "come running to me first--- Oh, honey." The lecture is silenced by compassion. The child looks up at me in between heaves. His world has utterly changed. He has come face to face with pure evil, and its name is "stomach flu."

One by one, the six children succumbed to stomach flu last month. Each one insisted that mommy be present and involved when the heaving was happening. So there I stood, time and again, next to the toilet, rubbing backs and murmuring words of compassion.

I hate sick eyes. Sad, sick eyes looking up at me, begging me to make it stop, or at the very least to explain why it is happening. I could do neither, so I sighed, prayed, and rubbed backs. My ineffective, weak hand could not stop the violence that attacked my babies' small bodies. I gently encouraged, patted, and assured the little ones that it would be over soon.

What was the point of that, really? Why in the world was it necessary for me to be there with them every time? Why did they want to hear those words that I could not fulfill, those mere wishes that they would get better soon? Why was it necessary for me to crawl from underneath my warm covers, stand with them through the heaving and the crying, and maintain some sort of hopeful and comforting attitude through it all? Why did they want my powerless hands to comfort them when they could not take away the sickness? Yet they insisted on it, adamantly, making clear that messy consequences would follow if I even hesitated for a moment.

It made me think of another situation I hate even more than I hate stomach flu: when evil, the kind worse than stomach flu, attacks me or people I know. I hate when I know of someone facing an enormous trial that I can do nothing about. I hate when my heart breaks with theirs, and when I feel so utterly powerless to do anything about it. I hate the helplessness so much that sometimes I am tempted to say nothing, do nothing, and ignore it if I can; to stay under my warm covers and simply comfort myself with denial.

I remember when my daughter's brain tumor was making her terribly sick and nobody knew what was going to happen. I hated being the person that reminded everyone of this huge, sad thing, the family that was suffering so much that anyone who knew about it couldn't help but wonder, "Where is God and why isn't He helping?"

Yet I also remember being comforted. I remember those who allowed their own hearts to be pierced as they shared the burden with us. Those who let themselves love my little girl, and us, even though it hurt. Those who were there with a meal or a hug or an offer of help. Those who dared speak a word of encouragement. I remember, through those seemingly small things, I was comforted.

I was comforted because what was given to me was not simply a cheerful pep-talk or unfounded optimism. I was encouraged by those actions that reminded me of Him, by the words of encouragement that were echoes of the Truth of God's love for us in Christ. It is all too easy to forget the love God has shown us in Jesus, the peace and forgiveness and grace we have in Him, when we are suffering. God knows this about us, and in His mercy, He sends people into our lives during times of suffering to remind us of these things.  He sends His Word, His Sacrament, and words that echo the love He gives there.

Mere words cannot take away the sadness of this life. They cannot turn heavy boulders into feathers, they cannot make the sun shine in the pit of hell. But God can do all of these things! In Christ we have a hope that will not put us to shame; even if the worst should happen, our God will be victorious, and we will be OK.

Because we are in Christ, we can join with those who are facing hardship that we cannot relieve. We join with them by bringing them in prayer to God, and bringing the encouragement we receive from God back to them. We can take the hands that tremble into our own, and look together to the God who
steadies them.

Even though we suffer, we are not forsaken. God is with us, and because of Christ, we will get well soon.

Come Lord Jesus.

(reblogged from 1/21/11)
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