Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve

New years eve.

Waffle cone tree.
I am worn out, in a good way, from a weekend with family.  I just woke up from a delicious nap, and my brain is slowly starting to clear. I want to start thinking about the next influx of company, the next round of Christmas, that starts in two days.

Because of the way our break falls, we have one more week with no school, and for us, it is to be filled with snow, and family from out of state, and more Christmas.

I like stretching out the good things like this.

I know it's a bit of a fad, but I can't help it. I am also beginning to think of good plans to implement in the New Year.

My plans are rough, but actually much more detailed than this. I will resist laying them all out here. They will change, I know. They are too ambitious, or wrongly directed, or simply not practical. But in what ways? I cannot see that yet, because I can't see the things I cannot control that are coming to me in 2013.


With the help of God, I will do what is in front of me.
And maybe, I can guess where to start:

Care (and be cared-for, or caring is impossible.)


Health
I want to learn to care for my body better. I want a better relationship with food.  I want to want health more than I want junk. I want to make better use of the abundance we have in this country, to feed myself and my family the things that are good for our bodies.

I want to obsess about food less, and I am coming to realize that in order to do that, first, I need to learn more.

I write about the things I care about. I'm going to make myself write about these things, in hopes of helping myself continue to care. (and maybe blessing you, too. Or confusing you. Or giving you something to laugh at. Time will tell.)

Intellectual  Health
I have a wonderful long list of books that I hope to read this year (and I'll tell you about the ones I love.)

Family
I look at the little ones in my home, and I prayerfully consider what my mommy-job will require of me.  How can I best care for my family?

I can anticipate a few things:

I will continue to grow up with my tween, by connecting with her, and by being stretched in my understanding of femininity.
I will read a few books on sensory disorders (any recommendations?) and chart new territories with my young one who is wonderfully, differently made.
I will embrace chaos, I will fight chaos, I will enjoy my kids, and I will lose my temper more than once.

His Word will be woven into our days. The breath of His Spirit will be our life.

Life interrupts.
As I wrote this post, I got a text from my husband. A parishioner is having open-heart surgery today, and he has been at the hospital with her family since early this morning. He just sent me a message:

Things are going horribly wrong here.

That is all I know. He has not answered his phone.


Life interrupts.

God interrupts.
Death interrupts.

Who am I to resolve and plan?

Care.
The love of Christ in me will compel me to drop my plans, my resolutions, and to simply do what is in front of me.
Care for my husband, my family, my church family.
Be cared-for by God and others.
Be loved, love and serve and pray, with all my weakness, and with all my might because it is His love that works in me.

Of all the things I wrote above, there is only one that is certain:


His Word will be woven into our days. The breath of His Spirit will be our life.

God's blessings in 2013. 






Saturday, December 29, 2012

Here.

I live though the holidays at a different pace.

I'm embracing chaos, or fighting it, depending on the moment.

The children sleep in, and I sleep in even longer, and we wake to a world covered in snow.  Out here in the country, this much snow means no traveling anywhere for any reason, and so we accept our God-given boundary, and we let the snow rule our day.


If I'm honest, I'll tell you I miss "my" nap time quiet.  I do. I miss the hours of nobody talking to me, when I can give attention both to the lists, and to the things on my mind that need to be wrestled through, prayed through, sorted through while I sit at my keyboard.

My house and my mind are more cluttered than usual.
But, everybody is here.
Life falls down heavy like snow on my branches.
And I'm not going to shake it off just yet.


The school is quiet.

This place is not.
But it's beautiful, too.


They are here.
I'm trying to be here, too.



I think they appreciate it. 



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas crazy


My kids are all home for Christmas break, and do you know what? It is CRAZY. 
I mean full to the brim, how-n-the-world-can-anyone-be-expected-to-handle-this crazy.

I love them dearly, but holy chaos.

Today I said to them, "We really need to get this house together, kids! Look at all the chaos you've created in here!"
And one of them said, teasingly, "No mommy, YOU made this chaos!"

And of course, there is some truth to that. It was my womb that brought forth this explosion of rosy cheeked, snow-dripping life.


Christmas break brings out my crazy, too.
Like the way I am so tired of a thing, and yet I want more of it, and can't bear to see it end.

For instance, the baby stage.

On the one hand, it's the little ones that are driving me the most crazy. I'd really like to curl up with a chapter book with the big kids, but the little ones insist on throwing things in the toilet whenever I turn my head. I'd really like to have a huge snowball fight with the big kids, but the little ones keep falling over in the snow and losing their boots.

Could it be? Am I actually growing out of the baby stage?

I want to be done with the sweaty wrestling match putting on boots and snowsuits just to go outside in the snow for a few minutes. I want the littlest ones to grow up already.

Did I just say that?

And yet, just as passionately, I don't want them to grow!
I drag my feet, OH how I drag my feet!

I crawl into bed with my baby (who insists he is NOT a baby) while he's still sleeping because that is the only time he will snuggle me.
I hold other people's tiny babies, and I smile like an old woman, and I can't help but say, "Enjoy them while you can! They grow up too fast!"
I imagine a dark-skinned baby who needs a mommy, magically transported into my arms.
I research adoption, with a mixture of compassion and selfish aching.
I watch all six of them in the Christmas program, and I am a little sad, because for the first time, there is no baby to wrangle in the pew with me.

I don't want to move on.
and yet, I do.

And my wants? 
Really, they don't matter so much as I think they do.

I could attempt to sort out my emotions, and I could try to clean them up, and mold them into what I think they should be, what I imagine they would be if there were no sin mixed in with them.  But even my imagination is clouded. I don't think I will bother.

Instead, I'm going to ask a simple question:

What is true here?

What is true?

I have been blessed beyond measure. My house is bursting with it.
Things change, and change seems too slow and too quick all at the same time.
Frustration and grief and anticipation is to be expected.
And yes, my sin is mixed in with all these things. (Why does this always surprise me?)
And yet, by grace, my sin is swallowed up in Christ.
He has given me His righteousness, and His hand is upon me.


And so, I end where end so often.
Weak and Loved,
leaning on Christ for that which I need for this day,
and entrusting to Him my tomorrow.



Photo
Peter, far left. He is not a baby.
------------------
Does Christmas bring up mixed feelings for you?
Do you feel the ache of the never-agains?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas blessing to you all.

A hymn for your enjoyment. (It's a new favorite of mine.)

The Infant Priest was Holy Born
by Chad Bird






1. The infant priest was holy born,
For us unholy and forlorn
From fleshly temple forth came he,
Anointed from eternity

2. This great High Priest in human flesh
Was icon of God’s righteousness.
His hallowed torch brought sanctity;
His hand removed impurity

3. The holy Lamb undaunted came
To God’s own alter lit with flame
While weeping angles hid their eyes,
This Priest became a sacrifice

4. But death would not the victor be
Of Him who hung upon the tree
He leads us to the Holy Place
Within the veil before god’s face

5. The veil is torn, our Priest we see,
As at the rail on bended knee
Our hungry mouths from Him receive,
The bread of immortality

6. The body of God’s Lamb we eat
A priestly food and priestly meat;
On sin parched lips the chalice pours
His quenching blood that life restores.

7. With cherubim and seraphim
Our voices join the endless hymn
And “Holy, holy, holy” sing
To Christ, God’s Lamb, our Priest and King

Saturday, December 22, 2012

for the first time in a long time... an update from Kristie



IMG_4356 (2).jpg
I loved that day. 
I can still see Konnor and Taylor
giving me a "shout out"
-one where they pointed up
 at me and smiled so big-
then they pointed me out to their cousins --
"look my mommy's back!"
--Kristie

Do you remember my friend Kristie, dear readers? Last year, she was the mother with the bright, tearful eyes, watching her children sing from the back of the church. She had made it in time for the Christmas program, and she soaked up like grace, that moment, that one precious moment that cancer did not steal.
She continued to fight her cancer that month, and all the following year.
Now, a year later, she has an update for us. 

a day we will never forget...indeed God IS good!!
an update from Kristie Wessel
Derek and I have just gotten back from our third trip to MD Anderson

The trip started out very hectic and out of control honestly!!  The first test they did was standard blood work.  This blood work revealed a creatinine level that was too high for the IV dye that they use in the CT scans rendering this test less than effective, a critically low magnesium—and by critical here I mean they were saying they were amazed my heart had not stopped..

Next, the PET scan…
When you get a PET scan you are in this little tube for about 25 minutes with your arms raised up above your head.  It is of course natural for me to fold my hands while in this position.  And pray.  I remember being very open and honest with God.  I admitted to not praying the way that I should, nor as often as I should.  I asked the Holy Spirit to help me on those days when I was struggling.  And then I told myself that for the balance of the PET scan time I was going to focus on a prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving—like in Philippians. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I tried very hard to keep the “I wants” and the “I think I need”s from coming out as I realize God already knows just exactly what I need.  So in my prayer of thanks; thanks for all the wonderful people in our lives who have brought meals, sent cards, donated at fund raisers—most probably attending more than one fund raiser and all giving so VERY generously, for those that said prayers, made and decorated sugar cookies J (including some of the most beautifully decorated and shaped cookies I have ever had—they honestly kept me up all night one night as I finally saw all the love and hard work that went into each and every one—I saw the maker methodically choosing each and every cookie cutter and each and every color with nothing short of true love, the next morning it even brought me to tears,  and I am a blubbering mess right now just thinking about them!!-- thanks for wonderful friends who cleaned and decorated the Wessel home for Christmas, for an awesome church family, an awesome family, my two wonderful children and their health, for my angel-Derek and all he has done, for wonderful parents who gave me the wonderful and most important gift of a Christian upbringing, for all White Creek has taught me and is teaching Konnor right now, for two wonderful sisters and their families and their health, for our loving home, for our 2nd trip to Florida courtesy of Inheritance of Hope, for the help I need at just the right time from complete strangers, for a trip the ENTIRE family gets to enjoy……………………………….you get the picture, I tried to stay focused the entire time on my list.

And then after the scan was completed I went to get the blood products and magnesium I was in need of.  The next morning, at 7:30, we went back to the infusion center and got the last bag of magnesium, and then we met with our doctor.

On our way back to the hotel, we got a phone call from the doctor’s office that they were in shock but my counts had rebounded surprisingly well and that no more infusions at that time were needed. I was free and safe to travel home.  My white count was up a little but still considered critical and the only thing that will bring it up is time now.  So be extremely careful in regards to infection they say.
Later, as I was waiting to talk to hotel management, I got another phone call from the doctor’s office. He said “Ms. Wessel I just wanted to call and give you the results of your PET scan.  The PET scan shows evidence of no residual cancer.”  

I of course fall to my knees thanking God and in complete shock.  Derek sees me on the floor and comes running over asking are you ok, are you ok.  To which I respond I’m fine, I’m fine, I—am--fine, for the first time in a long time I am fine!!  

To God be the glory!!!  I had the doctor’s office repeat the news and I called again on Friday (the following day) just to be sureJ.  I am still in shock I think.  And I keep running Our God is an awesome God thru my head.  He is most definitely in the miracle business!!  I never thought I would hear those words and almost 2 years-- to the date-- I heard them.  It is my own Christmas miracle.

(I must be honest here and say that my official diagnosis is recurrent Hodgkin’s lymphoma so it might not be a question of if it will return it might be more like when.  It might be a week, a month, a year, 5 years, and then again, it might be never.  I will take what I am blessed with, I will try my hardest not to dwell on it, and for the time being I am enjoying life----------CANCER FREE!!!!) 

Now I ask everyone to please say a prayer of thanksgiving, and please do not forget about us. Hopefully, further testing in February reveals the same, the bone marrow biopsy reveals nothing concerning, and my white count comes up quickly and the rest of the counts get straightened out.  Thanks to each and every one of you, for everything—most importantly for all those prayers; for all those whispers.  Again, to God be the glory!!!  Much love always to everyone!!!

Love Always ~ Kristie



Friday, December 21, 2012

Evening Prayer

Snow in my backyard, 
on my grass, 
and my cemetery.

I remember my God, and His promises.



Yours is the day, O God, yours also the night; you established 
the moon and the sun. You fixed all the boundaries of the 
earth; you made both summer and winter.    Psalm 74:15,16 

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. 
The Light no darkness can overcome.

(Evening Prayer, Lutheran Service Book, p243, based on John 8:12; 1:5)



Washing Down Antidepressants with Eggnog

Photo: Washing Down Antidepressants with Eggnog

Kent and I slept through the same sermons every Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Shamrock, Texas.  Our butts bruised their way down many a ski slope together.  We hunted turkeys by day and raccoons by night.  And we bragged about how many girls we'd kissed (though I'm pretty sure we both grossly inflated the numbers).  His older brother dated my older sister, and, especially in middle school, we both greatly delighted in being as obnoxious as possible when we were around those two love birds.  Kent was a little guy but a force to reckoned with on the football field or basketball court.  He was smart, likable, an overall good kid and great friend.

I was unloading a truck at the feed store in town when my mom pulled up one day in late December to tell me that, on his birthday, Kent had put a gun to his head and pulled shut the door to life.  Were I to outlive Methuselah, it would still seem like yesterday.  It’s one of those moments welded into my memory.  Shock and fear and anger and guilt and emotions I didn’t even know were in me—they all came cascading out.  A few days later, I, but a teenager, helped bear his teenage casket out of the church, into a world that blinked at us with a potpourri of festive lights that seemed a blasphemy of joy in the vortex of our grief.

Almost a decade later, the parsonage phone rang way too early one Saturday morning.  I knew the instant Dale began to speak that whatever he said next would be wounded words.  A police officer had knocked on the door of the family's country home earlier that morning.  Dale and Roxie's nineteen year old son had fallen asleep at the wheel, hit a guardrail, and been thrown from his pickup.  Snow and ice blanketed the town on the day we laid Dewayne’s body to rest.  It was December 26.  And the day before, as I and my fellow mourners at St. Paul Lutheran church tried to celebrate our Lord’s Nativity, every happy hymn, every joyful carol, was dragged from our lips like a dirge, and the sanctuary liquefied into one vast sea of tears.

I think, for most people, Christmas is the best of times and the worst of times.  When I was a boy, I was unacquainted with the cruel nonchalance with which evil disregards the festival calendar.  I knew nothing of tear-laden birthday parties and pill-popping Christmases.  I sat on Santa’s lap and told him what I wanted under the tree.  My family was all together on that happy morning.  We all had colorful wrapping paper strewn about our feet when it was all over, new toys to play with, a feast to consume.  Christmas was the best of times.  And for those sweet boyhood memories, I am everlastingly grateful.

But I know now the darker side of Christmas, the gloom beneath the glitter, a side many of you reading this know all too well.  Every December I think of the family of Kent, and the family of Dewayne, and the what-might-have-been memories that must rise to the surface every time the tree goes up and carols flood the airwaves.  And though the grief is of a different kind, I think of all the families of broken marriages, of which mine is a part.  The Hallmark scene of eager children waking their mom and dad early on Christmas morning to open the gifts isn’t possible when dad is living hours away, and mom’s newest boyfriend doesn’t appreciate some kid jumping in bed with them, especially when he’s nursing a hangover.

Perhaps part of the mistake we’ve made is in forgetting that the first Christmas, the actually birthday of Jesus, started out as the worst of times.  Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem because of taxes, because the money-hungry, tyrannical Roman overlords had forced them to undertake this journey when no pregnant woman should be on the road.  No warm, sanitized room awaited them after their trip, but a cold, dark barn.  When this young mother went into labor, where was she supposed to lay down to give birth, on rough hay littered with cow crap?  Where’d they get light?  Warm water?  Cloths to clean up the blood?  It’s a wonder both mother and child didn’t die that night.  The original crèche must have looked like a rural crime scene.  This is not the way any baby, least of all Jesus, should have been born.

And yet it was.  Far from home, in the dark, in the cold, in the mess, in the blood, in the shit of this world, God was born.

That’s a Christmas story I like, for it’s one I can identify with.  More than that, it’s a story that gives meaning and hope to our own dark, cold, bloody, shitty stories of Christmases that seem anything but joyful.  For it was on this night that God began to teach us that we don’t need to have a Hallmark Christmas to find peace and contentment and joy.  All we need is him.

For Christmas is not presents.  It’s not even about family and friends.  It’s about God taking on our flesh and blood, being born as one of us, to share our griefs, to bear our sorrows, and to unite us to himself, that we might find in our griefs and sorrows, him.  There’s a reason he’s called a “man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.”  The first sound leaving our newborn Lord’s lips would have been a cry.  How fitting is that?  God knows what it means to weep, to hurt, to suffer loneliness, anger, loss, and, yes, even the pangs of death.  You do not have a Savior unable to sympathize with your weaknesses, but one who has experienced them all, so that no matter what your own hurt, he redeems it, and carries you through it.

All I want for Christmas is a God like that.(An essay by Chad Bird, shared with permission)

Kent and I slept through the same sermons every Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Shamrock, Texas. Our butts bruised their way down many a ski slope together. We hunted turkeys by day and raccoons by night. And we bragged about how many girls we'd kissed (though I'm pretty sure we both grossly inflated the numbers). His older brother dated my older sister, and, especially in middle school, we both greatly delighted in being as obnoxious as possible when we were around those two love birds. Kent was a little guy but a force to reckoned with on the football field or basketball court. He was smart, likable, an overall good kid and great friend.

I was unloading a truck at the feed store in town when my mom pulled up one day in late December to tell me that, on his birthday, Kent had put a gun to his head and pulled shut the door to life. Were I to outlive Methuselah, it would still seem like yesterday. It’s one of those moments welded into my memory. Shock and fear and anger and guilt and emotions I didn’t even know were in me—they all came cascading out. A few days later, I, but a teenager, helped bear his teenage casket out of the church, into a world that blinked at us with a potpourri of festive lights that seemed a blasphemy of joy in the vortex of our grief.

Almost a decade later, the parsonage phone rang way too early one Saturday morning. I knew the instant Dale began to speak that whatever he said next would be wounded words. A police officer had knocked on the door of the family's country home earlier that morning. Dale and Roxie's nineteen year old son had fallen asleep at the wheel, hit a guardrail, and been thrown from his pickup. Snow and ice blanketed the town on the day we laid Dewayne’s body to rest. It was December 26. And the day before, as I and my fellow mourners at St. Paul Lutheran church tried to celebrate our Lord’s Nativity, every happy hymn, every joyful carol, was dragged from our lips like a dirge, and the sanctuary liquefied into one vast sea of tears.

I think, for most people, Christmas is the best of times and the worst of times. When I was a boy, I was unacquainted with the cruel nonchalance with which evil disregards the festival calendar. I knew nothing of tear-laden birthday parties and pill-popping Christmases. I sat on Santa’s lap and told him what I wanted under the tree. My family was all together on that happy morning. We all had colorful wrapping paper strewn about our feet when it was all over, new toys to play with, a feast to consume. Christmas was the best of times. And for those sweet boyhood memories, I am everlastingly grateful.

But I know now the darker side of Christmas, the gloom beneath the glitter, a side many of you reading this know all too well. Every December I think of the family of Kent, and the family of Dewayne, and the what-might-have-been memories that must rise to the surface every time the tree goes up and carols flood the airwaves. And though the grief is of a different kind, I think of all the families of broken marriages, of which mine is a part. The Hallmark scene of eager children waking their mom and dad early on Christmas morning to open the gifts isn’t possible when dad is living hours away, and mom’s newest boyfriend doesn’t appreciate some kid jumping in bed with them, especially when he’s nursing a hangover.

Perhaps part of the mistake we’ve made is in forgetting that the first Christmas, the actually birthday of Jesus, started out as the worst of times. Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem because of taxes, because the money-hungry, tyrannical Roman overlords had forced them to undertake this journey when no pregnant woman should be on the road. No warm, sanitized room awaited them after their trip, but a cold, dark barn. When this young mother went into labor, where was she supposed to lay down to give birth, on rough hay littered with cow crap? Where’d they get light? Warm water? Cloths to clean up the blood? It’s a wonder both mother and child didn’t die that night. The original crèche must have looked like a rural crime scene. This is not the way any baby, least of all Jesus, should have been born.

And yet it was. Far from home, in the dark, in the cold, in the mess, in the blood, in the shit of this world, God was born.

That’s a Christmas story I like, for it’s one I can identify with. More than that, it’s a story that gives meaning and hope to our own dark, cold, bloody, shitty stories of Christmases that seem anything but joyful. For it was on this night that God began to teach us that we don’t need to have a Hallmark Christmas to find peace and contentment and joy. All we need is him.

For Christmas is not presents. It’s not even about family and friends. It’s about God taking on our flesh and blood, being born as one of us, to share our griefs, to bear our sorrows, and to unite us to himself, that we might find in our griefs and sorrows, him. There’s a reason he’s called a “man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.” The first sound leaving our newborn Lord’s lips would have been a cry. How fitting is that? God knows what it means to weep, to hurt, to suffer loneliness, anger, loss, and, yes, even the pangs of death. You do not have a Savior unable to sympathize with your weaknesses, but one who has experienced them all, so that no matter what your own hurt, he redeems it, and carries you through it.

All I want for Christmas is a God like that.




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lighten our darkness, Lord.

Photo: We “Weep with those who weep.”
~ Romans 12:15

Our prayers and hearts and gut-wrenching grief are with Connecticut tonight.
{photo via Jennifer Dukes Lee}
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! Let your reason be known to all everyone. The Lord is at hand. 

But I can’t imagine that there is too much rejoicing going on today in our country or even throughout the world. Rather, there is great sorrow at the events that happened on Friday in Newton, Connecticut, or in 22 children and elderly who were knifed by a madman in China in the same week. Rejoicing just doesn’t seem to fit. More like sorrow and grief. 

The prophets words we just sung seem out of place: Comfort, comfort, ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God. Tell her that her warfare is over.
Surely as John the Baptist sat in a madman’s prison – imprisoned because he preached the word of God – he wondered the same thing the whole world has been asking these last few days. The same question we asked on 9/11 and at Columbine and at Aurora, Colorado. The same question moms and dads ask as they pray for their little one in the NICU. Why, God?
For the rest of the sermon, by Pastor Mark Lovett, follow one of the links below.

Read the full text of the sermon here.


You will hear Christ preached. 
You will find rest for your soul.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Talking about the scary stuff

How do you handle the "scary stuff" in your home?

We've all had to answer that question this week, haven't we?
In our home, we are honest with our kids. Evil is horrible, and they have seen me cry over it. We have prayed together, and we have had many hard discussions.

That said, we also do not allow the news to color their minds with all kinds of scary images, and with the world's perspective. They do not know the shooter's name, but they do know about Victoria.

I'd rather them not know about any of this scary stuff, to be honest. But this life is full of it. We don't dare pretend that it isn't.  We call evil evil, and then we point them to Him who has overcome.

Sometimes we point with tears, and hands that shake, but still, we point.

And He comforts and upholds us, as He has promised.


Photobucket

From Russel D. Moore...

Too many of our Bible study and discipleship materials (whether for Baptist Vacation Bible School or Roman Catholic confirmation preparation or what have you) de-claw the Bible. They excise all the snakes and dragons and wildness. In so doing, they reduce the Bible to a set of ethical guidelines and a text on how gentle and kind Jesus is.

The problem is, our kids know there are monsters out there. God put that awareness in them. They're looking for a sheep-herding dragon-slayer, for the One who can put all the wild things under his feet. Until we can address, with gospel honesty, what scares our children—and ourselves—we can never get to the joyous wild rumpus of gospel freedom.

Read the entire article here

You may also enjoy Not for Sissies: On teaching violent love to children

How do you handle the "scary stuff" in your home?
I'd love to hear how you handle these things with your children.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

MRI day




Agnes had her first MRI without anesthesia today. 
They told her she was the best patient ever (of course!)

Results are in!
ALL IS WELL!


MRI = No change!
They don't need to see her back until August!Also, she told me, "I got a new buddy, and we got to ride the elevator and the escalator, and we got to swim at the hotel, and everybody said I was a very, very good patient!" 


Gracious and loving Lord, we lift up our voices and hearts in praise to You for this excellent news. Continue bless Aggie with good health. And grant Your peace to all concerned. You indeed are the Lord of life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
(Prayer by Rich Shields, echoed today by all who love Aggie!)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Aggie heading to Cleveland

Aggie and daddy just drove away, starting the long drive back to Cleveland.
It's time for her check-up and regular MRI.


Please pray for her today!

Just another reason I love her: 

Yesterday evening, I was walking around with tears in my eyes, and she happened to be practicing her piano. "Mommy, let me play for you!" she said. So I stopped in the doorway and listened. She played and she sang, "Away in a Manger."  I watched her fingers, and marveled at her brain and her skill, yet again.

She stopped playing and looked up at me with a proud smile. 
Then, she saw my red eyes.
"Oh mommy," she said tenderly, as if she were the mother and I were the child, "You need a hug." 
She threw her arms around me and squeezed tight.
"I know those boys are hard work," she said, "but don't worry. It's almost their bedtime."
I didn't correct her. 
I just smiled and soaked up the sweet love of my daughter.

Aggie, I'll miss you when you are at Cleveland, but I am glad daddy and Jesus are going with you.
Jesus, tend to your beautiful Aggie!

(Have you read Aggie's story? Get it cheap on Amazon for a limited time!)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brain fog and a tired heart

I can’t decide what to feed the family for dinner, even though my freezer is full and my lists are in front of me. I just stare, overwhelmed with the task, and near tears.  Is another meal really necessary? I just want to go to bed.

I call this brain fog, and it comes during times of grief or depression.

I don’t want to be so vulnerable that a tragic event far away can destroy my ability to make a meal for my family. But I am. I am sad and I am tired.  My body, my heart is tired.  World-weary. Tired.

“I’m going to take a nap.  Does anyone want to join me?” I said, and my first baby did.  We are both too big for naps, but we are not too big to need to sit and just hold each other.
I lay with her under warm blankets, and we thank Jesus for our “warm, soft bed.” We are still counting those gifts we already have, though we are too lazy and tired to write them down this time.  I hold her and she holds me, and I marvel that she is so big that she can borrow my coat now.
I keep my eyes open as I caress her hair. I know the images that will come to mind as soon as I close them.  Her eyes begin to close.

Suddenly the door opens and my other daughter comes in, “I guess I do want to take a nap,” she says. She climbs in on the other side of me, and we lay tangled together. They breathe. And I think I could lay there forever just listening to the beautiful sound of their breathing.

They breathe, and I breathe.
 My eyes close by accident. I don’t mean to, but I picture the classroom full of dead babies. Big babies, like the ones in my arms, but dead.

I force my eyes open again.
I look at my younger daughter, my Aggie. She is asleep already. I see the light from the window behind her, creates darkness that lays like a blanket over her perfect profile.  Her mouth has no jokes, her face has no smile creases. She is still, perfectly still, except for her breath—that beautiful sound of her breath.

My mother heart wants to keep them here under blankets forever, keep them from such evil as we saw in Connecticut.  I want to keep them from grief, from tragedy, from death.

Yet my arms are impotent. My embrace is futile. I wither like grass.

I look at Aggie’s relaxed face, her crazy hair, her head. Her next MRI is this week.  I find it frustrating that the eyes of mother love and worry cannot perform a reliable brain scan. My scans reveal either what I want to see, or what I fear, and neither can be trusted. The scientific answer will settle the question, on Tuesday.
Evil is not just out there. Things crumble all around, even right here in this bed, in these bodies. 

How quickly I had forgotten. How powerfully I remember.
Surely all flesh is like grass.

Yet my babies, right now, are breathing life next to me at this moment. I listen, and though I fear, I give thanks to Him who made them. 
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life.

There is no understanding, no comprehending evil and protecting myself and those I love from it.

There is only Jesus--God with us and for us.  There is only the cross, the atonement, the resurrection. 
There are only His promises. 
There is hope and comfort, only in Jesus.


The grass withers and the flowers fall,

    but the word of our God endures forever.
Isaiah 40:8


(A prayer from Pastor Harrison. My thoughts added in italics.)

Friend of the little children, lighten the darkness of our hearts. 
Remember in mercy all who have been devastated by the shooting this week in Connecticut. To Your care we commend the injured and the mourning, the traumatized and the terrified.

Embrace and comfort children around the world who are afraid because they have seen the news. Comfort the mommy-hearts that ache and fear for their own babies. Hold close all of us whose eyes have again been opened to the power of evil and the fragility of this life.

Embrace and comfort each hurting family, O You who have known in Your own flesh what violence and hatred can do, and yet triumphed in love. Give them Your peace and a share in Your hope. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.


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How are you holding up? 
Am I the only one with brain fog and excessive snuggle needs?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sitting in sadness

My son came home with tears in his eyes today.

He had a note from his teacher. It was a "bad note," because he did something "really really naughty today. "(He and his friends made a mess with soap "explosions" in the bathroom.)
He was repentant, and terrified, he could hardly talk for the crying.

He sniffed, squeezed me again, and said, "I never thought I'd be a kid that had to go talk to the principal."
And all this time, his mother was acting quite odd. She wasn't mad. She just hugged him back, quietly and firmly.
She sat under him on the couch for as long as he needed, rubbing his back, and comforting him.
She lectured him a little, but her heart wasn't really in it. She was tender, affectionate. Her arms welcomed her little sinner, and she was happy to sit with him in sadness for as long as he needed.

She wasn't thinking of the note.
All she could think was, "my son came home from school today."

My heart and my thoughts are with those in Connecticut.

photo credit
Did you know there was a similar tragedy in China today, too? Read about it here.

Today, I am not this mother.
But like her, I live in this sad place.

How long, Lord?

Have mercy.
Tend to us.
Tend to them, those whose hearts break.

Jesus hold us close.
Without you, there is no hope.


Advent: Busyness, guilt, and the prying open of eyes

It's still advent.
Still a time of preparing and waiting. 

And shopping and baking and cleaning and ornaments and gingerbread houses and wishing for snow and playing in mud instead and cleaning the floors and getting the cat neutered and praying for the sick and publishing a book and wrapping presents and making memories.

I'm trying not to let myself get buried under the gift lists and the baking and the cleaning. But it's hard, isn't it? It is so hard not to let those things take over. 

You know what else is hard? Wrestling with guilt while doing all these things. All the messages everywhere about the real reason for the season, about focusing on what is important, about spending time with family and not rushing through Christmas- they are good messages, but part of me says, come on already!  Things have to get done!  If I just sit around and read my Bible all day, whose going to do the work?!

I'm busy this month, like every month, but more so, and what makes this month different? All the things I am hearing about how wrong it is to be so busy!  Enough already! Leave poor Martha alone!

All right. My rant is over. 
Now I'll try to make peace between these tensions in my head.
Perhaps if I do that, it will ooze over into my life as well.

In this house, the preparing and the waiting look like this.

Pastor Daddy is very busy and we don't see him much. Mom is getting ready for the Christmas party and trying not to throw a hissy-fit when the little boys spend every waking moment deliberately sabotaging every one of mom's efforts to check one single thing off her list. 

They're watching  more TV than normal, despite my newly instituted technology plan. (I reserve the right to break my own rules for the sake of my sanity.)

And yet, Daddy starts our morning off right, with devotions around the breakfast table. Later, mom takes in a few more bites of God's word, in between hurried sips of coffee.

I wanted us to wallow in God's word. to rest in it this month. And I thought that would look more like, well, rest, but instead it looks like work and play and mess and exhaustion.


God with us. HERE.
And yet, God's Word flows in and out of our days. He has hedged me in behind and before, and has put His hand upon me, and it is there even when I am mopping the floors.  Boys wrestle on my lap, and we read Elmo's Christmas, and then one more book, and there is Jesus, and grace.  I change a diaper, and a joking boy reminds me to tease and play even then, and there is grace. Always, there is grace.

I can't throw the lists away, because my calling is here in the work and the busy preparations. But I can quiet the lists, if just for a moment. I can treat myself to a time-out, and I can be still and know that He is God.

I fight, not for the grace, as if it His grace is such a fickle thing that it goes away when I am not thinking about it. No, His grace in Christ is there, all around me, and is more solid than the walls of this house.

I fight for a chance to get my bearings. 
I fight to a chance to allow His word to penetrate my ears, correct my vision, and turn my heart back towards Him.
To confess the losses of temper, the selfish heart, the grumbling; to repent and return to my Father who welcomes me.
To feel the solidness of His love around me. 

I fight to keep my eyes open to His grace.

2 of my favorite ways to pry my eyes open 


Make a gratitude list
If you haven't already, I encourage you to begin a list of "Gifts we already have" with your children. We are approaching 300, and every time we sit down with our list, we come away with a changed perspective.  


We counted the big things, like Jesus and forgiveness and the promises of God.
We've listed crazy things like chairs and toothbrushes. 
We write down funny things, like the nonsensical joke Aggie told, and the way Peter sticks out his tongue when he concentrates.

Grace. All grace.


Read something wonderful
Like God's Word, or the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Read something wonderful, like this poem, Goodnight Adventwritten in the spirit of Goodnight Moon.
This made me wanted to gather all my children under blankets and read it to them.
So I did.

Read it, please.
What a delightful way to wallow in the Story of God's work in the world.
(Then the kids wanted to illustrate it, so they are. I hope to revisit this one every year.)


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Do you struggle with busy-guilt this time of year?
How do you fight it?

PS. Read Goodnight Advent
I'm serious.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Explode.

More from Katie Davis:

“One of the questions that surprised me most was this: “Mommy, if Jesus comes to live inside my heart, will I explode?”
“No!” I proclaimed as the children and I headed to the Nile River for a few of them to be baptized that day.


Then I thought about the question a bit more.

“Yes, if Jesus comes to live in your heart, you will explode.” That is exactly what we should do if Jesus comes to live inside our hearts. We will explode with love, with compassion, with hurt for those who are hurting, and with joy for those who rejoice. We will explode with a desire to be more, to be better, to be close to the One who made us.” 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I don't like my child, part 2

PhotobucketDo you ever struggle to like your child?  
I addressed this struggle in a post last month. You can read it here: Help, I don't like my child!

Elizabeth had something to add, and I think it is worth highlighting:

"It never hurts to ASK GOD to give you that "LIKE" for your child. My son is only five and a half, so I have a feeling I will be praying that prayer a few more times in the years ahead. But already, I can count at least two specific seasons where my heart echoed this Mother's. And I was especially burdened over it because, for crying out loud, I had longed for this boy for EIGHT PLUS YEARS!? How could I now not be liking him? How ungrateful WAS I? 

I took this to my group of praying friends and asked them to ask God to give me an AFFECTION and appreciation, a "like" if you will, for my boy. And I can tell you, in no time at all, God was quite pleased to answer those prayers with a hearty YES. So much so that I have not been living in a long SEASON of liking my son. That's not to say we don't have our difficult moments (HA!) but the overriding tone between us is one of deep affection and enjoyment of one another."


"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" ~Matthew 7:7-11


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Elizabeth, I agree with this.
This is something that can be hard to ask God for, because first it requires admitting it to myself, and then to God, that I am struggling with something that seems so wrong to struggle with!

Often I will pray, God help me see this child as you see him (or her). Not just the hard things that I am seeing so obviously, but also, the wonder that child is as God's creation.

Give me more love, and help me really see my children!

And He does answer these prayers!

Mothers, what would you say to a mom who is struggling with liking their child?
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