Does It Really? Change Everything?

Does It Really? Change Everything?

“The biggest thing I’ve learned at Mom to Mom is that God loves me. Really loves me. Even me. Others have tried to tell me. But somehow I couldn’t believe it. You know, the way I am. But this year through Mom to Mom, I have truly felt God’s love. And you know, Linda, when you know God loves you, really loves you, it changes everything.”

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Thanksgiving Dissonance: Going Deeper

Thanksgiving Dissonance: Going Deeper

“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:4 KJV)

I keep hearing this plaintive cry of the Israelites from the pain-laced Psalm 137. Though I’m not living in exiIe as they were, I am living in a strange land of my own. It is strange for many reasons, some sharable and some not. As I near completion of radiation for breast cancer, I am also struggling with glaucoma issues that cause me to live my life between the radiation clinic and the ophthalmology office—and the couch. And November is always my month of special thanks-giving.

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New Every Morning. Even in January.

New Every Morning. Even in January.

So it’s January. In fact, we’re already halfway through January, and I feel I’m just coming out of my post-Christmas stupor, blinking my eyes against the sometimes harsh light of the new year. I hate having Christmas over. I’ve always had a problem with saying goodbye to Christmas for another year. My family will tell you how I used to spend New Year’s Day curled up in a fetal position on the couch while Woody took down the Christmas decorations and hauled out the dry bunch of needles that had been our tree.

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Gutsy Gratitude

Gutsy Gratitude

“I feel as if I can never cease praising God. Come and rejoice with me over His goodness.” The words keep echoing in my mind. Really, in my heart. They’re the introduction to a paraphrase of Psalm 34 that is, in a sense, our family Psalm. More on that to come.

“Really? Praising God? Now? In the midst of this mess? As I sit by this hospital bed? After I’ve just buried my husband? When I am so desperately concerned about my child’s special needs? While it seems I’m always waiting for a doctor to call back about the next diagnosis/surgery/meds? When my marriage is struggling so? Rejoice? Really?” These are the other words that echo in my head—and heart.

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The Party’s Over . . .

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

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Watching God at Work ... Happy Mother's Day!

Watching God at Work ... Happy Mother's Day!

C.S. Lewis said it best: “We may ignore, but we nowhere evade, the presence of God.The world is crowded with Him.He walks everywhere incognito.”(from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, p. 75) 

Yes, He often walks incognito through our world. But now and then we get glimpses.I’ve had more than a few “God glimpses” recently—and most of them seem in some way to involve mothers.

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The Cross and the Lily

The Cross and the Lily

I was a craft-challenged mama. Sort of the anti-Martha Stewart. The very words “Next week we’re going to do a simple craft” struck terror in my soul. When it came to “making things,” my fingers just didn’t seem to work. The fingers that could play the piano and write essays and turn book pages by the hour simply froze when the popsicle sticks and glue came out. My heart just wasn’t in it. It’s a good thing Pinterest wasn’t around when my kids were small. I can’t imagine how I would have beat down the false-failure-as-a-mom (please note the word “false”) feelings. 

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Heart Talk on Hurting Hearts

Heart Talk on Hurting Hearts

 

It’s February. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’m thinking about hearts. But my thoughts at the moment are not the stuff of Hallmark cards or romantic gifts or candlelight dinners—though I actually do love all those things.

This year my thoughts are overtaken by other kinds of hearts. Broken hearts. Anxious hearts. Losing heart. Or more accurately, not losing heart.

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Seeing and Being Seen

EveryBitterThing
EveryBitterThing

“I see you.”  Those words have haunted me ever since I read the chapter with that title in Sara Hagerty’s new book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.

I have followed Sara’s writing for a while through her blog by the same name. I have also followed her story a bit through my daughter-in-law, who (full disclosure) is a college friend of Sara’s.Now what a joy to receive her book for Christmas—and to pass along a new book recommendation to all of you.

Yes, all of you.Especially for anyone dealing with infertility issues.But also for anyone dealing with the unexpected twists and turns of life, the things we might never have imagined ourselves walking through.Sara’s story is a story of conversations with God through the hard times.Through disappointment and disillusionment and lonely pain. 

Yes, lonely pain.Especially lonely pain.The deep-down pain that isolates you in a crowd, that makes you feel invisible, like no one else has any idea what you’re going through.

Which brings me to my favorite chapter of the book:“I see you.” As Sara struggles through yet another baby shower filled with women’s tales of giving birth, feeling invisible and as if she’ll never “fit in,” God whispers these words:“I see you.”

I see you.Powerful words.Words to live by.Words that outshout—if we let them—all the voices that tell us know one will ever understand, no one “gets” what we’re going through.It may not be, for you, infertility.But perhaps a struggling marriage.An extremely needy child.The loneliness of single parenting.A medical condition no one else knows about—or no one else would understand.A deep pain from your past.A private battle you cannot share with others. Does anyone see?

HE does.God does.And He says it over and over in Scripture—both in words and in deeds. In her chapter Sara focuses on the bleeding woman whose story is told in Luke 8: 40-48.The woman who came to my mind immediately is Hagar,running away from her life in fear and misery.Who shows up but God? Read her story in Genesis 16 and listen as she proclaims: “You are the God who sees me.”That’s indeed who He is: the God who sees.Who sees an obscure “unclean” woman.A frightened, pregnant servant girl.Sara Haggerty.And you.And me.

And here’s a bonus.Not only does He see you, but being seen by Him helps us in turn to see Him.Hagerty puts it this way: “…knowing that God sees me frees me actually to see Him.” (Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, p. 160).And Hagar exclaims, “I have now seen the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16: 13)

Certainly, not everyone struggles with infertility.And not everyone’s story ends like Sara’s.But we all can learn the truth of the Scripture on which the book title is based: “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”(Proverbs 27:7, NKJV)

Feeling alone?God sees.And cares.And offers the sweetness of His presence even amidst our “bitter.” 

Christmas: The Lifting of a Burden?

The moment is etched in my memory forever.  It was the week before Christmas.  Our first Christmas in Wisconsin.  It was bitterly cold.  A piercing wind cut through  my layers of thermal clothing.  And all the way into my heart.

Everything about me felt cold.  We had moved from a place where we had lived many years, surrounded by multiple circles of friends and family, enveloped in warm memories and fireside moments.  And this new place felt cold.  Very very cold.

I was making my way across a supermarket parking lot, pushing a very heavy basket.  Here was the good part: We were preparing for a visit from all of our children that Christmas, so my basket was loaded with the promise of good times, warm moments around the fire.    But the moments would be fleeting.   The kids would leave, and it would be cold and lonely again.  Against my best judgment, self-pity was slouching its way into my soul.

Then I saw her.  Creeping along next to me, hunched over her basket filled with only one lonely bag of groceries, was a woman who reminded me of long-ago pictures of my German immigrant grandmother.  She wore a babushka over her wrinkled head, her claw-like fingers were crippled with arthritis, and she leaned heavily into her cart for support.  She wore an old cloth coat so thin I could almost see through it.

Seeing her, I paused.  Was there some way I could help her?  Offer to push her basket to her car (Did she really drive?  I didn’t see anyone with her, and the old car to which she seemed to be headed was empty.) so her progress across the lot would be less snail-like?  But my cart was so loaded, so heavy, that I was afraid it could lunge into another car if I let go of it.  I was moving slowly enough with the weight of it.

Then she saw me.  Before I could make a move, she slowly, painfully approached me.  “Ah, ah…such heavy burdens you have.  Your load is heavy.  I wish I could help you.”

I was stunned into silence.  Before I could move or speak, she was gone.  It seemed as if she vaporized.    Probably she made her way to her car while I stood there frozen in shock.  Probably.  I’m just not sure.

I never saw her again.  In fact, I never saw anyone who looked like her in the rest of our years in that town.  I have no idea who she was.

But I thought of her again this week.  I was re-reading parts of a favorite book: Somewhere More Holy, by Tony Woodlief.   The author, who has described the shattering tragedy of losing a young daughter, is reflecting on the Incarnation, “the coming of God to live with us as a man, shouldering our burdens, enduring with us our trials.”  And he asks the question: “Have you ever tried to carry a heavy burden,  felt its weight on your shoulder or against your leg, and then suddenly felt it lighten as a friend arrived to help you with it? This is Christmas to us.” (p. 50)

Indeed.  This is Christmas.  This, and so much more.  A God Who came to “live in the neighborhood” for a time.  A God who calls us to bring our heavy burdens to Him.  A God who shows up in the most unlikely ways and places.

Be watchful this Christmas.