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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Can Prayers Be Only Tears?

Can Prayers Be Only Tears?

A sweet mom from across the country posts the question on Facebook: “Can prayers be only tears?Cuz that’s all I’ve got now.” Yes, my friend. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes.

I know from experience. My own—past, present, and most likely, future. I also know from the shared tears of many friends. Turns out we’re in good company.Job’s eyes poured out tears to God (Job 16:20). God told King Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears.” (2 Kings 20:5) The Psalmist said God even kept track of his tossings and tears: “You have kept my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8 ESV) Sometimes tears are all you have. 

Read More

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.

Read More

That Time of Year

It’s that time of year again. Malls are full of back-to-school shoppers. TV ads blare back-to-school sales. (I’m reminded of my favorite ad from years gone by: a woman waltzing through a store gathering school supplies for her kids and belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” ) A daughter-in-law prepares, with a full heart, to send both her kids off to school for the first time.  And mom Facebook friends have been posting since early August: “It should be time for them to go back to school by now, right?  Right?”

Then there are the conversations. “We just took our first child off to college . . .”  “I’m so proud of her . . . but how do you do this?”  It’s not the going: The excitement and trepidation and drama of getting ready. Lists checked off. Bedding and supplies gathered.  Goodbyes to friends. The iconic packing of the car. The trip down there, with lots of silence in the backseat. The butterflies in the stomach (all stomachs in the car, that is).  The trepidations about The Roommate. And then the excitement: New places. New friends. New vistas. Courageous smiles. No, it’s not the going.

It’s the coming home. Without them. Just you and him (if you are fortunate enough to have him). When we took our first son to college, I had just—ironically—finished the lesson on Hannah for our Mom to Mom curriculum.  Hannah’s words had been our verse when we dedicated this boy so many years ago: “For this child I prayed . . .”  (Read, if you have the courage, the rest in 1 Samuel 1:27-28.) Through the driving rainstorm between here and Williamsburg, Virginia, God gently reminded me: “Did you mean it, Linda?  You know, the part about “as long as he lives, he will be lent to the Lord”? Do you think you can trust me with him across state lines?”

Little did I know that was just the beginning.  There were two more taking-kids-to-college trips.  Then three long (and joyful) aisles to walk down.  Deployments and ministry careers and a mission trip that became a life across an ocean.  Countless exciting trips to and many long flights from.  And there’s Hannah again:  Each year she made a special little robe and went to visit her beloved Samuel at the temple where she had committed him to God’s service.  “Then they would go home.”  (1 Samuel 2:20b)  It still gives me chills every time I read it.

IMG_2823web

I’ve just done it again. Except in reverse. All our kids were here this summer for varying and overlapping visits. Sheer joy. Nana Heaven. Ecstasy, really. We read books together (Nana’s fav) and played games and went to the beach and the pool and ate lots of pizza and ice cream and had cousin sleepovers and celebrated a BIG birthday for the much-beloved Farfar (the grandkids’ name for Woody—it means father’s father in Swedish).  

IMG_3687ps

Then they went home.  Home to New Hampshire and Virginia—and Ireland.  All of them.  Home to busy, God-directed (thank you every single minute, Jesus), meaningful lives which give us joy. Great joy. But still, they went home.

So you can imagine how these words hit me from the August 23 reading in Jesus Calling:

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one—as well as yourself . . .When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. . . . My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.” 

Oh yes, and there’s more:

“This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in ME.  Watch to see what I will do.”

I’m watching.        

Happy Mother's Day -- No Matter What!

Mother and Child

Mother’s Day always launches me on a roller coaster of emotions.  Memories sweep over me like wind in my face—and there’s lots of speed and power in that little roller coaster car.

There were the many painful Mother’s Days of infertility. Then—eventually—the ecstatic joy of celebrating Mother’s Day holding a new (or relatively new) baby in my arms. The babies grew up and “helped” Woody serve me breakfast in bed.  A great diet plan, as they were mostly interested in eating whatever was on my tray. The helpful eaters grew into teens, and then, just when they were becoming truly wonderful, went off to college and beyond that into their own lives. Poignant years of missing having them at home became celebrations of joy for the Godly mothers my daughter and daughter-in-laws were becoming.  Mother’s Day = A day of joy and gratitude.

Another burst of wind in my face: memories of my mother.  She was, next to my husband, my best friend. When she died  7 ½ years ago, she left a huge hole in my heart that no one else can fill.  I had the great blessing of having her for far more years than many of my friends have had their mothers.  And I had the privilege of having her—one very special, Godly, praying mother—as my mother.  I am grateful.  But I still wish I could send her a note.  Or better yet, give her a call.  Or, best of all, a quick visit.

But this Mother’s Day I’m feeling extra emotions on behalf of many mothers I know.  Mothers who have recently buried children.  Is there anything more heart-wrenching?  Mothers with new babies or “too many toddlers—or teens!” or life circumstances that leave them so depleted they barely know it’s Mother’s Day.  Isn’t every day Mother’s Day?  That is, “Mothers on Duty 24/7” Day?  Women who long to be mothers, for whom Mother’s Day can be excruciating.  Women who mourn the loss of their mothers—or even of the mother they never had but always wished for.

The roller coaster.  The swirling wind in my face.  That’s why I’m so glad we have assurance from God that we can celebrate mothers no matter what.  No matter what mother you had—or didn’t.  No matter what mother you are—or aren’t.  God promises to be like a Mother to us. We’re all familiar with the many wonderful references to God loving us with a perfect Fatherly love.  But in a few cases He also compares His love to that of mothers.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  (Isaiah 49:15)

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you . . . (Isaiah 66:13)

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:2)

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings . . .”   (Jesus weeping over His people and longing to gather them with maternal love and protection—Matthew 23:37)

God assures us that, whatever else we may not have, we have HIM.  Because of this powerful, sustaining love of our God, I feel confident in wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day—no matter what!

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.” 

Such a Good Mother

37 MzBOT1ZfMTEwLmpwZw==

I saw her in the food court at the mall the other night.  Actually, I saw her little girl first.  Precious snow-white tights with buttons and bows, squiggling across the floor near the table.  So typical, I smiled.  How many times did I get my little girl all dressed up to go out—and before I knew it, whatever was pristine and adorable was wriggling across or into something that might turn it black and torn?  But, oh, such fun in the process.  Isn’t that part of what being a child is all about?

Then I saw her mother.  It turns out we knew each other, from a local Mom to Mom.  I walked over to their table to chat a moment. “How old are you?”  I asked the cute little girl.  “She’s two,” a voice said.  Lucky girl has a cute—and helpful—older brother.  Lucky mom has two adorable little kids.

But I know more about this mom.  We’ve talked before.  We have a lot in common.  Her very gifted husband is an oncologist, like mine.  And this very gifted husband works all the time, it seems—as did mine.  This mom is alone a lot with the kids, as I was.

We talk some more.  She tells me of another mom she’s getting to know whose husband is also an oncologist.  The two of them have lots and lots in common.  “You really need to know about this program I go to,” this young mom has told her friend.  The woman who wrote the material is married to an oncologist, too.”  The new friend laughs back:  “Oh, Mom to Mom is my lifeline. I go to it at another church.” 

Back to the food court.  Woody and I sit at a nearby table, and I watch as this patient mom talks and laughs with her children, and buys them an ice cream to share.  Then she packs them both up again, along with the diaper bag and assorted other mom baggage, and pushes the stroller wearily (she’s a beautiful young woman who looks great, but I recognize mom-fatigue) toward the door out of the mall. Miles to go before bedtime.

One mom. Two kids. Not much conversation with anyone over the age of four.  I am taken back to that same food court many years ago.  It looked very different then (as did I!), and I was plus one child.  But the feelings flood back. 

I wonder if she knows what a good mother she is.  Just a night eating fast food at the food court.  Just a chance to get out of the house.  Just one night not to cook.  A sanity saver, perhaps.  I know the feeling.  But still, conversations are being had, questions are being answered, everyday memories are being made.  This is a good mother.

I wonder if she knows it.  Just before she leaves, I stop back by her table.  “You are such a good mother,” I tell her.  I hope she believes me.  I hope my own daughter and daughters-in-law believe me when I tell them that, too.  It’s true.  It’s just so hard to see, sometimes, in the ordinary, everyday, tough-stuff mom moments.

I hope you have someone to tell you.  And a lifeline—like Mom to Mom.  Just in case, let me say it, and ask God to give you grace to believe it, even in the mall food courts of your life:

You’re such a good mother.