Friday, September 21, 2012

Wide...

Her Cheshire Cat grin makes me wonder sometimes... I wonder how this gorgeous little thing all of five years can captivate my heart with just a glance.

What a thing of beauty she has become. Her long golden silk tumbles down the shoulders and melts into a fragrant honey river, allowing anyone to escape into glory for just a moment.

With eyes that seem to capture every living thing in her midst, she walks around, adding them all to her own personal collection. Old ones with wrinkles soften and smile. Young ones stop goofing off for a moment to stare and wave. All the rest, somewhere in the middle look on, trying not to be noticed, but for naught. So they comment on how well-mannered she is and what lovely hair she has.

What a gift, this grinning girl is to us. And to know that she is the reason we are where we are today... the reason we live where we do, and love who we now know... Life certainly is stunning. And so is she.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Mark of a Godly Father




A little late for Father's Day, but better late than never... 
When I think about how much fathers mean to their children, I think about my Heavenly Father, God Almighty. I think about how He has never let me down, how His love has never failed, never given up, and has never run out on me. God, my Father, is more than enough sustaining grace for my whole life. “His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) God is perfect, never changing, is slow to anger, and abounding in love and mercy.
What does that mean for earthly fathers? How could anyone ever live up to the standard that God himself has given... especially a father? A father is a leader; a protector and provider; a knight in shining armor to his little princesses, and a hero to his tiny warrior sons.
So how does a man cope when he misses the mark with his children, his wife, his job, or anything else? How can one man be so much to so many different people and never mess up? The answer is simple – he can’t.
The truth is, no one can compare. No one can be as loving, true, and righteous as God the Father.
And here’s the best part: He doesn’t expect us to be. God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, knows our shortcomings before we even discover them. And in His love, He purposed a way of redemption for us all; His Son, Jesus, the Messiah. “It is because of His great love that we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

The thing I admire most about my daddy is his obedience to God and the lasting impact the Gospel has had in his life. My father has missed the mark many times, and he won’t hesitate to tell you that. But what he does after the fact is what counts. What makes my father a godly father is his humility and willingness to bow his knee to our heavenly Father not only privately in his own home, but also in public arenas. The ability to say, “I was wrong, will you please forgive me?” is something that can bring an entire family to its knees when spoken with a humble and contrite heart.
Humility is paramount as a marker of a godly man. And a father is the best example to his children when he can point them to the One who is perfect in all His ways. A great dad is one who can admit that he’s not perfect, but is in a right relationship with the only One who is. This dad is one who will work diligently to provide for his family. He takes parenting seriously and does not stop protecting and caring for his children, not ever. A good father leads his family and becomes an example of what his daughters will look for in a husband; what his sons can grow up to be.
My children are blessed with a father who can make amends as easily as he can mistakes. This comes from a heart that has been cleansed by Jesus Christ; by the blood He poured out for us at the cross. I pray daily that I can be the wife who is so deserving of such an amazing man of God. I also pray that our children see him for the gift he truly is to our family. The mark of a godly father is one who is not ashamed to call upon his Heavenly Father at all times.
He rejoices in prayer as regularly as he cries out in anger, sadness, and the unknown to his Father. He understands that being a Christian – living real life, in real faith – means having an honest relationship with God. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” afterall. (Matthew 4:4)
So this month, I want to take the time to honor all of the godly fathers. I also want to encourage every dad out there to know what a relationship with Father God really is. It’s not merely saying “I have faith,” or “I believe in Jesus.” It is a life of intimacy with Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit; relying on Him to give us our every need, and thanking Him for everything – absolutely everything – that comes our way.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says it best: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and may you grow in your walk with the Lord this year to be the greatest example your kids will ever know. God bless you richly.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Perseverance and the Gift of Grace

Those of us who struggle daily with some type of affliction know what it means to persevere. We walk through each day of our lives, fighting to survive. Many days, we often sit back and think how miserable our situation has become; others, we realize it's not so bad.

The truth is, we are actually blessed with a true life-learning experience. Even though it may not seem like it–while we're in the midst of trials–we learn our most valuable lessons in the darkest of times. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is when we see just how long the tank will go with the gas light on. These are the days that will define us–for better or worse.

I have decided to come out shining. I choose to be the frog who fell into the cream, only to kick long enough to make a step stool of butter, and hop out of the conundrum.
If you've read my last post, you will know that I have been dealing with late-stage Lyme Disease. It has affected every area of my physical life, as it affects the nervous system and so much more. The very things that I thought defined me these last three-and-a-half decades here on planet earth: gardening, cooking, taking walks, playing softball, playing with my kids, leading worship at church, working out, running, knitting, crocheting, hand-writing things... All of these things added up to "who" I thought I was.

But you know what? None of these things are "who" I am. I have had to learn a very hard lesson–a lesson I am still learning; a lesson I thought I already knew. What makes me, "me," is my spirit. This tent is nothing but a covering to house the spirit that God has created to be "me."

Learning to be okay with just being "me" has been the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn; harder than watching my 12-month-old get burned with boiling soup and spending 4 nights with her in the burn unit of Detroit's Children's Hospital; harder than realizing I'd almost thrown away my marriage to the most wonderful man I've ever known.

I thank God for these times, as all is grace. And I thank God for His healing in my daughter...
 and that I am still married to my husband, whom I love more and more each moment I live.
It is hard to not allow "things" or "activities" to define who I am. And it's even harder to get comfortable with having others do the things that I used to do with such ease and, dare I say it, flare. These last 18 months have been a learning experience of allowing others to serve; to serve someone who was incapable of receiving, before this disease took on a more prolific role inside this tent.

Who I am is a child of the Most High God. The One who created this ever-increasing universe. The One who set the stars in their place, gave us the sun and moon to govern the day and the night. The One who gave us every good and perfect gift. The One who sent His Son to come and live a life as one of us, being tempted as we are, but never giving in to sin. Why? So that there would be a spotless lamb who would be the substitution for us, as we all deserve Hell. This is who I am. I am His child. I am loved and cherished by God Most High. He has given me more than I can imagine with His gift of salvation, and I will be ever grateful.

Some day I hope and pray that I will be able to give back to the ones who so lovingly and selflessly gave so much to me, and to others, who gave nothing at all. For, as I said earlier, all is grace. Everything we encounter is a gift–a gift of grace.

There is so much to reflect on, to wander through, and perspectives that still need to be changed. It all takes time–the one commodity we are offered up plainly, with no extensions, substitutions, or refunds.

Do you have an obstacle in your life? How have you chosen to live with it? Are you thankful for even those dark moments? Have you given everything over to Jesus Christ? He came for all–to save us from this curse of sin. It is only through His gift of grace that we will ever hope to be truly free from our earthly afflictions. Make a serious effort to thank Him today. And if you have not yet received this glorious gift, what are you waiting for?

Peace, love, and cider mugs...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love... and Sacrifice

Something I don't really talk about over here on this, my eldest of blog-children, is my health. That is something I do here.

But for today, I felt the need to share something wildly profound and surprisingly simple at the same time: love poured out through sacrifice.

It all started yesterday around 3:00. I got a text from my hubby saying that he would be late getting off work and I would have to pick up our girls from school. I had already felt the pangs of a migraine coming on, and so I popped one of my [useless] migraine meds from one of my many doctors.

You see, I have Lyme Disease. And while that sounds simple enough, it's really not. Simple. At. All. If you are interested in more on my Lyme, please feel free to check it out at LaurensLymeLife.blogspot.com. One of the things that I deal with on a weekly basis with Lyme is the dreaded headache, and some days, it's a full-blown migraine. Yesterday was no exception.

By the time I got to the school and walked over to find my eldest, the sounds of the excited kids running around, glad to be free from the four walls of elementary education for the day, was overwhelming. With each shriek came another nail, pounding into my poor head.

Fast forward to the evening. I could barely move. I sat on my massage chair, got a little massage from a few different family members, and then mustered up the strength to get up the stairs and into bed. At 5:30. With head throbbing as the seeming ice picks stabbed just above my temples and my forehead nearly bursting, I laid there, nearly crying, but not wanting to for fear of making things worse. This is what I can only imagine someone dying could feel like.

Later that night, after putting our three beautiful girls to bed, my husband came into the room and I asked him to rub something–anything–just to feel something on my body that wasn't this migraine. He grabbed some lotion and began rubbing my feet. He gently pulled out my feet, one at a time, from under the three blankets (one being electric and on high) and the sheet, and began to love me through serving.

Immediately I was swept up and taken back in time to April 2008 when my amazing grandfather was dying from cancer. I would go to his home and sit at his feet, taking off his socks and rubbing his diabetes-stricken feet. He seemed to escape to a magical land where he wasn't in any pain–or at least very little pain–during those times. I never fully appreciated the value of a good foot massage until last night when I was on the receiving end during one of the most wicked and pain-filled experiences I have had to date.

I imagined April 21st, the day before he died, when he was in his bed, never to move himself out of it again, and I was rubbing his feet. Not that he would walk again... But it didn't matter. He is my grandpa and I wanted to serve him in any way I could. This was one thing I always knew gave him pleasure; especially now that he was in such a state. Cancer is such a rancid disease.

Last night I imagined my grandpa looking down from the great cloud of witnesses on my very situation, with a knowing smile on his perfected face. Cancer had eaten away at part of his lip and he had to have it surgically nipped and tucked. He also dealt with facial paralysis from contracting polio as a young boy. But now... Now he is perfect. Now he has no pain–no need for a foot massage. But I would give anything to sit at his feet one more time and feel the years of hard work soften just a bit more as the moisture soaks in and the tension drifts away. I think he was right there with me last night, knowing just how much of a servant my husband is to me; and remembered what I was to him.

Grandpa usually got Nick's name wrong for many years... "How's Rick... I mean Nick?" (Giggle, giggle, smile) etc. But he knew one thing about him: my husband is an amazing man. And Grandpa saw it. He knew it and shared that fact with me on many occasions. I always agreed. And now I see, even more, the degree to which my husband loves me.

There are many days that I can't do much of anything around here, because of my Lyme. I have lost all usefulness of my arms and legs, as they have zero stamina. No more pleasure walks, gardening, running around, playing with the girls outside, cooking, stirring, mixing, cleaning... Most days I sit... And stare... At a computer screen or a television. Some days I read when I can focus long enough. And my husband comes home from his 45+ hr/week job, cooks, cleans, cares for the kids, and then, when he's all spent, he reaches down deeper to care for me.

I am more than blessed. And last night I got to see just how important serving someone is. Even if you don't know why, or don't think it's that important... One day you may be the one on the receiving end, and you will also see.
This is a rose I had planted in 2009 in honor of Grandpa. It bloomed on his birthday that year.

Peace, Love, and Cider Mugs...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Hard Life of Faith


Living a life of faith can be one of the most overly-spoken clich├ęs known to man: “easier said than done.” But what if I said that is precisely one of the major lessons we are here to learn? What if I said that no matter who you are, and no matter when or where you live, mankind is completely plagued with this one aspect of “human nature,” just like you and me?

I know from my own personal life how difficult it is to let someone else take control of things. It is one of my most stubborn qualities: Control Freak. I don’t like sitting in a car when I could be the one driving. I have a hard time allowing someone else to cook, because I “know” that I could do a better job. The list goes on and on. I have had to learn, through extremely difficult and the not-so-difficult situations, that I am ultimately, not in control.

So if I’m not in control, who is? Or rather, Who? That’s right. God is certainly the only One who is truly in control. What’s more, He has proved Himself time and time again. Throughout the history of the world, God’s unwavering perfection has ruled the land, the skies, the seas, and all that are within them. His perfect will has come; His perfect Son has walked among us. And now, His Holy Spirit reigns in the hearts of millions of born-again believers of Jesus Christ – including me.

There are times when we struggle against many different forces, and sometimes we find ourselves doing what comes most “naturally” to us, and that is grasping for anything at all to maintain control. This type of control, however, is false. The truth is, we can’t control anything except how we personally act and react in any given situation. As hard as this truth may hit, it is one that is paramount for every believer to learn.

Luke 11:9-11 says “And I tell you, 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.”

These are words directly from the mouth of Jesus. His word – His command – to us is actually a bit more specific than the english translation allows. The words Jesus used here went something like this: 

“...ask, and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek, and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock, and keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you...” His command is persistence in our faith.

I recently was talking with a friend whose eldest son has estranged himself from her. It is a heartbreaking situation. The more he walks away, the harder she wants to squeeze him closer. It’s a completely human response for anyone with a situation like this. But Jesus Christ has commanded also that we “have no fear” in life. (He commanded this more than anything else during His time here on earth.)

So how do we get from fear to faith? I believe the answer is usually our last resort: prayer. When anything happens in our lives, the God of the whole universe wants to be a part of it. He wants relationship with His children; He desires our intimate petitions and praises no matter our situation.

When we are faced with a mountain – estranged children, medical ailments, financial strain, stubbed toes, it doesn’t matter how big or small – God’s greatest gift to us is prayer. Giving thanks to God for never failing us is paramount. Taking a minute out of the pity party to admit just how stellar of a Heavenly Father our God is, typically ends that party, only to give way to a new one: a praise party. When we take our eyes off of our situation, and place them back where they belong – on Him – we ultimately learn how to let God handle the aspects of our lives that are crumbling. This of course is also the perfect time to ask for help in these troubled times.

The old hymn says,
“Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”

Oh, for the grace to be multiplied in my life, to where I will trust Him with more and more and more, until everything is abundance; until everything is grace – even the hardships.

“I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.”





Peace, love, and cider mugs...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, it's January.



Giving thanks is something that I have been learning to do, in ALL circumstances. Let me put it this way: every day should be "Thanksgiving." I have been reading through 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp (yes, still, again, again, and again) and with each page-turn I am wrecked. Tears still freely flow as I squint to read the wisdom and love through the hot stream of revelation spilling down my cheeks.

She emphasizes the Greek word for giving thanks, eucharisteo, all the time, and I love it. Over and over again, she tells us how "eucharisteo always proceeds the miracle," and I ponder.

Do you wish for a miracle in your life? I know I do. Many things in my life could use a miracle. It's these areas where we find ourselves usually moaning, groaning, and – quite frankly – complaining about. If only we would give thanks for what we have; situations, friendships, financial conditions, special relationships, faulty health, dented cars, empty spaces where loved ones once sat, etc., my heart ponders just how much change we would see in this life.

This is the most significant lesson I have lived, I believe, in my entire life. Giving thanks for all that is, leaves no room for fear and distrust. This is paramount! Jesus tells us not to worry, but to trust in Him. Giving thanks is an amazing way to exercise our faith muscle.


Eucharisteo. Giving thanks. In all things. Give it a try. See what miracle follows in your life. New year, new point of view, new levels of thankfulness, new miracles.

Peace, love, and cider mugs...