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Category Archives: Grace in Big Gulps

Pulling Vines: Landscaper of Our Hearts

Pulling Vines_Pulling with everything in me, I grabbed hold of some stubborn vines declaring war on my pachysandra and yanked away. The morning sun beat down with increasing intensity and my muscles pulsed in ways they hadn’t all winter, yet my focus remained steady and determined.

I’ve had enough of weeds choking me over the years. They crept in silently. I would ignore and eventually get used to them, not really seeing how big they were becoming—until one day I couldn’t see past them. I was horrified how they seemed to tower over all healthy growth in my life.

The same was true when I went to the mailbox one day. I saw an overgrown, out-of-control forsythia bush and almost didn’t recognize my own yard. My stomach turned. I was disgusted that I had let my lawn get that trashy, that I lost my vision for intruders, and that I’d let my guard down, given up, lost my fight.

Know the feeling?

I look back to a year ago when the repercussions of years of long drives to therapy, IEP battles, and the never-ending search for new answers, avenues to explore, and home coping strategies for one Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When God Said: “Enough!”

when-god-said_I was doing laundry and packing for our upcoming trip to put my father’s ashes in the ground. Spring Break wasn’t exactly a cheery occasion for us to prepare for, but we were looking forward to finally laying my father to rest with a few of our own personal touches.

As I tried to pack in spurts, we were slammed with nonstop high school jazz band events and a nightmarish two weeks of seventh grade. The latter involved multiple projects, a massive genetics and cell cycle test, and endless homework, none of which was spaced out or staggered. My poor daughter was up until 11 PM most nights making sure she checked off her own assignment lists.

She went out the door one morning a complete zombie. She could barely eat, put her contacts in, etc. She was so rundown and discouraged. Her only sentence this particular morning was:

“I have to go back to school and get more homework to come home to.”

I finally put my foot down and respectfully told the guidance counselor: “Enough! She has worked conscientiously and nonstop for weeks. On my instruction she isn’t doing homework tonight. I’m just letting you know.”

[My husband and I are both products of public schooling and strongly believe in it, but we shouldn’t have to give our daughter an espresso drink to wake her up enough in the morning to head out to school. This is middle school, not college.]

My son, on the other hand, had a band event in which students were driving themselves and taking several other students along. Major highways. An hour away. Rush hour traffic. Seven teens in a van with a teen driver. I adore our school music program, but um, no! Because our car was in the shop, we could not drive. I gently asked our fantastic band director to please place my son with an adult driver, and if not, my husband and I were not comfortable sending him to the event. I hated confronting this, but this was my limit.

Enough already!

Sometimes, when we are beyond defending ourselves and fall weary in a heap onto the floor Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Have You Checked Your Equipment Lately?

Have You Checked Your Equipment LatelyI’ll be back in a few days to collect the equipment. Try to run the fans and dehumidifiers as long as you can stand it,” he said as he nodded reassuringly and left my house.

Seven air movers, two dehumidifiers, two walls, two ceilings, one floor, two bathrooms, and two vanities later, we are drying out a freak flooding incident that greeted us when we returned from church a week ago.

And his parting shot was:

We’ll be back to get our equipment.”

You know what? The equipment, while loud enough to have to shout to be heard over it, is not bothering me. Sure, I have to move the air movers to get to my cabinets. Yes, two bathrooms are currently unusable. Accessing the laundry machines is a challenge.

But I actually like the equipment. It makes me feel safe, in-process, moving forward, working toward a remedy. I dread its removal, to be honest.

Pro-vaccine or not, my whole family volunteered for flu shots this past autumn so we would be healthy and ready to see Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Elizabeth: “To Take Away My Reproach”

Elizabeth- To Take Away My ReproachLuke 1:5-7, ESV, Luke the Physician narrating

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

A barren woman getting up in age. One who waited for a motherhood yet to happen. A womb that yearned but ached so empty. A husband, though a priest, himself filled with doubt.

But then—then a Savior’s story ushers in. God uses her swelling belly to send a message in utero that later hit the Judean wilderness.

She was not forsaken.

She was not to be scorned.

Her womb was chosen to host a Holy Spirit-filled messenger.

With her story, came a Messiah who gave His life so that we too may host the Holy Spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Giving Thanks: Not the Usual Suspects

Giving Thanks- Not the Usual SuspectsI’m not quite sure how it happened, but Thanksgiving appears to be upon us. I have no idea what I’m making yet. I have not admitted to myself there is cleaning to do, groceries to buy, or even plans to firm up. I’m in limbo. Stuck. I’ve been waiting on news on whether a loved one is moving forward in cancer treatment or facing an overgrown, unwanted enemy who invited more friends to the table while we weren’t looking.

I simply cannot plan, think, or even decide which task to start.

Ever live in limbo, holding your breath for the next news to ring your phone, pop onto your e-mail, or flit across your newsfeed?

The truth is that we all come to our Thanksgiving table this year with so many world events on our minds. Amidst ISIS, beheadings, bombings, displacement, wars, genocide, human trafficking, school shootings, tense political debates, riots, and the like, how do we give thanks with any sense of peace and calm?

And, if you’re like me, knowing the weight of what is going on around us, I feel guilty sitting at a table spread with provision and leisure with the luxury of casually discussing terror and turmoil as a dinner topic over “Pass the mashed potatoes, please.”

So, where do we go to put ourselves in a place of grateful and outward, positive focus, to give thanks the way the Apostle Paul did for the early church in Ephesus? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are You an Armor-Bearer?

Are You an Armor-BearerI had just sent a quick “Pray for us!” email to a mentor and friend in the middle of a very difficult crossroads in my life. There was a decision coming I had seen from a distance for a while but tried for two years to navigate around it—finding a different path—to avoid going through it.

And here we now were. My heart hurt as reality settled in. One of my children needed yet another intervention to smooth out the bumps in his road. It was a last resort for me. Not Plan A or B but really Z. “God, why are we going down that path? I told You that was not desirable!” (Um, in hindsight, that was rather arrogant of me!)

Within 5 minutes of my heart’s cry going out over email, this dear woman’s reply was as follows:

“We are praying for His grace and His calling on this tender-hearted warrior for God.”

What? A Warrior? Oh, wow. We couldn’t feel weaker than we do right now—more like at our wit’s end. What do you mean by warrior? Warriors have strength. Where is the might in this? I see us in a heap of surrender. I really don’t view this as a victory.

But that’s not at all what she was saying. She was conveying Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Thankful Changes the Atmosphere

When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereShe had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:

“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”

Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.

It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.

And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.

Counting blessings—

—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.

I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.

And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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