Earlier today I found myself standing with my toes in the sand staring out on the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from the vantage point of Duck, North Carolina (Outer Banks). My cousins had generously shared their vacation with me, and my husband committed to the intense job of Mr. Mom in addition to his many other duties all week.
Considering we are in the throes of college application deadlines in our home, I couldn’t run for that airport terminal quickly enough! I left three kids, two dogs, two tree frogs, and three caterpillars behind. Begrudgingly, my husband took on frog duty, and I am happy to say that within two days, they captured his heart as he watched them hunt crickets and their little throats vibrate. (If you have not witnessed this, it should go on your bucket list!)
Our view is oceanside. With the sliding door set to screen, we can hear the waves crash to the shore. After days of high winds, we finally made it out to the beach.
With toes dipped in the water alongside my cousin, she offered me a precious memory of her mother, my late aunt, in the waves one summer. I thought about my children playing in the waves on many a beach escape. And if I really went deeper, I knew the waves knew so many of my secrets, dreams, memories, and emotions.
As the ocean water surged to a crest and then spilled over to crash, it looked as if it was responding to a hidden nod that it was time to bend and roll, with a delayed reaction in parts of the line but otherwise mastering uniformity in the landing. An invisible agreement. A knowing.
And I thought about what the waves would speak of, if they could speak about my own life, and what they had witnessed: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 9/11, boundary for the sea, deep calls to deep, Duck NC, fear of the Lord, foam of their own shame, God's boundaries, God's power, God's presence, I placed the sand, Isaiah 51:15, Jeremiah 5:22, Jesus calms the storm, Jonah, ocean, out of the pit, outer banks, peace of God, pismo beach, presence of God, Prince Edward Island, psalm 89:9, Psalm`42:7, raging of the sea, revelation 5:11, shame, stirs up the sea, to him who sits on the throne, vandenberg AFB, waves, waves roar, waves toss
Stopping at the mailbox on the way home from running errands, I noticed a package. Curious, based on the accompanying card, I looked inside. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t breathe for about twenty seconds.
Before I tell you what was in the package, I should confess that I am a “deep feeler” personality. I feel on several planes at once, so I saw this object on emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical levels all at the same time.
Right there, seemingly from the grave, was
my late father’s signature,
captured on a small charm hanging from a chain.
His full name. The way I remember it on his invoices, permission slips, checks. Sprawled out in tiny font right in front of me. A piece of Dad. It hurtled me back decades. Decades. Suddenly, I was eight years old again, and that script had authority, significance, security.
Then I was mid-twenties, and there it was with the accompanying voice in my head:
“Doll, now make sure you invest this for the future. You’re going to want to pay attention to…”
I couldn’t move for about ten minutes in the car. Tears bubbled up, sobs came, lead weighted me down in the Dad-sized hole within my heart.
“Dad, is that you? Dad?”
I know it’s silly. I didn’t expect him to hear or respond to me, but for a fleeting few moments, almost all my senses felt keenly aware of the jolt and the memories packed deeply within that simple visual: his handwriting sprawled across metal.
Then: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: burning bush, divine nature, evidence of God, God's presence, hummingbird, I Am, I am the first, I am the last, I Am who I Am, in the things that have been made, Isaiah 48, name of God, presence of God, Psalm 8, signature of God, the moon and the stars, the work of your fingers, what is man that you are mindful of him
In the middle of my van, right behind the driver’s seat, I keep a small crate in which I store items I need throughout the week: two Bible study workbooks, the latest coupon book for BJs, a catalog for The Paper Store, karate belts, and the Junior High Sunday School attendance clipboard. If I am stranded in the cold weather in the next few months, I may not have a blanket to keep warm or a flashlight to light my path, but I can study the Bible, clip coupons, window shop, and impersonate a brown belt!
For about two weeks, whenever I opened the van door, I saw a metal serving spoon poking out of my “car office” crate. It almost seemed to taunt me. For various reasons and meetings, I had been at my church about four times since taking the spoon home to clean after using it for Sunday School, but I kept forgetting about it.
My crate is supposed to be a placeholder for me, a reminder, a way to stay organized. And yet, despite my best efforts to keep everything in its proper place for the right time, that spoon got the best of me. For the life of me, I could not remember to return it to the church kitchen drawer. I held onto it, transported it all over the local area, and
carried something I did not have to.
Know the feeling?
Psalm 55:22, ESV, David singing
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
I don’t know about you, but it usually doesn’t take me long to grab a burden, sling it over my shoulder Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: advocacy, bear his own load, bearing burdens, caring for others, carrying burdens, cast your burden, Christ is the answer, codependence, daily bears us up, galatians 6:2, God's presence, helping others, His yoke is light, Matthew 11:28, our salvation, Psalm 55:22, Psalm 68:19
I could feel his presence as I entered each room. He had only been gone one year; past conversations and memories bopped around in my mind—random flashes of the past with no clear timeline. Dad making himself known in my heart and thoughts. His love was tangible. The house was pregnant with his solid faith and unconditional love. We missed him terribly, but we walked the legacy he set in place before us. With each step of remembrance, I felt his nod of approval, his pleasure.
It was the first time in his home since he had passed. I was so relieved his blue recliner chair was there, the leather worn in places where his hands used to push forward to fold out for a nap. The seat of it revealed the wear of a consistent presence like the dent in a blanket left by a warm dog after it gets up and stretches.
During some of our last visits, an external bladder pouch sat next to him on the floor, taking the role his cancer-ridden organ used to play. Sweet as he was, he used to ask if it would upset my children to see it. I was honestly glad they did. They remember the battle he fought so courageously and the toll it took. His robe would hang slightly open where the tube delivered its contents to the pouch on the floor. None of us minded. At the time, we were so grateful he was still with us.
I can’t look at that chair without seeing the red-white tufts of hair poking out over its high back or the freckled, hairy, lanky arms sitting on the armrests. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 1 John 4:16, abides in love, abiding in God, death, Deuteronomy 31:8, Dwelling place of God, exodus 33:14, Fullness of joy, God is love, God is near, God with us, God's presence, grief, i will give you rest, immanuel, Lord goes before you, loss, mourning, presence of God, Psalme 23:4, relationship with God, Revelation 21:3, valley of the shadow of death
“You’re getting stronger. I can see that about you. I can tell that you realize what isn’t in your control, and there is a peace about you.”
That was her assessment of me as I sat across from this professional who walked me through an emotionally difficult time.
Stronger? Really? You can see that?
See, the thing is: I feel stronger. I didn’t realize, however, that it was evident to anyone else.
But where does my strength come from?
Sure, the squats, lunges, and planks (one of my warrior princesses told me to add a “dead bug”) I do a few times a week are toning my physical body, but what about my spirit? How do I exercise that?
How did I build my spiritual muscles during a time when staying in bed, perseverating on what was out of my control, and escaping through other means were tempting alternatives?
Sometimes it was a minute-by-minute battle, but the choices were critical in determining if I ended up character-toned and feet planted more firmly in God’s amazing grace.
God’s Word offers me solutions and truth in every circumstance.
1. “Work out” according to His Word Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: arm every morning, armor of God, exercising faith, faith, God's presence, God's word, him who strengthens me, Isaiah 40, joy of the Lord, Lord is my strength, Nehemiah 8:10, power to the faint, refuge and strength, run and not be weary, salvation in time of trouble, saving refuge, shall renew their strength, spiritual muscle, strength and shield, strength of His might, strength of his people, strengthen me according to your word, strengthening faith, strong in the Lord, then I am strong, they who wait for the Lord, to him who has no might, training in faith, very present help in trouble, when i am weak, where does my strength come from, wings like eagles
Sometimes we think if our pain isn’t instantly taken away, God has somehow left us. God doesn’t abandon people. People abandon people.
And people walk away from God.
Despite my heart’s desire, I wasn’t able to see my father as he lay dying for about 10 days between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. The choice was made for me.
The wreckage that has left in my heart and mind in the days since, just three and a half short months ago, cannot even be adequately described. Pain like this does not even have a name or definition. Grief doesn’t quite describe it. Trauma comes close. It’s like three elephants sit on my chest every day. Sometimes they get off to go get something to eat, but they usually wander back without warning and sit back on top of me again. It’s paralyzing.
Maybe you have made it through or are currently facing something similar.
I don’t know much right now, but I do claim this: I know more than I ever have how near God is to the brokenhearted because when the elephant sits on me, the panic that ensues only calms down when I remember Christ is holding my hand.
Please understand: I don’t stop hurting. It’s not a rescue.
It’s a presence, and it’s one I can fully trust.
Why? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: adult coloring book, clothed me with gladness, cover you with his pinions, crushed in spirit, Deuteronomy 31:6, exodus 17:12, God's presence, grief, He will not leave you or forsake you, loss, mourning, mourning clothes, names of God, near the brokenhearted, near to the brokenhearted, phases of grief, Psalm 30:11, psalm 34:18, Psalm 91:4, quiet me by his love, relationship with God, sackcloth, saves the crushed in spirit, suffering servant, under his wings
I opened the door to find her standing there in thepouring-down rain, hand outstretched toward me with a Peppermint Mocha and Salted Caramel Square just waiting to delight me inside a paper bag. I greeted her with bedhead, three-days-worn pajamas, and a defeated face. Not sure when I had last showered. She doesn’t even drink coffee from my café of choice, but she had the barista handcraft a beverage just for me. She didn’t come in. She took her soaked self back to the van, having delivered friendship in a cup. And it was the real deal in every way:
Before that knock came, I got an email:
“You home right now?”
Me: “Yes, upstairs resting.”
Nothing mattered to me right then. I had tried to drag myself out all day to get a coffee just to be somewhere and exist outside my own grief, but I couldn’t. I listlessly made three breakfasts, packed three lunches, sent three kids out the door to three different buses, and went back to bed. All I knew was that Dad was dying several states away, and that phone call was coming in any minute. I was in some kind of nightmarish limbo—stuck and free-falling.
Then, that knock!
I wanted to but could not in any way will myself to answer it. I simply couldn’t leave my bed. I didn’t know it was raining. I wasn’t even sure who it was. But the knuckles rapped a bit stronger and then my phone burped. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Christmas, coffee, eternity, friendship, God's gift, God's plans, God's presence, grief, Holy Spirit, hope of Christ, Jesus knocks, John 14:6, love knocked, manger, mourning, no man comes to the Father, peppermint mocha, relationship with God, rescue, resurrection and the life, Revelation 3:20, stand at the door and knock, Starbucks
Do you ever write letters to people in your head—things you wanted to say, unfinished business, sentiments that pressed on your heart and didn’t let you go?
Sometimes I wake up at night and have a three-page letter downloaded straight into my heart.
Right now, for my father who is living* through cancer and chemo hell, parts of my letter would look like this:
I hate that you are struggling. If I could be with you in person more frequently, I’d just want to hold your hand. Pray silently. Sit at your feet. Watch you sleep. Bless you. Read you Scripture. Share a few memories. Make you smile.
I’d say I didn’t always respond the way I should have, that I often was too quick to react in my youth. I’d tell you if I had to do it all over again, I’d talk to you about your “corny” country music and be willing to discuss the different jazz artists you grew to appreciate.
I’d tell you I’m sorry I stuck my tongue out when I was 3 years old, that spitting out my peas onto your dinner plate wasn’t nice. I shouldn’t have made eating and the dinner table such a scene of drama.
I might state that I could have been more gracious when you taught me how to drive and more grateful when you would pick me up from a late theater rehearsal. While we were generationally farther apart than the parents of many of my friends, I wasn’t really embarrassed by you; I was just a teenager who thought that I was.
I would share with you that I watched you healing on that couch from radiation many years ago while you let me put barrettes in your amazing hair because that’s what you do when you have daughters. You play barbershop. I’d be less angry that you won UNO sometimes. I’d be more mindful of the times I got to “camp out” on the porch with you in the summers and wouldn’t make comments about your snoring.
I wrote a book, Dad. It wasn’t everything it could have been, but it was my first attempt. It was about God. I hope you could see the Presbyterian roots deep within my theology, Dad. How I really did understand Christ, the propitiation for our sins.
If I could just lay my head against your robe, Dad, like I used to rest it on your lap during the sermon, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I can be a spoiled brat, but my heart is trying to be more like Jesus, Dad. I hope you can see that in me. I hope I make you proud.
My letter would say so many other things, but I’ll stop there. You get the idea.
What about God, though? What about our Father in Heaven? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: cancer, chemo, conversations with God, Father in heaven, God the Father, God's child, God's presence, hallowed be your name, intimacy with God, kingdom of heaven, letter to Dad, letter to God, Lord's Prayer, matthew 6, Our Father who art in heaven, relationship with God, talking to God
The other day I was in a local grocery store with my daughter. It was a few days before Saint Patrick’s Day, and the entire store was decked out in clovers and green décor. You could pick up clover cookies or a sparkly green cake from the bakery. Personally, I was hoping there was a pot of gold to be found. (After the energy bill this winter, I may as well throw my entire wallet to National Grid and be done with it!)
We Bostonians are admittedly a bit obsessed with this holiday. I had a hard time talking with my son’s elementary school teacher the other day because she had this cute headband-Irish-hat-thingy on her head, and it bounced while she nodded. I could not thereafter form one coherent thought while looking at her. Not one. But we Irish (and partly Irish) peeps have to represent, after all!
As we turned the corner of the second-to-last aisle of the store, there he was. He was on the shorter side, sporting a red wig, leprechaun hat, green suit, belt, and shoes.
And I had to talk to him. Really, when you find a leprechaun roughly 2 feet away from you, how can you not greet him? (My tween offspring may beg to differ.)
But I didn’t just chat. Nope. Didn’t stop there.
Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: book giveaway, dance competition, dancing with leprechaun, espressos of faith, every good gift, father of lights, father who loves to bestow, give good things to those who ask, God's presence, God's provision, goodreads giveaway, Irish jig, James 1:17, jig, leprechaun, matthew 7:7-11, not just on sundays, relationship with God, Saint Patrick's Day
“’Be Still’ isn’t just for crisis mode.
That’s simply where we found it.
It is a new way of life, ensuring the health of our family.”
Today, I am so excited to be featured as a guest blogger at “The Urbane Flower.” My piece, “Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile,” can be found here.
Check out this uplifting blog site that my new friend Heather Gee put together!
I look forward to Heather guest-blogging here at “Espressos of Faith” very soon!
Tags: ADD, ADHD, anxiety, be still, business trips, competitive dance, crisis mode, espressos of faith, God's presence, hearing God, honors classes, isaiah 41:13, leviticus 26:12, not just on sundays, OCD, peace, proverbs 16:9, psalm 46:10, slowing down, walk with God