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Blessing From Broken Places

[This was originally written before Easter 2017 as I faced down my fears about April.]

April is wrought with good and bad memories for me, especially in recent years. My father’s birthday is in early April; his burial was toward the end of April. The events kick off memories around his death and burial that I’d rather forget. I had been doing so well, but as we turned a corner toward the end of March, I felt the need to “close my curtains” and only let safe people hold me close. “I will reemerge,” I told myself. “I’ll get past this. It will be okay.”

And while I was lamenting to a close friend, she told me she wants this April to be different for me, perhaps from this point forward. She recommended I “redeem” the pain.

Blessing From Broken Places
So I am.

I bought two plants, and call me eccentric, but I gave them names and placed them in the window of the common room where I look outside all the time. I need to see something grow.

I restocked the bird feeder for the first time all winter. They haven’t found their way to it yet, but it’s ready for chickadees and cardinals to land in front of my window.

A friend of mine brought me a set of pansies, completely unaware of my resolve to make April great. They are bright yellow, the color of the sun, of life, of hope.

I bought a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of happy dogs to put together with my daughter on weekends.

And on my father’s birthday, I will Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Burdens in My Backyard

Burdens in My BackyardI took my dogs out a few days ago and noticed some flowers scattered at the foot of the homemade cross in my flower bed. They were sprinkled so carefully: a layer of white petals creating a bigger ring with a smaller circle of pink petals inside, almost hugging the cross.

I was so touched by that, wondering which child put that there, or, did a stranger happen by? That would be unlikely, but it still intrigued me. I guessed the wrong child. My daughter had “prettied up” my little memorial,

my sacrifice, 

my pledge, 

my prayer, 

my surrender. 

Something about it called her in, and she adorned the holy ground there. To me, it was pure worship, adoration of what the cross means to us.

It’s a curious story how the cross ended up there. It all started in my therapist’s office. Yes, I have a therapist. [Feel free to reference some family therapy sessions if you like. If you find them as intimidating as I do to all be in the same room together with the eagle eye of a professional, this might bring you some relief.]

We were processing some events in my life since my father’s passing, and she suggested, in order to move on from some of the wreckage around it, I have some kind of ceremony or visual display of truly giving those ongoing concerns to Christ. That’s when I thought of Good Friday, when my husband and I went up with almost everyone else in the church service to hammer our own particular burdens to the cross. I’ll never forget feeling his muscles exert force along with mine to give those things to Christ. It was so beautiful and worshipful to do this corporately.

But what about in my own backyard?

I decided to nail two twigs together, place them firmly in our flower bed by the back door, and write a note to Jesus.

My note was simple: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Reshaped by Love: The Cross Before Me

Reshaped by LoveBleary-eyed with bed hair still wisping across my path of vision, I glanced down at the floor in front of the coffee maker. A shiny glimmer caught my eye, and as I wearily bent down to investigate, I saw that it was our cross cookie cutter, sharp side up, looking abandoned and almost unrecognizable against the dark browns of the coffee floor mat. I hadn’t seen it in at least a year. It usually resides in the small utensil drawer where infrequently used items like bamboo skewers and honey stirrers keep each other company. It was clear someone haphazardly tossing clean items from the dishwasher had jarred it free, not noticing it took a slight plunge to the floor. I know the child capable of this, and it gave me a pre-coffee smile, which is admittedly very difficult to achieve.

It reminded me of another time I found a wooden toy snake slithering along my floor near a 4 inch wooden cross made at Vacation Bible School. I was struck that day by the reality of spiritual warfare and how that sneaky serpent had been trying to get the upper hand ever since the Garden of Eden. But the cross. Christ on the cross put that snake under the heel of Jesus.

But this cross…the one waiting for me on a sleepy Thursday morning? It was a very powerful reminder of the road to Calvary, the one my Jesus walked this coming week so long ago.

Like the cookie cutter cross that at one point shaped many preschool Sunday School lessons in Play-Doh, the real truth of the cross 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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Removing Unwanted Layers

Removing Unwanted LayersIn light of the recent “National Dog Day,” I was reflecting on my newly shorn Shih Tzu Samson. Like his namesake in the Bible (Judges 13-16), he is strong and very hairy.

(If you’re not a dog fan, hang in there…I’m going somewhere with this—and as a sidenote, how can you not be a dog fan? Wink.)

My daughter and I spent an hour and a half one day out in a doggie-gated area of our backyard taking the clippers to our resident fuzzball. It was mother-daughter bonding time: many laughs over our mild-mannered but fed-up Samson. He was mostly patient as we practiced our haircutting skills, trimmed a little more beard here and there, gave him a manly tail shape, and assessed where we missed and he still looked a bit shaggy.

But under all that hair was a robust dog, strong and youthful, playful and now much cooler. Our home isn’t air-conditioned, so I could almost see Samson breathe a huge sigh of relief, pant a little less, and feel a bit more spry with the weight of his “wool” off. He looked like a lamb, fresh from the shearing.

Oh, Samson, Buddy! We forgot how unencumbered you are without the heavy weight of your hair! How free! How cool! How lovely!

I thought about myself and others carrying around burdens. Maybe you are too. I considered what we look like—even feel like—when we take a few layers off, when we start stripping off the layers of worry and care.

Granted, we cannot always do that. We all have responsibilities and commitments, right? We can’t simply “drop hair” like Samson and now run about footloose and fancy free in the yard.

Or can we? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Waiting on God in the Valley

Ever feel like screaming:Waiting on God in the Valley

God, where ARE you? It’s the eleventh hour, and I’m beyond impatient waiting on you to show up!”

In a crisis situation, that desperate plea sounds pretty reasonable, right? We’re frantic, and we cry out. There’s nothing wrong with that. David did this repeatedly in the Psalms. God isn’t afraid of our honesty. In fact, He welcomes it.

Even so, there are four fundamental misconceptions with these statements, and believe me, I’m guilty of wrong belief myself!

  1. God is not with us.
  2. He might not respond, so we have to get His attention again.
  3. It really is the eleventh hour.
  4. It’s about us.

As for Number One, can I just say here that Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Telling “You’re Not Worthy” Exactly Where It Can Go

Telling You're Not Worthy Where to GoA close friend and mentor of mine taught me this cute little phrase: “Go lick a shut-up-sicle!” Now, I realize that can be offensive, so I try not to say that to people, and if you’re offended by “shut up” in any context, maybe it’s best you stop reading. But I do believe there is a place for this little phrase, and I’ve more or less come to adore it. Even around my Moms’ Prayer table every other week, we’ve come to have more than one giggle about it.

Why?

Because we do have the right to say this to a few things in our lives, and one of them is that haunting, sneaky voice: “You’re not worthy.”

Here are some versions we can hear in our own minds:

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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