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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Carpenter

My fingers run gently along the top.  Feeling the smoothness of the wood grain.  The smell of sawdust fills the dimly lit garage.  Back and forth the sand paper rubs across the old dresser.  Sweat beads form on my forehead, but I love the work.  I see potential in this old, ugly dresser that was practically worthless.  I picked it up from a consignment store for $20, but it is solid wood and the right size.  Good bones.  It just needs a little TLC.  Well, maybe alot of TLC!

And I am almost giddy with excitement.  I want to finish it tonight!  But I know that’s impossible. Transformation takes time.  I remove the back so no dirt can hide away from my careful cleaning.  Now for the sanding.  I am struck by a thought…  Jesus invested a considerable amount of his life doing this very thing!  God could have sent Jesus to be the son of anyone, but he choose to send him to a carpenter.  In those days you generally apprenticed under your father and learned his trade.   Interesting that the earthly profession God choose for his son was carpentry.   

Jesus spent many of his days building and sanding things from wood. He spent hours and hours making something out of nothing or perhaps refurbishing old things that seemed useless.  Bringing them back to life again.  As I stand watching the old layers of varnish disappear I think of how the Lord uses difficult, irritating circumstances to remove the ugly things from our hearts.  He allows us to be rubbed until we are smooth and fresh and clean and new again just like the wood on this dresser.  Then he primes and paints and sands and coats and waxes.  It is such a process to bring us from something old and dingy and ugly to something beautiful.  It is not quick and easy, and it is probably painful. 

The Son of God did this very thing with His hands over and over and over again.  With only about 33 years on the earth, He spent many of His hours doing this.  Why? Perhaps it was a picture of what He intended to do with us and ultimately the earth. Beauty from ashes.  Light from darkness.  Rebirth.

I love the work and the grind of the process because I know what the end result will be if I persist.  Painstakingly and by the sweat of my brow transformation will occur.  And so the Master Carpenter does with us.  He persisted all the way to Calvary.  He persists even now in loving us when we are broken and filthy.  Taking us as his own when we were practically worthless.  He calls us his bride and sees us that way though we are still covered in sawdust.  He patiently removes those things that would hide the darkness deep inside and painstakingly cleanses us through His life poured out.  The sweat of His brow.  He patiently sands us,  runs his fingers across and feels the coarseness of the grain of our character, and He persists.  Allowing us to be transformed by circumstances but never leaving our side.  Preparing.  Us.  For the layers of beauty and glory that will ensue as we are transformed into His likeness.  

In the hot garage, my dresser taught me a little about the One who is so patient with me.  And I couldn't help but remember the hours I spent in another garage making a doll house for Makiah.  While I was refinishing her doll house,  I had thought of how much I loved making it for her, and I had been overwhelmed with the strong impression of how much God enjoyed creating her for me.  We are His joy!  His creation.  The workmanship of His hands.  His.



“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”     2 Corinthians 3:18


“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”    Hebrew 12:1-3


***the joy set before Him is us!!!






I admit I got a little stencil crazy, but contact paper is not twin proof!

Two Sleepy Princesses







Princess Makiah and her doll house

Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Such a Time as This

“Mama, watch meeee!”  Muddy water splashes every where as little bodies slide down the glistening piece of bright orange plastic that drapes over the grassy hill in my back yard.  Squeals of delight drift across the yard and a warm breeze seems to blow them right up into the sky maybe through the clouds and into the heavens.  My heart is smiling.  The girls and I are all off for the summer, and we are having Fun!  

FIve summers ago I called it the “Summer of Makiah.”  I felt in my heart that our family would be expanding soon even though we had battled secondary infertility since Makiah was a baby… so I determined that this summer would be all about her.  It was 2010, and it was just me and my little buddy all day every day.  We played barbies and mermaids and swam and visited grandparents and played with friends.  The news that I was pregnant came in June and a few weeks later we had the ultrasound with the fantastic surprise that it was twins.  It was the summer of Makiah and the summer of fun!

Then for two summers it was just the twins and I.  Those summers were frigid and dark for me.  We were lonely and the walls of our home often seemed like a tomb.  Empty.  Isolated.  Stained wet with tears.  Except that those little babies didn’t know it.  I would cry and they would coo and laugh.  The second summer Hope seemed to grow slowly, quietly as my belly swelled with our miracle baby, Maddie Grace.  The ice in my heart began to thaw.  

Then in the summer of 2013, we moved!  The hot days were filled up with packing and house hunting and goodbye hugs and meeting new faces.  Last week my mom read to me the note in her prayer journal for July 8th, 2013.  It was the day we drove to our new home, and I had forgotten.  We passed through a storm, but just as we approached our new home, a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky.  With every turn we made it felt as if we were following the brilliant streak of colors that actually seemed to end on the very street where we were renting!  And my heart felt full of the promise of new beginnings.

Then I spent last summer hobbling around nine months pregnant and hot!  On July 21st, my fifth daughter, my precious Eliana Bree,  was born!  Her first name is Hebrew for “my God has answered” and Bree means “strength.”  Every time we breath her name we are saying out loud “my God has answered with strength!”  We intended it to be a declaration of truth when we named her, but perhaps it was even more prophetic than we knew.  

This year is full of landmarks you see.   In March we passed the day when Makiah had been dead longer than she was alive.  That day fell on my birthday.   Makiah lived exactly four years, four months, and four weeks. Ever since the twins were born, I have wondered about the day when they will have outlived their sister.  If you have lost a child, you know this is significant.  Our counselor has warned us about even subconscious grief as the time approaches.  Once again when I looked at the calendar, I just could not believe what I saw.  The day that Abby and Alena will have outlived Makiah by one day (well 6 hours actually), is Eliana’s first birthday. 

Let me write that again in case you missed it.  Ok, really let me write it again for me because I am so amazed!!  The morning that I will wake up and know my daughters have outlived their oldest sister will be the very day that we are celebrating the one year birthday of our little “my God has answered with strength” baby!  We couldn’t have planned her birth or known when we named her that this would happen.  But my God did!  I think I need to say it again… my God has answered with strength!  This day that could be dark or dreaded was sent a package post marked by God himself exactly one year ago.  I don’t know what to make of this except that somehow He wants us to know that our pain will be Redeemed.  Our tears are not lost and we are not without Hope.  And that is what I will carry with me in my heart when the sun rises on July 21st, 2015.  


Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Hope of Heaven

Every time I have a baby, which seems to be a pretty regular event around here, my whole schedule seems to be dumped upside down and in some ways my life is turned on its head. I have read a ton of books on making your baby sleep all night and live on a perfect schedule, but it seems the problem is my baby hasn't read a single one of those books!   So it is easy to feel that my time alone with God and my spiritual life regresses with every child!

I feel such a struggle here. Even when I get up early it seems the little people wake up even earlier,  and I am often frustrated because I can't get much time alone with the Lord.   Doesn't it to seem like there should be a bargain here? That if I get up early to spend time with God surely he would make all those little people sleep just a little while longer? But it doesn't work that way! At least not on this earth…  I'm sitting on my porch this morning watch the pink ribbon of sunrise ripple across the clouds in the sky and sipping my cup of steaming coffee.   At least for a few minutes I am alone... Well except for Makiah's little cat with the black mustache nipping at my toes when I'm not petting him with my foot.  I admit I'm getting irritated with this little cat. Can't I have a few minutes where nobody wants something from me?  And I wonder if we lived out in the country instead of in a bustling neighborhood if maybe I would feel that it was easier to be alone... Easier to escape for a few minutes.  But it is so wonderful to be close to friends and neighbors to hear the sounds of laughter…

And then my imagination wanders to heaven.

And I feel like in heaven I won't have to choose. Now I'm not saying that I know what heaven will be like.  But Just imagine for a minute a place where there is no frustration and the constraints of time do not exist.  There would be plenty of time for love and laughter and friends and family, but also it would be easy to suddenly be alone with The Lord when we need to be.  That might be a scary thought for you sanguine-life-of-the-party people, but for phlegmatic melancholies like me who have our batteries recharged by being alone it sounds, well, quite heavenly!

I imagine myself on top of a beautiful mountain looking at a gorgeous blue mountain range with something like the brilliant colors of the sunrise in the background, and I am getting time alone with Jesus. But what if it it had only taken me an instant to get there and I was not afraid of being on the mountain and was not uncomfortable in anyway.   And I could be immersed in a sense of peace and  his presence! Oh what amazing joys await us in heaven! Things I can't even begin to imagine here!  And there will not be an end.  There will be no breathless rushing because we will have eternity.

I feel encouraged about what I think of as  my wake  up call, or what I used to call "the love call" before Makiah died.  The baby is almost one, things are evening out around here a little bit, and I'm beginning to wake up with that sense that I need to get up and spend time with the Lord more.  The frustration I feel when it seems like I am surrounded by little people who want to squeeze every ounce of alone time out of me begins to dissipate.  Maybe that wake up call is more about training in obedience rather than the amount of actual time I get to spend with the Lord.  If I think that the success of my day and my spirituality depends on how much time I get alone with the Lord, doesn't that mean I'm putting him in a box?  Isn't God big enough to put into me what I need in a few minutes just as well as in 30 minutes or an hour?   My salvation does not hinge on my performance. Nor does living in abundant life depend on my ability to control my circumstances.  I am  justified based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and finding my identity in Him.  Inner transformation is not something that is necessarily  bound by space or time. But it is bound by obedience.  We are a new creation in Christ and our spirit is immediately transformed when we put our faith in Jesus. However our mind is transformed little by little as we obey him more and more.  Isn't there a verse that says God loves obedience more than sacrifice?  What is God calling you to do today? It won't be the same for all of us because we are unique. And it won't be the same thing today that it was last year or the same thing that it will be for you next year.  And the bigness of it is not what is important. It may be a teeny tiny thing.  What is important is that we hear His voice speaking to our hearts and we follow him.

I would love to tell you that I sat on the porch in the cool crisp air and wrote this blog in peace… in truth I was interrupted at least a half a dozen times by little people wanting a hug, yogurt, or to tell me all the breakfast foods that we are out of that I need to put on my grocery list!  I take a deep breath in and out and breath in the Hope. Faith is the evidence of things Hoped for…. This morning I am full of the hope of heaven. The hope of a place where there is no more pain or suffering, no more tears, no more failure, and no more frustration.   Our time here is so short. It is just a window, just the preface of the story that is to come.

And my heart feels a little bit lighter. I hope yours does as well!




"But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice..."  I Samuel 15:22

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  Psalm 16:11

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18





Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy 9th Birthday Makiah!



Sweet Makiah,

It’s your birthday, Baby.  I hope you are still four up there in heaven, but you would have been nine here today.  Alena wanted to make you a chocolate cake, and I happened to have a Dora butterfly topper so it just seemed all perfect.  I can still see your blonde hair sticking up around that headband, your little legs in purple striped leggings, standing in the kitchen chair and licking your first beater. You would have loved the mess of chocolate mustaches your sisters made today!  





Mommy and Makiah baking



While your cake was baking, we sat on the  back porch and painted our toes pink for you... even little Eliana Bree!              Abby traced her feet with chalk and drew you a butterfly.  Mommy turned on the sprinkler and told the girls how much you loved to laugh and have fun.  It didn’t take two seconds for the littles to strip down to, well, not much and fill the yard 
with crazy laughter.  We had a picnic with your cake and then did a water slide on the swing set.  I hope God let you hear them sing happy birthday to you… and maybe even see them splash down that slide and glide through the muddy puddle at the bottom!  It reminded me of when the hurricane came through and you and Daddy played for hours in the water pooled across the street.  My girls all love the mud!











Then we cleaned up and went out to eat some good french fries because they were your favorite.  And I read to the girls about heaven and eternal life.  I remembered one day when we were swinging in the yard, and you started talking about Jesus coming in the clouds.  Then you asked me about heaven.  I sang a song to you that I had learned when I was little about how heaven is a wonderful place (anybody remember Salty the Singing Songbook??).   Now our conversations about heaven seem so ironic.  I was trying to teach you.  Oh, what wonderful things you could teach me now!

I miss you, sweet Makiah!  Abby talked today about when you come back from heaven, she will give you the flowers she picked for you.  We looked at your pictures,  and Maddie Grace talked tonight at bedtime prayers about you and our beach trips.  Mommy is teaching your sisters about you, and about Jesus, and I even showed them pictures you drew of our family with the twins in my belly.  One day we will be together sweet little one.  I will dream of the day when I can hold you tight and hear you all laugh together.  Until then, I trust Jesus to tell you happy birthday for me, Makiah!

Love all ways always,
Mommy

Makiah with her Daddy after the hurricane

Makiah having messy, water fun





Monday, April 6, 2015

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes it's hidden away in a children's book.  The truth I mean.   We hunt for it like the littles hunt for eggs.  And sometimes it's right there underneath our noses.  Staring at us from the colorful pages as our fingers skim across.

The picture shows that hill where Jesus died.  Three shadowy crosses are silhouetted against a dark sky.  And I read about the exchange between the three dying men; the one in the middle is the God-man.  How odd, I thought, that Jesus would share his crucifixion with these strangers.  That God would orchestrate the other men's crosses being forever remembered in books about the resurrection even 2000 years later.

What a curious conversation as they hung there with life ebbing away.  The final breaths struggling in and out while voices cracked and blood dripped. One spending the last of himself to ridicule the God-man hanging between them.  The other asking for mercy even as the sun was setting on him with finality.

And the God of the universe made sure the words were captured.  Right there in the pages with the picture of the three rugged crosses.  Suddenly I saw it.  All of mankind wrapped up right there in that illustration.  We all are mortal.  We all will face the last sunset.  And we all respond to the God-man.  There are only two choices.  Either we push him away and cling to our bitterness and our wounded pride or we humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness and mercy.  Rebellion or Remembrance.  What will we say to the God-man in our critical moment?  He is the chief cornerstone.  Either Jesus is the foundation for a life or a stumbling block upon which we are broken.

We can close our eyes to the cross but still it looms before us.  And we all make a choice.  Between those crosses I mean.  Which one will we crawl up on?  For it is appointed unto man to die once, and after that to face  judgement (Heb. 9:27).  Jesus hangs in the middle.  Two roads diverge.  Two destinies stand ruggedly before us against the back drop of life.  He alone is the central point upon which we will determine our future.  History is divided by his life and death.  And so we are divided by his life and death.  Two thieves on two crosses but two very different eternal outcomes.

Don't close your eyes.  The truth is hidden right there in plain sight.  Captured in the bright pages of a child's book.  The fate of all humanity wrapped up in the image of those three crosses.

He didn't stay there, my friends.  There is resurrection.  It is real.  It is for you.  What will you choose?




"Choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord."    Joshua 24:15

James 4:6
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
 But he gives Grace to the humble.”[c]

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Tipping Point

I have been dreading this day for weeks.  Not just because it's my birthday. Not because of the getting older thing.  No.  It's one of those things that only a mother would think of.  Who else counts the days in their subconscious?  Well, God.  And me.  A few weeks ago I looked at the ticker on the top of my blog, and I knew it was getting close.  This year is full of landmarks again.  Then I did a quick guess at the time and had a terrible thought.  It was impossible.  No, too horrible.  It was late at night and I was up alone so I scrambled for a calendar and frantically started counting.  I counted how many days she was alive... again.  Yes, it was four years, four months, and four weeks.  Makiah lived in my house and snuggled in my bed and stole all of my kisses and my heart for four years, four months, and 28 days exactly.  Then she went home.  October 8th, 2010.   I started calculating how long it had been since she died and when that day would come when she had been dead longer than she was alive.  Twenty seven, twenty eight...  I could not believe it.  It landed on my birthday.  Exactly.   March 6th.  How was that possible?  I breathed.  In and out.  And I secretly started dreading.

And then came the shocking news that a young man from our church in Cairo had been hit by a car and gone to heaven.  He was the sweetest boy you could ever meet.  I picked him up and took him to church on Wednesday nights while his mom worked for years.  He and Makiah were carpool buddies.    He was a big teddy bear.  He even lived with us for a short while during his senior year.  Ohhh the pain I know his mother is feeling.  We made a trip to Cairo for his funeral.   I cried for him.  For his family.  I couldn't cry at Makiah's resurrection ground.  The girls were running around like caged animals that had been set free after the long trip.  Every time I blinked they had pulled flowers or a trinket off someone's grave, and I couldn't keep up with where they got them it happened so fast!  Then Maddie Grace got in a fire ant bed and started screaming.  We had to strip her completely to get the ants off.  So there she was buck naked in the grave yard screaming her head off.  Then the other two wanted to show me the coins they had "found" so they could put them in their piggy banks!  Let's just say we left in a hurry.  New flowers on the grave but no emotional room for tears!  I really hope no one was watching!

The twins turned four on February 22nd.  The last birthday I got to have with Makiah was her fourth. On February 19th, I went upstairs to check on Abby about 11:00 at night because she was coughing so much.  When I went in the room she was having an asthma attack.  Her first.  She was sitting up crying but she couldn't vocalize.  She didn't have enough air.  I yelled for Cameron to get her inhaler that had just been prescribed per the coughing.  She couldn't breath it in and began to vomit up mucous.  We tried the nebulizer but she started turning purple.  Literally.  Still she didn't have enough breath to talk.  Cameron threw her in the car and headed for the emergency room.  My other three babies were asleep so I collapsed on the floor in the dining room as the front door shut.  I called my mama and asked her to pray as my voice broke and the tears began to flow.  I lay there on the floor and prayed.  My whole body shook from fear.  I felt like I was back at the accident scene in a flash.  I tried to push away thoughts of a student from my school that had just passed away two nights before from an asthma attack.  I.  Begged.  God.

Maybe it was a miracle.  Maybe it was the cold air.  It was freezing that night.  For some reason the attack  stopped before they even reached  the hospital.  Her oxygen was 100 when they checked it.   I hardly slept that night.  Or the night after that.  I was a wreck.

And then a few of you sent me messages that you were praying for me.  Almost as if you knew somehow.  And I began to think I was not forgotten.  By Him.

I woke up this morning early.   My hair was still wet from the shower when my sweet hubby surprised me with breakfast.  We snuck downstairs to eat together and it was snowing!  And for some crazy reason my kids slept until 7.  That in itself is a miracle, but The Snow!  You see, it didn't even really snow much in our county or the rest of Atlanta.  The weather station even said it was sunny and 50!  But they were wrong.  Right there at our house it snowed giant flakes that stuck and blanketed the whole yard with white.  Redeeming, cleansing white.  On my birthday.

We lit a candle.  I showed Cameron the scripture that happened to be what I was learning today... James 2:13  ...Mercy triumphs...  It grabbed me.  Then he showed me what he happened to read this morning.


Jeremiah 31:15-17The Message (MSG)

15-17 Again, God’s Message:

“Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah,
    wild and bitter weeping.
It’s Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace.
Her children are gone,
    gone—long gone into exile.”
But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping,
    hold back your tears.
Collect wages from your grief work.” God’s Decree.
    “They’ll be coming back home!
There’s hope for your children.” God’s Decree.
And I felt Hope.  And Mercy.

Then tonight I read an email sent yesterday from a friend in Cairo.  She said we had been heavy on her heart for a week.  She talked about my sweet Makiah and how she was crying out to God for us.  She copied me this scripture:
Psalms 116.
I love God because he listened to me,

    listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
    as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
    hell was hard on my heels.Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
    then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
    “Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
    our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
    when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.

Today my ticker on the top of the blog says four years, four months, four weeks, and one day.  The scales have tipped.  Somehow this moment is only really monumental to me.  But God knew.  He orchestrated things in a way today, on my birthday, that no one else could.  Couching my day with scripture and threading sweet friends throughout.  This milestone has passed.  Midnight has come and gone again.  Though it is not easy,  I know His love is real.  It is for me.  It is for you.  He is for you.  There is only One we need in our corner when the scales of life are tipping.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

His Ruah

I am sitting here in our office (we use that term pretty generously in our house) sipping chamomile tea with honey because that’s what Peter Rabbit’s mom gives him when he is sick.  I am trying to win the match against a second round of the cold that has given half my house bronchitis and one a diagnosis of asthma over the last few weeks.  I am staring at a pile of little girl’s coats- leopord print, silver vests with pink hoods, hounds tooth with a fluffy collar, a coat that could be little red riding hood’s- piled high on the old wooden box that serves as our filing cabinet of sorts.  They aren’t in their usual place hanging on the little, wooden hooks that line the walls of our closet under the stairs because a certain two year old decided to climb the shelves in there while I was at work.  And the shelves collapsed.  And all of our games, puzzles, arts and crafts, and speech therapy stuff came crashing down.  It really was organized so nicely.  But the little one is fine so that’s what counts.

In the corner of the room is a peace lily that was given to me when Makiah died.  It’s sadly drooping and begging for water.  Our black and white cat, who has a mustache just like Charlie Chaplin, has been staring at me through the window to remind me he needs a meal.  I have 298 emails in my inbox  and 10,000 mismatched little girl socks piled outside the laundry room in hopes of finding a mate.  But the kids are all in bed, and my sweet husband is doing the dishes.  At last, I have found my way to a computer to write.

It has been woefully too long since I wrote anything.  The date of my last blog seems to chide me nightly as I try to fall asleep with my sick Little who has needed momma more than ever.  There were pieces of a Christmas blog swirling about in my thoughts for a while, but I guess the end of January is a little too late for that.

And one of my dear grandmothers has gone to be with Jesus.  She left the Saturday before Christmas, and it all seemed to eclipse the holidays.  Except for the children.  The children are gloriously free of the sort of baggage we adults like to hang on to.  I should have written a tribute to her, my grandmother, I mean.  Barbara Gwynelle Smith Arnold.  She was an ER nurse who loved to square dance and taught the grandsons how to burp.  She was smart and witty and loved to laugh almost as much as she loved her family.  I can see her now sitting at the end of her kitchen table with the orange leather spinning chairs right out of the sixties.  She’s sipping her coffee and laughing at something with that slightly raspy maybe I sneak a smoke every once in a while voice.  But we never caught her.  

We knew she was dying, and she told me last spring that she had a dream of heaven.  She could see her parents waiting there and a little blond haired girl.  She said it seemed so close but there was a line she couldn’t cross.  It wasn’t quite time.  

I think of her often and fondly these days.  No longer trapped by the cares of the world or burdened by her failing health.  She, too, is gloriously free.  And Makiah spent Christmas for the first time with a family member she knew and loved on earth.  Bittersweet.  

Sometimes we let the little things weigh us down… or freak us out.  Like the other day when Abby began screaming hysterically over a tiny little bead.  Well, the problem was not really the bead itself… mostly it’s location.  Namely her nostril.  Oh yes, both twins had found beads (from a bracelet of mine that a certain two year old, yes the same one who climbed the shelves,  had broken a few hours earlier), and decided that they fit nicely up their noses.  Until they couldn’t get them out.  Normally, I would have panicked, too, but this exact scenario had happened to my best friend when we were five.  My dad was the hero who thought to tell her to blow her nose.  And the trick still works all these decades later!

Maybe it’s all about perspective.  We took the girls to the movie theater for the first time as a family to see Paddington Bear this week.  As we left, Alena said, “That sure was a great t.v. in there!”  And this morning I decided to sit in the nursery to watch the sun come up and sip my coffee.  It’s upstairs, and I could see so much more of the beautiful streaks in the sky that usually hide behind the trees.  When we focus on God in worship, He elevates our perspective into the realm of the eternal.  We are eternal beings.  He has set eternity in the hearts of men the bible says.  And sometimes what seems like an enormous obstruction in our hectic lives, just needs a little of His breath, His Ruah, to blow it out of the way.  And we, like a small child, just need a little awe… and a little more thankfulness.   




“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. “ Colossians 3:1-4







"Bebe" and her Great-Grand Makiah
Together in Heaven this Year
This was Bebe's last profile pic on Facebook.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Your Love Never Fails



Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails

The song took hold of me and grabbed my heart. It was September 2010. The melody and the words... they just wouldn't let go of me. I played it over and over and over. I was 12 weeks pregnant with our twins and the doctors had said it did not look good. The neonatal specialist did not give me much hope.  But my golden haired daughter and I, we listened to the song.  We prayed to the song.   She danced around our living room.  Little feet twirling.  Four year old faith. Dancing, praising, and believing.

I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails

And things improved. Then October 8, 2010 crept up.  My world was rocked as our car spun out-of-control.  And my baby girl went home to be with Jesus.  My sweet four-year-old Makiah.  And we played the song again as people waited for her funeral to begin.  I had no words.  I could barely breathe through the pain and the tears and the wailing.  Legs shaking.  I thought I would not survive it.  We had to play the song. It was no accident that it had gripped us for weeks. And now we clung to it as our declaration.

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning

People filed in to that church sanctuary with the little white casket. These are the words that greeted their ears... the voice of Chris Quilala and the Jesus culture team.  A prophetic declaration. A love beyond description. A love that extends itself beyond the grave.

And when the oceans rage
I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me

My heart sank and my breath left me when I heard the news. Your baby boy has gone to be with Jesus his first day on the Earth.  The pictures of you two holding him.  Priceless.

The wind is strong and the water's deep
But I'm not alone in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails.

I don't pretend to know your pain.   Each person's brokenness and pain is their own to carry. No one else can know the suffering of your heart.  Except one. He came to die to break and be broken.  He took his first breath so that he could give his last.  He enters into our suffering.  He alone can be there in the loneliness.  In the ashes.  In the dust. He has born it. And he will bear it. And he will carry us through the darkness if we will let him.

The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I'd reach the other side
But Your love never fails

You may never read these words. But I had to write them.  The very song you sang helped to carry us through our most treacherous  valley.  We sang it with her and then without her.  Thank you.  For lending your voice to His words.  And I pray now that you will find hope in the darkness.  Perhaps you cannot hear it now this Christmas.  But I pray the whisper of his love will surround you in the holidays.  As it does all of us who have been broken.

Watch Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture on youtube









Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seasons

Seasons.  There is something beautiful and mysterious about seasons.  The seasons of life.  Seasons of the soul.  Each carries beauty and hardship.  Just enough to make us ready to embrace the next season when it comes.

I love fall.  I always have.  The breathtaking vibrancy of red, yellow, and orange wrapping itself around the leaves before they drift to the ground.  My Grace baby's birthday is always the eve of fall.  This year she turned two, and it is as if someone told her what that means.  When I came to get her from her crib on the morning of September 21st, I exclaimed, "Happy birthday, Maddie Gracie!"  "No hatty birday!" she replied with a scowl.  "But you will get presents," I said with excitement.  "No pesents!" Maddie grumped.  Alena asked if she could have some of the cake, and Maddie told her "NO take (aka "cake").  I couldn't help but laugh at the seriousness of that furrowed brow and scowling pout.  Who told this kid to wake up saying "no" to everything on her second birthday?!  Somehow she just seemed to know the season she is in.

I never know what a day will bring.  When Abby flushed an applesauce squeezie down the toilet recently, she told my mom with certainty "Now I can call the plumber!"  When my mom asked how she knew we should call the plumber she said, "Because that's what Curious George did when he flushed something down the toilet."  Seriously!?  You owe me one, George!

And when my keys went missing,  I just knew my kids had hidden them.  I drove home from work on a Wednesday, and I discovered they were gone when I was running late to my parent conference with the twins' preschool teacher the next morning.  About the time I needed to leave I remembered that Ella Bree had pooped in her car seat, and I had washed it but not rethreaded the straps.  I wrestled with the car seat and then realized my keys weren't on the special hook I had put up so I would keep myself from losing them.  I finally gave up and grabbed a spare.  When I rushed into the preschool classroom with my apologies for being late, the teacher said, "Oh, sweetie, your not late.  You're early...  a week early!"  I think I changed color with those fall leaves right then and there.  And then it dawned on me that if it wasn't conference day, that meant the twins had school.  They were home with grandma in their pjs, and I was here at school without them!!

Do you ever feel like you just can't get ahead of the tidal wave? Like there are simply too many balls to juggle, and you just can't seem to do anything well.  Guilt sets up shop in your head and thoughts of failure keep pounding on your door.  I was driving to work one morning, dodging traffic and the loud voice of condemnation, when I asked God what He is trying to say to me in this season.  What came to mind were the quiet words of my girls' teacher when I told her how  I felt I hadn't done a good job teaching them their letters at home.  "Just teach them Jesus," she said, "and the letters will come."

Just teach them Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Jesus.  And the rest will come.  My eyes filled with tears.  Sometimes the truth is simple.  The burden easy and the yoke light.  If we will take it.  Just Jesus.  If we will shift our focus, then life will come back into focus.  And we can breathe a sigh of relief.  Because he doesn't expect us to be perfect after all.  Just focused on perfection.  Jesus.  Just Jesus.

Soooo in case you are wondering... after a week of looking and offering chocolate to any child who could produce them, I did find my keys.  In a cereal box.  On a shelf that was way too high for little people to have been the culprits.  Oh my!  We might as well laugh!  And embrace the season!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Makiah's Fourth Heaven Day


Sweetest Makiah,
As I am scurrying around the kitchen trying to fix dinner, I can't help but think about it.  I try not to go there often.  To the deep places I mean. Who does?  Who has time when life wraps around you with a dizzying swirl of busyness? But something about anniversaries catches your breath and stills the racing thoughts.     It's 3:17 right now.  And you were still alive then.  We were driving between Jacksonville and Valdosta.  You were watching a cartoon about the miracles of Jesus.

 I wish you could see your sisters now.  I think they have changed clothes several times since we got home from preschool!  They asked me in the car this morning if you go to school.  They said they wanted you to see them dance and wanted to show you their rainbow toes.  I told them we could ask Jesus to show them to you.  So they asked Him to right then!  Such childlike faith.

It reminds me of you.  I was reading an old journal the other day.  I had written about how you told me that day you just couldn't wait to see Jesus with your real eyes (not just the eyes of your heart).  I guess He couldn't wait either.

A dear family member is having his last flight in the air force right now.  Within the hour he will land.  I am sure there will be a twinge of sadness in him.  But when he lands, a great ceremony awaits him.  A celebration that he has completed his final mission.  He will be home.  At last.  And maybe it is no accident that it could only be scheduled today.  Because in my heart this morning I held a picture of you, Makiah.  When your journey was over and you finally arrived home, what a glorious celebration must have awaited you!  Family you would grow to love that had gone before waiting with arms open wide.  And Jesus.  You finally saw Him with your real eyes.

Baby, I miss you.  And there was a blood moon this morning.  I know my grief is not all that important in the scope of the universe... but it almost seemed as if the heavens felt the sorrow of the loss of you.  Almost. I stared hard.  The moon all red like blood.  The sky gone dark.   Like pain. And anguish. On your heaven day.  Or maybe like His blood.  All red and poured out like an offering.  The sun hid that day, too.  When darkness covered the earth and the veil was torn and a way was made.

I couldn't take my eyes off that blood moon.  Until the sun came up.  All pink and orange and glorious.  Filling the sky with light and radiance and banishing the blood and the darkness.  The clouds hanging soft across the blue like a pad of fluffy cotton.

And my heart saw the picture of your final flight.  And of the celebration.  I thanked God then for the sunrise every day that hints at the glorious dawn that will come when Jesus comes and drives the blood and darkness away forever!

And we will be together again.  Forever this time.  I can watch as my girls all dance and play together then.  No.  I think I will dance, too.  And I will hold you.  And see you with my real eyes.

It is 3:58 now.  We had two more hours with you.  Breathing in and out.  But it's only time.  One day I will step outside of it, too.  This is as far into the day as I want to remember.  I need to stop writing so maybe I will not go there.

Your sisters are getting hungry and tired.  Time to slip into the busyness.  But I hope you know I never forget.  Your smile.  Your giggles.  Your tender heart.  We remember with our hearts and with our rainbow toes!  Clinging to the promise that Jesus has triumphed over death!

I love you, Makiah!
Your Mommy

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.  1 Corinthians 2:9


There is alot of silliness around here... we miss you and love you Kiah!!
a lot 







From the preschool Makiah attended.  Wow and thank you to all who remembered her!!