Category Archives: Word

One Word: 2014

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one word 2014

What can you do?

When a shiny new year is about to begin and your ambitions for a fresh start with a fresh word and a pretty new journal – when all that is put on a dusty shelf because you’re greeted instead with a high fever on New Year’s Eve and fitful dreams and the flu rages through all but two of your children and drags it out for two weeks.

What can you do?

When 16 days into your ‘new you’ the alarm goes off and your eyes are burning and you’re buried under a sweaty toddler and you hold your breath to keep from waking her but you get up anyway because you made up your mind that this year you will pray.

What can you do?

When after only two days of the new school semester you’ve lost peace along with your temper with kids who’ve seemingly lost their ever-lovin’ minds more times than you can count?

What can you possibly do?

When you start the day with a vow that you will spend it on your knees but you cannot imagine that you will be literally sent to your knees within the hour?

When one short message at 8:30 in the morning can alter your world, send you reeling.

“please pray… Jonas passed away this morning.”

One hand gripped my phone, the other held tight to the back of the chair as the knees found the laminate.  Shock.  Fog. Not even the sting of tears.  Not yet.  Because first you watch it from afar, like it’s not really happening.  You try to rationalize how the news was misconstrued.  How it didn’t really happen. How he’s not really gone.

Because you just saw him.  He was just there, standing on the stage at church, singing with the children in the Christmas program.  Laughing afterwards with friends. Not ever thinking that in less than a month they’d be mourning for him.

But life is a vapor.  And in an instant, a sixteen year old with a contagious grin and a voracious passion for music and an unending ability to memorize large portions of scripture – is gone.

Jonas

What do you do?  When you’ve lost the shiny new start and your peace and temper, and maybe your resolve, and someone who was precious… What anyone who’s lost something does.

You seek.  Seek the Savior. Seek His presence and peace… seek the arms of the Good Shepherd to carry you over the rocky terrain.

You seek Him not for what He can do for you – not for your best life now.  But just to have Him near.  To hear His voice.  To have Him lead you to the High Places.

In this blessed, broken, messy, beautiful, completely messed up, insane, unfair, glorious, precious life – you seek with all you’ve got for what the will of your King is – and you follow Him in it.

“Only one life will soon be past,
only what’s done for Christ will last.”
– Hudson Taylor

Child Like

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 “And they were bringing the children to Him that He might touch them,…”

 This is what the hard-working man read to us as he was sprawled out on the off-white carpet, the rest of us gathered ‘round in half-circle, listening… some following along in Mark, tenth chapter.  We’d been camped out for weeks in the book of Mark during family worship each evening, taking it in slow and small and steady.

“…and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it He was indignant…”

 And the hard-working man stopped for a word lesson.  Little mouths repeated syllables and simple definitions were explained.

 Jesus was angry.

“… and said to them ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.’”

The Daddy sitting Indian-style looked up at eager faces.  “Now, who was bringing these children to Jesus?”

Voices erupted: “their parents”… “their mamas and their daddies”

“That’s right,” he said. “And why do you think they were doing that?  What did they want Jesus to do?”

There was a thoughtful pause.  Like we had never thought of that before.

 What exactly do we want Jesus to do when we bring our kids to Him?

The blue-eyed girl with glasses spoke up, “they wanted Him to touch them.”

She’d read it herself, right there in her pink Bible.

“Right.”  Her Daddy grinned.  “So when Jesus touched them, how do you think He did it?  Did He touch them like this?”

He motioned for the little blonde boy to come to him, so Carson walked up, eye-to-eye.  And his Daddy poked him on the shoulder.  “Did Jesus touch them like that?”

The room shook a little with giggles.

“Noooo!”

“Well, how then?”

Lilly jumped up, “like this!”  She walked on her knees to her brother’s side.   Pressed her cheek right up against his.  Wrapped her arms around him… another sister walked up and put her hand lovingly atop his blonde head.

And my smile snuck up on me.  Yes, that’s it.  Just like that.  So natural.  How did they instinctively know this?

“Yes,” he said. “But Jesus’ disciples didn’t want the kids to bother Jesus.  Maybe they thought He didn’t have time for this, so they tried to stop the children.  They might have told those parents, ‘take your kids away; don’t let them bother the Teacher.’”

There may have been some finger-wagging.

“But what did Jesus say?” he asked.

“Let the children come to me!” said Maggie.

“Yes!”  he said.

“… Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…”

 He leaned in for the question.  

“What does that mean- receive God’s Kingdom like a child?”

Silence.

They didn’t know.  Do any of us?

“Let me show you,” he said.  “Bring me one of Olivia’s toys.”

A lovie was fetched and he turned his attention to the little one toddling ten feet away from him.  He called out to her, and showed her his little gift.

Honestly, could it have been a more magical moment?  Like she must have seen a little bit of Jesus Himself sitting right there with her Daddy and the rest of us wore eyes of the blind.  When she turned around and looked at him, the giddiest giggle escaped her smiling lips, her face all lit like that…  Instantly she abandoned what had been holding her attention and she ran to him.  

She giggled the whole way.  Mouth wide open grin.  Arms thrown back.  Face to the Heavens.

My heart warmed.

And yearned.

Is this how you want us to come to you God?  Like this?  This is how we should receive all that you give us?  All of it?  With Abandon.

Joy.

Inhibition.

Radiance.

It’s a rare thing when we call one of our children and they come to us like this.

Rarer still that I go to Him like that.

Why have I robbed Him of that?

And when did I stop taking Him seriously when He said stuff like “whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom this way shall not enter it”?

How many years have I just breezed over that part?

I want His Kingdom, for sure.  Count me in!  Called, chosen, forgiven, right?

Highway to Heaven, Baby.

I believed and received.  I prayed the prayer and got baptized and now my mansion is waiting for me in Heaven.  I’ll walk the streets of gold with Jesus and have a little Heaven on earth, too, because Jesus makes life better, sweeter, right?

All my troubles…. fade away?

Wait, what?

Was this the Kingdom of God or My Kingdom we were talking about?  It got a little fuzzy.

I got all caught up in my little blessed life and my super-awesome worship team and I forgot that Jesus said stuff like, “I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves… and you will be hated by all for my Name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 10:16, 22)

Say what?  I was kinda thinking I could just have the good life.  Did I temporarily forget Jesus saying something like “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” ?(Matthew 10:34)

Maybe while I was enjoying my lattes at my 132 different Bible studies designed just for me and my season of life– maybe that’s when I got comfortable and didn’t think it really pertained to me very much when He said “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew10:38-39)

When I started out on the journey to “seek first His Kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you”, was I just seeking God so that I could have the second part – all these things?

Wait.  I know this stage… it rings familiar… these are growing pains I’ve experienced from the other side…

When some of my bigger kids were sweet toddlers they would run to me, cling to me… long to be held by me… reach up their arms to me… in the same way that that sweet baby now presses her face into my knee when I’m standing in a crowd… and she wraps those chubby arms tight around my legs… and then she looks up at me, those eyes piercing, and says determined, “ma ma!”  She knows I will stop whatever I’m doing and pick her up.  It’s her reward for seeking me out and calling my name.

 And that’s all she wants – for me to pick her up, and she rests her head on my shoulder.  Happy.  She has absolutely nothing to offer me.  No work that is handy or useful.  Even her attempts at helping just make more work for me.  She has no real offering of love or devotion.  Not even a promise voiced.

She is utterly dependent on me for everything and all she gives in return is all of herself.  Her laughter, her cries…. her messes, her smiles.  Uninhibited.  And she comes to me only wanting me.

My bigger kids did this too… until they were bigger… and then their want for Mama’s safe arms was slowly replaced by a want for things.  For a toy, a book, an activity.

But I’ll always miss them longing for just me.

Now I’m the child.  And He’s the Father.  And how long has it been since my face pressed in, determined?

How long since I longed?

 “And He took them in His arms, and laying His hands on them, He blessed them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then I Came Back… And an Announcement

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One night a few months ago we came home from a date, put the kids to bed, and Hubby fell asleep on the couch.  And I commenced to writing a blog post about Valentine’s Day.

It’s kind of like I went out for milk one night and then didn’t come back for two months.  Or… something.

That post sat unfinished on my WordPress dashboard for two months.  It’s still not finished, in point of fact.  I didn’t hit a wall of writer’s block, or anything like that.  Just… life.

Like…

We decided to come up with a budget.

And actually stick to it.  (What? Doesn’t everyone wait until year ten of marriage to do this?)

We drudged through the trenches of parenting kids who have taken a while to attach to us.

The baby woke up one day and decided to start pulling up and cruising around and eating solid foods, and feeding some of it to herself.

All in the same week.

Then the baby decided to start walking the week before she turns one.  And then to start climbing on things. In the same week.

The three-year-old waited till the last millisecond and ended up peeing all over the bathroom floor. And- his hair. I didn’t ask; I just started his bath.

We decided to keep sticking to the budget.

We drudged through the trenches of parenting kids who have taken a while to attach to us.

We found ourselves in a season where half of our kids are ending up in and beside our bed every night.  Every.single.night. We have issues.

I became so weary that I took a Facebook (& other media) break for a week and prayed for my kids, my heart, our home, and some mamas and kids close to me.

We took our three-year-old to the ER one Saturday after he got kicked on the trampoline and an hour later started crying (read: screaming uncontrollably) and holding his ribcage.  When he wouldn’t eat the ice cream and cake at the birthday party we were attending, I knew it was serious stuff.  Seven hours, one chest x-ray, one abdominal sonogram, and an ER bill later – he was completely fine.  Mystery pain was chalked up to… gas.

Yep.  That’s my life.

We embarked on another journey I can’t quite share with you yet, but hopefully soon.  It’s been a big event for us and has definitely taken up a lot our attention lately.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean) started actually cooking again.  Because

We decided to come up with a budget. And actually stick to it.

Oh, and I finished a major project I’d been working on – announcement coming at the end of this ridiculously mediocre post.

We put the kids to bed every night and tried to stay awake long enough to have a conversation.  Sometimes it worked.

I prayed to be able to hold my tongue and speak more graciously to my children… and found myself taking lots of deep breaths.

And then yelling things out the backdoor that might have sounded something like “no guns on the trampoline!” or “Stay out of the trash pile!”

In the midst of it all the blog sat silent.  All the veins of my creativity feeding other avenues, she sat untouched.  And I thought she might dry up for good.

I just didn’t have energy for more words.

But then in the last day or so I’ve felt the itching fingers and the thoughts welling up again, looking for an outlet.

And I came back.

I even wrote a haiku earlier today.  And as everyone knows, haikus inevitably lead to incredibly mediocre blog posts.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

Oh, and an announcement for those of you who endured to the end!  In the midst of life – God was gracious and I was finally able to finish a project that was on my heart and mind for quite a while – this.

This is the story of how we started teaching our kids the Bible – in a very real life kind of way.

For those of you who were following my blog during our adoption, an earlier version of this book was made available then for those who purchased it with a donation to our adoption fund.  After we brought Christopher and Lena home, the dynamics of our family life changed.  A lot. And as God brought our family through that transition, we learned and grew in our methods of teaching our kids the Bible.  So I went back to the book and labored over it again.  This is the revised and expanded edition.

My vision for this is to get it into the hands of parents who don’t feel like they have what it takes to teach their kids about the Bible  – those who may not know much about it themselves.  So if you could help me get the word out, I’d be so grateful.

Pssst – if you have an Amazon Prime account you can ‘borrow’ the book for free on your Kindle!  😀

And now I’m putting the computer to bed… we’ll see if Jeff and I can stay awake long enough for a conversation….

 

 

Sometimes You Have to Crawl

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The Real Test

Announcement:   I cleaned the bathroom!

I know. You’re thinking, And??

You haven’t written a blog post in weeks… and you cleaned the bathroom?  That’s it?

Listen.  I don’t think you understand.  I cleaned the bathroom.  Here’s what that looks like in my world:  Sometime around 7:45 yesterday morning, I’m sitting on the couch, feeding a baby, trying in vain to also drink my coffee and read the John Piper devo app on my phone.

Side Note: you need to get the John Piper devo app on your phone!

Anyway, I say “trying in vain” ‘cause let’s face it.  After all the kids are up, coffee and devo is spotty, at best.  

And, of course, since I’m feeding the baby, Carson has to go potty.  Now.  Like, right now.  So I send him off and task the older boy with helping him.

And alas, minutes later, there’s pee on the floor.

::I’m sorry, I know, I said ‘pee.’  This is just going to be one of those posts today, okay?  Nothing poetic here.  If it had been a girl, it would have been ‘tee-tee’, but it was a boy, so there was ‘pee’ on the floor.::

Anyway.  So Christopher (thank God for older boys, am I right?) cleans the pee off the floor, but I decide right then and there to clean the bathroom.

Well, after I finish feeding the baby and getting breakfast into my tribe and drinking only half my cup of coffee and forgetting where I put down the mug… then I get right to cleaning the bathroom.

Two hours and seventy-five interruptions later, I stand back and admire the fruit of my labor.  It’s quite possibly the cleanest and most peaceful room in the house.  I think briefly about shutting myself in there the rest of the day. True story.

But wouldn’t you know, a little while later, one of the kids waits to the very last mili-second to go to the bathroom, so I ended up cleaning the toilet and a section of the floor again.  (This time it was tee-tee. Ahem.)

I stand back and admire my work.  Again.

About half an hour later, I’m helping Carson in the bathroom and this time he makes it like a champ.  No accident.  But – much to my dismay – I notice a smell lingering with the lovely aroma of scrubbing bubbles… It takes me a minute of sniffing around to find a spot I’d missed earlier (what with the seventy-five interruptions, eh?).

So I quickly decide I’m going to spray down the entire area again (you know, with the seat up and all) and make double-sure it’s all extra clean.

After I spray it all down, I call for the older boy to bring me some paper towels, but he doesn’t hear me.  So I retrieve them from the kitchen and when I get back to the bathroom, I find that one of my children is a ninja.

She has somehow made it past me and into the bathroom and because she – like her sister before her- has waited until the very last mili-second, she doesn’t even bother with putting the toilet seat down, and just sat on the rim – sat on the rim, on the cleaning spray for crying out loud – and this does not end up working like she’d thought…

So after cleaning up ‘tee-tee’ again

I stand back and admire my work.

Again.

I have four bank boxes stacked up beside our desk, waiting to be moved to storage, and two boxes of files waiting to be put back in their places… a new stack of school paces waiting to be placed in kids’ folders… and a beach bag full of miscellaneous receipts and photos and study notes, waiting to be filed…

::because – you know – your junk looks less like junk when it’s collected in a bright, pretty beach bag, am I right?::

…not to mention the pile of laundry on the couch, the three baskets waiting to hit the washer, the kids’ closets needing cleaning out, or the floors that haven’t been mopped since before Christmas.

But by golly, the bathroom is clean!

That one accomplishment seemed to take me half the day and was wrought with frustrations.

And the bathroom isn’t the only area of my life that feels like that.

I have a John Piper app on my phone for a reason.  Because some days it’s the only way I’ll get a little Scripture rattling around in my head… and hope it will get planted in my heart…

I can hold that app open on my phone and read a line or two while I’m nursing the baby… and read and think about the next line or two while my phone is sitting there on the kitchen counter and I’m coring apples to go with lunch…

There’s this picture in our bathroom.  A framed 4×6 snapshot sitting on the window sill – of Jeff and me in a different era of our life… we were with half our team, camping out for the weekend on a mountain side in the himalayas.  He’s got me thrown over his shoulder and we’re both wearing our hiking fleeces and our headlamps.  And it was nightfall when our friend Chad snapped us with his camera – caught this moment frozen.  It’s too dark in the picture to see the landscape or the tents behind us.

You mostly see our faces, smiling.  Me thrown over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and him grinning back at the camera.  We’re so young and fresh and energetic.  Full of dreams and plans and ideas for the future.  The world our oyster.  Sure, there would be babies one day.  But they would be bi-lingual and immersed in the culture – and by golly they would be practically leading the masses of local children to the Lord by the dozens.  Our heads were filled with visions of mission work and published works.  And just, lots of works.

Now a decade later, “attempt great things for God” has become trying to get through the day without losing my patience with the kids, and also manage to knock out 3 meals and keep one side of my sink free of dirty dishes.

Sorry, Flylady, check back with me in oh, twelve years?  Maybe then I can work on making my sink shine.

If I can also manage to read a story to my kids and everyone has clean underwear – bonus!

Some days I think “Jesus, in my weakness you’re strong?  Well all I’ve got is weakness… so then I guess all I’ve got is Your strength, right Jesus?  So… how come every day is still a struggle?  Faith of a mustard seed can move mountains… so how come these mountains of laundry can lay my spirit so low?

And some days to think I was going to spin my story telling other souls how to walk with Jesus – it seems preposterous!  I’m the one who’s gone back to crawling.  

At the end of the day, the bathroom is dirty again, and the sink is full and the real test is this – did I love You, Jesus with all my heart?  Did I love others as myself?

Every day that’s what it will come to – this is the season we’re in.  God has somehow, in His way, brought us back to the basics, the foundation.

No matter what condition the house is in… no matter what discipline issues we’re dealing with, or how much ‘orphanage dust’ is flying around here… no matter what learning difficulties one of the kids is going through or how tired we are after 60-hour weeks… no matter how much the baby doesn’t sleep, or how many kids end up piled in our bed by morning.  At the end of every day, it comes back to those two questions:

Did I love Jesus today?  With all my heart?

Did I love my neighbor (the one who’s always blaring the loud music) – did I love the lady at Walmart, my children, my husband – as much as I love… me?

The little embers of those young dreams and visions are still lit somewhere inside me… I hope to walk that proverbial mountainside trail again – to “attempt great things for God.”

But to do that before ace-ing this test I get at the end of each long day – that would be premature.

Because most of the time – before you can walk – you gotta crawl.

A Word for 2013

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It was the year of Joy.  Twenty-eleven.  Only, it came in the most unexpected adventure.  January of that year had no hint of the journey we’d take in July to bring home two children from Ukraine.  When that year began, adoption was not on our horizon.

 But God.  He expands our horizons.

And Joy came that year in the tiny, untamed package of a little girl which was given and then grew into the name.

And if our horizons were expanded in twenty-eleven, it was my heart I expected the Lord to Enlarge in twenty-twelve.

That was the word He gave me, without a doubt.  I had expectations for Him to Enlarge my heart and open my eyes to see more of Him, more of His greatness.

But again, my winding path this past year was over unexpected terrain.

It was more like the year of the Broken.  And not just in dishwashers sitting still and empty for months before repair, or ceiling fans hanging silent.  Not just in the broken plans of the Hard-working Husband finally getting the job we’d hoped for, only to lose it a few months later.  Not just in the broken hopes of finding the home we really wanted and be unable to purchase…

No.  It seemed that in order for my heart to be enlarged, and my eyes to be opened to His greatness – what I first needed to see clearly was the brokenness of …me.

As each month passed my brokenness – our family’s brokenness – took shape more clearly before my eyes.  Failures.  Selfishness.  Sinfulness. Pride.

For only when I see clearly my own state – only then can my heart and my eyes be enlarged to take in the depth and greatness of His Mercy and Grace.

And at the very end of twenty-twelve, that’s when I saw her picture.

My friend – my dear sister – from ages past.  The one the Lord was gracious to wind my path with briefly in college before she married a ‘Jim Elliot’ and I sang in her wedding and her beautiful feet went to far-away soil.

What I love about her is that heart always laid open bare.  Her struggles un-hidden.  Her seasons of heart-wrenching grief raw and  accessible.  But through it all, laid low, she is hidden in Jesus.  This has always been her way.  His way in her.

It was the end of my year of broken.  On her 40th birthday, I saw her photo posted.  She is simple and small of stature, and has always been beautiful.  But this was more.  She was – radiant.

Like Jesus Himself was shining around those light-colored eyes.

And in that moment I knew.  I hoped.

Could I, in my brokenness, be hidden in Him, and thus be so radiant with His light?

That I could decrease enough that His light would increase in me.

In my storm, hidden in the cleft of the rock, covered by Him… radiant.

 Twenty-Thirteen… The Year of becoming Radiant.

 

 

 

 

Surrender

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It’s early morning and I put on my white scarf – my favorite one. It’s delicate and beautifully practical. The one Ericka brought back to me from India. I’m told it’s actually a covering. It’s white like a bride would wear. But strangely this morning I think of the white paper banners with Chinese symbols – glued across door tops and alongside doorposts of the house where some Chinese family has lost a loved one…

I wear it with my lavender top and my brown skirt – the one I changed into from blue jeans because all my girls decided to wear skirts today and is mama going to wear a skirt too? How could I not oblige?

We have friends coming and – as always- I’m only slightly prepared. Okay, maybe not really prepared much at all. I meant to get out of the house days ago to get the needed groceries.

But there was the cold weather. And the day I was so tired from nightly interruptions I barely felt like lifting a finger. And there were – as always – the six children. When did doing chores alone begin to feel like such light work?

But it’s Saturday and the 60 hours are done, so their Daddy is home and I run off with light feet.

The rain is coming, but it isn’t here yet and I marvel that it feels more like spring than December rightly should.

On short drive to market I marvel again at sunbeams streaming down – breaking out of dark pillow clouds. I don’t notice these gifts enough. There are the six children and all.

Market‘ sounds too whimsical, really. It’s Walmart, for crying out loud. And it’s Christmas season. One day maybe I’ll learn to stockpile enough in November that I won’t have to darken the doors of that mega-center again until February.

Funny how this “hap-happiest season of all” brings out the demon in people. I’m just saying.

And funny how a Christian should think these thoughts – of hiding away from the darkness of the world during the very season when Light came into darkness… this thought I push aside for later.

But there’s a different air this morning. Maybe I’ve missed the crowds. But really, I suspect it’s something else. I know it is. This thought I push aside as well.

I grab my buggy and swipe down the handle with the provided germ-killing wet wipes and wonder for a second if this does any good. In fact, what if this is really a conspiracy… the wipes are actually laden with virus so that we’ll all become ill and pharmaceutical companies will make a profit.

There are many thoughts to push aside. I focus on my task.

Fruit. I’m glad the bananas aren’t too brown. Should I pick up some berries as well?

I pass by the packages of hot cocoa and don’t give them a second glance. No one will want it today. We’ll likely be running the air conditioner.

Several times I hear an announcement over the loud speaker and instead of the usual noisey, crackly, invading drum of shrill, it’s actually pleasant. So pleasant. Attention Walmart associates, would Jane Smith please come to the jewelry department? Thank you.

No, thank you. What a relief to my eardrums. In fact, I notice the sheer lack of noisy, crackly, invading drum of advertisements. I’m in Walmart and it’s altogether peaceful.

Is this even possible? Maybe I’ve entered a Narnia-like second-world without realizing it.

Every person I pass is pleasant as well. Not hurried, darting, vacant. Eyes actually meet eyes.

And now I can no longer push aside the thought.

After the tragedy that rocked our world yesterday, we’re all feeling it.

More blessed. Thankful. Somber. Slowed-down.

We’re just shy of two weeks until Christmas. And twenty families are likely looking at stockings and wrapped goodness under spruce needles and nothing can make the upside-down right again. And the rest of us – we hug our little ones tighter. Thank God for His goodness…

Yes, there are the twenty-or-so families here, and then there are the ones across the big sea, still reeling from the attack on their school children, all with the sleek black hair. I think of my white scarf again. In China it’s the color for mourning, not for the dancing of brides

I look at the spices and try to remember which ones I needed… onion powder… garlic… I move on the cans of hot dog chili…

And then there was that thing my friend Dave brought to our attention. The statement he made. Dave, who’s always spoken the truth.

It was a tragedy, yes. And the country cries out. But what about those babies being massacred every day in every city in America? Why is no one outraged about them?

It’s no secret who the one with darted tongue, the one who is called Father of Lies – it’s no secret who he hates. The very ones that Jesus said “let them come to me.” The very ones Jesus said, “you must be like them to enter my Kingdom.”

I walk so briskly through the store, and finish my list quickly. Lining up behind another lone shopper at the checkout I hear her talking with the clerk. Such a tragedy. Doesn’t make sense. So sad. Why?

I pay for my items and push the full cart out to the truck. And I fill the front seat with filled bags – things that will fill the bellies of those I love.

Those with whom I am blessed.

I should count my blessings, right? And I do, but something else lies there under the surface, and I push the thought aside again for later…

I go through the day counting my blessings, my gifts. Write them down, even. Friends come and fellowship takes place. Messy hotdogs spill out chili and over quiet conversation, messy thoughts pour out honest to hearts that can be trusted. The day flies on and soon children are in bed and the hard working husband sets out to practice for tomorrow’s worship.

And I sit down to read and wrestle with thoughts that now should be pulled near instead of pushed away. The hard ones will never stay away, will they?

And there, in the reading, in the quiet, it comes all at once.

My children breathe tonight, and I count it as God’s goodness. So, for the mother of a child whose lips are ever now silent- God is … not good?

I am only blessed and God is only good when I can count those gifts that make my heart sing? But in loss and tragedy and when I’m the one whose loved one didn’t make it, who’s facing death’s door, whose healing did not come – then I don’t say God is good?

And from the garage – so as not to wake the deep-breathing children – I hear the guitar in practice of the Psalm of the month and I know the words, hear them in my head and heart,
Come, let us worship the Lord,
for we are His people
the flock that He shepherds…

And I know. We are His sheep. He is our shepherd. The Good Shepherd. He is always and will always be good. The sheep know it. They know Him.

And when the hard comes and I want to look at something ugly and call it ugly and wrong and a curse- I can only think, God you’re good. Still.

And I think of Peter’s words to Jesus as he stood there firm in his sandaled feet, face-to-face with the Savior- when many who’d been following Jesus walked away from His hard teaching.

“Do you want to go away as well?”

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of life.” (John 6:68)

He’s the Word, the Light, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. And that isn’t all.

“I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

That’s right. I remember now. There was a dark night. A betrayal, a tragedy. Dreams shattered. The Innocent – the only truly Innocent One – slain. The Shepherd became lamb.

And some wanted to call it ugly and wrong and a curse. But God was in it. God was in it! And God was good, still. What looked like tragic end and loss and – no, please, no, not this!  It was victory and love and grace. It was Gospel.

And I can no longer nibble the creamy mint-filled dark chocolate, and I put it down with my book. All around me there is mess and chaos and every day I feel the burden of my own failures. And we’re behind in our laundry, behind even more in the schoolwork, and my sink doesn’t shine. And loved ones are suffering and friends have illnesses that seem to have no solution and brothers and sisters deal with depression and fear and worry and apathy… and marriages are holding fragile and children are strayingand I feel the weight of all of it.

How many days – months – go by when I feel so much weight of it I can only manage the prayers of the feeble. Oh Lord. Please. Oh, please help. Jesus come quickly.

There is so much I want to call ugly and wrong and curse and tragedy.

But I know I cannot just accept what I feel is good, and call it a gift, a blessing. Call it good, Him good. Because in one hand, there is beautiful, and in the other there is ugly, and He is the hand that holds it all.

Orchestrates it all.

And no, I don’t want it this way. But who am I? A vapor, a mist.

A sheep.

And He is my Shepherd. And I know Him, know He is good.

And I surrender.