31 Letters to my Mother {Day 11} Cupped hands, held high

 Dear Mom,

Guess what? These letters are not just bringing healing to our hearts, but they’re inspiring people to reconcile with each other here on earth. While they have the blessing of breath and life to share.

I’m broken hearted that our real life, skin to skin time has passed. I will never claim that this road of losing and remembering you is an easy journey.  It has undone and remade me Mom.

Yet, I keep imagining myself with cupped hands, held high, begging God to redeem my story.  A posture of “here, take it, make it beautiful in a way that only you can.”

Do you remember the story in John 9 about the man born blind?  I have no idea how heaven works, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  Heck maybe you’ve done drinks with THE man born blind.

My mind is imprinted with the verse: “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3

I love that Jesus side steps the stupid trap of the question and gives something far more lovely.

We question “why” all the time, both on purpose and by nature. The why of pain is a road that cannot be navigated and to be honest I rarely mess with it anymore.

I have no idea how to sort out what God sends for his glory and what is an inevitable result of living in a broken world.

This world, that operates outside of original intent.

I don’t think God sent your depression, or that his finger was on your death.

Yet I am glad you’re free of pain, whole and reunited with Our Father, and Dad too. I’m glad for the redemption of your story, my story, our family, this life.  Piece by piece, day by day, bit by bit.  

That the works of God might be displayed in him

Redemption, hope, healing, reconciliation, I see those works happening and they certainly fall under the heading of works of God.

For without him, those words are not, cannot come to fruition.

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

Sabbath for the Mamas (more Q than A)

Laundry Tip: put your hamper in a corner and use the walls for extra pile support. (And yes the kids pulled down my sheer curtains.

Last night leaving the mess seemed like such an act of self grace, this morning it seems like terrible idea.  Morning me is curing sleepy bedtime me, and not just under her breath.

The breakfast prep isn’t delightful or serene, because the kids hang on my legs begging for ingredients, dragging chairs up to the counter to “help” me.  This is something that was sweet, at first, but today adds an additional stressor to an already hectic morning.

Kel comes out of the bathroom in his dress slacks and rushes out the door to preach at a supporting church and I look at the kids with a mix of love and discouragement.

They’re screaming on the outside and I am shrieking on the inside.  It’s only 7:15 and already I am sobbing for some peace.

I find myself wondering, Dear God where is the sabbath rest for the mamas?  What’s your plan here?  How can you call us to lay it all down and rest when truly we’re out of clean forks and underwear?

What do you desire from the ones whose floors are still sticky from yesterday’s watermelon fiasco?  The ones who are still not fully over the fact that their daughter peed all over the floor in WalMart?  The ones who shouldn’t do laundry on Sundays but don’t know how they can avoid it?

I believe in your rhythm, your rest, your call to work six and rest one.

When Watermelons attack. Your floors. (hint, it leaves a noticeable stickyness for days)

I want to delve in your word all quiet and relaxed on the back patio, sipping coffee and bathing in your love, manifest so clearly in your creation.

But when I sit outside, the demands to come play and pretend intensify, as if they hate to see me resting.  What do I do when devos are interrupted by the cozy coupe falling over, again?

Can you refresh those who approach with love and good intentions?  

The ones who have both stepped and sat in their son’s poop this week?

What’s your plan here?  Am I doing it wrong?  Will you show me what to lay down?  How to drink your water deeply, to make peace with the giving of myself yet another day?

Remind me over and over again that this is a season, will you highlight the beautiful parts?

Perhaps you could get them to both nap at the same time and keep all the poo and pee in the proper places?

Is there a Patron Saint of Preschool Mothers?  If not, can you get the pope on that?

Dear Lord, can you teach me what your plan for sabbath rest is for the mamas?

I know that many days I look more like Martha than Mary but, no one is knocking down our door to do the laundry.

Lord thank you for being a God of grace, who loves children who approach with exhausted hearts, full of questions.

Friends, please share your secrets of grace in the mess, resting in chaos, sabbath for the mamas.

Daily Graham Crackers

The hardest part of my day is from 3:00 – 5:15 PM.  From roughly the end of nap time to the moment Kel walks in the door.

I’ve expended all my creative energy, used up all my bright ideas, I have no new snacks or tricks up my sleeve.  I look at the kids over the bar from the kitchen and we all sense it, a collective, “now what?”

We all have stretches like these, be they hours, days, weeks, times of great pressure where we eagerly await for the moment of “all done” to arrive. Continue reading

The Evolution of “Us” (A love letter to Kel)

This week I’m writing about marriage, mine mostly because that’s the only one I’ve been in.  I’m still working on the details, so for now I’m just writing a love letter to my stud muffin, the bacon to my BLT, the brown eyed okie boy who took my life by storm, The Kel.  

a goodbye, nose-smooshing, airport kiss.

Wow babe, six years eh?  Six feels like such an odd number, it’s not tiny and it’s not a multiple of five, it’s just… six.

Six years ago my uncle walked me down the aisle and we cried, you more than me.  We slow danced to a song about a broken road, not because it was popular but because it was just right for us.

We had no idea then how many winding roads we would take together and how soon we would fall apart, side by side.  In a way we both know that this is a getting up place for us, that for the first time since our cross country move, Noelle’s birth, My Mom’s Funeral and Caedmon’s arrival we have our bearings, maybe, probably.

And yes, we know that it could all change tomorrow…

We’re learning to laugh again, you and I, and we’re daily giving each other handfuls of grace, even on days when the sink is broken and the AC has gone out. We’re learning to look across the table and see each other as perfect in the moment, even in paint stained shorts and frizzy hair and always it seems, with bags under our eyes.

We had no idea what a marathon parenting would be, we dreamed it would happen in soft, hazy blips, but the constant march has been a steep learning curve.

So we’re perfecting at art of the “at home date” and the humor that can be found in just how wrong things seem to go some days. Such as babies who build tacos on their head and then poop on the floor without us noticing because we’re Just. That. Tired.

Mostly I just love you and lately I feel like I love you all over again in a new and fresh way that’s come clean of all my unfair expectations.  My heart is full of passion to love you as the man God created you to be.  I’m dropping all my silly notions of who you should become.

I’m seeing you beyond my own nose, taking you into my newly tender heart, surrendering to all the ways that I can’t earn or control love.

In year 7 I’ll keep buying you super hero underwear because I want you to feel strong in spite of all the ways the world can tear you up.  I want you to wake up and believe you’re able to work miracles in his name, because you are and you do.

As the days go on I say screw the lawn, forget the theological bickering and all the high expectations I used to put on everything.  Let’s just draw together, skin on skin in the moments of life, not as we imagined or planned them but just as they are.

And of course I’m half awake writing this, and of course you’re 1,000 miles away finishing up your masters but baby, I love you like whoa.

Bring on 7, 17, and 47.

Traveling Mercies

We made it home after our 12 day visit to Michigan, our trip-o-meter reads 2,457 miles.

On the way up our tire exploded in smoke as I drove through 8 lanes of Chicago traffic.  I  was able to easily pull over so the damaged tire was on the inside lane, away from the morning rush of cars.  I consider this a gift.

the remains of our passenger side mirror.

On the way home last night we had an accident where another driver’s carelessness caused me to swerve to avoid T-boning him at 55 MPH.  Both vehicles were damaged, but drivable, my nerves suffered the worst of the collision.

We staggered in the door at 4am, Caedmon got me up at 6:13, I crave my bed in unspeakable ways.  Yet my soul is simply happy that we arrived home together, with minimal damage.

I love the phrase “traveling mercies.”  It’s like someone speaking blanket of blessing over your journey, asking God to show you beauty on your travels and shield you from the ugliness.

We aren’t guaranteed safety, this is why we as for safety and mercy before we embark.

We’ve never had a blowout or an accident on a road trip before, yet this time we had both while I was behind the wheel.  This isn’t unfair, it’s just life.  The reason we ask for traveling mercy is because we’ve seen what can happen, people will drive badly, machines will fail, rubber will burst, weather will turn ugly.  It’s a mad mad mad mad world, full of brokenness and pain.

When the inevitable happens, we can either respond with lips full of anger for the trouble or thanks for the loving grace that carries us through.

If you survive the damage to continue on, then your best response is always gratitude.

We aren’t guaranteed perfect miles, but endless sustenance from the giver of life.  It’s not always easy to see, but freedom is realizing that the sustaining mercy is bigger than the trouble.

Last night as cars collided, our children continued watching a movie and eating teddy grahams as if nothing had happened.  For this, I  buried my head in my hands and weep.  In the light of all that could have happened as two cars collided at high speeds, we were relatively unscathed, able to press on toward home.

In the blowout, the inside lane was greater grace

In the accident, the peaceful children were a blessing

In funerals we have been surrounded with love

In lean months our bills have been paid

I am one adorned with traveling mercy, sometimes so blessed that I realize it.

Do you see the grace in the trouble?  The gray light in the dark room?

“In this world you will have trouble, but I leave you my peace, that where I am there you will also be” ~ Rich Mullins

A Part of the Story

Do you remember the complete and utter drama of trying out for plays in school?  You audition, trying desperately to bring the hero or heroine to life and then you wait in a awful blend of dreams and dread.

The day arrives when they post THE LIST on the auditorium door.  All the hopefuls gather ’round, scanning the list of roles, wishing to see their name.  Asking the same question, will I get to be a part of this play, this story?

Life gets a whole lot better than it was in high school, thank God.  You come to realize that the most important plays and stories aren’t happening on a stage some Saturday night in April, but everyday, all around us.

waiting on a homecoming

More beautiful than any hoop skirt heroine is a little boy home for the first time from Ethiopia, finally part of his forever family.  More lovely than a choreographed rendition of “Getting to know you” is a text message letting you know that a broken relationship has been restored.  Listening to your son learn to sing is more precious than a part in “Meet me in St Louis” because this is a play that will last a lifetime.

I cherish nothing more than being a part of stories, my story, your story and above all else God’s Story.  I meander through my little house with it’s smudged walls, scattered toys and full pantry and my breath catches and escapes in a heavy sigh.  I think about all the people whose stories are dark today, whose mind is full of hard and heavy sorrow and questions.

I can’t be a part of every story, but I can breathe prayers to a God who is the author of every page.  I can beg him to teach me to become more aware of the story being woven all around me, to play the part that is the most helpful in his over arching desire to redeem and restore.

I can open my eyes wider and savor the moments where I am privileged to speak the most beautiful lines.  To be a part of the dream scenes, the ones that will forever alter the lives of those I love.

Yesterday was a dream day, our family stood along side many others with signs that bore the words “welcome home” and my dear friend Joely walked down the airport hallway beside her son, finally home from Ethiopia.  They gathered as a family of four for the first time.

My heart popped and every hair stood on end, how many times had we sat and talked about this moment, rehearsing it in our heads, the day when she would bring her child home after a 2 year pregnancy of fundraising and paperwork.

Finally it came, and it was more beautiful than I could describe, and as we drove home my heart overflowed with thanks.  I was humbled to be a small part of the day they brought him home to stay.

Anytime you are humbled to be a part of someone’s story and you have the clarity to realize it, breathe thanks.  Really the story is what we have, it’s how we change the world, bring heaven to earth.

Lord give us ears to hear the direction of your spirit as we live out the moments.  Thank you for every story we are blessed to be a part of, and give us the courage to go for the roles that are hard, to reach those that others aren’t reaching.

Thank you for sharing your story with me, dear one, any day that our lives intersect is a moment of beautiful humility for me.  Be blessed, be brave, see the story.

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?

He’s home, for ME.

This is my man. swoon!

Last night we painted welcome home signs complete with a stick figure daddy to welcome home my husband Kel.  Today he rolled in just before 1:00, tired and dragging his suitcase.  I promptly jumped on him in delight and squealed like a monkey.

I’ve told him at least 22 times already that I’m so glad he’s back, that he’s mine and I’ll never stop annoying him with reminders of how glad I am to be reunited.

You see, this time he’s home for me.  Not to take care of the yard or resume bath duty. He’s home for me, because he’s my sexy hot papa and I’ve missed him.  For the first time in a very long while I was delighted that we were together again, just to be us.

3 days and 2 hours might not seem like a long time to be away, but you have to realize that we left in the midst of a fight and had another one over text message, you know, for good measure.

I always get a little irritated when he leaves and I’m left with everything to do at home and no one to share it with.  I grumble things like, “those conference planners never asked me if I wanted to pull three triple shifts.”  or “I bet he’s out to lunch right now, laughing and eating a gourmet sandwich while I’m cleaning up a broken salt shaker and trying to convince our daughter not to eat the ceramic remains.

After the kids were born,  I began to miss him not for who he was, but for the things he did.  That view of him eventually drifted into our day to day life as well.   “Great, you’re home, fire up the grill, Dizzle needs a diaper and I’m going to need you to run back out for milk later.”

I saw him as the relief pitcher, the extra help, the lawn guy.  Not Kel the guy with the deep brown eyes who cried through our wedding vows.  Not Kel the one who romanced me with poems about sitting on a couch in the front yard.  Not Kel the one who held me through funerals and breakdowns, weddings and births.

Somebody smack me, for I reduced him to “the help.”

Screw that, the help?  No, that’s nothing like what I swore to on our wedding day and it doesn’t line up very congruently with God’s plan either.

I want sexy friendly funny fabulous union again, not just two people with different to-do lists.  Two roomies always moving around each other, rarely intersecting.

Marriage and relationship growth will always require shifting and changing as our circumstances morph around us and God continues to grow and whittle us beautiful.  We straight up can’t think that just because we’ve found ourselves in a rough patch or unhealthy rhythm that we can’t squeeze through to a better tomorrow.

Good old fashioned elbow grease and determination can free you from any jam you’re stuck in, even and especially marriage.

And if you’re going to view your husband as the yard guy, at least make a fun game out of it.  Sit in a lawn chair with some lemonade and shorty shorts watching him like he’s the ice cream truck on a steamy summer day.

Have you ever found yourself in a spot where you see your spouse as what they do and not who they are?  Let’s get together and high tail it out of there, it’s a sucky place to dwell.

Where I stop the counting

My daughter is getting great at counting, so am I.  She needs to keep learning numbers where as I need surrender my counting skills.

I must allow grace over all numbers and measures

I wake up to the sounds of a fussing baby, look at the clock, how much did I sleep?  A number…
I manage to put my feet on the floor and my thoughts flit to my weight, how well did I eat yesterday, did I gain, lose?  A number…
My daughter asks to watch Mickey Mouse, I think about how many hours of TV she watched yesterday, was it too much?  A number…
I log into my WordPress stats, how many hits throughout the day?  Are my stats going up or down?  A number…
I try to distract the kids so I can start my day in prayer, how many days behind am I in my reading plan?  A number…
We move through our day, counting the hours until Kel gets home to provide relief.  Counting, numbers, counting, numbers, always evaluating and coming up short.

Every day a rating, an evaluation, am I making progress, forward motion?  Am I a success or a failure?

I’m constantly numbering my days and coming up short.  One too many cookies, not enough books read to my children, too little quality time for Kel, not enough prayer, too few dollars in the grocery budget.

Can I confess something to you all, that may not be a big secret?  I sort of suck at grace, I’m a terrible good conduit of it, I struggle to give it because I struggle to receive it.

overflow at church

Last night our church held a beautiful, candlelit worship service, stripped down, simple and deep.  It was the first hour I’d spent off the mom clock in two days.  As the music flowed and the scripture washed over me I broke down and headed to the cross for the body and bread, where I was intercepted by my a beautiful friend.

As we knelt in prayer she knew my soul, my specific brokenness.  She prayed that I could see myself as valuable, lovely and enough.  She prayed I would realize how valued I was by our church and community and that I could learn to give myself the gift of grace.

I told her about my crusty shell, my walls, my sharp tongue.  I’m hard on myself and my family, I expect more than any of us can feasibly achieve.

I recoil at the idea that God sees beautiful things when he looks at me. Surely he sees my flaws, the weak prayer life, the moments I yell at my children or criticize Kel for the 42nd time.  How could he see me as enough, as lovely?

She knew, she already knew.  I realized the wise soul, ahead of me on the grace journey have been reading between the lines of these pages.  They’ve seen my need to be easier on myself.

We prayed that I would become full of grace and tender, more empathetic and free of the chains of “not enough.”  I prayed in earnest that however painful it may be that God would tear down the stony walls and restore to me my tender heart of mercy and grace, first for myself and then for my family.

I returned to my seat where another dear friend handed me a tissue for my drippy mascara cheeks.  As I glanced around the softly lit room I saw the faces of the older women, those who have gone before, beautifully lifted toward their father.

They’ve lived this season, with young ones, lonely days learning the rhythms of grace.  Oh father may that be me someday, a little more wrinkly and lot more gracious.  May I have eyes for the younger ones and bless them with encouragement and prayers, kind words and surrogate mothering.

As I prepared to write this I breathed a simple prayer, may my broken connection to God’s grace speak to yours if you have one.

May we work together to change our seasons, out of crusty, dry graceless days and into a lush spring valley, full of green grace.  May we begin measuring our beauty by the great worth God sees when he looks upon us and give up our weights and measures.

Apparently there’s no trophy

Kel left for a conference this morning around 11:00 and I’m trying to get into the solo parent mindset.  I’ve found I have to approaches to parenting solo:

First there’s wussy woman:

“Woe is me, I’m SO depressed, what on EARTH am I going to do with a 1 & 3 yr old all by myself for the next 80 hours? (yes I have it down to hours)  We’re going to have to watch 6 movies a day and eat nothing but popcorn as I walk around in my bathrobe and sulk.”

The opposite side of this coin is super lady

“I got this, I got this hard core!  I’m not only going to parent the crap out of my kids but I’ll reorganize ALL the closets and cupboards, teach the kids how to make both noodle necklaces AND potholders.  Additionally, if I’m going to be on my own I need to learn how to use the power tools in the garage as well as the lawn mower.”

These two inner selves are so opposite that I’m expecting a multiple personality diagnosis within hours after I post this.  Just call me Cybil.

I have many friends who are single moms every day of their lives so I feel like I have no business whining.  They do it solo every day, I think I can manage three.  These women are astounding and deserve massages, gourmet dinners, free babysitting and mocha truffles.  Single Moms, I am in awe.

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