I Cannot Handle Your Marigolds.

“Mrs. Bennett! Wait one moment, Capely left her flowers yesterday, let me go grab them for you.” I smiled and waited, then panicked. Please don’t be real flowers, please don’t be real flowers, please don’t- “Here you go!” Crap. “Thanks!” I replied as I turned toward my car. Crap. CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP. Real flowers. Real flowers that my daughter’s teacher helped plant, water, and keep alive. They really did have such a bright future. Until they were placed into my hands.

I put the small cup of newly growing Marigolds in my cup holder and drove home. Five of them. Five unsuspecting and innocent baby marigolds. Just staring at me. I should probably just throw them out the window and go on and get it over with now. I got home and did what I assume you’re supposed to do. Put it by the window. Maybe, just maybe, they will make it this time. Capely comes home later, sees her “flow-lers” and is thrilled she gets to watch them grow. Every time she goes to check on them, my heart drops a little more. This is not going to end well.

It has been a week. I have kept her “flow-lers” by the window. I have watered them when I remember. But slowly, and just as I expected, we are already down to just one. I think I can actually hear them crying. This is not supposed to be difficult. If my three year old could get them to live and grow in her class, her 31 year old mom should be able to do the same at home. But I cannot. I have finally accepted the fact that I am basically a Plant Hospice. I’m just here to keep them comfortable until they meet Jesus.

Meanwhile, my three year old is losing her mind. Her paper is wrinkled, I wouldn’t let her buckle herself, and now all of her precious flow-lers are dead. And all I can do is tell her I did my best. I tried. It doesn’t matter that my mom could take dead and dry plants and bring them back to life. Her Christmas cactus bloomed all year long. She was a Plant Whisperer. Apparently, this skips generations. Along with cooking. But that’s another post for another time.

Teachers, if you are reading this: for the LOVE, please stop sending real plants home with the children. It may be “fool-proof”, but not all of us parents got that memo. Some of us are struggling to understand why we put the milk in the pantry and a Bible in the refrigerator. We are not adult enough to handle your marigolds. Maybe 95% of your students have parents who are adultier adults and can handle their milk and Bibles AND your marigolds. But for the 5% of us who just CANNOT, please stop sending them home. After the third marigold flops over and starts shriveling up, my daughter stops believing me when I tell her “Oh, it’s just taking a nap.” Well. It never wakes back up. We didn’t do anything to deserve this, and our poor children have to deal with the consequences of our black thumbs. We didn’t choose the black thumbs, the black thumbs chose us.

 

Side note: If you could all please say a prayer for Mecaden’s cabbage. It is her fourth quarter science project, due next week and hers is the only one that doesn’t have a head on it. The struggle is real. Send help. And oreos. And milk, because mine was in the pantry.

Socks and Big Girl Panties.

Yesterday I had a meeting with my oldest child’s school counselor and the county audiologist. It was slated to be a quick meeting, an annual review of her 504 plan. 504 plans are in place so that she gets preferential seating (and other similar things) in class in order to maximize her listening environment in class. We went over the routine questions, and confirmed that her ability to hear and learn in her classroom setting has gone extremely well this year. We continued on to discuss medical and safety plans. Suddenly, a quick annual review turned into a counseling and therapy session for me.

Most people who know me know that I’m pretty laid back. I enjoy being silly and have seemingly endless energy. But in regards to life and circumstances, I don’t get riled up easily. I don’t worry unnecessarily. I rarely worry at all. I was raised to take what life handed me and either do something with it or get over it. I was taught to be grateful for what I had, to not whine and complain, and if something didn’t go my way- TOUGH COOKIES. I also learned to do things myself. My grandmother had a saying, and that was to “pull up your socks and be somebody.” In other words, put your big girl panties on.

When Mecaden was born, I had less than a day of innocent newborn bliss. I remember her first night with me… I hadn’t slept the night before due to contractions, labored all day, had her late in the evening, and pushed for over an hour. It didn’t matter how exhausted I was. I gave birth to my (surprise) baby girl and all I could do was stare at her. I literally stayed up the entire night and stared at her. My 22 year old self was just in complete shock and awe at this incredibly breathtaking baby girl. All of God’s grace in one sweet little face. I didn’t care if I ever slept again.

The next afternoon, the nurse wheeled her squeaky bassinet back into my room from a nursery assessment. I was about to reach in and scoop up my darling girl when the nurse turned to leave and nonchalantly said over her shoulder, “She had her Hep B shot and she didn’t pass her hearing screening.” And the door swung closed behind her. I just froze. Hearing screening? What hearing screening? She didn’t pass? What does that mean? I literally don’t remember what happened from then until we were discharged the next day. Not one thing. Two weeks later, she didn’t pass an outpatient hearing screening. Ten weeks later she didn’t pass an ABR hearing test at UNC. Our baby was deaf.

I cried. I cried hard. Really hard. But after some wrestling with God and His peace settling into my heart, it wasn’t long before I was pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. I couldn’t change the situation, but I was determined to do everything I could to ensure my daughter would have a normal life- hearing or not. She was fitted for teenie tiny hearing aids that same day of her “No Response ABR” test. From then on we dove head first into Auditory-Verbal Speech Therapy. Parent and child therapy sessions weekly that taught me how to teach her to speak through listening. The hearing aids didn’t help her at all, and the day before she turned one, she got her first cochlear implant. We continued speech therapy- the weekly sessions were just a drop in the bucket of all the speech therapy we did with her. For years I narrated everything. “Open the cabinet! Take the glass out. Put it on the counter. Open the fridge. Take the milk out. Take the lid off. Pour the milk. Put the lid on. Put the milk in the fridge. Close the door.” That was just to pour a cup of milk! Input. Emphasis. Input. Emphasis. Sing-song-y. Constantly. For everything. For years. There is no wonder why she never stops talking now.

At the park, I hovered. It was not in my personality to do so. But it wasn’t just any toddler who had to learn how to climb. It wasn’t just any child who falls and cries. If she fell and hit her head, she could easily damage her internal component of her cochlear implants, and we would be looking at another surgery. If the slide was too static-y it could wipe out her program channel and settings on her implants. Not to mention, I was still inputting. “Go up up up the stairs. Down the slide. Weeeeee!” Inputting sound was woven into every single thing. I never could go to the playground and just chat with other moms while we watched our kids play. I was the mom climbing up into the equipment and ignoring my mom friends.

Mecaden is almost nine now. I don’t have to narrate everything anymore. I don’t have to hover at the park. She scares the crap out of me with how she flips over the bars, hair and legs flying, sticking her landing as she lets go. My concern for her safety has left the playground and has found new fears. Emergencies. My friends giggle over this. I don’t blame them. It feels silly. I have a fear of her class evacuating for a fire, or running for cover inside the building during a tornado warning. I know they practice drills so everyone stays calm if it really happens. But my brain goes to the worst case scenario, and all I can think about is what if in the chaos, she gets bumped, her processors fall to the ground, she stops and looks for them… by the time she hopefully finds them not stepped on and broken, her class is gone. She doesn’t know where they went because the alarm is so loud and suddenly she is by herself. Or what if she can’t find her processors, or they get stepped on and broken, and she can’t hear instructions, or a comforting teacher’s words during a frightening event? I can’t tell you how many times my fears have pushed me to picking her up from school on days there are tornado watches. I can’t handle thinking about her disoriented, scared and confused, and not being able to hear.

I opened up and shared this at the 504 meeting today. I was a little nervous that the counselor was going to reprimand me for taking my kids out of school based on a silly fear that likely won’t ever come true. Instead, she and the audiologist both affirmed and encouraged me. Not to keep taking her out of school, but they validated my fears. They validated my desire to protect my little girl. They brought up how it is another stage of the grief cycle. It’s a different grief than when I first found out she was deaf. It’s a different fear than when she was put under for major surgery. It’s a different sadness than when she first cried about not being able to hear while she swam. But it is grief.

I cried. I cried hard. I opened up and shared that I have had a lot of hard things in my life. (Actually, I told them I have been through a lot of crap.) I shared that I’m not used to worrying. I’m not used to giving into fear. I’m used to sucking it up and moving on. I’m used to taking whatever hand I am dealt, and making the most of it. I’m used to being strong. I’m used to pulling up my socks and putting my big girl panties on. The counselor gently said, “It sounds like you have a lot of baggage. You’re used to being so strong- for you and for other people. And being in control of your emotions and not letting things get to you. It seems like you let all of your fears and worries come through in this one area- Mecaden’s hearing loss and safety. It’s like it’s the one place you’ll allow yourself to express it.” I cried and admitted, “Sometimes I’m just tired of pulling my socks up.” And I cried hard.

I wiped my eyes, and cleared my throat, and said “I don’t like to whine or complain. I am so blessed. I have so much to be thankful for.” The counselor gently offered again, “Yes. But no matter how much we are thankful for, we all experience hard things. And it’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay to hurt. You need to give yourself grace and let your socks sag sometimes.” I cried again.

I cannot tell you how much weight was lifted from my shoulders. She helped me pull layers back on issues I didn’t realize I had. Here I am, seeing how so many others go through hard times and I try to do everything in my power to encourage them to give themselves grace. I tell people all the time that sometimes life sucks, and it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry, and to cry hard. I didn’t realize all this time I have been bottling up my emotions about so many circumstances. I mean, I’m not made of stone. I typically cry hard initially… but then I read and speak Truth into my circumstances, and I pull up my socks and move on. I suppose all this time, I felt like once I pull my socks up, they have to stay up. No use in crying over spilled milk, right?

Wrong.

Sometimes its okay to cry over spilt milk. No, you can’t un-spill it. It is already done. But you know what? It stinks that you spilled it. It stinks that it is wasted. And don’t get me started on crying over spilled breastmilk (not sorry, fellas. not sorry.).  So much work, down the drain. Or on the floor. Or all over the fridge.

I’m pretty sure I could speak in strictly idioms, being from the south and all. I digress. I just wanted to share what has been going on in my trench. And I really want to encourage you to give yourself grace. There are really, really hard things in life. Remember: the reason these things are so hard is because we were never meant to experience them. It is okay to cry. It is okay to cry hard. It is okay to wrestle with God over it. It is okay to wish these things were not happening. Even Jesus cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He was referring to his upcoming brutal death on the cross. He knew it was coming, He knew it would hurt. He knew the only way to bring salvation to man was if He died for and instead of us. He understands your pain. He understands your fears. And do you know that He collects every tear of yours that falls (Psalm 56:8)? He is there. Even when no one else is. He is there, and knows ours prayers even when we cannot form them (Romans 8:26). It’s okay to let your socks sag. You don’t have to have it all together, all the time.

And when the time is right, you can pull your socks up and put your big girl panties on. But do so in the strength and grace of the Lord. When life hands you lemons, you can make lemonade. But unless you have water and sugar, your lemonade is going to suck. You can wipe your face and toughen up and move on when life is hard… but unless you face it with help from the Lord, you’re going to take a beating from life again before you know it. Don’t misunderstand me- just because you do things in the Lord’s strength doesn’t mean you’re going to perfect it and it will be easy. You’re human, and you will get knocked down again. But if you’re walking with the Lord through life, His grace will catch you when you fall.

From my trench to yours,

Emily

 

Photo Credit: allthe2048.com

 

Bedtime.

Most evenings, we have a version of World War III in our house. Somehow it is a surprise every night that we have to walk up the stairs to get ready for bed. It is a surprise every night that we don’t need to take the stapler and sharpies upstairs with us. It is a surprise every night that we change into pjs. It is a surprise every night that we use the potty and brush our teeth.

With these “surprises” come frustrations and attitudes (not just the kids, hello). My kids who, at 7:29, are running around like banshees and jumping from the coffee table to the couch and act like they have Red Bull running through their veins suddenly drop like flies at 7:30 when we announce that it’s time for bed. Their legs are BROKEN. They absolutely cannot walk up those godforsaken stairs that are only rivaled by scaling Mount Everest. After running a marathon. Once we reach the summit (insert spanking warnings here. And maybe three other times before here.) we approach the agonizing task of changing clothes. I have one kid who is the people-pleaser and has been changed, used the toilet and brushed her teeth already. So she’s busying herself picking out clothes for the next day. While she’s doing that, I’m trying to understand why my son still has one sneaker on that should have come off three hours prior when we walked in the door from the park. Just one sneaker. And he is falling apart because he cannot find his pjs, they have disappeared. “Levi, take your shoe off.” “I don’t know where my pjs are!” “I’ll find them, just take your shoe off.” “Where are my Pokemon cards?” “Levi, they are downstairs. Put your pjs on- -“ “I CAN’T FIND THEM!!!!!! I’VE LOOKED EVERYWHERE!!!!!” “Okay, chill out. I will find them. Take your shoe off.” Then I suddenly realize I’m being called “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Moooom. Mom. Mom. MOOOM. MOOOMMMM!!!” “YES?!” “What is the temperature for tomorrow?” “I have no idea. Levi take your shoe off!” “But I need to know what the temperature will be. I want to know if I can wear a dress or shorts or – -“ “Mom! Where are my pokemon cards?” “—or if I need to wear leggings or if I should wear sandals or- “ “Levi PUT YOUR PJS ON!” “- or boots or my Chucks.” “I CAN’T FIND MY PJS!!!!!!!!!!” And I am currently hog-tying my three year old to brush her teeth on the floor while she is screaming so loud that the neighborhood Chihuahuas, Henry and Willie, are freaking out across the street. “OH MY GOSH just get NEW PJS before I lose my mind!” “Mom, whats the temperature for tomorrow?”

It is an absolute wonder how I am able to function after this point. Somehow we make it through the pjs and the toothbrushing and the potty-ing. I go tuck in the baby, and by “tuck in” I mean: turn her sound machine on, her lights off, snuggle her with her paci and bunny, lay her down and walk out the door. (Parents of babies- enjoy. Your time is coming.) I come back to sing and read to Capely, but she’s nowhere to be found. Turns out she is in the refrigerator surrounded by wrappers from processed cheese slices and using a spoon to drink tea out of the pitcher. After weeping and gnashing of teeth, I return her to her bed to tuck her in. Mid “Jesus Loves Me” she starts singing, “Yes, Jesus loves poo poo face!” and falls into a heap of giggles as I try to keep composed and redirect her words by not making a big deal out of her choice of words. But she knows how to get me to crack and then we just have to stop singing completely because of all the poo-poo singing. We pray and and I walk out, ready to enter the grand finale of bedtime wars in the next room.

Normally, walking into my big kids’ room, I sigh upon entering. Some nights I walk in and it’s a complete free for all- legos, dinosaurs, crafts, clothes, books- everywhere. Some nights I walk in breaking up fights over Pokemon cards (seriously, why did those not die with the 90s?). Some nights the only way I can tuck them in is if I remove blankets and sheets and pillows and clothes strung across every corner of the room for their clubhouse fort. And some nights I walk into art work hung from every piece of furniture and every wall by Ninja Turtle and Frozen bandaids. The little white tabs littering the floor. Did I mention that my house has been on the market for three weeks?

Tonight, I walked into my kids’ room, ready to huff and puff and blow their clubhouse down. But instead of walking into a mess, I walked in to see both of them with their Bibles opened, reading out loud to each other from 2 Thessalonians.

To be honest, it wrecked me. It has been one of those days (more like weeks) where my mothering has been sub-par at  best. I have felt entirely inadequate to parent and disciple my children, coupled with the exhaustion of showing our home seven billion times. I haven’t had the energy to even want to attempt patience. I feel like I have done a complete disservice to my children lately as their mother. Walking in to see my children reading God’s Word together, on their own accord, made me want to simultaneously weep for my own inadequacies and praise God for His faithfulness and grace despite my shortcomings.

Y’all. God is good. He reminded me tonight that I can do everything in my power and might to love my children well and have all the come-to-Jesus talks and I will often times not see fruit from it. And other times, I fail miserably at pointing my children to Christ (by words OR actions) and see God working in their hearts without any help from me. Parenting is a weighty, weighty calling. I’m so thankful that where I am weak, He is strong and his power is made perfect in my weakness. I’m thankful that He doesn’t give me a baby and tell me “good luck”, but loves and parents my children both when I am intentionally faithful or I miserably fall short.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a shoe off of my sleeping son.

Marco Polo.

It has taken me a week to even write this. Every time I start, I am at a complete loss for words. It is rare for anything to leave me entirely speechless.

A few years ago, we had to turn down multiple birthday party invitations for my oldest, Mecaden. They were pool parties. Yes, she can swim. Yes, she wanted to go. The only problem- all of her friends from school only know her as hearing. They know she was born deaf and has cochlear implants. They know when she takes them off she can’t hear anything. But they have never had to experience her without her “ears”. We go to the pool and to the beach every year- her external processors cannot get wet, so they go in a case to stay away from any water. She runs off to jump in, and often times other little girls want to befriend Mecaden. I have to go over and communicate to both of them, explaining that Mecaden can’t hear, and telling Mecaden what the little girl is saying (Mecaden used to be able to read anyone’s lips, now she really can only read mine). Sometimes its too confusing so the other children will go on and find someone else to play with. Other times (many times) the other children will try their hardest in attempting to play with Mecaden and make her feel included. The more children, the harder that is to achieve. They start squealing and splashing and hollering, “Let’s all see how far we can jump from the side!”… she can hang in that situation if I tell her what’s going on. Then someone pipes up, “Let’s play Marco Polo!!” Well, at that point she is done. She has to sit out. Not because she won’t attempt to play, it’s because other children simply don’t understand and don’t have the patience to work with her hearing loss. Truly, it is never out of unkindness that these children move on and play without her. They just don’t understand. But I cannot tell you how it kills me to see her trying to keep up, the kids swimming away after another new game, and leaving her bobbing in the water and slowly making her way to the side by herself. She just sits there and watches them, wishing.

For years this didn’t seem to bother her. Mostly, because we only went swimming with friends. Friends she has grown up with and they have always known about, accepted, and worked with her hearing loss. It’s not new or different to them. It’s normal. No one ever swam away from her. Since starting elementary school, it has started affecting her. After a few turned down invitations, she sighed and told me, “I just wish I could hear in the water. It’s not fair.” I decided to fight my own pain in hearing that, and mustered up all the chippiness I could, and forced a smile… “I know, Mecaden. But remember, when you get to Heaven, you will be able to hear without implants all the time!” Normally, that worked and encouraged her. This time, however, she burst into tears and said, “But I don’t wanna wait for Heaven to hear!” I cried, too, and just wrapped my arms around her and told her I was sorry. My heart shattered. My little girl can’t play Marco Polo like all these other children, like I did as a little girl. She can’t even tuck her hair behind her ears because of the processors that take up so much room, not to mention the arms of her glasses that have to fit back there somehow.

Sometimes the broken things threaten to destroy us in life. Sometimes it is hard to see the beautiful in the broken. Sometimes its hard to wait until Heaven.

When Mecaden recently got glasses, I decided to submit to insurance a request for new implant processors. These are just different external components, no surgery required. An all-in-one unit called Rondo. It would take all of the pieces that go on/around/behind her ears and be in one mostly-round unit that magnetizes right where her internal component is. It would mean she could wear her glasses much more comfortably. I didn’t think insurance would cover it… but I asked our friends, family, and Sunday School class to pray big prayers. God showed up in big ways.

The Rondos were approved in full (!!!) and I learned they would come with completely water proof covers. As in, MY GIRL CAN PLAY MARCO POLO THIS SUMMER. I cried on the phone with our audiologist. You would think, almost 9 years into this journey, you can get a hold of yourself and not cry anymore. So not true. I had to hang up and call back. We wrote a message for Mecaden to read when Todd got home from work. She opened it and read “Mecaden, you are getting new cochlear implant processors. That means this summer you will be able to hear while you swim.” Mecaden has this built-in gauge of excitement on her face. It’s her single dimple on her right cheek. The deeper it gets, the more excited she is. I have never seen her dimple that deep. Pure. Joy.

Last Monday, I took Mecaden to her cochlear implant/audiology clinic. In no time at all, her Rondos were mapped and ready to go. A little bit of sound booth testing, some tweaking, a little more testing and we were out the door. A couple hours later, we made a stop at the optical dispensary where she got her glasses. She needed the arms adjusted to fit her ears better since she no longer had any processors on them to hug them to her head. Mecaden hopped out of the car and I stopped her so I could take a picture. I told her to pull her hair back so I could see her new processors and suddenly it dawned on her. “Wait. You mean I can put my hair behind my ears?!” The rush of emotions I experienced was unexpected. I grinned and said, “YES, you can!!!!” And with that, I watched as my little girl tucked her hair behind her ear for the very first time, and a grin spread across her face. That deep dimple appeared again.

I am thankful for our daughter’s journey. If you asked me, I would tell you that of course I wish she could hear without implants. But she doesn’t and she won’t until Heaven. And God has taught me more about Him and given me more joy through brokenness than I feel I would have otherwise. Timothy Keller said that “God shakes our confidence in our earthly life so that we can yearn for our heavenly life, where our joy is truly unshakable and where our wailing will be turned into dancing.” That is one of the hardest things to be thankful for… broken things to remind me of the day when there will be no broken things. And while we wait, God blesses us richly with little tastes of what that day will be like. Things like waterproof cochlear implant covers and impending games of Marco Polo, and simple things like your daughter being able to tuck her hair behind her ears. I encourage you to look for the beauty amidst the broken. Sometimes its not as grandiose and obvious as the broken. But it is there. The tiniest reflections of the incredible goodness and kindness of God.

From my trench to yours,

Emily

A Beautiful Mess.

“We do not play with hammers.”

“Why did you flush a ball down the toilet?’

“No, we don’t color on the baby.”

These are just a sample of things I have said to my three year old in the last 24 hours. On any given day, I find myself asking the most bizarre questions and imposing the strangest rules I never dreamed of. The other day I came down from a shower and found the milk jug in the middle of the kitchen floor, a mason jar beside it, and a baby spoon floating inside of it. A couple months ago I had to “sort through” toilet contents for three straight days to look for a swallowed penny (which, thankfully, showed up). The back of my couch is covered in crayola, and I just repainted our pantry door with four layers of paint to cover purple sharpie. Today, I found almost an entire carton of blueberries eaten and a pack of deli ham on the coffee table- also half eaten. She throws fits when each divided part on her plate isn’t filled with a different food. Suddenly she doesn’t like bananas, even though she ate them every day for the last week. Some days I think she will turn into a mermaid if she stays in the bath any longer, other days it’s a fighting match just to get her dunked and clean. At preschool pick up, I pull out of line to buckle her only to reach her door to find she has jumped up in the front seat. I go to the front to get her, and of course, she hops right to the back.

Y’all. I have literally called my dad three times in the last week and have said, “Daddy, I am so sorry for EVER BEING THREE!!!!!!” He just laughs. “Dad, you don’t understand. She sharpied on the door!”… “Well, is it pretty?”… “No, it’s not pretty! Pinterest can’t even help me get it off! I have to paint it!” More laughter. I often say that Capely is the child my mother prayed I would have. To get me back. She won. And If I listen closely, I can even hear her laughter from heaven.

My girl is so. SO. exhausting. As my husband says, “She could make a preacher cuss” (something his grandma used to say about him). She literally can get my blood boiling with frustration… and steal my heart that the same time. I’m cussing in my head at the same time I’m grabbing her sweet face and kissing her all over until she giggles uncontrollably. She makes me question my sanity, but there is nothing she could ever do to make me love her less… or more for that matter.She is the most beautiful mess.

I often wonder if we are all a little like Capely in God’s eyes. The choices we make in thought or in deed. He’s not surprised, but I’m sure He shakes His head quite a bit. At least with me, I know He does. However, God has such patience with us. He is longsuffering with His children. We may choose to stray, maybe even for years. We don’t know how to turn back to Him even if we wanted to. We let the enemy drive a wedge of fear into our hearts that God is disappointed or even angry at us for the choices we make. Maybe we have done something we don’t think He could ever forgive.

We would be wrong.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, we see a son who makes incredibly poor choices that cause him to separate himself from his dad. His dad, on the other hand, stays right where he always has been. The son squanders his inheritance and lives a life of recklessness. In verse 18, we see where the son, who is now eating among filthy pigs, decides to return to his father. He knows his sin causes him to no longer be worthy of being his father’s son. He only hopes his father will treat him as his servant. Much like the son, when we stray from God and make poor choices, we listen to the voice of the enemy and assume God will have nothing to do with us if we return to Him. That He will treat us as though we do not belong to Him. That we are unforgiveable.

The son returns and the parable picks up in verse 20 as follows:

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and
 ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What! Yes, you read correctly. The father saw his son was returning and felt compassion. The son confessed his sin… I imagine his head was hung low, and I bet he couldn’t look his dad in the eye. What recklessness he had been a part of, what shame he brought to his father. Surely his father wouldn’t forgive him. Suddenly his dad is calling for the best robe to adorn his filthy son who had just left a pig’s sty. His dad throws a huge dinner celebration and is overcome with joy.

Friend. This is how God sees you. He hasn’t moved, it is you who have moved. But take heart. This parable is to portray God’s love for his children. The moment God sees your willing heart turning back to Him, He has compassion on you. The moment you confess your sin to Him, He clothes you with complete forgiveness. Not some watered-down version of forgiveness for the “worst” sinners.  You get the same forgiveness Mother Teresa received, Billy Graham received, and that the thief on the cross next to Jesus received. The common denominator is a broken heart and a contrite spirit; a confession of sin. The moment you repent and ask for forgiveness is the moment your broken relationship with the Lord is restored. Completely.  Because of Jesus’ blood, those of us who were once far off have been brought near (Ephesians 2:12). You don’t work for it and you cannot earn it. The prodigal son sure didn’t earn it. And neither can you. But you can receive it. From a loving Father who never moves even when we do. There is no sin you can commit that will make God love you less. There is no good deed you can do to make Him love you more. Because God is love. And He demonstrated that love by sending Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). It is unmerited mercy and grace.

If you have found yourself far off from the Lord… take heart. Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies that you can’t go back (or approach Him for the first time ever!).That God could never forgive you. Jesus says “Come as you are”. You don’t have to change first. You just have to have a willing heart. He will do the changing in you.

You are a beautiful mess that God loves.

From my messy trench to yours,

Emily

Five Years.

Valentine’s Day is one of my very favorite days. I blame my mom. She loved Valentine’s Day, not for any romantic reasons. She loved getting us little goodies. This week, as I have been putting together ideas for my kids’ goodies, I’ve thought back on the gifts my mom gave me. When I was in maybe third grade, my oldest daughter’s age, I woke up to find what every little girl my age wanted- a Caboodles kit. All of my friends had a HUGE Caboodles, with compartments that flipped over, opened up, and slid behind. Teal, blue, and purple, no bigger than a small tissue box, and one little tray I could take in and out- mine was in the shape of a heart. And it was filled with red, pink and white M&Ms. We didn’t have the money for much extra, but my mom made sure I still got a Caboodles. I’ve kept it all these years, and now my girls play with it. Another year, when I was maybe 19 and working as an orthodontic assistant, my mom asked to come see me at work real quick. Our relationship was struggling badly, to put it nicely…. yet she still made a point to make me feel special on Valentine’s Day. She came back to the clinic area and gifted me Lindt truffles and a box of Emily’s chocolate dipped fortune telling cookies. She got the biggest kick out of finding a brand with my name on it to give to me. I’ll never forget her face when I took that box out of the gift bag. She was so proud of herself. I’m laughing out loud as I type this, and shaking my head. She was a mess.

Goodies aside, there was one Valentine’s Day that she gave me and my brother and sister the best gift possible. It wasn’t anything she could find at the store, it didn’t come in a gift bag with red tissue paper. On February 14, 2011 my precious mom went to be with her Savior.


Below is an excerpt from her CaringBridge page that I had written the evening of her passing.

 

            Yesterday evening I was pulling my things together to go see my kids for the first time in two and a half days. Mary, my favorite nurse, came in for shift-change around 7. She asked if I      was leaving and I told her I was just going to give my kids a kiss goodnight, but would wait until she took Mom’s vitals before I left. Diane, one of our favorite Nurse Techs, wheeled in the little vital cart. I grabbed Mom’s hand- “Mama, Diane’s just going to take your blood pressure. It’s going to squeeze for just a minute, then it will be done.” After a minute of the familiar hum of the cuff tightening and loosening, the machine beeped and it tried a second time. Two more of those and Diane dropped her head. “I ain’t gonna lie to you, baby. That’s not a good sign.” She went to get Mary, who brought in the old fashioned BP pump to get Mom’s vitals manually. Two times she tried, when she looked at me and lovingly told me “It will be soon.” I looked up at the doorway and caught my Dad’s eye- I told him to go see my kids and come back, but I wouldn’t be going to them tonight. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my mom’s side until Jesus came.

Pete, Sarah and I sat with mom. We didn’t know if it would be minutes or hours. I remember at 7:20, I told mom, “You’re less than five hours from Valentine’s Day. But I think you already know that.” We sat around Mom and talked. Diane came in to just be with us. Dad came in while we were reminiscing about our childhoods. Mom was listening- she breathed in perfect harmony to our melodic laughter.

It was a minute past midnight and I told Mom “Happy Valentine’s Day. You have a big date soon.” Diane went back to the nurse’s station to let us be alone. It was Mom, Dad, Sarah, Pete and Me. It was almost odd how unbelievably comfortable and peaceful the room was amidst the pending sadness. It was sometime around 1 that we all started getting sleepy. I curled up in the chair that had become my bed over the last four nights, and held Mom’s hand while I nodded in and out of sleep. Pete found a position where he was able to sleep with his head next to Mom’s. Sarah curled up on the couch next to Dad, our ever-present strength, who hardly blinked for watching over us. Dad had promised Mom almost 40 years ago that he would be with her through sickness and in health as long as they both shall live. The enemy could have used the ten-plus years they shared in divorce to break Dad’s promise. But truly, our God is a God of Redemption. Dad and Mom had such a precious conversation the week before, more meaningful to both of them than they ever could have imagined. And now we were seeing just how incredible God’s timing is- our Dad was there with Mom, keeping the promise he made to her nearly 40 years ago. Tell me there isn’t a God- and I will tell you this story over and over again.

I don’t quite remember the exact time I felt it, but Dad nudged me between 1:30 and 2:00. “Lou, it’s almost time.” I popped up and got as close as I could to my Mom. I asked Dad later how he knew it was almost time- was it because it was something he had seen before, losing both of his parents already? Or was it just something he felt. He said, “I just knew.” We all gathered around Mom, held her… prayed… cried… told her we loved her.

At 2:14 a.m. we all knew, Mom’s Savior was in her room. She took a last breath, I shot out of my chair and I exclaimed, “He’s here Mom! He’s here! Jesus is here!!!” I trembled and shook, tears streaming down my face, feeling the clash of pain and overwhelming peace in the presence of my Savior. For 7 minutes, we were with Mom and Jesus. At 2:21, Mom left with the Lover of her Soul for the most divinely appointed Valentine’s Day of her life.


When I was about 7, my dad’s mother passed away. Some time later, we were outside and Dad was working on trimming a gangly bush at the end of the driveway. I thought of the most horrid thing my little mind could think of, and asked my dad, “Daddy, would you eat mud if it meant you could have Mimi back?” He said, “Yeah, I would baby.” A moment later, he said, “Actually. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t bring her back here for anything. I would never want her to come back here now that she is with Jesus.”

Fast forward 20 years. I sobbed to my dad a few days before my mom’s death that I didn’t know how I would live when she died. He told me that God would give me a peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:6). I didn’t believe him. However, a few hours after my mom died, I found myself telling someone “I wouldn’t bring her back for anything.” I shocked myself when I heard what I was saying. A peace… that surpassed all understanding… wrapped around me. I didn’t lose my mom. When you lose something, you can’t find it and you don’t know where it is. I know where my mom is. She is alive and made complete with Jesus, tending to the gardens of Heaven and singing praises to God. On Valentine’s Day 2011, the best gift my mom gave me was knowing that the last time I saw her won’t be the last time I see her. 

That truth alone is the only reason I can face Valentine’s Day each year. It doesn’t mean I don’t re-live the pain of watching her hurt, then watching her slip into unconsciousness from the pain meds. It doesn’t mean I don’t tremble as I remember holding my mom’s hand to my face and desperately trying to memorize the way it felt. It doesn’t mean I don’t ache to hear her voice or her laughter. But. Because of God’s great love for us, sending Jesus to die while we were yet sinners… I will see my mom again. She believed and claimed Jesus’ death and resurrection, and in turn received eternal life. It is because of that that I can wake up to my excited kids on Valentine’s to give them goodies and remind them of how much I adore them. My biggest hope is that these gifts remind them of God’s gift to us, and that each of my children claim His grace and mercy for themselves. My three-year-old’s Princess Sofia necklace she got today will probably break tomorrow. My son’s 1,000 Dinosaur Facts book will probably be lost in a hotel one day. But eternal life with Christ? That’s something you can’t lose. Because of that, I am not five years without my mom.. rather, I am five years closer to being with her again.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from my trench to yours,

Emily

Fixing The Broken Things.

“God’s treasure is abiding. It lasts. It goes beyond death.”

I saw this quote on Desiring God’s Instagram last Tuesday. It had a way of reaching into my soul and hugging me close, comforting me with it’s truth. I happened to read it on a day I needed it most. Five years ago on that day, my husband had come home to tell me that I needed to get to the hospital, that my mom only had 24 hours to live. It’s impossible to not re-live that day and the 12 days following it that my mom did live.

Tuesday was a hard day. That afternoon my oldest daughter had an eye doctor’s appointment. The office is located directly behind the hospital I had driven wildly and recklessly to five years before. At my daughter’s appointment, it was confirmed that she needed glasses. Something she was elated about.  Had she been upset, I would have been on the floor in tears. Why? Because she already has cochlear implants and the processors sit on and behind her ears.  Anyone who knows me also knows that I love her implants and praise God for them. Rarely do I get emotional about them. Tuesday was one of those days. My girl already can’t put her hair behind her ears with how the processors sit. Did you read that? My 8 year old daughter cannot put her hair behind her ears to get it out of her face. Something just about any little girl can do. She can’t wear headbands without it making her processors or the cords or her hair sticking out funky. Let’s just add glasses why don’t we. Let’s make it impossible for her to wear a headband like her little friends at school. All I could do was think about how her ears were broken and now her eyes were, too.

It made me long for Heaven.

When God created the world and created humans, He created perfect humans. He created us to live in communion with him and fellowship with one another. We were supposed to be at peace and to enjoy God, with His supplying our every need.  Earth was supposed to be paradise, sustained entirely by God’s power. We weren’t supposed to experience pain. We weren’t supposed to suffer from cancer or from other diseases. We weren’t supposed to be deaf or blind. We weren’t supposed to endure infertility and see specialist after specialist and take every kind of medicine just to create a new life. We weren’t supposed to have babies with birth defects that require 17 machines to keep them alive and surgeries upon surgeries to sustain their lives. We weren’t supposed to be raped and murdered, or blown up by terrorists. We weren’t even supposed to have locks on our doors. The reason it is so hard to experience pain and death is because we were never created to experience it.

The serpent deceived Adam and Eve, they questioned God’s goodness, decided what was best for themselves, ate the fruit, and brought sin into the world. What was once perfect and whole, was now broken. The world… and their fellowship with God. In His great mercy, God didn’t snuff their lives out that instant. But the world was now cursed. Everything from then on would be done by the sweat of man’s brow.

There is suffering all around us. Pain does not discriminate. Tragedies. Disease. Affairs. Lies. Bankruptcy. Mental illness. Hunger. Abuse. Death. A whole spectrum of suffering. If we let the enemy deceive us, we will question God’s goodness while we suffer. Or, our suffering can compel us toward Christ. When my mom was baptized a few months before she died, she shared her testimony. She said, “Though my body is growing weaker, my faith is growing stronger.”

Every grief we experience in life gives us an opportunity to either smite God, or cling to Him. To question Him or to trust Him.

Romans 5:3-4 says, ”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” We will have trials and hardships, but we can suffer well. Suffering well doesn’t mean we don’t hurt. It means we know that God is for us and our hope is in Him alone. Our hope is in eternity with God in Heaven, where there is no more sickness and no more pain, no more suffering and no more tears. Just communion and fellowship with God in paradise (Revelation 21:3-4).

When our daughter was three months old, we learned she was profoundly deaf. Her ears were broken. At first, I shook my fist at God. I angrily asked Him why He would do this to me. I questioned His goodness. In a still small voice, I heard truth… He wasn’t doing this to me, He was doing this for me. For my good, and His glory. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that we will have tribulation on earth… but to take heart because He has overcome the world. If we suffer well and trust in God’s goodness, our hope is not in this fallen world. As long as we are here, we are constantly going to be fixing the broken things. Cochlear implants and hearing aids for deafness. Glasses for vision impairments. Chemo for cancer. Medicine and surgeries for infertility. Jail for perpetrators. The list is endless..

Who knows how long we will live, or what we will face. Believer- I encourage you to suffer well. When you are faced with the broken things of this world, trust God’s goodness. Its okay to be upset. It’s okay to shake your fist at him. He gets it. He can handle it. He’s a big God, and your frustrations and maybe even anger won’t push Him away. This was not what He planned, believer. He is with you. He collects every tear of yours that falls. Cling to His truths. He has set eternity in the hearts of man (Ecc. 3:11)… He has set a longing in your heart for Heaven, for wholeness. C.S. Lewis penned one of my favorite quotes, “If I find in myself desires in which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Our pain and our longing for healing is a desire this world cannot satisfy, only Heaven can. Let your suffering and your pain and your grief make you weep for what was lost when sin entered the world, and let it give you the greatest hope imaginable for what is waiting for you. Long for the place where there are no broken things.

From my trench to yours,

Emily