God Does See Color.

Years ago I heard a story. It was about this little boy sitting at his mom’s feet while she cross-stitched. His mom was busy plunging and scooping her needle, he was busy playing with his toys. Now and again, he would look up to see her progress. From where he was sitting, he just saw a mess of colors and knots underneath. He asked his mother why she would make such a mess. She smiled and just told him, “Just wait. I’ll show you later.” He didn’t understand, but continued playing with his toys. When his mom was finished, she scooped him up on her lap and showed him what she had made. It was a gorgeous, stitched picture of a sunset. The little boy’s eyes were huge as he took in the marvelous splendor of colors and how they all weaved perfectly together. He turned the fabric over and saw the knotted mess again, only to turn it back and see that the sunset was still there. The story was to portray how we see things from our point of view, and question God. We see a mess, and He sees a masterpiece.

I have been hearing a lot lately, how God doesn’t see color. I understand the context in which it is being said. God sees our souls and each life has value regardless of the color of our skin. Which is true. However, God does see color. He created each color, individually and intentionally for His glory.

We have to stop assuming the worst about each other. Just because you see a white police officer, it doesn’t mean he is looking to shoot a black man. Just because you see a black man, it doesn’t mean he’s concealing a weapon and ready to take out a cop. Just because you find out someone is a Christian, you cannot assume they hate gay people. Just because you find out someone is a  Muslim, you cannot assume they have a suicide bomb strapped to their chest. Our mentality has become “guilty until proven innocent”. We hear or see one thing about a person, and we let it dictate how we feel toward them and act toward them.

Here’s the thing. There are bad cops. There are bad black guys. There are bad white guys. There are bad Christians. There are bad Muslims. There are bad Liberals, and bad Conservatives. Here’s the other thing. There are far more outstanding police officers than not. There are far more good black guys, and good white guys. There are great Christians (notice I didn’t say “perfect”… there is no such thing). There are wonderfully peaceful and kind Muslims. And there are stand-up Liberals and Conservatives alike. Just because someone looks different or believes differently than you, doesn’t give you a right to treat them with any disrespect, and doesn’t give you a right to assume the worst about them.

My stepmom told me something many years ago that I have always remembered, and repeat to myself often. It doesn’t matter what people say or think about you. It says more about them than it does you. Stop judging a book by it’s cover, stop taking the one single thing you know about someone and letting it dictate how you treat them.

God does see color. From our perspective, everything right now is a knotted up, tangled mess of thread with no design, no purpose, no beauty. If we would all just take a moment to look at things from God’s point of view, we would see how each of our colors weave together in the breathtaking tapestry that is God’s own heart.

Be the best you, and believe the best in those you come in contact with.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com

 

 

The Very Best Funeral.

 

My best friend lost her beloved grandmother last week. It is the first person she has lost. The only funeral she had ever been to prior to Mama Ruth’s, was my mom’s. Ashley told me that the hardest part was seeing her Papa Joe weeping over her casket. My heart broke for him, for her.. and at the same time, rejoiced in that rare and precious love after 65 years of marriage. I said as much to Ashley. And, being the best friend that I am, I piped up that “Todd wouldn’t do that. He would holler for someone to “come nail this thing shut and wheel her outta here!” Ashley laughed, and her spirits lifted.

My favorite thing to do with Ashley, besides just being around her in general, is to make her laugh when she needs it most. Back in high school, she came into class one day bothered to death about something. She wouldn’t talk about it. So while our annoying teacher was yapping away about something, I grabbed Ashley’s milky pens (hollaaaa!), popped the cap off and just stared at her as I dragged the pen from my forehead, straight down my nose, and landed on my chin. Her eyes got huge, and the little stars (she has the prettiest eyes, y’all) that were missing came back and were dancing. I grabbed another pen and did it again, this one was green. She smiled. Whispered, “Can I do it?” and I nodded. She grabbed another color and drew more lines on my face. She started giggling, and in minutes my face was covered in all sorts of milky shapes and lines. This Monday, I had her daughter while she was in Tennessee for the service. After the service she read my updates, one of which was, “The girls and I may or may not have accidentally walked into the men’s restroom at Chickfila today. And I didn’t even realize it until Evelyn saw the urinal and squealed ‘EW IT’S A BOYS!!!!!!!!!!’ We saw nothing. No men were in there and no one was eternally mortified. But in my defense, at every other CFA in America, the women’s restroom is on the left. Except this one. I just go left by default’.” She responded how hysterical that was and she needed to hear that in the midst of the sadness. She even added two crying-laughing emojis, so I knew it was legit.

Today, after talking with her about how hard Mama Ruth’s service was, and then getting her to laugh, I started thinking about all the funerals I have been to. I have been to at least 10, my first at age six. Funerals are so hard. Even when they are referred to as “Celebration of Life” services. Even when you know that you will see that person again in Heaven. Sometimes its hard to wait until then.

I started thinking about my own funeral Celebration of Life service. What it would look like. I decided I cannot handle people being sad. So, I started texting Ashley my plans. If you don’t have a friend you can text random crazy crap to, you need to find one, buy one, rent one… something. Just get one. Like yesterday. Anyway. I have literally been thinking up these ideas all morning and could not wait to get them written up. I’ll share them with you. By the time I’m done, you’ll be looking forward to my funeral. And if you don’t know me, you’ll want to meet me just so you can come.

First things first- there will be a few mandatory rules.

  1. No one is allowed to wear black. The only exception is my sister, Holly, because it’s all she wears and I don’t want her to have to spend money just to come to my party. The rest of you- happy colors. I’ve rarely paid attention to ettiqute. ettiquite. ettiquit? (looks up correct spelling) ETIQUETTE, so I’m not about to start. Wear your pinks and greens and blues and patterns. My bouncers will not let you in otherwise. (Shout out to my girl Siri for helping me spell the E word).
  2. No one is allowed to say or write “Rest in Peace” or “RIP”. I will not be resting, I will be teaching Jesus and the other brethren how to Dougie and how to Whip and Nae Nae. With a guest appearance from Stanky Leg. And I’ll probably be hollering at my mom that “This is not the time for the Electric Slide. You’re embarrassing me. Mom, stop it.”
  3. There will be no tissues anywhere. They will be replaced with dozens of colorful, confetti-and-glitter-filled balloons. I don’t want anyone being sad. If anyone even sniffles, my bouncers will stand behind you with pins and pop balloons. You will be covered with glitter and confetti, and you may have to change your underoos, but you will not be crying anymore.

 

Okay, now here is where it gets fun. Once you get past my bouncers with your colorful outfits,you’ll be greeted by Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” If you live under a rock and haven’t heard it yet, go click on that link and watch. You absolutely cannot sit still or be sad when that song is on. Which is exactly what I’m going for here. Now, if you’re done watching and dancing, let’s continue. There will be a table that has a bunch of colorful programs AND MILKY PENS (that one’s for you, Ash). In the program will be a space where every person has to write down the most ridiculous and funny story they can remember about me. Another page will be a crossword puzzle (you know, while you’re waiting for the service to start. If you aren’t dancing to JT.) and the clues will be in my obituary. That I wrote. It will be composed entirely of FRIENDS references.  Another page will be my favorite movie quotes. Actually, that may end up being about seven pages long.

I’ll have a table with Chickfila nuggets with every type of sauce you could possibly want. I considered the broccolini-kale salad for you health-conscious peeps, but this is a party, and kale will never be at one of my parties. There will be frozen margaritas, or for those of you who don’t drink, the new frosted coffees from Chickfila (have you tried those yet? HOLY NECTAR FROM HEAVEN you are missing out. Go grab some change- you’ll need $2.92 for a small- and go through the drive-thru today and get one. You can thank me later. With one. So you’ll actually need $5.84. I’ll take mine with whipped cream. Go big or go home, don’t judge me.).

The service will be almost entirely led by you. My people. Remember that ridiculous memory you wrote down on the program with your milky pen? Now’s your chance to throw me under the bus. I can’t do anything about it, so make it a good one.  I want everyone to walk up to the microphone and read their memory. Like I said, go big or go home. I want everyone laughing until they need the Depends that will be strategically placed under their seats. The formal eulogy will be given by none other than Ellen. THE Ellen. The only crying I will allow at my funeral is from tears of laughter.

When you leave the service, I want you to pick up a bottle of bubbles and a party favor. When they wheel my casket out (that will be in the shape of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach thankyouverymuch), I want those bubbles making a canopy for my grand procession. I opted out of sparklers because once when I was seven, we were doing sparklers for the 4th of July and a spark burned a hole in my sock and burned my skin. I have literally never held another sparkler and I am deathly afraid of them. Bubbles are safe and don’t scare me, so sparklers are out and bubbles are in. And who can resist smiling when bubbles are flying everywhere?

Your favors are going to be a booklet of my favorite pinterest humor cards. Current favorite: “I hope that wherever my hair ties go, they’re happy. That’s all that matters.” I want you to read them and laugh, and then put them on your coffee table so that other people can read and laugh. Or maybe you should put them in your bathroom so there aren’t any awkward moments on your couch.

——

Y’all. I had the best time thinking this stuff up. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed sharing it. I don’t know if my funeral will be when I’m 35 or 95, or if Jesus will come back before then and we will all be taken up in glory. I have been to my fair share of services, including my own mother’s. Funerals are hard. Waiting until heaven is hard. I hope my funeral plans convey to you the joy I have in Christ and in living. And all of the joy and laughter in this service of mine is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the joy that is waiting in Heaven when all the broken things become unbroken. Where all the tears will be uncried. Where all the grief will be unfelt. Eternal joy is waiting for those of us who love Jesus, and is available to anyone who calls on His name.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go dance to some JT because if I’m honest, I’m a leeeeeetle bit jealous of all y’all who get to come to my service. Also, contrary to what you may believe, I was not approached by Chickfila about advertising for them on my blog or at my service. I am just obsessed with what is basically my second home.

Cheers,

Em

 

Image by dailyscocktails.com

I Got To.

My hands are covered in Elmer’s glue, pen smudges, and marker. I have dirt under my fingernails and scattered across my living room floor. My daughter’s third grade science project is due tomorrow- a poster presentation on a cabbage plant (which is miraculously still alive. if you read my last post and prayed for her cabbage, I’m asking God to give you a special jewel in your crown.). In project world, we go big or go home. Mecaden decides she wants to receive a 4- the highest grade- for her project, so WE DO FOUR WORK. It required two straight days of cutting, coloring, gluing, writing, and graphing. In addition to her project today, I was fixing meals (including lunches for school tomorrow), wiping faces, bottoms, and tables. From a dining chair, I scraped off mosaic artwork… which was actually pieces of processed cheese slices my three year old tore up and stuck to the back of the chair. I sent noses to corners, tantrums to bedrooms, and pee-pee dances to the bathroom. I played chase with my 16 month old and ran errands with my 8 year old. I folded, hung and put away laundry, unloaded the dishwasher and loaded it back up for another run. I read bedtimes stories, sang and prayed. I came back downstairs to pick up toys, set out backpacks, and wipe things down again.

I’m exhausted from another day of motherhood. But it is a joyful exhaustion.

My pastor spoke this morning of Biblical Womanhood, and how God purposefully designed male and female with distinct and valuable roles and character traits in order to give the world a glimpse of God. Eventually, he led us to Proverbs 31, where we read about noble character in a wife. In Proverbs 31, over and over, it is mentioned how the woman takes care of her home and the people in her home. She quite literally makes her home. She helps shape the people in her home. Often times in our society, being at home or even being a mom has become ridiculed. It has become a sign of weakness. But that’s not how God views it. My pastor said “The home is the building block of culture. God did not call women to build the home because He believed she was unable to do greater things. God called women to build the home because there is no greater thing.” Being a mother is one of the highest callings… making our homes and shaping the lives that come out of it directly affects everyone and everything else. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or you work outside the home- that’s neither here nor there. Your calling as a mother is the greatest thing you could ever do.If you have time, please watch the sermon I linked above. It will be well worth your time.

No, I didn’t get the day off today. I didn’t have “me time”. Had I not heard our sermon this morning, I might have been a little bitter about the posts on facebook where moms got the day off. (There is nothing wrong with that. I hope you got your nails did, and your summer wardrobe updated, and didn’t lift a finger all day. I love that you were able to get “me time”.) As I was tucking her in, my oldest asked me if I had the greatest Mother’s Day ever. I smiled and stifled a giggle thinking of the cheese on the chair and the dirt all over my living room. I told her that yes, I did have the greatest Mother’s Day ever. And I meant it. Projects and discipline, messes and chase- they don’t know it’s a special occasion. They didn’t get the memo. But they certainly do make today exactly what it’s about- celebrating motherhood. Celebrating that I get the unmerited privilege of making my home, and shaping my children, and striving to point them toward Christ.

I just re-read the first paragraph I wrote up there. But I read it differently. I added in “I got to” before each line. I got to help my third grader with her project. I got to scrape cheese off my chair. I got to play chase with my toddler. I got to do laundry. I got to fix meals. Tears are streaming down my cheeks. I got to be a mother. And I get to, every day. I have four littles to love and shape. I have friends and family who have struggled or are still struggling to have children. They would do anything to scrape cheese off chairs and work on school projects. It puts things in perspective and humbles me. I’m incredibly thankful for this high calling on my life- every sticky, messy, silly, and lovely thing about it.

Happy Mother’s Day

Emily

 

For my sweet friends who are struggling today… whether you are single and long for marriage and children, are married or in a relationship and are trying for a baby, or have a baby (or more) in Heaven, or are missing your own mother today… you are not forgotten. I am praying for you- those whom I know, and those I don’t. it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to not even want to get near social media on days like today. You are not weak, you are stronger than any of us can even imagine. I am so sorry for your grief and your pain. I am praying that God would fulfill the longings in your hearts and the aches in your arms, but if not- that you would be able to trust the He is still good. And that one day, all the  broken things will become unbroken. Wish I could hug each and every one of you precious things.

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.

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

 

I’m Tired.

I’m tired.

Just a few minutes ago, I hit a wall. I am fried. I’m surrounded by dirty dishes that can’t even be put in the dishwasher until I unload the clean ones. The counters are messy. Crumbs are everywhere, and if I step on one more Cheerio and hear it crack apart underneath my slipper, I will lose my mind. Don’t even get me started on how maddening it is to catch a piece of sticky granola on your sock. And who was the genius who thought it was a good idea to have carpet in an eating area?

It has been one of those days. The second doctor’s trip in two days for yet another case of pink eye. Another trip to Target for the prescription, only today the drops are out of stock (we must have gotten the last bottle yesterday) and won’t be in for another four hours. My 8 year old is home from school because of her eyes, so for the last two straight days I haven’t had a moment alone. At one point I put my hands over my ears and closed my eyes and with the last ounce of gentleness I had left in me, I asked her to please not talk for just two minutes. I opened my eyes to see her lips closed… but she was staring at her new watch, eyebrows up, ready to start talking again in 120 seconds. Meanwhile, my three year old is freaking out that she doesn’t have each divided spot on her plate filled with food. I don’t even know what her real voice sounds like anymore, I’ve come to the conclusion that she only knows how to whine or scream. I am losing sanity, my boob has a massive clog (I don’t even care who is reading this anymore), I just want to enjoy the last day with my baby being an 11 month old with all the feels and all the emotions and all the doting… but I can’t get past being annoyed with everything in my life.

I have not been a nice Mommy. I have wanted to wave the white flag all day. This isn’t for me. I don’t want to be a mom anymore. I’m tired. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to hear another “I don’t like this”. I don’t want to discipline. I don’t want to correct. I don’t want to be patient. I don’t want to be gentle. I don’t want to “Watch this!” or “Guess what?”. I don’t want to be needed or wanted.  If my walls were any thinner, my neighbors would probably question my faith. I have been snappy, unkind, rude and short-tempered. I have rolled my eyes, huffed in exasperation too many times to count, told my children to shut up, and have reacted immaturely to just about everything they have done.

For my well-being and theirs, I enforced a mandatory nap time for my two little girls, and a two hour rest time for my oldest. I put the baby down, then went to tuck my three year old in, wishing the moments of singing away so I could get downstairs and by myself faster. I was done with them, and I’m pretty sure they were done with me. I told my daughter to roll to her side so I could scratch her back- I was forcing myself to go through the motions of a loving Mom. A minute later she rolled back and looked at me, and held her arms up and in her tired voice said, “I wanna hold you.” My cold demeanor began to crack. I felt my irritability start to dissolve. I wrapped my arm around her and buried my nose into her coconut shampooed hair and just breathed. I felt her little hand scratching the only part of my back she could reach. I looked at her, and she smiled sheepishly. I moved her little baby hairs out of her face and tucked them behind her ear, and just marveled at this gift God gave me. She closed her eyes, and within a few minutes was breathing deeply. I could finally escape to be alone… but all I wanted to do was stare at her and sit with her. I couldn’t believe how horribly I have been treating her, and how she still looked past it and wanted to snuggle with me. What grace she had given me.

I came downstairs to the messy kitchen and just sighed. I know I’m not alone. I had been acting like a brat. I know why I’m tired, and I know why I’m just done. I have been doing all the things in my own strength and all for me. Well, no wonder I’m so disappointed and irritable. I haven’t asked for God’s grace or guidance even once. But I sure am quick to point fingers at Him when things aren’t going my way. I know having four kids is a lot to handle. And to many, it looks seamless for me. But it’s not. I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s not the kids, or the number of kids. I was just as overwhelmed, albeit in different ways, with just one, two, and three.

It’s because I’m doing it in my own strength.

So, what do I do? Motherhood is hard. It’s exhausting. I can’t change that. But I can stop doing it in my own strength. It’s not going to be easy. I’ve done it the wrong way for over eight years. It is hard to break a habit. But if I don’t break it, it will break me.

Are you struggling, too? Have you reached the end of your day of mothering, and while you love being a mom, you’re exasperated and something is just missing? A joy that you know is supposed to be there, but it isn’t? Are you overwhelmed with all the messes, all the appointments, all the extended family issues, all the to-do lists, all the whining, all the homework, all the bills and all the minutes being sucked out of your day? I’m with you. Right there in the trenches with you. It is ugly and it is messy.

The biggest thing that needs to change is me. The way I act and think is a direct correlation between my time in the Word and in prayer. My personal relationship with Jesus needs to come first if I want any chance of being a good mother, a good wife, a good anything. There isn’t a set time we are required to read the Bible or pray. It’s not better or worse if you do it first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. The only time is isn’t healthy is when you’re not doing it at all. I hate admitting it, but I’m about as unhealthy as it gets right now. It is something I have struggled with for almost ten years. When I try and fail to get into a routine of time with the Lord, I let the failures define and defeat me. I give up too easily, giving Satan the foothold he wants to wreak havoc in my marriage and family. I need to remember that God’s grace is always in full supply. When I fail, He’s still for me. He is ready for me to try again. I tend to believe He is disappointed in me when I fail. In truth, He is probably disappointed only when I stop trying all together. He knows I’m going to fail. He knows I am weak, and that Facebook will be more appealing to me than reading the Bible. He knows I will be tempted to watch tv and “veg out” after a tiring day instead of ending my day in thankfulness and prayer. In ­­­­2 Corinthians 12:9, He tells us that His grace is sufficient, His power is made perfect in weakness. I have to cling to that grace when I fail, and ask Him to help me see Him as more beautiful and of more worth than anything this world has to offer. And there is nothing wrong with Facebook in and of itself. There is nothing wrong with watching Fixer Upper. It is when I value those things more than spending time with my Creator that they become idols in my life. I have to find a balance. I have to decide what is most important.

Where does that leave me? My kids are still going to need me to help with homework, listening to their reading, filling out all the reading logs, signing all the forms, and making all the goody bags for the learning experience. My three year old is still going to lose her crap when each compartment on her plate isn’t filled or her sandwich is cut into triangles when clearly, she wanted rectangles. There are going to be spills every meal, crumbs on every surface, and never enough time to vacuum. There is going to be a lot of noise, a lot of correction, a lot of Come To Jesus talks, a lot of noses in the corner, and plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth. There will be pink eyes and stomach bugs, sleepless nights and bad dreams. It’s not going to get any easier. I will always need alone time and to not be needed for five minutes.

However, for the majority of the time when I can’t be alone and have to be needed… I choose God’s grace. I choose His strength. I choose His power in my weakness. I have to spend time with Him so His grace can pour over me, so I can then extend that same grace to my children. Motherhood isn’t going to change, but I can change as a mother.

All three of my girls are awake and rested now. It’s time to go practice what I preached. I think I’m gonna pray for a few minutes before heading up those stairs. Hang in there, Mama. You’re not alone.

Either/Or.

Daddy

It was dark out, and we were in a nice area in town. Still, my Dad insisted on walking me and my kids to our van. After buckling everyone in I walked around to the driver’s side where he was waiting to give him one more squeeze. Like he has done since I was young, he kissed me on the head, told me “lock your doors and drive safe.” I hopped in the car and closed the door, and stifled a giggle after he tapped on my window when I didn’t lock the doors immediately. I pushed the button, he was satisfied. I pulled out, and in my rear view saw that he watched me until I was on the main road before he ever even turned to walk to his own car.

As humans we have an intense desire to protect ourselves and those we hold most precious to our hearts. I know for a fact that my Dad would do anything to protect me and my family. If it meant defending us by using his gun, or if it meant throwing himself in front of a bullet. He would do it, no hesitation. He makes a point of walking me to my car so he can protect me if necessary, and reminds me to buckle and lock my doors to stay safe while I’m driving without him. I would venture to say your parents do the same for you, or that you would do the same for your children. You do it because you love them and value their lives.

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not actually writing about my Dad being willing to take a bullet for me. I’m addressing my thoughts on whether or not the US should allow Syrian Refugees to enter here. How does my Dad walking me to my car have anything to do with that? Sit tight.

I have been struggling for several days. I’ve read articles and blog posts, from top officials to dear Christian friends of mine. I’ve watched videos and read Bible verses. I have wrestled with my thoughts, even getting up in the middle of the night to vent and hash it out with my thumbs on my iPhone notepad just so I could stop thinking about it enough to fall asleep.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the perfect solution to the refugee crisis. I understand what so many Christians are saying in support of bringing refugees here. I know the verses they are quoting. I know we are called to have compassion and I know we are called to help others in need. And truly, these refugees are in desperate need. I have seen the videos of these people arriving on the shores of Greece. Their children and babies in layers of soaked clothing, their lips blue from the frigid temperatures on their harrowing journey. These people feared for their lives so much that the dangers of piling into a raft and floating miles and miles across the ocean was worth it to them in search of safety and hope. This while knowing a raft per day doesn’t make it to shore. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched their first, shaky steps off that tattered raft. Their hopeful faces gripped my heart.

I also see the other view. I understand why our Governor and so many others are refusing to accept refugees. I understand the very real likelihood that terrorists or ISIS sympathizers have infiltrated these people, posing as refugees. We already know that one of the terrorists from the Paris attacks was among the refugees. Certainly there are more. ISIS has already said they are sending terrorists to pose as refugees. Top officials say that there is no way to fully vet or check backgrounds of all these people. Syria has been a closed country for so many years, documentation is negligent at best.

Here’s my problem. I have read too many posts calling out the Christians who “reject” refugees. Post after post calling into question their compassion, and challenging them to be like Christ. Verses being used to guilt Christians into feeling their faith isn’t strong enough or their compassion is lacking. Is it really so awful that a Christian wants to be safe? Is it a sin for a believer to want to protect their children? Is their faith not as strong as yours because they don’t want a host of terrorists to unleash a spray of bullets or detonate a suicide belt while they are at a concert or enjoying a date night at a restaurant? Does it mean they have zero compassion if they have fears?

I don’t believe for a moment that these people- your Christian friends, your Governors, etc- are rejecting Syrian Refugees. They are rejecting terrorists. Unfortunately for these desperate refugees, that means they get rejected, too, because there is no way to know who is who. It’s basically playing Russian Roulette. There is just no way to know who is who. These people who are against bringing refugees here are not lacking in compassion. They simply desire to stay safe, and keep their families safe. They don’t want to be on the next Breaking News report about an ISIS attack.

People are making this an “either/or” issue. Either you have compassion and faith or you have fear. If that’s the case and we are going to go all extreme- how would that look in reality? Here’s how it would look for me, personally. If I had only compassion and faith that “what can man do to me” mentality, I would invite random strangers into my home with my four children. Bring on the hitchhiker. I would walk downtown at 3am and approach strangers. I would let my kids answer the door while I’m in the shower. I wouldn’t give them boundaries while playing outside, nor would I check on them. For our country? No laws. No borders. No airport screenings. No need for police. Or firefighters. Or military. On the flip side- I could be ruled only by fear. In that case, I wouldn’t let my kids go to school. Newtown, Connecticut, anyone?  I certainly wouldn’t let them ride the bus to school- did you see that a bus got in a wreck yesterday morning? I wouldn’t let my kids go a friend’s house because you never know if their dad (or whomever) is a child molester. I would never board a plane again because there could be a bomb. Our country- completely close borders. Allow zero international flights in or out.

We can’t live either of these ways. We also can’t approach the refugee crisis this way. We must have compassion and we must help. But we must do so with an appropriate caution. God gave us the ability to discern. We cannot turn a blind-eye to common sense in the name of compassion.

So what does this mean? How should this look? I’ll be honest and say I don’t know. I have my ideas. I’m not exactly sure coming to America is THE answer. If they do pass a rigorous vetting and screening process and are allowed to come here- then what? Where do they go? Who teaches them English? Who feeds them? Who is to say that these Refugees want to come here, to an entirely new culture, nothing like their home? Obviously they want peace and freedom, something they risked their lives to obtain. But other than that, their entire way of life will be turned upside down coming here. Nothing is familiar. Maybe they want that, maybe they don’t.  Kevin DeYoung writes for The Gospel Coalition. In his article ­­from Tuesday he says “It is not unreasonable or unfeeling to think that in some cases that supplying refugee camps with humanitarian aid or protecting safe havens elsewhere could be a responsible approach that avoids the risk of immediate resettlement in the United States.” He also admits he doesn’t know THE answer. But I’m thankful for his compassion balanced by discernment. I like where his thinking is going. Refugees coming to America is not the only way we can help them. We can send humanitarian aid workers much like Samaritan’s Purse, and boxes of donations to help them in safe camps overseas. Jay Sekulow wrote an article for Fox News and states “The U.S. must continue to be a shining city on the hill and a beacon of freedom for the entire world. But we must not confuse compassion with taking all precautions necessary to protect our homeland.” It is an article well worth your time to read and consider.

Again. I don’t know the answers. But I don’t believe it’s as simple as fear versus compassion. Just because you have one, doesn’t mean you are nil of the other. They can co-exist. They authenticity of your faith and level of your compassion shouldn’t  be gauged by your desire to welcome all the refugees, nor by cautiously suggesting another solution that doesn’t include entrance to America. You aren’t a “better” or more faithful Christian if you are pro-refugees  in America. And you aren’t less-like Jesus or less compassionate if you would rather be safe than sorry.

Bottom line- I hope you will consider this and be gracious with one another as you seek to understand one another’s points of views.

I have to say, though- at least no one is talking about red cups anymore.

Dear France.

Effiel Tower

I was switching from Homeroom to my Advanced U.S. History class when I saw it. I walked into my class and saw my teacher staring at her television, her hand to her mouth, face filled with horror. We were only two weeks into classes for the year, and all I knew about this teacher was that she was a former attorney, tough as nails and seemed unbreakable. The morning of September 11th, 2001… she broke. One by one, students filed into the classroom and gathered around the TV and we watched the World Trade Centers as they became a fiery inferno. My teacher, with tears in her eyes, turned it off and feebly attempted to teach a classroom full of confused and worried Juniors. Throughout the day we moved through classes somewhat like robots. Some teachers had their TVs on, some didn’t. We got bits and pieces here and there- a plane hit the Pentagon and another went down in a field in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until I got home that day that I saw how truly devastating the terror attacks on our country were. For hours on end, days and days in a row, we watched the news. Watched the planes hit over and over. I remember screaming when I saw people jumping from the top of the towers to their death. First responders going straight in, terrified people running out. The towers toppling and the cloud of dust and debris billowing like a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb.

Everyone in France, and particularly those in Paris, will forever remember where they were tonight. Terrorists have struck again, and absolutely devastated their city and country. Family members are frantically calling and trying to get a hold of their loved ones; cell towers are tied up and it’s unbearable pain not knowing. First responders rushing in, the terrified and wounded running out. People who went out to eat, to a show, to a soccer match… just enjoying a typical Friday evening out… and their lives are forever changed. There are children whose parents hired a babysitter to go see a concert. Those children will never see their parents again. Those who survived the attacks will never unsee what they witnessed, they will never unhear those sounds. The gunshots, the bombs detonating, the screams. They will never forget this night.

France… America is praying for you. We have been there. We are grieving with you. Dear France… You are struck down, but not destroyed. You will prevail. You will find unity and strength you didn’t know you had. Your resolve to defend your country will reach new heights, new depths. We are so, so sorry for all you have lost. We pray God brings swift justice to those responsible. God bless you.

Photo credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk