Merciful Days: When Hope Vanishes

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mark 9v24b“I don’t want to keep living this way.” I prayed honestly.

“Have I failed you?” The Holy Spirit asked me.

I was praying about an amazing job my husband had applied for.  It seemed like the perfect fit for him.  And, to be honest, we are beyond ready for the lifestyle a traditional job brings.  So I begged God to open the door for him to have this job.  And I talked about the tiredness of my heart that has come in these years of gig-based self-employment.  … Oh, it was such a great job!  Perfect for my husband’s career journey.  AND it would change everything for us.  Regular income.  Medical benefits.  Paid vacation.  Please God.

“In all these years, have I ever failed you?” His Light pointed at the depths of my heart.

He showed me that in the depths of my heart, it was still there. [Continue…]

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Merciful Days: Beautiful Expectations

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Rom 8v16“And don’t forgot a note!” She sang at me while I packed her lunchbox this morning. “A note for my lunchbox!”

I had tucked a note into her lunchbox on her first day of school last week.  And I wrote a note for her second day too. And third. And fourth. And fifth. And sixth. And now the seventh.  Every day in her school career has featured a note from her mum.  She knows no school day without a note.  For her, it’s the norm.  She expects notes from me.

Guess what I decided today? I will be writing daily notes for my sweet daughter. Perhaps for the next 13 years.

As I folded today’s note into her pink princess sandwich box and thought about her beautiful expectation, I saw a challenge to my Faith.  An inspiration for my relationship with Yahweh. [Continue…]

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Merciful Days: Open Blinds

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Prov 27_9“Everyone opens their blinds in the morning. It’s weird that you have them closed.” His judgmental tone rang in my ears as he went around the room and pulled open all the bent and broken metal blinds.

He was happy.  I was not.

The “Youth House” was on the corner of the church property.  A busy suburban corner with lots of car and foot traffic.  The rental agreement was part of the terms of our employment.  The upstairs was ours exclusively.  The downstairs rooms and kitchen was shared with the church.  And that’s how our “living room” was also a meeting room.

It was a sweet old house.  One of the oldest in the neighborhood.  Lots of quirky charm.  Lots of potential. Terrible windows. Awful.  Single panes, warped aluminum frames, and inexplicably uncleanable glass.  We tried cleaning them but the dirt was permanent.  (How does that happen?)  We tried scraping the mislaid brush strokes from the glass but nothing removed that old, old paint.  And, anyway, I didn’t like how exposed our lives were to all the traffic that passed by so I was happy to leave the blinds closed.  It felt vulnerable to live in a house with a church sign out front.  And at night, when my husband was 45 minutes away working the graveyard shift at the children’s prison (yes, a children’s prison), I wondered how many people could work out that the windows didn’t really lock and how easy it would be to break in.  (I should note that my fears were not based in crazy suppositions because several of the youth group kids made a habit of climbing in through a window to wait for us if we weren’t home.)  All that to say, it was just better to keep the blinds closed.  It was better to keep things all closed up.

He took control of the room.  He decided his needs were most important.  In fact, I doubt he even thought there could be needs apart from his.  I doubt it even crossed his mind.  I wish he’d asked.  I wish he’d cared.  But he didn’t.  So I had to sit in that meeting feeling embarrassed and exposed.  Embarrassed that the windows were so dirty even though it wasn’t my fault.  And exposed to the view of all the passersby.  When the meeting ended and everyone was gone, I closed the blinds.

And I decided to move the meetings to a coffee shop where I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or exposed.

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Fourteen years ago we became fast friends when were thrown together on a youth ministry team.  She and I have gone through a lot together.  A lot.  We’ve planned and dreamed together.  We’ve prayed and cried.  We’ve giggled and celebrated.  We’ve ministered to hundreds of teens together.  We’ve shared and forgiven.  She knows things about me that no one else knows.   And in my darkest moments, she is the person I have called the most.  She is wise, loving, and she hears God’s voice.

At our latest coffee date she said, “I can tell you anything because I know that you love me and won’t judge me.”

Took the words right out of my mouth, sister!  Our friendship is very special.  Vulnerability, transparency, and a sisterhood that overcomes.

With her, I have open blinds.

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Everyone has reasons to live blinds-closed.  Everyone has something they want to hide.  Something that is best left unseen.  Something that makes them feel at risk.  Something that makes them feel too vulnerable.

As I listen to the friendship stories of women around me, I hear themes of judgment, rejection, pain, and humiliation.  Of being attacked, ridiculed and unloved.  And over time these women of deep beauty have pulled closed their blinds and walked away from being in community.  And in the process they have closed themselves off from much needed sisterhood and friendship.

What is the answer?  How can we have what we were made for?  Love and sisterhood.  Lives intertwined.  The joy of being known.  Of being truthful and vulnerable.  How can we have friendship?  Why is there so much pain involved in the friendships of women?  It’s a tragedy. [Continue…]

 

Merciful Days: Put It Into Practice

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Luke 11v28My husband said he felt silly.  I felt silly too.  But our kids felt excited and empowered.

Today was our first day of practicing a new morning routine for school.  Practicing getting up early.  Practicing getting ready.  Practicing walking to the school.  Practicing praying together at her campus.  And practicing walking home.

It has been a very big and prayerful process to decide what kind of schooling would be a good fit for our first-born this year.  There are so many fantastic options.  Each with pros and cons.  This past week, I felt the Holy Spirit speak something very specific to me about His plans and vision for our child this year.  And we’ve landed on a choice we feel good about.  And so I’m looking at the year ahead with a beautiful peace and comfort.

What I don’t feel peaceful about is the dramatic change to our mornings.  We’ll be getting up an hour earlier than our much-loved, no-alarm, let-the-sun-gently-wake-you mornings.  And thankfully we had foresight and decided it would be smart to change our morning routine in advance.  And so, this morning was our first practice morning.

Our little family walked alone.  Down a very busy street.  A little backpack on.  Towards a student-less school.  Into a parking lot where a handful of teachers were arriving to work in their empty classrooms.

Next week the sidewalks will be teeming with hundreds of walking families. But today we looked like a big mistake.  Like we’d gotten our days mixed.  Like we were stupid. It was embarrassing. [Continue…]

Merciful Days: It All Tastes Bad

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Psalm 139Last night I had a hard time eating dinner.  My favorite fallback meal of pan-fried eggs & kale seemed oddly bitter and left a bad aftertaste.  It must have been a strong batch of kale?

This morning I had a hard time eating breakfast.  My quinoa porridge was really bitter and left a bad aftertaste.  I tasted each element to try to pinpoint the offender.  Quinoa, coconut milk, flax meal, frozen wild blueberries, coconut oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds.  Each bite was just as bitter as the other.  The kids demanded my attention and the investigation was derailed.

Lunch was a quick goat gouda sandwich.  Bitter, bitter, bitter, and such a bad aftertaste.  But it was time to prepare dinner so I had to force it down and get cooking.

I had trouble cooking dinner.  As I tasted and re-tasted the strangely bitter goat yogurt and curry mix for our Chicken Divan dinner, I finally saw the trend.  Don’t laugh.  It really did take me 24 hours to realize. [Continue…]

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Merciful Days: Empowered Daily

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Empowered Daily

Our senior pastor called me.  He was in hospital in pain.  He needed to take a time of rest and recovery.  And he needed me to take a week of Sunday teaching during his absence.  And we laughed together because God had already planned for this. [Continue…]

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Merciful Days: Keeper of the home

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Keeper of the home 1It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s not that I want anything to change. It’s just that this is a different life than I expected.

It’s noon and so far I have sorted two loads of clean laundry, tidied rooms, done dishes, changed a pee diaper, changed a poop diaper, vacuumed, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, put in more laundry, tended to a crying pox-covered child, disciplined the non-poxed one, hovered over the poxed one to get her to pick up her toys, processed medical paperwork, worked on our August budget, angrily picked up my husband’s socks and assorted other abandoned clothes of his, turned a blind eye to the bathrooms that have needed cleaning for far too long, worked out a meal plan for the week using only what we have on hand because this month’s budget is $500 short, researched MRSA because the doctor’s office called with positive culture results from the pox (“We are running additional tests”), and felt frustrated at every turn.  Mad, even.  Except I’m too tired to maintain being mad.

Today I feel like a tattered remnant of myself.  This is the weirdest job I’ve ever had. And it’s not a job. It’s what I am: mother of small children.

Mothers of small children are a people group unto themselves.  This season of motherhood shapes a female human in very specific ways.  And regardless of occupational circumstances, whether she be full-time at-home or full-time work-and-home, mothers of small children are stretched thin.

Oh so thin.

A few years ago my friend, who at the time was pregnant with their first-born, said she was worried that she’d feel stuck at home after baby was born.  My response, as a mother of one toddler, had been so confident: “The answer is easy. If you feel that way, let’s get in the car and go somewhere fun!”

Nothing wrong with positive thinking. Right?  But today I’m feeling so deeply what my friend had feared.  It’s as she described: stuck. Stuck at home. Stuck in my heart. Stuck in a rut. Stuck in the hamster wheel of day after day sameness.  Like I’m living in my own version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” I’m desperate to find a way out of this loop.  Today the thinly stretched me is asking:  Am I living in the fullness of God’s creation of me?

Today I felt led to Titus 2.  And by “led” I mean… it came to mind and it made me angry.  And I see His familiar presence in the stirring of my heart.  The Holy Spirit is taking me to a passage to mentor me.  He whispered, “keeper of the home” to my heart to get my attention.  And, as He knew I would, my reaction was to rise up and revolt.  Those words, “keeper of the home,” feel like a cage.  Like a punishment.  Like I’ve been benched from real life.  And put in a place of bland resignation.  Yes, Holy Spirit, you have my attention. [Continue…]

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