Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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Speaking Life in the Small

Last week my husband and I received an email we didn’t expect. Our daughter is entering high school next year, and the college placement team reached out to say it is time to meet. I am not prepared for such preparations. What is expected, of course, is to say that just yesterday I was brushing her hair into a Pebbles-style ponytail right on top of her sweet little head. But it’s true.

What seems especially ironic or painful or some emotion I can’t articulate is that all this transition and looking forward for her comes on the cusp of a mid-life birthday for me. Here I am, looking backward and wondering where life veered from what I expected. It’s not necessarily cliché, nor is it crisis; it’s just real-life awareness that I am not really in control of anything.

I can’t stop my girl from growing up, and for all my own attempts to move upward, including a post-grad degree that took 11 years to complete, I’m in a place where I can choose to be disillusioned or to accept that life happens and circumstances sometimes collide with dreams and I feel as small as ever.

The complicating thing is that I have a really beautiful life. My blessings are abundant, and I know that the lines have fallen for me in very pleasant places (Psalm 16:6).

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Here, I am learning that my questions don’t mean that I am ungrateful; they mean that I am human.

Usually when I write, the editor in me gets in the way. Because I am actually employed as a writing editor. It is hard to write without evaluating every.single.word. (Is it grammatically correct to begin a sentence with because? Ugh.) But when I do, I am surprised at what revelation comes out. And so perhaps I need to pay attention to the above paragraph, where I off-the-cuff wrote that I have invested years and money in moving “upward.”

Is upward what I have wanted?

In itself, I see nothing wrong with this. I am for education and hard work and dreaming (and even college placement meetings *sigh*). I want this path for my daughter. My parents and my husband provided every opportunity for me to develop my potential and chase my desires, and how could I not look at this place in her life without dreamy (yet misty) eyes?

But as I grow deeper in relationship with Christ, I’m increasingly moving toward acceptance, even comfort, with a small life.

As an American, I live in a culture where small and upward are seemingly incongruent. But I am firstly a citizen of another Kingdom, where the highest goal is to go small. I think of John the Baptist who, when his followers left to pursue Jesus, said “He must become greater and I must become less” (John 3:30). And of him, Jesus said, “Among those born of women is none greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

I also think of the widow who gave the smallest offering, a mere two coins, and Jesus esteemed her offering – all that she possessed – as the greatest (Luke 21:1 – 4).  Even the apostle Paul, who had once relished the utmost in accolades and accomplishment, surrendered everything – counted it as garbage even – in order to move forward with Christ (Philippians 3).

Some of my lifelong goals are yet unrealized. When I set my perspective on God’s grace, sovereignty, wisdom, and the call of discipleship, I’m really okay with this.

I am learning that I never needed those accomplishments to validate me, because who I am in Christ is enough. Perhaps small fits best. (Hey, I always wanted to be a size small).

I should clarify what I mean by “small.” Part of my life mission statement is that I will “speak life.” By this I mean that I want my words and actions to be a voice for the dignity of life, in every stage and status.  I am inspired when I see other people doing this in “big” ways, crusading on platforms for justice and equality. I have sat in forums and movies where I was deeply moved by Christ-followers who have, in large-scale ways, been champions for the outcast. I’ve wanted to do that too.

And as I went to special events and heard the stories of young women who were forced into sex slavery or child marriage, I was inspired by the heroes who rescued them. I’d say, however, that I always had one reaction more urgent than any other. As much as I appreciated the message, I couldn’t wait to bolt from those events and go home and wrap my daughter in my arms. It was an expression of my motherly-gut-level calling to speak life to her.

Most victims of human trafficking are deceived into believing that they aren’t worthy of anything else. But they are created by God to bear His image, and that makes them beautiful and worthy. Every person needs to know this about themselves. My daughter needs to know this about herself, and God has gifted her to me for a season. I am telling her that she is God’s hand-crafted, priceless possession.

My calling may be very small-scale. But I am realizing that it is no less significant.

Perhaps you are like me, living a seemingly small-scale life that feels more ordinary than extraordinary. But Christ-follower, it is significant. This day is one ordained by God to move you into His will and His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). You have a God-given design and purpose to influence your people and your community as no one else can.

You wipe noses and pick up toys all day …

You crunch numbers in a cubicle …

You sit with the lonely …

You spend out of your own salary to supply your classroom …

You write words that you think no one reads …

You stroke the hand of your frail loved one …

You serve in the church nursery …

You take in a child without a home …

You go to your prayer closet where no one sees …

You choose integrity in your job day in and day out …

You are speaking life. You are living your sacred responsibility to help others realize that they are God’s beloved.

So what do I say to my daughter? These years are pivotal, a time for her to dream big.  I want that for her. And I want her to be small too, in the way that Christ is greater and she is lesser, and every ordinary day is ordained by Him and for Him.

I want my child to speak life, whether from a platform or a pick-up game with kids from the other side of town. They may seem big; they may seem small; what matters is that there are God-sized plans awaiting her.

And you too.

Every small way is no small thing in the Kingdom.

The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. (2)

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Such a good word from Jennifer Dukes Lee:

Could we, artists and writers and mothers and fathers and preachers and teachers and ordinary, everyday pilgrims — could we willingly lay down our lives for a life separated with Christ — a life hid in Christ with God?

And there, we would find the only approval that matters. 

And we would know it with certainty:

that it’s the approval we always had.

Writers are speaking life with Jennifer Dukes Lee and #TellHisStory.

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Connecting with other speakers of life @ Missional Women and Faith Filled Friday.

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Read this insightful post about a Christ-follower’s perspective on ambition at Purposeful Faith with Kelly Balarie.

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I’m having Coffee for Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

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Linking today with Thought Provoking Thursday @3dlessonsforlife

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A Good Home

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Daddy built us a good home. In the 1970’s, he drew the plans for rooms which would house his family’s joys and sorrows and togetherness for almost 40 years. In recent months, I’ve emotionally detached myself from my childhood home, trading nostalgic wistfulness for the tiresome duties of cleaning, sorting, packing, repairing, and preparing to move on.

But today I will hold the keys to my past in one hand and a pen in the other, signing over these rooms to another family who will create a future in their midst. The memories rush in, and I am happy and heartbroken. I remember.

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Countless games of hide and seek among the dogwoods and pines. The vibrations in the walls when my brother played his bass guitar. Good dog Charlie who faithfully kept all my secrets. Prom and graduation pictures with my big hair, 80’s style. The smell of Mom’s chicken casserole. The year that Daddy decided that he wanted a cedar Christmas tree with old-school colored lights and silver tinsel and Mom adorned her own fir tree in elegant white and gold.

I remember how Daddy, a General Motors man, muttered under his breath when my date parked a Toyota in the driveway. And months later, how he looked damp-eyed and proud when we came home to show off my new ring.

At night, when I was little and afraid, I would gaze at the light from the living room as it filtered through the crack in my bedroom door. And somehow the light formed the shape of an upturned hand reaching across the shadows on my ceiling. The hand invited and comforted me, and I knew God was there. I felt chosen and loved.

And home, I learned from an early age, is that place that beckons me. I understand that not everyone is able to look back at their childhood with warm memories of home. Yet, I believe that all of us feel this beckoning – this innate longing to be chosen and loved – to find where we fit.

In a world of shifting shadows, home is where there is purity, wholeness, safety, togetherness, and joy. It is a glimpse of Jesus and of our being made into His image and of His promise to love, restore, and heal.

Home is something we belong to and something that belongs to us in Christ.

We realize that we are a long way from Eden, our original home, where we were meant to walk in unbroken fellowship with God. And ever since sin separated us, we are homesick for heaven where suffering, temptation, doubt, and injustice are absent. Although we try, through worldly pleasures, accomplishments, or concoctions to numb the pain, we simply can’t come home to life as it was meant to be, forever.

But Jesus, the only One who could, has made a way. His light cuts through the dark and extends a hand of invitation. He calls us by name and says that we belong to Him. He doesn’t invite us to a perfect place in the here and now; if we identify with Him, we will be as strangers on this earth, still touched by sorrow, loss, perhaps injustice and persecution. But hope endures and will carry us on to our heavenly home, the imperishable place we have held in our hearts all along. Jesus is already drawing plans for rooms to house the eternal joys and togetherness of everyone who has trusted in His name.

He is building a very good home.

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Jesus’ promise in John 14: Do not let your heart be troubled. You have put your trust in God, put your trust in Me also.  There are many rooms in My Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going away to make a place for you.   After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with Me. Then you may be where I am.  You know where I am going and you know how to get there.

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way to get there?”   Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can go to the Father except by Me.

2 Corinthians 5:1 ~ For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

Hebrews 11: 8 – 10 ~ By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God. (The Message)


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For women who mother my daughter

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My daughter has many mothers in her life. Some of these women have children and some don’t, and their collective influence on our family can’t be understated. I think of home as our little nest, placed among intertwined branches of extended family, friends, church family, and neighbors. The past 3 years have taught me, my husband, and my daughter how much we need these branches to support and uphold us.

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My girl is part of a generation which needs a community committed to modeling what it means to live relationally and authentically in an increasingly broad but shallow world. As she travels a narrow path, she needs to look ahead to the footsteps of courageous women. She needs to see your dependence upon God as you follow Him in the places where He has gifted and called you.

My daughter’s heart and her vision are enlarged as she watches you living out your faith and your passions in your homes, your neighborhoods, your workplaces, and your world. As you reach beyond your comfort zones and extend a compassionate hand to those on the margins, she sees what it means to value the image of God in every person.

To this community and to Caroline’s grandmothers, aunts, cousins, school teachers, discipleship teachers, small group leaders, camp counselors, and neighbors, I say “thank you” for mothering my daughter –

– when you provided a safe place for her during those long days while I was at the cancer center or the hospital.

– when you met her at the bus stop when I was running late.

– when you bought her a pretty dress for the ballet.

– when you braved the zipline and giant swing at camp with her.

– when you took her picture and told her that she is beautiful on the inside and the outside.

– when you brought flowers to the honor society induction.

– when you sent her a card to tell her that she was missed in small group.

– when you cheered as she crossed the finish line in the race.

– when you brought special gifts at Christmas and her birthday because you understood …

– when you came to the funeral, especially to see her. I will never, ever forget that.

– as you patiently help her with math and social studies homework.

– as you take her and a friend to the park and the pottery studio and give her space and freedom to be an imaginative, creative kid.

– as you speak to her honestly about the joys and challenges of becoming a young woman.

– as you talk to God, and she understands more fully what it means to be His daughter.

– as you teach her how to sew and how to roast a chicken.

– as you listen with interest when she explains the mechanics of breaststroke and butterfly.

– as you teach her how to study the Bible.

Thank you for showing my daughter what it means to be feminine and strong, passionate and pure. Thank you for being women of joy and laughter who help her to anticipate and appreciate the sweet moments in life. Thank you for showing her the hope of a heart fixed upon Christ during the hardest moments in life.

You have cared, nurtured, encouraged, and affirmed my girl so well.

I am forever grateful that you have birthed this beauty into her life.

Whether you do or don’t have children under your roof, you have taken us into your hearts.

In doing so, you have shown me what mothering really means.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you …”

Happy Mother’s Day with all my gratitude and love,
Renee


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A Sacred Commission

The greatest political storm flutters only a fringe of humanity, but an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children will literally alter the destiny of nations.” – GK ChestertonUntitled design (2)

As I scroll through social media feeds, I notice photos of loved ones in uniform. It’s Veteran’s Day, and we want to say ‘thank you.’ And rightly so. These are our heroes. These are the men and women who deserve our appreciation not only on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day or July 4th.

Oftentimes, after a commendable act of valor, a military hero will shrug off the applause and say, “I was just doing my job.”

Exactly.

I’m not a military veteran, but I understand from the experiences of service members in my family that whether in time of peace or time of war, the job requires intensity and courage along with countless drills and hours of training. I suppose that the preparation could seem routine, maybe ordinary, at times but it is indispensable in those acts-of-valor moments when lives are on the line.

As a Christ-follower, I’m increasingly grateful for the ordinary. I want to live boldly and bravely, but I’m redefining what it means to be extraordinary. Could it be, I wonder, that an extraordinary life doesn’t necessitate an extroverted personality? For a long time, I thought that true leaders and legacy-leavers were the people that everyone notices.

Perhaps your present place in life, military or otherwise, seems quite ordinary at the moment. But character, integrity, perseverance, and commitment are refined through doing the job whatever it entails, even if no one (human, that is) is noticing.

The “hall of fame” chapter of Hebrews 11 presents a cast of unlikely, at-times faltering, average people who are known to us as extraordinary. Why? Because God calls us to take notice of their faith.

“By faith, Noah …” worked through 100 years of ridicule and preparation without a raindrop in sight.

“By faith, Abraham …” waited and wandered for years with little more than a promise.

“By faith, Joseph …” waited and wondered for years with nothing more than a dream.

Faith is what makes an ordinary life extraordinary. In the midst of unlikely places, stalled hopes, and interrupted plans, faith keeps purpose alive. Without needing to see the next step, it chooses to trust in a bigger story and embrace the truth that every part, every chapter matters.

Faith turns the ordinary into an offering. Day after day of raising little ones, going to work, prepping tools for battle, doing laundry, coaching the soccer team – you and I can see these things as mundane or monotonous. Or we can choose to chuck the compartments that would separate secular and sacred and see it all as meaningful. As ministry.

A standard definition of veteran is “a person who is long experienced or practiced in an activity or capacity.” The birthdays of the two most beloved men in my life fall within days of Veteran’s Day. My father was a veteran of the Air Force. And 61 years plus 11 months of marriage, 50-some years of parenthood, a long-standing family business, and decades of service in his church.

As a veteran of dance recitals, graduations, family vacations, car maintenance, and home repair, Daddy was long experienced and practiced in putting others first and picking up the tab. And calling his children, even the boys, “honey” and “sugar.”

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Daddy might have thought himself to be an ordinary man, but I believe his faithful life was ordained with God’s smile. While my husband hasn’t had as many years to be “long-practiced” or “long-experienced,” he has that veteran spirit that makes him the same kind of man. That is saying so much of him that it brings tears to my eyes.

As I feel in a somewhat “small-ish” place in life right now, in that spot where life’s dreams have collided with life’s reality, I think of Daddy. In his younger years, he was an ambitious competitor who relished glory days of drag racing records and trophies. And yet, Daddy taught me that true success and courage is found in the one who shows up every day.

I believe my Daddy, in rising before the sun each morning to go to work, in serving the behind-the-scenes, and in modeling honor and dependability to his children, experienced God’s pleasure.

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Still I wonder, in this restless world, if he ever thought his life to be monotonous – same work, same wife, same church, same responsibilities, day after day … But Daddy saw these choices as investments in future generations. As his daughter, I am living the legacy of a life multiplied by faith.

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‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:23).

Christ-follower, do you realize what you have to offer? Whether God has granted you five talents or two, you have a unique and meaningful purpose. Let’s show up and turn ordinary into ordained opportunities. Let’s appreciate the courage it takes to embrace the commonplace. Let’s choose the commitments in which “long-practiced” and “long-experienced” become life-changing legacies.

And as we thank our military veterans, let’s embrace their spirit. Our world is in need of men and women who will move to the front lines, being spiritually readied and equipped. Through day-in and day-out preparation, let’s train our ears to the Commander’s cadence.

And may we understand that our call to service, no matter the duty, no matter the size, is a sacred commission.


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Daddy’s Waiting

Upon every return from a mission trip, my Daddy waited for me at the airport. Last year when I returned from the Dominican Republic, his eyes spilled over as he wrapped me in a hug.

“I don’t like my girl to go away.”

That’s what he said anytime and anywhere I traveled.

And yet Daddy taught me to be brave.

From Daddy I learned to love fast rides and motorcycles.

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I remember, as a little girl, feeling the anticipation rise as the coaster cranked up the steep incline. I was afraid but Daddy was there.

I figured everything would turn out all right.

How he laughed as we sped around loops and corkscrews! My heart was full just to know that he enjoyed being my dad.

Daddy enjoyed adventure. He took me and Mom across the country and ventured around the world. We had some unforgettable moments, including some hair-raising escapades in the Middle East and Egypt (it was the 80’s; I had big hair anyway, no doubt).

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Whenever I fly and the airplane ascends to higher elevations, I feel the anticipation rise. For all the traveling I’ve enjoyed, I confess to being a bit of a homebody. Yet my Heavenly Father beckons me to new adventures beyond my comfortable places.  That’s where I exchange comfort for the Comforter.

If I go up to the heavens, You are there.”

Because there is no journey that takes me from His presence, everything will turn out all right.

In his life, Daddy spent a lot of time waiting at the finish line.

One of Daddy’s drag racing competitors said of him: “When Van showed up, I knew I was running for second place.”

Daddy waited at the finish line not only in racing, but in all the years invested in the lives of his children and grandchildren. He asked us to do our best and aim high. Through graduations, military ceremonies, weddings, and births, Daddy cheered for the generations coming behind him. His example inspires us to follow in the footsteps of a good and faithful servant.

When I return from Albania next week, I’ll be greeted by my dearest ones at the airport. But there will be a little ache in my heart, I’m sure.

This time Daddy is the one who has gone away.

And yet Daddy taught me to be brave.

I am my Daddy’s daughter. His courage pulses through me, moving me toward the unknown. Because Daddy lived out his faith before my eyes, I learned to trust a Father that I cannot see.

Faith is substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.

I feel the anticipation rise when I think of heaven.

I think of Daddy’s love for the open road and the open skies. I can only imagine what he can see now.

Daddy is waiting at the finish line. Our Father is there, and He says it’s only the beginning.

Everything will turn out all right.

2 Timothy 4:7 ~ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 ~ Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Acts 20:24 ~ … my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

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Unexpected Answers to Prayers for My Mother

It was one of those awkward situations that you want to politely ignore but things are playing out right under your nose. This past weekend, we were in Disney World, standing in line for the monorail to take us into the Magic Kingdom. The mother in front of us was trying to take a picture of her toddler son.

This was obviously important to her, as she implored her son to stand still for a photo in his current clothing in case they happened to get separated. And it was equally urgent to the little boy to evade her every attempt to capture a decent image. The other family members were standing around being generally unhelpful. This poor woman had a very long day ahead of her.

Exasperated, she yanked her son out of line to a private spot to “work things out” and snapped: “Yes, this IS the happiest place on earth.”

I inherited my love for Disney from my parents. Over the past few days, I’ve remembered taking Daddy’s hand to ride the “big rides.” I heard his laugh through the dips and sharp turns of Space Mountain and the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.  I can’t count the times that Mom and Daddy took me to Disney and then carried on the tradition with my husband and daughter along.

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While Daddy was sick I prayed for a long time for one more Disney vacation.

The travel agent must have thought that I was nuts, welling up with tears in front of her as she booked our latest trip for four – me, my husband, daughter, and Mom.

Despite our aching hearts, we wanted to affirm to Mom that we will continue because she matters and memories matter.

A few nights ago, as we watched the “Wishes” fireworks show, I was especially aware of the narration through the innocent wistfulness of Jiminy Cricket:

When you wish, upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come…to…you.

Like a bolt out of the blue,
fate steps in and sees you through.
When you wish upon a star,  your dreams…come…true

Puppets become real boys. Cinderella goes to the ball. Snow White’s prince comes.

But … like a bolt out of the blue came a cruel thought, “Your wish didn’t come true.”

For a moment, it really jolted me, I have to admit it.

I’ve been an adult long enough to know better when it comes to Disney’s wish-upon-a-star optimism. Just ask the mother with the toddler – If the happiest place on earth can be maddening, how do we cope beyond its borders? You can call me a pessimist, and I probably have a natural bent that way, but the reality is that every person who walks into Disney World has to eventually exit into the real world where the credit card bills come due and wishes don’t always come true. As a party of 4 on this trip, we experienced it.

And during that blasted fireworks show (ha, the pun wasn’t intended, but I’ll leave it), I realized that I was, even with teary eyes, more hopeful than I had ever been.

Like smoke after a fireworks show, wishful thinking drifts with the wind. But hope is anchored into the solid foundation of God’s wise and loving character.  It’s not based upon my mood or upon magic. It’s an eternal reality, purchased with sacrifice and sealed in my soul.

As an adopted child of the Most High, I belong to another Kingdom. I don’t need to believe in fate, thank you, I (still) have a Father. With infinite wisdom and compassion, He works all things in my life for His good purposes. I have enough experience with my Father to understand that He is too wise and loving to give me everything I wish for. While He doesn’t always grant the desires of my heart, He has placed eternity in my heart. This truth tells me, whether I am in the happiest or the saddest place, that I have everything to hope for.

And so now that we’re home, my attention turns to Mother’s Day.  Today, I thought about my most-read post: “A Prayer for My Mother on Her 80th Birthday.” And I recall those requests made on August 8, 2013 –

“Lord, would this day – her birthday – be the beginning of a year in which my mother knows the deepest peace and richest joy?  I pray with thanksgiving for the promise that You are the strength of her heart and her portion forever. May she be sustained daily by the comfort that You are the eternal refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

And Lord, I pray for the simplest but most meaningful joys to come her way – such as sweet times with Daddy and with her family.

For laughter. And more opportunities to explore an open road.

For days to enjoy good meals with good friends. For many more victories on the court or on the field for her favorite teams (Your help is especially needed here, Lord!).

I pray for precious memories made with the little ones. For weekends to watch swimming practice or go shopping or eat ice cream with her granddaughter. For the satisfaction of knowing that these shared experiences are creating a lasting legacy.”

In August 2013 we knew that Daddy’s cancer wasn’t responding well to treatment but we really had no idea.

Yet, in May 2014, I hold hope in my heart. Daddy is experiencing more delights than a trip to Disney could ever offer. And my prayers for my mother have been answered.

Dear Mom –

Even in your deep grief and darkest days, you have been a testimony of God’s enduring joy and strength. You have demonstrated the peace of being comforted and carried by everlasting arms. Because He is your refuge and strength, you are still laughing and loving well. Our family finds perseverance through your example of courage and resiliency.

You are brave enough to accept and explore the unknown adventures of an open road. As you share life with us, your days are rich with meaning and purpose. We understand more fully the sweetness of simple moments. In these past few months, we’ve eaten well and cheered hard and watched swim practice and shared ice cream with the dog. Our family is growing with great-grandchildren whose lives will be enriched by your legacy. We will live and experience togetherness to the fullest because you and Daddy taught us to love God and love each other with all our might.

My prayers for you are still being answered in God’s most loving wisdom. Perhaps His answers have not come as I wished, but because of your faith, I know that hope always remains. And so I will keep praying. Thank you, Mom, I love you.

Hope tells me that these unexpected answers come from an unchanging God whose promise of eternal life is unwavering.

I’d rather have that sure foundation than a wish in the sky any day.

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What I Learned in March

Seems like I just wrote about what I learned in February. But Emily Freeman @ Chatting at the Sky has asked her readers to again share pieces of life lessons, so here’s my take on life at the moment from random to relevant to reflective …

1. I like alliteration.

2. God speaks, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit is real. I recently felt led to find and send a Bible verse to a friend about “confidence.” While searching, I discovered Jeremiah 17:7 ~ “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” I wasn’t familiar with that verse, but it seemed fitting. After I shared it with my friend, she replied: “Love that verse!  I actually have a necklace based on that verse and wear it often.” God is amazing like that! If He places someone on your heart, do something about it. I am so grateful for friends who have listened to the Holy Spirit and encouraged me with just the right words and timing.

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3. Although I’m part of a congregation that doesn’t formally observe Ash Wednesday, I’m drawn to its significance. This past Ash Wednesday, I shared my recovery story with a class of high school students, and the timing was not lost on me. Everyone bears a mark of sin, frailty, and mortality. It’s good to be reminded that we need a Savior who exchanges our shameful ashes for His beautiful mercy.

4. The best foot warmer is a furry doggie.

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5. Frederick Buechner said so well, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I’m learning that deep gladness arises from those places where I once knew the deepest fear and regret. It is a place touched and transformed by God’s compassion. This junction between my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger isn’t confined to one place. I may find it located within my family circle, down the street, on the other side of my city, and across the world. This place is likely outside of my comfort zone, yet God would not beckon me a place where He is not already present. He’s calling, and that’s all I need to take the first step.

6. Can we just let go of “Let It Go” already? The song from Frozen was everywhere in March.

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As the mom of a preteen, I became concerned with its lyrics; for example, “It’s time to see what I can do; to test the limits and break through; no right; no wrong; no rules for me – I’m free!” Uh oh, red flags. But I eventually considered that the mass appeal of “Let It Go” has less to do with its lyrics and more to do with its compelling tune. We covet (oops, admire) Idina Menzel’s soaring voice. In the context of “Let It Go,” Princess Elsa finally owns up to her long-hidden secret. When she casts off restraint, however, her actions have damaging consequences. Eventually, a plot twist leads to a redemptive act of love. I exercise “parental guidance” over my daughter’s entertainment choices, but if there is a questionable agenda in Frozen, it floated right over her head like a snowflake. One of the challenges of being a preteen parent, I’m finding, is discerning when to step in and when to – uh – let it go.

7. Just because something is attractive on the outside doesn’t mean that all its attributes are beautiful.

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Have you walked under a pear tree lately? Eew – that smell! Reminds me of a birthday cake that my mother purchased for me from an upscale bakery. It was gorgeous, but as my mother lifted the cake out of the box, she sniffed and said, “Something is wrong.” The repulsive mold on the inside became an object lesson that I’ve never forgotten — a rotten interior will eventually be exposed.

8. Thanks to one of the leaders in my grief support group, I’ve learned to think of “comfort” as “common-fortitude.” We are stronger together.

9. I’m learning amazing new things about the intentional foreshadows in the biblical events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Our church commemorated a version of a Jewish seder, the Passover meal that Jesus observed with His disciples on the evening before Calvary. As we passed the elements of the seder, we learned how specifically they point to Jesus, the promised Messiah. Read more here @ the Word of Messiah Ministries Passover page.

Plus, I never knew, until a few days ago, that the name “Gethsemane” originates from a Hebrew term meaning “oil press.” The garden where Jesus went to pray before His crucifixion was a grove of olive trees. The “gethsemane” was a press that crushed the olives until they extracted the highly-valued oil. When we feel hard-pressed on every side, may we remember that the Lord Jesus, who has already withstood the crushing weight of sin and death, invites us to exchange our yoke for His.

10. “Target haze” has been coined to describe the experience of going to Target for a specific something and leaving the store with a cart of goods except for that one item. Apparently, I am not the only person who succumbs to this phenomenon.

11. “Remembering” between generations is something that my husband and I want to prioritize.  Now that one of us has lost a parent, we appreciate even more the opportunities to speak words of honor and gratitude to the generation before us, to cherish past memories, to prioritize occasions to create new ones, and to hold fast to this treasure called legacy. Some may call us the “sandwich generation,” but we choose to see this season as a tremendous privilege to create remembrances with the generation before and behind us.

Our church’s Generations Ministry equips parents to commemorate milestones with our children as they mature in Christ, and at this weekend’s Blessing Retreat my husband and I had an opportunity to intentionally speak words of affirmation and blessing over our 12-year-old daughter. As John and I wrote letters of blessing to her, he wanted to write about “remembering.” His written words encourage our young lady to remember for years to come that her identity, worth, and purpose are established in the love of Christ.

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After the Lord and Israel won a victory over the Philistines, the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer or “stone of help” for “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone, they would remember what the Lord accomplished on their behalf.

Now, an “Ebenezer” (as in “here I raise my Ebenezer“…) refers to the remembrance of a spiritual principle or an important life event.  This weekend, we gave gifts to our daughter to help her remember our words of blessing. We hope and pray that she will commit to memory this occasion as a marker of maturity, developmentally and spiritually. And for us as parents, we will remember this milestone event as a “stone of help.” While it’s probably normal to be a little nervous about the years ahead, we’re reassured by God’s guidance and the wise people who walk before and beside us along this journey of milestones.

12. This year, “March Madness” could refer to the weather as much as basketball. Equally unpredictable, both have thwarted our best efforts to nail them down. Maybe a little perspective can be gained here; life usually doesn’t go as forecast.  So we’ll roll with the messy days, but we’ll take every warm & sunny day we get here in North Carolina as an opportunity to stock up on the allergy meds, open the windows, and enjoy the ride!

Happy Spring!

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