Tuesday, November 29, 2011



I don't remember when the prayers began but once they did, they never ceased. Neither did the questions. 

Mommy, when? 

Have you talked to Daddy any more? 

Do you think it will be before my next birthday? 

How much is a fence? I can save up and pay for it. 

How much are shots? You can take it out of my money. 

For years this child has begged for a dog, this child who relates as well to furry friends as she does to human ones. 

My husband thought it would be a phase. But she is nearly 11 and this phase has been going strong for a good 6 years. One of her favorite pastimes is thinking of names for animals she doesn't even have. 

I told her time and again why pets are a huge responsibility, how they are messy and expensive and rude, leaving their fur and slobber all over the place, chewing up shoes and furniture and then having the nerve to jump up in your lap and lick your face. 

I might as well have been speaking into the wind. 

My husband and I knew we had already lost the battle. It was simply a question of when we would wave the white flag of surrender. In my heart I felt we were getting close.

The day before Thanksgiving we made our annual trek to the flea market. You know that's a post in and of itself. We always see puppies at the flea market. And bunnies. And chickens. And pork rinds. 

But we happened upon a table with three sweet pups and the nicest owners. Their mama dog had an emergency C-section to deliver these bundles. A feeling came over me almost immediately. This is the one. I took their card and told them I'd call.

Four days after holding this furry bundle at the flea market, Blondie held her very own puppy in the van as we drove home. 

We stopped at the store while I ran in for special food and puppy pads and a leash. A leash. What in the world are we doing? I thought. An animal that poops and pees and barks is going to live in my house. In. My. House.

I realize that a dog is a normal, everyday thing that lots of people {who are not us} have and it's no big deal. 

But Jetta is a big deal to us and to me.

It's a crazy miracle, how overnight I have gone from someone who held animals at arms length to someone who loves this furry, four-legged thing that slides all over our hard-wood floors in the cutest way and looks up at me with those black marble eyes and head tilted just so. 

She has wriggled her way into hearts that already felt full and made room for more love. 

The Man and I, we find ourselves giggling and sighing. Over a dog. She has made our already complete family somehow feel even more complete, a four-legged gift I didn't even know we needed. 

As for Blondie, well, she finally got an answer to those persistent prayers of hers. A Thanksgiving gift, an early Christmas present, and a best friend, all rolled into one precious package.


{For inquiring minds, Jetta is a Miniature Schnauzer, 6 weeks old. Her name means "black gem."}

Monday, November 21, 2011

Real Gratitude

It feels strange and good to write here again after an unexpected "blog-attical." The truth is, I was weary in both body and soul. I had things to say and share but no "oomph" to get to the keyboard and scrawl something out. And that's been just fine. After all, I wrote for 31 days straight last month and that left me a wee bit drained.

Like everyone else, I'm thinking about gratitude during this week devoted to the celebration of thankfulness. And as a mom who longs to be somewhat intentional about the virtues of the upcoming holidays, I fight the urge to force gratitude into the hearts of my children and then wrongly assume that something genuinely noble will work its way back out.  

Between preschool and church, my three-year-old has made three thankfulness wreaths in the last three weeks. My older kids gave presentations to their classes last Tuesday about things they're thankful for. 

My 8-year-old's list went something like this:

1. a house  
2. CC {our homeschool group}  
3. PS3  
4. iPod Touch  
5. a bed   
6. football  
7. Mommy & Daddy  
8. a TV  
9. God  
10. Church 
{Numbers 9 and 10 came at my urging to write something even remotely virtuous}. 
11. friends  
12. clothes  
13. a toilet  
14. a body  
15. Harry Potter

I'll be honest, I feel like a failure as a mother when I see PS3's, iPods, TV, and football making the cut before God and church.

At ages 3, 8, and 10 I'd prefer them to appreciate Jesus over electronics. My husband says they're simply more honest than we are. He's right.  

My kids aren't alone. A friend of mine has been sending me regular updates of her boys' thankfulness tree additions. They're hilarious. Their Sharpie-scrawled paper leaves said things like: My DSimy xboxmy brother being quiet, and not having to do school

We are soooo spiritual, she joked. The boys were well into the thanks-giving before Jesus even made the list. 

We can laugh about the tree, but it represents a common lament among mothers. Our kids don't appreciate the things they should and they worship the things they shouldn't. We want them not to complain about their dinner when kids in their own community are starving. We want them not to want more and more when they already have so much. 

Misplaced affections are the human condition. Discontent is our default.  

My own sense of real gratitude, budding though it is, has been slow coming. As in just the last couple of years

Noticing the small gifts, celebrating the everyday, knowing that in Christ I already have all things--I was a grown-up for years before good and true things began to matter in any sort of meaningful way. I'm three decades older than my 8-year-old yet I expect him to be further along the path of true thanksgiving than his mother is. 

Daily, I fight for gratitude. And some days I surrender to the trivialities of this world before the day even begins.

As Ann Voskamp says in her book about gratitude, The only way to fight a feeling is with a feeling...We can only experience one emotion at a time. And we get to choose... 

Choosing thankfulness takes practice. And practice takes time. And time is something my kids haven't had much of yet. And really, they are thankful. I simply judge the objects of their gratitude and in doing so, I heap condemnation on their young hearts and nurture guilt in my own.  

My primary prayer this year has been this: 

God, make the Gospel real to me. Make it work its way down deep so that all of life looks different. May it change the way I live. May it change the way I love. May it change the way I forgive. May it change the affections of my heart. May it change the way I give thanks. May it change the way I sacrifice. May it orient my gaze, moment by moment, to the cross. May gratefulness for Christ and His finished work matter over everything else. 

Deep gratitude for the beauty and power of the Gospel always gives way to grace. And grace gives me compassionate eyes to look at a young boy's thankfulness list peppered with electronics...and smile at a child's honesty.

It's a start. For him and for me.  

I hope and pray that one day gratitude for things that matter will fill their hearts and change their perspective.

But until then I'll let time and the Spirit do their work. And I'll nod earnestly and pretend that the Cars 2 video game is indeed something to be thankful for. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Basic Needs

A new week begins whether we're ready or not.

Today was one of those mornings when I surveyed the disarray, examined the undone, inventoried the chaos and wanted to give up before I even began. 

I walked up the driveway after an early-morning run and noticed all the trash in my yard. Trash. In my yard.

Popsicle wrappers, plastic cups, and unidentifiable plastic shards.

I complain. My husband reassures me and says our home and yard simply look "lived in." I told him that it looks looted.

It's days like today that I have to put on blinders and focus on the most rudimentary of needs. I want to finish an array of tasks that will pretty things up or restore some semblance of order.

But what do I really need to do, God? That's the question I prayed in the shower.

As I considered our basic needs, I was struck by the spiritual corallary to the physical must-haves. I wonder if God planned it that way.

So what do we need?

We need food. 

...Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. {Deuteronomy 8:3}

We need covering.

I delight greatly in the LORD; 
   my soul rejoices in my God. 
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation 
   and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, 
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, 
   and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. {Isaiah 61:10}

We need rest. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength... {Isaiah 30:15}

When we're feeling frantic, overwhelmed, and less-than, it may be because we're hungry, exposed, or tired in the physical sense. But it may go deeper than that. 

Perhaps we need to feast on truth, to open the Word and taste renewal.  

Maybe we need to recognize that His righteousness {and not our own} covers us. Nothing we do on any given day {or fail to do} can clothe us with anything else.

And might our search for true rest be found as we trust in Him and not in our own efforts to subdue the disorder that surrounds us?

The yard trash is still there, dinner needs fixing and the laundry continues to mock me from the corner, but deep within I'm learning what matters and what doesn't. 

It's ironic that sometimes I simply have to get back to the basics in order to realize that I actually have everything I need.

Friday, November 4, 2011

God in a Waiting Room

I spent yesterday in a waiting room. 

My 3-month-old niece underwent open-heart surgery and I drove up for the day to wait alongside her parents. 

It's hard to explain the emotion that hangs heavy throughout the rooms and hallways of a children's hospital. It is a place of hope and heartache, twin, invisible threads inextricably woven together into one cord. 

I found myself fighting back the tears at inopportune moments and not tearing up at all when it seemed like I should have been. 

Crisis is unpredictable like that. 

I've seen mothers stand strong and stoic as their child's life hung in the balance. And I've seen these same mothers weep over that which is less consequential on an everyday Monday. 

In one sense, I think that is God's grace. The tears have to escape eventually. But sometimes they come later, taking a back seat to the strength that enables endurance for the here and now.

Our tiny, private waiting room, crammed with four loving grandparents, two unbelievably calm parents, and one protective big sister / auntie {that's me}, was abuzz with laughter and chatter as the hours ticked by yesterday. 

Grace infused us all with the oddest sort of normalcy during those waiting hours. 

Yet I found myself crying as I waited for the microwave to heat up my cold coffee and overheard a mother and father, hands held tight, praying fervently about tumors. I entered an elevator, heart nearly split in two, as my brother told of a doctor he'd seen crying and my mother spoke of a woman weeping in the arms of a nurse. 

In those moments, I felt God's presence in a palpably real way, so close I felt I could touch Him.

If God is anywhere, He is surely in that place, close to the broken-hearted and near to the crushed in spirit.

As I left the hospital and began my bleary-eyed trip back home, gratitude overwhelmed me. 

Gratitude for those who spend so many years in school and residency in order that they may one day heal baby hearts and comfort the grown-up ones too. 

Gratitude that we live in a place and time where this sort of live-giving surgery and care is possible. 

Gratitude for my younger brother and his precious wife and their sweet Naomi who will now live and grow and teach the rest of us what living is all about. 

Naomi was born with that special 47th chromosome. We know it as Down Syndrome. 

A friend of my father's sent him an e-mail yesterday, a friend who happens to have an 8-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. His message simply read, This child did not come into the world to learn. She came into the world to teach. 

She is and she will. 

In the meantime we wait and offer thanks to the God who knit her together and who holds all things together. 

The God who reveals His handiwork through the loveliest almond eyes and perfect smile of a tiny baby. 

The God who shows His skill through the precise and guided hands of trained surgeons. 

The God who comforts us with His unmistakable presence in hospital waiting rooms.

He is good. 


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