Walls of Water

I’m pretty sure all of my blog posts start out the same way. Nothing earth shattering. I’m simply sitting with my kids doing something normal, and suddenly the thoughts in my head turn to something that longs to pour out of me onto paper. It’s a fairly bizarre feeling and one that keeps me awake if I don’t let it out. So I do. This post is no different. It began with the simple reading of a Bible story on a normal morning with my kids. They had chosen to read about Moses and the Red Sea. You know that one? Of course! Egyptians, plagues, finally the Israelites get to leave, slight problem in the form of an entire sea in their way, God parts the water and they walk through, Egyptians drown. Yay! Right? But I’m reading and looking at this childish illustration of the walls of water on either side of the Israelites and my heart was struck.

In order to get where God wants us, we often have to walk through towering walls of water.

I tried to imagine the rushing sound of that enormous body of water as it completely went against its natural course and split in two. As the people watched dry land appear where before there were only waves. I’m sure it was majestic and awesome and they were deeply grateful. But then they had to walk through it. Put one sandaled foot in front of the other and trust that the God they had just seen take down a country plague by plague was not going to let that water fall down on them. That they could trust Him after years of slavery. That the very method of their rescue wasn’t going to turn into their demise. Was He on their side? This would be an easy way to take them out. They could all get in the middle of that sea and die there. And I wonder if this wasn’t part of the reason they had just spent a large portion of time and energy on the feast of Passover. On the consecration of the firstborn to God. On physical, embedded reminders that He was their God and they were His people. So they could begin to trust the One who built a wall of water on the right and on the left and choose to put one sandaled foot in front of the other.

And then I pictured them clutching children close as they walked through. Part adrenaline rush and belief in the power of a God who could do this, part terror that perhaps He wasn’t as concerned for their children’s safety as they were. Probably many miles of muttering under their breath, “Please, God. Please. You promised us the land. You promised us freedom from Pharaoh. You promised these children that they would be your descendants and would conquer.” It would have been a long journey of resting on the promises. But again, they had just spent an entire feast being reminded of the promises of God to them and to their children.

Once on the other side, as the realization sunk in that everyone had made it through safely, I think the knees would start shaking. Then, just as they were breathing a sigh of relief and wondering if perhaps God had simply made permanent walls of water and there was nothing to be afraid of, they would have seen Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army enter that sea, confident that if Israel had slowly made it through, so could they in their sleek chariots pulled by fine horses. And the relief would have turned to a twinge of fear because they looked so powerful, so confident charging between those walls. Pursuing Israel with all the bluster and deceptive authority the Enemy can muster in those situations. And just as quickly as they felt the fear, a mixture of gratitude and horror took over as the walls came crashing down. On the right and on the left the kind of overpowering momentum only a massive body of water can produce. Covering an entire nation’s army. One of the greatest world powers. Gone.

I’m pretty sure at that point I might have vomited. From the exhaustion, fear, hope, awe, horror, and extreme gratitude of the moment. No glamour. Dirty, tired, but full of belief.

Unbelievably glad I wasn’t on the other side. That I was on the same team as this God who commanded the sea and the waves.

I don’t know about you but I rarely receive a call to go charging down a mountain on a horse “Man from Snowy River” style in my walk with God. But, boy, have I logged some miles with walls of water on the right and on the left. No way to pretend it was me accomplishing the salvation. No way to act like I wasn’t equally excited and terrified of where this was leading. It’s hard to do a showy walk on dry ground through a Red Sea lugging all that you own. Fairly impossible to look impressive when there are walls of water on the right and on the left. No way to do anything but put one foot in front of the other and let God bring us out of our slavery.

And I think our challenge will always lie in our mental and spiritual battle. Where is our focus? Am I looking at the walls of water – overwhelming, giant, insurmountable, dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable? Or are my eyes on the DRY GROUND THAT JUST SHOWED UP IN A SEA? The walls are so tall, but with a slight shift in focus the true miracle is beneath my feet. Dry ground. Simple dirt. A humble path from a God who rescues and saves. Not a yellow brick road that leads to a happily ever after. Believe me, we’ll all know when the happily ever after shows up. We’ll all be on our faces before Him. But for now, that seemingly humble path of dirt with lots of miles, and a desert, and some manna, and a bunch of quail, and a thirst-quenching rock, and eventually a Promised Land where we’re a part of His plan stretches on and I don’t know what’s next. Just one foot in front of the other. Clutching those I love close and whispering the promises God made to us. “You said we were yours. You said to go here. You said you would provide.” And He has. And He does. And He will.

I believe we must make it a priority to celebrate “Passovers” and dedicate ourselves continuously so that we are grounded firmly. Eyes in front. We are so quick to look back at what is known, even if it was slavery, and to be willing to stay in it. To think we would be happier if He would only leave us alone to do our thing. The thing that previously we were begging to leave. We beg for deliverance and then He says, “Move on!” How many times do we ask Him over and over and over what we should do next when we know good and well what we are supposed to do next! Walk on the path that is before us. The one we can’t control. The one we may not have chosen. The one with the scary unknown walls of water to the right and to the left. His patience cannot be comprehended by our finite minds. Thank God He doesn’t ask us for perfect faith and flawless performance. Thank God He accepts dusty feet…right, left, right, left. The battle belongs to the Lord.

 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

You know what I want? I want to be the Israelite standing a little ways away from the crowd. The one with my mouth shut and my heart open. The one not using all my energy to complain that God rescued me from slavery, not telling Moses what he should be doing, not telling God what He should be doing, so that my ears might be the first to hear it. First a gurgling, then a swishing, then a rushing, then a deafening roar as the sea of my imprisonment does the bidding of a great God.

Our walls of water will always be moving, changing, rushing. Mine will be different than yours. Fear of a positive pregnancy test or a negative one. Fear of a spouse coming home or not coming home. Fear of waiting another year on a call that a child can be brought home, or fear that tomorrow the call will come and we will not be ready for the drastic life change ahead. Fear that there will not be enough, fear that we will be engulfed by the too much that is drowning and choking our society. Fear that there won’t be a tomorrow, fear that there will. Fear that there will be a diagnosis, fear that there won’t. Your wall will not be my wall, but the God who will hold those walls up and keep them from engulfing us? He is the Same yesterday, today, and forever.

Praying that I will always see the miracle in dry, dusty ground in front of me. Praying that my feet will always keep moving one in front of the other. Praying that I tune my ears to hear the first ripples of His plans. Because that dry, dusty path through the walls of water is going to lead to the Promised Land of hope and purpose as children of the King, and I don’t want to be waiting in my supposed safety on the other side.

Building My Towers

Tonight as I was lying next to my six year old daughter, she began the  usual easy questions my children choose at night, perfect for  when my brain is at its 30%, exhausted capacity. Questions like:

“How is it possible that God can have always been and not have a mommy or daddy?”

“What does it feel like when you go from here to Heaven and who takes you?”

“Why is God a boy?”

These are the moments when I’m incredibly grateful for all that memorized Scripture and Bible reading that we did all through my school years. It doesn’t always require brain capacity to answer what is embedded in your Spirit, thanks to the precious Holy Spirit Who is God’s special gift to parents answering tough questions. After those simple ones were out of the way, Kailey moved on to, “Why did the people think they could build a tower to Heaven? Why did they want to?” I replied that maybe they were looking for God, thinking they could be with Him or like Him that way. Then she asked, “Why didn’t He let them?” I closed my eyes and said, “I think He wanted them and us to understand that we can’t find Him that way, by working hard and doing big things.”

Before she rolled over to close her eyes she gave one more, “Yeah. They were busy building towers when He was right there with them the whole time.”

Suddenly my mind was quite awake and whirling as it does when God grabs my attention. Things I’ve been pondering lately came into crystal clear focus. Struggles I’ve had, insecurities, questions about what I am doing. Am I struggling with a desire to build towers to Heaven when God is right here all the time? In Genesis it says that they fired up their bricks and built their tower toward heaven, but God garbled their language, confusing them and sending them separate directions because there was nothing they couldn’t do if they kept going together. I don’t pretend to understand that scenario. But I can understand one way it applies to me. How often do I work so hard, striving and straining towards a task to “get somewhere,” and feeling desperately discouraged when my way seems halted at every point, my communication garbled, my goals not realized – just to realize I am already right where I’m supposed to be? Why do I look around at where God is working and get ready for a giant construction project when the only thing He wants fixed is my heart?

I’m going to admit it to you, I want to be Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, and Sally Clarkson. I want to do the big things. But let’s be ridiculously honest here, I can’t keep my bed made and blog for my 20 readers regularly. Why do I always want to jump to the big stuff when I’m already drowning in the small? Why is it so easy to see God in every detail of the ministry and life to which He has called you…until you look at someone else’s? “But God, she’s my age and she WRITES BIBLE STUDIES. There’s no way what I’m doing is as important as writing a Bible study. That’s like having the queen or the trump card. WIN!” And God just patiently watches me start up my wearying, heat-stroke inducing fire and waits. And if I frantically scratch and claw my way very far, I find suddenly my communication gets garbled and I’m back again wondering what I can do. And He says in the words of my six year old, “Yeah. You were busy building towers when I was right there with you the whole time.” I’m not saying He doesn’t give us the call to do something massive and out of our comfort zone, but I think He often sends that calling one small step with Him on the ground at the time. We’re a little more selfless here and a little less attached there. Here a comfort zone zapped, there a boxed way of thinking brought to light, everywhere a constant change as He works. And I think we get a little caught up in where He will use us while He quietly simply says, “Here.” He is unlimited by my situation. By my surroundings. By the other players in my scenario. He is unlimited by my weaknesses, glaring flaws, and imperfections. Those are cracks simply waiting to shine forth His glory. What is limiting His work is my wearying trip to that fire to make more bricks for my tower that will reach toward Heaven when my work is right here in my present situation on the ground.

In the last year the Lord has given me a ministry beyond my wildest expectations. One that combines many of the things dearest to me. God’s whole and healing solutions for our lives, physical, mental, and emotional freedom for women and their families, relationships based on something meaningful, teaching, and all of this while serving my family at home and bringing in some income while my husband pursues his calling to serve the Lord in his area of business. You type it all out and think, “Wow! So awesome!” But you know what? In the very midst of seeing God’s work and preparation and seeing His hand moving, I second guess and look up towards the sky to see if someone else’s tower seems a wee bit closer to heaven. Truly troubled that I have fallen short when He had something else more “heavenly.” Weighed down as I start carting bricks yet again. Should I pick up the pen? Teach something at church? Adopt a child? Move to the inner city? Lord, what builds my tower toward Your plans? And His gentle reminder comes that as long as I build my tower, it is not truly Him I am seeking for He has been right here on the ground all along. That I can rejoice and delight in the things, big or small, that He is doing inside of others, even when they are the very things I would be striving to do. For that is their present with Him while at the same time it could become my self-constructed tower. He doesn’t require an audience or an official ministry title, He only wants me to stop striving and grow. To put down quiet, sometimes invisible roots, deeper and deeper towards life-giving water. To grow and unfurl toward the sun of His leading, and to bear fruit. Who wouldn’t choose “bear fruit” over “fire up bricks and build a tower?” You know why I think we do it? Because we’re afraid. It’s easier to build a tower to get somewhere big “someday” and use up all of our Tasmanian devil energy than it is to stop and face a God who’s ready for us to begin NOW. Because maybe our brick carrying is a distraction from the quiet kind of cross bearing to which we’re often called. Because it can sometimes be simpler to offer Him our whole lives than to surrender to Him our day and our attitude. To quietly and unrecognized push roots down through rocky, hard soil instead of building up through the clear, blue, visible sky. To unfurl our leaves showing our vulnerability and the gaps in our branches instead of making bricks that are hard and keep us fortified and “safe.” To bear fruit and watch it be used by others for nourishment instead of finishing our tower and using it to hoard our hard-earned spoils.

So tonight I throw water on my brick-making fire while I feel God throw water on my thirsty soul.

I choose the vulnerable and the open. I choose the messy and the rocky. I choose the sometimes invisible and misunderstood. I choose the freedom of laying down the show of a lifetime of brick work and instead choose to pick up my daily cross.

Today I will obey here. And tomorrow? Who knows! Maybe tomorrow my obedience will look completely different. Maybe it will even look like some of those things I thought about building my tower to find. Today I would rather be present in my “here,” than spend years building a tower toward the One I find has been ready to begin our work together all along.

Do You See What I See?

I’m sure many of you have seen this extremely touching video making the internet rounds. It shows women describing themselves to an artist who cannot see them and then being described by someone else. The differences are striking, and the perception of the other person is much more accurate than the perception of the person actually being described.

I think sometimes we get caught up in assuming others are critiquing us when they’re really not. We’re doing that to ourselves beautifully without any assistance. Most of the world has so much going on that there isn’t much time or energy for lying around minutely focusing on my flaws. But Satan would really like for me to believe otherwise. I believe it’s one of his favorite deceptions. So how can it be fought? I think this video actually points it out in a striking way. What if we shared with others our positive descriptions of them? What if we were more open in our praise and in our affirmation? I’m not talking about empty flattery; we can see right through that. I’m talking about taking those things our heart feels and blurting them out. Without concern for the conventions of society. Without the constant check on our tongue of how we will be perceived if we are honest in our praise. Sometimes I think we are far quicker to share the negative than the positive, as if that makes us smarter or more sophisticated. What are we so afraid of?

A few years ago I was convicted to do more saying out loud of what I felt toward others. I realized that many would never know the things I loved or admired in them unless I spoke the words. And I wasn’t going to wait for their funerals and make touching statements once they weren’t there. So I became the rather sappy person that I am. I make people uncomfortable sometimes. I’m aware of this. I tell people I love them often. I tell my friends they are beautiful, that they are wonderful moms, and I write syrupy things about my husband on Facebook where everyone can see them. And I genuinely mean every word. Because in the grand scheme of things I really don’t care whom that bothers. What if a sentence or two could reset a little part of someone’s perception of herself? What if a blip of encouragement could realign someone’s courage with his difficult calling. What if we used these sometimes questionable avenues of constant contact with one another for something truly beneficial? Yes, we can try to stand on the bigger issues, and somewhere some of that may make a difference. But what is that worth if I miss the boat in my own house, in my own family, in my own circle of friends, in my own church, in my own community, in the realm where God has placed me? What if I’m spending so much time and energy on the “greater good” of mankind that I am ignoring the “Greater Good” at work in me doing what I am here to do! I want to do my work. It’s what I was created for. If that’s standing in front of thousands, I’ll do it (with trembling knees). But I know this, what I say to one person tomorrow has just as much power as a speech to the masses.

I don’t want to be someone who draws attention to myself. I want to be someone who is a reflection. A mirror.

Years ago I felt the Lord call me to a life purpose. My name means “from the King’s court.” I wanted my purpose to be that wherever I was and whatever I was doing, others would feel they had drawn closer to the Presence of Jesus. So what happens to me if I can in any way become that reflection? What if when I am with others, they see themselves more truly, more beautifully, and what if they see their Lord more clearly? What if their attention can be drawn away from me and onto what will bless, heal, or nurture them? Then I am free. Free from fear of others’ opinions. Free from turmoil over others’ acceptance. Free from anguish over others’ rejection. Free, free, free. Less of me, more of Him. There is so much win in that, it’s indescribable. And I am a long, long way from it. But I see it there in front of me, and I take each little step I can toward that goal. And I hope that tomorrow and in the days after that I can reach the people around me with a more accurate sketch of who they are in the eyes of God and who they are in the eyes of at least one person who loves them. The tragedies of the last few days in Boston and here in Texas are sobering reminders that we don’t have all the time in the world. Now is the most sure opportunity. Maybe as the Church we could be known, not as those who draw sketches with pointed fingers where imperfections and flaws are magnified and focused upon in great detail, but we could be the Artist’s mirror reflecting back to them the stunning portrait of who they are in the eyes of Jesus.

You are beautiful. You are loved. The way He has made you puts me in awe of His master skills.

May I mirror to you the way He loves you.

Desperate

People who know me very well know that I have a few things that it doesn’t take much to get me excited about. Well…maybe it’s more than a few things, but that’s okay, right? In no particular order some would be: Jesus, John, babies, children, teaching, family, friendships, natural health-related topics like essential oils, good fats, and fermented foods, reading, Jane Austen, chocolate, homeschooling, the Muppets, Dean Jones era Disney movies, Beth Moore Bible studies, goats screaming, hiking with my family, beaches, mountains, cooking, baking, travel, writing, history, the Marx brothers, houses with cool slides in them, tiny ballerina girls, baby animals…I at no point promised this list would make any sense, did I?

I generally don’t make ridiculous promises like that.

Anyway, right in that list for the last few years has been my passion for all things Sally Clarkson. I started going to her conference two years ago and it completely blessed the socks off of my year. In a 24 hour period I became a better woman, a better mother, a better daughter of the King. She has a heart full of love and grace for mothers. She shares from her experience. She avoids formulas and embraces the Spirit’s leading. She shuns criticism and “better-than-thou” mentalities and welcomes all broken, weary, hurting moms to the foot of the cross. I love her. She’s been around since my mom was having my siblings, and has blessed thousands of women with her message of the heart of motherhood. Please read her blog. Please go to her conference next year. Please buy all her books and share them with your friends. I do not recommend things lightly. I am sure she will bless you because she does not call you to follow her perfect picture of motherhood, but instead calls your attention to the gentle ways of Jesus. You leave time spent with her more in love with your Lord, your role as a woman, and your family. One of her most urgent messages is that women must not fall into the trap of aloneness. We are created for community, for encouragement, for older, younger, and same-stage women to walk this journey beside us. It is a true dilemma in this age of more far-away friends than ever before and less heart-to-heart friends than a pioneer woman in the middle of a deserted prairie (yes, you can read that in your Dolly Parton voice – I did).

Sally’s latest book was co-written with a young mom and is perfect for the stage many of my friends and I are in today. When you read the title, you will understand. And if you have a child who wrote in permanent marker on your wall, stashed apple cores in his closet, didn’t sleep through the night last week, decided to cry every time he had to write sentences, randomly concluded that biting everyone in his acquaintance was acceptable behavior, melted into a sobbing puddle because her brother touched her, forgot to brush his teeth for a week, fill in the blank with other unimaginable options, etc., etc., etc. (this requires your Yul Brynner voice from “The King and I”), THEN you will also want to read this book.

P.S. Please do not assume any of those things have ever happened to me.

P.P.S. But they have.

Enter the book, DESPERATE. Told you that you would immediately want to read it.

Desperate-6-14-197x300

You want to read this (I am resisting another voice instruction). Get a group of your friends together to discuss the questions at the end of each chapter and watch the video of Sally and Sarah Mae you can access from the web. Read their blogs and be encouraged. If you’ve never read any of Sally’s books before, comment on this post and tell me why you want to read this book. What needs do you have as a mom, and how could you be blessed by knowing you’re not alone in your desperate state. In one week, I will do a random drawing from the people who post and send you a free copy of the book! So share this with your friends and maybe it will be you! If it’s not you, maybe one of your friends will be met exactly where she is by Sally’s caring spirit and Sarah Mae’s genuine transparency. Either way, it’s a win! And if you’re the only one who comments…well, then you have a 100% chance of getting the book! 😉 I want more and more women to begin hearing this kind of mothering message, and if I can do some tiny spreading of the word then I want to do my little part. We are not enough. God most definitely is. And He will meet you right where you are.

Beautiful Mess

I’m not sure I even know how to respond to the outpouring I have received since my last post. I was just a tired mommy sitting in front of a computer screen at 1:00am, pouring out my heart the way I felt God was calling me to do, and since then over 3,500 people have read those words. While those may be common numbers for many bloggers, they are not for this mommy writer for sure. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my heart. Thank you to the hundreds of people who have passed it on to others. I pray with every “share” that my letter gets closer and closer to the woman or women for whom God had me write that note that night. I am grateful that I can do my small part and then trust Him to use you to do all the complicated parts of reaching others.

Thank you to each and every person who has reached out to me with encouragement in my writing. Your stories of your own miscarriages, those you’ve known who have struggled through abortions, or your excitement that someone put your feelings into written words have blessed me more than I can say. It’s hard to explain the nervousness I felt the other night posting. It was very personal. It was my story and also my heart and passion for a group of women who are hurting. A part of me wanted to hold it inside and not lay it out there for everyone to see and read, and possibly critique, or instead of being blessed, become offended by my words. It’s a highly volatile topic, and I would often rather stay in safer zones. But I knew that in order to do that I would have to choose to ignore His voice at work in my heart. And, I have to tell you, of all the things in the world I do not want to do, ignoring Him is at the extreme top of the list.

As I sat there this morning and prayed over what happened the last few days and reviewed in my head the words shared with me, it suddenly hit me. The constant recurring word used over and over in the responses I received was the word, “beautiful.” Beauty? But at the core of my post was a lot of pain. The pain of loss. The pain of mistakes. The pain of sin. The pain of regret. The pain of emptiness and void. My friends, that is our beautiful Jesus at work, redeeming and resurrecting. I wonder just how much beauty there would be in our lives and in the world if we truly let Him do His perfect work in the ugliest, most tragic, most gut-wrenching parts of our story.

The first time I went through a miscarriage, I had no idea that I would be sitting here writing to you today. I was just in pain. Gut-wrenching pain. I had no idea that I would have five beautiful children. I had none. I didn’t know if a child was a blessing I would ever experience. I couldn’t look ahead and see where I would be today. But I couldn’t wait until I could see to make my decision. The choice was my void and my questions or His Name and His beauty. And, honestly, it was a choice I had made years before or it would have been very difficult to make in that moment. It is hardest to choose beauty in the dark moment unless you have already chosen it when the light was on. It’s like looking around your home at night, locking the doors, seeing that everything is in place, and then turning out the lights. You know what is there, who is there, and there is a sense of peace. Can you still have moments of question over what you can’t see? If you hear something different or sense something out of place? Of course. But deep down, you know what is there. But if you were to be sitting there with your doors and windows open, nothing certain about what could come in or go out or who was in charge, and then suddenly lose all the light, there is much more fear involved there. Did something come in that door? Where is that open window and what do I hear? Are things in place and is it safe to trust? We must choose His Name in every crevice and cranny so that when we are under attack there is no weak link in our armor, no open windows for doubt. No place of darkness where we refuse to see that He could do something in a far different way than we would choose. Would I have chosen to lose five babies? Not in a million years. Would I be who I am today without that being a part of my heart and my story? No, I would not. All I know is this, there is nothing life or another person can throw at me that is out of the scope of His resurrection. And if at any point I refuse to let His Name fill that place with His light, I am refusing the gift He died to give me. We are missing out if we only believe He came to give us beauty and resurrection after this life is over. If I knew there was no life after this one, I would still choose Him. I would choose Him for what He is to me today. What He was yesterday. What He will be tomorrow. I would choose Him because He fills up all the voids and brings beauty to the darkest of stories.

I am praying for each of you as well as myself. May we give it all to Him and watch Him create perfect, indescribable beauty out of every mess we give Him.

Dear Mama with the Unspeakable Void

I have carried ten babies inside my womb. Five of those babies have grown big and strong. They have grown hair and eyelashes, big cheeks and dimples. They have cooed and giggled. I have experienced that incredible moment when they were handed to me, healthy and breathing and crying, and the months of vomiting multiple times a day, and the nights of not sleeping because my belly was bigger than the rest of me, and the aches of bending over yet again when I just couldn’t, and the hours of intense labor and pain have wafted away as nothing. Because my eyes and my mind and my heart were full to the brim with my child.

But five times I have experienced the moment of sudden void when I knew that my baby was no longer tucked safely inside of me but neither was it safely meeting the world. “Too soon!” my heart has cried. To anyone who has not experienced it, it defies description when you realize that as much as you wanted your body to protect that life, there is nothing you can do. Nothing you could have done. There was life within you and now it is gone. And whatever scientific facts you’ve read about how many weeks along such-and-such happens or when it’s technically life suddenly aren’t very comforting in the dark when you are weeping over a void you can’t explain to another soul. Something was there. Someone was there. And now he’s not. She’s not. Who were you, sweet one? How I long to know! And you start to pick up the shattered pieces of your heart and hope that it will heal again. And by the grace of God, and only through His power, it does heal, and when it is restored you notice there is one more piece than there was before. And it belongs to that baby you just held in the palm of your hand. And the crazy thing is that all of your other babies, and your husband, and your Lord, and your family – they still have their pieces just the same, but there’s somehow room for this new piece as well. This is the miracle of God’s heart within your own. It is possibly the most beautiful miracle of all how His heart expands for each of us and then how He recreates that expansion in us, His creation.

There is so much discussion and argument on whether we are pro-baby or pro-woman. Let me tell you this with no room for doubt. There is no separating those two. Two heartbeats. We can’t choose one to protect and the other to toss aside. Wanted or unwanted, prayed for or dreaded, once there is life inside a woman they are connected at the core of their beings. Our heart beats out of our chest at that child’s slightest sadness, fear, triumph, or joy. And I can tell you, that begins early. There is no “abortion recovery” like there is recovery after your appendix has been removed. There is healing, thanks be to Jesus, just like the healing of any other loss. There was life within you and now it is gone. And whatever scientific facts you’ve read about how many weeks along such-and-such happens or when it’s technically life suddenly aren’t very comforting in the dark when you are weeping over a void you can’t explain to another soul. Something was there. Someone was there. And now he’s not. She’s not. Who were you, sweet one? How I long to know!

One Sunday because of a beautiful ministry at our church in Austin, I came face to face with the unspeakable void of a woman who had experienced that empty womb by choice. And the Lord grabbed my attention and reminded me that unfathomably worse than the loss I have experienced is the loss of a child by choice. She had spent a lifetime with everything she did, everyone she loved carrying her back to this choice made as a young woman. She had walked away from life that day and that choice became reflected in every other thing she touched, poisoning every relationship as she realized that she had embarked on a deadly journey, not choosing a better, freer life for herself, but a strangled, hidden one. It took her a lifetime to understand where to go and what to do. And do you want to know one of the saddest things about this “pro-woman choice?” Do you have any idea how many women are forced or driven into abortions by boyfriends, husbands, fathers, mothers, counselors, friends? But who lives with that void the most? Not them…she does. How many women realize one moment too late that they were told lies about what was inside of them? How many women find out too late that they had beautiful, redemptive options? This woman we are so determined to “free” from the new life within her will now spend the rest of her days with “what ifs” as her constant companion. Is any of this sounding pro-woman to you? When will we realize that, whatever you can concoct as your scientific backing for the viability of life, THESE WOMEN ARE DYING FROM THE INSIDE OUT?! Some recognize it. Others may not. Those aborted babies are experiencing perfection with their Lord while their mamas are living in a hell of grief. Pro-woman, this is not. There is no time for unending politics. There is only time for lifesaving search and rescue.

It overwhelmed me today that I needed to speak this letter on my heart to a mama. Not a Roe vs. Wade statistic. A mama. You became a mama the day you conceived that life. But you know that more than anyone else does. If you are reading this somehow, because somebody somewhere passed it on and it ended up on your screen, and you have walked this torturous road, then YOU are why God put me on this computer tonight. I don’t know who you are or why He wanted me to do this tonight, but this is for YOU.

Dear Mama with the Unspeakable Void,

I love you. Very much. I ache with you and for you. Our Jesus (He is every bit as much yours as mine) is so, completely big enough for what you have done! So, completely beautiful enough to engulf all the ugly, dark, evil, horror of your void into the great, shining, white, gloriousness of His righteousness. I want you to hear the same thing He has spoken to me those five times of loss. He has your baby. Let there be no doubt. We may have the option to make a choice for them here on earth…oh, but He makes sure that is not the last word! Each of those millions and millions of babies…safe. Safe. SAFE. And dear, broken mama, may we do a better job of tending to your open wound, your gaping void, before your very life pours out of it. May we point you to the Healer and Forgiver so that you in turn can reach women I never could with the truth. The truth of this “choice” and all that it means for them. Do not be afraid to open your unspeakable void to the light of His love. The enemy would like for you to think that it will hurt too badly, that you won’t survive, that you won’t ever be loved again. This is his lie to keep you in this pit of ignorance and pain. His light will bring healing at last to your emptiness. You know that miracle I mentioned earlier about the heart’s expansion to allow more room for more love? It doesn’t stop there. His expansion of love fills all void where He is invited. Even the unspeakable ones. Oh loved one, even the baby-shaped, self-inflicted ones. It is the simplest thing in the world to call His Name. See, voids cannot last in the Presence of the Name. It fills every crack and cranny. Try it. See if I am not telling you the truth. What do you have to lose and what infinite possibilites might you have to gain? And while many who have claimed to bear His Name have done a poor job of representing Him, there are many, many, many who would love you and hold you and help you on a path toward life again. He will show you where to go. He will send others to help you. Just like He sent this note to you.

May we find them all. May we find them before the void is created. May we offer choices, support, hope, truth. God, show us.

Luke 12:2-7

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Recently my daughter came into the bathroom where I was getting ready and looked into the mirror. She had on a puffy winter coat and with an embarrassed expression asked, “Does this make me look fat?” I cringed. My kids know that weight is not something we focus on in our home but instead we focus on health. I try not to speak that way about myself or anyone else, certainly never saying something negative about my body image in front of her, and never in a million years saying anything about her except how incredibly beautiful she is. Where in the world did that statement come from?! When did she start evaluating herself in the mirror?! When did she start thinking about what others think when they look at her? All of that went flooding through my head.

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I’ve known these moments were coming. John and I tell our children often how beautiful they are to us and how perfectly we believe God made them. We try to only speak positively about how others look and I really try to only speak about our own weight or fitness in front of them if we’re discussing what we could do to make it better. How it relates to our choices. We want them to know that it takes hard work and dedication and sacrifice, but we don’t want it to in any way be the most important thing or a consuming thing. I pray that they know what truly matters to us, and I believe they do.

Answered Prayers

Quite a while ago, Kailey began to notice that her hair was different from other girls’ hair. She talked about it tangling and mentioned the pretty, straight hair of some girls. While I must stifle the desire to tell her it is the craziest thing in the world to even consider looking at someone else’s hair when she has HERS, I do realize that this is something that happens to every person. At the core, it is not about how good your own is, it’s about someone else’s being different. Comparison is straight poison, pure and simple. And if we were to turn around and compare with someone else in different circumstances, we would feel nothing but gratitude for what we have. Silly, but it is how we silly humans operate, unfortunately, unless we make a very conscious decision to do differently and to put our eyes elsewhere. So I began our own little Mommy/Kailey tradition when it was time to do her hair. As I combed through those beautiful, tangled curls, I sang the silliest song I made up on the spot about her hair. It has varied slightly over the hundreds of times I have sung it, but it goes something like:

Beautiful, shiny, beautiful, shiny,

Beautiful, shiny curls.

Your hair is so beautiful,

God made you beautiful,

Beautiful little girl!

The hair works perfectly for soccer domination.

The hair works perfectly for soccer domination.

That way I figured for a few minutes every day, the message I wanted her heart to be hearing was being washed over her. She is beautiful. She is loved. She is exactly the way God wants her and she is exactly the way her mother wants her. I often think of the tape that will play in her head (does it have to be an mp3 now?) because of me. We all have them from our mothers. The things we hear about ourselves because of what they said or did. I take that recording incredibly seriously. I know I will answer to God for what I left on that impressionable heart. And only through His grace and wisdom can I make it the beautiful orchestra of love I want it to be.

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So I’m standing there cringing, feeling a little frustrated that this negative question has entered our happiness as she looked into the mirror. I was putting on my own makeup and shot up my usual communication with God about handling the situation. And it came to me. I told Kailey we were going to begin doing something every time we looked in the mirror or thought about our appearance. We were not going to ask that question, but some others that would truly tell us if we were ready for our day or our outing. So daily we have begun asking ourselves these questions, and I have to admit to you, it is blessing me just as much as it is her. Would you like to join us in our 4 Mirror Questions every morning? It only takes a few seconds! Maybe you have different ones of your own. I would love to know what things you do with your daughter to speak beauty into her life!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

1. “Do I look happy?” There is nothing in the world as attractive as happiness. What needs to happen to my focus if the answer is “no” today?

2. “Do I look like I love Jesus?” Is there anything about my appearance that would cause someone to be shocked when they found out Jesus was the most important thing in my life? Is there something I should change?

3. “Do I look like I’m taking care of myself?” I have one body to use for all the purposes God has for my life. Am I protecting it and taking care of it in a way that makes it the best vessel for me? Do I look rested, healthy, neat? What needs to be addressed?

4. “Does anything about my appearance not match my inside?” Yes, we shouldn’t judge by outward appearance, but we get one chance at a first impression. I have an opportunity with what others see to tell them something about me. Who I am, what I like, what is important to me. It’s a head start in being myself and being real and genuine with those around me. Am I using that opportunity to its full potential?

Today she was quite happy about her outside matching her inside.

Today she was quite happy about her outside matching her inside.

We are bonding over this and the Lord is speaking to my heart as well. We both feel that when we are wearing pink, we can answer a particularly firm “yes” to our outside matching our inside. 😉 Any mom of five kids doesn’t look in the mirror every morning and think, “You look so put together! Your outfit, your trim abs, your perfect, styled hair! Where did you get those shoes?!” Yeah, not so much. Anyone who knows me well knows style and fashion aren’t on the top of my list of priorities and that shows when I get ready to leave the house. And that’s fine because, again, it’s a choice. My time, effort, and money are simply somewhere else right now. I make sure I can answer these questions satisfactorily and then I make sure my husband is pleased. Beyond that, there will be a time and a place for shoes that don’t have to carry me a hundred miles a day with a baby on my hip…far too soon. But, just like everyone else, I need bolstering and support on occasion and isn’t it only God who can send words in an instant that will meet the heart needs of a six year old girl and her thirty-two year old mom? He is good. Praying He will continue to give wisdom as I prepare to mother this beautiful heart into early womanhood. She is so precious to me and how much more precious she is to Him. And so are you! May we put our eyes on His love for us and know that we always have the choice to refuse the poison apple of comparison and to remember that we were made in the Image of “The Fairest of Them All.”

Together, we will battle the "dark side" of comparison and negative thoughts! :)

Together, we will battle the “dark side” of comparison and negative thoughts! 🙂

Baby Hands

Tonight as I was rocking Mitchell and singing to him, he took his tiny, chubby hand and held mine. His idea, his move. Of course, I absolutely melted with the sweetness of that moment. There is nothing like a tiny, trusting child taking the initiative to make contact. Not out of need, sadness, hurt, or any other thing they want from you, just out of the desire to be closer to you. As I sat there and drank in the presence of my precious baby, I thought of how often when I hold a child’s hand it is to protect him or her from harm. “Please hold Mommy’s hand and don’t run out in front of the cars.” Or, “If you get away from Mommy, you might get lost. Hold Mommy’s hand.” My initiation for his or her protection. Still very sweet but not quite the same as this moment. Or they hold my hand out of hurt or fear in a frightening or painful moment. Their initiation and still extremely precious, but there’s something missing from that contact that is present when a child just wants to be with you. Wants to touch Mommy and to feel love expressed physically.

As so often happens when I am still and present in my situation, God quickly moved my mind from these meditations to thoughts of His heart. I thought of this last week. How so many of us in this country and around the world have been moved to more thoughts of Him in our collective hurt, pain, and fear. We want to reach out and have Him navigate us through this parking lot of zipping cars coming in an out and not seeing our little hearts before we’re crushed in the choices of another human being who didn’t care to pay attention to those around them and what would happen to them. How a nation in pain has uttered many, many more prayers than average for these stricken families and this torn city. And that is right and good. I know His heart bleeds with us and while He cries for us and holds onto our often faithless selves whether we had run to Him the day before, or the year before, or a decade ago, or never…don’t you know He longs for that other contact too? That little hand curled around His powerful fingers when we don’t need anything except HIM. Why do I wait? Whether my life right now includes months of peace, days of peace, or only moments of peace, there is something I can offer. Some snatch of a breath of time to offer Him my affection. Not my need, my want, my hurt, maybe not even my praise in that second…just my adoring affection.

I wonder if some of that faith like a child doesn’t only come from an unawareness of evil or less opportunity to be jaded but also from a choice to not hold my heart aloof in quiet moments. If my moments are not spent building my defenses but in baring my little affectionate heart before a big Father, I feel that my faith would quickly follow. For He would take my affection even more carefully than I take my child’s. He promises my tears in a bottle, yet I don’t have the tears of my adored children. He says He knows the numbers of hairs on my head, yet I can’t give you that count on these little people for whom I would give my life in an instant. How much more does He love? How much does He long for us to go back to that place? And I think of this season and how God Himself became a baby hand curled around that of His Mother, and I feel quite certain that it is entirely possible that the God who can make Omnipotent Power Personified into a Baby Savior can also soften my heart into that place of affection again. That place of being present with Him for moments of belonging, not only moments of need.

I was teasing my boys tonight about being excited about what I got them for Christmas. I asked what they had gotten me and they sputtered and looked at me with a very “average-young-guy-at-Christmas-what-do-you-mean-oh-no-I’m-in-trouble” look on their faces. I laughed and told them I was kidding and not to worry. John V got a grin on his face and said, “Wait, I got you ME!” And then Levi went for the one up with, “Mommy, I got you my heart!” Melt. Sorry to all the jewelry stores trying desperately to convince everyone that a diamond is the only way to go for your lady, but that answer just gave me all I needed. That’s what I want. Precious little boys who trust my heart for them enough to want to pour theirs out to me, knowing it will be accepted wholeheartedly. They knew the reaction they would get. Hugs, kisses, and the assurance that those would be the best gifts ever. He promises that if I know how to give (or receive?) good gifts to/from my children, He knows unfathomably more how to give what we need.

He is beautiful. And that perfect Beauty wants me. My heart can’t hold that. He has sent us Emmanuel, “God with Us” and I think for Christmas I would like to give Him Courtney, “Child with Him.”

A Cleansing Story

I mentioned in my No Fear Party post that for a month in October and November we cut out all sugars or sweeteners of any kind. We also cut out all grains except brown rice, all dairy, all nuts, all seeds, all beans, all soy, all vinegars…you get the picture. We ate meat, vegetables, and fruit. You would be surprised how well you can eat with those restrictions. I’m not saying you don’t miss the other stuff, but that short list includes some seriously good food. Some people really do not see the point of what we did. They think it’s hypocritical or something. “If you don’t do it all the time, then why do it? Aren’t you pretending to be healthy or something?” I find this logic slightly odd. There are a lot of good things we don’t do all the time, but we still try to do them on occasion or in certain seasons of life. There are also restrictions that are good for your body for a period of time but not long-term.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. You address the needs of your body as they arise. It is the discipline of fasting which cultures and religions all over the world have recognized as spiritually, mentally, and physically beneficial for thousands of years.

This “cleansing” choice is something that John and I began making years ago, spending some time yearly or twice yearly doing this. The list of things it accomplishes is quite extensive. The first time I did it was for a much longer period of time. It was a total of sixteen weeks with some of the foods like nuts and beans being added back in starting at eight weeks. I did this to address a particular health struggle I was having. There is absolutely zero substitue for diet change when wanting to address issues in your body. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s our fuel, our batteries, our tools that allow our divinely created systems to do their jobs.

This time, however, was a first for our family. For the first time we did this as an entire group. Mom, Dad, and all four solid-eating children (which means Natalie technically did it too, I guess). No exceptions, even for the kids. By not making any exceptions you allow yourself to really and truly remove allergens and triggers from your system. When people say they’ve tried eliminating gluten, dairy or other things from their diets, I always ask if it has been complete elimination for several weeks. Otherwise there are still lingering intruders working their way through your system that might confuse your diagnosis of the issue. Then, when you add those allergens or irritating substances back in, it’s obvious. It will mess with you. You often realize that something you’ve been living with as “normal” was in fact completely avoidable and is a symptom you no longer choose to accept. Food tastes good, but if it takes away from your quality of life, it just isn’t worth it. I will make no claims to be an expert on any of this, but I have been extremely blessed to be taught by people who are. And it is a topic dear to my heart because I have seen it work. It gave me myself back when I was fighting through a haze of sadness, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, and crazy emotions as the mother of three small children. What we choose to do on a day to day basis is a huge topic for another, or many other, posts, but for now I will just share what this month did for us.

“Depriving” ourselves and our kids for four weeks…

  • Reset our taste buds. It is crazy how quickly you begin eating things you didn’t think you liked when you take out your fall-back foods. I expected my kids to do better after a few weeks. No, the FIRST meal they ate plates of things they hadn’t wanted to touch in months.
  • Made us grateful. When you go for a period of time without things, they become more valuable to you. Certain tastes, the ability to eat out at a restaurant and order what you want, the joys and smells of baking all went from things we take for granted to noticed blessings. The ability to buy groceries that heal and nourish our bodies became something we thought more carefully about again. The simple and yet so enormous sensation of being full of anything. How many didn’t experience that today?
  • Allowed us to see if certain things were affecting our digestion, sleep, moods, or behaviors. Watching skin get clearer, sleep get deeper, tummies get calmer, and emotions get under control will make a believer out of anyone.
  • Provided us with at LEAST a year’s worth of health and nutrition training for our kids. How do certain foods affect our bodies? What is that ingredient and why do we avoid it? What are things we consume unintentionally in small amounts that add up to large problems? What are things that can be good for our bodies but can also be good things to fast from in certain situations? How can we consume foods more closely to the way they were designed to be eaten? My eight year old knows how to read a label. He knows that the daily allowances can be skipped while he goes straight to the list of ingredients. He knows that if he can’t pronounce it, it should be questioned. I don’t want them to know Mommy had a list of “yes” and “no” foods. I want him to know that he was created in the image of God. He is the one in charge of his own health. He will be the one who will need to learn to make his own decisions because he will benefit from or pay for his choices.
  • Showed us John V’s strength and maturity. John V has situations where he is in places without us. There is food around him and offered to him. We sat him down at the beginning of the four weeks, explained how this would work, explained why making exceptions would cause all of our hard work to be less effective, and then told him that the choice was up to him. Only he and God would know what he chose when we weren’t there and we weren’t going to question him. It was so sweet to me the bonding that came out of this. He was our little man. He would come back and talk about the cupcakes or pretzels where he was. How it was “Kind of hard not to eat them. You know, Mom. But we’ll have them again.” We were very open with our struggles and allowed them to be open with theirs. And we all grew closer through our “team” effort. He has been my pickiest eater because I didn’t start soon enough with him. This situation challenged him to rise up as a leader. He tried and tried new things and by the end was enjoying several foods he wouldn’t eat before. I am solidly sure he ate 500 apples.
  • Showed us Kailey’s desire for health. Kailey is six but she is better than I am about recognizing something will make her feel crummy and choosing not to eat it. She is far more in tune with herself than I would have believed possible at that young. She was eager to “be more healthy” and has been the most consistent in wanting to stick with better choices once we were finished with the four week period. If there was an avocado shortage around the first of November, Kailey caused it.
  • Showed us Levi’s will power in a truly positive light. Levi can be a hand full. Let’s just say that whenever possible, you really just want to choose to be on his side. Being on the opposing side can be an exhausting place to be. I know there are great things in store for him as that strength gets channelled into his purpose and calling. He took that same determination into this cleanse. Eight capsules? Swallowed in two swigs. Kale? Yes. Carrots? Yes. Chard? Yes. He can’t have that? Okay. It was staggering. I sort of felt embarrassed sometimes. He made me feel like a total wimp. He ate and went on with his life. Truly mind over matter with that kid. I have never, ever seen someone put away that much zucchini.
  • Showed us Mitchell’s flexibility. I thought he would be the hardest but he wasn’t. He ate what everyone else did. Which made me realize how much of two year old pickiness can actually be blamed on my own choices. If the right things are available and the wrong ones aren’t, it’s amazing what gets put away. Bananas and roasted kale, otherwise known as “dinosaur food,” were his favorites.
  • Reminded me again how grateful I am for a husband who can be a real man. He leads in this area just like any other. He doesn’t ask his kids to do what he won’t do. He backs me up. He helps me teach. He is not afraid of beet juice, spirulina, or a world without bread. He is awesome.
  • Showed me how often I make a choice because I “don’t have time” when, with a little preparation, it is actually quite possible to eat much, much better even with a busy schedule or while out and about.
  • Revealed addictions. I think it’s interesting how Americans classify addictions. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is bad. We should stop. But an addiction to food, sugar, coffee, soft drinks, or anything else is fine. They may have differing levels of impact on our health or lives but they all cause us to use a substance to handle heart, health, or life issues. To bandaid choices that need to be made about priorities, time management, and other problems. It’s a tough one for SURE.
  • Took us back to other things instead of food to: 1)Combat exhaustion. We slept instead of eating when we were tired. 2)Combat emotions. Somehow eating a pear does not replace your need to handle emotions. 3)Combat stress. Again, a carrot stick simply won’t perk you up. You have to deal with the stressor and move on. It also highlights how we use it to do everything from celebrate to entertain ourselves to socialize. While there’s nothing wrong with much of that, it is important to see it for what it is. It helps us to make better, more purposeful choices.

Suddenly “deprived” doesn’t seem like the right word anymore, does it? We removed something from our lives that we thought it would “hurt” to give up in exchange for growth, change, and blessing. If that doesn’t sound like a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. I think that the God who recommended regular fasting for His people must have known what He was doing. Showing us more of Himself. I am extremely grateful for the ways that God has taught me how to care for my family over the past several years. It has been an interesting journey and is certainly one that is still in progress. I make lots and lots of mistakes. I get weary. We will continue to grow. I will change my mind. The teachers will change their teachings. Our needs will change. But I love knowing that just as He always has, He will put the right wisdom in my life at the right time to show me what we need and how to strengthen us. Because it’s really not ever foremost about what we’re putting into our bodies but about how we are feeding our souls and equipping ourselves for the real work. And what we’re putting into our hearts and into our bodies do often travel hand in hand.

Levi during our cleanse: “Dear God, thanks for Mom making this good food. And that it’s not lots of sugary stuff. And that we don’t talk about gross things. Amen”

Eating his "dinosaur food"

Eating his “dinosaur food”

Turn Your Eyes

There aren’t sufficient words for anyone to express their feelings over what happened yesterday. The interesting thing is that we always feel it’s necessary to talk anyway. It’s like we’re processing out loud, trying to make sense, trying to get answers for our questions. And yet I always find myself with slightly different questions than I see and hear in most places. Why does yesterday horrify us so when daily there are children living through nightmares as bad and worse? Why do we only get so upset when it gets a little closer to home and it’s “our” kids? “Our” kids who “should” be safe. Shouldn’t they all? Just like you, I wrestle with all of these. With pain and sin and suffering everywhere. Oh God, we are so broken.

Although I grieve with everyone else and am aware of general information about the situation, I have not once turned on my TV or radio. I refuse to be a part of what the media does in these situations. I will not watch one microphone shoved in the face of a grieving family, of a traumatized child, of a broken teacher. Hey reporter, I don’t need to know how they feel. I can take a wild guess. I don’t need details. DEAR GOD, why do we need details?! What is wrong with us?! If I lost someone I loved, I would be allowed to grieve in quiet, in dignity, in respectful mourning. But no, we can’t give them that. We deserve to know and they need to tell us. We’re like parasites feeding on their tragedy.

I’m sure you will have figured out by now that my kids have not been told what happened. A Facebook friend, Sam Jeffrey, posted a story Corrie Ten Boom told about her father. It describes perfectly my feelings about exposing kids to details about events like yesterday’s.

And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but, to my surprise, he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he asked. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

God forgive us that we ask children to carry loads before they are able to bear them. Those children yesterday didn’t have a choice. They had to face something unthinkable because an adult made that choice for them. Carefully chosen words can be one thing according to the wisdom God gives us as a parent, but media images, their young minds can’t turn those off. Can’t choose to undo that. Can’t choose to unsee what we as adults set before them. Let’s not make sure hundreds of thousands more children experience pieces of the same horror. If I were to choose to tell my children anything, it would be stories of how there were some super hero teachers yesterday who went from being normal Mrs. X in the classroom to being warriors and rescuers. Do I need details to know that? Nope. I know lots of teachers and know exactly what they would do in those situations. They would be fierce and courageous. They have to do that every day. Anyone who respectfully and wholeheartedly takes the well-being of children on as a daily task is a hero. And way too often it goes unnoticed what a massive responsibility it is.

God forgive us that in the name of information we exploit hurting families and children in their grief. Somehow help us to stop. Deliver us from this insatiable need to view tragedy firsthand and help us instead to turn our eyes on the hurting before they hit the mainstream news.

God forgive us that we didn’t give that individual a bigger purpose to be a part of. A way that he could have impact. That he could feel like one of the warriors bringing about change as a created and designed individual. Maybe then he wouldn’t have needed to create a space for himself through destruction. Forgive us that he has seen our responses in similar situations and knew that yesterday we would be glued to the news saying his name over and over as he finally made a little space for himself in the cacophony of life that had drowned out his suffering.

God forgive us that it takes an event like yesterday to teach us respect for other human beings, for fellow students, for our teachers. Whether giving a giant piece of their lives yesterday or giving smaller pieces of it every day, the people investing in us deserve our love, gratitude and respect. They deserve for us to teach our children to honor them in their words and attitudes by modeling it with our own mouths and actions.

God forgive us that we need such horrible reminders to hold on to moments as precious. Why is it so hard to keep our priorities straight? Why is it so easy for me to become distracted, overwhelmed, tired, weary. Because my eyes are in the wrong place. More and more lately my heart has been turned to one plea. Because I know if I can do this one thing, all else will fall into place. I will see the needs of the hurting before they are unreachable. I will see the value of others before they are gone. I will see the daily as miraculous, the eternal as the important, and the unthinkable as temporary.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!