the woman in the mirror

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

these mornings I wake up early before the house creaks.
I make toast in the dark and swallow pain pills
and even though my plans for the day consist of moving from the bed to the couch and then back to the bed, 
I get dressed, brush my teeth and rake my fingers through my messy bed-head hair
...the bare minimum to align myself with the rest of functioning humanity...

for the first few days I ignored myself in the mirror.
my normal talking-to-myself-in-the-mirror conversation stuck in my throat:
the eyelash growing in sideways and the taunting gray hair and the small chip on my front tooth,
the weird freckle on my shoulder and the uneven eyebrow situation were all muted.

I guess losing two babies in four months has a way of numbing the heart and the mind.

I didn't feel like talking and I didn't want to hear what I had to say anyways
so I ignored myself as I dressed and combed and brushed.

but this morning I looked straight into my brown eyes as I dried my face with a towel.
I saw myself from outside myself.
It was startling.
I looked like someone I would have immediate sympathy for, 
like someone I would awkwardly stop and ask if they were ok, 
like someone I would feel compelled to cover in words of love and encouragement.

Instantly I was smashed with the conviction that believers are just as broken as the lost.
Our hearts hide the same aching questions and stabbing doubts as those who seek.
Just because we know the Good News doesn't mean we stop preaching it to our own hearts.

I wrote a message for the woman in the mirror.
Tomorrow morning, over a tube of toothpaste, I'll be sharing Romans 8:38-39 with myself:

I am completely convinced that there is nothing
nothing from the hands of the evil one or permitted by the Holy One
nothing from the one who desires my destruction or from the One who holds my salvation
that can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

neither death nor life
not the hollow empty grief of the death of a parent leaves us feeling alone and little again,
not the sharp grief of a child ripped away by death,
not the death of a dream or a friendship or a plan,
not the death of a season in life,
not the end of any person or any thing.
While the chasm of death is wide and we are separated from the one we loved or the thing we hoped for,
we are not separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

not even life, the gift of breath and strength that leaves us feeling wildly self-sufficient,
not our plans for the future,
not our regrets from the past,
not our day to day routine that consumes us and threatens to usurp His place in our lives
 can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

not angels nor principalities
not the unseen spiritual machine that is alive and active in this world,
there is not a battle fought, 
there is not a force bent on our destruction that can separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

not things present nor things to come
not these stinging miscarriages in the face of our desire for a large family,
not a life that sometimes feels too fast and other times feels painfully slow,
not two pee-soaked toddler beds or a sink full of crusty tomato sauce pans or overflowing hampers,
not the damp towels that have been mildewing at the bottom of the washing machine for the past two days,
not the mystery sticky spot on the kitchen floor or the toothpaste spattered mirrors,
not any other task left undone or duty to come can separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

not powers of this world
not established laws or boundaries or man-made restrictions,
not the science of this world that call miscarriage "spontaneous abortion",
not the leaders of this world that have decided an unborn baby is a mash of cells,
not the media of this world that hold up impossible standards and then mock our failure to attain them,
not the rush of this world that push us to suck it up, move on, let go, and keep quiet,
not the shouting critics that highlight our failures, flaws and faults,
not the powers that are bent on crushing us can separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

neither height nor depth
not the glittering highlights of life,
not the moments when everything seems right in the world,
not the times when love and health and happiness collide in an explosion of joy,
not even when babies are born healthy and lovers are married,
not when love and blessings are rich pour down in heaps,
not the smooth times that can pull slowly pull us from humble reliance to reckless independence.

not the dim gray moments that find us wishing ourselves out of our own lives,
not times where things go from sad to bad and then to worse,
not the times spent feeling lonely and misunderstood,
not when happiness and hope are distant and blurred,
not when all things collapse inward instead of blooming outward,
not the best of the best or the worst of the worst can separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

nor any other created things
not bursting bank accounts or pinching pennies,
not dream homes or paint peeling off the walls of a dingy rental,
not shining new cars or rusted out jalopies,
not ideal jobs or the frustration of unemployment,
not people for or against us,
not countries in peace or at war,
not all the pain, poverty, hunger, or illness in all the the earth,
not any created thing that we may or may not comprehend can separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

when the words are few

yesterday I said good-bye to my baby.
the fourth baby I've carried.

i keep coming here to write but end up just staring at a blank page.
there is nothing poetic or metaphorical about this grief.
there is not a lesson learned or a poignant insight.
there is just heartbreak and the for of pain medication.

i know the words will come.
will you wait here for me?


Friday, March 7, 2014

blades of grass poke my bare feet
I swing my little people back and forth
back and forth
back and forth

...they suck in a quick breath and squeal with delight...
...I fill my lungs with the warm California air...
it smells like baby shampoo and the sweet citrus trees that dot our yard

I hold my breath and hear her voice.

"You are in a window where the complete madness of babies is over 
and the complete madness of school hasn't started yet"

I breathe her words in and out
in and out
in and out

this window is sweeter than the blossoms 
and in spite of the day-in and day-out dying to myself to make it in and out of each day,
right now I am willing to say in this moment, 
this day, 
this stage,

This post is part of Five Minute Friday with LisaJo.
Five Minute Friday is community of writers take a word and pen their thoughts for five minutes and share the outcome.
Today's word was "willing".
If you are curious you can read what others wrote and join in here.

Cling With Me

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

the doctrine of grace is stunning.

unable to untangle myself from sin 
God gifts me with freedom from it through the death of Jesus,
so that I might be restored to a right relationship with Him

s a v e d   by   g r a c e

I cling to this truth daily
sometimes squeezing it tight with ragged hope
sometimes holding it out loosely to offer to others.
but recently I hold this truth and feel a little bit like a fraud.
these past couple weeks have cried out for grace
and I'm finding my head doesn't completely understand the doctrine that my heart believes

before these days, grace looked different.
it's hair was combed, it's clothes were ironed, it was pleasant, neat and clean.
it was easy to receive and it felt good to offer.
but these days grace is sandpaper rough as it makes it way out of my heart.
it is messy, it is unpredictable, it is raw.
these days grace seems more like gauze on a bloody wound soaking up the damage of sin
than it does a sweet song ringing out in a church building

...i had no idea what to do with this new impression of grace...
so I prayed the kind of prayers that don't have words 
until I felt these words well up inside of me:
Grace does not minimize sin.
Rather, grace maximizes the Savior.

I realized I had been minimizing sin by extending permission and calling it grace.
"it's ok" had taken the place of "I forgive you"
but I'm finding that real grace models the grace of God
...and God never responds to our sin with "it's ok"...
God-like grace acknowledges the devastation of the sin
God-like grace forgives because God forgives us
...and that is enough of a reason to forgive as we will ever need...
God-like grace focuses on the person worth love and restoration and never glances back

I realized I had been offering the god "I Think" and calling it grace.
I highlighted my own insight, shared my thoughts and pointed people to the god of my own ideas
instead of the Author of grace and mercy.
I wasn't intentionally being self-promoting.
I was just uncomfortable and running my mouth made me feel less awkward.
But I'm finding sometimes grace is silent and small.
Sometimes the greatest grace I can extend is the grace of staying out of a situation that is not mine.
Other times, grace is loud and visible.
Either way, quiet or loud, grace squelches the god of "I Think" and magnifies the heart of God.

I realized I had been giving grace when I could have been sharing it.
The only giver of grace is God.
The idea that I can give grace feels self-righteous,
like a finger pointed away from my own sin and at someone else's.

Sharing grace comes from the heart broken by it's own sin and mended by grace.
we share grace when we know how desperately we need it ourselves
we share grace when we recognize that we are all failures who are hopeless without it
we share grace like a life preserver, shouting into the storm of sin:
"Hang on! With everything you have, cling on to Jesus with me!"

I Am Not Staying Here

Monday, February 17, 2014

I was letting my girls race rolling luggage up and down the laundry detergent aisle when she saw me.
Lost in my thoughts, I was startled when she stopped her cart and gave me a long hug.
she asked me the question that I had begun to dread
"how are you doing?"

After I miscarried my dear sweet baby, responding to this question became impossibly difficult.
I moved through thoughts slowly because I felt like everything was going to spill right out of my heart.

I fumbled through words that snagged in my throat.
I moved slowly but everything spilled out anyways
i am ok 
i am horrible
i am thankful 
i am brokenhearted
i am full 
i am empty 
i am content 
i am wrecked

Suddenly I felt my cheeks grow hot and globs of conflicting ideas started to pour out.
I emotionally vomited all over her.
I was embarrassed and I tried to stop but the words kept coming out. 
But the way she looked at me told me to keep talking, to keep trying to share my heart.
Her eyes told me she knows and I know that she does.
Back when I was young and my spectrum of pain peaked at skinned knees, she buried her own baby.
She said nothing but the way she listened shouted her understanding.
There was no doubt that she knows what it's like to feel lost inside a once-familiar life.

I tell her that Im trying really hard not to get stuck in the thick darkness of the spiritual tar pits along this unfamiliar road.

my daughter's preschool teacher she delivered her 17 week old son in the middle of the night at her home after being sent home from the hospital by a careless doctor.
their precious baby was already in heaven when he was born.

a well meaning acquaintance cornered me with a toothy grin and her version of science.
according to her I shouldn't feel bad because my baby was really just "a bunch of defective cells"

the young pregnant women behind me at the doctor's office who argued with her boyfriend 
"my mom paid for the last appointment so it's your moms turn" she hissed at him
he looked at her in the face and called her a string of obscenities.

I reveal that I boil and seethe inside.
In complete honesty I confess to her that I see things like these and think thoughts so ugly they scare me.

She nods and presses her lips together and we are quiet for a minute
...the girls squeal and giggle and run...
...and it hits me like a punch that my life is going on and so did hers and so does everyone's everywhere... is going on but I don't know how to get out of this blackness that sticks to me...

i don't want to get stuck in the pain 
I don't want to stay here where darkness is the easiest thing to see and light seems impossible to find

I can't follow the road that brought be here to find my way out.
I can't go back before the two blue lines and the unfamiliar pain and the ultrasounds and blood tests 
and the falling numbers and the surgery and the blood 
and the medication and the woozy walks from the bed to the couch to the bed again

I see her there, in that store and realize that she has lived my entire lifetime plus some years
peeling of the dark,
running for the light,
living with but not being swallowed by the grief.

I see her and I know there is no going back.
There is no quick route to get out.
When we wrestle with our circumstances we have two choices:
stay still or move through.

On that afternoon in the middle of that conversation something stirred in me:
...I am not staying here...
I am not content to let pain and questions paralyze me
I am not staying in this place where sinister lies threaten to take root in me
There is no going back, no jumping out, just a way through:
a stepping stone path paved with the gritty radical obedience of everyday surrender.

and I decided that the next time someone asks me
"how are you doing?"
I'm going to tell them the truth:

"I'm healing.
I'm continuing to obey.
I'm moving through by being faithful in the small, obscure everyday things.
I'm determined to keep my Jesus between my circumstances 
and not my circumstances between me and Jesus.
I'm letting the Word scrub away the clinging darkness that threatens me.
And yes, I'm constantly feeling the undercurrent pulling me toward doubt, confusion, fear and kinds of other slicked-up lies.
But I know that the proof of my Faith is that I trust Him even when I feel afraid.
I am ok.
I am ok because I have a Father who is bigger than my fears and, 
because He is,  I am doing whatever He tells me
...even when it means walking through somewhere I don't want to be...
this response was inspired by Ann Voskamp
click here to read her entire post about doing what He tells us through gritty radical obedience 

When Dinnertime Is Ugly/Beautiful

Friday, February 14, 2014

Our tradition started on New Years Eve in 2009.
Our first daughter was nearly three weeks old and we decided that we would celebrate by eating steak and napping 
...being sleep-deprived introverts made us crazy-exciting...
Over the past six years that steak dinner has evolved
 and ringing in 2014 was the most elaborate meal yet.

steaming french onion soup, 
grilled steak, 
lobster drenched in lemon and butter, 
crispy bacon wrapped around asparagus, 
cheesy hashbrown casserole 
creamy cheesecake covered in gooey pecan praline caramel

What is the best meal you have ever eaten?
What made this meal special?

Certainly food is important but do you, like me, find that the ones you gather around the table with take meals from good to treasured?

Dinner on New Years Eve is tasty but it is the tradition and time with my people that I crave all year long.
It is the love around that table that fills me up.
Family mealtimes are important for the way they feed bellies and hearts.  

We have all seen the statistics:

Frequent family meals are associated with a lower risk 
of smoking, drinking, drug use, depression and suicidal thoughts in children 11-18.
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 2004
Kids who eat often with their parents are 40% more likely to get 
mostly A’s and B’s in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week.
Columbia University

Adolescent girls who have frequent family meals and a positive atmosphere during those meals 
are less likely to develop eating disorders.
University of Minnesota, 2004

Family dinners are more important than play, story time and any other family events 
in the development of vocabulary in young children.
Harvard Research,1996

Family mealtime feeds our hunger to connect with each other.

The dinner table is a place for the serious and important conversations in life 
to happen organically and regularly.  

The dinner table is a place to learn to share our hearts and 
a place to learn how to listen to the hearts of others. 

With all of this evidence that family meal times can drastically impact the futures of our children is it any wonder that they seem incredibly difficult to establish and maintain?

We all want happy family meal times that are full of joyful conversation.  
We all want to ask our kids questions and respond to them with Biblical principles 
that can sink deep into their hearts. 

But what we want is not always what we have, right?
Honestly, with kids who are five and three, the majority of family mealtime in our house feels chaotic.

Just this past week either my husband or I have said the following things 
to our daughters during dinnertime

no touching the walls with sticky fingers
no whining
no snorting
no shouting
no meowing
no using your macaroni noodles as a whistle
no licking the placemat
no eating ketchup by the spoonful

pepper and salt shakers
chair cushions
are not toys 

it is rude to 
backwash into mommas cup
grab food off of another person's plate
pick your nose
interrupt anyone 
blow bubbles in your chili
chew on your hair
at the table

...and this is a list of the things that were not horrifyingly gross or overly rude...
...there is more where these came from people...

I can't possibly be the only one who has a healthy dose of crazy at my dinner table!
What is some of the crazy that erupts during dinner at your house?

My most tried and true tool for maintaining some sense of order at mealtime is to make a game plan 
and share it with my husband.  

Our game plan includes something to talk about and one manner to focus on.

It is embarrassingly simple and usually sounds something like this:
“Hey, the girls collected worms out of the yard today and had so much fund doing it!  Ask them about Also, today I’ve been working on the kids not interrupting each other so let’s focus on that manner.” 
The game plan gets us in the same place and provide goals for dinner.  

In addition to the topic in our game plan, I like to talk about our day during dinner time.
Since they are five and three, when I ask them to share about their day, I usually get bizarre responses like "Can I call grandma and tell her my scab fell off?"
...again, I can't be the only one...

I stumbled on these awesome free printables from Amy at Positively Splendid.

I use this one with my daughters who are five and three.  
They love to use dry erase markers to draw pictures of their day in each box.  
I usually set these out during the last ten minutes of dinner-making and let the girls color while I finish up.
The girls get a chance to remember their day and have something to remind them what they want to share with the whole family at dinner time.

Amy also offers this placemat printable too.  I think it would be perfect for older kids to use in the same way.

You can print your own by clicking on this link. 

One idea that I have not yet incorporated but would love to try is a question jar.  
I love this version from Alison, Shelley and Missy from How Does She?

You can print out everything needed to create a jar full of questions to start conversation at your table.
Did I mention it is also free?  
Simply click on this link and enter your email address at the end of the post to have the password for the printables sent to your inbox.

Planning and tools like these placemats and question jars are good for keeping dinner on a positive track.
But, the key to family mealtime is not something we can list in bullet points or find on pinterest or print from the internet.

The key to a setting a joyful tone at dinner is within our hearts.

We would all agree with Psalm 127:3

Our children are more of a gift than we can really even understand and articulate.
But somehow they have the uncanny ability to unnerve us and bring out our worst.
...especially when they seem to be intentionally sabotaging our attempts at creating a happy peaceful mealtime...

If you feel discouraged at meal time you are not alone.
It is the end of our day, 
our patience that was in tiptop shape earlier has worn thin, 
our bellies our hungry, 
our bodies are weary 
and our minds are tired.
And that is just us.
Our husbands come home with their own burdens.
Our kids have had a day full of life too.
  Add to that an enemy who prowls around looking for ways to destroy the relationships in our families and it is no wonder that family mealtime hangs by a thread.

But be encouraged!

The success and value of mealtime is not measured by the level of chaos. 
The success and value of mealtime is determined by the way in which we interact with the people at our table in the midst of the chaos.

Family mealtime does not have to be perfect to be beautiful.

When I think about dinnertime from my daughter's perspective, I wonder if they think I enjoy dinner?
i wonder if they can see that I believe they are a treasured gift?
i wonder if, after they have grown up and all of the dinners blur together, they will remember a feeling of joy and love when they think of meals around our table.

I found this free printable from Mandy at Biblical Homemaking.
I printed it and put it up in my kitchen where I can see it from the table.
I pray through it while I make dinner.
I practice it when a green bean gets stuck in a nose or a cup of water gets spilled or a grouchy kid melts into tears during dinner.

To print your own copy click on this link.

So, dear dinner-making mommas, 
Let us remember that while our hands set the table, it is our hearts set the tone.
Let us remember that chaos does not equal failure.
Let us remember that we have a God that is for us and for our family.
Let us not become weary in doing good.

Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party: CCVinspirewomen and beLOVED

Friday, February 7, 2014

From the back, she looked just like Ann Voskamp.

...and I simply love Ann...

I spent the first two days of Allume hoping for a chance to tell her how much I have learned and grown from her willingness to peel back comfort and share her own heart journey.
So, when I thought I saw her at the sink in the hotel lobby bathroom I had to say hello.

I rose to uncharted levels of social awkwardness,
I made a beeline for her straight out of the stall with creeper-level boldness,
I offered my unwashed hand for a shake
and then to my complete horror, I realized that the person at the sink was not Ann Voskamp.

Thankfully, it was a gracious woman with her long dark hair pulled forward named Natalie.
She met my awkward greeting with a smile and friendly chit-chat about Sole Hope, 
the organization she was representing at the conference.
Those few minutes at the sink were not what I expected
 but when I left that bathroom I knew that they were a divine appointment.
I knew God wanted me to point my focus toward Sole Hope and as the days passed, I learned more.

At first, their mission to offer hope, healthier lives, and freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs, and medical relief seemed strange in my embarrassingly first-world brain.

But the reality of jiggers and clinics and the ways Sole Hope used shoes to meet physical, economic and spiritual needs of entire communities was overwhelming.

For the rest of the conference, the problem and need remained in the front of my mind.

The thought that kept surfacing was that children the age of my own kids were suffering and dying.

Sand fleas (commonly known as jiggers) burrow into the cuts on their little bare feet and lay their eggs.
These egg sacks grow and feed off their hosts.
If not removed, the jiggers paralyze and ultimately kill the infected children.

This video created in by NewSpring in 2009 illustrates the problem perfectly.

This is awful and revolting but the most disgusting part of the whole thing is that it is preventable.

If you are like me you want to do something to fix this problem.
If you are like me, you feel too small or too busy or too unequipped to help.
If you are like me, you are going to love what I am about to tell you:


If you can trace, cut and safety pin you can help Sole Hope prevent this needless suffering.

Sole Hope relies on people like us to provide the materials for their shoes.
Using donated denim jeans, people like you and me trace shoe patterns, cut them out and pin them in pairs.  
These pairs are then mailed to Sole Hope's office South Carolina 
and then to Jinja, Uganda where local shoemakers create closed-toe shoes.

These closed-toe shoes are then distributed at jigger removal clinics where jiggers are removed, preventative information is provided and homes are sprayed with insecticide that kills the jiggers and their eggs.


When I realized that small, busy, unequipped me could do something, 
I was inspired to bring Sole Hope to the people in my life.

I started with the women's group at my home church.
CCV Inspire Women along with the college and high school women's group beLOVED
met last saturday for a shoe cutting party.
For a few hours nearly one hundred women turned donated denim into hope.

they cut the legs off of the jeans

they sliced the jeans open up along the seams

 they traced templates

they poured out love through their permanent markers

they cut out each piece

their scissors gave shape to the shoes

they piled up heel pieces and toe pieces

they transformed plastic placemats into semicircles that give the shoes durability and structure

they sorted, they stacked, they packed

 together these women made enough pieces for nearly one thousand shoes

Enough pieces for the shoe makers in Uganda to sew five hundred pairs of shoes.  
Enough for five hundred lives to be restored in the name of Jesus.

When I think about five hundred lives changing,
I think about how powerful we are when we act like Christ and our reaction to need is
compassion and action.

I think about our call to be salt and light.
We fail when we think we have to change the whole big wide world at once.
We fail because that is the job of God alone.
Our call is to love people, one by one.
We are successful when we love people one heart at a time
...or one foot at a time...

Would you consider hosting a shoe cutting party to support Sole Hope?
If you would like more information, click here to visit Sole Hope's website for more information.
If you are in the Southern California area and would like help with your party, feel free to contact me:

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