Thursday, November 27, 2014

What Giving Thanks in the Midst of a Mess Means

I must have gone wrong somewhere--taken a left when maybe I should have gone right.

I keep taking deep, gasping breaths because I'm running right out of my skin with all these kids fighting and grumbling and spiting each other.

I've lost count of all my mind spinning and mind losing because simply keeping count is enough to send me over the moon. 

I've lost count of all my empty threats because I miss the enforcement window when the carrying them out matters...or because the child in question presents herself for her punishment because she knows she's busted. Or I'm just too afraid that I might regret the consequences I dole out in the flare of all my mind losing.

I mean I can't really lock them outside or lock me inside when all I really want to do is find a quiet, peaceful spot to catch a bit, a piece really, of my mind, my heart, my fortitude, that's whirling straight to oblivion.

I missed that turn somewhere. 
And now I might be lost.
And the only good news--the best good news--
is the Good News:
Jesus who came to save.

I might very well be lost. I've probably been lost before, though there's different kinds of "lost" aren't there. The lost I find myself in now is the one where I feel like very important pieces of me are chipping off in great big chunks leaving a crumbled, worn out, out of ideas mama behind.

It's the kind of lost that screams for a girl to retreat, yet there's no time to retreat and no place to retreat to and the kids still need a mama who follows through and shows up and loves till it hurts.

But Jesus knows right where I am right down to the smallest pinprick on the largest map.

I might feel like I'm losing a piece of me trying to keep all the pieces of me--my family, my kids, my classroom--in a messy free-fall of togetherness. But Jesus knows, and when I'm at the end of my very short rope, He throws me another--longer, stronger, better.

I might feel overwhelmed by a season that's steamrolling me right over,
and then I hear Him:

Quiet. Gentle. Still.

And I know it's Him because in this moment, I am none of those things.

And He says, it's what He always says when I feel this way:
"Be still."

And when I'm still I remember.
I remember what Thanksgiving means. What giving thanks means.
What it heralds. What, even in my frazzled turmoil, I can't deny.
He's coming.

I might be lost and overwhelmed and tired and worn straight to next week.
But He's coming. 
And He's coming for all of us who feel broken and bruised and trampled.
He's coming and He wants me just how I am.
 However I come. And there's so much grace and so much to be thankful for.

The father never asked his prodigal son to take a bath, to get it all together, before he wrapped his son up in all his love. That father was just so joyful that his son had come home, 
and everything else that came before
--the heartache, the betrayal, the despair--
was washed away in an ocean of grace.
The prodigal son was a mess. 
And it didn't matter one bit.

And so He doesn't hold me off because of my mess.
He doesn't ask that I get it all together before I can come and be with Him.
He takes me just how I am. Frazzled bits and all.
And it doesn't faze Him.
Not even a teeny tiny bit.

So yeah,
He's coming.
And I'm waiting.
For His Advent.

Sure, my kids are gonna test me tomorrow and my head will pound like a thousand drums from all that is my kids and sure, my patience will be worn straight to thin and I'll wonder if I'll ever find my mind,
and it's gonna be okay. I'm gonna be okay. We're gonna be okay.

Because He's still coming.

And there's always a hidden grace, a small thing to be thankful for.
And the act of finding that one thing in the middle of all the noise to be thankful for makes the finding easier and the grace flows down.
The quiet hug.
The small giggle
The kind help.
The silly grin.

There's always grace.
There's always thanks.
And thanks and grace always go hand in hand.
And He's coming.
The greatest Grace.

I've just got to keep putting one step in front of the other, taking one deep breath after another, loving one kid hard right after the other because I know that Truth and Hope and Love are more powerful, more mighty, more potent than all that is messy and unkempt and crazy in my world.

And the world desperately needs some Truth and Hope and Love this Season. 
Someone to bind us together, to heal all that's scabbed and scarred and bleeding.

He's coming.
And He knows right where we are.
And He's coming to meet us right here--in our lost, in our broken, in our hard, in our mess, in our overwhelmed, in our anger, in our despair.

He's coming.
Jesus is coming.

And I so don't want to miss Him.

Grace Always Rises,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Because 8 is Great!

I heard her before I saw her.
Her not so little feet tripping up the stairs and into my bathroom where I was brushing my teeth.
Her big, wide, infectious grin came first through my door.

"Did you have a good sleep, Bug?"
"Yes. Except I didn't sleep. I was SO excited!"
"Happy Birthday Addie"
"Thanks Mom. I'm so excited to be 8."

Photos by Sam Ferrand

She's 8 today and I remember each of her birthdays like mile markers on my winding, grace living road. Not that I'm anxious to get to the end, but every year adds to the bounty, the beauty, that weaves its strands into fabric of my life. And I'm so grateful for each of these years, each of these markers of victories and joys and heartaches because what's a life without something to mark it by? Without tales to tell and memories to hold fast? Without grace to sink into and joy to relive? It might not be a life at all.

Today I celebrate that my oldest is 8.
And I admit, there's also the faintest ripple of bittersweet in my celebration.
With every year, every birthday, I can only go forward. I can't ever go back to when she was 1 or 3 or 6. Those years now live in my heart and in my scrapbooks and sometimes I'm just a bit nostalgic about that.

I remember how she was so big when I was pregnant and how she was so late in joining us.

I remember how scared I was when they had to keep her for 7 days in the hospital and how our first pediatrician had no bedside manner and scared this poor, new mama straight out of her wits and I had to lean hard into Jesus because I was afraid. That week is seared in my memory and I know now I wouldn't trade it for a happier, less difficult one.

I remember how she was when she met her sisters in the hospital for the first time. How she held them so carefully. How she would help me feed them and fetch me diapers or burp rags or blankets. How she would throw magnificent temper tantrums in her big sister adjustment.

I remember when she accepted Jesus into her heart at the kitchen counter and my cup ran right over with such grace. 

I remember her first day of school. Her first report card. Her first soccer game. Her first dance recital.

I love how for the past 72 hours she hasn't been able to utter a thought without referencing her birthday. As if we might forget it somehow--not that she would let us. And sure it might be a little obnoxious, this constant bombardment and reminder of a cake to make and cupcakes to decorate and a party to plan and presents to wrap, but I appreciate her wonderment and enthusiasm for all things birthday and I'm happy to give that to her because you only turn 8 once. And as a friend just told me, 8 is great.

I appreciate her passion and her zeal. Her shamelessness in making sure we are ready for her big day.

Sure there are hard things and difficult challenges and parenting issues. She's the Eldest. I feel like we have cut our teeth, so to speak, learning how to parent with her. Not that those lessons will translate at all to her sisters, but having tactical and strategic maneuvers in a parenting arsenal can only be helpful.

Sure she frustrates me endlessly with her refusal to put her clothes away in the right spot or her inability to remember simple chores or her supernatural ability to micromanage the twins when they don't wish to be micromanaged. But on her birthday, those things seem somehow less important and insignificant.

Her joy over this day has caused me to think (which is sometimes a dangerous undertaking) about birthdays, especially the ones that indicate decades passing.

When was the last time I was so excited for my birthday that I didn't that I couldn't sleep?

When did birthdays become an accumulation of numbers instead of an accumulation of joy? 

In a culture where growing old, or older, is the foundation for an entire cosmetics industry to battle hard against, why don't we mamas stand gracefully and dignified in the gap for our daughters?

Perhaps instead of counting our numbers we start to count our graces. Perhaps we begin this next year teaching our daughters that numbers and years are simply measures, they don't define a mama, a woman, a daughter, a sister; they don't determine worth or value as though somehow we lose our worth by getting older, by racking up the years. Perhaps our ability to really practice gratitude and grace grows exponentially every year as we live deeper and wiser because we know the true measure of a life; we know the true value of a moment, a day, a year.  And that measure isn't a number.

I want my daughters to see their mama turn 40 or 50 or 90 and feel the exuberance I feel from my 8 year old turning 8. I want them to see a mama who's not afraid of a number but who's filled with gratitude and grace for a life; who's filled with bravery and courage to stand grace-filled in a culture that says growing old is unfortunate.

I want them to see a mama who lets Jesus be the true, defining measure of her worth. 

And all this thinking, leads me back to her.

Happy 8th Birthday My Lovely Girl

Grace Always Rises,