Thankfullness, Uncategorized

How to Move From Grief to Gratitude

I’ve been working on a few things lately, and part of the course work for some of it takes place today. I’m eager to share with you, my reader, but it’s going to have to come at a later time. What I want to share with you now, is how I got here. How I’m able to move from a broken heart, to a grateful heart. How I see Christ blessing all of my bruising, and how I’m actually grateful to have a few bruises because it shows our journey together. October was, and still is, my chosen month for a wedding. Ben and I almost had an outdoor ceremony, but Chicago weather can be skittish, and I’m not much of a risk taker, so we went with a traditional church venue. I still love spending our anniversary at the highlight of changing leaves. October is also the month the high-school Ben and I both attended holds its yearly alumni gatherings. Mine was fantastic this year, and I’m waving to those of you who were there. And, October is my youngest sons birthday. He’s one incredible miracle. All of these things make me smile. All of them bring me great joy. October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ve been hyper alert to this since my own Mama went through the crushing disease at the age of 44. Since then my younger sister, three cousins, and now myself, have all gone through the ugly-beautiful remaking of our physical bodies so that this disease would hopefully not destroy us. Sadly, my mama and one cousin are now resting in the Lord.

After being overtly aware of all the pink ribbons for breast cancer, I’m also, now, owner of pink & blue wristbands. The kind that flex and twist. The kind that people wear in the shower and pass out profusely to anyone willing to grab one. The pink and blue ribbon stands for Infertility, Infant loss, and Miscarriage. My pile of these added up to too many for several years.

October is host to heavy material for me. But, all of it humbles me. All of it communicates to me to cancel out carelessness, because I commune with a gracious God. On my tired days, sure, the remembrances float with an irregular heartbeat and I feel the presence of panic. But on most days, when light and color filter through the morning trees, when I can only whisper in the company of God my Father because I feel Him so close, when the music of my soul lets me sit quiet with all of this, I find myself incredibly grateful.

And November rolls in and the last leaves fall from the trees and I’m falling back into the habit of journaling all I am thankful for each day. This is not a trick. This is a plan with purpose. Slowing enough through a racing day to jot down a few things that I know are gifts from Him. Stripping away distractions to digest words of the Holy Word, so that I gain ground on October’s pain points. It’s been a tradition for the kids and I to read scripture verses of thanksgiving and jot down what we’re grateful for each day throughout the month of November until we reach the traditional American Thanksgiving Day. Habits begin young, and I can’t miss this opportunity to show them how to shift. I want them to notice how Jesus gave thanks before He broke the bread, before He let them break His body. I want them to notice how He gave thanks before He served over 5,000 hungry people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. I want them to notice when He gives thanks to God for hearing him, and then calls forth dead Lazarus from the tomb. I want them to hear the buzz of people talking about those who see miracles because they choose to give thanks in all things. It is impossible to stay distanced from God when you are accustomed to thanking Him. Our very pulse becomes dependent on our gratitude because it grows our dependence on the One who loves us most.

Why is it we seem to want explanations for the bad things, but do we ever want to know why the good things happen? “Why Lord have you taken my son from me? Why, Lord, do I have to go through breast cancer. I’m still raising my kids. Couldn’t this wait? Why me, in the first place?”

Or, “Why Lord, You gave me back two more sons. You doubled my portion. Even after I knew there would be no more babies, you gave me more. Why? You kept my one and only daughter alive even when she stood against impossible odds like her twin brother. You healed my body from a disease that should have consumed it. You have been the Navigator in our marriage, keeping us close, keeping us growing together and growing towards you. Although these storms for grief could have snapped the supporting lines of our covenant, you didn’t allow that to happen. Am I really worth all of this? And so, the shifting happens. This is all of James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The wonder of who God is and how intensely He orchestrates the cosmos, changes the seasons, and provides a cure for genetic cancer when there used to be none, is worth noting.


Oswald Chambers writes, “When a truth of God is brought home to your soul, never allow it to pass without acting on it internally in your will. Record it with ink and with blood – work it into your life. The weakest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is liberated the second he acts and God’s almighty power is available on his Behalf.”

Friend, when you see the goodness of God, write. it. down. Keep on going until you’ve rewired the path of wailing in your brain. Give thanks the moment the bantering bully of discontent and poisonous prose begin to swell along the cortex of your mind. Don’t allow it to filter in deep. Fight back, friend. Realign the rhythm of how you worship and see a God who works miracles. This is how we go from grief to gratitude. This is the way to see blessings through pain.

November opens with a falling of first snow here, and the dark hours last longer that the light ones. We’ve blown out the water lines to the garden and the goat pasture, and we’ve clipped the last of the leaves off the pumpkin vines. The tea kettle is on, and the journal is out. It’s time, friend, to practice praise. Join me? What are you thankful for in this moment?

Family, Grace, Parenting, Uncategorized

For The Mama Who Feels Deflated

Recently, my husband and I sat in a big group of parents and discussed some big, broad topics. One of the questions we were asked went something like, ‘What character in the Bible do you most connect with’ or ‘..see yourself as’?

The truth is, I can relate to an embarrassingly large number of Bible characters, but not the character traits that I wish to have. For instance, I have a temper like Peter, I doubt great things like Thomas, “But God when….”, and, “God, why haven’t you…?”, and “God, I doubt I’m much of anything…..”. I have put out more than my share of fleece’s like Gideon, and have been very tempted to run….far…like Jonah. And I have also been like David, face on the floor, prostrate before God in deep agony, desperately begging for healing, for forgiveness, for mercy. But ultimately, I hope to identify with Jesus, because there really isn’t any other Bible character that I want to find my identity in.

 

As a Mama sitting here scrubbing smashed blackberries off of the table, I remember other tables I’ve read about. In the New Testament, there are two tables Jesus touched in two extremely different manners . One was the tables of the merchants who had the shaming nerve to set up shop in the Holy Temple of God. They cackled loud and swindled deep and ripped people off and went home and slept the night away with zero guilt over their lewd business deals. They were sordid entrepreneurs who dealt doves in dark alleys and then displayed their scandal all throughout the church. And when people came to pray for deliverance, for direction, for renewed dependence on God, they had to set aside their desire for God for a time in order to deal with the purchase of a sacrifice obtained in disgrace. So that day, after entering Jerusalem on a donkey and turning the heads of the believers and the disdainers, Jesus walked into the Temple and drove out the dirty dealers. He called the filth by it’s true name. And when the dust had settled, when the mess of merchants had fled to the shadows, those who needed the temple, the house of prayer, the Savior within, came close and fell in love with a man who simply wanted to be among them.

Then there is the other table. The table where Jesus, the sacrifice, ate his last meal. And although He held within Him all of the human tools to sit quiet and feel sad, to let anxiety drown out the idle chatter, to begin the grieving process that the disciples still had no clue about, He didn’t. He sat at that table and looked around at those He

loved the most. The crazy menagerie of men who had hung on His every word, handled His crowds, and witnessed His healing hand a thousand times. He looked at those He loved and chose to wash their feet and serve them one more time. He chose to care about their mess and help them clean it up. He chose to show them how to forgive and try again. These were His people, His family, His boys.

In our old farmhouse, we have only one table. Not a kitchen table and a dining table. Not even a coffee table. One table. Everything happens at that one table. We eat there, pray there, school there, worship, create, and theorize. We argue, cry, and write, all at that one table. And as I look to Christ for direction, I learn how to call wrong what is wrong, how to identify what is messy and clean it up, but I also learn to look at the faces of those I love most and know that these are my people, my family. And I wouldn’t choose to be with anyone else.

And so, yes, I can identify with several characters in the Bible, but my identity always lies in Christ. I may not have many of His traits yet, but I do have His grace. “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:24 (NLT).

So, to the Mama who feels a bit deflated today. To the Mama who bakes breakfast first thing, and scans the bulging calendar and wonders ‘How?’ To the Mama who has begun to stockpile school supplies and uniforms and sandwich bread and colored pencils, who somehow pinched a couple more pennies out of the budget this month to replace too small tennis shoes. To the Mama too tired to remember what day of the week it is and how long now has this headache lasted? To the Mama who just wants clean floors and an empty kitchen sink once this week. To the Mama who watches the midnight clock move towards morning and prays for enough strength to make it through the day from start to finish and NOT lose her temper or set loose her tongue. To the Mama rounding on patients, praying for words to say to families clinging to hope. To the Mama clipping coupons and counting dollars and rechecking her checking account. To the Mama with the light on late at night, I honor your work and love your devotion. And although the party got rained on and the kids seemed to tune you out and your husband is in the middle of harvest/turn-over/overtime/on-call/call-to-duty, you really do have this. Because there’s another character in the Bible that doesn’t feel like she’s got it either. There’s a woman who knows the right thing to do, but only now feels rescued from her orphaned life, and how dare she rock the rhythm of the royal palace? But she is Esther who follows God’s order, and does it anyway. And guess where she sits when she upends a murderous scandal and asks for the saving of her people? At her table. Because she was called to ‘such a time as this’, and Mama, so were you.

I understand your heart and see the privilege of your duties, but I also believe you were created for this time, this moment, these people. God is on your side. God is merciful and God is deeply in love with you. And if you’re feeling the suffocating lies of someone’s “better life” on social-media, know that you are better protected by a surrounding Father who will never tell you that you are not enough. He listens to fears with open ears and holds your tears in a glass bottle because He values every part of you. He protects your beating heart and pulls you under the shadow of His wing. He fights for you with sword drawn and, yes, when the time was necessary, He opened wide His arms and sacrificed Himself for you. You are held safe beyond the reach of enemies. You are given a perfect champion who can send the right buyer, schedule the compassionate doctor, and harness the growing business idea.

Go to the table, friend. Go clean up the mess, clear the rumors, corner the mischief , and together, with your people, close your eyes and worship the Christ who identifies with you.

~kathy b

Grace, Hope, Kindness, Uncategorized

Because Who Doesn’t Love a Little Hand Holding?

“Reach out your hand.”

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Reach out to her running solo in this role she didn’t choose. Not back when she was dreaming of wedding gowns with ruffled hems. Not back when she was wrapping a new baby in a royal blue receiving blanket. Not when she read those words of rejection and racked heart pain on the bathroom floor. Reach out to her.

“Reach out your hand.”

Reach out to him reawakening his dream to shift his real history into something better than where he came from. Reach out so he has a chance to retrace what was hard and try another route. Trying to walk refreshed and redeemed. Reach out to him.

“Reach out your hand.”

Reach out to her ripening in age, wishing she could reverse time, just a little bit. Rewind back to relationships she found rare and roguishly raw, but were lost in the progression of life. Be the substantive conversation she remembers, when respect for hard work and religion went farther than a rapid text reply. Reach out to her.

”Reach out your hand.”

Reach out for those whose only response is a reflexive kick in the dark. For those in the room of the womb. The ones in the midst of a raging storm they didn’t create. Reach out for those rapidly, fluttering heartbeats, and those rounding cheeks, those resting retinas waiting for the light to refract. Reach out to the rudimentary cry of the babe just born.

“Reach out your hand”

Because He said it and it wasn’t a question. It was a request. Or more of a requirement. The man’s hand in Matthew chapter 12, the one Jesus happened to notice at the synagogue, the hand that was deformed, that’s when Jesus spoke. To restore and redirect a limb back to it’s intended structure.

“Reach out your hand.”

The man did not come to Jesus, Jesus found the man and spoke those four words. “Reach out your hand.” Reach out to the reason Jesus wrote a rescue plan. Reach out to the reason Jesus resurrected from a tomb carved out of rough rock. Reach out to the reason Jesus reposts in your life every day, “I. Love. You.”

Follow suit, friend. Repeat His words and be the relief for a resentful human soul. Live your story stronger. Repeat His words and recognize the voice of reason. Recognize the recovering disbeliever you were and rebuild that redeeming relationship with the Ray of Hope who spoke those words in front of the doubters. The judgers. The highly critical.

“Reach out your hand”.

Know that when you do that, when you reach out your hand, the comfort of His hand in yours will become the normalcy you’ve craved. The settling of your roving heart. The healing of your restless soul.

That, my friend, is worth reaching for.

~kathy b

Uncategorized

When Giving is Everything

Give.  No matter what the new year brings, give.  Give more.  Give abundantly.  Give gutsy.  Give because you already have enough.  Give because you could never give as much as Christ did.  The Father God, who opened the gate of His kingdom, and gave His Son the quiet nod of ‘yes’, gave it all.  So give. And.keep.giving.  Even if all you have left is broken, give anyway,  because you might find that she’s broken too and needs to see what’s real.  Give, because he might be ghastly gaping empty, and you might have the glue that’s hold him back together.  Give what is great and what is good, because what is great and what is good is love, and love doesn’t run out, love runs on.  So give.

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Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Self-Control

I began dating my husband casually at the end of my Senior year in high school. I was about to graduate. The next two steps were simple to me, work all summer, then, go to college in the fall. I didn’t want strings. So we used the word “dating”, but all it really meant was that we would hang out in all the same ways we had been and also have an automatic date to any school events without having to deal with all the awkward, marginal, pursuers. We didn’t live near each other, so the summer break-up would also be casual. It would be over before our spiderweb of an attachment could ever turn into a cable-hold. This was what I wanted. He was sweet enough to let it be.

Summer came and we both got jobs, turning in time sheets with a full forty hours in each week. He cinched on a tool belt and climbed sand dunes and rooftops working construction for his dad. I punched in at a chain store that sold house-goods and “as-seen-on-tv” products. Ben sweat and tanned in the hot sun, while, 2 states away I stayed cool in the air-conditioning. We kept in touch. We even managed to drive back and forth and see each other some weekends. They were short visits, because, being in retail, I was required to work every Sunday. And while we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company, we tried to remain a little detached. Or, I should say, I did. His is a different story.

Fall flew in and school started. We were back in the same state, but not in the same school. Again, we kept in touch. Wrote letters and talked hours on phones with cords that wrapped clear around the house. However, I was already looking around. College was new and exciting to me. It wasn’t but a few months in when I called and told him it was time to see what other options were out there, for both of us. You can say I was cold-hearted, but, believe me, I explained everything in complete practical sense to my parents. It was logical for the stage of life we were both in. We needed to live in the moment. Enjoy what surrounded us. And yes, blushingly, I will admit to having a crush on a guy who was such a gentleman, that he would never have asked me out if I was still attached, even in the slightest way, to someone else.

OK. There it is. Did you catch it? That last fruit of the Spirit. Self-control.

Two guys. Both with clear consciences. And, might I add, two Mama’s who had brought up two solid guys. The first whose feelings had grown deeper than I was aware of, let me go. Let me fly. The second, who was a couple years older, could have tried to push the issue the moment he thought I might be interested, but didn’t until I WAS free to fly. And I could have played the whole thing back and forth. Two guys. Two different schools.

But I didn’t. Self-control brings joy, and that situation, which I wanted to be fun and casual, would not have been joyful if any one of us had lost self-control. This is not to say that feelings weren’t a bit jumbled and wonky. This is simply to give an example of what Alfred, Lord Tennyson said, “The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.”

The apostle Paul, when writing to the growing churches HAD to discuss passion in an open way. It was a way of life, this public pursuit of massive sensual appetites. It was impossibly non-Biblical. But the generational pattern had never been stopped, and so it appeared all too commonplace. But it wasn’t God-born, and Paul had to address the uncomfortable. And I, too, will boldly go on record to say that the venues may be different today, but the appetites are still excessively high. We live in a society that has taken relationships to a platitude of indulgence and, I don’t know about you, but most of it has buried many an individual soul in the process.

Charlotte Mason, who was a British educator at the turn of the 20th century, taught diligent lessons on habits and discipline. She believed so much of what we learn, our behavior, begins right away at a very young age, and that it is the pursuit of the parents to turn the wheel of the potter and help kids to be shaped and formed with a better understanding of the image of God. She says, “Every habit has its beginning. The beginning is the idea which comes with a stir and takes possession of us”. It saddens me that we live in a world that has let selfish passions form into perpetual habits. These habits have turned into intoxicating activities that seem almost justifiably normal, but in reality they are a temporal feasting for thieves.

But here’s where the arrow can be turned. Where the real joy gets handed back to us as a gift. The truth lies in this, if we are believers in Christ, who took the evil war-lord and beat him at his personal favorite, death, then we are not prisoners of a maniacal, beatnik society. We are lights encased in a glorious hurricane, protected by nails pierced only once through the flesh of a risen, redeeming Savior. We are a new creature, a new creation, put on display so that the world can see the generous love and forgiveness that God holds sacred to those who shed their maverick passions.

Self-control is a gift. The last fruit listed in Galatians 5:22 & 23. The lack of self-control, or temperance as some versions use, has been a problem throughout time. It bulges out of our news feeds at a dismal pace. The God of the universe, who created us to be sexual beings, also set up boundaries, because He knew, if we stepped outside those guidelines, the crumbling of the human courage would be the breaking of many hearts. So the Holy Spirit comes like a whisper and taps out ‘self-control’ next to faithfulness and gentleness. And we find it written in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

I can honestly say I’m grateful for the self-control of those two guys during my college years. The one I had a crush on, well, we were two introverts who quickly ran out of things to talk about. And Ben? The guy who let me hold him at arms length? He’s still with me. Twenty some years later. We’re still holding promises for both the present world and the life that is to come.

A perpetual student,

~kathy b

Shafer, Sonya; “Laying Down the Rails”, Simply Charlotte Mason, LLC, pg.138.

Family, Uncategorized

21 Years (Happy Anniversary!)

In 21 years, we’ve gone from bulking up to bearing up.  We’ve built dozens of houses but made only one home.  We’ve born babies, buried our hearts, gone bald, and given as boldly as we dared.  We’ve battled with words, bought at all costs, and built dreams no one else could see.  You are the beautiful gentleness that saw my heart for what it could be.  You gave my voice a chance to be heard through a tapping our of keys, and I got comfortable with the idea of you purchasing the ugliest beast of a warehouse this side of town.  I romance our past and you modernize our future.  You chart and calculate and ask thousands of questions, and in the process, hold the string of the kite I’m sailing on.  I dance and dream, and drum up far too many possibilities, and in the process, lead you to places that drop your jaw.

Thank you for staying the course through thousands of miles. For holding on through the highs and the painful lows.  Thank you for holding my hand and respecting my heart.  Thank you for seeing a covenant worth keeping.  For reminding me to seek the Savior when all I want to do is run.  For listening to my quietness.  For honoring my solitude.  Thank you for loving all the parts of me, even the broken ones.  Thank you for 21 years, Love.  Happy Anniversary (yesterday).

Gentleness, Gifts & Talents, Uncategorized

How Real Women Use Gentleness

Gentleness is one of those words I hardly hear anymore. Try it out in your own mouth. Find a phrase where you might use the word ‘gentle’, and practice saying it, and while you do that, let me share a gentling story of my own.

It wasn’t that she used the word itself. She simply evaluated her job and the space we both occupied and she made a choice to be gentle with me.

Remember that trip out west we took? The one that gently turned us back into a normal family? The trip to one of Alaska’s peninsula’s, where we let God’s glory refill our drained souls? The trip began in Michigan, but we stopped the first day out to spend with my brother and his family in Washington. We capered around Seattle’s outdoor market and let cousin’s reconnect while they giggled at golden pig statues, wrinkled their noses at fresh caught fish flying, and soared high above the ocean’s edge in a slow turning Ferris wheel. When we hugged goodbye and returned to the airport for the next leg of our journey, there was an inward groan because we had to switch airlines and check ourselves in all over again. Once tickets were printed and bags checked we headed for the security line. Shoes off. Laptops out. Snacks separated. Cars, stickers, books, crayons, and one chewed on white-ish bear that the littlest sleeps with, all zipped up in backpacks. Oh! And that one card of mine. The newest one that brands me as a remolded human. Yeah, so I hold this one card out to the gentleman security officer who’s watching us eject all this stuff into bins. He nods and points me to a separate metal detector that spins around my body while I spread eagle and raise my arms above my head. And when the spinning stops, I’m instructed to step into her space.

She, again, had me lift my arms out away from my sides, and in the same breath asked me where my prostheses was? My arm? My leg? ‘No’, I answered…….and felt the hesitation sit long.

Her eyes met mine. And I didn’t know the proper thing to do. The big second hand in my head clicked loud and I had a lightning quick thought of the line of people waiting behind me, so I let it all.just.fall…. “My breasts. Everything’s just man-made product now.” And I let my eyes flick away from her face.

Her hesitation to respond to that lasted far less than mine. “You look really good to me.” Her words felt like she had just handed me a warm cup of tea.

Friend, I had felt the hand of the Gentle Healer. I had touched His cloak. And because that woman was on duty at that hour, He had used her to gently remind me that He makes all things new. That I was still made in His image. The world did not know that I had been rearranged to save my life. She knew because I told her, and she had been brave enough to look into my soul and gently guide my thoughts away from shame.

She was and is a stranger to me, and yet, there were things I was feeling, stuffing, and unbeknownst to both of us, her words echoed Simon & Garfunkels song.

“When you’re weary, feeling small.

When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough….

I’m sailing right behind you.

Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will ease your mind.”

And woman to woman, face to face, it felt like a shared hymn of grace.

Oh, if we could all be so gentle.

Here’s a little something else for you to think about while you’re searching for your phrase. Jesus took three years to minister to people. People of all shapes and sizes. The young and the old. The rich, the poor, and the painfully average. The Jew, the Gentile, and the demon possessed. In those three years, it would be impossible to know how many people he healed and made well. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t find a single story of restoration that He did out of anger or annoyance. Each person was treated with gentleness. Even when the room He was in sometimes buzzed with condemnation. It wasn’t and isn’t Jesus’ nature to scold you for being broken. It’s just not how He does things.

Ephesians 4:2, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (NLT). Remember, love does not boast, neither is it proud. It protects. And, sometimes, we need protection from our own battering thoughts. Sometimes we devalue the walk because what seems momentarily untrue may be the product of a new start.

Remember when Jesus had called Matthew to be His disciple? Matthew did not hesitate, but instead planned a big dinner with all his tax collector friends. Jesus walked into that house and immediately heard the Pharisees whisper in the windows, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” I am always humbled when I hear His response. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices.” (Matt. 9:11-13 NLT).

And here’s where I feel myself slowly move to the proverbial floor to sit at Jesus’ feet. Because I’ve been that sick one. Because His mercy sends a stranger to realign my scope. Because there’s so much He can teach me, and His gentle manner draws me in and I want to be blessed.

Jesus gently heals us. He gently comforts us. He gently whispers to us. And, when necessary, He gently corrects us, because He loves us. Because way back, near the beginning of time, when the first two children had eaten that which was forbidden, and when they had found the first hiding spot, it wasn’t a great big wave of violence that God met them with. He came quickly to find them. He didn’t wait for those two guilt ridden mortals to crawl to His proud throne, but He went straight to the place where they were, and called to them. His pursuit of lost humanity began that moment.

Here’s what else I know, sometimes you’re the one called to do the gentling. Maybe through a long-awaited phone call, or a slow walk, or even those quiet words that needed to find their own space. It might be that extra four bucks she needed to cover some bread, or arms of compassion wrapped around his shoulders. It might be an easy high five, or a storybook read out loud in the middle of chaos. Because here’s the heart of it, not one of us hasn’t been roughed up a bit by crude noise and the constant race of real life. Not one of us hasn’t cried a lament. But God, in His gentle way, stands us up and looks into our eyes and says, “You look pretty good to me”. And. He. Means. Every. Word!

Growing in Gentleness,

~kathy b