The Thanksgiving Tree

The Thanksgiving Tree

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not a normal day.

I hear the squeals of delight from my children in the backyard as they run and jump through the sprinkler. Thomas is enjoying his water table. He's enjoying being outside. It's beautiful today. It feels like a normal day. I'm convicted that it feels like a normal day. It shouldn't. There are people so close to me that have lost everything. I have begun to seek efforts to help provide some relief and I'm frozen as I read the needs of this moment.

Drop off tonight at church between 8-11pm. New undergarments for children, youth, and adults. Diapers and water.

I begin to cry.


I never think about needing underwear. I never think about buying it. I never think about it. I never think about diapers. I never appreciate that I have them. Now I think about it.

What if WE were in the rubble right now? What do people do with their babies? Where do they sleep? Where do FAMILIES stay when no one has a home?

Oh my heart is weeping. God, may I not forget how you spared us. May I NOT forget those hurting. May I DO SOMETHING, Lord.

It's not a normal day. It won't be normal for a long time. And some may never find their normal again.

Please pray for these people and let me know how a mom of four small children can get involved in aide. I'd LOVE your input. I WANT to get involved in relief efforts.

"Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear, you God will come......he will come to save you." Isaiah 35:3-4

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weakened by the Storm

He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:40

It's the silence after the storm. The tornadoes have gone for now. I am listening to the hum of my laptop. I faintly hear a man reporting the weather from the television in my bedroom. Still, it's silent. What a storm we had today.

As I survey my den, it seems as if a tornado touched down inside our home. There are piles and piles of coats and jackets lying on our dining room table from the coat closet. Tons of game boxes and bins of books are outlining our staircase. We pulled everything out because the closet under our stairs is our make-shift "safe place"; a term I've come to understand since moving to Alabama. I'm not used to these severe weather storms. I'm not used to having a "tornado season". But the tornadoes don't care. They continue to come whether I like it or not; whether I'm used to it or not. And today was no exception.

My precious husband had to work. My selfish heart complained. He is ALWAYS working during these things... always. Then, I was reminded by a dear friend tonight what a gift he must be to someone injured in a crisis like this--to a child... to a fearful parent. He is so gracious and compassionate. Perhaps the Lord assigns him these evenings. To minister to those hurting. Selfishly, I want him, here, ministering to ME during the stress.

So as the five of us huddled in our tiny coat closet praying for protection for "daddy" and those out in this storm, I was moved to tears as I listened to the simple, faithful prayers of our children.

Will: "Lord, keep Daddy safe and the people hurt in this storm."
Josh: "Jesus, please stop this storm and say, quiet."

Please stop this storm and say, "quiet".

I had not handled this evening well at all. I thought about those disciples on that boat....Teacher, don't you care if we drown? I had operated in complete fear during the entire thing. Feeling alone and responsible for four little innocent children, I responded to everyone and everything in panic mode. Placed in my very own hands was now an opportunity to exemplify faith amidst fear. What it means to trust when terrified. Instead, I cowered and lacked courage. The storm inside of me was raging and overflowed out of my mouth. Not just three days ago, I had celebrated Jesus's resurrection. I celebrated His life among us. I celebrated the veil torn. I celebrated His being with me now and always... every minute... through every circumstance. I celebrated His victory in all things. I felt like Peter once the rooster crowed that third time. I denied who Christ claims to be; my protector, my Savior, my comforter, my Prince of Peace. I sit here humiliated by my hypocrisy. I feel rebuked by the Lord as the disciples were.

Do you still have no faith?

I wish I had this great response to this question. I don't. I don't know why I am so easily frightened. Maybe because I'm a sinner saved by grace. Because I need Jesus for every second.. I can't NOT be afraid on my own. It's so hard for me not to assume Jesus is snoozing when crisis occurs in my life. That He's forgotten. That He doesn't care if I drown or not? Yet, it is His grace that causes me to "wake him up"--to look for him in the storm-- and it's His grace that forgives me when I feared He wasn't there. I'm clinging to that tonight. I stood upon those promises as I repented to my children on behalf of my behavior.

I am from South Carolina. We appreciate the hurricanes--those horrible storm systems notified a week in advance. The storms in which we pack up all of our belongings and escape...flee the fear.... avoid the panic. But Life is full of tornadoes. Unexpected storms. Unexplainable paths. Unpredictable damage. As believers of Christ, Jesus is always in our boat! As celebrators of our Risen Lord, He is NEVER asleep! He sees us. Always. The Christ whose power rebukes the winds and the waves with, "Quiet! Be still!" is able to speak the same over our raging, fearful, faithless hearts.

We then find our rest. Better yet, we find forgiveness for allowing our faith to be weakened by the storm.

My friend, we are deeply and dearly loved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When I remember, Christ is able to redeem

I had just put a chicken in the crockpot.
-There, dinner.--

The weather outside looked stormy. It was dark. The perfect day to get things done around the house. I had read a story to Emma Faye. I painted with Josh. I played on the floor with Thomas. I just put Thomas down for a nap. The house was quiet.

"Everyone, Mommy is going to get some of her things done on her list while Thomas sleeps. Emma Faye, you may watch a TV show. Josh if you want to play your Leapster, you can."

I thumbed through my itunes library and found my newly downloaded Laura Story "Blessings" album. Her music and annointed words of truth began to permeate my home. I began worshipping. My heart held fast to her song, Remember.

this is the body that was torn for us
this is the blood that was spilt
points to the pain you endured for us
points to the shame the blame the guilt

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come
Move our hearts to remember

With eyes almost closed I began to embrace and remind myself of what my Savior had done for me. I began to remember. But... then.. there was this leapster blasting in the background.

"Josh, can you please turn that down."

He walked out of the room.

The music swelled....Move our hearts to remember

I silently began to pray this for my own heart. But.. there it was again.. that dang leapster. Josh was back in the kitchen.

And then it came.

"Josh, get out of here with that thing! I can't hear my music. Mommy doesn't want to hear that. I want to hear MY music!"

He looked at me and walked out and upstairs. I turned back to... my moment?

What? Really? After that?

I felt the Lord whisper, "Why are you remembering? Let me tell you why I ask you to remember Me.... so you may go and do likewise."

Here was my worship. My home. My moments and interactions with my children and my husband. Here is my act of worship. Why would I long to shut out the ones I love from encountering Christ in me?

Oh how easy it is for me to lift my hands in abandonment within the walls of our sanctuary on Sunday mornings with all of my children tucked away downstairs in nurseries and Sunday School classes. How difficult to worship amidst the chaos. Yet on the eve of Christ's Crucifixion, He broke bread and gave thanks. He asked us to remember.

So I want to remember more than what He did for me at the cross. I want to remember how He lived. How he asks me to live. I want to live openly inviting Him to grow fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. I want to live in such a way everyone knows CHRIST as my gardener. I want to live in such a way my fruit is irresistible. That my children would LONG to taste. That they would long to produce that same fruit. As a gardener searches after fertilizer to better his crop, so they would inquire and seek after that which was enriching my soil. My soul. And I could tell them, Christ.

I want to take my impatience and unkindness and break it in two, offer it up to Christ and give thanks to Him who redeems my failures. I want to remember the body He gave... not just physically, but spiritually. The example He gave by how He lived. This dying to ourselves. This willingly becoming Isaacs and climbing up on our altars and laying down because He asked us. The altars HE has assigned us. Allowing our arms to be tied by our loving Father.. as bizarre as it may seem... yet trusting all the while.

So today, I remembered... finally. When I remember, Christ is able to redeem. You, Lord, can now come and restore.

I repented to Josh and I worshipped. I experienced my heart moved . I am learning more and more each day how to allow Christ to take me beyond my failures and embrace His freedom. After all, my children learn more from my failures, than my perfection--or the illusion of such perfection.

Jesus, help me remember to remember.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Random Reflections

The sun was shinning through a cooling breeze as I watered my patio flowers. It was a beautiful morning. It had been a most awesome Easter. The kids were off from school again today. Thank you, Lord, for an extra day to absorb the weekend.

It was a first Easter for Thomas. It was a first birthday celebration for him as well. An entire year had passed. Where were we today a year ago? Coming out of a horrible year.

I had undergone my worst pregnancy. We were trying to move and God was keeping us here. It was quite a battle of obstacles and stresses until we surrendered and died to our dream of living close to the beach and family. It was a death for me. Even though I knew all along this was what we were being called to, I died to my wanting everything. Wanting it all. Wanting both. His plan and mine. So we surrendered. We stayed.

I've been pulling out toys and unpacking all of the things we had packed for our move this past week. We've been sorting through what we need and what we could do without. What we treasure. I've been packing up baby clothes and sorting through blankets and stuffed animals and smocked dresses. Sifting through boxes after boxes of pictures from years ago. The memories overwhelming. Heartwarming. The photographs reveal the blessings over and over again. What a full life I live. Full of blessing. Overflowing. The pictures don't carry the daily stress. Pictures are the memory. The captured moments of the good of our lives. I am going to surround my mind with these thoughts... with these images when my days begin to run together.

I laugh as I move on to water my backyard roses and potted vegetables. I see the hearty, healthy mum I threw out of a pot when I "thought" it was dead to replace it with another my first fall in Birmingham. It took root right where I threw it and is thriving. I chuckle as I pass these (I still don't know what they are called) plants that bloom this lettuce looking leaf through much of Spring and then bud a garnet color flower during the summer. I pulled all five of those suckers up my first year here because I didn't like them and they ALL came back... they come back every year. I don't despise them so much anymore. (Not like they are going anywhere.)

When I came to Alabama I felt much like that mum. Discarded. A little dry. Brittle. I felt forgotten. I felt thrown in the bushes and left. But on His own, He gave me roots that grew from where I was dropped. He showered in raindrops of amazing friends and real church community and incredible neighbors. He saturated my ground with them. Really He did. Everytime I tried to uproot myself, by His grace and merciful love, He grew a better me in it's place. He budded a stronger blossom. It has been amazing.

As the years have passed, that mum has grown three times it's size. And now that I think about it, it totally rests in a perfect spot, as if someone planted it there on purpose. Someone did. And that Someone continues to till the ground and nurture that plant as He continues to pursue hard after my own life.

Praise to Him, the Love that will not let me go. The Risen King. He is Risen INDEED!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Waiting at the Doorway

Other than music, love of animals was a passion of mine while growing up. My parents were so gracious to us by giving us the gift of being surrounded by them. I always remember a cat being around. Dogs came in and out of our lives. There was a time when my brother went through a hamster stage. My sister had hermit crabs. I had cages and cages of rabbits and at one time two aquariums of tropical fish were set up in my room, all at the same time. My passion for horses and riding was such that on my 13th birthday, I will never forget turning the corner in the stables and seeing my name written as owner outside my favorite horse's stall. Yes, I even had a horse.

When I moved into my first apartment after college, I got a kitten. For our first wedding anniversary gift, Chris got me a beautiful yellow lab. I worked at an animal hospital for three years. I love animals. But there are no animals right now sharing our household. There are, however, three little people in this household that are begging for a dog. I sit the fence. My husband is coming around.

In the meantime, I give into my joy of learning about animals. I secretly am addicted to the television show, "The Dog Whisperer." Cesar Millan amazes me in his knowledge and in his abilities to help a dog get in that "balanced" state, as he calls it. This "calm submissive" state of being. He talks about being the pack leader; how dogs are healthiest knowing who that leader is and are more secure knowing the leader can be trusted. They were born to follow.

One of the first steps he does to instil this state of being is have the dog wait before entering his house. "You are pack leader. You own this house. The dog must wait for you to enter first. Then he must be invited in. It is your space." Then, he makes the dog wait at the doorway until his owner invites him in. This gives the dog boundary. This gives the dog his place. This begins building the trust.

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. Proverbs 8:34

I couldn't help but see this parallel this morning as I read from God's word. Christ is owner of my life. My house is His. Psalm 31:15 says, "My times are in your hands." My seasons. My days. My hours. My minutes. The moments are His. I have an enormous pack leader. I, too, was created to be a follower. All too often, I fight to be the Alpha dog. I wrestle with my role to dominate my territory. I wrestle with my pack to maintain leadership. I am most definately not balanced. Calm submissive? Rarely. Perhaps calm submissive is the state of trusting. Could this be that peace that passes all understanding? Perhaps Cesar's techniques are applicable to more than dogs.

What would my day look like if I viewed everything in light of Christ's ownership. If I entered into my home... into the sickness... into the battles as first realizing all these belonged to Christ. They are His. I look to Him for the invitation to come in. I look to Him as to how I should respond. I accepted my food at the time He gives it. I stay in my crate because He asked me to. I take my walks with Him when He takes me. I rest at His feet while He is home. I am calm. I am at peace. Because I trust Him. Because I know He loves me and He knows best. Because I know it's best to follow Him and I am perfectly content in my role. Hmm.... I ponder this.

I so often am the dog who runs in claiming the sofa, the food dish, the bed.. all as mine. I growl and snarl at those with whom I live. Mine, I say. Mine, I claim. I'm the dog that needs to be flipped over and "shht" hundreds and hundreds of times until I get it. Until I finally rest... calm and submissive. Allowing myself to surrender and trust. Allowing myself to be led; looking to Him for permission. Allowing Him to enter, first. Some days it's by force, others it's by choice. Either way, I'm waiting at the doorway.