Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Pumpkin Patch Prayer

Having the kids help me run the pumpkin patch at my church seemed like a great idea. Hard work builds character, right?

It was our job to turn all the pumpkins so they wouldn't spoil, try to sell as many as possible and one more thing...

A new shipment of 300 pumpkins would be coming in and because the teens were at camp, there might not be a lot of help.

"Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts...(Psalm 139: 23,24)"

You better believe I was breathing this prayer to the Lord as I strolled around the pumpkin patch turning each one.

With my husband and children, we would have exactly six people to unload pumpkins, some as big or bigger than my four-year-old.

We needed help.

One college student showed up, but the delivery truck arrived late, and he had to leave for class.

Another young man, from another church hopped into the truck to help. And, he was a customer!

The delivery truck driver lent us a hand. He had other deliveries to make, and he saw we needed the help.

A few more people showed up. 

There weren't many of us working, but we formed a small line, passing the pumpkins one-by-one until they reached my husband who laid each of them on the ground.

Our hearts are like pumpkins in the Father's hands. When we go through difficulties and uncertain times, it's an opportunity to trust in Him more.

He washes us clean with the Word, pulls the stringy sin of self-reliance out of our hearts and sets us right-side up with the Light of His glorious grace shining bright within. 

My husband laid down the last pumpkin. By the grace of God, few hands made an overwhelming task get done.

Now we would have enough to sell at the fall festival on the weekend. And, it's true, hard work does build character, but the kids are not the only ones needing to grow.

"Create in me a clean heart O God, renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When the Cold Winds Blow: Healing from Pregnancy and Infant Loss

When the autumn winds blow fresh and cool, the maple leaves ambling to the ground, a slow but pervasive sadness creeps up. It doesn’t take long for me to know why.

And in the midst of this ache, a little light trickles in.

An idea. A glimmering grace to hold onto. A comfort to ease the pain.

Gathering leaves, big and small, symmetrical or somewhat askew, I hold them to my heart.

With broken crayons, sheets of blank paper and children needing something to do, I demonstrate. Taking a single leaf, I cover it with paper and rub it over and over again with a red crayon.

As if by magic, the leaf appears. First the stem, the veins and the outline of the leaf’s three points.

My kids are in awe and my heart is at rest. 

To turn death into a learning experience, a thing to grow from, gives me renewed focus and grace...

To look to the One who comforts me and love on the ones I have here.

I have this little blue scrapbook. A book of remembrance. Of a time of waiting for a sweet little baby. A son. His prognosis was grave. I was his life support. When he was born, he would die. Back then, bilateral renal agenesis (BRA) had no treatment and still has no cure. I received the news the beginning of autumn.

December came and he was wrapped up warm and comfortable in my womb while I waited for his birth day. The day I’d have to say goodbye.

Another month before his due date, I spent half that windswept day on a playground with my two-year-old Bright Girl. Pushing her in the swing. Watching her joy as she raced around, her sneakers crunching on the fallen leaves. Not knowing it would be the day before my son’s birth day.

Giving birth to a child born without the capacity to live was incomprehensible. How can you prepare for it?

All I could do was breathe and pray.  

When trying to savor each moment, time slows down. It would be one of the longest days of my life. And, I held my little boy, my Luke, for as long as I could before he passed from here to heaven.

I left the hospital, with empty womb and empty arms.

Trying to find some sort of normalcy, when my strength returned, I took my toddler to the playground. As I pushed her in the swing, a shadow seemed to block the sun. It wasn’t a shadow others could see, but it was felt. And only by me.

I don’t remember how long the shadow lasted, but it came and went like the ebb and flow of the tides.

And it's been like that each and every autumn, when the cold winds begin to blow. For twelve years now. The shadow of grief comes. Sometimes for a day, sometimes a bit longer.

At this point, I don't know if I can call grief a friend, but I now see a pattern for when it settles in.

And, I don't mind it anymore.

Loving and losing someone hurts. The pain means they mattered. And, the latent grief that comes is a reminder to us to think of the ones we miss in heaven. The ones we're waiting to see again.

And when the shadow of grief seems to linger, just remember...

You will bloom again.

Like the sunflowers who turn to face the sun, may we turn to face our Savior and wait for His healing, comfort and grace.

A wise king once said,

“To every thing there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die...a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-8)

And Jesus said, 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”

Death has not won the victory, Christ has. His love is eternal. Death couldn't stop Him. He lives on
 and by grace, our loved ones who are gone, live on.

Hope helps us bloom. To be open to joy.

Faith gives us hope.

Love is the source of that hopethe love of Christ, our gentle Savior who leads us on the path He has laid out for us. 

For some of us, it is the path of grieving in hope. The hope that brings whispers of a joy to come. On falling leaves and in fingers making impressions for little hearts to learn.

"Lullaby" by Andrew Peterson

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Walk in the Garden

"The Bible is boring." I overheard someone once say.

What could a person possibly say in response to that?

At the same time, I could understand where she was coming from. There was a point in my young life where I tried reading the Bible, starting in Genesis and couldn't get past the first few chapters. Albeit, it was a King James Version of the Bible written in a tongue that I just didn't get. Definitely not my heart language.

I wouldn't say at that point the Bible was boring. But, to me it was indecipherable. Impossibly hard to understand. And, didn't seem relevant to my life.

Fast forward a few years and a few more comprehensible versions of the Bible later. I was a mama by then and involved in my church. Invited by some ladies to a women's Bible study. 

One of the leaders of my group, hugged her Bible. Literally held it to her heart like it was her most prized possession. "My favorite time of the day is when I first wake up in the morning and spend time with the Lord."

I wanted that kind of love for the Word of God. And, I knew I didn't have it.

It was a struggle just to keep up with the homework for the Bible study.

But, a time came when I purposed to get up in the morning to pray and read my Bible. To spend time with the Lord. 

I was starting a new part-time job and knew the rest of the day, I'd be too busy. Mornings were my only window of free time.

That fateful morning I woke up. But, didn't want to get up. So, I lay there. Making up excuses in my mind as to why I needed a little more rest.

Then it came.

A still, small voice deep within me.

Definitely not my own (I was busy thinking of excuses).

"Seek My face." The Voice said.

So I did.

Opening my Bible, I landed in Psalms chapter 27 and when I came to verse 8, the words nearly leapt off the page and into my heart.

"When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face LORD, I will seek."

That did it for me. I could finally see the purpose in reading the Wordso that I could meet with the Living Word. 

And, by the grace of God, I've been seeking the face of the Lord morning by morning ever since. And, let me tell you, the seeking is far from boring. It's miraculous. Life changing. Inspiring.

Some would say taking a stroll in a garden is boring. But, the sights, the sounds, the scents enlarge the soul.

And, the fruit of reading the Word of God, basking in His glorious presence, sheds His light on the rest of our day, where He speaks to us of His majesty, grace and peace. 

It is attempting to touch the unseen. Where Christ is, seated in the heavenlies. And makes us aware of His presence. 

He speaks to us in whispers of love, reminds us who we are and why we are here.

We need to hear these things.

Solitary time spent with the Lord is not some dull duty, it's an honor, a delight and our right as a children of God. We get to talk with our Maker.

How awesome is that?

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:23 NKJV

Andrew Peterson "The Magic Hour"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The One Place to Lay My Head

Throughout my life, I've felt this restlessness. Like there was no where for me to be still and lay the full weight of my being upon to experience full acceptance, comfort and relief.

Jesus felt the same way when He walked upon the earth. He was far from heaven where He dwelt in perfect unity with the Father. 

If you look at the four gospels (Matthew 26:36, Mark 1:35, Luke 9:18, and John 17:1), you'll see that Jesus spent a plentitude of time in prayer. Like He was getting some face-to-face time with His heavenly Father to remind Him who He was, why He was here and where He was going.

Who He Was:

Jesus knew He was the Son of God. As the Son, He has always existed in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

He has no beginning and no end (Revelation 1:8). From the breath of His mouth the universe was made (Psalm 33:6). 
Even though He knew this about Himself, He didn't strut around demanding that all people bow at His feet and pay Him homage. No, He was completely humble. That is what makes Him so approachable. He fully accepts those who come to Him. 

He says to each one of us:

"Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden 
and I will give you rest..."
Matthew 11:28-30

Why He was here:

Jesus once commented to His disciples that He had "no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58)."

This of course was figurative. Meaning that He could never settle here. Not that He was restless, but He chose to come to this world for a reason. This crazy, messy, beautifully-broken place that was not His home. 

The King of the universe, who dwelt in inapproachable light in heaven came to this often dark world to complete a mission.

That mission was for us.

To save us.

It may not seem apparent at times, but we are drowning in sin. We only get to live one life and then the judgement (Hebrews 9:27). 

Do we really think we deserve to go to heaven, to be with God forever? To the place where His glory dwells? Where there is no sin?

Unless we are living in denial, none of us can claim to be without sin. And that means none of us deserves heaven.

There is only one way for us to have eternal life.

And that is in the person of Jesus Christ (1 John 5:12).

He lived a perfect, sinless life, enduring poverty and suffering. Many became His followers, but by the ruling religious leaders, He was rejected and ultimately this lead to His death on the cross.

He died. God. Died. For us. Can you let that sink in. It is a profound life-changing truth.

But, death could not hold Him...

Where He was going:

Three days later, the stone was rolled away. And in the full glory of resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and to over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6) before returning to heaven. His home. Where He is waiting for us.

For now, in prayer, He is the place where we can truly rest our head. 

He is for us and not against us (Rom. 8: 31-32) and accepts us with all our flaws. He comforts us in our afflictions and gives us relief from trying to live in this crazy world on our own. 

Because He lives, by faith, His Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us power, the same power that raised Him from Jesus dead (Rom. 8:11) to overcome sin and become more and more like Him. 

And wherever He is, that is where I belong.

"But He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."

Isaiah 53:5

"Jesus I Come" by Indelible Grace

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bridge to Peace

A day at the beach before a thunderstorm rolled in, opened my eyes to how the church could be when we live in unity. 

The clouds hung low, dark and threatening. But, a light burned bright. Right in the middle of the beach.  

Families side-by-side with different hues of skin. Enjoying the handiwork of our Creator God who makes all things new.

Prayer changes things.

And some things need changing.

We tend to congregate with the brothers and sisters who look like us. Worship like us. Do church like us.

But living like this, we've been separated from the greater community of the church. 

We are broken, fragmented. 

We need to realize our unity in Christ.

All of us who call ourselves Christians have been united together in Christ. By His sacrifice on the cross, the great divide has been filled in. 

Whatever keeps us apart. Be it by language, ethnicity, nationality or gender. 

We are all one in Christ Jesus.

As we cling to Him, we can connect to each other.

And love our neighbors.

In these tumultuous days, may we turn our eyes to Him who makes all things new and experience heartfelt repentance and real revival in the church.

For in unity, His light shines brightest for all to see the salvation of God in Christ Jesus.

"As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" 
Luke 3:4-6 

The crossing of the Ravenel Bridge, the "Bridge to Peace"
Charleston, SC 6-21-15, by 843 Productions

"This Little Light of Mine" Charleston, S.C.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

8 Ways My Son With Autism Helped Me Grow

Miracles happen every day when we least expect them. And this summer has been no exception.
Out on the soccer field, my boy kicked around the ball with his friends, as they all tried to follow the coach’s directions...cllick on this link to read more...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Rainbow of Solidarity in the Church

For 28 years my grandpa, a Vietnam veteran, was a certified Scuba diver. All suited up, with air tank on his back, he plunged into the great blue deep. With heavy weights, he sunk down to the edge of the coral reefs of the Carribean.

Futher out, at a depth of about 90 feet, the blue became gray where no light could penetrate at that depth. Grandpa switched on his dive light  and shined bright on the gray, restoring all the natural colors of the yellow and blue tangs or striped lionfish and clownfish.

He caught and brought them home, plopping them into his salt water aquarium. Keeping a little homemade ocean habitat was healing for his heart for all that he'd been through in Vietnam and in life.

With all that's going on in the world today, what can heal our fearful hearts?

How can we help create a little slice of heaven here on earth?

May our tears for our country, for the lost, for the broken be a prism for the light of Christ to reveal the rainbow of God's redemption in this part of His Story.

May our love replace the hate that is stealing the dignity, killing the joy and destroying the lives of people made in His image.

We don't have to be afraid or ashamed. But, we do need to keep on loving in the gray. Shining His light in the darkness. Being the hands that hold all our brothers and sisters close who reflect a rainbow of hues in the color of their skin.

"Nothing can separate us from the love of God
 that is in Christ Jesus." ~Romans 8:27

No depth of uncertainty in these times can keep us from His love. Christ is always with us because He lives in our hearts.

"God is love
And whoever abides in love
 Abides in God
 And God abides in Him."
~1 John 4:16

Nothing, absolutely nothing can change that.

And the darker the world gets, the brighter His love, if we let Him, will shine.

The only thing that we have to fear is fear itself.

Fear blinds us. Keeps us from loving anyone other than ourselves.

Love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

May we be knit together in love and unity with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, creating a rainbow of solidarity, a little picture of heaven, where every tribe, every tongue, every nation bows down and worships Jesus.

"And they sang a new song, saying,

     'Worthy are you to take the scroll
         and to open its seals,
      for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed 
         people for God
     from every tribe and language and people and nation, 
        and you have made them a kingdom and priests to 
    our God,
       and they shall reign on the earth.'" ~ Revelation 5: 8-10

"We All Bow Down" by Matt Leblanc