Friday, January 30, 2015

The Pace of Grace

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“Hurry, hurry, hurry!  Fast feet, fast feet!  Make your big, 
fast steps!"

A frenzy of backpacks, lunches, and feet-- big and small-- all a blur in the chaotic bustle of the morning.

One boy balances toast and sausage in a napkin.  Little Bitty totes a sippy cup of chocolate milk like a baby doll in the crook of her arm.

She grasps the car door with her other arm, attempting to scale the mountain leading to her car seat.

Her leisure stroll leads me to stoop low and quickly buckle her into her seat.  Her brow furrows and tears flow.

I want to join her in the cry-fest, the day barely born.

The car is freezing.  Misty clouds form with our breaths.

“Everyone buckled!?"

A boy suddenly remembers something in the house, a book or coat.  Feet flurry quick through the door, which swings on its hinges.

I sigh with edginess, “Hurry up!"

And the mood of the space hovers on the edge of unhinged.

“Hurry up!,”  my Big Girl shrieks, her voice as shrill and urgent as a train whistle.

It’s like staring at the pines casting a double picture on the glass surface of a pond, as I take in the sound of my Big Girl’s voice, a reflection of her mama’s.

Frantic.  Sharp.
The cool air rustles leaves in the front yard, and the brown brittle foliage of my heart stirs.

The first fallen leaves are growing mold under the piles in the flowerbeds.  The rot is contagious, as I’ve strewn frenzy across our morning and into the hearts of my children.

This push.  This panic.  I’m stirring it with my own hands.

When did life become frantic?  Hands on little shoulders, pressing them to hurry.

When did the air of our home become this fast pace?

The rapid movement and terse words create frigid hearts.  Anxious souls.

The fast pace does not slow the soul.  Movement of hearts happen in the slow and rest. 

Where is gratefulness for misty breaths, pumping legs, and beating hearts?

The rushed, hurried heart has no space for awe and wonder.  No gratefulness beats in the frantic, thudding rhythm of my agenda.

When the pace slows, the heart thaws and breathes fresh.

Life is not a race.  The pace is only grace.

I repent as the boy returns with his puffed coat and red cheeks.  I'm in no hurry to leave.  We bow heads and I pray for hearts overflowing with gratefulness and kindness.  I pray for slowed hearts...soul building instead of soul wrecking.

It is all grace.  That He would stoop low to catch me, remind me, rescue me-- again and again-- when I forget to slow my pace and drink deeply of His immeasurable grace. 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Many Faces of Grief

Behind the curtain of 2014, the Father has stretched our hearts and souls, as if tightening and expanding a rubber band to the near snapping point.

I felt intense sorrow over the past year— the entirety of my heart feeling more than broken, more than shattered.

He carried us through a year where my heart felt smashed with the intensity of a jack hammer; yet He sustained me.  I am reminded of Isaiah 42:3-4: "a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench."

Stepping into 2015, I am overwhelmed by my gentle Rescuer, who has gathered every single dusty particle of my heart, breathed life into my soul, and tenderly reshaped the thudding muscle into a softer, yet stronger vessel-- leading to more whole hearted living.

Yes, 2014 has been a year of heartache, overwhelming joy, and answered prayers, as the Father has graciously drawn our family to more.

In my big girl’s heart, something has been simmering for over a year.  We have had a few moments of hot liquid bubbling over the kettle of her heart, but today, that girl, the last babe from my womb, bubbled to overflowing.   In the car ride from dropping her brother at school, the sadness came unleashed.

I said, “It’s okay to be sad and cry.”

She forcefully folded her arms, like metal bars guarding her heart, positioning her body away, casting eyes down.  She said it was anger, but I sensed grief was somewhere underneath the strong posture.

“I know honey, it’s okay.  I have a hard time sometimes too,” were the words that tumbled out my mouth.

Her blue eyes gazed in my direction, voice pleading, “I want to spend time alone with you.  All by myself.”  There was a catch in her throat.

We arrived home and I settled Little Bitty at the kitchen table to play, stamping colorful life into dinosaurs, horses, and frogs.

I called my big girl to my bedroom.  She gazed over my shoulder, a stubborn wall pushing strong against me.

I stumbled over words, “Honey, it’s so hard sometimes being a big sister—that’s where Jesus meets us.  The cracks in our hearts—that’s where He changes us and grows something beautiful, in the hard in our driveway...the concrete cracks have green growing between them."

Her voice broke, “But I always wanted to be the baby...I wanted to be the littlest.  I’m having a hard time...I can’t do it.”

I climbed up off the hardwoods into the unmade bed, cradling her 8-year old body in hot pink pajamas, wrapping up tight, “I know sweetie.  I can’t and you can’t, but Jesus can.  You feel like you lost your wanted to be the baby.  Talk to Him sweetie.  These are His plans for our family and it’s okay for you to be sad and angry.  Jesus changes us in these times, bringing beauty and good.”

When emotions rise and swell like gray fog, it’s difficult to see truth.  I know.

The beauty of two little ballerinas danced loveliness through our den this weekend-- swirling pink and satin bows, tulle, velvet sage, ballet slippers, choreographed twirls, wrapping handmade tissue paper flowers to their wrists.  But, all this was forgotten in the height of raw grief.

Two sisters cultivating hours building houses, forts, and tents in every square inch of our home and yard, blankets and sheets, pillows and stuffed animals—girls giggling and whispering lost in worlds of fairies and princesses.  Hugs and loud shouts of “sister,” in the early morning and at night, matching outfits, hairstyles, and the never-ending game of hide and seek.  All memories of beauty lost in this corner of her heart.

Beauty for ashes, sweet girl…

I ask, “Can you help mommy with something?”

She turns her face, “What?”

“Will you pray for me too? It’s hard for me to love like Jesus.  My words are angry and mean sometimes.  We can pray for each other.”

“But it’s just hard mommy.  It’s hard not being the baby anymore.  I can’t do it,” she says.

"I know sweet girl.  I know it's hard for you.  Have I told you how proud we are of you?"  She nods her head no.  I said, "You have sacrificed and loved so well, sweet girl.  You're Father is singing over you and we are so proud of you."

I lay behind her and whisper into strands of honey hair-- about her diaper-clad brother when that pretty baby girl came along, that blue-eyed girl in the ornate frame hanging on the wall in front of us.  And I exhale words about her oldest brother, moving to share a spot when another boy came into his world.  Places not lost, but grace and beauty gained.  Friendship, forever.

We knead and sift the soil of heartache over her friend who was in foster care three years and returned to her mama.  More loss and grief she's been holding.

We talk of Christ sweating blood in the Garden… "He knows your tears, sweet daughter.  He sees you.  We see you.  We love you.”

She weeps loud and hard, gripping tightly to her Curious George, wailing into my pillow, as I hold her.  

I prayed out loud for both our hearts, His transforming power, as He creates beauty in the hard, and for us to repent of things we should, thanking Him for how He holds us close through the pain.  My bible opened to Isaiah 61:3 and 40:11, and I read the words for both our hearts.

A tight embrace and she skipped off to create on her own, carving graphite swirled letters on lined paper.

We all need a good cry sometimes, an ear to listen, and arms to enfold us.

And I am beyond grateful for His unending grace and arms forever wide.

“to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”  (Isa 61:3)

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isa 40:11)

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