He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

A Master Bedroom Makeover

This picture was taken in December of 2016.

That is when I thought that a master bedroom makeover was imminent. We had moved into our lovely older home in October of 2007. We had 6 children, the youngest being 6 weeks old. We just put together our master bedroom with whatever we had. It definitely wasn’t the decor that I would have chosen. It really wasn’t even a master bedroom. It was one of the smaller rooms in the house, but we chose it because it had a balcony. We didn’t want any of the children to accidentally get out onto the balcony…EVER!

I would day dream about how we would make our room a peaceful oasis. It wouldn’t cost very much money, and it would be so much fun. Month after month, year after year, other things would take up our time, money, and creative energy. We had two more baby boys, both born in this bedroom. We shared the small space with a collection of bassinets and cribs.

In 2015 we had a baby girl. Eventually she moved out of our room and into a room with her brothers. Our master bedroom was cribless! I began to dream of redecorating again. By December of 2016, we thought we were ready! The light blue paint had almost faded to grey, and it was peeling off the walls. Upon closer inspection, Chris noticed that there was quite a bit of water damage on one of the walls. The wall had an outside wall on the other side. It turns out the the chimney was leaking water into our house and we needed to get a chimney liner.

A Chimney liner: the most unsatisfying home improvement expense ever!!!

I had to wait a bit longer for my master bedroom makeover. Slowly over the next two years we found other items to put into our room like a beautiful dresser from Craigslist. My daughter made me gorgeous canvases from photos taken on her trip to Australia.

I was able to get some new bedspreads. A lighter one for the summer months and a duvet cover for our down comforter. Chris likes our room as frigid as possible, but I don’t mind in the winter, as long as I am snuggled under the down comforter.

I also brought a small love seat into our room. Friends of ours gave it to us when they were moving our of state. (Thank you Wander family!) It had been in the boys room, in the loft and then finally in the basement. I thought it was a goner when the furnace pipes started spurting water everywhere and it got completely soaked. Yet it dried out and still had the pleasant smell of dill emanating from it. I think it is a miracle love seat, perfect for quiet times with Jesus and nursing times with babies. All it needed was a blue slip cover!

In 2018 we had another baby girl. There was another bassinet in our room, but it was a joy! Chris and I needed a new mattress badly. We found ourselves rolling into the center of the bed and waking up terribly sore. Finally by February of 2019 we were able to trade in our 22 year mattress for a new king-sized one.

A new King-Sized Mattress: one of the most satisfying home improvement expenses ever!

Chris decided that he couldn’t put a new bed into our room with the awful paint. So he asked me to pick a paint color and soon, “Sunny Veranda” was gracing our walls.

A few months later Chris took an original door from our garage and crafted a headboard for me.

I love it more than any headboard I have ever seen!

I feel like I have an official bedroom now!

I wanted to decorate our room in a beach theme because God had spoken to me so clearly about the Sky and the Ocean before, during, and after our 21st honeymoon at the beach. The beach is where I am reminded to surrender to the God of the wind and waves so He can carry me.

There are pictures from Areli’s trip to Australia,

Areli’s trip to Cyprus,

and our trip to Ocean City Maryland.

I love each little detail because it means something to me. This old box came with our house and is a perfect place for my books. Now I just need to find one for Chris’ side of the bed.

The shells belong to Areli, which I gave to her, which my Grammy gave to me, which Grammy got when her mom and step-dad lived in Florida.

Whenever I lay in this bed and look up at the lovely white ceiling fan, I feel like I am on vacation. I am surrounded by sunny weather and beaches.

What could be more relaxing than that!

And God is telling me to dream again.

To look into my future with His vision and see the endless possibilities.

To tell disappointment that “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!”

To hold my dreams dearly but not tightly.

To dream but not make dreams my master.

To dream while praising the Author of my dreams.

What better place to do all of those things than in my new Master Bedroom?!

Thank you Chris for making my oasis possible! I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach with you!

A Surprise Visit from My Marine, a Family Picnic, and another Eagle Sighting

It was 7pm and dinner was still not ready! I was working in the hot kitchen as the children were running all over the house and yard.

“This just does not work!”  I lamented to Areli, my oldest daughter.  “It is simply too late to be eating supper.”

How did it get so late, and why was I so unprepared today?

“It is alright, Mommy” she said sweetly as she helped.

I was putting the finishing touches on chicken chili (why did I decide to make soup on such a hot day?) when I heard a voice behind me.

“Mom! Mom!”

                I turned around and to see a face I hadn’t seen in four months.  The grown-up, handsome face of my oldest son, Cole.  It took a few seconds to register in my brain.  Then I rushed to hug him, and hugged him, and hugged him, and hugged him some more.

He had just graduated from his Marine MOS training school that morning.  We had all texted him congratulations, and his only reply was that he was off to his next duty station.  He had told us earlier in the month that he didn’t have enough time to come see us, and that it could be quite a while before he did.  Little did we know that he had bought a car and had gotten enough leave to drive home.  Areli knew all about it and had been in communication with him the entire time.  My heart was so happy, so thrilled, so blessed that I couldn’t put my emotions into words. Suddenly I was thankful that dinner was so late and I simply said.

                “Cole, you are just in time for supper!”

 

That Saturday we decided to take the whole family to Little Buffalo for a picnic.  We had many happy memories of day trips and camping trips there, and it was a beautiful day!  As we started the journey in our 12 passenger van, my heart was overflowing.  Our van was full, and I was so thankful that all 12 members of our family were together again.  I sent up a little prayer.

                “I would really love to see an eagle today since we are all together and Cole is here, since Cole is an eagle too.”

About five minutes pasted.  We drove across the Susquehanna River and there it was.  A big black bird.  Flying across the road right in front of us.  It had a white head!

It was a bald eagle!

“There is an eagle!” I screamed 5 times as I pointed frantically.  Most of the children saw it before it flew out of sight.  Cole didn’t spot it, and he started laughing at me.  The other children looked at me strangely and someone said, “Mom, I don’t think I have ever seen you so excited!”

“I was definitely more excited to see Cole when he came home…but you guys don’t understand!  I just prayed and asked God to see an eagle today.  Literally 5 minutes ago I asked Him, and there was an eagle!”

Chris had just been telling me how he had to drive this route many days to deliver packages.  It was a lovely drive.  But he had never seen an eagle before.  The rest of the day I spend in gratitude and wonderment.  Why would God so quickly answer my frivolous little prayer?  What had I done to deserve to be surrounded by such beautiful and handsome faces?

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These people made up my whole world, all my hopes and dreams. They are large portions of my heart walking around outside of my body.

They are all so precious, so special, and so important to me.  They were all here together on this perfect day.  Finally we had to head home, clean up and make supper. The perfect day was fading into twilight, and I wanted to hold on to it.

Cole would be leaving for his first duty station soon.  Would our entire family ever be in our van together again? I began to worry.  It is easy for a mother to worry.  So many details for each child.  So many hurdles stand between them and accomplishing their destinies.  Sometimes one of those hurdles is me!  (Did I check all their school papers?  Did I look that child in the eyes today and see his heart?  Will this one overcome my bad parenting techniques in the past?) A hundred fears began to pop up their ugly heads, and I began to play whack-a-mole with them in my mind.  Not a fun game because they just keep popping back up again.

                Finally I remembered that God had just shown me an eagle.

He had done that twice before, and both times He had used the eagle sighting to tell me something very important.  The first time was in response to a very specific prayer of mine.  He showed me that I do hear His voice, He does hear my voice, and that He created me to be a spiritual eagle.  (Details in “A Hawk, A Vulture,and an Eagle” Part 1 and Part 2.)

The second time I was on a long drive and He told me that I could trust Him with my Children and that He loved me more than I could imagine.  Then I saw the eagle.  Right at that moment this scripture came on the Bible CD I had been listening to.

So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.

“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay.

The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”

We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10:35-39 (God’s Word)

                It was clear that these fears had no place in my life.

God loved me, He was holding my husband and my children in His hands, and had given me the faith I needed to stand firm with confidence.  Then I was reminded of something He had been showing me a few weeks ago.  Frankly I had kinda forgotten about it, because it was just too hard to wrap my brain around, so against my normal way of living.  However, this third eagle sighting had convinced me that this was truly a message from God that I had to believe and attempt to live.

It is called, “The Hunted becomes the Hunter.”

To be continued….

Discouraged Much? Me Too!

I was looking forward to 2018 with great expectations.  This is what I wrote in my journal about the coming year.

The Best is Yet to Come

Best Year Yet

Open Doors

God Encounters

Becoming Eagles

When the New Year arrived, it came in a way that I didn’t expect.  During January and February I became very discouraged. Three major sorrows had come upon me.

Sorrow #1 – I felt sicker than I ever had in my life

I discovered that I was carrying a new child of destiny in my womb. It was a dream come true, and I was elated!  I felt wonderful with my last pregnancy, so I thought this one would be even better.  Wrong!  I had never felt so weird and nauseous before.  I had never thrown up so much before!  I have never had hot flashes and cold chills before.

When I believed that 2018 would be the year that I would become an eagle, I imagined writing more.  So many beautiful God stories were in my heart, crying out to be crafted into words.  Maybe I would even put together a manuscript and work on a book!  For Christmas my husband and children surprised me with a new laptop…OF MY VERY OWN!  I was so surprised and excited!

I also thought I would be able to be more involved at church.  Oh, all the beautiful times of prayer and worship and God encounters that awaited me!

Yet January and February found me sitting on the sofa or sleeping in my bed with a weak body and a fuzzy brain.  It was hard to think about anything except how to avoid throwing up again. I tried to write, but I couldn’t.  Sitting at the computer even for a few minutes made me feel even sicker!  (It still does so this article was a bit of a struggle to produce.)  I didn’t go to church at all.

Sorrow #2 – Finances

God was going do wonderful things in our finances this year.  I was sure of it!  Early in the New Year Chris got promoted to full-time at UPS.  This was amazing, happening more quickly than usual.  However, it didn’t play out so well in real life.  First of all, peak was over, so his hours went from 70 hrs to 50-55 hrs a week.  That is normal, just life at UPS.  However, because of a rule that says all full-time employees have to be paid for at least 8 hours each day they are called in to work, Chris lost the opportunity to pick up 4 hours of air-rate overtime on Saturdays.  This had a significant impact on each paycheck.  In addition, full-time employees have to pay more union dues.  We had less instead of more, and it was feeling like a struggle again.

Sorrow #3 – Lack of Healing

It has been difficult for me to believe in miraculous healing.  I do believe theoretically, but I just haven’t had much experience in my own life.  This year I felt faith arising!  Perhaps this was the time that I would see healing with my own eyes!  We were planning a double foot surgery for Ashlyn, but what if God would heal her first?

I took Ashlyn to a healing room.  It was lovely, and the people were beautiful, and I felt the goodness of God.  Prayers were prayed, but nothing happened with Ashlyn that I could see.

They also prayed for me for two specific health problems.  The following week those two issues became significantly worse. Talk about being discouraged!

One of those issues was varicose veins.  I had bad veins in my right leg since my 4th pregnancy which was 14 years ago.  14 years of no shorts, no dresses.  14 years of feeling rather ugly and old.  Last June I had the worst vein removed and the faulty vein repaired.  It took three days of surgery with local anesthesia.  It required one incision and 58 small holes.  The recovery was more painful than I had expected, and I wondered if it was really worth it.

It was supposed to heal and leave me with a normal looking leg.  Yet I had to attend my daughter’s High School Graduation in baggy, frumpy pants to accommodate the bandages.  I developed a dream in my heart that encouraged me greatly.  My son’s graduation would be next June.  I would attend that important event in a pretty summer dress!

In this New Year, I was so excited to be pregnant without those horrible veins!  No pain, no awful compression stockings!  As this pregnancy progressed, I noticed pain in my leg again.  It was awhile before I realized that it was new veins popping out on the back of my leg.  The leg that still bore 59 little scars.  Slowly the veins traveled down my entire leg.  After receiving prayer, they began to hurt so much that I had to wear a compression stocking.

My beautiful dream had officially died a pathetic and mournful death!

The Sorrows are so small

Now that I am in my second trimester, I can look at my life and see a hundred joys outnumbering those three little sorrows.  I can give thanks for a thousand different blessings each day!!!

Still, I feel discouraged.  If only things were a little different in certain areas.  If only I didn’t feel my faith slipping away.

One Sunday morning during worship I gave my discouragement to God.  Still I wished for my sorrows to be gone.  Then God helped me to realize.

There is something Deeper (than my reality).

There is something more Real (than my circumstances).

There is something more Important (than my discouragement).

Like this baby growing healthy and strong.  Like the delight that God has when He looks at me.  Like the fact that this suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in me, the glory that will be revealed in my daughter.  Like my character being formed into the character of Christ.

Like Becoming An Eagle!

I had asked God to transform me into an eagle this year.  To help me to worship Him until the wind of His presence surrounded me.  To help me to stretch out my wings in faith.  To teach me to fly.  To teach me to see EVERYTHING from His higher perspective.

He has been answering my prayer this whole time.  No one ever learns to do something new without practice.  All these sorrows are training me to rise above and SEE!

Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and the highlands of heaven far away.” Is 33:17 Living Bible

This has been His promise to me.  I have asked Him to help me live in it.  I have asked for a difficult thing…

But it is worth it!

 

P.S. Just a note to all of my followers.  I am so delighted that you enjoy my writing! I probably will not be posting much until August or September when I hope that I will be reconciled to my laptop.  Praying you will bask in all the joys!

P.P.S. Ashlyn’s surgery well very well!  She has been recovering beautifully and I am so thankful.

This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.

How Does God Feel About Mothers?

 

bc2I never considered it a sacrifice to be a mother.  I have always thought it was a privilege and the most amazing calling.  It is powerful and world-changing to be a mother, to grow and nourish the next generation.

Yet, now that I have been a mother for 17 years, I am getting a bit weary.  I have realized that I really don’t have my own life.  My days are filled with the needs of my husband and children.  I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be alone in the house with nothing to do except exactly what I WANTED to do.

Most of the time, I enjoy being at home with my children.  It is my favorite place to be.  I just assumed that it was my children’s favorite place to be as well.  One night Chris was working late and I was sitting at the dinner table with all of my nine children.  A peaceful meal is so refreshing to the soul; enjoying the smells and flavors, exchanging stimulating conversation.

A meal is never a peaceful affair at my house.  That night the children were all so loud, I couldn’t follow any one conversation.  Several of the boys were discussing topics not appropriate for the table.  The three-year old kept getting up and wandering around, and the 6-year-old kept standing up on the bench.  In an attempt to regain control, I lifted my voice and shouted above the noise, “Everyone be quiet!  We are going around the table and I want each one of you to tell me your favorite part of the day.  The rest of you just listen!”

The chaos quieted to a dull roar, and the children shared with me what they most enjoyed about their day.  The elementary school boys all enjoyed playing kickball at recess.  Cadin, who is fifteen, just started Cyber School after being homeschooled.  He had to go take the PSSAs for the first time.  He had never had to sit for 7 hours in a classroom before, and I thought he would hate it.  Yet, when it was his turn to share, Cadin said, “My favorite part of the day was taking the PSSAs.”

“Really?! Why is that?”  I asked.

“Because I didn’t have to be at home,” he answered.

“You don’t like being at home?” I asked, feeling very hurt.

“Well,” Cadin started with an apologetic voice, “I got to get a break and I didn’t have to do any chores.”

“I understand how he feels,” said Areli, my 17-year-old daughter.  “My favorite part of the day is when I do school, alone in my room.”

Now the small ache in my heart was growing.  “Well, I never actually get to be alone,” I said.  “Except maybe when I am in the bathroom.”

“You do get a nap every day,” Areli countered.

“That is true, and I so appreciate that nap!  But I am still not alone.  I have to share the room with the baby and wake up when she wakes up.  I am really never alone.”  I said.

Cole, the 15-year-old cynic, chimed in, “That’s your own fault for having so many children.  You and Dad went a little crazy,” he pointed out.

I felt the wind go out of my sails.  My own children didn’t even appreciate my willingness to carry them, give birth to them; give up sleep and privacy and alone time for them.  They couldn’t see the purpose in this crazy, loud, mess that is the Brandenburg household.  Sometimes I lose sight of it too.

When I look down the corridors of history, I don’t see the stories full of mothers heroically laying their lives down for their children.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and enslave.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and set free.  I see stories of kings and rulers.

When I turn on the TV, I don’t see news stories about the amazing mom who changed 24 diapers in the last 24 hours with only 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I see lawmakers and lawbreakers, politicians and rebels.

When I watch an awards show, I never see a mom who looks like me get up on stage and accept a prestigious award for her amazing ability to check items off a to do list and keep 9 children clothed and feed.  That is for the talented artists who receive the praise of millions of adoring fans.

What I thought was my little fan club was now telling me that they would rather be out of the house or alone instead of spending time with me.

I turned to a book that always helps me gain an eternal perspective, The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  He shares a prophetic experience he had when he was in the throne room of heaven. He started in the very back of the room.  On his long walk to the front where the Lord was, he passed crowds of believers who had already died.  The multitudes standing at the back were more glorious than Rick had imagined people could ever be.  He was shocked to find out that these were in the very lowest rank in heaven.

One man he had known on earth explained it to him this way, “There is an aristocracy of sorts here.  The rewards for our earthly lives are the eternal positions that we will have forever.  This great multitude are those whom the Lord called ‘foolish virgins.’ We knew the Lord and trusted in His cross for salvation, but we lived for ourselves more than we really lived for him…there is no greater folly than to know the great salvation of God, but then go on living for yourself.”

This man was still more glorious and full of joy and peace than Rick had ever imagined possible.  It was simply because even a moment in the lowest part of heaven is much greater than a thousand years in the highest life on earth, and every person there had received so much more than they actually deserved.  As Rick moved toward the throne, he learned from the mistakes of those in the lowest ranks, and discovered that those same mistakes resided in his own life.

A great Christian leader during his life on earth told him, “What looks good on earth looks very different here.  What will make you a king on earth will often be a stumbling block to keep you from being a king here.  What will make you a king here is lowly and unclaimed on earth.”

Later, a famous reformer stepped forward and Rick couldn’t believe that he was in the lowest rank. The reformer told him, “God does have a different set of history books than those on the earth.  You have had a glimpse of this but you do not yet know how different they are.  Earthly histories will pass away, but the books that are kept here will last forever.  If you can rejoice in what heaven is recording about your life, you are blessed indeed.”

Then the reformer gave Rick some advice, “The high calling is not out of reach for anyone that the Lord has called.  I will tell you what will keep you on the path of life – love the Savior and seek His glory alone.  Everything you do to exalt yourself will one day bring you the most terrible humiliation.  Everything you do out of genuine love for the Savior, to glorify His name, will extend the limits of His eternal kingdom and ultimately result in a much higher place for yourself.  Live for what is recorded here.  Care nothing for what is recorded on earth.”

As Rick continued walking towards the glory of Jesus, he saw that each rank was many times greater than the previous one.  He described it like this, “When I was still not even halfway to the throne, what had been the indescribable glory of the first rank now seemed to be outer darkness in comparison to the glory of those I was now passing.  The greatest beauty on earth would not qualify to be found anywhere in heaven.  And I was told that this room was just the threshold of indescribable realms of glory!”

Rick learned from those who had fallen short of their destinies and also learned from those who had overcome and remained faithful to Jesus.  “Those who stumbled did so in many different ways.  But those who prevailed all did it the same way: They did not deviate from their devotion to the first and greatest commandment – loving the Lord.  In this way, their service was done unto Him, not to men. These were the ones who worshipped the Lamb and followed him wherever He went.”

Finally after what seemed like years of traveling, Rick reached the throne.  “Near the judgement seat of Christ, those in the highest ranks were sitting on thrones that were all a part of His throne.  Even the least of these thrones was many times more glorious than any earthly throne.  Some of those on the thrones were rulers over cities on earth and would soon take their places.  Others were rulers over the affairs of heaven, and still others ruled over the affairs of the physical creation, such as star systems and galaxies.

“It was apparent that those who were given authority over cities were esteemed even above those who had been given authority over galaxies.  The value OF A SINGLE CHILD (emphasis added) surpassed that of a galaxy of stars because the Lord has chosen men as His eternal dwelling place…

“At one point the Lord looked toward the galleries of thrones around Him.  Many were occupied, but many were empty.  He then said, ‘These thrones are for the overcomers who have served Me faithfully in every generation.  My Father and I prepared them before the foundation of the world.  Are you worthy to sit on one of these?’

“…I looked at those who were now seated on the thrones.  I could recognize most of those seated had not even been well-known on earth.

“Many of those on the thrones had been missionaries who expended their lives in obscurity.  They had never cared to be remembered on earth, but wanted only to be remembered by Him.  I was a bit surprised to see some who had been wealthy, and rulers who had been faithful with what they had been given.  However, it seemed that faithful, praying women and mothers occupied more thrones than any other single group.”

I have read this passage many times and every time my eyes flood with tears and my heart swells like it will burst!  My Lord has so honored mothers that many sit with him on the highest thrones in heaven!  My Lord so honors mothers that he allowed Rick Joyner to write down the revelation so that we could read it and be encouraged.

Mothers, let’s receive His grace to walk this path like eternity depends on it.  Jesus gave Rick this wisdom, “Those empty seats could have been filled in any generation.  I gave the invitation to sit here to everyone who has called upon My name.  The seats are still available.  Now the last battle has come, and many who are last shall be first.  These seats will be filled before the battle is over.  Those who sit here will be known by two things: They will wear the mantle of humility, and they will have my likeness.”

I am right where God wants me to be.  I am in the perfect place to love Him and to serve Him.  I don’t need to be famous or acclaimed or recognized or talented.  I just need to be who He has made me to be.

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I don’t need the world to understand the importance of what I am doing.  I don’t even need my children to understand and appreciate me.  I know that Jesus understands and he sees.

I don’t feel at all able to walk this path perfectly.  I am full of selfishness and I get off track so easily.  I realize that I can’t even do the basics, loving my husband and children, on my own.  I need His great grace!  But I am in the perfect place to receive His Grace…every…single…day!

An Answer for the Guilt of Motherhood

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I think most mothers feel some level of guilt every single day.  I know that I do.  I have heard it said that guilt is just part of the job description.  Should it be? Surely God doesn’t intend for us to carry this heavy load.  Wouldn’t we be much better mothers if we were free from guilt?

But I have so many opportunities to feel remorse!

When my third grader can’t read. (I am a horrible homeschool teacher!)

When my baby wakes up and I can’t calm him. (Surely I should understand a baby’s needs by this time!)

When I yell at my eight year old and he hides in the linen closet and cries. (I am so mean.)

When my teenager yells at ME for outlawing the indiscriminate consumption of sugar. (I am so unreasonable and extreme.)

When my oldest daughter is stressed out because of the amount of house work she has to do. (I should be doing more of the work myself.)

When my special needs girl is crying because I am forcing her to do therapy (what kind of monster am I?)

When my two year old screams so the entire grocery store can hear. (I have failed at disciplining him and instilling a sweet and joyful personality.)

I have realized that all moms have times like these.  So if we are all universally dealing with the guilt of our motherhood failures, THERE MUST BE AN ANSWER!!!!

Let me take you on a journey of extreme guilt and perhaps you will recognize your own journey.  I have a daughter who was born after a more difficult birth requiring Pitocin.  I wrote all about it in my article,  “Birth Story, Part 3.” She looked perfect and beautiful to me, but the hospital staff was convinced that there was something wrong with her.  She had unusual facial features and two toes on each foot were partially webbed.  They continued to “find” more and more abnormalities in her internal organs that could have had serious consequences.  Yet in just two days, she went home with me; a healthy, happy and totally normal baby!

Or so I thought…until I received a call when Ashlyn was 6 weeks old. The chromosome analyses revealed that she was missing a piece of her 6th chromosome.  No one had ever heard of such a thing and no one knew what this might mean.

Chris and I were convinced that our daughter would be just fine.  She could grow up without physical or mental handicaps because God would show us exactly what to do.  I read and researched and read and researched some more.  Other children like her had been able to maintain higher than average intelligence when put on an intensive therapy program developed by the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential.  I opted to enroll Ashlyn in a similar program at the Family Hope Center. 

It required taking Ashlyn to the center every six months for an evaluation and to learn the home treatment plan.  Each trip would cost $5,000.  We weren’t able to take her until she was three or four years old.  I felt terrible about losing those valuable first years, even though I tried to institute the therapies at home that I had taught myself by reading their books.  We were able to raise and save the money to go to the Family Hope Center a total of three times in the 12 years of her life.  Each time the Family Hope Center infused me with great ideas and many wonderful therapies.

But there was a problem.  How could I possibly accomplish 6 hours of therapy with Ashlyn each day?  I found it a struggle to devote even two hours to her with all the needs of my other children, the house, and my husband.  Many times Ashlyn would be very uncooperative or sick, and we got nothing accomplished at all.  I watched the years pass by and her developmental delays became more and more pronounced.  The gap between her actual age and her neurological age grew wider and wider.

I took some comfort in the fact that all the crawling around on the floor she was doing was organizing her brain, and that someday she would eventually walk.  When that day came, her intelligence would be much higher because of the abundance of cross pattern crawling she had done.

What I didn’t know was that she was developing a progressive club foot deformity.  Perhaps it was because of her chromosomes, perhaps it was because of the lack of weight bearing on her feet, perhaps it was because of the poor position of her legs and feet while crawling.  Her large shoes created a crawling form never taken by a normal baby.  The handicap crept up on me and all of her healthcare providers until…her muscles and bones formed abnormally.

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She became unable to stand up or walk normally and may never be able to.

I felt like this, along with all of her other physical and emotional issues, were my fault.  Whenever I looked at her twisted and painful feet, I would feel deep sorrow and crushing guilt.  God had given her to me, and surely he had given me the tools to help her, but I had failed.  Failed not just in a little thing but in something that will greatly impact the quality of her life…her entire life.

Everyone who saw Ashlyn would always comment on how well she was doing, how much progress she was making, and what an amazing job I was doing.

But I never believed them.

Chris was always saying that Ashlyn WAS doing so well because of all the time I spent with her and all the good things I have done with her.  Without my intervention, he said, she would still be lying like a blob on the floor.

But I never believed him.

I continued to blame myself for her every deficiency.  Therapy was a chore, and Ashlyn was very often unhappy.  How happy could you be when the sight of you reminded your mother of her guilt?

OK, this is an extreme case of guilt, but I am sure all of you mothers (and fathers) out there can relate to some degree.  Does my guilt sound reasonable and rational to you?  Have I been a horrible mother?  Does God want me to carry this burden?

Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

And he doesn’t want you to carry it either!

So let’s clear up a few things, mothers and fathers out there.  I am going to tell you some truth, and I want to open up your ears and hearts and BELIEVE ME!

When something goes wrong…it is not your fault!

When your child is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When the world around you is not perfect…it is not your fault!

When you are not perfect…well, that may be your fault, but it is ok!

God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that you would not be perfect, yet he gave you that child anyway.  He knew that you were the very best parent for that child.

You cannot save your child from their sin, their bad habits, or their circumstances.

You cannot heal your child; not their bodies or their souls or their spirits.

You cannot mold them and shape them into the person you think they should be.

ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

Sometimes God does those things THROUGH you in his time and his way and you may be totally unaware that he is doing it.  The closer we are to God, the more our minds are filled with his wisdom, the more attuned we are to his voice, the more he can flow through us to our children.

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The vague feeling of failure that most of us moms carry around is not from God!  The thought that if we were better parents our children wouldn’t be so….whatever it is that they are…doesn’t come from God.  It comes from the Enemy of our souls.  He knows that we are the perfect parent for our child and that God is using us in amazing ways.  He wants to make us ineffective in this most important calling.

It is true that sometimes we do things wrong and we need to ask forgiveness from God and our children.  If we are listening to the Holy Spirit, he will show us when these times occur.  He will convict us in a very specific way and give us hope that there is forgiveness and healing through him.

Here is an example:

Condemnation from the Enemy: If you were smarter, more organized, and more loving, your daughter would have walked years ago.

Conviction from the Holy Spirit: When Ashlyn was crying during her walking therapy today, you continued to push her.  You should have slowed down, looked her in the eyes, and talked to her gently.  You could have showed her that you saw and acknowledged her pain.  You could have investigated the specific location of her pain and asked me for wisdom as to whether she was just whining out of childish self-pity, or whether she had a real injury.

Condemnation must be answered with the truth.  Conviction must be answered with saying you are sorry and changing your behavior.

What is the truth?  You can find it in the pages of your Bible.  You can find it in the eyes of your Savior.  You can find it in the voice of your Father.  In his presence there is fullness of joy.  Joy because in his presence he tells you how beloved you are.  He shows you how in control he is, and how your little mistakes can’t derail his plan.  I have found that conviction is a rather small part of what the Father does.  The large part is lavishing his praises and love and encouragement on us!  Being in his presence makes me a much better mother than guilt and self-criticism ever did.  I wrote about how I try to get into his presence during a hectic mommy day in my article, “Grumpy Mommy Morning.”

Have you ever had this experience in worship?  Your heart is bursting with love for God.  Your gratitude is so deep that you can’t express it in words.  You have so many things to thank God for that you are glad you have an eternity, because that is how long it will take! You wish you could do something worthy of your wonderful God; singing, dancing, painting a beautiful picture, writing a 300 page masterpiece…yet all you can do is just stand there and let the overwhelming joy wash over you.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to feel that way all the time?  To mother our children out of that kind of joy?  Someday, maybe we will.

Have you ever thought that maybe God feels that way about you?  That being with you brings him overflowing joy that will last forever.  That he is so thankful for you and your life!

Blows your mind!!!  That’s what happens when you start listening to God’s voice.  He blows your mind with a new perspective that sends the guilt and shame packing.

Once I was sitting on my sofa, miserable with morning sickness and feeling like an awful mom.  God broke into my despair and said to me, “Thank you!  Thank you for being available to carry this child.  Without you, I couldn’t have brought this child of destiny into the world.”

THAT is the truth.

You may feel very imperfect.  You may be sure that you are messing up your sweet innocent child, and that they will need inner healing as a result of your poor parenting techniques.  But without you, they would never have been born.  They would have never had the chance to experience life, love, laughter, and sorrow.  They would never get to see the sights of this earth or heard the sounds.  They would never have gotten the chance to choose right from wrong.  They would never have the opportunity to try and fail and try again.  They would have never had the opportunity to be messed up and then healed!

So thank you mom!  Let me say a big “thank you” to you from God, your child, and the world!  Thank you for giving your child life.  Thank you for doing your best.  Your best is a wondrous reality full of deeply textured experiences.  It is not all sunshine and roses, but even the chance to experience sadness and suffering is a gift.  Thank you mom for that gift.

Did you know that God uses motherhood as a picture of abundant prosperity?  Is 66:10-12 compares the prosperity of Jerusalem to nursing and being satisfied at a mother’s breast and drinking deeply in her overflowing abundance.  Then verses 12-13 says, “I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

God compares himself to a mother!  God is going to comfort us like a mother!  Ahhhh, what a wonderful, peaceful image that is.  Mothers – God is using you to show himself to your children.  Your nursing and cuddling and soothing is revealing to your child what God is like.  You may not do it 100% perfect all the time, but there you are, doing it and giving your child a frame of reference for the love of God!

This world is not perfect.  You may think you are doing a very poor job of protecting your child from the toxins in our food, the poisons on TV, and the bullies at school. Let me remind you that this world is not our home.  It is a hostile warzone, full of danger.  It is hard to see the warzone because it is disguised by the white picket fences and flower boxes of suburbia, but it is a warzone, nonetheless.  We are living here as missionaries, trying to show the love of God to those who will violently oppose us even as we love them.  We were created for a place much more beautiful and holy and perfect than this. But we are here because God has a wondrous plan.  To raise children in the muddy trenches of this harsh environment is difficult.

No, it is downright COUREGEOUS! 

Mother, you are a mighty and strong warrior!  If you and your family are splattered with grime, fight bravely on!  Your Champion has already won this war, and soon his victory will be evident to all.  He is able to keep your children safe.

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All of these pictures were taken on a trip to the Family Hope Center we took with Ashlyn in 2010. Here is an old cemetery seeming to encroach into the sacred boundary of a park for children. Yet joy and sorrow, life and death dwell together in surreal beauty. Joy that Ashlyn is alive and healthy. Sorrow because of the realization that all my best efforts cannot heal her.

And in the midst of this war zone, God gives us a little piece of heaven, our own paradise… if we can learn to abide in him and open our eyes to the beauty in the brokenness.

A few months ago I was talking with a woman whose sister was a teacher for 35 years.  She taught at an institution for severely handicapped and damaged children.  She told me that most of the children had been abandoned by their parents.  She would prepare classes for the children, because they were eligible for free education until the age of 21.  She would stand at the front of the class room and teach letters, numbers, days of the week, etc. to a room full of wheelchair bound children who couldn’t talk.  Some would never interact or show any evidence of learning anything at all.  She would try to organize fun activities and field trips for them since they rarely had visitors.  She would put on a parent’s nights to highlight what their children had been learning and usually, no parent came.

I marveled at the love and special grace this woman had to continually pour into these children and young adults with very little encouraging results.  It took me months of pondering this before I realized…this could have been Ashlyn.  If she had never had me as her mother or Chris as her father, if she had been taken care of by a collection of paid state workers, what would she be like right now?  Was Chris right in saying what he had said many times before?

“Without all that you have done for her, Anne, she would still be laying like a blob on the floor.”

Ashlyn is a unique treasure that God has given me.  And I am a gift to her; a loving mother who shows her how much God loves her.

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A new perspective sure does a lot.  In fact, that is the answer to the guilt of motherhood.  Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus.

Why don’t you put on some worship music like David Leach Worship or Bethel Music and seek God for his perspective on your mothering career.  Let that guilt just walk out the door!

Special note to mothers who may have legitimate guilt over huge mistake that you have made in the past.  You may have killed your child, mistreated him badly, or abandoned him.  These are serious offenses, but not unforgivable.  Most of the major players in the Bible had grievous sins and were very bad parents!  Yet God forgave them and loved them and used them to bring untold numbers of people to himself.  Guilt is God’s mercy to bring you to him.  Seek God for that kind of forgiveness and transformation in your life.  Once you lay your guilt down at the cross, don’t ever let the Devil convince to pick it up again.  Jesus signed his name to your sin and died as the punishment for it.  It is finished!  You are loved and you have a future full of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

I Found the Words of God on a Coffee Sleeve

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I had just written the rough draft of my last article about the passing of my neighbor, Sandy.  I had a heavy heart, feeling that I had failed God and failed Sandy.  Writing the article had evoked deep emotions in me, and I was still trying to sort them all out.  It was a dark Wednesday night, and I was attending a meeting for those helping with the annual Women’s Breakfast at my church.

The women’s ministry at Life Center is always planning lovely events.  The goal is that every woman who attends would experience a special touch from God and hear his voice personally.  Each time there is a creative way to give a personalized, encouraging word to every woman.  There have been ribbons, medals, bracelets, necklaces, compasses, mugs, purses, and book marks given out.  The item contains some sort of message (such as a scripture verse, a single word, or phrase) and has been prayed over.  Every one of the gifts that I have received over the years has been special to me.  The scripture that I received at the Women’s Conference last March sustained my faith through the events of the past year.

At the meeting, each of us got to pick a coffee sleeve with something special written on it.  I randomly picked a sleeve that had “Matthew 10:42” nicely hand written in black pen.  I looked up the scripture on my phone and it read:

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

I thought, “Oh that is nice.  I certainly give out lots of cups of water to my children.”

But then a new thought broke into my own, with a brilliance that I have come to recognize as the Holy Spirit.

It was a thought of Sandy and the times I brought her soup.  God was telling me that I would have a reward for the small acts of kindness I had done for her!  I felt so humbled and in awe of a God that would reward me even though I had fallen short of my goal of introducing Sandy to Jesus.

What a good and generous God I have!!!!

The next day I got into my van to drive to the grocery store.  I turned on the New Testament CD that was already in the CD player.  And guess where the CD started that day?

Matthew 10:42

That Saturday was the day of the Women’s Breakfast.  I arrived early to welcome women to the table I was hosting.   I was praying that everyone would feel loved and blessed.  I encouraged each woman to pick a coffee sleeve when they went to get their coffee or hot cocoa.  I had the opportunity to pick a second one for myself.  When I read the words, again I wanted to cry!  My heart was so full of the goodness of God.

“Writing a New Chapter”

I love to write and have been working on this blog for a year and a half now.  I would love to write a book someday…lots of books in fact!  But I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices or even likes my writing.  I am doing it for myself and my children, so we never forget the marvelous things God has done for us.  Sometimes I feel rather silly, spending so much time writing down the little details of my life.  Yet I feel the words are like fire in my bones that won’t let me go until I write them down.

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Here God was telling me that the writing was from him!  And that I would be writing about a new chapter.  Our lives could sure use a new beginning!

This “word from God” was confirmed a few weeks later in a most unusual way.  Each year I choose a foreign country to study at Christmas time.  When all of my children were homeschooled, we would take a break from the normal school and learn about this country.  Then we would incorporate the Christmas traditions and food of this country into our own holiday celebration.  We have studied Sweden, Germany, Russia, Spain, and Italy.  Each year, one of the resources we used was the World Book series on Christmas around the World.  The books always contained interesting facts but were very dry reading.

This year, even though I am only homeschooling my special needs daughter, I chose Ireland.  I just love to learn about other countries so much, I couldn’t give up the tradition.  As I read the first few pages of the World Book called Christmas on the Emerald Isle, I was struck by the emotion and passion in the writing.

“On Christmas night, there is another custom – the telling of stories.  The oldest member of the family gathers everyone around the hearth or table and recounts the story of Mary and Joseph.  The tales, of course, don’t stop at Bethlehem.  There are yarns about the family, about the famine, about the great heroes and villains of Irish history…While the Swedes have 25 versions of the Cinderella story, the Irish have 311 and are still counting.  Christmas night is not, or course, the only appropriate time for storytelling.  Any occasion will do, and the Irish have a story for any and every occasion, for every event of life…By extracting the meaning from every event of life and turning that understanding into a parable, the Irish preserved their culture and taught their children a sense of history, justice, and identity.”

My heart burned within me as I read these words.  That is what I wanted to do!  I felt that God was saying that my passion to write was there for a reason…because he had put it there.

It went on to say, “If life was short and bitter, the memory of that life was not.  Filled with victory and joy, the memory became a living thread that passed through the consciousness of generations of Irish men and women. As long as the stories survived, the lives and events that inspired them survived and had meaning.”

I must have a bit of the Irish in me… and in the midst of trouble and sorrow, the goodness of God keeps overwhelming me…and giving me stories that I just have to tell!

 

A Grumpy Mommy Morning

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We have all had them.  Grumpy mornings when we wish we were still under the covers.  Grumpy mornings when everything seems to be going wrong.

I used to have grumpy mornings on a regular basis, when I was rudely awakened way too early with the knowledge that I had a very long day of caring for little people ahead of me.

In recent years, however, I felt more confident, more capable.  With the help of my older children, I was able to face each morning with a level head and even some joy.  I became too confident and let my two most helpful children (Areli and Cadin) volunteer to help with Kidz Kamp at our church.  They were gone early in the morning, my husband was at work, and that left me…alone…with a three month baby, a loud and demanding two year old, a special needs girl who acts like a quirky three year old, three wild and crazy boys, and a teenager asleep in his bed.  This teenager who used to be an early riser and the instigator of most of my grumpy mommy mornings, now seemed to be able to sleep indefinitely.

I tried to take care of the needs of the younger children while enlisting the wild boys to help me prepare breakfast.  The younger children were all uncooperative and whiney, and the wild boys were…wild!  They seemed to ignore all that I said to them.  Instead of helping, they were tearing around the house creating messes and conflicts.

Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Grumpy Mommy morning unlike I had experienced in years!  I ended up yelling and fuming, ranting and raving.  I didn’t understand why my children didn’t understand…I was doing all of this for them.  The diapering and nursing and dressing and cleaning and cooking!  All of this effort was for them!  Why couldn’t they help me just a little bit?

Later in the day I had the peace and quiet to think.  Why did I have such a horrible morning?  Was it really my children?  Were they really so awful?

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Or was it my attitude?  If I was really doing everything I did to serve them, why was I so angry with them?

I realized that the work I was doing and getting stressed out about was not really for them.  They didn’t really care if their faces were clean or that their clothes matched or that they had a super healthy breakfast.  I was doing all of those things to make myself feel better.  I was doing everything I thought a good mother should do, trying to get it all done so that I could feel accomplished and satisfied with my mothering.  Then I could get on to the things that I really wanted to do.

I was angry because their childish behavior was interfering with MY plans.  They were messing up MY schedule.  I hadn’t thought about the emotions or thoughts of each child that morning.  Maybe one child had woken up with a scary dream.  Maybe another child was so excited about Kidz Kamp that he couldn’t calm down.  Maybe the other child was so nervous about Kidz Kamp that he was trying to forget his worries. Perhaps another child was feeling overlooked and was just trying to get my attention.  I hadn’t even considered what was going on in their hearts.

I stopped to contemplate what each one of them might want most in the morning upon waking.  I concluded that their deepest heart’s desire, even if they couldn’t articulate it, would be to have a mommy who would greet them with joy.  A mommy who would listen and not just give orders.   A mommy who speaks kind words instead of yelling.

How could I possibly be that kind of mommy?  How could I even begin to meet each child’s unexpressed needs each morning?

All I could come up with was the fact that I definitely could not.  Only if I was abiding in Christ and had His love and thoughts towards my children could I be that kind of mommy.

How could abide in Christ when I got woken up before I could have a quiet time?  How could my mind be full of His thoughts when I couldn’t crack my Bible to read a single scripture?  How could I have His love for my children when I hadn’t even stopped to notice His love for me?

This has become the question that I MUST HAVE an answer to.

“LORD, just how do I seek you in the midst of this life that you have given me?”

I am not totally sure how to get time by myself on a daily basis.  I am not sure how to meet with other Christians and get to church meetings more often for encouragement.  But here is what I have come up with so far.

Whenever grumpy thoughts start to invade my mind, I make a huge effort to replace them with a thankful thought and find something to praise God for.

I write scriptures on notecards and post them on my bathroom mirror.   Whenever I see them, I read them and memorize them.  As I read them, I feel hope returning to my soul.   I try to meditate on them throughout the day.

I recite memorized scriptures while I am nursing.  I used to be able to read the Bible or other encouraging books while I nursed but now Annalise nurses too fast and is too active for that.  As I speak the truth out loud, I feel my heart taking courage.

I listen for His voice in the midst of the noise.  Sometimes I hear it in the voice of my six year old.  Sometimes I hear it in my baby’s cries.

Instead of begging Him to help me through this crazy day, I THANK Him for the help He most certainly IS giving me and WILL give me.

I listen to worship music while I am preparing meals and sing along.  I am caught up in His goodness as I chop vegetables.  I smile when my children tell me that I should have been a singer, and I try to be loving when they interrupt me for some silly reason.

I listen to the Bible on CD while I am driving.  It transforms the time I spend running errands into an encounter with truth and love.  I have noticed things about Jesus and the Bible I have never noticed before.  I have cried and repented and praised Him for His mercy while running to the grocery store.

When I get the chance, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I write down what He has been speaking to me throughout the week.  Then I read my journal over and over again while I eat breakfast the next week. I am reminded of the earth-shaking revelations that have so easily slipped my mind.

I fall asleep recounting all the good things God did for me throughout the day.  I surrender all that I am, and all that I am not.  I rest in the arms of Jesus until some little person needs me.

Being a good mom is not made up of things that I do or the schedule that I keep, but who I am.  Only an active, growing relationship with Jesus will make me like Him and banish the Grumpy Mommy Mornings.  So let us all seek Him, no matter what.