Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fun in the Furnace

Recently an article of mine was published, titled “Finding God in the Nightmare.” The article was originally written last spring, and in it I wrote about God changing my perspective, allowing me to view the nightmarish events in my life as, in fact, part of His dream for my life.

It took me a long time to submit this article for publication, and then even after submitting it, it took awhile for it to be published. During this time, some circumstances have changed in our family. In the fall, we began an unexpected battle with Nora’s preschool over whether she could go to school in her diabetic condition. Her teachers were understandably concerned about being responsible for a child with a life-threatening condition, and it took lots of training and talking down their fear before they would allow her to come to school without my being present. Just as this situation was resolved, some routine blood tests came back revealing that Nora had tested positive for Celiac Disease (another auto-immune disease closely related to her Type 1 Diabetes). An endoscopy has since confirmed that she has Celiac. This diagnosis (requiring Nora to eat completely gluten-free) involves another in-depth look at our family’s diet, and it involves even more microscopic accounting for every bite that goes in Nora’s mouth. It involves another big learning curve and adjustment for the whole family, and we are all adjusting in different ways. Our boys have been fighting for their share of parental attention in ways that are understandable but not great. In the wake of all of these events, we have felt overwhelmed with the amount of time and training our puppy Lucy requires. We initially put out feelers for places to re-home her, but have gone back and forth about this decision. We are still praying about what is best. 

Here’s the thing: in the midst of all of this change (none of which sounds real joyful), the truth of my last article stands firm. Now, more than ever, the description of my life sounds like a nightmare, and sometimes it feels like one. But now, even more than last spring, God is showing me how to live out joy daily. On top of this, he is teaching me what my faith gets to look like during this season, and it’s kind of blowing my mind. 

I concluded my “Nightmare” article with a sense of overall contentment with where God had us, diabetes and all. In light of recent events, I have re-fought this battle and have come to the same (but different) place of contentment. Let me explain. 

When Nora was originally diagnosed with Diabetes and now again with this Celiac diagnosis, there has been a raging battle inside me of faith vs. contentment. I have had faith-filled friends encourage me not to get comfortable with Nora’s diagnoses, encouraging me to fight until I see the healing. The fiery intercessor inside of me has agreed with them. Yet, I have suffered guilt over  the deep need in me to make peace with what life looks like right now. There have been days (as described in my last article) when I have felt joy and contentment in the midst of these diagnoses, and I have felt confusion over whether this contentment means I have given up on the healing. If I’m not in constant agony over Nora’s diagnoses, will I still care enough to pray for her healing? Which faith am I supposed to have, the one that believes and fights for full healing, or the kind that rests in the knowledge that God’s plan is good even when circumstances don’t look the way we want them to? 

Here’s what God has said to me: I get to have both kinds of faith. I’ve been living like a child of divorce, believing that I have to choose between my two faith parents. God is graciously correcting my misconception, and is showing me that the two types of faith are still married. There is a dual faith that can simultaneously fight for the ultimate healing AND live out the everyday belief that God and life are still good while I’m still waiting for the miracle. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had this dual faith. They said (and I paraphrase), “We believe that God will save us, but even if he doesn’t, we still still serve him.” (Daniel 3:17-18). And what happened to them?  Yes, God delivered them. They got their ultimate victory. But first, they had to step into the fire. They had to exist in the midst of the heat, and He was there with them. That’s the heart of this dual faith: believing that God will save/deliver/heal, but knowing that for as long as the fire should last, He will be in it with us. Therefore, life in the fire can still be good, even great, because we’re hanging out with God in the furnace. 

Don’t get me wrong, we still hate these diseases. We hate these diagnoses. They feel absolutely wrong and stupid. Our holy discontent is still firmly in place. But I am learning that holy discontent doesn’t translate to daily misery. Holy discontent means that our spirits are big enough to fight, knocking like the most annoyingly persistent of solicitors on God’s door, pleading for that healing and not giving Him rest, while simultaneously existing joyfully in the midst of the trial, allowing God to mold our character and shape us in this fire for as long as it should last. 

What does this look like daily in our lives?  It looks like adhering to a gluten-free diet and finding recipes we love. It looks like choosing to be thankful instead of resentful that we can’t eat at fast-food restaurants much anymore, because we know it will improve our health as a family. It looks like making friends with other people who have similar diagnoses, and taking joy in those new relationships that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. It looks like doing extra fun family activities with that money that we would have otherwise spent on eating out, and being thankful that God is re-orchestrating our lives in this way. It looks like awful things (pump site changes and shots and juggling our family’s gluten and gluten-free mixed menus) becoming second-nature, because this is our life for now.
Heading in for the endoscopy.  

It also looks like Jordan and I beginning a new tradition of praying together every single night before we go to bed; praying for full healing for Nora, and also for our kids to have radical, unbelievable, Spirit-filled relationships with God as a result of this season. It looks like a daily refusal to live in fear over whether more auto-immune diseases may come, or whether our other children might be silent carriers of one of these diseases. It looks like crying and screaming into my mattress that this isn’t right, this can’t be best, there has to be healing in our future. It looks like heated, middle of the night conversations with God, asking why, why, why He’s allowing a disease to manipulate my baby’s body. It looks like learning not to take my anger out on my kids, but to take it to God, because He can handle it. It looks like finding peace that surpasses the confusion and anger, over and over again. It looks like real life, except that we now have this mind-bending understanding that we can have fun even as we fight. We can have fun in the furnace.

We can have hope of deliverance, but joy in the meantime. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brother Orson

This morning Nora and I spent an hour at the bank waiting to be helped with our five minute transaction. I will let our bank remain nameless and I won’t bore you with complaints, because this post isn’t about that. It’s about a conversation I had with an elderly black gentleman named Brother Orson while we waited. It makes no difference whether he’s black or white or anything else (as Brother Orson would tell you himself, “If things continue on the way they are, the world will soon be color-blind”), except that I want you to be able to picture this sweet man as accurately as possible. Nora and I had finally sat down in two of the four lobby chairs after already having waited for 15 minutes when Orson ambled over. Despite his having thick black glasses and walking a little slowly, I would have put him at about 55. But his first words to me were that he could remember when his great-granddaughter was Nora’s age. 

“I was on Facebook the other day, and it told me she’s in junior high now! Makes me feel so old.” I told him he didn’t look that old, and he conceded, “That’s what they tell me.” He continued sharing, telling me he had two sons (one deceased) and one daughter. One of his sons been accepted on “a full boat ride” to a university, but after returning post-grad to his hometown, had been murdered by an angry person who said Orson’s son “thought he thought he was something special” for having gotten a college education. Orson moved gracefully past this admission so quickly that I second-guessed what I’d actually heard. He continued describing each of his grandchildren and finally his four great-grandchildren. 

“When I hear my great-granddaughter and her friends talking down in Memphis where they’re from, you can’t hardly tell ‘em apart. Doesn’t matter what color they are, they all sound the same. That southern accent is thick as syrup. Yep, it’ll soon be a color-blind world if things continue the way they are. And that’s good, it’s real good how things are changing, except that kids these days don’t even know how to play double-dutch or tether-ball.” 

From here we went on to discuss just about everything (like I said, we had a full hour). How Orson loves living far away from his grandkids so that he can show up and “give ‘em candy and make it rain,” then give them back to their parents. How in the South they fry everything, but everything tastes good. How, in his opinion, there’s no safer and better place in the world to raise your children than Spokane, but how Dolly’s Cafe is the only place in the whole city that serves grits. We talked a lot about food, actually. He described the way he was raised, how men would go out and work for two full hours before breakfast, but when they returned for breakfast there would be a spread of grits, biscuits and gravy, ham steaks, link sausage, corned beef hash and eggs. “Now,” he said with a healthy measure of disgust, “I have to eat greek yogurt, half a banana and half an english muffin for breakfast.” 

He told me he was the oldest of seven kids, and that when he was a kid he not only knew how to play double-dutch and tether ball, but he knew how to braid hair and iron pleats. He said that in his childhood neighborhood, everyone watched out for each other and that his big German Shepherd was the neighborhood babysitter. “Parents would drop off their toddlers, some even still in diapers, on my front lawn; sometimes kids I didn’t even know would get dropped off, and my dog would just sit in the front lawn and watch ‘em. Everyone knew they could drop their kids off at our place.” 

We didn’t just talk about him (although I was glad to listen because his stories were fascinating. I mean, a German Shepherd babysitter!?). He asked whether I liked to play sports, and I said no, the sportiest I’d gotten was playing golf in high school. “Well, you look like you could have been a cheerleader, holdin’ up some of those pom-pom things,” he said with a big smile. I just laughed and said no, but I told him about all the sports my kids love to play. He listened, then said, “You got it all going for you. You’re healthy, you’re beautiful, you’ve got three kids, a sense of humor, and I know you can cook!” 

When he told me that he’d recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (at which point the trade-off of grits to Greek yogurt made a lot more sense), I was able to share Nora’s story with him. After confirming that Nora’s type of diabetes couldn’t be fixed with diet and exercise and that she was on insulin, he said he was sorry for that, “but she’ll have an amazing testimony.” I smiled hugely, because that is one of the best responses I’ve heard from a stranger, and I said she sure will. When I told him my name was Hannah, he suggested I read 1 Samuel in my Bible to learn more about my name. I told him I had many times, and that I loved that story. He looked into my eyes and said, “Well, you’re living out the story of Hannah. You’re beautiful, you’re having children and re-populating the earth, and you know the Word of God.”

Let me tell you that coming from Brother Orson, a great-grandfather and (he later told me) a minister of a local church, those words were life to me.  Even the slightly awkward part about re-populating the earth was a blessing that I received, because the ability to do so IS a blessing that I’ve so often taken for granted (No, this does not mean I’ll be having more children). I walked into the bank to do a simple transaction and I ended up spending an hour with a man who called me by name and affirmed my worth and calling. 

So many times when I go into a store or business I try not to make eye contact, sometimes because I’m busy but mostly because I’m shy. Potentially awkward conversations are something to be avoided like head-lice, so I keep my eyes diverted and focus my attention on my children or on urgently cleaning out my purse (that one time a year when my children aren’t with me in public). But by bowing to my own introversion and caving to my fear of awkwardness, I also sacrifice many opportunities to love and be loved by others in my community. I sacrifice countless Brother Orson conversations. On a recent Sunday morning the pastor of my church said that “the love of God requires proximity.” The quote has haunted me just a little, because proximity means sharing space with others. It means making dreaded eye contact and sharing more than pleasantries and lingering awhile. And I’ll be honest, if Brother Orson hadn’t inserted himself into my space at that moment, our conversation never would have happened. If I hadn’t been forced to linger due to the less than stellar service of my bank, I never would have spent more than a couple of meaningless minutes with the man. And I would have been lesser for it. 

So, if there are any more of you out there who are shy, or introverted, or just busy, I encourage you to slow down for just a minute next time you’re out. Be brave and lift up your eyes. There might be someone in front of you who God put there for a reason. I know, your purse is in bad need of re-organizing and your kids are dumping out all the sugars and coffee stirrers from their containers. But there might be some life to be shared with a person whose space you’re currently sharing. Proximity is scary, but the love of God requires it. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In lieu of a Christmas card.

This will be the first year since I've been married that I will not be doing a Christmas card. Actually, the year I was engaged I did a Christmas card with my two best college friends, so the tradition even pre-dates my marriage. When I was growing up, my mom did Christmas cards sporadically, if the busyness of the season permitted.  She would almost always get one sent by New Year's, although as the years passed it was often emailed rather than mailed. I stubbornly promised myself that I would make nice Christmas cards a priority, with pretty and up-to-date family portraits, and that no matter how busy life got, I would get one sent out to close family and friends every year.

Well, this year I just can't do it. It's been quite the year, you guys. I thought life was crazy with three under three, but life with three over three plus a diabetes diagnosis, a couple of windstorms, and a host of other minor crises has me absolutely reeling. To be totally transparent, I spent about fifteen minutes crying and screaming into a pillow yesterday afternoon, and today my throat is raw and sore like I went to a heavy metal concert and scream-o'd my heart out. Yesterday prior to breaking down, I had just put on makeup and gotten myself ready to go to work. After my private outburst, there was literally an imprint of my face, in makeup, on my white comforter. Despite putting my face back on, I still went to work with swollen eyes.

I hate not doing a Christmas card.  Even though I feel a sense of relief that there is one less thing on my to-do list and one less expense, I told Jordan yesterday that not doing a card feels like I'm admitting defeat.  Like I'm giving in to this busy and difficult time of life.  Like life has finally gotten the best of me, and I'm tapping out.

But today is a new day, and I think I have a better perspective. Today I understand that yesterday's reality isn't total reality. Life hasn't gotten the best of me yet. I haven't stopped fighting for joy or believing that God has a wonderful life for me. But there is a surrender happening inside of me, and I guess I am "tapping out"; not out of life, but out of a certain way of doing life. I can't do all the things I used to, at least not right now. I am slowly realizing that that is okay. I am learning to sit still, even when it kills me. I'm learning that just because I can't do All The Things now, it doesn't mean I won't eventually do all the things. I'm learning that when I do sit still for a few solid moments, I'm better at seeing the sweet things that go on in the midst of all the chaos. As my mom always asked me to do when I had a bad dream, I'm learning to search for and find where God is in the nightmare.  He's always there somewhere.

And since I'm not doing a Christmas card, I thought I'd share a few snapshots of the sweet moments that have happened this year.

There's a difference between "giving up" in defeat, and "giving up" in sacrifice. I choose the latter. I choose to sacrifice a perfect life and to accept the life God has given me with open arms. May this year be simpler and sweeter as a result. May Jesus be more evident to me this Christmas than ever before. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 16, 2015


I'm turning thirty soon, and no one is more shocked about it than me.  My younger sister turned 27 on November 2nd, and I kept wondering how that could be possible, since I was convinced that I was also 27. "How can Abby be 27 if I am 27?" I sat very still for a few minutes trying to figure out how both of us could be the same age when up to this point I have always been three years older.  Then, as I registered myself for a class at the YMCA later that day, my registration page accosted me with the news that, according to her birthdate, Hannah J. Bemis is 29 years old.  WHAT.

For the last three years on my birthday, my parents have commented on my Facebook page that "having a ___ -year-old daughter makes [them] feel so old."  This does not exactly make me feel young.  I remember when my parents were in their thirties.  I remember what they were doing, who they were friends with, what they had accomplished.  I keep asking myself if I have accomplished the same things, or more, or less.  Sometimes it drives me a little bit crazy.  My inner thoughts: "I don't really have a career yet, but I don't care about that.  Wait, is it fine that I don't care about that?  I should probably care more... it actually bothers me that I don't care more about that.  Okay, now I care.  I am officially caring about this now." On the topic of careers, wasn't it somewhere around age 30 that Jesus did all of his ministry on earth?  How is anyone supposed to compete with that!?

Aside from these mental/spiritual concerns, I have a whole new set of 30-year-old body concerns.  I have strange aches and pains after working out and after other activities such as sitting still and sleeping.  Sometimes holding my bladder is more of a struggle than it should be.  Sometimes I can't get up off the couch without letting out a small groan, like an old man. Sometimes I feel tired all the time.  I have a sneaking suspicion that many of these issues stem not from my age, but from my children.  Nevertheless, sometimes I spend too many minutes comparing signs of aging on my face with other people in my graduating class (Reason #227 why Facebook is a stinker.  I just said stinker, proving that I am a senior citizen). There are new, foreign little crinkles (not yet wrinkles, but "crinkles") at the corners of my eyes that weren't there three years ago.  Related question: when will I age out of acne?

I don't know how to dress a thirty-year-old body.  I'm starting to suspect that much of my wardrobe is age-inappropriate.  I read a fashion blog a young woman wrote about how no one over the age of 25 should shop in stores like H&M and Forever 21, and I felt very sad.  Am I relegated to department store women's sections now?  When will I be too old to shop at the Gap (maybe not for awhile...I recently read another blog about how Gap jeans are the new "Mom Jeans." Maybe I should stop reading fashion blogs (these are the only two fashion blogs I have ever read)). Where am I supposed to shop now?  J. Jill?  Lerners?  Someone direct me, please.  But keep in mind that my clothing budget actually does resemble a teenager's (see above where I mention I don't have a career).

I have an extremely unrealistic idea that I am the same age as every college student that I meet. I tutor on the Gonzaga University campus, and I like to imagine that I seamlessly blend in with all of the youthful faces surrounding me. We are basically the same, these cherubs and me, except I have no idea what "Snap-Chat" is, and they have no idea what "Dial-up internet" is. I am in solid denial that I am now 12 years older than a college freshman.

On a related note, it has recently been brought to my attention that my husband is elderly.  As proof, please observe his Christmas list:

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Sensodyne
  • Tweezers
  • Flossers
  • Work shirts
  • Waffle maker
  • Tide sport
  • T shirts
  • Drill
We're gonna have a rousing 2016.  

I can't even get away from the topic of aging when I read my Bible.  Last week I was reading Hosea Chapter 7, when Hosea is describing the unfaithful Israelites. "Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength, but they don't even know it.  Their hair is gray, but they don't realize they're old and weak" (vs. 9, NLT).  Next to this verse, I wrote the question: "Does serving God help us to age well?" I initially meant the question facetiously, but then I remembered a conversation I had with my mom when she visited a month ago.  I was sharing with her how astounded I am when I see pictures of myself looking much younger, only five years ago. I told her how weird it is to see pictures of myself today with those funny crinkly lines around my eyes.  

Today: crinkles

Five years ago: no crinkles. (Happy Thanksgiving!)
My mom agreed with me that she could see the difference in both Jordan and I, could see that these past five years of child bearing and child rearing have aged us a little bit.  But she said she could see that we had aged well.  Specifically, she said "You two have aged like people who have been loved well over the years." She explained that there is a different "look" about people who have been loved well by their spouses, by their families, by God.  The years still show on their faces, but there's a certain joy and contentment that also show, that cut through the years.  And I'm starting to see what she means.  I can look around me at people who are my age and see who has loved and been loved well (and who hasn't).  It's written on their faces.  Hard experiences tend to age us more quickly, but I'm observing how love can override both age and experience.  I have friends who struggle to get from paycheck to paycheck, who seem to get thrown some of life's hardest challenges, and yet they appear much younger than their age because they've held tightly to God and to their families.  They've let love cut through the harshness of the years, so their age shows in a softer, more kind way. The opposite is also true.  I can think of several people who have chosen to live lives without faith, without Jesus, without Love.  They often appear older than their actual years say they are.  

But this makes sense, right?  Jesus calls Himself the living water.  If this is true, won't our spirits just dry up without Him?  And if our spirits are dry, it's only a matter of time before our bodies follow suit.  In Jesus, we find the legendary fountain of youth.  When we choose Him, we become eternal beings, and that can't help but show, even in our temporal bodies.  So the answer to my question of whether serving God helps us to age well is an unequivocal YES.  Yes, choosing Jesus leads us to a lighter burden, an easier yoke, and even when the years and trials of life start to etch themselves into our faces and bodies, we can rest in the knowledge that we've been loved well, and that Love will etch itself into us even more deeply.

In all seriousness, (Jordan's Christmast list aside) I know that I'm not old yet.  Jordan and I have some of our best and greatest adventures in front of us; of this I am certain.  Part of choosing Jesus meant that I chose Jordan, and both of those guys have truly loved me well.  There's no one I'd rather spend this side of eternity with.  In celebration of our love, I think we're going to go eat waffles, floss our teeth and brush with Sensodyne, and go to bed early.  Goodnight!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Because it's our ninth anniversary

Yesterday I took the kids to Starbucks to pick out an end-of-the-year thank you gift for Asher’s preschool teacher.  The trip was a raving success, considering I left with a free iced latte and a free sparkly coffee tumbler, in addition to the gift I actually came in to buy.  Catching the spirit of generosity, I drove to Jordan’s work to give him the free latte.  When I told him how nice the (male) manager had been, he commented that the guy had probably been hitting on me.  I laughed out loud, remembering how the kids had been pulling thermoses off the shelves, jumping off of the comfy chairs, and turning everyone’s “third place” into a playground.  More than likely the manager had just felt sorry for me and wanted me out of there.  I looked into the backseat of the van at the three jelly-smeared faces and responded,  “Um, I don’t think so. Who would want all this?”  Without missing a beat, Jordan leaned in and kissed Nora’s forehead and said simply, “Me.” 

We’ve been married nine years today, but I think I fell in love with Jordan a little bit in the seventh grade. I was driving in the car with my parents and saw him out the window, walking home from school. I didn’t know anything about him, except his name, that he was a freshman in high school, and who his parents were (they worked with mine).  But I never forgot his face or his name, and when I started working with him at a frozen yogurt shop four years later, my future was pretty much sealed. 

I was wondering today what would have happened if I could have seen into the actual future that day in seventh grade, or that first day of working with Jordan when I was 16.  What if I’d seen a glimpse of Jordan’s today-self: 31 years old and filled out, with just a touch of gray in his sideburns, and the smile lines (from so, so many smiles) at the corners of his eyes.  And of course, with three crazy kids at his side.  Would I still have fallen in love with him, with the future laid out in front of me?  I don’t know, maybe.  Or maybe I would have been a little creeped out.  I wasn’t supposed to fall for 31-year-old Jordan at age 12 (gross), or 16 (still weird), or even age 20, when I finally married him.  I fell in love with who he was then, at each different stage of life.

You know how people have their friends hide somewhere so they can have cute engagement photos?  Yeah, I guess we didn't do that.  This is our self-taken engagement photo. Yes, this is exactly how I looked when I was proposed to. Every girl's dream. 
Falling in love isn’t a one-time thing.  It’s an every day, every year decision, choosing to love this living, ever-changing person you said you would love however many years ago.  Getting married really is the biggest step of faith, because you are saying you will love your spouse forever, when it’s a possibility that the person you’re pledging yourself to may not look like the same person at all in a few years, or decades. When you say your vows, you’re really saying, “I love you now, and I will choose to love you next year, and the next, and the next, no matter who you turn into. No matter how you change, for better or for worse.”   Some of us win the lottery with the way our spouses change, and for others, marriage ends up their greatest crucible.

For whatever undeserved reason, I’ve been hugely blessed.  When I got married, I loved Jordan’s innocent, boy-man 22-year-old self.  Today, I love his wiser but still child-like 31-year-old self.  I love that he brings fun into every room he enters.  I love that he can work all day at an emotionally taxing job and still come home with joy.  I love that he always tells me I look pretty (he has improved at this over the years).  He’s even taught our sons to do this (maybe a little too well; a few weeks ago the mom of a little girl in Asher’s preschool class informed me that Asher had sweetly told her daughter that she looked so pretty that day. “What four year old says that?” she laughed). I love who Jordan is as a Daddy.  I love all of him. 

I will romanticize unapologetically today, because it’s my ninth anniversary and I am proud of us.  I’m proud of all of you who are working hard (some, perhaps, harder than others) to stay married.  Marriage might be the greatest risk one can take, but it often has the greatest rewards.  It’s certainly given me the very sweetest of rewards (and I’m not just talking about my kids…but they’re pretty great, too).    

Jordan, I love you!  Happy Anniversary to the best decision (short of Jesus, DUH) that I ever made.    
This was taken on my birthday, just hours before Jordan proposed.  This restaurant always sang to you and made you wear a fish hat on your birthday: ultimate humiliation for me.  Jordan wore the hat while they sang so I didn't have to.  Now that, friends, is love.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Beauty in the Mess

“Uhh, honey? You may not want to go in there,” was my husband’s kind warning to me as I headed toward our home office. I pushed open the door with a wince. As I had feared, the room had been invaded by our two-year-old twins, Nora and Abel. They’d discovered the box where I had neatly filed our family photographs from the past ten years, and had thoroughly un-filed them. Every square inch of carpet in the office was covered in pictures; my formerly organized box now one huge, disorganized collage. Overwhelmed by yet another mess, I sank to the floor.

Working from home with three small children is super easy and nothing ever goes wrong. #oppositeday
Working from home with three small children is super easy and nothing ever goes wrong. #oppositeday

I adore my kids. I would not trade them for anything. But sometimes I do feel like trading this stage of life. This season of raising preschoolers – the screaming fits in public places, the endless picking up of messes that will be made again in seconds, the not being able to get a word (or thought) in edgewise, the worries surrounding discipline and diet and sleep patterns and wanting to get it all just right – this season has me fighting hard to find peace in all of the chaos. I find myself grasping for joy and feeling guilty that it doesn’t come more readily. I desperately want to see my glass as half full, but too many days it appears to be half empty and draining fast.

As I sat on the office floor that day, summoning the strength to pick up one more mess, I began to realize what I was surrounded by. Pictures of our family’s sweetest moments were everywhere, all the years now blended together. A picture of Jordan and me at my high school prom slightly overlapped a photo of us holding baby Asher in the hospital. Next to these were several photos of Nora and Abel as tiny babies, sharing a crib. And underneath those were photos of Jordan leading worship in Nepal, and then both of us doing missions work in Africa. Our entire life was in front of me as a beautiful mosaic, and I never would have seen it all at once had my babies not dumped out my meticulously ordered box.

Once again, God reveals beauty in the mess. Once again, I’m reminded that life, my life, is full of joy. Every season has its messes, but there is beauty in every mess. I’ve been trying to see my glass as half full, forgetting that with God, the glass is neither half full nor half empty. It is always overflowing.

Note: This post originally appeared as an article at openbiblemessage.org

Sunday, April 26, 2015

We Need You

When I was a little girl, I never understood why my mom would go grocery shopping alone, without my three siblings and me. Now that I am a mother, I get it. Nevertheless, I recently found myself at the grocery store early in the morning with my own three small children. I have a four-year-old son and twins who at that time were one year old. I was optimistically believing that God would work a miracle and no crises would occur. 

We’d gotten home from a long road trip late the night before, and we badly needed groceries. Hygiene hadn’t really been our top priority that morning. No one’s teeth or hair had been brushed, and my two sons, Asher and Abel, were still in their pajamas. None of the kids were wearing shoes. My one-year-old daughter Nora was wearing a skirt with no tights underneath. Besides the excellent front view of her diaper that this provided for all other shoppers, her outfit also showcased the magic marker masterpiece she had drawn on her legs in the car the night before, when my husband and I were too tired to care what the kids were doing, so long as they were quiet.

The kids were exhausted, and were crying their way through the store when an elderly couple approached us. The wife, holding her walker in front of her, immediately began talking to Nora, telling her what a pretty girl she was. The husband took on the boys, trying to guess their names, stealing their noses, pulling things out of their ears, and confusing them just enough to distract them from their crying. The couple returned to their shopping only when my children were calmed, telling me again how beautiful my children were (despite the fact that on that morning they looked homeless). 

This interaction was enough to get me through the rest of the shopping trip, even the part where my four-year-old son Asher had a bathroom emergency right as I was checking out. I had to leave my full cart unmanned, carry my screaming twins inside the bathroom, let them stand barefoot in a public bathroom in order to help Asher get on the potty, yank Nora’s hands out of the potty, wash all hands, make a mental note to wash all children in a sanitizing bath at home, all while avoiding eye contact with anyone, so I wouldn’t have to see their looks of alarm. The gentle, unspoken blessing of the sweet older couple allowed me to swallow my screams in that moment and instead respond with soft-spoken horror, making the best of yet another insane moment with my three littles. 

To those of you whose children are raised – whether you are a new or veteran empty-nester, whether you are retired or still working, whether you are bored or busy – we need you! You are needed in the church, needed in the grocery store, needed in the homes of your children and grandchildren. Seeing you reminds those of us who are still in the trenches of child-rearing that there is life ahead of us, and that the life we are currently living is a blessing and not a curse. Your approval, your blessing - they are life to us. Your ability to look past our mess and see the beauty beneath teaches us to do the same. Your cheesy jokes, gentle words, and chatty observations about the weather take our minds off of how crazy we must look and make us feel human again. You remind us that we are not alone, but are just one part of God’s huge family.  

Thank you for your humor and wisdom. Thank you for continuing to live a fun and good life, sharing fond memories of the past while continuing to live joyfully in the present. You have so much to give, so many blessings to offer. You are a crucial part of church, family, and community. I want to be you when I grow up.

Note: This blog originally appeared as an article at openbiblemessage.org