Bedtime And Grace

There is something sacred about bedtime, I think. All of the busyness and rush of the day has come to a close and a blanket of quiet wraps itself around our little home. As a mom to two little humans, bedtime is GLORIOUS. My four-year-old still needs either myself or my husband to lie down with her while she falls asleep each night so we typically alternate who will tuck her into bed.

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As of late, I have been trying to focus on her little face as she squishes into me on the bed: the way she bats her eyes for ONE more lullaby or ONE more made up story that she in fact ends up making up herself. I find these little moments to be my most precious memories of the day. As I learn to manage this back and leg pain I am in, my mind and body are worn out and my patience has been a tad thin. This results in my words not always being the most kind. And it breaks my heart.

However, I have found grace meeting me in these bedtime moments. Whatever has happened during the day has been set aside and the time spent during these quiet minutes is all that matters. My love will place her little hand in mine and say “I love you, Mama” or “Mama, will you put both arms around me so I can hold both of your hands?” and she will snuggle in as close as she can and prepare for sleep. And I feel a rush of love, forgiveness, and grace envelope my heart. All is well.

Grace is a beautiful thing. It is the glue that pieces my life together, although cracked and frail. And it is the glue that keeps this Mama going each day. My mornings typically start out with a prayer such as “Lord, I desperately need your grace today.” It truly is amazing grace. 

The grace of God is a daily reminder that despite my imperfections and shortcomings, there is love.

And that is what I have been discovering at bedtime. There is love- love that brings comfort and security through a song, a touch, or a whispered “I love you.” And as little eyes begin to close in the stillness of the night, there is an overflowing of peace because of this beautiful grace.

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Freeze

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This morning, my littlest woke up in his usual fashion- wide smile, bouncing up and down in his crib, and shouting “dada” through the monitor. He gave me a big hug when I picked him up and went into the kitchen to make his bottle.

As he sat on my lap while I fed him, it hit me- days like this are fleeting and are quickly coming to a close. Soon there will be no more bottles, no more feedings, no more of him holding my finger while I keep his bottle steady.

So I took it in today- focused on the way he looked up at me with his blue eyes, the way his eyes form little tears while he eats, the way he reacts with excitement when he hears his sister’s voice. I wish in the deepest parts of my heart I could freeze time.

I have been coming back to this thing of how quickly each day passes by. And it has been hitting me each time. In my limited knowledge I have been pondering the brevity of life. To freeze time is impossible. Holding onto it is like holding onto sand at the beach. Thousands of grains fall through the cracks of your hands no matter how hard you squeeze.img_1496

And so it is with time. It keeps ticking. The hands on the clock keep moving no matter how much I concentrate on it to stop. So I take a moment and think:

  • How am I using the precious moments that God has granted me on this earth?
  • What am I investing in?
  • What words am I speaking?
  • How am I extending love and grace?

Because it is these things that truly matter- it isn’t how many activities that my kids participated in or how clean my house is or whether I buy a house or not. And while I can’t freeze time, I can steward the seconds I have been given each day. Somethings I can’t control, but many things I can. And I desire for those things to portray love, compassion, and grace.

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I want my kids to remember safety and security by the words I speak to them. I am so far from perfect in this area. As I manage the physical pain I am in now, my patience is much more thin than normal. The result of this has been harsh words followed by tears and many apologies from this mama’s heart.

Tick tock. Mama, will you play with me?

Tick tock. Just ONE more bedtime story?

Tick tock.  Mama, I want you to hold me.

One day my 2 littles will no longer be little and they will be venturing out and developing their own independence. They will be grabbing onto things such as friends and culture instead of my hand and I pray I have served them well by instilling Truth into their hearts. But until then, it is me that they need 24/7 and I want to embrace that wholeheartedly. So today I am trying to put down the dishrag more and saying “wait a second” less.

Because even though I can’t freeze time, I can make each minute more richer and deeper.

Our Story of Hope Part 1: We are matched; Hope is here!

Winter Of The Soul

Winter is in full swing here in New England. It is the beginning of February and I am shouting a silent “hallelujah” that we made it through January- I find it to be THE LONGEST. Holidays are over, decorations need to be taken down, and you just never know how many snow storms we may encounter. Every so often I find myself scrolling through my pictures of warmer days and reflecting on the sun, warmth, and beauty.

My daughter loves to play games in the car while we drive. Usually it is “I Spy”. She loves to find colors out her window and have me guess what she is looking at. The fall is so much fun to do this as the trees are bursting with the most vibrant of colors. But now, in winter, she often asks me where the leaves are. I have been explaining to her that the leaves are all gone and this is the season in which the trees rest. Rest helps the trees prepare for spring in which new life is born.

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As I reflect on this, I am reminded that ALL seasons are important- it isn’t just the spring and summer seasons where there is life, vitality, and fruit-producing action. Winter is just as important. In fact, it is vital so that the other seasons can accomplish what they are individually designed for.

And so it is with the seasons of our soul. Some seasons are full of life, beauty, and action. Some are filled with calmness and everyday routine. But winter inevitably comes- and that is okay. It is good, actually. A winter season of the soul may look differently from one individual to the next. It may feel stormy. Or possibly gray and gloomy. And for some, it may just be a time of no activity and a necessary time to rest.

I feel like I am in the middle of a winter period, with all of those things meshed together that I just described. The plans I had outlined for my year have gone the complete opposite and are completely out of my control. I have found myself more home bound than I would have ever wanted even though I am a self proclaimed homebody. However, despite the physical pain, I am also experiencing moments of rest, both physically and emotionally. I have learned to accept help from family and friends- and it has brought so much joy! I have also been able to write more- God has been working on my heart and moving me towards different things in this area that I may have missed otherwise. This reminds me of how active our God is.

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I constantly say that the Lord is not a waster of time- no matter what season we find ourselves in! So I am doing the best I can to embrace winter. I am filling my soul with God’s word and reserving moments of stillness each day to hear His voice. I am embracing the beauty found in letting others help me- because the love of Jesus is found in each person that walks through my door. I am storing up the truths and promises that the Lord reveals to me so that I will be ready to spring into action once winter passes.

I am embracing winter and all it has to offer. It has been hard. It has been humbling. But I am starting to see the beauty that lies within the cold, the dark, and the gray.

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On Gratitude

I love how practicing gratitude shifts my heart. It takes the focus off myself and steers my vision to the goodness of God around me. God’s goodness shows up everyday, everywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a grand or vibrant way that requires pomp and circumstance. I mean, look at how the Jesus entered the world – quietly in the back of an old inn where the barnyard animals were getting ready to sleep. Yet, the goodness of God was born to us in the humble form of a baby. Some witnessed this Goodness first hand. Most had no idea.

I don’t want to be found in that category of “most”. I want to experience and see first hand the goodness that God has surrounded me with and allow the transforming power of gratitude to permeate my soul.  As of late, this has been hard for me to do yet I am disciplining myself to look beyond my circumstances.

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As I write this, I have been in chronic pain for the last month where I spend most of my day sitting (or at least trying to) while making feeble attempts to take care of my two children. I have had so many moments – and continue to – of frustration and discouragement. The human part of me wants to stay stuck on this and throw myself a pity party all day. However, that is more debilitating than the pain I am facing.

So I have been taking shaky steps towards looking outside of myself. I am amazed at what I see:

  • hysterical laughter from my two kids while they jump on the couch
  • coffee with good friends
  • Hope’s random i love you’s
  • a simple prayer of healing prayed by Hope
  • the way the world looks after a snowstorm

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Having gratitude for things great and small takes me to a place that God has created just for me to see. These are His reminders that there is goodness in the world despite pain and setbacks; that His love is unending; and that I am not alone even though He has not lifted my pain yet. Instead, God has expanded my vision, giving me a chance to see a glimpse through His lens of how He views my small corner of the world.

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Everything we touch throughout the day leaves fingerprints. And so it is with the Lord. In Psalm 118:24, the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord has created each day. Therefore, His fingerprints have been left behind reminding us that He is there. I encourage you to look around you and shift your focus. I bet you won’t have to look too far.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to the Most High.
 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
    your faithfulness in the evening,
accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,
    and the melody of a lyre.

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
    I sing for joy because of what you have done.
 O Lord, what great works you do!
    And how deep are your thoughts.

Psalm 92:1-5

Actively Waiting

It has been quite a year. Filled with new life, new hopes, new dreams, and some bumps along the way. I find myself back in a waiting period. And that is OK. I have found that these waiting periods are God’s most active times. Isn’t that ironic? We feel so still, so quiet. Yet, God is doing His thing and is moving and placing and planning. These are truths that I am constantly reminding myself of right now.

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And as I wait, maybe you are too? Maybe waiting for a job, a child, a spouse, or a dream that has become a fervent prayer?

May I encourage you with some things that God continues to impress on me and teach me on a daily basis?

  1. God is not a waster of time. Wasting anything is not of God. He is a redeemer of time! Even though it feels like things aren’t moving as quickly as I would like, God is actively working. When I think of waiting, I am reminded of the 4 seasons – each one vital to the earth being able to produce to its’ absolute highest quality. And so it is with waiting. It is vital for me as it requires me to rely solely on the Lord. Yes, I could take matters into my own hands and try to “speed things up”…but… I am well aware of how that will turn out. I am risking missing out on God’s blessing on my life.
  2. God encourages our honesty. There have been times I have wanted to just run – like, book it. I love the freedom that God gives us to feel this; to be honest with him, to express openly our frustrations, doubts, concerns. And then..He stops me. Dead in my tracks. Like any loving Father does, He gently pulls me back in and presses me into Him. The closer I get to Him, the more I just want to stay. He is my security and I am reassured by His embrace that He is guiding me and protecting me.
  3. The Lord’s mercies are truly new each day. How comforting that God’s grace never runs dry! It is endless and always abounding. I don’t know about you, but I am in desperate need of grace. It pieces the cracks of my heart back together when everything seems on the verge of breaking. He is such a kind and faithful God.

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So as I sit here with my coffee and prayer journal typing out all these random thoughts, I pray it touches your heart if you are active in your own waiting. These are precious times. Cherish them. Glean from them. Watch God do what He does best – guiding us to a deeper relationship with Him.

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Joshua Stones

My prayer journals are some of my most valuable possessions. At least to me. If I had to leave my house unexpectedly and could only take 1 item, it would be them. I have a stack of them by my bed that I have kept for the past 15 or so years, chronicling highs and lows, valleys and mountain tops. All of them shining a light on the graciousness of God and his kindness and mercy on my life. Whenever I am going through a deep struggle, I tend to look back through them and flip through the pages to be reminded of how faithful God has been in my life and will continue to be through each present trial. They serve as a monument – a reminder – that God was here. He was present. And He was victorious.

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites also documented the faithfulness of God so that they could be reminded of how God delivered them through their own struggles. Instead of writing things down in a journal format, they used stones and built an altar or monument in the place where God granted them victory. This would remain a symbol to future generations of God’s faithfulness and the legacy of God would continue to be passed down.

I love the idea of using stones to symbolize God’s faithfulness. This past fall, we took Hope to the beach one night after dinner and collected stones for hours. She absolutely loved it. We took them home, washed them, and over the next few weeks painted them with chalkboard paint. Each stone is big enough to write down a way the Lord has provided or something to give thanks over. We gave these out over Christmas with the prayer that others will be blessed by visibly seeing God’s hand in their lives and be able to look back on it at the end of year with a grateful heart for how God has guided them.

I don’t know about you, but I desperately need these vivid reminders as of late. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday, the routine, and feel a tad overwhelmed. Anyone else out there feeling like they are just getting through the day? (The lack of sleep over here is definitely not helping..:) So this week, we are making our own stones and placing a basket in our kitchen with them in it, so we can go back often and reflect on God’s goodness. I challenge you to do the same! This is such a fun project~ and if you have kids, they will love finding stones and painting them and can be such a great teaching tool for them.

I pray that you see God’s fingerprints on your life this week. He is working and moving. Write it down so you can be encouraged when you need these reminders in the future.

“These stones will stand as a memorial…Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over.  He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:7,21-24)

JUST AS HE SAID

With Easter just finishing up, I have been reflecting back on the familiar passages that many of you also read during this past week.

There is so much power in the Resurrection- victory over death, hope in eternal life. But over the past few days, I have been reflecting on 6 words found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 28:6 (NLT) says ” He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” Read those words again. Let them sink in. These words have been floating through my mind throughout the week- as I played with my kids, as I cleaned the house, as I fed my 9 week old late in the evening.

These words affirm that a promise has been fulfilled.

But right before? 3 days of darkness, sadness, and despair for those that loved Jesus.

Feelings of loneliness and being let down.

Silence from God. Everything felt final- I mean, Jesus was dead. There was nothing more final.

Valleys. Silence. Despair. We have all been there in some way, shape, or form~ where the trial we are facing feels final, like there is no way out, and the silence of God is so loud it is deafening.

But then Sunday comes~ “a new day dawning” as Matthew writes in 28:1. An empty tomb. God at work. A promise fulfilled.

Jesus~ the keeper of His word. I have come to realize how true this is. He has been my Peace when all else was chaos , my Comforter when there were tears of sorrow, and my Provider when needs needed to be met.

So, press into Him. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. There is a new day dawning.

Just as He said.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? (Luke 12:22-28)