My elbow meets the roughness of the commercial-grade carpet as my arm falls away from the relative comfort of the sleeping bag. The first shades of morning light wash through the frosted glass panes of the Sunday School room windows. A fluorescent beam comes through the cracked door, from the men’s bathroom across the hall.
Six little girls are camped out around me, ranging in age from seven to eleven. Two of the girls with the endcap ages belong to me, but in a way they all do.
In the room next to us, six older girls who giggled until well past midnight, are spread around, tucked under tables and cozied up to walls, all quiet. Nearby, two teenage girls who were ready to sleep sooner than the others, camp in a room by themselves.
Down the hall, my husband’s sleeping bag guards the door of a room, the same as mine. I proudly watched him shine the love of Christ last night, ministering to the youth as their pastor, a role he’s had less than two months now. Like a puzzle piece being snapped into place, I see him fit the space where he is shaped to be.
He shares the room with six people—future men and some who are already there. The youngest of them is five—he belongs to us. The boys impressed me with how easily most of them went to bed, much sooner and more agreeably than the girls.
As I maneuver in the sleeping bag, having slept off and on, I wonder how they’ve all slept—these twenty people entrusted to us overnight. Many in this budding Youth Group we’ve known for a long time and know well. The stories of others, we’ve yet to learn. We hear hints, random statements thrown out to test us, to find out if we care enough to listen. Lord, help us to listen.
I wonder how this night on a Sunday School room floor felt to them. Did it feel safer than what they know at home? Was there more comfort found on a hard floor than in their own rooms? Did they make a happy memory just because it was a new experience to break up the mundane? Was the best part just being so close to people who cared for them, friends they love?
We taught the Bible last night and sang songs to Jesus, but I wonder if the biggest lesson was found in the blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows. I pray that our church…this group…my husband and I, will be a place of comfort and safety, to break up the notion of life-as-normal, and to dispel loneliness. Because that’s what Jesus is! That’s what Jesus does! And whether He’s the reason they came or not, I hope they understand now that He’s the reason we’re all here.
My husband packed snacks in kids’ backpacks, fed impatient fur babies, and did other morning chores while I clung desperately to eight more minutes of snooze time. Before the alarm sounded again to urge me out of bed, he came into the bedroom to get his phone.
“I’ve got to go help a little lost girl in our yard,” he said.
“Huh?” I thought, but I was too sleepy and confused to say it out loud. "There's a lost kid in our yard??"
The storm door clanged, and I got up to see just what was going on. Peeking through the blinds on the kitchen window, I saw Alex standing at the bottom of our driveway with a child I didn’t recognize, both of them with bare feet.
As curious as I was, I had to wake our children and pick out their clothes for the day. Whatever the situation, it appeared Alex was handling it. I peeked out the window again a couple minutes later to see Alex and the child sitting on the ground together, looking out toward the street. The next time I checked, as our kids got ready for school and preschool, an SUV was parked at the end of our driveway and Alex stood talking to the driver.
When he came back in, my curiosity was satisfied as I listened to the story.
He had taken some trash outside, and on the way back in, couldn’t get the storm door to latch. As he tried, he heard a child call, “I’m lost! I’m lost!”
The child turned out not to be a girl, but an eleven-year-old boy with braids, who lives two streets over. He had opened the door to check for his school bus, when his two dogs pushed past him and ran outside. He chased after them but never caught up. When he stopped running, he didn’t know where he was.
I was happy that the child wound up in our yard instead of someone else’s. I was glad the door hadn’t latched, so Alex was there when the child was searching for someone to help him. It was no surprise to us that the door closed with no problem the next time Alex tried it. Sometimes there are just divine appointments to be kept.
I am grateful for a kind-hearted husband who will wait outside in his sleep clothes on a chilly morning, for a stranger to come pick up her lost son. And I am grateful for a beautiful reminder—one day, when I was lost, Jesus was there with the door open, ready to help me find my way to the Father.
Venturing away from my devotional-style blog posts, this one is a bit more personal. I am writing this mainly to set up "Part II" of this post- a humorous article called "How To Be An Aspiring Author While Working a Full-time Day Job and Raising Small Children" (how's that for a title?). But I realized, in order for me to start writing articles about writing, I first need to explain to family and friends what I am doing.
While my blog is 95% my thoughts on scripture, it is also about life in general, and my life has been even crazier than normal lately. Back in July, "out of nowhere" (read, God works in mysterious ways) I had an idea for a story (see my Writing page) pop into my head. I started writing and couldn't stop until the story was complete and I had a novel (although at 42,000 words it is considered a short novel). Now, I am starting the journey of getting it published.
Announcing to the world that I am "trying" to get a book published is a scary thing, since there are so many unknowns. But I do believe I will publish it eventually. The question is, will God allow me to have it published traditionally or go through self-publication? I've stopped and started so many projects over the years, and I've had so many "passions" that fizzled out, it's daunting to broadcast this one. But I have a clearer vision now for my writing, and I have some specific goals in mind to help me not lose the fire on this one.
But can I just share with you a little bit of my crazy, blessed life right now?
I know there are plenty of people who are just as busy as we are, if not busier. But whew! Sometimes it feels like my head is spinning! And I am so incredibly happy to be on this journey! I feel like God is shaping and molding our lives, and we want His will to be done in everything! I am so very thankful for His leading, and I am thankful for the busy seasons in life!
Ecclesiastes 3:1: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
There are many verses in scripture that warn us NOT to look back. Jesus said in Luke 9:62, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." This reference to looking back means longing for an old lifestyle or a turning away from the calling of God. But looking back in the right way is a good thing!
If you need a dose of joy in your day, spend some time taking inventory of the blessings God has poured out. Look back over the course of your life and see where he has brought you from. We sometimes take for granted the way he keeps us from day to day, but if we look back over the span of several years it is mind-blowing and obvious what the Lord has worked.
I recently found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with my husband 13 or 14 years ago, before he and I started dating. We were just "work friends" then, and he was admittedly a non-believer. In conversation, I asked him if he was concerned about what would happen to him after death, to which he replied, "Not really."
This memory almost made me shout! Why? Because now this "work friend" is my husband who has been a believer for years, and he's now a minister telling other people about Jesus. Wow! Who but God can do that?
We need to remember where we came from, not lamenting for the "good old days" but praising God for leading us toward His purpose!
Read the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 6:10-12: "And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
He was saying: Don't forget where God brought you from! None of what you have is by your own hand! God did it!
I encourage you to take time to reflect today. What has God done that amazes you when you take a look back?
Thank you, Lord, for my children and for the gift of summer vacation.
As this new school year begins, I pray for your blessings on them:
Lord, please give my children Christian teachers. Let the people who lead and teach them be led and taught by You.
Surround my children with kind and patient authority figures, who are also consistent and structured.
Lord, please help my children know and remember their identity in You. Help them understand how You see them .
Help my children have a healthy self-esteem throughout the school year. Let them be confident in how well You made them.
Lord, please put people in my children's paths that will encourage them, motivate them, inspire them, and guide them in the right way.
Give them friends who will encourage them in their faith, and let my children encourage others. Teach them how to be a friend.
Please let my children encounter people who are different from them, so they will see how creative You are in Your most important handiwork.
May you expand my children's knowledge of science this year, so they will marvel at Your awesome creation. Let them learn more about the history of the people you have placed on this earth, so they can learn from the mistakes and the successes of the past. Give them a passion for reading, and for language, so they will learn how to think and to communicate. And, let each lesson my children are taught contain only truth.
Teach them how to be responsible. Teach them how to deal with stresses and pressures.
Please give my children endurance to accomplish the tasks set before them every day. Help them to try their best at everything, with a good attitude. Give them a healthy pride in their accomplishments at school. Please teach them to accept and learn from their mistakes.
Father, let this be a fun and happy school year. I pray school will be a joyful place for my children to spend their days. I pray this year will be exciting and memorable to them.
Please protect my children from all mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Guard them, Lord, with Your strong hand.
Help my children to let their light shine for You. Please present them with opportunities to show people Your love, at school and everywhere they go.
Above all, let Your will be done in the lives of my children.
My heart is bursting right now. I just talked to my ten-year-old daughter for the first time in four days, and she's finally on her way home from camp! I am so excited to see her, and hug her, and hold on tightly for the rest of the weekend!
This post is a little more personal in nature than other recent articles I've written. I want to share that this has been one of the most challenging weeks I can remember. As a full-time working mother who has always wished she could be a stay-at-home mother, I have been reveling in the opportunity I have this summer to take several weeks off just to spend with my kids. It has been glorious! We have laughed, and played (and fought and cried), and have been so busy seeing and doing fun things for most of the month- then one of my three left me for almost a whole week!
My family is involved in a group called American Heritage Girls (I tell people it's like Girl Scouts, but Christ-focused). It is a remarkable organization. I serve as the troop Shepherd (kind of like a chaplain), Elizabeth is in the "Explorer" unit, and Sarah is a "Tenderheart". We've gone on family camp-outs with the group, and Alex has taken the girls on many of troop outings during the last two years of our involvement. We love American Heritage Girls. But when Elizabeth wanted to go to an AHG summer camp five hours away, my faith was tested in a big way!
You have to understand, I have not gone without seeing this child for more than a day in ten years! Other than a few one-night stays with grandparents, the only times I've not slept under the same roof as her was when I was in the hospital having her sister and brother. But I knew this experience would be good for her, and she was so excited to go. To be honest, the only reason I could let her go was because her dad took a week off from work to go volunteer at camp. (Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful daddy for my children.) He took four girls from our troop (including our girl) and drove from Lewisville, NC to Crawfordville, GA on Monday, and they are returning on a Saturday.
Campers are not supposed to call home, I suppose for a few reasons. Logistically, it would be impossible for that many girls to have access to phones. I think they also feel it makes homesickness worse instead of better. Plus, camp is supposed to be a place to escape the hold technology has on us. Still, I balked at the restriction. It doesn't feel natural for a mother not to speak to her ten-year-old child for that long! (We bent the rules a little, and I did get to speak to her for about 60 seconds on Tuesday. And, of course, my husband sent me text message updates and pictures every day, plus I could talk to him on the phone in the evening.)
But, what a lesson God had for me this week! There were a few lessons actually. I could talk all day about learning to have faith that He will take care of my children. But the biggest lesson was something I thought I already knew: Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).
Another one of the moms from our troop and I got together this week and discussed it. We are guilty of worshipping our children. It is a difficult thing for me to distinguish between the love and devotion of a mother and idol worship, but I have to admit that I probably cross that line sometimes.
Deuteronomy 4:24 says, "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." God's rightful place is at the center of our lives. He belongs at the top of our priority list. The thought of being without my daughter for a week almost made it hard to breath! But do I feel that kind of devotion for the Lord? I definitely believe He created a mother's heart to long for her children, but I need to be very careful that I am not placing them above Him in my life.
I can't say that I've learned any special secrets for avoiding elevating my children to idol status, but I think just recognizing I do it is an important step. As with any sin, all we have to do is ask forgiveness and ask Him to help us overcome it.
I am so thankful that when we walk with the Lord, He helps us to grow and puts circumstances in our life that draw us closer to Him. There were times while Elizabeth was gone that I thought, "Why on earth did I let her go?" and "Why did I agree to this?" The answer is simple. It was a God thing. He helps us grow. He teaches us the lessons we need to learn when we seek Him. This week was so beneficial for my child. And as much as it hurt, it was beneficial for me, too. I pray I will succeed in not having any other gods before Him, including my children.
This is technically not a blog post. I just updated the "About Me" page of my little website, and I don't want to lose the original text. So, I'm pasting it below for posterity.
I'm a bit of an extremist. Truly an "all or nothing" personality. I
either stay up all night cleaning every corner of my house, or it goes weeks
without being touched. I either get engrossed in a book and read it in two
days, or I don't pick one up for a year. I either crash diet, or I eat
everything in sight! Go big or go home- that's me. So it has been with two of
the talents I believe God has given me.
As a child, I envisioned I would grow up to either be a writer or a singer. And I
would be famous!!!! All my goals somehow centered around me being in a
spotlight one way or the other. But, when those goals didn't magically come to
fruition, I largely put singing (other than in my church) and writing aside.
Now- after the birth of my third child, I seemed to have found a new
sense of purpose! I see in my three children how amazingly we are crafted by a loving Creator. And I am reminded how we are made in His image, and how He gifts us all with some level of desire to create as well.
Having three children has also given me a new sense of
entitlement. My life is so crazy-hectic, and so crazy-busy, I actually feel
entitled and at peace with not being able to do it all! My children give me the
purpose that my younger self thought I would find in the spotlight. My
extremism seems to be subsiding. I'm learning that it is better to "do
something" than "nothing", even if that 'something' is to make a website that
might not be seen by anyone but me and my very supportive husband, Alex.
So- here it is. A website. A website for
what? Well, partly just because. But I hope it will be a place to share a
little music, a little writing, and maybe a little bit of myself, while keeping
Colossians 3:24 in mind: "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord,
and not unto men."
I found this "note" on my iPhone. It was composed on 10/16/10. Sarah was one month old. I guess it was a blog of sorts, except at the time I wrote it just for myself.
We still have nights like these on occasion, but now with three kids instead of two. Thankfully, the good times always outweigh the rough ones. And some of the rough times even provide a laugh later on down the road.
"There was an hour-long debacle in our house this evening that looked like scenes from a movie about the trials of parenting. Our three-year old had the most extreme tantrum ever because she couldn't have cake for dinner. We promised she could have some after she ate something else, but this reasoning didn't work. The tantrum was so bad it caused her to have a nose bleed which resulted in a bloody couch. While I'm pre-treating the blood on her shirt, Alex is scrubbing the couch. Then I make Elizabeth a turkey sandwich and she is happy. When I empty the washer so I can wash the bloody shirt, I discover a disposable diaper had been washed this morning and the gooey diaper gel is stuck all over the wash basket of our brand new machine. While I'm cleaning it out, Elizabeth finds a travel size bottle of baby soap which she thinks is hand sanitizer. I take her to rinse the soap off her hands then go back to the washing machine where I realize there is also blood covering the back of the shirt I just treated (not quite sure how that happened). At some point during all this the baby started screaming. Alex took over cleaning the washer and I went to take care of Sarah to find she had a dirty diaper and her clothes and blanket were soiled as well. It was so bad in fact that I immediately put her in the bathtub. Elizabeth wanted to help, but ended up re-soaping parts I had already rinsed. I had to call Alex to help. We finally got the baby and the couch clean, the washer is going through a 'cleaning' cycle, and we've all settled down for now. And, Elizabeth forgot all about the cake."
About the Blog
Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!