FARM(yard)

“Listen and hear my voice;
pay attention and hear what I say.
When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
Does he keep breaking up and working the soil? When he has leveled the soil does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field?
.”

ISAIAH 28:23-24 NIV


Home is where the heart is…and I’m a farm-girl at heart! Our family has had a very busy summer of moving to a sprawling farmhouse; beginning my husband’s new job after earning his degree as a nurse; and diving into our fifth year (already?) of homeschooling. Life is good. Waking up to see the sunlight golden on my windowsill, catching toads and butterflies with the little ones, counting wild turkeys in the field, counting my blessings…and running out of fingers to count them on…yes, a girl could get pretty used to this! But, the thing is, I don’t want to.don’t want to ever take this life for granted. I don’t want to ever stop praising God for his goodness. If I’ve learned anything through the past three years of hardship, it is that God is good…all the time…in the good times and the bad. I’m looking forward to the future, but I’m resting in the faithfulness God has shown me in the past…come hell or high-water, I know the One to lean on.

 Echoes of Mercy:

IRIS DEMENT: I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted

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THIRTY(years)

“Only be careful,
and watch yourselves closely
so that you do not forget
the things your eyes have seen
or let them slip from your heart
as long as you live.
Teach them to your children
and to their children after them.”

DEUTERONOMY 4:9 NIV


Happy birthday to Me! Um…no actually. My big 3-0 was a bit anti-climactic…just another day really. Filled with dirty diapers, and sibling rivalry and who’s-taking-out-the-trash arguments. Another year older…another year wiser? Well…that is a choice. Just like I can (and eventually did) choose joy on an otherwise exhausting day…I can choose to seek wisdom. If you think about it, that choice is made in a million little things over the course of a day. Do I make the choice to appreciate that I have a dear little son…who just happens to generate a lot of stinky diapers? Do I make the choice to teach patience and sacrifice to the squabbling sisters…who each insist on their own way? Do I choose to wake up, hair undone and headache brewing…and look past myself and seek God’s Word? When I do that…when I chose to see my little corner of the world from God’s perspective…everything changes. Actually, everything has. As I write this, my husband is happily employed (after two and a half years of unemployment and college courses), and I sit in a comfortable home, with lots of room (after the same two and a half years spent crammed with the four kids in my parents’ basement!)…every good and perfect gift comes from God, I just needed to wait for His timing. Whatever you are waiting for, hang in there, I know how hard it can be to wait…yet, remember in Christ there is joy and peace to be found, wherever it is you find yourself today!

 Echoes of Mercy:

JON FOREMAN: The Cure for Pain

CHILDS(play)

“That the next generation
might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them
to their children, so that
they should set their
hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.”

PSALM 78:6~7 ESV


My “30 before Thirty List”. Nope. I’m not going to make a bucket list. Been there, done that. I’ve written too many lists, I’ve tried too hard to color inside the lines. So, this Summer won’t be about the perfect vacation. It won’t be about trying 50 exotic new foods. It won’t even be about memorizing five new Bible verses. Nope. I’m not going to make a list. This summer is about freedom. Freedom to play with the kids. To enjoy the smell of dirt and sweaty, curly-headed toddlers. To teach my daughters about love and grace, by being loving and gracious (even when I’m tired and grumpy). Freedom to take off the training wheels. To watch my son careen down the driveway (and hold my breath a little bit). Freedom to be broken. So, I’m a little tired and run down. So, there’s crayon on the wall. So what? Life is messy and kids are only little once. Freedom to be still. Yes, we’ll pack up our family of six and move this Summer. Yes, my husband is job-hunting. And, yes…that will require a lot of work (and list-making)! Yet, even in the midst of limitations and imperfection, and uncertainty…I can rest in God’s grace. In Him I find the freedom to value myself…for who I am, not what I do. This Summer isn’t about the finding myself, it’s about letting go, and experiencing God. That is what it’s all about.

 Echoes of Mercy:

CHELSEA MOON with the FRANZ BROTHERS: What Wondrous Love Is This?

AMAZING(grace)

“Yet God has made
everything beautiful
for its own time. He has planted
eternity in the human heart,
but even so, people can not see
the whole scope of God’s work
from beginning to end.”

ECCLESIASTES 3:11 NLT


Are you a “type  A” woman? I’m one too. We just love to be a part of the action! We have the answer to everything! We make the world go round…or so we think! For years I prided myself in being the “glue” that held our family together. When I first got married, 9 years ago, I was a glue-stick kind of woman. I knew just enough about love and marriage to be dangerous. If you ‘d asked, I would’ve sang those famous Beetles lyrics, All you need is Love. But I didn’t have a clue what love meant. I had no idea the stick-to-it-iveness I would need. Boy, was I in for the ride of my life!

Like Nike, my motto is Just Do It, I thought that I could have anything I wanted if I just wanted it enough. And I wanted a perfect life. Often I would find myself frustrated, trying to fit the square peg of my high standards into the round hole of my imperfect life. I would get angry at my kids, angry at my husband, angry at myself, and even angry at God. I call it equal opportunity anger. This is where I saw the flaw in my mantra: Just Do It. As any exasperated mother will tell you, just do it is the least effective motivator for children. Right there next to, because I say so and you’ll thank me when you’re older. It doesn’t work too well on husbands, either! Have you ever tried a DIY Life? Slap a Band-Aid on your marriage. A little Elmer’s on the disobedient child. Hey, if it get’s really bad you know right where to find the duct-tape! And after all of that, life starts to look a little rough. It kinda loses its shine. Band Aids and Duct tape will only get you so far. And believe me, it not pretty! I guess, after a while, I just stopped looking. I lost sight of God’s design for my life. The problem wasn’t my unhappy marriage. The problem wasn’t even my naughty kids. The problem was me. My heart had gone cold. I had fallen asleep.

Then, I got a wake up call. My husband’s alcoholism ruined my life…and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. When my husband got sober a few years ago, I saw God at work as he started to put our life back together. Yet, as Ben began to emerge stronger, I became unglued. You see, I have always been the glue; the glue for my children, the glue for my husband, and the glue for our broken lives. Keeping up appearances was exhausting, but I would have told you: Everything’s Fine. I had no idea just how tired I had become.

Suddenly, the children began asking for daddy to read them a bedtime story. Or Go for a walk. Or Play trains. THis was a big deal, suddenly., i didn’t feel so important. I became angry. A close friend asked me, Where does grace fit in? Honestly, I couldn’t figure that out. After all, it wasn’t me who lost the job, or crashed the car, and it certainly wasn’t my fault we were teetering on the brink of destruction. If I had to hear the phrase. “ we are so proud of Ben’s changes”  one more time, I was gonna lose it. What about me? Did any one understand how impossibly destroyed I felt? What was I even doing here? I couldn’t see anything beautiful in my life. But God did. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people can not see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” He knew that I was at the end of my rope and couldn’t hang on any longer…I had to let go. Let go of control. Let go of perfection. That’s when we can either run away or run to GOD. I ran to God. He has used the shattered dreams and broken hearts of the past to melt my heart and teach me that my best laid plans are not enough. Life is not about what I have. It is not about what I want. It’s not about me, it is about the grace God gives me to survive and even to thrive in difficult circumstances. What does grace look like? Not the grace we see embodied by runway models and prima ballerinas. Not the grace we say at the dinner table. Grace only comes from God. It is a gift. But to give it, we first have to receive it.

This is where grace became real in my life. Grace is a gift that we do not deserve, and do not earn. For me, grace during Ben’s first year of sobriety came in the form of endurance. When there was too much to do, and not enough energy, God allowed me to endure. Today, I could tell you I how far I’ve come. I could tell you that it’s all coming together. I could tell you that, but I won’t because I still have a long way to grow. When there is a mountain of laundry, and textbooks and yesterdays dishes, I need grace…and coffee. Lots of coffee!

Putting all of my energy into my lifestyle and accomplishments kept me busy. But, It wasn’t until they were washed away that I could see what needed to change. My heart. Ecclesiastes 3;11 told us, He has made everything beautiful in its time… When we think about what is beautiful in life, let’s not look to our homes, or our physique. Let’s start by working with our hearts. Biblical womanhood is heart-work. Motherhood is heart-work. Being a wife is heart-work. It’s hard work, too. Grace invites me to see myself as loved, just as I am. To see myself as valuable, even when I feel like I have nothing left to give. God has something to teach me, right where I am today.

What I want now is the beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit…what is underneath, the inner heart. Slowly, as our hearts seek Him, our lives are remade. The question is, I am seeking God or relying on my own hands? Sometimes, when God wants to make us beautiful it isn’t through what we add, but in what is hidden underneath. Ephesians 3:16-17 NLT reads: I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

When I am patient with a difficult child, even when it means interrupting my schedule, I plant the seeds of grace. When I am submissive to my husband and don’t insist on my own way, I cultivate a thriving marriage. When I offer gratitude to God…just for today, I harvest the blessings of contentment. God is making me beautiful…one step at a time. My husband graduated college last Sunday – with honors…We never know just how far the impact our roles as wives and mothers will reach…but, sometimes it can change a life! And that, in a very real way, is God’s grace.


 Echoes of Mercy:

SUFJAN STEVENS: Amazing Grace 

CLEANING(house)

Therefore I tell you,
do not be anxious about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink,
nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air:
they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

MATTHEW 6:25~26 ESV


Do you believe in second chances? I do. In 12 days my husband will become a 34 year old college graduate. When he takes that diploma in hand, more than a few tears will fall, because I was there beside him for the journey. To really appreciate what this man has accomplished, we’ve got to go back. Way back. Before late night cramming. Before making the honor roll. Before filling out that first application. To truly relish the victory, we have to understand the defeat. Sleepless nights. Wrecked cars. Empty beds. Broken dreams. Beauty shines brighter in the shadow of brokeness. I’ve hidden my own skeletons in the closet, too.  Anger. Judgement. Resent. Ungratefulness. Yet, after the Winter, comes Spring…and Spring-cleaning. If I am to clear the spiritual cobwebs from the attic of my heart, how should I start? How about an Extreme-Makeover?! No, God isn’t going to snap his fingers and turn me into the spiritual equivalent of Martha Stewart (or the domestic one, either)! That’s not grace. Grace isn’t a perfect life. Grace isn’t being the perfect wife (or husband). Grace is being given a second chance. Grace is God handing you a mop and a bucket full of suds…what you do with it is up to you!

 Echoes of Mercy:

SARA GROVES: Eyes On The Prize

BREATH(less)

“No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ,
who loved us.”

ROMANS 8:37 NLT


Hey, why not me? Recently there was a lot of buzz about the winners of the MegaBucks. Three people split the $640 million in prize money, netting a cool $35 million each (after taxes). My first thought was, Will they go back to work? Would you? (For that matter, would I?) But the truth is, as Christians we have been given the immeasurable treasure of salvation through Christ. We’ve won the lottery. Yep. Mansions in Heaven. Streets of Gold. Gem encrusted gates. A girl could get used to that! But seriously, knowing what a treasure we have in Jesus (which when I really stop to think about it – takes my breath away!)…are we going to get back to work or are we going to sit back and enjoy our cushy Christianity while “God moves”. The Scripture encourages us to use our time on earth purposefully, to bring glory to God while waiting patiently for His return. “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.” James 5:7 So, whatever you’re waiting for today…never give up hope. Keep your eyes on the real prize, He’s worth it all!

 Echoes of Mercy:

SALVATOR: Breathing Life

RUNNING(wild)

“But they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up on wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
they shall walk, and not faint.”

ISAIAH 40:31 KJV


You were born to soar. When I think about the physical difficulty I had prior to surgery, compared to the freedom I now have to be foot-loose and fancy-free…I can’t help but wonder what spiritual surgery might be in order. Afterall, we do call God the Great Physician! If removing a few malfunctioning veins gives me the ability to run…what can be accomplished  by excising anger from the confines of my heart?  What of a wild temper? An uncontrolled mind? A sharp tongue? A cold heart? With so many maladies plaguing our spirits, where can we possibly start? It all begins with a trip to the Doctor, of course! We can only recognize our true condition when we spend time in the presence of a holy God. Yet our remedy is surely found our daily walk with Him, through the words He breathed to life in the Scripture. Take two, and call me in the morning!

 Echoes of Mercy:

BRITT NICOLE: Ready or Not (feat. Lecrae)

HEAVEN(knows)

Who is understanding
and wise among you?
By his good conduct
let him show his works
in the meekness of wisdom.”

JAMES 3:13 KJV


One day at a time! That was my mantra through the pain-is-an-understatement 13-day recuperation from vascular surgery. Though I winced and slept and hobbled through the days, God was making me new. From the inside-out. In order to rebuild, I must start first with the foundation…and there’s nothing like stripping away self-sufficiency to show what we really have to offer. In fact, the world kept turning quite smoothly without me! Children were fed; deadlines were met; and most miraculous of all, I actually got a little peace & quiet! For once, Time was on my side…and that’s where it gets tricky. You see, with all that time on my hands, devoid of responsiblity, with nothing to distract me: my own morality came front and center. No longer could I hide a bad temper behind a tsunami of toys. There was no wailing toddler to drown out God’s voice…He had me right where He wanted me. The Bible tells us that “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Even for busy moms with too many vices who are still just little lost sheep. So, I’m taking this remade body for a spin and I’m going to enjoy Life by leaps and bounds, but I hope I never forget: God works from the inside-out.

 Echoes of Mercy:

JON FOREMAN: The Cure for Pain

PIECE(meal)

“I can’t tell you much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”

2 CORINTHIANS 6:11~13 MSG


Well, here I go! Tomorrow is scalpel day…lucky me. Wait. Yes I am! Lucky, that is (I suppose blessed would be a more fitting description). I certainly have a lot on my mind today, and foremost I have not failed to notice the many blessings that I have been gifted in my life. To appreciate Life for what it is today, not what I hope it to become….that is a hard-won lesson that I value much. After today, I know that I will be off of my feet for a while (what does a girl have to do to get a vacation around here?) but I’m grateful for the love and support of family and friends who will keep the kids clean, happy, and fed! Dragging this bum leg around has slowed me down and I’m looking forward to a new spring in my step…but more than that, I’m learning to keep a song in my heart. So, when I put on my hospital gear tomorrow morning I’ll be humming a tune of gratefulness to the God who made me and is making me new.

 Echoes of Mercy:

MIKESCHAIR: Keep Changing the World

HEART(felt)

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.
Love like that.”

EPHESIANS 5:1~2 MSG


With all my heart. This is an expression I frequently shower on my children: I love you with all my heart. The love of a mother’s heart flows freely…it is undiminished by rebellion and flourishes in the face of adversity. No, this kind of love does not turn away from that which is undesirable. There is a purpose to that love which runs deeper than the survival of the human race. Yes, there is something of the divine to be found here. For the sake of my conscience I must admit, that I have many times been rebellious, taking the hard way of self-sufficiency (a pretty name for pride), and let my heart be darkened by the world. Yet, God’s mercy is new every morning. He loves me with all His heart. Undiminished by my rebellion. A love that flourishes when I face my darkest days. Love that lifts me up when I fall flat on my face. In contrast, my love is a feeble shadow…but, when I stand in the light of His perfect love that shadow grows stronger still. Today, I will open my heart and hands to the God who is Love. I will receive with gratitude His blessing of love…with all my heart.

 Echoes of Mercy: