Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When More is Too Much and Prayer is Hard
"Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief." Psalm 143:1 NIV

He pitched a tent and spent a sleepless night beside his crumbled home protecting what little earthly possessions remained. In early morning light while he awaits help to gather his things and leave town, a single reporter asks him, "What's next?" He simply and emphatically answers, "pray."

I feel helpless watching images of ravaged homes piled high like pick-up-sticks and listening to reports of school children still missing or worse. Reports tell of parents calling out their children's names into the night in Moore, Oklahoma. I swallow back tears from fresh December memories of our own Newtown tragedy and wonder how much more can we handle. More storms. More tragedy. More loss. More.

What do you do when more is too much?

My family's experienced its own personal crises this year; losses that left our earthly possessions in tact but splintered our hearts. Our losses happened too close together, scrambled my thoughts and my words. Getting it all down on paper seems harder these days because I think, "who wants to drink up my grief when the world's got plenty more to offer?" So I close the page and surf Facebook in search of some joy, knowing full well I won't find it there, but it's easier than praying right then.

Bored from re-reading all the same posts, I sit and jot down my thoughts - like this blog is my form of prayer. There's nothing more I can do but cry out, "Mercy! No more, dear God. Mercy, please." And God reminds me of Paul's words in Romans:

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."
Romans 5:3-4 NIV

Perseverance. Character. Hope. All qualities that separate thrivers from survivors - qualities that only come through suffering and loss.

And our hope? While we stand amidst our splintered lives - God is faithful and righteous and provides relief. First, he sent his one and only son, Jesus who died for us, becoming our Way of adoption into God's family. And through his resurrection, our hope of life eternal is fulfilled. Second, he sent us one another to help carry us through tough times.

Even while I finish these last few lines, my phone rings. A dear friend smiles on the other end of the phone and simply speaks encouraging words. My lips curl up and my heart feels just a bit lighter than before. I breathe a prayer, thankful that relief came in such a loving package. Thank-you, Lord.

When life is hard, when more is too much and you've found prayer hard, how has God shown his mercy and faithfulness to you?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

I slipped a pussy willow sprig from her funeral basket and whispered my plans in our granddaughter's ear. "We'll plant it soon, in remembrance of Mammie."

So, I set that brown twig with soft-as-a-kitten buds in a bottle of water near a sunny kitchen window and prayed it grow roots. Buds continued erupting from the base of that brown stick to the top as it simply sat and drank.

Every time our granddaughter visited over the next few weeks we talked about that pussy willow branch - touched the soft buds, looked for roots, and remembered Mammie in heaven. And, every day I washed the dishes it caught my eye and I'd remember Mammie - giving thanks for the godly daughter she raised for my son and the times we celebrated our grandchildren together.

Soon, all the buds dropped and scattered across the kitchen counter leaving a lifeless looking branch. But, I still hoped and let it sit and soak - scheming to buy one at the garden store if this poor branch never rooted because I promised we'd plant our Mammie bush.

Roots appeared just in time for Mother's Day!

 We planted them in fertile soil...

...poured living water all around...

...and remembered Mammie.

Just like this branch, when we sit and soak and drink in God's presence - our Living Water - we grow and bear much fruit.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
 They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

Mammie planted her feet deep near the stream of Living Water, Jesus Christ. She never feared the heat or drought and the standing-room-only attendance at her memorial service testified to her fruit bearing life.

Now as summer approaches and the grandchildren we shared play in the shadow of this bush, we'll stop and give thanks for every remembrance of her.

What are some ways you help your children or grandchildren remember loved ones who've passed?

(Please stop by Christian Children's Authors blog today).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Once a Mama, Always a Mama

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother..." John 19:25a (NIV)

We spend our youth raising children - cuddling babies, changing diapers, kissing scraped-up knees, schooling them and guarding them - equipping them for a successful launch. They outgrow their clothes, their shoes, their toys, our lap right before our very eyes. Then just when we catch a glimpse of who they are - how God created them - they fly away. And our mama's heart keeps right on loving - ever stronger, never shrinking.

Once a mama, always a mama.

Our empty nest offers  us time and freedom, but every idle moment we cover our children with prayer. And, when they face the hard times - take up their cross and bear the pain - we stand near, wishing we could bear their cross instead. Experience tells us, though, that bearing their own cross draws God closer and grows their  own faith. So, we watch and pray - even cry out.

Once a mama, always a mama.

Jesus had a mama just like us. Mary raised him - cuddled, kissed, schooled, and guarded him - equipped him for a successful launch. She knew he was created for great things - the Messiah for her people, the world - and yet, he was her child; the one whose scraped knees she kissed and whose toddler hands held hers before he could walk. Then, just when Mary caught a glimpse of who he was - who God created him to be - he flew the nest. And her mama's heart kept right on loving - ever stronger.

Once a mama, always a mama.

It broke her heart when he took up his cross, but she stood near and watched her son bear the world's sin. And, like every mama, I suppose she cried out, "God spare my son. Let me bear his cross." But she knew she couldn't. So, she watched and prayed - even cried out.

Once a mama, always a mama.

And Jesus saw her standing nearby with his dearest friend, John, and said, " 'Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, 'here is your mother.' And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home," (John 19:26-27 NIV).

Once a mama, always a mama.

Three days later, Mary gathered with John and all the other disciples and witnessed the miraculous resurrected Jesus - the One whom she birthed and raised and launched. Can you imagine the joy she felt as she beheld her risen son eye-to-eye, all shiny and reborn? How reassuring that all her heart pondered throughout the years, all of God's promises and prophesies foretold, held true in Him. What a moment for that mama!

Once a mama, always a mama.

As my children gather around the Sunday dinner table, I sit quietly soaking in their faces, the sound of their voices, and the brilliance of their lives all shiny like newborns. I savor these moments and tuck them inside my heart for quiet mornings in my empty nest when I pause to give thanks for God's faithfulness in their lives. I don't know what their future may bring, but as long as I live, I will always be their mama - always standing nearby, praying and crying out.

Once a mama, always a mama.

Happy Mother's Day!

Have you caught a glimpse of who God created your child to be? Won't you take a moment to give thanks for all you can see and can't see as you stand nearby watching God's faithful promises unfold?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Less is More

 "Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal." Matthew 6:19 (AMP)

Since I first saw the movie, One True Thing (1998), starring Meryl Streep, William Hunt and Renee Zellwger, I've adopted George's (William Hunt) mantra , "less is more." His wife, Kate (Meryl Streep) disagreed and so did my husband, arguing "more is more," until recently.

We knew there was a lot of stuff scattered throughout his dad's basement workshop and stuffed inside his back yard shed. The harsh winter of 2010 collapsed his garage and exposed his treasured heaps. We blamed the storms for the destruction and clean up, but there were no excuses for touching anything else. So, we didn't until he passed.

This weekend, between the basement and shed, we hauled off four truck loads of Dad's treasures to the dump discovering a handful of valuable or nostalgic pieces that caused us to pause. But mostly, we scratched our heads wondering what possessed him to accumulate so much stuff. Maybe it was the result of growing up lacking and never wanting to feel that emptiness again.

It wasn't the first time I've filtered through another person's earthly possessions and witnessed the liquidation of their lifetime savings. In both cases the truth about Jesus' words in Matthew 6:19-20 rang clear:

 "Do not store up treasures on earth...but, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and vermin do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal."

Less is more when we invest our wealth of time, energy, talents and money into those things that last - God's kingdom and our family. The less material treasures, the more room we make to invest in eternal things. The less we accumulate, the more time we gain to invest in people, or as Ellen (Renee Zellweger) said in One True Thing, "The ones who love you; that's what counts."

Exhausted at the end of our second day, we gathered hand-in-hand around the dinner table as Mom said grace. We laughed, shared stories, gave thanks, and enjoyed our loved ones' company. That's what counts.

If someone were to sift through your possessions, what would they say mattered most to you? Is it time to start simplifying to make room for what matters most - God and family - the ones who love you?