A Christmas Hallelujah

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 1 Comments A+ a-

I've heard about this baby boy
Who's come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I'm singing Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God's only Son was born, oh Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You'll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah


I still believe in miracles.

Sunday, December 22, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

He was five years old and still hadn’t uttered a word.  He was her fifth child, and her constant shadow.  He didn’t interact with his siblings, he never participated in their games, and was often found playing under the tree in the backyard, by himself, clothespins as soldiers for company.  She’d accepted the fact that he was probably mentally handicapped and often worried about his quality of life. 

But then a relative suggested having him checked out at the local hospital.  She’ll never forget the moment the doctor came out of the evaluation, clasped her hand, and told her there was hope.  Three years of speech therapy was all it took.  He went to school, played basketball, ran track, he married and had four girls.  And all because a relative and his mom took a leap of faith.

I still believe in miracles.

A woman, newly pregnant with their first child, kisses her husband goodbye as
he heads out on his first deployment.  He return home for a Christmas surprise. 
And shows up in time, because his son was born two days later.

I still believe in miracles.

It was a journey full of heartache, tears, discouragement, uncertainty, doubt, and the ever constant, hope.  They experienced three miscarriages, underwent tests, started taking Clomid and other fertility drugs, underwent several IUIs, and then she had an invasive surgery.  They decided to wait one more cycle before hopping back on the TTC train.  No drugs, no tests, no IUIs.  When she called a few weeks later and asked me if I’d like to meet their baby in July, I screamed.  Holding that baby girl was one of the most heartwarming, tangible answers to prayers I’ve ever experienced.

I still believe in miracles.

It was a rough eight years, hard and uncertain.  Not knowing what the home atmosphere would be like, wondering what the mood would be.  It was implicitly understood that the marriage was staying together for the sake of the children and nothing else.  There was a silent understanding that divorce was the horizon, that they were biding their time until the youngest had graduated from high school.

But a medical crisis brought the family to their knees, it broke them in a way that they had no place to go but up.  And after years of counseling and healing, the parents are more in love today than ever before!

I still believe in miracles.

He sent his son, in the form of a baby, to be the sacrifice for all of mankind’s sins.  It was the only way to reconcile his people back to himself, so he could dwell among them again.

Jesus’ ministry began at the age of thirty years old, and lasted for only three years.  Three years.  He didn’t own a home or a business.  He had no financial means.  He never wrote a book, nor did he conquer a city.  We may disagree on who Jesus is, a prophet, Messiah, a scholar, but the fact remains, he existed.  He loved.  He touched an entire world in only three years.

I believe.  I believe that tiny babe arrived in a dark world, born to be light.  I believe he willingly climbed on that cross to bear my sins, to reconcile me to my heavenly father.  I believe because I’ve been on the other side, where its dark and its hard to breathe, where it feels like you’re weighted down by chains.  And when I chose to believe, I remember the freedom, the air, the beauty in knowing someone loved me enough to DIE for me. 

I believe because this love, its nothing short of a miracle.  Merry Christmas!


Image in the Mirror

Thursday, December 19, 2013 2 Comments A+ a-

Every so often I get caught off guard when I glance in the mirror.  As I dry off from the shower and I glance at my reflection, I’ll catch my breath and my eyes will widen in surprise.  I’ll turn to the side, and suck in my gut.  For that brief moment, I look as though I’m only two months pregnant, instead of three.  Facing forward, I see the soft middle and the tiny hernia that pokes through my belly button.  I see how my hips have widened since my early twenties, and inwardly, a part of myself cringes.  And even though I’m thirty-four years old, I still mourn the loss of my twenty-something body.

This time I paused…  And while I prepared for the usual onslaught of self-recrimination and inner dialogue, I stopped myself.  I looked at myself with a different mindset, with new eyes.

This body has nurtured and sheltered four beautiful babies.  I was home and incubator to four babes… nine months each… totaling 36 months, or three years, of my life.  My body provided nutrition, security, comfort, and love.  As each baby grew, my body grew too.  Towards the end of each pregnancy, my body felt stretched (literally) to its limit.  I felt every single kick, every thrown elbow, each roll and hiccup.  I ached and hurt, comforted only by hot baths and the knowledge that I was almost done.

And then the moment came where I labored for hours, my body pushing out new life.  I rarely knew what was happening or why, but the amazing thing was, my body knew.  It knew that after a long nine to ten months, that there was plenty of strength left for that last final push.  And as I held each of my children in my arms, as they began to nurse, and my body prepared for a new journey of sustaining this child’s life, it was shocking to know that I’d do it all again.  In a heartbeat. 

And I did.  Three more times.

My body has stretched and changed.  In so many ways.  And today, this time when I splayed my hands over my soft, pillow-like middle, I remember…  I remember what my body has done for me, for my babies.  There are times I can still feel the phantom kicks, rolls, and hiccups.  And I can be ok with those changes…  I WILL be ok with those changes.

My body will never return to its former shape.  The stretch marks have replaced visible stomach muscles.  My small hips were replaced by extra skin around my middle.  One of my ribs permanently juts away from my body, testimony of when Devyn cracked my rib in-utero.  Where my body used to be taut, it now is soft and pillowy and its my new normal.  Just like my new normal is about eight pounds heavier.  It is what it is.

And instead of cringing every time I catch a glimpse in the mirror, I’m going to embrace it.  Each stretch mark, each inch of extra skin, each jiggle is just proof that my body provided a home for four precious lives.  If I can offer my daughters a confident, self assured role model, then so be it.  Its time to accept the changes with grace, and know that some things won’t ever be the same again.  Its time to be ok with that.

Don’t Settle for Imitations

Monday, December 16, 2013 1 Comments A+ a-

My Loves,

This parenting gig is hard work.  I was commiserating with another mother yesterday, about the lack of patience our parenting produces.  There was no doubt that all over this country, on a Sunday morning, mothers everywhere were telling their daughters to “just stand still so I can finish your hair!”  Of course, then we feel bad and have to apologize, only to hear you give forgiveness so easily.  Its quite humbling, actually.  Knowing how readily you offer forgiveness when adults rarely extend that forgiveness to themselves.

But I digress.

There are many life lessons and wise words that I share, ones I hope you take into adulthood with you.  Some of them include:

  • Eat good food.  Yes, all things in moderation, but enjoy that piece of bacon.  Don’t worry about the extra truffle you snitched from the platter.  Let your taste buds live a little.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix patterns.  Be a little adventurous with your wardrobe.  I personally don’t believe that black and brown go together, and I think the no white after Labor Day rule is silly.
  • The things you didn’t like as a kid, you might love as an adult.  Just saying.
  • Love what you do!  It doesn’t matter how much money your career brings you, if you don’t love what you do, its just not worth it. 
  • I will seem wiser the older you get.  You may roll your eyes and shrug your shoulders now, but trust me.  Someday you’ll realize that I actually did know what I was talking about.

But there is one lesson in particular that I want, no NEED, you to understand.  This is important to me because I feel so many life lessons can stem from this one thing and my prayer is that when you’re adults, you’ll hear me in your head, saying this over and over again.

Anything worth having in this life, takes time, work, and effort.  Don’t settle for imitations when hard work can produce the real thing.

worth having 2My Loves, we live in a culture that demands instant gratification.  I know this because I take advantage of it daily: instant downloads, takeout, streaming movies.  I know what its like to trade quality for haste.  I know that in the more trivial things, it doesn’t matter and you’d be right.  But in the big things, the things that are worth it, you are going to have to invest your time and hard work.  Because those things, they won’t happen overnight.  They can’t.

When you’re older and better able to comprehend the work that went into fixing my family of origin, you’ll understand why my sisters and I are so close.  You’ll know that it took years of counseling and the willingness to try again, to heal my family and allow us a fresh start.

I pray that my marriage to your dad will be a testament to the effort needed to produce a fulfilling, intimate, and loving relationship.  I once thought that the beginning stages of a relationship (the butterflies, the tingles, the desire to be together 24-7) was the end all, be all to love.  Yet, I’m constantly amazed at how much deeper I fall in love with your dad every. single. year.  It can’t be possible, it’s too cliché, I thought.  But, My Loves, staying and working through the hard stuff has produced a bond so strong, that there are times I’m humbled by the intimacy those times have produced.

This world offers many imitations of the real thing.  Even the bible promises, “For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.” Matthew 24:5.  My Loves, do not be fooled by imitations.  The saying “If its too good to be true, it probably is” comes to mind.  The best way to sift through falsehoods, is to know the good, real, and worthy things so well, inside and out, that that you can spot the imitations from a mile away.   

Its tempting to take the easy road… its appealing to believe you can have it all, without working for it.  But I assure you, if you can take it without working for it, its not worth it.  And what you thought was the real thing, you’ll find won’t last the test of time.  The shiny thing will tarnish, its beauty will fade, and you’ll be left wondering what happened.  Work for it, My Loves.  Fight for it.  Discover what it’ll take to have it, and then give 10% more.  Just like diamonds and pearls, know it’ll take time for the true beauty to be revealed.

worth having 1If this is the only thing you take from my parenting, I’ll be thrilled.  I have so much hope for your lives, there is so much promise in your future, and I can’t wait to see where God and your dreams take you.  Just go with the knowledge that anything worth having, WILL take time and effort.  And I assure you, the end result will be more valuable then you ever thought possible!

All my love,

Starbucks and Life Lessons

Friday, December 13, 2013 11 Comments A+ a-

I’m the one that avoids homelessness as much as possible.  When I drive up to an intersection where a man or woman holds a sign and the light turns red, I turn up the radio and look out the opposite window to avoid eye contact.  I’m the one that giggled nervously when we were approached on the 16th Street Mall.  I’m the one that because I don’t know how to respond, I just don’t respond at all.  And I’m ashamed of it.

imageTonight, Hudson and I had a coffee/hot chocolate date at Starbucks.  It was one of those coffee shops that sits adjacent to a grocery store.  I noticed the gentlemen sitting at the corner table as soon as we walked inside.  I didn’t think anything of them as we made our way to the register and placed our order.  I didn’t give them a second thought as I swiped my card and we took our treats to the table across from theirs.  My mind was on the quality time I was about to have with Hudson, and the brownie-peppermint cake pop I was going to devour. 

And then I noticed the men noticing us and I started squirming in my seat.  Each had a cup of coffee in their hand, a newspaper laid out on the table in front of them.  It was obvious they were dragging out their time in the store, sipping their coffee as slowly as possible to prolong their time in the warmth.  I could feel the heat rush up the back of my neck because I knew.  I KNEW.  I was being given a choice and it meant going way out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t want to because I like my comfort zone.  Its safe there. 

I told Hudson to finish his hot chocolate, and when he was done, I tucked his hand in mine and we walked over to the two men. 

“Hey pretty lady!” the first man said to me.  He smiled a toothless smile and he asked Hudson for his name.  We chatted for a bit, and then I took a deep breath. 

“Are you hungry?” I asked.  “We have to grab a few things for our dinner, and I was wondering if we could grab something for you too.”  Hudson twisted his hand in mine, and I realized I’d been holding it a little too tightly.  I looked between the two men, hoping they understood my intention was honorable, that I meant no disrespect, and hoping they’d say yes.

The older man looked down at the table, then locked eyes with mine.  “I’m not asking for that, ma’am.  I’m not asking.”  I touched him on the shoulder, “I know, I know.  I’m offering.  In the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to buy you dinner.”

They exchanged a look, smiled at us, and then nodded their heads in agreement.  I assured them that we’d be right back, then Hudson and I headed into the grocery store.  The heaviness in my heart grew as we selected chicken and some side dishes; the lump in my throat got bigger as Hudson decided we needed to get them drinks too, and then insisted on carrying the Gatorade himself.  I teared up as I paid the cashier and silently prayed.  “Father.  Please.  If ever one of my children is placed in their position, please take care of them.” 

We delivered the food to the table, complete with plates and eating utensils.  We shook hands and exchanged names.  It was when the older man wouldn’t let go of my hand that I realized that sometimes, its more than physical needs that need to be met.  Its human touch, it’s the dignity of being acknowledged, it’s knowing that someone cares, even if for just a moment.

We said our goodbyes and we wished each other a Merry Christmas.  When we walked back to our car, hand in hand, Hudson turned to me.  “Mama, we did a good thing, didn’t we?  I think God is happy right now.”  And the tears I’d been holding back, spilled over.

There is much I don’t do right in this life.  I make mistakes and take wrong turns.  I turn away, more often than I turn towards, and yes, tonight I made the right decision.  But what about all the other times I pretend to not see them or don’t want to be bothered?  What about those times that I feel God pulling at my heart but its too uncomfortable to obey?  I thought about the nice warm house that was waiting for us, the fridge and cupboards that were full of food.  I thought about the gifts sitting under the tree and the love of family that I take too often for granted.  I became all too aware of our blessings, uncomfortably so…

“Mama?” came the voice from the backseat.  “I think we should do that more often.”  Oh yeah, sometimes the innocence of children and their convictions can humble me to my very core.  It was in that moment that I realized the lesson I’d hoped would touch Hudson, touched me instead.

“I think that’s a great idea, Buddy.  Let’s keep our eyes open for moments like that again.” 

Starbucks and life lessons.  Who knew?