When Your Child Comforts You


“You okay, Mommy?” she said, pressing herself onto the arm of the overstuffed leather chair. Through my tears, I could see her wild-blonde bedhead, blurring into her pink Disney Princess pajamas.

“No,” I said with perfect honesty. “Mommy is sad,” my voice cracked.

I had just got the news that morning: a dear friend’s brain cancer had returned. And my heart felt broken for him.  For his wife, and his girls. And I kept trying to pray—but all I could do was cry.

And I didn’t want to cry in front of my daughter. Because she is two. And I didn’t want to upset her. But sometimes you just can’t hide how you feel. And so, I sat in the big leather chair that morning, with my face in my hands and cried, while my coffee got cold.

But she kept pressing closer to me, pushing her whole body under my arm, climbing into my lap, and gently brushing my long hair away from my face, so I couldn’t hide behind it. And I wanted badly to be alone. I just wanted to think, and pray, and cry.  But when you’re a mom, you don’t always get the opportunity to “just cry.” Even when you feel it’s the only thing you are capable of doing.

“Maybe you could sing Mommy a song?” I offered, trying to brighten the mood. She looked at me eagerly. And I expected she would sing me her favorite song by default, “Happy Birthday.” But that morning, I was surprised by a different tune.

Instead, she sang me one of the lullabies I wrote for her, which goes:

“Don’t cry little Selah, 

Don’t cry little girl.

Don’t cry little Selah,

For you know, He holds the world.” 

But she didn’t sing those words; she changed the lyrics. And I didn’t even know she could do that. But she changed the words just for me, and instead sang:

“Don’t cry little Mommy,

Don’t cry little girl. 

Don’t cry little Mommy,

For you know, He holds the world.” 

I lay my face against her chest, sobbing into her soft cotton pajamas. Holding her closer than ever before. And as I felt her heart beating against my face, I just felt so…small.

Just a little Mommy.

Just a little girl.

I was holding her, but really, it was as if she was holding me. With her warmth. With her tight embrace. With her big blue eyes searching my brown ones.

“You feel better now?” she asked, eyes wide as saucers. “You feel happy?”

“Yes. Yes,” a smile breaking forth from my face, “Thank you.”

And I realized, at that moment, just how much I needed her. Just how much she comforted me. Not just then, but all the time. Her presence is a constant comfort to me, and I didn’t see it until now.

My Sweet Child,

I know I am your Mom. And it is my job to take care of you, and keep you safe. To care for you. And I promise, I always will.

Long before you were born, I knew that you would cry, and I would soothe you. But I didn’t know that sometimes when I’d cry, you would soothe me, too. I didn’t know, when you were just in my womb, that the nights I’d hold you late into the night, you would be holding me, too. I knew I would hug and kiss you, but I never imagined how it would feel when you would hug and kiss me. I knew my hands would reach for yours, but I never imagined yours reaching for mine. I knew I’d sing you lullabies, but I didn’t know you’d sing them back to me.

I knew you would need me.

But I never imagined how much I would need you. 

How much I would need your nearness. Your embrace. Your voice. Even your lullabies.

Because at the end of the day, I’m really just a little Mommy. I’m just a little girl. And I forget, He holds the world.

And it wasn’t long ago, I was just your size, and saw the world through your eyes.

It still looks so very big to me. And I still get scared. And I still cry.

And the One who holds the world, also holds you, and holds me. And what’s amazing is that He also lets us hold one another. And it’s more precious than I thought.

I thought I knew what it would be like to be a mom—to be your mom. I thought I understood the gift, before I opened it. But I didn’t. Because you are a gift that seems to unfold into a thousand more, every day.

And I didn’t know until now, how much I needed you. But I do. I didn’t realize the comfort you bring me–and have always brought me since the day you were born. For so long, I thought you needed me close to you, but I really think, I need you close to me, too.

And for all the tears of yours I’ve dried, you have indeed dried mine, too.

And for all the happy tears I cried, I cried them all for you.

I will always be your Mom. But in case I don’t always let you see. I need you, just as much as you need me.

Love,

Mom

“So don’t cry little Mommy,

Don’t cry little girl,

Don’t cry little Mommy,

For you know, He holds the world.”

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And please pray for my friend with brain cancer. He needs God to hold him tonight. 

You Know He’s A Good Dad When…

good dad when

You know he’s a good dad when…she is crying in the night, and he gets out of bed and goes into her room to soothe her. And after a few minutes, you don’t hear her crying anymore…

You hear her laughing. In fact, you hear them both laughing. (And you roll your eyes and groan into your pillow.)

You know he’s a good dad when…he builds forts in the living room, and tells stories in the dark and at least once a week does something extremely impulsive, unpredictable or dangerous with your child. Something that makes you ask, “What were you thinking?!!” (This is part of what makes him a dad.)

You know he’s a good dad when…after you get home from your date to the movies, and the babysitter leaves, he goes into her room and carries her tired, sleeping body into your bed, just so he can hold her close, and ask her how she’s doing, and tell her how beautiful she is, even if this means she will just roll around and kick you both in the head for the next two hours. And somehow, he still falls asleep with a big smile on his face.

You know he’s a good dad when…everyday when he gets home from work, your daughter bolts through the house to greet him and screams hysterically like someone who has just won “The Price Is Right.” (And this is completely fitting, because you know he is worth more than all the money and treasure in the world.)

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You know he’s a good dad when…he sneaks her some kind of treat or dessert without you knowing. Right before bedtime. Right after you just brushed her teeth. And you find this out while she bursts into the room, shouting, “Dad gave me chocolate chips!!!” And though he is “shushing” her fiercely, you see a giant brown ring around her mouth. And he just grins.

You know he’s a good dad when…you catch him belting out “Let it Go” at the top of his lungs. When he’s by himself. (Even though he denies it, and tells you how much he hates that movie.)

dad and selah

You know he’s a good dad when…he sits with her and actually watches shows like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” And he watches intently, like this is isn’t a show about a tiger who doesn’t wear pants, but instead like it’s “the movie of the year” and and it’s won all kinds of awards. And like this is the most important thing he could ever be doing. (Because to her, it is.)

But above all…

You know he’s a good dad…when your daughter’s hair smells like Old Spice deodorant.

dad reading

Because he holds her that much. And that close.

And you pray he always does. You pray she always carries his scent on her.

Because every little girl needs to know she is loved. Like this.

In the way only her Dad can love her.

In the way only her Dad can make her feel.
Prized and precious.

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When God Calls Your Marriage Out Upon the Waters

Our wedding day, June 13, 2009

Our wedding day, June 13, 2009

It was a hot June day, when I glowed in white all the way down the aisle. And he beamed, he beamed brighter than the sun with love, and joy, and promise. It was so easy then, as I walked barefoot through the sand, holding my Dad’s hand–and saying ‘Yes’ to all God planned. And everyone watched, and clapped, and cheered.

But that was before we knew what it would cost. Before anything was ever lost.

I knew marriage would get hard, but to be honest, I thought ours would be just a little easier than the rest. After all, we had Christ in us. How hard could it be?

I stood there at the altar, like a freshman ready to ace her first final exam, a big wad of index cards in my hands. Knowing every chapter and verse, and all the things I had rehearsed. And all the great lines I neatly highlighted from all those marriage books.

But the wind came.

The wind came and blew all those index cards away, out of my hands. Because all those books, and all those index cards were strapped to my forehead like a Pharisee wearing the Law. And it covered my eyes so I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see a man, in need of grace, and tender affection, standing right in front of me.

It’s been six years since the day I married him. And his eyes are still the same steady green they were then, and he captivates me still, without even trying. His voice, still tender smooth. And I still like to sleep in his old t-shirts. Soft and threadbare, worn with love. And they get softer in time.

And so do we.

But there have been nights, where that shoreline where we made our promises has seemed a thousand miles away. When we stood in the kitchen, exchanging red-hot words, like swords. And getting stuck in sticky webs of complicated conflict. Unsure of how to sort it out—unsure if it was even possible. And no one is watching anymore. No one is clapping, or throwing petals, or cheering us on.

But God.

I am convinced He really likes marriage. It was His idea after all. And I think He actually likes when marriages get hard–because that is when He does some of His best work. In our hearts. The only places that really matter.

I used to think good marriages were always easy, and never hard. But I don’t think that anymore. I think good marriages are insanely hard–but when they get hard, you don’t see the struggle as a reason to quit, but as a reason to keep fighting for it. To keep fighting for each other.

It seems so fitting now, that we got married by the water. Because all along, God would call us into it. We had no idea, as we exchanged our vows, and rings, and promises, and the waves collapsed innocently behind us—that God was going to call us into them. But that’s in fact, what marriage is.

It’s going into the water together. And there is nothing safe about it.

So that moment we were pronounced “husband and wife,” and we turned and walked down the aisle, and everyone congratulated us and cheered, we should have actually headed the other direction. Into the water, and not away from it.

When God calls you into marriage, He calls you out into the water. First, it’s just ankle deep, and you tightly hold hands, and smile. And you walk a little further, until you’re knee deep. But as you go further out, the water starts to go up to your waist. And the waves begin to break around you. And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how tightly you are holding hands, a big wave comes, and knocks you over, making you lose your grip on each other. And you try to find each other, but sometimes you can’t, because those big waves keep coming. And you aren’t strong enough to withstand them. The current gets strong, and threatens to pull you under, and you’re just fighting to stay afloat.

The waves just keep coming to knock you down, again and again. And you can’t swim any further out, you’re just stuck right there, getting tossed to and fro in the waves. I think every marriage comes to this place where you get stuck in the rough surf. And it feels hopeless and humiliating. Why can’t you just do this? Why aren’t you strong enough? And everything is telling you, “Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!” And you want to, because it would be so easy to just go back and lay on the shore and just cry, with your face against the sand, and think about how awful and scary those big waves were. And what a big mistake it was, to ever try to get past them. And just when you are about to turn back. Just when you decide it isn’t fun anymore, and you can’t take one more wave to knock you over, and are about to just swim back to shore—for good. You keep swimming.

You link hands with your spouse and you keep swimming. Sink or swim, but you refuse to go back to shore—because you know, deep down, that there is some mystery waiting for you out there. In that place just beyond the surf…is this place of deeper waters. Where you learn to tread. Where you learn to swim. And that’s where the adventure is. In that place where you finally learn to love.

A love that pushes past all the waves.

Because in the midst of those waves, you hear a Voice, that sounds like a thousand rushing rivers, that screams,

“Come out here! Keep coming! Further out! Keep swimming toward My love!”

“I have something out here for you!”

“This wasn’t a mistake! This is my plan!”

“I have ordained you together in this marriage! For My purpose! For My pleasure! For My glory!”

And when you have kept going–you suddenly get to this place of calm, in this place past the surf. And your treading together, stronger now, and having learned to swim. Having learned to follow the Voice. You realize He enabled you to withstand the storm. And you clasp each other, both looking like you’ve nearly drowned. And you laugh and kiss and you cry because you are so happy you didn’t swim back to shore, and because you can’t even behold the beauty all around you. The beauty waiting for you all along.

And then you see Him out there, walking on the waters, like nothing happened at all, like you didn’t just survive a hurricane, like swimming out there was the easiest thing in all the world. And when He sees you bobbing together in the water, He just smiles and says, “You of little faith. Why did you ever doubt?”

And we see, in that moment, we can trust Him. Not only for ourselves, but for our marriage. For the One who called us out to sea, surely will not let us drown in it.

So we don’t have to be afraid of the deeper waters. We don’t have to fear when the waves come. Or stormy skies. Or strong currents threaten to take us under. “For the One who called us, is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

So let’s keep swimming.

Because He’s out there waiting for us. Ready plunge us into the depths of His mercy and grace—and into a love so deep, your feet could never, ever touch the ground.

A Morning Prayer: “Conform Me To Jesus”

morning sun chair

I’m going to let you inside for a moment. My journal. Just for this. Because I started praying something last week, and it started to change me. It started to set me free and open up joy in me. And I want to share it with you–so that you can be free. And so that you can have joy. And so that you can be full of Jesus.

When I was little, Jesus was just this little flannel-graph cartoon. He was a name I heard a lot. I saw pictures and porcelain figures of Him as a little baby at Christmas time and always wondered what He really looked like.

But that little cartoon version of Jesus you see in the little kid’s Bibles—is so false. It may be good for toddlers, but as you get older and the weight of sin and gravity of world begin to pull on you. You need more than a cartoon to save you.

And it took me about twenty-five years to stop thinking of Him that way. Like that little cartoon face with a white tunic and a blue sash. And to start actually thinking of Him as a person. Who thinks. Who breathes. Who crushes snakes under His heels. Who laughs. Who cries with loud sobs. (Hebrews 5:7)

But this Person, in the last three years, has meant more to me, has become more real to me than He ever has. And it’s not because I’m so “spiritual.” Or I have enlightened understanding. It’s not because I’ve really mastered the spiritual disciplines or pull myself up by my bootstraps each morning. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s because I’m beginning to see my desperate need for Him.

See, for a while I thought I was strong. But trusting in my strength never brought me closer to Jesus, it only propelled me further and further away. And it only made my heart grow colder. (Much like the Pharisees.) But lately, what has brought me nearest to Jesus is my own realization of how very weak I am. It’s not about “trying harder,” it’s about complete and total surrender. It’s instead about praying, “God, have mercy on me. I’m a sinner.” And it’s been about the surrendering of my will, my methods, my dreams, my control. Or the illusion of it. It’s about letting Him carry the burden for me, morning by morning. It’s about wanting Him to come as He is, and not just who I want Him to be.

If you’re reading this and still feel like you have that “hollow” Jesus in your head. I’m going to pray for you. Because He is more than capable to show Himself–in a way that is real. And in a way that is close. And in such a way that will just make you weep and long for Him. And in a way that makes you feel like your insides are on fire and you could run a thousand miles and scale a hundred walls. And in such a way where you might burst out into singing or laughing hysterically. Even in public…Because suddenly you see Him everywhere, and you can feel Him seeing you. All of you. And loving all of you at the same time. And this gives you strength and joy and peace. Even when you shouldn’t have it–by the world’s standards.

And morning by morning He waits. He waits to explode into the atmosphere at my simple invitation. He rushes in, at my first cry. But He waits for it. He waits for me to want Him.

And on a day last weak, after much battling for joy the days prior–the Holy Spirit led me in a simple prayer: Conform me to Jesus. And it may be one of the most powerful things I have ever prayed.

Scripture tells us that it is God’s will to conform us to Jesus. Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” We ask God for a lot of decision-making wisdom of where to live, who to marry, what to study, what to buy…and He leads us each in a thousand different ways. But the bottom line is, whatever He says, and wherever He leads us, the goal is the same: that we will be conformed to the image of His Son. Jesus Christ.

For some, this is a great path of pain and heartache, for others it’s filled with sweet symphonies of joy. And for many a big mix of both. But God determines that, and He determines what is best for us, by steering us in the way that will most conform us to Jesus. And He does this, (Vs. 28 says) “for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.” So He does this for our greatest good, and our greatest joy, and His greatest glory–all at once. Because being conformed to Jesus Christ is exactly what we all desperately need. Every day. We all need to be violently rescued from ourselves, from our flesh, from our selfish ambition, from our pride, and dependency on ourselves. Those things all lead to death and the grave and kill our spirit–no matter how pretty they look on the outside.

Instead what we need, is to be like Jesus. And I know how cliche that sounds. I’ve heard it my whole life–but when I understand who Jesus really is, and what He is really like–it doesn’t sound cliche anymore. It sounds like being parched and dying of thirst, with my throat burning and then being led to the only stream in the world, from which the purest, and coldest water flows, and lapping it up like a thirsty dog.

I began writing this prayer out in my journal one morning, and as I prayed it, I felt such intimacy with Christ. I felt loneliness flee away from me, as I invited Him in. And gave God full permission to conform my heart, my will, my desires to His. I’ve been praying this every day since, because it changes the way I see everything. I hope it does the same for you.

journal

Conform Me To Jesus Prayer:

God,

What I really need, as I open up Your Word to seek You, is really just for You to conform me to Jesus.

Conform me to His Heart.

His tender mercy.
His hell-binding compassion.

His argument-bucking grace.

The way He NEVER falls for Satan’s schemes, or tricks, or offenses. Not once.

Conform me to His Wisdom.

Conform me to His TRUST in the Father. The way He held the Father’s Word higher than any other. Even as Satan breathed out threats against him. Even as people persecuted Him.

Conform me to His power to “throw down” arguments, instead of trying to “win” them.

Conform me to His discernment and patience.

Conform me to His Love. 

His love that “suffers long and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

That is not “irritable or resentful.” (13:5)

That “believes the best.” (13:7)

That “always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres.” (13:13) Always, always, always. The love that always wins. A love so true and powerful that it can do more than wisdom, it can do even more than faith. A love that can move mountains, loose strongholds, and cover over a multitude of sins.

Oh God, I can read and study and pray. I can evaluate my heart and interrogate others.

But without love, the love of Jesus–it is nothing.

Clanging gongs and cymbals.

I can read long, I can read short. I can wax poetic, or write for hours trying to find it. Trying to find You.

But if I don’t walk away from this time with my heart a little more conformed to Jesus…

What is the point?

I would be better off a pagan.

It would be better for me not to know Your grace, or to have tasted Your salvation—than to have tasted it, and turned and used as as some sort of ruler to measure others and cast judgement.

So conform me to Jesus.

Conform me to His Joy.

To the “joy set before Him.” Joy that enabled Him to endure shame. Joy that the Father would always come through. Joy that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him. Joy that the victory was sure. And that one day sin and darkness and perversity will be blotted out from the earth forever. And that sorrow and sighing will be no more.

Conform me to His joy. His humility. His pleasure in getting low. In the way He came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28)

Because whatever happens today, whether my worst nightmare, or greatest pleasure. You have ordained it to conform me to Jesus. Whether my family, and friends, and spouse are pleasant and easy to love, or stubborn, arrogant, and rude–conform me to Jesus.

Whether things go my way, or absolutely nothing goes my way–conform me to Jesus. Whether my body thrives with energy, or dies away with disease–conform me to Jesus.

Because this world, and my family, and my friends, and my spouse desperately need more of Him, not more of me. So let my will, my ambitions be crucified again this morning, so that I may be rendered dead, and Christ can live in me. (Galatians 2:20) And so that I can know You. So that I can glorify You, by enjoying You forever.

I need You to break into the atmosphere this morning. Conform me to You. That there may be less of me, and more of You. More of your joy, your peace, your wisdom, your mercy and compassion. More of your power, and more of your purity. And all the things I’m not–You are. So conform me to You. The One whom I live and long for.