All I See Are Blooms

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She’s supposed to be sleeping, but instead, I hear her across the hall. She’s laying in her bed, telling her “knock knock” joke to her stuffed horse. And chattering softly to herself, to her stuffed animals. And to any angels who may be listening in.

I’m sitting on the bed, typing, just to let my soul breathe for a second. Just to inhale this moment. Just to breathe in His grace. And all the love He’s lavished right here in this place. Just to pause for a moment and look around at all He has given me.

Our room is messy, with the clothes we decided not to wear tonight still scattered on the bed, the dresser drawers are pulled out unevenly of the furniture that doesn’t match. Our curtains are ones that I picked up at a yard sale in June.

And I feel like a queen. Not because of anything I’ve done, or accomplished, but because of how great a thing I’ve been given. Because what I have is so good.

And I don’t always see it. The treasure that is my life. The treasure that is my husband, that is my daughter. The treasure that is my God.

But tonight, for these couple minutes of quiet, the blinders are off my eyes. I can see.

And what I see, is so good. Many people who are more successful, more wealthy, more “whatever” could look on me, and see failure. But I don’t care at all what others might see.

I care what He sees. And I care that He sees me, seeing Him. All of Him, and only Him as the One who has blessed me beyond all I could ever ask, or hope, or imagine.

And all of the best things, are coming with me to the next life. All of the best things aren’t the ones that thieves can break in and steal, or moths and rust can destroy. Because Jesus said, that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And my soul is free tonight. For once, even if just for it a little. I can fly. The thing I’ve dreamed of doing all my life.

And if Peter Pan was right about one thing—it was the happy thoughts.

That happy thoughts make you fly.

It’s easy to be weighed down by all the evil, all the horror. I can think even now of the terrible news I read on news feeds tonight. And it’s so easy to let my eyes grow dark with the darkness. To let my heart grow heavy with the sins of the world, and it’s aching groans.

I’ve always had a bent toward sorrow, toward grief. Almost like grief would keep me sober. Grief would keep me ready for anything. It would protect my heart from being naïve. And so, I only listened to sad music, I identified with it. It seemed most real to me. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been more captivated by sorrow, than by joy.

Until now.

Because I feel God wants to open the floodgates of joy. Because joy is more powerful than anyone thinks it is.

Joy is the heartbeat of the other world we were all made for. The world to which we are all waiting, and longing to go. The one where all of our treasures are.

In the movie, “Luther,” there is a monk who says, “All my life, I have lived in a world that has hated evil, more than it’s loved good.”

A world that has hated evil, more than it has loved good.

I know I am guilty as charged. Perhaps many other Christians are as guilty as me. It’s just that the bad things are so…bad. Sometimes I don’t realize that the good things are so…good. Or that the good things are all…from God.

I remember one night several months ago, there was such outrage on Facebook, about a very broken man who was trying to become a woman. And there were photos of him, and there was anger, and perversity, and nasty comments going back and forth. And my heart felt so heavy, over our world, over the confusion, over it all.

But just then, as I was feeling so discouraged, an email from the other side of the world popped up in my inbox that said, “Xavier was born!” He is my nephew, born to my missionary sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Niger, Africa. And when I saw his face, his little tiny newborn face, in the photo attachment—I just cried happy tears because, he was so beautiful. And the news was so good.

He was my happy thought.

And in the week to come, I kept thinking of his little face. I kept feeling I could fly. Just because of him. The joy he was. The evidence of “good.” Of God.

And I began to learn that however large those dark clouds hang, they are not bigger than the light that bursts through these good and perfect gifts from God.
Last spring, I was weeding my flower bed and I felt sure I heard the Lord speak to me. Not in an audible voice, but in my mind. But He said, in an Irish accent, (and I know how crazy this makes me sound) but He said, “Do you hate weeds more than you love flowers?”

And right away, I knew exactly what He meant. “Do you hate weeds, more than you love flowers?”

Do you hate the bad, more than you love the good?

Do the weeds invoke more anger and irritation in you, than the joy of these blooming flowers?

Do you mourn the losses, more than you celebrate the victories?

In this life, there are always going to be weeds. There are always going to be flaws, there are always going to bad things, and people that are not perfect. There are always going to be problems, and trials, and evil. There will always be weeds.

But there will always be flowers, too.

And when I look out on my life, on other’s lives—am I going to see the weeds, or the flowers? And am I going to hate the weeds, more than I love the flowers?

I think God likes flowers. And maybe that’s why He hasn’t “rototilled” us all to pieces by now.

He’s more gracious than I can comprehend. And sometimes, when I read about King David’s life, all I can see is this lying, adulterous, deceitful man, enslaved to sexual addiction, and lust.

All I see are a whole bunch of nasty weeds.

But that isn’t what God sees. God notoriously calls David, “A man after My own heart.” A man who passionately worshipped, and cried out to God from his bed, and who sang with his whole being, and knew his own brokenness, and God’s own goodness and mercy, and trusted in it, all the days of his life. That’s what God sees. The flowers. The beautiful, glorious flowers.

And I want to see how God sees. In my own life, and in other people’s lives. Because I think He sees and appreciates and rejoices in beauty more than anyone thinks He does. And when we join Him in this—we feel His pleasure.

Oh, I want to feel His pleasure!

So I’m going to love the good, more than I hate the evil. I’m going to love the flowers, more than I hate the weeds.

Because flowers are beautiful.

Last night, I fell asleep to my husband playing his guitar and singing in the other room. And there was no sweeter sound in all the world. I just lay in our bed and soak in his voice like the most soothing lullaby I’ve ever heard.

I forget the miracle he is sometimes. I forget the mystery of the way we met. I forget how precious he is. I forget the softness of his voice.

And just to lay and listen, as tears form in my eyes, and love him all the more—just because he’s mine. Just because I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Just because God gave him to me, as a gift. A good and perfect gift. Not because he is perfect, but because He is from God, and that makes him perfect for me.

Right now, Selah is sleeping across the hall. But tonight, when I put her down, I lay with her in her bed and as we lay in the dark, she held my face in her hands and smiled wide at me, looking at me like she was a proud grandma. With her hands still on my cheeks, I said, “Hey Selah, did you know that I always wanted to have a little girl named Selah?” And she just giggled. And after a few minutes I said, “Hey Selah, what do you think is in heaven?” And she said, “Toys.”

And we both laughed with the blankets pulled up to our chins.

She’s two, and the youngest miracle I know. And I don’t know what heaven holds, but when I hear her laugh, when I hear my husband sing, I feel heaven breaking through.

I feel the treasure they are. I feel my heart move into that place where no one can steal my joy away. And I see flowers breaking through the dirt.

And I love flowers because they are beautiful. Even with the weeds, they are beautiful.

And tonight, all I see are blooms.

Infertility: Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?

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We all know that labor hurts. But what most people don’t know is: infertility hurts too. It’s not the loud, screaming kind of pain. It’s long, and slow, and quiet. It’s a different kind of labor altogether. A labor of the soul.

It happens when you toss another negative pregnancy test in the trash can and sit on your bathroom floor and cry.

It happens when you lay in your bed at night, and your husband holds you as you stare into the darkness, while silent tears fall into your pillow.

It happens when you sit at a baby shower and hear all the “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” over every little, tiny gift, and wonder if you will ever have any little, tiny gifts of your own to open?

It happens when you look in the mirror at your flat stomach, and put your hand over it, and pray for life to grow. And try to imagine what it would look like, what it would feel like, if it did?

It happens when you see teenagers pushing strollers past your house. And when the minivan full of children opens it’s doors. And when a friend says they had another “oopsies” pregnancy. And you wonder: Why is this so easy for everyone else? Except us?

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This Ugly House

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My house has problems. Does yours? First of all, I have the ugliest linoleum kitchen floor. Ever. Sometimes I feel the need to apologize to guests when they walk in. It’s yellow and brown, and looks a lot like the geometric pattern of throw up. Maybe it was all the rage in the 60’s, but today it’s retro-horror. Even the most vintage-loving hipsters out there would find it ugly. I’m pretty sure the floor’s design came straight out of one of those optical illusion books I read as a kid. So, if you happen to drop your Cheerios, don’t even bother looking for them. They are lost. To hunt for them is dizzying. You won’t find them again until you feel something crush under your feet.

Go ahead, say it: first world problem. (But just for the record, when my brother-in-law, who lives in Africa, sent pictures of their new missionary compound, I couldn’t help but notice: even their floor was nicer than ours.) Just sayin.

We are renting this house, so we don’t have the freedom to change things. And while I love the location, there are some things I would love to fix about this place. Like, there’s no dishwasher. And old siding. The bathroom is somewhat decrepit. It needs repainted. And there’s definitely something funky going on with the shower tiles. And it’s tiny. (So tiny that when my daughter is on her potty chair and I’m on the toilet at the same time, our knees almost touch. That’s fun.)

But lately, we’ve had a bigger, less trivial problem: our doors freeze shut. (As in, we can’t get out of the house frozen shut.)

We realized last Monday morning when my husband tried to leave for work—and then he couldn’t. That was the day he jumped out the bedroom window in his dress clothes, and proceeded to kick the front door open Chuck Norris style. That was the day I stood there in my pajamas, head-over-heels (or slippers) in love, as my very own ninja-warrior saved the day and drove off to work.

That was a week ago. Since then, he’s acted out this little kung-fu scenario every day. And it’s not so funny any more. It’s plain annoying.

Finally, it happened to me. Selah and I were about to leave for Target to buy her some Mini-Mouse underwear, when I realized we were stuck. The door re-froze from my husband’s morning escapade, and we couldn’t get out.

Immediately, “Survival Mommy” sprung into action: I threw my weight into the door. Nothing happened. I tried kicking it. Nothing happened. I went to the bedroom window and tried to open it. Nothing happened. Then, I started to panic. “What are we going to do Selah!?” I kept asking her over and over again. And she just stood there all bundled in her coat, looking up at me like a little marshmallow. I had to do something.

That’s when I opted for my default weapon of choice: the blow dryer.

There I was, for about 45 minutes blow drying the door frame. And as the ice began to melt and I stood with a puddle of water forming around my feet, I kept picturing that little tag on the blow dryer. You know that one that has a red “X” over the blow dryer in the bathtub? And then I started thinking about what my obituary would say, “Mother dies of blow dryer electrocution. She was that stupid folks.” (Do you ever do that? Start writing your own obituary in your head when you’re doing something dangerous?) My next feat was chipping at the ice around the doorframe with a hammer, a screwdriver and…a grilling fork. (It was a real low point for me.) But I was determined. We were getting out of the house. We were going to Target. We were buying Mini-Mouse underwear. I would break a window if I had to.

But thankfully, by the grace of God (and perhaps some angelic intervention), the door finally opened. Which meant, we made it out of the house without breaking any bones or windows. And, I didn’t even get electrocuted in the process.

Hallelujah.

Now, this may not come as a surprise, but I’ve really been falling out of love with my house lately. I’m constantly noticing every little, and big, need for improvement. I’m constantly pointing out some new problem or failure. I’m constantly house hunting online, or browsing Pinterest to pin ideas for my dream house someday. Or, I’m researching how to spruce up a rental. How to utilize small spaces. How to make everything look nicer, and better than it does right now.

I was down on my hands and knees today, washing my kitchen floor from all the mud and ice that’s been tracked in. And as the warm water mixed with the clean scent of Murphy Oil Soap, and I scrubbed, I began to think about all the places I’ve lived. Places smaller than this, uglier than this. Places three times the size, and much more beautiful than this. But you know what I’m finally realizing? It doesn’t really matter. Our house. What it looks like. Because it’s not the house that makes me happy. It’s the people that live in it.

The more I scrubbed, the more clearly I could see it:

My kitchen floor is ugly, but the little feet that patter across it somehow make it beautiful. The feet that dance upon it, turn it into sacred ground. And the little girl who lays on it in front of the stove, makes it fade altogether in the background with her beauty.

My house is small, but it forces me to be closer to the man that I love. The man that jumps out of windows for me, and kicks in doors. The man who comes home at the end of the day and fills this place with music.

We get stuck inside sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck with anyone else on earth. We lose power, the heat goes out, but I wouldn’t want to be under blankets with anyone else.

It is bitterly cold here, but the neighbors next door begin to make it feel a little warmer. The other young moms down the road remind that spring will come. That we will take walks again. That things do grow here. When we let out our roots into one another’s lives.

This house has it’s problems, but this is exactly where God wants us to be right now. And though there are some ugly parts, this is a place where the Spirit of God dwells. This is a place where we love Him. Where we worship Him. Where we enjoy Him. This is a place where He speaks to us. And that suddenly makes this place holy. And sacred.

We could have the most beautiful house in the world. We could make the pages of the Ikea catalogue materialize all around us. We could Pinterest our way into some kind of paradise. But unless God is here, unless God is filling this place, it is just an empty space.

So God, come, come fill up this house once again with Your presence. Come dwell here with us. Because wherever we live, I want to make my home in You. And I want You to come make Your home in me. (John 14:23) Let us turn our eyes upon You. And look full in Your wonderful face. So the things on earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of Your glory and grace. 

I’m not saying I won’t still drool as I look through Pinterest, or that I won’t dream as I walk through Lowe’s. I will still really admire the beautiful houses of my friends. But as long as God has us here, I will love this ugly house. Because it’s the people that live here, that make it beautiful. And the God who dwells here, who makes it holy.

I Actually Really Love This

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I know it’s good to get away now and then, and I do. I slip out to Starbucks and write, or just stare out the window. But sometimes when we have a baby-sitter and we are at an adult-only party, I’m laughing along at some joke, and somewhere during that laughter, my mind drifts away to her. I feel the pink rubber hairband around my pinky, and think of how like it, I’m wrapped around her finger. I open my purse to pay at the coffee shop and as I pull out my wallet, so does Mr. Potato Head’s arm. My ear bud is wet; she sucked on it this morning under the computer desk.

How is it she goes with me everywhere? How is it, she has become my obsession? I’m tired and moody and yet, I can’t pry myself away. I feel naked without her.

My husband’s home this week on Christmas break, and I will grocery shop tomorrow as usual. And he will probably offer to keep her home with him. And that will sound like a great idea, until I am there. Alone.

I’ll push the empty cart, without her in it. I’ll easily grab the produce and cereal I want without having to pry anything out of little hands. No one will snatch my shopping list from me, or crumble it up, or throw it on the ground. No one will open the dryer sheets and blow their nose on them. No one will scream at the top of their lungs or tell me they have to go potty as I begin to check out.

The secret is: I actually love to have her with me. Even though it can be hard, and stressful, and chaotic.

Life is more fun with her.

I want her with me. I want her smile. I want her voice to fill up the car. I want her blonde head chattering in the rearview mirror. Even when that blonde head will start to scream and whine. Because, even as I’m wrestling her off the bathroom floor, (who knows what they are thinking in the stall next to us), and grabbing her from touching the nastiest box of feminine napkins that is bolted to the wall–I actually really love this. I love her. I love her with me. And I wouldn’t trade it.

That moment she left my womb, on a cold night in January, she entered my heart–never to leave.

I’m not saying taking breaks, or time away is bad. In fact, it is very good. I guess I’m just realizing, it’s not what outsiders would think it is. Those aren’t the moments I live for. They are the ones that help me keep living.

It’s like when you were a kid, on a hot summer’s day, running around playing freeze tag, sweating, screaming and laughing. Then your friend’s mom comes outside with a giant pitcher of Kool-aid. Someone screams “Time-out!” and you pause for a moment, gulping down all the cold liquid you can. And then you stand there, breathing hard, and wiping your mouth, and catching your breath. And the moment you do, someone screams, Time in!” And you run wildly back into the yard.

That is what we mom’s live for. The exhilarating game in the grass, the one that makes us sweat, and scream, and laugh. Not the crumpled paper cup on the picnic table. That was just so we could keep going.

Because underneath all the noise and chaos as we tote around little ones, underneath the shirt stained by ketchup fingers, underneath the the hands cramped from buckling, and unbuckling car seats, is a woman who whispers in her heart,
“I actually really love this.”

Missing Rock Concerts

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Right now, Kari Jobe is less than a mile away from my house. (I could literally put on my running shoes, and be at her hotel. Not that I’ve thought about it or anything.) But she might as well be across the country. Tonight thousands will flock to our city’s arena and hear her sing and lead tremendous worship
–but not me.

Why, you ask? Because of barking.

Last night around midnight, I heard barking across the hall.
It was my daughter, it was Croup.

When I pulled out last year’s humidifier from our hall closet…it looked like it was hit with the Black Plague. (That was disappointing.) In a flash, my husband was gone to buy a new one. Meanwhile, I lay with her next to me in our bed, pulling her warm, feverish body close to mine. “Shhh,” I whispered. “It’s okay.”

My husband must have bought an industrial grade model. Because let me tell you, it felt like a SWAMP in our bedroom last night. I swear I felt raindrops at one point as the whole water cycle was happening in our bedroom. I mean, it was thick in there.

But she could breathe.
And that’s all that mattered.

This morning, as she and I stayed home from church, I popped in a live DVD performance of Bethel Music’s, “You Make Me Brave.” And who should appear on the stage, but Kari Jobe. “Ah!” I thought, “I could be seeing her tonight!”

But alas. Here we were. Her in her pajamas, and I in my sweats. In a steamy house. Steamy like the fog that was wafting on the stage where Kari Jobe was singing on the TV screen, steamy like the arena where she would be singing tonight.

But as we watched…Selah, my daughter, got up and started dancing. And I started dancing, too. Together, in our steamy house, we started dancing, and singing, and jumping, and laughing, and I held her hands swung her around in wild, dizzying circles, while she let out a high-pitch squeal at the top of her lungs. And Kari Jobe was belting it out from the TV, and so was I. And no one was watching.

But God.

And here in this place, here my sweatpants, I suddenly didn’t mind missing the rock show tonight. The glory of God came down, right in our living room. Selah laughed, and I cried–because God is good, and God is here, and God is enough. And just to be here, in his presence, together, like this–is enough. More than enough.

Being a mom: I may miss out on some of the glamour, but none of the glory.

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Genesis 28:16

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