Why God Took So Long To Give Me A Baby

God gave me you

I was painting in the garage, and she was drawing a rainbow on the cement floor with chalk when she said, “I’m glad God gave you to me as my Mommy.”

I wasn’t ready for it. “What?” I asked, making sure I heard her right. She tried to say it again, but her words came out a little more awkward this time, and she said something like, “I’m happy your’e my mommy from God.”

Tears filled my eyes.

Then she prayed, “God, thank you for giving my mommy to me. And thank you (I couldn’t understand this part.) And thank you, she makes me breakfast. And thank you we’re going to make pumpkin spagotti (biscotti). I hope it tastes good. Do you think it will taste good, God?”

Then she opened her eyes, and went back to drawing her chalk mural–while my eyes blurred with tears, and a huge lump came to my throat. Where did that come from?

She’s three…and I didn’t know her little heart could hold such gratitude. Or that it would just burst out of her, during this subtle moment in the garage. Or that she would thank God, outloud, for me, right then.

Usually, she doesn’t even want to pray out loud–even with me encouraging her.  But today she felt something inside her.

Something beautiful.

Her little heart can hold more love than I often know.

Her little mind…is not so little as I think it is. She thinks far beyond what I would expect.

“Thank you, Selah,” I said, smiling. “I’m so glad God gave me you as my daughter.”

I would have hugged her right then, if my hands didn’t have white paint on them, and if there wasn’t so much junk between us on the floor. The drawers I was painting, and an old wooden chair.

“Did you have to wait a long time for me Mom?” she asked. (I have told her the story many times, but she wanted to hear it again.)

I stepped across the junk on the floor and came a little closer to her. “Yes,” I said. “I asked God for a baby over and over again. But He didn’t give me one for a long time.”

“And when me and Daddy found out you were in my tummy, we were so happy!” I told her.

“Do you know why God took so long to give you a baby?” she said.

“No, honey,” I said. “I don’t know.”

“I know why,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because…He was making me,” she said.

He was making me.

I looked into her deep blue eyes, that seemed to know something from another world, and her blonde tossled hair russled in the breeze. And in that moment, she seemed a thousand years old.

He was making me. 

And that answer was enough. And my heart resounded with the truth of it, “Of course He was. Of course, that’s exactly what He was doing, Dear One.”

Because now that I know her, and know how special she is–it only makes sense, that it took so long. I don’t know what God was doing with her up there. There is just something about her, that seems as if she spent a long time on God’s chest before coming to mine. Almost as if heaven didn’t want to give her up.

Selah. 

And I say this with tears, to you, barren ones…

Who are waiting for your baby prayers to be answered.

Who are praying every day for God to give you a baby. To give you life.

I don’t know why it’s taking so long. 

I don’t know if He will give you a child through your womb, or through foster care, or adoption.

But either way…if you are waiting right now, and you don’t know why it’s taking so long.

Maybe it’s because God, the Maker and Giver of Life and every living thing…is still in the process of making your baby.

We can’t even begin to comprehend what is happening in the heavenlies, in the unseen, and what, or who He is forming. 

His ways are not like ours. His timing is not like ours.

And perhaps if He’s moving so slowly, and He’s taking so long… It’s because He’s forming something so breathtaking and beautiful…it cannot be rushed.

He is in the process of forming a masterpiece. 

And maybe one day, a little masterpiece will stand before you and say, “I know why God took so long to give you a baby.”

And you will say, “Why?”

And they will say,

“Because…

He was making me.” 

The Zombie Mommy In The Mirror

scared woman
Last night, when I saw my reflection in the mirror, it actually startled me. My daughter was simply brushing her teeth, and I was helping her steer her toothbrush into her mouth and away from the nasty drain (where she likes to put it). And when I glanced up into the mirror, I jumped. Because this woman with black mascara and eye-liner drooped about half an inch lower than where it should be, and looking much like a zombie, was staring back at me. “Whoa!” I exclaimed, and quickly grabbed a tissue and wiped off the melting mascara that had somehow turned me Zombie Mommy by night fall.

To be honest, I was kind of surprised I hadn’t scared anyone else in the house with my horrifying looks. You’d think as I was coaxing my two year old daughter, with my arms wide out to, “Come here!” she would have shrieked with panic and hidden under her bed or something.

But she didn’t.

You see, before I saw “Zombie Mommy” in the mirror that night, we were actually having a lot of fun. And I was doing something I don’t do nearly enough–I was playing with her. Not like, “Oh, that’s cute honey,” while I distractedly went through my facebook newsfeed. But I actually put my phone and iPad away, and was fully hers. We were in the living room playing what she was calling “the boat game.” (One of my childhood favorites.) It’s where you take the couch cushions and make them a giant raft on the floor, and then the big storm comes, and you save each other from the sharks, and rescue each other from drowning in the “water,” and you scream the whole time. (I highly recommend it.)

And while this was going on, and we were shrieking and saving each other and rolling around on the floor–I had no idea my hair was a wreck and my eyeliner had smeared below my eyes, and that I looked like a zombie. I just knew I was having fun, and so was she, and in that moment, that’s all that mattered.

The great thing about being Zombie Mommy is that before you look in the mirror and see a zombie staring back at you, you are usually having a fantastic time.

I fully agree with John Piper who says, “The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.” (pg. 33, Don’t Waste Your Life) You wouldn’t take someone to the Alps and lock them in a room full of mirrors. Because the greatest joy doesn’t come from seeing how great you look, it comes from gazing on a majesty that is greater, and more powerful, and more glorious than yours.

toddler play

And in motherhood there is something greater than the Alps right in your living room. There is this glory right in front of you, staring back in the eyes of a little boy or girl who very much bears the image of God.  And His glory.

But sometimes we miss it.

I wish I could say I don’t care what I look like. But I still do. And while I’ve come a long way from the girl who used to check her make-up during 8th grade Social Studies class, and reapply my lip glass and Champagne eyeshadow (anyone else?) during study hall–I still care very much about that girl in the mirror. And she sometimes the girl in the mirror takes me away from the little girl in the room that is waiting for me, and longing for me, and crying for me to come and play ” the boat game.”

Though I don’t want to totally “let myself go,” I have to say, sometimes I really admire Zombie Mommy. Because, there is a reason she looks like a zombie, and no matter how “ugly” she looks, there is usually a very beautiful reason behind it.

And to the mom who looks like a zombie tonight–you are exactly where you need to be. Every time you nurse your baby, or change a diaper, or fall asleep in the glider–you are being a living and breathing example of love. And while you don’t need to feel guilty if you do find time to primp, you don’t need to feel bad about the times you don’t. Because those times you don’t, and you are blissfully unaware that your mascara is down to your cheek bones and your hair looks like Medusa–are actually some of your most shining moments, in your kids eyes. They won’t remember if you had your make up on, or your hair was straightened, or if it was in a giant messy bun–but they will remember that you made them feel loved. They will remember the time you rolled around on the floor and played “the boat game,” or any game at all. They will remember your laughter, they will remember your joy, and the way your eyes shone when you looked into theirs. And they will remember always, your arms open out wide to embrace them, and hold them close.

And as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t make you a zombie. It actually makes you quite beautiful.

 

When Motherhood Gets Messy


“Don’t touch Mommy when she’s on the potty.”

This is an actual rule in our house. One of those rules you never imagine making before entering motherhood, but makes total sense after the fact. My daughter is two, and when I’m on the toilet, she likes to stand right up next to me, with her hand on my thigh like a faithful midwife.

A midwife who won’t leave. Who screams and pounds on the door when I try to lock her out. It’s rather stressful…for all digestive purposes.

My daughter has a way of entering my space. Whether I want her to, or not. How I am disarmed by a two-year-old day after day, I am still trying to figure out.

We’re in the potty training stage right now. Which means…I currently spend most my free time sitting on the bathroom floor. Waiting for her to “finish.”

I never thought I’d be comfortable eating my breakfast cereal or drinking my coffee while she stinks up the place. But I am.

I am reaching new “lows” like a Limbo champ.

Public Bathroom or Wrestling Cage?

Public bathrooms are the worst.

My daughter is obsessed with them. Every time we’re in a new store, she wants to “go.” I’ll open the door of the stall, and she races in like she’s first in line at the gate of Disney World. And she always heads for the same place, that little one foot gap between the toilet and the wall. You know, the place where only two things—the plunger and toilet brush–should be? But alas. My girl makes three and picks them up and greets them like long lost relatives. That’s when I start screaming, “No! No!!! Yucky!! Put those down!! Yucky germs! No! No! Not in your mouth!!!” So much for peaceful parenting. Get me in a public restroom and I’m a fire-breathing dragon.

The whole experience is catastrophic. And as we take turns going potty, I’m not sure what’s worse: my turn, when she stands with her hand on the latch of the stall door, and smiles, knowing I am at her complete mercy, while I threaten her, “Don’t you DARE open that door!!” Or her turn, when she nearly takes a plunge into the enormous toilet while screaming, “I do it myself!” and then rummages her hand through the “feminine napkin” box like it’s a Happy Meal. Either way, it usually ends in a lot of screaming and scuffling and banging around. Sounding much like a wrestling cage-match to the person in the stall next to us.

(If you’re not a mom, imagine someone trying to sit on a toilet and wrestle an alligator at the same time. Because that’s much what’s going when Mommy and Toddler are in the next stall.)

[Click here to finish reading the rest of this post at Thriving Home Blog, where I have had the priviledge of being featured by Polly and Rachel.]

Why Our Kids Need Us To Make More Messes 

mess photo

It was just the two of us last weekend. While “Daddy” was seven hours away, camping and climbing in the mountains, my two-year-old daughter and I stayed home with the mountains of laundry in the living room. On Saturday night, we were having a rather lame evening and were both feeling a little restless and bored and irritated with one another,  when suddenly: I had an idea. (It was what I like to call a “Fun Mommy” idea. You know, one of those ideas that matches the impulsiveness of a 13-year-old boy.) The moment I thought of it, I blurted it right out, “Hey! I know! Let’s set up the tent, and have a camp-out in your bedroom!”  

Yay!! Yay!!! Yay!!” My daughter Selah cheered and jumped up and down. And then…I immediately regretted that decision. 

I suddenly envisioned the huge mess it was going to make. The pain of setting it up, and tearing it down. Not to mention the stiff back I’d have in the morning. 

“Wait,” I kept asking her, trying to undo what I’d just done,  “Are you SURE you want to sleep in the tent tonight?” (I don’t know why I thought she might change her mind, because the more I asked her if she was “sure,” the more excited she got, and the higher she jumped up and down.)

We were definitely setting up the tent. 

After I set it up, (and almost took out her eye with one of the tent poles, and nearly smashed the light on her ceiling while dodging her eye), I spread a few blankets and pillows in the tent and went to the kitchen to finish the dishes. And when I came back…every single stuffed animal and toy my daughter owns was in the tent. I mean we were at “FULL OCCUPANCY.” Her toy box was totally bare.  


“Come in Mama! Come in Mama!” she screamed. My jaw dropped. My eyebrows raised. “Wow,” I kept repeating, “Wow.” I didn’t know how to react. But then I saw her face…smiling with such intensity over what she had done. Convinced I would join in her pleasure.

And something just came over me. Maybe I do have the impulsiveness of a teenage boy, but I jumped in like it was the ball-pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And as I lay there, looking quite like Gulliver surrounded by the little village people, she squealed with delight. And then I did something I don’t often do: I actually played with her. I gave her stuffed animals names and characters and voices. I don’t often take the time to think up dialogue between a Cabbage Patch doll and a plush fox—but that night I did. And I think if she smiled any wider, her face would have cracked open.

And that’s when I realized: she loves this. 

She would not rather be doing anything in the world right now, than playing with me. Than burying me in toys. Than listening to me make stuffed animals talk. Because this is her world.

And she wants me to enter it.

She wants me on her level. To see the world the way she does. With excitement, and wonder, and possibility. But I’m 28 and she’s 2. And we don’t enjoy the same things. We don’t see the world the same way.

And she can’t understand why I like to sit still and read a book. Or type on the computer. Or clean the house. We enjoy totally different things. It’s like, my language is different than hers right now. And she can’t learn mine. I have to learn hers. I have to know how to speak to her. Because that’s the only way she will hear me. 

And right now, as much as I want to believe it, she doesn’t actually feel loved by a clean house. (I do.) She doesn’t feel happier when I’m tossing all her toys in the correct bins. (I do.) She wants the dogpile. And she wants the mess—if it means that I come with it.

I’m sure there are plenty of mom’s out there that can manage it differently, but for me and my house, I cannot show my daughter love right now unless a huge mess is involved. 

When My Biggest Messes Become Her Best Memories

My daughter loves tea-parties, and painting, and “helping” me cook. (Yikes!) She likes giant forts, and tents in her room, and going to the beach so that she’s covered from head to toe in sand by the time we leave. (Including every crack and crevice.) But these are moments we will look back and remember.

So, sometimes, what will mean a big mess for me to clean up, will mean a big memory for her someday.

When I was growing up, I’m sure my mother did a great job with our house…but quite frankly, I don’t remember. And when I think back to my happiest memories with my mom, or during my childhood, none of them involve anything “clean” or “tidy.” In fact, quite the opposite.

So maybe I need to stop. I need to stop trying to make it look a two-year old DOESN’T live in my house. Because she most certainly DOES. And so do all her toys.

And I need to stop avoiding fun activities, just because they are going to be messy. I need to embrace the messy activities, because those are the ones she’s going to remember and enjoy.

I’m not saying we don’t ever need to clean our houses…because we do. But, I know for me, it just somehow takes over. The desire for cleanliness, and order. I only have one child, but sometimes I feel like I have two. And my house is like this spoiled “firstborn.” I spoil her and fuss over her, and drop everything to make sure she’s “happy” (or organized.)

Meanwhile, my daughter begs for my attention. And I keep sending her away, because I feel I need to tend to my “firstborn.” I say, “Go play with your toys.” “Go to your room.” “Go read your books.”

Meanwhile, she waits.

And sometimes I forget that: I didn’t quit my job so I could stay home and take care of my precious house. 

I quit my job so I could stay home and take care of my precious child. 

She matters. What I do with her here every day–it matters. What I whisper in her ears as she falls asleep, the songs I sing to soothe her cries, all my made up lullabies. They matter. What she remembers about me, the way I made her feel—all matter so very much. Because my house could be bulldozed next week. But my daughter, will live for eternity. And the imprints I leave on her soul matter forever.

There are moments no one sees when I’m alone with her—but God sees them. And she sees them, and feels them all. And they all shape her and who she is becoming. I want to be a good “steward” of my house, but I want to be a better “steward” of this little girl. Who will grow up to be a woman, who will have her own thoughts and questions about God, who will have to choose between wanting a treasure that can be seen and praised by men, or hidden away in heaven with God. Who will have to choose someday between her house and her child. She will live in a world who cares only about outward appearances, and cares nothing for inward ones.

My daughter needs me. She needs to me to look her in the face, she needs my arms around her, and sometimes she just needs me to lay with her and be totally enefficent. And sometimes, she needs me to make a big mess with her—just to feel my love.

That night I slept in the tent on her bedroom floor, we did make a huge mess. And my back was sore the next day. But as we lay in the dark with the glow of Pillow Pets and flashlights and giggled and kissed and held each other close–a memory was made.

Someday she won’t be two anymore. She will be seventeen. And I will need to learn her language all over again. And when that day comes, she will need to know: I’m not afraid of her messes. And showing her my love might look different then. I doubt she’ll want a camp-out on her bedroom floor. I might even have to sleep outside her bedroom door, until she’s willing to open it. I might have to lay on her bed and listen to her music, long enough to learn all the lyrics. I might need to sit with her in her messy room, and listen to her cry. I might need to pull her close and tell her I made a lot of messes growing up, too.

But she was never one of them.

And I don’t see her just as this “mess-maker.” But as this beautiful “memory.” I will need to show her, whether she’s two or a teenager, that Love makes messes. And Love stays to clean up messes.

Some will spend their whole lives trying to avoid messes. But as for me and my house…we’re choosing to make messes. To love making messes. Messes so big, you can’t help but remember them.

This Ugly House

Photo-1

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.

The First Time You Paint Her Toenails

selah toenailsIt happened last week. We sat on the bathroom floor together. She squirmed in my lap, and pulled off her socks one by one. And I picked out the only color I had…for a brand-new two-year-old: light pink.

The novelty of nail-polish, Mom’s nail-polish, kept her little feet squirming. I tried to steady them in my hand, and even when I’d whisper in her ear, “Hold still,” her toes still wiggled a little bit. I carefully painted the pretty color on each tiny toenail. Amazed at how small each one was. And as I did, something happened.

Something happens the first time you paint her toenails. It only happens between mothers and daughters I am sure. I can barely name it. But as I painted her nails, I felt I was doing something much more grand, and I think she felt it, too.

It was almost too delicate to put into words. But it was as if I were showing her, her wings. Showing her the way to beauty. And soon tears filled my eyes. It was as if I realized all at once–she was going to grow up into a woman.

A beauty.

I can see her sitting before me in a white gown before the ceremony. And I’m buttoning silk buttons long all the way up her back. I’m helping her pin up long, loose wisps of curls. I’m down on the ground, painting her toenails…and remembering: this. This day, when I first painted her nails, when they were so tiny. And her feet squirmed. And her toes wiggled. And I will want to take her in my arms and whisper once more in her ear, “Hold still.”

selah toenail 2

I push the thought away, of the day she will fly away from home forever. And who will she fly with? It pushes back. Who would ever be worthy?

I see the way she already wins attention: effortlessly. Her bright blonde hair, and big ocean eyes, her long dark eyelashes, and pixie-like features. I know she already is: a beauty.  A creature like I’ve never seen.

Yesterday, a little boy in the booth behind us, would not stop standing up and calling for her attention. She turned, and stood, too. And then they just smiled at each other six inches from one another’s face. He reached out one finger, just wanting to touch her. And she reached hers back. They both giggled when their fingertips touched. Was this toddler love?

I think mothers see it long before we ever want to admit. The grandeur of raising a daughter. Of raising up beauty, in it’s purest form. A beauty that will one day take on a life of her own, and find the comfort of another man’s arms. A man who will never seem worthy of her…

Only because you saw her, in a way he never has. You saw her at her most delicate state. You cradled her when she was just a fragile bundle on your chest. You rocked her long hours in the night, and let her tears bleed into your shirt. And you remember the first time you painted her toenails. And the way you trembled at the beauty of this little girl. And tremble still.

And you will cry, with hot tears streaming down, not because of how beautiful she looks that day. But because of how beautiful she has looked every day since the day she was born.

selah toenail blanket

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.”

Christmas is for Desperate People

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To My Daughter on Christmas,
I realize Christmas may seem a little confusing right now: This week you saw a glowing tree magically appear in our living room. (Then you were yelled at for touching it.) We went to the mall story-time and you got paper antlers and jingle bells to wear. Christmas music blared and as we strolled away, you saw a very long line of kids waiting to sit on an old man’s lap. Later that night, I dressed you in your new red and pink reindeer pajamas–but you kept calling them, “puppies.”

I know you are not yet two, but even at twenty-seven, this holiday can still make your head swirl. But someday, I hope you can see what Christmas is really about, and that is this: Christmas is for desperate people.

Last night, as you pulled all the ornaments within your reach off our Christmas tree, you kept pointing to one in particular you called, “baby.” We haven’t talked about this “baby” yet. But He is the reason we have Christmas at all.

See, a long time ago, the world was full of desperate people. And it was dark, and sad, and in need of a Rescuer. Remember how I told you I used to cry because I had to wait a very long time for you to be born? The earth was waiting for a baby too. But this was no ordinary baby. He was the Rescuer. He would rescue people from death, and despair, and darkness. Because the people loved darkness, they kept running further and further away from God. They didn’t know His love yet. What they needed to see, was a God who would run towards them. A God who would come close. At any cost.

God had been silent a very long time. But two thousand years ago, in a barn, in the starlight, in the straw, His teenage momma pushed out His warm, slippery, little body. And the moment this “baby” let out His first cry–the silence was broken forever. Between God and men.

And as His mom held Him on her chest and felt His skin against hers, she breathed out His name, “Jesus.” “Immanuel.” It means, “God is with us.”

And He was.

God had come. Skin to skin. Breath to breath. And soon, blood for blood. For the desperate. For the sinners. And that’s what that “baby” means. That was the beginning. Of God coming close to us. Of us being brought close to Him. Forever.

Sadly, some people don’t really know why we have Christmas. They try very hard to be happy and make it mean something, but they don’t know that the only reason to be happy is that the Rescuer made a way for us to be saved from going to a very bad place, and that we can be close to God now. Forever.

I’m telling you this because you are going to see big presents and flashing lights, and hear Christmas carols, and there will be cookies, and ugly sweaters, and people rushing around buying gifts. There will be little Santa’s and big inflatable ones, and reindeer, and movies, and ads for toys, and itchy dresses, and family photos. And I give you full permission to enjoy those things. But those are extra. They are not the main thing. Christmas is about Jesus.

And He came to save people enslaved to sin. To free people from addiction. He came to cleanse sinners in His blood and clothe the naked in His righteousness. He came to take shame away. He came to feed the hungry with good things, to make rich the poor, to set captives free. He came to give Living Water to the thirsty, so they may not thirst any more. He came for brokeness and unhealable pain. He came for the lowly. And for those who thought they were really holy. He came for people who would break their marriage vows. And for all the people who would be wounded by it. He came for girls that would take off their clothes for attention, and men who would take off their rings for satisfaction. He came for people with cancer, who would be healed in the life to come. He came for abused people, and sexually confused people. He came for depressed and anxious people, and those paralyzed constantly by fear. And shame.

And He came for people like me. Because, though you don’t know yet, you will know soon that: I am desperate. And I say this with tears: I desperately need Jesus. I need Him. He is life to me.

Me and your dad: we are desperate people. We are weak and sinful. We get angry. We do bad things, we think bad things. But in Jesus, we find an invitation to come. Not because of who we are, or what we’ve done, but because of who He is, and what He’s done. Are you desperate? I pray one day you will be.

Because of this you can be sure—He is coming back again. Not as a Baby this time, but as King. And He’s coming for the desperate. And only for the desperate. “For all those who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8) And when He comes back He won’t appear as weak and lowly, but exalted and glorious. King of the earth. He will ride in on a great white horse, wearing many diadems, and He will be called: Faithful and True. On his robe and on his thigh will be written: King of kings and Lord of lords. And all the armies of heaven will ride in behind Him. And all nations and people will fall down before Him. And when He lifts His voice, the only ones who will rise will be, the desperate. Desperate for Jesus. And they shall enter the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and be satisfied forever. And nothing shall separate them from His love.

For God himself will be with them.

Immanuel.

So if you want to celebrate Christmas, my dear, we shall. We will celebrate the only way we truly can: as desperate people. As those who long for His appearing.

Love,
Mom

Photo Credit/Teamaskins

When All I Wanted For Christmas Was You

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This Christmas season my almost-4-year-old daughter will “help” decorate: She will yank on the Christmas lights, and break ornaments, and stick her fingers in the cookie dough.

But it hasn’t always been this way. There were many quieter Christmases at our house.

I remember just a few years ago, my husband and I were putting up the tree. And as I pulled out lights and ornaments from the red and green storage bins—I found our stockings.

I guess it’s just instinct to reach my hand inside. Maybe a stray Snickers bar? Some leftover Christmas candy? I immediately felt something in mine.

But what I pulled out of my stocking was not candy.

It was a another little stocking.

Almost like a…baby stocking.

I’m not sure where it came from or how it got in there. But as I held the tiny stocking in my hand, a pang of sorrow filled my heart. I couldn’t help but think of the little baby I had desired for so long. As I touched the fabric gently in my fingers, warm tears rolled down my cheeks and the Christmas lights blurred around me.

I longed for the little one I could one day hang this stocking for. The patter of little feet. And the sound of laughter.

I held the tiny stocking up to  my husband, and tried to force a smile, with tears coming down my cheeks. He came and sat down on the couch next to me and pulled me into his chest, holding me in his arms. More tears came then.
“I just thought,” I said, as tears streaked slowly down my face, “We would have a baby by now.”

“I know,” he whispered and stroked my hair with his fingers. “I know.”

It seemed like forever then, the waiting. The not knowing. The trusting. The wondering if God would answer. And when.

Tonight, that little stocking hangs on our mantle. For two years it’s hung. And the one for whom it hangs sits with me here on the couch and lays her sleepy head on my lap. And as I slowly stroke her blonde hair with my fingers, hot tears run again. And Christmas lights blur. Selah.

My Precious Selah,
Our nights aren’t silent any more. They are loud with screams, and cries, and laughter. But when you go to sleep, and me and Daddy are left alone, sometimes I sit and remember the time before you. And I grow silent once more, in awe and reverence…because of what God has done. And I think about the way He came close to me during the years of silent nights, and my silent cries for you. When your name was but a whispered prayer. A dream in the night.
Selah.

You were worth every minute I waited for you.

How to Love Your Friends

Selah and Friends

Selah loves her friends. (Both living and non.) And anytime my husband or I try to pray before a meal, she interjects with a long list of her every friend, cousin, neighbor, uncle, and inanimate object within eyeshot. It’s cute at first, and then we kind of look at each other and try to get her to a good stopping point. She simply can’t help herself.

The other night, when I was rocking her in my arms before bed and praying out loud for her to be safe, and strong, and the angels to protect her, she just kept whispering the names of others:  Rory.  Blakely.  Grandma.  Pap Pap.  Baby Ben.  Baby Bo.

I stopped mid-prayer and was moved with wonder: She just keeps naming everyone she loves. That’s what prayer is for her. 

For me…prayer is often a long list of my wants, my needs, my goals. How often do I really pray for my friends?

The next night, before I could even verbalize this to my husband, we got into bed and shut out the light and he said, there in the dark, “Let’s pray for our friends.”

And he started doing just that: praying for our friends, and their needs. And as we prayed, their heartaches became our heartaches. And their cries, became our cries. And the more we prayed, the more I loved them. Every single one. Our friends. The people God has planted in our lives. And by the time we were finished, I felt like a root in my soul was extended out further. Like arms reaching. In friendship, toward them. Because I loved them, and I loved their cries. And they were all precious to me.

And to my friends, I have not loved you nearly enough, nor cherished you as I ought. And Selah has taught me this. To love deeply. To hug tightly. And to name out before God the people you love. She has shown me quite simply that, “A friend loves at all times.” Even meal times. Even bed time. For, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It just looks different than I thought. It’s not always a bloody martyr walk. Sometimes it’s just making their cries your own, through a simple prayer. And opening your heart to love them, the way God does. And I know that loving people isn’t about “just” praying for them. (I know that it’s meeting actual needs like making meals, and helping out, and physically doing things for them.) But…I think when it comes down to how to love our friends—it’s a good place to start. To simply: start praying for them. Truly. Sincerely. Because something mystical happens when we pray for people, we just supernaturally…love them more. And if we can love them more when we’re not with them, how much more when we are together, will we be prepared to listen well, and love well, and lay down life, the way Christ did for us.

Because He is our example in all things, even friendship. And He really loved, and really liked His disciples, His friends. And not only did he feed them, and wash their feet, and break His body for them…but He prayed for them. (John 17) And in doing so, He loved them.