Posted in Faith, Family

Even On The Tough Days

 

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Today my grandson underwent his second open heart surgery. 

He is a precious, blue-eyed 5 month old with a contagious smile and a winning personality.  He is quite accomplished at flirting with the nurses and is intent on carrying on his own method of conversation with the doctors.

He was born with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, better known as HLHS. HLHS is a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.  Typically, a series of three surgeries is required, with a heart transplant likely at some point.  We are hoping and praying the need for transplant will be well into the future.

One thing I’ve learned through this journey with Elijah is this:  when the news you hear is less than perfect and well, the scope of your emotions can range from one extreme to the other.  You begin to seriously question what you’ve always thought to be important.  You find yourself cherishing moments that otherwise may appear trivial. 

For parents of these special children, such moments may include the first true bottle feeding, doubling a birth weight, making that first trip to Walmart after being confined to home for what seems like forever, or possibly even celebrating birthdays on a monthly basis. Whatever the case may be, it’s noticing those moments that say, “We love this child, and we’re so thankful to have him with us.”

Which gets me to thinking…  Shouldn’t I always feel this way, in all my relationships? Shouldn’t I review my priorities from time to time to ensure I’m placing importance on the proper things? Shouldn’t I celebrate the little moments of my day more often, holding dear those precious people God has entrusted to me?  Shouldn’t I choose to live each day in a way that says, “I love you, and I’m so thankful to have you with me”?

Yes, I should; we all should. Yet we get caught up in the busyness of life and sometimes forget.  Until, that is, a stark reminder comes along as in the case of my sweet grandbaby. I’m so thankful for him and for the prompting to not only love and enjoy being with him, but to carry that same mindset and focus into my daily interactions with others as well. 

Learning to live a little better, love a little more, and laugh a little louder.  That’s a good place to be, even on the tough days.

 

Posted in Faith, Family

Dear Little One, Our Heart Baby

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Dear Little One, Our Heart Baby:

You are so very much loved. And I believe somehow, even at your young age, you know it.

It is evident in your sweet smile.  In your tiny giggle when we play with you. In your inability to hide your excitement when you spot someone familiar. Yes, there is no doubt you are loved, and no doubt you feel that love.  And I am so grateful.

I’m grateful God handpicked you for our family. What a privilege to have been chosen to love such a special child.

If not for you we may have never been introduced to other families affected by Hypo-Plastic Left Heart Syndrome (#HLHS). We may have never realized the magnitude of children dealing with health issues on a daily basis, nor the impact it has on their families. We may have never truly appreciated having a hospital for children right here in our hometown, nor understood the importance of those great doctors, nurses, and other medical staff devoted to caring for children like you.

It has been an eye-opening experience, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes filled to the brim with blessing.  And as hard as it has been at times, I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the many prayers spoken on your behalf when we first learned of your heart defect. We were so broken, yet we found peace and comfort.

I’m grateful for the prayers voiced during your first open heart surgery and the long recovery that followed.  We were scared and anxious, yet peace and strength became ours.

I’m grateful for the continued prayers since then, and for those already whispered on your behalf as we prepare for heart surgery #2. I am especially grateful for those mighty prayer warriors making preparations even now to fall to their knees, lifting you up in prayer at the very time you undergo this surgery.  How could I not be thankful for God’s love displayed so beautifully through His people?

In light of that love, this is our promise to you, our precious heart baby:

We will show up for you, even when the going gets tough.

We will pray for you, even when we’re unsure how to pray.

We will love you completely, even if it causes our hearts to break.

We will teach you of God’s wonderful love for you.

And we promise to do these things not just on surgery day, but every single day of your life. Why?  Because dear little one, you truly are loved that much.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Friendship

And So I Pray

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I’m praying for a friend. Actually for a few friends. Friends who are going up against difficult assignments. Friends who so desperately long for a definitive answer from God, but all that’s heard clearly is His instruction to wait. Or to reach out, to be available to others, regardless of the outcome.

What a challenging place to find yourself. Yet I have friends who are there, in the midst of it, plugging along while awaiting clarity and direction from the Lord.

And all I can do is pray.

It feels as if my hands are tied. I can’t fix things, nor can I step into their place. I can’t make things happen as I think they should. I can’t remove their fear or eliminate their worries. I don’t have the answers they so badly crave.

But I can pray.

And so I pray. What I begin to realize is that in reality this is exactly what these friends need from me.

You see when the only thing I can do is pray, I find myself in the delicate position of trusting my friends, whatever their situation, to God. Believing that God sees every tear, knows the tension welling up in each heart, and is very much aware of every single need. I can confidently carry my sweet friends’ burdens to Jesus, fully trusting Him to listen, to answer, and to love my friends through whatever their future brings.

And therein lies the most powerful, magnificent thing of all. Because it is there that Jesus begins to work it all out, to replace their fear, anxiety, and worries with a lovely peace. To reveal to them, in His perfect timing, snippets of His wonderful plan for their lives. To give them the answers they so diligently seek. To show them He has been there all along, and that He loves each of them so very much.

Yes, prayer is such a beautiful gift – for these special friends; for every friend who has an unmet need; for me as well. When we earnestly, sincerely, and humbly approach God on behalf of those precious people around us, blessings are sure to follow. Needs will be met. Hearts will be touched. Lives will be changed. If only we will pray.

And so I pray.

Posted in Faith, Joy

Joy Comes In the Morning

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Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  Psalm 30:5b

We recently celebrated the birthday of our fifth child, Trevor. Prior to Trevor’s arrival, we had been living through a season of devastating financial hardship. We felt as if we had barely made it out of a deep dark valley, leaving us weary, bruised, and shaken.  And although we had gained much wisdom and strength through that difficult situation, we still found ourselves in need of hope, longing for joy.

And along came our Trevor, and with him a sliver of hope and much joy.

The hope of a future. A new purpose.  A ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds.  Evidence that we survived the storm, and that life would go on. A precious baby boy coming into this world, into our own tiny world. A pause in the pain. A halt in the weeping.  A gift from God.  A treasure.  Absolute Joy.

Yes, it is indeed joy that comes to mind most often when I speak of Trevor.  I am amazed at the joy he brings to others.  He has such a sweetness about him; such a love for those around him; such a tender heart.   There is no doubt he has touched many lives already.  I am certain God has a great assignment for him, and I pray he will someday carry it out.

And perhaps he is already doing so in his own little five-year old way — with every sweet smile, every unexpected hug, every sincere “I love you so much”. Every time he is eager to help mop the gym floor after ballgames, refill mom’s water bottle, or hold the door open for an elderly lady, all without being told to do so.  Or when he reminds us so confidently, “You know, God is always with you”.   Nothing eloquent, just an ordinary little boy unknowingly bringing joy to the hearts of many.

Yes, joy really does come with the morning.  Some of our troubled days seem so very long and unbearable.  Some of them drag on for months, sometimes years. But if we stick them out, all the while looking up for our glimmer of hope, the weeping will eventually cease and the joy will return.  Maybe through the presence of a child.  Maybe by some other means.  But hope can be found. Joy can be known.

And just as Trevor has brought joy to so many by living in his everyday, ordinary way, we too can become joy-givers by living with the intent to bless others.  I challenge you to find someone who needs joy in their life, and ask God to show you how to be the source of their joy today.

And if it’s you who needs some joy today, dear friend, I understand.  May I encourage you to not give up? Strive to look past this hard place with all of its pain, fear, and uncertainties.  Search for the hope God has placed before you. Keep your eyes open for it.

And, joy… Oh, my friend, joy is near. It’s just around the bend; it’s about to be revealed; hang in there, sweet friend, it’s almost morning. And with the morning, joy will be yours once again.

Posted in Mail on Mondays

Mail.on.Mondays: Dear Teachers

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Dear Teachers:

Thank you for investing in me. 

For making me feel important and smart and valued.  For praising me on a job well done.  For noticing a tiny glimmer of goodness within me, and encouraging me to display it more.  For creating a safe, warm, and delightful atmosphere in your classroom.  For tapping into my love for reading and writing.  For helping me find acceptance.  For pushing me to be my best.  For expecting more from me than I thought I could give, knowing all along I was capable.  For consistently showing me kindness, even when you were experiencing difficulties yourself.  For never letting on how tired, frustrated, or stressed you must have been at times.

I remember the make-shift reading center you created behind the large piano in your classroom.  It was my favorite spot as a fifth grader.  And then there was the creative writing folder we kept in seventh grade.  I misplaced it a few years ago and still search for it from time to time, hoping one day to come across it and revisit the memories it holds.  And the oral reports we had to present weekly in history class. Oh how I dreaded those, but somehow you managed to convince this shy young girl that she could, in fact, stand before the class and get it done … a monumental accomplishment indeed.

Junior High was filled with clubs and band – my favorite years.  I wish I could have carried you, dear band teacher, to high school with me.   Perhaps then, with you by my side, I would have found enough courage and confidence to join the marching band. But since you had to stay behind, I said goodbye to my band adventure and moved on without it. 

Dear teachers, I don’t think you realize what an impact you had on me and, no doubt, other students as well.  I’m sorry the younger version of me didn’t get it at the time, and that the thought of thanking you never crossed my adolescent mind.  I did not know you were doing more than your job, but I realize it now.

I now understand that teachers like you are a beautiful gift to the students they encounter.  For your teaching career is more than a career.  It is an opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of those around you. 

Thank you for making a difference in my life.  Maybe one day I’ll enjoy the blessing of meeting you again; the opportunity to thank you face to face.  But until then, I will thank you here. And I will appreciate – and thank – the teachers following in your footsteps. 

So to all my teacher friends …. Thank you for making your jobs more than a job.  Thank you for loving your students and caring about not only their futures, but also their here and now. 

Thank you, teachers, for doing what you do, and for inspiring me to do the same.

Sincerely,

A thankful student

Posted in Motherhood

Little Boy, Smile

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As our oldest son prepares for his high school graduation and what lies beyond it, I can’t help but ponder the blessings we’ve experienced because of him. 

We are so thankful God made us his parents and, although we haven’t done everything exactly as we should, we have loved him with all our hearts – unconditionally. 

We pray he has learned not only from whatever good we’ve accomplished, but from our mess-ups as well.

Most of all, we pray we have successfully pointed him to the One who never makes mistakes and never disappoints.  To the One who has all the answers he will ever need.  To the One who will always be there, even when his dad and I cannot.  If we have done this, then our boy will always come out smiling in the end.

Little Boy, Smile

Little boy, smile
As I hold your tiny hand.
Teaching you to trust
While helping you to stand.

Little boy, smile
As I leave you, a hug and a kiss.
Promise I’ll be back soon
For my sweet boy I’m sure to miss.

Little boy, smile
As I chase you through the lot.
Praying for your safety
Until once again you’re caught.

Little boy, smile
As you choose your many friends.
Yes, we’ll go to the park;
Play in the dirt and the sand.

Little boy, smile
As you run and jump and climb.
Now it’s on to baseball, basketball.
We’re having such a grand time!

Little boy, smile
As we gather your broken heart;
Deal with disappointments;
Lead you to a new, fresh start.

Little boy, smile
As your friends are growing too.
Now you’re driving on your own.
Careful son, I’ll wait up for you.

Little boy, smile.
Senior Day has come and gone.
Graduation is upon us
And your childhood, about done.

Little boy, smile
As I watch you from afar.
My little boy, all grown up
Still capturing his momma’s heart.

Little boy, smile.
Find your place in this world.
Your momma’s prayers go with you
As you choose your shield and sword.

Little boy, smile
As you journey through each day.
Remember you are loved.
Near our hearts is where you’ll stay.

Little boy, smile.
That’s what I’ll always long to see.
My precious boy — now a man,
Smiling back at me.

Posted in Everyday Life

Flea Market Finds

 

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I visited one of my favorite flea markets today (which happens to be another one of my absolute best-loved things to do).  I could walk around in there for hours at a time, scouting out this and that, until I finally make a decision as to what I just can’t live without. I know some of you can relate.

Since I prefer not to pay full price for anything, bargain hunting is a must. I think of it as a treasure hunt and oh, how I enjoy the hunt! It exhilarates me to come across a sweet deal such as the authentic brand new Coach purse my daughter found for a meager $15.00 a few months ago.  Or the dainty little vanity table that sits perfectly in my youngest daughter’s bedroom. Or the portable basketball goal that all my boys (despite their age) have enjoyed.  

And picture frames galore!  Some fancy, some cute, some fun, some plain and simple.  All inexpensive, great finds for someone like me who is attempting to create a wall collage capturing the darling faces of some much-loved people. Now to only get them added to the wall… a daunting task, but exciting just the same.

Of course, not all my good deals turn out as well as expected.  Some are not near as appealing once I arrive home with them.  Like the barstools that managed to hide their wobbliness from me, or the plastic container whose lid refused to seal tightly, or the work of art that failed miserably to coordinate with my décor. Oh goodness, what’s a girl to do?

What any true thrift shopper does. We learn from our mistakes.  We prepare for our next hunt.

Yes, next time we sit in the bar stools before purchasing them.  We snap the lids on and off to check for a proper fit prior to throwing them into our shopping carts.  We carefully consider that artwork before we decide to tote it home.  And we keep rummaging for those bargains, and celebrating when we happen upon them.

So ladies, save up a few extra dollars, throw a few close friends into the mix, and grab a cup of fancy coffee along the way.  I’d say you’re well on your way to experiencing a delightful day!

I can’t wait to see what turns up next! Perhaps we’ll run into one another at the local flea market. I’ll smile at you, you’ll smile back.  And we’ll recognize the blessings in it all. 

Posted in Faith

A Time for Silence

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Some days I have no idea what to write.  I find myself at a loss for words.  My mind seems closed off, void of anything constructive, or meaningful, or insightful.  Perhaps my mind is as tired as my body no doubt is.  So I dig a little deeper, think a little harder, ponder a little longer, hoping to uncover some wonderful something to fill up this blank page.  And yet the silence feels so refreshing. 

Sometimes silence is exactly what I need. 

Like the stillness in my house during the early morning hours.  If I listen closely, I can hear the wall clock ticking, the birds outside my window singing cheerfully, and occasionally another early riser driving down my dark, sleepy street.  I love those quiet morning hours (especially when I invite God to join me there) and the calmness and peace they bring me.

Like the roar of the ocean as I sit within its reach.  Although it’s noisy, it’s a good kind of noise. One that blocks off all other sounds that try to compete with it.   It mutes the chatter of other beach-goers; nearby traffic is completely muffled; even my normal thoughts of things-I-should-be-doing are hushed within me.  Over the howling wind and the smashing waves, somehow I hear the silence. I find rest in it. Truly amazing and delightful rest.  And I soak it in, never wanting to leave.

Like time spent with a best friend.  When you’re so comfortable with him or her that wordless moments are okay. The silence is not awkward. Your mind is not racing to keep the conversation alive.  Instead, it’s simply enough to be together.  Relaxed in one another’s presence.  Free to be yourself.  Free to be silent.  There is no lovelier place to be.

Today, I will embrace whatever silence I can wrap myself around. I will awaken a little earlier.  I will think about my last visit to the beach.  I will plan some alone time with my most special person.   And I will enjoy every tiny speck of silence I encounter.  For in that silence, I become the very best me …. a calm, peaceful, relaxed, refreshed me. 

Where, my friend, does your silence hide? How long has it been since you’ve paid it a visit?  If you’re frazzled, tired, or anxious, then it’s probably about time to force it out of hiding.  And as you do, may you also discover blessings within the silence.