Deep Gratitude, Quiet Joy

I ran a 7k fun run race the other day. One of those nasty fall days that the rain was pouring down in sheets. Yep, that day. I got up and ran. In the rain. Because I can. I felt so alive in those miles, charging up the stupid hills, pushing myself to keep moving despite the bad weather around me. I could have easily stayed in bed that morning or found another excuse not to run. But in those minutes of running in the rain, I felt the inner strength that I have gained. I found gratitude for myself, that my body still pushes limits, excitement for what my future holds, and a deep sense of gratitude for the grace of God in my life. Even in the downpour I ran with complete joy and a huge smile on my face.

Today, a cold is settling into my body. No doubt the consequences of running in the rain. It’s left me a bit quieter than usual, but it’s also causing me to reflect on the blessings I have today.

I am most grateful that I am a child of God. Even on the dark, lonely days I know that He is leading me and still loves me. Even when I push boundaries and pull at the fabric of the plans He has for me, I know he still loves me. Deeply. And the grace that is extended to me is amazing. Even when I wrestle with where He is walking me now, He gently and quietly reminds me I am His and He has a plan.

His plans right now involve pursuing some seminary classes and a ministry license. I’m a bit overwhelmed. But He’s asked me to take a step. So I’m not going to look to the end of the race or even the end of seminary. I’m going to focus where He has me now. I feel humbled and incredibly grateful that He’s asked me to walk with Him in this way.

I’m also so excited for my kids and the ways they are growing into amazing individuals. People with tender hearts for others and for God. Sometimes I just pause and watch them. Have you ever done that? Or taken a mental picture or video of what they’re doing? Yesterday Jacob was laughing at something he was watching. Just seeing the sheer delight on his face and hearing the deep belly laughs brought me so much joy. I giggle to even think about it. Knowing the road we’ve walked together and the hardships he has faced makes it even sweeter to just enjoy a moment together with him.

The other day I had a phone conversation with Cory, my oldest son. We talked for about a half hour about our plans for the upcoming weekend, the bad play calling of the last football game, our worries over the next game, and the challenging class load he’s taking in college. Normal mother son talk, I suppose. But to recall that a year ago he would barely acknowledge me brings it into perspective. He was angry and hurting after losing his father. He wouldn’t come to visit us in our new town, take my phone calls, or really even look me in the eyes if I did see him. Since I have been provided much grace, I extended much grace. I continually pray that Jesus is rebuilding and restoring Cory through me, or whomever else He chooses to use. Cory will be here tomorrow. We’ll attend a college football game together. He wants to just hang out with us. Just be here. And for that I am so grateful.

Of course my Sarah always brings such joy. My princess. I love to tease her and hear her heart. She gets so excited over normal teen issues and I love that she always wants to share them with me. Just the little things. Even if it’s singing along to a song in the car, sometimes driving around the neighborhood just so we can sing until the end. It fills my heart with joy.mountains-trees-fall-foliage-medium

Oh Jesus, you are so good. I look out my window and see all of the autumn leaves lit up by the afternoon sun. I see the flowers that fill the vase on my counter and they make me smile. I feel your comfort and grace all around me even when I’m not feeling well. My cold reminds me that you have given me a body to be used. My kids remind me that you’ve entrusted me to not only raise them but to also point them to you. The anxiety that can fill my life has been replaced by your peace. And today I feel a complete, deep sense of gratitude that fills me with a quiet, happy joy.


Oh, My Heart

food-pot-kitchen-cooking-mediumSome days in the life of a family are just hard. It may not be a major catastrophe or difficult illness in the family, but rather just all of those little things that overwhelm and wear you out. Those days may leave you with little patience and perhaps the tendency to overreact or lash out in harsh words.

This evening in our house has been one of those hard moment days. Plans weren’t solidified, but we’re all feeling nothing is going right. I was out of town for several days. Sarah was at a friend’s, Jacob was given the opportunity to stay on his own. His chores were undone, causing me frustration. Even though I’ve been on a retreat I see the 108 page application I need to start on. Grandma is on her way to stay for a few days too. I think we’re all tired, out of our routine, and feeling worn out.

My afternoon was readjusted, so I thought I had time to go to the gym, get in some much needed brain exhaustion via cycling. Then I was diverted to pick up duty after practice. I don’t mind carpooling, I was just trying to get it done before the rpm class started. And then traffic. Just through our town. Sarah could sense my tension. I tried to ask about homework and school. I could see the anxiety on her face. And then the tears came. She felt behind in Japanese class and like she was a burden for me adjusting my plans to drive her around. She doesn’t want to feel bad, but she just does. Then moments before home, the real words came out. “I just miss my daddy. Why isn’t he here?!” Oh, my heart. I asked what she needed in this moment; a hug was her quiet reply.

So we pulled into our tiny townhouse parking space, others outside around us, and I got her out of the car and just held her. Right there, in the middle of the neighborhood. Through the sobbing she quietly asked me to pray for her. Oh, my heart. I had been silently praying over her and now, of course, I let the heart of God pour through me. What a joy to have my daughter seek comfort in my arms and ask for me to pray over her. In that moment, with the Holy Spirit comforting us, that’s all we needed. Family.

Our evening continued to be a mess of bumbling fools. Jacob arguing, because he’s always right. His chore of bathrooms, to him, means squirting some blue stuff in the toilet. The end. I was helping Sarah with some homework while I had onions caramelizing on the stove. Of course I got the burners mixed up and turned them up too high while I turned my attention to Sarah. So they are now burned little black things that filled the house with smoke. Jacob says they made the house smell like cat pee. Yay us. Then he was getting his pizza out of the oven (it’s an ASD thing—every night recently) and it slipped off the backside of the rack. Yes, it ran down the backside of the oven. Awesome. Ov Glove to the rescue. And my house that was clean this morning is covered in mail and school projects, tennis shoes and coats, bits of dinner and groceries yet to be put away.

These moments and situations can wear a person out. Especially a single mama like me. But we covered the day in prayer. And I trust that the Holy Spirit is giving us grace in these moments. So there were more hugs. No harsh words where there could have been a lot. No wounded feelings, where we could have really hurt each other. Instead, now there’s laughter, teenage burping, and a dance party is about to go down. Because this family dances just because we can. And we laugh, because it’s good medicine for our souls. And the burping…it’s a teenage thing. These may be hard days, but I know the years are slipping away too quickly. So I’ll take the tears, prayers, laughter, and dance parties with my growing babies any day. Oh, my heart.

Growing Grace

There are so many things to be mindful of as we raise our kids. And they are constantly changing. When they’re young we become focused on safety, making sure they aren’t choking on toys, riding their bike into danger, or talking to strangers. They learn and hear the word “no” a lot.

They get a little older, the boundaries a little wider, so we start focusing on more social skills and personal discipline. We help them grow good learning habits, become better friends, and take more responsibility at home. Then the teenage years hit. Again, our boundaries and hearts grow a bit bigger. We remind them of all they’ve learned before. We let them put it into practice a bit more. We walk alongside coaching, being in relationship where we can.

Graduation day comes and we hope that we have raised polite, well-mannered kids who love God. Sounds like a nice little formula. If only it were so easy. But it’s not, is it? Life is messy, and raising kids is even messier. We can teach them right from wrong, manners like please and thank you, and keep them focused to get passing grades in school. We may have polite, well-mannered children with a high school diploma, but will be have children that really know God? Will they have a relationship with Him? Will they be a people who extend grace in all they do?

My parenting style changed drastically with my oldest son. Life was hard and I was in uncharted waters with him. When he was six I started going back to church and teaching him about God. When he was in 5th grade my approach to ministry and family shifted. I continued to refine my parenting, but it was all new with him. He’s an adult and I’ve had to release Him to God’s care. Sometimes my son can be a bit gruff, not showing a lot of grace. Sometimes it’s hard to demonstrate love for him when that attitude is directed at me. Yet I look to Christ as my example and trust the filling of the Holy Spirit to extend and model grace to him. Not easy, but necessary. Because I don’t want to raise children that simply know of Jesus. Or children that have developed a relationship but fail to share it in their words and actions. I want to raise children that know God, listen for His voice, and desire to respond to Him.

I want to raise children who know Him, His word, and choose to live it out with grace.

When I truly understand the word grace, I am overwhelmed again and again. Ephesians 2:8 says “for by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God.” Because He loves us so, He chooses to bring us to life. Because of His great love for us. And when we grow in the knowledge and understanding of this love, experiencing Him in trials as well as joys, we can’t help but overflow with that love. And as we extend it to others, at times when they don’t really even deserve it, that my friends, is grace.

If I want my children to be grace-giving people, how then do I grow grace in them? Some of it is a mystery. Just as it is a mystery that the Holy Spirit dwells in and works in us. But He does. So when we as parents nurture the relationship grace can’t help but grow. Also, I strongly believe we must be modeling grace to our children. When they deserve natural consequences, sometime we must withhold them or redirect them. Easy? No. Beneficial? Yes. Guided and filled by the Holy Spirit? Absolutely.

Today I’m praying for all of us. My children, myself, you, your children. I pray that you experience grace in completely unexpected ways that fill your heart with wonder and turn your eyes to Jesus in thanks. Out of that thanks I also pray that as you raise your children you find yourself growing them in grace. abstract-blurred-lines-colorful-370