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I don’t want to forget

Our baby girl turns four tomorrow. I took her and the baby and our five year-old daughter with me to go grocery shopping today.

Shopping with little ones is rarely easy.

At one point when the baby was crying and the girls were being silly in the aisle a kind, older mom looked at me and said, “They are going to get older. My oldest is now nineteen. They will get older and you won’t even remember this.”

Words from a survivor.

We got to the checkout. Baby girl tried to help load the groceries up on the checkout belt and dropped a glass jar of pasta sauce. It broke all over the floor and puddled under the grocery “car” that no one wanted to ride in after about twenty minutes.

I was tired and a bit frazzled even though you would think I was a pro at this by now. We checked out. I breathed a sigh of relief as I put our van into drive.

The woman’s words came back to mind… “You won’t even remember this.”

You know, I can almost guarantee her words were supposed to be an encouragement to me- the light at the end of the tunnel kind of thing. But driving home, her words began to shake me up in a way that hasn’t quite gone away because as crazy and frustrating as this parenting thing can be at times, I don’t want to forget.

I don’t want to forget how our baby boy kept pulling me close for hugs as I tried to checkout. Over and over again he pulled at my shirt and my purse and he would lean his little head up against my chest and just rest there. And I don’t want to forget that.

I don’t want to forget how our little girl whispered to the cashier and bagger, “Tomorrow is my birthday.” How she then pulled me close to whisper in my ear, “I want them to say Happy Birthday to me.”

There is so much that I just don’t want to forget.

Because it isn’t about getting to the end of the tunnel. It’s about the little lights that are IN the tunnel.

So here I am writing again because I don’t want to forget the little lights nor the darkness that made the lights shine all the brighter.

 

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After the Steam

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I woke up earlier than usual this morning, determined to get a head start on the day. Didn’t expect to start my day with this. And what is it? At first glance, it is the obvious, a fogged up mirror where steam has revealed all the smudges and writings left by little hands writing messages after their shower on the perfect canvas they saw. But this foggy, smudged up mirror reminded me this morning of a verse from 1 Corinthians: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Sometimes our actions in “steamy” moments write messages that we don’t even realize we are writing. Our raw emotions cause us to act so far off from the person God created us and knows us to be. In those moments, this Christ-like image that we are supposed to have, it becomes foggy, messy… Marked. Those who are around us lose sight of Christ in us, and to get down to the heart of it, so do we. It’s hard to look yourself in the mirror after you know you acted out or spoke out in ways so far from who you truly are. You lose sight of yourself. You start to just see steam, messiness… Marks. But friend, this morning as I looked closely at that mirror I saw clearly one message circled by a little hand, “A+.” It had been written over yesterday’s message, “God’s love.”

(Those little hands had no idea how God was going to use these markings to touch my heart. Friends, you have no idea how the little things you do can touch a person’s heart.)

Looking in that mirror, I could not see myself. In the steam all I could see was God and “A+.” That is what God’s love does. When we smudge our image and the image of Christ, Jesus takes his hands, the same hands that were nailed to a cross for moments just like these… Jesus hears that heart cry for forgiveness, and he answers it. In our brokenness and in the aftermath of the steam, Jesus writes two words over top our image: “God’s love.” And then, incredibly, he writes “A+.” That is forgiveness.

One day we will see God in his fullness. We will see ourselves in our fullness. But for know I pray we can catch an image of how God sees us and others after the steamy moments have passed and our hearts are made clean by confession. And I share this picture because something tells me that image looks a whole lot like a fogged up, smudge up mirror with the words “God’s love” and “A+.”

Confess. Repent. Ask and receive forgiveness. See that you aren’t a smudged up, steamy mess. You are a son or daughter of God, loved, forgiven and atoned for. God’s love writes your grade. He gives to you the full credit that Jesus, the perfect canvas, earned. Child, your grade is his grade. And that grade, incredibly, after all the steam and smudges, was written as “A+.” May you know that today should you be struggling with the image in the mirror.

 

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Covering Grace

I stepped outside and took in the beauty of the many trees in our backyard covered in ice.

You could feel it really, God’s grace covering everything.

Icicles hanging from outstretched limbs, each seemed to testify of a grace that covers every cold and dead place, even those places in our heart.

Those outstretched limbs, with raindrops frozen in time,

When you looked at them you could feel it- the wonder of the outstretched arms of Jesus.

He hung on a tree.

His love poured out to cover me, to cover us.

What kind of love our God is?

He whispers in the cold through frozen raindrop,

“I see every tear.

Every one.

I cover you in those cold seasons.”

And I’ll just say it flat out- sometimes life is so cold and so hard you just want to be numb,

But looking up at the beauty in those trees,

You could just feel it- this isn’t about becoming numb.

It is about becoming beautifully still in the cold, awaiting new life.

His words, “My grace is sufficient,”

They are felt in the still, cold air.

You could absolutely feel it.

His covering grace.

Icicles hanging from outstretched limbs…

Testifying today that covering grace always comes back to a tree.

May you feel his grace covering you today.

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A Fire to Change the World

I didn’t read the public figure’s entire post, just the first line, “I have a fire in me to change the world…”

It struck me then, how many of us claim to have a fire in us to change the world.

How I claim to have a fire in me to change the world… Or at least some small part of it.

And it struck me all the harder, as I sat there hours later at our kitchen table, still waiting on our son to finish his assignments. The incredibly strong smell of another dirty diaper approached with our youngest son:

How sad is it? I say I have this fire in me to change the world, and yet I don’t have enough “fire in me” to want to change a diaper? I say I have a fire in me to change the world, and yet I don’t have enough fire in me to want to continue to sit for hours next to a child struggling with his schoolwork, while all his brothers and sisters are long done?

Where does the world begin to change really, if not within the very walls of the home first?

What is to say that this young child next to me, is not one who will grow up to truly change the world?

World missions is often no further than a kitchen table.

 

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Praying for you

Hey friend,

I know some days are long, some problems are truly big, sometimes life throws at us a little more than we feel we can handle. We grow weary. We grow anxious. We grow heavy hearted. Sometimes we are just plain lonely.

Please know this tonight- if your day was long, if you are facing problems that seem too big, if you are feeling weary, or anxious, or lonely- know you are being prayed for right now. Know that all things truly are possible with God. Know that you are not alone. Know that the strength you need is going to arise. It is. Know the provision you need is going to be met. It is. Know that you have absolutely nothing- NOTHING- to be anxious over. Not you, child of God. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He will keep you in perfect peace as you fix your eyes on him. And sleep well. Rest in his overwhelming love for you.

Praying for you.
– Charity

 

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Lay it Down

Remember Abraham? You know that old man you read about in the Bible who prayed for a son and finally got one so late in his life that it was laughable. Truly laughable. So laughable he named his son “Isaac” which means laughter. Do you remember how God tested him? How he told Abraham years later to walk that boy up a mountain and offer him as a sacrifice to God? Remember that? Remember thinking, “What kind of a God does that?” Maybe you didn’t think that but I will admit that I did. What kind of a God gives a gift only to take it away? That is what I sat there thinking… Until I read how in the moment of truth, when Abraham raised his arm with knife in hand, and Isaac lay there not trying to escape… In that incredibly intense moment the account goes that a hand reached down and stopped Abraham. A goat appeared in the thicket. Isaac was not to die their on that altar and Abraham had past the test.

Abraham had put down on the altar what had become the source of so much of his joy and so much of his hope. And sometimes I think God calls many of us to do just that. Sometimes I think God tests our hearts and sets us up to prove not so much to him, but to ourselves, that we are willing to lay it all down.

It may be your spouse, it may be your job, it may be your children, it may be your best friend, it may be your educational pursuit… Not sure what it is for you? Think of the one thing that you have put the most hope into, the one thing that is at the center of all your dreams… If it isn’t God… It is your Isaac. Are you willing to lay it down?

Isaac and Abraham lived on to live an incredibly blessed life. So blessed that later in the Bible you can read how God identified himself to Moses as, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Whoa. That same man and boy that went walking up that mountain, and willingly laid it all down- God says, “I am their God.” Laying it all down always leads to life- a life more abundant, a life more blessed.

May your feet be strengthened for whatever mountain you are walking up. May your faith be assured in the goodness of God. May he be your hope. May he be your joy. May he provide for your every need as you place your life in his hands.

 

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In the Stink

So it was the Christmas week church service at my in-law’s church. Hubby was in Germany. The kids and I rode with dad and mom, my sister and nephew. We met up with my brothers and sisters and their families. Most of the kids went into their own classes. Our two youngest stayed with me in main service. There we were all lined up in the church seats.

Worship began and soon baby fell asleep in my arms. Worship ended and we all sat to hear the message. The pastor began reading the account of Jesus being born in the manger. “And you know, there were animals all around him… A donkey… Now don’t go looking around you, but perhaps you have been surrounded by some stinky…” (He pretended to be sniffing.)

I can’t tell you what he said next because at that moment I looked over to my right and their is mom, bent over, sniffing around like crazy… I thought she was kidding around at first until I realized it was no joke. She had smelt something. She reached down to grab her handbag, lifted up her hand, and her face took a sudden look of both curiosity and horror. There was brown stuff on her hand. She shows me her hand, gives it a sniff, practically gags and mouths “Pooooop!”

Now people, I am not one to be disrespectful in church but I was struggling. My eyes filled with tears and a laugh pressed so hard in my throat that all I knew to do was bury my head into our baby who was in my arms, bend over and attempt to look moved by the message.

More sniffing. More searching. More tears.

There was poop on the purse.

There was poop on her shoe.

There was poop on our sleeping baby’s shoe, and on the chair that his foot had brushed up against.

Poop was all around us… Dog poop to be exact. We had strolled into church with poop all over us.

If a sermon ever hit close to home, this one was it!

Because there we were, listening to this account of Jesus being born in the middle of the stink, and in the middle of our stink, all I could do was laugh.

Because the pastor warned us, not to go looking around… And sure enough when we did, there it was. My niece said she had smelt something from the start. But I hadn’t. And it wasn’t our poop! We had just been walking along trying to do right and stepped in someone else’s poop.

Aren’t stinky situations so often like that?

But here is what God showed me in that moment, that stinky situations don’t need to steal our joy.

Jesus came to bring joy. He came in the middle of a stinky situation.

So my prayer tonight for anyone who may be in a stinky situation is this: May God cause you to be filled with tears-flowing, belly-hurting-because-you-laughed-so-much joy in the midst of the stink. Know it will all get cleaned up. It will. And yes- you may have to get your hands more in it than you would prefer to get it cleaned up, but isn’t that what Jesus did? Took the cross to clean us up? It wasn’t his “poop.” It was ours.

Know you are loved by God. Know that God is still faithful to bring new life and joy out of the stinkiest situations.

 

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