Celebrating Mother’s Day with a broken heart

To all the moms who read this, a sincere and joyous “Happy Mother’s Day!”

A few years ago, I wasn’t able to say those words with a joyful heart. My heart was sore and raw. There were definitely moments of bitterness. Some of the more painful memories of Mother’s Day include:

Having strangers wish me “Happy Mother’s Day,” because I was holding the hand of my niece while walking into an unfamiliar church.

Bawling while singing the words from “Majesty,” “Here I am empty-handed but alive in your hands.”

Running out of the church before sobs escaped me as a parade of babies entered for a Mother’s Day dedication.

So, I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve avoided Facebook on Mother’s Day, even making a big declaration one year according to my Facebook “on this day” memories. One year I even considered skipping church on that day.

But here’s the thing that hit me recently, if it was someone else’s birthday and not mine, I would be considered rude if I didn’t want them to celebrate. Unless I were two. Then I might be allowed to sulk, just a little. Or I might be given a present, too, to pacify me.

But, I’m not two. And this is not my day.

But it is my friends’ day. It’s my sister’s day, and my own mother’s day. How selfish am I to not celebrate them on their day.

Ecclesiastes says there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, and a time to mourn and a time to dance.

There are those times to feel the pain of the curse for those who have children who turned their back to their mothers, for those who have had to say that final goodbye to their mothers, for those who have lost children or had miscarriages, for women who, like me, will never know what it is to give birth and hold her baby in her arms. There is infertility awareness week and infant loss and miscarriage awareness month and probably others. Those are the times to mourn. Those are the days to weep.

Today, is a day to rejoice.

But, it may not be so joyful for you, and that’s okay.

I know, I truly know, how easy it is to be hurt today. To only see the emptiness of your own arms. I’m so sorry for that.

I can say this because I know. Because I’ve been there. Because my own heart has wrestled with this.

If today is difficult for you, may I challenge you to look around for someone to rejoice with. You’ll have your own days of rejoicing in other ways or about other things. Set aside your hurt, just for today.

Find a single mom and give her a hug. Seek out a new mom and offer her a shoulder massage. Go to a mother and genuinely love her in this moment. Look for someone to rejoice with today.

I’m sorry to say, your pain will still be there, but today is not for you. Today is not about me. Today is the time to rejoice with our sisters who are rejoicing. Tomorrow, or another day, find these same sisters and ask them to mourn with you.

Today we rejoice.

tulips_forest

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You missed one last gift to open

What follows is something I wrote in the early days of my blog, revised for 2016. Each of us has this unopened gift in our hands. What will you do with it?
IMG_1093There’s a scene I love from one of the cheesy, tissue required, made-for-TV Christmas movies: a girl receives a beautifully wrapped gift. Instead of immediately tearing into it, she says something to this effect:

Don’t you just love a wrapped present? Before you open it, it could be anything, even a million dollars.

Sneaking downstairs with my sister on Christmas mornings, I loved the sight of the twinkling Christmas tree lights and the overflowing pile of wrapped presents underneath. I remember excitedly wondering what the gifts might contain for me and anticipating the surprises ahead with the gifts I was giving to the rest of my family.

My sister and I always wrote out wish lists for Christmas, but we also knew there was no guarantee we’d get what was on our lists. One particular Christmas, my wish list included a perfume I’d fallen in love with. Mom pulled me aside a few weeks before Christmas to tell me that she had looked at it, hoping to give it to me, but that this brand cost a bit more than she & Dad planned to spend. Imagine my surprise when the last, smallest present I opened on Christmas Day was a tiny bottle of that very perfume! That was a gift that contained something bigger than I could imagine.

IMG_1097So why am I discussing Christmas presents a week late? One reason is that this new year is like one last present for each of us to unwrap. On New Year’s Day, you’re holding a beautifully wrapped gift. It could hold anything. The coming year could be the unexpected present you’ve longed for. There is more promise and hope right now than at any other time of year.

Does this year seem to hold difficulty and trial? This may be a year of holding tight to God and his promises in scripture. Does 2016 have big excitement on the horizon? Trust God to use you even amid distractions – good or otherwise.

So now is the time to dream big. As this year unfolds, what could happen? I hope you can take time this weekend to stop and reflect on your hopes and dreams for 2016. What can you put on your wish list for the new year?

The telling of a story

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

It’s late, and I have plans to get up early tomorrow morning to pray with a friend, but I need to share this tonight.

I volunteered to blog for World Help because I wanted to use my blogging for more than promoting my own voice. I knew the founder as a professor in my college days. If I wanted to be a part of an organization that was really out there doing humanitarian work and not losing donor’s money in the shuffle of administration, and where I felt confident they were who they said they were, this was it.

As a freshman in college, I heard Vernon Brewer share amazing stories. He had a way of telling stories that mesmerized even the most sleepy collegiate, from his life-threatening health issues to mission trips to less-than-friendly countries. One such story was a little boy, Nildo, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And 25 years later, I remember Nildo. His name was lost, but burned on my heart was the story of a street child who Brewer’s daughters took under their wing, fed and clothed, and gave the gift of very bright white tennis shoes. I remember their chagrin on discovering him the next morning with dirty bare feet again as the bright shoes served as a target and were stolen from him overnight.

Listen as Noel Yeatts, one of those daughters, retells this story:

 

Tonight, I read of Nildo’s death. As Noel wrestles with this ending and what it means for her and others, she writes,

My story gave people the ending they craved. It kept them coming back for more. It gave them hope. And, it neatly wrapped up an important truth. If we reach out and do our part, lives can be changed. Nildo was that shining example of a life transformed. He was inspiration to look past the masses and zero in on the one child, the one person God has put in your path. He helped us “see the one”…

I am realizing now more than ever before that Nildo’s story was never my story to begin with. I was just a small part of his story. A big beautiful story but one that I cannot write all the chapters in. There is no alternate ending to choose from, just one tragic end to a life beautifully lived.

And here’s the question I have started asking myself: How much are we willing to risk to let God write our stories? Am I really brave enough to let God write my story … my whole story – with no alternate endings to choose from?

And there is the heart of it all. I don’t write my own story or the story of others. I share the story that God is writing. It’s scary, because that means I don’t control the ending, the Author does. It is my privilege and joy to share it with you.

To give a gift in Nildo’s memory, which will help support his family, click here.

World

My church currently has a team of people on the ground in Rio, continuing the work of spreading the gospel to the people there. Would you pray for them?

Do you have a plan for the year?

Every week a group of writers get together online, centered on a word prompt by Kate Motaung, to help us write free-style for five minutes. There’s more to it than that, but you get the gist of it. So, welcome (or welcome back) to Five Minute Friday.

Prompt:  Plan.

Griffin_planner

I love the smell of a new year. A blank year planner is one of the most exciting things. The year could contain anything. When January 1 hit, many of us made resolutions, and some, wishing to avoid resolution failure, chose words for the year instead. Others, attempting to completely side-step that trend, just considered a rough outline of what it would be great to accomplish in 2015.

I’ve been a fan of the one word concept for a couple years now. God’s been working on my heart in certain ways and I came up with a word rather easily. But I never blogged about it. I never took the time to put it to words and cement it in the stone of the interwebs. I had a plan, but not a very concrete one.

This my fifth year of blogging. It’s high time I revise my About page and one thing I’ve been wanting to do is let my readers know how often I plan to blog. This helps you know what to expect of me and gives me a target to shoot for. Once a month or less isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I began blogging four years ago. It’s time to update my plan.

I help my church with communications and it’s been a learn-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience, which I mostly love. Thanks to the aforementioned internet, there are more experienced communicators who I get to learn from. The buzzword in communications, church or otherwise, is to have a communications strategy. To know what, when and why you want to accomplish when sharing about your organization. A fancy word for a plan.

So, we’re nearly to the “ides of March” and if you haven’t begun to implement your plan, it’s high time to get going. I speak mostly to myself. It’s time to declare that one word for the year and get moving with a plan for 2015 before it’s half over.

So, here’s my plan. I want to blog at least once a week, so you can expect to see me more regularly. If you like my blog and don’t want to miss a post, you can subscribe to get emailed each time I post. If I did it right, the form is here, but if not, look to your right, under my picture to see where you can sign up.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Is there a plan that you have for 2015 that you need to get started on? Would you share that in the comments below?

Since it’s now my plan, see you in less than a week!

Do you like this Five Minute Friday idea? Read all the posts for this prompt here.

 

Random sharing

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “share.” The idea is that you’re supposed to take the prompt and write about it for 5 minutes. Raw, unedited thoughts put to pixels.

But I have nothing on “share,” so instead, I’m going to share five minutes of thoughts with you.

water from sky

My writing is sometimes paralyzed by looking at other writers. I see certain bloggers gaining followers, publishing a book, going to conferences. It’s hard sometimes. I dream of making it big or going viral. But realistically, I know that I’m not ready for that. I’m grateful that God is sovereign and I am not, because I would screw up so many things. I’m not ready for that the way that God has shown I’m not ready to be a mom. It’s not that it may never happen – it could – but that it’s not his plan for today.

With writing, which is the point of this exercise, I’m still hesitating. I’m still holding back. Not ready to share the full story within me. Still afraid of what others will think of me. Not willing to bare my soul and share the good, bad, and ugly. Especially the bad and ugly. Until I’m ready to be transparent, whether on this blog or with friends, until I’m ready to be vulnerable, my reach is limited. My impact is blunted.

I’m not sure where this is going or what you can get out of it by reading. Perhaps you can be equally challenged to see where you’re holding back and what you should let go of. Perhaps this is just one of those FMF posts that don’t really make a lot of sense to anyone but the writer.

At least we keep writing.

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

To the new year

Fireworks_tallWelcome new year.

Welcome blank slate. Welcome fresh start.

Welcome new challenges. Welcome the old faithful ones.

Welcome temptations. Welcome trials. Welcome hardships. Welcome stretching experiences.

Welcome new friends. Welcome unexplored places. Welcome firsts.

Welcome health; welcome sickness. Welcome riches; welcome empty pockets.

Welcome laughter; welcome sadness. Welcome births; welcome deaths.

If I truly believe God is in control and sovereign over this new year with its good and bad, joys and sorrows, easy and hard times, then I welcome them all. If…

…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

…then – welcome. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for His glory in 2015.

Fireworks_long

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Day 22: You are here – a brief recap

Dear Reader Friend,

There are less than 10 days left in this 31 day challenge. I’ve posted scripture and songs and stories from others. The things going on in my personal life (see Day 2 for a glimpse into THAT) have made it very challenging to carefully craft out a blog post each day. I lost a few days early on and am not quite caught back up yet. But thank you for hanging in there with me.

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So, where are we now?

My goal this month was to look at the things in life that we try to build on, trusting in our own strength or ability rather than leaning wholeheartedly on God, his strength and his peace. I thought I would go through different things we try to rely on and show how they are kingdoms with foundations built on sand that easily crumble. Instead, my physical kingdom, i.e., house, crumbled. Not literally, but with water soaking our entire basement floor and an upstairs crammed with all the furnishings that were down there, it’s been a challenge. I’ve learned that I don’t need to wait until my house is perfectly decorated to invite people over. Instead, I’ve actually had more people in my house this month than probably the past three months combined. It’s hard to swallow pride and ask for help, but the community that has surrounded us has been worth it.

I’ve had some stumbles, too.

Temptations that repeatedly tease with their false hope of something “better” have been taunting me. Being tired and worn thin, it’s been easier to give in, to allow the serpent in the garden sweet talk me into taking a bite of his apple. When I look at it in light of crushing kingdoms, the sins I gravitate toward are often my attempts at building my own kingdom. The idols I manufacture are my attempt at putting myself on the throne.

The next step in this series, though definitely more difficult to spell out in words, is to look at four of those areas that are often classified as the deep idols. These would be the root of the issue, so to speak. If you take the sins you feel you struggle with and start probing even deeper, where does it lead you? At the heart of things, what is it you really long for? How do you figure that out? Here are some questions to begin asking yourself:

What do you worry about the most?
What, if it failed or you lost it, would make you perhaps not want to live anymore?
What do you rely on for comfort?
What do you do to make yourself feel better?
What do think about, or daydream about, when there’s nothing else pressing in?
What gives you your self-worth?
What are you proud of?
What would you want printed on your tombstone?

Think through these, so in the next several posts, you’ll more clearly see what deep idols you are clinging to as you crush your kingdoms.

Thanks for following along with me this month, whether you’ve been a faithful reader for a while or if you’re one of my new friends, many of whom are also participating in #write31days.

me in my World Help shirtHave a blessed day,

Janice
aka Claygirlsings ← (how this name came about)

Day 6: Stop Building on Sand

If you grew up in the church, you may recognize that story as the parable of the wise man and the foolish man. Read the words of Jesus:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his hoDay 6: Stop Building on Sanduse on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.  — Matthew 7:24-27

Building kingdoms in our own strength or on our own foundations will leave us standing alone, cold and wet. They will fall around us when life gets hard or trials come.

I love urban explorer (urbex) photography, like Niki Feijen,  Chris Luckhardt, and Detroiturbex. I recently stumbled across a series of photographs of abandoned Six Flags New Orleans, which was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It was originally built on swamp land and is a low-lying area, so the entire property was under water for nearly a month after the hurricane hit.

Katrina Killed the Coaster by Keoni Cabral via Creative Commons license 2.0

When we build our kingdoms on foundations that aren’t stable, whether sand or swamp, we run into similar problems. Growth isn’t sustainable. The first “storm” that hits, sends things crumbling into ruin.

Stop building on sand. Build the foundation of your life and kingdom on the rock, that is, Christ Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, — Psalm 46:1-2

What areas have you been building on a shaky foundation in your life? Repent and start building on the rock.

Go back, if you missed Day 5.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 5: Sit in the hard places

sunrise

Why am I focusing on crushing kingdoms this month? It’s sort of an odd turn of phrase, I know. Here’s a little back story to fill in the gaps:

A friend with a small handful of young ones recently reached out to me asking for prayer and declaring she was going to lose it. After a few questions to clarify what the issue was, she shared this:  “The house is clean. Dinner is done. Bathroom’s done. Laundry done. – The kids are not done.”

Yikes. I get that. Do you get that? There are times when surface things are running smoothly and it appears that everything is in place, but the reality is we’re falling apart. My friend continued, “My problem — I try everyday to build my own kingdom. We have a schedule, a plan, chores, worksheets, field trips planned. Then things don’t work out like I wanted to and I just get so frustrated. I don’t know any other way. How do I crush my kingdom? What does letting God build the kingdom look like?”

This and the ensuing conversation has stayed with me since that day. While I’ve been praying for my friend, I’ve also been mulling over my own kingdoms and what must happen to crush them and let God build the kingdom. This is what I hope to walk through this month.

I don’t know how to fix things. I only know a God who fixes. He is Healer. At times, he has to (figuratively) break bones in order to reset them properly.

Sometimes there’s not a pretty wrap up and moral to the story. Sometimes we have to sit in the hard places for a while. This is one of those times. Reflect on your own kingdoms and what must happen to let God crush them and build His kingdom.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Click here to read Day 4: Counting Blessings & Revealing Messes.
Move forward to read Day 6: Stop building on sand.

Catch the whole series indexed here.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 2: Four lessons from a flood

morning surpriseThis morning, I had an unpleasant surprise. On opening the door to our storage room, I was greeted by a rush of water coming out at me. Five inches of rain overnight on already soaked ground was more than our house could handle. The water continued to spread through the entire basement as the day wore on and storms continued to roll through the area.

The rest of the day was spent trying to dry the space with towels, removing boxes and items out of reach of the spreading water, and lots of squeegee action and shop vac suction. As the sun set (and another shower began), 12 friends and brothers & sisters in Christ basement floodshowed up to help us move all the furniture out of the carpeted areas, run shop vacs to remove the standing water as much as possible, and generally get wet and dirty trying to help us deal with the mess. What a blessing it was to have church family jump in and help as much as they could!

So, here’s what I learned from the flood in our basement today:

  1. Circumstances can crush your kingdom. We had absolutely no control over the weather or the water entering the basement. All plans for today (and tomorrow) had to be abandoned in an instant.
  2. Our kingdom, the house and its appearance, really didn’t matter. Having the house torn apart and possessions potentially ruined, is unsettling. But, in the big picture, even if all is lost, thanks be to God.*
  3. When our kingdoms are crushed, there’s room for God to (rightfully) be on the throne. When I step back and look at that big picture, how can I do anything but trust God? I’m so clearly not in control (as water continues to fill my basement). I suppose I could stress and worry, but what would that do? It wouldn’t stop the flow of water. It wouldn’t save my carpet or household furnishings.
  4. Kingdom crushing can lead to surprising blessings. If our basement had not flooded, I would have gone to work, had a normal day, come home, chatted with my husband over dinner and then written a blog post. Instead, I prayed. A lot. While running the shop vac, I spent several hours praying. Rather than a quiet dinner at home, we had twelve friends from church come by to help us move furniture and clean. Instead of watching a movie or Doctor Who, I had gospel conversations about trusting God in hard times.

Well, this isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing for Day Two, but that’s what crushing our kingdoms sometimes looks like. I hope your kingdom crushing takes a drier turn than mine has. 🙂

*a poem by Dom Julian, O.S.B., as recorded in A Severe Mercy:

If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October sky
If all is lost, thanks be to God,
For He is He, and I, I am only I.

This post is Day 2 of 31 Days of Crushing your Kingdoms. If you missed it, here’s Day 1 (or Day 3).

Read all posts in the series here:
crushing your kingdoms

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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