Sales Pitch of a Lifetime

You know those times when your kind, sweet kiddos transform into selfish savages who are constantly at each other’s throats? (No? Is that just us?)

Well, that’s where we are right now.

I’m no stranger to these stages. We tend to undulate into them every so often.

No one cares about anyone else. No one listens. Everyone simply goes wild.

There’s blood. Screaming. Tears. The other day, my son even handed me a fistful of someone’s hair.

But I know this stage is fleeting. So I choose to love my kids anyway, despite their craziness. And I still, somehow, want to give them good things.

So after dinner one night, I decided it would be fun to dish out some dessert. Not based on merit, simply based on my love for them.

As I cleaned the scooper, I smirked and turned to my oldest, who’d had a particularly rough day. “Do you think you should get to have some ice cream?”

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes longingly stared at the utensil in my hand. She hadn’t considered there being a reward that night. One that she might have to miss out on based on her selfishness and disobedience.

She flicked her gaze to me, still pleading, as she laid out every good deed she’d done that day. Granted, most of them were stretched and embellished.

Smiling at her desperate sales pitch, I dipped the scoop into the ice cream. I’d planned all along to give her the special treat. She hadn’t earned it. It was a free gift. One given out of my love for her.

“I love you, kiddo,” I said as I set the bowl of ice cream in front of her at the table. “You can have this treat just because I love you.”

She gushed with thanks, savoring each bite, while the other kids dug in without thought. I imagine the dessert tasted even sweeter to her as it melted on her tongue, knowing that she didn’t deserve one granule of its sugar.

After they went to bed, I checked some news to see what was going on in the world.

And you know those times when your kind, sweet kiddos transform into selfish savages who are constantly at each other’s throats?

Well, that’s where we are right now. As a culture. As a country. As a humanity.

God’s no stranger to these stages. Heck, just take a look at history. We tend to undulate into them every so often.

No one seems to care about anyone else. No one listens. Everyone simply goes wild.

There’s shootings. Suicides. Wars.

But God knows this world is fleeting. So He chooses to love us anyway, despite our craziness. And He still, somehow, wants to give us good gifts.

So after we close our eyes for the last time, He decided it would be fun to dish out some salvation. Simply based on His love for us.

On Judgement Day, I imagine He’ll smirk at me, shining in his radiant splendor. “Do you think you should get to have heaven?”

My mouth might drop open, my gaze longingly fixed on the Almighty. How many days had gone by without me considering the reward that awaited me? One that I might have to miss out on based on my selfishness and disobedience.

Will I flick my gaze to Him and plead my case, laying out every good deed I’d done over the course of my life? Would I stretch and embellish my acts to persuade Him to open the gates for me?

I shake my head, knowing the answer.

God doesn’t need us to sell Him on who we are. He wants us to tell Him who we are in Him.

Loved. Saved. Redeemed.

Through no merit of my own.

“No,” I’d respond, dropping my gaze—and perhaps my entire body—to the ground at His feet. “I don’t think I should get to have Heaven.”

Every virtue I possess. Every good deed attributed to my name. Every act of charity I’ve done. I only attained those with the help of God.

am the crazy stage. The wildness. The selfishness.

And that deserves no part in heaven.

I depend solely on God’s mercy to enter His Kingdom.

Smiling at my desperate reliance on Him, He might step aside and usher me into utopia. He’d planned all along to give me the special treat. I hadn’t earned it. It was a free gift. One given out of His love for me.

As I set foot inside, I envision myself gushing with eternal thanks. And as I partake in paradise, I imagine it tasting even better, knowing that I didn’t deserve even one granule of its sweetness.

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The Story of My Birth

My kids have been passing around the flu like a game of hot, hot, feverish potato.

So far, my two-year-old has been hit the worst.

The stomach bug completely stripped him of his smiley, independent demeanor and replaced it with whining, screaming, hitting, and the inability to ever be put down.

For nearly a week now, his favorite words have been “uh-oh” and “throw up”. Plus, he screams about everything while also refusing to be set down.

So I’ve carried him around day after day, listening to his tantrums, absorbing his fever, and knowing that at any moment he could hurl all over me.

I’ve spent every waking moment with the kid, but then I found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about him, too.

About how utterly exhausting he has been lately.

And then I remembered the story of his birth.

How his heart rate decelerated every two minutes with each of my contractions. How a stampede of nurses rushed to my room each time that happened to pump me with fluids or readjust my limp, bloated, epidural-filled body. How that made for a really long 20 hours of labor.

How, when his heart rate dropped dangerously low, the doctor finally had to cut him from my body in an emergency C-section.

There I was, lying on an operating table, in a deluge of my blood, too weak and scared to move as they refilled me with my own organs.

IMG_1719The kid and I had been through the gamut together, and it nearly killed us both.

The poor baby’s face was splotched purple with bruising—the swelling so bad he couldn’t even open his eyes—and his skull squished to the side like a misshaped melon.

But it was official.

I had delivered him. He was alive.

The story of his birth—the tumultuous journey of what it took to get him here—now bonds us forever. So strongly, in fact, that nothing—not even exhausting, trying behavior—can strip me of my love for him.

All the difficulties, the strife, the exhaustion as of late faded to the back of my mind, buried beneath thick layers of love and the memories of what it took to get him here.

But Lord knows I’m sick, too. And my condition is both chronic and terminal. This sickness—this sin—completely stripped me of my pure and holy demeanor and replaced it with whining and selfishness.

That’s when I remembered the story of my birth.

My spiritual birth, that is.

How the Son’s Sacred Heart must have skipped a beat when his own people demanded His execution. How a stampede of Roman soldiers rushed in to bludgeon Him or shove His weak, swollen, bloody body toward the cross and then nail Him to it.

How that made for a really long Friday.

There He was, lying on a splintered cross, in a deluge of His blood, as they pierced His side, completing my birth.

He had been through the gamut for me, and it actually killed Him.

His face was disfigured with sweat and blood, dust and spittle—flesh dangling from His body—and his skull was pierced with the long points of mocking thorns.

But it was official.

He had delivered me. I would live.

The story of my birth—the tumultuous journey of what it took to get me here—now bonds us forever. So strongly, in fact, that nothing—neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers—can strip Him of His love for me.

And all the difficulties, the strife, the exhaustion I cause Him fade to the back of His mind, buried beneath thick layers of love and the memories of what it took to get me here.

Open Dis!

We have a refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom. Which didn’t seem like a big deal.

Until my two-year-old discovered popsicles.

One night before dinner, he wrapped his little fingers around the thick handle and tugged. Hard. But nothing happened. He knew his muscles weren’t strong enough to open the big door, but he’s headstrong enough to keep trying. (He gets that from his momma.)

So he tugged and tugged, yanking at a door that he had neither the strength nor the authority to open, until desperation and hunger were at their angriest. Only then did he turn to me. The lady with the clearance to open ‘er up.

“Popsicle!” he cried, jimmying the handle.

“It’s almost time for dinner,” I said, stirring a pot of boiling noodles. Spaghetti sauce simmered on the stove in front of me. “We can have popsicles tomorrow.”

“NO DINNER! NO MORROW!!!!!!” He turned face-to-face with the freezer and panic consumed his face. His breathing accelerated. Previously held-back tears flooded his flushed cheeks. A popsicle—his happiness—was right on the other side of that door. “POPSIIIIIIIIICLLLLE!!!!!!!!!!”

He thrashed desperately, pounding away at the door as though his life (or the life of his popsicle) depended on his rescue.

“I’m making spaghetti,” I said calmly, hoping my voice could ring louder than his maniacal screaming. “Would you like to help me?”

If he heard me, he didn’t show it. He was too busy banging on the freezer with his tear-soaked, snot-covered fist. “Open dis!”

“No popsicles right now, bud, but you can go play with your firetrucks.”

Spaghetti. Firetrucks. Two of his favorite things in the entire world.

But they weren’t enough.

So I offered him other things he loves.

Books?

“NO!”

Sisters?

“NOOOO!”

My hugs?

“NOOOOO! OPEN DIIIIIIIISSSSS!!!!”

He slinked to the ground, exhausted. Defeated. Letting the tears streak down his little face and pool on the tile.

“Popsicle,” he whimpered, mostly to himself, his face pressed against the unforgiving floor.

His little heart was set on an appetizer. One that would mostly melt down his arm before he could even taste the goodness. One that, unbeknownst to him, would leave him hungry.

All the while, I was right beside him preparing a full-on feast.

One that would nourish and strengthen him. One in which he could get his complete fill. One that would take away that feeling of panic and longing, and replace them with peace and love.

But he couldn’t tear his gaze from the closed door, the one that falsely promised joy and fulfillment.

As I stood there, watching him wallow in self-pity and sorrow, it occurred to me that he gets that from his momma, too.

How many times have I tried to bust down a door, falsely convinced that what lay behind it promised happiness and fulfillment?

Without even asking my Father, I’ve walked right up to locked doors and tugged. Hard. Of course nothing happened. Even then, I knew my muscles weren’t strong enough to open the doors. But that wouldn’t stop me from trying.

So I tugged and tugged, yanking at doors that I had neither the strength nor the authority to open, until desperation and hunger were at their angriest. Only then did I think to turn to my Father. The One with the clearance to open ‘er up.

“Open this!” I commanded, jimmying the handle.

“It’s time for something else,” He said, stirring a pot of…something else. Something I couldn’t get a glimpse of. Something I didn’t know if I could trust.

“NO SOMETHING ELSE!!!!!!” I turned face-to-face with my chosen door as panic clutched me from within, my breathing labored. Previously held-back tears flooded my flushed cheeks. A desire—my happiness—was right on the other side of that door.

I thrashed desperately, pounding away at the door as though my life (or the life of my desire) depended on me to rescue it.

“I have other plans for you. They’ll help you, not hurt you. They’ll give you hope and a future,” He said calmly, hoping His voice could ring louder than my maniacal screaming. “Would you like to help Me?”

If I heard Him, I didn’t show it. I was too busy banging on the door with a tear-soaked, snot-covered fist. “Open this!”

“You can’t have that, but you can go read my Word or play with your children.”

Scripture. My kids. Two of the most important things in the world to me.

But they weren’t enough.

So He offered me other things I love.

Food?

“NO!”

A bed to sleep in? Breath in your lungs?

“NOOOO!”

My love?

“NOOOOO! OPEN THIIIIIIIISSSSS!!!!”

I slinked to the ground, exhausted. Defeated. Letting the tears streak down my little face, whimpering to myself, curled up on the floor, my face buried in my own wet, matted hair.

My little heart was set on an appetizer. One that would mostly evaporate before I could taste the goodness. One that, unbeknownst to me, would leave me hungry.

All the while, God was right beside me preparing a full-on feast.

One that would nourish and strengthen me. One in which I could get my complete fill. One that would take away that feeling of panic and longing, and replace them with peace and love.

It wasn’t until I tore my gaze from the closed door—the one that falsely promised joy and fulfillment—that I realized the Source of true joy and fulfillment was on this side of the door with me. He was within arm’s reach, not locked behind some sealed door.

I already had everything I needed. Everything I wanted.

All at once, my prayer changed.

“Close that door,” I pleaded. “Open me.

How My Baby Survived My Miscarriage

Repost from August 2016.

I met my baby one day after everything had been surgically sucked out of my uterus.

Not in the remains from the surgery. Not even in a photograph of the carnage.

But inside my body. On an ultrasound of my Fallopian tube.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 11.31.08 AM

There, nestled in the nook of a narrow tube, I see her. Or him. Whatever it is, it’s clearly still growing inside me. Which, ironically, is the problem. Its body keeps growing—keeps living—inside my Fallopian tube, stretching and pressing against it, until the delicate tunnel is on the verge of rupture.

“We need to perform another surgery.” My doctor can hardly believe what he’s saying. can hardly believe what he’s saying. Hadn’t they just performed surgery on me yesterday? The one that emptied everything from my uterus? The one that was supposed to end this nightmare?

The wrinkles deepen in my doctor’s forehead. “And we need to do it today.”

I nod, unable to peel my eyes off this bean-shaped treasure. I thought I’d already said goodbye to this baby. This baby who, apparently, was still alive.

The little black peanut looks so innocent, cuddled up cozily in the tiny tube where only 1-2% of pregnancies occur. If only it had traveled an inch or so further, I could have welcomed him or her into my arms next spring.

In that moment, there’s nothing I want more than that baby. To learn the sound of his laughter or discover her greatest passion. To reach out and touch it, even if my fingers only graze a glass screen.

There’s nothing I want more than to prove to this baby I can be a good mother.

But that option doesn’t exist.

Tubal pregnancies are very dangerous,” my doctor continues, an added layer of seriousness in his voice. “If we don’t perform surgery and your tube ruptures, you could die from internal bleeding. If we do the surgery, I will most likely have to take the Fallopian tube.”

I nod again, like I’m consenting. Like I have consented to any of this.

Then, after bursting through the front doors of the doctor’s office, I sink onto the curb with my husband where the Texas summer clings to me like my diagnosis. Hot. Sticky. Nauseating.

What’s worse: Knowing your baby could kill you or finding out your baby could still be alive and now you have to kill it?

The thoughts are too heavy to bear. But they’re also too heavy to shake.

“Do you trust me?” God asks, the same way He did when we first received a diagnosis of miscarriage.

I can’t think, let alone trust. Trusting something—even God—feels risky. Naive. Almost irresponsible.

So I push Him away.

I can only do what I’m instructed. Like a mindless drone.

And right then, I was being instructed to have another surgery. So I agree. I sign the papers, and agree to lose my baby—again—along with half of my future fertility.

***

When I wake up, the drugs are strong. I don’t know where I am or who’s beside me. All I know is I’m shivering away the anesthesia, and each twitch sets my stomach on fire.

Someone throws a warm blanket on my head.

“You look like Mother Mary!”

I swear that’s what a nurse says, but it might just be my own lame, delusional humor.

Then they roll me down the hallway in my casket of warm blankets. I’m buried in heat. And I’m still freezing.

Finally, I see his face. My husband. My best friend. The captain of our team.

“The doctor said everything went fine. Your Fallopian tube was ruptured. Apparently, it had also twisted up and attached to your abdomen wall.” He gently touches my hand, avoiding the IV needle and tubes shooting out of my arms like wild veins. “Doc said that saved you.”

For a moment, the drugs stop tugging at my eyelids. Even the shivers stop.

“Do you trust me?” God asks for the umpteenth time since this all began.

Funny how His tone never waivers. Never condescends. Never says, “I told you so.” Not even now, when He totally could. He doesn’t even force me to trust Him or state it as a command. He simply asks.

Do you trust me?

Because the truth is—whether I trusted Him or not—He’s been on my team the whole time. Long before I even knew I needed help, He was there.

Before I knew anything needed to be fixed, God knew.

And He chose to fix it. He chose to save me.

I imagine Him flawlessly twisting my Fallopian tube and attaching it securely to my abdominal membranes. Tying the delicate tube into a knot that would stop the blood. Creating the perfect tourniquet before the injury even took place.

But this isn’t the first time God’s done that for me.

Long before I knew I needed help, He was there, willingly hanging on a cross. His own blood gushing from his body with no tourniquet to stop it.

Before I knew anything needed to be fixed, God knew.

And He chose to fix it. He chose to save me.

How Do You Treat The Person Who’s Always There?

I do not exist.

At least, that’s how I feel most days.

My older kids have entered this fun, new stage where their ears have become deaf to the sound of my voice. It’s as though my words are nothing but the wind. I could scream that the house was on fire and they’d still sit there, unflinching at the kitchen table, trying to decide if they should use ‘hot magenta’ or ‘primrose’ for the queen bunny’s scepter in their coloring book.

It’s only when they disagree, the argument coming to punches and tears, before they come running to me, fingers pointing at the other in accusation, expecting me to condemn and punish the one who’s in the wrong.

Then there’s my youngest who’s nearing his second birthday, and has firmly decided to remind me of the dangerous combination of having too many emotions and too few words.

In the course of a single day, it’s not uncommon for someone to run away from me and someone else to angrily chase me down.

I’ve been both shouted at and given the silent treatment.

I’ve been hit, slapped in the face, and bitten.

Because to my children, I’m merely whatever they want me to be. A judge. An executioner. A security blanket. A punching bag. A genie who will make whatever they want materialize in front of them.

But rarely, if ever, am I treated like the full person that I am. A person with hopes and a heart for them. A person who wants the best for them. A person who dreams the lofty dream for her children to become saints.

And so they lose sight of the biggest part of my identity. They lose me. 

“You know why you treat me like this?” I asked them on a particularly tough day. “Because I’m ALWAYS HERE.”

It was an inappropriate release of anger, really. An expression of my feeling trapped, confined to the chaos, even on the days when all I want to do is run away or sit alone crying in the closet.

But it’s true.

I’m always there, elbow-deep in the foulness, even when I can’t stand the stench.

I’m always here.

To me, those words can be suffocating. A lifelong prison sentence. An unbearable, impossible task.

But in the same moment I shouted those words at my children, God whispered them to me.

You see, I’ve been in this stage lately where I haven’t heard from my Father very much. It’s not for His lack of trying, I’m sure. My ears have simply been deaf to His voice, as though His words were nothing but the wind. He could scream that my life was inflamed with sin, and I’d sit there, unflinching in my living room, trying to decide if I should watch Captain Marvel or Captain America after the kids are in bed.

It’s only when I’m angry or hurt, my arguments usually ending in tears, before I come sprinting to Him.

And during this pregnancy, I’ve taken it upon myself to remind Him of the extremely dangerous combination of having too many emotions and too few words in prayer.

In the course of a single day, it’s not uncommon for me to run away from Him and also angrily chase Him down.

He’s been both shouted at and given the silent treatment.

Because to me, He becomes whatever I want Him to be. A judge. An executioner. A security blanket. A punching bag. A genie who can make whatever I want materialize in front of me.

But rarely is He treated like the full Person that He is. A Person with hopes and a heart for me. A Person who wants the best for me. A Person who dreams the lofty dream for His child to become a saint.

And so I lose sight of the biggest part of His identity. I lose Him.

“You know why you treat Me like this?” He asks me again on that particularly tough day. “Because I’m always here.”

And it’s true.

He’s always there, elbow-deep in my foulness, even when I’m sure He can’t stand the stench.

I’m always here.

But to God, those words are a promise. An eternal covenant. A profession of real, unconditional, unbreakable love.

Separation Anxiety

My son has a severe case of separation anxiety.

As he grows, the issue seems to intensify, despite the fact that I drop him off at his grandparents’ house one day each week so I can have a few hours of uninterrupted writing time (praise God for grandparents!)

To him, it doesn’t matter that his grandparents are modern-day saints who immerse him in love and his favorite books, toys, and tv shows. It doesn’t matter that we’ve done this song and dance every week for over a year. It doesn’t even matter that I always return, full of hugs and kisses, ready to scoop him up in my arms and keep him there as long as he pleases.

49523947_280463235975089_765540033398673338_n(1)

This is what happens when I go stand behind the photographer.

The moment we separate, he freaks out.

You’d think he would have grown out of this by now.

But he hasn’t.

To him, separation from me actually hurts. And there’s nothing else in the world that can fill the void of my absence, nothing that can quench the immense longing he has for me.

If he knew me—I mean, really knew me—he’d understand that I am incredibly flawed and thus, by nature, unable to fulfill him. In this regard, it seems silly and unreasonable that he would distress so much over me.

But babies are silly and unreasonable.

So he cries, throwing his tiny, helpless hands out to me, desperately pleading for me to stay.

There’s inconsolable tears. Red, hot cheeks. Difficulty breathing. A desperate chase. And then a painful, constant, unfulfilled longing after I’m gone.

And maybe he’s onto something.

Shouldn’t that be our reaction at the separation we have from our Father?

If we knew Him—I mean, really knew Him—it would validate having intense separation anxiety. After all, God is perfect love, and thus by nature, the only thing that can fulfill us. In this regard, it seems silly and unreasonable that we wouldn’t distress over losing Him.

It shouldn’t matter to us if we are surrounded by modern-day saints or our favorite books, toys, or tv shows. It shouldn’t matter that we’ve done this song and dance since the Fall, when Adam and Eve brought this separation upon us. It shouldn’t even matter that God always returns, ready to scoop us up in His arms and keep us there as long as we please.

The moment we’re separated from God, we should freak out. To us, separation from Him should actually hurt. And nothing else in the world should be able to fill the void of His absence. Nothing else should be able to quench the immense longing we have for Him.

So I’ll cry, throwing my tiny, helpless hands out to Him, desperately pleading for Him to stay.

Inconsolable tears? A desperate chase? A painful, constant, unfulfilled longing? I’ll cling to those.

Because as I’ve grown to know God better, my separation anxiety has intensified.

And that is something I never want to grow out of.

What Do You Believe?

My family has a Christmas tradition that makes most people’s heads explode.

We don’t do Santa.

(I can hear the gasps from here.)

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 2.52.32 PMDon’t get me wrong, we still talk about Santa, watch movies and read books about Santa. Heck, we even go visit him. But my husband and I explain to our kids that Santa is a fun game people play at Christmas to show generosity and kindness.

There are lots of reasons we chose to do this (reasons I won’t go into on this post, but if anyone has questions, feel free to contact me at my link above.) But the truth is, my husband and I spent lots of long nights deliberating over this decision.

You’d be surprised how pressure-filled and difficult it was for us to grind our way down this path. We questioned ourselves. We wondered how our kids would respond. But in the end, it seemed to be working out really well.

Until something strange happened.

This year, my three-year-old thinks Santa is real. Even though we have told her the opposite, point-blank.

She knows that Santa is a game people play. She knows the guys in Santa suits are just men playing dress up. And she knows that Santa is a representation of a real man named St. Nicholas of Myra (because she picks a book about St. Nicholas every night at bedtime.)

So, it isn’t any wonder I got whiplash the first time she spotted “the real Santa” (ahem, a gentlemen with a white beard and rotund tummy who was not dressed up as Santa.)

Over and over now, she gawks at Santa-like men until they notice her and wish her a Merry Christmas. Then she flees to me, squealing with delight and clinging to my leg for dear life. Once the men pass by, she looks up at me, doe-eyed, and points a finger in his direction.

“It was him!” she whispers.

At least once a day, she talks about Santa. She loves the guy. And she really believes he will bring her the jet packs she asked for for Christmas. (According to her, they have size 3T at Target.)

This drastic turnaround of hers got me wondering: How can people believe something when they’ve been flat-out told that its opposite is true?

It’s like we’re hardwired to hope and believe.

Even as adults, we have a natural programming to believe. All of us, to some degree, believe in something. Be it a science-explains-all approach or aliens or Jesus Christ or the idea that humans are absolutely alone in the universe.

Whatever the case, the answer is we don’t have the answers, so we believe in something to fill in the blanks.

Personally, I choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who took on flesh, became man, and died at the hands of men for the salvation of humanity.

Sounds a little fantastical, no?

So what’s to say that my belief in Jesus is not some antiquated legend or holiday farce?

How do I know I’m not just a grown-up version of my naive daughter?

I mean, here I am staking my life on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. How do I know that this is not all in my head? How do I know that any of it is actually true?

Because ultimately we, as Christians, have a faith that is based on reason.

Will my daughter be able to prove that Santa sneaked into our house and left gifts under the tree? No.

Will I be able to prove that Jesus was the Son of God who was crucified, died, and was buried? And that on the third day he rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father? No.

But proof and evidence are two different things, and what I can do is evaluate Christian claims in other ways.

For one, I can look at historical documents that provide evidence of Jesus’s life and death. From there I can examine any evidence that He performed miracles or rose from the dead. If those stack up, I can start to scrutinize scripture to see if/how it fits with the other evidence. I can also take into account the tradition of my belief system spanning thousands of years and the writings of those who have already asked tough questions about Christianity. And, because they’re available, I can look at the writings of the earliest Church fathers who knew people who actually hung out with this historical Jesus guy.

At that point, you start to get a pretty thick stack of reasons that back up your beliefs.

And that’s totally different than saying, “I believe in Santa because I want jet packs.”

One involves reason, thorough examination, and evidence-based conclusions. The other is based on feelsy goodsies.

So don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Don’t be afraid to investigate. Don’t be afraid to examine and scrutinize the Christian faith.

And definitely don’t be afraid to believe.

Get My Checkbook

It was a mad dash to the minivan.

We had snacks, we had water cups—though they may or may not have been filled with water—and all three kids were stampeding toward their car seats at the same time. It was even rumored that all the kids had shoes on their feet.

From the looks of things, it would be a successful roundup. (Over the years, my husband and I have somehow figured out how to do this without the use of a lasso or child hypnosis. I know, I’m a little surprised myself.)

I slipped the diaper bag onto my shoulders, shoved my feet into high heels and fastened my watch as I shuffled toward the van (because, as usual, we were late.)

At the push of a button, the van door slid open slowly and I tossed the diaper bag inside. The Elder Child was already fastened in her seat in the far back, her nose pressed to the pages of a book. The Baby was perfectly imprisoned in his pumpkin seat.

From the other side of the van, my husband’s hands furiously worked the buckle on the Middle’s safety belt. He glanced up at me with wide eyes. I’d seen that look many times before. Heck, I was comfortable with it plastered on my face. It was the look of having forgotten something.

“What is it?” I asked. Baby’s milk? Baby’s paci? Shoes? Did the kids not have shoes after all??

“Will you go get the checkbook?” my husband asked.

The checkbook? The request slapped me senseless for a moment. What in the world would he need a checkbook for in this age of digital spending? There was nothing we even needed to buy, for heaven’s sake.

But, there he was, wide-eyed, his hands still fidgeting with Middle’s five-point harness. I took off at a sprint—well, as close to a sprint as one can get in heels—click-clacking through our kitchen to the place where we keep the dusty, nearly forgotten checkbook. For a moment, I stared at the antiquated pieces of paper.

Did he want just one check? Or the whole book?

The whole book would be even more unusual than just one…but hadn’t he asked me to get the checkbook?

I shook it off. The moments I stood gawking at blank checks were moments wasted.

Get the checkbook.

I grabbed the short stack and clomped back through the house to the van.

“Did you get it?” my husband asked, strapping himself into the driver’s seat.

I nodded, somehow out of breath.

“Thanks so much.”

I handed him the blank checks. “Why did you need these?”

“Today’s the last day to get raffle tickets for the Fall Festival and it’s the church’s biggest fundraiser. I wanted to help.”

I nodded again, and finally it all made sense. His request. My response. Everything.

My husband’s request was rooted in love and service, and my response stemmed from absolute trust in him.

Because I know him so well, I trusted him, even when he asked me to do something that made zero sense. And, because I know my husband so well, I sprinted in heels—without knowing why—to do what he asked, trusting that whatever I was doing was good and important.

And it was.

I sat shotgun as we zoomed toward church. What if God asked me to go get the checkbook? Do I know him well enough—trust Him enough—to sprint off in the direction He asks me to go? Especially when it’s cloudy and vague and makes no sense?

I frowned in the front seat, knowing the answer.

When it comes to God, I usually want specific details and a fully laid out plan.

Yet, so often when it comes to God, His requests are the kind that slap us senseless for a moment.

But they are always, always rooted in love.

All I have to do is trust. And then take off sprinting.

Sad Choices

My girls have had a tough time making good choices lately, especially when it comes to sleep. They refuse to nap, choosing to giggle beneath the blankets with each other in the top bunk instead. Then they wake up in the middle of the night to do the same thing. For hours.

As the days progress, I see their ability to function dwindling exponentially. First goes the patience. Then the kindness. Then the respectfulness. The obedience. The focus and ability to understand things. The ability to think of others instead of themselves. Everything. Everything goes out the window with each decision not to sleep.

And that’s not even counting the physical effects of sleep deprivation.

Recently, during a particularly unfortunate “nap” session, their racquet woke their baby brother, who also needed to rest.

I propped him on my hip and wiped his tiny, runny nose. “Sad choices have sad consequences,” I reminded the girls. “You’ve chosen to hurt your own bodies by not resting, and now that sad choice has also hurt your brother.”

“Sorry, Mommy,” they said in unison.

“The only way we can go to gymnastics tonight is if you rest and give your body energy. I’ll give you one more chance to make a wise choice. ”

“Okay!” They scurried to their beds and squeezed their eyes shut tight.

Gymnastics, to my girls, is the pinnacle of the week. When that day comes along, they wake up and announce to the house, “TODAY IS GYMNASTICS DAY!” Joy pours out of them in such great quantities, they have to bounce and run so they don’t explode with the emotion. And, when it’s time to go, they actually listen when I tell them to get in the van. That’s the real indicator of their love for the activity.

And I, as their mom, want to give them things they love. I want to take care of them—of their bodies, and of their wants and needs.

But the moment I closed the door behind me, little footsteps stomped up the steps to the top bunk. Then came the giggling.

My heart sank with devastation. I wanted to give them gymnastics. All they had to do was choose it.

But they didn’t.

As I opened their bedroom door, I knew what I had to do. “Girls, we can’t go to gymnastics today.”

Without a word, they rolled out of the bed and started walking out of the room. No emotion. No reaction. Nothing.

I squinted in confusion as they filed past me. “Are you not really, really sad right now?”

They both shrugged. “No.”

My boggled mind tried to make sense of this. “You mean none of this makes you sad? Hurting your brother by not letting him rest? Losing gymnastics?”

Their little shoulders shrugged again. They weren’t being difficult, they were simply being honest.

The consequences to their sad choices were somehow not making them sad. No wonder they keep making those choices over and over again.

Like me.

I know my sin is a sad choice. That it separates me from God and hurts the body of Christ.

But do I really let that sink in?

What if every time I sinned, I felt the sharp, searing pain of a nail grinding through my wrist? Or heard the agonized cry of the One who took those blows for me? Or understood the gravity of being separated from the only One who makes me feel whole?

Then, maybe, I’d have a better understanding of the devastation that comes from my sad choices.

But instead, I often sin and then keep moving on with life—without emotion or reaction—ready to go do whatever’s next.

As the sins progress, it can be difficult for me to see myself becoming less like Christ. But it’s there. First goes the patience. Then the kindness. Then the respectfulness. The obedience. The focus and ability to understand things. The ability to think of others instead of myself. Everything. Everything goes out the window with each sin.

Then I forge a way past my Father as I go, leaving Him behind me to feel the weight of the devastation.

“Are you not really, really sad right now?” He asks.

I shrug in apathy. “No.”

“None of this makes you sad? The nails in my wrist? The wound in my side? Hurting your brothers and sisters because of your sad choices?”

I shrug my shoulders again. I’m not being difficult, I’m simply being honest.

The consequences to my sad choices somehow don’t make me as sad as they should. It’s no wonder I keep making those choices over and over again.

God, as our Father, wants to give us things we love. He wants to take care of us—of our bodies, and of our greatest desires and needs. He wants to give us Himself.

All we have to do is choose it.

Blood Diamonds

Not long ago, we went to a birthday party at Cici’s Pizza.

Immediately, the flashing arcade lights beckoned all the children, and off they all ran together, carrying baggies of coins and little prizes.

“Do you have any money, Mommy?” my daughters asked, almost in unison.

I cringed at the hope in their voice.

“I don’t know…” I stammered. “Let me check.”

The girls danced in front of me, clapping with joy. The pressure was officially on.

I unzipped my bag, said a quick prayer and eventually scrounged up a little change for them both.

With smiles and thanks, they dashed off to join their cousins and friends. Moments later, they returned, their smiles somehow even bigger than before.

“Mom! Guess what we got!” they said, the big surprise concealed in their tiny, closed fists. The rest of their coins were gone. They’d spent everything on whatever was hiding in their hands.

“What?”

IMG_8466Diamonds!” They opened their hands, displaying their shiny, new gems, enclosed safely in a plastic container.

I feigned a gasp. “Wow! How beautiful!”

“Can I take mine out and hold it?” my youngest asked.

“Of course, but be careful. We don’t want to lose it.”

My three-year-old nodded solemnly, sealing her oath with a death grip on her finest jewel.

For days, the kids went everywhere—and I mean everywhere—with those cherished diamonds tucked tightly into the crevices of their palms.

It got me thinking about us—about you and me and all of humanity.

About how when God made people, He put a small piece of Himself inside every single one of us. This immortal sliver of divinity—our soul—glitters and shines from within us, like an invaluable jewel.

And yet, how often do we fixate more on our bodies—our plastic containers—than the immaculate gems inside? More often than not, it seems. We all tend to focus on and obsess about the shape and color of our casings. We point out differences. We compare and contrast. We make up lies about whose is best.

With those thoughts in mind, I turned to my five-year-old, whose immortal glittering diamond is older than most.

IMG_8464

“What do you like about your diamond?” I asked.

“It’s just so beautiful,” she said. “I love it.”

“Would it matter to you what the case looked like?”

“No.”

“Would it matter if the case was a different shape?”

“No.”

“Would it matter if it was a different color?”

“Of course not, Mom,” she said, clearly resisting the urge to put her face in her palm.

“So why do you like the case? What makes it important?”

She lifted her prized possession and peered at the glorious jewel with awe. “I like it because it keeps my diamond safe.”

A smile spread onto my face as I nodded in agreement. “I couldn’t have said it better myself, kiddo.”

She’s right, after all. Our diamonds need protecting. There’s an enemy working hard to distract us from that part of ourselves, to convince us to defile it, or to flat out rob it from us.

But God knows how precious we are, and He wants us more than anything else.

So, our Father gave His Son everything He needed to win the prize of our souls. And because of Jesus’s incredible love for us, He took what He was given, and He spent it all. Every breath, every droplet of blood. He spent it. For you. For me. For every single one of us.

And, after giving up everything He had, he returned to the Father with a smile somehow bigger than ever before.

I can just imagine their exchange.

“Dad! Guess what I got!” Jesus would say, the big surprise concealed within the wounds on his wrists.

“What?”

All the diamonds.”

“Wow!” the Father would exclaim with genuine admiration. “How beautiful!”

“Can I hold them?”

“Of course, Son, but be careful. We don’t want to lose any of them.”

And then Jesus would nod, sealing His oath with a firm grip on His finest jewels, so He could go everywhere—and I mean everywhere—with those cherished diamonds tucked tightly into the crevices of His palms.

 

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