Gifts of Grace

Come on over to the Raising Generations Today blog to read a post I wrote last week…

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…AKA It’s a spider, it’s a creature, it’s…

This weekend, a fellow 5 Mama gave me the gift of paying my way to attend a moms’ conference. The five of us went together, and it was so life-giving! Instead of getting a hotel room, we commuted back and forth each day.

Every morning, I’d sit and listen to the stories of the chaos that welcomed my friends when they walked in the doors of their homes each night. I didn’t have much to say. All I really needed to do when I got home was wash a few dishes (my husband lovingly decided to use paper plates for dinner), empty the clean dishwasher, and restock the diaper bag for the next day. My home has been pretty messy since baby number 5 came along, so it wasn’t much different than when I am home.

My friends’ stories made me smile. One friend walked all over granola on her kitchen floor and forced herself not to clean up as she stepped over mounds of stuff left around the house. Another friend said she found children, crumbs, and popcorn in her bed when all she wanted to do was collapse into bed for the night. One of the other mamas found out her son had been sick while she was away.

Fast forward to day three. About an hour after I got home, I was putting a full trash bag on the steps that lead to the side door and our basement. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an unidentified object on the wall near the ceiling. For a second, I thought it was some weird, furry, spider or other creepy creature. Then I saw two more blobs, one high up on the other wall and one low. “What IS that?” I thought one of the big kids had fallen back into preschool mode where wall creations were fun. Then I saw it. At the bottom of the stairs was a lid to a jar, next to it, the jar. If one of my sons had emptied it, he would have either left it on the counter or put it back in the cupboard.

My daughter, Joy, wanted to be responsible-substitute-Mama. She thought we recycled this type of container. Now yes, we are supposed to, but this mama will not work that hard at cleaning something just to put it in the recycle bin. I fail all of future humanity and throw these particular type of sticky, oily jars right in the garbage.

When I do recycle something, I do throw it in down those same stairs, putting a spin on it so it will hopefully land in the basement where the recycle bins are. But I always put the lid back on containers before I throw them down two flights of stairs and make sure the containers are empty and clean. My daughter thought it was ok to throw an almost empty jar down the stairs and then toss the lid down after it.

Any guesses what was on my walls? Yup, those three teaspoon sized globs were ooey gooey peanut butter. I told my husband and then said, “I heard Joel wake up, so I’m going to get him up from his nap and deal with the walls later.” When I went downstairs I saw my husband with paper towels standing at the bottom of the stairs. I said, “Wait! Let me take a picture for the blog!” That’s what going to a moms’ conference with speakers who are bloggers and writers will do to you!

Enjoy my blurry picture 🙂

Photo Collage Maker_Wh0qC8

God Provided

In Joshua 4, God told the Israelites to put twelve stones near the bank of the Jordan River as a sign for future generations to remember that God made a dry path in the river for them to cross to the other side just to show his power.

I have always wanted to start a “Faithfulness Book” where I would write down stories of how God provided for us, restored us after repentance, fulfilled the desires of our hearts, and many other ways God has been faithful to our family. Then my husband and I, our children, and even their children could read the stories of how God showed his power in our lives. I even bought a cute notebook but have yet to make an entry.

I invite you to read this first draft of what would be the first few entries on God’s provision.

When our marriage almost ended, we racked up a pretty big amount of debt. We spent years trying to pay off each one. After awhile, we had one debt left, a big credit card debt that had gone to a collection agency. Our dear friends decided to give us an enormous Christmas gift by paying it off for us! After we picked up our jaws off the floor, we praised God with tears in our eyes. It was the last consequence and constant reminder from that dark time in our marriage, so when it was no longer hanging over our heads, we were so relieved!

Once our phone was about to be turned off because we couldn’t pay the bill. Only two people knew that we were behind on the payment. We found out the debt was either erased or paid off anonymously.

After our van broke down, someone lent us their car for the whole summer! When we replaced our van, the car broke down. We didn’t have money for a second car, so the man made us a deal. We could buy the car we used all summer if we paid him $50 a month until our tax return came, then we could pay the rest of the money.

Once our cat got outside and got hurt enough to go to the emergency animal hospital overnight. They couldn’t find anything wrong other than a hurt stomach, so they gave him a pain medicine patch and sent us home with a $900 vet bill. We didn’t know how we were going to pay that. The next week, we had people over for dinner and worship. When they left, there was $1000 in cash on our counter rolled up in a note that said, “from God.”

Our friends, who had a family of 5, invited our family of 5 to live with them for almost a whole year! The goal was to save money by not having utility bills so we could pay off debt and possibly buy a house. Who does that?! We learned how to be less selfish and learned a lot about ourselves as well as how to find ways to be givers like they were.

My parents own a duplex in our city, but for a number of years they lived in a different state. For many years, they let us stay in one of the apartments rent free and then at a very discounted rate.

For a season, my husband had a job that didn’t pay very much, so I took on two part time jobs as well as teaching weekly piano lessons and homeschooling our kids. Money shouldn’t have added up to cover all we needed, but somehow we always had enough and never went hungry.

At the moment, we are going through another opportunity for God to step in and show his provision in our lives. He is faithful, and though this is hard, we see many ways he is already providing. I needed to write this blog entry so I could visit my own “stones” and be reminded of God’s faithfulness to provide for us in the past. He has been faithful, and he will be again.

What stories would be in your Faithfulness Book? I invite you to go buy a cute notebook and start to journal all he has done for you. Then when you find yourself walking through a valley, you can go back and remember how God’s goodness and faithfulness in the past prove that you can trust him with your present.

Lion Sleeping

“The lions may grow weak and hungry,

Grapes On Arbor Closeup

…but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:10

~Angela

In that moment

d354cf5ae5eeafeab3c80f291ea007dbIt began with one sentence, “I’m so sorry, but the situation is very grave.” It was that one moment, the moment that began a new chapter in my life. It was then that I knew my life would now be the before this loss and the after. It’s a line we create when experiencing a great loss; a loss of any kind, really, one that cuts down to your soul and creates an ache that doesn’t go away. Oh, it may ease with time, but the scar remains. And it becomes almost welcome, one that we are loathe to miss.  Because in feeling the ache, we remember. And in the remembering, comes the validation of the precious thing that was lost.

We all experience various losses throughout our lives as I had before losing my little boy.  The year before I had an early miscarriage.  Brimming with excitement, I had barely begun sharing my happy news, when it was over. When I finally became pregnant again, it was with a mixture of such hope and anxiety.  The joy was complete as I passed that “magic” number week 12, only to be dashed as I ended up in the emergency room. Put on bedrest, I was determined to make it through to the end.  My family and friends rallied around us. My parents, who lived close by, along with a friend who came to stay with us for days on end at a time, took care of my two little boys and our home. Friends came with meals, bearing gifts of books and magazines to pass the time as I lay in bed or on the couch.

Then one day I went in for a checkup. I had been very lightheaded for a few days, actually passing out at times. I asked for an ultra sound to make sure things were ok.  The doctor didn’t think I needed another one and recommended that I start to move around a little more. It is still with regret that I remember that day, wishing I had had the courage to stand up to him and demand an ultrasound. But, we chose to trust his knowledge and we went home. I tried to do what he said, even having short bursts where I felt better. One morning as I woke up, I knew that something was wrong. My belly was so large, far bigger than it should have been at the time. And every time that I tried to do anything, I felt as if I would faint. As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting to be seen, another expectant mother came to sit next to me. Eager to share and connect over swollen bellies and ankles, we compared due dates. “You’re so big, you must be having twins,” she said. With that comment came the confirmation that something was indeed wrong.  As soon as the doctor saw me, she measured me and immediately sent us to the hospital. It was there that I received the ultrasound I had requested days before. The screen showed a belly full of blood, a placenta almost fully abrupted, and a sweet, baby boy not long for this life. The doctor’s next words as he sat on the side of my bed were, “I’m so sorry. I missed it.” And that is how the next week in the hospital became my new timeline. The one I refer to as my before and after in my journey of motherhood.

People are so kind. They want to help, to comfort, to take away your hurt. The love that was poured out on us was amazing. But, there are some who said things like, “it wasn’t the right time,” or “try not to think about it,” or “just be thankful for the boys you have.”  And I didn’t get frustrated because I knew. I had been the one before who tried to find the right thing to say or do, even though I had not experienced that pain. There were also the ones who seemed sent from heaven to comfort my heart. It was these few who stood beside us and a tiny hole in the ground. On a beautiful, warm May day, my husband and I were surrounded by those few.  There was the dear friend who did truly know my pain, a pain that I had not understood as we buried her little boy on a cold, wintry day just a few years before. The family members who stood by my hospital bed and prayed for a miracle for our two lives, helping me keep my faith when only one of our lives was saved. And my two little dark haired boys, who only knew that now, instead of just one, two of our babies were in heaven. They stood there next to us as I looked down at them with very different eyes. I had loved being their mother, devoting my whole life to them to do it. But, in that moment putting that tiny box into the ground, I had a new perspective; one that I had never wanted to have.

A few weeks ago, I ran into someone I went to college with over twenty years ago. Full of hope and anticipation, we had stepped out into our futures. In that time, our only contact had been the recent peering into each other’s lives through social media. As we stood there, trying to fit twenty years into a few minutes, I was amazed at how quickly the subject of losing a child came up. We both were fortunate enough to have four children, but with quite large age gaps between a couple of them, explained by the losses of our babies. How quickly the invisible bond that draws two hearts together is woven.  Because in that moment you are understood.  Another mother who knows the heartache of knowing one or more of her children are missing. A child that she loved from the moment she saw the line on the test, a child that she dreamt of holding and loving, a child whose future is not in her arms, she understands. I looked at her beautiful face, more lined, her hair laced with gray, and saw not the young woman twenty something years old, but a mama who has experienced that joy of expectancy and the pain of loss. We spoke of this bond. We spoke of how sad it is to have it, and yet so comforting to just be known. We spoke of how perspective changed from the moment that line is drawn. It’s in the after, that we begin to see how precious life is. We see how fragile it is, and how quickly it can change. The loved ones we have begin to be seen through different eyes. We don’t always remember to appreciate the moment, but when we are reminded of what we have lost, we remember that difference.

In the end, there are some mamas who don’t show the heartache, suffering silently, wondering if people will understand. Any woman who has lost a baby to miscarriage, a stillbirth, and even an abortion, has lost their child. I learned so much during that time from those around me who showed me that they understood, that shared their stories with me. And those who may have not had the same loss that I did, but still reached out, willing to hurt with us, bringing comfort in our loss. I learned it’s ok to grieve, and it’s important to have something tangible to remember the one who was lost to us by. Every year we go visit that grave, to remember, to feel, to not forget, and to look at the boys we have with us as the miracles they are. We watch them grow, some looking down at me now as they wrap their arms around me, and we know that as full and as wonderful, and as miraculous it is to have them, there are ones missing. Ones not with us now but never forgotten.  And when I am privileged enough to have a precious woman share her story with me, I get it. I understand. And somehow, whenever that happens, a tiny piece of my heart heals.

Claire

Walking among the tombstones

My mother thinks it’s creepy, how I love to walk through the cemetery. Just a short walk from my house, as soon as I enter the gate, I am stricken with the sheer magnitude of it. Rows and rows of beautiful headstones, graced with menorahs or the star of David, stand dwarfed under towering trees. The winding path beckons us to walk and wonder at the lives lived here before us.

 I bring my littles here so they can ride their bikes safely. As they race in front of me, I can see the tips of their helmets over the tops of the headstones, the neon green spikes of a dinosaur mohawk ensures me that the littlest is within earshot. These two are so full of life as they race and laugh, playing police officers or clone troopers, unaffected by the sorrow that surrounds them. Full of life, full of potential, living in the very moment they are given. My mind wanders between the never completed to do list awaiting me at home, the worries over situations that family or friends may be facing, and even regrets from yesterday. How quickly I can become overwhelmed or question if I’m doing it right. But as I walk further in, I am reminded of how fragile life is, how we are only given this one life to make a difference. I want my memories to be a gift, not a burden filled with regrets. I have to let the list and the worries go for now, to enjoy the moment, to learn from the headstones, to watch my boys live without hesitation. I laugh as the littlest rides to me, pushing up his helmet higher so I can see straight into those big hazel eyes, and tells me I’m under arrest for walking too slowly. I treasure the moment when his older brother comes along to walk in step with me, for just a few minutes, to talk about the beloved fathers, mothers, and children laid to rest among us. We are sad together for the families whose loved ones are gone, remembered in the engravings in the stone. We talk about how our lives matter. We talk about making a difference, showing God’s love to the world around us. And then he tells me he loves me, and races up to join his brother in capturing the bad guys.

I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder quite often. It brings me perspective and thankfulness for the chances I still have before me, to let the past go and live in the moments we have now. You should try it, a walk among the tombstones. Just go during the day….way less creepy.