"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

"For You O Lord are a shield about me, You are the glory and lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Will You Come to Me?

I've sat down to write this post so many times and each time I begin to write, I delete it.
The story of losing my dad.  The things processed in my heart when nursing babies, sitting in dance lobbies, and make dinner.  The every day life moments where in between and simultaneously the heart sorts and sifts.  The seasons of processing with others, with counselors, with His holy Word.

Many reasons why, in different seasons I hesitated to share.
Sometimes it hurt too much, thankful it doesn't anymore.
Sometimes it feels too raw and too vulnerable, like I'm telling a secret.

It doesn't feel that way anymore.

It's been my story to process in secret, the quiet places with the Lord, with a few close friends.  Now, a treasure no longer mine to conceal but a beautiful tapestry to unwind and reveal the magnitude of the Lord's faithfulness in weakness, nearness in grief, and steadfast pursuit when we are numb and distant.

Over the years I have learned and continue to receive from the wellspring of truth and life that He is near, accessible, and present.  He is present in kitchen table discussions of weary souls processing all emotions, abandonment and depression.  He is the sustaining power in funeral viewing rooms when his body lay lifeless and broken, knowing the other side is eternity and restoration.  He isn't offended when we can't approach the throne room because our brokenness paralyzes hunger and thirst for righteousness.  His pursuit continues and His heart burns, the Good Shepherd continues to invite and whisper.

Will you come to Me? 

Jumping in.

Summer of 2008 I had not seen my dad in 3 years, divorce tears apart and wounds.  For me it left pieces to be picked up and much healing needed.  I was pregnant with my Sophie, Emma was almost 2 years old.  A phone call from his wife that he had suffered a heart attack while performing a surgery on a patient.  This lead to further testing to reveal stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  We asked to see him, we were told no.  A month later the news confirming he would pass soon, we asked again to come and were again told no.  Another month had passed and his condition worsened, we were asked to come.  I knocked on the door of my own house we were a family in, she stayed on the couch as he made his way to the door.  He was beyond frail, gaunt, maneuvering like a man 20 years older.  We sat on the couch and talked.

How do you catch up on years of life of babies, jobs, marriage?
How do you fill in blanks of moments missed?
How do you get to know someone you once knew?
How do you help him get to know you, all grown up?

For the next few months we drove every weekend for a day trip, a meal, a conversation.  We pleaded for the Lord to heal him.  Weeping through the contending for tumors to vanish and chemo effects to lessen.  We stood firm and fought hard, we stood on promises and declared He is healer.

A few weeks after that sweet baby came into the world, Chris came home in the middle of the day.  I sat up holding her precious, tiny body and watched him walk through the doorway.  That tender, strong man looked at me and told me the words my heart ached to receive.
Nothing prepares a heart to hear the words, the permanent words of death.  Like a grasping desperate for traction, anything to tell my heart and mind it's not happening.  It's not real.
Confident His whispers were there but I didn't hear them.

Will you come to Me?

No I just couldn't.  I couldn't stand it.  Just as the snow fell so did my heart, to deep places of sadness and loss.  It's funny the word loss, I heard people say how sorry they were for your loss when someone passed.  For me it was more than losing a person, I lost what was to come.  I lost the dreams and memories to be.
The days following were a blur, pieces of plans and arrangements made for him without extension of invitation to participate, to honor and preserve the past, the years and decades of family and being his little girl.  As we drove to the church in snow, I remember feeling like I wasn't sure it was physically possible to walk into that church.
How do you say goodbye in a formality when the reality is he's already gone?
How do you stand up and listen to a pastor remark on life when you begged for it to continue and instead you are sitting on a bench crying in farewell?

An usher greeted me and offered to walk me to the room reserved for family, I could see inside where she sat on a chair crying surrounded by strangers.  I walked to my seat, Chris holding my hand.  That sweet man of mine held more than that though, he carried my heart and time after time set me down at His feet.  Giving me grace beyond measure and comfort, understanding and patience I may never understand.
I watched friends drive in from hours away for me, just for me.  The pastor's remarks began, I was numb.  Person after person stood and talked about my father, each offering their respect not knowing they were word by word speaking of my memories, seeming to almost take them.  A patient sharing how he always had a grape soda in his hand during her appointments.  How could she have known of the countless summers on our land of gathering vegetables and riding on his lap on the tractor, nightly walks around the pool talking about hibiscus flowers needing a good soaking, revealing my green car he chose for me on sweet 16...each time with a grape soda in his hand.
They didn't know, they could not have known.
Then she put together a slide show.  A handful of photographs of him with us.  Then what seemed to be hours of images of him with her and her children.
I couldn't watch, I couldn't sit up.


Will you come to Me?  

Yes Lord, please come because I can't move.  He was faithful, He met me with vision and strength.  He rescued my soul and sustained me.  As we walked to the burial site, I heard nothing but knew His warmth and power.  He is always faithful.

Months and years to follow of numbness because if I didn't feel then I wouldn't hurt.  My repeated rejections to meet with Him and receive in sorrow.  In season though, He never left me.  

He rescued me.
Will you come to Me?  

Yes Lord, please come because I am wounded and sad, I don't know how to put it back together again.  He is faithful.  He used many around me, so many I can't every repay my gratitude to reflect how thankful my heart sings.  He healed me and restored me, He put me back together when I didn't believe.  When it seemed impossible He was the possible, He was and is the Fortress and Rock.  
He revealed forgiveness in my heart when they never said they were sorry.  He brought the fold of family to my soul when he left the position and place of daddy empty.  He restored and made new the places left in grief and redeemed them for His glory.  Like a beautiful harvest in time and sewing, of plowing and watering, the Good Shepherd harvested a crop so beautiful all that is left to say is a soul that whispers.

Hallelujah.  


Forgiveness and honor are only cultivated by a King who so freely gives to us, to me in my messes.  The same messes made are the ones I make each day.  He is the one who hears the cries for healing only to heal again and again.  The invitation extended for each of us, in our very place, in our own sadness.

Will you come to Me?

Over the years I am learning and continue to learn what it looks like, what forgiveness looks like.
What it looks like to contend and then declare with all I am that He is good and He is faithful.
What it looks like for a sad heart to worship in the throne room with weeping tears and a body tired from standing firm.
I am learning redeeming love and restoration from His beautiful sacrifice in His own grieving heart to send His Son, innocent blood shed so that my heart can receive the very thing it needs to live.
I am learning what and how to say yes to the invitation to come, the journey of healing and honor freely given.

To a heart that swells with praise and exaltation.

Because He is worthy.

Thankful a story, this story goes beyond me and points to a loving Father waiting.  Waiting on the porch for us to come home, waiting to mend and restore, to celebrate and rejoice in the saying of yes.

Will you come to Me?  

Yes.

"May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.
Psalm 33:22

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas is Coming

Today was a snow day.  It was glorious, in fact I'd say that Chris and I were possibly more excited about it than the kids.  I found myself peeking through the curtains early this morning in curiosity and excitement to see blankets of snow covering the yard with powdered flakes continuing to fall.  
Dreamy, just plain dreamy.  Add it to the list of things I love about this season.
As much as we are happily settling into December in anticipation of much to celebrate and enjoy, the end of November delivered weeks of thankfulness for holiday and celebration, a birthday for our Sophie.
Our girl followed big sister and had her own dance parent watch session and we happily applauded and watched this little dancer flutter across the floor.  She's our daughter who is constantly dancing and tumbling off of every piece of furniture in our house, everything is a dance to her.  I love this about her.  I love getting to know her and discovering the piece to her character that is always dancing.
We celebrated our girl at school, at home, and at our favorite breakfast diner.  We have a tradition of watching birth slideshows and sharing with each girl the story of the day she came to us.  Each has her own unique and special version, my sweet Boo's has a special place in my heart.  My girl came into this world loud, cuddly, and sweet.  She came in a season of sadness and she brought so much joy.

Every day she brings joy.

It's an honor and a joy to be her mama and watch her become the little girl He's created her to be.  Every diaper, bubble bath, pink birthday cake.  The choice to relish in the privilege of being a mama and being her mama.
We wrapped up school, parties, and activities and prepared to head to Texas to see Chris' family for Thanksgiving.  A few friends and I made a commitment to do Clean Eating for 6 weeks leading up to this week.  While we do eat pretty healthy, I was content in my nibbling on cookies and drinking large amounts of diet coke on a daily basis.  The removal of such items in addition to other things made for a cleansing of sorts.  I feel better, have more energy, and all of the above but I'll be honest I was day dreaming about Thanksgiving platters and my sister in law's gravy.

So after a few days of laundry and cooking we were off.



First item whipped up, Betty's pumpkin pecan pie.  I cheated and bought the pre-made pie crust dough but then our refrigerator broke for the 10th time and the crust fell apart before I even got it out of the box.  So I faced my fears of real pie dough making.  It's my arch rival.  I've tried many recipes and even the ones that promise to be fool proof I still manage to botch.
Williams Sonoma to the rescue.  This recipe was easy, simple and made in a standing mixer.  If I can make it with a half naked toddler climbing on the counter than anyone can make it.

Glorious indeed.
We loaded up with babies, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes and a few pies and set out for Texas.  A few days of a house full of cousins and family.






Confession time.  This year I was one of those people who decorated before Thanksgiving.  It was wonderful.  I came home with a tired crew after 4 days of 1am bedtimes and I walked into a decorated house.  And nope, it didn't take away from my Thanksgiving experience one bit.

We decorated our tree and talked about the ornaments that seem to tell the story of us.





After decorating and setting the scene, we moved onto traditions.  I feel like I'm still tinkering with setting our traditions for Christmas.  For sure we're on the home stretch for deciding what brings joy, what feels life giving, simple, and most of all celebrating.

Simplifying to celebrate Christ.

Advent Wreath
I love this tradition.  For the Sundays leading up to Christmas, we read through scriptures, light the candles, talking through symbolism of hope, joy, anticipation.

Jesse Tree
This is one that we've done for years and the girls look forward to it all month long.  Keeping with the theme of focusing on the stories leading up to Christmas, it's a sweet way for us to be reminded of His faithfulness and character.  The girls color the ornaments and we read each night together.  This year I'm trying to find different ways of revealing the story and it's been fun, we've youtube'd stories, read from my iPhone, acted them out.  Simple but fun.

Advent: Daily readings and fun
For just plain fun, I made a simple advent calendar for every day until Christmas day.  At first the idea overwhelmed me but the more I looked into it, the more I loved the challenge to keep it easy and light.  Read extra Christmas books, go sledding, visit Santa, make hot cocoa, glitter homemade snowflakes.


It's growing and becoming the thing they first ask about when they wake up.  It blesses my heart and has helped bring peace when I'm tempted to compare or stress about the season.  Little reminders of truth and joy, the grateful anticipation of expecting His coming.


Now back to food.
We love us some major breakfast on Saturday mornings.  Lately we've had a few snow days and layers of ice on the roads so I took it upon myself to tweak some recipes and try some new ones on my little guinea pigs.  Currently my favorite cookbook is anything Pioneer Woman.  When I'm looking to ditch our norm of yogurt and fruit for breakfast, I know where to look.  
And may I say her cornmeal pancakes with blackberry syrup were amazing.  She scooped them out with a small ice cream scooper and I swear it pushed 'em over the edge.
We liked them so much we ate them 2 days in a row.  Deliciousness.
Onto some snow day fun...






Snow Ice Cream
This tends to be a crowd favorite around here.  Again, simple but wonderful.  All you need is a large bowl of snow, half a can of sweetened condensed milk and a teaspoon of vanilla.  We topped ours with some syrups and gobbled it right up.
And since I love food and I can have cheese again, we made quite a few pizzas for family night on Friday.  Again, this crust recipe is easy and as much as I like making a quick phone call and having a guy walk that piping hot morsel to my front door, we love our homemade pizza even more.
Turkey Pepperoni Pizza
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1 packet yeast dissolved in 1 1/2 c. warm water
1. in a standing mixer with hook attachment, mix flour and salt
2. drizzle in olive oil
3. add in water with yeast until dough forms a ball
4. oil a bowl, drop dough in bowl and refrigerate
then...
5. divide dough in half
6. spread marinara and mozzarella cheese
7. top with organic turkey pepperoni 
I like to sprinkle some garlic salt
Bake at 475 for 10 minutes or so and enjoy!

Tomorrow brings more, more of everything.  More laundry, more cleaning, more carpools.  
More opportunity to simplify and celebrate.
More time to relish in this season of life and not wish for the next.
Christmas is coming and we can't wait.