Mercy Cakes

The faithful love of the Lord never

Oh, mercy.

I don’t deserve it. None of us do. I thank my sweet Lord for the truth of this scripture  ….. because otherwise, I’d be in quite the predicament. Wouldn’t we all?!

It’s difficult to extend mercy without having been shown mercy, isn’t it? Once we grasp the magnitude of what mercy is and the incredible depth of its beauty, we can then serve it to others around us. Yep, even to those who don’t deserve it. Do I deserve it? Nope.

Can you picture me as Little Red Riding Hood, skipping along with a basket, passing out mini cakes of mercy? Where God and others fill my basket as they show me mercy for my wrongdoings & failures?

Let’s not be fooled. It’s nothing like that! In real life, I can be pretty stingy with my dessert… and my mercy.

I’ve been hurt by people who were supposed to love and care for me.

“It’s taken years, but, here… have a mercy cake.”

I’ve been let down by friends who were supposed to support me. I’m a pastor’s wife…. I’ve. been. hurt.

“Here’s one for you, and for you…”

People in general can be rude… RUDE and MEAN! It’s haaaaard to slap a smile on your face and hand out mercy cakes to mean people, am I right? But again, who am I?! So…..

“What flavor would you like?”

Sometimes, we’re the ones denying ourselves mercy… life isn’t always easy, is it? It’s okay to take from this basket.

I’ve treated my God pretty poorly in various chapters of my life, and yet He still sees me worthy of HIS mercies… which are new and beautiful, and undeserving every. single. day. How can I not serve mercy to those around me, when He so graciously serves it to me, especially when I don’t deserve it? But let’s be real, we all need a reminder every so often, right?

On top of the outside forces, I’m a wife, and a mom. Hellooooooo, mercy! My husband and I inadvertently decided that a cheap-carnival-ride-like marriage would be fun for the first several years. Not so much. Mercy, from God, and from one another to one another, helped us get off that jenky roller coaster and into our 16th year of marriage.

Now, kids…. OH, MERCY! These kids will have me baking mercy cakes for yearrrrrrrrrrs.

For this girl who fantasized about her violin-playing, pigtailed & perfectly coiffed children for years before actually becoming a mother, the moment that my first daughter was born was life-altering and fantasy-shattering. That crazy-haired beauty stole my heart… and my sanity… all in an instant.

Chloe proved to be everything that my former parenthood fantasies were not. And she was really good at it, from day one. And from there, she learned to become even better at it.

She’s thirteen (and a half), and is a gorgeous girl, with a gorgeous heart, and a spunky, strong-willed attitude. I’ve always said that God gave her those attributes for His purpose, and we’ve already seen their benefits as she encountered middle school. However, we have had to cope with and shape that over the years.

When I started reading about “shaping her strong will” in Dr. Dobson’s “The Strong-Willed Child,” I wanted to throw in the towel. Nope… too hard… I can’t do it.

After the first several years of failing as a mother to properly “shape” this child, who was dramatically different than myself, I finally caught on to the key: Mercy. (and prayers….. lots and lots and lots and lots of prayers)

In order to teach her mercy, I had to show her mercy. Which was something that I never dealt with in my perfect-little-family-fantasies (because in those, we were all perfect, of course).

If you’ve ever raised a strong-willed child, then you know… IT’S STINKING HARD!

Give this sassy little monkey a mercy cake when she’s just been grounded from dessert?! Psshhh!”

I’m almost certain the moment Chloe truly grasped mercy was on an evening just a few years ago. The whole fam was in the back yard. Chloe, our son Jax, and my husband were playing wall-ball. Our youngest daughter, Avary (who was barely four at the time) sat on my lap as we watched from the porch.

At some point, Avary asked me to feel her legs. Figuring she was chilly, I began to rub my hands briskly on her legs. Caught somewhere between the game in the yard and our conversation on the porch, I vaguely heard Avary ask me if her legs were smooth. “Mmmhmm,” I answered. She asked again. “Yep.” And then came, “I knoooooow! They feel so smooth because Chloe shaved them for me in the shower yesterday-night.” “Oh yeah, nice. . . . . . . wait. . . . . WHAT?” I had her repeat it, to make sure I wasn’t hearing things… or in a really bad dream. “WHATTTTTTTT?!?!?!”

Now understand, in this moment, Jesus was with me. He was right there, and He grabbed my hand, and He placed His index finger over my lips, even though He knows I don’t like that… and He held me back. It had to be Him. Because that’s the only explanation for why I didn’t come completely unglued. Like, for real… eyes popping out, flailing arms, weeping, gnashing of teeth… the whole nine.

This was my four year old babyyyyyyyy!!! Did Chloe not understand that I was trying to hold on to every ounce of innocence that I had left with this wee one?! The following minutes were blurry. I remember breathing slowly. My husband could see that even Jesus was having a hard time holding the reigns, so he sent me to my room first. Once the coast was clear, he sent Chloe to hers.

Well, guess who was waiting for me in my bedroom, with a gentle reminder of what He’d done for me time after time?

Yep… Jesus.

I’m pretty certain that my precious Chloe was convinced she’d never see the light of day again when I knocked on her door, a good thirty minutes later. And only my Heavenly Father could have orchestrated the beauty that took place in her room that night.

“And the sweetest of mercy cakes for you, precious baby girl.”

My perspective shifts drastically when I envision God as my Daddy, and myself as his little girl. A little girl who has stumbled a bit as she learns to navigate this place called Life. And when that shift in perspective happens, it feels much easier to accept the beautiful kisses of mercy that He lavishes upon me each morning.

Not only that, but it becomes easier (and lovely, even) to turn around and serve mercies to my brothers and sisters in Christ, who deserve a share just as greatly as I. Because really, the truth is, none of us deserve God’s mercy. And yet, there He stands, with his basket…

“Here’s one for you… and another for you, and you, and you…”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 5:7

~Crystal Sunshine

{ I’m honored to be gathered around the table with Suzie Eller and friends for her #livefreeThursday convo. Visit her blog at http://www.tsuzanneeller.com and join this community of brave women who are coming together to live free! }

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Framily

Framily.

They’re friends who are family. They’re family who are friends. You need them. They need you. You need each other.

As I sit and ponder this topic, I am taken back to all of the beautiful characters that have filled the pages in my book of Life. And I realize how tremendously they have shaped who I am today. There have been moments in my book when I’m not certain a new chapter would’ve been written without the support of these characters.

If I were to ever win an award… for anything, I suppose… rest assured that the “cut-it-off” music would begin playing mere inches into my speech, where I would inevitably feel the need to thank every framily member who had ever played a part in getting me to that moment.

My husband and teenage daughter often tease me because I’m known for “staking out” new friends. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. I recognize a kindred spirit, and then make it a mission to meet, become acquainted with, and befriend them. As I’m sharing this with you, it sounds a bit ridiculous and stalker-ish. For the record, I’m not a stalker… or a creepy one, anyways. I just adore people! I always have. I am relationship-driven. It’s possible that moving often as a child set me up for that. And quite frankly… I love that about me!

We’ve all got framily. All of those blessed souls who have literally held us in a standing position during those times in life when we would have collapsed otherwise… am I right?!

I’m fortunate enough to have a family (and an “in-love” family) whom I love more than life itself. My mom and siblings are my best friends (after my hubby, of course). Sure, we have moments when we want to strangle one another. But our families have been lifelines for us more times than I can count. And though they can make my husband and I wish we were both adopted at times, I love them more than there are enough words to describe. And though this sounds cliche, I absolutely cannot imagine my life without them.

They are framily. Family who are friends. Your relatives. They leave legacies worthy of following. They plant roots. They offer financial help in times of need. They’ve seen you at your worst…. and they still love you (most of the time). They love your children like nobody’s business (and spoil the junk out of them, even when you wish they wouldn’t). They can also get on your nerves like nobody’s business, but you love them. And they love you back. And if you don’t have this type of framily, my prayers are with you. Because, without trying to rub it in (honestly)… it’s beautiful, and amazing, and I thank God everyday for these people whom we have the pleasure of calling ours.

They are framily. Friends who are family. Maybe by default, maybe by choice (if you’re a friend-stalker like me), but they become as close (or closer than) actual relatives. They step in when relatives can’t, or when there are no relatives to even step in.

Like when our third child was born three months early, unexpectedly, two weeks after moving hundreds of miles from “home”… from our people. Oh, the chaos! Practical strangers from our new church came to the hospital and cared for our 6 and 2 year old children while I gave birth to our youngest. Hello. By the time our moms arrived after the six hour drive, these “practical strangers” were framily.

Seriously, that period of time would hold several chapters in a coffee table book about our framily. Over the next two years, our lives were a crazaaaaaay roller coaster ride. NICU, five thousand ER visits, stitches, broken bones, RSV, surprise surgeries, therapy, illnesses, family deaths, ups, downs, loopty-loops, forwards, backwards… ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.

Framily took my children overnight when our fresh-from-the-NICU daughter was re-admitted and my hubby was out of town. The new family doctor gave us his personal cell number. Church framily helped with costs of traveling back and forth to Children’s Hospital for two months. They sat with us late into the night in hospital rooms. They went with us to appointments. They let us borrow vehicles… they gave us vehicles. They laughed with us. They cried with us. They supported our ministry. They stepped in last minute when I couldn’t. They took us to movies when we wanted to crawl into holes. They invited us into their homes. They hosted parties for us. They prayed with and for us. A lot. They nursed us to health… physically, mentally, spiritually.

Heaven knows most of them were probably convinced that I was a psychotic, scatter-brained, crazed youth pastor’s wife who needed her head screwed on a little tighter. And truth be told, I have been a bit of all of that on various pages of my life. Who hasn’t?! (don’t answer that if you haven’t)

In the midst of the madness of life, our friends and family have taught us that we need each other. People need people. Whether they are family, friends, church family, co-workers, kids…. framily.

God knows that we need each other.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

God even finds it so paramount that we love one another, that he actually commanded us to do so! Wowza.

Over the years, throughout moves and good times and bad times, framily has been oxygen to our lungs. They have prayed things into motion. Their words have given us hope. They have lured us into happiness. Their inappropriate jokes have given us laughter when we’ve forgotten what that was. Their texts and calls and visits have been sunshine on cloudy days. Their meals have given us nourishment. They have given us sanity. Advice. They have given us shelter when we had none. They have wiped our tears and seen our ugly cries. They have taught us grace. They have loved us. They have offered piggy-back-rides across finish lines that would have never been reached.

But the most beautiful gift that framily throughout the years has offered, is Jesus.

How gracious God’s most precious creation has been to us. I can’t imagine riding this crazy train without them. And really, I don’t want to. There have been framily members lost too soon. Miles between some of us have created gaps in contact. Some have known us our entire lives. Others we met as strangers. Some have come and gone with the wind. But we have never, and will never ever, forget each and every one of them.

So, as the “cut it off” music plays in the background of my mind, I’ll simply say this: To every single human being who has ever been framily in and out of the chapters of our lives: THANK YOU. From the innermost pieces of our hearts. We. Love. You. And we are who we are today, because of you. (( SMOOCH! ))

I knew when I met you, an adventure was going to happen.

-Winnie the Pooh

~Crystal Sunshine

It’s #livefreeThursday! And of course, we’re linking up with Suzie Eller and women all over the world, in an effort to encourage you to live freely in Christ! Visit Suzie’s blog to read her incredible post, as well as other incredible link-ups discussing how we all need each other.

http://www.tsuzanneeller.com

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