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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A Touch

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My grandma on the accordion. My grandpa strumming the guitar. I can hear them singing “He Touched Me” as though it happened this morning. They lived their lives sharing the beauty of His touch.

He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.

That touch. It’s soft, yet powerful. It’s tender, yet strong. The touch of the hand of my heavenly father. It’s beautiful and sweet.

Scripture is full of the truth that just one touch from Jesus was powerful enough to heal many. Astonished onlookers said of Him in Mark 6:2:

“Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?”

I have felt his hand touch mine more times than I can count. . . . . . . .

The time I was the woman with the “issue of blood,” and was scheduled for a hysterectomy; I couldn’t get pregnant again anyways, according to doctors. His touch. And a month before my surgery, I became pregnant with our son. Eighteen months later, pregnant with our youngest daughter.

The moment our youngest daughter no longer had a fetal heartbeat. His touch. And weeks later, on the morning of my scheduled DNC, the nurse found a heartbeat. And then the day she was born 11 weeks early. His touch. And she pulled through. Again, she pulled through after “coding” at three months old while re-hospitalized for RSV. And she pulled through when she was almost two years behind developmentally due to her prematurity. His touch.

The day in May when we huddled in our church hallway praying for protection in the middle of an EF5 tornado. His touch. And though, sadly, hundreds around our new city did not make it that day, we were okay. Though material objects were lost, we were not. His touch. And He walked us through months and months of the struggles that were the aftermath of the storm.

The moment we realized our son was not okay after the storm…. that his aftermath was a continuous violent twister raging in his little mind. The day he was diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, and OCD. His touch. And though we had to wade through a sea of therapists that weren’t right for him, God eventually led us to THE one, who has slowly but surely helped bring our son back. And then there was the three-steps-backwards moment when his disease peaked, he snapped, and we feared hospitalization. His touch. And our son (and family) overcame that moment.

Shackled by a heavy burden,
'Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.

And though His touch has been obviously apparent in our physical lives, His touch on our hearts has been even more so.

The time(s) when we didn’t think our marriage would survive. And then, His touch.

The period of time when I couldn’t forgive myself for my past, and it affected a very intimate aspect of our present. And then, His touch.

The times when ministry was trying… times when life got real, and real hard… times when there was no money… times when we experienced burn-out… times when we were at our wit’s end… times when life didn’t work out as planned…. when we wanted to give in and give up… and then….. His touch.

Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I'll shout it while eternity rolls.

Just because we have overcome these (and many, many more) bumps in our journey, does not mean that everything we’ve walked through has turned out the way we hoped or prayed. But God knows infinitely more than I!

God’s touch assures us that even if life gets hard, even if bad things happen, He is always there.

Even when we can’t feel His hand.

As my children grow older, they don’t always take my hand when I hold it out. It’s mostly habit, even with my thirteen year old, as we begin to cross a street or in a crowded public setting. But, even if they don’t immediately grab ahold, I hold it there for a moment… waiting. A young or scared child takes the hand of the person that loves them, to feel the comforting security of that touch. As they grow older and more confident, their need for that touch lessens.

Our need to feel God’s touch often lessens when life is on a high note.  Everything is sunshine & rainbows, and then BOOM!… a storm rolls in, and we start questioning where God is.

When we take God’s hand as he reaches out for ours, he walks us across the smooth and shiny roads, and also the bustling, scary, bumpy roads of life. He ensures us that even if, we have the promise of something greater on the other side.

If you’re breathing, then you know that sometimes, life is hard.

ISIS is real. Human/Sex trafficking is real. Senseless crime and murder is real. The call from the doctor confirming that your loved one is sick, is real. The “silent” chronic illness that plagues your days is real. The failing (or failed) marriage… the addicted loved one… the abusive relationship… the missing child… the child sent to heaven too soon… the depression… the hurt…. suicide…  IT’S. ALL. REAL.

And, it’s all Life.

But… His touch. Feel it. Embrace it. Allow that sweet touch to cleanse your weary soul. Allow that touch to shower you in His love and grace, and make you whole.

And, even if (or when) life becomes too heavy to bare, recognize that touch on your life. And thank Him for simply, that.

He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.


~Crystal Sunshine 



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I'm honored to be linking up today with Suzie Eller and friends today for #livefreeThursday! Hop 
over to Suzie's Blog to read these powerful stories of encouragement and freedom from women 
who are linking up and joining together to live freely in Christ! 

Walk with me… let’s be free.

There are so many things spinning like a carousel in my head as my fingers hit the keyboard. Forgive me if this post seems like some crazed randomness of too many words that don’t make sense. Try to hang in there with me…

I’ll start by sharing my “one word” for this new year: Live.

1Live verb \ˈliv\
: to be alive                                                                                                                                                                                     : to continue to be alive

I’ve felt this word strongly in my spirit for several months now , and just could not shake it when I was praying about a word to carry out as 2015 approached. However, I don’t believe this word was placed in my heart simply to just “be alive”. This year, I want to live… really, truly LIVE! I want to live uninhibited, bravelyconfidently, loudly, freely and beautifully. I want to squeeze every ounce of juice out of that word this year…. I want to wear that word so strongly that LIFE gleams from my fingertips. I. Want. To. Live.

Of course we all want “life to the fullest”…. we know that our “days are numbered”, and that we need to “embrace the present”, and “make every moment matter”. YEP, we. know. We believe it… or want to anyways. We get reminded of this and kick ourselves as we lay in bed at night if we happened to fail at “fully living” that day. Some days (or weeks, or years), embracing that in every moment is just HARD!

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey for the last two years. Life never throws us curve balls when we expect them, am I right?! I wrote a post in September of 2014, that I never published. It was a very rough draft, on a very rough day.

Can I be real with you? I’m human. Yes, my husband and I are in ministry. Guess what? We’re still human. To quote my boss and mentor, author Suzie Eller, “… sometimes, especially when you are in ministry, you might pretend that you always have it together and that night I had NOTHING together.” The following was written on one of those nights

I’m broken. In so many stinking ways. Physically, mentally, emotionally… broken.

I feel like I don’t even know where to begin. For the past two years, I’ve been battling an undiagnosed physical illness. I’ve been leery of bringing the subject up, for a multitude of reasons. I guess I’ve been living each day to live each month to find out “what’s wrong with me.” Maybe I thought I’d save the post until I was given a diagnosis, so that the words would be there. And yet, here I sit, two years after this all began, and I’m no closer to “finding out” than I was the day it manifested itself. My “diagnosis”, is officially “an undiagnosed auto-immune disease”.

I’ve asked myself along the way, “What if I never find out?” Well, since that thought flat out scares the stuff out of me, I try to shift from it quickly. So then I pray that God would just remove my desire to know. Maybe I will never know what’s going on with my body. That happens, right?! And, I need to be able to function and LIVE life, even if… right?!

YES!

So, here I am, a wanderer. I’ve been in this desert before. Actually, I live here. And I’ve lived here for some time. I’m a long time resident in this desert… this wilderness. I refuse to call myself a permanent resident, because I don’t plan on staying here forever. I’ve come close to packing it all up and leaving, heading for higher ground. But every time that I seem to get close to the mountain, real life takes me on a little detour and pulls me back down. And so I continue to wander here, waiting for my moment to climb the mountain. This perpetual mountain… I don’t just want to move it… I want to climb it, with everything I’ve got, so that I can reach it’s peak…. because God will be waiting there for me with hugs and high fives (and maybe a bottle of water). It is there that I will catch a glimpse of what I’ve been missing by planting my feet into the cracks of this stupid desert. There, on that peak, is where I will move forward, and never. look. back.

The thing is, no one is keeping me here, but me. I like to think of myself as this strong woman, who completely trusts God and puts everything in His hands and just rolls through life on a pretty little cloud of trust and joy. But let’s be real, I’m obviously not there. Not all of the time, anyways.

So, what’s it going to take? I know that God has had me on a journey of patience and trust for the last… um… several years. And very seriously for the last year or so. Oh, my Lord, I so badly want to hop over this fence and get outta dodge, but I keep letting life bring me back down.

You guys, I wrote this in September… mere months ago. It makes me cringe a bit. I’ll be honest, there were days that I thought I’d go crazy. Who am I kidding… I was. At the time I wrote that, I was just coming off of an almost nine month “episode” in my illness. Monthly primary doctor visits, specialist visits, test after test after test, blood work, and still no answers, had finally won. I caved. I felt further from God than I had in a long time. And yet, at the same time, I felt like I could hear Him louder than ever. What?! I know! 

God had been speaking to me in detail since the day my symptoms began. He had always been there. He still is. I don’t believe that God gave me this illness for a reason, but do believe that He has a plan for me as I walk this journey. And yet, as the days went by, I began to allow ME to become louder than HE. I fell into myself. Me. Of course, I was convinced that I didn’t feel sorry for myself, because there were others going through much more than I was. And yet, it happened. Inch by inch, day by day, I allowed the Enemy to entangle me in his wicked little web of “Me”.  

I’ll save the details of my health for another day. But for now, I’m curious: how many of you are wandering through each day, looking for answers? Aren’t we all in one way or another? Maybe you need answers in your marriage, in your finances, in your career path, in parenting. Maybe you are looking for deeper answers to theological questions. Maybe it is a health matter, physical or mental, and you need answers today. Maybe you’re questioning life in general. I know many of you reading this are walking through a life much harder than I am. When I really put things into perspective, I am well aware of the magnitude at which many of you are suffering. And I’m so sorry, for whatever it is that has you looking begging for answers. Jesus, be near. 

Sometimes, it scares the crud out of me… this “illness.” I tend to let fear creep in, even when the “Me’s” aren’t all up in my face. And I worry about my kids, my husband, their lives, our life. Anyone else been there? And oooooh, how the crazy circus monkeys LOVE to have fun with fear, right?! They dance around with it in your head and make you lose it. Lose it…  everything… but also: Focus. Surrender. Faith.

But, when I focus my eyes on Jesus, the “Me’s” fly away, along with the crazy monkeys. And yet, how quickly we tend to forget. It really is every. single. day. that I must die to self…. to ME.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT) 

So, yeah, my earthly body may be failing me. But I will live in this earthly body by TRUSTING IN THE SON OF GOD! If that doesn’t pull you out of your sticky “Me” web, right?! And I love that gentle whisper that reminds me of the truth, that when I am weak, He is STRONG! His power is made perfect in my weakness!

I want to LIVE! I’m so far from perfect, people, that it’s not even funny. The crazy train circus is not always rainbows and lollipops trust me! But that truth! Oh, the freedom that offers!

I’ll probably have to read this blog post every other day to remind myself of this all over again. When I take my eyes off of the things of this cray-zaaaay world, off of ME, and turn to The One who lives IN me, then I am free to LIVE! Free to love and to serve others… which is what I am called to do… and free to be me, rather than be focused on me. Free to be the Me that HE created… even if along with that, comes an illness. Never diagnosed. And until He decides to take me Home, I will LIVE with all I’ve got.

Are you walking in His freedom today? Really living? I know, it’s hard. But here’s something else I know: there is strength in numbers. And sometimes, all we need is a whisper, a nudge (or a slap across the face) from a friend, to remind us to keep going. To persevere. To LIVE. Even when God is ever present, for some reason, when people walk alongside one another, it feels less chaotic. There is comfort in solidarity… in knowing we are not alone.

I adore this quote that was shared by Patsy Clairmont:

WalkWithMe

I don’t know about you, but I want to savor every last drop of this journey, before He calls me Home. And I can’t do it alone.

Will you walk with me?

My dear friend and mentor, Suzie Eller, is talking about living free on her blog today, and every Thursday. Suzie’s post today gave me courage.

On Suzie’s #livefree Thursdays, she’s using the strength in numbers concept and linking up with other writers, to give you a mega dose of encouragement to #LIVEFREE! I’m so excited for this! Go read her post (and follow her blog… for real), and check out the linked-up posts from friends…. they’re all so. very. good. Find Suzie’s page here:

http://tsuzanneeller.com/2015/01/08/not-all-about-me/#more-8568

#LIVEFREE

Live today… really… LIVE!

-Crystal Sunshine

fAiLuRe

Have you ever failed in life? Felt like a complete failure?

I have, more times than I can even count. Some failures landed on a grander scale than others…. those can be hard to come back from.

Like the times that I habitually lied to my husband regarding money… for a few years…. years. I justified it because I was “protecting” him from needing to know just how broke we were. He would find out, I would beg forgiveness, and then a couple of months later, the cycle would start up again. Day in and day out, I was sick over the lies that I carried. I’m shocked it wasn’t written in ash all over my face. It felt that way. I don’t like living in guilt. No one does.

Or like the years that I spent allowing personal guilt to eat me from the inside out over not having been a virgin on my wedding night. My husband was my only partner, but the fact that we hadn’t waited until marriage literally caused great turmoil for me…. for several years. After all, I’d once had a True Love Waits ring… I’d gone through the ceremony… I’d vowed in front of my parents, grandparents, and a church full of proud christians. Though I’d begged God for forgiveness, grace was a stranger to me. And, even when I became an acquaintance of His grace, I didn’t allow it to fully cover me…. I just couldn’t forgive myself. “I can’t be a pastor’s wife…. I’m so… unclean… how will I tell my children one day… “

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface, people. But guess what? I’m human. And God’s grace is beautiful.

Suzie Eller’s blog post today is SPOT. ON. regarding failure. It’s impossible to pick one quote from this post that is my favorite, because there are so. stinking. many. good. ones! Go read it. Share it. Someone out there needs this.

I’ll leave you with this one: “Failure doesn’t mean that God’s plan has gone away. Your mistakes aren’t bigger than God’s fingerprints on your life.” -Suzie Eller

http://tsuzanneeller.com/

Ummmm…

Pretttttty certain that today is January 1st…. unless that cranberry juice I drank last night was something different…. why is the post I literally just published showing that it was published on January 2, 2015?! I checked the date on my computer and it’s right. See?! This is one reason the blog has been put off… wordpress isn’t a good friend of mine…. KINKS!!!! I need technical help. Any takers?

2015… really?!

Insane that we are in the year 2015, right?! Happy New Year to you and yours!

I’m working out some kinks still with the blog and hoping to upgrade soon. For now, this is what we get.

I don’t really do the whole resolution thing, but I do plan and set goals and challenges for the new year. One of the challenges I set for myself was to contribute to the blog… daily.

I’ll talk later about why I’ve been so wishy-washy about writing here, and it really all boils down to the other F-word: Fear.

But for today, I want to leave you with a picture that helped set this personal challenge. Though God obviously did not literally place this piece of paper into my hands, one of His servants did, and I know that he was 100% led by God.

Our dear friends, Sean & Joni came to visit last Memorial Day. A visit with them is always long overdue and highly anticipated. I become deliriously giddy in the hours that lead up to them pulling into our driveway. The weekend is never long enough, as we try to jam six months worth of activities into 24-48 hours. There is hysterical laughter, catching up, venting, food, shopping (for the boys), naps (yep, I said naps… you haven’t seen a nap until you’ve seen four adults laid out in one living area snoozing it up together like a litter of puppies, while our six combined children run the joint). And then there are precious Jesus moments, where we share what God has done, is doing, and what He’s spoken to us since our last pow-wow. Both couples being in youth ministry zaps our time, and these hours together are literal vomits of the last several months. (Our weekly texts are typically short and sweet “I-miss-you-terribly-lets-run-away-together” jargon. And for the record, naps only happen in a minimum 48-hr visit, nothing shorter… but they. are. lovely.).

Night one included a late night backyard tear-filled Jesus Fest. The boys were in one corner of the porch, and Joni and I in another. We agreed to talk collectively about all of it before the weekend was over. Sean mentioned at one time the following day that he felt like it was my time to be writing. He’d interrogated me a bit as to why I wasn’t currently working on anything, and we moved past that.

On Sunday morning, Sean & Joni attended church with us, and sat in on my sunday school class. I don’t even remember what the lesson I’d given was, but Sean said that during that class, he’d felt God ask him to write down a specific word. He wrote it on a piece of paper, and stuck it back in his Bible. After service we went out for lunch before our sad see-ya-later’s.

The Jesus Fest continued, and God was in my face the entire lunch. Words that were thrown around, scripture that was brought up for entirely different reasons, all were pointing arrows right at me. I think I cried more than I ate. As I sat bawling into my napkin at one point, Sean asked me this, “If you felt like there was one place God really wanted you to start… one place that would be the best jumping point for you… one area that you really needed to improve in order to set things in order… where would it be?” I sat for a moment, begging God to give me an answer, and He quickly placed onto my tongue this word, that I then blurted out, “Blog.”

Sean stared at me, looked at Joni, smiled, started laughing, and then said we all needed to go outside to their vehicle… immediately. Being the good parents that we are, we left our kids at the restaurant table and followed Sean outside. He told me of how he’d felt God had asked him to write a word down during sunday school, and he had absolutely no idea what it meant. He’d thought it was something for him, but said that it turned out, it was for me. He pulled this piece of paper out of his Bible.

IMG_7157

Blog.

God, you crazy cool. And I like it. 

So, there ya have it. The story that you probably could care less about, but that means a whole lot to me. I obviously stewed on that word for a bit. Person after person confirmed that word from God for me, unbeknownst to them, in the last few months. And here we are. 2015. Promise to work hard on my challenge, God.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” -Brian Tracy

The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller

This book is phenomenal! Suzie walks through every aspect of healing, no matter the source of your brokenness. I didn’t realize just how much mending my heart needed, until I started reading. But let’s face it, we’re all a little cracked, right?! The prayers and reflection at the end of each chapter are a huge bonus… LOVE!

Right now is the perfect time to begin your healing journey, because the kindle version of The Mended Heart is on sale for $1.99! CRAZY!!! Get it. Now.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Mended-Heart-Healing-Broken/dp/080072495X

The-Mended-Heart_quote-18

Rocks

rock  I love rocks. I always have. I have beautiful childhood memories of selling hand-painted rocks (for a penny) with my sister at my mom’s yard sales. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always noticed rocks, and kept unique finds. I mean, they really are amazing, right? RIGHT?! Right. I’m the crazy woman stopping my family in the middle of… everywhere… to look at rocks. I’m the crazy woman taking pictures of rocks (and possibly using them as backgrounds in pictures… stationary… resumes…). Let’s face it, if you know me, you know that I’m just the crazy woman, period.

Rocks gained new meaning a couple of years ago for our family. After surviving the Joplin tornado in May ’11, our son, Jax (who was five at the time), developed PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, and elevated OCD. Starting kindergarten that August was a massive struggle for him. One day after a therapy session, where we’d discussed ways he could cope with school, I had a lightbulb moment.

That afternoon, Jax and I went on a rock hunt. He found the perfect rock, small enough to fit into his pocket. The next morning, while getting the kids ready for school, I held the rock and prayed over it. I prayed for God to be in the rock, and for Jax to feel safe and secure and strong while at school. I made sure that Jax saw me kiss the rock before putting it in his pocket. Anytime during the day that he either began to miss me, or get nervous, all he had to do was reach into his pocket and hold the rock. Jax knew that #1: It had been prayed over and carried strength, and #2: It had his momma’s kisses on it. Day 1: SUCCESS… SCORE! Yay, thank you Jesus!

Two days later, Jax lost the rock at school. It created a little bit of tension for him, but then we started gathering several rocks at a time. I prayed over two and put one in his desk as an extra, and the other in his pocket. This little act got us through kindergarten… AND first grade!!! On his first day of second grade, he took a rock, but declined it the second day of school. Woot, woot! I have to admit though, that I still keep rocks laying around. Maybe it’s just a little reminder of how far God has brought this boy, and our family, since that time. Maybe momma doesn’t let go so easily; either way, I like seeing the rocks here and there.

It absolutely amazed me everyday how such a simple thing could be such a source of strength for him. Now, there were hard days of course, and Jax faced numerous obstacles over time. In fact, it’s only been in the last six months that we’ve seen dramatic improvement. (Thank you, Lord). But all in all, the rocks were a major stepping stone in our lives (no pun intended!).

As it turns out, it is no coincidence that rocks turned out to be our answer for giving Jax peace at school. Psalm 62:5-7 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God, he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”  

LOVE!

I’m beyond grateful for all of the times in our lives that God has been our rock. They are more numerous than I can count. HE is strong, and in HIM we find the strength we need to make it through all the junk of everyday life. Told ya rocks were cool 😉

I’m not a fan of poetry, but I had to create a poetry portfolio for a class last fall. I hadn’t planned on writing about any of my children (mainly, because the professor had denied us that right), but my abstract poem (which I’d decided would be over fear) ended up transforming into something about Jax. Ooops! Don’t worry, my professor never found out, ha! Anyways, my poems are sort of embarrassing. I’m not that great, but feel a post about this subject would be remiss without sharing this poem. Enjoy… or not… but please, no poetry critiques here… I’m over that!

Fortress

This one smooth, another ridged.

His plump fingers decide which to keep and which to reject.

Each rock beneath his feet becomes a contender for the call.

A mother’s kiss, a silent prayer, and

stones unaware become heroes unseen.

Guardians at fingers reach.

Hidden within the weary seams of his pockets, they offer

protection from the villain which his mind cannot escape.