I force a smile when my husband arrives home. We exchange the “Hey, Honey. How was your day?” I say that my day was fine...long... exhausting.
The girls, full of energy, jump all over their Papá.
An hour later while we sit together on the couch, I feel defeated. There are still dishes in the sink. I might or might not have picked up the floor. I have sixty minutes left to do something else with my life. I should write or study, but my mind is as weary as my body.
I have learned to give myself grace.
It only took four years of motherhood to realize the beauty of this season. Ask any parent, with children the age of six to sixty, and they will confirm: these early childhood years take a special amount of endurance and heart.
It is the most beautiful training we might ever experience.
In these years we learn to prioritize. Our kids remind us that they need a balance between healthy meals and healthy time spent with their parents.
They pull us out of our obsessions with plans and goals and make us learn to live in the moment with sticky-finger-hugs and bubble baths.
We develop a whole new appreciation for spouses, parents, neighbors, friends, and in-laws as we let go of pride and let others have a wholesome share in our little ones’ lives.
We learn to relax when we have a moment to do so. The work will always be there, but we won’t let it define us.
Our emotional, mental, and physical health begins to demand significance. We learn to let our me-time do double or even triple duty as we combine prayer and workouts and quiet.
We earn hearts that know how to serve. Serve our husbands, our children, our family. We understand how critical it is to reach out to others in need.
No longer do we take wakeful minutes for granted.
Habits, thoughts, and attitudes are weeded and pruned as we start to see ourselves in our children.
God becomes and intricate part of our inner thoughts because we know our sanity is best kept in His hands.
I could make this list go on and on. Some days it is hard to stay on top of my enthusiasm for motherhood, but I admire how this way of life continues to toughen and soften me. It is intense training ground.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
Can you think of more ways we are “trained”? What about other areas or seasons of our lives? God wastes nothing. How is He shaping you today?
Life can easily discourage and dishearten us. Remember, you have been called. Nothing about your day is useless or unimportant when God has you doing His work.
I was horrible at all sports. The only reason I was picked for a team was because my friends took pity on my tender heart. I always sat in agony, wondering if I would stand alone and embarrassed at the end. The moment my name was called I leaped forward, relieved. With energy and enthusiasm I would commence the game.
Today was a Monday morning. Even stay-at-home moms have Mondays. Mondays are the day we wake up early to prepare breakfasts and pack lunches. We know that for the rest of the day there will be little to no adult conversation. Mondays often dishearten me. I look at the week ahead and steal myself for the hard moments of discipline and parenting that I must get through alone.
Like many days, my Bible study didn’t happen until Micaela was tucked away for a nap and Adela was painting Trolls at the kitchen table. Mark, chapter 10, held the story of a blind man. A single line caught my eye and I had to read it over and over. The disciples tell a blind man “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” (Mark 10:49b, NIV)
The sweetness of this reality made me tingle from head to toe.
We lose focus in the day-to-day grime. The dirty dishes and bills provide a gray tinge to our world. I read the words of the verse again, this time I addressed them to me.
“Cheer up, Lora! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
He is calling me to be a mother to two little girls. He is calling me to be kind and considerate to the insurance company when they call about Micaela’s medical needs. He is calling me to be a supportive and loving wife to a hard-working man. He is calling me to be a good friend, daughter, and sister.
He is calling me to come and be part of His works, part of His team, part of His plan.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
On those days when you feel less-than excited about your purpose in life, how do you rekindle love and enthusiasm?
What does your mask look like? When we keep our lives appearing spotless, who are we helping?
A knock at the door. My heart hammered. I whirled around and did one last check for clutter. I sprinted for the remote and turned off the cartoons that kept the girls entertained for the last hour as I cleaned. The girls followed me back to the door.
I welcomed the family inside. It was our first play date. I wanted it to go well. I tried to look at my little post-stamp house through their eyes, wondering what they saw. I checked Adela and sighed with relief. She had kept her shirt clean and the bow tucked next her ponytail.
The kids settled into play. The mom and I sipped tea. Her eyes flicked to clean counter-tops and a mopped floor. She didn’t hide her disappointment. My stomach sank.
My new friend cleared her throat and gave me a half-smile. “My home never looks this clean. How do you do it? I spend so much time playing with the kids, doing laundry, trying to keep meals on the table…How do you keep the floors clean?”
Discontent spread across her face and her cheeks flamed with embarrassment.
I covered my eyes with my teacup hiding my confusion.
I did not know what to tell her.
The truth was ugly.
The truth was I had not played with my girls once that day. The truth was there were piles of laundry hidden in my bedroom. The truth was that we would be eating leftovers tonight because I had not prioritized cooking another meal.
Worst of all, my mask had hurt a young mother who was doing everything right.
For a moment my pride wanted to keep silent, but my soul knew better. I set the coffee cup down and confessed. I confessed all. A few minutes later she laughed. We grew comfortable. By the end of the visit I had a better and very dear friendship.
The next time I had a play date I dressed the girls in our home clothes and left toys on the floor.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)
How do others see God in us? Through our perfections? No. They see the power of God when we struggle. They see God’s grace, peace, love, and joy, when we hurt and rely on Him.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
How much does our mask of pride prevent the light of God from shining through?
Our Savior said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV)
Those words echoed in my heart when I looked at my friend’s tear-filled eyes and heard her fears. She worried her past choices might influence how others treated her child.
I swallowed. I reassured my friend. Her intelligent and kind daughter blesses my own girls. Later at night my mind fell back on that moment. To be honest, I have been so impressed with how this young woman is raising her daughter. In fact, witnessing friends and classmates become parents thrills my heart. It brings out the very best in so many I care for. They grow up. They re-prioritize. They give.
I wonder if they see themselves this way, or if they carry around their past. God’s mercies are new every morning and as we grow and learn to love others, do we turn around and learn to forgive ourselves?
I haven’t. I carry around past mistakes and errors like rescued valuables from a fire. I know everything ugly about my past and I expect others to see it every time they look at me.
I see this in others, too. I see beautiful maturing people who keep their mistakes.
That night I laid in bed, eyes wide, and it dawned. The way I judge others is the way I judge myself. If I can let go of my mistakes, give them to God, my heart will learn to love others the way God loves them.
How many of us limp forward in life, damaged by wounds we refuse to allow to heal? In our wounded state, how will we ever learn to embrace mercy and grace?
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Do you hold on tightly to your own mistakes? Does it affect the way you view others?
We will never reach the other side of our dreams without determination.
Micaela let out a gut wrenching scream. I dropped the soap sponge into the water and sprinted to the living room. I expected to see blood, maybe a wasp, something. Instead I found Micaela gripping her mega blocks and screaming.
Then began one of the longest weeks of my life began.
We are beginning to realize that Micaela’s mind is light years ahead of her body and speaking abilities. The battle of the mega blocks is a perfect example. She watched her older sister, Adela build towers for a few days and that morning she decided to give it a shot. She grabbed the blocks and slammed them together. They rolled away.
My mouth fell open.
Excited, I squatted beside Micaela and carefully showed her the holes in the blocks. I demonstrated how they fit together. Then I handed her one. She tried. The block fell on top the tower and rolled away. She screeched. I winced.
She knew what she wanted to accomplish, but coordinating wrist movement and depth perception was a monumental task.
For an entire week she played with those blocks. She would come crying, carrying the culprit plastic bricks, and I would show her over and over.
Finally, the crying stopped. She could do it. Our entire household let out a relieved sigh.
Oh, those mega blocks. We all have them. Mine are raising my children and becoming a successful writer. Watching Micaela that week was good for my heart. Her determination and following success was inspiring.
Proverbs 13:4, says: The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (ESV)
Diligence. Hard work. Dreams.
Micaela’s pain and frustration was real, but so is the smile on her face when she shows off her new skill. If she had only craved to build a tower, but hadn’t forged through the hours of anger and mental exhaustion, she would never have done it. Our best dreams are our tallest mountains.
May our lives be blessed by the climb.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
What keeps you going as you pursue your dreams?
The doctor looked over his mask and nodded to Micaela. “What do you think, mom, is this baseline? Is this Micaela?” She had experienced her very first seizure and recovery was slow.
I shook my head. “No. Its not. This isn’t baseline.”
Miceala sleepily babbled and banged a musical turtle. She threw her head back and gazed unfocused at the ceiling.
No. This was not Micaela.
Baseline. The word made my heart tremble. God, where is baseline? Where is baseline for my family? Is it this—hospitals and new meds and fear? Or, please, is baseline home where Micaela laughs and throws tantrums and Adela doesn’t wonder where her mother and sister went? Oh, God.
The doctors and nurses came. They left. The tests were done. Micaela’s brain showed no signs of bleeding, strokes, or epilepsy. There was only the old, extensive, damage. The kind that made the neurologists look at what was left of her brain and ask if the lethargic child in front of us was acting normal.
That night, when the hospital room dimmed, I listened to the monitors and questioned God. I questioned His plan. I knew He had one. I knew He had a purpose for my child, for me, for my family, before we were ever breathed into existence. But I wasn’t sure I liked it anymore. My prayers stopped. I wrapped myself in a blanket against the chill.
I thought over all the many twists in my 31 years of life. From one year to the next it has been full of the unexpected. I eloped at 21. I had my first child while living in Patagonia, Argentina. I said goodbye to a two-month old baby and brought home her twin sister. I lost my mother much too soon.
I relived a hundred memories and I saw it. Clear and beautiful--baseline.
We have no control over our lives. Even if we had the money and resources to create a perfect bubble, the unexpected would still worm its way into our existence. Baseline will never be something we can hold and touch. Baseline can be found in something altogether more powerful—our connection to God.
That is baseline. Baseline is being able to look at any circumstance and see our amazing Heavenly Father. Baseline is His joy in our hearts, His peace in our souls. Baseline stretches and weaves into our every moment because we chose not to walk out this life on our own strength, we chose Him.
Eventually, our Micaela woke, ate, played, laughed, and even threw a tantrum. God stays close to Her. That precious connection is an intimate part of her existence, and mine, my four-year-old Adela, and my husband’s lives. Our baseline cannot be measured, described, or limited.
But we have this treasure in clay jars to show that its extraordinary power comes from God and not from us.
What keeps you secured to your baseline?
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (NIV)
I held my knees to my chest and stared at the rubble of my burned home. The removal of the ashes was the next day. My heart ached knowing the tangible evidence of my memories would soon settle in a dump.
Dance on the ashes. My quiet thought prompted me.
That’s crazy. No. I shook my head grasping a handful of slate colored dust, my beautiful house reduced to this. I’m not dancing on the ashes. People will laugh. I glanced around, people walking their dogs and cars going by.
I am not a singer or a painter, but a dancer, yes. Much had been taken from me, but the expression of my heart remained. Dance on the ashes, I told myself. Several times I stood and sat down, afraid someone would see me.
My need to proclaim victory over devastation won the argument. I stood, blasted my music, and danced. My inhibitions melted with each step. This was not just a dance, but a release of pain and an infusion of strength at the same time. My inner being shouted, I will overcome. Even if it all burns, I will stand and declare my faith. “Great is my God!” The words of the music seared truth into my spirit. With every step, the broken glass and debris crunched beneath my feet. The sound echoed—a reminder that beauty will triumph, even when brokenness screams.
When circumstances turn our lives to rubble, sometimes the only thing to do is dance on the ashes.
Often, the action we need to take to move beyond our pain is the hardest step. When we praise God for who He is, in spite of our circumstances, we fall into his generous arms of love. God wants to meet us when our heart breaks, but sometimes we ignore Him. Worship is the dance which moves us from a crumpled ball of defeat to the capable arms of Jesus.
Shauna Hoey is the author of Fire of Hope: Finding Treasure in the Rubble. Her book delivers heart-felt practical wisdom from her voice of experience. Learn more about Shauna on her website:www.shaunahoey.com
Adapted from an excerpt in Fire of Hope: Finding Treasure in the Rubble and What’s-Your-Story-Waldo Canyon Fire Colorado by Johnny Wilson The Day I Danced on the Ashes by Shauna Hoey pages 24-25
My eyes scanned over this month's goals. Between chores, I wanted to work with Micaela. I touched the cognitive goal and nodded. I selected 5 familiar objects and placed them on the floor. Micaela came quickly. Her smile was infectious.
I grinned. "Okay Micaela, we have a cup, a cat, the drum, a ball, and a marker." Micaela patted the drum and grabbed the cat. I swallowed. "Micaela, where is the ball? Can you touch the ball?"
I made eye contact with her and repeated the question. Micaela's smiled faded. She set the cat down and looked at the toys. I held my breath and waited. Miceala looked at me again and her eyes lit up. She crawled over and climbed into my lap. She settled her head on my shoulder. I could feel her body relax. When she leaned back there was a smile once again on her face.
My eyebrows came together. My little two-year-old obviously needed a hug. Had I held her today? Had I simply enjoyed her company? What about yesterday? My mind filled with the activities we did together. I knew Micaela enjoyed all of them. But there was more to life than developmental progress.
I held Micaela for several minutes and pushed away my agenda. It was hard. My thoughts were of milestones and learning, but my heart was troubled.
When had Micaela become my project child instead of just my child?
The rest of the day my worried mind traveled the fear over and over. Before bed I poured out my doubts to God. I needed guidance. I need to fix whatever had become broken. I bit my lip and opened to the book of Mark in the Bible. The next chapter I needed to read was chapter 8 and a familiar story came with it.
Jesus fed four thousand men + women and children with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. The men themselves would have went hungry, but with God their resources were multiplied. There was more than enough.
I blinked back tears.
As a mom, I often feel my resources are stretched thin. There is so much that needs to be done. So much that must be fixed, cared for, provided for. My mind and heart feel inept, coming up short with everything my little family needs.
But, with God, there is more than enough.
I have enough love to see my daughter for more than her disabilities. My mind has more than enough space to care for the many needs of her learning and life. I have wisdom, joy, love, patience, and peace, because I’m on this journey with Him.
Like the four thousand that sat on the ground while Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks, I need to rest in His presence and let Him fill all those empty spaces.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Have you ever doubted the affection of someone close to you?
When I was about fourteen, I went through a period where I greatly questioned my mom's love. It disturbed me how much she did for my younger brother. She paid attention to his grades, sat down with him to do his homework, and worked hard to help him succeed. Her treatment of me was very different. Of course, I had straight As and did not struggle in school, but I still felt she did not love me like she did my brother. Now, Mom did find things for us to do togethers and liked to give me little things. The hormonal teenager in me believed that she attempted to convince me of her love, but it was obvious that my brother was the one who truly held her heart.
A decade later a friend handed me the book The Five Love Languages. My world was rocked. I gobbled up the theology of the book and sighed with relief. I understood my husband better and became a better friend. I realized that Mom did love me. However, our love languages did not match up.
For those of you who haven't read this amazing book, let me give you a little idea of what it is about. AuthorGary Chapman wrote that we all express love using a primary and secondary love language. There are five different languages to choose from:
My primary language is acts of service and my secondary is physical touch. That means that if someone hugs me or does something to help me, I feel perfectly loved. My mother liked to receive (and give) gifts and spend quality time with others. I didn't realize that all those years she was actively demonstrating how much I meant to her in the way using her love languages.
Information is powerful. As we gear up to extra loving next week, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the love languages of those close to you? Anyone can sign on to the Love Languages website and take a quiz for free. We can also find out the love language of our children (if they are above age 9). http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
God made us unique and special in our ways. Let us honor that by finding the best way to show our love to the special people in our lives.
January was an overwhelming month for me. That is probably not much of a shocker when I consider how much I carelessly heaped on my plate. I dove into a new world of marketing a book, I have been furiously editing a novel that a publishing company has shown interest in, I started a new diet & exercise regime, and I continued mothering & housekeeping to the best of my ability.
When my spleen swelled up at the end of the month I felt like the universe was giving me a nice little thunk on the forehead. I felt God lovingly place a hand on my shoulder and say, "You are glutton for punishment, My daughter. Ready to step back into My pace and plan for you?"
As I write this post my side feels like it is on fire and I battle frustration. I want my energy back. I want to be able to sleep in my right side again and chase the girls around the house. And, I'm a little scared. I don't exactly have answers for what is going on. Worst of all, I feel like I'm failing.
Failing at motherhood. Failing at maintaining a home. Failing at writing, publishing, and marketing. Failing at maintaining peace. Failing at improving my health.
I really didn't know if things would be okay again.
As I sat and moped, my mind turned to all the stories in the Bible about the Kings of Judea and Isreal. Their lives fascinate me. They were men with great power. Some of them had hearts for the Lord and their lives were full of happiness and success. Others never turned their eyes to the true God, and they brought distruction on themselves and their kingdom. The most heartbreaking histories of all, are about the kings who began their reign following the Lord, but turned away as time moved on. God never allowed them to move too far from Him before bringing them into account.
I have been busy. In so many of my goals this past month, I have relied heavily on my own knowledge and strength. I have forgotten to turn to Him in all the little worries and the grand problems. I am no king, but God's love for me is strong enough to refuse me to wander too far from His protection.
Yesterday, Jovani took a break between chores to give Adela a roping lesson. Though the skill is a hard one for Adela to learn, her father had patience with her, instructed her carefully, and encouraged her. Back and forth they went. Jovani showed her, did it with her, and then let her take a shot by herself. Little by little she got just a tiny bit better, but she has a long way to go.
I smiled. I'm just like her. God keeps showing me His power, His protection. He keeps walking along side me. He gives me a little room to see if I will keep to His training. And then He has to come back and show me all over. I shouldn't feel upset at the cycle. It is a beautiful example of love.
My frustration eased. It's going to be okay. God has brought me back close to Him and is intimately showing how His kingdom works. It might mean that for now I have less control over my world, but how beautiful that He cares so much that He brought me close to Him once again.
I give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
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