The best stories are the real ones

The best stories are the real ones.

We all pause in front of the catching covers and gripping titles, but the moment we flip to the first page only to discover it begins like thousands of others, our interest fades.

The best story is the one you’ve lived.
The retelling of your hardest moments,
followed by the stunning view when you at last reached the mountain’s peak,
or the crushing realization that you were still days from the summit:
here is where your unique story lies.

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Our lives aren’t all about arrival and having finally conquered our fears.
Perhaps the greatest quality of our stories is in the mundane.
Yes, we do eventually reach the top and feel the icy cold wind whip up the side of the mountain and steal our breath away.
But without the panting and grappling with the elements,
the struggling against the rugged stone,
those hours and days of climbing leading up to the summit would be worthless.

God knew we needed people ahead of us on the trail to shout over their shoulder,
“You can do this!”
And he also knew that we would be made stronger by offering a helping hand to someone beside us who is panting hard and feeling that they aren’y made of tough enough stuff to keep going.

We are given experiences with a purpose in mind.

“…the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Wounded people tell better stories.
Not because you were wounded,
but because you lived to tell the story.
Because you can offer more than words, you have experience to back it up.

Your story matters, your experiences are valuable.
Your losses and your gains,
your deep gut laughter and salty tears are important.

When we share our stories, perfect lives give way to real struggles and experiences.
And oddly enough, we find that we are safer in this crowd, not because we are a good story teller or can post a pretty picture, but because we each have a story.
And in choosing to be vulnerable and courageous enough to share it,
we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

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Let’s keep our stories going.
Tell them here. Tell your children.
Take a moment at the grocery store and look into the cashier’s eyes,
and ask her about her life.

Reach out and connect with people.

The online world is a massive opportunity,
but don’t overlook the physical people you come into contact with each day.
Take time and ask questions.
They have a story too, that needs to be told.
Some days we do the telling, other days we listen.
Each story is worth hearing.

The best stories are the real ones.

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(Photo credits to Gretta Coates and her time in a refugee camp in Greece this last year. Follow her blog and wait for the incredible stories of the incredible souls who braved the icy waters hoping for a future).

Do today well…

I woke up this morning to the quiet footsteps of my husband, still in his paramedic uniform. Drawers gently opened and shut and he crawled into bed. “Three calls,” he had told me. I’m gaining a new appreciation for the countless men and women who are on standby at all hours for those unanticipated emergencies.
Somewhere, there are people always waiting for the call, ready to come help.

The soft morning light illuminated the room, and four sleeping children were breathing rhythmically. But the baby’s eyes flew open and her night was over.
So was mine, apparently.
The toddler joined the awake crew and we headed downstairs to start coffee and give just a few more moments of peace upstairs.

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The last few days have felt like consecutive Mondays.
Returning from a massive trip and thousands of miles to Texas created suitcases jammed with stuff and a car looked like we had lived out of it for ten days, ‘cause we had. The lawn looked more like a hay field than a yard, and then an unexpected stash of tomatoes that needed to be canned asap took precedence over the already screaming chore list. Just roll with the punches, ya know?

Last night when I finally had washed the last dish, and sank onto the couch, my feet ached bone deep. I realized that I had been going nearly full steam all day.
But then, so had my hubby.
And so had most humans, so it wasn’t such a valiant accomplishment after all. 😉

We have two more weeks of my husband’s crazy class. And then so many hopes for the summer, like gutting the old kitchen and finally conquering these todo’s that I cannot do on my own.
But the todo list is NEVER done.
We don’t always hit the last lesson of the grade exactly when summer break is to start.

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It’s a race, and the muscles burn deep and breath comes jerky sometimes.
Sweat runs down our spine and it feels like the finish line is perpetually around the next bend.
This is motherhood. This is life.

But it’s about doing today well.
It’s about giving this moment everything, and letting the rest bide till its time.
It’s about embracing today for what it really is, and breathing deep in the moment.
It’s about pressing in, and maintaining.
The good habits I embrace today will help carry my children tomorrow.
Take a deep breath. Find your stride.
You can do this. God is right there, with everything you need to do today well.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
Hebrews 12:1

It was perfect.

I pushed my chair back and surveyed the damages.
Supper was over, but the table was heavy with smeared dishes and food the needed to be put away. Daniel has multiple tests and chapters to read before the weekend.
“There is no way I’ll have time to get them all done,” he had told me earlier.

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“Can we go outside and …?” The nine year old made a throwing motion.
Somehow the tossing sign must be more powerful than just straight out asking.

He didn’t have time. We both knew it.
But Daniel nodded, “Yeah! You coming?” he asked, looking my way.
The dishes screamed at me. But he knew I needed to pause and grab the moment.
I nodded.

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All day long the tractor had gone around and around the field, the cut hay tossed into neat rows and then bundled into round bales. The sweet smell mingled with the golden evening light lured us into the clean goodness. The guys threw the frisbee back and forth, and I marveled at the fluid motions of both throwing and catching.
When did that nine year old learn to throw like that?

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The girls raced around the bales and threw left over bits into the air.
Hair and hay were everywhere, faces dirty but happy.
Daniel looked over at me. “It’s perfect.
The evening could not be more perfect.”

I looked around. The golden light illuminating crazy hair, the squeals of laughter from carefree children, the busy daddy taking time for his children.
I was the only mess here.
My mind still saw the messy table and sink of dishes.
My heart still felt bruised from a less than seamless school day.

My to do lists never end, and I grapple with doing all things well and yet never getting done. Mommy guilt over not menu planning, bathroom cleaning, laundry doing or lesson planning a week ahead of time looms over my head.
There are just so many things I SHOULD be doing, and don’t reach around.

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(Chicken pox are over now, and thankfully the marks are fading)

When God created the world, He did a perfect job.
He sat back at the end of each day and surveyed his perfect handiwork.
At the end of the week, he looked over the brand new earth, teaming with life and breath and color.
And He said, “It is good.”
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Good. Everything was perfect.
Can you imagine?

Today this is part of the curse, the living in an imperfect world. Being in this world, but intended for another one. Mortality groaning for immortality. I gasp deep for air, and reach for God’s hand to guide me through the challenges of the day.

God looks down at me and loves me. He sees past the grime smeared on my face and hears the laughter. He sees me as His child, and loves me.

So hand your camera to your 7 year old, and let them capture today in its rawness. See what they see, and treasure it.

Today, in all our messes, are things to embrace. To treasure.

It WAS a perfect evening.

He’s got a friend in me

I was awake before his alarm went off.
That’s what happens when you sleep with a nursing baby; one that refuses to let blankets cover her legs.
Just when you think she has finally drifted off into deep sleep and you gingerly drape the white quilt over her little legs, up they go again and kick the blanket down.
Nothin’ doing.

Light streams in the window.
The window that STILL needs me to order light blocking curtains so my tired man can sleep after pulling 14 hour shifts.
I lay there, pretending to be very tired and that sleeping in would be worth the repercussions.
But there it goes, that predictable alarm and he rolls over and picks up the phone.
I roll the other way, baby zonked between us, and head down stairs.
There’s gotta be a way to make a water pot and pour over coffee do itself.
Even deliver itself to you, right to the night stand.
But then, I guess I wouldn’t wake fully as I stumble down the stairs.

I fill the water kettle and start the grinder.
Put the filter in and look at the drain rack bulging with clean, dry dishes.
These days I’m making myself do a few chores while I wait on the water to heat, before I’m really awake. The dishes get put away, the broom comes out.
Bed head and all, I’m getting the day rolling.
No words, though.

The water is hot and I pour it over the grounds. Pull out the travel mug and get it ready. He comes down, fresh from the shower and looks amazing in his uniform. Eleven years later, I still am crushing over this guy. He’s earned each one of those white hairs, and those arms have held each one of our babies. He has proven to me again and again, that no matter how much I fail, he will always love me, and will always be there.

We have changed and grown in these last eleven years.
Life has thrown some hard punches.
God has walked with us through some deep valleys.
But He has given us the gift of each other.
And while change and new seasons take extra grace and focused attitudes, we get to do it together. The joy of walking hand in hand through the highs and lows of life is a taste of something much bigger than what this world has to offer.
Being married to my best friend, who will never leave, is breath taking.

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He kisses me there, my hand on the broom, dirt pile at my toes.
“Have a good day,” he whispers.
“You too…”

A few minutes later, I sit on the couch alone and cradle my coffee cup and listen to the clock tick. In two months we can drink our morning coffee together again.
But for now, we are good.
We are taking this season in stride, knowing it is just a season.
He is being stretched, I am being stretched.
But God’s got us, and our relationship can handle the stresses because God is here.

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“You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead
And you’re miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
You just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me

Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me

You’ve got troubles, and I’ve got ’em too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together and can see it through
‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me

Some other folks might be
A little bit smarter than I am
Bigger and stronger too, maybe
But none of them will ever love you
The way I do, it’s me and you, boy

And as the years go by
Our friendship will never die
You’re gonna see it’s our destiny
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me.”

(Songwriters: Randy Newman
You’ve Got a Friend in Me lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company)

I find these words, and smile.
Tear up a bit, actually.
‘Cause my man does have a friend in me, even when we face different challenges and stresses in our days. He grapples with an extra hard vein and IV while I ponder how to mother in a way that invites freedom and security in my children.
He blows a vein and I lose my temper.
Then we both get up and try again.

I select the lyrics, copy and paste them into a text and hit “send.”
I smile.

He loves anyway

Some days the cold presses hard.
From without, sometimes from within.

We reach for warmth, and find he is there, waiting for us. Thawing our frozen edges, melting what was icy and hard.

17457272_10210307070545158_1434743508519920686_nAnd I stand there, in front of his piercing but inviting heat, in silence. And I’m struck at the acceptance. In all my needs, in all my sharp icy edges, in all my needs, I’m loved. 

I’m cherished.
I’m forgiven, even before I find the right words. Before I’m able to articulate my needs, he knows and loves anyway.

This is our God.

Faithful, gentle, patient, understanding. So much more than we could ever deserve. He is abundance in the moment of our deepest need. 

Resting in the now

I drank my coffee coldish on the couch as I nursed the baby and tears blurred. Letting go of a dream – of a part of me – so that I can fully embrace today is salty hard. I realized it’s hard because it is the grief of a loss. It is forcing my fingers to release the grip on something that I thought was me. I owned it. I had a right to it. It was ME.
My husband sat quietly, and kissed me goodbye as he headed to work.
He didn’t try to fix it. He knew he couldn’t.
 
This morning reality slapped me in the face and I knew my dream will most likely wait.
These moments when we choose to surrender with a peaceful heart aren’t all glorious.
It is the hard thing.
 
Jesus asks us to follow. To leave things behind in exchange for better things. For things we cannot even see.
 
Who am I? Am I just a mom?
Do I push the laundry through, make meals and sweep the floor, just to do it again tomorrow?
Is it what I DO, or is it who I AM?
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Mothering is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It scrapes off my surface again and again and shows me what’s underneath. There is no hiding the selfishness that could stay in the shadows before.
Mothering reaches into every area of my life, into each moment of my day.
 
“We cannot give our children what we ourselves do not have.”
 
I read the words yesterday and they followed me around, whispering in my ear as I folded laundry, watched a squabble break out, laid the baby in her bed.
Do I have what I want my children to have?
Am I living what I want for them?
 
I can work till my day is all used up, I can chide and correct till I’m blue in the face.
But if it’s not deeply engrained in my own heart, there is no way they can see it walked out.
Words are not reality until they SEE them…
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No, the work will never be done. And I will never be perfect. But if I live out today with my heart leaning hard into Jesus, they will see Truth. They will taste the peace that comes after a heart struggles and then rests.
 
It is like the joy of an ocean wave coming in, splashing and laughing, and bubbling around my toes.
But as it goes out again, it leaves shells and round pebbles behind, sanded soft and smooth by endless scraping against the abrasive sand. The constant wearing away produces deeper beauty.
More beauty than was there before.
 
The waves going out are just as beautiful as the ones coming in.
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REST. It’s my word for this year.
It’s not rational in this season, but God doesn’t choose the rational way.
He chooses the best way.
 
So in the face of my deepest need, and of dreams drifting away, I am held.
And there is deep rest.

(Photo credits to my dear grettagraphy.com)

He sees

It was over. She knew it.
Life had spat in her face, and she had spat back, once.

Only now, her mouth was too dry to even swallow.
Her lips were cracked and her throat was raw as sandpaper.
The scorching sun beat down on her head and she collapsed under the dried little bush that offered no shade at all.
No hope.
Her life, as hard and shattered as it had been, would end here, in the cruel desert.
Alone. Her child, the pride and joy of her life, lay wilting under the glare of the sun just over her shoulder, but out of sight.
She had looked away.
She could not watch this.

A slave, bent under the burden of a life of endless tasks.
Of water to be carried, tents put up and taken down, animals to be fed, the master and his demanding wife to please. Even her child had been a target of her mistress’ jealousy; the joy of his presence turned to resentment and anger.
All her years of service had meant nothing.
Nothing.
The gritty sand slipped from between her fingers and tears too dry to reach her eyes burned deep.

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What did she do to deserve this?
What kind of God would promise love and then lead one here, to die of thirst?

It’s a dry, desolate place. You have been here.

Where the wind howls lonely and rustles the dead grass at your feet.
Sand gets between your toes and shade is nowhere to be found.
But the worst thing is, you are alone.

Alone with your fear.
With your failures.

They mock you and spit condemnation at you. Again.
This is who you are. You have become your failure.

Or maybe it is your loss that shatters you.
The grave hasn’t settled yet, but the world keeps going.
People talk too loudly next to you about the weather, or their upcoming vacation.
The world mocks your grief by daring to go on.
To live and laugh each day, when all you can do is breathe and try to survive.
You wish life would end. Being alone is worse than you ever imagined it could be.

Then He comes.

In the moment when you have no strength to speak or faith to pray, He is suddenly there. Perhaps without you even calling his name.
He is just THERE.

His presence in shocking. He knew where you were. He takes in the stark surroundings in a flash, and looks deep into your eyes. And you know what He says?
“Do not be afraid.”

The fears crumble and courage rises. Fresh air fills your lungs.
The story isn’t over after all. He was watching the whole time. He knew.

He feels the pain, He knows about the warm tears that drip silently into the pillow at night, the pang deep in your heart that cannot be expressed. He sees the way you look in the mirror, the ways you kick yourself for failing your children again. Again and again.

And Hagar suddenly remembers her own words, “You are the God of seeing.”
She was shattered and alone before, and He came to her then, too.

He knows.
He sees.

Don’t believe the lie that you are abandoned.
That you are alone.

‘Cause right now, in your hard place, He sees.
Not in a cold, unfeeling way, but with deep love and excitement, because He is preparing you for something big. Something much much greater than you can imagine.
So even in this blind moment, take heart.

He sees.

 

 

(Photo credits to the amazing grettagrapy.com)