Sunday grace – thoughts on motherhood

There is a family of geese sheltering in the safety of the lake and its surroundings across the road. I’ve watched them wander since hatching on a frosty April day, seven little goslings waddling along with their parents. Each time I spy them, I count. They are vulnerable to predators, large snapping turtles, hawks or coyotes.

The two parents are watchful as they meander into our yard. Father goose stands tall with his neck stretched high, on the lookout for danger while mother goose and her goslings nibble in the grass.

This week I saw them and I counted again. There are only six. And I wonder if a goose has enough sense to grieve her loss and how she deals with it.

Observing motherhood in animals teaches me. The collie dog I had when an adolescent carefully tended her pups, concerned if someone picked up one of her babies, only content again when all were nestled close to her. I’ve had a bird’s eye view of a robin from a bedroom window, watching the nest prepared, eggs laid, and fledglings straining their necks for the next meal. A racoon family made their home in the loft of Bill’s shop one year. We watched the tiny racoons follow mama through the cat door one early morning, after a night of learning to hunt.

Motherhood is an experience. I never knew how my heart could fill with love or how it could break. I laughed and cried, prayed and celebrated, worked long hours and stayed up past my bedtime. I made a zillion peanut butter sandwiches and cups of hot cocoa. I helped with homework and projects carried carefully to the classroom. I baked birthday cakes, cookies and made Rice Krispie treats. I cleaned up messes that should have required a haz-mat suit.

I read stories, told tales, played games, picked up toys, washed sticky faces and dirty feet. I tried to impart wisdom and a love for Jesus. I read Bible stories and sang worship songs as we traveled by car. I held on as long as I could to the son, the daughter-in-love and their own children until they waved and were out of sight. My heart still grips tightly to the heart of each one.

Sometimes I was busy with other things when I should have been more attentive. I was short on patience and long with a lecture. I didn’t have the right answers to the questions, and I fumbled to do the right thing. I fell down on the job, and I have regrets.

Mother’s Day reminds me of the glory of being a mother and how I wish I’d done it better.

Age and experience taught wisdom I longed for those many years ago. I see my errors, and wish for a do-over. Grandchildren give us that chance. It’s why we seem to spoil and give in and say ‘yes’ more than ‘no.’ We learned the hard way what really matters with the perspective of looking backward, learning from our mistakes.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”

— Isaiah 49:15 ESV

The verse of promise is comforting to me. I cannot imagine ever forgetting the son I nurtured in my womb and loved with everything in me. But even if . . . my Heavenly Father would never forget about me. His love is beyond what I can ever produce or feel or act upon. My love is tiny in comparison. And I’m full of thanksgiving for such an everlasting and unfailing kind of tenderness toward me and those I hold dear.

I wonder if all mothers ponder the same question. Did I mother well? Did I do enough? Did I show them Jesus?

I did not get it right every time. I failed often. Yet I hope the love I gave and the prayers I prayed outweigh the mistakes I made. I hope they know that my love continues, that my prayers follow them, that God knows their names because He hears me speak them so often

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

— Isaiah 40:11 NIV

My young ones are grown now. I am not the one gently leading any longer. Still I cling to this promise that the Good Shepherd is keeping watch, is leading and guiding and seeking their hearts continually. And that is a comforting grace to this mother’s heart

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

A PRAYER

My Dear Heavenly Father,

Your name is holy. I stand in awe of You. You are the Living Word who spoke all that I know into existence. Everlasting to everlasting, You are the I AM who was, is and is to come.

You are good, kind, strong, full of compassion and forgiving. You blot out my transgressions, casting them into the sea.

You remember that I am dust, weak and prone to wander. Yet, You called my name, chose and blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. I am yours, amazed at Your grace.

When I am troubled, You tell me to release anxiety and to present my requests to You, with a thankful heart, knowing You are able to do beyond what I ask or even think.

You are always with me. I am never alone.

You see my heart, my concerns and longings, the burdens that weigh on me, the distress that brings me to tears. You know what I need before I ask, and still You invite me to ask, to seek, to knock and bring my petitions to the throne of mercy, behind the veil, opened through the blood of Jesus. You invite me to come near.

You are Yahweh and there is none like you. Wisdom and power are Yours alone. Ah Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth, and nothing is too hard for You. You are the faithful One, the Truth and the Way of salvation.

Jesus and Holy Spirit intercede on my behalf, according to Your perfect will. I rest in such great assurance.

Your Word declares that you will hear when I call to You. O Lord, You are not far off; my Strength, come quickly to help me. You Who hear prayer, to You all flesh comes.

You care for all creation. You feed the birds. You say I am more valuable then they. I am astounded at Your care for me.

I know You, I believe You, and I am convinced that You are able to guard what I have entrusted to You, those I hold dearest and love most. You are the Good Shepherd, leaving the ninety-nine safe in the fold, to search for the wandering one. You see wherever they are. Your arm is strong to save.

I love You Lord for you hear my prayers, You bend down to listen. You hear my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to You. Your love, O Lord, never fails.

All of Your promises are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus. Your plan for me is good, and I have a hope and a future. You will fulfill Your purpose in me, the work You began long ago from eternity. Those who know Your name put their trust in You.

Oh Lord, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of Your deeds. Renew them in our day. In our time, make them known.

Father, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, in the name of Your one and only son, Jesus,

With a grateful heart,

Your daughter

Sunday grace

What is truth?

Pilate asked it of Jesus, assuming he had power over Him. The King eternal stood there, offering truth and life, yet Pilate did not comprehend eternity and continued to search in what he could see, feel and control.

It is the question of the ages. Generations tried to define it, tweak it to meet their own agendas, make it fit into the mold of their own choosing.

What is truth?

In Edenic perfection, the question was, “Did God really say?” casting first doubt on the Truth spoken in Love.

The enemy of my soul still casts unbelief my way, confusing the issues, stirring up discord, pointing to something else. He speaks lies, his native language. He cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Truth stands the test of time. It is a lighthouse on a troubled sea. It is a an unmovable rock when earth trembles. It is a shelter and a refuge from forces beyond my ability to withstand.

What is truth?

Culture does not define it. Congress can never legislate it. Kings have not crushed it. Fashion does not dictate it. Social media will never own it.

Daily news may try to spin it. Entertainers, athletes, authors, and public figures may have their version of it. Rulers of this world may decree their ideas of it.

Truth stands against all that is false. It stands when seasons, styles, opinions, and trends fall by the wayside.

What is truth?

Truth is the only thing on which to build my life, the one constant in an every-changing world spinning out of control.

Truth spoke and the world came to be. Truth promised and it was done. Truth came to us and showed us the Father. Truth died with the truth on His lips. Truth rose from the dead because He told us He would.

Jesus said it plainly: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He could not have made it clearer.

Truth remains when all else fades. Truth is Jesus.

Build on Truth. Build on Jesus.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Dear Jesus,

I want to be a good soldier in the army of my Lord.

Whether decked in full battle dress on the field or wearing the apron as I wash pots and pans in the mess hall.

Whether bending to listen to my littlest neighbor’s story or bending to help Sweet William put on shoes.

Whether with a full class of Truth seekers or alone in the morning quiet with the Father.

Whether at a filled church house or sitting at the kitchen table live-streaming a Sunday service.

I learned Onward Christian Soldiers as a child, and tears fill my eyes as I pray the prayer, “I want to be a good soldier,” because I am weak, with feeble hands and the knees that give way, struggling to go the distance some days. I don’t want to miss the purpose or what I’m meant to learn in this season. I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is open to the still small Voice, however hushed it may be.

My morning Bible reading takes me to passages encouraging me to “be strong.” God spoke it to His children, the ones fearful yet willing to put on His armor for battle.

He commanded it to the Israeli nation about to cross the Jordon and to Joshua as he prepared to lead them.

He declared it to David as he was on the verge of becoming king, and He repeated it twice to Daniel upon receiving a future vision to much for him.

So the Father whispers it to me this morning. “Be strong, daughter.”

It isn’t my physical stamina that will sustain me nor any talents or gifts I’ve been given. Only in abiding in my Lord will I find the strength I need for this journey.

Stronger than I think possible. Stronger than my physical ability. Stronger because He is strong in me.

Jesus, I want to be a good soldier.

Sunday grace.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
— Psalm 31:24

Sunday grace

I noticed the envelope in the mailbox, all bright and cheery, and it made me smile.

Young enough to be my daughter, she is a long-time friend, since a teenager, her with the enthusiasm for life that has not dwindled through the years. Together we shared Bible study, birthday parties, yard-sale treasure hunting, and cups of tea at the kitchen table. When she moved away, we kept in touch by letters. Hers were always so much fun, brimming with cute drawings, punctuated with her funny sayings, and filled with colorful stickers fitting her purpose. It was like a visit on stationery.

She is a mature young woman now with a husband, a daughter, and farm animals occupying her life. Letters are fewer between us. Finding one in my mailbox from this esteemed friend was a delight.

I always take my time, examining the envelope first, slowly opening it, and sitting down to read her missive. The contents are newsy and the words conversational, almost as if she were sitting across from me.

She and her husband feel the Lord’s leading in a new direction. I read of their journey thus far, anticipating a road of endurance requiring trust in the face of obstacles, one with an uncertain future. They believe this is their calling.

I breath prayers after I lay down the pages. This path will be hard, not for the faint of heart, but the faithful of heart. There will be mountains to climb, rocky and steep. There will be days when it seems their efforts are not enough. Knowing her, I expect she is fully aware, trusting in the God who leads us through uncharted waters with only Himself as the light. When the storms come, and they will come, she will learn to hold to an unchanging hand.

I send a message to her that I am just a phone call away and will be here if she sends out an SOS. I determine to begin a letter to my friend in the coming days, and I write their names on my prayer list.

The next morning Steven Curtis Chapman sings on the CD player, music lifting the atmosphere and turning our hearts heavenward and away from the burdens of life. As I help Sweet William prepare for the day, Steven is singing our song, I Will Be Here,” and the words ring true: “When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you, and I will be here . . . I will be true to the promise I have made, to you and to the One who gave you to me. I will be here.

I remember the vows made, me in a white dress and him in a black tuxedo, making promises before God and the company gathered, not knowing what they would require of us. We both had on rose-colored glasses standing there in the church and for many months after. But eventually the rose fades and we see clearly that life is hard. God never turned loose of either of us, determined to pour out His grace and complete the work He planned.

Almost fifty years later, Sweet William and I cherish the vows we made to one another, knowing they have tested us, tried us, and kept us committed to one another in spite of ourselves. We were called to a hard obedience, a faithfulness only made possible by a faithful God infusing His strength in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think of my friend starting a new journey into the unknown, and I recognize obedience will be required, when things are going well and when they are not. God will be there in it all, calling forth His strength in them when the task is beyond their own.

As Steven Curtis Chapman continues to sing, I hear a different song now, “A Moment Made for Worshipping.

When I’m feeling loved and happy, when I’m feeling all alone
When I’m failing to remember all the love that I’ve been shown
Every beat of my heart is another new place to start to know
This is a moment made for worshipping

And I wonder if the hard obedience, the moving forward when God calls us to follow, the days we press on by sheer grit, tenaciously believing God is with us in this . . . can this be counted as worship?

When we keep trying though we are weary . . .

When we get up after falling down yet again . . .

When we love by our actions because the feeling is faint . . .

When the tears flow down because we don’t understand the plan . . .

When we follow not knowing where He leads . . .

When we’re tempted to give up but know that only Christ Jesus has the words of Life . . .

The hard obedience, counted as worship. May it be so.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

Spring presses herself onward while winter clings with a tight-fisted hold.

I walk the yard and notice the signs of beginnings. The crocuses by the front porch surprise me every year. Buds on branches are full. The forsythia bush opens tender flowers despite the cold. And daffodils by the side of the house bloom enough for a bouquet on the kitchen table

I listen to the sounds of the season, early bird choruses, frogs croaking in puddles, geese fluttering as a pair, abandoning the flock, preparing to nest.

The trees in my yard are winter bare, awaiting the surge to bring forth life again, except for one oak by the drive. It clings to last year’s leaf collection, all dry and brown, unwilling to turn loose.

Like the oak tree, I sometimes cling to an old and lifeless past. I bear scars, but wounds are meant to heal. What happened cannot be undone, only forgiven. I may wish I’d made a wiser choice, used better words, walked a path less traveled, treasured a relationship, opened my heart, but I cannot ask for a do-over.

Sometimes I long for what was but is no more, binding me to yesterday, unable to move forward or rejoice in today. Or I simply crave another’s perceived Facebook life, assuming it is better and easier, seen though my lens of discontent.

I’m clinging to dead leaves.

Old journals and picture albums stir memories and the emotions of life events: birthday celebrations and holidays, vacations and family gatherings. Remembering is good. The past shows where God led me. I was there. Now I am here by His grace. There’s no turning back or retracing of steps. The road leads forward, and I must press on, laying aside weights and sins, regrets and longings, that are heavy like a burdensome backpack.

” . . . when I hold on to the wrong things, the wrong things hold on to me.” — Emily P. Freeman

I’ll be observing my oak tree, watching as it swells with spring’s energy, laying bare its branches in readiness for the new and fresh. It will release winter’s hold and open to creation’s beauty.

I pray to release what cleaves to and hinders me as I walk with Christ in what still feels like a winter season. I ask the Father to refill me with the Holy Spirit’s renewing life force, the energy and power of a God who knows no boundaries or limitations. His grace is strength for the journey.

Let Spring bring forth.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

This is the day the Lord has made .. . and I have some choices to make.

I can speak harshly without thinking or I can use words that build up.

I can criticize or I can look for the best in others.

I can complain or I can give thanks for the good gifts all around me.

I can feel sorry for myself or I can be glad I’m alive to serve another day.

I can count all I’m missing or I can count the abundance I’m given.

I can wallow in despair of my present situation or I can consider it all joy.

I can call my life too hard or I can call on the Lord for His strength.

I can weep alone or I can remember God sees my tears and is near the brokenhearted.

I can wonder if my body is going to hold up under the strain or I can pray for His strength made perfect in me.

I can feel powerless to change this situation or I can ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to work mightily in me.

I can believe the lies whispered in the dark or I can trust the Word of Jesus that lights the path ahead.

I can think I’ve drained all my human resources or I can recall words learned as a child, “my cup runneth over.”

I can give up or I can rest assured that His grace is sufficient for my every need.

I can remain in the cold winter of this trial or I can look toward the hope of spring.

This is the day the Lord has made, and I have some choices to make.

I will rejoice in the One who calls me to this journey, who promises His presence and power, who remains faithful even when I am not.

He is worthy of my worship.

Sunday grace.

Grace for today

Before daylight, the birds appear on the deck, cold and hungry. They come for the seed I scatter on these frigid days. They flit all happy, glad to find food, sometimes skittering across the icy deck railing.

For this simple effort, they reward me with joy in the midst of long, hard days.

Early mornings find me in my rocker by the fire, coffee in hand, while Sweet William sleeps a little longer. The stillness is solace, the Holy Word is food, and its ancient phrases become my petitions.

I wrap my prayer shawl around my shoulders, knitted for me by one of my young friends. It is a work of art, the white and blue yarns beautifully woven into a pattern of stripes and ending in fringes at each end. As I bow to pray, I pull the shawl over my head and enter my personal sanctuary of sorts, blocking out distractions to commune with my Lord.

I withhold nothing from Him for He knows my heart like no other. I confess, I ask, I give thanks, I weep before the One who knows where I am, the One who has allowed this path and plans to bring good from it. And I ask Him “how?”

There is a place of service that is not seen. No stages, no classroom podiums, no music studios, no gathering of people to say, “good job.” I’ve been given the privilege to participate in such projects. I did the best I could, accepted the accolades, and received my reward.

These days are different, confined to home, keeping company with Sweet William and Maisie and the physical therapist who comes twice a week. Friends and family provide meals, milk, fruit, and donuts. Regularly, a text pings with “I’m going to be out. Do you need anything?” Twice we’ve had our ramp cleared of snow and ice. Often someone messages, “I’m thinking of you, praying for you,” and I am overwhelmed by the kindness, these acts of service that are not documented except in my journal and Heaven’s records.

At my dear friend’s funeral recently, I was reminded how quiet service makes a difference in people’s lives. She was not a teacher or speaker, not a musician or singer. She was a tranquil servant, doing what she could wherever and whenever she could. She left her mark on many, though she probably didn’t realize how her life impacted them.

I want to be like her.

In the mundane, repetitive tasks of the days, the bone weariness and the aching knees, I pray for grace sufficient. I count on fresh mercies each morning. I trust the name of Immanuel – God with me, with us, on this journey. I beseech the Father to produce healthy fruit in me, the result of the Holy Spirit’s working out His purpose in and through me. I pray to cooperate with Him, “for it is God who works in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

I remember that Jesus washed feet. I can wash feet too.

Grace and peace.

Sunday grace

Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints.
— Psalm 116: 15

I awaken to the thought, another sweet friend left this earth and made her way to the eternal home, the place Jesus promised He was preparing for us.

We make many acquaintances during a lifetime. Some deepen into friendships, kindred spirits and companions. There is the rare blessing when friends become family.

We met at church, our children small, and the relationship developed over years of gathering in the house of the Lord. Bonds of love grew as we united in worship, in learning the Bible together, and in experiencing the Holy Spirit in all His mystery. We played music together for hours upon end. No wonder Scripture admonishes us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Friendship blossomed.

Many years ago, I worked with a group of teens, and my friend’s youngest was part of the group. He was a character, funny, unpredictable, a challenge to the structure I was trying to provide. It was like herding cats, and I loved him. He became more than his teachers expected. We wrote letters while he was in the military. He is a strong and capable man today, and I’m proud to know him. He was my friend’s baby boy.

She and I talked about our children, our grandchildren, music lessons, weight watchers, and anything else that came to our minds. She was quiet and reserved in a group, but she laughed easily and opened up with a few close friends. This morning I remember her laughter and the happy expression on her face.

Friends who become family, these are the ones who come for the celebrations, pitch in when there is work to be done and stay until it’s finished. Friends who are family show up when tragedy strikes – the sudden hospitalization and unexpected diagnosis, the house fire that devastates, the illness that lingers long, and the news from across the world of a young life suddenly snuffed out. They come when only silent prayers are prayed, and they remain, their presence a comfort that needs no words.

My heart hurts this morning for the sister/friend missing from my life, for the richness of her loyalty, for the love she showed me. I grieve for her husband who faithfully walked with her and sat beside her bed until the final breath. I ache for her three strong sons, for their wives and for the grandchildren she dearly loved and delighted to talk about.

I read this commentary on Psalm 116:15: “ . . . the death of saints is an object of value; that God regards it as of importance; that it is connected with his great plans, and that there are great purposes to be accomplished by it. . . the death of a good man [or woman] is in itself of so much importance, and so connected with the glory of God and the accomplishment of his purposes, that he will not cause it to take place except in circumstances, at times, and in a manner, which will best secure those ends.”

God’s ways are not my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I struggle to understand what He does. I cannot fathom the greatness of His plan that encompasses the whole of creation, of which I am a small part. I experience the goodness of His grace as well as the pain and suffering of a world marred and broken by sin.

I feel the loss this morning, the long days ahead of missing one so dear, the empty place she leaves in the hearts and lives of those she loved and who loved her.

Today we weep. Our Father knows our aching hearts. He sees the tears and does not disregard them. He offers Himself as Comforter. One day He will wipe away tears. Until then, He promises a hope, a future, a Home with Him that will outshine the stars. We wait for it.

Home. That’s where my friend is today. She will be waiting for us.


Grace for the journey

I never would have chosen this frozen road.

Life is a journey, and years ago I chose to make it my aim to enjoy the ride, wherever that takes me. I believe that even on the roughest roads, I might notice some wildflowers. Don’t call me an optimist, only one who fought for joy when the way was especially wearisome.

Sometimes the path is hard. And it is winter.

Sweet William and I have been in a season of difficulty. It is common to every person to weather the experience of winter, spring, summer and fall again and again through life. Spring brings hope of newness and refreshing while summer is hard work, planting and cultivation. We enjoy the abundant fruitfulness of an autumn only to find ourselves shivering in the icy winds of winter as the cycle repeats.

And it is winter. On some cold nights, I sat at the kitchen table alone and wept, my only prayer, “Jesus help.” There were no other words. The ever-pinging texts from friends and family, declaring their promise to pray, were lifelines of hope. Competent nursing staff and doctors coupled with kindness made the days a little brighter. Time was irrelevant as days slipped into weeks, leaving us asking, “How long, oh Lord?”

In the deep mid-winter, Sweet William and I found ourselves wandering and wondering. Important days of Christmas, then New Year, and our 49th wedding anniversary were not what we planned at all. Celebrations wait for warmer days.

Winter life can be lonely, dreary, and somber. Night falls too quickly and a chill penetrates the bones. We long for the sunshine, birds building nests, and waving at neighbors in the greening yard. I tell myself to keep moving through it, and look for the signs of spring.

There are lessons in a winter journey we cannot learn any other way. There’s a Presence in the wilderness we often overlook in the lush valleys of our busy lives when planting or harvesting are the focus. In the barren landscape when the quiet chill settles, the Voice I long to hear speaks, and I hear His whispers. He speaks hope, peace, love, and I’m assured of His faithfulness.

I would not have chosen this winter travel, but it gave me perspective. When we have no one, there is Someone with us. He, the One and only, knows the hurt of the heart, the confusion of the mind, the ache of the body. When darkness settles on the soul, He is the Light. When questions have no answers, He is Wisdom.

The days of January near the end, and I notice how the sun rises a little sooner. Sometimes the birds sing a little more fervently. Though winter seems long, there is beauty if I have eyes to see it. The snow came and made everything clean and bright. The frost sparkles on the deck railing in the pre-dawn. Ice on the lake across the road shimmers in sunlight.

I pray this:

Father of all I see and what is yet unknown to me, be Thou my vision. Give us grace for this journey. Infuse us with courage and strength to endure like good soldiers. As You are ever faithful to us, provide Your power through the Holy Spirit to be faithful to You. Teach us lessons of compassion, patience, kindness, and love over all. Warm us in Your Presence during this season, and let us not forget Your wonders of mercy when the weather changes and warm breezes blow. To everything there is a season, and You are everything we need in each of them. As your beloved child, I ask these things in the Name above all names, Jesus my Savior and Lord. Amen.