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.

Sunday grace – thoughts on my birthday

At the change of the calendar month, thoughts turned to my birthday and an assessment of my life. Last year, 2020, Sweet William and I were in quarantine due to the Covid 19 virus that virtually shut down the world. This year, he is still recovering from a major surgery in December. It is a long road of rehab and physical therapy that continues weekly. In essence, we are somewhat confined, though in a different way. The question becomes how to celebrate and acknowledge another year where we are right now.

It can be easy to slip into the downward spiral of dwelling on suffering, naming them one by one, leading to a dark hole of loneliness and depression. I’ve been there. All who live to the seventh decade and beyond have experieced both gain and loss. I had my share.

I recall summer birthday parties when I was young. It was hot and there were lawn sprinklers, swimming pools, ice cream and watermelon. Never mind that the juices ran down my arm. It would wash off in the pool water. When our son was born in July, I recreated some of those fun times in the outdoors with his cousins and friends. I thought a summer birthday was the best.

As the day approached, I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, and I cried a little. But I confessed to a friend that I was determined to count my blessings and not my hardships on this day.

Birthday week was busy, and when Friday came Sweet William knew I needed some quite, some down time. After a breakfast of pancakes with strawberries and pure maple syrup – because it’s my birthday! – I went to the deck with my Bible, journal and pens, a birthday book from a friend and a fresh cup of coffee. It is never too hot for coffee.

I read Psalm 139 slowly, a birthday practice, its poetry reassuring me I am known and loved, that I can never, no never, go away from the Father’s presence.

Texts pinged my phone throughout the day, family and friends sending their birthday wishes. Our son called and sang to me, his baritone voice music to this mother’s ears. Cards came in the mail. Sweet William prayed for me, saying I was the best thing that ever happened to him, next to Jesus.

In the evening, a friend in another city called to chat like she has on so many birthdays, and my cousin came with a present and ate birthday cake with us.

I listened to Cythinia Clawson sing You Were There, composed by Dan Burgess, inspired by Psalm 139. It brings me to tears. The passing of another year is worth marking and remembering in order to gain wisdom for the future.

At this age I know the years still left are less than what I have lived. I often wonder what I will leave behind, not the house and furniture and stuff, but what I deposited into another heart. Did I give enough time? Did I really listen? Were my words encouraging? In my brokeness did Jesus shine through? Did I love well? I hope so.

“Love never ages, even when we do. So I tell myself if you want to hold on to your youth, hold on to love.”
— Edward Ginnon

There will be days dark and light, times of joy and sorrow, beauty to enjoy and rocks in my shoes. I will laugh and I will cry. But there is no reason to fear. There will be grace for the journey. Always there is grace enough.

Time will tell my path on this earth. I will keep pressing on, keep moving forward toward the hope of life everlasting when a last struggling breath here only means my next will be a breath of heavenly air and the face of my savior.

I will rejoice in the goodness of God. I will remember His faithfulness to me. When it gets hard, I will remind myself He is there.

God the Father has allowed me to be here. May I live fully and gain a heart of wisdom. And let me love.

I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” — Psalm 13:5, 6

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

Fornado Ortega’s lyrics sing in my head as my good day begins.

This Good Day

Fernando Ortega

Morning sun, morning glories pouring down the hill
Through my window I can feel the ocean breeze

Noisy sparrows fill the oak trees, swallows can’t stay still
And in the glad commotion, Lord, You speak to me

If rain clouds come or the cold winds blow
You’re the one who goes before me and in my heart I know

That this good day, it is a gift from You. The world is turning in its place
Because You made it to
I lift my voice to sing a song of praise on this good day

On this July 4, the day the United State celebrates her independence, I am thankful for the blessings of being an American citizen and for this good day. I have been endowed with God-given inalienable rights. He is the One who gives life and liberty.

I count these gifts:

For waking in my own house on my own little piece of land where I live in peace.

For neighbors who do acts of kindness for us out of the goodness of their hearts.

For a house full of appliances making my life easier (especially after a day without electricity, land land and internet).

For bird song waking the morning, their unique beauty giving Sweet William and me simple pleasure.

For flowers growing in the gardens, simple offerings from packets of seed.

For the grandness of trees offering shade, blowing with the winds, speaking to me of resilience and strength.

For children playing in the yard next door, their innocence, trust, gladness and joy.

For church and fellowship, for the people who care, pray, and welcome us with glad hearts and smiles.

For music and singing and books and the Holy Word, and for a mind to understand and a voice to praise.

For freedom, the gift God gave first to Adam and Eve, and for His forgiveness when we abuse that liberty.

May I see with clarity the responsibility of freedom.

May I choose righteousness over unrighteousness.

May I serve with a willing heart.

May I give honor where honor is due and treat others with respect.

May I love like Christ loved all peoples.

May I walk worthy to be called a Christian and an American.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace

I ponder life, its intricacies and complexities. It is beautiful and yet painful. It surprises me with great joy and sometimes plummets me into the depths of sorrow.

Having lived my many years, I’ve learned from the everyday of routine, the unexpected turn in direction, and the sudden stop of grief. Wisdom came not through the study of books but from experience, the waking to a new day and putting one foot in front of the other because that is what I must do. While so much is mystery, I see some things with unquestioned clarity.

Yahweh the Lord is sovereign. He is strong and He is good. He is over all, in all and through all, and nothing is beyond His grasp of knowledge and care. Love is His essence, justice and righteousness are like garments. He is tender and He is a warrior.

He is I AM. He will be who He will be.

When life begins and when it ends.

When I am full or when I am empty.

When dear ones are close or when they are far away.

When relationships are rich or when confusion and hurt separate.

When I am strong and full of vigor or when I am racked with pain.

When the fog lifts so I see clearly or when darkness blinds me to the next step.

When I understand His plan or when I lay in the dust of confusion.

When the way opens up or the door closes to me.

When friends surround me or when I am left alone.

When the gifts and talents He gave lay dormant on the shelf.

When I question but get no answer.

When I cry until no tears are left.

When I cannot perceive what He is doing.

When I don’t know which way to go.

This I know. He is Yahweh. I AM.

He has a plan for me and He loves me with an unreasonable, everlasting love. His grace reaches to the lowest depths and captures me, drawing me to Himself, telling me I am precious to Him. He forgives again and again. He has prepared a place for me so I can be with Him forever. He has completed His plan of redemption and all I have to do is respond to His invitation.

He is Yahweh. I AM.

He is Faithful and True and I will trust Him.

Sunday grace.

Sunday grace for the fathers

Abba Father,

I am blessed to call you Father, to be welcomed into Your presence, the holy place of Your essence. You called my name and claimed me for your very own child. This is a high privilege and I am loved.

I thank you for the men who influenced my life and showed me what You are like, especially my grandfather and my dear dad. I am grateful for patriarchs of my family and for men in my life who walked in the faith, were strong and gentle, treated me with respect and honor, protected and provided for me, bent low to serve and held me up with their prayers. I am blessed to know your sons.

I pray for the fathers of this generation. How we need them to be steadfast and sure, standing true in the battle for souls, leading with firm resolve and gentle grace. They need guidance from the Holy Spirit and the power of love. Clothe them in Your righteousness and Your holy armor, for the battle is hard. Infuse Your Word into their minds to remind them what is at stake. Speak to them as you did to the warriors of old, “Be strong and very courageous.” Remind them this is Your battle and You are always with them.

I ask that you purify their hearts. Turn them from evil, the deceitfulness of riches, and the cares of life. Give them eyes to see the beauty of a precious child, the tenderness of a woman’s heart, the reward of being a servant to those in their keeping. Remind them that words can wound or words can heal and build up. Help them choose their words wisely.

Abba Father, I ask that they look to You as their only source, that they seek to be more like Jesus every day, that they live to please You above all and be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. May You shine in them and through them as Image Bearers of God the Father.

I ask these things in the name of Your Son and my Savior Jesus.

Amen

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.