bountiful within the blah…

This morning I turned to this verse:  “I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6).

I live in a world full of stuff.  Advertisements tell me I need every last bit of it, too.  I rarely feel as though I’ve been dealt with ‘bountifully’.

But, here are the facts:  I have been dealt with bountifully, even if it’s hard for me to comprehend.

As I type, I’m watching my Judah play on an exercise mat. He’s munching on his goldfish, trying to grind the crumbs into the plastic with his bare feet.  He’s got a saggy diaper…again.  He’s calling our puppy over to eat the crumbs, making a “kissing” sound with his lips.

Life is bountiful with crumbs, mischief, and soggy diapers. I just told our congregation on Mother’s Day morning, as a part of a Mom’s Panel, that it is a struggle as a stay-at-home mom to have a sense of meaningful identity, value, and worth.  The difficulty comes in moments like this…when the floor is covered by yellow cracker shrapnel…when I am attempting to focus on something greater than the fact that my son is now sharing his cup of water with the dog.  When these are the endless details of my day I feel as though my days are useless.  I can’t even finish forming a thought before the next mess is made or the next disaster needs to be averted.  Feelings of bountifulness seem to only revolve around frustration…not blessing.  I’m not even considering bountiful blessings.

Have you ever been poked repeatedly?  In the same spot?  It can become numbing, not only to that particular area of the skin, but to all the senses.  This is how detainees are tortured!  Loud intrusive sound, constant touch and pricking…if it’s used to break even the strongest of secret spies, than imagine what it can do to an already tired mom!  This is what happens to people who stay at home with young children.  Our emotional senses and mental processes are poked repeatedly throughout the day, that a coma is induced.  Introspection and spiritual growth seem as confounding and impossible as waking the dead.  Good judgment and resolve go out the window.

I think much of my anxiety about sounding dull or stupid among small groups of adults was birthed out of this motherhood zombie state.  I can feel as though I have nothing worthwhile to share with other adults because I am not reading insightful articles or engaging in philosophical conversation throughout the day…I don’t even have the news on, just SuperWhy.  It greatly effects my view of self.  Hot topics and relevant adult conversation fly over my head.  (And rarely, do a group of adults find the value in being able to sing every PBS kids show theme song.)  I can lose my identity in the mundane repetition of diaper changing and household duties.  I rarely do anything by myself, including going to the bathroom!  And I do my best thinking when I am alone.  It can feel as though we, as care-takers, fade into the background, void of individual talents or unique perspective.

I daily need to re-identify myself with Jesus–who He is, and therefore, who He says I am.  It’s a struggle, especially, when all my faculties of thought and insight seem to have left the building 11 years ago.  However, it’s necessary for me to realize my value and worth.  I am a priceless treasure to God, with a unique perspective of His love and grace, because I am not relying on the success of my own talents throughout the day.  I have to remember He has good things for me, even in the goldfish crumbs.

As I look at my two-year old and focus on the goodness of God, I see less crumbs and more cute:  His white-blond hair as it flips behind his ears.  His sparkling blue eyes.  His huge smile as the puppy eats goldfish from his hands.  He isn’t focusing on the magnitude of his soggy diaper situation.  He’s focusing on all that is good.  What an example of thankfulness and joy, of magnifying the good, not the bad.

He has just brought me a single goldfish.  “Aaahhh,” he says to me.  “Mama- Aahhh.”  I can choose to focus on the meek and meager size of the snack, perhaps spend time questioning wether or not it’s been licked by the pet.  OR, I can choose to partake and savor the cracker, because it is a gift.  It seems small and insufficient.  It will take concentration from a weak and spent heart and mind.  This is the true task of the day.  The blessing is there, though…it’s in the palm of my hand.

Jesus, help me see you in every part of my day.  Help me to find the sufficient in the scant.  The satisfactory in the sparse.  The bountiful in the bare.  Amen.


Total eclipse of the heart…

“I’m learning a lot about God from my kids.”  I think every Jesus-following parent says it at least once.  It is true.  Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4).

This morning when darkness still loomed over the house, I rose to my oldest daughter already awake.  She had set her alarm for 5 AM so as to not miss the much anticipated lunar eclipse.  It was supposed to be first visible at 5:25 AM, but in an effort to not miss any of it, she was awake nearly a half hour early.  The rest of the family wasn’t that interested in the phenomenon, so she planned her rising all on her own.  She could hardly sleep last night, so it was not a surprise to me that she was already awake when my alarm went off at 6.  The time she chose to wake up did not startle me. What did shock me was the place she chose to watch.

I assumed that she would venture out on the front driveway or walkway and peer into the moon-lit sky.  I figured she’d take it in for a minute, get tired, and head back to bed.  But, no, my child knew better than me…

She pulled a chair and pillow from the living room over to the front door.  She made herself comfortable and sat, marveling at the moon through the glass insets.  Any reasonable adult would say that chair was an annoyance and was placed in a dangerous spot, in the line of doorway traffic.  But it was the perfect venue to focus on something almost magical, something that my mature brain can’t wrap my mind around.  The sun, which we can’t see at night-time is yet right behind us–behind her in that chair.  Its strong rays of sunlight reflecting over our heads on the surface of the moon millions of miles away.  The earth, on which we stand, on which she sat in that chair, mysteriously floating in the space in between.  The orbits of the moon and the earth in such synchronization and alinement that before her very eyes, the shadow of earth, orb on which she sat in that chair, appeared before her over the face of the moon–it’s light slowly burning red.  What an amazing event that is so much grander and substantial than a walkway ridden with chair.

As we went on with our day and I returned home from morning errands, I saw the chair unmoved from the wee hours of dawn.  The sunlight, now cascading through the windows bore such sweet light on that seat, on that place of tiny miracle.


My daughter has taught me something today.  I have learned, and have been told over and over again, that I need to sit and marvel at God.  Others may be annoyed with me.  Others may think I am in the way.  My resolve to sit and take in Jesus as I see Him throughout the day may irritate those who think it odd and silly.  Some might deep down feel the sting of resentment that I have gone to such measures to encounter God.  But I long to be like the carefree and uninhibited children.  I no longer want to be an adult with to-do lists, logical answers, and cynicism.  Jesus, teach me, like you taught the disciples, to humble myself, turn, and become like the child.

I have for far too long walked with the shadow of reason and logic hiding my heart from the everyday glory of Jesus.  How can I follow His Spirit, if I shield my eyes from seeing Him?  How can I soak in His words and ponder His parables if I block my ears from hearing Him?  How can I sense His presence and act on His urgings if I cover-up my feelings with puffed up arrogance and pride?  I, and most “Christians”, have been walking around in a “total eclipse of the heart” religion.  We have covered ourselves with our performance and success, rather than being “hidden in Christ”  (Col. 3:3), reflecting His glory, not our own.

Last night, my eleven-year-old delighted in asking questions of astronomy and selenology, of the heavens and their movement, just in anticipation for what she hoped to see.  She didn’t presume to have all the answers.  Her eyes doubled in fascination with the size and wonder of it all, even before witnessing.  Are we adults even asking questions anymore?  Do we think we have it all figured out?  The mysteries of Jesus are beyond any human mind.  His wisdom and knowledge deep.  We will never exhaust all that He has for us.  How boring and mundane to be the one who has forgotten this simple truth!  What a dull and joyless, responsibility-driven, task-filled adult life!  We need not live this way.  He wants us to have life to the fullest, to marvel at His love and His Spirit, to wait in eager anticipation for just a glimpse of Him.

The chair will remain in it’s new home today.  I want to be reminded to seek out all of the wonder and joy Jesus has for me.  Even amidst my daily work, I will pass by and catch a glimpse of the Spirit’s reminder to me.  He loves me so well to know that I need reminders and nudges.  He understands my failing heart and fleeting zeal because undoubtedly, I will trip over it at some point.    Thank you, Jesus, for telling me again.


what’s the big idea??

I’ve been particularly absent from the blog lately.  I could say I’ve been busy with the book and general life stuff, which I have, but actually it’s been a matter of pride.  My blogging is usually a time of solitude with Jesus, and there is no good excuse for short-changing time with Him and time to process life through His Word.  See, things have been rough.  Some of my children have not been adapting very well to our new school routine and my embarrassment at the fact has kept me from publicly writing about it.  My shame has inhibited me from processing it through Jesus, which doesn’t alleviate the humiliation, but only perpetuates it.  So, here I am, a little apprehensive about fingering the keyboard and revealing a deep heart issue.  I genuinely don’t know what truth or big idea Jesus will conclude this post with but I know I will need to hear it.  Thanks for joining me in this humbling process.

The worst day was a Monday a few weeks ago.  We had already been in school for half a week (which went wonderfully, by the way) but it was the starting day for public school.  One of my children (I’m not going to mention names…because it gets ugly) was throwing a massive fit about having to go to school.  Everything was wrong.  Clothes were wrong, socks were wrong, shoes were wrong, breakfast was wrong.  I tried to help, but the anthem was, “You won’t even help me…You won’t even listen to me.”  I broke.  My temper flared and I was undone.  After the socks and shoes I had graciously put on, and I had patiently tied, had been kicked off for the second time, my self-restraint was gone.  Once everyone else was ready and it was time to go, the shoeless child was forced into the car, disheveled hair and all.  After kicking and screaming the entire drive, when we arrived at school, the walk into the building was dramatic, laboring, and exhausting.  When we made it to the office, I struggled to pry one child off while keeping another from escaping and running back into the parking lot.  I was mortified.  The walk down the hallway to the classrooms was coupled with mini-body slams against the wall in an effort to stop any progress towards the room.  I smiled the whole time, as if to say, “No one else look, all is fine here! heh…heh…”  Finally a school staff member removed the child suction-cupped to my leg and I made a run for it.

On the way home, I called Paul, tears rolling down my face.  I was sad for my child, hurt by the words of my child, ashamed of my behavior, and embarrassed that my child was reflecting poorly of my parenting.  I was questioning every decision I’ve ever made on behalf of my children.  I was a mess.  But even then, I did not appear nearly as melodramatic as after the next event.  A cop stepped out in front of my car and waved me over.  Ugh…a school zone.  “Seriously, what’s the big idea?  What is up with this day?” With 12 minutes left in the designated time slot for the reduced speed, I was caught going the full speed…and on the phone.  I chunked my cell to the opposite side of the car and veered over.  I got a ticket from a very unfriendly sheriff.  This day was not getting any better.

I cried myself the rest of the way home.  Poor Judah sat in his carseat, wondering what in the world was going on.  After gaining composure, I thought, I can redeem this day.  I will bake cookies.  I will let my children know that I am sorry for the morning by having warm chocolate chip goodness for them when they arrive in the afternoon.  So I set to finding a recipe and checking the pantry for all the supplies as Judah took his nap.  I had everything except the baking powder.  So I googled substitutions online and found something that might work.  I was now racing against the clock to be done by the time Judah woke and we had to head back into the car for pick up.  I mixed and pre-heated and dropped rounded spoonfuls.  When I came back to check my act of goodwill, the oven-light revealed yet another failing of the day.


There was no part of this day that I had any control over…ahhh…and I think I just stumbled on the clear message of the day.

Control.  I’ve got none of it.

So what do I do with my lack of control?  The lack of control over my temper that morning?  The lack of control over my children’s behavior? My lack of control over what other’s are thinking about me?  My lack of control to pay attention to the flashing school zone lights?  My lack of control when expressing my frustration and emotions over the phone?  My lack of control over the chemical properties of baking soda and the reaction it has (or doesn’t have) when combined with lemon juice?  Apparently, my instinct is to turn to shame and embarrassment, which all stems from pride.  I assume I have the ability to be in control.  Or maybe even, I assume that I have the right to be in control of these things.  If I didn’t assume that control was mine to be had, than why would I feel a sense of failure that I was unable to achieve it?

Nothing is mine to control.  Control is not mine to achieve.  So when the wheels are spinning off and heads seems to be devilishly rotating while spewing green words of hurt at me, I don’t have to turn to shame.  It’s life.  I can’t control any of this, especially the redeeming part.  I can’t muster up the best plan to redeem my day and somehow make it all better.    Jesus is doing something in these moments.  He’s still good and He is working all things out for my good and for the good of those around me.  So, when I am having to let another adult rip my child off my body, its a necessary step in the process to overcome their separation anxiety.  It’s good for them to not cling to me, and this season, while hard, is developing them into the young adults I long for them to be.  That police officer probably got kudos for the number of tickets he wrote that day, I don’t know.  But, somehow I have to believe that it was good for him, and probably good for me to become more aware of my oversight of school zones.  The cookies…well, Jesus did redeem the cookies.  My attempt to redeem the day resulted in imperfection, but He turned that into something worthwhile.  They were flat, but chewy and good.  My taste-tester, Judah, approved.  And when I handed each of my kids a baggie of sweetness as they entered the car at pick-up, they were all smiles.


Jesus redeems more than just my failures.  He redeems the little things in the little moments of my little day.  The only purpose in Him having my cookies turn out okay was to love me.  How often do we believe that He cares that much?  How often do we experience His goodness on a day that seems like a waste?

Life After Rehab was not guaranteed to be easy.  It was not promised to me that after rehabbing, we would receive an awarded ability to control.  No, if anything we were promised to face challenges and learning experiences that would leave our lack of self-control laid bare and our depravity raw.  I need Jesus.  Even when I make cookies.  I need Him and His presence to satisfy me and to assure me.  This is rehab 101: God is bigger than me and I am powerless on my own.  I thought I had learned that lesson last year, but it’s daily implications still impact me.

We have continued to struggle in the mornings.  I have continued to try and control.  Jesus is softening me, breaking me down so that my inability to control is fully revealed to me, and if needed for my sanctification, revealed to everyone around me.  (I really hope I don’t require that.)  Growth is labor-intensive.  Figuring out how to walk a rehabilitated life while thrown into the mix requires the same intensity and intentionality as figuring out how to do it in a season of removal and distance.  It requires a dependency on the Holy Spirit to listen and look at life in a different way.  We are learning.  If only I had spent the time processing this lesson earlier, I’d probably saved some shame, disappointment, and feelings of failure.  But there is grace in this too.

I am thankful of His reminders.  “You’re not in control.”  “It doesn’t matter what they say, I know your heart.”  “Stop trying to assume what others are thinking about you, and think on what I am teaching you.”  “Slow down.”  “Take deep breaths and rest in me.”  “Enjoy me and my presence, and have a cookie to tangibly taste how good my plan of redemption is.”  “Don’t forget to talk to me.”

You know, those cookies…those paper-thin cookies were my moment of communion with Him.  Through that sugary manna-like treat, He reminded me of His presence, His goodness, His redemption.  He gave me something physical to put in my mouth so I could remember the sweetness of His faithfulness.  I think I’m on to my next big idea…chocolate chip communion wafers. 🙂



My Words and My Rhythm

Well, today it’s back to the grind.  We just wrapped up a week and a half of vacation…glorious, glorious vacation.


There were numerous moments during this furlough that renewed my spirit and challenged my heart.  This was more than a break on the beach with a margarita in hand…although I’m not denying that happened.  This trip will forever stand out in my mind as very transformative.  And, so, in true “life after rehab” fashion, I feel as though I need to intentionally ponder and reflect on the meaningful moments, so that I can treasure them in my heart and share them with you.

However, as I open up the computer today after the long hiatus, I struggle to find my words and my rhythm.  I sat on the beach last week and actually read a book from cover to cover.  It was amazing.  Not only was having the freedom, time, and ability to read a whole book without interruption amazing, but the content of the book I chose has also left me somewhat speechless.  Ann Voskamp’s one thousand gifts has been so enlightening and transforming.  If you haven’t read it, please do.  It is worth every minute of your time.  The combination of her poetic prose and down-to-earth writing is a humbling joy to read.  There is no way I could ever write in such a masterful way.  It is truly amazing.  In her book, she writes of her own revelations on thankfulness and recognizing God’s gifts in the every day.  It has made me realize how much I neglect the sacrament of thanksgiving and how often the Bible speaks of its’ importance.  I feel as though there is a whole undiscovered path to joy whose trail head I have been aimlessly walking past.  I am anxious to unearth more of “eucharisteo”, as I have been inspired by Voskamp’s own hunt.

The “sleuthing” that she refers to–this treasure hunt for the things to be thankful for–urged me to seek God and His blessings during our vacation.  I found myself swooning over tiny sand-dwelling creatures and huge panoramic views of slate blue sky meeting shimmering crystal waves.  I stumbled upon restfulness, with my eyes closed and ears focused on the hush of the waves, the rhythm of their meter, rocking my soul to peacefulness.  I can’t really explain it, but as I sat still and took in some of the amazing sights and sounds around me, I felt as though I was being wooed my the Creator, reminded of His serenading love.  

images images

Voskamp is on to something here…and it’s more than “positive thinking.”  In counting my blessings, I am forced to not merely count, but to consider them, and the Giver who gives them to me.  I am forced to be still and know that He is God.  I see how big He is and how infinitely small I am.  That doesn’t really fit the criteria of American dream setting and the “do what makes you happy” kind of joy in which we are encouraged to partake. Being small–knowing my mortality–these are not “positive” thoughts.  All things will come to an end…including me.  Reminding myself that I don’t have control over anything in my life sounds like depressing pessimistic water-cooler talk.   But in actually seeing the God I believe in, feeling His endless pursuit of me in the form of beauty, and knowing that He is bigger and grander than me, I am fueled by a humble peace, a sure contentment, and a deeper, more satisfying joy than simply seeing the glass half-full.


This kind of detective work requires sitting at the private investigator desk searching through files of evidence.  It takes time and intentionality, which eerily sounds like the slow process of Family Rehab.  My journey to restore family and home isn’t done.  Jesus is restoring my heart–my joy.  Life After Rehab looks less like returning to normalcy with all the appropriate sobriety tools gained from being secluded in a rehab facility and more like continued study and rehabilitation with the distractions of everyday life now being added into the mix.  I still have so much to learn.  And as Voskamp also mentions, learning takes practice, practice, practice.

In addition to reading books, Paul and I had the opportunity to watch a documentary entitled,  Holy Ghost.  (You can watch the trailer here:  The whole movie was guided by the Holy Spirit.  “What the what!?!?!,” you say?  No plans were made, except ones that were the result of ‘inner voice’ urgings or visions.  As a “conservative” Lutheran, some of the conversations recorded in the street scenes, in which the Holy Spirit was called upon to send a physical sensation through a person’s body, were a little wild.  But, honestly, it was no more untamed than what we read about in the book of Acts.  The movie features such celebrities as Lennie Kravitz, Brian Welch, and Fieldy from Korn.  As I watched people step out in faith, taking risks, and even entering into places that are dangerous for Christians, I again was struck by how intentionality and stillness were key in seeing all that God had in store for them.  How can one discern the voice of the Holy Spirit if they are not still enough to focus their hearts and minds to intentionally hear Him?

I think about all the practicing I do.  I consider all the rehearsing that goes on in my mind.  I add up all the time spent mulling over the lies of the world that tell me I’m not enough or of any value without the perfect body, successful children, or tons of money.  I compute all the energy and time I’ve spent repeating the same failures or hurtful behaviors.  What am I learning?  What am I teaching myself?  How much of the life-giving lawn of truth am I repeatedly treading worn down paths of lies over its’ surface?  What opportunities have I lost in the meantime?  What holy risks have I avoided or squashed because I was busy in the practice of listening to another’s voice?  What routines, patterns, and new trails have disabled my senses from hearing God’s audible voice?  What amount of blind ignorance has limited my vision for His kingdom, His glory, and my ultimate joy?

Jesus says in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

“Life After Rehab” might as well be called “practice”.  I haven’t yet learned.  I need training.  I need the Holy Spirit to teach me.  Sometimes it will be hard.  Sometimes it will bear fruit that I could never have imagined.  My prayer is that I am teachable, moldable, and pliable.  My prayer is that my senses are so overwhelmed with the Spirit that I can’t help but walk in unabashed gratitude and risk.  Life is about to get busy and hectic with school and work.  I pray that I find the words of the Spirit in the midst of the mayhem (that they fill me with truth and with holy pomptings) and the rythym of His grace, blessing, and spontaneity in the mundane (that it moves me into new depths of sobering joy).

Something smells…

Sometimes I don’t know what God is doing.  I was talking with Paul the other night and recalled with him that I would have never imagined in a hundred years that I would ever find myself doing what I am doing.  Before we even got married I had told him that I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom.  Now, here I am, a mother of FOUR… and I am not only staying at home, but I am attempting to HOMESCHOOL?  What happened!?!?  I had rather lofty goals completely unrelated to my current calling.  Now I find myself walking around the house constantly saying, “Something smells…”

God has done a lot to get me here and has been transforming me in all kinds of ways over all those years.  I am thankful that He continues to work on me, creating this person who at times I don’t even recognize in the mirror… but I am kind of growing to like her. I thank God, too, that what God wants me to look like is different than His plans and desires for everyone else.  He loves us individually and doesn’t want a cookie-cutter people.  He is a God of variety and creativity.  I like that.

The other night I sat outside and waited for a thunderstorm to roll in.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve had the pleasure of sitting still and experiencing the sudden change in weather, yet each time I am always amazed.  Like so many times before, the air was thick and still.  The lightening could be seen across the horizon in the dark and rolling thunderclouds.  With each lightening strike the ominous clouds would glow for a split second, revealing their massive size.  The trees stood still in silence…waiting.  There was an anxiousness in the calm air as the birds seemed to frantically prepare for the rain.  I felt my own heart start to pound a little faster…something was about to happen and all creation seemed to know it.

FIrst I heard the faint rustling of leaves.  The birds started to scatter.  The cat backed up from the edge of the porch.  Then I felt the cool breeze across my face.  The tension of the air was suddenly released and all that pent up energy was dispersed through the street.  Then I saw it.  The clouds filled up the whole sky above me and what was once on the horizon was now towering over me.  The huge thunder heads were swirling while brewing up a firestorm of light within.  Then I could even smell the musk of dirt and rain being mixed together by the beginning drops and twisting wind.

I had the thought:  “Who the heck am I, compared to this storm?”  To think what power was contained in this storm above me-  all the molecules of water collecting up there, all the electricity generated in the atmosphere, to eventually rush down on me, or electrocute me!  To think how small I was, sitting there under the covering of my little porch compared to those huge powerful dark clouds.  To think what that storm looked like from outer-space… like a few fluffy clouds on the dimly lit back-side of the Earth.  Who am I?  More like…”Who do you think you are, Angie?”

I may be small, insignificant, and scared compared to the vastness of the storm, but when I think about who set that storm into motion, I know that my value is not limited to just that.  God, who set the Earth into motion long before I was even a mere thought, is an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god.  He has the power to strike me down with a lighting bolt on my front porch.  But He doesn’t.  He has deep storehouses of mercy and everlasting love… for little ‘ol me.

It is this same God who I trust with my porch safety, that I can trust with the hearts of my children, my finances, my marriage, my stress, my laundry even.  If He is that big, and I am that small, and He loves me…wow.  I have no reason to question His faithfulness and providence, or His plan.

As the thunder rolled, both Gideon and Helen crawled out of their beds at different times, finding me on the porch.  They both wanted the thunder to stop.  They both wanted me to pray for them, asking God to quiet the storm and cease the rain.  I could understand why.  The whole house shook in fear and with trembling.

But after I walked them back to their perspective rooms and began to tuck them in and pray over them, I thanked God for the rain.  I asked that it continue, not cease.  We desperately need rain, after all.  I prayed that the noise and the fear cease, that His protection and provision remain, and that our trust in Him grow.

It made me think about all the seasons of my life when I have prayed for the thunderstorm to cease, not taking into account the rain that was falling and quenching my thirsty heart and soul.  It made me think of all the times that I have let fear and the noise of this world mask the power and provision of the Lord.

As we learn our rhythms and flow of family rehab, I pray that I be reminded amidst the noise and anxiety-filled thick air, that God has something in store for us that we desperately need.  It will satisfy and quench like nothing else.  The anticipation of what is coming is almost unbearably thick.  What He has in store is roaring in the distance and gaining momentum.

I pray that I can sit still long enough to listen for the signs of it coming.  I pray that I can close my eyes long enough to feel the atmosphere around me change and feel God blow across my heart.  I pray that I can see it in the faces of my children and spouse, in big ways, and seemingly insignificant ways. I pray that I am so in tune with what God is doing that I can even smell it.