The winner is Brianna Fennell!! Email your mailing address (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Monday, and I will get your Bath Benefit Box
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”
~ Song of Songs 4:7
I feel like a woman who has been absent from a dear friend for far too long. Let me explain. Maybe in my tale you will find water to quench your soul…
God answers prayer! He opened a door for a job, and then shortly thereafter the opportunity to work a second job was available. These jobs put food on the table and gas in my car and allowed me the opportunity to pay the small fees that schools request to help them provide a more well-rounded education and life experience to our children. Both of these jobs were a blessing in more ways than the money they provided. God is indeed a good father!
Waking at 5:30 to start the day and arriving home sometime between 10:30 and 11 took a toll. There were a mere three and a half hours to be spent between the time I picked up the littles and had to head back out to work. I did vision therapy, homework, laid out clothes for the next day, cooked dinner, ate with the family and dashed out the door in that precious time.
Time with God became dry. I praised and worshiped out of what I knew, but the well of my heart-felt it was being taxed beyond what it could offer. Pouring out to others was like trying to drink from the rocks. You know, the ones you see when hiking that are wet, but there is no flow of water. He was there, but I had no overflow. I asked God about this.
What am I missing Father? Teach me.
He always teaches when we ask. I find when I finally quit straining for the answer and just tie myself to Him, trusting that in His time He will teach…He does.
A friend back home had started a company. For a small fee, you receive a box once a month with spa goodies in it. I had seen it, but I did not have the means for that luxury in my life, and my heart was tired of window-shopping.
She very graciously sent me a box of goodness. I am ashamed to tell you I wasn’t excited about plunging in. It felt like a tease of things I could not have. I indulged purely so that I could tell her I had enjoyed her gift.
I thrilled at all the pretty inside the box. It was colorful and bright and felt celebratory in some way. There were so many items in the box!
I decided such an extravagant gift deserved the attention that was put in to it, so I ran a bath. I lit the scented candle, dimmed the lights, dropped the lilac bath bomb into the water, and just watched as it fizzed and bubbled. I’m a little embarrassed by how much enjoyment I got from watching this bath bomb do its thing. There was sugar scrub, Green Clover Field scented bath soap, and I slathered on the Grapefruit and Orange scented lotion. It is ALL handmade!!!! It was like bathing in art!
My life was busy. I missed the beautiful house I left when we moved. I missed the land and walks with the kids to the creek near our house. I missed the quiet of the country and lying in the grass, looking up at the night sky that seemed to have a million more stars that shone extra bright. It had been long since beautiful music had filled my house simply for enjoyment. My life had become about survival and very mechanical out of necessity.
In the bath, taking deep breaths and trying to soak in all of the moment, God spoke to me in such a way that I get emotional thinking about it.
“I created you for beauty: to enjoy the beauty of my presence, to see the beauty in the earth I created, to enjoy the beauty of yourself and allow the beauty in you to be enjoyed. Your life has become like the cracked, hard soil of a famine stricken land. So parched it cannot readily take water in and the water that lies under the surface cannot bubble out. I am the creator of all things beautiful, it is time for that part of your soul to be nourished and to nourish again.”
It was like He breathed life into me again…He has had to so many times.
I am not what the world would call beautiful, but I can feel His beauty in me when I take time for His beauty in me to be nourished. I know He is thrilled by me and His delight washes over me like playful waves over a laughing child. It does you too, but when was the last time you took the time to feel it? I mean REALLY FEEL it…the way an art enthusiast stands long in front of a masterpiece, not just seeing it, but FEELING it?
Has your praise become dry? Your time in The Word a drudgery? Do you feel like the bucket from which your pour into others is being lowered into an empty cistern? Maybe it’s time to remember that you were created for beauty. Make time to feed your soul with the Father’s beauty.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11
Special Delivery from The Bath Benefit!
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In the first post of this series, we talked to Trevor Lawrence’s mother Amanda Lawrence. If you missed it, be sure to look back through my posts to catch it. Such great insight and wisdom.
Today is Hayden Betsil. I actually know Hayden. I had the pleasure of being his teacher. Because I worked with teens every day for several years, I love a TON of them. I mean seriously, LOVE. And I am proud of many of them. But there are a few that just really intrigued me…that made me go, “Whoa! I have GOT to find out what their parents are doing.” Hayden is one.
He is a unique kid. In a private school where everyone wore uniforms; boys had mandated above the ears, eyebrows, and collar haircuts, Hayden wore whatever uniform shirt he grabbed that morning (even if the shirt was a little tight because it was from 5 years ago) and his hair totally broke code…in all three areas.
He is the youngest guy I know that seemed to have figured out how to surf the waves of stress life sends our way…notice he neither drowned in them nor ignored them…he sucked out of every situation what he could benefit from it and let the rest go. It was like a human phenomenon.
At first glance, most assumed he was a rebel. Everyone that had as much as 30 minutes of interaction with Hayden fell in love with him. He is a respectful, intelligent, fun, and peaceful guy quick to offer a smile. He liked what he liked, regardless of how others felt about it. And his conversations about life, God, the Bible, literature, and history were insightful.
How do you do this? How do you raise a guy that chases God harder than most chase girls, is totally comfortable with who he is as well as who you decide you want to be, a young man that understands the seriousness of his education, but doesn’t let the seriousness suck all the fun out of life. A guy that rebels against the pressures and culturally imposed useless expectations that do nothing to make us better people…and does not become a rebel without a cause…
a gentle and wise rebel…
It is a beauty that steals your breath.
So, you know what I did, I e-mailed his mother. “Can we have lunch?” And lucky you!!! I’m sharing all of Chandra Sosebee’s awesome wisdom:
Me: I am doing a series on raising good, moral, godly young men. Can you give me a few suggestions?
Chandra: Hayden was always strong headed. So you had to curb that but not break his spirit. I always encouraged him to be an individual. Never follow the crowd. Do what you love, even if no one else is doing it. And BE POLITE.
Me: How do we teach our boys to love Jesus, make good choices, protect them from bad decisions that could ruin their lives, but give them room to actually mature in the process? And what about social media?
Chandra: I have been reading “Wild at Heart” and “Killing Lions”. He read both of those before going to Kenya. I think as a mother of a son, we need to know what a boy/man needs to succeed. They need adventure and to be dangerous (within reason). I have always encouraged that.
I took him fishing the first time, I taught him to pee in the woods, to go hiking, to ride a skateboard. Then he took all of those things and ran with them.
But they NEED that father influence in their life. And as a mom, you have to let go. Let them grow up and find themselves. And that is crazy hard.
Social media is hard. Everyone is on it. But, if your child is on a social media site, you better be on it too, STALKING THEM! And lots of prayer. I was also what I called an Apache helicopter mom. Not only did I hover, but I was ready to attack at any moment. Him or anyone else.
Me: I love “Wild at Heart”, and I completely agree with the importance of nurturing and making room for that “taking dominion” mandate (Genesis 1:28) from God that resonates so powerfully in boys…of all ages.
Apache helicopter parenting…tell me more about this. How did you manage that without producing a wimpy, run-to-momma-to-fix-it-all son? You would not believe the number of teens that have been emasculated by their mothers. It terrifies me, and so I tend to err on the other side. How do we know how to strike that balance?
Chandra: That’s hard. I think you have to be really real with them. If you break my rules, I’m busting you on it. However, I let him fully express his opinion and emotions. Now, if he reacted in a bad way, I had to bust him on that. If he got in trouble and was ticked about it, I let him be ticked. You want to stay in your room for two hours and not talk to me? Ok.
I know parents that didn’t do that. Their kids weren’t allowed to be mad, sad…whatever. But that invalidates their feelings.
It’s also important that they know you have their back. If Hayden had an issue, he could talk to me.
Never be a hypocrite to your kid. They see through it. If you have failings and shortcomings, admit to it. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay.
I came full force. But I loved full force too. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to apologize trying to get him ready for church on Sundays. Sometimes you have to apologize to your kids. We mess up.
I was really bad in high school and college. I lied to my parents all the time. I let him know that I had already been there and done that, so don’t even try it. I will bust you.
A cell phone becomes necessary as they get older. They have apps to track it. Do so. Be all up in their grill. But let them do crazy stuff too. Air soft guns, skateboarding, mountain biking, road cycling…teach them how, then let them go.
Chandra is such a cool person. When you meet her, Hayden’s awesomeness totally makes sense. Should you ever run into her, be selfish and strike up a conversation. Her wisdom is so genuine.
- Encourage and give room for adventure and danger (within reason)
- Give room for the father figure to do His thing…(even if that means you need to turn your head mom.)
- Stalk them on social media!
- Helicopter Apache!!!! (this is my new favorite term…and I feel the need to add here: Helicopters watch from a distance but are close enough to swoop in…it is not the same as becoming your child’s Siamese Twin or keeping them under your skirt.)
- Set the rules. BUST them if broken
- Give them room to feel (but not disrespect)
- Have their back.
- NEVER be a hypocrite.
- Be all up in their grill, but allow room to grow.
- Read “Killing Lions” & “Wild at Heart” (and anything by John or Stasi Eldredge for that matter)
I feel the picture at the beginning (which only shows up properly on your desktop) and this one beautifully capture two verses of the Bible that we must remember as we grow our boys to be men. Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them and said to them…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” & mindful that our boys are to grow in the image of God, Exodus 15:3 “the Lord is a warrior…”
If at the age of accountability (for a reference, in Jewish culture that is 13), our sons are still burying their heads into our skirts and are afraid to look into the horizon, we have failed them. God is a victorious warrior, full of compassion; and when we look at our sons, we should see Him.
I had the flattering opportunity to be able to write a guest post for Counseling by Kimberly. Kimberly Duff is a licensed counselor based in Cartersville, GA. She asked me to write on how my faith helps me through the tough stuff in life. Click HERE to read my answers, and take a moment to browse around her page!
In all of the chaos of Charlottesville and the chaos of emotions and wounds ravaging our nation…my heart bleeds and goes back again to this:
I would research races united.
It seems very obvious to me that we are all one race. Packaging may vary (coloring, padding , height, etc) but things on the inside and what the inside puts out are the same.
Biblically, we all have the same origin (Adam & Eve) and then a second same origin in Noah. Adam and Eve and apparently Noah carried genes that covered a rainbow of color (there is science to support this…no room for that here) A very small scale example of such a theory would be this: So I have 4 children that vary in coloring, my granddaddy has 12 great-grands that REALLY vary in coloring and none of us married outside of our “race” (in the non-scientific/cultural sense of the word).
Now, we know that in the beginning everything was perfect. There was no disease or degeneration. No illness or disorders. Over time…
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Google “nation’s number 1 high school quarterback” and of the 10 articles on the first page, Trevor Lawrence is mentioned in 8 and is listed as the “nation’s #1 quarterback” in 7. USA Today HS Sports noted that, “Lawrence threw for 3,904 yards and 51 touchdowns last season, leading Cartersville to a 15-0 record and a GHSA Class 4A state championship.” And Nick Saban’s helicopter landing on the football field of Cartersville High School seals his hometown hero status for sure! (I feel the need to add a Roll Tide right here.) His impressive athletic prowess is evident, so I’ll stop there.
And as impressive as his stats are, they aren’t why you’re reading about him right now.
While I do not know Trevor Lawrence, I know several of his high school peers, teachers, teammates, & friends; I have not heard the first negative word about Trevor. Not a word of jealousy or slight, nothing. They all, everyone of them, talk about what a great guy he is, what an inspiration and an example, how good he makes people feel, & how well he handles all of the “fame”. Here’s a sample of what I’ve been hearing:
“His focus isn’t just football, it carries into the classroom.” – Tristan Carlton (team mate)
“He really knows how to humble himself, he’s earned the right to act however he wants really, but he doesn’t. He is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.” –Carson Murray (team mate)
“Trevor has a drive to grow into not only the best football player he can be, but the best person he can be.” – Parker Helms (Cartersville High School student)
“Trevor is a genuinely kind young man. He is never too busy to talk to or take pictures with students and teachers alike. He wants to be the normal teenager, and because of that, he tries to deflect the attention. He is even reluctant to stand on stage by himself to receive a personal award. Most teenage boys that get that type of notoriety let it go to their head…not Trevor. He is extremely competitive, but even though he is immensely talented, he really understands that football is a team sport.” – Chad Murray (soccer coach and teacher at Cartersville High School)
This humility & kindness that is mentioned every time I hear his name is what led me to try to learn more about THE Trevor Lawrence. Thanks to a very kind friend, and because Mrs. Lawrence is a jewel herself, I was able to glean some of what makes Trevor such an incredible young man.
Q: Many of my readers may not be incredibly familiar with the magnitude of Trevor’s achievements. Could you briefly share a little of that and some of the awards and titles he has received?
Mrs. Lawrence: I’m going to go to his room, because I don’t really remember.
Gatorade Player of the Year
High 5 Sports
Elite Stone Player of the Year
MVP All region 3 times
MVP All State 3 times
His team has won 2 State Championships
Nike Elite 11
All State Quarterback Award
2015 Offensive Player of the Year
2016 Player of the Year
Regional Player of the year (all three years in high school)
Sports Zone Play
2016 High School Football Athlete of the Year
#1 Quarterback in the nation in most ranking sites, ESPN has him at #3.
Q: Tell me a little about what this journey with Trevor has been like and what is going on in the Lawrence world right now.
Mrs. Lawrence: It’s been crazy, especially the past year or so. Football is continuous it seems like. There are a lot of events and camps and invitations and things like that. With Trevor’s notoriety it can get kind of hectic. If he is out, people come up to him, even in other states. And people have tweeted about “sightings”.
Q: When did you recognize, “hey, this kid is more than good. He’s really got something going on.”?
Mrs. Lawrence: I don’t think we ever really did. We always knew he was very athleticly gifted. God really gifted him in that way. When he was probably 9 or 10 we noticed he was above his peer level at that time. But always as a parent you question your bias.
Q: …what I am most intrigued by is WHO Trevor Lawrence is…most of the dialogue I am hearing is not about football. That is impressive, especially coming from his peers. Young men like the one I keep hearing about are rare, and on top of that you have the added challenge of immense small town fame with state and national recognition. As a mom of 2 young boys, I am interested in knowing how you raised such a clean nosed, kind, humble, and others minded young man.
Mrs. Lawrence: Part of it is simply his personality. We have really prayed and tried our best to stress the importance of God being #1 in his life. It’s difficult because we mess up sometimes, but we try to teach him integrity. What is modeled by you? Are you honest? Do you try to do the best by other people?
We try our best to teach him the Bible is your guide and there WILL be hard times. Just as sure as you’re on top you can be on bottom.
Football won’t last forever; and when that’s gone, who are you? Don’t let it become your identity.
He knows that life is full of ups and downs and learning. They’re going to make mistakes. [We try to teach] the difference in life changing mistakes (DUI’s for example) vs. learning mistakes.
We do stress that his talent is unusual. God gave it. Use it for good.
Q: Young men, some of which have already signed scholarships with D1 schools, making poor decisions in the face of such attention is a common headline. How have you guys guided him through the pitfalls that can come with all of the attention he is receiving?
Mrs. Lawrence: Even if people aren’t watching, I don’t want him to make that type of mistake. As parents, we work to know who his friends are, where he is, holding him accountable. We use headlines as lessons. It’s important that they understand that what you are doing may be innocent, but wrong people/wrong place can land you in a situation you can’t get out of.
Social media…always monitor social media…we try to help him understand the magnitude of what we say and the MANY ways it can be taken.
We try not to put information about him in front of him. It is distracting. My husband monitors it for us, because it can get hard for me too. (laughs) It is amazing at how petty it gets.
Q: To moms of young boys, what advice can you give?
Mrs. Lawrence: It is SO difficult. There is so much evil and bad stuff in the world. It is hard to shelter them from everything. Pray. A lot of prayer. And seek a lot of guidance from God. Teach them scripture. [It can be their compass and guide them when we cannot.] Find godly men to speak into their lives and be examples for them.
Trevor Lawrence is an incredible athlete, and while that makes him super cool to my boys, his character is what I pray they emulate. I cannot wait to watch him sling a ball against my Bama boys in a Clemson vs. UA re-match (I will get a ticket to that), but I would be honored to pass up the ticket for the opportunity to know this unicorn-rare young man.
It’s always exciting when a star rises from your little corner of the globe, but how peculiar it is when it shines on all of those around it.
You are peculiar; that you should proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.. 1 Peter 2:9
Sorry for the absence…your regular programming will resume shortly…as in when school starts back. It has been a crazy, hectic, and fun summer with all the kiddos at home. I love having them here.
In the mean time, I am sharing this. I had the incredible opportunity to guest blog on Mary Anne Spradley’s blog. Take the time to brows her other posts. She has a great thing going!
Hey friends, I have begun to settle back in now that the craziness of July is over! 3 conferences at the end of July has left me in a conference coma. Until the dust settles from being away from home 10 days, I wanted to share this post from Kimberleigh Daniels on a familiar verse: Ephesians 3:20. You can check more of her posts out at https://rootedgypsysite.wordpress.com/. Enjoy!
– Mary Anne
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
I once understood this verse to mean that God could double all of the good that I was asking for. In my very Western world view, “every good gift and every perfect gift…” and Ephesians 3:20 were very related and very…good. Good to me meant absence of want, absence of pain, absence of…
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Welcome…to the dark side…
I really don’t have any dark sides that I am aware of…as in things I hide away from others. I do have areas of my life that are less like the noon day all aglow by the blazing light of the sun and more like the very early morning. That part of the day that is still in the birthing stage. The part that most miss the magic of, because they are too tired to get up for it or too busy to be still and look at it. It is the part of the day that is cloaked in reverence…and wonder…and possibility.
This garden of my life does not get many visitors. I don’t hide it, but there have been but few to take the time to see and understand and appreciate this space. (Please note, appreciate does not equal agree. Agreement is not requirement for friendship.)
In this garden of my life is the story of sweet Bethany.
I have always wanted 3 children. More specifically, 2 boys and a girl in that order. August 13, 2004, Joe got me off to a good start. And bam! March 9, 2007, the arrival of Gabe and BrookelynClaire (in that order) completed that life goal.
I don’t remember exactly how old the twins were, but I remember everything else about the day I was folding teeny tiny preemie clothes (they wore that size for quite a while) when something so surprising and powerful happened that it was like some invisible thing gob smacked me and possessed my body! An overwhelming desire for another baby.
It was such a strong sensation that it actually startled me. I jumped up real quick and ran inside and stood by the couch. After calming myself, I chalked it up to an ailment I had never before heard of, but suddenly, without a doubt, knew existed: post-partum euphoria. I would see about getting pills for that.
Weeks and months passed, but the feeling did not abate. Long story short, Garrin quickly identified this as crazy talk not to be entertained. In a culture where surpassing the average 2.5 children per household had already won me a few less than favorable comments, I didn’t have any one to talk to about it….except Jesus.
So that’s what I did. And after a crazy IUD experience, I told God that I wanted to know what He had to say on the matter. I threw out all of my opinions and things I had been taught, and I spent a lot of time praying and studying what He had to say about it.
(DISCLAIMER: These are my beliefs based on my study, not beliefs I try to convince others of or judge them for or entice them to adhere to)
Conclusion: I have learned that I cannot in my own timing at my own whim create a life He did not ordain, but I can stop them. The latter I have regretted, and the former I have every time been blessed by.
My husband did not share this belief, and I respected that. In fact, Holy Spirit had instructed me to not bring the subject up to him at all. But I brought it up to Jesus…a lot.
In May of 2009 in Florida, Garrin asked me if I had been “praying about that baby thing.” When I answered in the affirmative he said, “Stop. If you nag, I can tune you out. But when the Holy Spirit nags, I can’t get away from it.” We had a laugh about it, and nothing else was said.
Later that summer, I felt impressed to bring up this matter again. I was scared. I didn’t want to bring it up. I knew how Garrin felt, and the last time I had brought it up had not gone well AT ALL.
I felt the nudge again, and more than I was afraid of confrontation, I was terrified of missing out on what God had for us. So I went to the altar to pray for courage. As I prayed, a sweet lady prayed over me and shared scripture the Lord had impressed on her heart. They were all scriptures about being a mother and the scriptures God had been pointing out to me. Poor woman, I think I just wept and stared.
Lying in bed that night, I very timidly said (as in it took forever for me to even get it out), “Garrin, I think God would have us trust Him for the size of our family.” And very quickly he said, “I know. But I am not talking about this tonight, so go to sleep.” It was all I could do to not jump out of bed! What had he just said?!! I didn’t talk about it…to him. But Jesus and I were up way into the night marveling at how He works.
It took longer than our experience had taught us it should take for me to get pregnant. but the week after Garrin said, “I quit. Riding this emotional roller coaster is ridiculous when we already have three perfect kids,” we found out we were expecting.
We wanted a name that meant, “God is gracious,” because that is exactly what we were experiencing after our very slow obedience…munificent graciousness. It took quite a lot of looking, but we found Gianna, and it was perfect.
Two weeks before she was to be born, we were still unsettled on a name. At the end of a church service, when the building was already emptying, and Garrin had gone out with the children to pull up the car; I found myself walking toward Cindy Jacobs at the alter. She had been our guest speaker that night. A name I had never heard prior to her introduction. These were my EXACT words:
“We are having a baby in a few days. Will you pray that we have peace about the name?”
I expected a sweet little obligatory prayer for peace…and honestly, I don’t remember really anticipating any change. But this is what I got:
“The LORD says this child’s name is to be Bethany…”
followed by a long bit of prophecy over the life of the child I carried. My head shot up…I wanted to say, “but I don’t really like that name. It just really isn’t my style.” I wanted to say, “Could you try again…and who told you I was having a girl?!”
I could feel His presence. At the end she said, “The name its self isn’t what is important. It is the meaning of the name that matters.” I left in awe…and wondering how to explain this to my husband…and thinking, “Loophole!! I’ll just find something I like better with the same meaning. There are always dozens of names with the same meaning.”
I looked up the meaning of the name right away: “house of figs” or “house of poverty”…so far I was only feeling confused. Its third meaning is “house of answers”. She was certainly an answer to a very long, continuous prayer…but I didn’t really feel like that was it. And I was frustrated, nothing else meant house of figs or house of answers. Ugh…
Out of curiosity, and what I can now only assume was the Holy Spirit, I dug deeper. I looked into the etymology and break down of the name in the original Hebrew. And I experience a thud of awe strike my heart even now when I think about it…it was what had been prophesied over this babe growing in my belly.
After much prayer, we decided it was indeed God that changed her name that night. With less than two weeks before her arrival, her moniker was changed and people informed. She would be
Bethany Gianna ~ House of answers; where the wounded, afflicted, and the poor find solace; where Jesus went to find respite and companionship; a place where peace is found; a house near to where sins were atoned for in the Old Testament and where He stands upon His triumphant return in the New Testament…it means to answer or respond or testify; timely or ready
Bethany Gianna is my tangible reminder everyday that God answers prayer. He is faithful. His timing is perfect. Just because some good thing is in His plan for your life doesn’t mean you wont have to go through some hard, some disappointment, some feeling like the promise may never come before it manifests. Conversely, just because you cant see so much as a glimmer of the promise in the far off distance of this treacherous night you are now walking doesn’t mean He doesn’t have the answer ready for you to be given at the designated time.
You remind me to go to peace when I am storm tossed. Your name reminds me that Jesus does not abandon those in the house of affliction. He communes with them. In the house of the humble lived some of Christ’s dearest friends: many miracles occurred there. Stay humble.
God’s graciousness toward us runs through my house every day with giggles and long hair. And though 7 perfect years have passed since His graciousness wrapped in flesh came to our home, you remind me to look for it when I feel there is no reason to hope for it any more.
I hope big for you my girl.
Stay strong. Just as you are slow to conform to my view of how your room should be organized, stand strong against the pressures of this world to conform.
Continue to overflow with joy in such a way that little drops of it spill all around you as you bounce through your day.
Continue to enjoy every season of your life, savoring every morsel.
And my pledge to you stands: I will not exhaust myself and steal your beauty by trying to mold you into who I was or what I have envisioned you to be. In truth, I have no presupposed visions of your future…I have been amazed at the many miracles that brought you into our lives and the many miracles that have occurred around your little life. I know without the slightest doubt that you are God’s plan, and what He has in store will leave me in humble awe of Him in you.
I developed a habit when you were but a wee thing of calling you “My Beth.” I am frequently reminded of the night as I rocked you to sleep in the quiet of your nursery how Father scolded me, “She is not yours. She is mine. Do not forget that and begin trying to shape my child into your image.” It stung and it calmed me all at once. I did want to keep you, just as you were, all for myself; but what a relief it was to know someone so much more powerful, someone all good was who you belonged to.
Sweet girl, I wish I could promise you a life full of sunshine and all good things, but that would be a lie. I do not know what joys or sorrows the annals of your life will hold. But I do know that in it there will be blinding rays of His glory. Do not be fooled to think my darling that a life lived in Him is a life without pain or that a life He has called is lived out on a stage. These beliefs leave all those who hold them disillusioned, questioning their faith, and questioning God and His goodness.
Know that regardless of what your circumstances may hold, a life lived in God has joy in the darkest nights, hope when all seems lost, peace in the most ravaging hells, and comfort in the lonely places. It is a life that, in the face of loneliness has deep companionship. It is a life that exudes the beauty of one favored by a King in a world of sin’s ugly.
Lastly dear Bethany, do not ever lose sight of where your home lies and where your awards are stored. Do not ever fight for today or expect to fully grasp the beauty of a life while here. Our home is heaven. Store your treasures there. Fight for eternity. And know the answers to all you do not understand here, is with your Father there.
All my love to my most gracious answer on the anniversary of your birth.
We had an incredible week at the beach! Two whole weeks in the keys! It was gloriously uneventful. And Internet access was mind numbingly slow…an unplanned, complete unplug. We walked across the street to the beach every day. My sister and I chit-chatted to the sound of the susurrus as the children played in the ocean, ventured into the ocean ourselves a few times, went back to the house for dinner, and returned to the beach in time to watch the sunset…everyday for two weeks. Ahhh.
For the first week and a half, the waves were very small: perfect since half of the kiddos are under the age of 10. And the shallows go on for days at the beach we were at. I have never been to a beach where kids looked dangerously far out and could still touch. On more than one occasion, one of us would jump up in a panic hollering to a little to come in closer as we waved them in with large, dramatic arm motions. They would give us a puzzled look, stand up, and begin walking in. The water was only at their knees. Sheepishly, we holler, “You’re fine!” and wave with our arms for them to go back out. Poor kids. Lucky for us the beach was only sparsely occupied.
A week and a half in, we begin our daily routine. We grab our gear, load children up with their gear, and begin our lazy stroll across the street to the beach. The kids aren’t running anymore, there is no skipping or elated shouting about beach plans volleying from one to the other. They look for lizards as we walked along silently and slowly. Relaxation and a healthy boredom has set in.
As we approached the dunes, I notice\ a difference. There is a dim, rolling roar. The sky is bright…not thunder. I pick up my pace…sounds like the waves are up…ugh, the kids probably won’t enjoy this…keep walking. None of them have noticed anything yet. As I crest the rocks lining the dunes, I see the swells. My eldest son had gone out with my sister. When my eyes find him, he is standing, looking right at a wave quickly approaching him.
“That wave is a good two and a half feet taller than him.” my husband says as the wave absorbs my son into itself, continues its course, crashes into a small mountain chain of foam, and spits him out rolling and laughing.
I prepare myself for a short stay. There is no way the littles are going to like this.
My ten-year-old son runs out to join his brother. The others line up watching. BrookelynClaire runs to join her twin…never wanting to be left out. The seven year old quickly joins them with giggles, the five year old with a tiny body joins, and finally, though hesitantly, the six year old wades in.
With eyes sharp as hawks we watch them, counting every time they go under (boys do not appreciate a mom that dons her Wonder Woman cape too soon), and we watch their expressions.
It is rough. They are tossed like rag dolls. They ride boogie boards high atop cresting waves. When trying to walk they are knocked down over and over. But all I see are giggles and beaming faces…
The waves are rough, but the joy is high…
a picture of what my life in Christ should be…I am sure of it.
Sometimes tough seasons last longer than I feel they should. At times I have mounted a boogie board and made the best of the ride…on top of the wave. At other times I’ve resembled a rag doll tossed from one spot to the next just holding my breath for survival.
I watch my eldest son, as he tries to make his way across the ocean to the others, he does not fight the wave. When he sees the waves that loom high above his head approaching, he stands. Not run. Not swim. Not jump. Just stands and gives himself to the wave. It would absorb his body and he would disappear in a wall of green, (it gives me a strange feeling to watch) but when he comes up, he is further along in the direction he was heading.
I don’t know if he swam inside that wave or just let it take him, but he saved so much energy.
How many times does God allow tough things to come my way with the intention of it moving me further along? How many times does He offer joy in the tough seasons? Joy that can only be found in Him when the waves are high. And how often do I miss the joy fighting the wave? Fighting for my plan or what I think is right.
We stayed out much longer than I anticipated that day. They laughed hard that day. The lazy saunter to the beach turned into running and skipping and rolling in the waves. And as I watched them I wondered, on the way back to the house I wondered, and sitting here in my office I still wonder…
Might our greatest moments of joy be found when the waves are high? Might some of life’s greatest obstacles be meant to move us along if we will only give ourselves to them? There is a time to fight…might there also be a time to trust that this too is for my good, because He is good…and in trusting Him surrender the fight and rest in Him in the wave.
And I am certain that we can only laugh when we know that He too is watching. He is counting. He will never let a wave destroy us; but remake us and move us further along.
And so today I resolve…that when the waves are rough, because of Him, my joy will be high.
We were out admiring the first small evidences of fruit from the many plants planted. It is a farmer’s joy to call out the wife to admire that which he has carefully coaxed into producing small life with his rugged hands. This year my farmer has been relegated to a sparse little garden in the backyard of our city dwelling. But he still loves and caresses and nurtures and protects and intimately watches his little plant babies.
And he calls me, calls me out from the domestic demands within the four walls we call home. He calls me to share in the complex miracle of life that happens in the plainness of the rough sawn garden boxes he fashioned with his hands. In this garden, I enjoy the awe without the work…there is no need for more than one pair of life fashioning hands in this year’s garden.
I scan the garden and stop. The hand checking the progress of life blossoming is dirty. There are scratches and callouses from where he has planned, created a place for, and made an environment suitable for his little plant babies to grow. How many times have his hands been sullied in hopes for a harvest? No evidence that there would be one other than memories of the multitude of times green vines, plants, and bushes have responded to him with life-giving nourishment.
And I think of my own hopes. My own wavering dreams. How long am I willing to wear sullied hands? How long will I sweat? How long will I work my mind, heart, and body hard in hopes for the harvest?
Too often I build a box, fill with dirt, throw in seed, and march triumphantly off to bed only to be devastatingly crestfallen in the morning when the fruit of my labor is not fully formed and evident. I cry, get angry, decry my inability to accomplish anything and complete lack of worth to all of the birds and squirrels that will listen, and sulk away. Dreams and hopes abandoned, left to die for lack of nourishment, lack of commitment, lack of faith in the work I was doing and the process of growth and time.
…the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil,
being patient about it… ~James 5:7
Don’t give up yet. Don’t abandon your garden yet. We cannot always know how far off the bearing of fruit may be, but we can rest assured that through continued labor there will be a harvest.
May you again today dirty your hands in pursuit of your dreams, your children, your marriage, your purpose. May you find joy in the process ever hopeful of the promised fruit.