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Archive for October, 2011

Autumn is coming to an end. The leaves turn out their brilliance in a grand finale just before the wind gently loosens their tight grip and sends them twirling down to the sod below. They rest in piles where their burnished colors fade, covering the ground like a blanket as the first fingers of frost brush over.

So it is with the needs of our life. They collide, one on top of the other. We discover they are not always being imposed upon us by others. It is our own neediness that often confronts.

The need for peace. Answered prayer. Hope. Comfort. Joy. Patience. Endurance. Stability. Faith. Courage. Wisdom.

The need to be understood. The need to understand. The need to be heard. The need to hear. 

All of it comes by grace. Sometimes His grace falls like a single leaf winding its way down. Other times it comes through tears that give utterance to pain held in the deepest place. His grace is always perfectly proportioned to the moment’s need.  

Today we can meet the needs of our children only after our own empty, needy places are spilling over with His enabling grace. Come to Jesus and ask Him to be real to you today. Invite Him in to the needy places of your heart. He longs for us to come and find all our needs satisfied in Him.  

And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16.

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Long week

The week is over. Each day, I spent moments here and there fretting over not blogging on schedule again. Then the irony hit.

There is grace in not accomplishing all that is planned.

Extra appointments and a sick baby pushed many things far off schedule. I first wrote about Zoe here, and my fears that some of her behaviors indicated fetal alcohol syndrome. Her evaluation was Wednesday and the results were more favorable than I hoped! There is a scoring system based upon physical characteristics, mostly facial, that is used to determine a diagnosis. A score of 10-15 indicates partial fetal alcohol syndrome, and a score above 15 indicates fetal alcohol syndrome. Zoe scored a seven.  This indicates there was prenatal exposure but hopefully not significant enough to produce severe brain damage.

The doctor said to think of Zoe as a typical child! He recommended we enroll her in a preschool program to allow her exposure to other typical children. He cautioned that some of her behavior is from watching and mimicking Jonathan. Creating a place where Zoe can grow independently will be beneficial for her continued development. I am looking into a program at the same preschool where Lizzy and Jonathan attend.

Little ones are up and needing me. See you on Monday!

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There are times in marriage when every conversation is difficult, every interaction negative. The times that invite the question, what was I thinking? This person? Seriously? And here I am, feeling stuck. Disappointed. Uncertain. Lonely.

Now what? Can grace find a way to this place? I hope so.

In God’s provision, childcare was provided both afternoons this weekend. This allowed Jonny and I to leave the house together. Alone. Not feeling exactly happy with one another. But together.

Talking begins with effort. As we relax, walking outside, breathing in the crisp autumn air, some of the tension evaporates. Much is still unspoken. But it is a place to begin.

Beginnings are often hardest. Today, out again in the sunshine, the sky brilliant and blue, the words find a way to break into the open. They are met with a willingness to listen, to hear and to receive.

It takes grace to remain open when everything just wants to shut down. It takes grace to give an honest reply to the pointed questions when it would be easier to shrug them away. It takes grace not to resort to sarcasm.

Grace, when summoned, can push back the walls one builds around their heart. Grace can enable two people, empty and fragile, to find the strength to keep trying.    

Heaven and earth are not moved in the space of a few hours two weekend afternoons. But my hand slips into his and looks for grace to continue its work in us.

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~There is a difference between tears of hope and tears of hopelessness~ Erwin Lutzer.

Deep in every heart lies longings too numerous to express. The heart knows it was made for a world other than this one. The longings point to the reality that we are not at home here.

But, we are alive here, with all the struggles and challenges of this day. Keeping our eyes and heart turned to heaven does not lessen the pain we experience on earth. Most of us attempt to cover the disappointment and the hurt we encounter. The heart is not so easily fooled. It screams “Ouch!” more than we like to admit.

What enables us to face another day when nothing has changed from yesterday? The needs are the same. The disappointments are the same. The arduous things from yesterday are still arduous today. What keeps us moving forward?

Hope. The hope that God has a plan and is bringing that plan to perfect completion in our life. Not in spite of the longings, the let downs, or the hardships, but because of them. In the midst of them.

It takes grace to hope. To hold on to Him as if our life depended on it, because it actually does. He is our source of comfort and strength which propels us forward as we move through another day.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Romans 5:5

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Six years ago when we decided to pursue domestic adoption, a stack of paperwork came with our decision. One form asked which particular special needs, if any, we were open to. After much debate, we decided that we were not called to adopt a child with any special needs, except for one: a birthmark.

 That, we thought confidently, we could handle. At the time, we had no idea that some birthmarks are invisible, but still quite real. A brain damaged during pregnancy by alcohol or drugs bears the birthmark of a more tragic type.

 That is the type of each of our children. Discovering their birthmarks brings sadness. They are innocent, yet forever marked by the choices of another.

 The same way we all bear birthmarks of one kind or another. We make choices, wise and unwise and then must meet the consequences. Others make choices that sometimes affect us and still we must bear the consequences. The sin we all experience leaves various marks on our heart that only our Father can heal. Living with a heart openly expectant to His touch is a prerequisite for the healing to come.

 The healing is through grace. We are chosen in Him to belong. To matter. To be loved regardless of our birthmark. The invitation is to come just as we are… marred, wounded, weak. Promised is hope, strength and love unconditional.

 This is the kind of love I pray to offer my children. I pray for grace to extend lavish love and acceptance, which is the same kind my heart finds in Him.

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Writing about marriage feels like exfoliating my heart.

My dictionary defines the word exfoliate as “to separate into rudely concentric layers or sheets, as certain rocks during weathering.”

This resonates with me. In writing about marriage, I bring my own under scrutiny. I cannot write about marriage in general without being honest about my own. And honesty rubs the surface raw at times.

Jonny and I are going through our own season of weathering in our marriage. It is exhausting. Our children with unique needs have not caused our particular struggles. But they add to them. And dealing with the special needs and joint decisions about their care or discipline when we are edgy with each other sometimes feels just impossible.

I know God is with us in this hard place. I believe He called us into our marriage. But that does not make certain moments easier or more palatable.

Marriage provides many opportunities to extend and receive grace. In marriage, grace calls for courage to confront, wisdom to accept and humility to grieve. No one is the ideal marriage partner all the time. All are flawed by sin. Words and actions that a spouse never imagined are often times said and done anyway. On the wedding day, who can know what circumstances the couple will face in life, or how they will choose to respond?

So what happens when dark clouds of fatigue and despair cover the marital relationship? What can grace do then?

Grace inspires obedience, which in turn brings more grace. It is the grace that enables us to stay true to what we have promised, and keeps us through one more day.

It is grace to remember that we belong to a Father who daily bears us up (Psalm 68:19) and revives the heart that seeks after Him (Psalm 69:32).

I offer Ephesians 3:14-16 to any heart that is straining under a heavy load today. It is from The Message.

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in.

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Writing about grace is changing me. It is making a difference in how I see my circumstances. It does not make the circumstances themselves better. But it shapes my heart to allow the circumstances to fulfill their great work in my life. I am less anxious and my heart is more hopeful. There is true soul-rest in the promise that grace will rise up to meet me when I need it most.

Grace is the indwelling presence of the spirit of God who gives strength to endure all things at all times. Grace invites trust in a Father who does no wrong. It inspires hope that He has a plan and that my life is a particular part of His plan. Grace helps me recognize that I am preserved by my Father because I love Him (Psalm 145:20).

There is grace for when things do not go as planned. (I am posting this on Thursday, instead of Wednesday according to my desired blogging schedule). But what do I do with my feelings of frustration over the little interruptions that cause my best efforts to go awry? I get so easily annoyed at the constant whining and needs that shadow each child.

Grace does not diminish my humanity. It highlights how much my humanity depends on it. Because I am constantly being poured out, I need continual filling up.  

So I keep coming back to my Father for more. Thankfully, He is not like me and does not get annoyed the neediness of His child.

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