Cruise Control

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“What on earth are you doing?” my dad asked from the passenger seat. “Did you have your cruise control set just now?”

I sheepishly shrugged and admitted that I had. The clicking sound the brake pedal made when you pushed it to disengage the cruise control had given me away. Sneaky little tattletale!

“I like to set it so that I don’t have to think about my speed.” I explained. I was a college student and able to present a reasonable persuasive argument while home on break with my family.

My dad shook his head. “Cruise control is for long trips or stretches of highway where you will be keeping the same speed for awhile, not for use between two traffic lights a few hundred yards apart!”

Now it was my turn to shake my head. I wasn’t necessarily disagreeing with him, I was just expressing myself through nonverbal communication because I had nothing to actually say in my defense.

I admit, using the cruise control for less than 10 seconds was pretty ridiculous.

Now as a college graduate, wife, and mother of three, I seem to have the opposite problem. I don’t like giving up control of my speed. And I’m not referring to my minivan driving habits.

I’m talking about the speed of my life.

I get going pretty quickly now-a-days. Our schedule is full and we fly down monthly stretches of highways. Sometimes I lose track of how fast we’re moving until we pay for it later in exhaustion, tension, and grumpy children.

Perhaps a little cruise control would be healthy for us all?

If only I’d give up control of the accelerator more often. If only I’d learn to set the cruise control between birthday parties, school events, service projects, basketball practices, and church gatherings. If only I’d do better at keeping our family at a healthy speed between the stops instead of flying through life without much intentionality or careful assessments.

Checking our speed is important. It keeps us safe and gets us there in one piece. Let alone in peace itself.

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that cruise control helps you set limits on your speed.

It may be overkill to set it between two close-together traffic lights, but being careful to control the pace of your life, especially with young ones in tow, isn’t a bad idea after all.

If only I’d thought of that comeback while in the drivers seat years ago!


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes about a topic based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: CONTROL

On Dreaming Small.

Three years ago I wrote the blog post below entitled, “I’m Going to Dream Small This Year.” Today I reread it and decided to post it again. This is a major spoiler alert (it’s my blog, so I can spoil it if I want)  but it’s about faithfully doing the little things in life. About dreaming small.

Little mundane tasks.

Bit-sized goals.

Gettin’ it done.

Today is New Year’s Eve, and as I scroll through my social media pages I see many references to big dreams and lofty goals. Our small group is coming over this evening, and on our agenda (along with lots of eating) is to review what our goals were last year and what our new goals are for 2017.

There’s a new year on the cusp. A blank calendar. A crisp page ready for life to splash across it.

The new year causes us to look ahead. To dream. To make goals.

And once again, I want to dream small.

I feel kind of strange saying that because tonight, when I share my goal for the year with my friends, I’m going to tell them it is to publish a book (again with the spoiler!) Publishing a book seems like a big goal. And believe me, I’m nervous, and giddy, and it feels rather daunting. It’s a big deal (more details to come later. I can’t spoil everything in one blog post.)

But, the process of writing the book has been a three-year journey. There have been countless little tasks, bit-sized goals, and mundane days of writing. I didn’t know while I was faithfully sitting down and doing the hard work in the little things, that it would some day pay off in a bigger thing. But, sometimes it does.

And, sometimes it doesn’t.

I don’t do the little things in hopes that they will lead to a big thing. I just do the little things because that’s what I know how to do. To finish the task in front of me to the best of my ability. To do that mundane thing again. And again. And to do it well.

Because big dreams are actually made up of a heaping pile of small dreams.

It’s time to get to work.

Here’s to dreaming small in 2017!

 

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I’m a day late and at least a dollar short.

It’s January 2nd and I haven’t made any official resolutions or goals yet for 2014. I’m still in “Christmas Break Mode” and I consider the fact that I did laundry today a pretty big accomplishment. Well, I haven’t folded it yet, but I did move it from the washer to the dryer. Yep, time for a break.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling a little anxious about not having any huge goals or big dreams for this new year. The world seems to be telling me that I need to dream big, shoot for the stars, be a pioneer in my day, blaze the trails and do it all with gusto. Even my spam emails are asking me if I want to eat healthier, lose weight, travel more and save money. I feel like I’m supposed to accomplish something epic before the ball drops again (the ball in Times Square, not me ‘dropping the ball’ …although that’s possible too).

But do my hopes and dreams for 2014 have to be so grandiose? If everything has to be so epic these days then nothing really is epic at all. I think I sometimes get caught up in  thinking that if I’m not doing something that’s perceived as magnificent or worthy of sharing on Facebook then I’m not succeeding. But, I don’t think that’s true.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating being lazy and complacent this year. I’m simply feeling stirred to do the small things well.

And as I’m doing the small things with excellence I may actually do something seen as big and honorable that others would admire, but I may not. I could make a mark on society, but I probably won’t even make much of an impact on my neighborhood. And I think that’s ok.

I’ve been studying the book of Matthew this year in a Bible study. We’ve been reading a lot of Jesus’ teachings and I’ve noticed that He likes to bring up a particular verse. It’s from the Old Testament and was written hundreds of years before He even walked on the earth, but I’ve found it’s still applicable to me today. Hey, if it was important to Jesus, it must be good.

Hosea 6:6 says,

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

This convicts me. Jesus repeatedly tells the Pharisees and His disciples that he wants their obedience, not their fancy words or displays of upholding the law. Jesus doesn’t seem as interested in a vision, big dreams or having a list of accomplishments, as he does our hearts.

So, with that in mind I’m going to try to dream small this year. I’m not going to aim to do anything epic or monumental and if I do, then may it just be a consequence of a heart that loves God and loves people.

I want to do things that society would view as small, but that God views as big.

Things like being kind to someone when I don’t feel like it or being joyful in the midst of a hectic schedule on a gloomy day.

Things like being patient when my child has asks me for the fourth time, “What comes after 39?”

Things like noticing that the lady behind me in line at the grocery store has a fussy baby and tired eyes and then asking her if she’d like to go ahead of me in line because I can stand to wait a bit longer.

Like listening at the school committee meeting with an open mind and willing hands so that I can help make a difference in my community by simply serving where I’m needed.

Like taking the time and energy to train and teach my children to be independent instead of frustratedly doing things for them all of the time.

Like extending grace to my husband when I feel frustrated that he forgot to take out the trash and instead thanking him that evening for all that he does for our family every single day.

Yes, things like that.

They are small dreams.

Basically I’m just hoping to love God and people better… and love myself less.

I’m pretty sure my goals for 2014 are about as opposite of epic as you can get. And I’m glad about that.

I’ve got small dreams for 2014 and I am ready to get started.

And I guess I’ll have to fold that laundry in the dryer sometime this year too.

My Top 5 Blog Posts from 2016

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I’ve spent a little time with Numbers today. We are not close, but we are on friendly terms. We just don’t click the way that Words and I do. But, Numbers proved to be loyal and hardworking once again. He also brought his buddy Statistics to the meeting. He was a little boring for my taste, but I’m told he doesn’t lie.

Our collaboration and research brought forth the stats for 2016. With the data we discovered my top five blog posts for the year.

Drumroll, please (don’t).

From the fifth most-read post, to the one with the most readers:

5. 5 Outsider Observations about the 2016 ACFW Conference 

A recap about a writing conference that I attended in Nashville, Tennessee. I called myself an outsider because it was a fiction writers conference and I write non-fiction (gasp!)

4. Temporarily Derailed. 

The story about a sight that stopped me dead in my tracks.

This post was part of the Five Minute Friday community where a group bloggers write about a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. I enjoy this challenge and participated 14 times in 2016. Thanks for hosting, Kate Motaung!

3. Island Issues. 

Apparently, a few of you can relate to the humiliation of public uncoordination.

(This was also a Five Minute Friday post)

2. Our Reality (TV). 

Our brief stint on television. I cried in front of a bunch of people.

And the top post for 2016 was…

1. Our Marriage Needs A Prefix.  

Chalk one up for love!

 

Thank you for taking time to stop over to christycabe.com this year. Your friendship and comments mean the world to me!

I like you a lot more than Numbers. But let’s keep that between us.

 

See Now.

dsc_0451Why do I have to use the scissors to cut the tape off this dispenser? It’s designed to tear off easily on these little pointy things. Annoying.

Should I wrap these gifts in one box or separate them so he has two presents to open?

Where did I put the scissors? How do I always manage to lose them?

“Mom!” my son yelled. His eyebrows raised and his tone firm.

“What?” I said shaken from my mental dialogue.

“I asked you three times what to put on this cut.”

“What cut?” I asked.

“What do you mean what cut? I just told you! I have a cut on my foot and you said ‘You do?’ and then I asked if I should put a Band-Aid on it and you said ‘Yes.’

“I did?” This was not ringing a bell. How long had Karson been sitting there?

He continued, “Then I asked you if I should put anything on my cut before the Band-Aid and you’re not answering me anymore.”

My hands ceased moving. I held the lame tape dispenser feeling a bit dysfunctional myself. I willed my mind to catch up with the present.

“I’m sorry, Buddy. Even though I was answering you, I wasn’t really listening. Now, let me see your foot.”

It’s not the only incident of multi-tasking malfunction I’ve experience this holiday season. Unfortunately, my distracted and poorly executed interactions are piling up faster than gifts under my tree.

I swerved right into a retail parking lot from the left lane because the conversation on my phone was trumping my defensive driving skills.

I unloaded groceries from the trunk only to realize I forgot the one thing I went to purchase.

I clicked off the computer tab of a work project to open Amazon to search for the gift that’s been eluding me.

I’m distracted in the present.

And when I see pictures from Christmases past my heart hurts as I realize how quickly chubby toddler cheeks have given way to little girl faces. How gifts of blocks and rocking horses have changed to those of video games and craft supplies. Ornaments with globs of dried glue and too much glitter remind me of sweet little hands that now color inside the lines.

The present will soon be the past.

I don’t want to miss life in the future as it plays out in front of my face.

I want to appreciate moments as they happen.

I want to live in the now.

To stop my train of thought and still my hands. To look. To see. To notice.

To pause my typing fingers and wink at my youngest child and study the way her whole face squishes up in such an adorable way as she tries to wink in return.

To look my oldest in the eye and laugh with him as he recounts the antics of the boys at his lunch table.

To hold my second grader’s hand as we walk to the mailbox and to remember how soft her mitten feels in my cold, bare hand.

To feel. To smell. To taste.

To watch. To laugh. To hold.

To notice the now.

To see the present as the gift it truly is.

 


This post is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write for approximately 5 minutes about a topic based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: NOW

Gratitude through Gritted Teeth

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I knew there was a fee to park at the venue where I was taking my two young daughters to the Disney Princesses on Ice show. But I forgot.

Not until I was driving in to the large lot did it dawn on me that I had no cash. And they don’t accept credit cards for parking. I could not enter. Instead I was turned away and drove back onto the busy street. My daughters began to panic.

“Mommy! Isn’t that where the Princesses are going to ice skate?”

“Why did you turn around, Mommy?”

I pulled into a retail parking lot and searched the van’s cup holders for loose change. Not enough. I scavenged through my purse. I came up short. I did not have my ATM card on me, and by the time I drove home to get enough cash to park, we would miss most of the show for which my girls had been counting down the days.

I let out a deep sigh of frustration.

And then it hit me. I had friends who were also attending this show. Maybe they could meet me in this lot and let me borrow some cash. I called. They were already in their seats at the show, but in an act of complete kindness, my friend’s husband ran cash out to me near the front doors.

We made it! We settled into our seats just as the show was starting. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing performance. My girls, ages 6 and 4, had huge smiles and twinkling eyes as they watched the princesses twirl and jump. I had a huge smile just watching my girls.

It had taken me part of the first act to stop sweating and to settle in, but I had done so. I tried to take in each magical moment of making this memory with my daughters.

When the show ended, we walked down the long, concrete corridor winding our way out of the massive building. Hundreds of other people flowed along with us. Every ten feet or so, vendors were selling Disney merchandise. Princess dolls, toy swords, glowing sticks, and more. My girls begged for something. I hesitated, but gave in to the pressure as I again reasoned it was such a special evening.

The snow cones came in plastic souvenir princess cups. I forget the exact price, but it was somewhere near $400.00. Okay, maybe not quite that much, but it was probably close. I bought two. I figured my girls’ delight would last for weeks to come.

But I was wrong. As we continued to walk down the long hallway we passed more vendors.

“I really wanted a doll, Mommy!”

“Why won’t you buy me a Princess dolly?”the little one whined.

The complaints continued. Didn’t they know I had already spent a lot of money just on the tickets for this show, let alone the parking fiasco, which had left me indebted to my friends. Then, I had just bought them SNOW CONES in a PRINCESS CUP and I had about HAD ENOUGH of this giving spree to UNGRATEFUL little people.

A few more words of complaint came out of their mouths before I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I put my hands on their shoulders and walked against the flow of traffic until I squeezed the three of us into a corner and guided the girls to stand with their backs against a cold concrete wall.

“I am tired of this complaining. You have been given so much already. We are not moving until you guys are thankful!” I said in a huff.

I further stated my case. “I just spent a lot of money on tonight and instead of being thankful for it, you’re complaining and asking for more. I’ve had it! You will stand there until you are thankful. Do you hear me?”

The girls nodded as their little lips, stained purple and red from their snow cones, began to quiver. The whimpered and cried as the crowd slowly moved by us.

There they were. Two little blonde girls standing against a wall trying to feel thankful.

(PS. This was not my finest parenting moment.)

“Are you thankful yet?” My voice was firm. I demanded an answer.

They sniffed and cried and shook their heads. After a few more minutes I decided they were thankful enough and we continued on our way. I heard no more requests for princess dolls. Only sniffles.

Today as I was doing dishes, two years after that evening, I picked up the souvenir princess cup off the counter and smiled.

“Are you thankful yet?” I laughed to myself.

I’m not proud of how I handled that moment, but I am thankful for it. Today as I thought back over the memory, I realized that I was trying to instill gratitude in my children. I was aiming to make thankfulness a habit for them, an automatic response. And I was trying to get out of there without going bankrupt. But mostly, I was teaching my kids to be grateful.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

I know how they felt that night. Sometimes I don’t feel very thankful either. I get caught up in what I don’t have instead of noticing all the blessings in front of me. Sometimes I need someone to stand me up against a cold wall until I can get my wits about me and express the gratitude I don’t feel.

Feeling grateful isn’t necessary for being grateful.

Sometimes you say thanks though gritted teeth.

And, that’s okay.

It’s all part of the training.

 

 

Finding Sense In The Common.

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I pull the spoon out of the dishwasher and stack it with its fellow tablemates in the drawer. My motions are robotic. I do this same thing almost every single day. It is such a common task that I don’t even have to concentrate on what I am doing.

I push the clothes into the drum of the washing machine and reach up to grab the detergent. My mind is thinking about something else. There is no need to pay attention to each motion of the laundry routine. It is a common work in my life, and I have memorized the actions it takes to complete it.

“Grab your book bag.”

“Where are your shoes?”

“You will need a jacket today.”

All common phrases heard in my home each weekday morning. The same idea. The same routine. Over and over. And then almost always, I see the same results.

My life feels so common.

Being common doesn’t feel very empowering. It’s just so plain and normal. So mundane and run-of-the-mill. So regular. Isn’t that basically the definition of the word itself?

Common.

How can being common be significant?

How can my common life make a difference in this world? How can God use my common routine for His glory? How can common amount to anything at all?

But surely it does.

It just sometimes hides behind the extraordinary.

For example, in the Old Testament, Joseph does an amazing work of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in regards to a coming famine. He leads the Egyptians in the storing up of food for seven years in order to survive the impending drought. His ability and his leadership is so uncommon. He saves a nation from starvation.

But behind his uncommonness are the common. The farmers. The men and women who each day do the work of planting, and tending, and harvesting. The people who put their hands to the plow. The people whose mundane and run-of-the-mill tasks brought up the very food that was stored and that saved.

The common work provided daily bread for the saving of many lives.

Solomon, in his riches and splendor, in his uncommon life as a King of Israel, built a temple in Jerusalem that stunned the onlooker. It was majestic and extraordinary. But behind the amazing structure hid the men who cut the stones in the quarry. Who day-in and day-out did the heavy lifting. Whose brows dripped with sweat and whose muscles grew strong. They did the common daily difficult labor.

The common work laid the very foundation for the House of God.

A crowd of 5,000 hungry men sat waiting to hear Jesus. They then witnessed a wondrous moment when the lunch of a small boy fed them all. Their stomachs were full because of an uncommon miracle of God. Yet, behind the miracle, there was probably a mama who had simply packed her son’s lunch. She did the mundane, robotic task that she probably had done hundreds of times before. She did not know that the very hands of God would take the fruits of the labor, as meager as they were, and multiply them for the glory of God the Father.

The common work fed a multitude and pointed many to the power of God.

So my hands will continue to do the common work. To unload the dishes and reload the washing machine. To pack the book bags and tend to the growth of the children. To complete the mundane tasks that seem insignificant.

Because in the hands of God, the common is extraordinary, after all.


This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to write for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: COMMON

That’s How the Cookie Crumbles

This morning in church we studied the passage in Luke 18:16 where Jesus says,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Such as these. Children. Kids see things from a different perspective than adults. At some point as we get older we loose that child-like perspective. The one that is easily accepting of those who are different than us. The one that is so quick to forgive without explanation. That one that naturally trusts and expects the best from those they love.

And I was once again reminded of this true story that happened about five years ago with my middle child, Karly. In her child-like way she forgave me without a moment’s hesitation. She unintentionally reminded me of the beauty of a child-like perspective.

And that’s how the cookie crumbles.

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If I’d had one of those fancy interrogation rooms and a bright light, I would have used them. But I didn’t, so sitting my three-year-old daughter in a kitchen chair across from me was the best I could do. I wasn’t about to let her big blue eyes and blonde pigtails fool me. This kid was guilty. And she was going down for it.

Today Mommy was playing prosecutor, judge and jury. Court was in session.

The crime? Oh, it may sound trifle… and yes, it really was. But that wasn’t the point. I didn’t care about the Hershey Kiss that had disappeared off the top of the peanut butter cookie. I cared about the truth. All I wanted was a confession so that this kid could learn her lesson, be forgiven, and move on toward better obedience.
The gavel had been banging in my brain and the evidence lay nearby on the counter. The container of cookies was mostly full, but when I had lifted the lid, one of the chocolate kisses was gone, leaving a little round dent in the sugary peanut butter dough.

The defendant sat swinging her little legs as I paced the kitchen floor. I began to present my case.

I had clearly instructed Karly to stay out of the cookies. She had asked, she’d been given an answer, and she had defiantly disobeyed by taking that little chocolate morsel. And she thought she’d get away with it too.

Karly kept claiming that she was innocent. But, oh… she was not.

Had she been able to read and write I would have, at this point, slid a piece of paper and a pen in front of her and asked her to write out her confession. But I was going to have to settle for a verbal explanation. So I sat down and waited.

And did I ever hear a story.

In her sweet, high-pitched little voice, Karly told me that I had it all wrong. She was being framed. It wasn’t her that took the candy, but instead a bird.

A bird?!

Her plea continued as she explained that a bird had, in fact, flown into the kitchen through the window over the sink, taken the Hershey Kiss, apparently put the lid back on the cookie tub and then had proceeded to fly out the same way it entered.

Mind you this was in the middle of winter when that window hadn’t been opened in weeks.

That’s it!! The jury has made their decision and you, my dear little one, are guilty! You are guilty of disobeying and now lying to mommy. I sighed deeply to show my frustration and disappointment.

It was at this point that my husband entered the crime scene and was given a recap of events. He then walked over to the cookie tub and lifted the lid. After looking at the cookies for a moment he picked up the container and walked over to me. We looked inside together and there, stuck to the bottom of the another cookie, was the missing Hershey Kiss.

The bird had been exonerated.

I looked over at the adorable little defendant. Apparently she had been proven innocent as well.

What had I done? I had been so focused on getting what I thought was the truth from her that she had made up a story to appease me.

Nancy Grace is going to love this one.

Case dismissed. Court was over. But now I was the one who had some explaining to do.

I sat down across from Karly and told her that we had found the missing piece of candy. I told her that I knew a bird hadn’t flown in and taken it, and that I now knew that she hadn’t disobeyed and taken it either.

I admitted to her that Mommy was wrong. And I told her that I was really sorry.

She shrugged in that toddler way and accepted my apology faster than she’d conjured up the bird story. She forgave me without a second thought and off she skipped without a care in her mind.

I stayed in that chair for awhile. Though the jury box and the courtroom was emptying out in my mind, I felt full of regret. Why had I gotten so riled up over a Hershey Kiss? Why had I pushed Karly so hard for a confession that she had to make one up to calm me down? And how had she been able to forgive me so quickly and easily when she could have easily pointed an accusing finger right back in my face?

She forgave me because she’s a little child. In her toddler mind she wasn’t out to get me or seek revenge. She could forget the offense in the blink of an eye and never bring it up again.

Apparently I took her to court that day, but she took me to school. I had been shown a great lesson in how to forgive and forget.

To this day, I can’t look at a peanut butter cookie adorned with a Hershey Kiss without laughing about that crazy bird story. And believe me, though Karly has forgiven and forgotten, my husband delights in bringing up my interrogation blunder. That’s okay. It’s good for me to be reminded now and then. I’m reminded that I’m not always right, even when I think I am. And that sometimes I have to confess my mistakes and accept the forgiveness of others.

I hope I can forgive and forget in the same way Karly forgave me. I want to experience forgiveness and give forgiveness completely… skipping away, as free as a bird!

Is this going to be on the test?

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I’m a big fan of mnemonic devices. I know that may sound a little intimidating. I promise, I’m not going to hurt you. A mnemonic device isn’t a weapon, it’s a tool. Big difference.

According to Wikipedia, a mnemonic device is “any learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory.”

I’ve got many of these little aides running around in my brain and plugging the leaks where the memories are threatening to ooze out of the crevices.

These aides help me to remember the notes on the treble clef scale (Every Good Boy Does Fine) (PS: This phrase happens to be true in parenting a middle school son as well.)

The aides help me to remember that when writing an email to my daughter’s principal, I can address it to her as the princiPAL, not the princiPLE, because she’s not only in charge of the school,she’s my pal. See what I did there?

The aides helped me to memorize the names and birth order of Jacob’s 12 sons in the Old Testament. That’s right. You never know when you’re going to need this information, and quickly. I haven’t come across a time yet, but I’m prepared for when I do.

And just last night my son was studying Latin root words for an upcoming test and he told me his own mnemonic devices for each one. It was a proud moment as his mother when he explained that he remembers the definition of “superfluous” by thinking of a super hero named “Super Floss” who has too much floss. Brilliant. (And I think most of us can relate to this super hero as we also have too much floss and not enough motivation to actually use it. Actual flossing must be the superpower of another hero?)

All of these little mnemonic devices help me keep things straight. I don’t have to remember EVERYTHING, that’s what Google is for, but it does help to have a few stored memories when I’m not getting a good wifi signal.

And we’ve all learned from school that the real question is, “Is this going to be on the test?” Translated, this means, “What do I really have to remember here?”

And granted, this is a big question when it comes to life. What do we really have to remember here?

There are many things that seem important. Traffic rules (‘Hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 like on the face of a clock!’) The order of the planets in our solar system (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodlesand who can forget ROY G. BIV. Everybody knows him and his colorful personality.

Yes, all good things to know. But when it comes down to it, I believe the most important things to remember in life are these:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love Others.

Those are the big ones.

Everything else is just superfluous.

 


This blog is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write about a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: TEST.

Miscarriage: A Story of Loss and Love

I originally posted this story three years ago. In fact, the ultrasound appointment I refer to was exactly three years ago today, October 4th, 2013. I remember, because I had so looked forward to that date!

Kraig and I had hidden this pregnancy from everyone because we wanted to tell our children first. I was so excited to go to that doctor appointment and hear a little heartbeat! I was almost 11 weeks pregnant. We had plans to go home and tell our kids, and then the rest of our family, that we’d be adding a fourth little one to our home.

Instead, there was silence.

No heartbeat was found.

Because of the impending surgery and recovery (and some rough unexpected physical issues) we decided to tell our children what had happened. We were all heartbroken. I struggled with sadness, but also with anger. I was angry with God. This blog essay tells the story of how I struggled through those emotions and how ultimately, God’s love is the very thing that comforted me.

I always feel so vulnerable when I share these types of stories (it’s a little scary!), but I know that maybe someone else will feel hope because I was brave enough to share. And so today, I’m sharing it once again. It’s fitting because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

And, even though it has been three years, and our family is now at peace with being a family of five, we remember this loss and grew from what it taught us. There is pain in remembering, but also momentum to continue forward.

And mostly, this story reminds me that I was angry with God- told Him so- and He waited patiently for me to accept His love and comfort in the midst of the pain.

And His love still awes and sustains me daily!

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

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I knew it from the first moment I looked at the screen. The ultrasound technician was silent, but I didn’t need her to tell me what was so obvious in front of my own eyes. As she desperately tried to find signs of life on what should have been a wiggly, busy, tiny baby with a rapidly beating heart, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces.

And for the third time, my husband and I tasted the bitter loss of miscarriage.

The tears flowed heavy and often over the next several days. I was so very sad and my heart continued to break as I watched my three children grieve in their own little way. They had wanted this little baby to join our family too. We all missed this little person that we didn’t even have a chance to meet. It wasn’t fair.

Yes, of course I took great comfort in the hugs and kisses of my children. Their presence was a balm to my wounded soul. As they wiped my tears or cried along with me at the dinner table when my hormones were raging and my efforts to conceal my pain were useless, I felt extreme love and gratitude for them. But even surrounded by our three precious children, I knew I had lost another one. A life was gone and off-handed comments of, “Oh, maybe you’ll still have another one!” felt empty, as if this life was so easily replaced.

And I got angry. I was angry with almost everyone and everything, but most of all, I was mad at God.

How could He allow this? Was He trying to teach me something? Had I done something wrong? Was I to learn from this?

I wanted a baby, not a lesson.

The anger and frustration from this loss built in me, and my tears were hot on my cheeks. It didn’t seem fair that I had spent weeks dealing with morning sickness and had worked hard to hide the fact that I was always on the edge of queasiness. I had fought the super-fatigue of the first trimester and dealt with the guilt of needing to nap during the day while I allowed my preschool-aged daughters to watch too much TV. My body had already started physically changing and, as if I needed another reminder of what had been, it held on to the weight that I had gained.

Emotionally, I had allowed my anticipation and excitement to grow along with that little baby in my womb. I had been constantly daydreaming about its arrival and wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and what name we would give it.

And even though I was only 10 1/2 weeks along when I had that shocking and awful ultrasound, I was 100% in love with that child.

It hurt to the core and my anger toward God came to the forefront.

Intellectually, nothing had changed for me. I knew God was sovereign. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all of those “right things.” But I didn’t feel them. Emotionally I felt empty and alone.

If God loved me, then I felt like this was a rotten way of showing it.

Through the long days of physical healing that followed I had a lot of time to think. And feel. It seemed that my emotions were winning every battle and though my rational thoughts of what I knew was true were trying to come to the forefront, my anger and bitterness were pushing them back down.

I realized after a day or two that I couldn’t trust my emotions. I was a wreck. I wasn’t in control of my feelings and though I was trying to rally them to help me feel what I desperately wanted to feel… God’s love… it wasn’t working. I was going to have to call upon what I knew was true instead.

It wasn’t easy. My feelings of loss and hurt and pain were so strong that my efforts to see glimpses of God’s love were strained and difficult. But little evidences were there. I decided to take mental note of them and store them in my mind as ammunition against my anger. Perhaps over time I’d have enough to once again feel God’s love, though for now I’d have to be content without the feelings, and take what I could get from the knowledge alone.

And God didn’t disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy or enveloped in His love. On the contrary, I felt like He was distant and even harsh. But I kept looking with my eyes since my heart wasn’t playing along.

And I saw.

At first my teeth were gritted and my arms were crossed. They stayed that way for several days. I took a lot of deep breaths and used a lot of tissues as the days ticked by and the list began to lengthen.

I still didn’t feel God’s love the way I wanted to feel it. But I was seeing it.

In fact, the evidence of God’s presence and His love was obvious to me in a way I’ve never known before. His love did not feel gentle, but oh it was there! It seemed undeniable. It wasn’t the easy, sing-songy “Jesus Loves Me” kind of love, but the love of an all-knowing, Almighty whom I knew with my mind that I could trust.

I felt as if He’d taken me through a dark place of brokenness, emptiness, anger and desperation so that His love and His truths… HE would stand out in stark contrast. And He did. He was so obvious in the darkness that at one point I actually wondered if He was enjoying showing off!

I had to make a choice. Would I surrender to what my eyes had seen, His love and His presence in the midst of the darkness, or would I continue to wait for my emotions to shape up and start feeling the way I wanted them to feel.

And so I leaned on what I knew to be true.

For days my emotions continued to lay in shambles. I was still angry and I said and thought things that I didn’t mean. But God was okay. He could handle it.

For days my heart was hard and stubborn. But as I saw God’s love so evident around me, eventually my heart started to warm and I began to desire a contrite heart. The softening of my heart wasn’t immediate, but I could tell that the thawing and molding was happening in God’s hands.

To this moment, my mind cannot figure out what the point of this loss was in my life and where it leaves my family’s plans for the future. But my biggest desire now is for peace and joy in the midst of the unknown. I want to be ok with simply trusting God completely for the future, though there is nothing that feels simple about the process.

And in my surrender I knew this truth from 1 John 3:1,

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I’m a child of God. I am His precious little one that He loves and delights in as I love my own children. No, His love is even more powerful than that. His love has been lavished on me and He calls me His child.

This loss was difficult. It hurt. It still hurts. But when my heart is broken and my emotions are all over the map, I can rest in this truth.

No matter what I am feeling, I am His child, and His love is there.


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The Eyes of the Beholder

img_9544_jpg-version-2I remember holding my infant daughter one day and being struck with a realization about beauty. Although I believed I looked like “death warmed over” in my sweat pants, greasy hair and smeared make-up, her eyes reflected a different woman. She looked up at me as though I was the most beautiful creature she’d ever seen. As her little eyes locked on mine they were full of love and admiration. It didn’t matter how ugly I thought myself to be at that moment, she saw me as perfectly beautiful.

Recently, that same daughter looked at me as I again sported my sweat pants and smeared make-up and she said, “Mom, are you even going to try to look pretty today?”

I was in the middle of cleaning a bathroom and so I smiled back and said, “No honey. No, I’m not.” As she shrugged and walked away I laughed to myself. Oh, how quickly we women learn. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then us beholders must have some pretty tough standards. And we learn them young.

The truth is, our Creator has some pretty tough standards too. He desires– and even commands– us to be holy, above reproach, to bear the good fruits of patience, kindness and self-control. And what’s more, if we are His children, He even calls us “saints.” Wow. Can I ever live up to that? Sometimes when I hold myself up to those standards I feel pretty ugly.

However, I know the Truth. And thankfully, the Truth looks at my heart.

As the Lord told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

It’s like my baby daughter’s eyes. No matter how ugly I may feel, my Heavenly Father’s eyes are able to see the beauty in my heart. And what’s more, he put that beauty there and is able to help me as I strive to become more beautiful in Him.

I’ve found that as I hold myself to the standards of this world I can feel ugly, defeated, and lonely. At times I’ve even felt like no one even cares to see me at all.

Am I going to choose to believe that?

God’s Word paints a different picture about beauty. Being beautiful in God’s eyes means I believe what He tells me about who I am.

God’s Word is full of truths that tell me I am His child (John 1:12), that I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), that I have been given the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 2:7), that I can find grace and mercy when I need it (Hebrews 4:16). It even reminds me that I may approach the throne of grace itself… with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)!

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how I “look” to others. What matters is who I am in Christ.

And when I truly feel secure in my beauty, the beauty that God desires, then I am able to in turn love others in a more true and meaningful way- no matter how they see me. And that makes us all feel more beautiful.

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some days I may actually pass the world’s beauty standard, and other days I fail miserably. But that doesn’t really matter.

The only eyes that really matter belong to Him who is able to behold my heart.