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Friday, December 13, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Reflect

Reflect.  It's that time of year for me...and maybe for many of us.  The time when we pause, maybe amidst holiday lights, perhaps with friends and family, or maybe in quiet moments by ourselves...we pause and reflect.  And as our minds go back through the highlight reel of the past year, we see ourselves and a portion of our lives in a mirror, however dimly. 

What is it that we see?  What are the highs and lows?  What are the highlights?  What do we want to bring forward with us into the new year, and what would be better off left behind, thrown to the winds of forgiveness, acceptance, and release.  And so we reflect.

What comes to mind just now is a scene from a Veggie Tales movie that our girls were watching the other night.  It was loosely based on the story of Snow White, but in this version, the Magic Mirror had a plot to take over the kindgom and rule instead of the queen.  The Mirror wanted the crown and kingdom for itself.  And the hostile takeover bit was all based on presenting a powerful false image and distorted reflection.

Well, it got me thinking about how often our images and reflections fight for our attention and for rulership of our lives.  What does the image of a perfect holiday look like, for example?  Or what does the reflection of a "good year" look like?  What is success?  Meaning?  And how does our reality line up with those images we hold inside? 

I can see why in the 10 Commandments, we were warned against making graven images for ourselves.  Images engraved upon our hearts, minds, and imaginations that can rule our hearts and actions. 

Images that can distort our view of true beauty, love, and an appreciation for what is.  Images that mar our ability to reflect upon, and reflect, beautiful imperfection.

Every year, for the past 4 years, I have done a "Year in Review" journal exercise for reflect.  To intentionally replay the previous year and look at the images and snapshots on my highlight reel.  This year, I want to do so with a mirror that is less distorted than last year's...with a little more love, acceptance, and grace.  A little more like how my God reflects upon me...with such kindness.

I invite you to do the same.  As you reflect upon your life, and perhaps upon this past year, look just a little deeper...a little more gently.  You may just see the reflection change, soften, and sweeten a bit.  I wish you peace, gratitude, and space to breathe, as you...reflect.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Five-Minute Fridays: Ordinary


Yesterday, I had the chance to spend some time with some dear friends, as they invited me into one of their ordinary days.  They welcomed me into their home and treated as me they would treat any ordinary royalty.  They have made it a habit to do this.

One of the women talked with me, while watching two of my children, snuggling baby Aliyah and speaking words of wisdom and affirmation to Rayah.  During our time together, she extended extra kindnesses that were the ordinary outflow of her generous, kind heart...snacks given, bouncy seat and toys shared, and entertainment provided, despite my protests that she didn't have to do all of that.  But she wanted to, she kept telling me.  This is what I do, she said.  It was an ordinary day for her.  She did all of this to bless me, and to support and equip her daughter to do what she was gifted to do.

Meanwhile, her daughter was hard at it, working her amazing magic on my head of ordinary hair.  I marveled as I realized all that she had moved around in her schedule, making special arrangements, and taking time out of her busy life to do my hair for me...all to be a blessing.  She treated it as if it was no big deal, as if it was ordinary, and really to her, maybe it the sense that she gives like this all the time, very naturally, very a very unassuming, unpretentious, non-showy way.  It was such a powerful ordinary!!  While she worked her artistry, we talked faith and family and laughed at ourselves, and at life.

We all laughed at how ordinary we each looked and felt today, but I know otherwise.  I witnessed precious and rare glory shining from each of their faces and extra-ordinary love and kindness flowing out of each of their hearts...

Today, I was given a beauty more ways than one.  I was welcomed into the glorious beauty of another family's ordinary.  They invited me into one of their ordinary days, and by each of them doing what came naturally to them, they transformed an ordinary day into an extra-ordinary one for me.

I left feeling I had just been treated like royalty.  I left feeling like anything but ordinary.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Fridays: SHE

Today's Five-Minute Friday Prompt is the Word..."She"

 SHE:  Side-tracked Home Executive.  A word I first heard maybe 7 or 8 years ago when my friend, Debbie, introduced me to a website that saved my life...  (The term "SHE," originally comes from this site: ) Debbie was kind enough to point this struggling, overwhelmed minister's wife and mom in a VERY helpful direction and give me some truly valuable input!

Side-tracked Home Executive.  SHE.  I had to laugh.  You mean, there was actually a word for people whose brains work like mine?!?  All-of-a-sudden, I felt more normal.  You mean there were other people who related to the poem, "If You Give a Mom a Muffin" (can be found at the end of this post) and whose brains, priorities, daily movements, and lives actually worked like that, too?!?

The term SHE was a gift to me.  A kind, grace-filled word that helped me re-frame who I was and how I did life.  Instead of hating myself for being the way I was, I began to see the purpose behind God creating me, and many others, that way.

Last night, I took a few minutes with my little ones cuddling on the couch.  I had a stuffy nose and a stuffier head. :)  Browsing through Netflix, I found a movie entitled, "I Don't Know How She Does It?!?"  If I had a dime for everytime someone has said that to me, I would be rich.  SO ironic...

But the truth of the matter is that I related so deeply to the character in that movie who was just juggling life the best she could.  Side-tracked sometimes.  Late sometimes.  Over-extended sometimes.  But wearing a genuine smile, striving for excellence, and doing her best to love those around her faithfully, deeply.  I laughed, and cried, as I watched her juggling routine.  It soothed my soul, as I watched her switch hats faithfully and try to keep it all going, hoping nothing would drop or fall through the cracks.

I also thought to myself...I may be a juggler at times, but I am a juggler who lives, breathes, and drinks in grace.  Because I have dropped plates, and had things fall through the cracks more times than I can count.  And deep down, I know the truth.  I am a SHE -- A side-tracked home executive who relies on grace. :)

Thankful that God loves me, and God loves SHE's!

If You Give A Mom A Muffin
Muffin - IMG_0246 by Beth Brubaker
If you give a mom a muffin,
She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She’ll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She’ll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks.
She’ll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan for supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She’ll look for her cookbook
(“101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger”).**
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The check book is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She’ll smell something funny.
She’ll change the two year old’s diaper.
While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She’ll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.
And chances are…
If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Part 2

I only had 5 minutes this morning to write my post, but it doesn't seem right not to tell "the rest of the story" -- so for those interested, here it is...

Part 2...

"Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray.  Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there."

I stood there, sleep-deprived and only half-coherent, with my younger and only sister, Emily, in the Big Lake church that Sunday in December of 2007.  I was there visiting her from out-of-town right around the time of her birthday, and we decided to load up our kids together that morning and head to church.  I had my 3-year-old son, Isaac, 2-year-old daughter, Rayah, and 9-month-old daughter, Moriyah with me.  My sister was loyally joining me in the nursing mother's room, even though her three boys were old enough to sit with her in the sanctuary.  Together, we comprised quite a three (or six)-ring circus, but it was a special day.

It was a couple weeks before Christmas, and I had been feeling a little bit funny for a couple weeks.  Standing there, singing, my mind drifted, as I recalled the events of the last week.  Several odd things had happened, including running into the youth pastor of the little church we attended in Grand Rapids in Wal-Mart.  It's where many of my special "meetings" would take place.  She and I had stopped to talk for a few moments; it was a warm, friendly exchange, and at the end, she said something that stopped me in my tracks.  "Did you hear the news?  Elizabeth is pregnant!"

What?!?  Time stood still for a moment, as this phrase hit me like a tons of bricks.  My heart-beat quickened, as I tried desperately to figure out what she was saying.  A few seconds later, I remembered that her daughter's name was also Elizabeth.   Oh, THAT'S what she meant!  However, the comment pierced my heart like an arrow, and I began to wonder... Was this the Lord's message to me?  Was this why I had been feeling funny?  Could it be?

A day or two later, I left for my sister's for an impromptu visit to see her on her birthday.  As I heard "Away in a Manger" start up that Sunday morning in church, it was the furthest thing from my mind.  It had been a wonderful, but very busy, visit, and my mind was not on the song.  Of course, you sing that song in December.  It's what you do in church around Christmas-time. :)  I was singing it by rote, while trying to keep my two toddlers happily occupied and nursing little Moriyah when we came to these words of the familiar verse, and time stopped...

"Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there..."

All of a sudden, I actually heard, and paid attention to, what I was singing!  Wait a minute!  I thought to myself...I haven't heard, or sung, this song since... yes...since THAT day...three years ago... 

The day I found out that my baby's heart had stopped beating.  The day that God spoke to my heart, "Every End is Also a Beginning."

The wheels kept turning, faster and faster now...Wait a minute!  That day was ALSO in December...I wonder!!!!  No, it couldn't be!!! ... I frantically grabbed the church bulletin and glanced at the date.  Shocked and in disbelief, I realized it was literally three years TO THE VERY DAY that I was standing there singing the same words God had put in my heart amidst the loss of our baby.  To the very day?!?  Here I was, on the 3-year-anniversary of that loss, singing that song I hadn't sung since He first gave it to me.  A sentimental, bittersweet lump rose up in my throat, and I had to stop singing momentarily to wipe away some tears.  Apparently, although I had forgotten amidst of busyness of life, HE was reaching out to show me how much He loved me, and my baby girl that He now held, and to let me know that He remembered... 

Then, suddenly, another layer of meaning began to hit me, as the phrase, "Every End is Also a Beginning" began to float gently back through my mind.  I began to wonder...was this His sign to me?!?  Combined with the comment spoken by Mary  to me, Elizabeth, about her Elizabeth.  All-of-a-sudden, the pieces began to line up.  Mary and Elizabeth coming together.  3 year anniversary of my loss.  Every end is also a beginning?!?

I tried to play it calm, but my cautious heart was starting to burst with wonder, curiosity, and anticipation.  I didn't say a word to my sister, but we stopped at the store on the way home, and I, of course, HAD to buy a pregnancy test.  "Every End is Also a Beginning" was echoing inside of me as I took the test and even more loudly, as I stared in complete awe at two lines (positive!!) staring back at me!!

"Every End is Also a Beginning."  I stood there dumb-founded and literally unable to move, as the significance of the moment hit me like a freight-train.

The VERY day I found out my baby's life had ended was the SAME EXACT day, three years later, that I discovered a new beginning -- the beginning of life for our 4th (earth-side) daughter, Miyah Shalom.  Her name means, "Who is like our God of Peace, Wholeness, and Restoration?"

The God of Mercy Who had met me in such a profound way in 2004 met me again as the God of Peace, Wholeness, and Restoration three years later, TO THE DAY, to show me how carefully He watches over our days and the details of our lives... And that even when we are too tired, weak, busy, or distracted to notice with our minds what is going on, He reaches for our hearts, sings to us, and gets the message through to us...because He takes note...He remembers...He loves!

My Introduction to Mercy-Me

A beautiful melody began to flow out of on my friend's CD player...I was sitting on Shannee's couch, surrounded by a group of some of my dearest heart-friends (as I like to call them).  A special group of women God had gathered together up in Grand Rapids, MN to love Him and love each other.  The love was so tangible in the room, and I was being engulfed by the music.  I was told that it was a music group called "Mercy Me."  I had never heard of them before that night.

This was one of the few special times I got out back then.  I had a nursing baby (my first) who was seven months old, and at the time, my husband and I were sharing a vehicle.
I was also pregnant again then...about 14 weeks pregnant.  I had known it was coming because God had prepared my heart, and I was very excited.  But then came the turn-of-events I could not have anticipated...

Just a few nights prior, I had woken up and knew something wasn't right.  When I went in to the ER in the late hours of the night, I was told that I was probably starting to miscarry, but they would schedule an ultra-sound for the morning.  I was crushed and crying out to God.  I was asking -- do I hang on in faith, or do I let go?

The next morning, very emotional, as I waited for my turn in the doctor's office, I mindlessly picked up a magazine next to me and opened it up.  On one side of the page, it said, "Every End is Also a Beginning," and I heard a song playing on the inside of me from the archives of childhood Sunday-school music.  "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray.  Bless all the dear children in Thy Tender Care, and take them to Heaven to live with Thee there."  As those words slowed down inside of me, I knew what was happening, and I knew what I would see when I walked into the ultra-sound room.  My eyes filled with knowing tears.  Sure enough, when I viewed the screen, the technician told me my baby now had no heart-beat.  I think my own heart may have stopped momentarily, too, at the news, and the tears flowed again.

Now, as I sat on that couch, a couple days later, nursing my seven-month old son, something began to happen in my lifeless, pregnant belly.  I began to pass my unborn child right there in my friend's home.  Surrounded by the love of my closest friends.  Although it was all surreal, I was keenly aware of what I heard playing in the background.  They were the words of the song, "I Can Only Imagine" which I was then hearing for the first time, as I was releasing my baby into the realm of Heaven and the Hands of Love.

The tears flowed freely, and although it was so sad, it was one of the most beautiful, holy moments of my life.  The veil between earth and Heaven in that moment was paper-thin for me, and I felt embraced by Mercy as I heard God ask me, "What would be your greatest desire for this child, Elizabeth?"  My heart immediately answered, "To grow up in a very real sense of Your Manifest Love and Presence."  And I knew that prayer was being a much different way than I had planned, in a much Higher way.  He was singing it to me, and over me, in the words of the song.

I knew I had met Mercy Incarnate in that very poignant moment, and it was so amazingly fitting to me that the song playing right then was being sung by a group called "Mercy-Me!"

(for the rest of the story, please read Part 2 above)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: RED

Today's Five-Minute Friday Prompt:  RED!

"Push the red button before I fall asleep." 

A phrase from one of the kids' Elmo toys.  Something my husband and I heard repeated time after time after time after time ..which then became our little "inside joke."  You know, one of those cute, sing-song little phrases that pops into your mind and spills out of your mouth in a million fun ways.  The kind that eases things and makes you both smile in a stressful moment.  Like in labor.  :) 

The red button...

Red...the color of passion, love, anger, expression.  Intensity.  No half-heartedness about red.  Full-on, full-force, give-it-your-all, let's-do-this red!

Something about the color red both excites and scares me.  I pause to think about the role red has played in my life over the years...and where it is that red shows up in my life these days.

For years, it was associated with the Target motto "fast, fun, and friendly," as my dad, and later as I myself, worked for the company.  Red and khaki was our uniform everyday.  We put on the RED before we walked out the door.  It was also one of my mom's favorite colors growing up.  And according to all the color inventories going on back in the 80s, it was one of our best colors, both of having brown hair and green-brown eyes and being "autumns."

Interesting to me that red is included in the autumn color wheel.  To me, all the other colors of autumn -- certain greens, the oranges, the browns, the mustard yellows -- all speak to me of toning it down, slowing it down, of a smoldering flame, a cooler, softer, quieter time.  And of relief after long summer months (which I tend to think are especially long now living in the south).

But then there is red.  Still burning full-force...still so lit-up and bold in the midst of autumn.  Still alive and well.  Red remains throughout the seasons...seen in the leaves of autumn, the holly berries of winter, the flowering buds of spring, and the full blooms of summer.

I think about the red in my life right now.  The love I am overwhelmed with for my children.  The common passions shared by my husband and myself.  The dreams that burn in my heart for myself, my family, and friends I love.  I am fueled by red.

And I think about the red that saves me from myself...time and time again.  The red that cleanses me daily when I come up short and fail.  The refreshing, cleansing, healing, restoring RED blood that comes from my Savior and is my Salvation.  My Savior's RED...His love, His passion, all that burned in His Heart, pouring out of Him to save the day for me!  His Red enables my red to be!  His Red calls out to my red inside, igniting passion, love, and enabling me to come alive!  He pushes the RED button and awakes me from my sleep.

I'm very thankful for RED.  I'm thankful for the reminder that, just like during my days of working at Target, it's a really good thing to wake up each morning and put on RED!  And I'm grateful that there is always an opportunity waiting for me to "push the RED button before I fall asleep." 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Take 5...

I am in a season of life where I am REALLY learning to appreciate the value of 5 minute vacations!!! :)  
5 minutes in the shower...oh my goodness, I'm standing under a tropical waterfall in an island paradise!  
5 minutes to get dressed and do hair uninterrupted, and I am a princess in her royal chambers!  
A whole 5 minutes to drink a cup of coffee (and actually finish the cup), and I'm in the quaintest little cafe in Paris!
5 minutes of quiet while alone in the car (or with baby sleeping) on the way to (well, on the way to ANYWHERE really ;) ), and I feel like I have stepped into the most sacred of sanctuaries!!
5 minutes to step behind a closed door, pray, and just breathe, and I've just had the benefit of receiving back-to-back therapy sessions for 2 hours!

5 minutes seems like an incredible luxury these an eternity...such a gift.  In 5 minute pockets, I have found that all of time can stand still, and I can be transported to another land, another reality, another complete state of being! :)

It hasn't always been this way (I used to think I needed a lot of time to do anything!), but I have been learning that 5-minute vacations are a key to peace and sanity for this quiet-loving introvert!!  
I love my full, loud, slightly chaotic and crazy life...but I also LOVE my 5-minute vacations!!

With this in mind, when I recently found a community blog called "Five Minute Fridays," I got excited!  Although life is very full and busy, I have learned that I can usually take time for "5 Minutes!" for something!!  This group of people has a standing appointment online every Friday to write for 5 minutes (see "Five-Minute Fridays" link at the bottom of the page, if you're interested) on a prompt given.  I decided that while I may not have hours to write during this time in my life, I can squeeze in 5 minutes once a week.  So, one thing that will be posted on this blog page will be my "Five Minute Friday" entries.  When I can do them, that is...not making any promises, but hoping for the best.
It really is amazing what a person can accomplish in 5 minutes!  Today, if you have a chance, seize at least one 5-minute vacation!  You'll be glad you did! :)

Having said that, I think my time is just about up for this five-minute pocket...4...3...2...1... :)