A Morning Story

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Confession: I woke up cranky today. I was impatient with my kids, griping about what they had or hadn’t done and short-tempered with inanimate objects like a box of cookies that wouldn’t easily open while I was packing lunches. I was stomping around and sighing deep and bitter sighs over an accidental apple juice spill when the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that it wasn’t my kids’ fault I stayed up too late and then overslept as a result of it. It wasn’t my kids’ fault that I was feeling anxious about spending most of today in a dentist’s chair (). It wasn’t my kids’ fault that I hadn’t gotten my ideal morning routines done, but it certainly was MY fault that I was behaving badly and starting their day off with Grumpy-Mom. He reminded me of gentleness, patience, and self-control. He reminded me that it is my job to teach them what it looks like to reflect Jesus even when emotions don’t measure up and circumstances aren’t perfect.

I stopped fighting with the uncooperative box of Oreos and apologized to my children. Without hesitation, they forgave me. They were sorry I was having a hard day and they wished me a better morning. They loved me so well in their compassion. Their kindness humbled me — and showed me a glimpse of God.

This is His way, to not only forgive – but to forgive with abounding love and mercy, encouraging us to move forward in His grace without condemnation lingering on our hearts. His forgiveness is whole and His redemption power fully covers our sin.

So, all that to say- if you happen to have started today or this week (or even this year!) on the wrong foot — stop. Take a breath. Make the apologies you might need to make, to your people and to the Father. And then move forward in His grace and in the unfailing kindness of His love. Know you are forgiven and it’s the next moment that matters. Leave behind what has been and press on, trusting that He is ever-transforming us into His image if we keep surrendering our hearts, our minds, and even our crankiest of mornings into His keeping.

I am grateful today for mercy. I am thankful for love that keeps on loving, never giving up on us.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:22-23

From the Night-Watch

I sit in the hallway outside of my daughter’s room. It is late and the
floor uncomfortable, but the little nightlight that she holds is
moving, so I know her eyes are still on me. When her room is dark, she
cannot stay still long enough to fall asleep unless she knows I am
right there, close at hand. Watching out for her. Simply sitting in
the silence, where I can hear her smallest cry. This process is
sometimes long, but necessary. Every night, I try to inch a little
further out of view, knowing that a day will come when she does not
have to see me to believe that she is safe. That I am there whether or
not she sees me in that hallway.

Eventually, the nightlight falls from her hand and her feet stop
kicking the blanket away. I tip-toe in and pull the blanket over her
legs, put the nightlight on a shelf. I double-check windows, make sure
the closet door is closed. Quietly, I make my way out of her room and
move to my own. I stretch out in the bed. I fall asleep quickly, sleep
deep and dreamless.

I wake to four-year-old feet in my face. Kailey is sideways on the
pillows, her head next to her daddy’s and her toes in my hair.

The room is lightening, early-morning sun easing the world awake. I
pick her up, rearrange her long limbs so that she is lying beside of
me. Her eyes open and she makes her scrunched-up “I’m mad” face. “I
thought you were going to sit in the hallway,” she says. “You left me
all alone.”

“I was right here,” I say. “You didn’t have to be scared. You are
never alone in this house.”

“But I couldn’t see you,” she says. “Next time, stay.”

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I sit in my car, the music loud and my prayer insistent. I want to see
God, to see Him work. I want Him to come to my side and go through the
outline of my future. He has given me a light to hold, enough to see
by, but I’d like an upgrade to an overhead flood light.

I’m asking for another lullaby, another drink of water. I’m asking Him
to stay put so I’ll be comfortable, but He is moving so that I will
understand how to trust Him in the dark. He whispers that I am safe.
He says I am never alone.

He is out of sight and I cry, scared and unsure of what comes next.

But by now, I should know – when He is out of sight, it does not mean
that He does not see me. It does not mean that He is not there.

***************************************

These days, she is spunky. A year ago, she would’ve waken and cried
until someone came to comfort her. Now she just gets out of bed and
sneaks into our room, crawls into the bed and sleeps. When I wake up,
I have to carry her back to her own bed.

I tell her, again, that she is a big girl and big girls sleep in their
own big girl beds all night long.

I’m only four, she says, holding up her fingers. And four is a tiny number.

Later, she wants to play a computer game with her brothers and she is
told that she is too little.

But I’m four, she says. I am big!

********************************************

I want to run through open doors and God says no. He shuts the doors,
takes me by the hand back to where I started from. There are things to
be learned and I can only learn them if I stay put, where He places
me, even if that place isn’t where I think I want to be. It’s how you
grow, He says. I know what’s best for you, He says.

In our covenant-relationship, I have been loved. Carried when I was
too tired to walk, soothed when my heart was breaking. In every
emotion, in every circumstance – He has never failed me.

He, this King who counts the hairs upon my head, has proven His faithfulness.

So He is asking me to trust in who He has shown Himself to be as He
breaks down my excuses and hardened pieces of my heart. He gently
reminds me of how far He has brought me and how much work is still
left undone in my heart. I loosen my grip on the tools I’ve tried to
take over and sit at His feet, see things through His eyes. I see
selfishness, stubbornness, tendencies to use truths in ways convenient
to what I want at the time. I see disobedience.

I see a child trying to fit the Father’s will to her wants, instead of
surrendering her wants to the Father’s will.

***********************************************

She is running around the room, refusing to sit and participate during
a Wednesday night class at church. Story-time is impossible with her
skipping from corner to corner and so I put her into time-out.
She looks up at me with wide eyes, puts her hands over her eyes. She
cries, tears running wild down her cheeks.

I wait for a few moments and sit by her, lifting her onto my lap. She
buries her face in my neck. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” she says. “I’ll listen
now.”

“I forgive you, baby,” I say. “Let’s dry your face and give this thing
another try.”

Fifteen minutes later, she is running around again.  I sit her down
for another talk, another reminder.

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And I know that this is my way, too, forgetting things it seems I
should’ve already learned. I am thankful for His patience, for the way
He is not leaving me where I am, but pushing me to learn this lesson,
to change until I better reflect Him.

For the places I have fallen short, I say that I am sorry. I stay put
where He’s placed me, I hold to the light He has given, and I trust.

And by His light, I see the next step. I see His mercy, stunning in
its fullness.

Sometimes I forget that He goes behind and before, preparing and
providing, limitless in His vision, incomparable in His love…
but even then, when I don’t see what is happening, He is still working. Always, He is working.

When it’s dark and we don’t understand where we are or where He is, we
can trust that He knows exactly what is going on.

He slept while the disciples struggled in the storm. He stayed away
when Lazarus fell ill and died. His body lay in a tomb for three long,
lonely days.

But when it was time to reveal His glory and hearts were ready for the
change He would bring, He spoke peace.
He spoke life.
He spoke salvation.

He speaks it still.

We may not know when or where, by whom or how our God will move in our
lives – but we do know that He will. In all things, Paul tells us in
Romans, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been
called according to His purpose.

In the meantime, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and
challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure,
your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So
don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so
you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you
don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help.
You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for
it.” (from James, the MSG)

*****************************

Her daddy tucks her into bed tonight, tells her that he’s close. If
she needs him, he’ll be there.
This time, finally, she smiles and closes her eyes, pulls the blanket
close, and falls asleep.

*******************************

Amazingly, graciously, wondrously – Jesus says, “I am with you
always.”  No matter where we are, we cry out and He hears us.

He may ask us to endure sorrow, confusion, or pain while keeping our faith in His purpose, but He never asks us to handle it alone.

Always, He is our strength. Always, He gives sufficient grace. Always, we have hope in what is unseen and eternal. Always, we have comfort in His love.

And, in these promises, you and I can rest.

 

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning—Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption…~from Psalm 130