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brokenurncc1(I’m not going to qualify or quantify my story by trying to prove to you that my brokenness was worthy of God’s healing – I am just going to tell you of the part of the journey of one of God’s girls being made whole.)

For the first 36 years of my life, God had gradually revealed himself to me:

  • First as the God who made himself known to me.
  • Then God who sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, even when no one else sees me.
  • . . . as The God who is There (He is not a God who walks out, abandons His children)
  • I didn’t know God could be a refuge, but I saw a father should.
  • He was The God who answers prayers.
  • The God who meets me anytime, anyplace, for any reason.
  • My God, My shepherd guiding me on the paths I need to take.
  • My God, my Shepherd teaching me to develop a heart for forgiveness.
  • My God coming alongside my broken-hearted self.
  • My God stopping my heart from being crushed.

I had been searching for God. . . and I found my Father.

“You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart
~ Jeremiah 29:13

At the end of Part II Wilt Thou Be Made Whole: God Becoming Father, I didn’t just realize whose I was but who I was – a daughter of the King – a realization that came alive all the way down to my soul toes.

Happily Ever After? Right? I’m a Daughter of the King – and, like any princess in a fairy tale who has been kidnapped from her rightful place, saved after much suffering, and returned to the place she belongs – life resumes to a happily-ever-after rhythm. Right. . . . Right?

A Daughter of the King! – The knowledge of it was alive in my soul! I finally knew whose I was! I knew that . . . . but there was a gap between knowing and a lifetime of no father memories, no father words, no father hugs, no father fighting for me – just empty space where memories should be. My love language is words of affirmation – those missing words were really more missed than the hugs.

There were days I really missed having an earthly father who was tangibly there for me, who would look out for me in this “Happily Ever After.” The song “Butterfly Kisses” tore me up – I didn’t have that kind of dad who loved his girl like that – and, oh, friends, how I yearned for that kind of father-daughter relationship. I just wasn’t feeling it as a Daughter of the King.

I remember working on my rose bushes, talking to God, saying, “O.K. God. I get it. I really don’t want the mail man showing up saying ‘I’m your dad.’” That just might be more trouble than it’s worth. I know you’re the best dad ever – but, God, I’m really needing something down here. I’m struggling.”

In the rose bushes, I laid it all out –  I poured out exactly how I felt—the fear, the doubt (I believe; help my unbelief), the tangible feeling that my heart—my literal heart—felt like it was going to give out, the honest inability to talk my way through or find the solution through sheer determination and smartness—the soul shattered—because it is only when I am honest with Him about my soul condition—that He can truly save me—because only then can I allow myself to be saved – and in the saving, be made whole.

All those years ago when I’d asked him,  “Show me how to love you like I used to when I was little,” He was just waiting for the invitation – and he took me on a journey that opened my heart to that kind of love again – only better.

That day in the roses, with candid honesty, no blame – I told him how I was struggling. It was like a daughter telling her dad, she’d failed him—just wasn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough. .  . . and all the while the daughter didn’t realize she hadn’t failed her father; the daughter’s timeline for wholeness was not her father’s timeline for wholeness. She didn’t realize her Father had long before seen her need and had already put everything in place for mending part of her broken self.

I don’t remember how long after I said that prayer a speaker came to our church one night. My husband was in the soundbooth, and I’d arrived just in time with four sons (that’s all we had then).

I scooted into a seat, when the speaker said, “Pull out your bibles.” I remember thinking, “Oh, No! It’s at home,” and feeling a small victory as I thought wryly, “But at least I got here with all these boys. ”

A white-haired, white-bearded man sitting a little further down the pew stretched his arm toward me, handing me his bible, with a gorgeous leather carved covering, engraved in exquisite detail.  I shook my head to decline his generosity. The family I came from would never have trusted so beautiful a book to a frazzled woman with a passel of boys. It might get ruined. The gentleman accepted none of my polite declining – and handed me his beautiful Bible.

Amazed, I accepted his generosity.

urnc2. . . and just like the day I was getting my nails done (See Part II), God infused my soul with a life-changing truth, another big reveal in this divine redesign, the master potter  using Kintsugi to the broken pieces of my soul. Kintsugi is “the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with Gold.” When mended with Kintsugi, the previously broken pottery is not only more beautiful but stronger.

This stranger handed me his bible – in the same way a father would have handed it to his daughter.

This truth started making connections to other moments of generosity over the past two years, examples of how God had been giving me Father Words through other people. (***At no point did anyone expect/ask anything in return – only Father Words were given. When God delivers blessings to us at the hands of man payment is NOT expected).

  • We’d been building our dream house, contracting out the workers and doing a lot of work ourselves. Let me tell you, the first time drywall has been painted is a lot more time-consuming than “re-doing” a paint job. As soon as the drywall craftsman (who was old enough to be my dad) finished sanding and drying, I painted. We’d debate politics and God. I kept trying to talk him into relationship with God. Every now and then, when I was paining, he’d check out how I was doing. More often than not, he’d say, “That’s now how you roll.” Then he’d take the paint roller – and show me how for about a quarter of the wall. One day during our debates, he said something that made me mad. I kept painting while he went for lunch. When he came back, he’d picked some flowers from the field next to the house and handed them to me. The drywaller, the one I kept trying to save, simply said “You’re a good kid. I’m sorry I made you mad.” The debates, drywalling and painting continued. But this man, who didn’t believe in God – was used by God to give me Father Words.

God’s Kintsugi, a broken soul piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. I am no longer too proud  or ashamed for God to pick up the broken pieces of myself, to mend what I cannot mend.

  • A Mennonite grandfather built our stairs and mantles.  He was paid hourly – and he probably had the highest pay per hour of many of the workers. So exact was he at his craft, that he rarely had more than an inch of scrap. I’d bring him coffee thinking to speed him up (you know – the hourly costs). He’d thank me for the coffee, but the coffee never increased his steady work speed. Each morning I’d bring coffee, and each morning he checked out work the plumbers, electricians and et al had completed the day before and advise me on what needed attention (either re-doing or re-checking). This man, who was just there to build stairs and mantles–was used by God to give me a father memory of a dad looking out for his girl.

God’s Kintsugi, another broken piece mended, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

  • A couple at church became my spiritual mom and dad. My boys loved them. Everett on a Sunday morning, Sunday Evening or Wednesday service would say, “Maryleigh, you look lovely today! Keith – have you told Maryleigh how lovely she looks today.” At first, I didn’t know how to receive these Father Words because I’d never had them before – let me tell you, friends, do not discount the idea that a girl gets her self-image from the words her father gives her. I didn’t know how to receive them, though I knew he meant them honorably, fatherly. . . but once I understood, I was able to receive them as blessing, as words of a father to his daughter.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams.

Such little things, you might think. Some might think derisively that these were crumbs being treated as gold nuggets. Others might be embarrassed at a soul starving in a love poverty caused by fatherlessness.  A beggar taking scraps and counting them a feast. Maybe they are – but whatever these incidents were – my soul felt filled, satisfied of Father things.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. 

That night, when the white-haired, white-bearded man handed me his bible, and God opened my eyes to the Father Words He’d been giving me, even before I asked him that day in the roses, the broken girl within felt less broken.

Broken piece after broken piece, God’s Kintsugi mends, the Holy Spirit poured like hot gold filling the cracks and chipped seams. Piece by broken piece, He remakes me more beautiful and stronger than I was before.

A few years passed–a Sunday morning found us sitting left rather than right. In the pew before us sat the white-haired, white-bearded man with his beautiful leather-covered bible.

During Praise and Worship, God dropped the idea into my head that I needed to let him know what his simple generosity had done for me.

God kept nudging me, “Tell Him.” We nudged, God and I, back and forth, He persistently in His, “You need to tell him.”

“He’ll think I’m nuts,”  I countered back.

The persistence of God won. My boys sometimes think I’m crazy when I step out and do things God tells me to do. I’ve learned heed His nudgings. It might look crazy to the world – but the results are anything but.

My husband, well, God knew just exactly the man I needed. He’d come to accept my out-of-the-box ways. He stood by me as I talked after the service to the white-haired, white-bearded, telling him how his simple act of generosity of spirit had opened my eyes to what God was trying to show me:  the love of a father.

It was such a simple act of kindness, sharing his bible, that he had no recollection.

Friend, I would never have told him if I knew what he was going to say in response: First he showed me his bible – it was the same one, a beautiful work of craftsmanship: “I make these bible covers. And I make them for whoever God tells me to make them. God told me today that there would be a couple here I was supposed to make these for. I thought it was for a couple that usually sits over there,” he said pointing a few rows up to the right. “They aren’t here today, so I believe he meant me to make them for you.”

At that moment, he turned to my husband and said, “When God tells me to make a bible cover for one person, I always make one for their spouse, too.”

He then pulled out a binder and asked us to choose the art work we wanted. While we were looking through his drawings, he measured our bibles.

My husband chose a minimalist cover. My favorite drawing was a cover with lots of flowers and an angel holding a lamb on the front, with flowers and a dove on the back. It was labor intensive.

I was battling. . . .What? Guilt? Unworthiness? Unfairness in asking him to spend so much of his time on someone he didn’t know? An orphan mentality of not knowing how to receive a father’s lavish love? Was it this kind of mentality that God spent 40 years in the desert trying to work out of the children of Israel?

The man saw my conflict – and said kindly, encouragingly, “Choose the one you want. He wants you to have the one you like.”

. . . with those words, something spoke to my soul saying, “Your father would spare no time or challenge to do this, or anything for you – do not diminish the blessing gift I am giving  you. Choose  the one your heart desires.”

bible2I did choose the one I thought was so beautiful, the labor-intensive one because a father does not count the cost to lavish his children with love. I had to learn to live like a beloved daughter.

“Happily Ever After” – the stuff of fairy tales? Maybe “Happily Ever After” is living fully as Daughter of the King, knowing whose we are, to know how He sees us – and knowing that whatever the challenge, no matter the challenge’s bigness or littleness, no matter the pain of walking through it

My Dad’s going to make sure I know He’s there,
My Dad sees me, even when I’m hiding, misbehaving, or crying in the closet,
A refuge, my Dad tucks me under his wing when the challenges threaten to beat me up. Yeah! My Dad has wings!
My prayers whether whispered, written in small handwriting, or spoken awkwardly? My Dad listens intently anytime, anyplace, for any reason – and He always answers in His Best time in ways I never imagined. 
My Dad meets me when I call out to Him. Always! I never have to wait on Him, though, sadly, I often make him wait.
My Dad shepherds me on the paths I need to take – and teaches me to walk those paths with a heart for forgiveness.
When I’m crushed or broken-hearted, my Dad doesn’t just come alongside – He makes sure I am not crushed.
My Dad shows me how to love my brothers and sisters – and the ones who don’t know He’s their Dad.

Maybe that is the Happily Ever After in the Fairy Tales. Maybe it is the story with the redeemer Father taking care of His daughter after saving her. The challenges don’t change because that is life this side of heaven – but who I go through the challenges with – That is the Happily Ever After, the hope, the faith, the Father-God in it.

My God who made himself known to me became My Father who made himself known to me.

My Dad loves it when I come to him, am honest with Him about my struggles, with how I feel in the struggle, with my confusion sometimes in trying to understand Him or His plan – He loves it because until I’m honest to Him about how I feel, He really cannot begin the process of fixing the broken places. I am so glad I told Him.

biblec

Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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brokenurncc1When my husband and I married, we had one car, no phone or t.v.. We didn’t have gas for three months because it took a $150 deposit. As full-time college students, we just didn’t have that kind of money. Plus, we wanted to do this on our own – marriage meant being financially independent of your parents. For those three months, we didn’t have hot water. I learned you cannot warm enough soup pans filled with water on a stove to make a hot bath.

When we finally paid the money for the gas, we had hot water, but winter came. The guys renting the downstairs of the old house turned off their heat when they went home for Christmas. We used that soup pan filled with boiling water to pour down the toilet, to unthaw the pipes so we could flush.

“We’re going to look back on these days as the best of times,” my Forever Man said. I remember thinking that I hoped there’d be hot water and toilets that flushed in the winter ahead of us! Love and a sense of humor were the must-haves in our marriage – and this striving together to find God.

My husband graduated first, and shortly after we moved into a new apartment with a phone, a television and hot water! WooHoo! We still had just one car. After my classes, I’d pick him up for work. He says he always had to wait on me, but I remember an awful lot of waiting in the early dark winter afternoons, waiting for him to come out. During one of those long waits, I remember asking God to show me how to love him like I did when I was little.

I learned He is the God who meets me when I call out.

That’s all God was waiting for – an invitation to relationship, an invitation for Him to work with the broken places inside me. Sometime in the next year, I watched a Billy Graham crusade on t.v. My grandmother, a staunch Catholic, always watched his crusades. I watched, called the number, and rededicated my life, committing myself further.  Unlike the little girl in the closet who recognized God as someone more powerful, someone to be respected, and the need to behave in his presence, this dedication was different.

Like the knight humbling himself before his liege lord. The knight willing chooses to come under the authority of the one into whose hands he gives all he is, all he owns and all he will be. While the knight might not recognize the true cost of his pledge, he understands it to the best of his knowledge at that time. I understood him to be God, my creator. At that time, I really didn’t understand – or believe – He was Father to My Daughter. Or maybe I didn’t understand what it was to have A Good, Good Father to My Daughter.

I was ready to exchange empty pride (preservation of ego) for humbleness.  Madeline L’Engle writes in “A Circle of Quiet,” “Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.” I was ready to throw myself away in complete concentration on The One who Created me.

I know that saying it outloud to someone else was crucial, that phone call was a dying-to-self moment.

He was the God under whose Banner I wanted to live – and He made a place for me under His banner. I was under the banner, but didn’t understand – I had an out-side-looking-in, orphan mentality. I really had no concept of what it was like to be a daughter loved, valued and protected by her father – but I knew God was a good God who saw me, who heard my prayers and acted on those prayers, and who would one day judge me.

A year after that, our oldest son was born. My husband and I were baptized. St. Augustine points out that the only difference between the Christian and the Unbeliever is not the challenges we face, for we both face the same challenges. The difference is in who we face the challenge with (God with me) – and the hope and faith we carry into that challenge – because of whose we are.

I held one child in my arms, year after year — he grew — and month after month, I grieved. 48 months, 48 “No’s.” Desolation snowballed into a downward spiral that drained me physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Secondary infertility was my diagnosis: the inability to conceive after the first child. Sarah, Rebekkah, Elizabeth, Rachael, Hannah, the barren woman — they became my soul sisters. I understood their cry — and I rejoiced in their answered prayers. I sat at their feet, looking for behavior solutions in their stories. . . because God heard their cries and answered their prayers – maybe not in the plot form they wanted, but He answered them in His best way.

  • Sarah and Abraham encouraged accountability in their relationship — story after story of each enabling the other’s weaknesses drove that home.
  • Isaac took his problem directly to God — the only recorded time of him going directly to God was this one time, when he asked God for Rebekkah to conceive. It showed me the mighty power of a praying husband.
  • Hannah unabashedly spilled her heart out in front of everyone, passionately emptying it for her God.
  • Elizabeth, having grown reconciled to her barrenness, showed us how to rejoice in God’s surprises.
  • Rachael cried out for a child to make her look good. Leah wanted to win her husband’s love by giving him sons — and found God’s mighty, fulfilling love. And, the barren woman’s house was filled, probably because she opened herself up to relationship and reliance on God.

I mined these stories for clues to solve my problem. Because God had not given me what I asked for, I assumed it was a conditional behavior issue. God was waiting for me to behave a certain way before He would grant my request. I was like the mouse trying to find the magic button that released the cheese — and none of the buttons I pushed released my cheese.

To compound that, I was an obsessive thinker, constantly searching for solutions. Obsessive thinking starts on the outside — can I work harder, eat healthier, study more, be skinnier, find a new theory, a new treatment — all the solutions are outside based. Outside solution failure turns the obsessive thinker inside — maybe I am not good enough, do not pray enough, believe enough, or am not important enough to God.

But God does not work like that. God does not love conditionally. I am not the mouse to his cheese. God wanted a heart connection. Those bible stories? Meaningless without a God relationship. I knew what I thought I wanted, but without relationship with my Father, I could not know what He wanted for me. I had to take my mind off the plot and seek to know the author.

“Commit your way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it.” (Psalm 25: 5, New Advent Bible)

A Christian friend, who was more intimate with God at that time, advised me during a particular moment of emotional crisis, “Ask Him to take the desire away if having another child is not His will.” I had to take everything off the table, so to speak — my dream, my desire.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

And, I did — I asked my Father to take the desire away — if this dream was not His dream for my life. Like Abraham’s willingness to give up Isaac, I needed to be more committed to His plan for my life, than my plan, my desire, my dream. Though at that time I did not realize how much He loved me, who I really was to Him, I gave Him my heart’s desire.

And He gave it back — abundantly. Our second and third sons were born, via fertility specialists.

My God, my Shepherd, guides me on the paths I needed to take.

We were praying selflessly for someone’s healing – and we believe that something in that selfless prayer fell on us – We found ourselves expecting our fourth child, a one in a million chance, the specialists had said. Six weeks into a pregnancy we weren’t supposed to be able to have, we had a miscarriage. Our heart’s broke.

Somewhere in all this I had already forgiven my dad who had never met my boys. Forgiveness is like grieving– you cry, get angry– and then you forgive. It’s like a gift you have for someone – and, in the best case scenario – that person comes to receive it. Worst case scenario – they never come to get it. It’s only our job to give it. The receiving is up to them.  After I’d forgiven, I found I could live with the regret of what could have been.

My God, My Shepherd, teaching me to develop a heart for forgiveness.

Forgiving doesn’t heal the broken places – but it’s the first step in allowing God to fix the broken places. God had been softening the clay of my soul, readying it remake it better than before all the brokenness.

Then came Gracie. Another one-in-a-million pregnancy. Maybe it would be a girl, I thought, a chance for a part of me to be whole. During the beginning of the pregnancy, I got a call that my father, 56 years old, was dying. He wasn’t really interested in seeing me, though. I hadn’t seen him since the 1980s. I took my two youngest to visit him. He was more interested what food I could bring him. Shortly after my visit, he died – and the same week, my baby’s heart stopped beating. Her trisomy number was too low. These babies don’t usually survive to be seen – much less live inuteror four months. I didn’t find out for about two more weeks, at my check up. Because I was so far along, my doctor sent me to Nashville for a D&E. I didn’t find out for a few years what the exact nature of the procedure – and I’m glad I didn’t know. It broke my heart when I found out.

Before I left the hospital, the nurse cautioned my husband to be vigilant with me near the due date – to watch for depression, to make sure I was eating – because my body would remember what should have been.  I wonder if they tell women who are having abortions that their body will remember the due date – and it will grieve.

My God, My comforter was next to my broken-hearted self.

At my six week check up, as I was walking out, I realized I had forgotten to ask if my baby had been a boy or girl. Standing in the hallway, the nurse ruffled through my chart and said, “It’s a girl.” My heart dropped. I can still remember the feeling. Then a voice behind me said, “I have a whole, healthy girl planned for you.” The voice was so audible, I turned around to see who spoke those words to me – but no one was there. . . . no one was there. . . .

My God, My Strength stopped my heart from being crushed.

You see, I’d always wanted a girl – not because of the dresses, the tea parties, the girly girl stuff. I’d wanted a girl because I thought, well, I couldn’t be whole – what with my parents divorce – and their issues – so maybe I could have a daughter who would be whole – who would have both her mom and dad love her, be there for her, fight for her, provide security from the chaotic world, encourage her – you know – all the things the traditional family unit is designed to do – everything I saw from the outside of other families looking in, everything I was doing with my own traditional family.

Crushed is a good word to describe how I felt. I came face to face with my brokenness. Forgiveness didn’t make me whole but it had opened my soul door to allow God to come in, to take the broken pottery of my soul – and remake it better, stronger, more perfectly his plan.

God started working on this deep broken place in me. Around my due date, a little girl in the nursery wanted me to hold her the entire time. She looked what I thought our little girl would look like – white-blonde hair, except she had blue eyes, not green. When I came home, I told my husband how she looked how Gracie would have looked – and then I started crying, crying deeper than the loss of my little girl, crying all the way to the bottom of my soul toes. I’ve never cried like that before. . . it was the cry born of the soul pain of the brokenness of this daughter without a father. Gracie’s loss made me face that loss, made me realize that I had put inappropriate expectations on this little girl to heal the brokenness, to make me whole.

The next day, I called the church explaining I needed to take a break from the two year olds, and then I went to get my nails done. God shows up in the everyday ordinary. That’s where some of the most profound miracles and breakthroughs happen –  in the everyday ordinary. For some reason, I started telling the nail technician I went to church with what happened the night before.

A lady I didn’t know was sitting, waiting for her to finish with me, listening and talking, too. As I talked about what happened the night before, the crying like I’ve never cried before, inside, I kept thinking, “Stop it. Stop telling this story. You don’t know this lady; she probably thinks you’re nuts.”

But I couldn’t stop. It kept pouring out.

The stranger jumped in, asking, “Do you know what travail is?”

“Does it mean I need to be in a little white jacket and taken away for a rest?” I asked, kind of scared it did mean that.

“It’s when the Holy Spirit mourns through you. I believe the Holy Spirit was mourning through you,” she said.

The nail technician chimed in, “We’re all just Daughter’s of the King.”

Something happened at that moment, understanding unfurled. While I had always heard I was the Daughter of the King, a member of the family, I never really understood. I “logos” understood it, but I didn’t “rhema” understand it – it wasn’t alive and thriving in me.

At that moment, the knowledge that I was a Daughter of the King breathed deep into my soul – and the knowledge of it started unfurling. I left, still assured both those ladies probably thought I was nuts. . . but I left change emerging.

As I drove to the grocery store, I rhema understood who I was to the Father God who created me. It included the privilege, the protection, the value and affection  accorded to a precious, beloved daughter of the King. He wasn’t a careless, absentee, uninterested father. He was a Father who took care of His sons and daughters – who knew the big and little details of each of his kids.

My God who made himself known to me became My Father who made himself known to me.

The covering, the protection, the self-image of who I was – he was the father who would read everything I wrote, no matter the print size, the father who would provide protective covering, who would walk me through my challenges, and dismantle my fears, who would make my heart whole. . . he was the father who would. . .

As I walked into the grocery store, I started thinking about what was expected of me as a Daughter of the King – “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). In the grocery parking lot that meant those who know they’re his – and those who don’t. It means not taking offense, forgiving – and grace and love. Knowing what it’s like to live Fatherless, I wanted others to know about this Father who loves them – and what that means if you’ve never experienced that kind of love, that this Father a place for them at His table – not a place 1000 tables away – but at His table, in His house, in His heart. In his house, you have a room decorated in your style with the best view imaginable.

After we lost Gracie, I read Kenneth Hagan’s Faith Study book about speaking faith because speaking God’s word can move mountains.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” ~ Hebrews 11:1.

I believed in this whole, healthy girl God said he had for me, thinking God was going to give me a daughter.

For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ Matthew 17:20

I didn’t see it, but I hoped in the words he’d given me that day. Basically, every time I prayed, I gave my Father permission to implement this promise He gave me.

I prayed, day in, day out “Thank you God for this whole healthy girl.”

I wondered every so often whether those words were a promise for a daughter or whether they were a promise about me.

When my fourth son was born, I had my answer. That “whole healthy girl” he talked about – that was me – I was the “whole, healthy girl” He planned for me.

(I want to add that my marriage improved so much at this point. Expecting my husband to be the repairer of the broken places in me [– though I don’t think I consciously realized I was doing that, I was] , was an inappropriate task for my forever man. While he is supposed to show my children and me the face of God, he is not God – and that is too huge a burden for anyone to carry.)

Happily Ever After? Right? I’m a Daughter of the KingI I know that! It’s alive in my soul! I know whose I am! The next stage of this wholeness journey was building this Father-Daughter relationship and how He filled up the broken, empty places left by my father – a divine re-design!

brokenurncc1

(Last year I was blessed with the chance to speak at the Scott County Women’s Retreat. The next four posts are what I had the opportunity to speak about. Thank you Sherry Shafer for inviting me to talk about how our Father heals his daughters! As an ice-breaker, I talked about what God showed me in a visualization exercise by Niki Hardy at the Winsome Retreat in 2018, but that is not included here. Clink the link and you will be taken there.)

“Wilt thou be made whole?” Jesus asked the broken man by the pool. He asks you and me that same question every day. “Wilt thou be made whole?”

Do you Want to be Made Whole? Really Want to?
Because it won’t be easy.
It won’t be painless. . . and it won’t be quick.
It take  a lifetime. . . .
because falling out of Eden Broke each of us that much.

Four Things in Life Break Us:

  • Adam and Eve’s Original Sin
  • What others do to us
  • What we do to others
  • The things we’ve done to ourselves

God planted a homing device in our DNA; A soul is always trying to find its creator – God.

Which one is Your broken story? Not someone else’s broken story – but yours?

Sadly, it’s often our challenges that bring us running home to God – crying, “Daddy!”
and every time, He never fails us.

My story is the of a girl’s spirit broken by a father who couldn’t or wouldn’t show her the face of God, but the story doesn’t end there. It’s a redemption story, an adoption story where this broken, fatherless girl is made whole by the God who would be her Father, who said,

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:18.

He wants to be A father who makes His face to shine upon you and me – you know the kind of beaming-with-love kind-of-shine Dads are supposed to have for their daughters? And in the warmth of the shine, you and I – we would find peace – the secure, safe, valued and loved kind-of-peace – even though the world might spin crazy out of control.

“The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” ~ Numbers 6:25

Come look for me, this father tells us – my strength is for you, not against you. Come sit with me, let me tell you stories, let me comfort you, make it all better, help you understand, heal the wounds from the daily scuffles – I will put you back together when the bullies would tear you apart. You are too little to do this world alone, He says – you need me to help you through.

“Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually” 1 Chronicles 16:11

For a long, long time I didn’t realize those words were for me – because I didn’t think I was good enough, valuable enough, so I lived on the outside looking in. I didn’t see a place for me at God’s family table – that’s the legacy absentee father’s leave to their daughters – but because of Jesus Christ – we don’t have to live under that man-made legacy because we designed for a Creator-of-the-Universe legacy.

Let me tell you a story of how God redeemed one of his daughters, this Father-God who had a plan for a whole healthy girl, one lesson at a time:

I first met God in the front bedroom closet in a little house on Woodmont Drive. I was 4 years old – already broken by original sin. Mom sat on my bed overseeing my task of cleaning my room. I was not pleased! As a matter of fact, I was downright put out. I remember thinking four-old-sized angry thoughts about my mom. I couldn’t tell you just exactly what those thoughts were today – but I was giving her quite a set-down in my head. Since I’m terrible at keeping secrets, she knew exactly what was going on inside  that four-year-old head of mine.

“God knows what you’re thinking,” she simple stated, as I puttered between the bed and the closet door. I knew what I was doing was wrong (does original-sin-kind-of-stuff really need a manual to tell us we’re doing wrong? The soul really knows! Even a four-year-old soul) – I knew I didn’t want God to see what I was thinking, so I stepped into my closet – and shut the door. There was a toy sink in there, so it had a homey feel – dark but homey.

Standing there in the dark, by my toy sink, I felt Triumphant. I had not only out-smarted my mom, but I had hidden my thoughts from God by hiding myself. God couldn’t see me and my four-year-old angry thoughts hiding in a closet. I didn’t know what smug was then – but I sure felt it. . . . until my mom’s next words pierced the door:

“God knows what you’re thinking in the closet, too.”

Under the hems of my dresses, next to my pink metal sink, in the darkness of my closet, I stood stunned. Triumph drained as I thought, “WOW! He knows what I’m thinking . . . even when I’m hiding . . . in a dark closet . . . thinking wrong things, even if it’s just four-year-old wrong things?” The smug triumph, the anger at my mother – it was all replaced with awe, with a “Hello God” introduction – and I knew I needed to be good because of the God who sees me, even when I’m hiding.

I learned He is a God who sees me, who made himself known to me.

About a year later, I was going to get a little more broken – by my parent’s divorce. Maybe not really so much their divorce as by not having a father in my life who showed me the face of God, and by not showing me the face of God, I couldn’t see how very loved I was, I couldn’t know what it was like to belong to a Father.

I think a saving grace was being in a Christian school, where we read about Jesus and his father every day – and I took this Jesus home with me, and I talked to him in my back yard, and at night in my room when it was dark and I was scared of the things in the dark, and when I was scared of where I would go live if something happened to my mother – He was there with me in the dark.

I learned He is a God who is there. . . for me.

A few years later, my mom remarried and I went to a school in a new town, where boys would physically assault girls on the bus for fun. It happened to me – no one came to my rescue. I learned how to fight back, to set healthy boundaries and build walls. One day, it happened to a girl in their group – and the bus driver, when he got to her house, stopped the bus, got her dad – who came on the bus and lit into those boys. I learned a couple of lessons that day about fathers:

  • I learned then that girls with fathers have a special covering, a protection.
  • I realized more keenly there was something I didn’t have – a father who would fight to protect me.

I didn’t know that God could be my refuge, but I saw that a Father should.
When my moms 2nd marriage failed, I asked God to show me who the right guy was for me because if she couldn’t do it, how could I? God and I made a covenant that day – that I wouldn’t just date a guy to give something to do, somewhere to go, to build an ego – and he would let me know which one was my Forever Man.

When I turned 17, I stopped talking to God. I’d prayed for years that he would help my mom – and I didn’t feel he had. I didn’t stop believing; I was just pouting, sulking because I didn’t understand the wait of a prayer sent out can take days, months, years, decades, maybe even a lifetime. . . but He’s not surprised, though I often am.

I learned he is a God who gives those he loves the freedom to make choices, but that He always provides a way back home to Him.

Even more years later, I realized that my prayer was selfishly inspired – because if her life had been easier, then mine would have been easier. Selfish prayers don’t change lives; Only unselfish prayers change lives, which I would find out later.

Where was my father in all this? For the first few years after the divorce, we saw him on Sundays every now and then – he remarried, adopted a family. I don’t remember ever being picked up, my hand held. I tried to sell him my first book when I was 7 years old for 5 cents – and he wouldn’t buy. I took him a book of poems I wrote my senior year of high school – and the writing was too small for him to read. I felt like I was forever reaching and my hands were forever empty. Maybe I should have only been concerned with giving but I think a child always wants their father’s love – and when it doesn’t come freely, we try to find ways to earn it, and by earning it, find out hands and hearts full. I didn’t understand, but God didn’t design His children for that kind of love, that conditional-kind-of-love. He designed us for abundant, over-flowing, unconditional love.

In 1983, I married the answer to my prayer. We were both equally yoked in our faith – equally yoked in that we were both equally hungry for relationship with God. Neither of us were pulling ahead or lagging behind.

I learned He was a God who answers prayers.

About a year later, while I was waiting for my husband after work – we only had one car, I asked God to show me how to love him like I did when I was little.

I learned He is the God who meets me when I call out.

When you sign up for Jesus, you sign up for being made whole – and Jesus had just been waiting for me to task that question for a long time. I didn’t realize then how truly broken I was. He didn’t show me all at once – it would have been too much a shock to see the gaping wound in my soul.

It was now Game On!
“You will seek me and Find me
when you seek me with all your heart” ~ Jeremiah 29:13

I had found God in a closet when I was four. In my early twenties, I embarked on a journey to find my Father.

lilies101In the movie Darby O’Gill and The Little People, Father Murphy asks who is willing to go to the next down and bring back a bell that has been donated to the church. The town bully offers, allowing that he be paid more than the good Father is willing to pay.

Darby O’Gill, a poor single father, finally offers and says, “I’ll do it Father. I’ll do it for nothing. The kindly Father has compassion on Darby, knowing his short-comings but recognizing the innate goodness of his heart, accepts his offer, saying, “No, as a reward, you, you may have the music of the bell.”

What a beautiful gift – to be given the music of the bell.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38

I don’t know what I’ve given sacrificially that that sounds as noble as fetching the bell for the church tower but He has given me . . . the beauty of the lilies that bloom right now – and the hydrangea that froze in a late frost last year leaving us without hydrangea until now – He has given me the blue hydrangea in abundance. The seeds of the zinnia have popped their greenness out of the ground – and He promises all the zinnias offer, too – the beauty, the butterflies that come to snack, the joyful color.

Today, He has given me the coolness of the day, too – the coolness under my feet, to my skin, the cardinal’s song, and the call of the red-winged black bird.

. . . and he has given me home after a short journey that he filled with gifts of unanticipated blessing.

Maybe the key to contentment, to a choose-joy life is to give without expectation while living expectation full of God’s goodness, knowing He is gracious, generous, good, lavish with His love. After all, He does collect our tears in a bottle, he offers the warm, comforting protection beneath his wings, he plans the best plans – if we don’t spoil them. Even if we spoil His plans, He’s got the plant to pull us out of our mess. . . and He makes miracles.

“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
    all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
    his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished,
    love extravagant.
He said, “Without question these are my people,
    children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
    In all their troubles,
    he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
    He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
    he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
    for a long, long time.” ~ Isaiah 63: 7-9

He wants us to remember; it grieves him when we do not. As parents, do we not want our children to recognize, remember the love we have lavished on them – and does it not grieve our hearts when they forget, when they don’t remember?

“But you did not remember. . . you have forgotten” – God says over and over again – forgotten what he has done in the long ago past. . . and our daily past. . .

I want to remember his lavish generosity. . . . because He wants me to remember. . . to remember and acknowledge He gave it to me, He loves me, “He will never stop doing good to me” (Jeremiah 32:40).

I want to remember because in remembering, I draw closer. In remembering, I my eyes are opened to more of Him. In remember, my heart grows in love.

“Because you did not remember”, he says, (Ezekiel 16:43, Hosea 13:6, Psalm 78:43, Psalm 106: 13)

Good relationships remember the good! The good is cataloged, savored, told about over and over again, so much so that some people might go, “Here she goes again.”

“Remember Me,” God is continually saying. It grieves him when we don’t.  Selfless hearts remember the generosity of others. Hearts that practice love remember the goodness of others. I want to live selflessly, to practice love. I want to live thankful!

I never want to stop  remembering, so today, I remember the blessing of the lilies. Thank you, Father, for in remembering me, you teach me to remember you!

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“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” ~ Psalm 34:7-8

(Note: Cooking isn’t just cooking at the Blue Cotton House. There’s always a story, a Mom Lecture Nugget, a little nourishment for the soul with words or without. As my first born said a long time ago, there are some people you can run by and spend a second with – and there are some people who really want to know what’s going on, who want to sit long and talk, listen, discuss the heart of what’s going on. So, if you just want to avoid that, The Recipe is at The End)

I’m behind – I need to finish Part II of the our miracle story  – there’s so much to say . . the miracle, God’s amazing mercy and lavish generosity, the post-challenge-post miracle living, the everyday ordinary of the daily challenges, and the littlest of our boys graduating high school, a 10 Year Blogaversary – it feels like yesterday I hit the first publish button – and Blue Cotton Memory was born.  Instead of the usual everyday ordinary where little stuff tumbles  until the shaken out of its monotony by pops of Big Stuff,  it has been a season marked by Big Stuff happening one on top of another.

Some friends asked for a recipe – a recipe that’s been so much a part of this season, starting when Christmas, Easter and Passover collided in December. There were a lot of showerless days in the hospital though the rain poured constantly outside, about an hour and a half away from home depending on traffic – and a Panera around the corner with its chocolate croissants and huge Kitchen Sink Cookies. Across the street is a favorite little restaurant that makes the best salads, and a fast-food drive-through with strawberry lemonades that tasted good to my husband.

For 14 days (first stay 2 days, second stay 6 days, 3rd stay 6 days), the hospital room became a nest, a home away from home. Pillows, a quilt from home, books, bible, knitting projects – and savories like chocolate croissants and huge Panera Kitchen Sink Cookies –  littered a corner of the room with the chair that folded back to make an impromptu bed. These bits and pieces of home created a cocoon of comfort, vigor and hope.

All our boys, the ones still in the nest and the ones with their own nests pulled together keeping the business running, the dog walked, the cat and each other fed, the high school and college class work successfully done, chores normally ignored and left to mom weren’t ignored – I was completely hands off, (though, friends – I was hands up living)! Basically, these boys were not so much boys as men who kept the everyday ordinary running smoothly, so we could work through the extraordinary. I was so very proud of how they handled The Season of the Great Challenge.

The Last High School Soccer Season started before we were home for good. High School soccer started for us in 2000 – all five boys played. It was the littlest-who-wasn’t-little-any-more ‘s senior year, the last soccer season – yes! But it was the end of an era . . . and, Thank You God! My husband was here for it, his health blooming from the miracle after miracle. I think I understand the parts of the story the gospel doesn’t tell us about – life after the miracle, after Jesus opened the blind man’s eyes, healed the leper, restored the health of the soldier’s valued servant, called life back into Lazarus.

Living life after the miracle has been all the sweeter. Sweeter maybe because we’ve been more intentional about it. There’s still challenges, still frustrations – still all the everyday ordinary ups and downs – but maybe it’s also more intentionally living with thankfulness, macro focusing on the goodness He gives us – in each other, in those around us, in the blessing details of the daily. Sweeter for sure because when you’ve walked so close to God,  where you didn’t take your eyes off him as he fought the battle for you, when you’ve been ensconced under his wing, covered so securely in his Holy Spirit protection – the saturation of His presence seeps into every place you go, everything you do, affecting how you do it!

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It was time to focus on the little one grown up and graduating high school! It was a Big Stuff Moment! What a semester he had! He kept up with two college classes, did an internship, and an on-line class at the high school. He wants to be an engineer like his dad – and he played his best soccer – earning All-District First Team. He graduated with Honors. What I’ll remember most about this season? The first is when he said, “God’s got this Mom!” His quiet, confident assurance in a challenging moment! Then the hugs! Such sweet hugs! Later when he said he wanted me to do his senior photos instead of paying someone else!

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Soccer leads up to graduation where we live – and if it’s a particularly good season, it goes beyond. Our team played their heart out – and a couple of seniors who’d played soccer with our guys for years started a new tradition: The Kitchen. They came with pots and pans, with big ladles and spoons, with chefs hats and aprons – and a menu. Even on away games hours away. They came and they banged those pots and pans and cheered! I’ll admit – sometimes they out-noised the home team when we played away games. I loved their heart – and their out-of-the-cake-box creativity!

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I thought The Kitchen needed some Kitchen Sink Cookies – because, friends, when you’re on the game field – your cheer section can carry you through – and it’s important that the cheer section is cheered on, too.

Cost and Cookie Size prohibited me from ordering Panera’s Kitchen Sink Cookies for The Kitchen, so I tried an on-line copy-cat version. I don’t know what I did wrong, but they ended up  in the garbage. It was an utter fail experience. So, I thought and pondered – and the light bulb finally flickered on – I just needed to use my chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base – and add everything and the kitchen sink!

The response? A Savory Memory to a Season of Big Stuff! It was a particularly good season. Graduation came – and soccer continued. The team made it to The Final Four of the State Playoffs! What a run it was! But now we’re back to the everyday ordinary. The depleted schedule has left us in a quiet season. It doesn’t smell like soccer cleats and jerseys that reek of hard, sweaty work. My husband is walking six miles a day – and we had our first kayaking outing of the season. We’ve entered a new season of living but we’re keeping our eyes focused on The One Who Saves. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being saturated with His presence – that being wrapped up in a cocoon of his love and protection, regardless of whether it’s Big Stuff or Everyday Ordinary Living.

Muddy’s Kitchen Sink Cookies 

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 cup Crisco Baking Sticks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 10-oz package chocolate chip cookies
2-3 cups tiny twist pretzels (measured BEFORE spinning in a food processor)
Caramel sauce (I use Torani Caramel in squeeze bottle)
(Recommended: (2) 12 X 17 cookie sheet or(2)13 X 18; a small melon scoop; parchment paper to line cookie sheet.)Preheat oven to 375°

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and Crisco Baking Stick until creamy. Add granulated and brown sugar and vanilla to the butter mixture. Blend until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Beat in flour mixture a half a cup at a time until you don’t see any white flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Then add the broken up pretzel twists.

Using small melon scoop, space two inches a part, then drizzle caramel syrup over the tops (if cold, it will not slide down sides but melt as it cooks). Set timer for 9-11 minutes and check. Bake time depends on the individual stove.If the cookies have spread together, separate when warm. Let cool for at 5 minutes.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time- a mistake just realized. . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. He had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, majeskas and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. Our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

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During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide)

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart.” ~ Tim Keller

. . . Because Cooking can be so much more than just cooking. . . .

I adore the Louisville Hot Brown Sandwich. For a long time, I rarely ever made it. Not because the recipe was difficult, but because I believed that it must be served it on individual, stainless-steel Hot Brown plates in order to oven-broil until the sauce puffed up just a bit and turned a hint of golden brown.

Being a Louisville girl, I had to do it more right, than, say, someone not from Louisville. . . right. . . ?  But what newlywed can afford little stainless-steel Hot Brown plates? Should I have bought them one at a time. Then “Poof,” we were a family of seven and buying them just wasn’t on top of the necessary list. Since I couldn’t afford the plates, I didn’t make the dish.

It didn’t seem . . . seemly. . . to serve it any other way. Any other way wouldn’t be authentic, genteel southern. . . the right way. Besides, it smacked of wrongness to take something with a bit of white linen grandeur served with a bit of horse racing kick to it. . . and put it in an everyday ordinary casserole dish, kind of like taking a Derby winner and turning it into a plough horse.

Preconceived Notions of how things should be done are sometimes the biggest self-imposed Stop Signs preventing everyday ordinary experiences of goodness.

An it’s-just-not-done-that-way kind of mentality can sometimes make it hard for the good things to grow in life – good things like God-designed skill sets needed to build God-designed dreams, or strong, comfortable-in-their-God-designed-skin kids, life-long love, a life-changing relationship with the Father who creates and the Savior who saves.

Sometimes, I have learned, I need to let go of preconceived notions of how I think things should be – and just do them in a way that enables me to do them.

Tradition and innovation are not easy friends.

Maybe I don’t always make homemade Alfredo sauce over pasta. Maybe I buy the pre-made sauce and add garlic and parmesan, while sauteing the chicken in olive oil and Italian seasoning.

My oldest, he came home from college one day, walked through the door, saying, “We’re not like other people, Mom.”

I answered somewhat cheekily, “We’re called to be a peculiar people” (referencing 1 Peter 2:9).

I don’t think that’s what he meant. He never elaborated. Maybe that is something we could have sat long and talked much about – but, probably, it’s just that our family, my husband, me, five sons, living in a town where our extended family was hours away –  preconceived notions of what some traditions ought to be didn’t allow our ideas of life, faith, love and family to thrive, so we made adjustments to our life recipe for the outcome our hearts sought.

Maybe I don’t make homemade bread. Maybe I buy biscuits in a tin, brush them with butter mixed with pressed garlic and salt, and when they come out of the oven, brush them again.

Maybe we don’t always sit down around the kitchen table for dinner because there’s a college student, a high school student and one who works still living at home – and maybe we sit more often at the counter some evenings and have individual conversations about big and little things. Sometimes we’re all at the counter, some finishing up, some coming in, some in the middle – and the conversations intertwine in an oddly real, sweet, out-of-the box meaningful way that is soul food in itself – all because I let go of Preconceived Notions of how I once thought things should be done – and in order for an environment to be created that makes room for God with us, in us, around us, in the good and the bad, the wins and the losses, the overcoming and the misses, the hard challenges and the celebrations.

I’m not angling for a t.v. show, though I’m into “good things” and “best dishes” for my family. I’m angling to make those who sit at my kitchen counter or table content, satisfied, comforted, filled with stuff good for the body with side dishes of soul food – both love and truth, the sweet and savory, the easy and the hard, the veggies and the meat – and I want them to come back for more. . . even when their mail doesn’t come anymore to this address.

Yes, after 36 years of marriage, almost 33 years of parenting, I am still weeding out preconceived notions of how to do things – or maybe they’re inappropriate expectations of how things ought to be done – and making changes for better-hearted, God-designed living.

So I finally gave up on the most authentic way to serve a Hot Brown Sandwich – and turned it into a casserole – much to my sons’ delight! I hope it gives you an opportunity to sit long and talk much with those God gives you to sit at your table or you kitchen counter!

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
~ John Henry Newman

hotbrown2cMuddy’s Hot Brown Casserole
The crux of the sandwich is the sauce, which, oddly enough, is a combination of two sauces

Sauce One or Bechamel
½ cup butter or margarine
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced
1/3 cup flour
3 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley if you have it, but parsley isn’t a must
A dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste(you will see the browned onion minces in the paste). Add milk and other seasonings and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce of thick and smooth. When it is thick and smooth. Some recommend straining the sauce. I never have.

Sauce Two or Mornay
2 cups of sauce one
2 egg yolks
½ c. grated parmesan cheese (more doesn’t hurt)
1 tablespoon butter
8 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream Whipped

Combine egg yolks with a 1/2 cup of room temperature Sauce One. When combined, add to the rest of Sauce one. Heat, stirring constantly and remove from stove when starts to bubble. When hot and thick add cheese and the butter. The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

hotbrown3cThen for every ½ C. sauce that is to be used for the sandwich, fold in 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. For this it would be 8 tablespoons whipped cream. The cream gives a lift to the browning-off under the broiler.

hotbrown4c.jpgTo assemble, cut the crusts office 2 slices of bread for each sandwich. Toast the, lining with toast either a casserole dish or a cookie pan (I use a 15X21 when we have a house full to feed)  On top of the toast, layer a slice of country ham topped with a layer of chicken. Enshroud with a goodly portion of the sauce. Place in a very hot oven or under the broiler until the sauce slightly puffed with a little bronze to the top, but not too bronze.  Top each piece of toast with a half a slice of cooked bacon and parsley.

Ingredients List:

Bread (one long loaf of white bread)
(20 slices of bread for a 15X21 cookie pan)
Bacon (a half a slice for every piece of toast)
1 lb. sliced turkey or chicken
1 lb. ham or country ham
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups hot milk
½ cup butter + 2 tablespoons (or 10 tablespoons total)
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday