The Letters

Can you do the line below that?

“Yes.”

Silence.

“Okay, go ahead and read it.”

I held the black patch-stick in front of my eye and cleared my throat.

“Umm, X? Could be an M.” I squinted desperately.

“Please don’t squint.”

I bit my lip.

She knew I was on the verge of tears, so she tried to rescue me.

“Let’s just try the line above, hon. It’s okay if you can’t see it.”

No, it’s not okay.

I breathed in slowly and removed the stick.

“I can’t see it. I can’t see any of them.”

Moments of weakness have a way of reminding you that weakness isn’t momentary.

I closed my eyes and let the tears burn through my makeup.

Quite simply, I don’t do well with need.

I didn’t want to need thicker lenses, stronger contacts, more help doing what I feel like I should be able to do on my own.

“I’m sorry.” I mumbled.

“It’s okay, sweetie.” She smiled. “Believe it or not, you’re not the first one I’ve had that didn’t want to admit she couldn’t see.”

I nodded in gratitude for the way she spoke.

Though she was talking to a twenty-something girl, it was the sixth-grader in me that heard her.

For ten minutes I had played with the patch of tape covering a gap in my school bus seat. I peeled it back and forth, trying to come up with the right words. I gave up and went with the obvious.

“Will you sign my yearbook?” The hot bus bumped along, the sound of last day cheers spilling out of the half-open windows.

“Sure, Angela.” She smiled.

She was, without question, the prettiest girl I knew. And the way I saw it, her name in my book meant I was someone important.

She wrote for a few seconds, closed it, and handed it over the green pleather seat to me.

“Thanks so much.” I turned around and slid it into my backpack, smiling from ear to ear.

It was a new day.

When I got home, I ran to my room and ripped it out, eager to see the stamp of approval .

“I hope you find your spektacles.”

I stared at the letters, tried to rearrange them into something that looked like kindness, but I couldn’t. The grammar nerd in me was as offended as the unpopular girl.

“It’s a c.” I muttered out loud.

I had argued with my mother that morning, and in the end, convinced her that I didn’t need them that day. I could make it one day without my stupid glasses.

I had bumped, knocked-into, and squinted my way through 7 periods just to say I wasn’t bound to them. In the cafeteria, several girls asked me where my glasses were and I lied. I said I had lost them.

I knew they were perched on my white-wicker nightstand, alongside an issue of “Teen Bop” and a collection of safety pins I had been beading for kids who wouldn’t give me the time of day.

Need feels like an ugly crutch.

“Angela? Are you ready to try again?” I shook my head, awakening from my thoughts. She was the nicest optometrist I had ever broken down in front of.

“It’s Angie.” I mumbled. “I don’t go by Angela anymore.” I smiled at her, my eyes thanking her while I wiped my cheeks dry.

As expected, my eyesight had gotten considerably worse. She walked me through the options, and I heard a couple words- “featherweight….astigmatism….new line of lenses…”

I thanked her and took my prescription, explaining that I would come back another day to choose them.

Ridiculous, really.

I couldn’t see.

It was in my genes, not my choices.

I had a conversation recently with someone I care about, and I walked away knowing we didn’t see eye to eye about the role of Christ in our lives.

Chalk it up to science, to intellect, to anything that makes it seem like He’s on the periphery, and it’s hard to argue.

Logic and love are so often at odds.

“He’s failed me, Angie. I’ve only prayed for a couple things in the last five years, and every one of them went the wrong way.” He went into detail, and yes, I could see that it felt upside-down.

You should know, I love the Lord.

But I freeze in these situations.

I think the counselor in me wants to agree and affirm and nod and sympathize and wage war against the injustice, but I don’t share the way I should. I don’t tell him that later that night I cried on his behalf. As I prayed for him, I kept seeing the words, “He can’t see…he can’t see…”

Underneath his reasoning and his words I saw myself, feet dangling and heart racing.

Yes, I can read it…

I don’t need this. It’s just another solution in a string of solutions that never make me whole. They just make me different. They make me reliant. They don’t really fix it at all.

Try the one above…

That’s what I really wanted to say, if the words would have come.

Don’t squint, friend. I’m on your side.

The best thing you can do is admit that you can’t see a foot in front of your face without this. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you brave.

I would have held his hand, smiled at him, and taken away the letters completely.

It isn’t a test.

You aren’t failing.

It’s just that you can’t get well until you see that you aren’t.

It’s in your genes. 

You’ve lived your life stumbling and blind, unaware of the beauty all around you.

And why?

Because the bus bumps along.

The wind is hardly a relief anymore.

It tastes like regret and whips you with lies.

This will make you vulnerable, it says…

I want to be home, in my safe room, where the pen marks don’t scratch their way to my heart.

But we aren’t there yet.

And in the meantime, there is life to be seen. It’s magnificent, actually.

Hush, I would have said.

And he would have slipped them on and wept because what I said was true.

I want you to see it, too.

Whoever you are, and for whatever reason you stumbled here today- know this.

It wasn’t by accident, or by chance.

It was the hand of a watching God, who loves you in all of your blindness.

The leaves are changing just outside my window, and I can’t help but wish you were here with me.

I would hold your hands, wipe your cheeks, and tell you that you haven’t missed the best part. I would celebrate with you as the trees sing gold and glory, and we would wait together.

It’s a new day, after all.

Jesus, help us to see what we are without You, and when we have…

Let us have all of You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three

You didn’t think I would forget about our protagonist, Peter, did you? Never!

Okay, let’s go back to the scene. Annnnnd, cue.

Peter is fishing, but he isn’t having much luck. He hasn’t caught anything and neither has a single one of his companions. As dawn breaks on a new day, they hear a voice that they don’t seem to recognize right away.

“Children, do you have any fish?” (John 21:5, ESV)

Let’s back up the truck for a second. The first thing that strikes me is that He calls them “children.” Again, I’m not sure that the intention was to make readers smile, but I can’t help myself. I picture them out on the boat after a long night of unsuccessful fishing, and all of a sudden they hear a voice saying, “hey kiddos!” Although the NIV translation of the Bible uses the word “friend,” I think the ESV’s version is more accurate.

They tell the stranger they don’t have any fish and He suggests that they cast their nets on the right side of the boat instead. When they obey, they cannot even pull the nets onto the boat because of how heavy with fish they are. As soon as this happens, John shouts, “It is the Lord!”

When Peter hears this, he puts on an outer garment (evidently he was fishing in a less than appropriate outfit for greeting the Lord), and then?

“…he threw himself into the sea.” (John 21:7)

Wait.

Threw himself? Into the sea that had almost killed him?

Oh be still my heart. I love the imagery.

While the other disciples took the boat, dragging their load of fish, Peter jumped headfirst to get to Jesus. To be honest, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. How spectacular that moment must have been! Think about the way it came together to reveal the heart of God to all of us.

1. He was fishing, just as he had been when he met Jesus.

2. Jesus called to him, and he came immediately.

3. He threw himself into the water because he had firsthand experience with a God Who knew exactly how to pull him out, should he need help.

Isn’t it the same for us? Once we have seen the power of Jesus, we are much more likely to jump. Forget the fish and the nets. Who needs a boat? He’s here, and I’m going to get to Him now. The Greek word used here for “threw” means, “to give over to one’s care uncertain about the result.”

Immediately, he gives himself over to the One who saves him. Not only from the sea, but in order to preserve his soul for eternity. Wow.

And you know what? It makes me want to throw myself into the sea over an over again. Whatever it takes to get to the shore. Not because it’s safe.

But because He is there.

Although somewhere in the back of my mind, even though I know He’s there, I wonder about something else. What if He doesn’t receive me when I get to Him?

Do you ever feel like you crossed an invisible line in the sand? That you have finally pushed so hard that He’s just flat given up on you?

Remember at this point that Peter hasn’t seen (to our knowledge) Christ since the time of his denial. I wonder if he ever felt worried about what Christ would say to him?

Scripture says that when they got on land, there was a fire burning. I have a feeling this is just the way my mind works, but I want to know who made it. I mean, they were in the boat all night, so it wasn’t them. Are we to presume it was the Lord? I think He did, and I’m going to tell you why I think it might have happened that way.

The Lord asks Peter to go get the fish from the boat so they can cook them. He obeys. They eat their breakfast and when they are finished, Jesus turns His attention to Peter.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

One. 

“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Two.

“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Do you love me?”

Three.

“Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Why does Jesus ask Peter three times whether he loves Him? In one commentary I read, the author said it was the Lord’s way of forgiving Peter-once for each time Peter had denied Him. If that is the case, then I want to point out something that I find really interesting.

Here is the section of Scripture where Peter denies Christ:

“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.” (Luke 22:54-55)

Waiiittttt a minute. A fire?!?!?!

Now that sounds familiar, huh? I think it’s entirely plausible that the Lord’s usage of fire in the latter example was to remind Peter of the night he had sinned against Him. Not because He wanted him to suffer and cower to his shame, but because He wanted to restore him in an unmistakable way.  Fire is used in the Bible to represent God and purification…how beautifully appropriate.

I think Jesus likes to set a familiar table (Okay, you fish and I’ll call out to you. Then, there will be some fish and a fire. I’m going to remind you that I’m the God of healing and restoration, and then you’re going to go and get some real fish. Men. And you’re going to tell them exactly what I did for you, because you know what it feels like to dive in, chase after me, and be forgiven.) and then invite us to dine on His spectacular grace time and time again.

Do you think you have sinned one time too many?

He says it isn’t so, love.

Do you remember the way the water felt when you couldn’t breathe and you were all arms reaching and breath gasping? And do you remember when I pulled you out?

He didn’t come to save us from the water. He came to baptize us with His mercy. 

And our job is to throw ourselves into the water in obedience.

He asks me over and over if I love Him, and as my lips say “yes,” He calls me to be a fisher of men. To feed His sheep. To remember the night He restored me and called me His own, despite my sin and my regrets. It’s almost too much to bear. Who, Lord? Who am I to deserve another fire?

Here is what I would love for you to consider alongside me today. Has any part of your sin kept you from the cross? Has there been an opportunity for Satan to whisper to you and tell you that you’ve gone one step too far and that you can’t possibly be restored?

This isn’t the way the Lord sees you, friend.

His desire is for you to dive deep into the water. Leave your nets as many times as He asks you to and run where He calls you. In that place, you will be healed. And when you have been, I daresay you will have a story that is begging to be told.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus…” (Acts 4:13)

Be bold, sisters.

Jump.

Immediately.

One.

Two.

Three.

Immediately

He had just cast his net into the sea when he heard a voice.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He didn’t know the voice, but something about it must have compelled him, because he dropped his net immediately and followed the stranger.

Of all people in Scripture, I think I relate the most to Peter. He loves deeply, intensely, and with tremendous devotion.

But sometimes he says the wrong thing.

Okay, more than sometimes.

In any case, I think the word “immediately” used to describe his reaction to Christ could categorize a good bit of his thinking. He’s sort of clumsily “all-in” with his love.

He is the first of the disciples to pipe up when Jesus asks the disciples if they know who He is, and I imagine him responding a little like me as an eager middle-schooler, hand raised and ready to be praised for my answer. He’s impetuous, but he means well. Gold star, Peter.

One day I want to write a book on his life, because I feel so emotionally charged when I read about him. There are so many details that stir me to tears, because I feel like I’m there with him in it all.

In the water, net in hand.

I heard Him and I dropped what I had been clinging to, even though it was all I knew at the time. I really didn’t spend a lot of time worrying what I was going to do next, or where He was taking me. I’m either “all-in” or “not at all” myself.

Have you ever read the Bible and chuckled to yourself? I assure you, there is humor there if you allow yourself to imagine it. God is the Author of humor, and I genuinely believe He snuck in a few good one-liners for all of us who appreciate wit and timing (hand raised. Gold star, Angie).

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples He is going to wash their feet. It’s clearly a sacred and holy moment, and as He approaches Peter, Peter resists Him. He tells Jesus that He will never wash his feet (notice the use of the word “never.” We extremists like to jump there. You know, like, immediately.) I presume this statement was accompanied by head-shaking or some other physical motion to emphasize that it wasn’t going to happen. This was Jesus! The Son of God certainly didn’t need to be washing anyone’s feet. Peter saw that, and spoke up. Never. Never. NEVER. As in, not ever. Not now, not in a million years. It isn’t happening.

Well, Jesus responds to Him in approximately ten words and the next thing we hear Peter say is:

“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9)

Umm, okay. So maybe never was a little bit strong. And now that I’ve had a few seconds to reconsider, let’s go ahead and do the whole shebang, huh? Why stop with the feet? If you want this to happen I’ll grab some shampoo and body wash and we’ll call it a day.

Sweet Peter. He goes from “never” to “head-to-toe” faster than most people can tie their shoelaces.

I get it. I mean, I totally, completely get it (totally, completely. Not that I’m extreme.)

If you heard my Women of Faith talk this year, you will already know one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible, and it involves Peter. If you want to read it, it happens in Matthew 14. The short version is that Jesus tells Peter to walk on water and he steps out of the boat in faith. Wouldn’t you just figure he was the one who called out to Jesus and then climbed into the impossible?

He does okay for a little bit. Step by step he gets closer to the Lord.

But then he realizes the waves are huge, and he doubts. He starts to drown.

Yep. Been there.

I’m going to skip some of my favorite details for the sake of brevity (and because I really do want to write a book and I think there is a lot more here than a blog post), but the next thing we know, Peter is reaching out to Jesus, asking Him to save him from the sea.

And I love this.

I LOVE THIS (I’m fairly certain Peter would have loved italics and bold, capital letters)

Scripture says this:

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.” (Matthew 14:31)

Immediately. 

{Eutheōs}

We see this word approximately 30 times in the New Testament, and one of the other occasions is when we read about the way Peter responded when he first heard the voice of the Lord.

Remember? He immediately dropped his net to follow. No dilly-dallying. You called out to me and I responded right away. Jesus is doing the same here, and I can imagine that as His arm dove into the deep, Peter might have remembered what it was like to be a fishermen in desperate need of a Savior.

I know I do.

Peter wasn’t born with the name “Peter,” but rather, “Simon.” Jesus Himself named him Peter, meaning, “the rock.”

Does it surprise you at all that Jesus chose a man like Peter to be a “rock” of the faith? After all, let’s not forget what Peter had yet to do at this point. At the same dinner that Jesus washes his feet, He tells Peter that he will deny Him three times. Peter argues that passionately, saying he would rather die than deny Christ (Not just, “I won’t do that, Lord,” but “I WOULD RATHER DIE!” Well, at least he’s consistent).

I can’t help but wince when I read those words, because as we know, all the passion in that moment didn’t translate when Peter was on the spot a few hours later. He did, in fact, deny His Christ three times, and when he heard the rooster crow, he remembered the Lord’s words. He wept bitterly as he considered his betrayal.

Three times, he says he doesn’t know Him. And I’m sure he said it with all the intensity that characterized his life.  What must it have been like, on that dark night, as Peter considered that he had been too weak to defend his King? As the Lord was beaten, bloody, hung to die while mocked relentlessly-was Peter weeping over his actions somewhere else in the night?

We have no reason to believe he was at the crucifixion of Christ. Maybe he was still too terrified of what the crowds might do to someone who had been associated with Jesus. Or maybe he was swallowed by his shame, his regret too profound to even move towards the cross.

Have you ever felt a shame that told you that you weren’t worthy to be near the cross? I hasten to guess that you have. The enemy of our souls wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m afraid.

Regardless of where he was in that particular moment, it isn’t the last we will hear from Peter. Not by a long-shot, in fact. He will rise to become a great evangelist, proclaiming the name of Christ to people everywhere, no doubt in boldness. But what about in-between? Did this man ever wonder if he could truly be forgiven for his sin?

The risen Christ reveals Himself to Mary the Magdalene, who runs to tell the apostles. For the most part, they don’t believe her. But there is one who does.

“But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24: 12

I would imagine it was immediately, wouldn’t you?

Maybe he had the same thought I have, many times over.

He is real.

And that means there is still a chance for me to dedicate the rest of my life to Him, no matter how many times I have failed Him in the past.

Just today, as I read the words I am about to share with you, I cried in the corner of a coffee shop over the power of what the Lord chose for Simon Peter. Suffice it to be said, God is a phenomenal writer-never missing the imagery and symbolism that brings you to your knees in worship. It’s not lost on me, and I pray it isn’t lost on you either.

Peter knows in theory that Jesus has risen from the dead. He has heard the stories and while he believes on some intellectual level, he hasn’t experienced Him in person. If this was a movie playing, wouldn’t you long to know what happened next? Wouldn’t you be curled up in your chair, wondering if he would ever have the chance to speak to Jesus again?

Maybe it’s just me. Say it’s not just me.

In the 21st chapter of John, we have the scene that, for me, sketches out the beauty of the Gospel in a way that no chapters of my own life can disagree with…

 

(To be continued very soon… I’m pretty sure 1500 words is well over the daily blog reading limit:) Oh how I love the word of God…)

It Was Love…



**Updated with link to the Children’s Bible…***
As you can all imagine, the last week or so has been a tangled mess of emotions, and with the combination of an incredible Good Friday message and a beautiful Easter, I feel more peace than I have in awhile.
The Lord spoke to me the other night as I was reading the girls the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. I talk about this Children’s Bible often because I really think it has impacted them.  They recall the most beautiful stories in scripture effortlessly, and when I read it I understand why.  In fact, part of the way through my reading, I literally stopped mid-sentence and had to compose myself because the words were breathtaking.  Here is an excerpt from the Bible…
They nailed Jesus to the cross.

“Father, forgive them, ” Jesus gasped. “They don’t understand what they are doing.”

“You say you have come to rescue us!” people shouted. “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”

But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side-if he’d called.

“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!” they said.

And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed the little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5000 people.

But Jesus stayed.

You see, they didn’t understand. It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.

It was love.


For some reason, I hadn’t quite thought it through in those terms, and I was rendered speechless by the infinite power that was denied for the sake of love.
It is, for me, one of the simplest and most powerful ways to present the Gospel, even stretching into our lives today.
“Angie, why do you choose to be crucified with Christ? You have the choice to abandon it all…just walk away and say that this whole thing is too hard.  You need a break. You aren’t strong enough to feel the scabs forming over and the taste of blood in your mouth…”

Suddenly it was very clear to me that it has never been the nails that held me here.
It has been love.
Deep, desperate, longing love for the One Who was mocked on my behalf. And worse yet, I have been that voice at times in my life. 
And this year, I realized that since the day I first heard His name, I had two choices.
Be crucified with Him, or climb down.
I have felt the sting of death deeply, for the first time in my life, and there was never the option to walk away. Not because I couldn’t, but rather, because I was blessed in the most unexpected way to invite the nails that held me to Him. 
“Sweet child. The nails are not enough to hold you here. You can only live the life I am calling you to through the love I have given you. The love which now has taken up residence in your very being, and makes the wounds bearable…”

He beckons us to nestle deep into the brokenness and find inexplicable comfort. He woos us to touch His bleeding side so we will know that we are not alone. 
I can tell you that I have done this, and I have been rescued from a pit so deep I could not fathom a way out of it. You may be down there right now, begging for mercy and for relief.  I understand, and I hurt for you, but this year, I have learned about a part of myself I didn’t know existed, and as crazy as it sounds, I want you to think about it and see if it makes any sense to you.
We who are followers of the King must daily wake up and look in the mirror, seeing our reflection with a crown of thorns balanced on our heads. We must feel the burden of the cross at different points in our life, and with the power of Christ Himself, we will look solemnly back at ourselves and say, “I am choosing to bear the crown because I cannot live without the love…”

That’s easy to say, isn’t it?  Will you trust me enough to try it? Tell Him, the One who knows your deepest fears and most secret desperation, that you are choosing the thorns. Everyday.
And one day, not so far from now, I believe we will be made complete, and pain will cease completely.
Oh, Lord, come quickly.
But until then, make your life an offering, and allow the hands of the Father to carry You through what you think is impossible.
I assure you that through it, He will show You His boundless, freeing love, which allows us the strength to make it another day.
And another day.
And then, one glorious day, He will call for us.
I can’t prove it to you, but I know it deep, deep within myself.
The stone has been moved.
He is Risen.
And I love Him, even in the excruciating pain I feel. Honestly, if you are trying to pursue relationship out of forced conviction, you will miss out on the glory of falling in love with the Maker of your soul. There is such a difference between religion and relationship. I could not have survived without the latter, I assure you.
Because, you see, the thing about the nails in this life is that they are temporary. We choose to bear them because we know that we will lay our crowns at His feet in the blink of an eye. We will join Him for eternity, and will worship the One Who was scarred on our behalf.
I am praying for each of you as you arise tomorrow morning. I am praying that you will see the crown of thorns as a promise. Yes, it is painful, and yes, sometimes we struggle under the weight of it, but no, it will not defeat us. 
And that is a promise I needed to remember as I celebrated what would have been Audrey’s First Birthday.  It isn’t something superhuman or overly spiritual, just the daily remembrance of a life lived out off the depths of love.
We praise Your name, Lord. For You are Who You say You are.
And that is enough.













Canvas

Have I ever mentioned that my father is a painter? 
He is, and he is incredibly talented. He is also a phenomenal writer, and I could go on and on about awards and things, but the bottom line is that he is just a man who has been gifted in many areas. I did not inherit the art gene (as evidenced by Abby’s recent comment after she requested I draw her a bird, and then earnestly asked why I had drawn a dinosaur instead), but my sister definitely did. She is so creative, and it just spills out of her effortlessly. In fact, she has her own business where she hand-stretches canvases, and then primes them and all kinds of other things I don’t understand because I specialize in Dino-birds.
About two or three years ago, my father pulled out an old easel and decided that after a long respite, he was going to start painting again. He bought all of the paints, the canvases, the whole bit.  He read for hours about theories on color and different approaches to painting, and all the while the canvas sat blank on the easel. I teased him about it, asking when he was actually going to do something instead of reading about how to do it
A few nights ago, the Lord laid the word canvas on my heart, and He beckoned me to be still while He spoke. I knew He was up to something, and of course I had to take others along for the ride, so I called my dad at about 9:00 pm and I asked him if I could come over and take some pictures.  My dad knows that I am weird, so he wasn’t surprised, and luckily we are separated by about 20 houses, so my weirdness only comes with a 2 minute drive. 
We talked a little and I told him that I was going to write a post and I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about but that I would like to take some shots of his easel and some other things. He helped me move them around while we talked about life and I ended up staying a few hours, just talking to him and my mom about what I was going through anticipating Audrey’s birthday.  

One of the most common questions people ask me is how I got where I am with the Lord- how it is that I have this relationship with Him, and how they can do the same. I always hesitate to respond, not only because I don’t see myself as the ideal Christian (do any of us?), but also because I needed for the words to be God-breathed. 
I have asked the Lord for about a year and a half how to address this question on my blog and He hasn’t given me the words. He is urging my fingers to move, and so my prayer is that these words will speak to you wherever you are tonight…
Several years ago I decided that I wanted to get serious about my walk with the Lord. I wanted depth and conviction. I wanted real and tangible… I think, in essence, I wanted a surefire plan on how to do this thing called Christianity.

Sound familiar?
I decided I would start reading books that would teach me how to fall in love with God, and began with a beautiful book by Jeanne Guyon called Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. I have comical memories of beginning this book, because the entire point of it is getting to a place where you can really have communion with the Lord, and a lot of that has to do with training your mind to be still, which I quickly realized is, umm, not my strong point. 
I was reading the book in the bathtub with the TV on in the bedroom while I painted my nails. Todd walked in and asked me what I was reading and I started giggling because it was kind of absurd to be multitasking while reading a book on being still. I came to love the book, and it’s one of my all time favorites. After I finished, I dug into about 4 dozen more. It became insatiable-this search for how to love Him, how to trust Him, how to live my life for Him. I would ask people how they did it, and I would go to concerts and feel moved, but still not “get it.” I did everything I could think of to “trigger” the relationship.
When so many people started asking me the same question, I didn’t know how to answer. It isn’t my nature to give giant, complicated Biblical spiels or to make myself seem higher in understanding than others (quite simply, because that is not the way I see it at all).  What I did want, desperately, was a way to communicate to you all how I got here, because I love Who He is to me. But I wanted something concrete because that’s the way my brain works (yeah- broken pitcher, scarlet cord, clay, papyrus, hem, scarf, threshing floor….I think I may have picked up a theme in my devotional-style writings :) ). 
I like tangible things that I can wrap my arms and my head around, and unfortunately, knowing Him and believing in Him don’t really fall into these categories, so how exactly do you tell others to “Just dig in and trust?”
In the days that have passed since I went to my dad’s house, I have been meditating on what the Lord is revealing to me about how I first sought Him. I read every book (minus the Bible, mind you) on “knowing God.”
I was extremely well-versed in theory, but completely lacking in practice.

And to be honest, there was actually great appeal in leaving the canvas blank.  I could stare at it and imagine the masterpiece, without the opportunity to do it all wrong, or worse yet, find that the whole thing wasn’t even real.

As I have let these thoughts rattle around in my brain, I realized that for a long, long time, I liked the idea of Him much more than the real Him. Madame Guyon and many, many others told me how they loved Him, and for awhile that was as good, if not better, as me doing it myself. No risk. I could read about missionaries and see this amazing Savior, but not really have to invest in relationship with Him. 
I just couldn’t take the chance. 
I loved Him from afar, through others. What beautiful potential….I would think….
So as the books piled up, the canvas remained blank.
I realized that the way I had teased my dad was exactly what God was trying to teach me about myself…I was far more comfortable reading than I was “painting.”
I’m not sure of the day or even what led to it, but one day I laid down all the beautiful words that people had given me and I let Him speak. 
And I heard Him. 
The Bible can be an intimidating, big, tissue-ish paged book to many, but when I opened it, I asked for Him to help it come alive for me and it didn’t take long. I realized as I read through Genesis that what I had thought would be boring and dry was actually fascinating, and filled my mind with the kind of images that no other book could. 
And so in a sense, I began to sketch.
Slowly, carefully, and with many eraser marks, the form of my love for the Lord began to take shape, and as I grew in confidence, I pulled out dusty oil paints that allowed me to brighten it, and I started taking the time to fill in details here and there. On occasion, I have taken a step back from the easel and I have seen things I never knew I could paint. He has given me great courage in the darkest of nights, and intense joy in the least likely of places. 
So how do I answer all of those emails, piled in an inbox, asking me how to get here. I guess He just told me…and I want to tell you.
Disregard the manuals and pick up the brush.
As we walked out of his office, the Lord spoke through my dad. 
Neither he (nor I) knew that what He was about to say would speak truth straight to my heart.
“You know what I’m thinking of doing, Angela? I’m thinking of just putting up a blank canvas and just kind of going crazy, you know? Not have a plan for how it’s going to turn out, but just get my brushes out and just do it.” 
He looked hesitant for a moment, because it’s out of character for him to approach life that way, just as it is for me. I want a good idea of where it’s all going. I waited as he thought for another second.
“I really think I’m going to do that.”
I smiled.
“I think you should, dad. I really do. It would be great for you.” I love this precious man because of exactly who he is and has always been. Loving, steady, dependable, trustworthy, and honest to goodness, one of the smartest people I know. I watched him walk down the hallway, his feet turning out the way they always have, and I wanted to cry because I have a father who loves me in a way that makes it easier to believe the way that God loves me. Thank you, dad. You have inspired me since I was a child to do what I am doing right this second, believing I could when I wouldn’t dream of it.
I am sitting in front of a computer screen that I have spent most of my life leaving blank, because I didn’t think that I was really good enough to be a writer. I think about all of the canvases in my days that I have left untouched for fear of failure. Do you have any of those? The ones that you leave in “potential-land” because you can’t bear to have them go wrong?
I think about the greatest masterpiece of all- the God I almost missed because I was so worried about the details. And all He wanted was a daughter who loved Him and wanted to bring Him glory.
So back to the question…how do you get there? 
You won’t find Him in a 17th century book, nor will He ever be truly found on this (or any other) blog. He isn’t found in a great sermon, or even a haunting worship song.  Not even in a Beth Moore study (although she can lead you right up to His throne, it is only you who can choose to bow down to Him).
It pains me to say that even (gulp) the music of David Crowder in and of itself cannot give you the peace that comes from one, solitary moment, when you hand your life over to Him. 
These things can be amazing conduits that allow us to experience Him, and can help us to grow in our faith-but they cannot ever replace the one True God.
You will find Him if you seek Him-He promises us that. 
Tonight, as my eyes tempt me to rest, my heart is beating quickly and with great purpose, because I know Who He could be to you, and I am filled with passion for guiding you to Him.  
Talk to Him, even if it feels crazy. 
Open the Bible and read. Ask Him to reveal Himself in the pages (maybe not Leviticus right away. That one can wait for a little while….)
Listen for His voice.
Watch for the things He is trying to show you.
Dedicate yourself to seeking, and you will soon be swept off your feet by the greatest pursuer of all time.
Even if your hands tremble, pick up the brush and see what He has for you… 
Have I mentioned that my Father is a great painter?
Well, He is.
I am praying that He speaks truth to your heart; the truth that no human mouth can convey, and no hands can quite capture in writing. I am praying that He makes Himself known to you, and that you fall deeply in love with Him. Head over heels, turn over your life and trust Him love. The kind that urges you to live with holy abandon.
One simple suggestion, though.
Don’t bother doing your nails.
They’ll just get messy with paint anyway.
Blessings and love,
Angie
P.S. In anticipation of you asking, yes, those color paintings were done by my dad several years ago. The sketch of a baby’s face was going to be Sarah Kate, and sat like this for months. When we received Audrey’s diagnosis, it was too hard for him to continue, and so it hasn’t changed. There is something beautiful about it just the way it is, because it reminds us that there are stages to this process…we will get there. 
We will get there. 

The Sea and the Scarf

This photograph was taken on a “glass-bottom” excursion trip that was part of our cruise with Kathy Triccoli last year.  As a reminder, at this point I was still pregnant with Audrey, and we knew her diagnosis. I was terrified to go on the cruise because I can become overwhelmed when I feel like everyone is looking at me and talking about me. I am in a bathing suit, obviously pregnant, and there is no way around the fact that I am carrying a baby that will soon go to be with the Lord.  It was actually a much nicer time than I had gotten myself all worried about, and people were very kind to me.  Women would just sit by me at the pool and ask about the book I was reading, and then eventually transition into a story about loss in their own lives.
It has been about a year since that trip, and the other day I was reminded of one of my father-in-law’s favorite stories to tell about my kids.  This particular story involves my sweet Ellie (pictured on the little boat a few minutes before this story took place). She was mesmerized by the way you could see the “fish” swimming below us (let me clarify that “seaweed” and “fish” are seen as equally exciting to a preschooler who didn’t just get robbed by the concierge). It was a rusty, nasty, fishing boat and the “director” decided it would be more productive to flirt with the captain, so we were left to explore the wonders of rip-off-ville by ourselves. 
I would have been even more mad if my daughter hadn’t said something that I carry with me every day of my life.  
I may have mentioned in earlier post (probably about this time last year) that there was a woman aboard the ship who was battling cancer.  She usually wore some kind of hat or scarf, and for formal events she donned a beautiful wig, but the girls were concerned when they saw her at the pool one day and asked me what was wrong.
I told them that she had something called “cancer,” and that we needed to pray for her because it makes her very sick, and the medicine she was taking made all of her hair fall out.  They stared at me in confusion, and I wanted to tell them that everything was going to be fine, but that would have been a lie.  I didn’t know enough of her story to say what was going to happen, only that we should pray for the woman with the scarves. And every night, in earnest, we sat on our little cruise ship bed and talked about our prayers, and the “special scarf lady” made her way into their requests. I can’t tell you that they fully understood what might happen to her, but they were lifting her up as if they did.
I should preface this next part of the story by saying that Abby and Ellie don’t let people into their world very easily. They have each other and they have us, and that’s about all they need. We had to take them out of ballet because they were sleepless over all of the “people watching them through the glass.”  They love to dance, and if you came to the concert this weekend, you got to witness that firsthand…they love music and feel so free to do it, but meeting people face to face, one on one? Different story. 
If you meet them, they will most likely hide behind me and stare at the ground while Kate butts in front of me, introduces herself and proceeds to ask you to pick her up and carry her around like you’re a horsey, yelling “GIDDY UP!!!!” until you have reached sufficient canter. 
Todd and I have an interesting combination of genes.
Anywhoo.
All that to say, Abby and Ellie aren’t fond of strangers.
So when we boarded the little excursion boat and saw the scarf lady, I knew they were going to be nervous. 
So guess where Ellie sidles up? You guessed it.
Right in between her grandfather (Tata-Todd’s dad) and the “scarf lady.”
I almost passed out.
But then again, there was the whole gasoline explosion smell thing, so there were other contributing factors to my delirium.
The boat was so loud, and I was in so much agony over the choppy waves and the smell that I laid down for most of it, but I did manage to take a few photos.  I couldn’t hear the conversation over the loud motor (which we were pretty much sitting on..seriously), but at one point I saw Ellie talking to the woman and I was mesmerized by the look in her eyes. It reminded me of myself, and it was a side I had never seen in her before.
She wasn’t intimidated.
She wanted to connect with her. 
And in that little 5 year old face, I didn’t see panic or even sadness, but just a simple empathy that belied her age. I watched them pointing at things and talking about what they were seeing, but I couldn’t make out their words. At one point, Ellie pointed at her scarf, and I found out later that she told her she knew why she wore it, and that we had been praying for her.  I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that if we could be this bold as adults, the world would be a different place. 
In Beth Moore’s study, Esther, she talks about the way we want to separate ourselves from those who are in pain, because we fear it may overtake us as well. It is human nature to want to fix things, and I know it because I am the worst of all. I hate seeing people suffer, and will do anything to make it go away. 
The problem is that sometimes you can’t. And I know, because  I have singlehandedly eaten three boxes of Tagalongs in the past week preparing to sign paperwork to dig up my daughters grave. And everywhere I go, those dang Girl Scouts pop up. I think they’re following me. I might need to put a call into someone about that….
(derailed, back to the point…)
Many, many well meaning people made comments to me about how much I had to be grateful for, despite the fact that I had a dying baby in my stomach.  
It was a nice way of saying, “I like your scarf, but I don’t really want to know what’s under it.”
As the ride continued, Ellie and the scarf lady kept talking. I still didn’t know what all they were talking about, but at one point I saw Ellie get very serious and start pointing at all of the things around. She would point, and then look at the lady as if making sure she understood. Then, she would do the same, this time with her eyes on the sky or the coastline. The woman was nodding and looking at her with love.
Ellie paused for a long while, silently staring out at the seemingly endless waters, and then turned to face her sweet friend. I couldn’t hear what she said, but the woman and my father in law both threw their heads back in laughter. I was really curious about what had transpired because it was so out of character, but I was even more concerned that I was going to vomit on the woman next to me, so I buried my head for the rest of the trip.
When we got off the boat on this little island, I asked my father in law what Ellie had been saying. This is as close to verbatim as I can remember from what he said.
Ellie started by telling the woman that she liked her with her hair or without it, and that she thought her scarves were pretty. She proceeded to ask her if she knew that God was a big God who could do big things.  The woman nodded sweetly.
Ellie then started pointing at the waves and she said, “See? God’s hands made those waves.”
Then, she looked up at the sky and told the woman, “God made the blue sky; the huge blue sky and all of the birds and clouds.”
She proceeded to inform her that God’s hands made all of the sand on the shore, and all of the fish (that we were supposed to see, but did not….bitter, party of 1, please.) Hypothetically, though, there were fish, and He did, indeed make them.
This continued for some time, and then there was the pause.
I asked my father in law what she had said that had made them laugh so hard, and he said that she had turned to the woman and said, “I think He did make all of these things, but I don’t think He can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
I laughed and kissed her wet, sandy head and we headed off for the beach. I told her that I was proud of her for making a new friend, and she smiled as she responded, “Yeah, she thought I was funny.”
As I sat and watched them play in the water, I thought more and more about what she said, and to be honest, it has become a very profound part of my journey with God in the last year.
Because I have no doubt that His hands, His HUGE hands make the sky and the earth and the planets and the stars and so on and so on. 
But is it possible that those same hands can wrap themselves around something as small as a knife? Something so small as my day to day needs? My hurts? My fears and doubts? The situations that seem like nothing to those around me but keep me awake at night?
He can make the waters part. No problem. That makes sense to me. BIG hands. Got it.
He can resurrect His dead Son from a cross. That sounds about right- He is God after all. Logical.
But can He wrap those same hands around the “little things?” 
The divorce papers that I have seen filed to a friend in the past few weeks? The fact that I have close friends who don’t know how they are going to pay their bills? The emails I get everyday asking me to pray about sick family members, dying babies, husbands at war…
I don’t know that she had any idea what she was saying, but in essence, I believe that the Holy Spirit allowed her to minister to a stranger from someplace that we, as Christians, are afraid to enter into.
It is the place where it’s easier to talk about the sand than the cancer
It’s easier to talk about the glory of His great hands than the face that you have no hair and no guarantees in this life.
Are there places in your life where you think, “God wouldn’t care about this. He’s got too much on His plate to try and figure out how to help me through this day.”

May I be honest? Sometimes I do.
As much as I trust in Him, believe He is Who He says He is, and welcome the opportunity to praise Him, there are moments (like this week when I lost my favorite Bible), that I think might just have fallen off His radar because He was trying to, you know, save the world and all.
I feel like a tiny, tiny sandwich, and it is hard to picture His hands on the little, tiny knife.
I know, I know.
It isn’t Biblical, and it isn’t true. I have dozens of scriptures that tell me that. 
Can I just say this, though? As someone who loves and trusts Him more that she could ever articulate?
It doesn’t always feel that way.

So instead of giving you the pretty Christian answer tonight (the one I know is backed by the Word of God), I am going to give you the human, Angie, the “I just signed papers to move my deceased daughter’s body today” answer.
It doesn’t always feel that way.

Where are you tonight, friends? What is it in your life that you can’t find Him in? I want you to know that there is nothing too small for Him to care about, and I am praying (for you and for me) that we open our eyes to the truth, and the next time we are faced with such an opportunity, I pray that we don’t shy away from entering in and asking what is under the scarf.
There is unspeakable beauty in the work of the Master’s hands, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. I am praying the same for you-for His ever-present love to surround you, regardless of where you find yourself in the wee hours of this night. 
This is a weighty post, and I hope there is some part of it that resonated with you and, if nothing else, showed you that you are not alone.
Or, if you just came here for a good laugh (and to see that I am completely not exaggerating about my children), just see the photos that follow from the same trip I have been writing about…
God bless you all…and may the peace of God settle deep within you. Even in the little things.
Ang


The Glorious Hem

(updated at the bottom:))

Todd and I seem to be in “Spring Cleaning” mode a little early this year.  In the past few days, we have started tackling some home projects that we have been putting off for awhile.  One of them (which I was DREADING) was cleaning out our closets. I was dreading it for a few reasons, not the least of which was that there were some sassy pants in a size 2 that I knew God was calling me to surrender to the “in your dreams” pile. I decided I need to take some pressure off myself about losing all of my baby weight, so I was actually pretty liberal with my sorting this time around.  I was also dreading cleaning out the girl’s closets because there were stacks of clothes that needed to be sorted by size and season, and different piles for people who have little girls (Summer, Amelia, and Bella..comin’ at ‘ya!!!!).  I have been putting it off forever, so I committed the afternoon yesterday and set up shop in Kate’s room. I turned on the radio and started reaching for the piles.

About a half hour later, I was in tears.

I hadn’t expected it to be so mentally draining. I have mentioned this before, but I really feel like I see life in photographs. I remember the outfit Ellie was wearing when she realized that the hose water was freezing, and about 2 seconds later when she taught Abby the same lesson the hard way.  I remember what Kate wore home from the hospital, and what blankie I first photographed her in.  I remember the bathing suit that Abby was wearing when she felt beach sand for the first time.  

I remember the dresses the girls were wearing last Christmas, when I was a few months pregnant with a baby girl I thought was healthy.  I have one of our Christmas cards from last year and it is signed “Todd, Angie, Ellie, Abby, Kate and Baby Smith.”

I grieved all over again, in a different way.  I grieved because I can’t hold her in those sweet hand-me-downs while rocking her to sleep.  It seems like at this point, the hardest moments come in ways that are totally unexpected.  I start to feel like I am doing really well, and then I get hit over the head with this queasy feeling of agony.  

I sat on Kate’s floor and dreamed of Audrey for awhile.  I miss her so much, and I daily mourn the loss of the little moments of life I take for granted with the girls.  

As I made my way into my closet, I felt so heavy with sadness.  I started throwing my maternity clothes into a giant bag while I had a little “conversation” with God. It was pretty one-sided.

At least it was at first.

After a few minutes, I looked up and saw the bag that has my wedding dress in it. When I talk about “the Lord speaking to me,” it is in a time like this, when I feel a prompting to do something and I know that it is coming from Him.  In this moment, I felt like I needed to unzip the bag.  It seemed a little odd, but I know Him well enough to know that I should just obey the urging and let Him guide me to where I am supposed to be.  I unzipped the bag and for a brief moment, my mind was consumed with the fact that I used to have a 21 inch waist, but then I remembered that the God of the Universe was speaking to me (clap, clap!) so I returned to a posture of listening.

I pulled the bottom of the dress out of the bag and the train came spilling out.  I spread it out on the ground and studied it as moments of my wedding day came to mind.  I started to relax and my eyes drifted to the edges of the train.  And I saw the most incredible, unexpected thing.

The hem of my gown is dirty.  Really dirty.

And I know how it got that way.  I walked down a church aisle, took photographs in the grass, and danced and ate my way to happiness.  I lived in it.

A few dresses down from my wedding gown is the dress I wore when we buried Audrey.  It is dirty as well, but not from happiness.  It is stained with fresh earth, wrinkled from kneeling by my daughter’s grave.

And so I sat on my closet floor asking the Lord to show me why He had brought me here.  I closed my eyes and imagined the hem of my wedding gown as I danced with my new husband.

“… I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husbandAnd I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:2-5

I couldn’t remember the whole scripture, but the words “You are the bride of Christ” came to mind. I suddenly had an image in my mind of myself in a glorious white gown that floated all around me.  A seemingly endless train chasing after me as I walked. 

And then, Him.  

I couldn’t see Him in my mind, but I felt a great peace as I imagined my hands, clutching at fabric all around me so I could run to where He was.  I saw myself, falling before Him as my dirty gown settled all around me. Dirty from the hurt and the disappointment.  Dirty from the dancing in joy.  Dirty from years of walking across a wet graveyard.  Dirty from loving deeply, richly, completely. Dirty from the fears, the dreams, the sorrow, the confusion.  Dirty from the memories, the regrets, the mistakes, the injustice of this world.

Stained by this life I have walked while my Savior whispered, “One day I will wipe your tears, my sweet bride…”

What a glorious hem surrounds us all. It follows us wherever we go, gathering up pieces of this life in anticipation of the next.

And one day, I will bow to the King of Kings, and I will worship Him.  

And as He wipes the tears from my eyes, I will ask Him the question that cannot be answered fully from a closet floor….Where is she, Lord? 

And in the meantime, I will start to think of my days like a wedding photograph.  I will walk, veiled, down this long aisle, in breathless anticipation of the day that awaits me.

I will trust in the One Who will make all things new in His time.

I will keep my eyes on He Who waits for me.

I will. 

Or rather, I do.

Thank you, Lord. May my life be an offering that brings You glory…
Angie

P.S. How did the 7×7 prayers go this week? I would love to hear about it!!!

P.P.S. The gorgeous girl holding my dress is my best friend Audra, whom Audrey was named after:) She is due to have baby girl number two in a few months…actually, her due date is the week Audrey was diagnosed last year.  Audra, thank you for holding my hem in so many ways for so many years….I love you:)

Seven Prayers A Day

*** In answer to some of your questions, I wanted to let you know that I do pray these out loud.  This morning, I kept my hand on Kate’s head while I read, and she smiled the whole time…and sat still!!!!!!! Praise God for small miracles….:) OH, and also thank you to the sweet reader who noticed I had written Ephesians instead of Philippians on the last one!!! I was tired last night:) It’s corrected now!!!! Thanks!!!***

I don’t really care that much about whether or not my kids are book smart.

Let me explain.
I do care, I just don’t care as much as I care about other things.  I don’t sit around and pray that my girls will learn to read today, or that they will understand a foreign language by the time they are 6, or that they will know their times table by next week.  I do spend a lot of time asking God to give them “undivided hearts (Psalm 86:11), ” and praying “that they will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel when they open their mouths (Ephesians 6:19).” I pray that God will help them to be good stewards of their time, their money, their words.  I pray for their character, their faith, their decisions, their husbands.  I want them to be wise, Godly women who chase after the Lord.  
I’m thinking that instead of getting a “My kid is on the honor roll” bumper sticker, I may create a “My kid has an undivided heart” one.  And then people will make ones that say “My kid kicked your ‘undivided heart’ kid’s butt” stickers.
Maybe not.
But, the point is that one of the most important things I am privileged to do as a mother is to pray for my children every day.  
The other day I came across a verse that God used to prompt me to write this post.  If you are a mom (or have someone else you want to pray for specifically), I hope you will join me as I do this for the next 7 days.  It struck me that I need reminders during the day to be praying over my girls, and I decided to choose 7 events in a day that would remind me to do so.  Then, I chose verses that had to do with that time of the day (for example: as my kids are getting dressed in the morning) and then I put them on notecards.
Here are the events and verses I chose:
1.  When they wake up: “Let the morning bring (child’s name) word of your unfailing love, for she has put her trust in You.  Show (her/him) the way (she/he) should go, for to you (he/she) lifts up her soul.” (Adapted from Psalm 143:8)
2. When they are getting dressed: “Therefore, as God’s chosen child, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Lord, help (him/her) bear with others and forgive whatever grievances (he/she) has against others.  Help (him/her) forgive as the Lord forgave (him/her).  And over all these virtues, help (him/her) put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Adapted from Colossians 3:12-14)
3. While they are eating: “Teach (child’s name) the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  Teach (him/her) that (he/she) can do everything through him who gives (him/her) strength.” (Adapted from Philippians 4:12-13)

4.  When they go out of the house: “(Name of child), do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Adapted from Romans 12:2)

5.  While they are taking a bath: Lord, give (name of child)  clean hands and a pure heart, and let (him/her) not lift (his/her) soul to an idol or swear by what is false. Let (him/her) receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God (his/her) Savior.  Let (him/her) be part of the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. (Adapted from Psalm 24:4-6)

6.  When they are going to bed:  “The Lord Your God is with you; he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, be will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

7.  While they are sleeping:  “I pray that (name of child) will do everything without complaining or arguing, so that he/she may become blameless and pure, a child of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which he/she shines like a star in the universe as he/she holds out the word of life-in order that he/she may boast on the day of Christ that he/she did not run or labor for nothing.” (Adapted from Philippians 2:14-16)


I feel like God has been reminding me more and more lately that I need to live my life in prayer. For my children, husband, family, friends, country, those in need, etc., etc.  As a mother, it has been so pivotal for my children to hear me praying out loud over them, and I want to commit to do this every day (seven times a day!) for the next week.  If you care to join me, just copy these verses onto index cards (or, if you came here from Jessica’s blog, feel free to print them on pretty  scrapbook paper and embellish your little heart out….:))
Let me know if you decide to join me, and please keep me posted (either by comments or emails) if  God reveals anything to you/your children this week. 
Have a great (and prayer-filled!) week. And may God bless you and your babies richly.
Angie
P.S. I keep trying to come up with fun acronyms for this little challenge, but they all stink.  Anyone have any ideas what we could call it? Something to do with seven prayers a day? (But S.P.A.D. isn’t a cute name…I know).  Let me know if you think of something…

Ransomed

Let me start by saying how truly humbled I am that so many of you chose to share your babies with me by commenting on my last post.  I am not all the way through, because I am taking my time and praying for you as I go.  I wish I had a few more hours in the day so that I could contact each one of you and tell you how sorry I am in person.  I hope you will know that even though I am not able to do this, I care.  I am reading your words, and I am grateful for your vulnerability.
I couldn’t help but notice how many women commented or emailed me to tell me that they were mourning the loss of a baby through abortion.  Some were forced, and others were by choice.  I am willing to bet that if you read my blog, you could guess that I am pro-life.  You will also know that, even more important that my stance on any topic, I am pro-God. 
Sisters, hear me on this. If you are one of these women, and you are carrying this burden with you as you travel through life, I want you to know that you are forgiven. Do not let the enemy torture you for one more day.  We all have things that we deeply regret, that we struggle with, that we wish we could do over.  The God I serve does not see me this way.  He sees me as pure and clean…through the blood of Christ. 
Ransomed.  What a beautiful word.
As I type these words, I am thinking about the past week and what God has been teaching me.  I feel like He has been working on me, nudging me forward.  Part of moving forward is always letting go of what has held us back, and it is never less than a battle.  There are days in life where we are forced to come face to face with what it is that binds us, and for me, that is fear.
I am bound by fear.
I have talked about it before, and judging by the response I got, I am not the only woman who struggles with it.  It ebbs and it flows, and sometimes it seems to have disappeared, only to show up when I least expect it.  During the past few months, I have been watching my kids closely, trying to anticipate their reactions to Audrey’s death. Worried about the anxiety that may come to be a part of their lives as well.  I pray over them at night, and I watch their movements, their drawings, their response to strangers, their sleeping patterns, their eating habits…everything.
I want to know how they are processing this loss, and I have really started to notice some things that I am in prayer about.  Kate seems to be acting up more lately (and by “lately,” I mean “upon her exiting my birth canal”) and Abby seems to be making moral decisions that are more rebellious. She wants to test the boundaries.  
Ellie, on the other hand…
Oh, my sweet Ellie.  I see so much of myself in her.
Let me back up a little so you can understand why this post has brought me to tears already.
Ellie is my mother hen (if you read this blog consistently, I promise the pun was unintended). She has tended toward worrying since she could see the world around her.  She wants to know where the war is before she goes to bed (apparently, according to Abby, it is in Kentucky.  I don’t know about that, but it satisfied Ellie). If Kate hits her, she lies and says it didn’t happen because she doesn’t want her to be punished.  She asks if everybody is wearing their seat belts when we get in the car.  She cries when she goes to Sunday School because she doesn’t want to be away from us.  One time, I overheard a bag rustling around in the dark pantry and realized it was candy when I heard a sweet four year old voice saying softly, “Get behind me satan.  I will not listen to you.”  I bought some of that stuff that makes your thumb taste bitter and I told them that they were going to have to stop sucking their thumbs.  Ellie routinely came in from another room and painted her own thumbnail, whispering, “I did it again” and then walked out of the room.
Seriously.
A few months ago, I walked out on the porch and saw her on our porch swing in a car seat.
You know, because porch swings can be dangerous.
Of course, I took a picture.  For those of you who ask about how I get all of these pictures, I will tell you.  I have a Go-Go-Gadget arm with a camera attached.
For the record, I also snapped one of Kate, who was trying to launch herself off the swing while screaming, “FFFFFFLLLLLLYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Also for the record, she eats the thumb stuff like it’s candy.  I am trying to figure out whether her taste buds are stunted or if she is radically defiant.  According to my father, she is what is commonly referred to as “payback.” The truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She is an amazing kid.  
Back to Ellie.
We went to Destin this summer and visited this neat little shopping place that had all this fun stuff for kids.  My kids don’t really like to do the whole “ride” thing.  They have to be coerced to do anything that requires a few steps away from mommy and daddy, and it most certainly must stay attached to the ground.  Even Kate is not really up for adventure if it involves uncertainty. So when we passed by this huge apparatus that was charging $13 for a giant trampoline ride, I knew we had nothing to worry about.
Todd, on the other hand, decided that they might want to try it.  It was absurdly expensive, but I knew that they would NEVER go for it, so I smiled sweetly and told him it sounded like fun.
Kate? Maybe.  
Abby? Seriously doubt it.  
Ellie? I pictured myself as a flight attendant and decided that was a likelier scenario.  
I handed over the debit card.
Let me describe the “ride” a little further.  It involved a harness and a man who acted as a rocket launcher while sending screaming children a little past Jupiter.  
They waited in the line, and I watched as they got closer and closer.  Abby was up next.  She started to get a worried look on her face and looked at me. 
“It’ll be so fun!!!!” I yelled to the platform.  It didn’t look like fun to me, but I didn’t want her to be scared, so I smiled and gave a thumbs up.
She started jumping and I saw her little face way up in the sky.  I guess I wasn’t completely shocked, but I was surprised.  Ellie watched with a look of horror, and her face was crumpled up in a mess of nerves.  
“I’m scared.”  She looked at me. She was trying to read my face.
I didn’t want to say the first thing that came to mind because it felt weird to say, “Well thank goodness, because that thing looks like a torture chamber and I would rather gnaw off my own arm before I let that psycho launch me in the air.”
The whole arm thing seemed dramatic given the situation, so I opted for response “B.”
“I think it might be fun if you try it, El.  It’s not supposed to be scary, it’s supposed to be fun!!!”
You know how God whispers to you about 3 seconds after you give someone great advice that you yourself have been completely failing to follow?
What is she afraid of? That God will forget her in mid-air? That we will all pack up and leave while she jumps? That she will fall?
That God will forget me? That I will fall?

Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with an amazing woman named Gracia Burnham.  If her name sounds familiar, it is because she was the American missionary who was taken hostage for a year in the jungle and watched her husband die in the gunfight that saved her life.  They waited for over a year, trudging with her captors, praying for her children back in the States, begging for mercy.  They went through unspeakable hurt for months, waiting for someone to pay for them to be released. They were dirty, mistreated, hurt, humiliated. They were waiting to be ransomed.
If you talk to her about her experience, you will not sense fear, nor will you sense hostility. You will feel an indescribable feeling of forgiveness and peace, and above all, freedom. The kind of freedom that defies fear.
The kind of freedom that knows that ransom is not paid with money.
It was paid with blood.
If you believe in Him tonight, you will know what it feels like to trust completely in the One who holds you high above the discernible ground.  You know that it isn’t always perfect, and it isn’t always easy.  It is entirely possible that something will give way and you will fall, head first into the ache that is this life.
But on the other hand, you’ll never know unless you jump.
Which brings me back to my sweet Ellie.  She did cry a little, but she was determined to give it a try.  They put the buckles on her and she almost reconsidered.  She looked like she was about to back out of it, but before I could scream, “Refund,” I saw a look of determination come across her face.  It is probably not dissimilar to the expression that came across my face, years ago, as I told Him that I would believe.
I could tell you in words what happened next, but it just wouldn’t be the same.
I have seen this image in my mind so many times in the past few months, and I want to share it with you tonight.  I hope it encourages you the way it has me.  
It will forever be engraved in my mind as the moment when God whispered, “You have no idea what you would miss if you let this pass you by…”

Thank you, Jesus.  We are no longer captives…

Blessings to you, friends.  And peace be with you wherever you are tonight…
Angie

The Scarlet Cord

Her name was Rahab, and she was a prostitute.  I must say, she is one of my favorite heroines in Scripture, and in the event that you don’t know her story, find a cozy chair and flip to the second chapter of Joshua.  A little background on where we are in the Bible…
Moses has died without ever entering the Promised Land, and his successor is the mighty warrior Joshua.  Joshua is planning to invade Canaan, and in order to scope out the land, he sends in two spies.  We don’t know their names, but we do know that they were told to focus on Jericho (are you singing the song yet? Someone posted on my blog awhile back and said her son was singing, “Joshua fought the battle of cherry coke, cherry coke, cherry coke…LOVE it.  I digress…). 
While  they were there, the spies stayed at the home of a prostitute named Rahab.  It has been speculated that they chose this location because it was unlikely that they would be discovered in a brothel.  One way or another, by the end of their time there, they have changed the course of her life, and in a sense, all of our lives.
The king of Jericho gets word that there are spies in the land, and he sends his representatives to Rahab’s house.  Instead of turning them in, she lies to them and tells them that the spies were there, but have now left and are on their way out of the city.  While the guards rush through the night streets, Rahab crawls up to her roof where she has hidden the men under stalks of flax.  She whispers to them while they lie there, and she tells them that she knows what the Lord has done for them.  She has heard about the parting of the sea, and she believes that God Himself is on their side.  She tells them that she believes their God is “God of heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11).  Essentially, she believes in God more than she fears for herself.  She lies to the authorities to protect these strangers, because she wants to be on the side of God, as they are.  
She tells the spies that she will keep them safe as long as they will promise not to harm her family when they storm the city.  They agree.  She lets down a cord from her window and helps them with an escape plan out of the city.  The men tell her that they will be back to battle shortly, and in order for her family to be kept safe, she must do one thing.  She must gather her family into her home and then drop a scarlet cord from her window to signify that they are to be spared in the fighting.
It wasn’t the first time the Lord used a symbol like this, foreshadowing the blood shed by Christ. Remember when Moses was trying to convince Pharoah to let his people go and a series of tragic plagues swept the land as he refused to release them?  During the last plague, God tells Moses that unless a family has taken the blood of a lamb and put it on the sides and the tops of their door frames, their first-born sons will die in the night.  The houses with the blood on them will be “passed over (hence the holiday Passover),” and the children will live.
The blood of a lamb…the scarlet cord…the cross at Calvary…

This is one of the things I love most about my Jesus.  He is the God of redemption. He loves to take the underdog and show them that they are not who they thought they were. He took a woman who made a scandalous living, and he blessed her because she believed in God with holy, reverent fear.  He didn’t just “let” her into the story.  He chose her for the story.
He chose you for the story.
The story of Rahab brings tears of gratitude to my eyes.  The blood-red cord comes spilling from a window, desperately clutched on one end by a woman who believes in the God she has yet to meet.  This is the cord that will save her and her family from disaster.  
So where are we in all of this? We are the sinners who have the power of the scarlet cord, dropped in faith and held with utter conviction that He will save us. 

I don’t always love my Lord the way I want to.  I get distracted, my mind wanders, my fingers become busy, Old Navy has a clearance sale…oh, I get off task easily…
I have something I like to do when I feel like I am wandering from Him, drifting just a little bit (or maybe a whole lot).  It has been one of the most powerful exercises I have done during my life as a Christian, and it never fails to move me to tears.
I find a comfortable place (usually my bed), and I get settled.  I take a moment to just be still. This is a challenge in itself most days, but when I do it, I know that it is because He is going to make Himself known to me in the next few moments.  I close my eyes, and the first thing I imagine is the thorn of crowns, cutting into His sweet, bloody brow.  I look at the crown.  In my mind, I run my fingers gently across the thorns and I whisper to Him.  I just sit in the sorrow for a bit, and when I feel ready, I let my minds-eye travel to His face and His beaten body.  His arms, aching from being stretched out and held up.  I spend time studying His sunken cheeks, His hollowed eyes, His chest, His arms, and oh, Lord, His wrists.  The blood that came from a nail, spilled for me…
I gradually see His back, beaten beyond human recognition. I move slowly, taking it all in.  I trace the wounds, I pray for Him, I weep with Him.  I thank Him.  I see His legs, hung weightlessly into the base of the cross, nails driven through his ankles.  I imagine what it must have felt like as the nails pierced His skin.  I hear the shouting, the chaos, the overwhelming sense that the moment of death is near.  I am another woman who stands at the foot of the cross, forgiven.  I am another woman clinging to the scarlet rope.
And here is the best part of the story, and probably the least expected twist in the plot. At some later point in time, Rahab becomes pregnant, and gives birth to a son, whom she names “Boaz.” Remember Boaz? You may recall that he was symbolic of Christ as the “kinsmen redeemer” who married Ruth in the book of Ruth.  Are you ready for this family tree?
Rahab is the mother of Boaz.
Boaz is the father of Obed.
Obed is the father of Jessie
Jessie is the father of David.
Let’s skip a couple of generations and see where we end up…
…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

She was a sin-filled woman with a controversial story.
She was a castoff.
She was imperfect, immoral, improper.
She was hand-picked to be part of His lineage.
She was redeemed by faith.
Seven and a half years ago, I opened a window and dropped a scarlet cord.
And my Lord, despite my hardships, has kept His promises to me.  One day I will stand before Him and I will see the wounds with my own eyes.  I will thank Him.  I will bow down low and I will worship the One who wore the crown of redemption.  I will spend eternity in a place where there is no more hurt.  A place where my sweet Audrey waits for me. I cannot wait for that moment. I want to see Him, to love Him, to adore the One who saved me.
And maybe, just maybe, there will be a giant close-out at Old Navy up there…
:)
“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to us, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Angie
P.S.  I made a scarlet bracelet (shown at beginning of post) for each of the girls, Todd, and myself.  We put them on as a family tonight to have a visual reminder of the power of redemption.  I am aware that those who are Kabbahlists wear red strings on their left wrists, so we chose to add the “believe” bead and we wear it on the right to distinguish between the two beliefs.  It just took a quick trip (actually 2, but that is because I am measurement-challenged…) to Michael’s…I hope you do the same if you think this is something you and your family would benefit from:)