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Do They Notice You?

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300 It’s that year. That year when you’ve just given all, pushed through much, persevered faithfully, and then you pause for rest.

To drink in those deep breaths of life giving air. To lie flat on your back, melting into the mattress and blankets and pillows and taking a sweet reprieve.

And then life keeps going.

The world doesn’t stop along with you.

Hardly misses a beat.

And resting gets hard when you wonder if all that hard work, all that grinding on, trudging through, all of that intentional smiling and loving and giving made a difference.

It’s like no one noticed.

Never on the list of accolades. Never in the seat of honor. Not even the name on the lucky draw.

And if they haven’t noticed you, maybe He hasn’t either. Maybe, when He skims over the earth, looking for a place to rest His pleasure and favor, His eyes pass right over you like the million other creatures, all blending in to a blur of deep hues.

And if HE doesn’t notice, what’s the point? Where has all this striving led you but to confusion, doubt, and despair?

That maybe, even with all of those good intentions, you’re still nobody. Nothing. Worthless. Useless.

The irony, I imagine, is that most of us walk through life on this tightrope with the pendulum of the clicking clock swinging over our heads. Many of us genuinely do our best and every now and then realize that no one has noticed.

But has He?

We can’t always tell. So we try harder. Do more. Don’t lose their attention once you get it. Applause? Is that applause? It feels good.

And it fades.

Now it’s more difficult to get and keep their attention.

Or you get it. You get your spotlight.

And you wonder, “Is this flattery? They can’t possibly really think I’m wonderful.”

There’s a hole in our hearts. We crave to be the apple of someone’s eye. To be adored. Recognized. To have it proven that we are a person worth knowing. Worth loving. Worthy dying for.

But what if we’re not?

Actually, we’re pretty sure we’re not.

I’m sure I’m not. I know myself. My weaknesses. My failures that are stuck on “repeat.” My flaws. My inner thoughts and judgments and hypocrisy. And when I forget and start to think I’m something… that maybe my good is finally starting to tip the scale, well, the world reminds me that I’m less. Less than this actor, less than this princess, less than that athlete, less than this politician, less than that wife or mother or friend.

I’m less and I need to be more.

Ads, commercials, magazines, newspapers, blog, tweets, articles, comments, “likes” – Oh, they notice alright. They notice every little flaw about you that makes them feel bigger and better and–

noticed.

Don’t we feel note-worthy when we see someone “less than”?

We get noticed, but not for the good we hope for. Our mistakes get magnified and go viral, reducing our possible “goodness” to insignificance and obscurity.

The pendulum keeps ticking… in the spotlight? No, stay away from the spotlight! But cheer for my good deeds! But don’t notice my poor deeds.

All the while, the hole in our heart stays empty. Unfulfilled.

Because the reality is, no matter how much you’re noticed, it’s not enough. No matter how many golden globes and Emmys and trophies and plaques and Caldecott and Newbery honors and music awards or scholarships… it’s never enough. It never fulfills. We always wonder if tomorrow they’ll still notice. (Or hope that finally, maybe, tomorrow they’ll stop noticing).

But He does notice.

He noticed a tax collector up in the tree.

He noticed the youngest of twelve shepherding in the field.

He noticed a future king in the smallest clan of the smallest tribe.

He noticed a jewish girl within the walls of exile.

He noticed a foreign widow gleaning in the fields of Boaz.

He noticed some fishermen, dirty with the grime of their trade

He noticed two ordinary but faithful hearts in Nazareth.

He noticed one man and his family in a world of corruption.

And he notices you.

And me.

And not just for our flaws and mistakes.

But for who He’s made us to be. For the very fact that we are His.

His design. His creation. His child. His deepest love. I could never un-notice my children.

But do we notice Him?

Do we notice how lavish His love? How relentless His pursuit? How passionate His intentions in our lives?

Our God is not patiently standing by and waiting for us to offer love; He is actively and vigorously pursuing us…… He is the father running down the trail to embrace the prodigal son even before the boy can speak his act of contrition. He is the mad farmer showering a full day’s wage on men who hadn’t even worked. He is Jesus forgiving the sinful woman even before she spoke her sorrow. He is the king lavishing a banquet on beggars. These are all symbols of a God whose love for us is so active, so strong, that by human standards He would be, at least, said to be mad.  –ANDREW GREELEY

Do we notice? When we do, all of our striving becomes a gift that we give back, not for our own honor, but for His. Not for our glory, but for His.

In gratitude.

That He would dare notice such as us.

Such as me.

A Life of Leaving

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300Today is November 1st.

That means that as I wake up this morning, I am already feeling the joy and pressure of this entire month.

NaNoWriMo has begun. PiBoIdMo has begun. Two of my favorite events of the entire year.

And I’m not ready. Well, I AM ready for PiBoIdMo. I’m NOT ready for NaNoWriMo.

And I should have gotten EVERYTHING on my to-do list done. Now it has to sit there for a month.

But I digress.

November 1st also happens to be a SATURDAY. A day AFTER Friday :) Since I didn’t get to it yesterday, it’s November 1st. And so begins this day (and month) ‘o writing with an unedited, five minutes on my thoughts about leaving.

Fitting, isn’t it?

Leave

FMF-Leave-600x600This one word can suitably sum up much of my existence.

I have been left.

I have left.

Emotionally.

Physically.

Geographically.

Sometimes willingly.

Many times not.

He left our family for three years. I was young and innocent, yet my memories were full of yelling and slamming doors and eating to comfort myself. He came back but my heart was changed.

Two preschools, two kindergartens, two elementary schools, two junior highs… almost two high schools but I put my foot down firm, and He made a way. But by then I was hooked. Four colleges/universities.

Eight moves in eleven years.

I have said my fair share of goodbyes.

Either these things shaped my wiring, or God wired me and put me in the right home setting. Since then I’ve moved more times than I can count. My first high school trip to Mexico opened my WORLD to travel beyond the confines of a city, or the rearranging of a bedroom.

Thirty-four countries later and I’ve been as many places as I am old.

The He said, “Get rooted.” What the? Rooted? Why? What does that mean?

Terror. Grief. Confusion.

This time a dream was left.

Five years. Five years of waiting, wondering, rooting.

It was hard.

It was amazing.

It was absolutely why I can live in Germany as a missionary after God’s own heart.

Because I needed the flock.

I need the flock.

And now I get it. I get staying.

But He still hasn’t called me to it.

My leaving has only grown more sophisticated. Involves four children now. And husband. With people I love on multiple continents.

“Family” in Paraguay. Guatemala. Colombia. America. Canada. Germany. Sweden. Italy. Switzerland.

No matter where I am, I’m not with all of them.

And if I stay… they still leave. Because my people are God’s people. Called to the uttermost parts of creation.

And “goodbye” never gets easy.

But peace in my heart transcends the pain of leaving. Because HE is worth it. And joy is worth it. And sometimes the best things in life spring up from the pain of obedience. From the pain of a “goodbye.” Goodbye for now.

Because I know we are weary and joyful travelers, from inn to inn, until that day we all arrive at our final destination.

And we never have to leave again.

But probably not the letters you think…

Letters of the alphabet.

Like, NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo.

Some of my favorite combinations of letters, because they signify an entire month DEVOTED to the craft of writing.

This year, I am going to end up with over 30 new picture book ideas (Picture Book Idea Month) AND a complete YA novel (National Novel Writing Month).

I might have a problem. A good problem. This is my fifth year with PiBoIdMo. It’s my third with NaNoWriMo.

I’m hooked.

If I’m honest (and I like to think that I am), this has been a rough year. I started out very optimistic about my writing endeavors… and then life hit, and it hit hard. All of my optimism settled at the bottom of a big tank of reality.

10729105_10153286042007571_601739217_nBut today was a day of writing resuscitation. I had the wonderful opportunity of joining the SCBWI Switzerland region in Lausanne, Switzerland (which is closer to my house than the location of my Germany region meetings) for a workshop on writing and illustrating for children.

It was the first thing I’ve done for my writing in a long time. And it was good. I loved connecting with “old” friends and making new ones. I loved listening to Jude Evans of Little Tiger Press share about the kidlit industry. And I loved knowing that I get to submit two of my manuscripts to her over the next couple of weeks for critique. And all of that just a few precious days before November starts with all of its letters.

And fantastic posts.

And support groups.

And LOTS of writing.

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Marcy P.:

I wrote this for our ministry blog… to communicate with friends of our ministry a very difficult but beautiful journey we’ve stepped into, though we are across the ocean from the heart of it now. However, it seems to fit in well with my audience here also. And it’s my hope and prayer that you be encouraged by the beauty that springs from ashes in the life of others. And that you will also be inspired to know this God who is still good in the hard stuff.

Originally posted on The Vertical View:

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I thank my God every time I remember you.
Philippians 1:3

I’ve always understood that verse to mean that I am so grateful for the life of a person… that when I think of them, I thank God for them. When I think of how dear my children are to me… sometimes moved to tears by the undeserved gift they are to me… I thank God for them.

And that is beautiful and it is true.

But Ericlee and Dorina have inspired a new interpretation in my heart.

Every time I think of either of them… I see, in their lives lived out, that GOD IS GOOD. And when I think of them, I think of His goodness.

And upon my remembrance of His grace and glory and intimacy revealed in their lives… I find an overflow of gratitude in my depths to God for His sovereignty.

I thank God…

View original 718 more words

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300 I recently had the gift of a trip to Disneyland with family and friends.

I think the popcorn-smelling-gases they pump into the air negatively affected the decision-making part of our brains because we all thought it would be a good idea to start with Space Mountain. With our little kids. Or maybe the sentimentality of our own childhoods overpowered our ability to think clearly as a parent.

Regardless, off we went.

I ended up in the front row with my five-year-old daughter. Now, my sweet girl is fearless, so perhaps in my muddled thinking that’s why I thought we could “sacrificially” take the front row.

We climbed in and I explained to her what to expect. We’d go up. There’d be loud music. And then we’d be flying through space. But don’t be afraid; I’m here and it’s fun.

Well, we went up.

The music was loud.

And it was terrifying.

Way more terrifying than I remembered. Darker. Faster. More jolting. I don’t remember if she was crying or screaming or in a panicked silence… I only remember the fight-or-flight awakening of my brain and the acute awareness that I’d just brought my baby onto this ride of terror.00029878_000

I pulled her in as close to my side as possible. We went up, down, sideways. We couldn’t see a thing except stars that looked on a collision-path with us.

“Just hold on, sweetie, hold on,” I whispered, as I made her body one with mine. So that with every turn, every jolt, every drop, her body moved with mine… and not its own whip-lashed free-flying that I imagined hers would’ve done without me.

I spent the entire ride praying safety and security and peace into her ear and heart.

“Hold on baby girl, I’m here with you.”

A billion-feeling light years later, the ride ended.

She looked up at me and said, “Can we never ride that ride again?” Oh, my brave girl.

I apologized over and over for taking her on the ride without going on it first myself. I told her that I didn’t remember it being so fast and dark. I later learned that’s because it wasn’t. The ride had only re-opened a few weeks earlier: faster and darker.

My daughter blew me away with her self-awareness.

“Mommy, even if you went first and told me it was too scary, I would still want to go on it. I would have to see for myself if it really was too scary.” 

 

And if my life is like Disneyland (ha!) then God has just taken me on Space Mountain.

He took me on a ride I wasn’t ready for. Wasn’t expecting.

As the ride climbed up, my heart panicked. “Letmeoff, letmeoff, letmeoff!” It was too late.

I imagine He whispered into my ear some of what to expect… but the rest just had to be experienced. And as the ride burst out into a fast-paced careening through an unpredictable outer space, He pulled me in.

Whispered peace and comfort and security into my ear and heart.

Held me so close that my body moved with His through the turbulence. Through the climbs, the drops, the sudden twists to the side, our movements were one.

“Just hold on, baby girl, hold on.”

Oh, I’m holding on. There’s no feeling in my hands, they are so numb with the holding on. With the leaning into His side so I don’t have to feel the tug to fly out of the coaster.

And when I feel brave… I peek. And what I see in those flashes of brave peeking, well, I think it’s beautiful. It’s the universe. And He knows the name of every star. Placed it right where it is. And I can feel the wind massaging my cheeks, my hair, and it almost feels good. Then we drop again, climb again, twist again. And a billion-feeling light years later, it’s over.

Daddy, can we please never ride that one again?

Well, the ride part is over. Will be over.

And I’m changed.

I’m hyper aware of my mortality. My husband’s mortality. The mortality of my children.

And I’m not as brave as my daughter. I didn’t need to experience this ride to know it was too painful. I believed the others who’ve ridden it and that was enough. Or so I thought.

I’m grieving that life is so short, so hard. Grieving that I don’t know when this ride ends and that I can’t see the track. Grieving that I don’t know when my last day is… or their last day or your last day. And that I just have to love so incredibly deeply, cherish immensely, hold tightly while it’s here to be loved, cherished, and held.

And I’m terrified.

“Hold on sweetie, I’ve got you.”

And He does.

And it’s going to be okay.

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Psalm 94:18-19

Our Lives, His Excerpt

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It is well

with my soul

It is well

with me.

I woke up singing this song. Perhaps it’s my new anthem too.

So let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name.

I sat on a deck with the ocean in my view.

The ocean that still knows His name.

Images flashed of Ericlee lounging on patios and decks, seeped in the Word. Even with what proved to be a terminal diagnosis, he continued to love God’s Word, to lean into it and grow from it. To teach it to his daughters and wife. To my own family when we were together.10502062_10152975594872571_6266086793850406544_n

It’s a new morning and he’s still not in it. His memory and legacy continue to do its work in hearts. It carries his ministry, God’s ministry. And it gives courage to his wife and daughters.

But this isn’t the story I would have written.

My story keeps him here… miraculously healed- a testimony of God’s goodness and realness to all of his lost and found friends. We would cry and laugh and dance and sing and be in awe and shock. And we’d say, “We knew our God would come!” They would share their testimony of God’s healing all over the world… maybe even open their own juicing center to help other families in recovery. And people would be changed. Healed. Saved. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The way it would’ve been in my story.

Well, He came alright.

He came to hold his hand and steady his heart and mind. To take back the breath He’d loaned him. To smile with tears in His eyes, down His cheeks, stroking her back while she whispered peace and hope and permission into her lover’s ears.

He came to say, “Hey coach, you did it! You won the race; well done!” He looked up at his Daddy- saw the pride in His eyes, and clapped a clap of victory. He came to sweep him up into arms and hug so that he didn’t even notice when he’d let go.

He came with tenderness in His eyes, placing the medal of medals around his neck. “You are healed. Let’s go home.” And His embrace smelled of home. And the cheers and shouts and whistles were deafening-but he’d done it. In his 40th year, though he’d set many goals, he’d achieved the greatest one.

Then God gave a nod and a look and His army of ministering angels were off. Their task set before them. Their minds ready with purpose- into the world. To dance and wail with Haitians, with family, with friends, children, wife.

Never alone.

Through it all, through it all

my eyes are on you.

Through it all, through it all

It is well.

Through it all, through it all

my eyes are on you

It is well with me.

I choose to accept this story even though I don’t love it. Because really, I’ve only read this small excerpt. There’s a whole book… a book among a series, each with many pages and plot twists and climbing action. And perhaps this piece needs to be here for all of the rest to make sense. Perhaps this is what makes it work. Maybe everything good to come hinges on this chapter.

And who am I to rip out the section that pains me without having read the rest of the book?

I am not the author of this one… I can only read, tears streaming, praising the Author for His great character development, tension… resolution. He’s a world-class writer. His stories wind and weave together all of the important elements. If we are moved then He has written well. Gripped our hearts. Involved us. Changed us.

I can’t wait to read the rest.

Even so, It is well.

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There are many things in life I’ve thought I was ready for. As a kid, I thought I was ready to read. Or write. Or make friends. Swim. Ride a bike. Along the way, most kids realize that these things we watch other kids do so easily… come at a cost. Frustration at the struggle. Scraped knees. A nose full of water. Eventually we were ready, but not when we thought. Not in the way we thought.

Then I grew up and I was sure I was ready to get married. So I did.

And realized maybe I wasn’t. Not in the ways I truly needed to be, like selflessness. Like humility. Like all levels of maturity. I was in… and now I had to grow up within it. And years after I needed to be… I might finally be ready. On good days.

Then the pill made its way out of my blood stream, my brain, and I thought I was ready to be a mother. Ready to tackle this task that so many others before me seemed to do with such grace. And we welcomed him into our home. Our lives. Our hearts. And he kept us up all night. All day. Screamed that maybe I wasn’t ready. But here we were, all in. And seven years later… well, I’m still not ready. At least one of my four children daily reminds me that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. At least not in the picture-book fantasy world of mothers. Or the mothers on the covers of magazines who are toned and smiling with their doting children on knee. I was ready for that. Not this.

The thing about being ready is that it’s entirely reliant on our feeling about the whole thing. About our sense that we have it within us to complete whatever task is set before us. That somehow we are capable of being what we need to be. That we can muster up within us some grand effort.

I won’t pretend to say that I was ready to see him go. To see him cross the finish line before us. To join a welcome-home party I wouldn’t be able to attend yet. There were moments… when his pain was excruciating and his wife and girls looked on, prayed on… that I was ready for his suffering to end. For his body to be healed in its full glorious restoration that only Heaven promises.

was ready for his suffering to transform into eternal joy and peace and fellowship with his adoring Savior.

But I’m not ready for all the rest. For the hole that leaves us. For the daughters without their daddy. For his wife without her lover. For his mother without her son. For his family without his physical presence. Audible laughter. The runners without their coach. I’m not ready.

But here we are, in the thick of it. And tomorrow we celebrate him… hold our own welcome-home party on this side. We’ll laugh at his antics and tears will spill and songs of hope and peace we will sing. And none of us will feel ready but we will keep holding each other up as we walk forward.

Because really, the only way to actually be ready, is Christ.

Summed up in that one word. THE Word.

It’s not by our ability to muster up gumption. It’s not an act of our self-determined will that we can be ready for the things that really call on us. It’s only through Christ that we have any strength (Philippians 4:13). It’s only by the riches of His glory in Christ that our every need is met (Philippians 4:19). It is only God’s peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7). It is only by trusting Him, not my ability to feel ready, not my understanding of why bad things happen to good people… only submitting to the reality that we are not big enough, strong enough, sufficient enough to live this hard life… that we will have a straight path to walk (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I’m not ready. And I don’t have to be. My Sustainer is always ready.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46.4

He. Is. Ready.

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