- Purchase a small Christmas tree to use as your Jesse tree.
I find that there’s a certain sense in which things are more than they appear. On the surface, I’m just painting another room. But then the emotions rush in and I wonder if this color therapy is one of many ways the creative heart heals itself. Am I forging a safe cocoon where the boundaries are clear and the dark days must be embraced for the beauty and transformation they inevitably bring? Am I declaring to my life-love that this space, these days, this passion is important. I won’t take it for granted. I won’t give it what’s left over. I will boldly declare—-with strokes of painted love—-that I am in this—–heart and soul.
This project is still in progress so I’ll be forthcoming with colors, etc. I listened to Brandi Carlile’s new album while I painted this weekend—-another form of wonderful therapy. Her song Pride and Joy is unbelievably powerful and speaks of the complicated relationship we have with our children and parents. She’s coming to the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville Feb. 10th. Girls night out anyone? The first time I heard her song ‘The Story’ , I was reminded that there is something in music and art in general that touches on the divine. And everytime I hear this song, I’m so thankful for Steve—who knows my story—-and loves me anyway.
Why did Martin Luther nail those 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg? Why did he risk his very life so boldly at the Diet of Worms when he said, “I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. God help me”?
Lord God, who after long ages of darkness delivered the church from the bondage of error, we thank You for those faithful witnesses through whom you restored the gospel of Christ to men and we praise You that this blessed light has been preserved for us to this present age. We thank You for making known among us the Holy Scriptures which are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, our only mediator.Defend Your church against all her foes. Seek and save the lost and all who have gone astray. Preserve among us the pure Word and holy sacraments; turn our hearts from false and pernicious doctrine. Direct and strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may abide in the confession of Your word all the days of our lives and in the end, by Your grace, obtain everlasting life. This we pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I wasn’t sure if or when I would write again. Sometimes the murmurings of the heart are almost impossible to put to words. A dark looming cloud has been shrouding my heart for what seems like months, making it hard to even take a deep breath. It seemed a betrayal of myself to write about something other than my current loss and a disservice to you to continue beleaguering what, for all practical intents and purposes, ought to be a normal phase of life. But with blended families, it’s a little different. Steve and I have been married nine years and feel so blessed to find ourselves here, sheltered by the love of God and each other, and even blessed with two children of our own. But our older kids have traveled a weary path.
There is always the nagging guilt that every trial and heartache is a result of the broken family—divorce wreaks havoc like a tsunami and long past the initial destruction, waves of shame and self-reproach plague its’ victims in relentless agony. The only relief I find is the profound gift of grace in God’s word and sacraments. And even then, I doubt, at times, that He can forgive us—-that He can heal us and the broken hearts of the children that were left in the wake of this storm. We are profoundly blessed to be where we are, but we know that it is only by the tender mercy of our Father that He is restoring us to Himself. We pray that somehow, someway our children will learn to forgive us for our failures.
We failed to keep our promises.
We failed to fight for them.
We failed to provide them with the one thing they needed most, parents who don’t give up.
We grieve for them today. For the lost time together. For the nurturing and teaching and loving that was cut short. We hope that somehow, in our own repentance before God, they will see in our vulnerability, a path to honesty—a path first trodden by Christ himself—that’s leads to life, even after what seems like surely has been death. We long for restoration and realize that the cross is our only hope. He is a God who redeems and restores. He atones for our sin and gives us the blessed, undeserved gift of forgiveness.
Parenting, of all relationships, must be continually shaped by this same mercy. It is in this most intimate relationship that we often commit our gravest trespasses. We are terse when we should be kind, busy when we should listen, absent when we should be present, self-righteous when we should be humble, and often forget that it is this very ‘neighbor’ that God has placed in our path to care for and nurture as a service to the Lord Himself. There is a connection we have to our children that is baffling. When they’re hurting, we feel their pain in a visceral way, even when words fail to justly tell their story.
I read this today from the book Beautiful Boy and knew it was time to write.
We are connected to our children no matter what. They are interwoven into each cell and inseparable from every neuron. They supercede our consciousness, dwell in our every hollow and cavity and recess with our most primitive instincts, deeper even than our identities, deeper even than our selves.
So, as three of our kids leave this patched up little nest in the span of a week, no wonder it’s hard to sleep. No wonder the days have been colored with a blue haze. We laugh a little less and long for brighter days. We miss them like a part of our own bodies has been severed. Now, we wonder if this is what it feels like to always be without someone you love.
God, forgive us for our selfishness.
Clothe our children in your mercy.
Bind their broken hearts.
I’m thankful the story doesn’t end there. Finally and without warning, the storm begins to recede. The sun breaks through a thick dark veil of clouds, slowly releasing the chokehold, and reminds us that though weeping may endure for a night; Joy comes in the morning. He is stronger than our doubt. He holds on when we can’t. He anchors us to Himself—He forgives us and makes us whole. In Him alone, we find meaning in the suffering and hope in the despair. He has done for us what we could never do for ourselves and we stand humbled and repentant in the light of His ‘glorious grace’. We pray that our children will all come to share in that same mercy and trust in the only One who always keeps His promises.
Note: This is our particular story and our particular pain. We are not making blanket judgements about divorce–but the children are always the ones who suffer. No amount of rationalizing takes this pain away for us and our children. We can do nothing now but throw our hands up and plead guilty. It has been the most painful and yet the most freeing confession we have ever made. And Steve and I often marvel at how God could, after all our wandering and idolatry, restore us to Himself and to the joys of Christian marriage. It is almost unfathomable. Then we remember the tremendous price that was exacted for our forgiveness and we know that this is how our Father works. He loves us, He has watched for us, planned for us to return home. And as we sit at His table, hearts full to the brim with gratitude, we know that our restoration is made possible by Christ, and Him alone.
It was months later before I could bring myself to listen to the song. I cried most of the day. I’m so thankful for Cindy, who was like an angel from heaven. It reminded me that though we move on and the days seem to pass pleasantly by, the kids live with it daily—-as they must learn to navigate two lives and always without someone they love. I am grateful that the grace of God has sheltered and sustained them in faith and mercy and that He is teaching us to live in forgiveness as the very breath we breathe. Starting at zero.
The days come one after another without my permission. If you asked me to articulate precisely my thoughts and emotions as I wander along in this ‘valley‘, I could not. When Caiti was eight years old, we drove across the Blue Ridge Mountains listening and singing with reckless abandon to “Landslide” from our favorite Dixie Chicks album. Today, I wonder if I’m caught in a landslide of my own. For sure, I’ve lost my footing.
If you have struggles of your own today, maybe you’ll join me in this prayer (taken from the Lutheran prayer book)
Lord, have mercy. Christ,have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Merciful Father, You know how difficult these days are for me. In Your holy word You have promised to hear those who cry unto You in the day of trouble. Listen to my cries for mercy and send me help from the sanctuary of Your grace. Preserve me from bitterness of spirit, and rescue me from every temptation to despair. Calm my frustrations with the knowledge that my life is secure in Your redeeming love, for I am baptized into the death and resurrection of Your Son. Draw me out of self-centered worry, which stifles faith, and cause me to take comfort in the great and precious promises that You have made to me and all believers in the Gospel. Sustain and strengthen me under every cross and affliction, that Your grace might be made perfect in my weakness. Give me confidence to pray without losing heart and to trust in Your mighty deliverance according to Your good and gracious will. Father, into Your hands I commend myself. Hear me, for the sake of Your Son, who alone is my Savior. Amen.
Post edit: I’m joining Darcy’s bloghop this week, featuring homeschool room’s. Click here to see how real mom’s make their spaces work.
It’s no secret. We’re BIG fans of IssuesEtc. BIG fans. Our children hum the ‘bump’ music as they play, ‘Todd’ and ‘Jeff’ are household names that need no further clarification. And if we’re talking about Steve’s brother ‘Jeff’, we say ‘BrotherJeff’, so as not to confuse him with our friend, ‘Jeff’ Schwarz. (A big thank-you to BrotherJeff, by the way, for introducing us to Issues). We’re warming up to Craig (the newest addition to the crew), but I don’t think the children would recognize Craig in a line-up yet. They could pick out Todd and Jeff in a heartbeat, especially by ‘voice’ recognition. They speak as fondly of them as they do their own uncles. Keep up the good work though Craig, they’ll come around. And if we weren’t such blasted procrastinators, we’d probably be on a plane to St. Louis by now to celebrate with our friends in person. But here we sit. Stevie in his Issues t-shirt and I with my mug, thinking back to all the great theological, political, and current ‘issues’ we’ve pondered over the past three years. Most of all, I think, Issues has taught us, from the scriptures, the depth of our depravity. We’ve learned one thing for sure. We have ‘issues’. And lots of ’em.
and parenting by grace…….
…..even our marriage has been strengthened to the point that we staged a small ceremony on Sunday to renew our vows and do the traditional wedding toast…..Issues style.
We are so thankful for their faithfulness to the gospel and for the tremendous resource they have been to us in our discipleship and catechesis. They’re funny and smart and so down-to-earth. This is christian radio like you’ve never heard it. This is christian radio that men will listen to and learn from. This is christian radio that is rough around the edges and authentic. This is christian radio that you can be proud of. You will be challenged, inspired, possibly offended, encouraged, and instructed in the faith.
If you’re not subscribing, do it today, on their one year anniversary of producing their own show. I’ll be listening live today, from 4-6, from my computer, by clicking the ‘listen now’ button on their website. Join us in supporting men who proclaim Christ, and Him crucified!