Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's in a Flower?

  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Matthew 26:28-29

  It's been a difficult couple of weeks.  I've wanted to write but I've surrendered to sleep during those times when I can think and write in peace. Many of you know that a year ago I was diagnosed with a congenital defect of my spine. It's called spondylolisthesis which means "vertebrae slip". Literally, one of my vertebra has slipped forward out of place and is pressing down on the nerves to my right leg. It has been a most unwelcome guest in my life and I've done everything in my power to get it to leave. That's just it, isn't it? I'VE done everything in MY power to gain control over the pain and the treatment and the outcome. And where has it gotten me? One year, three months of rehab, two thousand dollars, three epidural blocks, and a cocktail of prescriptions later, I'm in the exact same place physically. Spiritually, I have been altered greatly. This trial has revealed so much about my sin and what I believe about the character of God. Thee Gardener has been doing much pruning and it's painful.
  Outside, I'm beginning to see the heads of bulbs push through the earth with determination. Soon daffodils will trumpet and lilies will hang their heads in shyness, bowing to their creator. I think that flowers are one of God's most wondrous creations. The detail, the delicacy, the vibrancy of color and the fragrance all speak to a God whose creativity and power demands our worship. Why did God go to such effort to infuse beauty and life into something so fleeting? Flowers, after all, wither and die.
  Could we not say the same of us? Our beauty fades and our time will come when the color drains from our petal-like cheeks and we die down into the earth. Are we really worth it?  Am I worth it when my Gardener sees the beauty of His hand suffocated by the thick weeds of sin? Can I reflect back the beauty of His glory?
   These versus in Matthew say, yes. Unequivocally, yes! How much more does my Lord love me than the flowers? He supplies all the needs to the flowers of the field, which pass much more quickly than you or I. Will He not supply all my needs as a child of His, created to think and feel and love Him back? He will. He has clothed me--clothed me in the garments of grace. My Lord has declared me beautiful and I must live in His light if I am to grow and be healthy just as the flowers turn their heads to the rays of the sun for their sustenance.
  Sometimes I forget just how much I am valued--more than the birds of the air or the grasses of the field for He did not create those things to praise Him. Physical pain can speak lies and tell us that we are suffering because of we are of no value. But the Lord who knows the very number of hairs on my head loves me. He created me as I am, crooked back and all, and He will use all things for His glory.
 I'm preaching to myself today, but maybe you too are suffering in some way. Let's remember that His love for us is demonstrated throughout scripture. No garden is without weeds. A gentle, caring Gardener works tirelessly because He believes in the beauty of His creation. When the pruning is complete, we will stand erect before Him and be visible evidence His greatness. I want to be that kind of flower.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meet Trouble!

 I'm quite certain that every child safety device was created with children like Ben in mind. He is just plain trouble wrapped in a deliciously cute package. That's a double threat.
 He's my only boy after two girls and so I was totally unprepared for his mischievous antics and his destructive actions. He's not malicious. No, not at all. Just....curious.
 So when it came to moving him into a "big boy" bed, I was terrified. I knew it was time, but why would I grant him greater access to this curiosity by removing the barrier of a barred crib? Was I insane? After much discussion, I did concede to the hubby that moving Ben into a bed would certainly help my back (more about that in another post). So, off to the mattress store we went. One twin and a few hundred bucks later, we were equipped with a tangible reminder that our toddler is no longer a baby (insert sobs here).
  He wanted to sleep in the bed immediately. In my distress, I tried to convince him to wait just a little bit longer. "Don't you like your crib?" I asked. What I was really saying was, "Mommy likes you in your crib because you stay put. You sleep well. You aren't growing up if you're in a crib. Why does everything have to change? I need some chocolate!" However, after he kissed the crib and said goodbye to it, I figured it was time to embrace the change (and by embrace, I mean kicking and screaming).

We bought a cute construction quilt from HomeGoods and some sheets, bedskirt, mattress protector, and pillow top mattress pad--everything a boy needs to have a good night's sleep. He LOVED the quilt. The boy is seriously into cars, trucks, diggers, etc... We put it all together and he tried it out with sisters one and two. I think they liked it!
 Ben beamed and declared, "I have a big bed like Gracie and Mon-noo (translation: Molly)" It was love at first sight. But how would the first sleep go? How long would it take him to slink down and start a fire? To try to repel out of the window? To swallow a figurine or flush a stuffed animal down the toilet? HOW LONG?
  Nap time rolled around and I read to him atop his throne and stroked his hair. I explained to him that he must stay in his bed and that getting out was punishable by spanking! I told him that if he stayed in his bed he would get marshmellows when he woke up (I'm pulling out all the stops NOT to have my house burned down). Then I said goodnight. Exit room. Run to baby monitor. Wait. Wait. Wait. Nothing. Silence. Breathing. Sucking. Seriously? That's it? Against my better judgement, I inched back into the room and saw my boy (my big boy)--fast sleep. I wanted to cry. It's not about the bed. It's about acknowledging that this is probably the last baby we're going to have. It's about letting go. Honestly, my heart aches for another baby, and the Lord knows this. We have been praying about having a fourth, but my body fails me daily and I can't confidently say that it would be a wise decision to go against the doctors that have told me my family is complete. So, I leave it in the Lord hands to comfort my grieving heart. He knows the desires of my heart. He knows the state my back is in--He crafted the bones and though defective in the eyes of surgeons and specialists, I am "fearfully and wonderfully made." And so after seven years of continuous use, the crib is broken down and stored. The season is over and we head into another season.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a -time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's all about Grace

 February is a really cruel month. The sky is consistently colorless, and the coldness ties you to your house. Signs of spring have not yet broken through. We fight illness. We fight boredom. We just plain fight! But in the midst of all this white stillness, is a sparkling ray of warm sunshine...and her name is Grace Perry.
 Five years ago on February 1st, Grace literally burst onto the scene. Born three weeks early and in a chaotic hour and a half, Grace entered the world just a screaming to be noticed! She had a rocky (or should I say noisy) first four months, but then settled into being a wonderfully calm, sweet baby. She's been that way ever since.
 As our children grow, I can begin to see what their unique gifts are and Grace was born with a special heart which is naturally bent towards helpfulness, and compassion. She notices when you're hurting and she hurts. She's eager to do anything to help even if it's not quite done right. She loves to please. She is particularly sensitive which can sometimes be difficult, but if Brent and I (by way of the Holy Spirit) can properly steer that sensitivity, she could be greatly used to care for God's people. She just knows how to love well.
 God knew I needed a little girl like Grace, and her name reflects the period of our lives that we were (and still are) in when expecting her: astute awareness of God's grace to sinners such as us. It was God's grace that sustained me during a grueling pregnancy and that same grace that delivered her into our arms healthy and happy. Her name also reflects my favorite scripture, "But he said 'My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.' (2 Cor 12:9). I had it stenciled on the wall in her nursery, and as I rocked this weak little infant each night, I was reminded that I too am as weak as newborn babe without the perfect grace of my Lord and Savior.
 At five, she's a typical girl requesting a Sleeping Beauty dress and her annual spaghetti dinner with the family. She loves spaghetti!! It's a treat to watch her slurp and suck those noodles with such innocence and carelessness. The world is perfect to her. We pray that she can hold on to that childlike spirit for a while longer, and that when the reality of the world steals it, she will see the need for a Savior and He will draw near to her.

  Dear Gracie,
Mommy loves you, precious girl. Thank you for the way you allow me to experience the joys of life with you. Thank you for the sweet embraces I receive every day and for the life that bursts forth from you. Realize that the sweetness God put in you is for His purpose and seek ways to use it for His Glory. We're so proud of who you are and excited to walk beside you as you grow. What a joy to be your mother.