Sacrificial Love

Husband is cradling me in the black wee hours of the morning, as tears run hot and I pour out my fears, tell him that I can’t make it stop, that I can’t sleep. It is a frightening thing, to relapse, to feel Satan tug at me–hard–to meet my anxiety and fear head on and to admit it vulnerably even here.

To hear the mind-numbing static constantly running through my mind…to get no relief and to not understand why. And yet, there he is, aroused from sleep by the worried sob accidentally escaping from his wife’s throat. And he is wrapping me in his love, his protection, his safe harbour. Here my worry can cease. He wipes it from my brow…whispers “it’s okay”, saving me from my dark pit.

Who am I to say that Christ’s work on that rugged, cruel cross wasn’t enough—the cross where He was isolated from His Father, hated, beaten unrecognizable, and killed through a gruesome death? Who am I to say that He can’t save me from this despair, worry and fear? I feel it through Husband’s loving embrace–the Creator is pursuing me. I feel Him, relentless…He won’t stop until I give it all up–my doubts, my reasonings and trying to make sense of it– until I know this fully—that He loves me.

And the God glory is especially heavy when my heart is heavy, weary, fearful, and when Husband cradles, skin to skin in the night, whispers in my ear that it is okay, that they are only lies from Satan and not to listen, gently smoothes my hair and touches his hand to my face even though he has to get up in the still-dark hours for work .

This is love. Sacrificial love.

When I hear and feel his heartbeat underneath, steady and alive, that strong chest receiving me like a child, it is then that I know that this is how God cradles me, how He holds me, how He soothes me, if I just lay and rest.

This is how God sees me…a child, afraid, but loved more than she knows, wrapped in grace and protection as a child is…as a wife is covered by her husband who loves her in the night.

This is what God wants me to know…He is my Father, and He loves me, and sees me through the blood of His Son…That Son that He gave, that Son that was the Word, that was with God, but took the punishment and received in Himself my sin so that the Father had to turn away…and that was the worst punishment…because in this sin-sick world, this world that shuns me and makes me feel bitter cold, I couldn’t imagine having the only thing that always holds me up taken away from me–my Father’s face. And Jesus giving that up for me reveals His powerful love for me.

And it is dawning, that this is the hard thanks that I wanted to learn. It is painful, aching, mind-reeling, and it threatens to break me, but it is these moments that I know His grace. It is these moments when I am afraid to pray, don’t know what to say, all balled up like a child inside, and His grace pours in, my husband holding me, soothing me, and it opens up His glory in varying hue and light–the splendor all around me–and there I am, lost…

and found in the shadow of the cross. In His love.

And this is where I learn to love…fully, with no regrets, no fear–knowing that God holds me and cradles me–no thought of self, or reward, forgiving and always hoping and believing the best–knowing that God is in control– humble and patient–knowing that He gives more grace–and giving of myself. Fully giving of myself until He completely takes over, until there is nothing left of me, until I have served and loved and devoted my time and energy and I am all spent, even to the point of death, yes, even there I will go for love…to carry this love to others for the One who gave it all–even His life. And He desires nothing less.

Spilled Ice Cream Crowns

Riding along in our old van, the wonderful clunker that gets us from point A to point B, and we are a family desperately needing to make this day, this outing a peaceful, joyful, grace-counting time…this time, this time it will be different.

This is what goes on in my head. So we listen to music, speak in loving tones, and I don’t want to admit it, but in the back of my mind there is nagging wonder of how far my loving tones will carry me this time.

We enjoy our time together, and snapping pictures, we happily gaze at gigantic, bumpy-backed toads that seem dead they are so still and dormant. We are amazed at the enormous dinosaur bones. We wander and linger long and I read to them about God’s creation. “Look at that electric blue and neon yellow on this little fish”, I say. “How can anyone say there isn’t a creator? Some intelligent designer that thought of this?” And we marvel.

We barely make it out of the gate by closing time, and little ones have to go to the restroom and we must all make the journey to load up without rolling over someone’s foot with the stroller, a possible meltdown, and losing our positive, loving mood.

The kids say they want to go have ice cream, so Husband swings by and I can feel he is anxious to get home and it begins a low, slow stirring in me. So I hand them ’round, tall white curled swirls of cold, creamy sweetness.

The first creamy swirl-top falls over into a little one’s lap, as more cones are being passed from the window and Husband’s hand, and they are coming faster than I can keep up with. Little one wants help with her fallen ice cream top. Then as our old van lurches forward, another crown of sweetness falls, and another, and my eldest girl’s brave face crumbles as her sweet, creamy crown falls into her lap while trying to help and serve her sisters. She breaks and cries…it is too much for her…and that is all too much for me…

I snap and I yell and I say so many words to my dear husband. And then, as realization of my behavior sets in, shame sets in. I know that nagging in the back of my mind was right–underneath all of my loving tones and hard efforts lies a tense cloud of frustration and anger. This is hard for me to admit. But I apologize. The words come out slow and hard like a child that doesn’t want to share, wants to keep it all to herself.

I realize then, that the Holy Spirit is telling me to humble myself, and be patient, to not practice loving tones for me, so that things are peaceful for my benefit, but to give patience and sacrifice my own feelings and desires because this is true love, real love. To give my time and energy toward their enjoyment.

And if they wear me all out ’til the edges are all frayed and I have given all, is that really so bad? Isn’t that what I’m afraid of when I’m impatient, when I’m selfish? Aren’t I afraid of someone hurting me, that something will happen to me? Aren’t I trying to make sure I keep myself intact? Aren’t I, then, about me? Are these fears unrealisitic? Yes, according to the truth of the gospel. Is anything bad going to really happen to me? No.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:10

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7

So, then, love is not about me. It is not selfish–not about self. It does not seek self or self’s intactness, self’s happiness, or self’s peace. But it seeks the happiness and benefit and wholeness of others. Even if I’m all worn out, mistreated, and frayed around the edges, this is what love feels like…and for this i rely on grace, always the grace of God, and with that comes joy and thankfulness.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11

This week I’m linking up with Ann Voskamp’s site and also re-vamping my blog. I am letting you in on the decision-making. Since it isn’t only the content of a blog, but also the look and feel (is it a comfortable place, or an annoying place to look and spend time at), I want to hear your opinion, whether you have been reading for awhile, or today is your first time! For those of you who know me well, I am artistic and I want my page to be artfully tasteful, but also want it to reflect me and be a restful place for readers. A tall order, you say? Each week I may change it up a bit until I find what I like. So if you find the spot to vote in the sidebar? Thanks for your input.

Running Unafraid

Nothing like running through the woods during thunderstorm’s breeze, the winding trails, and wet pelts hitting my skin, feeling myself lift easily and lightly over roots raised up high from earth…and the smell of wet dirt, grass, salty moist air, and muscles working hard but not even realizing it…moving in strong rhythm. The only thing that makes it better is having my daughter there with me.

As we walk toward the trail to begin our run with a dear friend of mine, Lorna says, “Isn’t is going to rain, since the clouds are dark?”

“Well, if it does, then it will be okay.” I am a little worried about it thunderstorming, and getting drenched, but I don’t let her see or hear the fear in my voice.

The three of us walk and jog toward our trail. I encourage her to keep up with the pace. She says, “Maybe we shouldn’t have done tae-bo before we left the house!” I laugh.

We head down the trail, down a steep decline of rocky red clay. We are deep into the woods, weaving in and around trees, when the thunder begins to roll and the woods darken. The wind gently whips my face, and light flashes around me and I feel a startle of fear, but I hear her excited panting, and her leaping over roots behind me. We run together, unafraid. My friend close behind her, laughing at us, the laughing bouncing off the trees in the dark.

I say, “Isn’t this cool?”, so excited and happy to have this feeling nestled in my heart, that we are friends in this moment.

She replies, between breaths of exhileration and turning trail, ” Yes! You can see the animals and nature at the same time while you are running!

We get good and drenched and as we are leaving the woods, we hold hands, running together, and she says, “Mama, maybe one day when I’m 12 I can do a race with you.”

And she isn’t expecting the grace, just like I’m never expecting it from my Father, always thinking I need to work harder and for the rest of my life before I’m good enough. ” You can do the next race with me if you practice.”

She smiles.

He says I’m good enough right now…all I need to do is be me, and His grace is there for the covering. And there IS grace for this anxiety, this fear and depression that I carry. And we run together unafraid.

“The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20,21

‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” II Corinthians 9:8

Counting the grace, the ways He loves, the little moments I’m grateful for:

112. How Bella’s eyes get bright and she says, “Elvis (our cat)…there you are–I was looking all over to you!”

113. just hanging outside with my children and the freedom of that.

114. out of control girlish laughs and giggles, light spread wide across their face.

115. this is joy, here in this simple moment.

116. tiny delicate puffs floating to the bright sky.

117. big sisters and little sisters.

118. how Lilly grins and toddles over to her big sister as fast as she can to embrace her with a hug after not seeing her for a while.

119. little hands cupping gifts, held up in offering.

120. perfect golden ringlets in the sunlight.

121. tiny hearts cut out from construction paper with the inscription in child’s writing, “I love you”, brought and placed in Mama’s hand.

122. my children’s obedience and Husband’s patience–how Husband instructs Ivy to tell Bella that she can play with her horse and the hard words that finally come out one by one.

123. Bella learning to communicate– she cries and says, “Ivy has my horse, and I tell her PLEASE can I play with it?”

124. smell of earth and green grass with Heaven’s first sprinkling.

125. how Lorna passes me up on the trail, giggling and saying she wanted to beat me.

126. Ivy begging everytime Lorna and i leave for a run, to go too, and the love ripping through my heart when i have to tell her, “When you are older”.

127. knowing that being a parent is so excruciatingly painful at times, but also knowing that God’s grace covers ALL of me, not just parts of me, and His grace will abound for every good work.

128. yes, there is even grace for my fear, anxiety and depression. all i can do is receive the grace given for the moments–even the ones i mess up.

129. growing pains. hurt. rejection. fear.

130. the comfort of the knowledge that in these trials, i am suffering with my Jesus, for i face nothing that He did not face.

131. this passage: “…But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

132. thunderstorms. being drenched and running in the rain. the grace to feel ALIVE.

You can join us in sharing your gratitude and counting the grace moments: