Wednesday, March 7, 2018


     I have written, deleted, and rewritten this post a few times. I feel the urge to write... to capture the essence of her  here and share it. I just keep getting stuck! Perhaps it's because I don't feel I can do justice to who she is or what she means to me. Or's because doing so feels too much like I am limiting her to the confines of how I view her, when she still has more life in her to live and therefore is still in the process of becoming. I'm not sure...but I know I have to try.

     Mom. The word has a way of awakening so many feelings in each of us. We all have or have had mothers. For me, the word mom awakens the feeling of home. My mom has always made herself a home for me. I didn't always appreciate it or take note of it, but she was there as a shelter in whatever way I needed. When I needed consoling she was a soft place to land. When I needed a friend, she listened. When I needed correction, she was firm. Like a home provides warmth and safety...I was covered and sheltered by her prayers. She has always been that taught me how to love.

     Mom made herself a home for others too. She taught a Muslim Albanian neighbor English and loved her so well, that our family was welcomed into their home as though we were blood relatives. Many Sundays our table was full. She invited people into our home, fed them, and shared life with them. In doing this she taught me hospitality and I learned that family is not limited to genetics because God sets the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:6) The way she made herself a home for others provided me with extra grandparents, aunts, and uncles and surrounded me with so much love! I don't think I truly appreciated all of this until I had children of my own and I learned first hand how hard it is to be a mother. I marvel at how her heart had room and she made time to love others well in this way.

     She's been a home for her grandchildren as well...perhaps more of a fun house in their younger years! She has this incredible gift of being an adult who never lost her child-like imagination or innocence. I believe when the kids were little, she enjoyed playing with their toys more than they did! She has been whatever they needed her to be at the time...just like home. When they were younger she played school, went sleigh riding, and even managed to go down the slide inside Kasa's play place! She was their fun house. Now that they are in their teens, she is their confidant and cherished friend. They share fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams with her. In this way she is a shelter, and I have no doubt they too are covered and strengthened by her prayers. 

     Strength is an important aspect of any home because it needs to withstand life's storms. God has used life's storms to shape my mom into one of the strongest people I know. I'm not talking about what the world looks at as strong...just shoving your feelings, questions, frustrations, and hurts aside and plugging on with a pretend smile slapped across your face. That isn't real strength. Real strength is raw and honest. Real strength comes from being vulnerable and wrestling with God over the unanswered questions and the suffering. Real strength comes from not always getting the answers or the outcomes you want but still loving, trusting, and resting in the One who will see you through.  This is what my mom has and out of everything she has ever given me...the gift of walking alongside her through her years of suffering is perhaps the greatest gift of all.  In this she has shown me how to love Christ and make Him my home. I learn it from our honest conversations, from the way she depends on Him and seeks Him for wisdom, and from the way she thanks Him (like she just won millions) for the smallest of things. She thanks Him for the smallest of things...even when He hasn't answered her prayers for the bigger things like healing, even when she receives more bad diagnoses, and even when He doesn't alleviate her pain. This is how she loves Him and without realizing it, this is how she loves me! She teaches me to press on, to be tenacious and yet honest in my faith and in my love for Him.

     I could go on... but let me give you a glimpse of her in her own words so you too will be encouraged to press on in whatever trials you find yourself in:

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

"My dear daughter and best friend,

The Lord put the above verse in my mind for this note. In order to press on toward the goal, we need to be in the Word and I know you are. So I encourage you to keep on doing what you are and continue to be in tune to hear His voice leading you each day as to what He would continue to have for you the rest of your life.  God Bless You Happy 40th, Mom"

     These are just some of the words written in the letter my mom gave me when I turned forty this year. These words are a picture of who she is. She never stops pressing on. She never lets go of Christ. She is ever moving forward, reaching out for Him, loving Him, and learning from Him.  As I write this, I realize that it's been this way her whole life. This is how she became a home, a loving and a safe place to land for others...she made Christ her home and His love manifested in her, welcomed them in, and drew them to Himself.

As her daughter I pray, Lord, make me a home. May Your love be manifested in me!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Answer Fear With Praise...

     "For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy." Psalm 63:7  Over and over again God has been my help. Every time I feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to navigate this season of life, He shows me the way. You would think that the "over and over again" part of things would make the ways He helps me seem monotonous...or that I would see Him show up in the same old expected ways. Not so. He continues to surprise, challenge, and delight me. I am captivated by how He loves me through the hard places, especially when the lessons I learn don't come easy and I can't always sense His presence right away.

     Recently within a two week time span, my mother and my father-in-law were in the hospital with some serious health issues. It was during this time of uncertainty, running to and from the hospital, and trying to keep up with the responsibilities at home that I was presented with a new challenge. I had to navigate the thoughts, concerns, and fears that swirled in my mind. How do you calmly drive to the ER when your mind is consumed with an attack of the "the what-if's" while simultaneously making a list of items to pack for your loved one's overnight bag? When the fear of what might be knocks the words of prayer right out of you, and all you can eek out is a "Please God"?  The can't. You can't calmly drive to the ER with all this going on unless you offer up all that you have. Offer up your "Please God" and let Him do what He will with it. In this instance, I found that my heart and mind were suddenly full of worship songs...some of which I haven't heard in years. Each time I finished singing one, He brought another to mind. With each song some of the "what-if's" disappeared. With each song my heart became more peaceful and less fearful, until finally I was able to pray the words that wouldn't come out in the beginning. By the time I got to the ER with my mom's overnight bag, I was completely calm. I didn't realize it yet, but God was teaching me how to answer fear with praise. The following week when my father-in-law was taken to the hospital, I would learn why.

     He was taken by ambulance on a Sunday morning. My husband left to be with him and I was left at home with a dilemma of sorts. Should I go to church or stay home and wait for news? It had been such a long week leading up to Sunday. I was exhausted and my heart was full of things that I had shoved aside to process and pray through later. The symptoms my father-in-law had involved his heart and we almost lost him once before to heart problems. All this weighed on me and I didn't want to go to church and have it explode through the surface...but I knew I desperately needed to be replenished. I went. As we sang the first few songs my mind was elsewhere. I went back and forth between feeling overwhelmed and praying... unable to really focus.  Then the worship team began to sing the song "What A Beautiful Name". Something in me broke at the words " You were the Word at the beginning one with God the Lord Most High". My hand went up involuntarily and the tears came in a steady stream as I sang. Each verse of the song was a reminder of who Jesus is. As I sang the words it felt as though I was declaring it to myself, my fears, and to all that overwhelmed me. By the end of the song I was weightless.

     What I learned that Sunday was this: Answering fear with praise, is singing for joy under the shadow of His wings. Praise reminds us of who our help is. Praise reminds us of who our God is...the Beginning and the End, the lover of our souls, our provider, our healer, and our Savior. When we worship in the middle of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear it's an act of faith. We are holding up what overwhelms us into the light of who God is, and bringing it all under His authority.  This puts it into perspective, it puts fear in it's place and sets us free.

     What makes you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or afraid? What is it that so overwhelms you that you can't even eek out more than a "Please God"? Answer it with Praise and be set free!