Wednesday, May 30, 2012

But I Do

On the way to church, I was silenced and quickly put in my place. My throat seized up and I wasn't sure He'd ever let me speak again. I had just asked my precious child to give me a break. I needed silence, for just a moment. I guess the excitement of getting out and seeing her best friend after not seeing her at school today had her all wound up...she was talking-nonstop ever since we left the house. I selfishly asked her to stop talking...for just a few minutes. As soon as those words came out of my mouth, she stopped mid-sentence and politely looked out of her window while tears filled my eyes and a lump filled my throat.

I began thinking about all those times I was pushing my first born in grocery stores or department stores and hearing parents tell their kids to be quiet. I'd watch as words flowed out of their little mouths, their little brains stimulated by everything around them. Some mothers would push their children around with blank looks upon their faces and I knew they weren't really listening to their children. I would simply walk past with my rapid heartbeat and my face drawn wondering if they knew how Blessed they were that their children could even speak. I would tell myself that if my children could hear and speak like that, I'd never tell them to be quiet. But I do.

My sweet little girl gave about thirty seconds of quiet until she just couldn't stand it anymore. She looked over at me and began another one of her wonderful little stories and she stopped and said, "Are you crying?" I guess I was. The Lord had showed me something and I hadn't even made it to church yet. I reached over and grabbed her little plump hand and just smiled. The lump remained in my throat the entire service and all I could think about was how Blessed I am, that my child can sit next me and hear the depth, the beauty, the wealth of my little country church.

Soon to be Angels softly sang behind us on that pew, and I thanked Him for letting us hear them. The piano keys were pressed firmly and the music Blessed our ears, and I watched the songs hug each and every person as fingers were tapping, hands were clapping and voices were ringing. I watched my child not hesitate when the preacher announced what Book he'd be reading from...she simply picked up her Bible and searched for Psalms. Most people don't realize that in itself is a gift from The Lord.

As we were about to leave, a tiny little girl who has known us now for a year asked my daughter what was on her ears. My little girl smiled shyly and told me to tell her. As I explained to her that they help her hear, without those, she hears nothing...I realized that most children notice them right away. I was actually surprised that she had not noticed them until now.

I once told myself that I wouldn't take these little things for granted, but I do. I don't deserve to receive any of these Blessings, but He gives them to me anyway.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Program

I visited a church Sunday morning, because my little niece wanted me to watch her sing.  This was a special occasion and many of the kids sang songs, read the announcements, or participated in some way.

As I walked in, I was given a program. It has been years since I've been to a church that prepared programs. It reminded me of the large church I attended growing up as a kid. I opened the program and saw my niece's name. I was a very proud aunt to just see it spelled out in print. Someone had spent an awful lot of time and effort into making this remarkable program which had the songs, prayers, speakers, etc. all listed out in exact order of which they were to occur. My mind drifted for a moment and I wondered what was happening at my own church...where there are no programs.

I looked around at what appeared to be around 200 people gathered in the large Sanctuary and knew I didn't really fit in here. They had structure, order, organization. I looked over at my sister and knew she needed that order. But I fidgeted around such.

It was a lovely service, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I hurried home, spent time with my family, but knew I was just trying my best to get to my church's Sunday night service. The Lord blessed me and led my daughter and I right through those familiar glass doors once again.

I sat next to the preacher's wife and felt exactly the same as I did the last time I sat beside her. Trying not to be redundant, I only thought I'm glad to see my church people, which is what I said out loud to her the last time I sat beside her. As our service began in the usual format of a song or two...I quietly wondered what I would write, if I were going to script our service. You see, we don't have programs at our church. People don't arrive expecting three predicted songs to be led, the preacher to stand and preach, a closing prayer, and the church doors closing behind people rushing to their cars now that the task of church was complete.

The songs felt good as my body absorbed the words. Different people approached the piano and picked the song of their choosing, and led each one until we thought we were finished. A tiny child walked up to her mother and sadly told her that she had not had a turn to sing. Right at that very moment from across the room with no possible way of overhearing the child...someone asked if she and her sister would sing a song. As the two little girls took their mics and began to sing, I fought back tears. I was exactly where I needed to be...and I knew what I'd put in our church's program if I were able to write my next visit there.

Sunday Morning

Two Pianists walk to the front in slow motion. Before they even take their seats, someone stands to Testify because The Spirit can't be contained. As soon as they finish another stands and then another. Before the first finger hits an ivory key, an older lady stands and begins to belt the words to "Sweet Beulah Land". Chills fill everyone's arms as The Spirit has come to visit us all. Tears roll from the cheeks of every member as they long for that sweet Beulah Land while they whisper the words to the song she strongly and confidently sings. As she takes her seat when words end, her son takes his song book, and asks her to walk to the front with him and his grown children, and together, three generations stand before the pianos that gently play "Lord I'm Coming Home".

Some people gasp for breaths as The Spirit has filled the church. All hearts present beat slow and deeply. A child makes her way to the front where The Altar welcomes her. Many sinners follow and bow in repentance and bow in worship to Jesus Christ. The Song Director makes his way up front and uses his beautiful voice "...thousands of voices are swelling the song, Worthy the Lamb that was slain..." . All of a sudden more bodies move to the front and bow their heads down, soaking the carpet underneath with unworthy tears.

Finally, someone walks to the front and leads a closing song, and that's just the beginning of our Worship Service. The preacher takes his Bible up to the front and assures the congregation that they'll be doing themselves and their fellow people, and God himself a disservice if He speaks to them, and they don't answer. He may or may not feel led to preach but if he does, he will be lit as if on fire. He'll wipe the sweat from his brow but let the tears drip from his cheeks. He may shout, he may stand up on a bench he may slam his hands down on the pulpit. His voice will wring your bones dry and you'll find yourself gripping your own Bible so tight, you hand aches. When he closes, and has had Invitation, he reminds us that it's only Sunday morning and we'll meet back, to do it all over again later that night.

Someone interrupts him before he dismisses us and suggests we all stand and sing Amazing Grace together, loud and proud...and we do just that. We then realize that we never even had Sunday School. Some of the children walk up front and sing "This Little Light of Mine" with their sweet, pure voices to remind us, we have jobs to do. We are eventually dismissed and we all say goodbye. Grown men wear red, puffy eyes but women no longer wear the make up that they arrived in. With smiles on our faces, we shake hands and fellowship out in the parking lot, not hardly ready to say goodbye.

Yeah, I'd probably write something like that...You see, it's nearly impossible to predict what will take place during our services. The Lord writes our services, always...and though there's nothing wrong with structure or even programs for those who need them, I'm truly blessed that I don't know what song is coming next...or what Blessings will spill onto our pews. I enjoy the little surprises He gives me...

Monday, May 14, 2012

To the Hedges

On this dreary and cloudy day, I found it hard to escape my Pastor's words he had pulled from scripture on Sunday "go out in the highways and the hedges..." I kept visualizing him deliberately spilling those words before us in attempt to make us clean them up. His breaths drew quick and shallow as he looked at the church, hoping we were all hearing the message.

I have not been in the highways nor the hedges. I took my reluctant body outside to hopefully see what He needed show me. I walked a few paces and stopped. The silence was so loud my own thoughts screamed at me. I began to hear birds I was certain belonged in the rain forest but today, He placed them in my back yard. Their loud chirps and cries were distracting but I pressed onward. One took flight and I could hear its heavy wings flap as water from the branch fell far below.

I looked up high at all of the trees and saw nothing but the ordinary. With every ten paces or so, I'd stop and look around...trying to see. Before long I had walked nearly the entire property line...stopping and starting, watching and waiting. I felt like I still had not seen it all so I started over. I took the same route, circling my yard. I looked at all the same things but never saw the same thing twice. This visit, I had expected something different. I stopped by an apple tree and my eyes lifted in the same direction as they had just minutes before. Instead of seeing branches bearing nothing more than leaves, my eyes lowered where I caught a glimpse of the fruit. At eye level there were several small apples. I was looking so hard last time I couldn't see them.

I took a few more steps where I found a ladybug. I smiled because I knew right away this was meant for only me. Such a small gesture that meant the world to me, and He thought enough of me to place the tiny creature on the old log for me to see and a tear came to my eye.

I made several more rounds just walking and looking at all sorts of gifts He was sending my way. I ended up walking that same path about five times and wondered how many times I've wasted opportunities thinking I'll see nothing but ordinary.

I could feel the cool mist of a light rain falling on my bare arms. For a moment I thought about going inside...but sat down on a rock instead. I reached my hand over and felt the damp rug of bright green moss that was my only company for the moment. I looked to my right where the end of our property remained marked by string since the sale of the adjoining field. I saw a four wheeler path leading right through the middle where my child spent years riding up and down that field. It had all but grown up now, but you could still see his path. Tears poured harder than the rain that fell as I accepted the fact, we were not to travel that path again. A bittersweet realization that we were creating new ones, in other directions...and that was good.

Finally satisfied that I had seen what He needed to show me, I finished my walk at the end of the drive where one of our flowering hedges appeared to be stripped from the rain showers we've had. It was no longer pleasing to the eye but as I approached it, I could smell the sweet flowers. All around the base of the hedge, a blanket of rose colored petals covered the ground. I inhaled deeply as I knew that one day the sweet aroma would also fade, just as the petals had.

I quickly realized that He had brought me to the hedges. I pray that I find that same determination I had when seeking something other than ordinary, to work in the hedges, the highways, wherever He leads me...leaving one path behind to show where I've been and creating a new one, for hopefully my children to follow.

I am very Blessed.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

the Mother's Day

I spent my first Mother's Day eleven years ago, holding my newborn baby. He was three days old at the time. I held my baby close, rocked him and sang him lullabies...knowing he couldn't hear my voice. I sang them anyway, because I was his mother, and he could feel my song.

Today I watched him walk to the front of the church as we all sang Happy Birthday to those who celebrated their special day this past week. He nervously stood with his hands in his pockets, shoulders raised and a shy grin upon his face. I couldn't help but thank The Lord for giving me this Blessing on Mother's Day....because eleven years ago, I wasn't sure I'd be a mother for long. Every time someone walked into the room on his actual birth day, we were given lists of things that could possibly be wrong with him...and that was scary.

I spent the first few years of his life interpreting for him. Words couldn't be heard by his ears, but instead were read upon my face as he always looked up to me for help, when someone tried to talk to him. One day The Lord decided that He would give my child sound, words, song and most of all, a voice of his own. It's been seven years since he began to hear, and speak. As a parent, it's still my job to help interpret for him what's right and wrong as long as he is here with me. I am so thankful for the fellowship, the support, the love we feel in that church. He still looks up at me sometimes during service as it's nearly impossible for him to hear everything that is said within the walls of the church. Today I'm just feeling Blessed that after 11 years, I'm still a Mom and have not just one, but two people in my life that call me that everyday.

~~Happy Mother's Day~~

Monday, May 7, 2012

Backside of a Burden

I have to admit, I've been struggling. Often when I struggle, people see it when I write, because this is what He has chosen for me to do...write. I'm fully aware that if affects people when I have unresolved burdens, because I do not wear them well. I have really focused on this burden the last couple of weeks, trying to resolve it. I kept praying and praying about it, hoping that if I prayed hard enough, long enough, that the burden would resolve itself the way I had secretly hoped it would. Instead, I finally reached a point this morning where I've accepted this burden, resolved it as He would have me to do, and I can't tell you how much relief I feel. There is no sadness that it didn't turn out the way I had wished it would, because on the backside of a burden, He is waiting. On this morning, I know that my blinders will be lifted as I let Him back in.

I sit in tears because I've missed this feeling of joy that only Christ can bring, I am Blessed to finally be on the backside now. I knew a blessing was waiting for me and for a couple of weeks now, I've been searching in the wrong place. It all made sense yesterday when our preacher stood before us and gave me The Word, I so desperately needed. Praise Him in the loss. With streams rolling from his sinful eyes, he told us how he'd praised The Lord as he had won three straight events in a row, referring to his hobby. He said it hit him fast and hard that he should also be praising His Name in the losses as well.

Sunday became a blur for me after that. His Presence started appearing again from every direction and it became hard for me to keep up. I kept watching the man on the front pew reach down and feel for the cross on the side of the wooden bench, as he often does. A lady behind him stood to sing "As Small As I Am" and I watched her husband silently sing with her and close his eyes as he got lost in the words. I knew He was near but I was still wearing the burden that seemed to shield me from everything, even from all that was good.

As this lady sang a song I've heard many times, I knew that it sounded different this day. Words were floating from her heart. In my head, a small piece of paper kept entering my thoughts. A few weeks ago, before I let my burden overtake me, I had taken the kids to school only to return and find a tiny piece of paper on my kitchen table. On it, three words were written in black magic marker with the finest eight year old penmanship. It said, "As I Am". I had smiled down at the paper as this song had immediately came to mind. I couldn't bring myself to touch the tiny piece of ripped paper but all day long, I had been drawn to it. I found myself several times, walking back to the table, leaning down and propping myself up on locked elbows just staring at it. When my child got home, I asked her why she wrote it. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't know." But I did. I needed it.

I didn't have to struggle for the last several weeks if I had listened with an attentive Spirit. I instead took the last two weeks and try to change something into an opportunity for my family, even though something about it didn't feel right. As our preacher mentioned several times yesterday, Jesus is the answer...always has been, always will be. The Lord showed me today that I must put complete trust in Him, and pray with full Faith instead of half-hearted hope, and my burdens will be lifted.

Around Valentines Day, a little girl handed me this piece of candy during church just as I was about to walk to The Altar in prayer. On it read, ASK ME. I was about to go pray for someone else at the time. Although my burden was actually present at that very moment, I had not seen it in full. The tiny four year old had already put the answer in my hands.  I admit, I have shamefully been looking to others for the answer. I was waiting for someone to sing the right song. I was waiting for someone to Testify the answer. I was looking in my fellow people to find me the answer. All I needed to do was ASK HIM...and then listen.

Thanking Him this morning for the backside of a burden...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Because Sometimes...

Because sometimes, for really no other reason at all than He died on the cross for me, or because He gave me another day with my children, or because I deserve nothing-yet I seem to have everything I want and need...I drop to my knees in prayer.

I've been talking to Him all day long and suddenly after lunch, I felt the need to drop immediately and pray, just because. My heart and mind had been racing with things I felt like I needed to do but all I really wanted was One on one time with The Lord. And because sometimes I pray, because sometimes I listen, because sometimes I obey...He's ALWAYS close by. I burst into tears because I felt like a child at the park walking away from the safety and comfort of a loving Father. I've kept Him in view, but sometimes at a distance. I knew He was still there, I could feel Him but I didn't like being on my own. I wanted Him right by my side again. My heart slowed to a normal pace and I suddenly felt like I had nothing I needed to do.

I walked around my yard, watered beautiful plants, smiled at the tiny apple I found growing on one of my trees. I checked on the cherry tree we planted exactly a month ago. It was so weak and unattractive back then we almost didn't buy it, but now it is strong and healthy. I finally sat on my patio to think about all of my Blessings once again, something I often do when no one is around. Half the time I don't even notice a tear rolling down my cheek or a grin that can be seen from far away because sometimes I get lost, in Him. The hot sun burned my skin but it didn't matter to me. I sang the first verse of Amazing Grace and looked around as if I was expecting something. I didn't notice anything. Feeling slightly guilty for expecting something I decided to start over, and sing louder. With confidence pushing the words from my mouth, not caring if anyone heard my off-tune song, I sang it again. Even the birds got quiet and I began to smile because what a great feeling that song brings to me...How Sweet The Sound...

Without stopping I looked up to the sky and all the clouds were moving away from me, except one small cluster. It appeared to moving right for me. As it approached closer and closer down to me, the clouds began to open up. It looked like a hand, reaching down for me. Because sometimes I want, because sometimes I expect and because sometimes I need...a Blessing. Thank You Lord for reaching out Your hand, time after time after time.