Love will not betray you

Serve God, love me and men
This is not the end
Live unbruised, we are friends
And I'm sorry
I'm sorry

Sigh no more, no more
One foot in sea one on shore
My heart was never pure
You know me
You know me

And man is a giddy thing

Love - it will not betray you,
dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man
you were made to be.

There is a design,
An alignment, the cry
Of my heart to see
The beauty of love
as it was made to be

~Sigh No More, Mumford and Sons

The basilica shines black against the white snowladen sky.

I hover and take photos through the cracks behind the altar,
and watch people pray.

Yes, everything that has breath...

Praise the Lord.

Searching for the love that does not betray, dismay, enslave.
The love that sets me free.

Flames in the city

The waning sun gets caught in the framework of skyscrapers

a sun dog shoots straight up from the basilica

buildings are lit aflame by the sunset

and we dress up and go out for dinner, just the two of us,

and love burns fresh and new with promise of even better years to come.


Gratitude journal, numbers 116-187:
123. God's vigilant pursuit
127. Grace = "one-way love"
130. Driving with the window down
139. A break coming soon
144. Tapping trees
146. "if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many." Ecclesiastes 11:8
148. Holding Uriah Fugate
150. Garden planning in a blizzard
157. Sweet southern drawl on the telephone
159. Best friends to whom distance matters not a whit
162. Laughing hysterically because Caleb doesn't understand sidewalks
169. Sunrise white light through the piney hill pendulous with new snow
174. Two whole days with my niece
178. Honesty with my Mama
180. WAKING UP from nightmares
185. God welcomes cripples to the table
187. He makes "all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces" Is. 27:9b

Come, Lord Jesus

Please take a moment to visit my friend's Caringbridge page and say a prayer for this family who just lost their 7 year old son to leukemia.

He who testifies to these things says,
"Surely I am coming soon."
Come, Lord Jesus.
Reveleation 22:20

We're in this together

I'm a closet introvert. I don't really come across as an introvert in most situations, because my real self is buried so deep under a well-polished public persona I spent my adolescence and young adulthood constructing. I am in a recovery group at the moment, the first time I've spent any time in a therapeutic group of any kind (or therapy, for that matter). I've avoided them like the plague until now because I haven't built a "person" to "be" in that setting, so I feel awkward and exposed.

I've heard some phrases in the past few weeks that make me want to stand up and walk out. Things like "you can't heal alone in the dark". Right. So the way I've been trying to do things for 30 years is completely wrong? I've always thought of friends as people to have fun with, let your hair down with, let loose with. My favorite memories of my entire life are those times you are literally rolling on the floor laughing together with a best friend. Occasionally, I've been forced to be emotional in front of my friends. And I can't say it's ever felt good or right. I know there are certain things I'll always have to process alone on a hillside with God. There are some emotions that run too deep for words. Beyond expression. Like certain moments of certain songs, the music just so close to agony and so close to ecstasy that you can't name what you're provoked to feel.

I scrub the island to a polished gloss and my mind races through all this. There is something to this being seen by others who can recognize you. Something I can't really deny. Something I can't push away for the sake of maintaining my still, quiet, and lonely soul.

This particular part of the journey reminds me of housework (to be honest, I do so much housework, I'm constantly looking for analogy to distract me from the never. ending. work.) Before you start, it's overwhelming; you don't even want to look at the mess, much less put your hands in it and get started. Then there is the inevitable hopelessness once you start the task and realize it is really as big as you thought it was going to be. But somewhere in the middle, the tide begins to turn, and you see a light at the end of the tunnel, like maybe, someday, the work will be done and it will be clean in here. And then it's done, and you sit back, and sigh, and marvel at the peace of that cleaned up vista. My soul is the same and I can't wait to see things all cleaned out for that brief moment of "I did it!" at the end of all of this.

8 ft. island & 7 ft table - ALL clear!

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be
~The Cave, Mumford & Sons~

Love IS a one-way street

Disgrace is the opposite of grace. Disgrace destroys, causes pain, deforms, and wounds. It alienates and isolates. Disgrace makes you feel worthless, rejected, unwanted, and repulsive...Disgrace silences and shuns. Your suffering of disgrace is only increased when others force your silence. The refusal of others to speak about your assault and listen to victims tell the truth is the refusal to offer grace and healing. ~from Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb

Disgrace is what robs you of joy, of hope, of identity.

It robs you of the eyes to see the sunset He sends every evening.

You can't be the child in the starlet sunglasses on the gravel driveway in the false spring. Disgrace tells you you have nothing to smile about.

Disgrace tells you that the things you thought you were good at...well maybe you never were that good at them. You certainly aren't now. It focuses all of it, all your energy, back inside, looking at that rotting pit that you hide inside, the sins and the sorrows and mistakes and selfishness.

And that is exactly where Satan wants you to be.
Looking at that pit and thinking there is nothing good that will ever come out of that pit, certainly nothing that could ever bring glory to God.

Except that...
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. (Proverbs 26:2)
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice. (Proverbs 29:25-26)
This one-way love thing; in two paragraphs, the authors of Rid of My Disgrace tore down some huge misconceptions I have had my whole life. I have never understood love, the true kind of love anyway. I crave it, but I don't comprehend it. Serious doubt creeps in every time I try to grapple with the juxtaposition of certain parts of God's character: "justice" and "mercy" don't seem to fit well together, nor do "jealous" and "deliverer". I understand, in the logical brain part of me, that Jesus paid it all, so the sentence leveled on me by my sin has been satisfied. 

But when the curses that echo inside my own head resonate with what someone else is leveling on me, someone else's judgment of me, it is hard to keep that one fact in mind.

I mull it over, the disgrace concept. One-way violence. Is that what Christ experienced when God's wrath was poured out on him on the cross? Is that what he cried tears of blood for that night in Gethsemane? How many times in life are we given disgrace - one-way violence - instead of grace - one-way love? Remember being in junior high, high school, college? Do you remember disgrace? Do you remember "one way violence" in your past? When we suffer, when bad things happen beyond our control, that's one-way violence. Whatever the source.

Grace. That might take a lifetime to sink in. But in those dark places, it's our only option. One-way love. I've got nothing left to give, I'm totally at a loss. I have to take it, this one-way love. Whether or not I take it, He's still giving it. That's what makes it one-way love.
Grace is love that seeks you out even if you have nothing to give in return. Grace is being loved when you are or feel unlovable. Grace has the power to turn despair into hope. Grace listens, lifts up, cures, transforms, and heals. To your sense of disgrace, God restores, heals, and re-creates through grace. A good short definition of grace is "one-way love". This is the opposite of your experience of assault, which was "one-way violence". To your experience of one-way violence, God brings one-way love. The contrast between the two is staggering. One-way love does not avoid you, but comes near, not because of personal merit but because of your need. It is the lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. One-way love is the change agent you need for the pain you are experiencing.

Jeremiah 17:8: “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” That was it! There was an unseen Source of secret nourishment that is needed by all of us. The cause of the drying up of life’s joys is incidental. When they dry up — is there, can we find, a secret Source of nourishment that the deadly drought cannot reach?…Is it possible for a Christian to put forth green leaves when all he enjoys in this life is drying up around him? ~from Green Leaf in Drought

It's the right time

There's a time for every season under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The snow falls in grainy powdery magnificence, and we make ice cream.
Amy gets a genetic diagnosis.
I face some ghosts from my past.
A dream withers and dies.
I panic around new people.
And so I am told I have grief and I have to feel it.

I'm improvising, and the ice cream falters for a few minutes,
and the kids are crowded around throwing out ideas.
I balk at this whole grief idea.
I run from grief.
It's how I survived as a nurse.
It's how I've survived as a parent.
It's how I've survived as a cancer patient.

But this seems to be the season. And just like the ice cream, that comes together in sprinkled splediforousness, this season seems to be for grief in a lot of ways. I give grief a little window, a little wiggle room in that deep down dark place I think is my soul. And open my Bible the next day, and it's confirmed. This is the season for it, honey.

In that day the Lord God of hosts
called for weeping and mourning,
for baldness and wearing sackcloth;
and behold, joy and gladness,
killing oxen and slaughtering sheep,
eating flesh and drinking wine.
"Let us eat and drink
for tomorrow we die."
The Lord of hosts has revealed himself in my ears:
"Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for
until you die," says the Lord of hosts.
(Isaiah 22:12-13)

If it's time to grieve, 
and you blow your wad because you're on your way out anyway,
that's not okay.
If He tells you it's time to weep, and you numb your pain at the feast,
that's the wrong decision.

If you try to make snow ice cream in summer, good luck.
If you try to ignore your pain, good luck with that, too.
Does he who plows for sowing plow continually?
does he continually open and harrow his ground?
When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin...
For he is rightly instructed.
His God teaches him.
(Isaiah 28:23-26 exc.)

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:20-21)

Do you remember the book "Owl at Home" by Arnold Lobel? When Owl makes tear-water tea? I think I am going to try it.

Image credit:

What I learned at my old church : lessons after leaving

We left our church in October and set out on a journey to find a church we felt called to, Aaron and I. It wasn't easy to leave our church, especially our dear friends who were our first and deepest relationships in the Eau Claire area when we moved back in 2004. Even before we were married, I started traveling on short term medical missions led by the senior pastor, and have memories of some of the most intense periods of spiritual growth in my early adulthood during those trips to El Salvador and Honduras.

It has been hard to know what to say or how to say it, here to friends and strangers, and to those in the community who've asked questions about what caused us to leave. I am finally at a point where I can say it "out loud" - "yes, we left our church. We're at a different church now". Months later, I find myself reflecting on the things that I learned at that church that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. Here is a list.

1. At my childhood church, if you'd asked me to draw a picture of someone worshiping God, I would have drawn you either a stick figure with folded hands, or one bowing low. The only worshiper I could really picture being myself was the stoic with folded hands. The drawing below is by Rosy, and shows how she thinks of worship. Yes, that's my daughter with her arm raised high, surrounded by the "cloud of the Holy Spirit" as she sings. At our last church, the tension in every fiber of my body started to slowly ease over the years and yes, every now and then I, a reserved Scandinavian, raised my hand in worship. Our old church taught us to practice I Timothy 2:8a: I desire that in every place, men should pray, lifting holy hands. I am really glad my kids learned it at an earlier age than I.

2. I learned to serve my community and made some attempts at local outreach. This is not something I had experienced, attending a church quite far away from my home through my childhood and teen years. Going to a church that was truly local offered me the opportunity to serve the poor, homeless, hurting, and those searching for God right in our community, where we spend the bulk of our time. I (and we as a couple) started to develop a mental folder of ideas for outreach and service that we will carry with us to our new church.

3. I grew more comfortable with praying aloud in groups. Public prayer wasn't part of my growing up years (other than around the family dinner table and at bedtime). The first time I had to pray in front of people I didn't know, I nearly had a panic attack and I think I might have stuttered. I am glad I'm more comfortable with this practice now, as the Bible frequently portrays group prayer (notably Acts 12:12 and II Chronicles 6:13-42).

4. I learned that music can be relevant to the culture and times. Using a drumset is not inherently wrong. Prior to coming to this church, a "band" was anathema to my understanding of "church music", the cornerstone of which was, of course, propriety and staidness. I was rather shocked to read that, back around 1200 B.C., Miriam ran around dancing with a tambourine and a bunch of other young women (never mind that she was a prophetess..that's an issue for another post). (see Exodus 15:20) A new understanding of music and performance style has opened my eyes to a vista of worship and praise that I had previously deemed sinful. I know some readers will disagree, but I don't think repeating a chorus 3 or 4 times in a row is any more "vain repetition" than repeating the chorus after each verse, as older sacred music is fond of doing.

5. I found out there are other Bible translations than the King James Bible...and learned that the King James Bible is also a translation (contrary to what I had heard about the KJV being the "literal Word of God"). Unless you feel like grabbing a scroll and learning Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, you will be reading from a translation of the Bible as a modern-day English reader. At our old church, the favored translation was NIV. Although I myself prefer the ESV, which is a more literal translation of the original language texts, I often study in a parallel Bible that includes NASB, NIV, NLT, KJV, NKJV, and Amplified. For an academic discussion of the history of Bible translations, read on here. I recently discovered The Message (after resisting for years), which is an idiomatic translation of the Bible done by an excellent Bible scholar. Themes of grace and (rather ironically) God's sovereignty became clear to me while reading The Message, themes that I had missed in many other translations of the Bible. Although I can't recommend reading that one all by itself for Bible study, it is similar to the older Phillips New Testament used and oft quoted by the likes of Elisabeth Elliot, and can be useful for understanding some of the more emotional or heart level themes of the Bible. It can also be useful for rediscovering connection when you feel distant from God. Often The Message echoes the cry of my heart in the loneliest of times. I would liken it to reading the blog of a Christian struggling through issues of faith: although you need to study a good translation of the inspired Word, sometimes the viewpoint of another Christian is very valuable. Again, there will be readers who disagree with me on this point #5 (or parts of it), but this leads me directly into point #6:

6. I learned more about the principle of "freedom in Christ". I no longer felt like a heathen if I was wearing pants at church. I understood that tomboys, female sports fanatics, artists, songwriters, and all around average people were accepted at church - and even allowed to serve. I felt like I had to hide my identity at the church of my youth, and, for many years, my last church was a haven for me to show others parts of the "real me". Although I felt pressure to conform in some ways, there were many elements of my personality and gifting that I expressed for the first time at my old church. I am thankful for entering a new realm of "freedom in Christ" there. Although there were parts of my personality and gifting that were not welcome or celebrated there, this church was a major step in my ability to express my God-given self in a corporate church setting.

7. I was introduced to missions. I alluded to this in the introduction. Prior to being part of my old church, my idea of "missions" was an inner-city outreach. Although I heard quotes from late greats like Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael, I had no current exposure to people involved in missions. My very first experience was my exposure to an entire family of missionaries, who became friends as I tended their son/grandson/nephew for nearly 18 months on the bone marrow transplant unit at the U of M where Aaron and I met. This family was integral to our falling in love and marrying, so I had a pretty positive first-time experience with modern day missionaries! At Cedarcreek, I had the opportunity not only to support other missionaries and missions, but to participate in them as well. The very first trip I took felt like a dream come true. I credit this church with introducing me to the long-term calling God has placed on my life - on our lives as a be part of long-term out-of-country missions, most likely to Central America, where both Aaron and I traveled for our first ever short term mission trips.

8. Finally, this church has taught me volumes about relating to people within my community, whether or not I attend church with them. I have learned a few things about passive evangelism (in Judges 14 and the life of St. Frances de Sales, my favorite "saint"), contrary to my childhood church, which would be labeled a "Bible-banging" or aggressive evangelism church. An interesting article on 3 types of evangelism (pulpit, passive, and aggressive) can be read here.

At the moment of choice, there is always conflict. Whether you're deciding which can of spaghetti sauce to buy for dinner, or choosing whether or not to leave a church, there is conflict, albeit on different levels of intensity. Choosing to leave our church was something we did with a lot of prayer, seeking advice, guidance from the Bible, and trying to take things as slowly as possible. By the time we left, we were sure we were being "called" by God to do so. On the other hand, you never leave an experience with only negative reflections. As we seek Him, God is faithful to teach us as we journey along. No matter which church we choose to call home, He has lessons for us to learn. I am thankful for this last church and the many things I learned about God's character, my response to Him, and how to share my faith. I don't know exactly where He is taking us next, but I see His faithfulness each step of the way.

Excerpted from my Gratitude Journal, #116-146:
116. Wool sweater that smells like Aaron
121. Bible in 90 Days
122. Story of Tamar
123. God's vigilant pursuit
126. The best babysitters in the world
127. Grace = "one-way love"
128. Walking without crutches
129. Elevating leg forces me to hold my baby boy
130. Driving with the window down
133. Seafood dinner with my lover
138. Owl punch set
139. A break coming soon
141. Heidi Frank
143. Sunrise on melting snow
146. "So if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness may be many." (Eccl. 11:8)

Necessary changes

(That's right. I'm blogging about school on a Saturday.
In case you hadn't noticed, by way of my 20 years of
schooling, I am a school junkie. I do school on Saturday.
That's just how I roll.)

At the very time she needs it most, school often gets pushed to the outskirts of our day. I'm sure it's an irony many parents have faced before me...the child with special needs is so overwhelming it is difficult to even attempt to meet them.

In November, Amelia was diagnosed with two things: Episodic Ataxia, a disease that causes her to lose balance, depth perception, and speech coordination at random times throughout the day; and a sensory processing disorder, which basically means that she either can't sense or doesn't react to stimulation (touch, smell, taste, see, hear) the same way you and I do.

Both of these issues mean that we've had to translate what was a very Type A mom, paper-and-pencil, books and workbooks sort of school into a very hands-on, flexible school that takes lots of breaks and only works for short periods of time.

Bring on the "manipulatives"! We are blessed to have a teacher for an aunt, so we get lots of great school supplies for very little expense. A math manipulative set means that, in the same 20 minute period, Katy can work on her fractions; Rosy her addition and subtraction; Amy her color sorting and counting skills; Caleb pattern recognition and numbers.

I think that, in hindsight, they're loving school more than ever before. The changes have been for the better for all four of the kids. My son will certainly be blessed by the changes we've made in how we "do" school, little go-getter that he is.

And so school keeps on going, in the cracks of the day, fit in when we have a moment, whether I just hopped out of the shower, or haven't even had time to shower yet this day. Sometimes during meals, and always it is an everyday miracle, it works even though I am desperate and overwhelmed, and the kids learn despite all my failings.

Amy's therapists have taught me that engaging her large muscles and using deep pressure help Amy engage in the many smaller, detailed tasks I ask her to complete as part of her rehab program. This "steam-rolling" activity is one of her absolute favorite school time-outs. Today it blended perfectly with what we were learning: the dimensions of objects - height, width, and depth. We had fun trying to turn the 3-dimensional children into paper dolls (Katy would quickly report that it didn't work. She *may* be a realist, Type A mom herself someday).

"Squishing" Amy's limbs with a balance ball.

At the same time I am finding new ways to help Amelia "engage" in learning, I am being forced to engage, too. I have always loved a good challenge, and this certainly is a challenge. The routine never gets boring, because we're constantly switching things up.

The parent is so often just a bigger picture of those she is parenting. Like Amy, I need God to speak through a megaphone in order for me to listen. Enter cancer and the suffering of Amy's illness. Like Amy, I need God to use deep pressure to help me focus on the details. Like Amy, I need frequent breaks, times when I can cry out my questions. Like Amy, the approach has to constantly God forces change into my life to open my eyes to my sedentary faith. Just when I think I've got something mastered, He adds a new element for me to figure out. Just when I get comfortable at my current stage, He demands more from me.

And so, with a big God who cares to tailor my training program to my specific special needs, I will never stop learning.

What the silence speaks

I'm going to put this in writing. Because I trust that someone out there has felt this way, needs to read this, needs to hear that someone else is in the same lonely place. Because writing it somehow brings the breath back into lungs spasming and the light back into eyes behind those squeezed-tight eyelids. Because I know somewhere someone else is crying out for help from Jesus as they put brick upon brick, slap mortar, build build build walls and hope they're invisible walls, walls nobody can see and will keep you safe in here forever. Because, if you read that I am right here, where you are feeling all alone, then you will know the truth - you who are like me, and not alone - and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

Don’t let your bones turn to stone
Cause you’re feeling so alone
Just keep on walking

Don’t count the miles
That you’ve climbed
Make you go blind
Cause baby there’s something to find

Let it cover you with grace
Let it take you from this place
~from Oasis, Grace Potter~

Grace. Grace. Grace. The name of my favorite singer at the moment. The name of my favorite blogger at the moment. The name of the book on my nightstand. You get the picture: it's showing up everywhere. Except I don't understand grace, I don't often offer it, I can't wrap my arms around it.

Part of me just wants to say what I'm saying out loud to everyone: I'm fine. I'm alright (that's a Wisconsin favorite). Nope, nothing's wrong.

I've worked my whole life to have a serene face. (A college professor who worked on a reservation for decades called it "typical Native American stoicism".) Is it really worth it to let it crumble now? I vacillate. I can't decide. If I worked at it, I know I could stop that one cheek muscle from twitching when I want to cry, and turn the flesh back into stone, and probably someday I'd even be able to cover up the pain again with quirky stories and sarcastic jokes. I know, because I already tried that method of dealing with what's boiling up inside right now.

What if I don't talk because the words just don't come. I don't have a name for the emotions I'm feeling these days anyway, I don't have a word for this mood, I can't explain why I feel the way I feel. I don't know if it's right or wrong to feel this way.

Looking up into hope.
An ordinary silo turns sunlight into turquoise.

Everything feels wrong.

I think it just boils down to being in too vulnerable a place, too weak a place, to put things out there into this world. For now I just need to hold it in my heart where just God and I can see it, and He can speak truth. Everything I hear and see and do just feels tainted. Like it might all just go up in smoke if I even recognize it's presence. Like it's all lies. Like I can't distinguish, in those spoken words, what is true and what is false.

If I didn't have kids, I'd run away to the mountains and get my head straight in a big pile of snow and some very thin air. But I do have kids.

If I didn't have a husband, I'd probably stay up all night and zone out in front of a couple of movies. Or finish that 300 page book on my bedside table. But I do have a husband.

If I didn't have things that needed accomplishing, I'd probably crawl into bed and stay there with my eyes shut for a few days. But I do have things to accomplish.

If I didn't...didn't...didn't.

But I do, I do, I do. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:5) He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. (Lamentations 3:7)

I look back and I can't go back there. I look forward and I have no idea which path to choose.

And yet...a glimmer now and then. I drove home tonight with the music blaring until my eardrums hurt, and I did hear truth and, just for a moment, hope bled through the black.

What will come of us today?
What we need we cannot say
It’s been a long long time since I’ve been so afraid
And as we all fall down it’s hard
to see a brighter day, but
I see a tiny light
Like a flashbulb sparkle in the night
I see a tiny light
Telling everyone to hold on tight

What will come of all our pride?
This house of stone is crumbled from the inside
It’s been a long long war, now the battle’s drawing near
Closer and closer ’til it whispers in my ear.

Bring me back to the streets of gold,
Give me something warm to hold
Give me love and only love
And you will see it shining from above

I see a tiny light
But it’s not gonna shine without a fight

When God seems far away

I remember the moment clearly, when last He showed His face. It was only the second time in my life I felt like I had seen Him. Both times I was wrung out, wasted, worn, weary. The first time by the confounding decisions I faced as a single woman. This day, by the suffering of life...Amy's illness, the newly worsened drudgery of my days as a mom, failures at school and work, at home as wife and mother and housekeeper.

So I flung myself like a rag doll across my bed, and my inner two year old showed herself in the hot tears and loud sobs. I heard the kids edging toward the closed door of the bedroom, but the sobs kept coming. And WHY? It wasn't as though someone had died or anything truly terrible had happened. I was undone by a whole list of small problems, that's all.

Where are you? I sobbed. If you care enough to number the hairs of my head and catch these tears in a bottle, why can't you make life easy? Why don't you show your face?

Slowly, the sobs ebbed away, and the whispers of the children grew deafening. I gathered breath to call them in, explain, apologize. Act like a grown up. I lifted my head up and propped myself up on my elbows with a sigh.

And then I saw Him.

In the texture of the wall, the random slaps of a trowel covered in green paint, I saw the Lion's head. I was struck dumb, like Lucy when she sees Aslan come back from the dead. There, in the texture, was the same face I saw in the clouds when I was 22. A sleeping Lion. The One I accused of being absent was there all along.

And there it remains, if I squint just right, the Lion on my wall, just between my dresser and the corner, in the dark and secret place that my eyes light on when they open in the morning and last look upon when I shut off the lamp at night. I still forget He's there, so often. But that does not mean He has left.

A prayer, from Nehemiah 1 & 2, for rebuilding broken lives:

Oh Lord, great and awesome God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands (1:5).
Hear the prayer of your servant (1:6).
Remember, oh Lord, the promises You have made that You will give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of despair, that we might be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, for the display of Your splendor (1:7).
Oh Lord, I plead that I might fully comprehend the redemption You purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ, by Your great power and by Your mighty hand, that covers me and my whole story (1:10).
I resist, in the name of Jesus Christ, the lies the enemy has designed to discourage me and hinder the work of rebuilding. I determine in my heart to not only rebuild, but accept the help of others who want to come alongside. Restore to me the joy of my salvation, the fullness of a relationship with You. Please, let my joy overflow and may my life be a blessing to You and those around me (2:19-20).

Prayer from workbook by Open Hearts Ministry for small group study

Theirs & ours

Dressing in red just made sense, so that is how we started the day.

Red velvet cupcakes when you had red velvet pancakes for breakfast = 
pink poop! 
(Just a little something to look forward to - at least one of my girls DID!)

My mama hosted the kids for a Valentine's evening party.

Heart decor and all.

And Aaron and I went home and I made these while he cooked seafood:

1/3 c heavy cream
6 Tb butter, sliced
2 c dark chocolate chips or 1 1/2 c bittersweet or Baker's chocolate
1/8-1 tsp of several different liquors

We chose Drambuie, homemade vanilla extract (the Jack Daniels bottle),
and Kuhlua.

And, just for me, Absolut Peppar.

Heat cream on high in small saucepan until just simmering.
Reduce heat to medium.
Add butter and stir constantly until melted.
Add chocolate and stir until just melted.
Divide into 4-5 separate dishes.
Add 1/8-1 tsp liquor to each dish, stir, and taste.
The liquor should be fairly strong 
or the flavor will disappear since it is volatile.
If needed, add more liquor for flavor.
Add 1 Tb powdered sugar if the chocolate is too bitter for you.

{I added 1 tsp cayenne pepper to the Absolut Peppar dish}

Cool for 2 hours.
Use a melon baller to form balls,
and roll in cocoa or powdered sugar.
Serve immediately,
or refrigerate.

{Just for the record, even if you eat the whole batch - which is impossible -
you're still consuming less than 1 shot of alcohol between the two of you!}

*Photos: straight out of camera today, no edits*