Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tear Tea





Have a seat and relax.  I'd like to have a cup of tear tea with you. 

It's ingredients are simple, but can only be made from a heart that's been broken. 

It tastes bitter at first, but you'll find that it can be soothing and sweet if it has a little bit of the honey of fellowship.

Have you ever cried in exasperation for a child who has meltdown after meltdown? 

How about for the loneliness and isolation of the days when your husband has to work late and all your children are sick? 

What about tears of grief? There are some mommies (and I am one of them) who have cried buckets of tears for the loss of an infant child, either before or after birth. 

This is a reality that happens more than we are willing to admit. The admittance only brings on more tears, more pain. 

It is no longer for my own grief that the tears come fierce.  The tears come now for other moms, who are on that same path of sorrow that I was destined to take some nine years ago. 

And, so

here I am,

admitting. 

It is healing to admit, for with admittance is an invitation for consolation and for others to hope. 

There is a Light at the end of the tunnel.
 
There is Deliverance from this valley of the shadow of death.
 
Only the Light and the Deliverance don't necessarily mean the pain will end overnight.
 
Sometimes it hurts for a long, long time. 

But, hope means there is a Light shining in the darkness.  There is a Deliverer, and He is Christ.

When I had an early miscarriage, I cried out to the Lord in my pain. And, He showed up, with His perfect peace that "transcends all understanding." 

That same year I became pregnant again and was given the devastating news that the child growing inside my womb had Potter's Syndrome, a condition "incapable with life." That meant, when he was born, unless God decided to intervene, the baby would most certainly die.

Having an early miscarriage was hard, but this seemed unbearably harder.
 
Maybe because I had bonded with my baby. 

I felt his hiccups, his nudges, his wiggles. I had pressed my hand against my protruding belly as he pushed back with ten little toes. I saw the outline of his forehead, nose, and mouth in black and white on the ultrasound screen.
 
And, when he was born, he would die.

It was too much for me to bear. How could I endure it? I did not have the strength to do such a thing.
 
I was at my wit's end, crumpled and broken at the merciful feet of Almighty God.
 
And, my tears were at times, my only relief from the pain. 

My grief was so burdensome, so weighty, that there were few people who could have helped me carry it.

Thankfully, the Lord is so good. He gave me wonderful friends, who lifted me up in prayer and met my need for a listening ear and a piping hot dinner when I could barely get out of bed.

He knew my sorrow and provided for me.

Looking back, I couldn't have done it without Him and all the people He sent to help me.

I don't know how anyone could. 





On December 5, 2003, Luke, my fragile, but beautiful baby boy, was born and eight hours later passed on into the hands of God. 

The tears came swift and fierce for many days and then in waves, but with time, their ebb and flow became as gentle and  peaceful as the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

And, all those tears meant something, they mattered.  Because they all matter to Him, to the One who holds a well of our tears in the palm of His nail marked hand.

"You have kept count of my tossings,
put my tears in your bottle . Are they not written in your book? (Psalm 56: 8, ESV)"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dairy is our Friend


How sweet! Billy left us a smoothie in the fridge sans the dairy. It looked like my Little Man would get to have some, too.

You see, Little Man hadn't had dairy for over a year. Whenever he had dairy, he was irritable and had some serious meltdowns. On top of that, he was gluten intolerant, so he couldn't have that, either.

Little did I know that the note was just that and not a list of ingredients.It was a fruit smoothie, but with a little vanilla ice cream thrown in for good measure. 

Little Man scarfed that baby down with lips puckered, sucking the straw with all his might. He drank it up like there was no tomorrow. 

But, afterward, he was fine. No adverse affects.

Later, he let Daddy know how much he loved that smoothie. He gasped and looked at me like I had committed some heinous crime.

"What?" I shrugged.

"There was dairy in that smoothie!"

"But, it didn't say so in your note, and he seems fine."

We both looked at each other, with wheels turning, and it's as if a light bulb went on for both us at the same time.

"Let's try something else," I suggested.

So, we did some dairy experimentation with our son, and he was in heaven. Milk chocolate, strawberry banana yogurt, cheddar cheese, milkshakes and smoothies--he didn't realize what he was missing until he got to have it again.




It's been several months now and dairy is now a part of Little Man's diet, and he is loving it-- especially the smoothies.  Here he is mimicking slurping down his favorite smoothie--Peach, Pear, Banana, OJ (with vanilla icecream).

Next on the drawing board--gluten. I think I'll wait until Billy accidently makes us some not so gluten-free sandwitches and leaves us a cute little note.

For the most part, he is a good sport about being gluten-free.  He gets excited about the snacks that only he is allowed to have. 

Little Man has prayed that when Jesus returns and restores all the things in the world that have been broken, he'll be able to eat gluten.   

It's all perspective.  

He could have chosen to be bitter about it or accept it, find things to be thankful for, and look forward to restoration.

The same could be said of my own suffering, disappointments, and brokeness. It may not be gluten that I am longing for but cannot have but there are other things that appear to satisfy, but God in His Sovereignty has chosen to withhold them from me.

And for that, I look forward to the restoration. 

"It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 4)

Update: After a few months, it was clear that dairy tolerance for Little Man was only temporary...another thing to look forward to in heaven...


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Popsicles in the Summer





Summer break is over.
 
It ended as swiftly as a popsicle eaten on a blistering hot day.

In homeschooling, I decided to go a little against the grain and start a week later than the public school in our area. But, alas, summer is truly over. Next week, we start school up again.

In the summer, I try to read good books I've been waiting to read, do something new that I've never tried before, grow in a way where I know I'm immature.

And, hopefully, by summer's end, I'll see a little growth, feel a little difference, seem a little less...inadequate.

But, each year, I wind up wanting.

Why?

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...(Psalm 23:1)"

I know it's true. I just don't feel it. Maybe I'm focusing on the wrong things. I'm pursuing something that will not fulfill.

That's what I need. That's truly what I want.

Fulfillment.

I am thinking I'll find fulfillment in feeling "adequate." But, I am a broken vessel. The well is deep, and I have nothing to draw water with to fill me up. I need Someone to fill me, to fulfill my deepest desires.

Little reminders here and there, turn my thoughts toward heaven. The place where God's glory dwells. 

This is not my home. I was meant for eternity. 

That is why I am wanting. I want Him. More of Him. 

And, the more time spent including Him in my daily tasks, spending time alone with Him, seeking His face, I am fulfilled.  

I experience true fulfillment. This is my destiny. 

And, one day, all my seeking will come to true fulfillment. 

In the haven of heaven. 

Perfect paradise. 

The place where summer never ends. 

And, the Fulfiller of my wildest dreams and aspirations is there with open arms to welcome me home.

Oh, for that day! 




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Falling in Love Again



How many times can you fall in love? How about with the same person? Well, can it be? Here I am falling in love again.

He was my first boyfriend. My only real boyfriend. Real as in dated for more than a day! 

We grew up together, went to college together, and were in a car accident together--where the car was totalled, but we were okay.

When we first started dating, I was working in the box office of the now nonexistant Oaks 10 movie theatre. My manager, Monty, kept seeing this guy with blazing red hair stand in line, come up to my register, whisper to me, and then get back in line.

Monty was a down-to-earth kind of manager. He got to know his staff and was quick to realize what the red-headed young man was doing.

"Who's that guy?" inquired Monty.

"Oh, yeah...he's my boyfriend. He's waiting for me to finish the midnight matinee so he can walk me to my car. To protect me from robbers and rapists and such, you know," I said,  shrugging. 

"Do you love him?" Monty was intrigued.

My face grew hot from embarrassment. "I don't know,  I don't know what being in love feels like."

"Tell him he can watch a movie while he waits for you to finish your shift."

And, so began a routine where when I worked the late shift, Billy would get to watch movies for free, until my shift was over, and then he walked me out to my car.

Talk about devotion...and he got to see free movies!

I wondered for many weeks, am I in love with him?

And then, one day, I knew it. I was.

It turned out that he felt the same way about me, but he was the first to say it.

"Chanda, I love you."

I looked into his eyes. The eyes that were captivated with me.  Those wonderful, three words, were being spoken to me. I felt as if I could float away. 

"I love you, too." It wasn't just an automatic response, I really felt in love with him.

It was like that with Jesus. When I first believed Christ truly died on the cross for my sins, and was resurrected three days later proving He is God (1 Corinthians 15:3,4), it felt relieving to know that I was forgiven. 

It was years later, when I was going through a really tough time that I felt something new. I was watching a kids movie, and the character on the movie reminded me of Jesus saving me. Suddenly, something changed. I felt pursued, like a lover pursues his beloved.

In more and more ways, I felt like Jesus gave me little gifts, revealing His love for me. It was usually through nature. 

Rainbows, a verse that jumped from the pages of Scripture, a swan with her cygnets, butterflies, and laybugs, all kisses from the King of kings and Lord of lords. I felt so unworthy.  But, still he pursued me.

And, then one day, I knew it. I was in love. With God. With Jesus.

Life has a way of getting harder and harder as you get older.  There is more responsibility, more busyness, more things to distract. There just isn't any time for romance, for love.

Billy and I have tried to keep up "date night," even with four kids in tow, but even when we get one, we feel very exhausted. 

Recently, I've been praying, Lord, please help me fall in love again.

And, amazingly, miraculously, I am.

Little moments, little gifts, tender, sincere words, all spoken from my lover, the one with the red hair that melted my heart. And, here I am, falling in love again. 

At the same time, I feel like Jesus, though He always has been, is pursuing me again, drawing me ever more near, into deeper love with Him.

I don't think I could ever plumb the depths of His love for me, for all of us who are His beloved bride. He pursues each one of us, if we will but look up, and seek His face, we will be pleasantly surprised at what we find. 

Is true love for real? In Jesus, it is, eternally.

"All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.  Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon.  (Song of Songs 4:8)

 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ladybug Ladybug, Fly Away Home



"Mommy look!"

My Bright Girl gently closed the sliding glass door and turned around with palm upturned. I was doing the dishes, but stopped suddenly and wiped my hands dry. 

Peering into her hand, I spotted a many-spotted ladybug.

It skedaddled out of her hand and up her arm, tickling her all the way. 


I love little gifts in small packages. It reminded me of a Mother Goose Rhyme.

Ladybug, ladybug fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
All except one, her name is Nan.
She crept under the frying pan.

Hmmm. How morbid is that? Did Nan survive? I surely hope so! 
Mother Goose sure did create some pretty depressing nursery rhymes.

Studies have shown that nursery rhymes help develop young children's communication skills, and are foundational to reading later on. If nursery rhymes are important to child development, is there some alternative out there for children besides these sometimes unsettling nursery rhymes? 

Thankfully, Majorie Ainsborough Decker felt inspired to write The Christian Mother Goose Book of Nursery Rhymes and Rock-A-Bye Stories of Jesus.

It's lyrical stories are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, telling moral tales inspiring character development. It's spiritual themes are thought-provoking and are catalysts for further explanation and Bible study. 

My Sunshine Girl especially likes "A Peacemaker's House" from Rock-A-Bye Stories of Jesus

The rhyme tells of little Tommy Tittlemouse whose house is in shambles and complete disarray. He feels restless and upset about it, so he cleans and tidies up.

At the last sweep of dust, he finds that he feels at peace in his heart knowing that he made a comfortable place for guests to come and enjoy sweet fellowship.

I wonder if reading that rhyme has helped my Sunshine Girl appreciate the act of keeping house. Both she and Bright Girl love to set the table with nice things and have people over.

Well, one particular guest, we set outside after observing her for awhile--Mrs. Ladybug.





Bright Girl delicately laid her on the stone pavement and watched her crawl away.  I penned this poem a short while later: 

Ladybug, ladybug crawl back home,
Your house is the bushes
Where the aphids roam.
God's provision
For a hungry bug,
If you were bigger,
I'd give you a hug.
 
Simple rhyme, but I would need to explain provision to the kids. From my understanding, God's provision means He gives or provides exactly what His creation needs. For instance, providing ladybugs with green aphids to feast upon.

God's perfect provision for us is encapsulated in the gospel.

He made a way for us to be forgiven for all our sins by sending us Christ Jesus as the Savior of the world. He came to pay the penalty for our sins by sacrificing Himself on the cross.

This free gift of forgiveness is for everyone who will believe.  In Him we have eternal life.  What a wonderful provision!

House guests may come and go, but I hope my children learn (and me, too!) that every interaction, every meal shared, is an opportunity to share with someone who desperately needs to know that they are very dearly loved by God, the Maker of all things, even ladybugs.

" For God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)."

Banana Nut Cake Take 2



My first attempt at my Grandma Sharon's Best Banana Nut Cake Ever was a disaster. I didn't realize that I'd forgotten to add baking soda until it was too late.

The result was a very flat cake. It turned out to be the Worst Ever Banana Nut Cake Ever, but, we still ate it.

Now, my second attempt at making this cake from scratch was going to work. It had to. I was baking it to celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary. 

I can hardly believe that it's been twelve years! And, we dated for five years. We only waited that long to get married because we met when we were seventeen.

The night we got engaged, Billy, with his blazing red-orange hair played his guitar and sang a song he wrote just for me. The night was dark and clear and high above us the moon gave us its perfect light. The river lapped against the dock as we sat under the wooden gazebo.

"It would be perfect if this was the night you asked me to marry you, " I said half-jokingly. 

The whole evening was especially romantic, but I didn't think this would be the night.

He smiled and with a twinkle in his moonlit eyes, he got down on one knee, and fished something out of his pocket.

I placed my hand over my mouth, in shock. It really was the night. He had a little black velvet box.

Looking into my eyes he whispered, "Chanda, will you be my wife?"

And, the rest is history. Well, at least for our family.

I wanted to bake this special cake for our special day, and things were just not working out. But, as the saying goes, try, try again.

Enlisting the help of my two precious girls, we attempted culinary perfection once again.


This time, I remembered to add the missing ingredient. The girls licked the batters clean and the bowl clean--their payment for helping their mama make this tasty cake.



And, what a difference a little teaspoon of baking soda made!  The cake was fluffy this time, and the delicious banana nutish aroma emanating from the kitchen was heavenly.

After everything was said and done, it was a delightful evening. We weren't able to get a sitter this year, but I got an idea from Petunia June, another mommy blogger, to feed our children and put them to bed before eating our own quiet dinner alone...a la date night at home.

My high school sweetheart, the love of my life, gave me these:




And, the cake was oh, so good, this time!


And, I think I appreciated it even more because the first one was a flop. Not our marriage, but the cake! We have had our share of some really good times, some desperately bad times, and some sweet times in between. This is one of those times. The sweet ones. 

In all those times I can thank the Lord that He is so good to us. He helps us to love each other and stay in love, and fulfill those marriage vows we promised before Him all those twelve years ago. He is the missing ingredient we all need to be able to love each other unconditionally.

"And these three remain, faith, hope, and love.  But, the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 1:13, NIV)."

 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Apple a Day


Ever since my Little Man was a toddler and had enough teeth to handle it, he would ask,

"Mama, big apple, please?"

He would sign "please" on his tummy using big, round circles.

For snacks, I liked to cut up apples and divvy them out to the children. They usually would get about three or four pieces each.

But, no, Little Man wanted a whole apple to himself. I wanted to see if he could handle it, so I washed off a small granny apple and handed to him.

His bright eyes beamed with delight, and he took one big, crisp bite, crunching into the side of that apple. Juice spilled out of the sides of his mouth, as he took enormous bites.  It wasn't long until there was nothing left but the core and the little seeds, which he knew he wasn't alowed eat.

He sure is my Little Man, always wanting to do things that are way too big for him, but surprisingly enough, sometimes, he can.

Today, during circle time, I read a book with a larger than life Red Delicious Apple on the front cover. It's called A Picture of God: 3 in 1, and it's simple, yet profound truths about the Holy Trinity still has me thinking.

Basically, the book compares God to none other than an apple. An apple has three parts, the peel, the flesh, and the core, but is still one apple, so God is in three persons, yet He is one true God. 

The peel of the apple protects us from harm and keeps us healthy.

Likewise, God the Father, created us, protects us, and provides for us.

The flesh of the apple is good to eat.   A long time ago, the first man and woman ate a fruit that God the Father told them no to eat. They disobeyed God, or sinned. The result was death--physical and spiritual.

Sin separates us from God, so God the Father gave us Jesus, His very own Son, who came in the flesh.  His name is Jesus.  He died on the cross and suffered for our sins to bring us back to God the Father. 

The core of the apple holds the seeds from which apple trees can grow, producing even more apples. Jesus was buried, just like an apple seed. Because He is God, like an apple seed sprouts from the ground, three days later, Jesus arose from the grave. He in turn gives us new life, eternal life.

The book goes on to say that in order to have this new life, we need something; faith in Jesus. But, like an apple seed cannot plant itself, we cannot make ourselves have faith in Jesus. Someone has to plant faith in our hearts.

God the Holy Spirit puts faith in our hearts. He keeps it alive and strong, and waters it with God's Word, the Bible. It is then that our faith begins to grow, and eventually produces fruit. 

Things like:

Love,
Joy,
Peace,
Patience,
Goodness,
Humility,
Kindness,
Faithfulness, and
Self-control.

That's some fruit I could use a little more of...

"The glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27, NIV)."