_DSC7688The scents of urine, hay, animal sweat, urine and feces filled our noses. Bray’s, squawks, quacks, baa’s and squeals filled our ears. Rough wood, the prickle of hay and the gravel-like feel of feed filled our hands. A parade of on-lookers filled our peripheral view.

“Peace” is not exactly how I’d describe the feeling of our trip to a local petting zoo for a birthday party. More like “chaos” and “cacophony..”  Overwhelmed by scents,sounds,  new experiences and smells children’s responses varied from tears and fear, to delight. Parents responses varied from shouts of “Keep your fingers away front the teeth.” to- “At least use hand sanitizer after you touch that.”  I think I saw one parent crouched in a corner, clutching a child’s blanket and rocking back and forth…. there was no baby involved… just a parent. Who’d lost it. Pretty much. ( It may have been me. Justsayin. Petting zoos make me nervous.)

As a life-long suburbanista- girl scout camp and childhood visits to a friends farm house and petting zoos are about the sum total of my barn experience. Girl scout camp involved horses and screeching pre-pubescent girls …. (Not peaceful.) Visits our friends farm involved much chasing of chickens.. (rather fun if you ignore the smell.)  squeeing over pigs and brushing of horses manes while trying not to get stomped under hoof.  Fun, but again: not peaceful.

As a mother of 3 boys, owner of 2 dogs and 2 cats- I often feel like I LIVE in a barn. (And, while I remember their births as taking place in nice, clean hospitals, I sometimes wonder if my children were actually BORN in a barn. They are genetically hard wired to leave messes and doors open. IMO.) With the exception of stolen moments in the early morning and late at night, my home is filled with video gaming college boys, 6th graders, nerf battles, lego battles and little knight stories…Not much peace. (It also kind of smells like a barn, with overtones of Scentsy….)

Barns do not produce peace. They produce poo. And noise. And chaos. And stink…with maybe quiet moments of peace…as a lamb lies nestled with it’s mother or piggies lie in a sleeping mass of pink.

And yet- over 2,000 years ago- a barn did just that. It produced peace.

There was braying and neighing and stink and wallow. There was squalor and chaos and a parade of on-lookers.

But, wrapped in swaddling clothes-amidst the chaos-  was born peace. A miracle on so many levels.

This year, I feel like my life is a barn. It’s drafty, it’s overwhelming, it’s noisy and to be honest? With the continued battle with my husband’s cancer along with the stress of life and family….. it’s been stinking. It’s been painful. Pain is not peaceful. There have been moments of peace.. (mostly on beaches:P)  But it hasn’t been peace-Full. I miss peace.

This morning.. I again read the story of that barn. I read of how peace was born into the world.. in the middle of chaos. In the middle of a tyrant’s slaughter of innocence….and I remembered peace.

I also remembered a teenager. One who’d already attempted suicide. (Sometimes a #fail is a good thing) One who was depressed and overwhelmed. One who was desperate for something.. and had been looking for it- in all the classic wrong places…. one who knew the chaotic effects of a parent’s substance abuse. A teenager who unexpectedly  found what she was looking for. In a barn. A barn that was on a stage at a children’s Christmas pagent….where she found what she was really looking for-

Peace.

The peace  found in love, acceptance and  forgiveness.  The same peace that was born in that barn so long ago. Instead of peace wrapped in swaddling clothes- it was wrapped in her heart…tied with a ribbon of grace and  laid in the barn of her life.

She, is me.

And today, in the middle of this barn, I again found that peace. In the fact that the chaos of my worries can bring peace. Peace that I don’t have to be enough. In the fact that I don’t have to have all the answers. In the fact that God is more than able to get us through whatever comes our way. (And whether we like it or not.) In the fact that I’m not alone.

Peace born in chaos. The dichotomy of Christmas. The mystery. The miracle. The beauty.

My life feels like chaos…. But–I’m asking God to sustain that manger miracle of peace in my heart….and I’m praying he does the same for you.

Maybe chaos doesn’t mean God isn’t involved.. it means he’s again- about to birth peace….

Dear Jesus- I can’t pretend to grasp the sacrifices you’ve made in coming to earth, being born into chaos to bring us peace.. but I am desperate to embrace it. Even here. In the middle of the chaos that my life feels like. In the middle of this barn…. I pray for anyone who reads- who feels like life is chaos and that peace isn’t even a possibility- that they would find your peace- in the chaos. In the barn. In the manger, and at the foot of the cross. I love you Lord and trust you with all my what if’s- even here- in Jesus name- amen

The barn… 

Repost from last year…..but still fitting… some struggles  improve..(A year after my hubby’s diagnosis we are in an upswing… last PSA was undetectable. We now test eery 3 months….for now- cancer takes a back burner. but then…. new struggles develop. And we get through them. together.

516DfEiT2jL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I pray. a lot. (Let’s face it… not much else I can do at the moment.) I ask for wisdom., I ask for forgiveness, I plead for healing, for myself, for my husband. I pray that God will make up through love the things I can’t do with and for my kids right now. I pray for others. I pray for the impoverished, the entrapped, the persecuted, the addicted, the hurting. Like I said: I pray.

The truth is….lately- I’ve felt like God isn’t answering. (Or, rather, I’m not liking the answers.) I pray for wisdom, and discover more questions. I pray for forgiveness and discover more sin. I plead for healing and find more pain, more disease. More tests to be run, more waiting to be waited.

We currently face: Cancer, chronic illness and pain. I’m in the middle of a difficult surgical recovery. There has been loss. I have questions without clear answers but with potential eternal consequences. I recently told a friend ” I feel like every time I come up for air another wave crashes on my head. ” (Heart?) I feel: Frustrated. Overwhelmed. I’m afraid that the reason God hasn’t answered me (The way I want him to) is because of my lack of faith…. Maybe, it’s my own fault.

Still, I pray. lately? Without bothering to tell God what I need or want him to do . Sometimes, words are barely involved. Sometimes, just breathing, has been a prayer. I’ve started to doubt my sanity. (not new and still unconfirmed.) But also, whether I’m a heretic…. Breathing as prayer? Am I cheating God, by not trying hard enough? (Yes. I over think EVERYTHING.)

As I read “The Mercy Prayer” what resonated most wasn’t the words….it was their truth. Truth that changed my perspective. God hasn’t been ignoring or denying my requests. He’s been answering them with mercy.

Mercy to bear pain. Mercy to stand up under temptation. Mercy in kindness. Mercy in meals made with love to sustain us through recoveries. Mercy in provision. Mercy in lack. Mercy to find joy in the tragedy and pain that threatens to engulf. Mercy to sit with unanswered questions. (And not lose my mind. (Mostly.) Mercy in nested reminders of His love….from friends, and in places where I’ve least expected to find them.

The truth is- a million mercies line the mess of my nest. Even here. God has already been answering my Mercy Prayer…. even when I didn’t know that’s what I was really asking for. (If you’re new to the blog- click “Even Here” for the tender mercies God has been feathering my nest with..)

Reading these words, my hope is renewed. I’m not a heretic. I’m not (that) crazy. My focus is changed. I will endeavor to quit telling God what he should do….and ask him to do what he always does. Lord, have mercy.

The Mercy prayer cuts through the frustration of trying to figure out what I need, so I can pray “right.” . Or the right things to pray…So God will answer “right.”

The heart of the matter.. is always: My need for Mercy. Of all kinds.

“His grace (truly) is sufficient” and it begins with mercy.

Read this book. Let it speak to your heart. Let our hearts beat to the rhythm of the mercy prayer…..I have a feeling that if we do….. they will be beating in time with the very heart of God. What a different world that would be.

Again: Lord, have mercy, Even here.

“The Mercy Prayer” Available on Amazon- or at your local bookstore.

By Pastor Robert Gelinas

Confession: When I saw the title– I was a little worried… “Oh No.. Please don’t try to give me another formulaic- magical harry potter approach to God……They never work. God is far above our puny manipulations and does not owe us his obedience to our magic words or incantations…..God is not a genie released by rubbing a lamp or saying a word… They leave me feeling irritated with the author for trying to profit from manipulating people in desperate need.”

This Book? NOT THAT. No worries. No formula… just an affirmation of our greatest need-for grace through mercy- always being met. By a God who delights to show mercy and grant grace.

 

Mommy v1.0 was released 12/13/89 (the day my oldest was born) – she was the beta version-  & had a lot of bugs to work out with the new tools she was running.  There were questions whether she should have released Mommy 1.0 or not but she let the software engineer determine the readiness, and the engineer used the early release to improve later versions.

Mommy v2.0 was a slightly better prepared release.  (8/8/92- my middle son’s b-day), but still needed to work out some bugs with multi- tasking and occasional system crashes.

The Mommy v3.0, release (when the older 2 boys went to school) was bumpy, as the previous updates needed a reinstall. Mommy v3.0 ran fairly well with the changes and a system re-boot.  She discovered new tools that she hadn’t had previously like conflict resolution and improved trust capabilities.

Mommy v4.0 was a total surprise release. The Software engineers kept the update under wraps for quite sometime before alerting the end users. However- March of 2002 turned out to be the perfect time to release v4.0 (with Noah’s Birth.) This version was a much smoother implementation- the new version was solidly based on previous updates.  Of course- it held it’s own challenges- but in general the release went well.

I feel like I’m about to be upgraded.  It makes me both a little nervous and excited. Nervous, because I know there are bound to be glitches along with the implementation and excited, because I know I’ll have a new tool bar when it’s completed. I’m not talking about my laptop… I’m talking about my mommy-hardware, my life is changing.

Rumors have it, that Mommy v5.0 is in the works, with an expected release date of September, 2009. The Software engineer is keeping the details of the update in strictest confidence, but as each new version has improved both the platform and the end- users experience, it is expected to be both well recieved, and to have the occasional bug to work out after it’s release.

MommySoft appreciates your patience as we prepare for this new release, and looks forward to serving you in the future, with its new tools!

My oldest is in college, my middle is graduating High School this year and my youngest will start school full-time in the fall… CHANGE is COMING!  To be honest- I don’t know exactly what the changes will look like in my day to day life.  But I know this– when “hardware” changes have happened in the past– God has always used them to update my “software”.

It seems like everytime my laptop updates.. there is a short period of chaos and problems, until the bugs are worked out. My Mommy hard drive goes through something similar.

When life changes- so does a Mom. With each change she has a choice.. to either click the “install updates now” button, or ignore it.  I’ve done both. Sometimes risking system failure or security breach because I was afraid it may be another “phishing” scam not an actual good change.. and sometimes because I don’t see a need to change anything because things seem to be running just FINE.

I mean.. why risk an update when there are bound to be glitches along with the improvements? he answer is the same for Moms as it is for software.. because the new tools and improvements are worth the risk.

Like most mom’s I’ve experienced my share of changes: Childbirth, weaning, walking, potty training, addition of children to the family, moving, job changes, moving, kids starting school, changing schools,income changes, church changes, kids graduating and entering college. The list is infinite. Mothering changes daily.

Click  for more and to see my ever changing family.. (more…)

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the sink from where I speak...and learn.. I hope:)

I picked yet another finger-printed and milk filmed glass from the dishwater.  For a split second, I considered ACCIDENTLY dropping it so I wouldn’t have to wash it.

I’m THAT sick of doing dishes. 

I bit the bullet, I washed the glass.. (and it’s family of other dirty dishes) and finished cleaning up the kitchen.  “What is wrong with me?”  I wondered, as I caught my reflection in the window over the sink.  “It’s dishes.. they need to be washed… just do it and stop whining about it…Some people don’t have food and you’re pouting about a dishwasher” 

Unfortunately, I argued with my logic.  (Shut up, I’m not crazy, I do that, don’t YOU?) “But it’s BORING and a WASTE of my TIME!”  I countered.  “Make it a spiritual practice… an act of service and love for your family…”  I tried hard, to convince myself.

“I HATE IT.  It’s BORING!” Screamed the brat who lives in my soul. “Enjoy the chance to meditate.. the quiet.. the repetitive and redemptive act of cleaning… “  Said either God- or some part of me that desires Him…

By the time the argument was over, the sink was cleaned and dishes were washed.  The only thing left was the battle in my heart. I couldn’t let it go. I knew that before I could reach the light switch.. some member of this family of five would have dirtied another dish, kick starting the battle all over again.

I grabbed paperplates and plastic cups and put them on the counter. Clearly I needed a dishwashing break before I totally lost my mind. (Sanity being saved, trumps going green.) I went to that perfect corner on the couch.  The one that’s so old it’s dented in the shape of my backside.  I picked up my knitting.  I knit. 

I kept knitting.  One stitch after another.  Then it hit me… honestly?  Part of what I like about knitting is the quiet repetitive-ness of it.  The chance to think.. the opportunity to be (almost) still.  The creative process of producing something useful. I also love spinning for the same reasons….

But  DISHWASHING?  I HATE IT for THE SAME REASONS.  It didn’t make sense.  I knit faster… hoping some mysterious answer to this problem would be found in the completed project…then it hit me.

Whats’ the difference?  I don’t HAVE to knit.  I have a choice.  I also don’t HAVE to spin. I don’t HAVE to sit on the beach and listen to the music of the waves that are just as repetitive and meditative…I don’t HAVE to rock a baby or flip through a magazine savoring pictures without ingesting words…but I do.  Because, I want to.

Maybe that’s the ony difference between meditative activities and annoying ones.. maybe it’s all about the HAVE TO factor.  I thought about it some more… by that time I had another sink of dishes to do.  I stood in the kitchen.  The battle started up again. I stepped back. 

I suddenly realized: I didn’t HAVE to do them.  I had options. 

I could:

  1. Throw them in the trash.
  2. Break them to bits
  3. Hide them in the oven until the dishwasher repair guy finally shows up.
  4. Stick them into the dishwasher dirt and all and leave it as a fragrant surprise for the dishwasher repair guy…
  5. I could enjoy the quiet meditative redemptive quality of washing them.

I turned on the tap.  I smiled at the beautiful, curved  brushed nickel faucet my husband installed for me.  I watched the water flow.  I watched tiny bubbles form like sea foam.  I almost giggled when miniature bubbles floated into the air from the soap bottle when I plopped it back on the counter. 

I prayed for friends as I cleaned the milk filmed glasses.  I listened to hope grow in my heart as I washed plates.  I thanked God for food as I washed it from the silverware.  Before I knew it.. I was out of dishes.  I asked if anyone had any more…they didn’t.  I was done.

Yeah.. the HAVE to Factor was the difference.. so was recognizing that I have a choice.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Dear Lord- bring these thing to mind whenever I’m faced with a challenge like this– and God?  I think I got it now. so umm your  could send the repairman to fix the dishwasher now.. really… I love you Lord and am glad you love me.. the whiner and the listener– all of me… amen