"Cassie, will you make me fruit salad?"
This is what 15 years later looks like. A visual reminder of how God's grace surpassed my depth ridden sin, His gracious gift of favor increasing all the more.
How I wish I had had this picture the day I clasped with both hands a pregnancy test that seemed to scream, what now...what now? It might have helped my fearful heart all those long nights of wondering to see that things were going to turn out just fine. Better than fine in fact, abundantly filled is a better description.
But I didn't have a picture into the future to encourage the pressing on of my heart. Like all girls in my situation I had to be brave. I had to be willing.
"But where sin increased, [God's remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more."
"Increased all the more..."
The days sweep by quickly, planned and full. Daily work penciled into ringed notebooks, an opportunity for love words to be tattooed onto hearts. Being Teacher-Mom opens a double door of blessing and freedom. Walking through challenging arithmetic lessons with a girl susceptible to tear stained cheeks and having the chance to comfort in motherly fashion lays the foundation of learning as a beautiful journey rather than a dutiful task.
"As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful." - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings To Young Women On Wisdom and Virtue
Standing in the kitchen, sun streaks across dirty floor, woodstove crackling with every birch curl swallowed by flames and children squealing in the farthest room.
The walls heavy with life.
Dining room table filled with books of various grade levels, Valentine flowers saying their goodbyes in powdery pollen hills dropped gladly on finished work just to be blown onto the post lunch floor tiles.
The sound of the vacuum running over living room rug back and forth while small slipper wearing boys pull feet up onto the couch, clutching prized Lego formations yelling over the hum of Mama's cleaning frenzy.
Unexpected life found.
Quilts overtop of cotton throws pulled up to the chins of girls, evening reading aloud with bellies filled full of creamy potato cheddar broccoli soup, tea cups everywhere, left on window sills and side tables. The tea box running low always.
Numbering days lived and tea bags steeped.
A girl tall and fit with hair tied up in a half bun of freshly washed brunette youth spins her way into the kitchen like a spring breeze, "can I flip the pancakes, Mom?" Her eyes sparkle in story telling, her heart wraps tightly around those smaller than she, with diligence she sets her mind to her work and the most speedy grace falls from her forgiving lips daily.
15 years later
And His grace Increased all the more...
1. God is always faithful and has always been faithful and will always be faithful.
13 years ago a 20-something year old girl worked three jobs to keep her apartment warm, lit and well stocked with food for her and her tiny daughter of 2 years. She prayed often in tears at the end of her bed wondering how, even with the jobs she would stay above the waves. Her rent was pending a late status and the weeks only allowed for so many working hours. She prayed He would provide.
Payday arrive at the 9-5 lawyers office and two checks were placed into her open palm. Two checks. One the weekly wages agreed upon from the start, the other a bonus check for a case recently won. Provision.
This happened two more times during the years she spent in that office, something she was later told had only occurred while she was employed there.
This story, my story often comes back to me and I remember the faithfulness of God then and now and forever.
2. Surrendering my heart daily to His will is a sure-fire way to be filled completely - hands, heart and home.
Morning by morning the stack of books, mug of coffee and bearded lineman accompany me by the living room fire, and like the t-shirt I often wear says, "hands full, heart full, house full, van full", my life reflects it's truth. And on those mornings when my head is in the game and I rhythmically turn my empty hands upward surrendering all I claim my own, knowing it's all His to use as He pleases, I am surprisingly filled.
Sweet surrender - not so sweet when surrendering that which I want to hold tightly. But time afterward proves God never leaves hands or heart surrendered, empty and open, bleeding or grasping. In fact He fills those gentle spots of letting go with His spirit - the fullness thereafter is far more complete than those greedy fingertips or ever hungering heart could hold.
3. The big picture is bigger than I can picture. "The heart of a man plans his way but God directs His steps." Proverbs 16:9
Documents of great importance lost. Sensitive information up for grabs and I can do nothing but pray that they'll be recovered in safety. Hours pass and my heart treads between open waters of grace and thinning ice cracking beneath my anxiety. God hears the prayers and calms the sweaty palms. It's all in His plan, though to look at it you'd think otherwise. This incident means a meeting must be postponed, a deadline missed. It's not until the lesson is learned, the blessing revealed that the papers are found. Safe in the place least expected but now makes complete sense given the day they were last in hand.
Found like the words that slid from my mouth that day to the man on the front lines, the words that stung and ripped a little part of his already torn heart. Words I wish were lost on the air in his empty garage where I spent my morning searching an old filing cabinet, hoping.
Had I known those papers neatly straightened and fastened with a black binder clip hidden between fridge top and cupboard floor would prove the fruit not yet ripened in my heart of my second 'thing' written in this blog. Surrender.
Surrender because God's ideas for me cannot be mapped out with my GPS. His love reaches down so heavily He cannot, WILL NOT allow a good tree to produce piddly fruit. His love's so grand he runs toward an opportunity to prune and cut away all that's hindering growth, His pursuit so steady His hand of correction tailgates His arm of embrace.
A lesson I'll take with me forever, applying to all my surrendered mornings, palms up empty fists this time being summoned to receive the forgiveness offered.
Weeks pass and order falls on all that's out of my control reminding me of His faithfulness to my surrendered heart and the unfinished mural He has for my life. Pages are turned in our read aloud as persistently as the days pass. We live more, love more, and lean in a whole lot more, and I do not forget his Faithfulness to my surrendered heart.
"It is wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to Him. He turns hard things into easy and bitter things into sweet. It is not that He puts easy things in the place of the hard, but He actually changes the hard thing into an easy one." -Hannah Whitall Smith
"What qualities do you see in Jesus that are most important to you?"
A question I asked the children this week prompted by the devotional I'm reading. Their answers simple and truthful.
"He's never failing."
"He let's you mess up and then picks you up and forgives you right away."
My personal favorite - "He doesn't weigh you down with rules. Like, I can eat chocolate chips in the morning and He's not going to be upset about it...I didn't, but I know I could." (haha!)
"He never fails you."
"He never doubts your ability but helps you to keep going."
"He's gentle and lets go of all the stuff you did yesterday."
I love the way Jesus spent His life with the people around Him. I love how He walked with the disciples on a sunny Sabbath day without a picnic basket but down a path he knew grew fields of ripened wheat, never failing to supply for their needs. Bumping into life altering lessons on the way seemed to be the everyday theme, He taught and lived all in the same breath. (Matthew 12) And it's by His breath we now live.
I love how He asked questions He already knew the answers to so He could pull them into communion with Him and have a moment of contact with the most scorned of humans.
He didn't need to ask a blind man begging for healing, "what do you want me to do for you?" Or a woman sick for a dozen years gripping at His hems, "who touched me?" But for the sake of intimate friendships, He looked into their eyes and asked the questions no one else would ask and gave the answers no one else could give.
Jesus reminds me that there is no greater service for me than the lowering of my abilities to match the capabilities of those around me. That humbling my heart, my hands and my plans to plumb the line between me and my children draws their little hearts and hands upward.
They feel heard and acknowledged when I sprawl out on the floor and build with blocks cheering wildly over record breaking heights. They sense importance and worth when I listen to the story they wrote on the flip side of a tax document without cutting them short to correct their oversight. They're strengthened when I allow them to bake on their own regardless of the mistakes and messes they will inadvertently make. And they find genuine friendship as I sit and linger late into night hearing of the dreams and thoughts they hold inside.
There is nothing more exquisite than the life Jesus lived here on earth this I am sure, and there isn't anything more powerful than what He did on the cross. It's a privilege to know Him better and to be better known by Him as we walk out every average day beside His great and magnificent glory.
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass." Psalm 102:11