Growing Baby Trees

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A few people asked me to share my devotion from Morgan’s baby shower and I know how much it helped me to read other people’s blogs while I was preparing, so here it is. Many thanks to my husband for helping me take my scattered random stories and turn them into something coherent.

There are two things that never cease to amaze me about my boys: Their ability to get dirty with complete abandon, forgetting about how much I yelled at them yesterday and never considering how mad I might get today; and the way they love me with the same devotion. My children have allowed me to experience life in a whole new manner. Let’s just say I’ve picked up a lot more toads and read more snake books than I ever thought possible. They have also made me stronger, braver and more willing to kill black widows. What’s scary is that I am also influencing them even when I don’t realize it. This year for Christmas, Daniel’s sister gave the kids an old camera to play with. It doesn’t take great pictures anymore but it takes excellent video. One morning we were rushing around the house trying to get ready to go and Sam was wandering around the yard falling down. I got frustrated with Daniel for leaving him out there and little did I know, Noah recorded the entire incident. There is nothing like listening to yourself say, “Why didn’t you just tell me you were going in the house instead of leaving him out here in the dirt?” over and over to make you rethink the way you talk to your husband. Little children’s minds are like that camera: recording everything we say and do and playing it back when we least expect it.

As a mother, you will have the privilege and responsibility of being one of the first influences in your child’s life. Psalm 1 paints a dramatic picture of the end result of Godly and ungodly influences. Let’s begin by reading it together.

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1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

I love the imagery of the tree planted by streams of water. I thought this was appropriate because Morgan’s nursery features a tree with hand prints of different family members. The Psalm begins by telling us how not to live our lives. There is a backwards progression from walking in the counsel of the wicked to standing in the way of sinners and finally sitting in the seat of mockers. We can see the young person’s life fall apart as he becomes more and more comfortable in the way of sin.

This is in direct contrast to the life lived according to God’s will. A life rooted in God’s Word produces lasting fruits of righteousness. Parents take great delight in all their children’s milestones: sitting, standing and finally walking. As you see young Hudson grow physically you will get to witness his faith grow as well. Faith comes in baby steps. Just as we gradually learn to sit, then stand, then walk, we learn to trust God in degrees. Some of my most precious moments have been answering my children’s questions about God. Maeli asked, “Do we get hurt in heaven?” “No Maeli, we won’t get sick or hurt or cry anymore.” To which she replied,” Do doctors go to heaven, Mommy?” Shortly after Sam was born Noah asked me if there was crying in heaven. I was about to relish another teaching moment with my, “No more tears speech,” when he cut me off: “Are there babies in heaven?”
Answering questions and instructing is one way we get to influence our children for God. Another way is by reading them God’s word and providing them ways to study it.

The next verse reads, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” I’m sure you already find yourself thinking of the baby day and night. The expectation and excitement you feel now will soon be realized when you hold him in your arms. However, if you think he occupies your mind and your time now, just wait. I can hardly even enjoy the rare moments I get away from my children because all I do is worry about them. God wants to occupies our minds in the same way.

The word for meditate means to mutter under your breath. God wants us to have an ongoing conversation with His Son and His word. Hudson is fortunate to have parents who care about raising him in the church and in a family that loves God. By bringing him to church and Sunday School and reading him the stories of the Bible, you will teach him the important place that God’s Word holds in your lives. This is the living water for our souls, absolutely vital for life and godliness.

Your chance to nurture your son’s faith is a tremendous opportunity.You will be able to cultivate it through intentional teaching just as a gardener carefully waters and fertilizes the soil. But you will quickly learn that unless you depend on God, your resources will be depleted. As much as we try to take care of the garden, there is always an element of the miraculous needed. This is where we learn to call on the Master Gardener for the Light of the Son. Your children will challenge your prayer life like never before. While you might occasionally have long, uninterrupted prayers, most of them will be short desperate pleas like,

“Please, Lord, don’t let him wake up.when I put him down.”
“Please Lord, let him go back to sleep.”
“Dear Jesus, help me see if he really pushed a piece of red crayon up his nose and if so, help me get it out!”
“Please Lord, don’t let him love his kindergarten teacher more than me.”
“Dear Jesus, protect him from these crazy neighborhood kids.”
“Please Lord, he’s too young to be interested in girls!”
“Dear Jesus, help us all to survive his learning to drive.”
“Heavenly Father, thank you that we finally made it to graduation. I’m so proud of him.”
“Please Lord, keep him faithful to you as he goes to college.”
And all too soon – “Dear Jesus, bless this young couple as they begin their life together.”

When you have done all you can do to cultivate the soil and asked God for blessing, it’s time to trust God for his future.

The Psalmist says that the person who delights in the Lord will be like “a tree planted by streams of water.” We will be healthy and grow strong in the Lord, yielding fruit to nurture others in the faith. When we spend time in God’s Word and with God’s people, the next natural step is to reach out to the lost and teach young believers. We become trees that bear fruit to nourish others. God’s love in us produces love for others.
It also says, “Whatever he does prospers.” I caution you not to take this as an open-ended promise that Hudson will never experience pain or difficulty if he follows the LORD, but rather a general principle that the things we do for the LORD have eternal significance.

But not so the wicked! “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They have failed to put down roots and are worthless plants blowing around like tumbleweeds. There is nothing to show for their time on earth. They will not even be allowed in “the assembly of the righteous.” It may seem harsh that the wicked are not even allowed in the assembly, but this verse is also a comfort if seen in light of the next one. Why does the LORD not allow the wicked in the assembly? Because he “watches over the way of the righteous.” Because he loves and cares about his people, He is preparing a place where there is no more sickness, no more tears and no more pain. Just as every good gardener must rid their garden of weeds, so careful parents must seek to protect their children from negative influences while they are still young and vulnerable. We do our best to pull out all the weeds while the plants are new and fragile in hopes that they will soon grow strong enough to withstand them. We hope and pray that our children learn to avoid evil and we do our best to guide them in the ways of the LORD at a young age. But we know they also have to make their own choices. One of the most difficult things to do as a mother is to let your children learn from their own mistakes. It is hard to tell your son “Don’t run in the house,” every five minutes. It is a lot harder to see your son break his nose from running into his own bunk bed while flying around the house with a plastic bag parachute. But he will remember that a lot longer!

All the hard work of teaching, instructing, and protecting from harm would be overpowering if not for the immeasurable love you will also feel for your son. And yet it is only a small fraction of the love God feels for us. God loves us with a never stopping, never giving-up, always and forever love, stronger than even the love you already feel for Baby Hudson.

A blog I was reading put it this way: “I know this might seem silly, but until I became a mother I’m not sure I fully grasped what unconditional love truly was. I’ve known my whole life that God sent his ONLY son to die in my place. But until I became a mother I’m not sure I could fathom just how painful that sacrificial act would have been. I would do anything to save her, to protect her. I would gladly lay my life down for my daughter, but would I offer her up to save someone else? I think not. Becoming a mother has not only taught me that my heart was capable of so much more love than I ever thought possible, but it also gave me a little, tiny glimpse into just how much my Heavenly Father loves me.”

It is the love of God that both compels us and empowers us to love our own children when our sinful nature makes it too much to bear. All of our efforts to raise them to act Godly would be in vain if we didn’t teach them how much we love them and why we want to please God in the first place.

As mothers, we have many fears and insecurities about our own inadequacies and the unexpected future. But Hudson is not going to worry about this. He is going to take it for granted that you are the mother God gave him and you have everything he needs whenever he wants it, no matter what time of day or night. It’s comforting and overwhelming at the same time.
Fortunately for us, we know that even when we feel like we don’t have anything it takes, God does and He will provide. He gives us guidelines in His Word for raising Godly kids and He even gives us the Holy Spirit to help. We are to cultivate the soil of our children’s hearts through teaching the Word and prayer, weeding out ungodly influences, and most importantly, to love them with the love God has first shown us.

Home At Last/ A Happy-Sad Day

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new violinIt occurred to me that I have a lot of unfinished endings on this page.  First of all, I got a new violin last year, shortly after writing that first post. It’s brand-new and beautiful and I hope I can use it to tell my Story, God’s Story, for many years. I was a little embarrassed to share this because I felt like it was almost too nice and I didn’t deserve it. As much as I enjoy playing, I just don’t have the time to practice that I need in order to play well.  The last few times I have tried to play in church, I end up spending hours and hours practicing only to mess up in performance because my nerves get the better of me.  People still say they appreciated the music, but I’m always disappointed with myself because I know I can do better.  It is hard for me to accept where I am and be content with what God has given me.  I want to know the ending in the middle of the story.

The other story I had a hard time completing is the one about my Grandpa.  I have been working on the end of our vacation story for over a year.  I wanted to have a Happy Ending so badly and until just a few months ago, I didn’t.  On the way home from Ohio last summer, I was hospitalized.  I was so scared and stressed about my Grandpa and his salvation that I ended up working myself right into Psychotic Episode #3.  I have only had this happen two times in my life and they were undoubtedly the most hellish experiences I have ever been through.

The first one was when I broke my old violin in 2000.  I was on a mission trip in Brazil when I began to lose touch with reality.  The group I was with held me down and tried to cast demons out of me.  It took me 13 years to process this incident enough to realize it might not have been demons after all, but simply my broken mind.  I had a repeat experience when I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in 2003.  Fortunately, they were quick to take me to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where I received excellent care, food, and medication. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my last day as a MBI student. I decided not to finish the semester because I was already engaged and wasn’t planning on attending in the fall anyway.  After this, I have been careful enough to manage my symptoms and didn’t think I would ever end up in the hospital again.  Which brings me to last summer…

I can’t really explain all that lead me to the ER that day other than to say that lack of sleep, poor diet, extreme stress and travelling with 3 children is a recipe for disaster when you already have a significant mental illness.  We had a wonderful time with my family and I don’t regret it for anything.  I just wish it hadn’t ended that way.  I spent five days in Kansas City while my poor family waited in a hotel for me to regain sanity enough to travel home.  When they finally let me out, I was depleted and sad, but we made it home.  For the next four months, I cried and prayed over my Grandpa and wished I had a happy ending to his story.

On September 29th, my dear friend Susie was killed in a motorcycle accident.  I called my mom to tell her and she told me that my dad was in Ohio visiting his father.  He was in a state of semi-consciousness and my dad was singing hymns to him.  He asked him, “Do you know who Jesus is?” and my Grandpa, who has denied his need for Christ for 89 years, sat bolt upright in bed and said, “Yes! He’s my Savior!”  Hearing that news on the day Susie died made it one of the most emotional days of my entire life.  To have such immense sorrow at her loss, but profound joy for my Grandpa at the same time was almost too much to handle.  Three months later, my Grandpa also was called Home.

I guess that’s just Life in a nutshell. We are broken people, experiencing great loss and overwhelming joy in the same breath, stumbling along and never really knowing the End to the Story until we are Home At Last.  I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth.  I don’t know which of my friends and family that I grieve and pray over will join me in His Kingdom.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 3:13 

It’s hard to be stuck in the middle of a story.  I often feel discouraged because things are not going the way I want them to. But I do know Where my story will end even if I don’t know when or how.   In the meantime, I need to choose to stop focusing on circumstances and focus on the heart and presence of the Author and Finisher of our Faith.  I want every day of this broken journey to bring glory and honor to my King until at last I am Home.

Heavy

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On Sunday morning my mom called to tell me that my cousin Todd was killed in a motorcycle accident.  I received the news with an already heavy heart, as we have just been through a season of grieving.  Only six months ago, our dear friend was taken Home in the same way.  Since then, we have said goodbye to two grandparents and a handful of close friends.  My heart is heavy.  It actually feels like sorrow is weighing me down.

In CS Lewis’ book The Weight of Glory, he discusses how the word for glory, Kavod, also carries the meaning of “weighty” or “heavy”.  To carry the glory of God in our chest is a heavy thing, a weighty responsibility.  And yet Jesus tells us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  When we suffer, Christ suffers with us and shares our burden. God allows us to share in the suffering of Christ so that we may share His glory.

We often do this through repeated goodbyes, the shockingly sudden as well as the torturously slow. Again and again we watch loved ones leave this world to remind us that we too do not belong here. It awakens within us that which Lewis called a longing  for a “far-off country.”  We have this inconsolable desire that we try to satisfy with earthly pleasures, yet end up disappointed because these things are only “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

My brother Christopher, who has Down Syndrome, calls me every day at 4:44.  When I told him that a man in our church had died, he asked if he could pray for me.  He said something about missing him and then through his broken speech he pleaded with God to “Please come back soon.” It was the clearest part of the prayer and still resonates in my mind.  I was struck by two things.

First of all, I have never prayed this prayer.  I believe Jesus is returning for His people and I believe I am one of them.  And yet I have never asked for Him to return soon.  I’ll pray for the family’s peace and comfort or healing or wisdom, but never have I been so bold as to just ask Him to come back.

The second thing that hit me was that his prayer in its simple perfection is the only thing to pray in any situation that will solve every problem instantly.  When you are a small child and your parents are away, if things are really awful, do you ask them to give you temporary peace and comfort?  Do you ask them to take you with them and leave your brothers and sisters behind?  Do you ask them to remove the people who are watching you from power because you think you can do a better job?  No.  If it is out of control and you cannot bear it any longer, you ask them to come home.  And that is the only thing that will make all our suffering go away forever.

One of my aunts remarked that it is amazing how they can go to Connie and Bill’s house to comfort them after the loss of their son and leave feeling like they are the ones who have been encouraged.  God’s grace is shining through my aunt in a remarkable way despite her intense pain.  My heart is heavy.  It is weighed down by sorrow and burdened by the cares of this life.  But is also full of glory. God’s glory is being worked out in my life by every loss, every goodbye, every disappointment and every broken heart I will suffer.  In reality, my heart is not dragging me down but leading me Home.  I know that He will not give me more than I can handle, but at times like these I can only echo my brother’s words. “Please come back soon”.

 

2 Corinthians 4:17. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

 

The Middle of the Road

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We went to The Dupage Children’s Museum on Monday.IMG_6620

Maeli’s comment when she got out of the car was, “So this whole building is just for kids?  So the only reason parents go here is to bring their kids?  Thank you!”  She got it.  Noah got it.  And Sam got it.

He was elated to have a whole building to explore without ever being told “no.” IMG_6560IMG_6567 IMG_6587   IMG_6609 IMG_6610

They were wiped out afterwards. IMG_6621

And then it was time to see Daniel off to the Pastor’s Conference.  We took him to the College Avenue stop in Wheaton so we could visit the “Spiderman Park” while we waited.  It was worth it.IMG_6627

I have never seen the kids so excited for a train to come in.  Something about Daddy riding made it that much more special.  They were yelling and cheering and I think everyone at the stop got a kick out of it.IMG_6630   The next couple of days were a blur.  We went to the Milwaukee Zoo,  where we saw a tapir being shot by an air gun so she could get her ankle worked on.  Maeli’s favorite part was the carousel and Noah didn’t decide until the end when he had seen the biggest animal in the whole zoo, the elephant.

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Since we were already in Wisconsin, we decided to head up to Grafton visit our old home.  I showed Maeli all my favorite childhood memories:

“The Tunnel”

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The Island

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Fellowship Bible Church

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Simple pleasures, but let’s not forget I was only twelve when we moved to Colorado.

At last it was time to pick Daddy up and go to Ohio.

We made a visit to Navy Pier on Wednesday and then Friday we headed out of town.IMG_6741

 

We stayed with my cousin Danielle in their gorgeous farmhouse.  The kids loved it because they spent hours playing with Brady and Brock.

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On Saturday, there was a joint birthday party for my dad and grandpa.  There were so many relatives there I couldn’t help but echo my grandpa’s comment, “I’ve met so many nice people today.”  It was a bittersweet time because this may be the last time we see him in this life and I don’t know about the next.  I had a long talk with him before we left pleading that he accept Christ and join me in heaven, but it is difficult to know how much he understood from that conversation.  I was not in the healthiest mindset myself, having stayed up most of the night worrying about him and writing him a letter.  I can rest assured that he’s in God’s hands now, but at the time, I must admit I was heartbroken and distraught.  The next day, we headed home.

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How We Survived Our Trip

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It was a long drive and I didn’t know how we were ever going to make it that far with Sam crying.  Here’s some of what we did.        We made some scratch ornaments and hung them up.IMG_6470

We sat peacefully.IMG_6471                                                                             We played with pipe cleaners.IMG_6472

We stopped a lot and climbed on anything that could be climbed on. IMG_6478

We watched movies and ate snacks. IMG_6480 IMG_6481

We had an unexpected stop when I found water leaking onto my feet and we thought it was the radiator but (Praise God) it was only the air conditioner.

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And then we arrived at our first stop:  Moose Trail Lodge, where we stayed with Bob and Judy Drinkall, friends  of my family from Wisconsin.  The kids were overjoyed to get out of the car.  And I mean overjoyed! IMG_6531

The next day was Sunday and we visited Wheaton E. Free Church again.  It was so good to see old friends.  After church, we went out for lunch and then visited Sunnyside Park.  We spent many happy days there when we lived in Wheaton.

 

It was just like we left it.  IMG_6512IMG_6495 IMG_6500 IMG_6502 IMG_6503 IMG_6506

When we got home, Judy had made pie and cheesecake for Daniel’s birthday.IMG_6520  IMG_6517

It was a great day.

 

 

And that was only the beginning. IMG_6548 IMG_6555

Back Story

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This is the story of my violin and how I began to play it.  The label inside reads, “Caspar da Salo in Brescia 1595.”  Caspar da Salo or Gasparo was an Italian violin maker in the 16th century.  He earned the title of a “violin master” for his highly decorated violins with their rich tone and projection.  Only about 80 of them are still in existence today.  My violin is not one of them.  While this doesn’t diminish its value as a family heirloom, it does bring me some comfort to know that it is indeed replaceable.

Mine is probably a German copy from the turn of the century.  It was previously owned by my great uncle William Covington, or Billy.  My great uncle died relatively young and it was passed on to my grandmother, Florence Mozelle Covington Grimmer.  We inherited it sometime in the 1980’s when my sister and I started taking summer violin lessons in Dallas.  We started on an 1/8 size violin that I now have for my children, but the large violin sat in its case like a beautiful secret waiting to be let out.Image

Over the years, my violin has come to resemble my relationship with God. When things are going well and I feel connected and have time to read the Bible, I usually have lots of time to practice too.  When I am too busy, too stressed or too sick, it usually stays in its case.  I grew into this violin about the time I was twelve and my family moved to Colorado.  This was also the beginning of my struggle with depression.  At first, it seemed like I was just having a hard time adjusting to the move.  I didn’t make friends very quickly and stayed in my room missing Wisconsin.  Then it seemed like I was becoming more and more distant from my family.  I withdrew from several activities without much explanation.  Although much of my emotional imbalance was due to a still undiagnosed mental illness, it by no means excuses the angry, selfish way I treated my parents.  I blamed them for my unhappiness and wanted nothing more than to get out of the house.

I recently had the opportunity to tell my story to a young girl, Amy, who is about to move cross country with her family of five kids.  I felt like 20 years of my life flashed before my eyes and I was talking to a younger version of myself.  I wanted to tell her it was going to all turn out wonderful in the end and God had good plans for her.  But I realized I can’t promise her that.  God has not promised that we will never go through difficulty, never be lonely or depressed or go through a season of mental anguish.  What He has promised is that He will never leave us or forsake us.  David Platt put it this way, “God is not only with you in your suffering, God is for you in your suffering.”  My move to Colorado ushered in almost a decade of fighting with my parents, rebelling with friends, trying to soothe the pain with drugs and alcohol and eventually lead to several suicide attempts.  As I look back, I feel such sorrow over the hurt I caused my parents and the wasted opportunities I had to bring others to Christ.  Much of my own pain could have been prevented had I tried to express these feelings to God in prayer instead of holding them inside and growing angry and bitter.

We have just finished studying the life of Joseph in Bible Study Fellowship.  One of the best comments the lecturer made was, “God does not always prevent things from happening. Our response to what happens is more important than what happens. . .  He doesn’t always satisfy our painful circumstances, He sustains us through them.”  And so, Amy, what I can promise is this:  It isn’t going to be easy or fun.  It may even be downright miserable, but you can choose to sit in your room and feel sorry for yourself or venture out into the Great Adventure God has waiting for you.  The reward in the end may not be the life you envisioned, but one day you may be able to sit across from someone in the exact same situation and say, “No matter how bad the facts look, the truth is that God is in control.  Ask God what He is trying to teach you through the people or circumstances that you feel are ruining your life.”  (Chris Booth, BSF)  In other words, hang on to your family, because years from now, they are the ones who will see you through your best and worst times.  Use this time when you are not yet involved in a bunch of activities with friends to draw closer to your parents and siblings because you will not all be living in the same house forever.

When I was practicing my violin in the basement in Colorado and dreaming of escape, I had no idea that one day we would both end up broken in the middle of the jungle.  I felt like the worst thing imaginable was being in a new town and a new school away from my old friends.  At that point, I wanted to be as far away from my family as possible.  Eight years later, I was confused and scared and all I wanted to do was come home.  And my dad, who I had previously blamed for all my problems, would fly halfway across the world to bring me there.

Violin Story or The Day I Broke My Neck

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This is not the story I wanted to write.  I started to write this while my violins were still in the shop, when I was still overflowing with joy and anticipation at seeing them renovated and made whole.  Since moving to the Colorado “desert”, my violin has started to split apart at the seams.  Before I spent a lot of money repairing it, I brought in my older violin to see which one needed more work.  The repairman thought he could make them both playable for less than I would have to spend on a new instrument.  When I went to pick them up, I could tell something was wrong when the owner and the other luthier cleared out of the shop.  The man who did repair them seemed a little hesitant and my heart was in my throat when he told me “Well, I had to take the back off the newer one.”  When he showed it to me, I had to hold back the tears.  It was badly cracked and scratched all the way around.  It looked worse than before.  There were gaping holes in the seams that he said he fixed with glue. I tried a few haltering tuning notes then put it back in the case and asked the question that was burning in my mind,  “And the other one?”

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“The other one is ok.  You can still play it.  I just put a new string on it.”  I’m sorry, what was that? I was thinking.  “After I took the back off the other one, I didn’t want to mess with it.”  In my complete shock and dismay over the new violin, I missed the most important thing he said. “You can still play it.”  I had pictured this moment so many times in my head.  I would pull out that ancient violin, my old symbol of loss and longing and it would be amazing, better than new.  I would pick it up and play the song I been born to play, a triumphant hymn of praise to the God who had redeemed and healed me, just like this broken violin.  Instead, thirteen years of thinking my violin was basically dead in the water and all it needed was a D string?  Tell me you’re joking!  What do you mean I can still play it?  It has a broken neck!  The end is patched, the sound post is being held up with a piece of string!  I am embarrassed to look at it, let alone play it.  I quickly paid the man, thanked him for his time and cried all the way home.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point.  When I smashed my violin over my knee in Brazil, I thought that was the death break for my instrument.  I thought I was liberating myself from a curse that had lead me down this path of mental anguish.  I thought a lot of things that were not really true because I was completely out of touch with reality.  I remember saying “I broke my violin; I killed my baby” among other nonsensical things.  When I got back to the States, it was glued together by a friend to preserve it as an heirloom, but was not (I thought) acoustically sound or playable.  My parents bought a replacement violin for me and I moved on.  But really I will never move on from that moment.  I feel my mind and spirit are permanently scarred by the trauma I suffered both from my own poor choices and the treatment of others while I was mentally ill.   There are things about that fateful moment I will never fully understand, but I can no longer keep it locked in the “case” like my violin because I am ashamed of it.  It’s time to let go.

In a lot of ways, I am like that broken violin.  Redeemed, yet not fully restored; valued, yet not valuable apart from my Owner; beautiful yet scarred;  broken, yet able to play a melody of praise.  In recent years I have neglected playing at all because I will never be the concert musician I wanted to be in college.  I don’t have the time and energy to practice after kids and quite honestly, I was never that good to begin with.  I might never get past playing on the music team at church, but the words that are ringing in my mind are “You can still play.”  After all these years, after my wounded pride when I wasn’t any where near the level of the other musicians at Moody, my bitterness over children taking up my practice time and my own neglect of the instrument, I can still play.

God has given me a story to share and while it is not the story I wanted to tell, it is the one I am living.  It is not about a wonderfully talented musician with a priceless instrument restored to play concerts for thousands.  It is about grace.  It is about God taking me at my weakest, most helpless moments and teaching me to rely on Him.  It is about my parents’ forgiveness after I broke a family heirloom and trashed their family name with my recklessness and poor choices. It is about my husband loving me after all the mistakes of my past and giving me his name.  It is about the day to day struggles of living with a serious mental illness that by most statistics would make it impossible for me to be a wife and mother, yet through the power of God I am able to do both.  And I can still play.

Shattered Dreams

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I am currently reading Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams.  He has quite a few quotable quotes.  Among my favorites are, “Without trials, only spoiled brats would enter heaven.  And that would turn heaven into hell.”  Also, “Life is not an opportunity for things to go well so we can feel good.  Life is an opportunity for us to be forgiven for requiring God to make us feel good and for turning from Him when He doesn’t.”  I’ve had to realize recently that although God can and does regularly provide for us, sometimes He doesn’t.  And that doesn’t mean we are outside of His will or asking for stuff we don’t need.  Sometimes we just need Him more.  When Daniel first got this job, I have to admit, I was most excited about getting our own place.  I was so excited to finally decorate our home and have pets.  Well, we can paint, but it is taking a lot more time and energy than I have right now.  And we have pets, but I’m not sure they are worth all the unwanted pests that come from living in the country.  We have had to repair so many things  since we moved in that things like curtains and a couch seem like distant luxuries from another world.  But God still provides!  Since we have been here, someone gave us a stove and a new hot water heater.  A family just gave us a swing set.  Right now, our biggest need is a new vehicle.  We’ve had to replace 3 tires in the last week, and it still needs to be realigned.  (Did I mention a good friend picked us up when we were stranded and paid for 2 of those tires?)  And then there is the whole “smoking engine” and the fuel pump . . .

I wanted to go all these places this summer.  I made a huge list of all these Colorado locations from my childhood and we have yet to go to any of them.   Every time we even try to go to my parents’ house, we end up sitting by the side of the road because our car won’t start.  But most of the time, my kids are pretty content playing in the yard.  It’s me who wants to be entertained constantly.  When we went to Omaha, I gave them the option of going to the Omaha Zoo, or going back to Scottsbluff and seeing their friends, and of course, they picked their friends.  I was humbled.  And then I think of my friends in Africa who make $400 a month and are expecting a baby.  Or our friends in Chadron who recently lost their 6 year old son.  And I know life could be a lot worse.

But I don’t just want to say, “What if this is as good as it gets?” and resign myself to it.  This isn’t as good as it gets!  God has promised us a lot better, right?  He has promised that “all things will work together for good to those who love Him.”  So we have this hope that even if things are hard now, they will get better, right?  Unfortunately, not always in this life.  I think of the famous Hebrews faith chapter where all these saints were commended for their faith even though they “didn’t receive what was promised,” and I think that maybe God doesn’t owe us a rainbow or a silver lining.  Maybe the storms make us long for the day when the Son will never set.  And even though we expect to find a quiet hope and peace and inner joy, sometimes we won’t even feel that.  Sometimes we will just feel alone, sick, broke, and depressed.  But that will make us want even more to be filled with Christ.  I guess I always believed that real Christians, the strong and brave and good ones, never lost hope.  I always heard that trials were just to make us closer to God, so after suffering them we would be rewarded with some warm fuzzy feeling that far surpassed anything this life could offer.  And then we could tell people, “I’m completely broke, my car doesn’t run, my kids are brats, and I just found out I have cancer, but I’m still happy.  Isn’t God good?”  But sometimes, I gotta agree with Larry, “I prefer things going well to becoming more like Jesus.”  Sometimes I just want my car to work, my basement not to flood, the mice and grasshoppers to go away, and there still be money left over to go to Waterworld.  Sometimes I am pretty pathetically shallow.  I like it when God answers my prayers the way I want.  When He doesn’t, I feel like I am being punished.  Maybe I need to change my perspective a little.  I need to believe God wants more for me than to have nice things.  And when I don’t believe that, I need to want to believe it so badly I am willing to go through whatever it takes to get there.  Only then will this life have any meaning at all.  “Shattered dreams subject us to a pain that weakens our stubborn grip on life as we want it and stirs our appetite for the thrill of God’s Presence.”