Saturday, September 20, 2014

Goodbye, Wee One

This past week has been unbearably hard, and yet it's impossible times like these, filled with grief, that we feel God's presence nearest.

We found out in early July that we were expecting Baby #4, and although we're completely overwhelmed with life right now, we were all elated!

The pregnancy seemed to be progressing normally and without complication, and then on August 3, when I thought I was about 8 weeks along, I experienced sudden, heavy bleeding that lasted for about 12 hours.  We thought we were miscarrying, because even though this experience was completely different from a previous miscarriage we had, we couldn't imagine that a baby could survive such extreme blood loss.

Our midwife was out of town and recommended seeing her associate doctor to make sure everything had passed properly, since it was so unusual.  It was a few days before we could get in to see the doctor, so we had grieved and resigned ourselves to the loss.  And so, it was startling when the doctor said, confused, that she thought she detected a heartbeat.  She wasn't entirely certain, so she sent us to the hospital for a second opinion.  Sure enough, our  baby was alive!  It was a miraculous, precious gift!

It turned out that I had had a placental hemorrhage, where the placenta had begun to detach from the uterus wall, causing all the bleeding, but apparently had corrected itself and all was well.  Apparently, also, this sort of thing can be normal in late first trimester.  The hemorrhage put us at slightly increased risk of miscarriage, but was no real concern and there was nothing to be done about it.  The ultrasound indicated (and our midwife confirmed by other checks) that we were a whole month farther along than we thought.  That added a new dimension of surprise and concern, because there was that whole month that I believed I wasn't pregnant, and one just isn't as careful about things when the womb is empty. 

The pregnancy continued normally, with a bad case of "morning" sickness (try "unending" sickness!) being my only ailment.  At around 16.5 weeks, I suddenly started feeling better; at the time, I thought that was a positive thing.  For maybe a week prior to our latest appointment, I had started to feel concerned--not for any particular reason, and worry is normal when you're pregnant, and also several people had suddenly started asking me if everything was okay with the pregnancy, and that just made me wonder...But as far as we knew, all was well.

16 weeks
Then this past Tuesday, September 16, we went to our scheduled 17 week appointment, and couldn't find a heartbeat.  Our midwife was obviously concerned, but we knew that my placenta was up front, and she wondered hopefully if that was just in the way.  I knew that wasn't the case, and suddenly it made sense why I hadn't felt the baby move yet...Anyway, we went straight to the hospital for an ultrasound to find out for sure what was going on.  Our worst fears were confirmed on that black-and-white screen...our baby was gone forever.

Waves of emotion, pain, grief, guilt, confusion, fear, and brokenness washed over me from that moment through the following days.  Tears became the norm.  Having to plan for a birth and burial just made it all so much harder.  For several reasons I won't list here, we chose to induce labor and birth in the hospital--and I'm glad we did.  But leading up to it, I really struggled with fear and resistance.  I felt like I was being dragged unwilling into a forced abortion; I was clinging tightly and didn't want to let anyone take my baby from me.  Even though 2 ultrasounds and 2 doctors had confirmed it, I couldn't let go of my fear, "What if the machines are wrong???"  I almost backed out; I almost couldn't do it. 

In the wee hours of Friday morning, the day scheduled for our lost baby's birth, God strengthened me and gave me peace for what we were about to face that day.  The peace God gave was so real that the nurse and doctor both commented that they couldn't tell I was laboring because I just looked comfortable, and in fact the baby was born while they were both out of the room because they weren't expecting anything to happen.  More than that, God even blessed us with joy, and we had moments where we were able to laugh--not at all making light of the sorrow of the day, but just to find humor in small things to lighten the burden of our souls.

Every part of the birth went well, and we were able to spend several hours with our little boy.  We named him Nathaniel Joel...Nathaniel, meaning "God has given;" Joel, meaning "Yahweh is God"...because this boy was a gift God gave us for a short time, and He knows best why it was time to take him home so early.

I briefly mentioned how one of my troubling emotions was guilt...Life has been exceptionally hard lately, and I've struggled this whole pregnancy with feelings of guilt for not providing a healthier growing environment for this baby--in all areas of diet, exercise, and emotional health.  So when he died, I was overcome with horror that it was my fault, that God had entrusted me with nurturing this precious life and I had failed.  That is where the Lord gave us one more mercy...

Nathaniel's tiny feet in my hand.

After Nathaniel was born, the doctor immediately noted, with certainty, that he had a chromosomal abnormality (such as Down's Syndrome).  Also, the placental hemorrhage I'd had earlier in the pregnancy, interestingly, is often correlated with or indicative of a baby with a chromosomal abnormality.  While some of these precious babies do live to full term and beyond, very often they don't make it to birth because their valves are weaker and water can collect around their hearts, causing it to stop working.  And often, of the ones who don't make it to birth, many make it as far as 28 weeks gestation before passing away.  (I'm speaking only what I remember hearing the doctor say, which could be a fuzzy memory; this is not intended to be a scientific statement.)

The mercy is two-fold: 1) That we were spared even greater pain of losing our baby at a later gestation, because the longer you have to love the child, the harder it is to say goodbye; and 2) The fact that there was a real, medical reason for Nathaniel's death relieved my aching guilt that it was all my fault.  The reason doesn't make it easier to lose him; it doesn't diminish any of the love we feel for him or the pain of loss or our desire to raise him and watch him grow.  He is precious because God made him, and he is special to us because he is ours.  My heart breaks that we'll never get to hold his hand and feel him squeeze back; we'll never see his face light up with smiles; we'll never get to fall in love with his personality...But we have the joy his short life gave us; we have the assurance of God's faithfulness; and we have the promise that we will see him and hug him and hold him again someday.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pointed Fingers

"Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers."

This lyric grabbed my heart and wrapped it up tight when I heard it today.  It encapsulates everything important God has been instilling into my heart these past few years; lessons which I'm so very sensitive to now, and yet still so very guilty of.

How is it so easy to believe you're loving others when in fact you're really hating?  Why is it so comforting to believe you're helping others when in fact you're tearing them down?  Why are we so easily deceived into selfish, judgmental attitudes, and all the while believe we're pure and holy?  Why is it just so easy and satisfying to point fingers instead of offering a listening ear, an understanding heart, and grace enough to cover the faults?

I think the Frozen songwriters got it absolutely right, too, with these words from the "Fixer-Upper" song: "People make bad choices if they're mad or scared or stressed.  But throw a little love their way and you'll bring out their best."  There's always a reason that people act the way they do; if only I could remember to care instead of to take offense and get all holier-than-thou...

Here's the entirety of that song by Casting Crowns, if anyone cares to read it or listen, because I find it so powerful:

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against, when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines, and loved like You did

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

'Cause You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Thinker, the Helper, and the Overcomer

My three littles are growing into bigs so quickly, every day I just want to pause and marvel at them.  They each have such big personality, such uniqueness, such individuality.  Even in their tiny bodies I can see the buds of their full-grown persons.  I was thinking today, if I could describe each of them in one word, what would it be?  This is what I came up with:

Jack: The Thinker...or The Planner.
Either would work.  He is a thinker.  He pays quiet attention to everything, and thinks about it, and processes all the implications of it, and at the most random times spurts out some profound depth of understanding on issues I didn't even know he was aware of.  He figures things out.  He plans.  He plans events, plans solutions to problems, plans how to get what he wants.  He is not hindered or discouraged by any obstacle, but will immediately put his thinking brain to use to figure it out.  He thinks about consequences of actions.  He thinks about how to create things he loves.  He thinks about details, and plans on a detailed level.  He thinks about people's actions and what that means about how they feel, and makes a plan to help them feel better when he determines they need it.  He is thoughtful and considerate, with a splash of wild.  He loves to create, and thinks and plans each of his creations; there is a reason for every detail.

Safita: The Helper.
She loves to help.  She queries daily whether the bathroom is dirty yet so she can help clean it.  She screeches for joy if she can help with the laundry.  Her day is brightened if I ask her to set the table or clear the dishes.  She loves to also help her brothers.  She will help Jack with a plan he is thinking up during play time, and she will help Soren find a fun toy.  She loves to take over caring for her baby brother, by feeding him, cleaning him, teaching him, reading to him, and the like.  She is a reader and a story-teller.  She also loves to help hurting hearts with encouraging words and hugs and kisses.  She is tender and sensitive and intuitive. She has a bounce in her step and a flash of light in her eyes and a smile that makes the world melt away.  She is simultaneously a tender flower and fierce tigress.  And she shows her love to those around her by helping. 

Soren: The Overcomer.
He is strong and stoic, patient in the face of much adversity, yet also demanding of his basic needs.  When something defeats him (for instance, a new challenge like the stairs or a misplaced cushion that makes him fall), he will stare down the villain of his defeat, then with a gleam of tenacity in his eye will repeat over and over and over again the same action that caused his fall or failure until he finally conquers it.  He is fearless.  Failure fuels him.  If he encounters an obstacle, he will plow over it rather than go around.  Where Jack faces obstacles by planning, Soren faces obstacles with brute strength by plowing them over.  When he disagrees with imposed decisions about sleep time or which foods should be eaten, he resists with fervor until he overcomes.  If he is not being understood, he will try idea after idea until his communication is received appropriately.  He is sweet and kind and loving, full of ideas and fun mischief, mindful of his parameters, but he will be subdued or stopped by nothing.  He is bright-eyed and full of energy.  Obstacles are his playground of opportunity.  Any challenging situation, he will push through until he has overcome.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Accountability Trap

My little family is in a heavy season of life right now.  And so, I'm often pondering heavy thoughts.  Sometimes I feel bad that all I ever write about is heavy stuff, and not those cute anecdotes about the children's escapades or fun stories from our adventures out in the great wide world.  But, this is where we are, and these are the words coming out of my head, and there will be a season for lightheartedness again.

Recently, I've been musing about the Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."  It's been one of those seasons in life when every basic truth I've ever known suddenly comes alive, and suddenly I get it!  You know?  It's not like it was ever hard to understand; it always made sense in my head.  But now when my heart, soul, spirit, emotions, and every dimension or layer of my being understands what my mind always did, the truth comes to life and revives the soul! 

The Golden Rule is golden for good reason.  It's a good way to live our lives and to test our actions, and no one would contest it.  But, it kind of seems like we're inconsistent in our use of it.  What I mean is: when we are giving advice to others or confronting someone who's offended us, we are quick to claim the Golden Rule in our defense.  Yet when the tables are turned--when we have been offended, or when we notice a failure in another--suddenly the Golden Rule becomes mere brass dulled against the glimmering responsibility of Accountability.

Keeping each other accountable is good and right and beneficial.  Our human natures are cunning, and we are so good at lying to ourselves if the end result is pleasurable; Accountability keeps us honest with ourselves and with each other.


It is my opinion that the Church (not intended to be all-inclusive) has gotten all bent out of shape on the subject of Accountability and is in need of a serious adjustment.  Instead of a beautiful exercise in trust, grace, and forgiveness, Accountability has become a Bible-mandated permission slip for treating those with whom we don't agree with judgement, hostility, legalism, and a controlling spirit. 

In many (dare I say most?) Christian circles, if someone is found to be guilty of an action that is either truly sinful or merely deemed sinful (by tradition or interpretation), what happens can be one, some or all of the following:
- The "non-offenders" expose the guilt of the offender, often publicly, and preach eloquently about how far the offender has missed the mark; shame is a choice weapon.
- The offender, if repentant, is subjected to "penance" activities as a means of reforming his/her behavior (heart??).
- The offender, if not repentant, is chastised more harshly with shame-preaching, and if he/she remains unrepentant is cut off from the community of believers (ie, excommunicated).
- becomes okay, grace is no longer required, the lost sheep are pushed out of the fold rather than drawn in...all in the name of Love and Accountability.

Because if we don't save their lost souls, then who will?

Hmm...I can think of one Name.

I get that the intent may be one of love, but I also think our human natures are more naturally drawn to justice, and our cunning hearts convince us that justice (judgement) is love.  Such a theme could not be more un-Biblical. 

So, what's wrong with this Accountability picture?
- We're forgetting that we are all sinners, and that every single sin is defiance toward God and deserving of death, even if it is acceptable in our culture (yes, even in the church culture).
- We fail to realize that behavior does not always reflect what's in the heart.  Are we more concerned about people acting and looking right, or having hearts transformed by Christ?
- We become arrogant and put too much stock in ourselves and forget that it's not our job to save people!  God has given us one job: Love.  Love God and love people.  Period.  Part of loving is bearing with each other, forgiving whatever grievances we have with one another, long-suffering, not judging, doing unto others as we'd have them do unto us...

I've found it helpful for myself, when faced with a decision on how to respond to an erring neighbor, to ask myself questions about how I would want to be treated in a similar situation:
- When I fail, do I want others to publicly (or even privately) point out my failures and shame me?  Or do I want them to gently take me aside and say, "Hey, I see that you're struggling, I'm here for you"?
- When I fail, do I want others to preach Scripture at me like a verbal lashing?  Or do I want them to gently remind me of God's grace and forgiveness and His strength to help me through?
- When I fail, do I want to be cut off from the community until I acceptably change my ways?  Or do I want to be brought in, accepted, supported, and helped?
- When I fail, do I want to be treated with disrespect, to be judged and branded by what I do wrong, or treated as a person of value who struggles with sin (like every other person on the planet and in history) and be extended grace?
- When I fail, do I want to be lashed, or come alongside and helped?

I've noticed in my own experience, when I am wrong and stuck in sinful behavior, what really gets my attention and pierces my heart with grace.  When people point out my flaws, preach Scripture at me, offer advice for how to fix myself and my problems, or in any way judge me and place themselves superior to me, the response in my heart is always the same: defensiveness, further hardening of heart, despising everything they say (even if I normally agree with it), developing pride and self-sufficiency, withdrawing into myself to not need or depend on anyone, and the list goes on. 

But when I am wrong and stuck in sinful behavior, and someone comes to me and extends grace, loves me, encourages me, gives me hope, reminds me of Jesus' unfailing love, gets down on my level and helps me up...the kindness heaps burning coals on my head and I fall to my knees in deep repentance, despising my sin instead of the person who pointed it out, with whole-hearted motivation to change. I mean, really, most of the time we're all acutely aware of our shortcomings.  What we need is not a finger pointing but a helping hand.

Any soldier will tell you, if a comrade falls in battle, he isn't shamed and left to die--he is helped and treated with honor!  Believers, we are in this together.  Our enemy is not each other. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Quagmire (warning: it's heavy)

Facing giants is scary.

It makes you want to run away.  Especially when those giants are in the mirror. 

Lately, my giants are those seem-nice-on-the-outside-but-nasty-on-the-inside types, like Comparison, Entitlement, and Expectation.

It's hard not to compare.  It's easy to feel entitled.  It seems only natural to hold expectations about life and the people around us.  But those ingredients mix up an enticing cocktail named Despair. 

Comparing is always such a big temptation.  Comparing my personality and presence; comparing my possessions; comparing my place in life; comparing my spiritual progress; comparing my kids and husband and their behaviors and accomplishments...I'm not sure what the lure is, if I think comparing will make me more content, or if trying to be like everyone else will make me happier, or if I'll gain respect by outwardly having it all "more together" than everyone else, or if I'll learn some grand life lesson that will change me forever...?

None of that really happens.  We all know that.  What does happen when I compare me and mine to others is that I begin to question my value as a person (because I'm not like so-and-so), I begin to question the value of my husband and children (because they don't behave or accomplish like such-and-such), I bury myself with unrealistic demands to make my life appear (or legitimately BE) more perfectly put together, I attempt to control those around me to fit into my grand plan of a perfect life, and I bulldoze any who color outside the lines I've drawn. Because my lines are obviously the right lines; the lines anyone else might draw (in my self-absorbed bubble) are irritating scribbles that impede the proper flow of life. 

It's stifling.  Comparisons stifle the beautiful creativity and individuality of each person, and of our communities as a whole.  Differences among us are beautiful and would the body function if all parts were the same?  How would we ever discover new great ideas if we all thought the same?  How, even, could we enjoy God's vastness if we all thought in the same dimension?

But I try and I try and I try and I try to be like those I hold as the standard, usually without even realizing that's what I'm doing or the futility of my endeavor, trying to create peace through the process of chaos...

It will never work. 

And failure after failure, discouragement leads to frustration, and frustration leads to hopelessness, and hopelessness leads to despair, and despair leads to anger and--perhaps more dangerous--a sense of self-entitlement.

I see a sea of people who own homes and have steady jobs and whose kids get to live in one place and keep their friends year after year, people who have stability, connections, friends, the recipe of things I consider to make up "real" life...and after the wishful longing wears thin, entitlement sets in: Wait.  Why are they better than me?  Why does everyone else get everything good in life while I struggle?  I deserve everything everyone else has!  I deserve to have everything I want!  I deserve to be happy!  It's the American way, after all--I have rights!

Do I? 

Here also Expectation rears its ugly head, because my rights to happiness include a long laundry list of expectations for life and for myself and for those people who surround me, mostly encompassing things to have and how to be.  It is a carefully crafted list, tediously created (of course not consciously!!) over a lifetime, and always amending, but is a harsh taskmaster and demands every last (impossible) requirement be met before handing over the precious reward of happiness.

And because I can't control my life situation and cannot claim that dangling carrot for myself, I do the only last thing I can do...Blame everyone around me for their part in my misery...and ultimately, blame God.  Why does God bless everyone else with good things except me?  Why doesn't God love me??

Then in the seeming injustice of it all, I let myself become angry, and the comparisons become judgmental.  The deception is that anger is always loud and eruptive.  Anger can come in quiet shades, also, in the forms of a critical spirit, an ungrateful heart, a selfish sense of entitlement, hostility toward others' needs, a tendency to invalidate anyone else's opinions, an inability to accept fault yet noticing everyone else's, always looking on the negative side of life...the shades are endless.

These chaotic feelings of want and devastation and anger often lead me to try to control people or things around me--anything I can.  Husband and children are easy targets, but it doesn't end there.  I attempt to control my household by keeping unrealistic standards of cleanliness and organization.  I might fall into shopping addiction by the lure of controlling what I am able to buy.  I might even fall into spirituality addiction, because I can control how "good" I am in measurable ways that no one can judge. 

These bottom-of-the-barrel times are hard, but they're also the times God's commands really make sense and feel less like stiff demands and more like cool water reviving a parched soul...

God says, "Do not covet."  Coveting is basically comparing yourself, and wanting what others have.

God says, "Forgive and forget."  Not, "Forgive, and then fix...everything that's wrong with them!"  I tend to get so emotionally complicated when there's been an offense, especially in my marriage.  I feel like I need to parse the issue, cut it apart and lay it open and assign responsibility to every last bit...I'm not saying it's not good to talk about things, but there does come a point when it does more harm than good.  So, just forgive.  Then forget about it.  Then love the offender like they deserve it!  Because they do, because God created them just as fearfully and wonderfully as he made me.  It's God's job to save people, after all, not mine.

God says, "Be joyful always...give thanks in everything."  You wanna know the surest way to punch these giants in the face?  Gratitude.  Comparison, Expectation, Entitlement don't stand a chance against a heart that's truly thankful for the priceless gifts God gives every day. 

And when you really think--past all those selfish longings--we are all, even the most-worst-off ones of us!--deeply, deeply blessed.  If we have life, we have unspeakable treasure--life is the most intimate and undeniable love beckoning of God to us!  And if we have shelter, food, clothing, health, family, friends...we are blessed. 

I am learning to lay everything else down and simply love as Christ loves us.  Unconditionally.  No strings attached.  Selflessly.  Forgiving so much for the same offenses that it seems OCD.  Without comparison, without expectation.  It's hard.  Good thing I don't have to do it by myself!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Goodbye House

The time has come; we are finally moving on from "The House of Bad Dreams" (as Jack so eloquently calls this place).  The kids don't seem at all sad, as they waved goodbye forever with a joyful "Hurray!"  Once again, we find ourselves moving forward into the Great Unknown.  And so, without further ado:

Goodbye house with the big red room.

Goodbye bats with your flights of doom.

Goodbye crooked floors with your bounces and squeaks.

Goodbye mice with your drawer-dropped treats.

Goodbye little ants, with your armies amassed.

Goodbye termites who'll have the last laugh.

Goodbye millipedes, crunching under our feet.

Goodbye mold--we will not see defeat!

Goodbye spiders and your webs that anoint.

Goodbye breezes through the walls and the joints.

Goodbye insulation that didn't exist.

Goodbye to the problems the landlords won't fix.

Goodbye ancient carpet with so many stories to tell.

Goodbye ugly paint that makes eyeballs swell.

Goodbye creepy butcher shop down below.

Goodbye garage door that was too low.

Goodbye cupboard drawers raining sawdust flakes down.

Goodbye ancient oven and stove top in brown.

Goodbye tiny bathroom with leaks all around.

Goodbye lost toys which will never be found.

Goodbye house, with all your bad dreams. 

Your walls hold our memories; in this you're redeemed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Best Gift of All

It was kind of a special day today.  More than kind of…it was a really special day today.  Beyond it being my birthday, beyond the kind wishes and loving words and cards and cakes and dinners (which were all amazing and very special)…In my heart the day was marbled with times of quiet contemplation, and moments of deep fulfillment, and feelings of humble sadness that are always resisted and labeled as BAD on days such as one’s birthday.  But it was beautiful, because it was real, and it was the work of God, and in it all there was genuine peace, and more than that—gratitude. 

Every birthday as far back as I can remember has been plagued by deep, dark, agonizing, relentless depression, covered over by a mask of smiles and expected happiness.  Expectations arising out of a yearning to be special wreaked havoc on my soul…they were never met, never could be met, and each devastation piled burden after burden on my heart and sent me hurling into the abyss of perceived worthlessness…Until at some point, there just was plopped on my heart’s doorstep The Annual Birthday Depression for no particular reason at all.  It just came like clockwork, year after year, for no reason at all.  And each year it brought with it The Menace of bigger and grander expectations.  As I have discovered, the bigger the expectation, the bigger the devastation. But all of this carries a host of baggage that cyber space doesn’t need to know…and the point is:

The Menace was gone this year.  There was nothing I did differently, no special prayers or penance or exercises in optimism.  Definitely no illusions of personal holiness. 

But that humble sadness…that breaking of my heart in a way that makes it whole again…that sorrow that visits in the form of calm and peace, not in selfish anger, and leaves the soul feeling renewed and refreshed…That repentance.  Nothing happened to make me feel sad; there was no blinding awareness of sin to confess (other than the usual which I am faced with daily!)…It did not come as a verb to be acted upon, but as a state of being, as a gift.  And it brought with it the realization that I am nothing, while God is Everything, and he can fill my nothing with his everything.

Birthdays used to mean to me a sacred 24-hour period in which I could expect—and be justified in expecting—the world to revolve around me, to demand whatever I wanted, to indulge in whatever pleased me, and in essence, bask in selfishness while others tried in vain to meet the bar of my expectations.  Of course, that’s not how I thought about it in my mind, but that is the reality of it.  Reality is ugly.  And I’m okay admitting it because I’m understanding more and more that my “goodness” as a person doesn’t emanate from my own goodness, but from Christ’s.  And admitting that I struggle doesn’t reveal shocking weakness or failure, but a basic human struggle with sin that affects us all, and which Christ came to rescue us from!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

And so my most precious gift today from my most Beloved—the Redeemer of my soul—was a gift of healing and freedom from selfish expectation.  It was beautiful to be truly thankful for the gifts I’ve already been given—the breath of life, grace and forgiveness, precious people in my life to love, and endless blessings in every direction.  It was amazingly freeing to enjoy every little thing that was said and done for me today without constantly measuring it up to some made-up bar, or comparing it to how others are treated better.  When expectations don’t exist, everything is special.

I’m not sure how it happened, and I’m not sure why.  Which is how I know that it was truly a gift: A gift of repentance and gratitude to gently lead my soul into peace.  There was nothing I did but accept grace.

Even the skies proclaimed the glory of God, and concluded this day in my most favorite way.