Tiger Woods and Notre Dame

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Tiger Woods coming back to victory…Notre Dame burning down to ashes…none of it expected…all of it last Sunday. As I watched the newscast, I was captivated…in one scene the real-time destruction of a holy and magnificent place thousands have visited over the centuries, and in another, the amazing athletic comeback of an individual.

I found my reaction to the simultaneous scenes to be surprising. I had the privilege of visiting Paris and Notre Dame at age 18. It was spectacular. It was one of the many cathedrals I visited in that time of my travel abroad. I did not personally know the love of Jesus Christ at the time. I stood there staring under those very large ceilings in awe of a God bigger than me; in awe of the care, the detail, the history. As beautiful as it was, and with all due respect, my time in this breathtaking place did not change or transform my heart. But I watched flames engulf this iconic landmark in real time with my mouth wide open.

Notre Dame is a place I’ve personally been. My feet have walked there. Tiger is a man I’ve never met, a complete stranger. Yet, if we’re honest, we’ve all walked in his footsteps, haven’t we? The success, the highs, the mistakes, the shame, the behind-the-scenes effort when no one else is looking, the loss of loved ones, the injury, the despair, the perseverance, the come back…those footsteps have touched and transformed us as we’ve personally walked them.

Over the last decade as we’ve watched Tiger’s legacy burn much like the cathedral of Notre Dame, there’s one scene we probably all remember off the course. It was his wife hitting his car with a golf club after finding out his unfaithfulness.

So as I watched the newscast, my fingers started typing…there was one burning question…it surprisingly wasn’t the cause of the fire in Paris. It was, where was Elin, Tiger’s ex-wife, the mother of the son who hugged him tight? Having missed the Masters and having been out of the loop since that golf club incident, I was frantically googling if she was there. Was she proud of him? Was there ever reconciliation? Was she cheering in her heart? What happened with all of that mess?

The athletic comeback is so inspiring. There’s nothing like these stories. We’ve seen it with Tiger; we’ve seen it with Michael Phelps…the talent, the fall, the lonely moments in the shadows, then the growth, wisdom and unshakeable determination that drives the comeback, of more value to victory than sheer talent. All that to say, I couldn’t help but think of Elin. The question ran through my mind; why did I care so much?

I think it’s because when everything else burns away at the end of time, we are left with the people we love, the people in our lives, our family, our marriage. Those are the places where we’re really cheering for a comeback. If we look through the rubble and ash of our life stories, I think what we long to see resurrected the most are the hearts of loved ones. We long for miraculous reconciliation where there has been fracture. We deeply desire to hear the genuine words, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”

Buildings will burn, success will be forgotten, and we are left with our relationships with each other and God. We are so much His treasure that He says our hearts are the place His Holy Spirit now dwells. We are the temples of the living God. Perhaps that’s why my heart was drawn to the comeback of Tiger more than the burning of Notre Dame in that moment.

There’s little I could find about Elin last Sunday. It didn’t appear she was there. And that’s okay. Theirs is not my story to write, far more complex than I can see, and redemption doesn’t always come in the way we would script it or want it to look. It belongs to God, not to us. But I think my desperate desire to find a photo of her cheering for Tiger perhaps points to our deepest hope. For our defining moments not to be the ones of betrayal, for a love that is bigger than our mistakes, for the people we’ve hurt up close and the God we’ve betrayed to, by the miracle of grace, still want to pull for us.

I can understand why Elin hit Tiger over the head with a golf club. I know betrayal, I know hurt, I know wanting to hit people (not my husband!) over the head with a golf club for breaking my heart…I know that I’ve broken the Lord’s heart like that. I know the anger I deserve for some of the poor choices I’ve made.

What’s harder to understand is grace.

In this startling picture of Notre Dame after the fire, the cross remained.

IMG_2596Isn’t that breathtaking? Jesus doesn’t beat us over the head. He doesn’t walk away either. He does the unthinkable…He stands in our place and takes the beating Himself. The earth shook and darkness covered the land in the middle of the day when he died. It was far more gruesome than the scene of that fire. He did it for us. His head hung low so He could lift ours high, not to look away in shame, but to see we are loved far more than we can ever imagine. We’re His treasure, our worth determined by Him, not by our failures and successes. All that’s left of our sin and mess-ups is that cross. At the end of the day, that’s the story. It’s the miracle of the story. It’s the crux of the story.  

But, it’s not the end of the story.

We can look around today and see newness of life and spring everywhere; we can worship the Risen Lord and praise Him for the fullness of grace, for our inheritance, for His victory, for His personal mercy and love, for coming out of that grave to rescue us…

We can also look around and quickly see things that break our heart. Another death, divorce, sickness, the pain of poverty, the struggles of loved ones…

Today we wait in hope knowing this…He deeply cares about the things that break our hearts. And, the story is not over.

There will be a final end to death, grieving, the darkness, pain and tears. The brokenness of this world will be made whole, new…

We celebrate the resurrection and we hang onto Jesus’s last words,

“Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)

He has promised us…a comeback. Maybe that’s why it gripped my heart more than the fire on Sunday. Beauty instead of ashes. That’s His promise; that’s our hope.

 

*photos by AP Images, Getty, EPA, USA Today Sports, CBC News

When Plans Change

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This cookie cake sums up our weekend; it turned out to be…not exactly what we envisioned.

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Mary was going to write her name in cursive and it was going to say “Jesus loves Mary” in a fancy font just like you’d see in a bakery. We were going to serve it to our entire family gathered together on the eve of her baptism.

As her parents, Will and I were thrilled when she decided she wanted to be baptized. We were baptized almost seven years ago on a somewhat spontaneous trip to the Tennessee River. As friends who had been instrumental in our coming to know Christ looked on and cheered, it was one of the most special days of our entire lives. We felt so alive coming out of that water.

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So naturally, we had high hopes for this Sunday, February 10th, as our oldest daughter was ready to take that exciting plunge.

The church video was ready, the family’s plane tickets were booked, the outfit was laid out…and then it hit our home like a freight train. Oh, yes it did—the flu. Anna came down with it first. It was a curveball for sure, but not a total knockout. Then John came down hard. Not only flu, but croup. Our house became a hacking war zone as Will and I ran around with Lysol trying to stay alive. One after another, the family members cancelled their trips.

While we wanted to share Mary’s faith with our loved ones who were ready to cheer her on, we did not want to share the flu with anyone who came near us on this special day. It just seemed all wrong.

This opened the door for a challenging conversation with Mary. We talked about how comforting it is that some things never change, like God’s incredible love for her, whether or not she is even baptized. We talked about His unchanging character and the miracle of our unchanging status with Him in Christ. Then we talked about the things in life that do shift. We wrestled with the fact that sometimes things just don’t make sense. But when we don’t understand why things go wrong, we can trust God and know He must have something better in mind.

Mary agreed to postpone her baptism until May. She was born on the first day of spring and it seems only fitting that our first-day-of-spring baby would be baptized in the spring. Her birthday and baptism date will be tangible reminders that winter ends and new life comes. I don’t know what other parts of the story will unfold or what other details will be tied up, but I do believe it will be just what it should be! There’s a freedom and peace knowing we can’t mess up what God has for her and nothing can increase or decrease His love for our girl.

We spent the morning in our pajamas watching church online and celebrating other people’s baptisms from afar.

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The message was about how we often come to God to change our circumstances but He responds by meeting our deepest need: He changes our hearts from the inside out. He offers us grace…and it’s a grace that is sufficient.

The only thing Mary requested is that we still make that cookie cake. We laughed as the blobs of pink icing poured out. And we talked about how just like the cookie cake, our lives are imperfect, downright messy and not exactly what we envision sometimes.

But Jesus says to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8). And through twists and turns and changing plans and letting go of how we may have written the script, I believe He delights in showing us—He is even better than we thought.

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A Beautiful Day

Seven years ago, Will’s cousin invited us to the U2 concert in Nashville. We were about to leave town when we got the call that his wife was in labor. And it was not going well. They were headed to Vanderbilt Hospital and said we could come pick up the tickets from them and head over to Vanderbilt stadium.

Should we still even go? With mixed emotions, we hit the road to Nashville anxious to see them in person.

When we got to the hospital, we exchanged hugs as the doctors came up with a plan. Things were unsettled. The elevator doors closed as we parted ways with Will’s cousin, also a physician, who said, “it’s not good.”

With heads hung low, just steps away from that hospital room in the stadium, we waited for U2 to start in silence. Oh, how we wished the seats beside us were filled by the faces we had just seen. We felt guilty for being there and worried. We were waiting for news and praying while trying to make sense of the turn of events. The atmosphere shifted as U2 came on stage and played “Beautiful Day”.  At the exact time the song began, we got the text that baby Dylan had arrived and that momma and baby were healthy and doing great. With happy tears we sang the song at the top of our lungs and texted them a video of Bono’s words echoed by thousands of voices just steps away from that baby boy’s first cry. After the show we got to meet our baby nephew and rejoice in that oh so beautiful day!

It is one I will never forget!

Will and I had tickets to see U2 in Nashville again last night. I woke up thinking about that memory and song. I envisioned a picture of us there steps away from the band with a hashtag #beautifulday. We were ecstatic! Before leaving town, we swung by the pool for a quick dip with our kids. Long story short, Anna (our two-year-old) stepped into a pile of fire ants, and moments later her face was swollen and her throat was closing. We gathered our wet kids and bits and pieces of our stuff and found ourselves speeding to the ER, our whole world spinning, shaking out of control. We held our little girl and prayed to God to keep her alive as she lost her ability to speak.

In just a moment, our universe turned upside-down. The previous script of our day was thrown out the window as we held tightly to our baby girl wanting nothing more than moments with one another. There was something beautiful in that crazy moment of knowing that nothing else mattered. The cares that had previously consumed our morning were gone. We were fully present with each other and with God in the eye of that storm.

As Will rushed Anna into the ER, I parked the car with Mary and John, and a crocodile tear rolled down John’s cheek. “I was really hoping Anna was gonna get to turn 3 and get bigger.” It was, as Will’s cousin had said those seven years ago in front of another set of sliding doors, “not good.” Anna received excellent care and breathing treatments as the adventure continued in an ambulance ride to another hospital where we spent the night in the ICU.

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It was a nightmare in the middle of a summer day and all we knew to do was hold tightly to each other and claim God’s promises for our girl. We are so thankful for the love from our family and sweet friends who happened to be there in the moment to help and pray.

As it turns out, my childhood friend who lives in Nashville was able to go to U2 in our place. She texted me this video of that all too familiar song.

The words reminded me of the picture we had seen just hours earlier over the Emergency Room reminding us that God was with our little girl:

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“After the flood, all the colors came out…it was a beautiful day!!!”

As I held Anna in that hospital bed, I was overcome with the same feeling Will’s cousin had 7 years before.

Indeed it was.

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Anna is doing great and got to eat Skittles for breakfast this morning. She was discharged in hot pink style with an epipen and charge to always wear shoes outside. We have a cautious road ahead, but she’s a happy girl with an even happier momma!

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God, thank You for Your mercy. Thanks for waking us up and reminding us of the miracle of life. May we love well, live with purpose, keep perspective, and hug our family. Thanks for the joy in those anticipated moments on our highlight reel that are extraordinary. Thanks also for those unexpected moments we would never write into our script that send us to our knees and reframe the ordinary as beautiful days. In Jesus’ Name we thank You. Amen.

Receiving!

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Is there anything like watching a little kid open a present? This was my four-year-old opening a package sent from his grandmother this week.

 

Oh, the joy!

During the Christmas season we often teach our children about giving, but I believe we have much to learn from our children about receiving.

Because somewhere along the way, as we grow older, we lose the art of it. In the moment John received his power ranger, he didn’t think a minute about paying his grandmother back. He knows he can’t! And I’m pretty sure he didn’t envision writing her a thank you note later like I did. None of that crossed his mind. He was completely fixated on the gift that was now his! And nothing delighted his grandmother more.

There’s a reason families arrange travel plans to be wherever the kids are on Christmas morning. We’ll do anything to be able to see those faces the moment they are overcome by surprise and wonder! We don’t want credit for the gifts; sometimes we even attribute them to a man in a red suit. It’s not about keeping score. We plot and plan and spend without counting the cost because…it’s a joy like none other to watch a child receive a gift.

We love it because, in many ways, we’ve lost it. As adults, we have a harder time receiving. We feel awkward accepting a compliment. We feel uncomfortable when someone gives us a gift and we can’t repay them. We feel unworthy. We’d rather earn it.

We focus our attention this season on giving. And giving is an incredibly beautiful thing. But, as children of God, the birth of Jesus is perhaps more of a time for us to receive. A time to receive a gift with wonder and awe that’s impossible to pay back. A time to receive a love that pursues us relentlessly despite how short we fall. A time to see that we are indeed unworthy, but accepting that somehow we’ve been miraculously—chosen. A time for us to become as Jesus said, “like little children.” (Matthew 18:3)

The birth of Jesus into our lives is a time when our Heavenly Daddy gets to see those of us who know we’ve been tragically naughty receive the gift of extravagant grace with the same foot-stomping excitement that John received his power ranger.

The joy is ours.

The joy is His.

Let earth receive her King!

 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the precious joy we get to see in little children this time of year. Please help us learn from them how to anticipate with great hope and how to receive in exuberant joy. Please open our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit to receive the extravagant gift of Your Son. Thank you for joyfully receiving us as Your children. May the miracle of grace fall so fresh on us that we can’t help but dance a jig!

Amen.

 

Sharing ideas, Mommas!

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all of the Mommas!

One of the things that blesses me most as a mom is having a village of people to share advice, wisdom and creative ideas when it comes to life with kids. I am beyond thankful for the fingerprints other creative moms have left on our home. Motherhood is a daily challenge for me, as I believe it is for all of us who aim to do it well! It’s hard to know how to make the most of the mundane, see the big picture in the day-to-day, and capture the time that flies so quickly. Today, I wanted to share some of the ideas at work in our home (some original, some adopted) in hopes you might doing enjoy some of them with your own kids or pass them on. And, I would love for you share some of your own ideas in the comments below. When it comes to raising little ones, we are definitely better together! I’d love to hear from you!

Birthday Letters

Will and I started this tradition by writing a letter to our first-born when I was pregnant. Ever since then, we’ve written each of our kids a letter on their birthday. We try to limit them to one page to hit the highlights. We include special memories and milestones of the year as well as general impressions of them. I love reading the letters from years before because that thing we thought we’d never forget is brought back again – and was totally forgotten! If you are crafty, you could make this keepsake look more impressive. A binder from Publix and plastic dividers was what worked for us, but regardless, these letters are a treasure! One mom asked me if it’s too late to start if you didn’t at birth, and I don’t think it’s ever too late! If my Mom and Dad had written me a letter every year since I was eight, I would love it!

My Quotable Kid

A friend gave this to us when our third child was born, and it is AWESOME! It is a great way to capture those hilarious things your kids say. Ours lives in the kitchen because ninety percent of the quotes are said there. As soon as they come out of their mouths, I jot them down. Again, you think you’ll never forget these things, but with new memories always coming, it’s crazy how much we forget. This book is a gift to the whole extended family and they have all contributed!

Prayer Journals

Last summer I bought one of these for each of my kids. When my oldest went to Kindergarten, I started writing specific prayers for her. It is great to pray Scripture over them, pray for their future spouses, call forth qualities I see in them, pray protection, etc. They live in my nightstand and I love praying intentionally for each of them as time allows and the Spirit leads.

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Memory Quilt

Someone gave me this idea when I was cleaning out closets and having a hard time parting with certain things my kids had outgrown. It wasn’t necessarily the most fancy items that were hard to let go of (though I love those too) but the ones they wore so much. Like this shirt:

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John has worn it at least 100 times this past year. If I dress him in something else, he changes back into “Fly Guy”. If this shirt could talk, oh, the stories it could tell! At my friend’s suggestion, I am going to start putting these special items in a box for each kid, and will one day make (I mean, have someone else make) them into a quilt!

Summer Goal List

We started doing this a few years ago, and it has been a neat way to be intentional about summer. This year, a friend suggested starting by asking the kids what summer means to them. As a mom, I feel pressure to plan grand adventures for them to waterparks, activities and resorts (which we do love), but their list was so simple. It included catching a lightening bug, climbing trees, feeding ducks, going swimming at the neighborhood pool, playing tag and eating ice cream somewhere new each week. We have it on the fridge and my oldest is eager to start checking things off! Setting goals together is rewarding and makes our family feel like a team!

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This is new this year, but with the combination of nappers and non-nappers, my family spends a lot of our summer days at home. I want to make this time intentional and fun for them. Since school gets out this month, I’ve been collecting items and putting them in “the summer box”. You can do this on a dime; most of these items came from the Dollar Tree. The box includes things like an aunt farm, sidewalk chalk, water guns, puzzles, mazes, sticker mosaics, bubbles, games, etc. They are each going to get to play with one thing from the summer box per day, and it will have to go back in at the end of the day (so it keeps its “limited-time-only” status). We’ll see how this works, but they have seen the box in the laundry room, and can’t wait for summer to come so they can open it! It’s just the same old stuff, but made into a game so it seems more special.

This Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the mommas who have inspired and encouraged me. If you’re a mom of little kids, by the time you’ve read to here, you probably have someone crying, hurt or standing on the counter! But if you have a moment, please pass on one of your family’s ideas. You may not even think it’s special, but I assure you, someone else will. We all have unique gifts, influences and things we’ve learned along the way; I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Mother’s Day!