Tuesday, January 26, 2016

For When You Want to See Through

The smallest, she turns three at the beginning of the month, and already she begins to claim she is four.

As though she has absorbed through the air the never ending thrum of the whispers around her, always searching for the next thing, the better thing.

And he, that man of mine, begins classes at a university a state away and I watch him hunch over iPad and notebooks and pencils begin to twirl in his fingers as that brow I love knits in deep concentration. I hear the professor's voice drone on about numbers and I hear his weary laugh and January never slows.

I don't know why I thought it would.

But like a newborn flailing, the days have all blurred together and like a sleep starved new mama I beg for eyes to see above the fog.

Instead, the fog grows heavy.

I have my green chair and he has his, placed  in front of the century-old stained glass window and we face each other in the quiet.

He had been stopped after an event at church, had been told some news about one of our children and my blood runs cold and I just want to see through the fog.

Grace, stamped in brass and wrapped around my wrist bumps against my skin and I reach for it with my other hand. There is grace in this too...there has to be.

Jesus, He promised to never leave us...to never forsake us. He gently leads those who are with young and that's me. I don't deserve His promises with my track record, with my history of failings, but I guess that's kind of what grace is.

So, on Sunday, as I am walking around the car to buckle Zee  into her seat, as three gun shots are fired into the quiet afternoon air; as I duck down and quietly count heads and reassure wide eyes and ask my fearless husband to maybe not stand so far out into the open, I don't really wonder at my lack of any fear.

It's not bravery that wraps around me, I know this.

There are puppies and geckos as I drop my children off at the home of a friend and as I drive away after hugs and kisses I find myself driving by the second home we lived in here in this town I've grown to love. The one we still own, but that someone else lives in. Our neighbours, the elderly ones, their house has sold and someone younger lives there now.  Dino had cancer, last I heard, and that's why their house was on the market.  And now they are gone and I'm wondering at how short our lives truly are.

But it's there in the dark, when it's time to drive back to pick up my four, after I slip through the Starbucks to pick up a card to say thank you. It's as I'm looking left and then right before I pull out into traffic that my breath catches in my throat and it's been a long time...almost 5 years and an Alberta horizon...since I've seen a moon that close and full.

Just a glimpse, but I didn't need more, though I chased it down side streets and got lost only once. Just one glimpse for me to feel the full magnitude of what my heart felt Him say.

That moon, full and wide as she was, could only shine the way she did when her whole surface was facing the light of the sun. It was only as shocking as it was because of how dark the sky of night had become.

My soul, parched and broken, clung to this and it was then I felt the fog lift.

Jesus, He is the Light of the World. He has said it and I desperately believe it. And He, who is Light, has, with stunning grace placed His light within me, within all who call on His name and believe. And as I stood in the middle of a dark street with my four children staring at me through foggy windows, I was reminded: The darkness can never overwhelm me with Christ in my life. Oh, it may feel like it - it may press in heavy and hopeless.  But the dark only seems darkest when I turn my face away from His glory.

I have known, and I have seen, when my face is turned towards Him, my heart is strengthened, my weakness seems like a gift and His grace is more than just an undeserved gift...it is the very breath and joy of my heart.

The moon, it's already turning away again from the blazing light of the sun...you can see it around the edges.

But my heart, it's begging to face Him, choosing to be set ablaze by the One who tenderly leads and gathers all the little ones close.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lessons in The Naming of the Sixth

Six years ago, on another New Year's Eve, I sat down to type out words that my heart still wasn't able to fully comprehend.

Back then, I was surrounded by grief.

The night felt incredibly dark and the New Year felt anything but Merry.

But there was one word that I had been given in the quiet of the days leading up to this night that I clung to and I learned much about Christ from.

That night and that word draw out so many memories...

and so much hope.

I think on the other words that followed and how each one has been a tender gift -

a giving of a glimpse of the Father's heart to cling to when chaos would spin all dizzy around me,

each one having built on the previous year:

        I know




                                                     In the Midst

He is so good and faithful.

I've begun to collect the words stamped onto metal on my wrist, not quite brave enough to ink them deep into my skin, but near enough to flash my eyes back on to the promise Christ has given.

I wasn't surprised when this year's word began to appear more intentionally in the pages of scripture, in lessons, web pages and articles; I really didn't even bat an eye.

I may have sighed though, just a little.

Because it's a word I wrestle deeply with, not just to give, but to receive.

And yet, woven throughout the words in the Bible, an incredible picture of grace is given - one with many facets and much depth drawing me in past the surface sayings and "feel good" platitudes.

Olivia, the one named for all the wrong reasons by a mama desperate for a peace she didn't understand...her middle name was given under the same circumstances.

I just wanted an easy labor and my midwife assured me that all girl babies named Grace were born quickly and without much effort.

Olivia Grace broke every mold and almost broke me.

But, this wild and unruly child, this girl who wrestles hard with many and all, she has taught me much about the misconception of ease.

If grace is to be birthed into this year, I have to wonder if it doesn't come with a struggle. Grace, in all it's beauty isn't given without effort, even though it produces incredible peace with God.

Looking at 366 days ahead, I know there is much to learn and much to receive. There could be much to fear, if I let myself.

But the One Who is Sovereign over all things, the One Who has forgiven me of much and rescued me from more, He has already called these days into existence and nothing will happen outside of His will.

I can trust this.

Even if it hurts.

I can allow grace to change and shape me and my days.

Even if it hurts.

December 31st holds a world of pain, no matter how many years pass, but on the edges of all of that dark, truth and hope shine boldly promising that there will come a time when all pain and tears and grieving will be wiped away by His tender Hand.

Until then, I press forward with eyes lifted to Him, hands open to receive all that He will give.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. — 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pastor's Pew.

She came to the door about 6 months ago,her hair coiffed and graying. She knew the family that had built this old house and her husband had hung a light fixture long gone in the entrance way near the stairs.

I just wanted to see the old house, she said, and I was wondering if the fireplace was still there.

I forgot, for a few moments, how strong memories are and how dear. 

To me, the fireplace is one of the most amazing things about this aging home, and so I threw the door wide and welcomed her in.

Only, this home isn't the home that she remembers.

The life that fills it now doesn't look the same as the lives who loved and breathed and filled these places when she was young and the shock came out in words of hurt over so much that had changed.

I wish she hadn't left so quickly. I wish I could have asked about the ones who dreamed up this space. - The ones whose faith marks it so deeply.

It's called a Pastor's Pew.

I had never heard of it, and haven't seen another like it.

But like the pew benches that held me when I was small in that quiet little church that was like a second home, I am wrapped in a feeling of familiarity when I curl up in the corner.

I am held in peace.

There is something sacred about a space used for worship.

Back when doctors still made house calls as frequently as the local pastor, this foundation was laid. And when the cold winter winds would howl and the wise would stay home, there was a fool for Christ who would brave the chill and walk up the front steps to pray with the ones who lived here.

This alcove, flanked on either side by the age old symbol of church and prayer and that one sweet gramma singing off key, it has held the voices of the ones laying their hearts down before the Risen Savior and these pews have held the tears and laughter and words of those no longer here.

The fire may have warmed chilled bodies, but there is rest to be found for weary souls here in the quiet of this space.

I received a text in the dark as I was making my way home.

Just two words with no other explanation and my heart raced in fear with all the possibilities:

Please pray.

Was it my children?

Did something bad happen?

Are you hurt?

I asked all the questions instead of just doing what the text said.

I didn't know that while I had been out, one of our older Madison House kids was in our home. This kid, angry and troubled, was breaking apart and he showed up here, on our front step, cold and undone.

My 3 older children, recognizing his pain, raced to help their daddy get hot cocoa to warm his insides while Tony fed the fire to full blaze and then invited this young man to sit on one of the pews.

And here, on wood that has been prayed over for more than a century, two souls sat opposite one another; one seeking answers, the other holding the Answer.

I walked in to hear yelling. 

To hear the broken sobbing of pain,

while my older three all snuggled together in the school room, completely at peace and unafraid.

Mama, they whispered, you need to pray. The boy in there is *really* sad.

And as the questions raged, I heard Tony's calm, sure voice speaking the Name of Jesus, inviting him to come and find Peace.

All I could do was pray. 

All I could do was stand in the kitchen, hip against counter and pray.

It was the silence that caught my attention, and it was the two of them kneeling before the fire in the space between the two pews that pulled me to the doorway as I witnessed the holy moment of a fatherless man tenderly lead a fatherless boy to the heart of the Heavenly Father Who will never turn either away.

In the past few days, this home that was ours to rent and then wasn't and then was ours again - this home that God wouldn't allow us to live in until all of my dark had come out...it has become ours officially.

I don't know why it has in the way that it has. I'm overwhelmed at all the ways this has come together, but I am so incredibly grateful at the way God has shown Himself again as Father at the beginning of a season when this word is filled with so much pain.

Our prayer since the beginning has been that this home would be a light in a dark place. That refuge would be found here; that in the middle of chaos and confusion, the clarity of Christ would be seen most clearly.

I think of that family who first saw this plot of land and drew up plans for this house and in the heart of these walls placed a refuge for their souls.

They couldn't have known that all these years later, a lost boy would be found by the One Who knew him before all of time began right in the middle of where they themselves gathered.

The world seems to be spinning out of control. News channels and social media scream fear from all sides and terror turns us wild, devouring one another with words and opinions behind the safety of a screen. Everyone wants to change the world and the views of another.

But, right there, outside my own front door is a young man who needs a Father and a homeless woman stopped with her cart across the street talking with me about Jesus over a cup of water and a granola bar.

Each moment, each place I put my foot has the potential to be a space to build a Pastor's Pew, a meeting place to seek Jesus and the good of another. These moments, where we drop to our knees side by side place us on level ground. There is no scrambling to find our footing here, there is only utter dependence on the graciousness of God.

The fire is burning brightly still in the early hours of this morning as the pews wait expectantly reminding me that there is no one to far gone to come to Jesus, 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Are You There?

On this street that we live on we hear the rumors,

the whisperings of the ones who carry danger with them everywhere they go.

It's said quietly and hushed,

Avoid them, at all costs. Stay away if you see him (or her) coming.

Tony, he drives home in our car that is blue in a territory that is clearly marked red and he drives towards this one man as the sun is setting in the late haze of a summer evening; while the setting sun is blinding the other man's eyes who hesitates because he can't see clearly who is driving.

I was standing on the front porch spray painting desks when I watch his hand reach under his shirt into the back waistband of his jeans...while he begins to walk slowly towards the car my husband is in.

Tony, calm and sure, reaches his hand out of the rolled down window and calls out his name, says hi as though it's no big deal and diffuses a tense situation.

But it confirmed in my heart that truth we had been told,

This man is dangerous. Stay away.

October passed in a whirlwind of days of anniversary, ocean, birthday, and visiting.  We come home from the beach and I turn and prepare for 2 weeks of company and finally tackle the leaves that are building a fortress on our front steps.

There is that pile of dirt, stubborn and resilient that I can't quite get to budge out of the corner of the third step up and I'm more focused on that then I am on the street behind me. Barney, our dog, makes an odd sound as Tony steps out onto the porch and I turn and look toward the sidewalk and pause.

He is slowly approaching us on the other side of the fence, his eyes locked on mine while he asks if our dog will bite.

I don't know how to answer...mostly because I don't know how Barney will react. But I don't know why he's asking and so I say so,

I don't really know.

I turn to look at Tony because I know we are to avoid this man, and he whispers quietly, urgently,
Get. In. The. House.

Not fully comprehending, I tried to finish up what I was doing, not wanting to look panicked or make the wrong move when I realize this man has lifted up the gate latch and is walking up the front walk towards us.  As Tony steps around me, whispering again for me to get in the house, I quietly slipped in through the front door and sat down and began to pray.

There is always the possibility, no matter how small, when we have a member of a gang come by and sit on our porch with us, that an opposing gang could drive by and open fire.  For the most part, I have come to peace with this. And while I know how foolish this may sound to those around us, I firmly believe God has His hand on us and He will protect us. After all, as I was told before, we are bulletproof until God calls us home.

But there was something in the air that afternoon that had me shaken, and I didn't know what it was. So I prayed. And then I was able to listen.

I'm not sure how much alcohol this man had consumed, but it was enough to slur his words and open up his heart.

I have heard brokenness before - I've felt deep brokenness in my own life before, but I have never, in all my life, heard such all-consuming hopelessness in the voice of another.

Alcohol was making his mind wander, but Tony kept drawing him back to Jesus in the most tender and gentle of ways.

I'm too far gone.

I can never come back.

When he called Tony "good", Tony would quickly and confidently say,

No. I am a horrible man without Jesus. He makes me good. Without Him I would do horrible things.

I sat there as I listened to his words and thought of the apostle Paul - murderer, persecutor, cruel...

No one is ever too far gone when Jesus enters a life.

He stayed and listened while Tony presented the gospel to him and he didn't say much, but as soon as Tony started to read the words of Romans 6:23, he got up, shook Tony's hand and wandered away.

I felt torn over the next few days. He had shared much with my husband and I wrestled between the fear of, what happens if he thinks he said too much and tries to hurt Tony?, and He heard the gospel, please Jesus, let the seeds planted take root.

I'm grateful for the prayers of those around us, who were aware and prayed for peace and protection because the fear I felt lifted and my prayers for him have become stronger.

But it begs me to ask the question of myself,

Why are we here?

And by here, I mean here, in this house, in this neighbourhood.

I keep hearing the cliches, the prettied up sayings,

Just Free-fall into Faith.

Jump and the Lord will catch you.

And I get it, because I believe that the sentiment behind these sayings is true - but am I doing it?

Am I trusting the Lord so much that I will share the truth and beauty of the gospel with those around me, no matter what I have heard of them?

Now, I know that there is wisdom in listening to the counsel of those that Christ has placed in my life to guide me and who know this area and gang culture better than I do...


I almost allowed fear of man to close my mind to the possibility of the salvation of another.

And that's why I have to ask myself,

Why am I here?

Do I believe that the most difficult child in my classroom can be redeemed, or will I just roll my eyes and pray their 20 minutes in tutoring will pass quickly,

or will I come near and pray that the Holy Spirit will make Himself known to this restless child who experiences more horror at home than I will ever know, grateful that I can used by God in this moment?

Why are you where you are?

Have you thought of this?

I guess this isn't the normal blog post, because there isn't a neatly wrapped up bow in the end. We haven't seen this man since that windy afternoon last month. I don't know if or what he remembers, I don't know if he is still alive or not.

That little one in my tutoring room is still just as disruptive, still refuses to listen and sit still.

But my heart is changing as I ask for new eyes to see.

And you, the one reading this, may the Lord bless and keep you;
{may} the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 
the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

And may you come to know deeply why Jesus has placed you in this place where you sit, and may He open your eyes to the deep need around you and strengthen you to act.

Friday, September 4, 2015

For When it's September 1st

My dad's birthday was on the 1st of September.

Same day as his father's all those years ago.

It's been close to 40 years since he last heard the sound of his own father's voice and  over 5 years since I've heard the sound of his own - since our relationship reached the breaking point and everything crumbled and fell apart.

And I want to hold these words carefully and tenderly because I haven't always done so.

I write these words as a marking.

As a recognizing.

Not to shame or point fingers, but to hold what is wounded to the Light.

I spent years leading up to the first babies wondering which day would mark their births - what ordinary day would become extraordinary that I didn't know just yet...and so dates on the calendar hold weight for me. They always have.

I don't expect that to change.

There are days that heave with grief, and ones that fairly explode with joy and those square boxes on the pages of the planner in front of me are more than just blanks to hold words and names and appointments that I pen in. They hold deep emotions that mere ink can't convey while tears evaporate, leaving only wrinkled blots behind.

Elias, he sits behind me in the van around 10 this morning asking a hundred questions in 60 seconds and I smile as I try to keep up. He asks me if we are going to Madison House today. And then he asks when we are going to church...when our next day off is. When Christmas will be.

And I listen to him as he processes his days.

It's all so innocent.

He's not aware of the wars that are raging, of the people who are fleeing and the little ones who are dying and washing up on shore.

He's not aware yet that the news is hard to sit in front of, that the never ending stream of words sinks fear deeper and deeper into air already so emotionally charged.

He just knows that Sunday is church and Friday is for incentives at Madison House and Saturday mama really, really wants to sleep in.

This past week, as the air has been getting cooler and dark clouds mark the sky above us, our yard has been full of little ones after the Madison House doors have closed for the day. I've sat inside near the big front window to keep an eye on the craziness of the "restaurant" that has set up residence on our porch. Everything is whirling in the middle of their play and I miss the quiet conversation happening just down our front steps.

There's a little girl who has latched on to my oldest girl and they sit and whisper secrets and learn what it means to speak from the heart. This little one, her daddy has died and there are a lot of fears that rip at her heart and this is what she shared with my daughter.

Lyla, who has only ever known the presence and love of a father, she asks quietly if her friend knows who Jesus is.

There's only a small shaking of the head.

So, in her soft way, Lyla offers to pray with the one sitting beside her, offers to help the fatherless find her Father and while the air is full of yelling, a little one opens her heart up to the Love of Jesus and she is no longer lost, but found.

The ground all around us is holy.

I don't know how long it's been now since I first came across these words, but something deep resonated inside of my soul when I first read them.

Each month, I print out the pages and I place them up on my wall and when everything starts to tilt, when fear creeps in and I find myself overwhelmed, I grab onto the words of who Jesus is.

It was on that last day of August that I reached for the paper still warm from the printer and as I picked it up, my breath caught -

Beside the 1st of September were the words, My Daddy.

The day marked already by so many emotions, I stopped.

It's a day marked by the birth of a man who carries the title of father,

and son,

and the tears of a daughter who sits in front of that large front window wondering.

And Jesus, in His tender, merciful way calls to the deep in me that feels as though it is sinking and causes my swirling thoughts to slow, to recognize this day and this man as created by a Holy God - and then to turn my heart to the One Who calls me child because of wholly undeserved grace and kindness.

I think of the unfathomable-ness of God - how Isaiah trembled over the vision of Him and the train of that robe that filled the temple. How he crumpled to the ground because he couldn't bear the weight of such glory...this is Who calls me daughter. This is Who calls me to love and serve outside of what makes me comfortable.

This is He Who marks my days, both the ordinary *and* the extraordinary, not merely with words, but by His very presence.

Each day should bring my eyes to this fact first - God Himself is my Father and everything else rests on this foundation.

It's Friday today, which means a late evening with loud games and louder laughter filling the halls of Madison House before we head home for the weekend and rest.

But in the middle of it all is One Who is drawing us all to Himself,

and all the sons and daughters are finding their way Home...

Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.   Ephesians 1:2

Sunday, August 30, 2015

For When the Changing Seems Hard

The clouds rolled in during the quiet of the early hours yesterday. While it was still dark, the rain fell and the air that has been so filled with smoke cleared and lifted.

Zee still refuses to put on her shoes.

And that's okay.

Tony received an email this past week while the air was heavy and thick. While my eyes were burning, he sat down near me and read the words that marked and recognized his time at Madison House. August 27th marked 3 years since he stepped into his role, 3 years since he brought me with Zee all curled up in my belly and the older ones pressed close as we walked up the front steps, unsure of what to expect, but wanting to receive all that God would give.

School started this week. We pulled down our books and brought out our pencils and while the school buses drove the ones living just down the street to their classrooms, we gathered in our own small school room and we entered into this new year with new hope.

September is it's own version of New Year's I think. There isn't a counting down at midnight, or fireworks exploding over our home, but it's a new leaf full of new possibilities and for everything that we've removed from our schedules and our purposefulness in going smaller, these days ahead feel ripe with expectancy.

I sat on the front steps of Madison House at the beginning of the week, I watched as the kids started returning with backpacks slung over shoulders and fresh new haircuts and shy smiles as they walked by me into the front doors.

As faces that I've loved for three years now come into view, I feel that familiar ache press close into my chest. It's one I've been feeling all summer, I think, but as Fall quickly approaches, the ache is getting deeper and it's time to acknowledge what it all means.

From the time I was small, I wanted to be a wife and a mama. That's all. Some may think that it's a small thing to aspire to, and that's okay. I never had grand dreams of grand jobs, I just wanted to make a home cozy and warm for the hearts I would love. And when one is 10 years old, this dream and this wish seems like a lifetime away.

Now, I stand on the other side of the dreaming. It's no longer a hoping, but a fulfilling. My home is full of a good man and crazy kids, but this body that has cocooned my five babies holds no more and my breath catches at the suddenness of it all. Warm newborn skin no longer folds up into my neck as a new one breathes deeply in sleep...instead, arms and legs sprawl and clamor for space, as though my once-little-ones haven't caught up to the reality yet that our space is transitioning.

My heart is aching.

It's that deep ache that settles in as I watch these kids who have found such deep places in our hearts walk up the front steps I'm sitting on. 3 years ago, they seemed so small, so young and now I look into the faces that are changing into young men and women in front of me. There's one young man whose hair was all shaggy just a year ago, he was the first one of the MH kids to hold Zeruiah just a year and a half before that, he sits across from me all quiet as he tells me about his first day of school. This kid, who just yesterday wasn't it when he was mouthy and hurting? He looks me in the eye and says, "It was a good day. And yeah, I'm in the top grade, but that means I'm a leader this year. I'm going to be a good leader."

The moving of time is a good thing, I see and know this...I do. I just haven't been prepared for how quickly the transitioning would happen. As though the letting go of one stage and moving into the other should be more gentle, more slow.

Back during the blur of Liv's first year of life, when she was awake more than she slept, when she screamed more than she was quiet, when all I saw was the neverendingness of where I was at, Jesus gave me a verse in the dark one evening, in the dark of my emotions, and it was this:

He will tend His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in His arms;
He will carry them in His bosom, 
and gently lead those that are with young. 
Isaiah 40:11

This past week, when I was wrestling through all that my heart was feeling, I looked out the window at the big maple that hangs low over the fence. The leaves are just starting to turn colour on the edges, just enough to let us know the air is changing and soon a new season will be here. And there was, in the hundreds of leaves spilling off that old branch, one lone leaf caught in the glow of the sun.

I'm not sure why it pulled at me the way that it did, but for just a few moments, it reflected the glory of the sun off of it's surface...the deep green no longer seen, but instead transformed into a bright dazzling gold in a sea of shadow.

I don't know how long on this earth I have...the weight of this thought has been pressing in on me harder this year, but the One Who formed the dust I am made of, He has set me here, has given me all that I have here. And for a brief span of time in light of eternity's length, He has set His gaze on me here...and I can turn my life to reflect Him here, so that it's not me that is seen, but Him.

I think of that green all transformed into gold before winter's wind comes barreling in and it is no longer...and the words of Isaiah, they burn in my heart and as September comes nearer, it's a call I want to answer for me and for our children who have grown under my heart and for those who have become a part of my heart,

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk,
in the light of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:5

We have a Savior Who promises to lead the way...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dear Olivia {A Birthday Post},

It dawned on me last week, that I had you all wrong.

As though the world was flipped upside down and I could finally see all that I couldn't before.

It took 8 years and 9 months short of a week to see and there have been so many times in the last 7 days that I wish I could go back and make up for all that I didn't understand.

I wasn't ready for the gift of you.

I remember the pink positive sign and the tears of fear I cried, feeling wholly inadequate to be a mama to two children under the age of two.

I remember the miles the midwife had me walk, pushing your sister in the stroller, trying to navigate old and broken sidewalks in tandem with trying to navigate old and broken fears while you grew strong under my heart. Your quiet and small flutterings belied the powerhouse you would be.

It was during that time, when we found out you were a girl, that the name Olivia was mentioned. And loving words the way I do, I looked up the meaning to discover that it meant peace.

I craved peace.

I honestly craved quiet both in soul and surroundings and I thought that was what peace was...quiet.

So when you, Olivia, turned in all the wrong ways came bursting into the world on your very own terms and screamed your way through life for the first 2...3...6 years of your existence, I was convinced that we had named you all wrong.

That you weren't peace.

And in naming you such, you...and I...would always be reminded of that fact.

Oh, sweet Liv.

I've been so wrong.

So, as I sat in a conference last week while you were in the classrooms above tracing maps and coloring pictures and keeping an eye on your brother (to help your teacher, I'm sure. :) ), my heart was getting pried open and my eyes were beginning to see clearly.

The word Shalom gives a strong glimpse into the beauty of your name...and into the beauty of you. This greeting, said as a blessing, means this: You will have no lack, you will have peace and rest because you have everything you need.

Your name is a blessing.

Which means, when I call you, when I talk to you...when I talk about you, I am speaking a blessing over you and over those around us. May this very thought stop me in my tracks when our emotions run high and we both misunderstand the other.

I thought peace meant calm and quiet and when you weren't, I was blindsided. But peace, according to the woman speaking over us, it means that there is no area of lack. She spoke of A Plan for Peace, mentioning that it started with being in Scripture...because the word Peace is like a guard dog at the front door.

It makes me think of your insatiable desire for the Bible. How you keep the Scriptures right under your bed so that you can grab it before you go to sleep. How when you sense me growing frustrated you ask for us all to stop and pray. You long for the presence of Jesus and you desire to sense Him near.

I learned, in the back row of that conference, that peace isn't passive or quiet, but it is active and it moves with purpose and passion.

8 years and 4 months ago, when I saw you moving on that black and white screen, when you were named with a wrong understanding, Jesus knew that this name was the very right one for you and for all of the very right reasons.

This morning, just as the sun is coming up over the horizon, before it even has the chance to heat the air into the furnace it is supposed to be, in those early hours you will slip from being 7 and become a brand new 8 year old with all the flair that marks your every movement.

And I will have your breakfast birthday cake on the table and as you walk all sleepy into the room, I will pull you close and whisper your name into the air around us, inviting the One Who is Peace to come near because with Jesus, Liv? We really do lack nothing. I'll fail you in so many ways, but when we have Jesus, we are made whole and the blessing that we speak over one another becomes words of worship to the One Who created us.

8 years ago, I held you in my arms having no idea how my life would change.

You have changed it for the better, sweet girl; our family lacks nothing with your addition and we have been abundantly blessed.

May this year ahead grow you deeper and wiser - may it find you falling even more in love with Jesus. May you see that with Him, you lack no good thing always. Always. 

Happy, happy birthday, dear Olivia Grace. I love you so very, very much.

With all my love,