the way of trust

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My dear daughter

I see it in the way your eyes frenzy, the way your cheeks puffed red with play now fill with  frustration as you recount to me how the other children won’t do it the way you want them to.  I see myself in that frustration, that anger, that frantic grasping.  Oh my girl, how do I help you when I am just like you?  It’s about control, dear girl.  Maybe one of your greatest battles as you grow up and even into womanhood will be over the issue of control.

Ask any woman around, and if she’s honest she’ll agree.  You can trace that common thread among us all the way back to the Garden, all the way back to Eve.  The way she fell for it straight from the snake’s mouth, the lie that God was withholding something better for her.  The lure that she could procure a better reality for herself if she only reached out her hand and grasped for it, rather than reach up her hands and ask for it.  Wait for it.  Surrender it.

It’s going to be about trust for you and I, my sweet girl.

You’re the firstborn, and I don’t know much about being a firstborn because I was a middle.  But I do know it’s harder for the firsts.  Borne in you is a natural desire and gifting to manage, organize, corral, and lead.  These are beautiful gifts, important, and leadership will probably come naturally to you.  However, these strengths can be hamstrung by a desire for control and you might as well go ahead and get your eyes wide open to it.

I see it in women around me, I see it in myself.  We are so very afraid to trust the hand the Lord has dealt us as His good for us, His love to us.  We want so much to see our husbands do things this way or that way, instead of gently being led by them, entrusting ourselves to God in placing us in this union with this man who had all these faults we didn’t see when we married him (never mind all our own faults).

We want so much to pummel our bodies into the shape of this woman or that woman, failing to recognize or accept that God formed and fashioned us with a certain build and we each have a unique beauty to offer, even if it isn’t what mimics the magazine covers.

We want so much to have these kind of children, this sort of lifestyle and income and home, and we bend ourselves in a million crazy ways trying to achieve it, almost until we break.

We don’t want the good gifts God has given us, we look out and see a better life that we believe we can construct and reach out a hungry hand and grasp for it.  We don’t like limitations and boundaries and we certainly don’t like surrender.

So often the work of trust is the work of staying empty.  Being okay with a temporary emptiness, resisting the frantic urge to fill the void.  Instead of reaching out and grabbing that apple, reaching out that hand and leaving it empty, open, waiting, surrendered.  Waiting for God to fill it.  Enjoying Him instead of the thing we think we must have.  Trusting Him as we ask, finding our way to contentment if His answer is no.

The antidote to control is trust, my girl.  T R U S T.

When I say this to my own soul, I feel weary with another “do” I must perform, another thing to work at.  But the very essence of trust, I’m learning, is that it isn’t primarily a work that I must produce, a work of mustering up feelings of trust, but rather it is a work of remembering and resting.  Go back and review who God is, remind your soul who He is, what great things He has done.  Start in Psalm 103, if you need a place to start.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…”

(Psalm 103:1-5)

Go on a littler further and see His hands stretched wide on the cross, stretched wide so that He could remove your sins far from you, as far as the east is from the west

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  

(Psalm 103:11-12)

Ground your soul so deeply in who He is, marvel over His love and His work toward you and on your behalf.  Can you trust this God?  Is He not good?  Is He not full of love toward you?  Are not all His ways toward you grace and love?  

“The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.”

(Psalm 145:9)

You won’t understand how they are love and grace, especially when the rose He hands you comes prickled with thorns.  All you can know for sure are His precious promises, His inerrant and unfailing words, and you can find rest for your soul here.

This is where trust is born: remembering again who He is, how He loves, what He’s done for you, then resting in it.  Ceasing from striving, from straining, even the strain to understand all the “whys.”

This is no easy task, child.  It is a choosing, a literal exertion of will.  Choose to stop, to still, to smile, even, in the safety of your Father’s hands.  Let yourself be held.  That is the work of trust.  Doesn’t that sound so welcoming, so irresistible?

“Against insurmountable obstacles and without a clue as to the outcome, the trusting heart says, ‘Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you without any reservation and with boundless confidence, for you are my loving Father.'”
-Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

Gloriously, the outcomes, the trajectory, the end results are not really in our hands.  (Walk into any cancer ward and talk with anyone receiving a diagnosis of any kind and you can’t escape that truth.)  We can either fight against this reality or we can accept it, and the difference will show in how much joy we have in our time here.  You and I, sweet girl, we can run our race ragged and angry and out of breath with fear, or we can run abiding in His love, resting, trusting.  He means for us to have joy, joy to the full.  He’s a good, good Father.

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.”
Proverbs 16:20

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined clearly delineated plan for the future.  The next step discloses install only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment.  The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future.  Why?  Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”
Manning, Ruthless Trust

“The Lord upholds all who fall,
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways,
Gracious in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He also will hear their cry and save them.”

(Psalm 145:14-19)

five years old

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You.

With all your laughter.  With all your curiosity, your creativity.  Your huge imagination.  Your happy approach to life.

I just marvel over you.  The unexpected and undeserved gift that you are and continue to be to me, to us, to this family.  In a hundred ways, you are wild grace to me from the Lord.

You’re my first, and in basically every way, you pave the way.  That can be a hard burden to bear, my girl, but I know the Lord equipped you specifically for that role.  This year with you has been so full of change.  You seemed to have transformed slowly before our very eyes into this grown up little girl child.  Still young at heart and little, but different somehow.  This year has been both death + life to us.  In the very middle of the year, we found out about your diagnosis with Celiacs disease, which felt very much like a death sentence in some ways.  Death to whatever was normal before.  I look at everything basically though the lens of “that was before we knew,” and “this is after we found out.”  And yet, that very same month, you so quietly decided to give your heart to Jesus.  I was skeptical at first that you really understood what you were doing, but I have SEEN HIM so change you.  How can that be?  I can’t explain it.  But a huge shift happened after that, and you have been such a conduit of grace in our family since then.  I have seen Him working in your heart, I have seen you become so repentant over any sin, and such a desire for God on your own, independent of our promptings.  How can this be for a four-year-old?  I don’t know, I can’t understand it.  But it is precious.

I love the way you pray.  The way you run in at night to your sister’s room as I’m putting her to sleep, the way you run in to pray over her and to sing her “Jesus Loves Me,” and kiss her goodnight.  The way you are protective over your brother + sister, and love on them so well.  The sweet bond I see forming between all of you, even amidst the days where there is fighting and tears.

I love the way you put creatures to sleep in tiny beds all over our house and dress up in the most gawdy of outfits, layers upon layers of tutus and dresses.  I love the way you still have to start the day with snuggle time with me first, and the way you don’t really feel like the day has begun until we’ve had that time.  I love your love for books and stories.  I love the way your coloring has taken off to a whole new artistic level the past few weeks.

You are hilarious and fun and I think you are a light to everyone who knows you.  Which is why we named you Phoebe, our little ray of light.  You are my girl forever and I adore you so much.  I look so forward to all that is ahead in the year to come!

Happy 5th birthday.  Now, how ’bout those birthday spankings!?

Love
Momma

philippa ruth

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My dearest little Philippa Ruth
The littlest one, the lovey of our hearts.  You are just pure delight.  There was nothing like seeing you for the first time.  You were born in laughter and momma was full of indescribable joy.  A shock of the darkest and softest hair, eyes so intense and grumpy looked at me as you guzzled milk for the first time.  You just stared at me as if you never wanted to look away.  You were the softest and pudgiest and sweetest little bundle.  Big sister couldn’t wait to get her hands on you, big brother was filled with wonder.  You were the sweetest Thanksgiving marvel.  We loved bringing you home, it was a time filled with all the usual difficulties of adjusting to life with a newborn again.  But in many ways, it was the sweetest newborn season we had experienced thus far.  We knew by now how fleeting this time is, and we didn’t mind spoiling you.  We snuggled with you and held you all the time.  We let you sleep in our bed.  We let you nurse even when it wasn’t quite “time” yet.  We broke all of our own “rules” with silly grins on our faces.  We savored you with great joy.  It has been so fun to get to know you, to see your little personality shine forth.  How you love your older siblings.  How feisty and determined and stubborn you are, all the while being sweet and completely lovable.  Knowing you and loving you and the great + high privilege of raising you is the supreme joy + honor of my life.  You, along with brother and sister, of course.  I am so happy to celebrate this first birthday with you.  I hope it is the happiest birthday!  Know, my sweet girl, how deeply loved you are, especially first + foremost by our great God who with tender foresight placed you in a family where you would be taught the glories + wonders of the Gospel.  I hope we will always be faithful to point you to Him in every year along the way.  Where we fail, He is perfect and unchanging.  May His love for you in Christ Jesus be what undergirds every day of your life and may you shine as a bright light in your generation.

With all my love
Momma

(Pictures taken by my sister-in-law Addie + my friend Elise)

Where to go with your Question

“You see, every little girl–and every little boy–is asking one fundamental question.  But they are different questions, depending on whether you are a little boy or a little girl…Little girls want to know, Am I lovely?  The twirling skirts, the dress up, the longing to be pretty and to be seen–that is what that’s all about.  We are seeking an answer to our Question.”
(Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)

You are beautiful, my girl.  Beautiful.  You take my breath away.

I watch you dance in the sun, twirling in the twirliest dress you can find, usually with a few tutus layered underneath to make it more poofy.  I delight in you, my girl.  I delight in the fact that right now, you are unashamed in your asking of the question: am I beautiful?  Do you delight in me?

And, oh, yes I do.  You are stunningly beautiful in my eyes, but you are a world of other things too. You are the kindest and most sweet-hearted girl I have ever met.  You literally bubble over with love, always so happy to see others, taking time to talk with each person you see.  You love people, love to play with others, love to make others feel welcome.  You can’t stand to see someone cry without running to hug and comfort them.  You are incredibly creative and imaginative.  You are so strong physically, especially for being so much smaller than other girls your age.  You love to read more than any other person I know, and I treasure each time you ask me to sit and read with you.  (I hope this never changes!)  You forgive easily.  You tell the truth.  You love to help.

All these things are surely part of the reason I look at you and see such beauty, because we are not just our physical bodies, and we are not just our souls.  For some reason, in His wisdom God saw fit to enclose our beautiful souls in a physical form.  We don’t get to choose so many things about ourselves, physically, spiritually, emotionally.  We only get to choose whether we will accept who God has made us to be, or deny it and suppress it and fight it.

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My dear sweet girl, today I wanted to tell you a little story.  A story from my growing up years, the painful, hard and awkward years transitioning from being a little girl to a woman.  I think I was in middle school at the time, 8th or 9th grade.  My older sister was everything to me.  Four years older than me, she was so cool, beautiful, creative, everything I wanted to be.  I always compared myself to her.  What was more difficult was when others compared me to her.  She was more outgoing, funny, likeable.  I was quieter, shy, never knew what to say when put on the spot.  I hated the spotlight (still do).  Often I craved the attention she recieved, or the love really, because that’s how I translated it.  She was so beautiful and I felt so plain.  Ordinary.

I was in 8th or 9th grade.  My older sister had heard some big modeling agency was holding a model search in our town, and she wanted to go try out.  I don’t remember all the details, but I remember that my mom was going to take her, and I went to tag along.  I don’t remember if I wanted to go or if mom just suggested I come along.  I wasn’t planning on trying out, of course.  You see, I already believed deep down that I was plain.  In my eyes, my sister was beautiful, but next to her I was just plain, ordinary, common.  There wasn’t even a thought in my heart to ever try out for a modeling career.  But then we were there, and my mom was like, “why don’t you go, too?”  Who knows what her reasoning was, but I know she was only doing what she could to be the best mom she knew to be.  Hope dies slowly in the human heart, and for some reason, even after we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t care about that thing anymore, something comes along that wakes our desire up again…

(The rest of this post is over on my new friend Lauren‘s blog today!  Hop over there to read the rest of it.)

 

to make you feel my love

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dear phoebe

last night we cut into the cake and discovered that this baby growing in mommy’s tummy is a girl!  you screamed and bounced in your chair, so excited.  from the very beginning you said you wanted a sister.  then lately you’ve been wanting another brother.  and late last night, after all the excitement had settled and we were tucking your sleepy head into your bed, your little precious face clouded over, your big solemn eyes became troubled.

“Mommy, can I get back in your tummy,” you asked.

“Will the ‘new girl’ sit in the front seat?” (your special favorite treat lately is when mommy lets you sit next to me in the car when we drive our back road home.)

and oh, my heart squeezed for you.  do you know how special you are to me?  no one and nothing ever can replace you, my girl.  your quirky, silly, wild, hilarious, exuberant, scrawny, gorgeous little self is entirely unique.  you’ll always be my very favorite firstborn ever.

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having a sister can be hard sometimes but there is no other relationship like it on this earth!  I think you’re going to love it.

love,
mommy