Unclenching my grasp and breathing peace 

Eight years ago I was balancing work and a newborn baby. My job as a staff-writer for a local community paper allowed me to work from home at times. 

One morning I opened my work email and in place of my signature and work title it read, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

The words took my breath away. 

The message was perfect for me at that time in my life, but I couldn’t imagine who, how, or why my work signature was changed to that sentence. I called my co-workers and they knew nothing about it. I logged back in and there was my original work signature as pretty as you please. 

It left me unsettled not knowing how or why it happened, but the message stuck. My co-workers were equally intrigued and so poignant was the message that one had it written in calligraphy on a beautiful note card and framed for me as a gift. That framed message sits on my desk at the Sadie Rose House today and it always seems to catch my eye at a time when I need to be most reminded.  

I never thought before or since to search the Internet for that quote.  

This past year has been one of grasping, clenching, holding, releasing, and growing with two foster children in our home. One has been with us for more than a year now and the tension of rooting for others to get their lives in order while loving their child that feels like our own has driven me to my knees many times. 

My grasp was firmly clenched, the little fingers wrapped tightly around my heart. Releasing this precious child to the process has shaken me to my core. I breathed way more anxiety and fear than peace. 

Another child joined us more recently. Again I find myself loving, grasping, clenching, and holding even though this one will most likely be temporary. 

I have known moments of peace recently, but the reality is that we are barreling through life at breakneck speed and the train is having trouble slowing down. We are fighting fierce battles against hellish addictions and patterns and learned behaviors. At the same time we are fighting stigmas that are coming from the most surprising places. 

Through it all, I have been grasping my own abilities, answers, sanity, and love, clenching tightly to my own strength. There are many days my well is dry. I open my tightly clasped fingers to see my own strength evaporating like a vapor. What little I thought was there seems more like an illusion in light of the chasm of need. 


Now we are here in this season of advent where, as Christians, we prepare for the coming of the Savior. I’ve said it, heard it, read it… Emmanuel, God WITH us. We celebrate a Savior who enters our darkness, chaos, mess, and brokenness, and whose love permeates every broken messed up hellish place of our life. And yet I’ve struggled to feel it in my heart even though I know it in my head. 

Where is this Emmanuel in the broken stories of our foster children? Where is he  in the grief of those whose children, spouse, parent, best friend has died? Where is “God with us”when nations and cities and regions are ravaged by war. Where is he when people are neglected and power abused, sometimes even in the name of this God?


And then today, my dear friend shared a post on Facebook that once again took my breath away. 

“Christmas at Midlife

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

-Mary Anne Perrone

Via Sacred Dreams”

Did you SEE that?! Did you catch it?! Right there, smack dab on the middle of this beautiful advent poem is THAT VERY SENTENCE! 

“I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

When I read my friend’s post, my breath literally caught in my throat. I have been grasping the wrongs things. I have been looking for Emmanuel in a God who comes and makes everything right, (and I believe one day he will.) But I’ve been caught up in looking for “God with us” in leaders and princes and kings and changed circumstances.  

But no, “Emmanuel with us” is right here in our home, wrapping his arms around broken hurting foster children. He is with us in the friend that walks with those in grief, sharing tears and offering shoulders. Emmanuel God with us is working through the lives and hearts of those who are silently and anonymously bringing Christmas cheer to the hurting and lonely. Right here in the middle of our messed up broken hellish lives Emmanuel is sharing coffee and bagels with those on the streets, loving the unloveable through very ordinary broken people just like me. 

Clearly this sentence, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out” is timely, poignant, and personal once again. 


I’m letting go of my own abilities, releasing my grasp and relinquishing all to the One who meets us at the point of our need. When my life is fully surrendered to Emmanuel’s love, mercy, and provision, then and only then can I truly unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out. 

May you also experience Emmanuel God WITH us this Christmas season and in the coming year. 

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Initially I was going to name this my obligatory thanksgiving post, but there’s nothing obligatory about it. I wouldn’t have to share anything publicly, but I truly can’t help it. There is a well-spring of gratefulness inside me brimming with thanks, and I cannot help but let it spill over. 

I am thankful for all of the obvious things, freedom, faith, family, friends, shelter, food enough, clothing. 

But I’m especially thankful for small things too… 


Like Christmas lights. I hung this string in the boy’s room this evening and haven’t stopped looking at their beautiful glow. I am thankful for these lights and think of those who do not have the ease of electricity.  

And fun in the fall leaves. I love their crunch, their smell, their color, and the endless hours of fun they provide for childlike hearts. I am thankful for fallen leaves and think of those whose hearts are so heavy they cannot find the joy in them. 


I’m thankful for birthdays and feasts. We had a birthday Monday and Tuesday this week in our household, so Tuesday evening I made this spread of meat loaf, hippie loaf (a bean and veggie loaf), stuffing, herbed roasted baby potatoes, Dijon glazed green beans, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and an apple, grapefruit, pomegranate salad. (All recipes except the meatloaf came from the Forks Over Knives App or the Meal Mentor app so everything except the meatloaf and cake were plant-based.)I also made the plant based pumpkin pie and pumpkin cranberry cookies the day before. I seldom cook so much at one time, but this was such a worthy celebration; my husband and our newest foster child whose life and presence is worth way more than a hearty meal. I am thankful for food, for abundance, and think of those who are hungry as we eat. 


I am thankful for frosty mornings. I know most people think I’ve lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love a good frosty sunshiny morning. I am thankful for our wood stove, for jackets and coats and a trusty old van with a heater on these beautiful frosty mornings and think of those who are shivering in the cold. 


I am thankful for the beautiful area we call home and that even though I am currently too busy to do much hiking or horseback riding there are scenes such as this that I can enjoy from my van. So often I stop for a five minute reprieve to enjoy the scenery and inhale the fresh air. I am thankful for tranquil places and spaces and think of those who live in fear and threat of violence. 

I am so thankful for the hope and promise of an eternity with God, where all these earthly cares will no longer plague us. I am thankful for this hope and pray for the hopeless. 

I could go on and on and could still never truly count all my blessings. I am bountifully rich in soul and love and even worldly things that to name them all would be an impossibility. 

I will leave you with a link to one of our children’s favorite songs. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

Wishing all a gentle and peaceful day of thanks. 

More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 


But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you. 

Of kings, horses, politics, and hope

“Some trust in chariots, some in horses…” Psalm 20:7a (NIV)

I have known this to be true literally and figuratively. I still have a copy of the letter my mom received by the Old Order Mennonite couple who bought our buggy when mom left the church at age 47. With all sincerity and love, the letter includes chastisement for falling away from the faith (no longer driving a horse and buggy or dressing as a conservative Mennonite) and the immediate and eternal consequences one can expect when they do.

I can read past the judgement now, to see the love and concern they had for our family, but every time I think of this verse from Psalm 20, I simultaneously think of that letter.

Besides putting our trust in our preparedness, wealth, possessions, religious rituals, etc., we also tend to put our trust in our leaders and potential leaders. I get it. I have my own feelings about it all.

But to think that any one candidate alone can save our nation and ourselves, or to think that we are beyond hope and God cannot move or save if our candidate of choice does not win is preposterous.To put our trust in nations, kings, horses, and chariots, (people or possessions) is to miss the point of trusting God alone.

The second half of that verse from Psalm 20 reads, “but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Here is the verse altogether. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Read all of Psalm 20 here. 

If we say our hope is in God, if we proclaim that we know and follow Jesus and his teachings, then we should “Let [our] conversation be gracious and attractive so that [we] will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NLT.) 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)

 “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

Let us trust in the name of the Lord our God alone, for indeed, He is our only hope.

Anguish, Bitterness, Hope

Words stir deep within, swirling up to my head, but I have been unable to type or speak them.

A friend calls, crying, concerned about a loved one’s recent diagnosis. Another texts memorial service information for a small child. At church, we gather around a prayer quilt to speak words of hope and healing for a teenager facing a threatening illness. A friend’s marriage is falling apart. The news is reporting speechless acts of violence and terror.

This is just in one day. I am just one person.

To imagine that all around the world there are people in homes and hospitals pleading for more moments, begging for second chances, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

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I’m a firm believer that only light can drive out darkness, but my lamp is flickering from the winds of terror, injustice, violence, and disease.

I turn to stories of believers across the ages, finding solace in their honest confessions of fear, doubt, and unbelief.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV)

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NIV)

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

The words of Jesus beckon me.

come to Jesus

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

The soul longs for “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”  (Matthew 6:10 KJV) and for the time when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

But until then we are here, smack dab in the middle of a messed up, broken, anguished world. I don’t have fancy words. I don’t have a master plan to fix the brokenness, but I hear the Master’s voice soothing, reassuring, comforting: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

May all whose hearts are broken, whose lives are shattered, whose worlds have stopped, know that I and many are collectively weeping for their sorrows and praying for their comfort.

And with their pain in mind, we are trying to be kinder, gentler, more generous to those within our own circle of influence.

change the world

May these words of confession and pardon renew our hope and inspire us anew to share the good news of Christ’s love to all.

Prayer of Confession

(based on John 20: 24-29; Luke 24:36-43)

Wondrous God, we confess that at times our doubts and fears override our hope and faith. Forgive us when we lose sight of the joy of Your love and instead fall into despair and gloom. Lift up our spirits, Lord, and help us to remember the promise of new life here and now, not just the hope of resurrection for the future. We give thanks for Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who continues to offer us new life, who continues to turn us around and upside down, who continues to break down the walls of death in our own life. Forgive us, restore us and renew us. In the name of our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. There is no darkness now, only light. God continues to renew us and restore us. We are forgiven, loved and restored, receiving the gift and promise of new life and resurrection now. Go and share the wondrous news of God’s love in Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Words of confession and pardon written by Rev. Mindi, and posted on her Rev-o-lution blog. 

Amen.

Confessing my insufficiency and resting in Him

How do you do it all, people often ask. How do you balance everything?

I like to be busy, I usually respond, and I have a helpful husband.

But now, I am forced to sit on the sidelines as I wait for my voice to heal. This affects home-life, our non-profit, and my church work. Phone calls are left unmade, conversations are limited, quiet, and careful, contributions to group meetings and  church studies are weighed thoughtfully and shared only occasionally.

I’m becoming impatient. It has been seven months since this situation first presented itself, nearly two since the doctor ordered silence. The root of the underlying drive to do is emerging from the quiet. 

I self-diagnosed  an “insufficient identity.” 

Insufficient means, not enough; inadequate.

I have wrestled with an insufficient identity various times throughout my life.

As a child, I was certain if I had only done more, been more, tried harder, my family would not have been broken. No one ever spoke those words to me, it was a self-imposed notion that made me feel I had some responsibility in the matter and didn’t measure up. I struggled to handle some of the physical work expected of me and loathed when my siblings made it look easy. I was disinterested, and frankly quite terrible, at most of the recreational games we played, and math was an other-worldly language I was incapable of grasping.

Regina 1 Regina 12

 

Never mind that I was a great cook, an engaging writer, and had a gift for memorization at an early age. I was focused on what I wasn’t and how I didn’t measure up to my siblings and peers. I had an insufficient identity.

 

The older I got, the more I overcompensated for the insufficient syndrome that plagued me. My façade became the girl who could do anything. I thrived on doing. I hated the thought of letting people down, of revealing my insufficiency. I cooked here, baked there, volunteered many places, and often as a young single adult I held two or three jobs at one time, because I didn’t want my insufficiency to show.

And still. I was. Insufficient. By human standards I was unbearably so and I knew it more than anyone. 

But then I began to grasp my identity as a child of God. I wasn’t loved based on what I could or couldn’t do, how well I did or didn’t follow the rules. I was loved because I was created in God’s image. Loved because the God of the universe created me for a unique and specific purpose. Loved because of amazing grace. 

It didn’t matter if I was insufficient to myself or others, HE became my sufficiency. There were no games and no façade in this new-found relationship. Just broken messed-up me finding unconditional love and acceptance in a merciful and gracious God. A God who knew my insufficiency full-well and was crazy about me in spite of it.

Rest-in-the-Lord

 

I spent years building my new identity in Christ. I reveled in his goodness and rested in his sufficiency. When my old identity tried to reemerge, I told that voice where to go and how to get there.

 

In the meantime, I continued doing. I continued my much-ness and busy-ness. Only this time, not because it was my identity, but because I can’t help but care for others from whatever platforms I am given. I absolutely love and believe in the ways I have been called to serve.

It is not that (I) think (I am) qualified to do anything on (my) own. (My) qualification (my sufficiency) comes from God. 2 Corinthians 2:5 (Parenthesis mine)

 

rest in god Now here I am, forced to be “not doing,” and the insufficient identity is trying to tell me I’m letting people down; letting my family down, letting my non-profit down, letting my church down.

Resting doesn’t mean not serving. 

 

Rest_0

 

I believe this quiet time is supposed to be a respite for my soul, a realignment of my faith, meant for good and not evil. But once again this insufficient identity is weighing on me and once again I am acknowledging my insufficiency so I can rest completely and confidently in His. 

If you have ever struggled with an insufficient identity, if you are struggling with it now, I invite you to rest with me in the sufficiency of God, knowing that HE is more than enough. Let’s find our identity and completeness in HIM.

Souls are restless quote

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 “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.

Amen and Amen.

 


Waiting

Waiting. I am currently waiting for a haircut appointment. I have someone else waiting on me for an appointment. But sometimes the waiting is more difficult. Sometimes waiting requires being present. Being present requires being still, reflective, looking deep within and acknowledging all that we are and then addressing that which is revealed.

Yesterday I waited for my grief to diminish. Grief that caught me off-guard as I anticipate the 6-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death this week. Six years. Haven’t I waited long enough?

I wait in anticipation of my upcoming licensing service this Sunday.

I can fill my waiting time with meaningless clutter or I can sit, be present, feel and acknowledge whatever emotions I am experiencing at that moment and pray that in the waiting I am learning and growing, emptying and filling.

And sometimes, waiting is done best by playing…

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