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Monday, February 24, 2014

New Wordpress Site...


I'm working on migrating this blog to a new wordpress site, please follow me at http://ephale.wordpress.com/
I'm  not sure how this process is going to work, but I'll keep both sites updated for a while...
Thanks for reading! 
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When You Want to Press Rewind



It's a strange feeling, standing here in this mostly empty house. It has been nearly 3 years, but it still feels like home. It's hard, renting out the place that once was your home. Hard to let it go and hope that another loves it half as much as you.

What's harder, though, is the way I feel as I wash these walls that used to hold the little hand prints of my kids when they were still so small. Oh, I miss those days! I am aching with a deep longing to press rewind, go back in time and live those days over again...the simplicity of the then when they were small and when the days that they'd be grown seemed so distant. Eldest, he's taller than his father now and Middle Child is borrowing clothes from my closet. Youngest had her 11th birthday a few weeks ago; and it's beautiful how they're growing up and they are wonderful at this age and still...oh, I just want the time to move slower. Sometimes being a mother feels like one big chain of goodbyes, every proud accomplishment also stitched with the ache of loss. We'll never pass this way again, and if we do this thing right we'll work our way right out of the job we love the most.

So I'm scrubbing and crying, and my husband comes alongside and he wants to know why. So I try my best to tell him how these feelings are swarming in my heart, this sense of loss and this grief over how quickly the days are passing, how you can't hold onto anything more than the memories and how time just won't stop stealing the days.

He says he understands. And then he says, it's one thing he's looking forward to about Heaven: That the loss we feel due to time passing will never be an issue again. And if I could go back, when would it be? A few years ago, when high school and college seemed distant? A decade ago, when all three of them fit on my lap? Back to 20, when our bodies were still perfect and the world was an open book? Or to our own childhoods, when worries were limited to passing Friday's spelling test?

We didn't feel the way we do now about those seasons in life then, when we were living them. It's the now that gives us the perspective to love the "then" so much, the now of knowing that whatever crisis was bothering us at that time passed, whatever worries we had were really not as big as the blessings we had and it all turned out OK, it was all grace. We made it, and it was good. It's the vantage point of "now" that puts life into perspective, makes the past seem such a warm, safe place to return.

As hard as it might be to believe?  The truth is, today is the yesterday we will long for tomorrow. (Click to Tweet) Time will grant us the perspective to see: Today is beautiful, and grace-filled, and important. We'll never pass this way again.




Oh Lord, please grant me the faith to live today as I will see it a year from now, or five or ten! Grant me the faith to really live in the knowledge that it's all grace, all God-gifted, that the worries we have now are not as big as the blessings, that whatever comes our way we'll make it and it will all be good. Grant me the grace to live this moment and this day and this season in gratitude and wonder, and see every minute of it as the blessing it is. Take my desire to hit "rewind" and change it into the reminder to hit "pause," to stop and appreciate the beautiful now and love it for the gift that it is.


Linking up with these beautiful ladies:

 Emily at Imperfect Prose 

Jennifer's Tell His Story

 
Laura at The Wellspring

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shelter


We drive past the railroad tracks, scars cut thick through the dirt at the end of some road that I've driven past a hundred times, but never seen. The shelter is behind a chain link fence, just a low warehouse like any other and who ever thinks about what those buildings contain? Only in this case, the rundown building houses people. Hundreds of souls, all under one tattered roof and the word shelter just about covers it, it's not much more than shelter from the cold outside.

I walk past a sea of army cots, some single and many pushed together, covered with blankets. There are children, families huddled here on these small square islands. As I walk the length of the shelter, I can't help but wonder: What if everything you had, everything you loved fit here, on one of these little squares? There are people all around, wall to wall people and yet I get the feeling that it's lonely stranded here on a cot island, floating in a sea of uncertainty.

We have food, and it's grace that's brought it all together because the prospect of a few people from a church small group feeding this many people overwhelmed me and just about stalled me out. But Grace feeds the multitude with five barley loaves and a couple of fish, and Grace brought hands together and turned not enough into food put away for tomorrow, too. Why does it take so very many lessons for me to rely on the fact that when you step out in faith, God provides? 

I see the faces, and I want to know each of them. I want a hundred years worth of time to just sit and listen, to understand. I want to tell them that the only difference between me behind this counter spooning out casserole and them on the other side is a few paychecks, some opportunities that for whatever unknown reason I had and they didn't. That the price of their soul, the ransom paid for it, is just the same as my own and there's a home in heaven, a real one, one that's better than anything we can imagine.

After dinner, we do a craft with the kids. It's all glue and feathers, google eyes and pom-poms and these little hands, upturned faces. I kneel on worn cement and help with glue, and out of all the things that broke into my heart this night the one that breaks it most is his voice, this little boy with the deep brown eyes and earnest smile. My husband is leaning over, peeling the backs off stickers and helping him with this silly little way to pass the time and the little boy looks up and asks him, "Are you homeless, too?"

And he answers, tells him. "No, by the grace of God we're not homeless..." and before he can finish the boy asks him,

"Who is God?"

He leans in close, the man I love. Leans in close and he tells him, as best anyone can tell with only the feeble tool of words. In this sea of voices and faces and people, in this place of uncertainty and suffering, where all around is chaos there is this little island of Grace, this shelter over a single moment in time

It's God that's the shelter, this is what I'm reminded of as we drive home. God that provides, God that loves, God who is the island in our sea of uncertainly. A house can burn down, blow over or fold in foreclosure. A home found in Christ is the only solid ground on which anything...anything at all...can be built. What if we really understood that this means more than a home, more than a paycheck, more than a bank account? What if we really lived in the confidence that everything we are, everything we love fits here...under the shelter of God? (Click here to tweet)


And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)


Little boy with the deep brown eyes, He understands. None of us, none of us are homeless in Him. This broken world, it's nobody's home and child, I pray that you'll find a place to rest your head, in body and in spirit. I pray true Shelter for you.

Linking up with Imperfect Prose at Emily's beautiful blog








Monday, November 04, 2013

On Autumn (the dying of the year)


There is beauty everywhere, in unexpected places, yes even in the spaces where it seems least likely of all.

All around me, the leaves are falling. This is a season of dying, of beautiful dying: the colors burn from every tree, they fly like sparks through brisk air scented with woodsmoke. It is beautiful, all this color, breathtaking. And what is autumn, if not the dying of the year? There, where only a month ago bees bumped against the blossoms on this tree, the branches now show patches of bare black against a brooding sky. And the oak tree, whose green shaded the whole yard, burns with the last orange-red of Fall. A breeze stirs, and the leaves, with their beautiful colors, spin slowly downward.

We go so far out of our way, these days, to avoid death. We don't want to talk about it, think about, and we certainly don't want to see it. I admit: I fear it, not what happens afterwards but the process, not the eternal but the loss, the change.

But I've seen the beauty, too. My friend, she watched her mother die last month. I sat with them on many nights and I saw the most beautiful picture of redemption in those last days. I saw that death is part of life, I saw the way that my friend's ability to walk with her mother through that hard path was a gift to them both, and I saw that when we let go of everything we take hold of God's hand. It's always waiting, there.

"I'll never doubt that there is a heaven, now," she told me one on one of those long nights. "I've seen the look on her face, how she reaches out and calls."  If she'd have given up this hard path, left death at the hospital and not taken it home with her, not embraced it as part of life, she would have missed out on something as beautiful as it is painful.

I do not understand, no I don't...when death takes those who had so much more life to live, when suffering cripples families and little children are struck down and families lose loved ones too soon. I've seen people go through one loss after another in a short time and I don't know how we can live with it, the prospect of death looming over us every day. Short of Jesus, I don't know how we can. But then I see the leaves, how the light filters through all that red-gold fire and how a single leaf, caught by the wind, is borne up and over the trees. How it rides on the invisible breath of breeze, higher and higher until I can see it no more.

And I know:  I don't have to know. I only have to let go, trust, embrace the beauty even in the brokenness. The leaves will change and they will fall, the winter will come and then, too...the Spring. To let go and take His hand means to be reborn. To trust Him when everything around you screams out "why" and when nothing seems good or right or beautiful, is to know that the last breath you take is actually your very first.

Lord, when I don't understand, when I can't see the beauty, lift me up in a breath of grace and give me a tiny glimpse of You.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dear Foster Baby



Dear Foster Baby,

Your third birthday is on Saturday. Three years old! It's hard to imagine, and easy to picture at the same time. You left my arms just six weeks after turning a year old, how can the time have passed so quickly? 

I want you to know, I think of you and of your brother every day. You are often the last thing I think of before I fall asleep at night, and you are in our prayers daily. I think of your mother, too, and pray for her. I miss your smiles, all three of you. I miss everything about you.

I wonder how you are, where you are. I wonder what kind of birthday you will have, a few days from now. I can still picture you here, a cake with three candles and balloons tied to your chair. I can hear the sound of your friends singing, the ones I've watched grow up these two years with the bittersweet knowledge that somewhere, you are reaching those milestones too. You and your brother are missed, sweet child, missed by many.

I have had only secondhand reports of how things are going for you, and I wish what I've heard was better news. I want to fix it for all three of you so badly, and I can't. I don't even know where you are. And this is the thing:  sometimes there are no answers, only questions. Sometimes there is no happily-ever-after, storybook ending in sight; there's nothing in sight at all but a haze of sadness. Sometimes there is no comfort, only the sort of blind faith you cling to like a life preserver. Faith in a God who loves you even more than I do; Father to the fatherless, Hope to the hopeless, Help to the helpless.

It's enough, and nowhere near enough, all at the same time.

Just know, you will always be a part of us no matter where you are. We are always here for you, all of you, with open arms. You are a blessing, a precious blessing...never forget that!

Happy birthday, sweet boy.  You are deeply missed and very loved.

Love,

me
Friday, September 13, 2013

Backseat Conversations: Elephant Coffee


In an effort to lighten things up around here, I'm starting a new category of posts...."Backseat Conversations."  What are backseat conversations?  I love to evesdrop on my kids, they say the most interesting things that sometimes have me laughing for days.  Often as not, these conversations take place in the backseat of the van when we're driving somewhere.  Although they won't all be conversations from the car, they're going under the Backseat Conversation label.  So there you have it!



Overheard:

Middle Child:  (Reading an old copy of Discover magazine) "Whoa, did you know that Elephant Dung Coffee sells for $500.00 a pound?"

Youngest:  "WHAAaaaaat?!?"

Eldest:  "Yeah, I heard about that...the elephant eats the coffee beans whole, and the shells gets digested off the beans and then, well, nature takes its course."

Middle Child:  "As disgusting as that is, $500.00 a pound is pretty fantastic."

*pause*

Youngest:  "Hey, our neighbor is a zookeeper!  She has access to elephants...maybe we can start a family business!"

Eldest:  "That's a great idea!  Well, as long as we don't get high on our own supply."







Um, yeah.  No fear there.













Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roots (a post from the archive)



Dusting off the blog and doing a little housekeeping.  In the meantime, the State Fair was last week.  Here's a post from the archives about the day I took the kids to their first Rodeo....



Little me, with my red cowboy hat (and unfortunate haircut) on my birthday.  


It has been so many years, and maybe I'll never know why suddenly the desire welled up in me the way it did.  I planned the evening out, all excited to show these three kids a little part of my history, my roots that are twined a few hundred miles to the North of us--all wrapped up in the Lodgepole Pines and chain-saw grizzly bears, the Carhartt jackets and 4x4 pickup trucks with lab mixes faithfully patrolling their weather-worn beds.  And I can see how I've slipped in my parental duty to show these kids just where their mother came from when I share my plans and the youngest, she just looks at me and says:

"Wait, you mean people actually pay money to watch guys get catapulted to their deaths off the backs of bulls? I thought that was just a myth."

Oh, I think we've been living in the city just a little too long.

So we eat dinner and we pick up some State Fair tickets and we meet up with friends and take six city-raised kids to the Rodeo, and I suddenly realize just how much I've been missing cowboy hats and boots and the smell of cattle.  And for some reason, when two cowgirls ride around the arena with flags unfurled and they play the Anthem and we all sing I find that I am wiping tears off my face with the back of my hand.


The kids, they warm up pretty quick and the rodeo clown has us laughing and singing along with music that I remember well from my own childhood.  The girls have always loved horses and their eyes are fixed on sleek bodies moving with wild grace over the turned earth of the arena, a flurry of bay and roan and chestnut.  When they set up barrels I lean to Youngest, sitting next to me, and whisper "this was always my favorite part" and I see her sitting up in her chair to watch in rapt attention as cowgirls race around the barrels and I can see how she's picturing herself on one of those beautiful animals. This is no myth.


The town where I grew up was comprised of two worlds, the College world and the Cowboy. I belonged to the College side of things, with my dad putting on his cowboy boots and his felted wool hat and walking not so many blocks South to the campus each morning, where he taught people to build roads and fought for the best ways to keep the water clean.  In my earliest memory I find snapshots of gathering eggs on the farm, timidly feeding carrots to the horses (one of them bit) and a sorrowful moment when the neighbor's German Shepherd got into the chicken coop.  But we moved to town before I started school, so most of my childhood was spent walking the tree-lined sidewalks of a quiet college-town, riding my bike through campus in the summer when the students left and the population suddenly dipped-- leaving the streets lazy-silent. The air was clean and the blue of the Big Sky spread out endlessly.  I must confess, I did not own cowboy boots after I outgrew the little red pair I had when I was five. Still, we were a college town embraced by acres of ranch land and the cowboys, they were the "real Montanans" and the West was everywhere you looked.  It takes something special to endure Montana winters and you could see it in the weather-worn faces of the men who gathered at the Cowboy Cafe just off Main Street in the mornings.  If you drove very far in any direction, you'd find split-log fences worn silver-grey with age and barbed wire running along both sides of the road and you'd see the horses, standing in sweet clover in fields that seemed to last forever.



In the years since I left, my hometown has split even further....the College and the Cowboys have had to move over for the Tourists.  The Cowboy Cafe still exists, but I'm told its clientele wear cowboy boots with no mud on them and have been known to drive away in sports cars rather than rusty Suburbans and Blazers and GMC trucks.  Still, the West is out there and the Real Montanans shake their heads at the wine bars on Main and they let the tourists try on their over-priced Stetsons and pretend to be cowboys for the long weekend.  

And maybe I've become the same sort of voyeur, sitting here in the bleachers crying at the flying flags and the cowboys tough enough to wear pink.  But maybe I just needed to see some good, black dirt and smell the livestock and watch the muscles ripple under shiny chestnut coats. Maybe I needed to see the manes and tails flowing out like banners raised high, hooves pounding and heads tossing and for a moment, to feel the West tip its hat at me and wink.  

And to show these three, sitting beside me under indigo sky and blazing arena lights, a little piece of what's inside them too.  Roots tied up in open spaces, the image of a lone cowboy on a fine horse silhouetted there on the horizon against a crimson-orange sunset burned into the Big Sky.  

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RissaRoo
I'm a certified, Card-Carrying Jesus Freak! I am blessed to be happily married to an amazing man and we have 3 wonderful kiddos. I homeschool my kids, do a little writing and photography, and love spending time in the Word, playing music with my family, and enjoying time with family and friends.
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