The Chase

Hey, there, friends! I thought it was time I chimed in for a moment to reassure you I am in the land of the living.

Doing the wife and mom thing 24/7, doing the cooking for an amazing passel of youth on Wednesdays, and doing an awful lot of introspection in- between.

On things like purpose, God’s plans, and the circuitous way life can often go when desperately chasing those things.

Or, when you just think you are. ๐Ÿ˜

It gives me a laugh, albeit a slightly rueful one, to realize how often He has to show me He is not done with breathing the breathe of life on me, nor equipping and encouraging me.

And, yet, I often seem to take a little breath of my own, ruminate on the vision He is placing in front of me, and shake my foolish head. And then, I dare to petulantly remind Him of my tattered rags, my awkward ways, and do what I do best….

Run! (Figuratively speaking, of course๐Ÿ˜‰)

How easily I forget what He has done before and what He can do again!

The lists of “look what He’s done for me’s” stretch behind me like parchments curling for miles!

Redemption of family.

Healing of hearts.

Breakthroughs and bounties beyond imagination.

Sure, there were looming anxieties pursuing me then and new ones cropping up now…

BUT-there is STILL Jesus.

He never abdicates the throne nor neglects His precious own!

He is the joy-giver whatever the world comes at you with!

And I know this. As in, have ample experience with this!

Yet, how quickly do I dismiss leaning on this joy that abides despite circumstance!

How often do I find myself bogged in a fretful state instead of seeking solace in His arms!

Far too often, friends!

That said, I do find myself in recent days swapping thoughts with the Lord.

Feeling His delight and finding dappled moments of my own.

And, perhaps, finally beginning to reawaken to my sense of purpose in Him.

Now, I’d still characterize myself a “functioning” depressive. It’s hard to face many days, yet facing them I am.

But not alone, mind you! The sweet Lord is there, handing me the key.

For, in Him, I am realizing that, yes, there is a somber shadow cast on my soul that is just there. And just going to be.

But, that is not necessarily bad.

For, strangely, it is one that is not without a purpose of its own.

For, in many ways, the shadow is really just a piece of how it feels to rest in His wings.

In them, He reminds me we need the deep thinkers in this world, the grievers of our times, the ones that recognize where we’re at and why.

And He counts me among them.

Not to be superior nor to scold without tempering in love.

Rather, to alert us these are grave days we are in. We are nearer and nearer to His return by the day.

Salvation is at hand. And it is imperative we both take it to heart and share the truth with others while we yet may.

Now, risk of walking in this shadow comes in allowing satan to twist the reasons for the weeping, to become distracted from the cause God has in mind, and to be lured away from the protective cover of His wings to the true darkness beyond.

For, then, we are prone to surrender to the assaults the world flings at our souls.

Not to mention there is the temptation to chase our own tail in the process!

But-the rewards in the shadow? Ah, the rewards!

Life and life eternal in the presence of our most Holy Lord!

For He alone is infinitely worth every moment of the chase; all the rest the heart clamors for is merely temporal!

And…

Speaking of chasing…

The following song has been known to me a long while, but only recently popped back on my radar.

I first heard it at a concert Andrew Peterson was opening for. The simple honesty of it resonated in my aching heart then and it still does now. Perhaps, even more so.

Have a listen and be blessed, dear friends! Thank you for the prayers! I can definitely feel them! Know that you always have mine, too. โค

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part Three

Hello, friends! Thanks again for all the prayers going up for Pastor Don, his wife, and church family. I will keep you posted as this continues to unfold…

So…in honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d lighten the heaviness in so many hearts and share my final piece.

This goes out in tribute to the man who went from single guy to instant father for me and my precious own. Love you, Joe. โค

If you missed the first two parts, check here and here. ๐Ÿ™‚

So…ready? Ok. Well, let’s see…

When last we met over this winding road, Joe and I had “met” over the mysterious space out there known as the internet and began paying our gratitude to Alexander Graham Bell for the spiffy invention of the telephone.

But-

We had yet to meet in-person, though the idea had been furtively nudged at.

Nor had we introduced my kids to him, though they did witness a lot of mommy giggling into the phone or merrily tippety-tapping keys on the computer.

They knew there was something to this.

Much more than the vague “dates” I was out on prior.

So…eventually the nudging formulated into actual plans.

And these plans became one of my first inklings this all could be for real.

Because, he wanted this first date to be all of us!

Oh, I still tear up nearly a decade later on this point…

Never had that offer ever been extended in all these long and troubled months of grappling with the nightmare of online dating.

Ever.

And, to top it all off, he wanted it to be the kids’ favorite spot.

So…we met at our neighborhood McDonald’s on one of his days off.

My mother dropped us off so she could get a gander. He immediately won her over with his politeness and good humor.

Ok. Good. Passed the mama check. ๐Ÿ˜‰

He was as fun and animated as he had been in our chats. My nervous self was definitely still present and accounted for, but had rarely banished itself to the background so quickly!

Part of what warmed me was that he became a kid with the kids, an avid listener to their tales( which were extensive in those days, especially for my oldest!๐Ÿ˜Š ), and quite the clown to their delight.

He also handled every sensory- issue-laden order with ease, ensuring Elijah’s burger was absolutely pickle-free, Timothy had his root beer, and Sarah had her usual pile of ketchup packets.

As if he had always been there doing this very thing with me.

It was…surreal.

I kept waiting for the bubble to burst. Fearing it. It always happened, after all.

Yet…it never did.

Our sweet Sarah, blunt autistic beauty she was at just 6 and still is at nearing 15, assessed the situation with a moment that is still one of the richest in our family history.

She slid in between us in the booth at one point, slipped an arm around us each, and with all the seriousness she could muster, stated the facts:

“You two on a date. You two gonna get married.”

Of course, we each laughed nervously, blushed like mad, and I think would’ve liked to have hidden under the table.

Her older brothers each had raised a brow then but did not comment. They were still in that boyish “eww-romance?” phase.

And yet…here we are. More than eight years later. ๐Ÿ˜Š

The night continued on in that same homey vein.

On so many points, though each of our stories had their own unique struggles and joys, we could match experiences.

Rough childhoods and painful rejections. Awkwardness, failures and triumphs in carving out places for ourselves.

Where I had struggled in abuse, abandonment and seeking self-worth in relationships, his foster care beginnings had led him to addiction,theft, and some youthful years locked up.

Yet, for us both, the best of what we could share was our respective new lives reborn in the Son.

When at last it was time to take our reluctant leave, Sarah begged for a piggyback ride on the stroll back to our nearby apartment. She was obviously officially sold. ๐Ÿ˜

The boys were also chatty and playful. They may’ve been “eww-romance” but they were also loving having a guy around to bounce their superhero discussions off of.

And…me? I was… full of wonder.

Still am.

At God’s astronomical providence.

His awesome love.

His astonishing attention to detail.

For He reaches through the messes we make of ourselves, plucks us up, and matches us with just who we need.

Not that all has been as easy as that, of course.

There have been falls from grace aplenty and graces extended once more.

I wish I could say our mutual hold on God had always kept us from spiralling into sin.

But, alas. I cannot. For we are human.

Banged-up, prone-to-sin humans.

For, the drawing together of so many scared and hurting souls naturally brings out the ache of scars and the risk of new wounds.

Both will press deep into the heart and bring emotions and wills to bear.

And…sometimes, we embrace the victory over sin He has given us…and sometimes, we don’t.

Without going to details best left to themselves, I will just say a bonus baby entered swiftly into the mix in our case.

He would be treasured, to be sure.

But, he was coming before we were ready, bringing us to a painful and needed place of repentance, reminding us of both the vulnerabilities and the joys of being human.

For there are so, so many of both, my friends.

And I could’ve either shrugged it off as “just the way of the world” or swept it under the rug unacknowleged altogether.

Or else lingered in the shame of taking His gift to me and misusing it.

I still could.

But, then, what would that say for His tender mercies to us?

That which indeed are new every morning.

Not at all that they should ever be taken advantage of!

But, neither should they not be allowed to do their miraculous healing work in our hearts.

So…we were set to marry as it was but the ceremony was somewhat hastened with this turn of events.

Still, it was beautiful. A bringing together of us all under one umbrella kind of beautiful.

And, indeed, what a beautiful way He has of taking the splotches our fumbling hands create on the sketchpad of living and etching out masterpieces!

For, here we all stand, over eight years later, a testament to His amazing grace.

With so many more stories than I could ever fill these online pages with.

Suffice to say, in my myriads of current struggles, this is what my heart must stir itself to rest upon.

And, so, where there is so, so much more I could say, I will end on that note, dear friends.

It’s been fun to share these tidbits with a new audience.

If you find yourself wanting more of this testimony in greater detail, I will fight my usual tendency to break out in a rash on salesmanship at this point. ๐Ÿ˜

Here is a link to my book from a few years ago:

I don’t know what God will do here. Don’t know if this is a resurgence of my work or just a rebirth of the joy in sharing it.

Either way, it’s in His hands. ๐Ÿ˜Š

At any rate, thanks so much for joining in on this reading journey with me! Blessings and prayers! โค

When God Makes a Match Out of Our Mess, or the How Marisa Met Joe Story, Part Two

Well, hello there, friends! Ready for part two of this crazy tale?

If not, you can find part one here.

Ok. Ready now?

Let’s see…when we left off, I was fed up with being a lonely single mama.

First, I admit I did look around my church with a fresh eye, hoping someone I hadn’t noticed in my “waiting on a miracle” days might have possibilities.

But…

Honestly, even though there were a couple of nice guys, there weren’t really any leaping at the opportunity to date a hurting mom of three, two on the autism spectrum.

Well, understandable. It isn’t for everybody. ๐Ÿ˜

So, that idea dashed, I grabbed my phone one night (after about the umpteenth time bawling with deep-seated envy over old movies with “happily ever afters”. ).

I did the googly thingy and found one of the more famous dating sites, let my somewhat windy writing style have a field day, agonized through selfies and set up shop in the “looking for love” business.

A rather silent affair for a time, frankly. I reached out to the nice-sounding ones.

I found myself ignored.

I attempted aloofness.

Aloofness was what I got in return.

Go figure.๐Ÿ˜‰

And then, I think I really let myself get angry with God.

Not a good place to be with your Creator!

Because I found the most anti-God, albeit charmingly dark-humored sort I could and dared him to go out with the nicey-nice Christian girl.

He took me up on it, unfortunately.

And what followed was a horrifying few months, swinging between outright rebellion and missionary dating.

Either way, I plunged my heart in and felt pieces of soul begin to give way before he decided he was through with me.

And after he was done, I found what felt like the whole World Series of Mr. Wrongs.

To each I kept flinging out piece after piece of myself, hoping for some shred of love for my trouble.

Some were kinder than others, admittedly, but none possessed for me the love I craved.

I was too ashamed to introduce a single one to family.

To this day, I am grateful I never did.

I still carried the knowledge of God in those days, trying to straddle that proverbial fence but, of course, finding it painful.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I could feel the enormous weight of the grief He felt for the state of my life.

As time and the hole in my heart wore on, I stopped recognizing myself.

Though the specter of suicidal thoughts did seem dismayingly familiar.

It was about this time I decided I had had my last with this website.

The guy I was seeing at this time didn’t even make a pretense of being interested in anything more than convenience.

I tried to put on a jaded air in return, but it was like an ugly Halloween mask that didn’t quite fit.

Inside, I was crying out in my heart to God for an absolution to all this madness.

I didn’t want this anymore. Never really did.

So…quickly as I signed up, I made up my mind I was going to pull the plug on this demoralizing mess.

It was the only way.

Yet…an irresistable tug caused me to take one last scroll through these ill-fated, soul-crushing profiles.

And…all at once, there I saw him. My Joe. โค ( Told you he was coming! ๐Ÿ˜Š) Never saw him on the site before, though he’d been listed a good two years.

He had a sweet, goofy smile and twinkly blue eyes. He looked approachable and unaffected by any attempt to be something he wasn’t.

His profile spoke a lot of the simple things in life, something my complicated world begged for.

So refreshing was his write-up, in fact, that I forgot about pulling the plug.

Instead, there I was writing to him. I told myself I just had to tell him I appreciated his words.

I really didn’t expect a reply, reminding myself how the nice ones never did that.

They were too busy with the girls nicer than me.

And, for days, I heard nothing.

I thought I was right. The disappointment stung despite the vindication.

I had had hopes in spite of myself. Sigh.

And then, one evening after I had shoved the whole idea from my head, there went the little “bing” on my phone!

I had mail, it read. From some guy named Joe. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ˜Š

I had not been so eager to open and read something in a long while.

And what I read? Well, it truly floored me.

His two chief priorities in life: Christ and family. He hoped I felt the same.

He was a regional truck driver, hence he had not had opportunity to reply till now (Aha! Little Cynic, my brain chided). Feel free to write back, he added.

In fact, he hoped I would.

And, naturally, I did, with fingers flying. ๐Ÿ˜Š

These exchanges kept up for quite a few weeks. Phone numbers were added to the mix.

We discovered we both had a thing for nostalgia and that we could neither one dance.

We shared the hurt of a failed marriage and frustration with the whole dating scene.

Most importantly, we shared Christ and the redemption to be found only in Him.

In fact, I attribute this momentous meeting to reawakening my heart to this truth.

But, still, in all the goodness was yet a rather pertinent question-

What about my kids? Hmmm…

And that, dear friends, shall be covered in part three…๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks for reading. Hope you are enjoying. Blessings and prayers!

The Becoming

This poem grew from a comment I made the other day on a post on Heavensreef, a very encouraging blog I recently started following. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, it’s not what you’d call a traditional valentiny sort of piece, but, truly, what better love is there demonstrated than in His redemption of our lost souls? โค

Query:

What were you before Jesus?

Answers circle, haunting truths

So heavy to carry.

Surprisingly daunting task, this-

How to describe what I was

And not lose sight of what now is?

Well, best to just begin, I concede-

Filthy hands had I,

So foolish and full of sickening pride,

Pawing desperately

After a love I tried to define.

Hardly kept a head above

Quicksand most days;

Crackling lungs scarcely held

More than shallow breath;

Fingers curling over

Broken strands of impending death,

Numbing to my own rapidly

Increasing decay.

Ah, but, one word could I rasp to the skies:

“Help.”.

In that moment, stretched out the Lord’s clasp to mine,

Pulling me free of my self-made muck,

Suddenly to solid ground I found myself,

Startled near to being thunderstruck.

Brought me to His river then,

And washed me pure within.

New garments was I given,

Royal robes fit for heaven.

And after?

Well, we’ll call that the becoming.

His truths started in to humming,

New and strange beats on my heart drumming.

Set out to learn this different rhythm,

Untried feet sometimes skipping,

Sometimes stumbling.

Yet, the travels with Him,

Dear companion God,

Are ever onward tumbling…

Oh, this becoming has been quite

A journey for me,

And He’s not done with me yet,

By any means.

Yet so grateful to see

Just how far His love’s brought me-

Long miles streak out behind

Like light-years of shifts and sighs,

From the life that really wasn’t life

To the life He intends there to be.

And one day, this becoming will

Become a became

And, at journey’s end, all the rest

Will fall away,

With nothing more left to do than

Simply bless His name…

Oh, friends, the wonder of the journey from the depths of sin to becoming like Him! There’s nothing like it. May you feel His love on this day and always. โค Thanks for reading. Blessings and prayers to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Before and After Tag

Thanks to Robert for the thoughtful tag. I so appreciate your blog. It is full of wisdom that blesses me daily!

Photo courtesy of the Canva App.

Now, the idea here is to discuss befores and afters through a series of questions.

For me, that means before the Lord redeemed my critically wounded soul and after that transformative work. I love the way the above photo communicates that! ๐Ÿ˜Š

So, on to the questions…

1. Who was family for you growing up?

Well, that is actually a weightier question to begin with than one would think! At least, for an (overly) introspective sort like me!๐Ÿ˜

So, I had a mom, dad, and one older brother, but, in between dealing with childhood abuse via my mother and a father that was rarely present, I would call my brother the most consistent form of family then. He was my safe place. My maternal grandmother also figures highly in there, though our visits were mostly during holidays. Those were among the happiest times of my younger years. Oh, and I shouldn’t neglect to note the occasional cats ( this was in the days I was blissfully unaware my constant sneezing and itchiness meant I was allergic! ๐Ÿ˜) and two funny little cockaboogle dogs ( My granny’s made-up term for Cocker Spaniel/Beagle/Poodle mixes ๐Ÿ™‚).

2. Who is family for you now?

Now, my family is my second chance at love, my husband of 8 years come March, our four kids, three of whom he adopted upon marrying me, the fourth my bonus boy from our union. And two rescue dogs, a Dachshund/Mini Lab mix and a Dutch Shepherd ( as best as we can estimate) . Also, much, much family added via my husband’s massive group of relatives, only some of which I have met. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ And, lest I forget, the family of God at large, many of whom I enjoy through fellowship in church and here on WP. โ˜บ

3. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Oklahoma, spent a few grade school years in southern Texas in various rental homes as my dad’s work prospects shifted. Then, after moving to Kansas at age 9, I stayed more put, only living in two different residences, the second of which was a crackerbox rental dubbed “the hot house” for its distinct lack of cooling capabilities. ๐Ÿ˜

4. Where do you live now?

I am now out of the city in a tiny township still in Kansas in a hundred years+ house we are in a perpetual process of renovating. It’s quite a lot nicer than its dilapidated beginnings, though.๐Ÿ˜

5. What did you want to be when you were older?

I dreamed of a few things, such as acting and various types of art, but writing has been the most constant ever since I figured out how to string phrases. I use to lean heavily towards fiction until I realized my truth was stranger. ๐Ÿ˜

6. What do you do now?

I taught preschool for a lot of years. Life and physical pain intervened, however. So, now, I stay home, fend for my kiddos, which takes up quite a bit of time, especially with two on the autism spectrum, and do lots of secretarial stuff for my husband’s repair/remodeling business. Oh, and I had a memoir published a few years ago. It was less than a roaring success in a worldly sense, but it has been a witness to those God intends. In that way, I guess you could say it’s a dream fulfilled.

7. Whatโ€™s your earliest memory?

Hmm… probably playing in the mud out behind our house with my brother when I was around 2. I remember it was a warm and peaceful day, a rare commodity even then. ๐Ÿ™‚

8. Whatโ€™s one of your most recent memories?

Sitting here sorting out phrases to type while my youngest and his school buddies play superheroes on this very snowy snow day. ๐Ÿ™‚

9. What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?

Most people would say my book, but, eh, that’s too pat a response. I’d say it’s making it through all the struggles set before me with sanity intact. But, truly, that’s owed to the Lord who carried me and carries me still.

10. What is your biggest hope in this life?

That I will see my children live for Christ and fulfill all He has instilled in them.

So, that’s it. Thanks again, Robert! Good questions!

So, on to tagging. You know, I am never sure on this point, so I think I will leave it open to any reading this that are game to try. Just answer the above questions, remember to use the image in your post, and give me a tag so I know it’s out there to read! Blessings and prayers to you, friends!

And P.S. I break out in hives when it comes to selling. ๐Ÿ˜ But, I do occasionally find myself being asked more about this book I allude to off and on. So, for any who want the fuller scoop on pieces of my testimony, here’s a link:

Peace Personified

I was going to save this for Christmas Eve, but, much as I love the fellowship I have found here, I honestly want to be more mindful in the moment versus being on WordPress as the special day draws near, so I thought I would slip this in a little early…

Anticipation.

Air is hushed with it tonight.

Every limb lays still.

Moon provides a gentle glow, yet bright.

Starry hosts pinpoint velvet heights,

A gathering of God’s light upon the silent fields.

Creation to the moment quietly builds,

Humming all the truth it knows.

Festivities there have been;

Festivities are yet to come.

Busy buzzes as only busy does.

But, when I pause, I join in the knowing…

I can hear the whispered

Reminder of

A promise fulfilled,

A cover over my wretched owing.

And darkest deed comes undone.

Redemption’s born,

Peace is personified.

Veils tremble, ready to be torn,

Word in flesh nestled in a manger,

Wholly humble,

Wholly king,

Wholly unable to be

Denied.

The whole earth sighs relief

As an answer arrives at long last

For its grief, and

Fresh chance for belief

Is birthed at last to the broken

Soul.

Christmas, a celebration:

Christ inhabits a newborn babe

To inhabit us anew

And in us let His peace unfold…

Merry Christmas, dear friends! May we be filled with the wonder of anticipation, the celebration of Jesus come to earth, the joy of redemption, and the promise of peace fulfilled. Much love and many prayers!

Of Time Swiftly Spent

I am beginning my year-end pensiveness a little early. Bear with me as I ramble a bit…๐Ÿ˜

Spring was barely budding only a few months ago.

Then, summer came with freedom and bare feet.

Before we could turn around, fall crackled and cooled the nights.

And, now, winter is settling in with its frosty mornings and heavy-coated evenings.

Already?

It couldn’t have been that long ago already, could it?

We were just finishing up first grade field day- and fretting on the possibility of sunburn on my sweet little freckle-faced boy.

Our summer vacation plans were just shifting like sand with the unwelcome intrusion of a blown gasket head…and, yet, being used of God for major hotel room togetherness and unexpected witnesses ( Don’t ask. Not just now, anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ Someday, this adventure needs a whole post of its own.).

Fresh pencils and crayons were just being procured and packed!

We were just nervously embarking on a whole new way of schooling/ interning with our senior. Oy. I have a senior.

That thought alone makes me reach for chocolate.๐Ÿ˜

Shoot. On that note, October’s candy is still being finished! ๐Ÿ˜€

November’s musical was just coming to life on stage after months of teasers wafting up the stairs from basement practice sessions.

Now, it’s all just smiles and glories behind us.

A long chilly nap is firmly planting itself in our midst.

Yet, many things are yet to come on the calendar.

The one that says “2020”. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Time slides away so quickly! One need only observe a row of yearly family experiences to see it is so.

I find myself asking how can it be?

And there steals in a wistfulness to hold on.

Especially as we prepare to really, actually launch our oldest into the world in a few oh-so- short months and the other three cluster rather closely behind, vying for their turn.

All in time. All too soon in time.

It makes me ask the serious question, What are we doing with our time?

That which the Lord graciously affords us. That which once spent can never return.

Ok. Yes, Lord. I will go back to the story of the vacation that never was. It does bear unique weight here. And it pays to heed Your prompting…๐Ÿ˜

So… suffice to say, rarely was there a more frustrating situation.

We were supposed to go see edifying, faith-encouraging things-The Ark, The Creation Museum, historical sites.

What we saw mostly was a hotel room a state away from where we’d hoped to be, the free breakfast bar, (make your own waffles are admittedly cool. ๐Ÿ˜Š) and the few sites that were in walking distance or a cheap Uber ride away.

We wound up waiting that entire week of our vacation-the little time and finances we could afford- for the family van to be fixed. By the time it was done, it was time to be on the road for home again.

The family purse agreed. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yet, where time in a worldly view appeared robbed or misspent, in a heavenly view, it was infinitely valuable.

For, we were just coming off some particularly tough moments even prior to leaving, to be honest.

But, there in close quarters, intimate family conversation happened, needed words were said.

Laughter bubbled up despite our disappointment, a fascinating place or two was discovered.

Prayers and scripture flowed from our place of need.

But, best of all, was chance after chance to relate not merely our circumstances but also the Reason for our hope-from nearly every Uber driver to hotel staff to the awesome tow truck driver and amazing mechanic that went above and beyond to help us.

We saw grace both smile on us and pass to others and time, as always in the hands of He who keeps it, was beautifully redeemed.

As it always is, when given over to Him.

As I know it will prove to be again and again as the seasons-oh, so swiftly!- pass.

He’s got us through it all, from freckle-faced sunburns to blown gasket heads to tuning up for the big launch.

And all that comes before, after, and in-between…

Thanks for joining me on my reflective ramble here, friends! May we each think carefully on how we are using our time. Each moment is precious-and some that may seem misspent can turn out to have unexpected purpose! Blessings and prayers to you!