The Heart Cloud

The habit of holding on prevents our stumble down the stairs,  but falling is not failing.
“Mmmmmmmmoooooommmmmmmm,” Brianne wailed, through broken breaths of crying…”Oooooowwwwwwweeeeee.”

Happens at least once a week. One of them falls down the stairs, and I’m greeted by Brianne’s cry of shock, or Lo running to me out of breath and holding her butt. I’m used to the routine of hurried footsteps followed by awkward clunking…

Despite my best efforts to educate and warn, my little Lo will come flying around the corner high-kneed and stomach punched often enough to warrant her own hashtag. Her crash down the staircase is often prefaced by a symphony of Ty eye-ball plinks as they reach the first floor first.

I caught an interesting directive falling out of my mouth as I held a sobbing Brianne after her latest tumble down the stairs.

“Hold on to the railing,” I begged her, “You’re too precious to fall.”

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How many times do we want to bolt up a railing for kids to hold on to …thinking they’ll surely recognize, appreciate, and grip it tight, preventing a nasty fall. But they don’t. Three reasons why:

1. They don’t recognize it when they need it because they weren’t paying attention to something they didn’t need at the time.

2. They don’t appreciate the love and care bolted into the wall of protective measures we surround them with, because they don’t understand why it’s necessary.

3. They don’t grip it in swallowed pride when they are about to fall down the stairs, because they don’t think our protections are as necessary for them as they are for us.

Down the stairs they tumble …and we’re helpless as our precious babes fall.

“I told you so.”

“Why didn’t you hold onto the railing?”

“We talked about this.”

I used to frustrate my face into a fury over their lack of listening skills, until I tumbled down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner one day.

“Well, that was stupid,” I said to myself out loud in an empty house.

God revealed a few things through the railing:

1. Falling isn’t failing.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…”    2Corinthians 12:7

The apostle Paul was clever to point out that our imperfections and insults to injury are what keep us in check with reality. And reality is, God knows we all need something to hold on to. Just because we let go doesn’t mean we give up.

2. The railing is Jesus.

“For through Him we now have access to the Father by one Spirit.”-Ephesians 2:18

God has bolted His Son to our hearts, that we may access Him through prayer, The Word, and the Holy Spirit. The access is there for the acceptance. I’m no better than my daughters at holding on to the railing, but

God doesn’t punish me every time I fall down the stairs. Don’t you punish yourself, either.

 He is not waiting at the bottom with an “I told you so,” or a “well, that was stupid.” No, He’s waiting at the bottom, already knowing how much it hurt. Because of Jesus, God says,

“It’s not too late, grab the railing and pull yourself up.”

3. Jesus knows that life is difficult…that’s why He put the railing there in the first place. He died for us… He’s not going to give up, even when we let go.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus felt what we feel, “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He was tempted, but never failed. The railing is there, but He knows we’re not God. We’re to have faith, not be perfect.

4. He watches out for us.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2Chronicles 16:9

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Often when I’m out walking in the morning, I can’t help but feel God’s warmth in the beginning of a new day. The sky is so much prettier in the morning, after it pierces through the darkness of night. I look for God in that sky, and He meets me there. Day after day, railing still securely bolted to the wall of the staircase.

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart.”   Psalm 108:1

Through Jesus we can come to the Father and receive grace.  A God who cares for us, watches out for us, and forgives us. “Hold on to the railing…you’re too precious to fall.”  But when you do, I hope you know, He’s with you.

Hold on tight, but don’t forget to look up.

Happy Stair-climbing…

Megs

The Marshmallows.

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“Mom, I’m sooooooo hungry,” came the voice promptly at 6:15 am from my four year old daughter, Lo.

“Ok, Ok,” I responded sleepily,” let’s go get you some breakfast.

Normally, my little one wakes up about an hour before everyone else’s alarms go off, pitter patters into my room, crawls onto my bed, steals half my pillow, and soaks up some cuddles before she starts her day.  It’s honestly my favorite way to wake up, and every morning I utter prayers of thanks for those cherished moments, and pleadings for her to stay little forever.  I know all too well how those morning cuddles are fleeting.  My older daughter now sleeps like a brick through her alarm most mornings.

“Ok Lo,” I said to her as I poured she and her sister a bowl of cereal, “you can’t just eat the marshmallows.  You have to eat the cereal, too.”

“OK MOM!” little Lo stated matter-of-factly, and back upstairs I went to start getting the family ready for the day.

By the time my oldest daughter, not such a morning person, got ready and went down to eat her breakfast, little Lo had already bounced back up the stairs to get dressed and brush her teeth.  She passed her Daddy on the stairs, on his way to have a relaxed cup of coffee on his Friday morning off of work.

It was then that I heard the following arguement waft up the stairs…

“Dadda, there’s not enough marshmallows in my cereal,” Brianne complained.

“Brianne, that’s rediculous,” he stated.  “Eat the bowl of cereal that your mom poured you.”
(To my husband’s credit, silly morning conundrums are not out of the ordinary for her, so he launched into the normal parenting tecnique.)

“But can’t I just have Cheerios instead?” she pleaded.  “There’s like, no marshmallows in here!”IMG_0140

While my husband continued to reprimand Brianne, sending her flying out of the kitchen in tears, I sauntered over to Lauren’s room.  Happily humming a tune as she got dressed, I interrupted,

“Hey Lauren…”

“What Mom,” she answered in a way-too-happy, I-just-got-away-with-something- tone.

“Did you pick all of the marshmallows out of your sister’s bowl of cereal?” I pryed…already knowing full well that’s what had happened.

Little Lo smiled, giggled, and then confessed, “I just couldn’t help it, Mommy!”

Both of us in total laughter by this point, she added, “THEY ARE JUST SO DELICIOUS!!!”

I flew down the stairs to rescue Brianne from her plight, and pour her a new bowl of cereal.  Explaining to her and to my husband what had happened, trying to get them all to join in on the laugh.  Brianne was content to swipe her sister’s purple vitamen and replace it with an orange one…thinking she’d surely evened the score.  My husband was confused as to why no one was going to be held accountable for their behavior.

“It’s 7:30 in the morning,” I explained, “Do you really want every woman in this house in tears before school?”

There are so many instances in life when I want to pick the marshmallows off the top.  Times when I feel like taking a shortcut, and others when I put in the effort, the work, and the discipline…realizing that the outcome is still out of my hands.  Parenting has given me a front row seat to this show for seven years now, just as my passion for running throughout my life.

“I’ll try, and see how far I get,” I said, responding to the possibility of running a marathon.  

“You’re going to run a lot of ‘halfs’ in training for a full,” George told me, when I asked him to help coach me through my attempt at the half-marathon. (My cousin is a distance runner, too, and is running the Boston Marathon again in 2015.) I nodded and laughed in response, but agreed.

All along, I doubted that my back would allow me the opportunity to run that far.  (If you’ve kept up with me on this blog, you know why…if not…just know it’s not conducive for a marathon runner.  In fact, it was in the shape of an ‘S’ the last time it was x-rayed, but no longer fused at the bottom…which is a literal miracle.  Praise God.)   Fear and anxiety nagged me every long run day. Six miles, seven miles, eight, ten, eleven…and as a the distance I originally set out to conquer faded into the entries of my training log…thirteen.  (13.34, to be exact.

Impossible.

I’m so knicked up, it’s become more practical to take an ice bath than to rotate the ice pack around every 20 minutes. Yet, as I write this entry  I am attempting to prepare for a 15 mile long run.  The doubt is creeping in and magnifying every pain that I have…exploiting every weakness I struggle with…  tempting me to give into the fear, instead of trusting in the faith has carried me this far.  Faith that “can do anything…far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams.” (Ephesians 3:20)  Like, maybe, run 13 miles.

In the spirit of Lent, imagine if Jesus just picked all the marshmallows out of the cereal bowl.  What if he only liked the sweet, brightly colored parts of me?  When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethseneme, he said that “His soul was overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38)  On the way to Jerusalem, he told his disciples that he would be betrayed. (Matthew 20:18)  As he made his way to the cross, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him.” (Mark 15:29)  He was spit at and hit, his clothes torn. (Matthew 26:67) He was beaten, and given a crown of thorns. (Mathew 27:28)  He carried his own cross up to Golgotha and was crucified. (John 19:17-18)  There were no marshmallows in Jesus breakfast on that day.

Simply imagining a morning without cuddles from my daughters brings tears to my eyes. Recalling the sacrifice that God made…I guess that’s why God is God.

IMG_0145He has encouraged me through every stride.  Through my cousin’s advice and encouragement, friends and neighbors that encourage me in conversation, Facebook comments, and high fives.  Through a high school teammate who responded to my Facebook post about GPS watches,  mentioning that he listens to sermons while he runs.  While I logged a 10 mile, 11 mile, 13 mile…run, I learned through Moodswingers how to “beat burnout” and shift my attitude.  To focus on God’s voice in moments when the other is picking me a part. (Crash the Chatterbox).   To push through “weakness of the flesh” (“The Genius of Jesus.”), and become the healthy person I was designed to be (The Daniel Plan).  Marshmallows.

“He is not waiting for you to cross the finish line first.  He is smiling at you as you run the race.” The Daniel Plan.

Marshmallow.

“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” Phil. 4:13

Marshmallow.

“Push through what you dread to get to what you love.” Pastor Steven Furtick

Marshmallow.  (I think that one was a purple moon…)

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corintheans 10:31

Marshmallow.

“God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain.” CS Lewis.

Marshmallow.

Marathon training has revealed itself to be such a painful, unfathomable, anxiety-filled, and incredibly joy-filled task.  It’s bringing me closer to God, because it keeps the conversation going.  I need Him out there on the road..to survive every stride.  With every step forward….every mile I run…every distance I complete that I felt terrified to try…the roots of my faith extend into the ground a little further.IMG_0146

When Jesus died on the cross, He died so we may live.  He ate the whole grain cereal, so that we could enjoy the marshmallows.  When I choose to let Him lead me through parts of life that I am the most afraid of…guide me through situations I don’t know how to handle…pray to Him for help I cannot give myself…I get to experience His love.  I celebrate Easter because Jesus rose from the dead of that cross.  His tomb was empty.  God made the impossible, possible.  For the love of his son.  For the love of his people. For the love of you. 

(…I decided to add an update to this entry before I click on publish. God willing, I completed that 15 mile run, and the following week a 17 miler. Never stop praying.)

 Happy Easter,

Megs

“Maybe one day we’ll see that the greatest setbacks in our lives were setups to seeing God’s glory in places we didn’t even know to look.” Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church.