Just a Tonka Truck

It was just a Tonka truck. Tucked into a 50 pound duffle bag of garage-sale gathered toddler clothes and toys.

It was thrown under a plane in Cincinnati, in Chicago, and again in Abu-Dabi along with other travelers’ jet-setting necessities and relocating families’ most prized possessions. It arrived in the back of our little Maruti Suzuki bursting with the gifts of doting grandparents finally arriving for a 10 day stay.

The next morning, it spilled out among the spoils spread out upon our marble floor. I nearly gasped at the sight! The previous Christmas, I had placed a Tonka truck on my Amazon wish list, not thinking much how unlikely and inconvenient this request was for a family living in a foreign land.

But leave it to Grandma to fulfill these crazy notions bound by far more than my imagination. She revealed to me that she had searched and even prayed while scavenging yard sales in my home town to find one of these golden vehicles of destructive delight.

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It was just a Tonka truck. But to me, it was so much more. It was a glowing, gleaming expression of an indestructible force- love. Though this tough love is threatened by thousands of miles, it plows and plunders through every obstacle and runs down each hill heaped up by hundreds of hardships.

Its work is HARD, and it is quietly admired by those privileged to behold its wonder. Its work is worth doing. Its work challenges and encourages me, though it is most often done without applause or praise.

Not many volunteer to take part in the cause. Most cringe a little at the mention at such a tedious, difficult task.

It speaks to me of a Savior that gives good gifts, no matter the cost. That toils to soften hard and frozen ground, to love those that are incapable of extending anything worth offering.

And it challenges me to love and give beyond myself. When it’s not quite cute and cozy and capable of being captured in a filtered photograph. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of loving other people.

Across seas. Across cultures. Across the dining room table and down the hall.

Across the yellow-tape of my own comfort zone.

So thanks, MiMi, for the Tonka truck. Every time Shep vrooms it around the house or throws it down the stairs, I think of you (usually fondly, less so on the latter act). But mostly, I think of the hard work you’re doing.

And I thank God for a little boy so loved…

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…even if he doesn’t seem to appreciate it like I do.

 

 

Toddler Taught Truth

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My daughter cracks me up. Especially when she throws tantrums. I really don’t want to encourage the behavior, but seriously, it’s hard not to laugh sometimes! Am I the world’s worst mom or can somebody relate to this predicament?

I’ve figured out that I can’t give Jo something (namely a piece of candy or food) if she can’t have ALL of it. I have to hand her the entire bag of fruit snacks instead of just one at a time. I have to give her a banana whole, not chopped up. I have to hide the jumbo bag of dum-dums in order to hand her one, and I have to show her my empty pockets. I’m not kidding.

I’ve seen my poor little girl sobbing…WITH A SUCKER IN HER MOUTH. I can’t even understand how she could possibly cry with a pink lemonade treat on her tongue. Seriously, what could be the problem? Didn’t I just send her to “toddler heaven?”

Her dissatisfaction with what I have seemingly withheld from her makes her incapable of enjoying the bit she holds in her hand. What she doesn’t know is that a lot of moms don’t let their babies have candy (and those moms probably aren’t in a car with their child for several hours a week!). I don’t HAVE to give her candy at all, but still, she acts like she has been on the receiving end of some major injustice by her mother not allowing her to rot her teeth out of her head.

And it’s funny how the Lord uses these moments to teach me. A red-faced nearly-two-year-old screaming with blue lips (from the treat- not a lack of oxygen!)  and a sucker in hand. And I think it’s ridiculous but it’s not far from home.

We were a stocking short on the mantle at Christmas, so I felt lonely when surrounded by a loving family. I long for my baby boy and fail to cherish the moments with my precious little princess basking in what an incredible miracle her sweet little life truly is. I think about each holiday and birthday being the last in the States, and I am tempted to sulk instead of take in every moment. But at the same time I long to be in India, serving where God has called our family, and I don’t make the most of the ministry God has given me stateside. And it’s nothing but ridiculous. I am robbing myself of the joy of the blessings God has given me because I’d rather focus on what I feel like has been withheld from me or even taken away from me.

I don’t indulge my toddler with everything she wants or thinks she needs because I love her. The decisions I make are for her own benefit. All us parents are in agreement here (except for maybe the lady who said, “Shame on you” for giving Jo yogurt while her father and I ate ice cream). This makes perfect sense to us.

Yet, when the Father in heaven withholds or takes away, we question Him. Does He really know what He’s doing? Does He really have it all under control? Why would He not bless me in the way He blesses others, and why would He take something that is precious to me away?

Because while it may not please me, it benefits me. And you know what’s the greatest thing about that? He actually KNOWS what’s best for me, without a doubt, because He created me. He knows my inside and out and has been conscious of every moment of my life from the moment of my conception (what?!?).

And let’s be honest, I really have NO clue what’s best for Jo. I read blogs and books, I pin and ponder, I ask advice and worry around the clock. But I don’t really know what’s best for her. But, oh, I sure do try.

But he knows. And he provides, and He doesn’t have to try. Blessings and benefits flow from His wounded hands. He is incapable of producing anything but righteousness. Rightness. And everything He allows in my life is for my benefit whether I can wrap my head around that or not.

Maybe it’s the blessing of being used for His kingdom or just the sake of knowing Him more intimately. But isn’t that the greatest gift of all?

That’s all I need. You can have my blue lollipop and day of the week. Just don’t take Jo’s. Trust me on that one.

Choosing Thankfulness

Wow, looks like me and my friend Kelli were thinking the same thing today–even shared one of the same verses! I didn’t see hers until my draft was finished. Anyway.She says it much better than me here

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Thanksgiving, for me, this year is totally different than any other turkey day I have celebrated previously. Prior to this year, I had never experienced any truly HARD circumstances in my life. God had been incredibly gracious to not have allowed me to see financial hardship, death, health problems, or any kind of trauma in my bubble-wrapped life. It was easy to give thanks of a truly blessed, whole heart.

But this past year, all of that changed. Deputation rocked my scheduled, secured world. A car accident shook it to its core, and the loss of our second child then shattered what was left. After the loss, health issues remain along with a plethora of questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven. How do I give thanks from a burdened, broken heart?

In my Bible reading, I have been studying much about the life of the apostle Paul. This missionary was no stranger to hardship. In fact, it was much more a part of his lifestyle than ease was to mine. He was beaten, tortured, imprisoned, and left to die on several occasions. Yet, he CHOSE to be thankful in the midst of these unthinkable circumstances. He said, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I would much rather if that verse had said, “In most things give thanks.” That would be much easier to swallow, but my God has a different, more perfect will for my life. And He wants me to give thanks, because He knows, in doing so, I have chosen the better. Is it the harder option? Absolutely! And I don’t quite see the fruit of this choice in its full extent, but I trust the Lord and His perfect will for my life.

This past year, more than ever, I have had to CHOOSE to be thankful. Naturally, it hasn’t come naturally in the midst of these tough circumstances. It hasn’t come in between waves of grief, it hasn’t come with the persistent back pain, and it hasn’t come without any prodding on my part. I have had to cultivate a heart of thankfulness. But as I prompted it out, it began to grow on its own, watered by the word and nourished by the light of the gospel.

This Thanksgiving, I will sit around the table with my family who are so precious to me. I will squeeze the sweet little babies that fill my empty arms. I will give thanks in everything. Or, at least, I will try!

Because with every day of life, God has given me a gift I don’t deserve. Beyond that, He has given me so much, done so much in my life, and filled my world with light and hope. I’m so thankful to be a child of the King, and I feel like I need a whole other blog to expound upon all the wonderful blessings for which I can give thanks to my loving Father.

God is so good!

 

The Face I Can’t Forget

I can still see his precious little face.
I see it at 5 a.m. before my eyes adjust to the darkness.
It’s been almost 6 months.
Seems like this shouldn’t happen anymore.
But how am I supposed to erase the memory of the perfect features that belonged to my sweet Ezra?

Eyes that never opened to see a sunny day.
Mouth that never smiled and cooed for parents’ joy.
Ears that never heard the words, “I love you” whispered from tickling teeth.
Nose that never inhaled the comforting aroma of mother’s embrace.
The cutest lil’ “Finney chin” he shares with his daddy’s family and his sister Jo.

I can’t forget it, but I don’t think I want to.

It’s hard to see his face sometimes, but most others it brings a smile to mine. Ezra Coleman was a precious gift from the hand of God. I would have preferred his life to linger on this earth, but my Jesus had other plans for my little guy. I can’t imagine the JOY on my baby boy’s face as he basks in Heaven’s glory…

As his eyes behold the indescribable glory of the Almighty God.
His mouth sings continuous praises to the King on the Throne.
His ears are filled with the sounds of a heavenly choir.
His nose is kissed by angels that keep him ’til Jesus calls his mommy home.
His chin rests on the breast of the Savior.

With the gift of motherhood came an innate desire for the absolute best for my babies. There’s nothing this mommy could give him that is better than what he is experiencing today. I never really appreciated being told that “he was in a better place,” because selfishly I wanted him here. But this heartbroken mommy knows there’s no better place to be than in the arms of Christ and I’m thankful that’s where I will find him someday. I will look into his precious face, and I will see Jesus, and the sorrow of my loss won’t even be a distant memory. Just the darkness of life vanished by the blazing light of eternal glory!

The gift of a ministry

I’ve always been a dreamer, and I’ve long dreamed of serving God in BIG ways. I’ve specifically asked that God would use my passion for writing in HIs kingdom work. The answer to that plea, however, was not even close to what I had envisioned or ever would have dreamt up myself.

Though I wouldn’t realize it until a few days later, the answer came on the morning of May 14, as I lay heartbroken in an ultrasound room having received the news that the precious boy I had been carrying for 21 weeks was no longer thriving inside me. We shared the news with family but didn’t let it go much further for a little under 24 hours. I wanted my secret pain to be just that- secret.

I posted a status update on Wednesday morning, 8 hours after Ezra had been delivered and about 5 since we said our final goodbyes: I delivered our precious baby BOY (approximately 17 weeks gestational age) at 12:35 this morning. Sweet Ezra Coleman weighed 5.8 oz and was 7 in. long. We thank God for the gift of life, no matter how short, and we rejoice knowing our son is safe and whole in the arms of Jesus.

It was short and to the point. It communicated my heart at that time, but it didn’t express how painful the experience was. I wasn’t ready to make that public knowledge. Maybe I was putting up a strong front as I had done for my family. I spent much of my time making sure no one was uncomfortable, which, of course,in hindsight, I know was pointless. We were all hurting.

The next morning, when I woke up, along with tears came an idea that seemed like it had been planted in my head: I couldn’t keep this story of grace to myself. I had to write the ways that God was working as He was doing it or else He would never receive the glory that He deserves for sustaining us the way He did during this excruciating time in our lives.

So I wrote. Through tears, through doubts, and devastating grief. I wrote with family next to me, trying to comfort me, but nothing was as therapeutic as putting it down. Writing has always been a release for me. It made me recognize His hand in it all, put into words those He spoke to me, and accept what He had allowed in our life.

But that was not all I hoped for it. I wanted it to, first, bless the name of the Lord, who gives and takes away. I also wanted it to speak to those who had suffered loss or who were experiencing difficulty in their lives. I wanted it to say, “God is good. He knows our pain, and He will carry us.” Finally, I wanted it to speak to those who grieve that have no hope, that I have it only because I have Jesus Christ.

It was hard to do, but I wrote. And people read. People from many cultural, family, and religious backgrounds. I heard from many people whom I had never met who wrote to tell me they were touched by Ezra’s three part story. When Ezra was born, my ministry was born. And though, like his life, it may have been short lived, I am thankful it had its moment.

I will likely never have as many readers as I had those first few days after his birthday. I will probably never have the opportunity to influence like I did during that time, but I do know that I can minister to the heart of each mommy that suffers this kind of loss one heartbreaking case at a time. While my ministry was once many words in the public sphere, the words that mean the most will be the ones silently uttered to my Heavenly Father. I can pray for these women in a way that most people can’t. It may sound strange, but my loss paved the way to a dream come true!

If I had known that being used in a BIG way would mean MAJOR loss in my life, would I dare to dream? I’m afraid I would not. I’m just glad that God is the author of my story, and all He asks of me is to tell it!