Encouragement

A SIMPLE SMILE

If you are like me, most lessons are learned the hard way.

I recently wrote an article about such a lesson for a wonderful website called Just 18 Summers.

It’s entitled, Look What I Did and tells of a time when the Lord chastened me for sending my son away when he needed me.

As mothers, it is so easy to get caught up in what we are doing and even feel justified in turning our little ones away even for a moment.

I just need a few minutes, please!

I did this to my son once and I’ll never forget what God asked me in return.

I’d love for you to check it out here.

Update on Elijah

Two weeks ago, Elijah was put on a new medication.

“If it works, it’ll be about a week before it takes effect.” The doctor told us.

Exactly a week later something special happened. My son smiled.

And it was beautiful.

Fighting back tears, I looked at my husband and said, “Did you see that? Our son just smiled.”

I’d forgotten the beauty a simple smile held beause I hadn’t seen his in so long. And any mother knows, if their childs smile is gone so is theirs.

Glancing at the twins, I noticed they were smiling too. Theirs was just as lovely.

The past week has brought better days and normal, “Mommy, my tummy hurts so bad,” days. But on those betters days, there have been smiles and sounds of three brothers playing.

Yesterday, Elijah had his repeat endoscopy and biopsy to find out if he has a rare immune condition. Results are expected in a week.

I wish I could capture each prayer you’ve sent in a box and keep them. As reminders of how God’s children care for one another. Like smiles, they are precious and beautiful but easily taken for granted.

Thank you for carrying our family with you to our Father’s throne. The weight of your own burdens are heavy enough, yet you still carry ours.

The thought of each of you makes me, well, smile!

 

 

BEGIN AGAIN

With complete amazement, I recently shared on Facebook, “I am thrilled to announce that I just signed with Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency to write my first book. My heart is beyond overwhelmed by God’s great grace.”

I can hardly believe it myself! How can this be?

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

That time came for me nearly six and a half years ago. Book marked in my mind, it is the page I will always come back too. I must come back to it.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” as Dickens said in his classic A Tale of Two Cities.

But how can those two possibly coexist? Somehow, in that moment forever dog-earred in my life, I knew they did.

The worst of times left me alone in my bedroom and on my face in total desperation. The walls I’d spent thirty-two years erecting around my heart had shattered. My deceitfully wicked heart fully exposed.

Trauma and extreme hardship had revealed a level of pain I never knew existed.

And I was done. Utterly done.

The best of times came simultaneously as I cried out to Jesus Christ. Though I’d professed to have done this as a little girl, this was the moment I’d waited my whole life for. The moment I was created to have.

Love Himself met me on the floor that day.

In my pit. In my ugliness. He surrounded me with beautifully accepting love when I should’ve been put out.

Certain of his life-changing grace, I doubted He’d ever be able to use me again. How could He? We both know what I really am.

You’ve ruined everything, Callie.

“God often uses our deepest pain, as the launching pad of our greatest calling.”

I didn’t see it then. I couldn’t.

I think I’m starting to now and if I’m being honest, it scares me.

Yet I know, unequivocally, it is Christ and Christ alone who now lives in me. There’s no more room for Callie, she’s way too controlling.

God graciously allows us to begin again.

Through this blog and if the Lord wills it, through the pages of a book, I yearn for you to know this: no matter how cracked your vessel, no matter how shattered your expectations and no matter how far you’ve gone, you can begin again.

 

 

 

UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARDS

As I jotted the last word in my fifteenth journal to God, I grabbed a new one from the bookshelf this week. New journals always inspire and delight my soul.

Pages lay empty.

Line after line waiting to be filled.

Love Himself meets me here and our relationship is deepened. Free to pour from the deepest wells of my heart, here, I am safe. Here, I am held accountable. I am examined. Corrected. Strengthened.

This beautiful blue journal was given to me by my precious husband. When I opened the front cover I saw this:

Did you notice something?

The whole book is printed upside down and backwards. To even use it, I have to go to the back cover and flip the entire book around. Then, it becomes right side up.

At first I was really tempted to take it back.

How can I use it like this?

It will eat at my obsessive tendencies every single day. For months.

Nah, I can’t use this.

It’s upside down and backwards!

The more I thought about that phrase, the more I realized that’s exactly how my life feels right now.

My nice Christian girl tendency is to say, “I pray that’s not where your life is right now,” but the truth is, sometimes we have to be turned upside down and backwards in order to get right side up.

And maybe more than once.

Though I never gave thought or voice to it, I subconsciously expected that I wouldn’t have to go through this again. I’ve already experienced the pain of helplessly watching two of my children suffer.

Not again.

But just imagine for a minute if that were the case.

What if the disciples had said, “Persecution – check,” after their first encounter.

Thank God it isn’t or we wouldn’t have a new testament.

Dare I say, thank God it isn’t or we wouldn’t have a testimony?

The upside down and backward places of life are painful, I know. I do and yet, I think I am beginning to understand why James could say,

“Count all joy when you face various trials. Know, that the trying of your faith produces patience. But, let patience have her perfect work.”

My PATIENTS need their perfect work all right! And my patience too. In either case, it comes only through the trying of our faith.

My heart doesn’t always understand that and it’s especially hard to express to my young son who is still hurting.

Just this morning he lay in the car moaning as we ran an errand. We were listening to a song that stated God can set us free. As the song ended I heard him ask,

“Why won’t God set me free?”

His faith is being tried at a very young age but I am confident that God watches over his word to perform it.

My deepest prayer for my son is that his faith would fail not. That is my prayer for you if you find your faith also being tested.

Know, beloved, and find rest in the truth that God is able to keep you from falling.

I know it because he’s holding me too.

 

Scripture References:

James 1:2-4 and Jude 24

 

 

 

 

IN BATTLE

 

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight Eisenhower

I planned to take Elijah to the EOE specialist today. His appointment was scheduled nearly two weeks ago and since then, I’ve watched and listened as he moaned in pain. Daily reminding him we were one day closer to Thursday.

Until I got the phone call on Monday morning.

“Mrs. Daruk, I’m sorry to tell you this, but the doctor just called and he has a family emergency. He is cancelling all of his appointments for the week.”

No! No!, I can’t tell him. I can’t. Not another disappointment.

My heart sank like led and I couldn’t speak.

“We have him rescheduled for Monday at 12:45pm. We are very sorry.”

Mustering the courage to respond, I told her we would see her then.

Doctors have emergencies too, but my goodness did it have to be now? I had to deal with my own disappointment before I could properly address my sons.

Laying my hand on his shoulder, I relayed the information. He had a hat on at the time. He grabs the hat and covers his face.

With a loud exhale he snapped, “I don’t even care anymore!”

Fighting tears with every fiber of my being I prayed with him then rushed off to my closet. I called my husband and sobbed.

Prayers & Distractions

At this point, all I can do for him is pray and distract. That’s it. There are no more doctors to take him to. No medicine to give him except the balm of the gospel. It works. It heals our minds and hearts as we wait.

Though our plans proved useless, as Eisenhower said, I refuse to stop planning. The day of battle is upon us all somehow and our preparation is never in vain.

I pray this prayer for those of you in battle today. I pray it for Elijah.

The Servant in Battle

(A Puritan Prayer)

I bless thee that the issue of the battle between thyself and Satan has never been uncertain, and will end in victory.

Calvary broke the dragon’s head, and I contend with a vanquished foe, who with all his subtlety and strength has already been overcome.

When I feel the serpent at my heel, may I remember him whose heel was bruised, but who, when bruised, broke the devil’s head.

My soul with inward joy extols the mighty conqueror.

Heal me of any wounds received in the great conflict;

if I have gathered defilement,

if my faith has suffered damage,

if my hope is less than bright,

if my love is not fervent,

if some creature-comfort occupies my heart,

if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight.

O thou whose every promise is balm, every touch life, draw near to thy weary warrior, refresh me, that I may rise again to wage the strife, and never tire until my enemy is trodden down.

Give me such fellowship with the that I may defy Satan, unbelief, the flesh, the world, with delight that comes not from a creature, and which a creature cannot mar.

Give me a draught of the eternal fountain that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love and decree.

Then shall my hand never weaken,

my feet never stumble,

my sword never rest,

my shield never rust,

my helmet never shatter,

my breastplate never fall,

as my strength rests in the power of thy might.

 

 

 

 

LOOK UP

Someone I know and love is hurting today. I am sure you can think of such a friend too. Hurting people are all around us aren’t they?

She’s a sweet sister in Christ. She’s a mother of rough and tumble boys – just like mine! Her heart is the size of Texas. She gives until it hurts and never asks for anything in return. Many aspects of her well structured life are up in the air and now out of her control.

I sure can relate to a lack of control can’t you?

I’m reminded of my tiny twins who weighed little more than a pineapple, lying side by side in their iscoletts. I think of the time after Isaiah’s surgery for necrotizing enterocolitis when the surgeon left us with these words,

“Every hour Isaiah survives is a good hour.”

A knot wells up in my heart when I think of such times. I often visit the hospital where Isaiah nearly lost his battle. The doors slide open and the smell that rushes through brings me back to those dark days.

Can you think of one?

By God’s grace, it’s not just the darkness I remember. I remember the light that flooded the scene even when I couldn’t see it. When I couldn’t feel it. I remind my friend today that she is not alone. I remind you today of the same.

Luke Smallbone of For King & Country wrote this song while enduring his own period of darkness. Enjoy this video and be reminded of how God carries our burdens!

 

 

 

FOR THE RECORD

I often notice and secretly envy those who seem to have it all together – all the time. You know who I’m talking about.

For starters there’s the mother who speaks patiently to her children and never seems to raise her voice. The beautiful woman next to you in fitness class who holds a plank for 3 minutes and never breaks a sweat. After 30 seconds you cave and give her the evil eye.  Then there’s the one who is always dressed to impress. She walks into a room and suddenly no one else exists. Every hair is in place and her makeup is a work of art. Her nicely dressed children sit quietly beside her and never interrupt when she speaks.

IS WHAT YOU SEE WHAT YOU GET?

Perhaps for some what you see is what you get. Or, could it be that what preceded your encounter with said angelic being of perfection looked a little different?

Lady #1 – Had a screaming match with her disobedient child and she either lost her voice in the process and is only capable of speaking softly or she feels absolutely miserable that she let herself get out of control and is genuinely trying to do it right this time.

Lady #2 – Has worked tirelessly and lost the weight of an entire person. She is dedicated, disciplined and works extremely hard to keep her diet healthy and her weight under control.

Lady #3 – Despite being beautiful feels like the ugliest person in the room. Her makeup is her mask. Her clothes are her mask. Her children are her mask. Behind each of them she hides the real her, terrified that no one would like who she really is.

I write from a heart deeply burdened over the masks I once wore and with a longing and earnest pray that God will help me to keep them off. I long to be real. I am honestly so tired of pretending.

So, I write this entry to set the record straight! As you visit, read and share in this blog with me I need you to know that I am not at all like the beings of perfection who seem to constantly cross my path. I don’t have it all together. I am a Christ follower, a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend who longs to seek God with her whole heart.

I desperately want to leave my masks behind.

I want to know what it is to love Christ and to really know Him.

BROKEN STILL? YES! IMPERFECT STILL? YOU BET!

I long to die…to selfish ambition and selfish gain.

I long to die…to my way of thinking and reasoning.

I long to die…that what might remain and be seen in me is not me at all but Christ.

Eva Kroon Pike, a Christian recording artist and dear friend wrote a song that describes me in just two words, Perfectly Imperfect.

May the Holy Spirit draw us to Himself and do His beautiful work in our hearts.

What are some masks you find yourself putting on? What are some you see in the church? Let me know in your comments!

BROKEN

“Mommy, he sobbed, it’s broken. My favorite toy is broken!” Toy pieces took turns falling out of his hands as he attempted to bring them to me for repair.

This scene has unfolded many times in my house especially when the children were little.

In some cases I was able to fix what was broken or at least enough to satisfy their broken heart.  Other times the break was beyond my ability to repair.  Instead of returning it to my child, much to their dismay, all the broken pieces were thrown in the garbage.

I have at times in my life felt like those broken toy pieces – beyond repair.

I taped. I glued. I stapled. I did whatever I could to make the pieces all fit back together. What I failed to see was that I wasn’t capable of fixing it.

I didn’t do what my children do when their toys are broken – run to the one who can fix them.

As I share in my story, when I laid on the floor of my bedroom at the end of myself, for the first time I took all of those broken pieces and offered them up to my heavenly father.  I tried for 32 years to fix it and couldn’t.  He accepted them and has been repairing them ever since.

What an exchange!

He was willing to take the time, the effort, and the love to repair me and He still is.

 

THE PERPETUAL DO-OVER

How often I have longed for do-overs at various points in my life. I can close my eyes and think of several instances.

No matter how bad I’d like to, I can’t go back in time and change the past. We each have only one life to live but could it be that each day God sustains us is in effect, a do-over? A perpetual do-over?

I have a love-hate relationship with exercise and yet God often reveals a strong parallel between my physical body and the spiritual battles I fight. On a good day I wake up early for my morning workout. Day after day my body needs me to be disciplined to do this. Yesterday’s workout, as good as it may have been, simply will not get me through today’s need for exercise. Yesterday’s healthy meal plan will not take care of my nutritional needs for today. I must do it all over again…and again…and again.  Of course there are times I need breaks and lately I’ve taken far to many of them, but as a matter of lifestyle I must repeat this process day in and day out.

Just a few days of letting these habits slide and suddenly I find myself mad at the dryer for shrinking my jeans again.

Conversely if I failed to eat healthy and exercise my physical body yesterday, despite what I might think, I haven’t “blown it.” I may have some catching up to do but today’s dawning came with a do-over of sorts.  Today I can choose to right those wrongs. My mind however attempts to deceive me into allowing yesterdays failures to keep me from seeing today’s do-over.

Couldn’t the same be true in our relationship with God? He provided fresh manna daily for the children of Israel in scripture. Yesterday’s manna was not meant to sustain them for today. There were some people that tried to keep the left overs. As it turned out it rotted, stunk, and was completely inedible. But God was not and is not a father that will leave his children hungry. Even those who attempted to hoard the extra manna were not left to starve. Each new day presented them with an opportunity to trust God to provide for the manna they needed that day. Every morning for them was a do-over.

Just as I cannot get by with my healthful habits from yesterday neither can I as it pertains to spiritual matters. And in these matters the consequences carry far more weight (no pun intended). I needed God yesterday…I need him today and I will need him again tomorrow.  Yesterday’s time spent with him will not get me through today. I need him all over again. Yesterday’s lack of time spent with him should not hinder me from seeking him today. Despite what I think I didn’t blow it.

As the sun rises and my eyes open wide, God has already given me a sweet gift. A do-over…a perpetual do-over.

THE BLANK CANVAS

Have you noticed that God often gifts us with truths wrapped in packages that we can intimately understand? He did the same with his disciples as he spoke to them in parables common to their own lives at the time.

Artistic creativity is definitely a package I love to open! Writing, sketching, painting and crafting are just the beginning.

As I sat down to draw a picture recently I stared at the blank sheet of paper.  I imagine what I’ll draw and I’m excited.  I want it to be so beautiful.  My pencil makes contact and I try hard to make it as pretty as what I’ve set out for it to be. But before long I’ve made a mistake.  I keep going certain I can correct my error. One mistake…one wrong mark soon becomes two and the next thing I know I’ve ruined the entire drawing. It looks nothing like what I had pictured in my mind. Disgusted with myself I rip the sheet from the pad, wad it into a ball and throw it away.

As a wife and as a mother I feel like that artist.  I was given a blank canvas and I was so elated to create my masterpiece but I feel like I’ve ruined it.

So many mistakes. So many wrong marks.

What I forgot is that the entire time I drew, an eraser was right beside me.  That eraser would have taken out those mistakes and made my canvas blank again if necessary.  I forgot that I could draw right over top of it and make some new marks.  It wasn’t too late.

Perhaps even my eraser marks would’ve added depth and character my piece wouldn’t otherwise have had.

In Christ, as a wife or a husband…as a mother or a father…as a friend or an enemy…as a son or a daughter…as  a sister or brother, we have an eraser too…

It is deep red, blood stained and it can erase even the darkest of marks.

Each day we draw upon our canvas.  To us it may look ugly.  Have you ever seen Bob Ross begin a painting?  How often I’ve watched him begin and can’t imagine anything good much less beautiful will come from it.  But slowly, as he builds layer upon layer, as he patiently and carefully marks upon his painting you can see it beginning to take shape.  We have the ability to see what he is doing from a distance.  We see the whole picture in our view and it gives us a great advantage.  We have perspective.  Somewhere along the way those ugly marks became something beautiful.

The painting…the drawing of our lives happens daily but the masterpiece takes a lifetime to create.

Let us never stop painting. Never stop drawing and when we mess up lets not forget our precious eraser is right beside us. And we are never beyond repair.

TIME

Looking out the window I smile as the snow gently covers the beautiful pine trees that line my backyard.  I smile because of its radiance but also because it serves as an excuse for me to stay in my pajamas all day and go nowhere.

It seems to take something unforeseen and perhaps even out of our control for me to stop and just do nothing.

Throughout the history of time, I can’t recall a generation that sought to accomplish more within the very same 24 hour period than our current one.

Although the quality of what they accomplished in times gone by may have been greater could the same be said of the quantity?

With the innumerable amount of gadgets designed to help us keep our busy lives scheduled, organized and on track, at the end of the day, do you feel like you’ve really accomplished anything?  Our bodies are overworked, overextended, exhausted and incapable of handling all the demands that are placed upon them.

These demands come in various forms and in various ways.  Some of them are outside of our control while others remain within our ability to control.  Someone recently shared a thought with me that I’ve continued to chew on, so to speak, since that time.

“If you were to write down at day’s end, all the things you did that day, I would be able to see exactly what is important to you.”

What would our list look like?  For most of us our jobs, occupy a significant portion of our time.  As a homemaker, contrary to the belief of one of the twins, I do work.

Last week I inquired about a sad look upon Joshua’s face. He went on to state, “Mommy, when I grow up I don’t want to go to work.  I want to stay home and do nothing, like you!”

Then, there are those moments in the span of our 24 hour day that are free.  I know of so many families where even their “free” times are so scheduled with this activity and that activity leaving little if any time for rest.  Have you ever been out to a nice dinner with your family and looked around at the tables next to you?  I have and what I see deeply grieves my heart.  The children have their heads down and their fingers glued to their phones.  To my astonishment so many times the parents do too.  When I go to the grocery store I see many of the young people with their media players on, headphones in and they are usually unfriendly.  Even in times of supposed rest (and yes, any mother of young children will attest that a trip alone to the grocery store is rest) we drown our minds with stuff.  To what end?

My list indeed reveals what I love, what I value and what really matters to me.  Is quiet time with God on the list?  Is quality time with my children on this list?  A conversation with my spouse?  A visit to my parents, in-laws, my neighbor  or a sick friend?  How many things on my list gratify myself?  How many seek the good of others? How much time is spent watching television or playing a video game?  On the phone, on the computer or on the tablet?  I fall so short…

Can this four letter word, LOVE, be used interchangeably with another four letter word – TIME?  What we love we give our time.  If you read about me you know that my heart is the one thing I never actually gave God – or anyone else for that matter.  How then do I make absolutely certain that I am doing that?  TIME.  How can you really know someone you never spend time with and how can they know you?  As a recovering Pharisee I am cautious when others say, “God” said this or “God” said that.  I said that countless times in my 32 years of hypocrisy when the truth was one of following two scenarios.

  1. Either I asked God and never waited on His reply or,
  2. I never asked Him in the first place.

Scripture instructs us in Ephesians 5:15,16 to “see then that we walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The word redeem in its Greek origin means to buy up, ransom or to rescue.  To rescue means:

  • to free from confinement, danger or evil : SAVE, DELIVER
  • to take (as a prisoner) forcibly from legal custody
  • to recover (as a prize) by force
  • to deliver by force or arms

As I read this I see the clear implication that time will not redeem itself.  It does not happen automatically, it must be taken by force.  That means we have to do something to take control of the time we have been given.  Of one thing we can all be certain, time will pass and like a vapor we will be gone.  Ask a mother whose children have left home and she will be very fast to tell you how quickly time passes.  Once passed it cannot be returned no matter how badly our hearts may ache for it too.

When I think of time I think of Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.

I never really knew God because I was never still enough to get to know Him.  I allowed everything else in my life to take precedence.  Sadly, the same could be said of those in my own family.  I didn’t give those whom I professed to love, the time it took to really love them.

The same God who created the world, who perfectly fashioned our bodies and who strategically placed our solar system gave us all the same 24 hours in a day.  Apparently that is enough.  The problem isn’t how much time we have in a day but what we do with it.

Teach us Lord, I humbly pray how we may redeem our time and be a living example to future generations of what really matters.