Jesus wept, a Fresh retelling

Today before I put my girls down for a nap, we settled in to the oversized upholstered rocker in my youngest’s room. Me in the middle, with my 4 year old on my left and my 2 year old on my right, the Illustrated Storybook Bible in my lap. While reading the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead through their young, innocent eyes, it gave me a fresh perspective of Jesus. Jesus knew that Lazarus was ill, and yet he decided to stay an extra two days where he was before making his way to see Lazarus. By the time he arrived at Lazarus’ house, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Stank dead. Jesus was great friends with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. But still he made them wait. He knew that God’s glory would be displayed to an even greater degree if he waited. Martha met Jesus as he came into town, and she understandably was upset. “Why didn’t you come when we first told you he was sick?” I can hear her asking with her hands in the air. Jesus didn’t get upset then. He calmly told her that Lazarus would rise again. Then, Jesus saw Mary. This is the same Mary who would anoint Jesus’ feet with perfume, and wipe them off with her hair. She was heartsick over losing her brother. She asks Jesus the same question Mary asked him. “Where were you?” with tears running down her face. And Jesus breaks. He cries. He can feel their pain and sorrow. He knows they think he brushed them off, he feels their rejection. He feels their desperation. Even knowing he was about to perform an incredible miracle, Jesus still cried. Maybe he knew he would be feeling these same things in a matter of weeks, when he would be carrying his cross.

this was written in (a little over) five minutes for Five Minute Friday. Also, I know it isn’t Friday. But as long as it’s in the same week, it counts! To read other works on this same topic of FRESH, click here.

Mama’s alone time (FMF post)

Since the start of the pandemic, my little girls, aged 2 and 4 have been at home with me. Every. Day. Some days are great fun, especially if they have “good listening” days and we can get some homeschool in, which is me coming up with ways to make teaching letters and numbers and counting fun. We’ll also do projects with glue and glitter, or paint, or play dough. Most recently, I’ve figured out a “sensory bin,” which is simply a deep container that I’ll fill with dried beans or lentils and I got them some cute wooden scoops and little wooden jars with lids and wooden tweezers to work on fine motor skills. I will also read them LOTS of books and Bible stories on the couch with blankets over us. Along with keeping the house from looking like two tornadoes swept through it and making meals, that doesn’t leave a ton of time for me. Some days, I can handle it better than others. When the girls go to their rooms for naps, that time is absolutely precious to me. My youngest still takes naps, but the oldest simply reads or plays quietly in her room. If she comes downstairs before it’s time, I will freak out inside, almost angry that my quiet respite has been interrupted. My alone time is the time for me to reset. I’ll read my Bible, journal prayers and thoughts, and maybe sneak in some time to write. Once the girls go to bed after dinner, it’s “Mama and Daddy time” so that I can intentionally spend time with my husband. That afternoon nap time is the only alone time I get. I think back to last January, when I was so excited that both girls would be in preschool this year, and that I was going to have two whole mornings free each week. HA! God clearly had different plans for us. I really am thankful for the time I get to soak up my girls when they’re this young, even on the hard days or days where my alone time is cut short. Their hugs and kisses, and “I love you’s” and faith in Jesus makes it all worth every second.

This was written in about 5 minutes based on the word TIME this week for Five Minute Friday, a group of encouraging writers. To read others’ posts on the word TIME, click here.

Follow the leader

I took my two girls for a walk yesterday, so we could enjoy the warmth of a sunny NC winter’s day. My oldest, a firecracker of a ginger, has an intense need and desire to take the lead and direct us all. Thankfully, my youngest daughter has no such need or desire, and will happily hang back with me and hold my hand in her small, warm, often sticky, little fingers. My oldest will plow ahead, sometimes at a gallop, and I have to call to her from behind, that she must remember to stop at the stop signs, or to wait for me at the next tree or mailbox so that we can catch up. Other times, I have to tell her to come back because we aren’t going that way, but she still is determined to lead without having any idea (sometimes) of where we are going. I laugh, because it reminds me of myself. I’m also pretty sure that God is chuckling to himself, too. Oh, how the gift/job/chore/lesson of parenthood reveals to us in such a tangible way how God sees us!

How I tug and pull angrily on that leash

wanting to drag myself

where I want to go

without a clue where I’m heading.

Blindly and stubbornly

I forge ahead,

face set in obstinate defiance

without a map or guide or plan.

I storm around in aimless circles,

Get scratched by angry branches,

blindsided by distracted drivers,

Trip over uneven patches obscured by shadows

Until my heart is depleted of it’s former belligerence,

my scraped up hands become empty,

my body utterly exhausted and bruised do I collapse

into God’s patiently waiting, outstretched hands.

The silent tension of motherhood

All is quiet in the house

apart from the metronomic snores of my husband

and the heat clicking off and on.

Both girls sleeping in their beds,

snow sprinkled trees outside.

Morning footprints now slushy imprints

in the yard.

Crumbs on the table call to me

like relentless gnats.

Let me relax and enjoy this silence!

This rare stillness over the house

before I must get up and be awake,

alert, and energetic.

Present for my sparkly-eyed little girls

so full of life and energy.

Sometimes I feel like I am their battery source-

I start to sag and wilt as they wind up to a frenzy,

my love for them blessedly replenished overnight.

I know the squeals of excitement and belly giggles

will not last forever.

The little dirty socks haphazardly strewn about

will not always clutter my floors.

Those sticky, little handprints will not always

adorn every wall, chair, or hard surface.

How I savor this time and all at once

look forward to my girls growing up.

Holy vs. Earthly endings

This post was written for Five Minute Friday, a group of encouraging writers, with this week’s word: CONCLUDE. Written in five minutes, with no real editing or proofing. If you’d like to read other writers’ posts on the same word, click HERE.

I remember in elementary and middle school, the “cool” way to end a story was for the main character to wake up, with the whole story having been a dream. Even today, thirty years later, coming up with a solid ending that ties everything up into a neat bow is probably the hardest part of writing. Perhaps because, in real life, conclusions aren’t always neat. They almost always are unexpected. They’re messy and sad or shocking, abrupt. Cliff hanger endings in tv shows are somewhat expected, especially when it’s the season finale, but only if there will be a new episode to pick up where you left off in a few short months. When reading books that end without resolution, I get angry. As if the whole book was a waste of time and energy reading. But, real life is exactly like that. Sometimes we will don’t get the chance to say goodbye, I’m sorry, or I love you. Sometimes the bad guy goes free, the disease isn’t cured, the dirt ball gets away with the scam. Thank God for hope. That in heaven, all pain is released. All tears are wiped away. All questions are answered, and maybe vengeance just doesn’t matter anymore to our once outstretched puny fists, in light of the holiness and glory of God.

Christmas card dilemma

What to write in a Christmas card is always agonizing. Most cards, you can mindlessly stuff and seal closed with a wet sponge (because who wants to lick 40+ cards??). Remember George’s fiancee from Seinfeld?? Anyhow, I digress. The point is, most of the time, you spend your brain power coming up with a heartfelt card in and of itself with the right photos from the past year, or, if you’re super on top of things, you’ve gotten matching Christmas pajamas and had professional photos taken. Again, that’s not me. But, there are some friends or family that you need to write a personalized hand-written note on the card. Like, for your grandmothers or your friend from CO that you haven’t seen in years. Or, in my case, my biological grandfather who I haven’t seen in nearly ten years. Yeah, this one is tricky. There’s so much to say, but I have only about a half inch by four inches of space to write, but then it would seem too brief. I could put a note-sized paper inside the envelope so I could write a real letter, but what words would I write to fill it? Do I leave it blank and not write anything personal? I feel like that’s the lazy cheater’s way out. I just became Facebook friends with my half-uncle, my dad’s half-brother whose father is my grandfather. I think he’s only a few years older than me. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him, but I’d like to think we would hug and get along wonderfully if we had the chance. The mail is about to be picked up soon. I hear the engine of the mail truck humming along our neighborhood as it stops and zooms on to the next mailbox. Family is difficult. They’re often the most strained, most hurtful relationships. But family is also part of us and where we come from. I know what I’ll write now…

Life beyond this brief stage (an FMF post)

This week’s Five Minute Friday post is based on the word BEYOND. If you’d like to read some other posts written by other writers, visit here.

There are so many times I think back to my past and wince. Either from painful memories of heartbreak, broken friendships, loneliness, feeling homesick, being cash-strapped and up to my eyeballs in debt, or wishing I’d said or done something differently. I wish I could go back to that naive twenty-something and speak words of encouragement to her. Maybe leave a few quarters in the cushions of the couch. To give her a hug and tell her that she is enough. To tell her to be strong and stand up for what she believes in. To surround herself with friends that will build her up and encourage her to do what’s right. To never let go of that laugh, to never stop writing, and to never settle. That she is fully loved and is never alone. And finally, to make her realize that there would be life beyond this brief stage.

FMF: Grief ON earth

This was a 5 minute free-write based on the word GRIEF, from Five Minute Friday, a writing community. If you’d like to read others’ work, click here

The memory of pain

The memory of love

Twists hearts and wrings out tears

Loved ones lost

Loved ones stolen too soon

Selfishly wanting to bring them back

To this world of hurt and anger and fear

Blinking back watering eyes and looking up to heaven, we cry

Come back!

But it isn’t our loved ones who will return.  

It is only Jesus who will.

Our hope lies in one day seeing Him

And all that caused such grief on earth will melt away

Life in color

These past few months have been unsettling and bizarre, like living in the upside down of Stranger Things. Not knowing when things would return to normal, and what “normal” is going to look like once this COVID-19 is finally disabled. Since May 8, with the horrific video of Ahmaud Arbery being gunned down for going for a run in his neighborhood, and then on May 25, another gut wrenching video of the last few minutes of George Floyd’s life as he was pinned down and asphyxiated by a police officer as a crowd watched. I can’t feel at peace while these murders occur regularly. I’ve spontaneously cried every day since May 25, as I watch my precious little ginger-haired and blond-haired daughters play without a care or responsibility in the world. If I don’t pray every day, I could be anxious and sick to my stomach that this is the world in which my innocent daughters are growing up.

Black Lives Matter are chanted on sides sick of the violence and are out of solutions to stop these acts of hate. Dark-skinned boys who are round-faced and innocent now, will soon grow up. Instead of people having people smile at their big brown eyes and curly black hair, some will step back a bit in cautious suspicion. Blue Lives Matter are chanted by families of officers who are scared for their loved ones lives not making it home at the end of the shift. All Lives Matter dilute the message of both sides, and yet it is true. We are all created in the image of God. Every human life is worth living. Worth saving. Worth protecting. But we must all reset our perceptions, our assumptions, our preconceptions. The only way to change is to actually make an effort to ENGAGE with someone who is not like us.

As a parent, my responsibility is to teach my children that YES, we all do look different. God painted all of us various shades of brown from peach to milk chocolate to ebony to burnt sienna and tan. To see these differences shows the creativity of God, our Creator. How boring it would be if we were all the same color, same accent, same heritage, same everything! We must teach our children that everyone has a story to share. Since we are all different, we all have different backgrounds, ethnicities, languages, cultures, so we can learn from each other and express the love of Jesus to everyone we meet. We all are worth dying for. Jesus proved it with arms outstretched.

Homemade face masks

We’re living in a weird time right now. This is the stuff that we tell our grandkids we lived through. They’ll roll their eyes and say, “You’ve told me that story already,” but it will be worth hearing again. Until we get to the other side of this pandemic, it’s going to take some time. Thankfully, the weather is getting warmer, and we can start to feel some sunshine on our faces. After a few days cooped up inside with a 2 and nearly 4 year old, the sun is a welcome sight.

Since the CDC is now recommending face masks for anyone heading outside, you just need to have something covering your face that is more substantial than a scarf or bandana. I’d been wanting to make some face masks for ourselves and to share. Before turning on my sewing machine, I read dozens of how-to blogs and then sort of came up with a Frankenstein version of a mask using material I had at home and a no-fuss way of making them. I’m talking just using a button stitch to sew on the ear straps, and making the 3 folds without measuring! I’m not a fabulous seamstress, so these take me about an hour to make one. I think they will go much faster if you do an assembly line, cutting out the material and the wire all in advance, and have your iron on. My favorite material to use are called “fat quarters.” They’re cotton scraps, usually sold in bundles of 5, as coordinating material at any craft store. They’re great because they’re in manageable sizes and are fun, colorful prints. Let’s face it. Having to wear a mask is not really anyone’s idea of accessorizing. However, if you have to wear one, it may as well be a happy pattern. I wanted to make a mask that was 4 layers, so I landed on 100% cotton muslin as the middle layer, in the form of my organic cotton swaddling blankets I used for both my girls. Since I really have no use for those swaddling blankets anymore, I figured, at least the material is going to good use. I had seen a few other mask how-to’s using iron-on fusible interfacing as the middle layer for the mask, but I just don’t feel like breathing in anything with glue on it is a good idea.

Here are the materials you’ll need: Fat quarter cotton fabric (or just cotton fabric or cotton blend of any kind), 100% cotton muslin (mine are Aden + Anais swaddle blankets), elastic cord (I’m currently using the cord, but I am nearly out, so ordered 1/4″ flat elastic on Amazon), coated hanging wire (you could also use pipe cleaners). Other things you’ll want is an iron, a rotary cutter to cut your fabric, a cardboard box cut to make your pattern (everyone has an Amazon box or two laying around), a self-healing mat to cut the material on, and needle nose pliers to cut and bend the wire. This is a great article showing some research that went in to testing materials for DIY masks. https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-face-mask-virus/

I need to throw out some disclaimers here. This is NOT meant to say you will not contract or spread COVID-19 by wearing these masks. You MUST wash your hands regularly with soap and DO NOT touch your face. If you wear this mask in the grocery store and touch your mask after touching your grocery cart, wash the mask when you get home. Do not share your mask with anyone, at least without first washing it. Wash your material and press with an iron before starting this project. If you have a mesh bag for washing delicates, I’d suggest washing your mask in that.

Everyone’s faces are different sizes. I’ve come up with 3 sizes that work for us in our house. Small, medium, and large. Small fits my 3 year old, medium fits me, and large fits my husband.

Step 1: If you plan to make more than one mask, make a template with cardboard or heavy cardstock. Then, cut out your inner and outer material using the sizes below

  • Small: 7×9.5″
  • Medium: 8×11″
  • Large: 9×12″

Step 2: Cut out your ear straps. You’ll need two of each

  • Small: 5″
  • Medium: 7″
  • Large: 9″

Step 3: Cut the coated wire. For all mask sizes, the wire should be 5″ long, and bend in half so it’s 2.5″

Step 4: Press the inner and outer material flat. Match up the rectangles with the inner material on the bottom and the outer material on the top. Fold so that the short sides are together, and press. In this pic, the outside of the mask is the sloth material.

Step 5: Sew around the short sides and the open long side of the rectangle, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. You don’t need to sew the folded side. Leave a 3″ opening at the top, and backstitch around each side of the opening. Once sewed, turn right-side out and press flat.

Step 6: For the first fold, start with the opening at the top. Pinch the material in the middle and fold down. The folds should be no more than 1/2″ Press to lay flat. You can pin into place if you like.

Step 6: Make folds 2 and 3. Pinch the material halfway from the top (opening side) to the top of the middle fold. Fold down. This fold should be just above the first fold you made. For the 3rd fold, pinch halfway between the bottom of the material and the bottom of the middle fold. Press all folds flat, and pin if you need. The three folds should be right next to each other, and look like waves.

Step 7: This may be a bit non-traditional, but I sew with the material both to the left and right sides of the needle, so that your presser foot is going with the wave, not against. You’ll sew two different times, keeping that opening open, so that you can put the wire/pipe cleaner in later. For the right side of the mask, start your needle at the top of the mask, the far left side of the opening, backstitching and running down the right side of the “waves” and then around the bottom of the mask, backstitch to stop at the bottom left corner of the mask. Then start your needle for the left side of the mask at the far left side of the opening, and then sew over the waves on the left side, meeting the backstitches.

Step 8: Time to add the nose wire. Sew a rectangle encasing the wire. You may need to sew less than 1/4″ at the top so you don’t run over the wire with your needle.

Step 9: Last step! Sew on your ear straps. You will be sewing the straps on to the side that you put to your mouth and nose, the folds point down against your mouth and point up on the outside. Switch out your presser foot to a button foot, change your stitch type to a zigzag, change your length to 0, and width start at 0. Sew on your elastic strap to the stitches you already sewed on the sides of your mask, 1/4″ in from the corner, bring in the ends about 3/4″ from the edge. With your width at 0, sew a few stitches then toggle your width so that the needle goes on either side of your elastic cord, and then so that the needle goes through the middle of it, finish with a few more stitches at 0 width. Voila!

The folds point up on the outside, and point in on the inside of the mask.