I Don’t Know

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The mother settles the baby on her hip and smiles at her three-year-old daughter, snug in the grasp of one hand. We’re waiting on drinks at a local coffee shop, and her expression is filled with joy at the children filling her arms and clearly, her heart.

The little girl’s head presses into the mother’s sundress, shyness at the bustling crowd all over her small, round face. The mother leans down, reassures her with a few whispered words. Baby boy, perhaps three or four months old, shoves a chubby fist into his mouth and stares at me with big, dark eyes.

I smile, wink at him, enjoying fresh new life and remembering. Looking at my own two children, their heads matching mine in height and their growing, strong bodies.

I remember the busy, tiny, difficult years, when one of them was always, in some way, connected to me physically.

I gaze at the little girl clinging to her mother, at her cherubic face. Because I know that feeling. I know that tight little hand-held love, and my heart tweaks because it is just a memory now.

But there are things this mother knows, already, that I don’t know.

Because she and her children are black, and her daughter and son will face looks and attitudes and prejudice that stubbornly lingers in creased crevices of the human heart, squelching grace and growing hatred.

Because while I know the grip of tiny hands, the feel of a child’s breath on my cheek, I don’t know the grip of racism, the tidal wave of terror that one of my sons will be taken down just because he’s reaching for a wallet and his skin is the color of the dark earth we’re ALL fashioned from by our Maker’s hands.

What I know is the grip of God’s grace. God’s word. All created equal, all sinners in need of grace by a Savior who is color-blind.

I hope she does, too.

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He pulls up beside my truck at a red light. His broad shoulders are slumped and one hand grips the steering wheel, the other checks his phone. Without seeing his eyes I know the weight of the world lingers over him like a heavy cloak.

He glances my way, assessing, always aware of his surroundings.

There’s a ring on his finger, and I wonder…does this burdened man have children, a family at home? A wife praying for his safety?

Because he’s a police officer. And his squad car is shiny new and decked out with thick bars in the back seat and a computer and gadgets throughout, but his face is simply weary.

How can he not be thinking of it?

Last night.

Five fellow officers down.

A dear friend works in law enforcement, and through the years he’s shared snippets of the thankless, difficult, frightening situations and angry perpetrators he’s dealt with. His wife has called, texted to pray for her husband while he’s on midnight suicide calls and SWAT team drug busts in the middle of the woods.

The light changes, and the police officer pulls forward. I do, too, and we merge onto I-75 until the shiny squad car melds into traffic.

Minutes later a red sports car flies past, driving at least eight-five. The noise and sudden motion shocks me amidst the steady-flowing interstate.

I glare at the speeding car then glance at my boys in the back seat, grumble at the reckless driver’s irresponsible weaving.

Then I see the squad car a few hundred yards ahead.

And the red car sees him, too, and slows to what the law allows. Seventy-five, like me? For the next ten miles, the racing red car impatiently glides along beside the squad car.

Just by the officer’s presence.

And I’m grateful for it.

I don’t know the pressure, the hatred, the stress that law enforcement officers deal with daily. I know they’re not perfect because none of  us are perfect.

But I know God’s grace, and that its grip saves lives. Redeems lives. Believes in each one.

I hope the burdened officer does, too.

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After the shootings last week, my heart was so very heavy, just aching, for the pain in our country. For the deep and wide rift that should be closing but still widens. I’ve prayed about what to write, what to contribute to the thousands of words and opinions already out there.

I don’t know the black mother’s fear for her children’s lives, or the police officer’s daily burdens or the dangers his job entails.

But I DO know–I am certain– that Jesus is the only Way to peace.

I hope you do, too.

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Thanking in the Hard

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“We’re not telling our thankful thing for the day anymore,” Chase observed one evening.

We were seated around our kitchen table, probably eating tacos on a Tuesday. Maybe even grilled cheese and tomato soup on a Friday.

“Why aren’t we saying the thing we’re thankful for?”

I drew in a breath then thought back–a jagged breath, now–to the past three months. Truly, April was the first month in which the sun was literally and figuratively shining brighter.

“It’s been a hard year, honey. And, you know, I just forgot to start a new piece of paper for February.”

It was a lame-o excuse, but all I had.

The beginning of this year I started a family thankfulness page. Planned one for each month. I used my favorite purple pen to scribble down words we could read later.

Gratitude to remember weeks, months down the road of life.

We circled the table, shared one funny or serious blessing or thankful thing. Some evenings it was difficult to come up with ideas; other days we were excited to share. Sometimes my husband worked late and wasn’t there, and other times we ate out and didn’t get to share that night.

But my heart ached that it become a habit, externally and internally. For all of us. Gratefulness, noticing little blessings and humor in every day.

Gifts from God, reminders of His grace.

And now, those messy, purple words remind me of the month of January as I gaze over them.

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  • No school today (Chase & Cole)
  • Finished checking ramp A (Dad)
  • Watching Cole laughing with a friend at pick up line (me)
  • Epic soccer game in PE (Cole)
  • Made Chaz laugh in school (Chase)
  • Big encouragement from a writer friend (me)
  • It’s Friday (Dad)
  • Spent time with Chase (me)

My morning walk time is often part of my prayer time, and the other day, it was positively easy to pray. To say ‘thank you’ to God from the depths of my heart.

Gratefulness oozed from my pores.

After all? It was a beautiful morning, kids were mostly healthy and getting along, no humidity, house was clean, our families were on the upswing (Thank You, Lord), the bird was doing well with his potty-training, I didn’t have to work. Laundry was 98.8% conquered.

The dog was bathed. There was writing time on the horizon.

All good things going on.

How easy it was to stroll along, my eyes on the skies, gratitude flowing like spring sunshine.

The thing is, I was thanking in the easy. And boy, it was easy.

Two months ago, I tried thanking in the hard. And boy, was it hard.

How could I say thank you, God, when a family member was dying? Painfully?

Or when my Dad was bedridden for weeks from a hip-related physical therapy accident, very possibly out of a job now, totally not of his own doing?

Grumbles of protest and the weight of worry squelched out my voice and gratitude during those difficult weeks. Often I numbly recited verses and groaned to God on behalf of my loved ones.

I think all of us, some more than others, have had to thank in the hard. Have had to groan instead of pray.

And it’s okay. Because God still wants our thanks, even during the hard. Especially during the hard. Because He is still God, and He is not gone.

And His grace is sufficient.

If you’re in a trial, going through the HARD of life, hang on, friend. Don’t give up on the praise, on thanksgiving. God IS faithful.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (2 Thess. 5:16-18)