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Cutting for Stone

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Entries in Joshua (17)


mercy isn't...

Joshua enjoying the first s'more of fall.

The hot wind of a late summer Tennessee afternoon blew through the car as we rode home from cross country practice. Joshua said he had a good day but that the math test  proved difficult. As soon as Jacob got out of the car and we were alone, he said, “but that wasn’t the worse thing about the day.”

“Well,” I asked, “what was?”

Silence. Tears. Face contorting.

“Honey, I won’t be mad. Just tell me,” I said.

Five long minutes of silence marked our passage from Jacob’s house to ours. Finally, he reached into his backpack and pulled out his new iTouch. New equals not yet two weeks old. I glanced over to see the shattered screen.

My stomach lurched. It seemed to be somewhere in my toes. I waited for it to come back. I think I groaned out a prayer similar to “Oh God.” 

Tennessee has a new initiative called BYOT. Catchy and expensive. Parents are encouraged to send “technology” to school with your child.  We had decided to wait it out and make some decisions by Christmas. After Open House at Grassland, we changed our minds. The teachers lit up when describing how they would use it to teach. We got so excited that we took Joshua to Apple and bought him the iTouch the next day. 

The cases at Apple run expensive. Is that redundant? Apple and expensive? So I told Joshua I would buy the case at Best Buy or TJ Max. 

A few minutes after we arrived home with the shattered iTouch, Matt and I sat with Joshua. Very few things make a 12-year-old boy cry, but tears streamed down his face. He told us the story. In math class, he got up to turn in the dreaded test. When he sat back down in his desk, the iTouch fell and shattered. 

Matt and I owned part of the disaster. We had not purchased a case. I had not purchased a case. I call that a “stupid tax.” Shouda. Coulda. Woulda. 

Next day we headed over to Apple. Guess what? $99 later he had a new iTouch. They did not care that the iTouch was 9 days old. They did not care that the screen is a tad too fragile for middle-schoolers and tile floors. They took the old, war-riddled iTouch and our $99 and handed us a new one.

Where is mercy in this story? Is mercy based on contract or character? Kindness or cold hard facts? Co-dependence or generosity? 

Since Jenn LeBow visited me in early August, I have mused mercy. We sat in the swing in my backyard late into the night and talked about the very concept that allowed us to breathe. She shared with me her idea of Mercy Mondays.

I’m eager to muse mercy with Jenn and all her friends in the blog-world. Mercy Mondays is a place where we can share our thoughts on mercy and learn and wrestle and grow. Join us.

Lamentations says that God’s mercies are new every morning. I need them. All of them.



Few parents would argue that raising kids changes your life. 

I am student to each one of my sons. The lessons continue unfolding daily. But today I am thinking of Joshua. He is seen pictured above eating breakfast on his 12th birthday. Yes, it's birthday cake.

As I muse what Joshua is teaching me, I can sum it up in one word. 


It’s a $50 word that simply means the ability to endure even thrive. Academics in social work and psychology write 5,000 word papers describing and dissecting what makes one child survive while others seem to whither in the face of hardship. 

At 45 with peri-menopause, joint pain and faltering memory already pressing in on all sides, I don’t feel so resilient. Yet, as I study the topic, I am reminded of how God has used trials to mold me, shape me and change me. 

I learned to believe that because I desire it so earnestly for my children. I am desperate to believe the trials they face will be used for good by God. If I don’t believe that for myself, I cannot truly believe it for them. 

Often it is our hopes for our children that force us to look at our own crushed dreams. And as we give space to grieving those dreams, God moves in and re-frames our traumas. Our children more than any others usher us into the throne room. There we are invited to worship in God’s Presence. It is impossible to remain unaffected. 

“Resilient people do have emotional and psychological scars that they carry from their experience. They indeed struggle, but they keep going, staying engaged with life and continue to function as a part of the world. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed. It is the ability to thrive in spite of the odds” Tian Dayton, Ph.D. in Emotional Sobriety

33. 12 years of Joshua

his right hand

Sometimes a word comes in chaos.

The day begins with a last minute decision to paint the foyer. Did I say last minute? We have been back from Honduras almost 6 years. The foyer needed painting before we left. We rented the house while we were gone. Upon our return we bumped up the roofline, doubled the size of the house by finishing the upstairs, renovated the kitchen and put down new hardwood floors.

“We” means Matt. 

But did we paint the foyer? “We” did not. Pencil scribbling, handprints, bumps and cracks line the walls that say welcome to our home. Welcome to our beautiful mess!

Today is the day. I want a deep and edgy blue to welcome folks into our home. Matt said, “too much.” He’d rather use a paint color we have to save bucks. More on Dave Ramsey’s influence in our marriage later. 

We end up concocting a color from near-empty paint cans in the garage. And all my decorator friends are shrieking as they read that sentence. Yes, I texted you for help but, alas, you were not available on a dime - referring to time and money in this instance. 

As I am telling Matthew, our oldest, where the drop cloths are; I am texting my Mom. She is getting a medical test and I am worried about it.

Children are running in and out of the house. Sam is asking me to play the Honey-Bee Game. I’m tripping over the paint tray. Matt is the foreman and teaching in a loud voice about paint etiquette. Paint etiquette? 

We return from swim practice with ribbons. I’m applauding Joshua and Sam for their times when I notice Joshua’s eyebrows are scowling. What’s up? I ask. 

We banter back and forth. He’s got several ribbons and earned points for his team. But not a blue ribbon is in the bunch. Every time I say a positive, he counters with a negative and minimizes his accomplishment. He wanted blue. He is a competitor. I’m a mom. I sense something deeper at work. I don’t want to rob him of his gut-response or his emotions. And I want to teach him self acceptance. He’s pretty hard on himself usually. 

I end up asking him to read Psalm 139. The first time he read it, he says he really didn’t learn anything new. He says, “You want me to read it again?” 

I nod and ask him to ask God what He wants him to know. I’m sitting at the computer doing what I tell my patients not to do. I’m googling associated conditions of this medical test. My anxiety is growing like yeast bread rising inside my chest. 

Joshua comes back to me in a few minutes. His face is soft, countenance changed. "I think it’s right here," he says and with a finger he points to verse 10. “Your right hand shall hold me.” 

Even there Your hand shall lead me. And Your right hand shall hold me.

And the Word goes in and like hands it kneads my heart. I feel the lump of anxiety deflate like so much puffed up dough. Even there. Yes, even there.

I say, “How does that make you feel?”

“Pretty good,” he says. “Like if I’m good enough to sit there in His right hand, well, I’m pretty good.”

Happiness leaks from my eyes. I hold this moment - this moment when God speaks to me from the mouth of a babe. He comes and scoops up my child and holds him. Holds her. Holds me.


zealous play

Celebration is in the air. Graduates are flinging their caps. Schools are shutting their doors. Lifeguards are grabbing their whistles as throngs of kids sprint toward the water.

One moment frozen in time by the above photograph captures my heart. Some dozen boys took the “stage” at the 5th grade picnic and danced with all their might.  One mother approached me and asked how Joshua learned those moves. “He’s outdancing the girls,” she gasped. She pointed out how it would take hours and hours to learn all the steps to Party Rock Anthem. 

Yep. That and YouTube will set you right up.

You also need a little zeal. Little zeal is an oxymoron. These boys had zeal defined as great energy or enthusiasm. Feeding off one another and singing the lyrics (how’d they learn all those words?), they sang and danced with all the vigor of Bieber if not the finesse. 

I watched on the sidelines and listened to the chatter of parents enthralled. We recognized a rare moment caught between childhood and adolescence. A moment unstained by self-consciousness. A moment of children letting all that they are surface and interact with fun and tunes. Unhindered. Transcendent. Inviting.

Something called out to us. Something grabbed at our hearts. Something tugged our inner children to come out and dance and play.

“Play begets greater good. And the fruit of playfulness is always meant to invite others to the generous bounty of the party,” says Dan Allender in How Children Raise Parents.

In our stuffed-shirt, self-important world, we adults forget to play. Thank God our children remind us every so often. My children continue to change me for the better. Perhaps they really are raising me.

“You can’t have children without being transformed. You can’t let them play with your life without becoming an entirely different person, who then proceeds to become another entirely different person as you allow your children to mess with you. Every day that you get up and help your children dress, eat breakfast, and send them off, you enter a realm of prodigal play that is more serious than life itself.” Allender, p. 208.

Later that afternoon as I went about the serious business of exercise, I danced the entire four miles and improved my pace per mile by 1 minute and 30 seconds. My soul stepped on the clouds and my hands would not remain by my sides. Even with cars passing by and lawn-men gawking, my hands lifted skyward in praise of a God so wild as to let children instruct me.


13. Some dozen adolescent boys dancing with all their might and reminding me to play.


love song

Today I did something sneaky. I bought Joshua the Hunger Games book 1. It sits on his bed now waiting to captivate him. He’s been asking me for weeks now if he could read it. I need to read it first, I always said. This morning he wistfully told me that he had wanted to read it before his cousin Dan’s birthday. Dan’s plan is to go see the movie for his birthday. Newsflash. Today is Dan’s birthday. 

He’ll get this gift when he gets home. I won’t be here but later he’ll hug me big and say he loves me. He will forgive me for not getting it sooner. We’ll read it together and talk through all the characters and plot twists and turns.

I wait in anticipation for Joshua to get this gift. I’m probably more excited than he will be.

Today I’ve been hearing God’s love song to me. I’ve been noticing all the ways he spells  out his love in the magenta blooms falling like so much snow in my neighborhood. The scent of wisteria wafts in through the windows and reminds me that winter’s reign is done for now.

Tonight we will gather with seven other couples as we did fifteen years ago around this time. We dreamed together back then of a church. We desired to go deep in our faith and plant and give our lives together. As it happens with a mustard seed, God took our tiny dividend and blew it up. Fellowship Bible Church exceeds any of our dreams. 

As I prepared the sacred dip (recipe below), I raised one hand in worship. Who but You, God? Who but you? I thought of myself at 30 years old. I still worked hard at my faith. I hadn’t learned yet about resting. About how Jesus sat down when He got to Heaven and it was ok if I did too.

When I think of all the places we’ve been, I stand slack-jawed at the grace of God. Through victorious and joy-filled days and through the pits of hellish nightmares, God has walked with us. He’s never left us. All along, He’s doled out gifts.

He waits for me to find these gifts. Gifts He’s been anticipating me opening. And I hear the song of His love for me.