Monday, December 17, 2012

how to give thanks when your heart is breaking?

I stumble out bleary-eyed from too much sleep, thankful my baby girl has slept an incredible 8 hours in a row... and the radio is squawking out more details of this nauseating, heart-breaking thing.

This thing that defies belief.

This thing that has me screaming silently at the sky, "Are You there, God?  Are you GOOD?"

How can You possibly be good if You allow 7-year-old lives to be brutally shattered by bullets?  If You allow families to be torn apart without warning, on just another a normal blue-sky day, just like the one we had yesterday?

How. can. You. be. good. if You just stand by and watch a twisted human being, made in Your image, explode sweet, creative hearts into a bloody mess?  Shred parents' hearts into a mess of bleeding grief?

How is it possible for one of Your image bearers to inflict this horror on other human beings?

I numbly chew my toast and drink tasteless tea as I battle in my spirit with You: How can I keep thanking You for Your goodness when my heart is aching?  When their hearts will never quite heal?  

I was splashing in waves with my own sweet boys yesterday...

Why do I get to keep my kids, when they had to kiss theirs goodbye?

In the shower, the sluggish thought surfaces: Today is Monday, a day for giving thanks

Today is always a day for giving thanks.  How do I give thanks for this?

I don't have answers.  I just don't.  I won't offer trite words that would sound hollow.  I will just say how utterly, desperately sad I am for each family plunged into this nightmare.  And I will say that I do still believe what the Words tell me, the only Words that are self-authenticatingly true:

I still believe it with my head, doggedly, that He works all things together for good, even unbelievable atrocity.  

My head believes; honestly, my heart is struggling.  I am wildly flailing with the ache of how unfair it seems.  

But. I. am. thankful.

I am thankful for life, today.  I am thankful for each moment with my sweet children.  For their soft skin, their sparkling eyes, the sound of their laughter.  I'm thankful for the sweaty grip of their hands in mine, that I get to kiss their ow-ies and put bandaids on scrapes, that I get to tuck them into bed at night and feel their wet kisses on my cheeks.

I am deeply, truly, achingly grateful.

And no, it isn't fair.

I didn't have the answer to what to write in the second half of this post until just now, walking back from the post shop where I sent a tiny Christmas package full of music, nail polish and dinosaur tattoos to a friend who also has three gorgeous children....  Children who at this very moment are alive.  Breathing.  While someone else's gorgeous children are dead.

While I walked, I couldn't breathe for the ache of it.  I was struggling for breath, walking down the street, pushing my brand-new daughter in front of me, when these words scrolled through my brain.  At first, just this phrase:

"He who did not spare His own Son..."

I nearly stopped walking.  My brain repeated that one line, over and over, fumbling around for the rest of the verse:
"He who did not spare His. own. Son...
but gave Him up for us all...

He gave up His own Son for us.  And I would question His goodness?  

"He who did not spare His own Son,

but gave Him up for us all,

how will He not also

with Him..."

We have His Son.  He gave us His only Son.  Gave Him to us, in every conceivable way.  Gave us His Son's blood, poured it streaming down a horrible cross.  Gave us the breath from His Son's lungs.

When we have lost our sons, our daughters - when He takes them away - we have His.  

He gave us His Son.

"He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all,

how will He not also with Him 

graciously give us all things?"

~Romans 8:32

All things.  Things like... comfort.



Life, forever.

He promises He will graciously give us all things - with His Son.  In His Son.

When we have Christ, we have...

all things.

When I get home, I look up the reference.  Romans 8:32.  Just 4 verses after those other words I found it so hard to believe this morning: Romans 8:28, that He works all things together for good.  All things.  All things.  

Just 4 short verses separate the "all things" of our lives from the "all things" we have in Christ.

The God who did not spare His own Son, but who graciously gives us all things when He gives His Son to us, is the same God who works all things together for good.  

I can believe that, with my head, and my heart.

{With our deepest sympathy and prayers for the families of the victims of the Connecticut shooting. May the God of all comfort wrap you in His arms....}

Thursday, December 6, 2012

why being a mother is possibly the most important job you will ever have...

Read Lisa-Jo Baker's words of wisdom on motherhood here... they were food for my sleep-deprived brain and weary soul!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sparrow - finally here!

It's finally finished... 

...just in time for Christmas! 

I am so excited to share these songs with all of you!  They come from my heart, and I hope they minister to yours.  
From the booklet of Sparrow: 
These songs have blossomed out of thoughts and realizations from years of living a cross-cultural, transient life.  
I’ve recorded a few songs in the past, but this is my first original album on this scale, and even just agreeing with God to start the process was a huge step of faith.  I recorded the whole thing when I was nine months pregnant with our daughter, Ruby Grace.  
The title track especially captures my relief at being able to tuck my most precious treasures - my children - under God’s wings and trust Him to be our home.  
My prayer as you listen is that God Himself will draw near and speak to your heart, and that His presence and peace will become tangibly yours.   

Some photos from the making of...

May you know His presence and peace this Christmas, kind friends!   

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

rain smells so good

Sitting here, with a drowsy baby girl on my lap, watching the roses outside the living room window bob gently under a sudden rain shower.  The warm, earthy scent drifts in through the open window.

I listen absentmindedly to the boys in the shower, washing off remnants of their haircuts earlier... Happy chatter, Ben telling stories, Daddy managing brilliantly as he always does...

The kitchen already cleaned up at 7:39pm, after an easy crockpot dinner...

Life is starting to return to a semblance of "normal", and the washing sound of the rain feels fresh.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

spiritual osteopathy

{Tomorrow being Thanks-Giving Day, but us being overseas, I'm feeling a bit disconnected... which reminds me that every day is a day for giving thanks... and today I'm thankful for my loose, free shoulders and spirit!}

“Come through!” she says in a cheerful voice, bent over her computer between clients.  I put my bag down, slip off my shoes, take out my earrings, and lay down on her table, surrendered.  Trusting.  

Her hands are so gentle.  She slides them underneath my back, in between my shoulder blades, right where the ache has grown and lodged over six weeks of nursing my brand-new daughter.  Six weeks of cradling her ever-increasing plumpness, of bending my neck for hours every day, gazing down at my girl as she drinks, not wanting to miss a minute of her sweetness.  

The osteopath shifts her fingers slightly, increases pressure in one spot, releases it in another.  She moves my ribcage around, shakes me gently, wiggles me back and forth, looking for tense spots.  

While she works, we chat about having three children, about her youngest being a bare three months old, about going back to work full time and still continuing to breastfeed.  I marvel at her dedication, at her love for what she does and her love for who she leaves at home.  

She moves to my head, grasps it in both hands, taking its weight.  She changes the position of her fingers ever so gradually, shifting my head on my neck.  I breathe deep.  

The conversation, the touch, the easing of pain all combine to leave me feeling free.  



My back doesn’t hurt anymore.  I leave smiling.  

The next morning, we drive down the road to a group of women who meet every Thursday to pray.  

“Come in!”  The hostess greets us at the door with a warm hug, and we step into a room full of smiles.  Each woman embraces us in turn, and my touch-loving soul drinks up their love.  I sit down on the couch, feeling safe and loved.  Surrendered.  Trusting.    

The hostess turns on worship music.  The room is bathed in peace.  Ruby sleeps peacefully in her carseat, and I sit with my hands open in front of me, and give myself up to the Holy Spirit’s presence.  

As we worship, I can feel the Holy Spirit’s hands on my heart.  Gentle hands.  He finds the tense spots, releases pressure.  Wiggles my heart around, jogs my memory gently to remind me of things I need to repent of.  Thoughts float to the surface one by one.  

I can feel Him realigning my soul.  

By the end of four or five songs, my spirit feels like my neck and shoulders: loose, and free.  

Spiritual osteopathy.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

sojourning with children...

{Caveat to this anecdote: My children do have enough clothes - maybe not as many daily options as other kids from their passport countries, but if we're trucking their stuff all around the world, I figure we only really need about 3 of everything... makes for frequent laundry but light suitcases!}

Yesterday I was asking Will about his recent switch to morning preschool instead of afternoons.

I asked him, "So, are the kids the same in the mornings?"

He replied, "Yes they're the same - they just wear different clothes!"

I laughed. so. hard.

(For those who might be unfamiliar, here's the definition of a TCK, or Third Culture Kid...)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"merge like a zip"

I feel like I'm about to have my second baby in the same space of time.  I said yes to God to make this album a couple months after we found out we were pregnant with Ruby.  The whole album was recorded during the last month of my pregnancy, and now we're racing toward completion, and Ruby will be one month old tomorrow... it's a weird feeling.

Most of my friends and family, while they're proud of me, are probably secretly thinking I'm insane for trying to do this.  And sometimes, while I'm frantically dashing off emails over Ruby's head while she's feeding (like right now), I do feel a little manic.  But I've just kept thinking to myself, over and over, my favorite New Zealand highway sign, "Merge like a zip":

(The New Zealand road rule for blending two or more lanes into one: 
a zip is a zipper, for you Americans out there)

And it does seem to help!

Each day is flowing together in a different pattern, but somehow the baby's schedule, boys' schedules, CD details, James' studies, dishes, laundry, sleeping, friends, emails... somehow they're all merging (blurring!)  together, and what doesn't get done today gets saved for tomorrow, and I am learning to release and receive, release and receive.  Release my own agenda, and receive God's.  Release my nap, and receive Ruby, whimpering in my arms, as a gift.  Release control, and receive... peace.  I have my freak-out moments, every several days, but they're like red pimply blips along the path and then things settle back down to the whir and rhythm of "merge like a zip, merge like a zip"... 

And we are just a few days away from final mixing, final editing, and then mastering... and the CD cover graphics came through yesterday and look beautiful... and we are gathering quotes for duplicating  this dream gift from God to me, through me, so that it can be broken bread and poured out wine, passed out to God's people for the nourishment of their souls... and in the breaking and pouring, I am somehow nourished too.

Would you pray with me, as I rock and shush and swaddle and sing and croon, for the completion of this collection of songs, that it would be shining and shimmering grace?  That all the details would slip into place, that the final product would be exactly how I dreamed it would be, that it would be a blessing?  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

choosing joy...

In the midst of baby brain, changing 10 nappies a day (or more!), juggling FIVE people's schedules (the smallest family member being the most adamant!), dealing with sleep deprivation, thrush, extra yucky viruses and stress...

Can I find joy?

The answer is YES, but it's a choice.  One I haven't been making very well lately... but this post from Sally Clarkson at I Take Joy has encouraged me!  I hope regardless of where you are today, it encourages you too.

Remember - joy is a CHOICE!  (because all the riches in the heavenly places already belong to us, and Christ in us is the hope of GLORY!  what's not to be happy about?)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Welcome, Ruby Grace!

We are so pleased and proud to welcome into our family

Ruby Grace Broughton

born 9 October 2012 at 8:15pm

Christchurch, New Zealand

8lbs 15oz (4.05kg)

22in (56cm) long

She is named after Carolyn's grandmother Ruby

and James' grandmother Gace who served in China,

two women known for their deep love for Jesus

and their lifelong passionate interest in people.

For Ruby, a poem my Dad used to sing to us growing up:

William Cushing, 1856

Little children, little children,

Who love their Redeemer,

Are the jewels, precious jewels,

His loved and His own.

Like the stars of the morning,

His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,

Bright gems for His crown.

For Ruby, a song from her Aunt Kathryn:

Cloud Cult

You were born into a strange world.
Like a candle, you were meant to share the fire.
I don't know where we come from, and I don't know where we go.
But my arms were made to hold you, so I will never let you go.
Cuz you were born to change this life.
You were born to chase the light.
You were born...

Love your mother, yeah she's a good one.
She'll build you armor; keep you warm as a hen.
The stars may fall and the rains may pour,
But I will love you evermore.
You were born to make this right.
You were born to chase the light.
You were born...

Oh my precious, oh my love, when they come to take me,
I will hold you from above.
I don't know why we're here, and I don't know how,
But I'm here with you now, I am here with you now.
Cuz you were born to change this life.
Cuz you were born to make this right.
Cuz you were born to chase the light.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sitting here,

(second day past my due date),

listening to the rough draft cuts

of these songs that grew out of my heart...

at peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Watching someone transpose thoughts from your head onto a computer screen is an eerie experience.  

It’s like that part in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Coriarkin (the magician on the Dufflepuds’ island), asks Drinian (the first mate), to describe their voyage thus far.  As Drinian talks, the whole journey appears as a detailed map on a parchment in front of them, full color and almost 3D.  

That’s how I felt today, watching this extremely clever music producer who's recording this album for me type out song after song in Sibelius (a program for producing sheet music) - it was like watching the invisible music in my head appear in ink on paper as I thought it.  For him, it was just all in a days’ work; for me, it was magic!  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

for all moms (present or future) out there... if you read one thing today: this.

It's from Sally Clarkson at I Take Joy.  I nearly cried.  Partly from how true her words are, and partly from the keen stinging sense of conviction that flooded over me, since my attitudes and actions the past few days have been the exact opposite of what she writes...

Here's a taste:

“One day, during some heavy, depleting financial issues in our family’s life, I decided to get up before everyone else. I made homemade pecan-apple pancakes, lit candles, put on soothing instrumental music, and had a lovely table set when the kids and Clay arose. We all enjoyed the breakfast surprise together. After we finished, Sarah was sitting next to me on the couch. She kissed my cheek and said, ‘You know, Mom, when you act happy and bring joy to our life, I feel secure and that all is well. But when you are upset and down, I feel guilty, like we have done something wrong and it makes me feel like brooding. Thanks for making the effort. I feel happy this morning.’

Go read the rest of it.  You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

stream of consciousness...

How do you get started writing again when everything that was the background for the last post has changed?  Well, everything except the people in my life - and the two little boys I love are still clattering cars and diggers around on the floor, even though it's now in New Zealand instead of Kazakhstan.

Coming up on two weeks back in New Zealand, all fighting nasty cough-cold viruses, me feeling like I'm about to pop with this baby and with the added stresses of a transition next week into our semi-permanent home for 3 months, as well as the anticipated start of creating this album of songs... the thought of which is making me feel crazier and crazier every time it flits uncomfortably through my mind...  It's difficult to know how to put all this into words, which is why I haven't made an appearance in this space for the last month or so.

And here's Will for help with his car, and here's my mother-in-law home from an afternoon outing with some relatives in tow, and my quiet window of time has melted away... so this is all for now... more on my internal state soon...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

for all you recovering perfectionists out there {The True Meaning of "Perfection"}

I’m telling you, the Internet is an amazing thing.  

Just watching myself write that makes me feel like an old fogey, but seriously.  I am just now getting this fact: I can be blessed by looking at someone’s face I have never met (and maybe will never meet in real life), and hearing her voice from my screen lovingly speak words of truth that resonate with my own heart.  

Any other recovering perfectionists like me out there?

Take 3 minutes to e-visit over here and have coffee with the lovely, encouraging Holley Gerth.  You'll be blessed like I just was.  

And I am going to have to figure out new ways of understanding and using this incredible tool called “Internet” for blessing hearts.  It truly is amazing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

for when God ups the ante

{Up (or raise) the ante: 
increase what is at stake or under discussion.}
Just when I think I’m graduating from faith school, God ups the ante.  
I’ve never recorded any of my songs in a real studio.  The closest I’ve gotten was my first year overseas, when a group of extremely talented and dedicated friends put together an amateur collection of my songs.  That collection has traveled around the world and back, and many more copies have been made than the 1000 we originally ordered, which I thought I would never be able to get rid of.  (That was the minimum number the bulk printing company who donated the copies would make… I thought surely I’d have stacks left over.  Instead, people called asking if it was ok to make more copies!)  
Now, more than 8 years later, I still get an email out of the blue every so often from someone with a copy of that album, who happened to be listening to a song of mine that morning and wanted to let me know they were blessed.  I cry every time I get one of those emails.  The miracles God did to bring that simple little recording into existence…
So, I’m still writing songs.  And this upcoming home leave, I have the chance to record in a real studio… 
And I’m gonna take it.  
Whew.  Just typing those words leaves me breathless.  
So what's at stake here?  Well, I'll be a bursting - I mean, blooming - 9 months pregnant by the time I get into the studio.  I'm not sure I'll have lung space to sing!  And even though my incredibly supportive husband (who also keeps track of our finances) assures me God's already provided what it will take to do this, it still took me a while to hear clearly from Jesus: I want you to invest in blessing.  Don't hold back.  Do this for me.  
Obviously, I’m not done with faith school yet.  {Are we ever really done til we get to heaven and see His face?}  Just when I think I’ve limboed under His lowest bar, and I’m celebrating because my back didn’t even ache this time, He drops it down one more notch.  Focuses on the next too-precious thing, the next deeper level.
Holley Gerth wrote a note this week that felt meant for me (you can read the whole thing here)… My favorite bit was this: 
On the edge of the Promised Land, [the Israelites] came to the Jordan river. When the priests stepped into the water then it parted. It always takes a step of faith to get to the Promised Land. Always. And if you wait until you’re unafraid, you’ll never cross.
Perhaps you’re in the middle of that kind of moment too, right where you are, taking your own step.  If so, we’re cheering for you. You may not be able to hear, you may not be able to see, but you are not doing this alone.
And what’s ahead of you is more than you can even imagine.
Go for your Promised Land, friend. Let nothing hold you back. Put your feet into that water and feel the dry ground of God’s goodness.
You can do this with Him–one step at a time.
So let me encourage you… when God ups the ante?  He always comes through with the faith we need to take the next step.  And the next.  And the next.  
After all, if this faith thing came naturally, it wouldn’t need to be a gift, right?  
And when we need more?  We just have to ask. 
What next faith step is God asking you to take?  What's holding you back?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

summer photos...

{For some reason, we've found an incredibly fast internet pocket, if we hang our USB modem out the window of our porch!  So here are some photos before the wormhole closes...}

The boys at a birthday party this weekend
for a foreign friend who's leaving

Will with his only two English-speaking friends

Zucchini from our garden!

Six months and counting... 

Happy summer!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

of weed-wacking and complacency

“I borrowed a weed-wacker… I’m going to go wack weeds.”
Outside, he yanks the pull-start and the buzz whirs into action, determined, fierce, a little engine with spinning blades hewing down the thick, tall, stalks smothering our yard.  
Should I be wacking weeds too?  What would it take to clean out my overgrown heart?
I hear the sizzling sound as the blades slice through tough fiber, grown so tall and rooted so deep hands would work for hours to pull them up by the roots… and then, since our yard is all weeds, there would be no yard left at all, just mounds of rumpled dirt clods all uprooted.  
How deep do my weed-roots go?
Aren’t I doing ok, really?  I mean, how bad can it really be - the state of my heart?  I’m living in another country, raising my kids to understand another culture, speak another language.  I’m strategizing about reaching out to those around me in Jesus’ name.  I’m coping with water shortages, power outtages, nasty no-see-um biting bugs, freezing cold winters and unpredictable summers.  I’m enduring isolation, loneliness, relationship stress, culture stress, all for the sake of carrying the Good News in my skin to this group of people who maybe wouldn’t hear any other way.  
So where are the weeds?  Are they really there?  Doesn’t all this giving up for Jesus count for something?

I think about my ugly attitude last night, when I overheard frustration from my husband, took it personally, and allowed myself to sink into utter despair over my own failure buttons being pushed.  

I think about how I snapped at my kids and lost patience and even (shall I say it?) got sick of the sound of them, all because I didn’t get my nap yesterday.  

I think of how I tunneled into children’s fiction books for the whole afternoon, addictively escaping deeper into a different world to shut out my own - which is filled with what?  Blessings.  Beautiful children.  A loving husband.  Potential for blessing and giving all around me.  Nature singing God’s beauty right outside my doorstep.  I blocked it all out and buried my head in the sand - and the result was a late, unorganized, inadequate dinner, an unsatisfied family, and a sick heart.  Weeds galore.  
I think of the blog post I read - no, devoured - this morning that brought tears springing sharply and made my breakfast stick in my throat.  I think how I ache for my boys to grow up that way, to love that way, to give that way… and of how little and feeble my example is, me being the person they absorb life from 24 hours a day, as I hoard their best toys and teach them to give away only the lesser, broken bits.  Ugh.  

What are they sponging from me, as I greedily hoard my own time and heartily resent interruptions, sleep deprivation, and unexpected guests?  What are they internalizing as I put my own agenda first over people, so they can see I only give out in little, limited pockets, when it suits me - instead of lavishly, without reserve, like Mary with her perfume all poured out?  

What are they subconsciously tucking away?
All inside of me aches, and I feel the prickles of all those weeds in my heart.  The buzz outside continues, relentless, driving home the question: Will you submit to those spinning blades - will you let Me mow down all this ugly so I can have room to grow goodness?
 No matter where we are in the world, or what we think we’re doing for Christ, the battlefield is in our own hearts.  I could live this whole cross-cultural sojourning life, feeling and acting holy, and convince myself I’m giving everything up for Jesus.  But without true lavish Christ-love in my heart or a true willingness to sacrifice what’s actually dear to me, I am seriously only a clanging cymbal.  

Time to invite the Weed-Wacker.  

What are some ways you convince yourself you’re “ok” spiritually?
What real weeds are subtly growing in your heart
that you need to invite the Holy Spirit to hack out?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

For those just-plain-bad days…

{This is kind of a long story, but bear with me...}

Today has been one of those days.  
Our fourth day without running water.  The water in this town runs on two pumps, and one broke last week, so because we live at the upper end of town, there hasn’t been enough water pressure for the little water there is to make it up to us.  And since it happened over the weekend, my helper (who’s really good at washing dishes without running water) wasn’t coming.  By last night we had pretty much used up every single clean dish in the house, and the smelly, slimy mountain on the kitchen counter was really starting to get to me.  Plus, no showers or laundry, so other things were starting to smell too.  
So… last night, after three days with no water, James drove down to the street pump several blocks from us that’s dribbling out a trickle, and spent two hours filling barrels with water and laboriously dumping it through a funnel into the huge vats in our basement.  This gave us enough water in our taps to do an hour-and-a-half’s worth of dishes and have a quick shower each… then our taps ran dry again.  
By this morning, we were literally down to one 5-litre bottle of drinking water, plus half a bottle of tap water to use for dishes, hands, etc.  We put a bucket of dirty canal water in the bathroom to flush the toilet with, and started using our outhouse for the necessaries!  
Besides all of this, relationships on our foreign team here have not been stellar lately, and yesterday a conversation did not go well, which was discouraging and frustrating for both James and I.  
Also, lately in the back of my mind is the constant nagging thought, What if, after we leave this company in August, we can’t create another visa option to come back next year?  What if I have to go through another exhausting complete-country-transition with a newborn, like I did after we had William? What if these next 9 weeks are all I have left with my local friends here?  What if… what if… 
With all of this going on in the background, I snap all out of proportion at my house helper this morning over a tiny thing, leaving me in tears of repentance and her in tears of… I’m not sure what.  {This happens right after I’ve just finished trying to tell her the story I read this morning: Peter walking to Jesus on the water, and starting to sink after looking around at the storm… following it up with “Yeah, I really want to learn to depend on Jesus more like that, even when my situation is really difficult…”  and so I’m now having intensely guilty feelings about “ruining” my witness by snapping at her...}  
I can feel my veneer crumbling.  As the tears start to fall, I’m apologizing to her for losing my temper, but I’m having major trouble getting my own emotions under control, and I can’t understand exactly why she’s crying.  Is it only because I snapped at her?  I know I’ve been snapping more frequently, and even though I apologize each time, I really have not been easy to live with.  Maybe this is the final straw for both of us?  When I ask her, she doesn’t answer. 
This is the first time I’ve completely crumpled in front of her, and I’m thinking hopeful thoughts about vulnerability and increasing the depth in our relationship, when she says she doesn’t want to work for me anymore.  My heart sinks.  Is this a manipulation tactic?  Does she want me to grovel and beg her to stay, and keep profusely apologizing in order to preserve the friendship?  Is that what her local friends do when they lose their tempers?  Well, the reality is, I lost my temper this morning  because she made another executive decision about something without consulting me, and that’s been happening more frequently too.  Even though she’s my friend, I do pay her wages to help me in the ways I need help (not in the ways she thinks would be helpful), and today her latest assumption was the straw that broke the back of this camel.
I try to probe deeper about her tears.  She’s got her back to me, soaping up dishes at the sink.  I’m stirring apricot jam on the stove, sniffing, big tears dropping into the pot, praying furiously for wisdom.  She stays quiet a long time.  Finally, she quietly says she’s afraid of getting pregnant again herself because (like me) she was emotional and easily angered while she was pregnant, and she’s afraid of being that way again.  Oh, great.  Definitely helps the guilt trip I’m already putting on myself.  This sudden fear of pregnancy, from the girl who had a miraculous baby after two miscarriages, and is longing to have another child?  
Can it really be fear of pregnancy?  Is it just that I’ve finally really hurt her feelings, but she just won’t tell me?  I model honesty.  I share more reasons for why I’m crying, real reasons.  I open up.  She doesn’t say a word.  Is this Central Asian-ness?  Is this just her personality?  Why won’t she talk to me?  We’ve usually been honest with each other up til now…  Lord, give me wisdom!  I’m really blowing it here!  
Despite all my best efforts, I can’t get her to talk more to me about how she’s feeling.  When it’s time for her to leave, I pay her for last week and today, tell her to take the day off tomorrow, and walk her to the gate.  On the way, I keep telling her, “The most important thing is for us to understand each other.  Please don’t go home thinking I don’t love you, or that I want to throw away our friendship.  You do understand, don’t you?”  She nods affirmative, but I’m unconvinced.  No kiss goodbye, no smile or wave.  She walks off down the street, still wiping her eyes.  I close the gate behind her, feeling completely helpless.  I make it back up the stairs into our veranda, and melt into a puddle.  
“I can’t do this, Lord!”  I wail inside.  “Why did you pick me, anyway?  I am so sinful!  So broken!  So foolish!  So helpless!  I can’t see into anyone’s hearts like You can - I’m like a blind person, fumbling around with the most precious treasure in the world, trying to give it away to people, and all the time tripping stupidly over my own feet!”
I am like Peter, exactly.  Sinking, sinking - knee-deep, thigh-deep - eyes wild and rolling, soul filled with howling wind and mountainous waves.
I sit and cry, let the tears ache out of me.  The boys are still rolling around somewhere in the house - they certainly haven’t made today easier, bickering all morning, poking at each other, taking advantage of my distraction to break all the rules.  I’ve snapped at them too this morning and felt guilty about that, especially in front of my helper who hardly disciplines her children at all and probably thinks I’m a complete ogre.  
And you know?  Some days are just like this.  

I call my husband in tears, and he lovingly listens and speaks Truth: “Jesus understands… He forgives you… we all have bad days… I’ve snapped at workers too, and had to apologize… I think part of it is certainly a spiritual attack…”  That part often does become clear when everything happens at once: water outage/team difficulties/local relationship difficulties/parenting challenges/summer heat/mosquitoes/difficulty sleeping… 
We are getting wiser about identifying attacks.  But it still doesn’t make surviving the onslaught - how about winning? - any easier while it’s happening.
I don’t have any solutions.  I just share this story to let you know that I have bad days too.  It’s not all pesto and smiles and gardening.  It’s hard, really hard, and I know you have days like this too.  Well, you’re not alone.  We’re not alone, you and me.  Jesus is ready to reach out his hand and grab us out of the water, the minute we ask Him for help.  
Thank God the preciousness of His gospel does not depend on the broken, desperate vessel it’s conveyed in… In fact, I think it’s through our cracks that His light can shine.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, 
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.   
~2 Cor 4:7
Have you had a bad day recently?
What happened?  What did you do?