In all my years of parenting, you know something that still makes me tilt my head to the side, scrunch my eyebrows together in wonder and just nod? How a kid who gets raving comments on his/her report card can ALSO be the kid who rages in the pantry over my “terrible” grocery choices. Or how the same kid who skips off the school bus can transform into a punk the moment they step foot IN the house.
“You should feel good about it. It actually means they trust mommy that much that no matter what you’ll still love them.” How many times did I hear that? Did it comfort me? Imagine me now and you’ll know the answer- chin to my chest, eyebrows raised and a smirk across my face.
They trust me enough to dissolve into grumpy messes? Yes, yes they do. And yes, I still love them (sometimes I may hide but I still love them).
What in the world does this have to do with Advent?
The “Thrill of Hope“- we all long for it a little extra right now. If you were to look up the definition, you would see Hope is not just an expectation but also “a feeling of trust.”
2016…I’ll never forget Dr. Collins telling me and Joseph to head straight to the ER so Joseph could have a spinal tap. We nodded, gathered our things and left her office in silence. But just as we got to the car, we raged. Literally. We kicked the tires, screamed, cried and then hugged. Joseph looked up and yelled, “God do you even see me? I’m sick and I’m scared. Do you even know?” Watching my little boy trust God enough to get angry and ask questions felt like Hope in action – full, innocent and sincere trust.
Kids teach us an important lesson in what trust looks like, don’t they? Open handed, open hearted, guard down trust. And sometimes it gets messy. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not stop them because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
Advent is a season of HOPE when you trust God does hear you, God does love you. His love is so big He can handle your good, your bad and your ugly. If God feels too distant for you, look to Jesus and look to the children.
So, listen up punk, we’re on the last few steps of our journey through Advent together.
For Day 23, I’m hoping you to step into your mess, open your hands and your heart and trust God, wait for Him and let Hope thrill your weary soul.
Interviewer: Blocking out the noise, you don’t listen to the good or the bad. Is there something or someone that keeps you humble that’s in your life?
The Lord. The Lord. You know I give him all His praise, the glory, the honor because without Him I could have been doing anything. Its crazy… I be thinking about it, talking to Him throughout the day like ‘Man, I appreciate you. I thank you… Gotta keep it going and let the Lord know he’s number one.
Lamar says he doesn’t listen to the good or the bad he says he just keeps thanking God for it all. Does Lamar know Colossians 2:7 “Let your roots grow down into him and let your lives be built in him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” I don’t know if he does but he is living it and speaking it.
“Talking to Him throughout the day…” Blocking out the noise of the world to move step by step with a grateful heart to the God who gave you everything – THAT is a champions way to live.
If you’ve been reading this blog then I HOPE you are learning God’s dream for you, His promises to you and His love in you. You are a light and you are made for more.
Consider this a holy huddle in the locker room. Let’s get pumped. You know what to do.
Get out there and be a light with a big, grateful heart. (Ephesians 5:8-9)
“Gotta keep it going and let the Lord he’s number one.”
The “Messiah” – written by George Frideric Handel in 1741.
The “Messiah” is 259 pages long. Handel wrote it (259 pages of original music) in just 24 days. Anyone else catch that coincidence? 24 days to compose a piece that fits just right in the timeframe for Advent.
The elaborate composition puts the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to music.
Fast forward to 2016, when a dad/Financial Adviser/lacrosse coach, Hillery Schanck was feeling an ache in his soul after the holidays. That emptiness led to a search which led to the “Messiah.” But, there was no Messiah Advent devotional. So, Schanck set out to write one himself.
The Messiah Advent Project is a WOW team effort between Schanck, Koehler Books Publishing, Symphonicity and the Sandler Center Foundation to bring scripture and music together as we step closer to our Savior’s birth.
Jenna and I met a few years ago but I think our hearts have always known one another. I honestly believe God was smiling when Jenna and I met. FINALLY GIRLS! FINALLY!
Jenna is aware, eyes open, heart ready – She lives and loves her 4 boys and wonderful husband that way. She cares for and counsels her friends that way. And lucky for all of us, she points and shoots her camera that way too.
Look through her pictures on her website or on Instagram and you can see it. Her perspective is not just a physical position but a heart posture. Jenna loves Jesus, the one who is “like the light of morning at sunrise.” – 2 Samuel 23:4 And that perspective is reflected in the special-ness of her photographs.
Grab a notebook or a stack of Post It notes! Oh, and grab a pen too. I want to try something together.
Today is Day 1 of Advent. Advent is the season of four Sunday’s leading up to Jesus’ birth. Advent means “the arrival of a notable person.” In my faith, that notable person is Jesus. Advent is a season can feel like a build up for the senses – lights are twinkling, cider is simmering, cold is settling in, familiar tunes are playing, anxiety rising (?).
There’s anticipation in the air. Do you feel it? Maybe you don’t. Why don’t we work at building up our Faith together this year?
God tells us the best way to build up our Faith is one step at a time.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
It feels like the right pace this time of year while everything else is a tornado of parties, shopping lists and family expectations – one step at a time.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet...” if you think about it, a lamp doesn’t light up a whole path; just your next step. So, one step at a time, one day at a time – that’s where DEVOTIONALS come in. Have you ever tried one?
A devotional usually offers a scripture with a brief explanation, just enough to light your next step. I went through my emails, instagram account, books around the house and put together a list of devotionals we can try. These always start with God’s word and then offer a paragraph or artwork to accompany it.
Compiling the list just proves that God will stop at nothing to get your attention. So, here’s what we do:
Read the Bible verse from the devotional
Write the verse on your paper in all caps
Read the paragraph
Write down a thought, question, idea that comes from the verse
At the end of this, we’ll have 24 different ways to “hear” God’s voice.
Day 1 comes from the Holy Bible App. Just a verse. Nothing more.
Where is that manual – The one on raising kids? Do you have one I could borrow? My baby is somehow 5’9″ and 17 years old or something. And I feel like she’s supposed to know so much more before I just let her go. This can’t be right.
Lauren is a SENIOR in HIGH SCHOOL which means COLLEGE is ELEVEN MONTHS away! The all caps are meant to convey my fear/excitement/disbelief. Did you catch that?
I have been so looking forward to this launch for her. 100%. I’ve been so confident. But my knees are buckling just a little now and my heart is being squeezed.
It’s crunch time here. I’m scrambling for all the tips, lessons, values I feel I should have already taught my girl before she goes into the world. I’m not ready.
Instead of confidence, my brain is glitching in pop-up mode flashing pictures from 2002 when it was just Lauren or 2005 when she was in the Princess stage. I can’t disable this as easily as I’d like.
On top of my mental malfunction, have you heard the Michael Bublé song “Forever Now”? It is perfect and beautiful and torturous all at the same time.
Among many lessons, parenting has taught me that holding two emotions at the same time is not only ok but maybe even necessary. In other words, it’s ok to be excited and sad at the same time about Lauren going AWAY. Maybe I can use these next few months to remind us both of that.
Funnily enough, from where I’m sitting, I can see a sign I painted years ago. The kids always bug me to tell them which arrow they are but it’s my secret to hold.
Psalm 127:3-5 says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth."
Okay, okay… Scripture is doing for me what only the word of God can do; quiet the brain noise.
I painted the the sign on purpose to remind myself that my children are arrows. Arrows aren’t meant to be kept. And I, Jason, WE are the warriors. It’s our job, as parents, to pull the arrow out, carefully aiming her in the right direction, pulling back and then letting her go.
Well, now I’m crying. And I’m good with crying because they’re happy tears, proud tears, excited tears, and sad tears.
I’m a wobbly warrior who cries, doesn’t always get it right, loves fiercely and dang it I am excited to see my first arrow fly.
P.S. Lauren, if you’re reading, I’m sorry if I get crappy sometimes over these next few months. Being a mom is hard. Loving you is easy. Trust you know where to aim. Keep your eyes wide open, your heart too. Know Daddy and I are always here for you.
Do you remember those clunky projectors from elementary school? The big, gray, crane-necked machines sitting squat in the center of the classroom. Mrs. Hostetler would lay a transparency sheet on the glowing machine and the lesson would begin.
If needed, she’d add another transparency sheet on top of the first to build on the original lesson.
I feel like our miracle story has another transparency sheet or two you need to know about.
Transparency #1 (which you know from the previous post): Late August 2016, Joseph was in the hospital, sick and visiting with various specialists.
Lay on Transparency #2: Joseph was released from the hospital on August 26th. Just a few days later, I was admitted for my surgery.
Yes, I was in the midst of my own medical chaos.
Yes, our medical messes were overlapping. And to be clear, it was bad.
While Joseph was suffering with a swollen brain, crossed eyes and visiting with Infectious Disease, Neurology and Ophthalmology docs; I would be going through 5 surgeries in 10 months leaving me with 13 scars and one major complication – all at the same time.
Joseph’s story had a beautiful miraculous healing – an unexplainable gift. My story continues with pain. But just because I don’t have a spontaneous recovery doesn’t mean I don’t have miracles too; they’re just different.
The miracle of Loaves and Fishes tells us about a crowd of thousands smooshed in on a hill to be near Jesus. They didn’t want to leave his side but they were also hungry. While the (sometimes doubtful/snarky/forgetful/sounds like Andrea) Disciples suggested they send the crowd away; Jesus said you will feed them.
Let’s add on one more Transparency sheet, shall we?
Jesus says, bring it here to me… Bring me your shred of self-love, your glimmer of hope, your maybe of trust. Just bring it.
1. Jesus looks at what they have right in that moment.
2. He looks up to heaven and says Thank You.
3. He Shares it.
With just 5 loaves and 2 fish, Jesus multiplies what the disciples bring him to feed thousands (with leftovers).
So subtle, so powerful, so Jesus – he models simple steps towards our own miracles.
I don’t have complete healing. In fact, today I hurt. I’m sad remembering the fear and pain of going into that surgery In 2016. I didn’t want to go. I still sometimes even get mad that I went ahead with it and the one after that and the one after that.
Right now, I’m bringing what I got.
I lay down throbbing hurt and frustration. Here it is Jesus. I look up and say Thank You for a beautiful day, with my family, giving the beach one last go before school starts. I hit “publish” and share this story with you. Now we watch the miraculous beauty of gratitude or hope or love or all of the above multiply, together. 💗 And that is how the light gets in.
His fever was at 104 for 3 days straight. His cough had gotten worse. But when Joseph looked up at me and his eyes were crossed; we went to the ER. Joseph (then 7 years old) would stay in the hospital for a week and then leave with a tube coming out of his chest and a battle ahead. The next 365 days we spent traveling up and down Charles Street for medical appointments – Spinal taps, MRI’s, MRA, MRV, bloodwork, Ophthalmology visits… His brain was swollen, messing up his cranial nerve and crossing his eyes. His white blood cell count was through the roof. He’d lost 14 pounds, was working through brain fog and we kept going. An MRI revealed Joseph had 11 lesions on his brain. My boys brain was presented during Grand Rounds in neurology and they “couldn’t figure him out.” That’s when we switched to The Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP).
Pediatric MS or Spinal Cord Cancer. That’s what Jason and I were told. “Joseph either has Pediatric MS or a sneaky Spinal Cord Cancer. We’ve ordered a spinal tap, MRI and bloodwork to confirm and we’ll move forward from there. We’ll be in touch with the results.”
Let’s take a breath from the story for a moment and jump to present time. The message series at Church right now is “Ordinary Everyday Miracles.”
August marks the beginning of our own Miracle. And if I didn’t write about it, well, I wouldn’t be me and you wouldn’t know about it. The alignment of this series at Church plus the anniversary of our miracle is enough prompting for me to start typing.
Okay, here’s the overview Father White gave us and I love it. Looking at these 3 miracles, we see a progression for the Apostles (Jesus’ closest friends). At first, they get to witness a miracle. Then, in the Calming of the Sea, they are in the midst of the miracle. Next, the Apostles get to participate in the miracle of feeding thousands of people off 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
Hearing all the different ways the Apostles had access to MIRACLES that happened right in front of them, for them, by them was beautiful because Jesus is offering so many ways to see him.
Reading all the different ways the Apostles reacted TO miracles with Jesus RIGHT NEXT TO THEM gives me hope. Matthew 14 verse 15 says they were irritated, verse 26 says they were terrified and didn’t recognize. In Luke 8 verse 24, they were freaking out, forgetting Jesus was with them. In Luke 9 verse 13, the Apostles were straight up sarcastic.
I don’t know where you stand with God or miracles. But, the fact that the Apostles fear and sarcasm and forgetfulness is written in the Bible reads like gracious encouragement from a big God. Doesn’t it? It’s as if God is saying, “Look, these ding dongs were right next to my Son and still didn’t get it. And they still freaked out. It’s ok. You will too. And, I love you.”
Back to the story of our miracle… Terrified? Sarcastic? Freaking out? All of it. We were promised test results and an action plan in 2 days. But instead of 48 hours, we waited 2 weeks.
The doctor called to say, “Mrs. Smithberger, I apologize for the delay but we just had to make sure. There’s no medical explanation for this but Joseph doesn’t have anything. The 11 lesions, gone. His white blood cell count, normal. The swelling on his brain, gone. Even the marker for Lymes, gone. I had to go to hematology, oncology, ophthalmology, neurology to verify. There is no medical explanation for this.”
This ding dong was crying.
There is no medical explanation for our miracle. I still poke Joseph from time to time. I don’t want to forget.
The gift of being in and going through something hard can be that you develop a new way to see things. Looking back and writing, for me, keeps my eyes open as I move forward.
Don’t miss your miracles.
You’re a ding dong too and God will stop at nothing to get your attention. And if you get freaked out, scared, doubtful – keep looking. You might be witnessing, in the midst of or participating in a miracle of your own. Look back, look ahead – God is there.