Hidden Chocolate

I could hear a crinkle of rustling coming from somewhere, but I couldn’t locate the origin of the sound. Believing it was possible that I was tired or that my mama-ears were over-stimulated, I walked past the dining room table and into the kitchen. As I started to unload the dishwasher, I heard the sound again. Stopping, with a stack of colored bowls in my hand, I waited for the sound. Immediately, the sound stopped. Becoming slightly worried that I was having an auditory hallucination (insert: therapist fear), I continued to unload and put away. And just as immediately as I began my task, the sound began again. Plopping the clean dishes on the counter, I immediately went back to the dining room table to listen more closely.

Is it a rodent on the roof? 

Is it a rodent in the walls? 

Is it a rodent in my mind? 

My mind went to all of the rodent-places!

As I stood at the base of the table, I heard it again. And because I was closer to the sound, I was able to identify that the sound was lower…seemingly closer to the ground. Crouching onto the floor, I went to place my ear on the carpet. As I placed my ear to the ground, a splash of pink flashed in my peripheral. And sure enough, the crinkling sound was indeed coming from a “rug-rodent”…only this rodent donned a blonde bob, big-blue eyes, and pink tube socks.

Upon further eye inquiry, I found our little girl to be holding a stash of foiled-wrapped chocolates in the palm of her hand with a streak of chocolate on the side of her mouth.

“Evie, what are you doing?”

Immediately, she cowered within herself, willing herself to disappear into the floorboards of the dining room. With her head hung and her eyes averted, she squeezed her hand tighter.

Again, I asked, “Evie, why are you hiding under the table?”

And again, she shrugged her shoulders and buried her head.

“Evie, are you hiding under the table because you are eating chocolate and you didn’t ask?”

With big eyes full of tears, she nodded her head in agreement.

“Evie, if you wanted a piece of chocolate you could have asked. Mommy doesn’t want you to take and hide.”

Understanding her choice and recognizing the deceit of her decision, she dropped the chocolates to the floor.

Grabbing her little body and pulling her into my lap, I explained (in a way that made sense to her little mind) that anytime we have to hide to enjoy something, we aren’t really living free. And anytime we aren’t living free, we really aren’t experiencing genuine, long-lasting enjoyment.

In short, I explained that there is bondage in hiding. 

And when we talked about how she would feel eating the chocolate in the presence of me, as opposed to eating the chocolate hidden by herself, it made sense to her little soul that though eating chocolate in a hidden place still tastes good, it doesn’t feel very free.

Climbing out from under the table, I offered a piece of the dropped chocolate and asked her to eat in freedom.

With a smile the size of Ohio (because we don’t live in Texas, folks), she enjoyed that chocolate in a way she couldn’t when she was eating it hidden.

And as I climbed up off of that floor (partly satisfied that I was not experiencing any auditory hallucinations), I was entirely reminded of the beauty and enjoyment of living free.

Soul, I don’t know what tempting pleasure is enticing you to enjoy its presence in hidden bondage, but I can assure you that NOTHING is truly pleasurable when eaten and experienced from a jail cell. 

No sexual pleasure…

No hidden relationship…

No silent addiction…

No forbidden evil…

NOTHING.

Friends, the enemy seeks to chain, but Christ came to set us free!

May we never revert back to the yoke of slavery, exchanging the Truth for the lie that forbidden fruit will ever, EVER set us free. For truly, forbidden fruit leads us to the shackles of death and out of Eden, but freedom fruit leads us to the abundance of life and into His presence.

May we resist the urge to choose pleasures apart from His approving permission and present eye, and may we trust that it is better to live in freedom with His “no” than it is to live in bondage to our “yes.”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 

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A Grumpy Mommy, A Dirty Dress, and Grace That Makes You Cry and Clean

I could give you several, fairly-good reasons for why I’ve been in a grumpy-gus mood for the past two days, but there’s no excuse for sin. So I’ll just go ahead and lay down my proud gloves and simply admit, “I’ve not been a pleasant soul to share a home with…not even a little bit.”

And as I finished my ugly and undeserving rant to my husband who leaned against the kitchen counter (graciously listening and mercifully responding), my heart was humbled as he simply said, “I hear what you’re saying, and I’m sorry for hurting you.”

I felt like a turd.

He could have yelled back; he could have accused; he could have justified; and he could have stoked the fire of my fury, but he didn’t.

In the face of my nasty nonsense and in the midst of my meltdown, he met me with grace and the Spirit met me with conviction. 

Jessica, that was your selfishness, and that was your fear, and that was entirely your impatient and unloving heart. On the baggage claim of sin, you can pick that bag up. Because girl, that bag has got your name on it. 

And He was right. It was. And I knew it.

And because I knew it and because my husband chose kind humility, I was brought to repentance. I was so humbled that not even my tears could make a stand. With dry eyes and a heart that felt like a million pounds, I asked for forgiveness.

Over and over again, I told him how sorry I was. Over and over again, I acknowledged the junk in my heart’s trunk. And over and over again, he graciously extended forgiveness and said, “I forgive you.”

As my head hit the pillow last night, I repented again, asking the Lord for forgiveness and thanking Him for my husband’s.

And the sun set and the sun rose, and today began.

Immediately (upon waking), I was reminded of the undeserved kindness I had been shown the night before. And immediately, my heart felt the sting of my sin and the melt of his mercy. But as my feet hit the floor and the day pushed ahead, I (too) moved forward. And it wasn’t until our daughter spilled a plate of pork chops and barbecue sauce down the front of her newly-purchased dress that I remembered the grace gifted to me.

Like every dinner we’ve had with this blonde-headed soul, we had already reminded her several times to sit forward and focus on her food. And in typical Evie Rae-fashion, she found a way to distract herself from the task meat ahead.

Twirling a pink scrunchie like a hamster wheel over her little wrists, she managed to knock the plate, meat, and dark-brown sauce onto her lap.

Literally, she had owned the dress for a whole 6 hours before the handkerchief dress met our dearest family friend, SHOUT. 

“Evie!”

Immediately, her dad and I launched into a deja-vu dissertation on our dinner-table expectations and the consequences of her disobedience. Peeling the dress from her body, big-alligator tears spilled from her eyes.

“But I wanted to wear that dress to church tomorrow,” she wailed.

“I realize that, Evie. But you chose to mess around and now the dress needs to be washed, and Mommy isn’t doing a special load of laundry for just your dress,” her daddy explained.

More tears spilled as she finished the rest of her salad and spilled pork with a chip on her shoulder.

And as I sat there, I had this tiny moment where my mama-self had a not-so-merciful thought of, “Serves her right.” And just as quick as that thought came, the grace from last night came a’flooding.

Grabbing the small load of laundry that filled the hamper (because that thing is never, EVER entirely empty), I walked to the basement with soiled dress in tow.

As I sprayed and rubbed, and loaded the rest, I looked at my husband and simply said, “I’m washing it, and we’re gonna have a chat about grace.”

Kneeling at the dinner table, with her little tear-stained face near mine, we reviewed how the stain happened.

“And though you had an accident because of your disobedience, I am choosing to wash your dress, so you can wear it tomorrow.”

Her eyes grew three sizes in diameter.

“Because just like Jesus forgave our sins and removed the stains of our hearts, I am going to show you grace and wash your dress clean. Not because you deserve it and not because you earned it, but because I love you.”

Immediately, her little-self burst into a mess of tears.

Because that’s what grace does; it softens. 

When I asked her why she was crying, she simply uttered, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”

And since then, she has given me several hugs and simply said, “Mommy, I love you. Mommy, I love you.”

So as I sit here on a Saturday night, I can’t help but be thankful for the grace extended to the grumpy mommy on Friday…who extended grace to the daughter on Saturday…who will wear the dress to church on Sunday…to the building where we will worship the ONE who washed ALL of our stains and made ALL of our robes clean.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 

Blessed are those who was their robes, so that they have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by its gates. Revelation 22:14

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Close

I kneel beside him, inches from his little body. I pat his bum with my hand and gently rock him side to side as he struggles to find his comfy spot.

I am right there. Right there beside him.

I can see his tears; I can hear his cries; and I know his struggle.

He’s sleepy and exhausted and exhausted from being sleepy.

Tossing his head from side to side, he struggles.

And where am I the entire time?

I’m right there. Near. I’m, very literally, patting him with my mama-hand on his eenie-teenie sleeper.

And yet, he wiggles and writhes as if no one sees his struggle.

But I’m there…right there; he is not alone.

So I bend down close, with my knees on the carpet beside him, and I put my lips to his little ears and whisper, “Shhhhh. It’s okay, buddy. Mama is here. Shhhhh. I’m right here.” And as my lips repeat the “shhhhh” right above his ear, I feel his softness at the tip of my lips.

Close. I am close. 

As I comfort, he stills.

And as he stills, I ask myself, “Why couldn’t he trust that I was near? Why did he doubt the distance? Couldn’t he have calmed without my comfort in his ear? I was never gone; I was always near.”

And as I ask these questions in my heart, I hear the Lord speak into mine.

Isn’t that the same with you, Jessica? Don’t you sometimes need to see me and hear me…way-down close? I’m there, and I’m near, and yet you want me in your ear. And because I love you and because I’m a good Father, I bend down and extend my calming presence in the crook of your ear. Because I love you, I draw near for your ear to hear. 

With tears in my eyes and a “shhhhh” at my lips, I am grateful.

I am grateful that we have a God who doesn’t just tell us He loves us in His Word (though that should and could be plenty enough), but He shows us…CLOSE.

Those hugs from heaven and those kisses from the King. Have you had them?

Timely words that meet you in the midst of your struggle?

A check in the mail at a time when the need was great?

A vase of flowers when the despair is real and the hope feels gone?

Help from a friend in the midst of a busy week?

Extended grace in the middle of a big mistake?

A shooting star? A red bird? A breath-taking sunset?

Kindness from a stranger in line?

Affirmation from an unexpected place?

A new ministry partner?

A job interview?

A negative scan?

A song?

A reassuring dream?

A message from the pulpit?

Those moments and minutes where you know (without a shadow of a doubt) that the Lord is near…way-down close…giving earthly encouragement in a way that only heaven can?

Those times when you very literally hear His voice in the ear of your heart.

Bending down, He loves you…us…me…close.

Though we know (in our heads) He’s there, we long (in our hearts) to know He’s near.

He sends a son for Abraham.

He sends a rainbow for Noah.

He sends a burning bush for Moses.

He sends manna for the Israelites.

He sends a donkey for Balaam.

He sends a fleece for Gideon.

He sends a vision for Jacob.

He sends spies for Rahab.

He sends a baby for the world.

He sends a chorus of angels for the Shepherds.

He sends 12 extra baskets of fish and loaves for the crowds.

He sends an empty tomb for the disciples.

On and on it goes.

Moments when God (in His great grace and manifold mercy) bends low and gets close.

Why?

To show His glory…

to reveal His love…

to draw us near…

to comfort us…

to draw us to repentance…and

to meet our human-ness with glimpses of His holiness.

Way-down close, He knows our earthly ears need to hear a heavenly whisper.

So as I “shhhhh” my babe tonight, I reflect on the “Father of all-loving, ever-perfect, way-down close shhhhh’s,” and I praise Him for the many, many moments when He comes near and comforts with His lips at my ear.

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Media, Media, Media: A May Give-Away

 

No, that is not a typo, and yes, I am giving away some media in May!

I decided to break from my normal “Books, Books, Books” give-away and am going to give away some media that is most-beloved by the Buczek fam! In fact, I think it’s become such a HIT (no pun intended, but it works) that the kids actually get excited about getting in the car and listening to the next song on the CD!

Since we have been doing quite a bit of traveling these days for many-many doctor appointments for our foster son, I thought it might be nice to saturate our minds with the Word of God. And our dear Evie, our little, music-bug, absolutely loves them–and even big brother has enjoyed them too!

So what media am I giving awhich way this month? 

I am giving away THREE CDs (the volume of your choice) in the collection entitled, Family Worship Seeds!   

In this collection of CDs, here are the following Volumes:

Seeds of Praise, Seeds of Character, Seeds of Courage, Seeds of Purpose, Seeds of The Character of God, Seeds of Faith, and Seeds of The Power of Encouragement. 

And why am I giving away this media?

  1. It’s hard to memorize Scripture.
  2. It’s fun to sing.
  3. It’s really great to learn Scripture through song.
  4. We can’t stop singing these songs!
  5. It keeps the kids from bickering in the backseat (for the most part)!
  6. I need a break from K-LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So what are a few of our favorite songs from our growing, CD collection?  

 

There are 7, different CD volumes in this collection, and we currently have Seeds of Praise, Seeds of Character, and Seeds of Courage! 

We love THE MOUTH, which is inspired by Matthew 12:34; THE FRUIT, which is inspired by Galatians 5:16&22; and CRUSHED, which is inspired by Psalm 34:18.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this MEDIA!!!

So how can you win a copy of one of these CDs? 

In the comment section below, share your favorite song (from anywhere)…the one that you can’t get enough of… and at 10AM (EST) on Thursday, I will randomly choose THREE of you to win a CD of your choice!

Ps. Mine is Glorious Day by Passion! LOVE that song!

Happy Springing Singing! 

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Mother’s Day: Beyond Babies and Past Wombs

Every year, Mother’s Day comes and goes and every year, I feel a bit of angst in my soul. And every year, I think something along the lines of, “I should probably write about it,” but then it never really happens because I get a tad chicken. Because let’s be honest, people get a tad touchy when you push the line on honored traditions and hallowed holidays.

So hear me out, I am NOT opposed to celebrating our mamas.

NOT AT ALL.

The cards, the flowers, the pedicures, the pulpit announcements, and all of the temporary profile pics that paper our social media accounts are all lovely gestures to help us honor the women who have loved us, raised us, and ultimately… didn’t kill us!

These mothers are beautiful blessings (mine included), and they have spent countless years and many, many thankless moments serving our homes, shepherding our hearts, and sacrificially loving us. For goodness sake, we should probably thank them every Sunday!

Many of us are thankful for our mothers and their love, and we should take the time to be thankful for their lavish love and consistent care.

But I get a tad angsty and a little unsettled when we limit our celebration of mothers…focusing our predominant attention on those who have held children in their womb and raised babies in their arms.

See, I think the definition of “mother” can and should be a tad-bit broader than our culture (and even Wesbter) seems to define it.

Mother: a woman in relation to her child or children; a female parent; give birth to 

Again, I think there are many women who fit that definition and who are way-worthy of being honored on Mother’s Day.

But what about the women who don’t fit the noun of that narrow definition, but who embody the verb of what it means to mother another? 

What about those women who have never labored or delivered? What about those women who have never had cribs in their home and strollers in their cars? What about those women who have never married and never carried? What about those women?

What about the women who disciple souls who do not belong to them?

What about the women who mentor hearts who were not born of theirs?

What about the women who nurture, teach, and care for those who live on their streets and sit in their pews?

What about the women who lovingly protect and gently correct the colleagues in their cubicles, the clients on their couch, and the companions in their circles?

What about the women who do not bear the title of mother, but who are nonetheless, mothering every day.

The aunts?

The sisters?

The foster parents?

The surrogates?

The widows?

The coaches?

The disciplers?

The friends?

The caretakers?

The counselors?

The teachers?

The social workers?

The countless women who are nurturing, protecting, guiding, correcting, and caring for the souls in their circles?

What about them?

What about the women who have had difficult (maybe even non-existent) relationships with their biological, birthing mothers, but who have been lovingly mothered by a soul who does not share their DNA, last name, or hair color?

What about them?

Friends, I believe there are many, many mothers in our world who will not be asked to stand on a Sunday morning in May because of a narrow definition, but who nonetheless, will have mothered many.

MANY.

So today, I want to say “thank you” to all of you who have mothered beyond the definition. 

I want to stand and applaud (right now, here in my living room ) the many thankless hours you spend, invest, and have generously sacrificed on behalf of the many children who have been birthed in your heart and loved from your soul.

I want to take a moment and say, “You matter. Not because of a noun that defines you, but because of the verb from which you both live and love.”

We need you; we are grateful; and we are better because of your mothering.

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1-Armed Laundry: Letting Go of Perfect

Sitting in my living room, with the basket flopped onto its side and with a baby swaddled in my left arm, I folded with my right.

Spaceship jammies.

Tiny onesies.

Fireman undies.

Sparkled leggings.

Flowered tunics.

Little pants speckled with Stegosauruses.

Piece after piece, I folded.

Truly, it was probably a good 10 minutes into folding when I looked down and realized that I had been doing 1-armed laundry.

As I took a glance at the shorts in my right and the infant in my left, I couldn’t help but half-sigh and half-smile as I saw a Polaroid of my current life displayed in my lap.

Never fully functioning at former capacity, yet continuing on with the tasks ahead.

And as silly as it sounds, that has been the hardest part of mothering for me–the re-adjusting, re-aligning, and re-configuring of both my priorities and my capacity.

In short, it’s been hard for me to learn how to accept the “one-armed living.” 

I don’t clean my house as thoroughly as I once did because my other arm is changing diapers and re-filling snacks.

I don’t host as often because my other arm is busy doing homework and teaching letters.

I don’t cook as many fancy-shmancy meals because my other arm is changing Ariel’s clothes and combing Jasmine’s hair.

I don’t have as many coffee dates and girlfriend get-together’s because my other arm is driving the car to games, practices, and school events.

I’ve had to change how I exercise, when I shower, and how I grocery shop.

I’ve had to change how I communicate with friends, respond to needs, and volunteer.

I’ve had to change how I study the Word, how I engage my husband, and how I enjoy my hobbies.

I’ve had to adjust my sleep schedule, my expectations, and my overall capacity to do things the way I used to do them.

No longer are both arms dedicated to ONLY cleaning, cooking, and community.

With one arm doing one thing and one arm doing the other, I’ve had to let go, give up, and lay down the expectation of doing everything with 100% of both arms, which ultimately means…I’m learning to let go of my pre-conceived idea of perfect. 

I’ve had to let go of my definition of what it means to be a perfect friend, a perfect a housewife, a perfect parent, a perfect volunteer, a perfect employee, a perfect church member, a perfect   ________. 

And as I looked down at that baby in my left arm and the awkwardly-folded pile of clothes at my right, I couldn’t help but think….

God is so loving and so good to help loose us from the things that shackle us to an earthly identity. 

Because at the end of the day, it should never be about my capacity…but His.

And when I learn to live in such a way that depends on my capacity to use both of my earthly arms, I neglect His empowering strength and negate my need for trusting dependency.

Friends, He doesn’t call us to perfection; He calls us to holiness, and He doesn’t call us to ALL things; He calls us to Himself.

Oh, Lord, let us not focus on the “one-armed living” or the “two-armed doing,” but let us call on your mighty arm and saving hands to do whatever you ask us to do today…resting in your strength and in your capacity. 

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Fostering Update: The Father of Fostering, Flowers, and Everything in Between

If I were to write about only the HAPPY, I would be lying. If I were to write about only the HARD, I would be lying. So this afternoon, I write about the HOPE we have in the midst of both HAPPY and HARD.

Today, as I dropped our foster son off for visitation, I received a HARD phone call.

Though there are very few details and little known (at this point), the nurse shared the results of a recent Radiology scan. Since I knew prior to the first appointment what they were looking for, I had already done some precursory research. Again, NOTHING is for sure, but she let me know on the phone this morning that we were going to need to do a follow-up with an MRI because of concerns they saw on the first scan.

Suffice to say, if they find what they are suspecting, we are looking down the pike of not only heart surgery, but spine surgery. And to say that I felt overwhelmed, well…that may be a bit of an understatement.

In that moment, in the midst of all the other appointments, calls, medications, and needs, I just felt plain weary and completely scared.

With two hours to spare while we waited to pick him up from his visit with birth parents, I decided to head to a local Metro Park.

Spring and sunshine would be good for the soul.

And because God is good and loving…concerned with tenderly caring for our hearts in all of the best and specific ways…He met me with more than just sunshine and spring.

As we started off on the trail, our baby girl started to exclaim, “Mommy, Mommy! Look at all the flowers!!! Look at them!! There are sooooo many! Let’s take pictures!”

So, between responding to a few emails and texts to our caseworker and my hubby, we meandered through the forest trails in a hunt for flowers.

And each time she stumbled over a rock-made bridge or turned a wooded corner and found a new one, she would implore me to, “Take a picture, Mommy! Take a picture!”

We walked for over 45 minutes, taking picture after picture.

 

At one point, thinking the tiny white flower that my daughter held between her fingers was the same one we had already found, I simply said, “Oh, we already saw that one.”

Insisting that we hadn’t, she stated, “No, Mommy. We haven’t. It’s different.”

“No, really. We did! Remember near the stream?”

“No! We didn’t! It’s different!”

I kept walking…my mind a bit of a muddled and tired mess.

“Mommy! Stop! This one is different! I promise!!!”

Feeling slightly annoyed, I walked back to where she was squatted.

And sure enough, she was right. Tiny stripes of pink lined the dainty petals of this white creation.

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Do you see them? Those faint but ever-present pink stripes?

“Wow, sweet girl! You were right. Those are different!”

As we sat huddled around this patch of newly-discovered flowers, I found myself overcome with emotion.

Standing, with tears brimming at my eyes, I heard the tender, soul-whisper of the Lord.

Jessica, if I can create dainty-white flowers with pink stripes, I’ve got the rest of everything covered, too. You don’t need to fret; I’m the father of the flowers, too. 

Once again, in a way that only He can, my heart was quieted. Though the HARD was still there, there was HOPE.

And just as quickly as my heart quieted, my mind raced to a passage found in Matthew 6.

See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Smack dab in the middle of a passage about worry, God places a picture of clothed flowers, dressed by His grace…adorned by His provision.

Just as the Lord cares for the pink-striped flowers, so will He also care for us.

He will care for the appointments. He will care for the results. He will care for the surgeries. He will care for the energy required. He will care for the baby. He will care for the birth parents. And He will care for the weary foster parent who faces a future that is held in the palm of hands who whispered flowers into existence.

In all, we found 24, different types of flowers on our short walk, and I was blown away by the display of His handiwork…awed by the uniqueness of His creative power.

 

As we stopped by the stream before we headed to the car and back to the agency, the Lord whispered another reminder to my soul.

Hey, remember the first time you were here? Remember the news you got then? I’ve never left. 

With tears streaming down my face, I took a minute to remember back to that time (blog post here).

Truly, He is the God who creates…the God who cares…and the God who carries.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who created it. And for me, that’s enough for today and the news it brings.

And for you, friend, I know the same is just as true. No matter what you’re fearing, no matter what you’re facing…He is there–the Father of flowers, the Father of love.

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