I really have no clue where to begin anymore… But here, standing still with you is better than not beginning at all.

Did you know my daughter is named for a stone? she's called "helper"… and not just when I say "thank you helper" to her for doing her big four year old girl chores. Ezri means "stone of help". It's based on the Hebrew word "ebenezer". If you grew up Jesus-y you'll remember the song that goes: "here I raise my ebenezer, hither by thy help I've come"… or if you grew up with classic English literature, or corny Christmas movies, um, I give you Ebenezer Scrooge. You can make the connections.

When we named our little Donna Ezri, I had no idea how much of a helper and a true altar stone of remembrance her entrance into our lives would become. Motherhood. Parenthood. Grown up stuff. Even though I was raised, without a doubt, to welcome being a mother and recognize it as a gift of a full and healthy life… even though I definitely had some super examples around me from the dawn of my life… I did not anticipate how much would change. Again!

After everything that God has brought me through. After all that I have learned, all the growing I did, after putting God's love for me to the test in my wilderness of doubt after a broken marriage and the years of spiritual cynicism… So much changed, again. 

I think somewhere early in my relationship to Eric, while I was rejoicing in the sheer redemption of my shattered romantic dreams, and in the true joy I experienced in finding a mate I wanted to grow with, I really thought this: Okay, I've paid my dues. God is making it up to me. Life will be better from now on, things will only go up. Challenges will be surmounted in a single bound!

Um, Stefanie. Seriously? 

I had the audacity to think that 1) I'm done with the hard stuff, 2) God "owes" me anything and 3) that life being "better" would mean that it would be any "easier"! Wow. I'm dense… It's taken me nearly seven years to see some of this, dear reader.

So here's the image that's been rolling through my mind for a while now… Or really, the series of images:

- tears streaming down my face as I sat in the pew of a church that is so dear to me. a friend reaching over to hold me, knowing so well the turmoil inside me without even asking… and this song:

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

- a weary and faithful prophet setting a great stone down, and God honoring it's intent, giving victory to a nation (1 Samuel 7:12 ff)

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

- and a sea of images after that, full of altars, promises, standing stones, miracles, disobedience, rejoicing and celebration, life full of mistakes and triumph…

The past year seemed like a desert. For our family, it was a time of faith, growth and heartache. I'm still not completely sure why all of it happened the way it did. But as I was holding onto my precious Ezri the other morning, soaking in her radiant smile as she snuggled in mommy's bed and watched Laura Ingalls pioneering sprit on the television… In my heart, I met God again. 

He knows I've been an angry and impetuous Israelite child. He's held me so patiently and lovingly in the palm of his hand… even when I railed like Jonah and Job… with not near the reasons they had. God does not owe me anything. He's patiently been waiting for me to fix my eyes back upon the mount. To see my Ebenezer and remember that he created my stubborn and wild heart - I am His child as surely as Ezri and Ever are mine! He has provided for me and whispered words of life in my ear when I thought my heart would crumble. 

None of this is new. I don't expect you to think it is. But I want to share this with you. I want you to know what I've heard, after I came back to this stone of remembrance. It's so simple. It's so, well, obvious. It's something I'm pretty sure I've preached to someone or another before… something I've "wisely" observed in some bible study, or remarked upon in conversations with people I want to impress.

The better life, the better everything I thought I would have after those rocky years I had? I so have it. My better is also higher, and since it's higher I have to reach. God is asking me to grow. God is telling me this - that I'm a good wife, but I could be better, I will be better… that I'm a good mother, but I could be better, I will be better… that I am a good writer, and that I create good things, that I'm a good friend… but I will be better… but change comes in many forms, and if I fix my eyes on the prize ahead (you know the one) that He will be sufficient for me. He always has been. 

Life is good. It's been stripped bare for us. We've clung to each other and wondered why things weren't going our way when we thought (we thought!) we were doing what God wanted us to do… And then we've remembered. We remembered what God has grown us to be: a family… and His family. And then we clung to Him. And our eyes were opened, and fixed back upon our goal.

I'm thirty two… and this growing thing doesn't get any easier, but it has gotten easier to recognize where I need to stop. It's easier for me stand still here with you and see with clearer vision, through the tears and over the endless questions, that something is changing me. And that's good.

Lots has gone on since I last really blogged or shared my writing in any fashion, but after a self imposed hiatus, I'm wanting to share and in a better and clearer way. This is just the beginning… I want to share more, but it will have to wait. For now, I'm glad that God has brought me back here again. Standing here with you.

 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.