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My girl has always loved butterflies…so much so that we have often affectionately called her the Butterfly Whisperer. Without hardly even trying, she not only can catch the most beautiful butterflies, but she can convince them to stay perched on her finger and even her nose for the longest time. I’m convinced the second they lay eyes on her they know they are loved forever.

Such was the case this past weekend as Emma and her daddy went down to the meadow on a mission to catch the first butterfly of the season. It didn’t take long at all and she gleefully raced home with the most beautiful yellow swallowtail that I have ever seen. For Emma, it truly was love at first sight and all she wanted to do was hold this little creature and gaze at its beauty. However, her joy was short lived and foreshadowed by the fact that she knew she was going to have to eventually let this little creature that had stolen her heart go free.

 

She quickly busied herself by making a temporary home for what was in her mind the newest member of our family. After doing research online, she learned that butterflies eat flowers, overripe fruit and drink water. So off she went to find all of the above to equip the butterflies’ new sanctuary with everything it would need. However, that night just before bed and after having a little talk with daddy, it was decided that it was time to let the butterfly go. So Emma went out on the deck and took the little creature out of her butterfly holder, choked out a goodbye, and raised her finger to release it only to have the craziest thing happen – the butterfly would not leave her finger. Instead, it stayed there contentedly perched for the next 20 minutes. As if we needed this drama to drag out anymore than it already had! Emma was elated that the butterfly didn’t have any intention of leaving, so she lovingly put it back in its cage and decided it would be fun to watch TV together before bed.  Hence, there they sat in the living room all snuggled up together. It was at that point that I began to realize we had a problem. With every passing moment, Emma was getting more and more attached which I knew was going to make the inevitable goodbye even more difficult.

At bedtime, Emma said goodnight to her butterfly and got it all settled into its cozy little cage. As we went upstairs to her room, Emma chattered endlessly about butterflies and realized that we needed to pick out a name. I fumbled around and was at a complete loss because all I could think about was how sad she was going to be letting a newly named and thoroughly loved butterfly go. It didn’t take her long to choose one, however, and she quickly told me that she was going to name her April because that is when she met and fell in love with this sweet butterfly. She cheerfully kissed me good night and laid her head down on her pillow. As we laid there in the dark, I found myself actually wondering if it was even possible to have a pet butterfly. I envisioned us now having to find someone to watch our dog and our butterfly whenever we left town. Just when I thought my girl was starting to drift off, she broke the silence and startled me out of my thoughts by asking me if butterflies pee. Wow, laughingly, I told her that I would have to get back to her on that. (All I can say is thank the Lord for Google.)  Moments later, I kissed her head again and said good night and left her room, but it wasn’t even five minutes later when she came into my room with crocodile tears clouding her big blue eyes.

My heart sunk. I knew exactly why she was there.”Mommy, I love April and don’t want to let her go.” I gave her a big hug and assured her that everything was going to be okay. I told her not to worry about it and that we would figure out something in the morning. I got her all settled back in bed and then went to crawl into my own bed. It wasn’t long before those same crocodile tears filled my eyes. Oh, how I knew all about not wanting to let go. Why, in just a few short weeks my girl will have another birthday and will be in the double digits which only emphasizes how fast time is flying by despite my wish to keep her by my side forever. Okay, I knew I had to pull myself together before my husband came to bed and found me a complete mess over this silly little butterfly that had taken over our hearts. So with a sigh, I took a deep breath and said a little prayer for my sweet little girl in the next room over asking God to hold her precious little heart.

Morning came and Emma marched out of her room with a new resolve and a change of heart. After thinking about it, she realized that it would not be best for April if we kept her. April needed to be free to live her life in her own habitat. So Emma picked up April’s cage and took her in the living room to spend a little time together and then she bravely took her to our driveway as we all gathered around and watched her go. April flew around us as if saying goodbye and then happily flew off. We stood and smiled as we watched her go knowing that everything would be alright and that we would never forget this beautiful little creature that had touched our hearts.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I saw that Emma was okay and watched her skip away, I had my own little moment because I know someday I will be standing in the same driveway doing the very same thing with my little girl. And although I may have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I will smile and know that it’s going to be okay as she happily flies towards her dreams. So until then I will savor every moment, every butterfly, every colored picture, and every memory that we share together. And when that day comes, I will bravely turn to her and say:

You fly, sweet girl, just like your little butterfly and always know that I am here smiling and cheering you on because no matter where you go you will forever be close to my heart.

 

Oh, one more thing, as I was finishing up writing this blog yesterday, I got a phone call from Emma on her way home from school. She was so excited to talk with me she couldn’t wait until she got home to ask, “Mom, my classmate has a turtle that needs a home. Can we have him?” I will only let you guess my response to that question!!!

FIND YOUR WINGS

It’s only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I’ll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I’ll want to know
You’re walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh, but more than memories

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

It’s not living if you don’t reach for the sky
I’ll have tears as you take off
But I’ll cheer as you fly

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

Written by Mark R. Harris, Tony W. Wood • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

 

  • Linda Blass - You have so beautifully captured what everyone must do as we mature. First we are the one who must be confident enough of ourselves to say goodbye. If needed, we need that strong base a little while longer, it will still be there. Then, we must be strong enough to give our children that base.

    As a Christian, like the butterfly we find new life in Christ. We must leave behind some of our habits and more base nature in order to become what God intends us to be.ReplyCancel

  • Leanne Perkins - Paula,

    It’s such a blessing God gives us to be able to translate these events into our personal lives, struggles and victories. My baby will be 16 this year and all the talk around our house now is drivers licenses and college tours…and moving far away from the nest that has nurtured and protected her. Sometimes when I look at my Emma I still see that blonde ringletted little girl old who professed to never want to leave home or me. That image is always broken by the emerging young woman before me and my heart both breaks and soars in that moment. I’m both apprehensive imagining her off on her own away from my watchful eye and excited for her independence and future. I only get through each day, each fear, each wistful longing to be able to start over by the grace of God. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

 

If you ever need help, I’m your girl. I can make meals, clean, listen, pray, and I will pretty much do whatever I can do to help someone in need. But when it comes to receiving help…well, that’s a whole different story. I tell myself I simply cannot ask for help because I do not like putting people on the spot by asking them to take on one more thing to add to their already heavy load. However, if I’m honest with myself, another reason is that pride gets in the way, because when I ask for help I am admitting that I can’t do it all. I think if we are all honest, there would be a little of that in all of us.

One thing I am learning, however, is that we all need each other. No matter how strong, independent, hard-working, or determined we are, there comes a point when we realize that we are not Super Man or Wonder Woman and we need help. I am so thankful that God in His infinite grace and mercy brings people into our lives to help, intercede, and to stand in the gap for us right when we need it the most.

Recently, I was reading in Exodus 17 the story of the Israelites’ victory over the Amalekites. I have to say that I’ve read this story many times before, but the message has never hit so close to home as it does at this time in my life. The story starts with Moses telling Joshua to choose some men and head out to fight with the Amalekites. Moses assures Joshua that throughout the entire battle, he, Moses, will be there standing on a hill with a rod pointing to the sky, demonstrating their reliance on God for the victory. So Joshua immediately follows Moses’ instruction and heads out to battle. The passage tells us that as long as Moses held up his hands Israel prevailed, but as soon as he became weary and lowered his hands the Amalekites began to overtake them. And here’s the part that I love the most about this story: When Aaron and Hur saw that Moses’ hands had become heavy, they surrounded Moses and supported him on either side and held his arms up keeping him steady until the going down of the sun.

Wow! Can you relate to Moses and imagine how he must have felt? I sure can! We all have times in life when we feel tired, weary, and unsure of how to carry on with the enormous burdens that we face. But what if we were never meant to carry them alone? What if all along God had people alongside of us ready to help us in our times of need just as He did with Moses and Joshua? I have a feeling our burdens would seem lighter, days would be easier, and perhaps we would emerge confident and victorious if we would allow people to stand in the gap and help us through our challenging times.

It’s often easier said than done, right? So how exactly do we do this? How do we stand in the gap for others? And better still—how do we allow others to stand in the gap for us? Here are 3 practical ways that are found in the story that God has used recently in my own life:

  • Encouragement.  As I think about this story and imagine Aaron and Hur standing beside Moses holding his arms up, I have to believe that they did not stand there all day in silence. In fact, I am quite sure it was the opposite and that they spent their time that day cheering each other on and encouraging one another to be strong and not give up. Can you imagine if we all did the same and took the time to lift up one another? Think of the difference it could make in our families, our friendships, our neighborhoods, our churches, and even our country. My mother-in-law is a wonderful and constant example of this. Whether it is with her children, grandchildren, ladies from her Bible Study, friends, neighbors, and really whoever the Lord brings into her path, no matter how busy she is, she always takes the time to listen and to encourage others and God is using her in a tremendous way.
  • Presence. How many times do we find ourselves saying, “Please let me know if I can ever do anything to help out,” when in all reality, we know in our hearts that the other person will more than likely never ask us for help. What I have learned is that sometimes we just have to show up and make ourselves available.  And that’s exactly what Aaron and Hur did. They didn’t wait to be asked. They saw the need and jumped in to help Moses. Once again, I can be the worst at asking for help, but there have been several times in the last few months where people showed up to help me and it meant the world to me. After my brother died so unexpectedly 6 months ago, the cards, texts, calls, flowers, and meals meant more than I can even express. Just knowing how much people cared helped carry me through that difficult time. And also as I help my parents walk through their heartbreaking journey with Alzheimer’s, there have been friends who have come alongside of me to help me as I help them. I can’t even begin to tell you how that has ministered to my heart and soul. And having been on both sides of giving and receiving, I have to say there’s no way to lose. Everyone wins and everyone is blessed when we take the time to be there for others in their time of need.
  • Prayer. There’s truly nothing greater that we can do for someone than to lift them up to the ONE who can meet their deepest needs and do the miraculous in their lives. There’s power in prayer. So why is it sometimes so hard to ask for prayer? I think once again we don’t want to burden others with our needs. But one thing God recently showed me is that sometimes by asking for prayer it actually opens the door for God to use someone to answer that need. I saw this firsthand last week in a situation that came up with my mom’s Alzheimer’s. It was very heartbreaking and I was very concerned, so I asked a couple of my friends nearby to pray. I remember being reluctant to contact anyone because it was during the evening, and I didn’t want to be an interruption or a burden. But as it turned out, one of my friends contacted a member of the community and was able to arrange a meeting the next day for us to get a much needed resource that would help bring support and peace of my mind to my parents during this difficult time. This was such a huge reminder to me that God has people around us that will stand in the gap and help us if we will allow ourselves to be vulnerable and share our hurts and needs.

Two are better than one, for they can help each other succeed,

if one person falls the other can reach out and help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10

I have to admit that I wrote this blog probably more for me than for anyone else, so that I won’t forget the importance of not only helping others but also allowing others to be a help and encouragement to me. The truth is we are all on this journey together and whether we want to admit it or not—we need one another, for life is sweeter and so much easier when we encourage, show up, and stand in the gap for others AND allow others to do the same for us. I want to leave you with the words to an old song by Babbie Mason that has always meant a lot to me. No matter what we go through in life, we can rise above it with God’s help and through the love and support of those who are willing to stand in the gap for us and see us through.

Standing In The Gap by Babbie Mason

I heard that you were hurting that you were suffering pain
But I didn’t dare just turn my head and look the other way

For when your heart is aching
My heart is aching too
Let me help you bear your burdens that’s the least I can do

I’ll be standing in the gap for you
Just remember someone somewhere is praying for you
Calling out your name
Praying for your strength
I’ll be standing in the gap for you

Right now you may be troubled
But everything will work out right
For the spirit knows before you speak what is on your heart and mind

So I’ll be interceeding
Till you’re standing strong again peace that passes understanding
Is gonna be yours,
But until then…

I’ll be standing in the gap for you
Just remember someone somewhere is praying for you
Calling out your name
Praying for your strength
I’ll be standing in the gap for you

So hang on my friend

It won’t be long

until you’ll have the strength to carry on

For when two or three are walking together
It will be a much lighter load
For isn’t that what a brother and sister are for?

I’ll be standing in the gap for you
Just remember someone somewhere
Is praying for you
Calling out your name
I’m gonna be praying for your strength
I’ll be standing in the gap for you

 

 

 

There are times in all of our lives when our faith wavers, when the waves crash over us and we can barely stay afloat, let alone courageously believe. Our emotions become numb and we can find ourselves too discouraged to even think about all of the times in the past when our God saw us through. Yet it is in these fragile moments when doubt and fear grip our heart that we are forced to reconcile what we believe about God and whether or not we will fully trust Him and His Word.

But wait! This isn’t new to God. The Bible is full of examples of people who struggled with everyday situations that put their faith to the test. Often they passed the test, but sometimes they failed. Nevertheless, God continued to love them and to use them in spite of their straying hearts, and He will do the same for you and me when we find it hard to trust Him and believe.

Even when we are too weak to have any faith left

He remains faithful to us and will help us,

for He cannot disown us who are part of Himself,

and He will always carry out His promises to us.

2 Timothy 2:13 NLT

I love the assurance this verse gives that when our faith wanes and we can’t find the strength to believe, God is not offended, insulted, or even tempted to give up on us because our lack of faith will never affect the character of God. No matter what we do or don’t do, He is ALWAYS FAITHFUL and nothing will ever change that. When we know Jesus as our Savior, we belong to Him and He indwells us, He fills us, and He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

So what do we do when in those moments when our faith is faltering and we are struggling to believe?

  • Remember that God’s faithfulness is not contingent on our faithfulness. He knows that we are human and will make mistakes, and He is full of compassion and willing to forgive us. When the Israelites forgot the One Who parted the Red Sea, Who led them through the wilderness, and Who provided mana for them each morning, Scripture tells us that “He being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath. For He  remembered that they were but flesh…”  Psalm 78:35, 38-39. Does this mean that we can have a casual attitude towards sin in our lives? Absolutely not. But what it does mean is that when we fall, we can find forgiveness and get back on our feet and continue on in our walk with Him.
  •  Recognize that faith doesn’t come from us; it begins with God. I’m reminded of a story in Mark 9:17-24 of a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus. This son had been possessed by a spirit since childhood that made him unable to speak and caused him to convulse and foam at the mouth. The father had tried everything to help his son but to no avail. His last hope was Jesus. As the father begged Jesus to have compassion on his son, Jesus responded by saying, “Everything is possible to the one who believes.” Immediately, the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” In that instant, Jesus heard the desperate father’s cry and answered his prayer by rebuking the spirit out of the boy. This story is so encouraging to me, for it shows how God cares for every detail of our lives. He will intervene when there is no other way. Nothing is impossible to those who believe. And perhaps the greatest salve for my weary soul is found in “I believe. Help my unbelief.” I think God knew we would need to know that we can ask Him for the faith to believe. Perhaps that is why He even included this story in Scripture to let us know that when we can’t even muster the strength to find the faith that we need, God will come through and give us the faith to believe. So rather than giving up in those fragile moments of our faith, we can get on our knees and ask our God for the faith to see us through.
  • Renewing the heart restores a weakened faith. Oswald Chambers defines faith as the “inborn capacity to see God behind everything.” People with faith see more than the circumstances they are facing; they see God working. So when we lose sight of God’s work in our lives, our faith diminishes and can cause us to drift from what we know is true. That’s why it is so important to renew our minds each day. The Bible says in James 4:8, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” How encouraging to know that we can come to Him with all of our faults, our imperfections, our inconsistencies, and even our failures, and we can find forgiveness and a fresh start. We don’t have to remain faithless, for we have a God who is faithful and can give us the faith we need to live a faith-filled life for Him.

Lord Jesus, forgive me of the times when I let my circumstances dictate the emotions of my heart and find my faith at the mercy of it all. I don’t want to doubt. I don’t want to fear. And I certainly don’t want anything to come between You and me. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and keep my heart so in tune with yours that nothing hinders me from living a faithful life for You.

Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, no one is perfect at this thing called parenting, and I have to admit that is a hard pill to swallow for this overachieving mom. Why even this week, much to my dismay, I was reminded of the fact that despite all of my BEST efforts (I even bought a book, for crying out loud), I don’t have all the answers and never will. This is not a new lesson for me, but rather it is one that I have had to learn over and over.

When I became pregnant with Emma, only on rare occasions would you see me without my nose stuck in the book What to Expect When You are Expecting, and I think I even had the book Babywise just about memorized. I was determined to be the best mom that I could be, but Emma was anything but textbook–starting with the emergency C-section and most definitely including the 7 or 8 wakings every night until she was 3 due to severe reflux. I quickly learned that all the reading and preparing that I had done ahead of time was pretty much for nothing because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Perhaps one of the worst mommy-fail moments was on a concert weekend when we took Emma with us. Thankfully, my sweet mother-in-law came along to help. On the way home, Emma was very fussy. Nothing would pacify her-which wasn’t like her at all. I tried feeding her throughout the day, but all she would do was cry. I became worried that she was ill and even gave her a little Tylenol to help her feel better. To make a long story short, at the end of the day my mother-in-law figured out that her bottle was clogged. I felt so terrible! The poor little thing was starving and once she had an unclogged bottle she sure guzzled it for all she was worth!

Then, there’s the time she was sick with a really bad cold. We had a vaporizer going in her bedroom to help with all of the congestion. About forty minutes after laying her down for her nap, Robb and I both went in to check on her. As we approached her bedroom, all we could see was steam pouring out from under her door. Robb quickly opened the door to find that the steam was so thick we literally couldn’t even see her crib. I don’t know if it was from my lack of sleep or my overzealousness in wanting to help her stuffy nose, but when I laid Emma down for her nap I guess I got a little crazy with the salt in the vaporizer. Let’s just say her hair was very curly and her skin was very hydrated after that nap!

I could go on and on with more stories of my imperfections as a mom, but I’m learning that it is a constant process of completely relying on God to help me as I teach and train her little heart. I also have found that just when I think I have things figured out, we enter a whole new stage with all kinds of new lessons for both of us. For example, the stage we are now entering of navigating through the social issues of our culture, explaining changes in her body, and dealing with rejection from other girls is probably the most daunting and overwhelming stage yet. But I am finding that God is using this whole process to TEACH ME and to DRAW ME close to Him. The last thing I ever want to do is to fail at the most important assignment God has given me. I only get one shot at this thing of being a mom, so the only way to do it well it to recognize that I can’t do it on my own. I need God every single day to lead me and guide me so that I can help my daughter learn to do the same.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

And lean not unto your own understanding.

In all your ways, acknowledge Him

And He shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Lord Jesus, I don’t always get everything right being a mom. There are nights when I go to bed thinking through everything I have said or done, wondering if it could have been done better. Help me, Lord, to not be so obsessed with perfection, but rather to seek You every day and allow You to direct my words, my thoughts, and all my interactions with this precious gift you have given me. And may You continue to use even the imperfect moments to remind me that I may not have it all together, but You do and that is EVERYTHING we need.

      

I love the holidays…every single part of it. From the baking to the decorating to the time spent with those I love—it all brings such joy to my heart and means so much to me. But I am realizing this year that as wonderful as the holiday season is, it can also be another reminder of how life has changed forever after the loss of a loved one.

This week marks 2 months since the death of my brother. I have to say that it still doesn’t seem real and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him. And tomorrow will be no exception. Especially tomorrow. We always talked on Thanksgiving morning. So I already know tomorrow will not be the same. Nothing is ever the same when you lose someone you love.

But one thing that has ministered to me in such a powerful way over these last few weeks and keeps reverberating in my mind is something that I believe God spoke into my heart on the way home from the funeral. As I looked out of the airplane window at the clouds that day and began processing all that had happened, words came spilling out of me. I quickly grabbed my iPad and typed them out as fast as I could before the moment was gone.

Once I was home, I found that sitting down at my piano and singing these words often turned my tears into thankfulness. Thankfulness that my brother no longer has any struggles but is now with Jesus and is truly happy, whole, and free. When I think of it where he is now- how could I ever want anything different for him?

So, yes, tomorrow will be different in some ways but yet the same in other ways. I will get up and spend my day with those I love and I will give thanks for SO many things- for life, for family, for health, for Jesus, and especially for the HOPE of Heaven and ALL that awaits me there.

And if like me, you have recently lost a loved one, I pray this song will encourage your heart as it has mine. I assure you I am not an avid songwriter, I’m most definitely not an accomplished pianist, and I am absolutely not a fan of being videotaped, but if this can help just one person it is worth stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing from my heart. My prayer is that God will cover hurting hearts with His comfort and strength and that He will give peace that only He can give to those facing the holidays without someone they love.

 

FREE AT LAST

It wasn’t supposed to be this way

So many dreams have slipped away

How I long to hear your voice

And I long to see your face

But in my heart I know you’re in a better place.

You’re free from the sorrow, free from the pain

Free from the hurt and free from the shame

Free from the worry, free from the past

In the arms of Jesus,

You’re free at last.

So when I’m struggling to let go

I’m gonna cling to what I know

Gone away are your struggles

You are happy and set free

And I know without a doubt

There’s no place you’d rather be.

You’re free from the sorrow, free from the pain

Free from the hurt and free from the shame

Free from the worry, free from the past

In the arms of Jesus,

You’re free at last.

I know you’re walking golden streets

And you’re sitting at His feet

He has wiped your tears away

And I know you’ve heard Him say:

You’re, free from the sorrow, free from the pain

Free from the hurt and free from the shame

Free from the worry, free from the past

In the arms of Jesus,

You’re free at last.

  • Carol Leach - Dear Paula,

    I’m just one of a long line of those whose lives you have touched in a precious and wonderful way. A few years ago, I picked you up at the airport for an Amway function and had the privilege of meeting you personally. Heartfelt thanks for all that you do to reach out, with God’s Love, to so many over and over and over again. What an encouragement you are!

    At the urging and encouragement of others, I’m currently working on a book of poetry, sifting through years of prayer journals, to glean what I can that may be of value to others. Thank you again for being one who ‘shines’ as a beacon in being willing to risk all in serving Him.

    LOSS
    Whatever things on earth there be
    That, through Your glorious, loving hand
    And abundance, come to me,
    Help me to know and understand

    To recognize and apprehend
    The groanings deeper than my heart
    Arrayed, in Love, to heal, to mend
    What darkened life has torn apart.
    (Philippians 3:13-14)

    © Carol KC Leach 12/11/2014ReplyCancel