Last year I misplaced a book in our house, at least that’s what I hoped. It is a copy of Thumbprint in the Clay by Luci Shaw, one that she signed and gave to me when I was at a writing retreat in 2016. It was my companion during Lent last year. I read through it slowly, savouring the words and ideas. I read it at home, I kept it in my bag, I read it in the car at school, and somewhere between getting in and out of cars and bags and bookshelves, I lost it.

This was June last year. I searched. I looked on our bookshelf, in drawers, in our bedroom and in the car. I couldn’t find it. I started praying about it and told God repeatedly how much this book meant to me, how devastating it was to not find it. I asked God to lead me to the book. Please, I begged.

Six months went by, and nothing happened. Every time I thought about it, I could feel a swell of anxiety and sadness welling up inside of me. I felt so silly for not taking better care of it. During one of the last few evenings of 2017, I went to bed with the book on my mind, asking God again for a miracle. Please, help me find this book.

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I woke up on January 1 with a long list of things to do because for the first time in years I made many, clear goals for 2018. The list is a combination of matters I want to work toward, habits I want to change, writing goals and home developments. But I will tell you that there is a fear in me when I look at this beautiful spread of plans. Dreaming is not difficult for me, but almost every year in the past few years, we had something big come along toward the beginning of the year that hijacked my intentions. Some years it was the fragility of my own mind, other years it had to do with our source of income, sometimes it was particularly difficult seasons of parenting. In March 2017, we dealt with the possibility of a family health issue that jeopardized my husband’s Australian visa application.

I had to look at the possibility of moving back to Europe, and it terrified me. When I think about 2017, my memories are lost to fear. It undid, upended, shook. Yes, there was a recovery, a solid, strong recovery, but a wound that doesn’t bleed still needs time to heal.

When I started dreaming about 2018 a few weeks ago, I will tell you that for every delicious endorphin the dreams elicited, there was another question: But what horrible thing is going to happen?

Will it be a car accident? Maybe it will be an illness for the kids? What if school is a disaster for my oldest? Is it going to be the house?

One of the gifts of these trying seasons is the way they make you stronger. One of its curses is the way it keeps you walking, furtively glancing behind.

But I made my plans, and they are that. Human plans. I made them in big picture and small with tiny pieces listed for January. Last Monday was the beginning. I was itching to start, and it felt good. I pulled Christmas chaos off our surfaces and into boxes, picked up the floors in our living room and moved things back into order.

Our bookshelves are too full, there are rows behind rows, books stacked on top of books and in front of books, but several stray books needed a spot on the shelves. When I straightened some spines that fell over to make room for a giant volume of Tolstoy, I noticed a few books tucked behind the row.

I moved the others aside, and there was my copy of Thumbprint in the Clay, its green cover catching light; God, winking at me. It was January 1, 2018.

I pulled it out, held it to my chest and cried. I couldn’t have asked for a better blessing for the start of a new year. It doesn’t take the fear away, but it anchors me in something bigger. God listens. He answers.

Ask for more.

There is no thing too small. There is no fear too trivial. There is no want too great. There is no miracle too big.

Before everything else in 2018, in all things that will come at us in 2018, when we face the world and all its pain, when we face our lives and the things we fear, in all these things, at all times: Ask for more. Ask Him for more.

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Hello from the other side. And yes, I’m listening to the radio again, and Adele! Apparently she’s been around for years, but I’m only hearing about her now. Send help fast before I get a reputation as the least cool mom at kindergarten.

The last you heard from me we had arrived in Australia, living with family, getting over jet lag and gastro. A lot has changed since then. On February 1 Husband went back to work, and my oldest started kindergarten. And now I’m still listening to Taylor Swift via Ryan Adams’ cover album on Spotify while sitting on our deck watching our chickens forage for food. We are all growing up.

I know, I know, I had you all at chickens. We are pet owners, much to our boys’ delight, and the chickens’ dismay. I suppose one day they will stop trying to pick them up, throw balls at them and hit them. I blame the chickens. The boys keep expecting them to interact, like a toy that moves without  batteries to replace. Obviously chickens are the Perfect Toy, except that they run away and only want to peck for things in the ground. When we moved into our house (the chickens came with the house), we had three eggs a day from the three chickens, a few weeks ago we were down to two, and in the past few days, it’s been an egg a day. This is their way of protesting? Any chicken experts out there who can educate me?

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We first walked into what is now our house 17 days after we first arrived in Melbourne. We were supposed to see a yellow weatherboard house, and I wrote the story in my head, we leave one yellow house for another one. I had looked at the photos for days. But the inspection was cancelled unexpectedly for yellow house, and we drove on to a plain, brick house instead. I had taken five steps into the house when I knew it was ours.

When we are lost, we will look to the past to guide our way. God’s hand took us to the Yellow House in Sweden, and he made a nest for us within those walls, and I thought he would do the same thing in Melbourne. But he had a new thing for us, it is brick  and there are chickens, and it is good because it came from him. What is he doing in your life? Are you looking back and wondering why he doesn’t provide the way he provided for you in the past? He’s doing something new for you, too. A new way of working, a new season to live in, a new taste of his grace, a new need for his help.

Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and a stream in the wasteland.

I’m linking up with Jennifer today.

This post is day 27. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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This is the thing about our transition, I lose my perspective so easily.

Just this past weekend I felt discouraged. Why are we in Melbourne? When is our life going to get started? How much longer can I survive with two pairs of jeans? What’s the deal with all my first-world problems? These are the questions of  the In Between, the space when there are no real answers, only lots and lots of questions. This is the bridge between the past and the future, it is shaky, rickety and narrow, and I am crossing over a ravine with rocks and raging rapids.

It feels like any decision made too quickly or incorrectly is going to send me hurtling off the edge.

A bit dramatic, no? I suppose these are the delusional feelings of a mother who traveled half-way around the world on Wednesday and Thursday only to have her kids wake up to party from midnight to 4am on Friday night, only to then have gastro hit an entire household on Saturday evening. I suppose no one is thinking rationally after they’ve cared for a puking child only to then be sick herself half a day later. But it’s true. This is what I felt on Sunday. Why are we here? Nothing is getting done. We have so much to do. 

But then it was Monday, and I photocopied official documents, went to the Police Department for certification and then to Medicare, and in a few hours my kids and I have healthcare again. Just like that. And then I heard my sister say that we had been in the country for four days.

Four days. Really? I wondered because it felt like an eternity or nothingness and discouragement and illness.

But it wasn’t.

When you see life through the wrong perspective, everything, absolutely everything, will seem like it is against you. 

Because here is the truth. In four days we opened a bank account, struggled with jet lag, nursed a sick child and our own sick selves and sorted out health care for our entire family. Nevermind the cooking, cleaning, clothing, laundry and the everyday care for adults and children. We didn’t do any of this alone, we have help because we have family here, amazing family and friends. And underneath all of this are the everlasting arms that carry us home, the hands of God who doesn’t always take away the problem (even when I begged every hour from midnight to 4am), but somehow gives grace to get through and promises and delivers his presence. This grace looks like my sister who cooks and cares for my boys, and this grace also looks like a virus running its course and leaving. Sometimes grace is just surviving a night and knowing that now it is day. Only 12 more hours before bedtime.

Life is moving forward, and life is good even when it is hard. This is the truth. And it is encouragement, it is joy, it is hope.

Now it’s your turn: Whatever stage of transition you are in right now, if you are discouraged, please take a moment and write down what it is that is true. What have you missed in your own story? How is grace holding you up even when it seems like there is pain or when things are not going the way you want it to?

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Gratitude needs to become the new cement in the foundation of my life, I wrote when 2013 began because I knew I was staring into the face of hopelessness if I lived any other way, I knew what it had been like to survive day after day of highs and lows and no balance, I knew I was pregnant with our second and demands on my body and time would only increase, and the feelings of loss I wrestled with would get stronger.

I had been reading Ann Voskamp’s blog for a few years, and often sat behind a screen with my heart pounding when I read about what she calls “counting the gifts” – writing down a daily list of thank yous. I knew I couldn’t do it any more. I was done with living from a place of If Only. I was going to write a new story for my life that began with, I have all I need, I am grateful, I have enough. 

The journal is for my second son, the place where I wrote him letters, collected tickets and other small things during his pregnancy, and it also contains page after page of, I am thankful for:

9. Josiah’s fascination with the bus doors.

52. Leftover tortellini sauce, the bites of bacon

113. Ephesians 6 – “and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Thankful that I am spiritually ARMED.

240. SO MUCH movement from little baby

426. “I will cast all my fears upon Jesus. I lay all of my burdens down at his feet. And any time I feel afraid, don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon Jesus.” True for Josiah. True for me.

435. The largest IKEA store in the world is in Stockholm!!!

484. Daniel Jonathan – life’s miracle – unspeakable joy

651. Carpet of leaves that we walked through this morning

801. Josiah giving Daniel “babyccino” sips

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Word after word, line upon line, numbers growing, page after page of gratitude.

January rolled into March that gave way to September and November, and pregnancy became a baby, and Switzerland became Sweden, life with two kids would be amazing for some months, terrifying in others, darkness descended on Stockholm, and it felt (feels) dark in my own mind, like a fog that would not leave and I have yet to find my balance, but I am anchored in this place of gratitude.

No matter how hard the day was, no matter how much I felt (feel) like quitting, no matter how badly I wanted more sleep, writing down my thanks secured me in Truth.

Today, I have enough. Today, Jesus is enough. Today, he gives me enough. 

I have what I need. I am thankful. I am thankful. I am thankful. Dear God, I am so thankful. 

A few weeks ago, Ann Voskamp wrote,

God isn’t asking us to earn His love. He’s simply asking us to turn towards His love.

Ann VoskampWhen You’re Desperate for More than Barely Surviving Your Life

And it’s The Truth I lived day after day. When I turned toward his heart for me, I’m still broken, bleeding, struggling with two children, struggling to understand what my purpose is in the world, struggling to know when will this end, when will I ever feel like myself again.

But his heart.

His heart toward me – his heart toward you, friend – it says, I’m here, Devi, I’m here. I’m here and I’m for you. I’m for you. I’m giving you myself, my presence, it is enough for you. 

I see this now from this lavish list of totally normal moments; I didn’t even write a list every day, but the practice of looking, searching, recording taught me a new way of living. Living grateful. Last year I asked God to make gratitude the cement in the foundation of my life, and I have watched him build me on this foundation, anchor me in the truth of his abundance and generosity.

Friend, the hard has not gone away.

It’s still there. I live with it. Every. Single Day.

And often the hard gets harder. The harder gets even worse, and then it’s Christmas dinner 2013, and I feel so sick, so awful, so exhausted that I go to bed before my own children. The worse unravels until I am barreling toward what feels like breakdown, and last week Husband comes home at 7pm to a toddler running around, a baby screaming from his crib, and a zombie-like wife on the couch who’s saying, I can’t. 

But still. Even then. I can see the beautiful, tender, magnificent hand of God, never leaving, never forsaking, and it is still giving the gift of grace. 

823. Falling apart yesterday evening, and in the middle of it Josiah saying to me, I want to follow Jesus. 

824. Josiah talking about how God healed him.

830. Being able to just fall apart with Husband – his love and acceptance

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Here I am at number 852 in another week after weeks that have redefined what difficult means to me. It’s not a special number, to most people 852 means nothing, but when I see 852 today on my red journal with gold engraving on the front, I see 852 markers in my fight for gratitude, 852 ways in which I have seen the hand of God active in my life, 852 choices to see beauty instead of ugly, 852 miracles no matter how small, 852 memorials to grace, 852 stones in a path toward healing, health and wholeness, 852 reasons to keep going, keep believing, keep counting. 

Eight-hundred-and-fifty-two ways that I experienced the kindness of a Compassionate Father, a Faithful Friend, a Passionate Lover. He opens his hand and satisfies the desires of all things. All Things. ALL THINGS. 

Amen.