"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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Madeline Grace and The Mattering Part

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , , , , ,

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Our Madeline turns nine today.  The house has been a merry place of pre-pubescent laughter and singing and dancing in time to “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding,” along with “There's a fire starting in my heart Reaching a fever pitch, it's bringing me out the dark,” thanks to that wonderful stage of not quite a teenager but going on twenty.

It’s been wonderful to celebrate with my special girl and her lovely friends, but even more wonderful to be so blessed by her in our life.  I am grateful for her.

December roses from my garden for my girl

Mads with her friends and sisters

A feast!  Party food for dinner

Proud mum with her girl (and the two photo bombs!)

Roasting marshmallows well into the night

Ukulele from Grandma and Grandpa

Another feast, this time for breakfast after the "sleep" over

As Madeline unwrapped her gifts and glowed with all the gratitude and excitement of little surprises, I stole away and opened my own.  My new little book, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp*.

It is the season of advent and Voskamp has written a series of devotions to accompany our advent celebrations and meditations.  I opened the book and read the first set of scriptures to accompany the first day of advent, Isaiah 11:1-2, 10.  “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot.” 

Yes.  Advent, Jesus.  Exactly where our focus should be.

Then there are Voskamp’s own words in the opening pages based on the scripture:  “The mattering part is never what isn’t.  The mattering part is never the chopped-off stump.  It isn’t what dream has been cut down, what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out.” (page 4)

True.  Yes, I know that.

But sometimes the chopping of the stump, the cutting down of the dream or the cutting off of the heart…it hurts. 

And as much as you know it's not the mattering part and that out of the stump, something greater and stronger will grow, it still hurts.

Two months ago I had a dream cut down, a hope cut off, and a part of my heart cut out.  I was unjustly dismissed from my music team at church.  I will not presume to know the leader’s motivations for doing it, but can honestly say that the reasons he gave me existed only in his own mind.  Then when I tried to seek counsel from the leadership, thinking surely they will find a way to sort this out, instead they circled around their man with a hedge of protection so thick, it would take an army to get through.  I didn’t have an army.  Nor did I want to fight.
But I did have Jesus.  And I had Truth.

However, I was left knowing in my heart that the church was no longer a safe place for me, no longer a family to my family, no longer a home.  The leadership had made that very clear by their actions.  And so holding on to Jesus and holding on to the truth, I shut the lid on my piano and I walked away.

I didn't leave the church.  As someone wisely pointed out, the church--rather, that specific and small community of believers--had left me.

But in walking away, my heart was torn.

And as much as it hurt, and as much as I had to close the lid on my dream and could barely sit with my girls through their own lessons on the piano let alone play it myself for the tears that would flow, I knew it was the right the thing to do.

And I knew I would be okay.  In fact, better than okay.  Because they could take away my dream and they could cut away at my heart, but they could not touch my hope.

My hope was left firmly in tact because my hope is rooted and grounded in Jesus. So as my family and I walked away, Jesus walked with us.  And we’ve had a refreshing time, a strengthening time, a fruitful time, all of us together, with Jesus.

Because Jesus is “the mattering part” (page 4).

And through this time, I have known that out of the stump of all that hurt, something would spring forth.  It will.  I do not yet know what it is, but I know it is there and that one day I will see it and know it and it will not be a fledgling twig trying to take root in unhealthy soil, but it will be a shoot which grows from strength to strength, seeking sustenance from the one True Vine.  And until then, I continue to “gaze on shoots of glory to grow deep roots in God,” (page 5).

Because this is not the first time I’ve had a dream cut down, a hope cut off, my heart cut out.  And it won’t be the last.

Madeline who turns nine today was not my first shoot.  Nor was she my second.

Between Madeline and Sam I lost a baby at 13 weeks.  I know in my spirit it was a baby girl and I have always thought of her as Emma.  It’s just one of those Mama things.

So when that person took my dream away from me two months ago, he had no idea that I already knew what it was like to bleed. 

That I already knew what it was like to curl up on the bathroom floor and to bleed from wounds of loss and pain that cut through my heart so deeply that I thought I would never stop bleeding in this lifetime.  But I did stop bleeding.  The pain eventually faded.  The hole in my heart eventually mended.  Because through it all I had Jesus, “the mattering part.”  And Jesus bled too.  So I knew:  Jesus gets this.  I will be okay.

And “out of that stump and the sheared impossible there springs a singular shoot—tender and vulnerable.”  (page 4)  There sprang another baby.  Our Madeline.

Our Madeline, born this day nine years ago.  Our beautiful, intoxicating, amazing, determined, ambitious, intelligent, graceful, moxie, laughing, loving, affectionate, loyal Madeline Grace.  Our Madeline, for whom I am extremely grateful.

So I know what it is like to have a dream cut down, a hope cut off, a part of my heart cut out.  I also know what it is like to have that dream returned, to see that hope renewed, to feel that heart mended.  Something grew out of that bleeding stump that took my breath away.  She is the best of me and her daddy all in one and she has a heart for Jesus and from the very first moment I held her in my arms and gazed into her eyes, I knew.  This is what had to become of the dream I had once held dear and lost.  And through it all and in spite of it all and probably because of it all, Jesus.

And last night, after revelling with our girl and her growing-up-too-quickly friends, singing and dancing alongside them, my heart was full to bursting.  The rain stopped and the girls took their games outside so that I could begin to clear up the mess.

But I didn’t do it straight away. 

First I sat down at my piano and lifted the lid.  And I played.

And I didn’t cry.  No, I grew my roots instead.

Jesus. Jesus is the mattering part.

First day of advent.  First day of December.  Madeline Grace’s birthday. 


* Ann Voskamp is also publishing a series of beautiful video devotions for the four Sundays of advent on her blog  here.

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