Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Lies Ahead...


"For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the LORD will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."1

I wanted to write a post on the eve of the new year, but stumbled across this from Oswald Chambers that summed it up better than I:

Security from Yesterday. “God requireth that which is past.” At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise from remembering the yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace is apt to be checked by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them in order to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual culture for the future. God reminds us of the past lest we get into a shallow security in the present.

Security for Tomorrow. “For the Lord will go before you.” This is a gracious revelation, that God will garrison where we have failed to. He will watch lest things trip us up again into like failure, as they assuredly would do if He were not our rereward. God’s hand reaches back to the past and makes a clearing-house for conscience.

Security for Today. “For ye shall not go out with haste.” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.

Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him." 2


1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Is 52:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
2. Chambers, O. (1993). My utmost for his highest : Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Eve of the Christ Child...

The road was hot and her back ached.  She could feel the baby low in her belly. She sat alone on the donkey as Joseph went to check for any available space.  She just wanted to be done with the trip, to find rest off of the back of this mule.  She repeated the scriptures to ward off irritation and prayed fervently for reassurance and comfort.  Joseph returned, ashamed to offer what little he could find for his new bride whom he knew was uncomfortable, but it was all he had to give. 

They arrived at the stable, and he helped Mary descend off the donkey.  Joseph unloaded the few things they brought with them and Mary praised God for shelter.  At first she shrugged off the clenching tightness in her belly as a side-effect of long weary travel, but soon the pain intensified and cycled and she was aware of what would be - a baby in a barn, a saviour in the straw.  She wondered why here Lord?  Why now?  But she had seen enough even at her young age to know that the Lord has plans that do not always follow the ways of man.  As the pressure grew stornger, she began to fear and wonder if she could really do this.  Joseph stayed near her side and her eyes searched his face for strength.  His eyes were closed as he prayed for help from God.  Mary could feel the baby pressing on, ready to enter this world and her flesh tore open - raw wound bringing life, the foreshadow of flesh yet to be torn, and life yet to be given.  The piercing cry of this child broke the stifling silence in the stable.  Mary and Joseph rejoiced.  The baby who had emerged from the darkness of the womb, was wrapped in cloths and laid into a manger of wood.  If Mary could see into her child's future, she would see that many years later this same child would be laid on wood, wrapped in cloth and placed in the darkness of a tomb. 

I ponder these things on this eve of Christmas - the Christ child coming to be our way home if we would just follow Him.  I lay down my burdens, and cast aside my weariness to follow that baby from the cradle to the cross.  But the story doesn't end there.  Three days after entering darkness he would emerge from that tomb of death and despair, bringing new life to all who trust in Him alone.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " Philippians 2:6-11

Blessings this Christmas Eve through the Christ-child come for the cross.  May you find the peace and joy through Him alone.

~Karen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Awake


A step into an airport and my mind already starts to wonder, "Who will the Lord place in my path today?"  This started years ago with a single trip where I asked for God to show Himself to me, and that I would be awake to see Him.  I ended up sitting next to someone and we spoke about all sorts of things, eventually leading to the sharing of my faith with that gentleman.  The series of curcumstances were such that God's hand could not be ignored, and the adrenaline I felt knowing that I was interacting with God on such a direct level was powerful.  It began this state of mind - really a state of expectation and anticipation, knowing that God always directed a situation on each plane ride that really was unexplainable.  I recently flew to Arizona with my husband and we ended up being among the last people on the plane, us begging for someone to give us a seat in the fully booked plane.  I wasn't surprised when a man in the very back slid over, and I smiled inside, knowing this was God's plan.  As I sat down, I saw a black book in his hand, a gold cross on the cover, and I had to laugh - my Lord never fails!

When we flew to New York, a friend and I years ago, I remember us praying before the trip and on the way, even together on the plane just before landing, that God would use that time to show us He was with us and to create a new work in us.  When we landed, the first thing we did was to hail a cab and the driver looked completely intimidating to two young women from the midwest who came from towns with combined populations of less than 2500 people.  We loaded our luggage, hoped for the best and settled into our drive when the gospel music came through the radio in the cab and we knew that man was a believer.  For the rest of the trip, everwhere we looked, we saw things that reminded us the Lord was embracing us there - so much so, that we began to comment to each other - I wonder where we will see Him today?  And we did.  What a joyful expectation that was!

And so I wonder why it never occured to me that this is how we should live each day.  I remember this as I read a book that talks about the weighing down of moments - of bringing them into sight and beholding them - of being alive and awake to how God is working each day.

We live in a culture saturated with the concept of "living in the moment", which has somehow become a slogan for consumption - gathering all you can of everything because you never know if there will be more.  We grab for money, for power, for more, more, more.  Us sinking deeper into the pit of soul-poverty, drowning in the mountain of our material posessions.  The moments we live for are all about spending - even the spending of our time as if it is running out.

But what if we are really gaining time?

These moments placed in the jar of the heart and mind, gathered for eternity, accumulating joys.  What if "living in the moment" really requires us to let go?  To let go of striving, of worry, of anxiety, of planning, of control?  What if we give it up to Him?  Do we actually gain our lives in return, awaken to the eternal moments?  And is the doorway to that way of living wrapped up in gratitude and expectation?  Is the slowing of moments really the casting of nets to gather His gifts?  I have worked hard to do this life right, planned, and prodded, and labored.  Does the overflow come when I lay down the net instead of dragging it?

"Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”  When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”   For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken."

When stop striving and grasping but instead I lay down the net - resting in the moments, knowing I will see His miracles there.  He fills my net of gratitude full of His gifts - moments in time, true joy - and my net is not just full, but OVERFLOWING!  Others notice.  It changes their lives too.  Their boats get filled all because I let down the net.  And in the abundance, we can't help but see the Provider, the Maker of all things and acknowledge our lack.  I awaken wide, my soul-lense etching pictures in my mind.  My net is laid down and I eagerly wait for the catch, knowing that my net will overfill.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Staff of a Shepherd



A tree dies and the real dying begins.  A knife cuts deep and when thick wood finally begins to take shape, the knife continues to peel back, sawdust pieces hitting the floor.  The frustrating friction of sand makes it worn and smooth, rough edges removed....

Lord, this task can be so hard.  I don't want to lead these little sheep in my fold, the babes looking to their mama and me having to show them you in each moment, me failing in so many moments. 

I don't want to be their shepherd...... 

I can't be their shepherd......


Lord, make me the staff I pray, the one that can be used by the Good Shepherd as He guards His flock.  Carve me intentionally, even when the pain seems too much to bear, remove the bark that detracts from my purpose, your purpose.  Whittle down the rough spots, and sand me smooth with your Word.

Teach me to stand firm under the weight of Your glory, a tree with tight grain.  Let me be content when my desires are cast aside and you throw this old rod down beside you to carry one of these lambs during times of pain.  Let me be a comfort on the easy paths, allowing the joy of the journey to point to You.  Let me find strong footing under your Hand when you lead our family through deep valleys and the path seems less clear.  Let me be worn, deep groves borne from years of being held by You alone.

Yes Lord, make me the staff I pray.

And when I am broken, bruised and err, or if You should call me home, my lambs will not be shaken

For their Shepherd, their Perfect Father lives.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanksgiving and Praise



From C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (as quoted in John Piper's, Desiring God):

"But the most obvious fact about praise - whether of God or anything - strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all the enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.... The world rings with praise - lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game... My whole more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdely denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses, but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."

Piper then comments:

"Praising God, the highest calling of humanity and our eternal vocation, did not involve the renunciation, but rather the consummation of the joy I so desired. My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms. God is not worshipped where He is not treasured and enjoyed. Praise is not an alternative to joy, but the expression of joy."

So I must begin with something practical, and I have chosen to do what Ann Voskamp testifies changed her life. To count the gifts. To trust that in all things - hopeful, joyful days, and deep, dark sorrow - He is there, working it all to His glory. If my joy is complete in my Savior glorified, then all things would call us closer to Him - and that is the ultimate gift.

This life is but a vapor, and the moments are our days. I will notice, I will see.

54. slow dancing with my hubby
55. Watching my daughter dance with Daddy
56. Boys in footie pajamas
57. Fresh baked cinnamon rolls

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stretch Marks



I glance sight of them when I lift my arms to brush my hair in front of the mirror.  My shirt lifts around the midline - and there they are - stretch marks.  I think about how the skin at one time was stretched, pulled to it's maximum capacity swollen with baby and just when it felt like it may rip right open, the skin stretches again, this time with scars we call "stretch marks". 

I hesitate.

Isn't our spirit the same way? 

We pull and plead, tug and stretch until we feel so far out of our own ability, and in the midst we nearly rip right open feeling the wound of transparency as our spirit-skin grows tight and finally scars.  Those wounds, etched into our spirit skin that eventually give birth to new life.

I thought maybe I would be the one who has four kids and no stretch marks, but I am not.  A roadmap might be easier to read than my stomach.  My spiritual life hasn't escaped them either.  And sometimes I want to argue with God to tell him that this growing hurts, that I am stretched as far as I can go and any more will split me wide open, a gaping wound to show the world.  But He stretches more, and the painless scar shows, and gives witness that I have borne the hope of something new.

There's a new journey ahead He is birthing in me, and I am sure my spiritual stretchmarks will spread wide and burn when patience is required, and I have none to give.  When love is tired, and courage is weak. When days are long and I fail one. more. time.  Yet my hope swells with anticipation of the new birth and I wonder how long this gestation might be until it is born and I am embracing the new - this grace-filled, gift-filled life.

Friday, September 23, 2011

When The Ground Shakes


I get up early in the wee hours of the morning to bake the cakes for my son turning five, when it hits me - I am celebrating a birthday with my son, a blessed year of joy with him, while another mother travels to receive the remains of her son, shot in the midst of battle in Afghanistan.

It doesn't seem real - this moving on, when others are standing still, praying for that call, hoping beyond hope that somehow they are wrong, and it was someone else's boy.....

I push blue frosting across a chocolate cake shaped into a rocket, just like my little man wanted.  We paint the body of the real rocket he plans to launch into blue skies on a Saturday afternoon.  The mother travels to watch the ceremony of the coffin coming off of the plane.  It may be the same blue sky, the same Saturday afternoon.  Her son is twenty years older than mine - twenty more years of building a man.....

This boy of mine - who will he be?  Will he want to serve his country too?  Will I be able to let go?  When it is another's child, and I respond that "this is not the end of her son's story, but the beginning" - would I believe that too when the coffin comes off the plane, draped with the flag?  Could I find rest in that moment?  Would I look to Him, who holds all things together? 

Another cousin heads off to Afghanistan next week, and I have no words.  Sometimes courage eludes us when the ground shakes hard.  I pray for courage for him and for the mom of the fallen soldier.  We press on, the cousin fighting his battle, the mother burying her son, and I raising this boy.  And in each moment, we find strength and peace in Christ alone.

Deuteronomy 33:12  “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”

May Jakob be at rest between His Shoulders, and Elias be secure behind His Shield.

At the foot of the cross,
Karen

Monday, September 19, 2011

Letting go of the Labels....


I passed a hill the other day - a naked mound with five trees.  Nearby, a forest of trees stood mocking the vacant hillside that once harbored the same forest.  Years ago stripped bare of all trees but five, it stands exposed.

I thought of what the hillside was missing - about all it had lost.  How time and man had decided to take away that which God had first blessed its ground with.  I mourned for the hill in a way, identifying with the feeling of what could have been, should have been.  Afterall, the mocking forest was proof - like a mirror held up to the hill, reminding it of what it lost. 

Sometimes I feel like that hill, and I can't take my eyes off the forest.

I look around at what I am missing, focusing on what could have been, what should have been, what should be, and I miss what I have.  I lose sight of what is.  I compare myself to a standard that would never make sense for me, for my life.  I name the hill - "The hill with all the trees missing".

Then I decide I should focus on the positive - you know, that "eucharisteo" word floating around the blogs on cyberspace.  What if I looked at the positive in this?  The hill does have five trees, and it is a beautiful green, grassy hillside.  It would not be if the trees were still dense, blocking out the sunlight.  But that isn't enough.  While I may be thinking positively, I am still casting judgement - choosing to label something as good or bad.  And let's face it - forcing myself to label something as "good" doesn't make it good.

Another blogger writes about finding gratitude in the hard things, and at first I read it to say be thankful in everything.  "I've heard that before" I think - mind over matter, the "power of positive thinking", focus on your blessings, it has all been said.... 

But what if it isn't about a label?

As I understand more of what this blogger writes - about being thankful in all this, I begin to see it.  It isn't about changing the name or perspective of a hill or obstacle........What if I let the label go?  What if I accepted everything as a gift from God.  What if the hill was just a "Hill with five trees" and I loved that hill just because it praises our Creator when the grass shimmers, and it stands bold reflecting sunlight from its bare snowy face, and all of it points to Him?

What if my life was that way?  What if my house was just a shelter for our family to bend knee to Him?  What if my laundry reminded me of the garment ripped from his body, that the soldiers cast lots for, or the first clothes He made for Adam and Eve after they sinned?  What if the dishes were a way to pause for the singing of a hymn of praise?  What if all this was for Him, to Him?  What if?

His word tells us this is true in Colossians 1: "All things have been created through Him and for Him."  When I turn everything back to Him for His glory, I too am changed.  Oh, but how to do this in the day to day?  It has to be in the moments, doesn't it?  Do we have anything else to give but this...very...moment...here...now?

I think back to the hill, and I take a look at my life, and what I have of true value, or what anyone really has of true value, and I realize - my wealth is in the moments, and those moments are just as beautiful, just as precious, just as priceless as everyone elses.  Moments are outside the boundaries of economies, governments, property, families, power or prestige.  They are a common currency - spent equally by all - one. at. a. time. 

So we can take this moment - this very moment - and give it to eternity.  We can let it bind us to Him who holds all in the palm of His hand and we can say - no matter what He gives or withholds, I am yours, these moments are yours. 

And in the midst of this surrender, we find true transformation - one moment at a time.

At the foot of the cross,
Karen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Famished

A friend of mine told me her story - how she bled that others might live and how she thought of Him in the midst....

Let's start at the beginning and I will tell the story the way I see it in my mind.....

She's running slightly late, thinking of all the parts of her day left undone - the laundry, the errands - even lunch, which never found time to be eaten.  She drives quickly, but not so quickly as to alert any official - afterall, she is married to one of them, and what would be more embarassing than being pulled over by her own husband?  The driveway to the place to donate blood is not that full - not many people wanting to give a part of themselves - their life-blood in the heat of the afternoon.  She walks over to where everything is set up.  A little bit of paperwork to fill out and meanwhile she is thinking about what she should cook for supper and her son fighting someone else's war....

The nurse beckons her, letting her know they are ready.  She feels drained, and wishes she had found time for lunch, but there is so much left to do, to give, to accomplish, and she just. keeps. moving.

It's all been done many times before.  Reclining on the medical bed - the nurse unwraps the new needle.  Cold alcohol sterilizes the future wound - skin broken open to give life.  The nurse ties elastic, and my friend watches her find a vein and pierce God's covering. A slight burn, and the elastic is untied, the red cell-water flowing into a container - to be poured into another someday who is empty.

She begins to feel faint, her energy flowing out with the blood.  Her body feels hot and cold at the same time, skin sweaty and clammy and the world seems unsteady.  Thoughts that once were clear become muddled and all she can focus on is trying to stay alert, coherent, trying not to faint.  The nurse asks her to lie down and offers sugar, but she knows that an undernourished body will not be restored with anything but true food.  She rejects the temporary sugar serum and asks for sustaining bread and meat. 

She thinks she is strong enough and rises, only to sit down again - her body still weak.  After a few minutes her mind begins to freshen, and she thinks about her body and its need for fuel.  The desire of the belly for that which sustains.  Had she been fed - had her flesh been full, she would have been more prepared to pour it out for others. 

The spirit is the same.  It must be fed.  It must nourish with food that sustains, that is long-lasting.  Brief  uses of spiritual substitutes may invigorate for minutes, but true invigoration comes only through the bread of His word, a meal with the meat of scripture -chewing long and hard.  We try to give to others without being fed, and we become weak ourselves.  We must first seek the meal - seek His Word, and then seek to serve. 

He equips us to give more than we would have to give on our own. 

When we give of our own, we pour out ourselves and are emptied. But when we hunger for Him and are satisfied by Him alone, that which we give to others is just the overflow.  It pours out of us, our souls still brimming full of His sweet mercy and grace.

Are you being fed or are you famished? ...................

"The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
 The LORD upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing."  Psalm 145:13-16

Fill yourself with that which will satisfy, that which will sustain.........    Jesus

At the foot of the cross,
Karen

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mud

I awaken at three in the morning, a cracking thunder overhead and nothing between the impending rain and I but a tent.  The four little ones slumber quietly even while the world around them shakes.  Wind blows the tent shuddering from the pressure, the showering rain so loud it's hard to think.  The phone rings - a friend snug and safe in thier camper a few sites over.  "Are you guys doing ok?" she asks.  I tell her the tent is bearing the storm well, and the kids are resting.  She notes concern for the inability to understand the severity of the storm - us all intentionally lost in the wilderness.  I tell her I am enjoying the storm. "I think it is kind of fun" I say.  She laughs and I am sure shakes her head.  I tell her of the book I am reading to the kids that has caught me by surprise - "The Little House on the Prairie".  How Laura would be out on the prairie with her family with nothing but the canvas of her wagon overhead until Pa gets the house built.  About how even when we are "roughing it"  we are still so abundantly blessed and spoiled I suppose....

And today as I clean up from the trip, my mind wanders back to the storm.  The darkness of the night as the Creation was stripped clean by water.  My body was stripped clean by water too, many years ago, my shaking eight year old hands reading the story.  I told about how I loved Him, and how He loved me, and how much I wanted to be washed in His grace, in His water.  The pastor plunged me deep and I rose, my soul stripped bare for the world to see.  The water dripped from my hair, the ends of my shirt, and I climbed out of the water to new life.

When silence came after the storm in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I unzipped the tent door and entered into the washed, water-dripping world.  I thought of fresh steps in a clean creation, but first steps from a baptism of water don't always stay clean and crisp.  Sometimes the revealing rain makes the dirt in our lives more obvious, sticky.  Like deep, thick mud on new tennis shoes.  I think about the mud in my life - the sin that sticks and stains my path. 

My shoes slide underfoot as I gingerly manuever attempting not to fall.  My soul does that sometimes - walks through the filthy mud - the way it should not go - to get where it wants to go, rather than where He leads.  And I get dirty as I try to walk a thin line between sin and saint and slip right into the mud.  My soul feels stuck, the sin like quicksand pulling me down.  I hear a murmer of lies from the evil one, "You will never be good enough for God", "What makes you think you don't belong in this situation?", "It is really not so bad....".  But always in my frustration, despair and failure there is One...

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." ~Psalm 40:2   I rejoice, and shout - He is Faithful!  This journey - though filled with storms, has never been about my ability to stay out of the mud, but about the cleansing water from Jesus bought through grace-dripping blood on the cross.

I see it ahead - piercing through the trees, a bit of light streaming onto the mud.  That light which dries mud firm.  His light makes soul-ground firm too. It penetrates the muddy mire so that we can walk strong again.  My foot steps boldly forward for the journey, in His name.

At the foot of the cross,
Karen

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Whatever You Do....

I ponder long, racking my brain for what words I might pen to this one-line statement.  How do I summarize a life?  We spend our lives with words - speaking who we are out loud to others, but also the conversations in the deep inner parts.  Those words that bring worry or regret, rejoicing or peace.  We turn words over, repeating them.  They have the power to encite, to stirr up anger and wrath or to calm - a peaceful hymn murmered when things are turning sour and you just have to hold. on. to Him.

But these words I search for must be different - not words of conversation, that sometime lose their meaning.  They must define, sharpen and prod.  John Piper writes, "But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it." 

I want that.  I want to define what is in my heart - this quest to share His story, the grace-dripping blood He shed for you and for me, this deep desire that my life count for something great.  And it isn't legalism to want to accomplish something for Christ, it is being a disciple - a student of Christ, whose life was used for something great.  He didn't come to show us how to live a perfect life!  We don't have to waste this life trying to "figure out how to get it right".  We embrace the fullest realization of our purpose when we let go of getting it right - all attempts to structure our lives into what others think (and let's face it, we bought the lie too) is the good 'Christian' way to live.  We abandon it all and walk after Him, with Him leading the way. We awaken each morning to His call, and with gratitude, accept each moment as a gift of His grace, used for His eternal glory.  And there we find our eternal significance.

So I turn words over in my mind and pictures flash in my head and I try to find a way to shape the call in my heart into a solitary sentence.  A sentence which adds clarity and objective so that in the end I may say like the God-man on the cross....... "It is finished".

What is your God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Start of Something.....

Well, the school year is about to start - my first "official" school year instructing the children. Although, we all know that the instruction of our children begins at their birth, for we are all homeschoolers in a way - teaching our children in the paths of righteousness and of His ways, am I right?

I wanted to start this journey with clear direction and purpose - to have some sort of "ruler" to help determine what reaches our goals and what detracts from them. In order to do that, I had to really look at what our goals for our children are. Rather than "education" in the formal sense of the word - who do I want them to become? When they leave my home for their own, what are the character traits I want them to have? When they face adversity, what will carry them? If the Lord chooses to whisk me away before they are grown, what are the key things or ideas or beliefs that they need to have? What is their ultimate purpose on this Earth? How can I help them "finish the race" (Hebrews 12)?.........
 
Oh, won't you come along with me and read the rest over here where I talk about the day-to-day of our journey....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Second Son

He says "kisses" and points to his cheek.  I kiss him.  He says "kisses" and points to the other cheek, and again I kiss.  He says "kisses" and points to his forehead, and I kiss once more.  A two year old can stall bedtime like no other!  But I have to admit, I willingly complied.  It won't be forever that my kisses will comfort and my hugs will protect.  He won't lazily fall asleep stroking the silk liner of his blankie.  He won't tiptoe down the stairs in his footie pajamas - the ones with the doggie on the front.  His footsteps creak the old wooden staircase slowly until we say his name - at which point the patter becomes quick and a giggle slips out as he dives back into bed.  The Farmer and I exchange looks, holding back giggles of our own.  He's two and he's a pistol.  He throws his toys and throws fits, and throws his head back when he's mad.  But he cuddles close when he's tired, and he smiles fierce when he tries to please and I love that little boy - round belly and chubby toes, my second son. 

I think about who he is and who he will become, and will I have eyes to see him as a man today - to guide this man into the form God shaped his heart into?  Not as my son - something to mold, possess and display, but as a creation from the hands of God, a display of His glory, His wonder, His will.

The floorboard squeaks and I turn to see his footie pajamas at his feet, and his hands stroking his bare belly in the light of the kitchen and as I turn and catch his eyes, he laughs a deep laugh, and moves - encouraging me to chase him, and I do, and I will chase him for all the days I can. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The gift of a Mother's Day


My feet have been swollen, my back aching, my belly bulging, and my patience lost.  In the last stage of my pregnancies I have usually been anxious, irritated, and impatient.  I am eager to deliver the child - to empty the womb and to hold that which I have waited for.

There are some things we carry in life that last so much longer and are so much more uncomfortable than the final stage of pregnancy.  We move about our world, accepting of the stage, but nearly unable to bear it much longer. But still delivery eludes us.  The swelling of anger, the fatiguing sigh of pressure, the aching sting of stress, and yet we must press on. And so I do.  And people - well meaning people - make comments, assuming that I chose the state I am in, that I prefer it that way and arrows pierce a mother's heart.  And I press on.  And others who have the delivery I so long to have, complain about the pressures and strains of their world, and I understand their trials, and I understand their frustration, but at the same time I envy their position and can't they see what I would give to be in their shoes?  And I press on some more, and my heart aches.

But this week, the delivery came. The birth of all things new - of a momma who gets to raise her own children, of a woman who gets time to be a wife, of a daughter who gets a companion and guide, of sons with a mom who has time to play catch and to wrestle - who can finally have the luxury of making messes and reading all cuddled up close on the couch.  These won't have to be memories, few and far between, but daily moments of grace and love.  And I will fail and they will forgive, and we will live - as a family.  For isn't that what God calls us to?  My heart overflows with joy.

And in the emotions during the delivery to true motherhood, I reflect back over the last six years of praying, begging, pleading with closed doors, and hardened hearts, and impossible obstacles.  And I wonder - is the joy of deliverance that much greater because of the waiting? 

I know the answer, for He has taught me well in these past six years.

I shout - He is Faithful!

He is faithful - not because I am delivered, but because I am held. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When Your World Topples


The blue scooter under his chubby two-year-old toes gives way to the cement step under him, sending him toppling to the sidewalk.  A brief hesitation to understand his surroundings, and then the wails cry out and the tears fall.  His sister rushes to his side, picks him up and brushes him off.  Once upright, her gentle words come.  "It's ok brother, you're ok. Want a hug brother?"  The older brother ran to the scene too, and set to work, righting the scooter and setting it on a straight course. 

I catch this all from behind the screen door, them unaware of my presence.  Immediately I recognize it - this is how we should act as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

When someone falls among us, the sisters should rush in with a double dose of compassion and care.  They set to cleaning the wounds, and applying dressings with ointment to soothe the pain.  The brothers find where the path went wrong, and set the course of the person back to center - they analyze the environment, suggesting routes that might ensure a better chance at success next time. 

The two year old brushes his tears off his cheeks, boards his scooter and tries again.......and we, the broken and fallen in Christ, try again too.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Soothing Suffering


Every family had them - in fact, they were so common that the questions surrounding them remained fixed:

What kind?  Or when? Or when again? Or who? And of course, the ever-present one....why?

Scars. Physical or emotional - no one was without.  It was so common back then, a time when many children died in infancy from illnesses preventable in today's terms.  When a day's work exposed you to dangerous situations, hard toil, and little provision.  And yet, neighbors were neighborly.  Life was enjoyed - joyfully lived.  I am not just romanticizing history, like a novel written by pen of someone's imagined love affair.  I am writing based on a journal kept by a relative long-passed, a journal that documents funeral after funeral -  children injured on farms, death from sickness, missing limbs and blizzards.  Yet the tone is not one of despair, but of acceptance, of trust.


In all of the suffering of that time, people recognized their need for a Savior.  In all the death, they yearned for eternal life.  There wasn't the need to compare yourself to the perfect family next door because you knew their trials, their struggles, the ones that left no one behind, and you were thankful for the few your own family might be spared.


But not today.


Today our sufferings aren't shared in our communities, but hidden in the heart.  We don't even recognize them - despair, fear, anger, stress, regret, anxiety, hopelessness, inadequacy.  The mother who longs for a home filled with young laughter, but a child never comes.  The woman widowed in her early years after finding a man she planned her future with.  The child lost to cancer, the baby aborted in the womb, the marraige broken by affairs, and the friendships ruined by betrayal.  The sharp edge of suffering cuts deep and we bleed. We long for something different -  a life with no pain.  We look at our neighbors, and seeing no outward scars, we compare our lives to theirs - those that  "have it all together".  And we tell ourselves if only I were.....if only she wasn't.....If only I could...If only it hadn't happened this way. 

And your neighbors - the ones with the inside scars too - they tell themselves the same thing.

We lie to ourselves.  We have our warm houses full of goods, vehicles full of fuel, name-brand purses filled with plastic, and schedules filled with activities.  And we are empty.  We are broken.  We are yearning for more.

Dare I say it?  Were we better off when the blood of suffering spilled out for everyone to see?  When we knew each others' scars and grieved together? Our bodies huddled close, wrenching in agony, heart-healing taking place?

Today seems cold.  Friendships fostered over keyboards - messages on Facebook. Despairing hearts numbed by television's endless sitcoms. Garage doors cocooning us from our neighbors, the blinds drawn low.  We retreat to our darkness, alone in our suffering and cry to He alone who hears and knows our deep wounds.  And He heals, and He restores, and He comforts. But how can He join us there?

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." ~Colossians 3:12-17

God meets us in our pain through His body, the church!  We are the body of Christ - reaching out to comfort those with inner scars! Our own sufferings bear witness to He who suffered all for us, and out of our abundant scar-filled lives, we give of ourselves.  The Holy Spirit spills out of us to draw us together - united by scars of suffering, healed by His glorious grace.

A community of believers, joyfully rejoicing - not because we have overcome suffering - but because our suffering brings us to the foot of the cross where we find "a faith and love that stem from the hope stored up for us in Heaven, and about which we have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to us".  (Colossians)

"For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." ~2 Corinthians 1:5

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wedding



I walked in the door and could smell one of the smells I love - Pine Sol.  He had just finished mopping floors and was doing the dishes.  I could hear instrumental music in the background, and instantly my heart was curious - who was this man listening to violins and piano? And then I began to recognize....the tune - I heard that same tune many years ago - nine to be exact.  They day we were married.  He had taken our wedding video and had it converted to DVD (it was in VHS - anyone remember those days?).  He kissed me on the forehead and said, "Happy Anniversary." And I was drawn in....

Who were those young kids I saw on the video - the ones time had weathered and worn?  I was captivated by the images long locked away on tape, and I with no way to view them.  I watched the bridesmaids walk down the aisle, and then the trepidant flower girl, only 3 and her cousin as ringbearer inch their way down.  And there, behind the closed doors at the back of the church - the ones with the narrow pane of glass, I see my father lean over and kiss my cheek.  The doors swing open and the guests rise for bride as she makes her way to the bridegroom. 

She is all smiles, aware of everyone's eyes on her - and her eyes locked on the one waiting for her at the end of that long road. The scene moves to that of the groom - his eyes locked on his bride, beckoning her to join him.  I can see the joy in his face and as the two become one, the joining of spirits, signified by the lighting of the unity candle.

And as I watch, God speaks to me in those moments for He is our bridegroom at the end of a road calling to his bride.  We leave our mother and father - Adam and Eve, that sinful past, and join His family. It starts with small steps - we hear His word, and it beckons us.  He proposes, offering us proof of His commitment to marriage  - the Holy Spirit, living in us.  We accept with tears of joy, and anticipate the wedding day.  The rest of our life, we journey down the aisle, our bridegroom waiting for us at the end of that road.  Our eyes are fixed on Him, and He on us.  He is full of joy, and love, and hope that He eagerly gives us, his church.

Ephesians 5:31-32
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lent Is For The Broken


Lent was a term I didn't grow up with and yet it has me broken to pieces. 

I am unwound, shattered, heaving in the memory of the Christ-man's donkey ride to impending torment, torture, and death.  He willingly went, and He knew what was to come. My heart aches, screaming for Him to avoid the pain - the betrayal, the denial, the whips ripping flesh and bruising bone. The public display of disgrace turned to flag-waiving, glory-freedom shining bright in darkness. 

He breathes His last and the Earth shook.  I too, am shaken.  The veil rips and I too, am torn.  Oh, my Savior, why for me?  Why for anyone?  This love that surpasses understanding - that cannot be fathomed by comparing it to anything in the known, but only the unknown.  A love story that cannot be contained even in His Book, but spills out and into us through His Spirit, speaking, groaning the power of His overwhelming, complete love.  "Who am I that the Lord of all creation dares to know my name?" This Savior dripping grace at the cross. 

And I kneel there, unable to move. My tears mingling with His blood - that deep red whispering "rescued through mercy, forgiven by grace".  And I am nothing.  And He. is. all. 

And yet - I am His treasure, and He is my God.  Oh this mystery of love, how can it be?  It washes over me and I am rendered useless. unwoven. untied. by pure grace.

Luke 1:68-79
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feminism


She asked me how how I will teach my daughter about feminism, and the foundation under me trembled. 

You see, it wasn't the idea of teaching my daughter about historical facts of the "feminism movement" - afterall, that's just a history lesson, and she's only six.  No, my foundation shook because of the legacy that movement has left - a legacy of destruction.  What were "we" as women thinking really? - crawling out of despair and discontentment by screaming, "I am woman, hear me roar".  In our effort to instill justice and equality, rather than asserting our roles as women, and how neccessary they were, we instead aspired to be men. 

How could a movement built on the premise that it was promoting the "Woman" do so by telling her to become a man?  Didn't it accomplish exactly the opposite of what it set out to do?  Women wanted affirmation of their value to the family - and they touted it by saying they didn't need a husband.  They wanted freedom from the oppression they saw as motherhood, and turned their babies over to daycare centers. Women fled from the inadequacy they felt in their homes and in their spirits by pursuing power, pride, and prestige.  And what did we get?  We got buried under the weight of two jobs - a full-time career and a full-time family.  We found out that we couldn't handle all of this, and the size of our families decreased to compensate.  Our homes grew larger and our marraiges crumbled.  Our kids depend more on prescriptions to fill the holes left in their spirit that used to be filled with classic children's tales, read aloud by mother.  We traded the sweet seductiveness of kind service to our husbands for sultry romance idealized by a body shape that is unattainable and ever youthful as our own years press on. 

Did we really get what we wanted?

And yet, it really is the same story told throughout the generations isn't it? 
We who recognize the hole in our spirit, stuff it with a fix prescribed by ourselves - doctors without a license, and our prescription fails. 

The innoculation of our vaccine that wards off discontentment renders useless, and we still wind up empty.

When will we realize that true worth, true freedom, true joy, true satisfaction is found only in the gentle, ever-reaching arms of Jesus Christ?  He who took all of His just anger and wrath for all sins ever committed before and ever to be committed and laid it on His Son so that He may shout with joy - you are freely, entirely, fully forgiven - yesterday, today, and tomorrow - always. completely. forgiven.  These women who pushed forward the feminism movement found ache and discontentment - lives spent on things that hold no eternal value, and the aching, yearning for the chance to do it over again - to spend time on what mattered. We don't have to live this way!

I will teach my daughter that she too has this "spirit-hole" - and that the world will try to fill it.  But complete restoration is always found at the foot of the cross.  A cross where He had holes of His own - pierced hands and feet, a spear wound gushing, the drops of blood as the skin on His forehead gave way to thorns.  These holes were not empty, waiting to be filled.  Instead, they poured out of their depths everlasting life, filling, penetrating the spirit-holes in us.  And the Holy Spirit completes the mystery - Christ in us! -the hope of glory! 

Psalm 16:11

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Friday, March 4, 2011

To Be Fed


My baby refuses to eat from a bottle.  He wants his Momma.  More than that, he wants the closeness, he wants the comfort, he wants what he has always known

He wimpers in hunger, his stomach anxious to drink the milk, but his heart rejecting the method like a child unwilling to swallow the very medicine that will restore them to good health.

I act like this baby sometimes.  Sometimes God gives me something that is good for me - something that will nourish my soul.  But it comes in a form I am unfamiliar with, in a way I do not understand or need, and I reject the meal he provides, and continue wimpering for something more.

As the mother of this small baby, I know how to satisfy him - I know that if I step in, I can assure a happy baby in minutes, nursing him back to the cuddling and full belly he longs for.  It is hard for me to say no - to stay away and allow him to learn, but neccessary nonetheless.

I imagine God feels the same way - so able to satisfy our longings, but knowing what is best for us may come with a little pain.  He could step in, but we would never learn the lesson, and we would be right back where we started at the next feeding.  So he chooses to wait, and make us endure, make us accept - to give us the unknown.  He did it in the desert with the Israelites, giving them bread they had never seen and water from a source they had not fathomed. 

We are like the Israelites - eating the mystery. 

Deuteronomy 8:3

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."


May we guzzle every spirit-meal He provides no matter what form it comes in, knowing that it will nourish and satisfy our hunger!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Seasons

It was once I moved to the Upper Midwest that I first experienced the seasons. A bitter cold winter turns into spring with life bulging out of the ground and flowers budding.  A hot summer day giving way to the death of fall.  I saw the physical change of the season and thought that was all it is - the beautiful result of temperature and daylight changes.

But seasons really are so much more.  Time Markers.

I saw it right in front of me for the first time - time passing - physically, day by day.  Seasons come and go and time ticks only to be marked by these changes.

Our lives have seasons too - time markers.   Some of us name them.

The summer I lost my mom.  The year I was diagnosed with cancer.  The winter I miscarried.  That year we went to Europe.  The month we got engaged.  

Our seasons might be marked with new life, new hope like spring.  But others are more like fall - watching time pass and life wither.  Our season can be long, and dark, and cold.  It can take so much longer to get through it than we bargained for.  We can be ill-prepared - like trudging through thick snow in a bathing suit, arguing that life is unfair and cruel and bodies are weak.  Or it can be sweet and joyful - breezing by with hope and contentment, distracting us with its sweet elixir until the day we wake up and realize its gone - wishing we could do it again, not take it for granted.

I marked the beginning of a new season today.  A season marked by a decision I didn't want to make with an outcome I wouldn't choose, but has to be nonetheless.  Sometimes seasons come when we don't want them to.  And I know in the big picture this season will not last long, and will not be as painful as it feels right now, but from today - the first step, the journey seems long and my heart aches.  Is there any other way?  I have been on this journey before and I am already aware of the answer.  I must accept the season.  And not just endure - as if I was new life crouching, hidden in the bark or a bulb in frozen ground awaiting warmer days - oh no!  I must spring forth with life like crocus popping through a fresh layer of snow in the spring knowing that the thaw is coming.

The vibrant purple flowers mark the bold emergence of first life.

I must show joy and hope in the midst of the season trusting that this too, is for my good - to prepare me for the next season God brings me to - easy or difficult, short or long - a season picked for me by the One who heaps blessings on His children. 

Acts 14:17
"Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

In this season too, I will praise His name.

What season are you in?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Habits

I wake up barely being able to walk - my hamstrings reminding me that yesterday morning's workout was something my body was not used to.  Yesterday it was my arms and back that was aching.  Sore muscles stretched and called upon to lift weights and make movements they have not been challenged to do in a while.  Doesn't it always start out this way? The body fatigues and groans when new demands are placed upon it.

I stop my hobbled movement with the realization that every habit begins this way, even habits of the heart.

At initial planning the establishment of the habit is born out of optimism, eagerness, and confidence.  We determine to do something - Bible memorization, consistent prayer, journaling - with the best of intentions. We make lists, buy notebooks, print off schedules - all with hopeful expectation that some area of our life will be forever changed.  And then we begin.  The first day feels good.  We may spend most of the time just getting our bearings and deciding out how to go about the whole thing, but all in all, we feel good.  The second or third day is when the pain hits.  We find reasons to skip this one day, or only put in a half effort.  Our habit muscles are sore, and life is so demanding. 

Muscle is developed through challenge - changing the way we used to do things and beginning something anew.  The pushing and pulling breaks us out of consistency and complacency and strengthens our spirit-muscles.  When adversity strikes, we are better able to pull out our super-hero abilities because we have trained ourselves to use power that is beyond ourselves - the Holy Spirit, the Word of God.

Muscle is developed through repetition - the daily use and commitment. The soreness from this new regimen can disappear in two ways:
1. by refraining from exercising altogether, which will remove the pain, but leave my body unchanged
-or-
2. by continuing with the exercise, which allows my body to adapt to the new demands placed on it.

Our spirit-habits are the same way.  We can slip back into the old way of doing things to avoid the pain, frustration, or inconvenience and remain unchanged. Or we can continue the habit and allow it to transform us.

The question is, what will I choose? 

Hebrews 12:1-4 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Christ chose the cross.  He traded pain and condemnation for real results.  He fixed his eyes on the Father's will.  Let us "fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith." Choose to continue the new habit until our spirits adjust to the change, and it becomes a part of who we are.  The new muscles will form, the pain will subside, and out faith will be stronger.

What new spirit habit are you working on?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Woman

A familiar stranger comes to visit me, in the still of the morning. Her quiet, gentle spirit soothes my soul. Words that are kind and re-assuring are spoken by her. They bring comfort, and convince me that today is a day that will matter - a day where memories are made among an inquisitive six year old, an active three year old, and a 20 month old with a smile that brightens my world. For a moment, my life seems serene - so perfect and blessed, magnified as I become re-acquainted with the Woman.

I cannot describe her outward appearance, for it is difficult to discern. Her beauty within shines so brightly, that I never notice what her physical features hold. Except her hands. They cradle her coffee cup. Larger hands really, than I would expect. Hands that appear calloused from hard labor, but at the same time, guiding, tender, and soft. We visit silently about life, talking to God, praying, reading, and resting.

Somewhere in my ponderings, I hear the pitter patter of little feet upstairs, and She quietly leans back in her seat. Already, her non-verbal communication indicating a separation from She and I. As the little feet descend the stairs and the familiar voice of a child sounds out with my name - "Mommy".........
 
You can read the rest of the post over here at (In)courage today, where I am writing to inspire and encourage women. Would you be so kind as to join me there?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tired

I'm tired.  Well, the whole house is, really.  We have all caught this flu bug going around, and it really drains things.  It has drained the house of laughter, compassion and patience. It has drained the house of discipline, schedules, and structure.  We are in survival mode.  And let me tell you, survival mode stinks.

I'm not just talking about the piling of laundry, dishes and Kleenex.  Although, now that I mention it, that stinks too.

I'm talking about the piling of frustration, anxiety and irritation

Can't these kids just stop moving for one second?  Does it matter who had the toy first? - They haven't played with that toy in weeks and now they want it at the same time?  Can they just ask for something to drink rather than whine for it?  Is there some sort of rule that when one kid cries, everyone has to find their own reason to join in? Gabe is hungry, Ryan is mad, Robby hit his head and Becca found the bracelet Robby broke last week.  Tears ensue, both from the kids, and welling inside of me as I grasp for patience and compassion in a clammy, tired body who just wants peace and rest.

I always want peace and rest.

Even when my body is well, my spirit yearns for peace and rest.  And just like now, the emptying of me - all I have left to give, my strivings, my ambitions, my plans, my energy, my emotions - when I find myself empty, at the foot of the cross, it is then that I am filled.  Filled with peace and rest.

He fills me up.  He gives me just enough patience for another moment, just enough compassion to see the situation in a different light.  He unfolds a new perspective - one that looks from the eyes of eternity, the eyes of a Father.  When I pray, "Lord, I have nothing left to give.  Nothing left to be taken from me.  I am one second short of a welling, tear-ridden ball of mess - one two-year-old tantrum away from collapse."  I will remember that of anyone, He knows what it means to be emptied - and Oh, so much more!  When they whipped him with metal-laden straps, ripping his flesh, he had nothing left to give.  When the crown of thorns pierced his head and blood flowed, when they nailed him, nearly naked to wooden beams, He had nothing left to give. And yet, he did not cry out in his anguish - "Father, I am empty, and yet they demand more".  Instead, he looked at his feet where his mother stood and spoke words of comfort and security, arranging for her welfare in the midst of His death. 

So when I feel empty, and another little hand is pulling me for more than I feel I have left to give, I will not pretend I am the one on the cross sacrificing myself for my children.  Oh no, the focus is not on me or my sacrifice. 

No, I will be Mary, humbly at the feet of Jesus begging for His provision, and knowing He provides.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Snow

The snow falls silently - big flakes finding their rest.  The little ones and I are leaving the doctor's office in the evening and I am eager to be home.  I shepherd them to the car, but the oldest lingers.  I had climbed in the car to get the boys buckled in, and was growing impatient when I caught sight of her.  She is six years old, and thinks snow is beautiful.  "Just look at it all!" she says, large flakes landing in her hair, caressing those pink cheeks.  She sticks her tongue out to taste them and twirls.  I stop. What happened to the mystery?  When a snowfall was an adventure, and something to be enjoyed?  Is time pushing me, or am I pushing time - always in a hurry to get somewhere, to accomplish something, to check something off the list?

I wonder. When did life get so nearsighted? Task to task, appointment to appointment, meal to meal?  The wonder of creation, water rising to the clouds and falling back again.

She looks beautiful.  I breathe.

Sometimes we just need to breathe. To inhale life slowly, and to exhale with understanding and contentment.

The boys can wait.  I climb back outside of the van and stand in the white sparkling flakes, cold and tender on my cheeks.  I breathe. And time stops.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Focus

I wonder what resources I could use for a family devotional - you know - one that might work for four kids under six.  We have tried ones in the past that leave us reprimanding the kids to pay attention more than instilling in them Biblical truths.  We need one that is consistent, that we don't try a few times and then cast aside in the busyness.

I look for more verses for the kids to memorize - which ones will remind them how we expect them to behave?  Or how about them memorizing ones on obeying, complaining, fighting - the ones that most often address the things I am disciplining them for. Wouldn't that make my life easier?

Which Bible would be best to read to the kids? Is it this one or that one? - Should I question them about what they are learning, or are they too young for that?  Should I suggest that my oldest child, just beginning to read well, read her own Bible?

They could memorize events in the Bible.  We could study people in the Bible.  We could talk about creation. We could make crafts about Bible characters or events.  We could draw pictures.  We could color pages, sing songs, and chant hymns. We could.......

What Then?

The fact is, I have tried many of these things, and struggle to keep some consistency to them.  But somewhere, I hear a whisper that focusing on these things just gets us acting like Christians.  It gives us head knowledge, and gives me false comfort that the kids will somehow become closer to God through study. 

While study is important, the real factor that will change them is a loving momma who is fully, clearly, devoted to Christ.  If I individually focus on Christ instead of these things, knowing and trusting in Him more each day, I will be modeling that which is required of God.

Don't get me wrong - disciplined study and intentionality in pursuing God as a family is crucial. It teaches children to be more disciplined and gives them a curiosity to learn more about who God is.  But more important, is a heart filled with love for Him - that which will give us life, pour out into our families, build and sustain relationships, have eternal meaning.  It should be an intricate knitting of God to our children as they become woven into the fabric of our walk with Christ.

That's Great, but How?

It always comes back to surrendering, doesn't it?  The pain of the nail pounding through the flesh, breathing when it is hard to breathe, submitting when my will seems so strong - I hesitate. Sometimes surrender hurts.

And yet full surrender is what God calls us to.  Not to bring us pain, but to free us to experience true joy.  Where we can say with the apostle Paul - "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12, NIV)

When we take each moment - and show gratitude for it. When we look at the responsibilities placed before us and lift them up to God as a work of service for Him. When we choose to recite the truth of scripture rather than have anger-building, fear-attacking, resentment-growing conversations in our minds. When we realize that our children are people, given to us for a short time to train to be adults, not possessions to mold.  When we trust in His word and fall on His grace, and we give that same grace to others. 

So I do this in the best way I know how - one day at a time - falling, tripping, running, crawling, rejoicing and sobbing at the feet of Jesus in all circumstances....and looking up.

Matthew 17:8 "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."

Proverbs 3:1-6
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Order

I remember even when she was just one year old she would line up her little toys in a straight line across the floor.  One time when she had turned to get a few more toys, I nudged one out of order.  She looked back, and noticing the one out of order, she glared up at me, pushing it back in line.  We laughed. 

When she was two I remember staying in a hotel one night while traveling with my Mom and sister.  She was trying to lay out her small pink blankie - the one she took everywhere.  For ten minutes, she would hold onto the corners of the blanket and flush it into the air.  She became more and more frustrated and then the tears flowed.  She wanted the blanket to fall to the floor and lay out perfectly.  I laid the blanket out for her and she curled up on top of it, falling quickly to sleep.

I could try to recall the numerous times this type of situation has replayed itself in some way during my little girl's six years of life.  Maybe it was at her parent-teacher conference in Preschool when the teacher mentioned that Beca would return to the toy shelf after the others had picked up, to put the toys in order.  Or the time when I asked her to put the shoes back away and she sorted the entire pile of her and her siblings shoes by color and use.  Becca likes order.

Last week I taught Becca how to load the dishwasher.  After a few times of loading it together, I decided that yesterday would be her first solo attempt at it.  I brought her the stepstool to get started, and then left her to her task for fear I might exasperate her with constant instruction if I stayed in the room.  A half an hour later, I checked on her. She was upset that the task was taking so long.  Peering into the dishwasher, I noticed why.  She had sorted the silverware and arranged it in the basket.  She had sorted the cups, and they were all grouped by type with handles perfecly aligned.  Hearing her soft tears of frustration as she said, "This is taking so long!" I responded, "they don't have to be in order sweat pea, they just have to be clean."  I hesitated.

My soul had heard the same message that just spilled from my lips - "you don't have to be in order, you just need to be clean."

Don't I do the same thing with God?  I strive to get myself in order, my life in order before I come to Him.   He whispers come to me first - before you are clean, before you are orderly.  It is Christ and the Holy Spirit who makes order out of chaos, peace out of panic.  He spoke and the world came to be - a world that reflects the orderly nature of God.  He kissed my body into life inside my birth mother's womb - a body with systems, processes, things neatly bundled and packaged -orderly.

That day in the garden, when Adam saw only what he didn't have, rather than what he did - order, perfection, holy communion with God - that was the day disorder entered the world, and we have been fighting it ever since.  It shows up in our marraiges, in our relationships with our children.  It shows up in our frustration, in our laziness, in our hearts and minds when we still today, look at what we don't have (materialism, power, self-focus) rather than what we do (God himself - a free gift, a complete gift). 

I wonder if I need to correct my six year old - to let her know that her world will not always be in order.  No, the world will do that.  She will have failures, competitions lost, plans disrupted, cheese moved.  I can train her today though, to look to the true God who orchestrates order.  To know in her heart what really matters - perfection of self? No.  Perfection of situation? Not possible.  But perfection in Christ - to be made perfect daily - minute by minute through the washing of His word - his grace falling on us over and over again, cleansing us from our wickedness, and dare I say, the sins I will still commit.

"We don't need to be in order, we just need to be clean".

May the pieces of my life be arranged by His plan, not my own.  May I find peace and assurance in His hands, not my own.  May my heart know that this orderly world was created for our pleasure, to bring us to Him, not to the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recognition

It happened just days ago, his little face staring up at mine - searching, wondering and then, there it was - a smile.  Not one of those newborn smiles brought on by gas - but a real one.  He moved his arms frantically, lifted his chin and a small sound escaped from deep within.  A sound that said that all the long nights, the constant nursings - giving of myself to this tiny child have meant something, have created a bond.  He recognizes his momma.  After weeks of cradled closeness, skin-to-skin, drinking in life - he sees me.  His face and voice express joy and contentment, and I can't help but wonder.....

Is this how we really begin to see God?

Are we born again, pulled close to Him, nursing from his Word - the breath of Life?  When we spend time with Him - inconvenient hours - sharing words in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day - pausing to drink - no, gulp - the sweet milk from our Father.  Is this how we see Him?  Do we recognize Him because we have smelled His essence - our breath has fallen against his chest?  The peaceful breaths of satisfaction, the deep sighs of discontentment, the gasps for air when we face trial - has He felt that breath as we draw near to Him? Do we smile because we know that "no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless"?  Is our smile like some family pictures - forced and uncomfortable, or is it an innocent expression of joy? Does our body tremble with excitement as we utter a small, frail voice to the God of Creation?  Are we like infant children, resting in His Grace and trusting in Him.

The baby coos and giggles and I memorize the moment - I soak in the way the skin under his eyes wrinkles, his eyes sparkle, his lips - pink and full - curve around a toothless grin. And there they are - the hint of dimples in soft, plush cheeks.  A thought steals into my moment....

Is this how God really sees me?

Does God cradle me in His arms, and memorize my face - the face of His child?  Am I a helpless babe - in need of saving, in need of gracious gifts from my Father?  Does He clothe me and clean up my messes - even the really dirty ones?  Do I scream when I need something and sleep content when I am satisfied?  Is there a world I need protection from - things that lure or injure?  Does God lather my tender heart with lotion to soothe the chafing brought on by imperfect people in an imperfect world?  Does He anxiously await the moment.................oh, that precious moment...........when we finally look up and see Him?  Really see Him?  The sound of our voice reaches His ears and He recognizes what He has known all along, and what we are just beginning to see.....
We are His.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Clutter

A few screwdrivers, scissors, nails, tape, batteries, buttons, remotes long forgotten, rubberbands, and more are lying in a drawer affectionately named the "junk drawer".  A basket on one shelf holds loose change, extra pens, more buttons, paperclips, a princess lip gloss, and a token for free ice cream.  I am pretty sure we all have them - drawers, cabinets, shelves, baskets, an area where things accumulate.  Things that may be related to each other, but they are piled or dumped and slowly build with no real organization or sorting.  Other times the items might be random, thrown there during the mayhem of guests arriving.

I have been working on these places.  Picking one and sorting through the items.  A pile for goodwill, a box full of things to give to friends or family, a bag to store in the basement or attic - I sort the items until they are in their rightful place.  I move from one area to the next over days, and what I fear might take weeks as I add one more drawer or cabinet to the list.

We also have these drawers and cabinets in areas which might be hard to find - deep within our spirit.  We stuff things in there at times - an emotion here, a denial there, words here,  resentment there.  These things pile up until they begin bulging out of their space, and one day the door flies open and they all spill out.  We need to go through these areas too.  We need to process things that we have tucked away - deal with the emotion, let go of the words said.  We need to throw things out, give them away, or put them in their proper place and perspective.  As we sift through these places in our lives, and expose their contents to our Lord, he assists us in cleaning out the area, tidying up, and replacing it with clean and simplistic living.  A life with focus and meaning, and not stifled by the clutter of things in the past.

Psalm 51:1-12
"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. "