Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ty-Ty

Margaret Atwood once said, "But how can you have a sense of wonder if you're prepared for everything?" This quote is, to me, at the crux of parenting. On the one hand, to be prepared for every eventuality is sanity-saving. On the other hand, to sit in wonder at the beauty and mystery of the child of your heart is transcendent.

Nineteen years ago today Ty was born. He was my biggest baby and my firstborn son. I felt like, in him, I had a tangible piece of Chris, a masculine part of him that brought me pride. Today, almost two decades later, as I am fast approaching my middle 40's, we celebrated.

I am a planner, a scheduler, a problem solver. I researched parks we could picnic in, museums we could visit, activities we could do. I made lists and sent out texts. I stayed up late last night and cooked and prepared dessert. And in my secret heart, I longed for a few quiet moments of heart to heart conversation and connection.

The park was closed and under construction. The museums were going to take too long, but Ty had his own idea... Shakalaka, a trampoline center. Did I mention I am forty-three? I contemplated sitting out. I weighed the risks of injury to myself or my pride. Then I looked at my son.

He is no longer a chubby baby, or a mischievous and destructive toddler, or the serious adolescent. He is a stunningly handsome, fun-loving, strong, smart man. His eyes were shining with delight at the idea of bouncing and he was so happy to be doing it with the ones who know and love him best.

I had a choice. I chose to enter into the wonder. To remember the thrill of flying. To not be a middle-aged woman. I did flips. I climbed walls and stepped from swing to swing. I bounced from trampoline to trampoline. I entered into the Ty's sense of excitement and wonder and instead of watching it from the fence, I participated. It. Was. Amazing.

In that one shining hour, I was my children's playmate again. I ran from activity to activity. I cheered when they succeeded and smiled as they cheered for me. On this, Ty's 19th birthday, I got to play with him again.

Ty brings out the best in people. He draws people in; he had a couple of fans follow him around today. Ty makes people laugh; even the bored employees cheered for him. Ty is thoughtful; he kept an eye on everyone and suggested some recovery time at his dorm. Ty is brilliant; he can talk about black holes, music,
and spiritual things in the space of five minutes. Ty makes people better for having been around him.

He is a joy to be around and I am deeply aware of the privilege it is to be his mother. I am glad that I could witness his joy today and that I could join in. I pray that he never loses his sense of wonder. Not even at 43.









Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Homesickness and Glory

I have started multiple blog posts and either never finished them or never posted them. My brain has been alternating between moving at the speed of light and the speed of molasses.

A synopsis: all of late winter and early spring was spent preparing for our big family trip. Then after the trip, two days after, I started work. The summer was spent recovering from jet lag, preparing for Ty to move out, getting college paperwork and finances in order for Maggie and Ty, trying to acclimate to working again, and planning for this year in homeschooling.

So now two of my kids are not at home, my job is becoming more routine, and the school year is evening out. The jet lag is completely over and money is non-existent. Where does this leave me?

A little lost actually. Out of place. I feel irrelevant a little bit.

It could be the crash after the big push. It could be that an almost 20 year day after day task is completed and my hands still go to the same motions... only the motions aren't needed. It could be the fear of newness. The fear that all this new stuff marks me as old and propels me into a great unknown that frightens me. When I stepped into the newness of motherhood, I was so young and ignorance was bliss. Now... now, I am not as ignorant. Now, I have learned to watch the women older than myself and I don't think I can do it. It could be that eternity looms bigger and then things here just seems smaller. Maybe it is all of these things.

Whatever it is, it is new and disconcerting.

I am looking for my new footing. I am taking one step after another and waiting for this new gate to feel normal. I really think that it will. Things will even out.

But I miss Maggie. I miss Ty. I miss the excitement of planning a big adventure. I really miss traveling. I miss my friends overseas. I miss airports and taxis and trains and ancient history. I miss watching my babies learn new things and being underfoot.

Maybe... maybe I'm really just homesick.

My friend Laura says to sorrow the things that need to be sorrowed. Sometimes the sorrow needs to come first to make room for the happy. It is okay for me to miss all of those things. It is okay for me to long for things - I know I am really longing for God and the perfection of his being. I am longing to be with him when all the sin and the sorrow and the goodbyes are over. To be able to see him face to face and participate in his glory without anything getting in the way.

"Soon"
by Hillsong

Soon and very soon
My King is coming
Robed in righteousness
And crowned with love
When I see Him
I shall be made like Him
Soon and very soon

Soon and very soon
I'll be going
To the place He has prepared for me
There my sin erased
My shame forgotten
Soon and very soon

I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I'll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon

Soon and very soon
See the procession
The angels and the elders
'Round the throne
At his feet I'll lay my crowns My worship
Soon and very soon

Homesickness and Glory

I have started multiple blog posts and either never finished them or never posted them. My brain has been alternating between moving at the speed of light and the speed of molasses.

A synopsis: all of late winter and early spring was spent preparing for our big family trip. Then after the trip, two days after, I started work. The summer was spent recovering from jet lag, preparing for Ty to move out, getting college paperwork and finances in order for Maggie and Ty, trying to acclimate to working again, and planning for this year in homeschooling.

So now two of my kids are not at home, my job is becoming more routine, and the school year is evening out. The jet lag is completely over and money is non-existent. Where does this leave me?

A little lost actually. Out of place. I feel irrelevant a little bit.

It could be the crash after the big push. It could be that an almost 20 year day after day task is completed and my hands still go to the same motions... only the motions aren't needed. It could be the fear of newness. The fear that all this new stuff marks me as old and propels me into a great unknown that frightens me. When I stepped into the newness of motherhood, I was so young and ignorance was bliss. Now... now, I am not as ignorant. Now, I have learned to watch the women older than myself and I don't think I can do it. It could be that eternity looms bigger and then things here just seems smaller. Maybe it is all of these things.

Whatever it is, it is new and disconcerting.

I am looking for my new footing. I am taking one step after another and waiting for this new gate to feel normal. I really think that it will. Things will even out.

But I miss Maggie. I miss Ty. I miss the excitement of planning a big adventure. I really miss traveling. I miss my friends overseas. I miss airports and taxis and trains and ancient history. I miss watching my babies learn new things and being underfoot.

Maybe... maybe I'm really just homesick.

My friend Laura says to sorrow the things that need to be sorrowed. Sometimes the sorrow needs to come first to make room for the happy. It is okay for me to miss all of those things. It is okay for me to long for things - I know I am really longing for God and the perfection of his being. I am longing to be with him when all the sin and the sorrow and the goodbyes are over. To be able to see him face to face and participate in his glory without anything getting in the way.

"Soon"
by Hillsong

Soon and very soon
My King is coming
Robed in righteousness
And crowned with love
When I see Him
I shall be made like Him
Soon and very soon 

VERSE 2:
Soon and very soon I'll be going To the place He has prepared for me There my sin erased My shame forgotten Soon and very soon 

CHORUS:
I will be with the One I love With unveiled face I'll see Him There my soul will be satisfied Soon and very soon

VERSE 3:
Soon and very soon
See the procession The angels and the elders
'Round the throne At His feet I'll lay my crowns My worship Soon and very soon 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weakness and Faith

I've been spending a lot of time in the last two weeks reflecting, meditating and studying weakness and faith, and subsequently, sanctification. I've had some enlightening and disturbing conversations with fellow believers and this morning it is all converging on me in a wave. I, as you may know, process best when I write it all out. Bear with me...

*deep breath*

Weakness.
I usually associate weakness with shame, failure and renewed effort. This is unbiblical. For real. UN-BIBLICAL. Need proof?
Read Romans 8:26: "Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness." Footnote in ESV Reformation Study Bible says, "The Holy Spirit strengthens us in our state of weakness, of which we are constantly conscious. Perplexity as to how to pray for oneself is a universal Christian experience. Our inarticulate longings to pray properly are an indication to us that the indwelling Spirit is already helping us by interceding for us in our hearts, making requests that the Father will certainly answer."
Read I Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Why am I even trying to do this life on my own? My best effort is foolishness.
Read II Corinthians 12:5-9 "...I will not boast, except of my weaknesses... 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Read Hebrews 4:15 Christ sympathizes with us in our weakness.
Read Hebrews 5:2 He deals gently with our weakness.

I know that was a lot of reading, but I hope you read it. SLOWLY. Reading it slowly turns it from skimming to meditating.

From these passages I realize that God not only doesn't condemn our weakness, He encourages us to acknowledge it and BOAST in it.

This blows my mind. I work really hard to cover up my weaknesses. Know what happens when I do that? I am actually using my own strength to deal with my flesh. "Trying harder is attempting to add your works to the work of Christ." - World Harvest study on Grace (lesson 4.2) Yep. I do this partly because I don't want others to see it, especially those unsafe people who will use it against me. I do this because I am afraid. BUT this is rooted in the false truth that Jesus is not enough for me in that moment.

This takes me to I Corinthians 1:18-31. Do you know who God chooses to accomplish his kingdom work? Oh, I know," you say, "It's those people with degrees who have all their sh*^ together!" Nope. He chose what is foolish, what is weak, what is low and despised. So what about those people with the outward togetherness? Well. No one was more competent that Paul. He had all of his crap together... and yet... "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling." 2 Cor 2:1-3 (emphasis mine)

So Paul set aside his gifts, his eloquence, his pride, his togetherness and it left him nauseous. Sick feeling. Shaking all over. Why?

"So your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 2 Cor 2:5

This brings my feverish mind to faith.

But can I first just say something? I feel a little nauseous too. I like to function out of my strength, not my weakness. I like to conquer an issue and then stand at the top of the mountain and yell for others to get it together and join me. I do not like the idea of weakness. Here I am reminded of the scene on the slopes of Mordor's Mt Doom. I am Frodo and I've done all I can. I've collapsed in weakness. Sam comes along and picks me up and carries me across his shoulders up the heated, crumbling slope. ... THIS is faith.

Faith is resting across the shoulders of my Jesus and letting him carry me to where I need to go. Francis Schaeffer calls this "active passivity." Not a sheer passivity, but an active yielding of ourselves to God. "Faith involves a choice to yield to the work of the gospel and the Spirit on our part. It is not resignation. We are called to live in dependence on God by choice, on the basis of the finished work of Christ... by faith."

In a study that I have done many times and that has been taught by many of the godliest pastors I know, there is a section called Vague Feeling/Truth. One in particular sticks in my mind. And I quote:
Vague Feeling: Justification is an act of God. Sanctification is what I do.
Truth: Sanctification grows as I focus on my justification. That focus or looking to Christ is called faith. Faith is at the very heart of my becoming holy. While justification and sanctification are two distinct concepts both are a work of grace through faith.

Go get your Bible. Imma bout to blow your mind. Turn to John 6:28-29. For real. Go do it. ...

....

They asked Jesus what they were supposed to be doing to be doing the works of God.

Did Jesus say tithe more? Nope. Did Jesus say go to church? No. Did Jesus say read your Bible more? NO! What did He say? Read it. Out loud.

"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

Jesus said believe.

Against all appearances. Against all other hopes and strategies. Against the mounting evidence to the contrary. Believe.

And if you're having trouble believing, turn to Hebrews 11. What did those lying, cheating, adulterating, murdering, whoring sinners have in common? They believed. They believed that God loved them and chose them and set his love on them. They believed that God would raise their dead and rescue them from certain death and that God was bigger than their physical pain. They were stoned, sawn in two, flogged, mocked and imprisoned. But they also, right there in the middle of verse 34, "were made strong out of weakness."

They were losers, just like me. They screwed up, just like me. They didn't know what the heck they were doing, just like me. But they had a God. A God who chose them above all the peoples of the earth. A God who rescued them from this fallen world "so that they might rise again to a better life."

Oh my heart! Oh my soul!

He is real and He loves us.

My faith is made stronger as Paul says in 2 Cor 12:9 when, "I will boast ALL THE MORE GLADLY of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

The weaker I am, the bigger He is. Can you see that? Can you see what I'm talking about? If I can do all the good things, without ever feeling my weakness (aka fear and trembling) and having to depend on the indwelling Spirit, who is glorified? Me, that's who. Good job, me! The Westminster Confession says that even if we could attain to the greatest height possible in this life of good deeds we would never be able to do any more than our duty and our duty is mixed with sin and corruption. And yet... "Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him."

The Westminster Confession also says of this, "Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ." (chapter 16, section 3)

What I like to do is try harder. What we are told to do many times is to try harder. What trying harder involves is us relying on our will power to break bad habits and our gift packages to do ministry. We experience zero freedom and just manage our sin.

In his book, When Being Good Isn't Good Enough, Steve Brown wrote, "People become antinomian (wild, immoral) for the most part, not because they are rebellious or because they don't care but because they are tired. They become antinomian because they just can't keep on keeping on anymore, because they have tried and failed so many times that trying again seems pointless, because the flesh is weak and they can't deal with the guilt anymore."

I'm here to tell you that if someone, no matter what their title, leaves you feeling condemned, exhausted, joyless and frustrated, rest assured that they are not speaking the gospel of grace to you. An admonition, an exhortation, always starts with a reminder of who you are and ends with who you are, with freedom sprinkled in the middle. We are freed to obey. We are gifted with faith and our lamest attempts and best efforts are accepted because of Jesus.

I had someone ask me once, "If you teach your kids grace, what will keep them from going wild as teenagers?" This reminded me of Romans 5 and 6. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!!! You know what has kept my teenagers from going wild? The same thing that has kept their momma from going wild, or from giving up - grace.

Grace alone. By faith alone.

In our 5 Solas, there are no 'by works alone'. Or 'by trying harder alone'. Or by doing our best. Or by striving.
By faith alone
By Scripture alone
Through Christ alone
By Grace alone
with GLORY to God alone.

I'll leave you with this thought. The Law of God is good. But when the Law begins to rage at you, set it aside and cling to the Cross. And go read Galatians 5:1 and repeat it to yourself over and over and over again.

More on spiritual disciplines later. Don't worry about that right now. Give yourself permission to bask in the glow of God's acceptance of you. Learn to gaze upon the face of the One who loves you. HE will add the works that He's prepared for you before the foundation of the world . Relax into his embrace.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Imperfect Church

Why am I looking forward to church this morning? Why does anyone look forward to it?

I'm not talking about the need for church or the biblical mandate to faithfully attend; that's a whole other thing. A whole other, true and serious thing.

This morning I am looking forward to attending church. Not because my church has perfect anything. We don't have that perfect building- the one with the comfortable, numerous bathrooms. Nope. We have one toilet, unless you want to wade through the babies in the nursery to get to toilet number two. We don't have a Women's Meeting Room or a room strictly for the use of our Session. We don't have a great and beautiful space for showers and teas. Nope. None of that. What we do have is a leaky roof and a prayer closet/copy room.

Our church doesn't have great programs. We attempt children's events and women's events and men's groups. We don't have an award winning worship team or a youth group that travels the globe.

Our church is a teenaged church, meaning that we aren't fully formed yet. We don't have our own elders and deacons yet. That is coming.

Our church doesn't have members who have it all together. Nope. Our congregation is actually pretty broken. Divorced, widowed, depressed, confused, disabled, and anxious- this is our group.

So why would I look forward to this bedraggled and ragamuffin gathering?

Because Jesus is there. In the midst of a broken people who are all out of options, Jesus is leading the way. Our musicians might mess up a song, but they just want to worship the only Hope they have. Our prayer team may look weak, but we have a strong and mighty Father who listens to us. My church is my family. We pour the Spirit back and forth between us and see the Father's pleasure in each other's smile.

And because this is truly a means of God's grace to me. To hear the Word, to respond in praise, to pray together, and to run to the Sacrament of Communion. This is the day that I get to hang out with my Father and my fellow misfit children and be reminded that it's all gonna be alright. He's making all things right.


Friday, June 03, 2016

Rome

I think I will start this post with a list...

Things I Remember Most About Rome:

1. The air. The air felt like home. After being cold and slightly damp for a week, it was nice to step out of the Da Vinci Airport and feel the warmth and the humidity. I even got a bit of a sunburn. I didn't realize at the time how much I would miss it when we got to the misery of Culcheth.

2. The dust of the Forum. The Forum was amazing. To stand where people I've read about from thousands of years ago stood was simply overwhelming. To see where Julius Ceasar was killed and burned, to see the Arch of Titus, built by the captive Jews after the fall of Jerusalem, to see a 3000 year old bronze door, wow! But I will also remember the small detail of the dust devils. You're just walking along, wide-eyed and amazed and ouch! Dust all up in your eyeballs. Not pleasant. Not at all.

3. The armed soldiers. Everywhere. Armed soldiers in every subway station, outside every ancient building that would attract a tourist, at the airport. I told every one of them that I could, "Grazie." I truly was grateful for their protection.

4. The noise. From our apartment to the subway to the monuments to the restaurants - lots of noise. But after the eerie silence of London's subways it was welcome. Our apartment was noisy with street traffic, crosswalk alarms, and emergency vehicles' sirens. The subways were noisy with the conversations of people, the restaurants with chatter between the customers and wait staff, the monuments with the sound of the tourists. It was different than the other cities we visited.

5. Simone. She was the daughter of the owner of the restaurant where we ate twice. The food was delicious, probably the best we had the whole trip aside from Bayeux, but the service made it exceptional. She sat with us, joked with us, recommended good wine. She is my only contact on What'sApp. She made us feel like family. Wait... isn't that the ad line from Olive Garden?!?

6. The laughter. We laughed more in Rome than anywhere else. The kids were happiest there. The history was most interesting there. We cooked, we ate, we walked, we giggled. By this time in our journey, we were all experienced and knew how things worked. There was no nervousness on the subway or going through security check points. We knew exactly what we were doing and stopped having to think so hard about it all. I guess we really just relaxed.

7. The pharmacy. Or should I say, "farmacia"? Chris and I found one and bought hand sanitizer, nasal spray, deodorant, ibuprofen and sunscreen. This was a process that included two nice Italian speaking female employees and the Asian pharmacist who spoke decent English. Definitely an adventure!

I may come back and add to this list, but for now I'll leave it at this. We loved Roma.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

I know in just one short year this photo will be hopelessly outdated. I know they will look so different, again. In a year, Brody will probably be taller than his sisters. But for now? This is my favorite picture of my kids.


photo cred to Gracie

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Where to Begin... Alright, Paris It Is!

I don't know how to organize these posts about The Trip. Should I go day by day? Favorite memory first? Worst then best? What I Missed? No idea.

I think I'll start with the things I'm afraid to forget...

like the look on Ty's face when he raced ahead to have a private moment staring at the Eiffel Tower. He had that look often. Awe. Transcendence. Joy. Peace. I don't know that I've ever seen him look that way, except maybe after a really good day flying. And all the times he smiled at me. Just for me. A thank you smile. A I'm having so much fun smile.

like... Gracie's excitement at ushering us into the last room at Harry Potter. Her eyes were so bright, her eyebrows raised, her smile wide as the moon. Not for her own joy, but for the joy she knew Brody would have.

like... seeing my husband laughing in the Wren's kitchen, joyous and relaxed. I didn't realize how really stressful his life is until I saw him out of it for a while.

like... watching my Dad walk with his hand on one of my boy's necks. It was pure affection. He is an adventurer, my dad. A Bilbo Baggins at six feet tall. He loved the new places, the photo opportunities. And he NEVER sat on the subway if there was a lady standing. Not even once. Even with arthritis in both knees.

I loved watching the sun set in Paris. Everywhere you look is a different sunset. The buildings reflect it in a million different ways. The park across from the apartment had a playground and the sounds of the children diminished with level of the sun. But once the sun was gone, it was like the city took a deep quiet breath and then, poof, lit up like the Milky Way. It's the prettiest city I've ever seen.

I was surprised at how much I loved Sacre Couer and Montmarte. We wandered around, Maggie, Chris and I, on a Sunday afternoon and walked through the flea market. It was a carnival. I don't know that Chris enjoyed it like I did, he was busy being my watchdog. But oh, Sacre Couer, what a beautiful place. It ties the Eiffel Tower in my mind.

After the almost silent world of London, all of Paris felt painfully alive. Music everywhere, on the streets, in the subway tunnels, even in the trains themselves. People talk to each other in Paris. More so than in London. More than in Springville. There is art and music and the smell of good food (and urine, lest I forget). The senses cannot be dull there.

Our waiter in our favorite restaurant in Paris wanted to marry Maggie. He was a small thing, sweet, silly. He made Maggie smile. He flirted like a Parisian. She asked me what to do about it. I told her to flirt back. She was shocked. But it is okay for her to smile and be young and remember that there is still hope for love. What better place to do that than in Paris?

Our apartment in Paris was my favorite. It was an ancient building with a central courtyard and a winding staircase, with floors that slope and not a plum line in the place. It was perfect. Plus, it had two toilets and that's important. The supermarket was half a block away and sold everything we needed. Soap, deodorant, kiwis, milk, cocoa crisp cereal and the most amazing chili flavored tortilla chips ever. Ironic. The coffee in Paris was all espresso, all the time. I didn't know until later how to order what I wanted. The people in Paris were kind, helpful and responsive. They smile if you smile. They help if you are humble.

We spent a day in Bayeux, on the Normandy coast. It had the potential to ruin my trip. I had my heart set on seeing Mont St Michel, but after over an hour and three phone calls, never could find the rental car place. They refunded my money after the national representative was also screamed at in French by the local manager. Chris gathered my tearful self in his arms and led me into a beautiful day. He and I and the girls wandered through the same stone streets William the Conqueror walked. We explored the crypt of the cathedral and ate the best food we had the whole time in France. It was glorious. Freezing cold, but glorious.

 But of all these things, Chappelle de Nesle was my favorite. Pronounced Sha-pelle de Nell, it is a reformed evangelical church plant in the heart of Paris. We worshiped with brothers and sisters we never knew existed. And some of them, our first conversation will be in heaven when we can speak the same language. What a glorious day that will be.

My hand is tired and I'm barely even started. I guess that's enough for now.

Trip Post Number 1, or Getting My Toes Wet

As usual when blogging my mind is in a swirl. I can only seem to tame it when I write it all out.

We've been home from Europe for just less than a week now. And yes, I am aware of how pretentious that sounds, but keep in mind I had to look up 'pretentious' to know how to spell it.

We were gone three weeks and even knowing that those three weeks could change me did not really prepare me for how they actually did. I experienced freedom from details, chores, maintenance of material possessions, obligations, and even freedom from goodbyes to my immediate family. I experienced the simple quiet relief of being with my dad every day. I experienced watching my own country through the eyes of the rest of the world and the grinding sorrow that it brought. I lived out of a backpack for three weeks, and although not exactly easy, it was freeing somehow. Now all my possessions feel slightly claustrophobic.

To have three weeks with a daughter recovering from heartbreak, a son about to leave home for college for the first time, a husband whose job sucks the joy from his body and a father who serves the Lord relentlessly -  it was a gift. A beautiful, rose-tinted, amazing gift that I will treasure in my heart for the rest of my days. To hold my baby/almost-teenager's hand through the streets of Rome and take silly selfies and share raised eyebrow glances at the world around us was a treasure. I could almost visibly see my youngest daughter's wings unfurl.

I think I said in a post once before that everyone should travel. I think, looking back now, that I was defending myself from criticisms but all I did was deflect the criticism onto other people. I feel ashamed. Travel is like a sweet jewel to my heart that I wish I had never shown anyone because my jewel is different from your jewel. My sweetness is not the sweetness others feel. I should shut up more often.

And yet, here I am, not shutting up.

I want to write all the details of this trip so that ten, twenty years from now, I (or my children and grands) can read them again and remember. There was so much love on this trip.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Foreshadowings

"Plenty, misery, recriminations, sympathy. All such an exaggerated picture of the man-made way of life in a God-made world. If it all didn't prove the necessity of Heaven, I don't know what it means. I believe that all this loveliness (of Spring) showing through the rubble and wreck are just foreshadowings of the joys we were made for."
      - Walker Hancock, from the book The Monuments Men

Hancock and the other men saw the beauty of the European countryside and the world's most beautiful and enduring works of art. They saw these things in the midst blood, death, and destruction.

Sometimes I feel the same way. One friend bitterly rejects me while another comes alongside and comforts me. The flowers at a funeral can bring a smile among tears. My heart can be broken and blessed at the same time. The joys and blessings are the foreshadowing of what I'm created for, or rather, whom I'm created for.

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us.

If he is for us, who can be against us?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hopefulness

https://youtu.be/q68QRLGTfxM

Mrs Darcy from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack is one of the most hopeful pieces of music I've ever heard.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Sympathy

Many years ago, we led a small community group. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago, but the young couples with no children now have multiple children. That means it was almost a decade ago. Gee whiz, I'm getting old. Anyway... many years ago in that small group, we made deep friendships that still make us keenly aware of each other in this life. Nowadays we are spread out. One family in Oklahoma, one in Leeds, one in England, and then us in Springville. We are all over, but those early days of eating together and forgiving each other when our kids (ahem, my kids) would make a mess. They learned to parent by assisting us with our four and learning from our mistakes. I remembered to focus on my husband by watching these newly married women and their devotion to their men. It was a marvelous time. I look back on it very fondly. 

About a month ago, Melody (the one in Leeds) posted one post after another as each of her four little ones fell ill with fever. It wasn't all at the same time, but drawn out. One would perk up and another would fall. This resulted in weeks of sleeplessness and isolation for her. I prayed diligently for her because I remember when that was me and I felt all alone in the world. 

Over the last week or two, Michelle (in England) has kept us updated as one child after another has fallen ill. Ruptured ear drum, fever, colds... leaving her exhausted and lonely. Melody commented with a response that resonated with deep love and sympathy, having just begun to emerge from her own cave of maternal duties. The interaction, though small and seemingly mundane, has resonated in my heart. I keep going back to it. I think it is because I know that Melody's understanding of Michelle's situation is deeply personal having so recently experienced it. It was also because I know them. I know that her words were deep, heartfelt and tinged with grief that she could not be with Michelle in person. These are women who truly love each other and are separated by distance. I think is was also because there was a profound spiritual truth lurking at the edges of my mind.

Jon Piper said in his book 50 Why Reasons Jesus Came to Die, "A lifetime of temptation climaxing in spectacular abuse and abandonment gave Jesus an unparalleled ability to sympathize with tempted and suffering people... therefore, the Bible says he is able 'to sympathize with our weaknesses' (Hebrews 4:15). This is amazing. The risen Son of God in heaven at God's right hand with all authority over the universe feels what we feel when we come to him in sorrow or pain..."

When Chris read this passage to us in family worship time this morning, it all clicked for me. Just as I sympathized with Melody and as Melody sympathized with Michelle, Jesus sympathizes with us. He feels what we feel. He knows. This gives me such boldness in prayer. I don't irritate him or weary him with my prayers, any more than Melody rolled her eyes at Michelle's dilemma. No! He never tires of hearing us. The main difference though is that he CAN do something. Mel can't leave her 4 little ones and hop on a plane, no matter how badly she wants to. But Jesus, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, can comfort us. He can strengthen us. He gives life and hope and peace. 

What an amazing thought! We can never overburden Jesus. His arms are always ready to receive us and he does so with a heart bursting with sympathy and compassion. What wondrous love is this. My soul aches with it. 

Friday, March 04, 2016

Writing Makes Me Sweaty

Spring can't seem to make up its mind. Sunny and beautiful. Raining and cold. Ahhh, Alabama in March. You're killing me.

I want to say something really profound about life and seasons and some such. But I've got nothing....

What I do have is a burning desire to start writing again. Facebook is like the stick in my bike spokes though. Why does it tempt and taunt me so? I feel like the rat in the experiment that keeps running to the sugar water instead of doing whatever it was supposed to be doing. ... that was very un-specific example. Sorry.

Even now I am tempted to check social media. I'm tempted to delete it all, but I've been advised to "build my platform". Ugh. That sounds pretentious. I have a Twitter account now, just for the Writer-me, not the normal-me. And someone liked my first tweet. That was really cool.

Anne Rice said, "To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself." I feel ya, sister.

So keep an eye out; I'm almost finished with a collection of short stories, which includes my first ever not-happy ending. It was exhausting to write and yet, very freeing. I've also got another novel started. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Can I Rest?

Do you ever feel like life just punches you in the face? I did yesterday. After an amazing week of being with sisters in Christ and praying and reading my Bible all day, I came home to life.

My family was wonderful. My neighbor-friend cleaned my house and it was all lovely. All the things in my life were swimming along. Then I opened the mail... and then I talked to the accountant... and then I went to the cardiologist... and evil knew right where to smack me. Money. The creeping sense of panic in my gut. The fear and urge to plan and strategize. The temptation to despair and shake my fist at God like the pirate I used to be. 

But God was there. He whispered in my ear while I got ready for the day. Am I not with you always? He was there in my words as I talked to my children about why I was upset. Haven't I always taken care of you? He was in the heart of my dear friend Melissa when she messaged, I'm sorry you're having a bad day. He was in His Word when I sank onto the sofa in weariness to read. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. He was there. 

He quiets my soul and soothes my fears. I don't have to fear. I don't have to pick a fight with him so that he will remember me. My name is written on his hands. Hands that bear the mark of his death for my forgiveness. He will provide. Just as he always has. 

*deep breath*

Rest.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oh the Deep, Deep Love

The body of Christ is a funny thing.

Augustine said, "The church is a whore, but she's my mother and I love her."

Sometimes she is hard to love.

Lori Sealy said yesterday, "If you're struggling to love the church, focus on her foundation."

But...

Sometimes the church is hard to look upon because her beauty is stunning. Blinding. Awe inspiring. Sometimes she is a beautiful reflection of her Savior.

I have seen her beauty this weekend and felt like a ten year old girl awed into silence by the bride at a wedding. I am struggling to find the words.

I did not realize that I was growing disillusioned with the structure of the church until I saw it functioning like it's supposed to. I did not realize I was functioning in fear and shame until I was challenged with freedom. I did not realize that I felt unimportant until I was told strongly and in no uncertain terms that I am loved, valued, and important... that my relationships with the women in my church matter.

I had forgotten that "community and compassion are covenant words," in the words of Susan Hunt.

I had forgotten that God is in the still, small voice - nose to nose with me.

Susan Tyner, one of the session leaders, said, "Our limitations lead us to a limitless God." What a thought. God - limitless, omnipotent, and all-knowing - meets us in our limitation and powerlessness.

What a day. What a great, great God we serve. What beautiful sisters I have.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Magical Days

Today I'm remembering the games Ty and his friends made up when they were young.

Knifing - Play fighting that began with real pocket knives until the moms realized they were playing with REAL POCKET KNIVES and banned them.

Boot Camp - exactly what it sounds like. Was introduced into boy culture when Bren graduated Marine Corp boot camp. They took turns screaming at each other as they made their way through increasingly dangerous obstacles. Again the moms had to intervene when we realized they were scaling the shed.

I call the next one Avatar - they realized that the kudzu vines were thick enough to walk on. I walked outside and heard their shouts of joy. It took me a minute to realize they were about 20 feet in the air, walking on top of the kudzu-covered trees. It paralyzed me with fear and I made them get down, explaining the danger of falling on a stob or small tree and impaling themselves. They didn't tell me until years later that Ellas did fall and was scraped up by a broken tree branch. How they survived their childhoods is beyond me.

Kingdoms - a highly inventive multi-level game involving elves, warriors, etc. The currency of this game was used aluminum foil. USED foil. So the moms were enlisted to use more foil and for heaven's sake, don't throw any foil away! Weapons of imagination were encouraged. Store bought swords were lame. Sticks of perfect shape, size and weight were highly sought after and woe to the parent who found said stick and threw it away. Weapons were forged of spray paint and duct tape. Armor was fashioned of used Rubbermaid container lids and cardboard. Players completed complicated missions and quests and "leveled up". At one point this game had players in 2 states and 2 countries. Over a dozen boys would come on Friday night to play. I will occasionally still find foil coins imprinted with their Kingdoms logo and smile.

Airsoft- Not a game of their invention but I'll still count it. Gilly-suits, full face masks, $200 guns and Camo abounded in this obsession.

Then there were the standard hide and seek (in the dark), freeze tag, football, smear, and various full contact games.
I'm sure I've forgotten some

I kept unlit scented candles on my table for when they would all stream into the house for water or food and the smell... my word, the smell. We would pass the candles around to sniff to counteract the odor. It offended the boys but that couldn't be helped.

I don’t know that any of us really appreciated the awesomeness of Friday nights until later when the boys were grown and had jobs or sports events. Looking back, those were magical days.