Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dwelling Place

Since early August, we've had no home.
(Don't be too alarmed. We haven't been sleeping outside.)
Our house sold.
We weren't living in it, anyway, but it still felt like losing to sell it.
We've been here renting for three and a half years.
At first, it was fine.
It's a large* house.
Three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
One bedroom and a bathroom downstairs.
But we moved in with four children, and then had two more.

Every time we have had a baby, it's been a disruption to life and routine.
I figure on a year of unpredictable chaos,
and then a settling in to routine we can work around.
Because I nurse them, we've kept our babies in with us for the first year.
It takes less time to settle them if they need to eat in the night.
Wakes less of the household up.

We passed our youngest child's one year mark in December,
and he's still in our room.
The fifth child is sharing with sisters.
I've had a growing irritation with our living situation.
At nap time, there's been no retreat
for those of us who need quiet spaces in our lives and thoughts.
We love each other, but good fences make good neighbors -- even in families.
The one napping upstairs, and the one napping just off the dining room,
and the fact that the kitchen, dining, front room,
and living room are all open to each other,
has meant that, no, a friend can't come over -- it's nap time.
And no, you can't watch a movie.
I can't go to my room for a little quiet.
And they can't go to their rooms.
And although it's been a little better now that the weather is seasonable,
it's been grating on several of the more introverted members of the family.

We started looking a little more seriously for a home to make our own this fall.
We had been looking (but casually) since the spring,
when our anticipation of freedom from our mortgage was growing.
It's something we've been praying about.
Longing for.
When we began to look seriously, the market was pretty fast.
At least five homes sold before we could even look at them.
But we walked into a house in October that was perfect -- or nearly so.
It had been on the market since the week we sold our house in August.
The pictures I had seen online actually drew a laugh out loud.
Some of the color combinations looked horrible.
But I am a woman of imagination,
(and experience with redemption),
so we went to look.
And I fell promptly in love.
It was an unusual thing for me,
because I've always just bought what I could afford,
and what would do.
Every house we've owned has been a house we could make work.

But we are tired of moving.
We want to just live quietly, and not move.
And we told the realtor we were not in a hurry,
and planned to take our time,
and find a place we wanted to live in.
That fit our family.
That fit our lifestyle.
That felt like a sanctuary.
A retreat.
And when I walked into this house, I loved it.
It has four official bedrooms, and a bonus room with a closet in it.
Two of the bedrooms are upstairs.
It has an upstairs living room, and a downstairs living room.
There's an office.
A dining room that isn't carpeted (!!).
It has been owned by older people who were having mobility issues.
So they moved the washer and dryer upstairs,
leaving a utility room downstairs with hookups.
You probably don't have eight people competing for a washing machine,
and do not realize the depth of the possibilities.

The most beautiful thing of all to me is just the house's layout.
No one comes up confused about which door to knock on --
the front door that opens almost into the living room
which is scattered with toys,
and in which I am trying to nurse a baby while answering math questions --
or the back door which opens into the laundry room
with the cat's litter box and the hand washables hanging up to dry.
It has an entryway.
With a coat closet.
And a slate floor.
And that entry way leads to a living room with closing doors,
a dining room with a closing door,
a kitchen (with a hidden pocket closing door!!)
and the bedrooms are not visible to it.
So if perchance someone comes up to the door,
and there are people in the house who are not dressed for company,
or dishes waiting to be washed,
or a table that has not been cleared and wiped,
those things can remain private.

And the backyard is fenced and gated.
Run free, children!
Go outside.
The hoodlums will not see you.
And I won't need to see you, either.

And there are trees and flowers.
I did not fully appreciate the glory of a tree
until I moved to a place in which they must be planted and watered
in order to exist.
Every window of the house looks out on greenery.
It soothes my soul to look out the windows.
Where I live now, I close my blinds.
(Go on back to the people being under-dressed for company,
the breastfeeding in the living room,
and the child-induced chaos of environment for reference.)
Plus, I may not have mentioned this,
but in the wee hours of the day,
my hair and makeup are not presentable.

In October, when we found this house, and fell in love with it,
we were not yet approved for a mortgage.
We didn't know what we could do yet, and we began to pray.
We prayed the Lord would keep this place for us, if He was willing,
since we couldn't make an offer until we were approved.
It took us a couple of weeks to get those things in order.
But the number we were approved for wasn't enough.
We made an offer that was ignored.
We came up a tiny bit, because that was all we could do,
and that was ignored, too.
Our banker gave us savings goals that would allow us to do more,
and we began to save and continued praying.
And checking on it.
I think we made a third offer in December.

Our realtor and banker both told us they were also praying for us.
The realtor was probably tired,
because we continued to look at other houses halfheartedly.
None of them were right.
Finally, in February, we were close.
We talked with the banker, and she assured us that we could make a higher offer.
We called the realtor immediately,
and she got the offer all written up, and called the listing agent.
She called us back, devastated.
They had accepted an offer the night before,
and the agent had forgotten to call her as she had promised.
We asked her to submit it as a backup offer, and we kept praying.

None of these prayers were confident in the outcome.
We didn't know.
Did the Lord want us to have this house?
Did He have something else in mind for us?
Is there even room for our family in this valley?
It just seemed too much of a coincidence
to see it going under contract right at that moment
to not be directly related to our pursuit of it.
I kept asking the Lord, "Is this Your will? Am I wrong to want it?
If You don't want me to have this, help me to kill the desire.
If it's not from You, I don't want it anyway...
even though I really want it."

Even our backup offer was ignored.
A week or two later, we tried again,
hoping maybe it would fall out of contract.
We were told it was a sure thing,
and the building inspection contingent was done.
We thought maybe that was the final word,
and the Lord wanted us to move on.

A house came on the market that would do.
We did not love it, exactly.
But we liked it.
It had seven bedrooms and over an acre.
With some adjustments, we could make it work for some years,
until our children started moving away,
and the house became way too much for us.
We made an offer, but we were outbid.
It was depressing.
"Lord, will You please make room for us here?"

We slowed down our looking considerably after that.
Kept watching listings,
but most houses are made for small to medium families,
and we passed that years ago.

In April, having continued to watch the first house,
and ask after it now and then,
we went to go see a few houses with our realtor.
Two could be made into something suitable,
but didn't have our hearts,
and the idea of making an offer
while the one we really wanted still hadn't closed made us hesitate.
We asked one more time about it,
because it should have closed a week before,
and its status was still the same.
I got a text late that night telling me the listing agent was confused,
because everything had been going along fine,
but now something was wrong,
and she didn't know what, but it was in the process of falling out of contract.
Would we please submit another offer?
We held our breath and tried again.

Eight months after the house was listed,
six months after we found it in a fast market,
two months after it went under contract with someone else,
ten days after it was supposed to close,
and six or seven offers in for us, 
we went under contract.
We closed June 2.
And we were so glad the Lord shut the door on the second house,
even though it was depressing when it happened.

Personally, I have prayed and wrestled over this house.
Again and again I came back to the Lord
to give Him the longing for it,
to submit my own will to His,
to tell Him our needs, and trust His care for us,
to ask for it,
to qualify the asking with with wanting Him more.

Do you ever do that?
Just really wrestle with the Lord over something,
to succeed in laying it down and giving it to Him?
That He gave it back to me is so humbling.
I'm flabbergasted, and overjoyed.

On the morning of June 2, we hadn't yet heard if we could close that day.
I read my Bible in the morning, not really sure if that was the day,
and in my regular reading, I was back in Genesis 26:22 again.
It's a passage I've been praying over for a long time.
"And he moved from there and dug another well, 
and they did not quarrel over it. 
So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, 
'For now the Lord has made room for us, 
and we shall be fruitful in the land.'"
Less than an hour later
the realtor called us with a closing appointment time.
The Lord has made room for us!

*Large is a matter of perspective, isn't it? 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Gathering Graces

A week ago, in the morning, I walked a labyrinth.
It was a stony, weedy path, and had not been meticulously maintained.
Nevertheless, I could see where I was supposed to walk, so I did.
As I walked, I looked.
Small wildflowers lined the path.
They were so small, they couldn't be seen from outside the path,
only from within.
They were tiny perfections.
They reminded me that on a rocky path, however it might from afar look like the path beside it,
there are particular things to thank God for.
Tiny perfections blooming where you are.
Intricately shaped.
Gather them up.
Smell their honey smell.
Do not neglect the looking.
Walk your path with thanks and eyes to see the flowers He has planted there.
And when you find you must return, look again.
The third time through, I found a new flower.
Really consider the lilies of the field, and how He clothes them.
Walk with a handful of mercy and grace.
Pick them up.
Don't go empty-handed.
Enter His courts with praise,
and His gates with thanksgiving.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Unlovely Valentines

I actually didn't expect hearts and candy to define my marriage.
I am a realist.
At least, that's what I think of myself as.
(You sunshine and unicorns people would call me a pessimist.)
Best case scenarios don't often occur to me.

Anyway -- it's Valentines Day.
I see all the posts from friends celebrating a renewal of their love,
a remembrance of the beginning of their romance.
I love that.

One friend mentioned in her love story
that they have lost as many babies as they have living children.
That's four.
I love these people dearly.
She said something about not having chosen the things they've walked through.
And it rings so true.

I found myself thinking through the unlovely valentines.
The markers of love that you've walked through together.
The hurts.
The waiting.
The pressure.
The labors.
Each one another bond, a shared grief.
The lost jobs, lost relationships, lost children.
The death of parents, of friends, of dreams.
The infertility.
The miscarriages.
The months without income.
The depressions.
The failures.
The frustrations.
The sleepless nights with sick children.
The frozen pipes.
The wound packing.
The wheelchair pushing.
The broken down cars.
The financial hardships.
The baffling parenting dilemmas.
The hormonal swings of pregnancy.
The things you don't take pictures of to share on Instagram.
The choking on tears together.
The desperate prayers.

Those parts of the vows we made --
the for poorer, for worse, and in sickness parts --
they have value.

The forgivenesses, and bandaging,
and helping each other dress because we are too injured to dress ourselves.
I would not trade them for other people's cruises.
Flowers are romantic,
but this morning my husband said that of course he had time
to rub juniper oil into my stiff neck and shoulder before he left:
a smelly, messy valentine.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Negative Confession

"And David said in his heart, 
'Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. 
There is nothing better for me 
than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines...'"

I love the substance and truth of the Word.
Scriptural saints are human men and women,
with passions like ours, and debilitating fears, and sunken spirits
that need Him to breathe life into them.
Here, David, the prophet of the Lord, the future king of Israel,
the man after God's own heart
falls into fear that drives him for awhile.
He forgets what God has said of him,
and believes his present is all there is,
and the only escape is to run to the enemy.
And, even more horribly (in some circles),
he voices his fear.
He speaks out his 'negative confession',
'speaks his own death',
'utters a curse'.
Yet God's purpose for him will prevail.

Though his words are faithless, and hopeless, and expectant of the worst,
David never does perish at the hand of Saul.
And there IS better for him in his future
than this awful episode in the land of the Philistines.

There are others, you know.
"And Abraham said, 
'Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; 
and they will kill me on account of my wife.'" 

"And Jacob their father said to them, 
'You have bereaved me:
 Joseph is no more, 
Simeon is no more, 
and you want to take Benjamin. 
All these things are against me.'"

"Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot;
 for she said to herself, 'Let me not see the death of the boy.' 
So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept."

In fact, so many come to mind, I couldn't list them all.
Esther. Elijah. Isaac.
Paul mentions despairing even of life because of the hardships they had suffered.

There is a false doctrine that goes around that 'speaking curses'
and negatively confessing your fears brings them to pass.
But Proverbs 26:2 says,
"Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, 
so a curse without cause shall not alight."
And in Numbers 22, an effort is made to curse Israel and God won't let it be.
"Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed."

Our own fears and failures may sidetrack us,
but the Lord's purposes stand in our lives.
And no one can curse whom He has not cursed.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

And That Is No Insult

My husband is not
The Most Amazing Husband in the World(!!!).
And my children are not
The Most Brilliant and Incredible People you will ever Meet(!!!).
I am not The Kindest, Most Patient, and Loving Woman(!!!)
my children have ever had the privilege to know.
And I am not the Best Wife Ever(!!!).
And that is no insult to any one of us.

I struggle with The Best People Awards.
The Most Amazing People.
The Awesome Ones.
I find myself wanting to ask
(regarding The Best Husband and The Most Amazing Wife),
"To Whom?!
How many husbands do you have?
Have you tried them all?
Because, um, that's not okay."

Family love isn't just for the lovely.
It's for the crybabies, and the irritable women, and the cranky men.
I have wonderful parents.
Exceptional parents, even.
But I will not tell you they were Perfect, or The Most Amazing.
I can remember failures.
Things they later apologized for.
Parenting mistakes.
Mature love doesn't require amazingness to validate its affection.
And mature love has something to forgive.
That's hard to do when you live with The Beautiful People.

My husband doesn't have to be
The Most Amazing, the Wisest, the Strongest, or the Manliest.
He's mine.
I love him because he's mine.
Because we're one.
Because our kids are ours, we treasure them.
Not because they're smarter than all the other (stupid?) children in the world.

I am proud of their efforts
whether they beat all the other (losers?) in the contest or not.
When they draw me pictures,
I don't have to tell everyone they are The Best Pictures Ever Drawn(!!!)
to acknowledge their specialness.

I can admire those I love without making everyone else less.
I can honor those around me
without painting them as giants among grasshoppers.

Because otherwise, when they aren't the best anymore, then what?
What if the Woman with the Most Beautiful Smile loses her teeth?
What if The Best Provider loses his job
and can't be The Most Amazing Provider anymore?
What if you're married to one of the other spouses in the room--
you know: the ones who forget birthdays;
who lose their tempers periodically;
who get depressed and cry for a few days;
or who can't afford to take you to Hawaii?
Are our bonds dissolved
when our spouses turn out to be some of the lesser people?
Or do our obligations to bring up our children in love end
when said children turn out to be intellectual dunces or uncoordinated nerds?

I can tell you I love my husband, and admire him,
and he blesses me with kind and thoughtful behavior,
and I am proud of my children,
without declaring that your husband is, in fact, a second class runner up,
and my children surpass yours in every area:
their natural abilities which they haven't even had to work at
far outshine your children's accomplishments
bought with hard work and long hours of practice.

Beloved, let us love one another,
 for love is of God,  
and everyone that loves is born of God,
and knows God.
Oh, Lord -- help me to love better,
even though they aren't The Best Ever(!!!)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On Visible Mending and the Handiwork of God

A skirt I made from a vintage tablecloth
caught on something while my daughter wore it,
and a big, 90 degree tear resulted.
I thought about letting the work of my hands go, but it bothered me.
The tablecloth had been stained, and had holes in it when I found it.
I had carefully cut around some of the leaves in the border,
and applique-patched them over the holes.
I dyed the skirt a soft gray, which hid the stains.
I liked how I had taken an object that could not be used as it was created,
and repaired and restored and remade it
into what I thought was a lovely garment.
Now it was torn, and the tear was not able to be hidden.
I have heard my whole life that if a seam tears, you can repair it.
But this wasn't a seam.
It was ruined.

I set it aside for weeks, not willing to toss it,
but not knowing exactly how to fix it.
The cloth I made it from was long gone.
There was nothing to patch it with.

One day, looking for an embroidery project for a friend,
I came across visible mending on Pinterest.
Oh, my!
People were doing this on purpose, and loving the mended project
even more than something new and pristine.

I pulled the skirt back out, and sat down to make it useful again.
Instead of trying to hide my repair,
and pretend the damage had never been done,
I used embroidery floss with its subtle shine,
and stitched far more stitches than were necessary for usefulness,
enjoying every one.
That particular rip would not likely rip again.
When I finished, somehow I loved this handiwork
even more than I had loved it before.

I looked the skirt over, and found a couple of worn places
and a small hole I'd not noticed before.
I added a spiral of stitches over a worn place.
An embroidered rose to fill a small hole.
I'm too invested in this fabric now to toss it lightly aside.
I'd rather repair it.
Restore it.
Redeem it.

The useful has become a work of creativity and art.
A poetry of stitches instead of an exercise book sentence.
A painted portrait instead of a police sketch.
This shows the soul of the image -- not just its hair color and mouth shape.

This morning I was reading Nehemiah 9:17:
"[They] refused to obey, 
neither were mindful of Thy wonders that Thou didst among them; 
but hardened their necks, 
and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: 
but Thou art a God ready to pardon, 
gracious and merciful, 
slow to anger, 
and of great kindness, 
and forsookest them not."

I looked up several words, but it was that last phrase that arrested me.
He forsookest them not.
He didn't leave them.
He didn't depart from them.
He didn't leave them behind, let them alone, abandon them or neglect them.
He didn't let them loose, set them free, or let them go.
They were not deserted.
All those things come under the first meaning of the word.
There was a second meaning.
To restore, repair.

"For we are His workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
(Ephesians 2:10) 

Oh Lord -- I am so full of torn places --
stains and holes. 
My flaws are all in the body of the fabric, not the seams.
Don't let me go.
Repair and restore me. 

But He does more.
He makes beautiful things -- stitches art into our mending.
We are His workmanship, the Scripture says.
His creativity repairs us uniquely.
In places, His handiwork becomes far more visible
than the original fabric was,
His stitches the only thing holding any of it together.
Where we are stitched will not match anyone else's repairs.
Unique to our flaws, His creativity, and the material at hand,
each one becomes a newly-made creative expression in His overall masterpiece.
We are all worked into the whole.
Maybe you've thought of yourself as the worst patch.
But He repairs, remakes, restores --
and places you into the whole
as a trophy of His love and creativity.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rear Guard

Our house passed out of our ownership today.
Our tenants moved out fourteen months ago,
and we've been paying the mortgage
and the rent where we live now
without the help of an income that just covered the mortgage
of the house left behind coming in.
We did not see any possibility of doing that,
and yet, by the Lord's mercy, we did.
And we ate, too.

Years ago, the Lord spoke a promise to us.
He directed our steps with it:
halting us when we were ready to go too fast,
and sending us forward
when we didn't see how we'd guard ourselves from behind.
He did for us as He promised,
and we are humbled by His care.
The mortgage debt is gone and the cost of our cross-country move.

While we were there, we prayed about how to impact the community for good.
But it felt like that was a loss when we moved away.
The family that bought the house from us are involved in the community,
in ways that build it up.
It's the first home they've ever owned,
and its age and history (read: constant need of upkeep because she is so old)
were part of the draw of that house to them.
I am so happy to have sold it
to people who will love it,
and who will be enabled to deepen their own roots
in a community they have already been investing in.

And yet, of course, I feel like crying.
For the first time in many years, we don't own a home.
And the bookshelves my daddy built me are someone else's now.
My books fill IKEA shelves, which are perfectly adequate,
but not labors of love.
I long for a place of our own.
A quiet sanctuary.
My husband reminds me of another promise:
'Everyone who has left houses
or brothers or sisters
or father or mother
or children or lands
for My name's sake,
will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.'

You are our Home, Lord.
Thank You for covering us.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Breathe Life

Two weeks ago Thursday morning, my niece drowned.
I saw two urgent prayer requests come through,
and when I asked for details, my heart sank.
My sister's baby had gotten out of the house.
They found her floating on her back in a kiddie pool.
She was blue.
No pulse.
She picked her up and turned her over, trying to get the water out.
She ran screaming to her husband that she was dead.
"No!" he yelled.
He knew what to do, but who knows what to do?
He laid the baby on the ground and did chest compressions on her.
After about a minute, her heart started beating.
She started wheezing and moaning.
My sister brought her inside, and she vomited water,
but she wasn't responsive, and she was abnormally stiff,
and her cry was not right.
An ambulance took her to a hospital,
where no one answered questions, and the baby's eyes didn't focus.
Some of these details came through later,
but all I knew was that she'd drowned, and it didn't look good.

I trembled, and I wept, and I begged God to save her.
To restore her.
To preserve her brain.
To hold us all up.
"I don't know how to pray!" I cried.
I didn't eat, as I had intended to.
And I kept my heart lifted up, but almost wordlessly.
I just couldn't put it into words.
You breathed life into mud, You can rebreathe it into her. 
Please breathe into her?

We aren't exempt from the snakebite that bites us all.
"...And if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; 
they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover..."
Even this stunning promise implies snakebites, and deadly drinks, and sickness.

I hesitated to even ask for prayer. 
Like speaking the evil that had fallen on us made it real.
But it was real.
Better to call the snakebite what it is,
and throw ourselves on the mercy of God.
I texted a couple of friends for prayer. 
Lord, she's been bitten. Please restore her. 

My sister said the baby had been staring at a corner of the room,
not seeing it when she did open her eyes,
and not paying any attention to any of them.
My sister didn't know what to do, and she was hopeless.
But she prayed, and she kept praying.
The baby turned her eyes and looked at them.
She followed them with her eyes.
Her stiffened out body relaxed.
She said they saw when she was restored.
She was transferred to a hospital equipped for children.

Her breathing was at 99%
Her oxygen levels were good.
The x-rays looked fine.
Her neurological tests came back fine.
A few hours after the whole ordeal, she was laughing and eating Cheerios.
They wanted to watch her overnight, to make sure.

"And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, 
and laid them on the fire, 
there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 
And when the barbarians saw the animal hang on his hand, 
they said among themselves, 
No doubt this man is a murderer, 
whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 
And he shook off the animal into the fire, and felt no harm. 
Yet they looked when he would have swelled, or fallen down dead suddenly: 
but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, 
they changed their minds, and said that he was a god."

It's an interesting phenomenon,
(and one that ought not to be our first response to hearing a story of misery),
that other people's misfortunes
are immediately used as a means for us to point at culprits,
to assign blame, and to heap scorn on the victims.
When Paul was bitten by a snake,
the response of the onlookers was first to make him at fault,
and then to deify him.
Both are wrong.
Paul was doing exactly what God had called him to do,
and serving in the way that he could when his service resulted in a snakebite.

It doesn't even say he prayed when the snake bit him,
and yet the Lord saw fit to keep poison from its usual course of action in Paul.
Blessed be His name!

So many times in the gospels, Jesus was brought a hopeless case,
and His compassion moved Him to heal.
And I love truly His kindness, and His genuine concern for the families,
and that we never once see Him say, 'Who sinned?!'
In fact, His answer to that very question from His disciples was, to paraphrase:
"Neither. But that God's work should be revealed in Him.
And that's My work. I am the Light in the darkness."
And with that little explanation,
He squatted down to mix His spit into mud
to put in the blind-man-suspected-of-sin's eyes.

Three hours after my niece's restoration,
my parents were sitting beside my grandmother, whose death has been expected,
when she breathed her last.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Friday, June 10, 2016

He Will Come to Us Like the Rain

My heart has been so heavy lately--
heavy with sadness and anxious for my children's future.
Pondering and contemplating.
And there is just a weight on my shoulders.
I walked out of the house this evening with some errands to do,
and my six ducklings tagging along (one of which is taller than I am now).
I went to pull the car out, and there had been a little rain.
It's so lovely how it clears the air,
and fills my senses with its cleanness.
You don't know what a luxury and a mercy water is
until you move into a desert.
But it's such a precious gift when water falls free from the sky,
and washes out the dust.

The very first rain that ever fell on this earth was judgement.
Forty days and forty nights of it.
It was unfamiliar, but well earned.

Later, with the law, came a promise:
"I will give you rain in its season,
the land shall yield its produce,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit."
(Leviticus 26:4)

And there was a promise to Israel:
"The land which you go to possess
is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come,
where you sowed your seed
and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden;
but the land which you cross over to possess
is a land of hills and valleys,
which drinks water from the rain of heaven,
a land for which the Lord your God cares;
the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it,
from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.
And it shall be
that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today,
to love the Lord your God
and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
then I will give you the rain for your land in its season,
the early rain and the latter rain,
that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.
And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock,
that you may eat and be filled.
Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived,
and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
lest the Lord's anger be aroused against you,
and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain,
and the land yield no produce,
and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you..."
(Deuteronomy 11)

"He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
like showers that water the earth."
(Psalm 72:6)

"Come, and let us return to the Lord;
for He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days, He will revive us;
on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live in His sight.
Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
like the former and latter rain to the earth."
(Hosea 6:1-3)

If you follow the rain through the Scriptures, you find two things:
the judgement of God in its destructive power;
and the mercy of God in providing it in its season.
Oh, and also famine.
Whether in giving it, or in withholding it, our eyes ought to be on Him.
We need Him to rain softly on us, to water us for fruitfulness.
We need Him to hold it back in seasons of sunlight, so we don't drown.
We recognize His judgement in flood and in famine.

I rejoice in a soft rain.
The loveliness of its smell, the coolness it brings to the dusty earth.
But I want it temperately.
I do not want a flood of judgement.
And I want enough.

So this evening, I breathed in the cleanness, and thought of Him.
But I did my errands heavily.
We looked out the windows of the store
as we brought our purchases up to pay,
and the sun was low and slanting in the sky.
The clouds were dark.
The sun broke through, and lit up the wet world
and the green trees from within.
We hurried to buckle the babies in standing in the rain.
And to get them out again at the next store.
The kids deliberated over their purchases, but finally decided,
and we prepared to run out to the car again.
But one step out of the store, and we were stopped in our tracks.
There was a brilliant double rainbow spanning the entire town.
From the set of hills south of us into the set north of us.
Glowing neon.
We stood and pointed.
It was just a soft rain, and we were mesmerized.
And I was reminded again of His judgement,
and of His covenant of mercy.

And God said: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth..." (Genesis 9)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Mind-Numbing Work of Redemption

I do the same things All The Time.
I pick up the dirty clothes, and sort them into the hampers.
I button the buttons, and turn the socks right side out.
I spray the stains, and I fill the washing machine.
I take the wet clothes out, and straighten them,
and hang them on the clothesline to dry.
I take them down, and fold them, and send them to be put away.
And then I sort them out into the hampers again.

I rinse dirty plates, and stack them,
and I fill the dishwasher with them.
I unload the clean dishes, and put them in the cupboards,
and then do it again.
Sometimes three times a day.

I nurse the baby in the middle of the night,
and I feed him again in the morning.
In the late morning.
At noontime.
In the afternoon.
In the late afternoon.
At dinner.
In the late evening, just before he goes to bed.

I change diapers.
And again.
And again.
The progress of my days
is marked by piles of used diapers,
moved bookmarks,
dirty dishes, 
and clothes that need another washing.

I told my husband, "I don't know what purpose I have right now."
A friend asked me how I am doing, and I said, "I feel dull."
And I do.
I mean, seriously,
what point is there
in washing and washing and straightening
what is never clean,
and never straightened out?
You would think I do nothing at all
if you looked at the crumbs on my floor.
Because if I vacuum three times a day,
there are still crumbs on my floor.

I have been meditating on the Proverbs 31 woman,
whose equal I am not.
And I've been thinking about how she wraps herself up in food prep,
and laundry maintenance.
And I was contemplating two questions the other morning:
What is God doing in my life?
And how do I join God in His work?

What is God doing in my life?
He's drawing me into fellowship with Himself and with others.
He's refining me.
He's making me new in Christ.
He cares for me and my concerns.
He redeems me.
He washes me.
He comforts me.
He heals me.
He plants, waters, weeds, prunes...
He fills my darkness with His light.
He's working resurrection in me.

And how do I join Him in His work?
Kissing hurts, and healing wounds.
Mending what's broken.
Washing what is dirty.
Straightening what is crooked.
Feeding the hungry.
Planting and weeding and watering.
Bleaching out the stains.
And returning what has become unusable to a state of usefulness. 

Suddenly the laundry stains are meditative.
And the dishes, endlessly worthless with grime,
are also endless reminders of the restorative work He does in me.
The children needing comfort,
and the babies needing baths --
are praiseworthy reminders of the comfort He gives,
and the washing of the Word.

The dishes and the laundry are in constant need of redemption--
as I must constantly be redeemed from the sin that soils me.
My usefulness depends on my washing.

I looked down at the pants I was wearing -- a thrift store purchase.
A cast-off redeemed.
I put the same things back in their places every single day.
I bring order out of chaos.
And while I work in the kitchen, the toddler is trashing the living room.
And the shoes are scattered out of their baskets in the laundry room.
And it isn't going to end.
But as they mature (and we have other areas in disarray to set right),
they'll lend their hands to the work.

The material matters.
These mind-numbing, repetitive tasks that I do again and again
are the very same tasks He has set for Himself in me.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How To Sustain

Sunday morning, February 28,
I was in the Word
and had my attention drawn to two passages of Scripture.
The first is Proverbs 15:4:
"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: 
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."
A wholesome tongue.
A healing tongue.
Another version called it a gentle tongue.

So, I was praying about that.
Thinking about what James says about our tongues.
A very world of iniquity.
And that the man who has control over that is a perfect man.
I prayed for forgiveness and transformation.
Because I have not achieved such perfection.
And sometimes, the words escape me.

I want to heal with my words. 
To restore and redeem. 
To reconcile. 
To build up.
To bless You and Your people. 

Then the Lord brought my attention to Isaiah 50:4:
"The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, 
that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary."
Ah, Lord-- give me the tongue of those who are taught.
I want to know how to sustain the weary with a word. 

I read through these with my children, and we prayed together about them, too.

Sunday afternoon my brother went to the ER
because a pharmacist told him to when he saw his swollen elbow.
Tuesday afternoon, he went in for exploratory surgery
because of an infection that was not responding to antibiotics, and kept growing.
In surgery, he finally got a diagnosis: necrotizing fasciitis.
Maybe you never heard of it.
You probably don't want to.
I actually already knew what it was
because we have a family friend
whose life God miraculously spared from it in the 1990s.

A number of us skipped dinner for intercession,
(my oldest three children joined in that decision).
I did not sleep much.
My brother's ambulance was arriving at his third hospital very late,
and I wanted as much news as I could get.
And I was praying.

Once he was in surgery again,
and I knew the news would be awhile in coming, I grew so tired.
I fell asleep on my phone.
When I woke up, in the wee hours of the morning,
I looked at my phone and saw a little conversation, but still no news.
I prayed again, and found myself thanking God
for my brother, my family, my parents and my husband,
my very dear brothers and sisters in Christ
who were awake praying over my baby brother,
doctors and nurses who care and strain themselves doing it.

My sister said a little while later that she had fallen asleep
feeling guilty that she was so tired she couldn't stay awake.
So tired.
But here's the thing, and what really has been balm:
While we were collapsing exhausted,
the Lord was waking up people who love Him to intercede.
I've heard from at least fifteen people
(and I do not doubt there are more)
who were awakened to pray in the night.
And I think of Moses standing with his arms lifted but weary,
and friends who care coming in to support.
And I am overwhelmed with gratitude
at God's handiwork in uniting a family that is not family.
I am so thankful for the family He placed me in,
that transcends states and nations, that crosses over time zones.
When one member suffers, we all suffer.
Bless the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits.

And yesterday, as I was pondering the whole thing,
and thinking how like to flesh eating bacteria
the growing evil in our nation and world is,
and how we need to be directed to the care of a doctor,
to have the condition recognized for what it is,
to be scrubbed clean of it,
and to be prayed over,
but we are too tired and weak to intercede alone --
the words came back from Sunday morning again.

A wholesome tongue.
A healing tongue.
The tongue of those who are taught.
That I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Because we are weary.
My brother's body is weary.
And prayer and the Word sustain.

And perhaps God will have mercy on our nation if we call out to Him.
Those who are taught intercede.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Quiet Time

It's that magical time in the morning*
when the sleeping baby begins to grunt
and snort
and squawk
and scream.
When a mother tries to pray,
and all the children outside her bedroom door quote movie lines.
When she opens her Bible
and hears a loud crash, and someone cries out in agony.
When the sound of small feet running slams into her bedroom door,
knocking it open,
and a smiling toddler appears saying,
"Me watch Baby Beluga?!"
When, even though she is trying to read in Genesis,
her mind sticks on this:
There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. 
(You think?)
The unmarried woman is anxious for the things of the Lord, 
that she may be holy, both in body and in spirit: 
but she that is married, is anxious for the things of the world...
Talk about serving the Lord with distraction. 
Foiled again.
I guess I'll take a shower.

*Morning, to most people, signifies the early part of the day. Here, please take it to mean any point within the twenty-four hour span of a day in which a moment of silence might tempt a woman to try again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cream of Sausage-Sauerkraut Soup

When you make bratwurst cooked with sauerkraut,
and serve it with baked or roasted potatoes,
the leftovers are the perfect beginning to soup the next day.

Heat butter in a pan.
Saute onions in it, if you want to.
Add chopped kale or spinach if you have it.
I made it today without either onions, kale, or spinach,
but they really do improve it.
When they are softened,
add chopped sausage (Polish works fine, too),
and all the sauerkraut,
and cook a little before adding a couple of tablespoons of flour.
Stir well, and add a little chicken broth and your chopped leftover potatoes.
Heat to very hot,
then temper cream or milk with it before adding all of it back to your pan.
Stirring often, cook until thick and bubbly.
Even my soup-hater asks for seconds.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Make Her Beautiful

We listen to a song often that was done by Hillary and Kate.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

It's such a lovely song, with such a simple truth.
And I think of the scripture that tells husbands
to love their wives as Christ loved the church:
how He gave Himself for her,
sanctifies her, 
and washes her with the water of the Word.
The church does not come perfect to the Savior's arms.

Sometimes I read Christian marriage advice and it's so cardboard.
I get especially annoyed by the advice to wives
that tells them how to be perfect.
To get perfect hair and exercise more and wear lipstick.

I'm a tomboy at heart, and not a trophy.
And I have never wanted to be a glossy beauty.
I wanted to be loved.
I wanted to be wanted.
But not wanted because I looked like someone else's idol.

When I met my husband, I was going out of my way to not be glossy.
Imagine this beauty, (which was a regular ensemble):
overall shorts and a t-shirt,
a braid pulled through a baseball cap pulled down low,
and thick socks with work boots.
I had some assets I could play up,
but I wasn't exactly in the frame of mind to catch anyone.
In fact, I was tired of being noticed physically.
It felt more like an insult than a compliment to be thought pretty. 

The first time I met him, I wasn't quite so off-putting in my dress
as described above.
I was wearing a hippy skirt with the work boots.
I guess in a small way, the skirt said 'feminine'.
We were praying in a group for a mutual friend
who was suffering from LSD flashbacks.
He openly stared at me through the prayer.
He didn't look away when I looked at him.

One day, a couple of weeks later,
I got off duty in the kitchen
when everyone else had eaten their dinner already,
and he sat down with me while I ate my dinner.
He asked me what I was going to do that evening.
"I thought I'd go up to the cafe and read poetry," I said. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I'd go up to the cafe and read poetry," he answered.
It was just plain -- I'm going to hang around you and be with you.
No pretending to run into me.
No begging to join me.

My husband makes me feel beautiful.
I am 32 and a half weeks pregnant.
I'm big.
And I'm older and tired.
My skin is drying out, and my lips have faded.
My hands are getting kind of papery.
My hair is frizzier than it used to be.
But he treats me like I'm beautiful.
It's my sixth child I am pregnant with.
He doesn't say things like,
"Have you thought about maybe getting a gym membership 
and getting back what you once had?"
Or, "Maybe you could get laser treatment 
for some of those scars that are marking you up now."
I cannot imagine that he does not see these flaws.
They are glaring realities to me.
But he doesn't seem to see these flaws --
even though he packed the wounds that left them for me.

I think I'd even rather have the scars that mar me
just to see how he looks at me like I am beautiful anyway.
The reality is that I am not more beautiful than I was
in my young, strong, healthy, unmarred body.
But weirdly, I feel more beautiful to him now than I did then.
I'm more confident in his love than I was.
I don't feel like I have to hide from his eyes,
in order to maintain the illusion of perfection.
If, in his eyes I am perfect, I will accept his verdict.
And where perfection was lacking,
he helped bring it about with his own hands.
Not the perfection of an airbrushed photo,
but the perfection of healed flesh and whole skin.
Of function where there was brokenness.
When I first saw the damage, I cried.
I couldn't look until it was nearly done healing, and I still cried.
But he saw it in every stage, and he never recoiled.
He didn't cry, and he didn't criticize, and he didn't complain.
He changed bandages twice a day.
And he did the dishes while I laid there.

if you want to be married to a beautiful woman,
let your love make her beautiful.
Don't compare her to the unflawed women you see.
The ones who haven't borne your children in their bodies.
Don't shame her for the thing that she is.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Mouse Is Responsible

I came across a news item that began thus:
"A mouse is responsible for triggering a stampede in a mosque 
in the Moroccan city of Casablanca 
which left more than 80 people injured, officials say."
It went on to say, "Worshippers were reported to have fainted 
after a mouse crossed over a woman's foot while she was praying, 
causing her to rush outside and creating panic among worshippers."

We had a mouse problem in a former house.
They had grown bold, and ran right across the living room while we were in it.
One night, my husband was sitting on the floor, and a mouse ran past him.
Without thought, his hand flew at it, and it was knocked out.
In fact, it might have died instantly.
He picked it up by the tail and flushed it down the toilet.
A mouse is a slappable fear.
A flushable fear -- until we let it stampede us.
Because our stampeding can crush real lives.
The stampede was what injured the crowd.
Have you ever been stampeded by a mouse?

I fight fear.
Crippling fear, at times.
Gut-wrenching, knee-shaking fear.
Stampeding fear.
One way I fight it is to let it knock me down,
and then I pray there.
I try swallowing it, sometimes, but it comes back up.
I feel my heart swell and pound,
and my resolve turn to Jello.
And my thoughts race to a bunker filled with organic canned goods
and solar-powered electronics
and books
and gold pieces
and plenty of yarn to knit.
But then what?
I don't want to live in the bunker.
So I drop down again on the weak knees, and let myself say it all there.
All the fears,
and the griefs for things that are someone else's reality that I can't fix.
The distress over world affairs that are so wrong.
They're so, so wrong.
They are sickeningly, damningly wrong.
And the good guys are only half as guilty...

Back to my knees.
Lord, You had mercy on the children in Nineveh.
You were willing to rescue Lot's daughters from Sodom. 
There is no hope in us... but YOU are merciful. 

Peter said things to women that jump out at me and run through my mind:
"...your pure behaviour in fear
whose adorning--let it not be that which is outward, 
of plaiting of hair, 
and of putting around of things of gold
or of putting on of garments, 
but--the hidden man of the heart
in the incorruptible thing of the meek and quiet spirit
which is, before God, of great price
for thus once also the holy women who did hope on God
were adorning themselves, being subject to their own husbands, 
as Sarah was obedient to Abraham, 
calling him `sir,' of whom ye did become daughters, doing good
and not fearing any terror."

He mentions faultless behavior in fear,
but then says not fearing any terror.
Not put to flight by fear.
Perhaps a faultless response to fear 
is not to surround ourselves with gold and garments,
but to stock up on meekness and a quiet spirit.
That's rich currency with God.
Holy women hope on Him.
They dress themselves in obedience.
They do good in the very face of the fear.
And they are not stampeded.

Friday, June 12, 2015

It Isn't All My Life

Sometimes you ask me how I am, and I demur.
Maybe someone just called my husband in crying distress and needing prayer,
and it's broken our hearts that the same people
who have borne up under so much pain are hurting again.
Why do some people
seem to get so much more than their fair share of grief and heartache?
Shouldn't there be a rule
that you only have to deal with one death every ten or twenty years or so?
They're on my heart, and you want to know how I am,
and I'm fine.
Really, I am.
And how is that fair?
And I can't talk about how they're hurting, because it's their private grief.
And although they shared it with us, it isn't ours to share.

And just a day or two later,
someone confides a soaring joy that makes us laugh out loud --
and tells us we can't breathe a word of it.
Even though it's a fulfilled promise of God.
And we nod, and try to tamp down the smiles a little,
so as not to let on that we know.
And it's such a privilege to be allowed into both --
the sorrow and the rejoicing.
But, man -- how to respond to your question?
How am I?
I'm elated!
I'm heartbroken.
I can't tell you about either.

And so I tell you something mundane from my life.
And maybe you think I'm withdrawn.
Or I'm hiding something.
Or that I don't want to be friends.
And I want to be friends.
I want to share my life --
but it isn't all my life.

And even sometimes when it's my own hurt I don't speak of,
it's because maybe someone has acted badly.
They've done something mean,
and I'm trying to respond the way I ought to.
I don't post their dirty laundry on my Facebook status,
and gather all my friends to my side to condemn them.
Because do you know my hope?
I hope they come to their senses.
I hope they recognize the error someday.
And how will they ever be able to do that
if everyone they know thinks they are the devil's own apprentice?

A friend told me a story about a pastor he knew
who had been really wronged by people who knew him.
He'd been slandered and they had drawn others away and separated themselves.
The pastor had been really upset privately in my friend's presence --
and rightly so, frankly.
He's a human being with natural emotions.
The pastor had said he'd be happy if he never saw ______ again.
A few years went by.
The person he'd said that about realized he'd been misled.
He'd misjudged the whole thing.
He came back repentant and asked to be forgiven.
A few more years went by.
A new area needed a church pastor.
The pastor laid hands on and sent out that same guy who had come back.
Our friend was a private witness to both.
And I smiled to hear about restored fellowship with more depth --
the depth of repentance and forgiveness.
A reality of Christian fellowship.
Sometimes when we're hurt,
we have to choose the end game.
Hope for reconciliation, because we are family, screw-ups and all.

In the same way that you will never have a healthy marriage
if you go tattling about every failure your spouse has to your family of origin;
how will you live love for the church
if you can't swallow a few hurts and hope for the best?
Sometimes our love points out an error,
and sometimes it shuts its mouth and prays,
and accepts a painful slight.
Paul rebuked Christians for going to court against each other.
"Why not rather be wronged?" he asked them,
"Why not rather be defrauded?"
Better to be a victim in this case, than a plaintiff.

And how are you doing?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

If You've Wondered

The toddler has been flipping out for days.
Arching her back.
Banging her head on the floor.
"What does your shirt say?" Talia asks her, in a pleasant voice,
in an attempt to distract her from yet another fit.
"IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!" she screams back at her.
She tries to hang on the open secretary desk.
"No, no," I say gently. "You can't hang on that. It will hurt you."
She melts down, slapping my leg and weeping,
and then attempts to climb me.

Her third tooth is in,
birthed through another sleepless night of thrashing and much Orajel.
She still has her charmingly sociable personality,
only it's been joined by an alter ego that is furious and mean.
She runs like a whirlwind through the house,
climbing things that scare me, and undoing all order.
She tries to climb the bookshelf.
She's taken down, and flings herself angrily at the ground.
When I try to read out loud, as our homeschooling lifestyle demands,
she yells through the whole experience.

She does not want her hair combed.
She does not want her diaper changed.
She does not want her nose wiped or her face washed.
She wants to eat, and rejects all offered food.
She spent several days in a war between her mouth,
which didn't want to put anything in it,
and her tummy, which cried for hunger.
She would only eat enough to take the edge off,
and then would be crying again shortly because it wasn't enough.

Nap times are respites.
Except we are reading through most of them lately,
since she interrupts so much of it earlier.
Why am I writing this?
Because maybe you wondered where I am.
Why I write so little lately.

I am tired.
We've had company,
and while I know they are people who love us, and aren't expecting the Hilton,
it seems reasonable to me that sheets be washed and basic cleaning be done.
And I can't keep up.
We are pressing on to finish school,
because that is one of our very top priorities in life.
And we are doing the dishes and feeding people.
And we are trying to keep from drowning in laundry.
And please don't even talk to me about my children's bedrooms.
Just shut the door.

As if drowning in dirty laundry wasn't bad enough,
WHY are the clean clothes being put back into the laundry again?
Please explain how the hampers in your bedrooms, 
the three hamper sorter in the hall outside your bedrooms, 
AND the large basket hamper in your bathroom just off the hall 

Life operates in seasons, and this is one of exhaustion.
When I have a few minutes, I mostly stare at a wall.
I miss writing more often.
I miss not stepping on toys and discarded food.
I miss time to think.
I miss reading books of my own choosing while not falling asleep.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Shameless Plug

So, I use Sonlight curriculum to homeschool my kids.
For the most part, we love it.
It's been a good fit for our family.
We've used it since 2007, I think.

I was kind of excited this year
to get an email from them
inviting me to register to win a year of free curriculum.
The thing is, I am only eligible to win
if friends also go and register through my link.
I do not mind sharing my love for Sonlight with my friends,
since I have a genuine appreciation for their products.
This one is exciting, because it's free curriculum!
Whoever wins, will win a year for the first mom and the referred friend.
If you are even slightly interested in that,
would you go sign up through this link?
I think after you do, they'll give you a link you can share, too.
Sonlight's Mom to Mom Curriculum Giveaway

Sunday, May 10, 2015

To Be Their Mom

I scroll down through my Facebook feed, and I see so many mothers.
Sporty mothers cheering on young athletes.
Baking mothers who make my mouth water.
The ones who stay home
long after other mothers have taken up the soccer and ballet rounds
because they have one with special needs.
Moms with the beginning of a clan,
and some with just one little chick.
I see moms
who traveled to China and Guatemala and Ethiopia
to gather up their babies.
I know two who had children they weren't looking for handed to them.
I see my friends with empty arms, whose babies are not with them.
They had to lay them down to rest long before they wanted to.

There are busy ones, who race from one activity to the next.
Bookworm moms, who inhabit the couches with their kids and a good book.
Tatooed and pierced,
in overalls,
or dressed like tea party ladies,
we all have this in common:
We've opened our lives to our children.

Becoming a mother is to become vulnerable.
We don't know what we will end up with.
Whether it's carrying a burden for many long years,
as we work to lift children who can't carry themselves;
or bearing the grief of a loss too strong for words.
Will it be joy?
Yes, it will. Some joy.
Will it be struggle?
Yes, it will. And with the same child who brought the joy.
There will be years of chaos,
even if it's only Cheerios scattered over the entire house.
There will be messy faces and messy bodies.
There will be tears, and not just from the children.
Their pain is going to hurt you.

The kids are going to fail.
And you are going to fail your kids.
And if you do it right, there will be apologies and forgivenesses.
And they'll learn that love means hope for future good.
That love covers a multitude of sin,
and grace allows us to begin again.

And you don't have to be a cookie-cutter mom to be their Mom.
Each one of us is uniquely made,
and uniquely challenged with this sanctified relationship.
Our children don't match.
Our lives don't match.
But we are one in Christ,
and the goal is to hear, "Well, done, you good and faithful servant."
I can't help but think about Jesus's conversation with Peter
where Peter asked about John, "What about him?"
And Jesus replied to him, "What is it to you...? You follow Me."

Never mind the other mamas.
Each of us has our own race to run.
But follow Him where He leads you.
It's your own Master you have to answer to.
And He is able to make you stand.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Suffer Little Children

Maybe you have heard that prayer:
'Lord, I give You my life.
You have my permission to interrupt it any way You please.'

And the interruption comes,
and it really throws a monkey wrench into your plans,
and other people's plans for you are messed up, too.
Because it's a crying interruption, with a runny nose,
and it needs a nap every day at consistent times to be happy and functional.
And it reminds you that God's priorities aren't the same as everyone else's.

And those interrupting children are God's children.
And sending them away so Jesus can do His important work in adults
is something He'd rebuke you for.
They are the kingdom.
Jesus the King of Little Children?
Squirmy children with sticky hands?
Hungry children with their hands out?
Tantrumy children who get underfoot?

"At the same time came the disciples to Jesus, saying, 
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 
And Jesus called a little child to Him, and set him in the midst of them, 
And said, Verily I say to you, 
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, 
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 
Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, 
the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoever shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me." 

~Matthew 18:1-5

The disciples obviously blew off His answer to their question,
because in the very next chapter it says,
"Then were brought to Him little children, 
that He should put his hands on them, and pray: 
and the disciples rebuked them. 
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, 
and forbid them not to come to Me
for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
And He laid His hands on them..."
Matthew 19:13-15

Who is the greatest?
He called a child.
And that kid came when He called him.
He didn't say, "I'll have to get back to you on that, Jesus,
after I've checked my schedule."
With no pride and no agenda,
he came over and stood there as an object lesson.
And the disciples looked on and dismissed his importance.
Jesus was doing His divine work in the proximity of children.
Close enough to call them over.
They were familiar enough with Him that they came if He called.

In Mark, when this story is told,
it says Jesus was very displeased
when He saw the disciples rebuking them.
He was grieved, and He ached.
He wanted them near Him.
Receiving a child in His name is receiving Him.
They are something to 'suffer' at times.
Demanding and exhausting.

We have limited resources of time and energy,
and they suck up more of it than we have.
We'd rather put the time into things that show.
Yesterday, I vacuumed the whole downstairs of my house.
By evening, the floor was scattered with Cheerios
that Lydia had dropped in every room,
some of them after chewing a little first.
I folded napkins that she threw on the floor,
and then 'helped' me pick up again.
It's a perpetual cycle of unending work.
Jesus said to suffer them.

And so, we prepare to welcome another.
Yes, Lord, You can interrupt our lives.
Change our world.
Slow our steps.

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Because it's a crying interruption, with a runny nose,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Even Our Confusion

I love to hear stories of God's faithfulness to help an asker.
My husband visited with an older couple recently
and brought me home some stories.
These people were home because of some adversity,
but what they wanted to talk about
was how God had answered their prayers.
Such a refreshing difference from negative reports and complaints.

Years before, the wife was in need of employment.
She saw a 'help wanted' ad in the paper,
and got the confused notion that the business
was right across the street from her house.
So she dressed up, put her resume together,
and walked over to apply for the job.
She gave her resume to the front desk person,
who told her they would keep it on file.
Of course they would, she thought -- they had advertised for help.
And she went home.

She and her husband got down on their knees
and asked the Lord to give her the job she had applied for.
And before they were finished praying, the phone rang.
"We've been looking for someone with your qualifications,"
the woman told her.
And so the Lord gave her a job that hadn't been advertised.

I love how the Lord can use even our confusion and misunderstanding
to direct us into His will.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

That Had Seen The First House

I read this morning from Ezra 3 with my children.

And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, 
they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, 
and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, 
to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.  
And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks to the LORD; 
because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever towards Israel. 
And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, 
because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 

But many of the priests and Levites 
and chief of the fathers, old men, that had seen the first house, 
when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, 
wept with a loud voice; 
and many shouted aloud for joy: 
So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of the joy 
from the noise of the weeping of the people: 
for the people shouted with a loud shout, 
and the noise was heard afar off.
~Ezra 3:10-13

It's a curious thing, the human heart.
In Ezra 1:1, I learn that this endeavor was prophesied by Jeremiah,
stirred up by the Lord's work in a heathen king's heart,
entirely directed by and according to the will of God;
blessed and commissioned --
and yet grieved over by some of God's people.

It looked like nothing to them,
because they had hearts wedded to loss, captured by the past.
To many, God's work was a joyful affirmation of His help.
They looked forward with praise and thanksgiving.
But to some, this new thing was just a record of their losses.
They howled in misery.

It strikes me how differently the two groups respond
to the very same work of God.
It's easy to do, when you suffer a loss,
to treat every new gift like a curse.
To reject it all as worthless because it isn't what it was.
Or it isn't what you had wished.
But that doesn't mean it isn't God's will.
And it doesn't mean He won't bless it, or fellowship with You through it.

And it reminds me that if I want to grow,
if I want to be mature,
I'm going to have to forget the things that are behind,
and press on, reaching forward to the things that are ahead,
reaching for the goal of God's upward call in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Someone Else's Baby

The dream was disturbing.
There I was, in beautiful fellowship with my husband,
enjoying God's creation by the sea.
Something separated us.
Wolves came in, and tore my baby out of my arms,
biting into her, and flinging her off the pier I was on
to the rocks and water below.
The wolves chased me, trying to bite me, too.
I couldn't get to my baby.
They were stronger than me, faster than me,
and used the very beauty of the place I was in
to the destruction of my child.
My husband returned, the wolves fled, and he held the baby in his arms.
I woke up to the sound of her screaming.

Today I read, "Beware of dogs.
Beware of evil workers. Beware of the mutilation."
And I remember Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders
about the wolves who would come,
the false prophets who would come out of their own midst,
not sparing the flock, and drawing away disciples with perverse teachings.
Then he commended them to the word of His grace,
which is able to build them up
and give them an inheritance among the sanctified.

And I thought about Jesus' words in Matthew 7,
about the hypocrisy of trying to judge and cleanse a brother
while in a state of crippling blindness and under judgment.
And the application of the law has never removed a plank from my eye,
nor can it remove the speck from my brother's.

And all they did couldn't bring them into the kingdom.
Not prophecy.
Not exorcisms.
Not mighty works.
Jesus said you would know the tree by its fruit,
and all the fruit of human effort is rotten.
But the fruit that comes of connection with Him is holy.
"I never knew you," was the judgment.
The fruit was illegitimate.
Someone else's baby.
Because the law cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit.
And what is holy is not for the dogs.

The holy fruit, the precious treasure, is for the askers.
It isn't the work of the doers.
It isn't for the dogs, but for the sons.
Not for proximity to holiness, but relation to it.
A good gift from a good Father.
Sustenance offered to a child.
Not an attainment of the flesh.

There is a big wide gate that lots of people walk through,
and it leads to a road of human achievement.
And it is the way of destruction.
But Life is down the narrow road. 
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
No man comes to the Father but by Me."
"I never knew you," was the judgment.
He called them workers of iniquity.

Paul traded his vast resume for one thing and one thing only:
the blood of Christ.
The connection.
The relation that bears fruit.
He traded his circumcision, his law-abiding status,
his zealous pursuit of Biblical theology,
his heritage, his family tree,
his prestigious education,
his religious superiority --
all of it --
for the knowledge of Him.
Because the one left him working iniquity.
All the works of righteousness achieved through the law
are a damning record of the unrighteousness of the doer.
They are hypocritical.
They are clean words from unclean lips.
They are coming to the marriage bed pregnant with someone else's child.

And the teaching of the works of the law as the means to grace
is the perversion of the gospel.
There's no inheritance there.
It's unclean. It is destructive, evil work. And it mutilates our souls.
It does not spare the flock of God.
It tears it up.
It is the result of separation from Christ.
It casts the fruit of union with Him on the rocks.
And it chases down the Bride to destroy her, too.

And it is the word of His grace that is able to build us up,
and give us an inheritance with the sanctified.
Are you worried about sanctification?
It is ours through His grace.
The inheritance of the holy is only born of His holiness.
And all our efforts are wood, hay and stubble apart from union with Him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stars and Sand and Every Hair

Grains of sand and all our hairs.
A friend posted a link to a photograph NASA released
that focused in on one quarter of the Andromeda Galaxy,
which is a very small section of the visible universe to us, here on earth.
It is 2.5 million light years away, and the sharpest photo NASA has.
100 million stars individually recognizable in it.
My son and I watched the video that spanned the photograph.
It took a video to look over the image, because it is a huge image.
Part of the galaxy was so densely starred
that it appeared more light than dark.
"It looks like sand!" my son exclaimed.

"That's an interesting comment," I said,
"because stars and sand
are what God promised Abraham's descendants would be like."

The stars.
Whenever I felt troubled as a teenager,
I would go out in the dark and look up.
So vast.
It reminded me of how vast God's knowledge and His power are.
How the choreography of the heavens is His handiwork.
How His mind comprehends all these things I cannot fathom.
The heavens declare the glory of God.
He sees the big picture.
Bigger than we have yet comprehended.

Ah, but the sand...
From the vastness of the heavens to the grains of the earth.
Details I'm too big and important to take notice of.
I walk on it.
But I don't get close enough to count it.
The sand touches me, but I don't know it.
Not like that.
I've seen so little of it.
Those things that are so out of my reach,
and the ones that are so easily touchable,
are both unknowable to me,
and intimately known to Him.

Surely if human beings can zoom in
on a galaxy 2.5 million light years away
and recognize individual stars clustered like sand,
He can see me.
I'm a lot bigger than a grain of sand, and He has counted them.

"You comprehend my path and my lying down, 
and are acquainted with all my ways."
I am not even acquainted with all my ways.
I have talked in my sleep and not known it, but according to Psalm 139,
"There is not a word on my tongue, 
but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether."
The sum of His thoughts toward me is more in number than the sand.

"The hairs of your head are all numbered," Jesus said.
"Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul."
Do you need that reminder?
I often do.
Why not fear death?
Because He is Life.
Because He was raised from the dead.
Because connection with Him will raise us, too.
And those who serve and worship darkness and death
cannot snuff out Light and Life,
no matter how many they put to sleep for a little while.
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