Thursday, December 22, 2016

Splatter of Grace {Remembering 2016}

I wrote considerably less in 2016, but I'm not ready to give up the old blog just yet.  It is a place for me to force myself to remember who God was to me each year.  Much of what He said this year was for my heart only (on pages and pages of countless journals.) I cherish a God who wants intimacy with each one of us. I still love writing and I love that it can morph into something different from year to year.  2016 was hard in many ways.  Maybe you, too?  This is my splattering of grace amidst the confusion and hardship.  Perhaps some of these words will meet you where you are.  I hope you know how much I treasure you, dear reader.  My blog isn't fancy.  I'm not well known.  I am perfectly content with that. I hope it is simply a place where you can see Jesus a little more clearly.  I pray blessings over you in 2017, that Jesus would meet you where you are and breathe for you when all air escapes. I pray He is your joy and delight and daily bread and shoulder to cry on and chest to beat against. I pray He is your all.

Some things I hope will stay with me forever...


Surrender to the Brushstrokes

Remembering Kiley Elisabeth

Beavers, Motherhood, and the Art of Building Dams

I am Gentile

Daniel:  How to live as Yahweh's People in an anti-Yahweh World

Ruin (for the Glory of God)

Marriage in the Wilderness

The Mess (A Christmas Post)

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Mess {A Christmas Post}

I had looked forward to yesterday for weeks and weeks.  My mother in law offered to keep Asher while I shopped for the last of my Christmas list.  I treated myself big by hiring my house to be cleaned.  This is a luxury item, and I wanted the feeling of just once, to have a completely clean house.  I felt pampered when I walked in, spoiled even. I sat and sipped hot Tazo Refresh tea, binging on Hallmark Christmas movies.  A house with four boys doesn't stay clean for long, so I was going to live it up for an evening.

Enter 3 am.  Asher, the toddler, who has never thrown up in his entire life, decided to make his vomiting debut.  Since he was bewildered at what was happening, the vomit was everywhere except the toilet.  His bed.  His favorite blankets.  His floor.  The living room floor as he made his way to find me.  And on and on.  His trail of what the chunk is that? became my trail of tears.

I just wanted a pristinely clean home for our family.  For more than a few hours...

I'm reminded this Christmas season over and over of this:  we don't just dwell in messes, we are the mess.  As me and my friend joke, "Man it's hard to be us!"  I think of those trying to move forward in grief, wondering how to celebrate without a father, without a husband.  I think of those struggling with infertility, wanting nothing more than to simply hold the image of God, wrapped against their chests.  I think of those in such excruciating pain that they beg the Almighty to take them home, their words seeming to fall on deaf ears. I think of cancer free people who find new spots, their reprieve from the waiting and praying and medicating lasting mere moments in the grand scheme and story. 

The pain is real.  The mess is real.

I stepped right in it.  You would think after sixteen years of vomit-fest nights, I would have learned to flip a switch before I go traipsing through the house.  But, no, the wet chunks squeezed between my toes, reminding me that I never really will have my act together. In a lot of ways, I always will be a mess.  You might as well engrave it on my gravestone, She was a grace covered mess.

In my mind, I see that God-fleshed baby swaddled in a manger. Growing up with livestock, I know the feeding trough is layered with leftover grain, matted up with saliva and stuck to the sides like glue.  I smell the cattle, donkeys, and sheep, and see the manure caked up on their backsides. The blood and afterbirth soaked the ground, and I wonder if Joseph had anything available to clean Mary up with.  Sometimes we glorify the nativity to such an extent that we overlook just how messy it must have been. 

He was birthed right into our mess. That is Christmas.  We, humanity, are a hopeless and sinful people who can't get out of our messes on our own...goodness, we can't even pay others to get us out of our messes.

We can invite Jesus into the mess called our lives.  He will graciously redeem, but, I can't promise He will always clean up every little thing, at least not while we dwell here on earth.  Sometimes, He is glorified in the mess, the daily allotment of grace to dwell there, to see God there.  Will we choose to see God in the mess this Christmas season?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Among the Thirsty

I wasn't just thirsty, I was bone-dry, arid, and dried up.  My sister had died and I was in such shock that my loving Heavenly Father let it happen.  A million and one ways He could have intervened.  But, He didn't.  It took years of wrestling with Him--trying to let His sovereignty rest on me like a warm blanket instead of rough me up like the coarsest of sandpaper.

He was good to me those days.  Still is.  He was patient.  Still is.  He's a good Father.

Parched, I locked onto a Christian band who called themselves, "Among the Thirsty."  A certain song daily came on the radio, it's words carrying me one step further in the direction of grace and out of the enslaving muck and mire.  The song "I'd Need a Savior" would play and I would sob, knowing that I would need a Savior to get out of the all-consuming grief that had attached itself like a leach.

I found out today that the band is dissolving.

My parents have more than likely sold their home.  After Christmas, they will say goodbye.  They have lived there almost a decade.  I have no childhood memories housed there and I shouldn't care, but in a sense, this home is sacred.  This is the location where my sister breathed her last, where faith became eyes, where Glory was beheld. It is a home that embraced all who would mourn after her death.  This is a home that is definitely set apart from the rest.

But, it is sold and will fade into the distance, carrying the secrets of my sister's last thoughts with it.

Perhaps the hardest part of grief is that it never really dies.  It cycles around, year after year, morphing into new ache, different ache.  There is grace for each cycle, I have no doubt.  The immediate shock and horror was at times overwhelming, but this new cycle cuts as well:  when all that reminded you of your loved one, for good or bad, seems to die as well.  You just want something tangible to remain to point you to who that person was. But, nothing lasts forever.  Mist and dirt, it all leaves just as easily as it came. 

Except, perhaps for eternity.  Eternity has already been set in our hearts.  There is hope for something new, and one day, we will realize the old never really left, after all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Marriage in the Wilderness

"And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."  Deuteronomy 8:2
Not exactly a verse on marriage, but today, that's where I landed as I was pondering marriage.  A friend asked me to write on the common seven year slump in marriage and to be honest, I don't feel qualified.  The news alert is that you can be married for 18 years and still get in slumps.  If I've learned anything, it's that you have good years and bad years in marriage.  You plod along, knowing that while remaining faithful in a bad year, a good year is most likely right around the corner.
The whole marriage thing takes two unique, God-image-bearing-independents and miraculously makes them one.  God, in His goodness, combines the two to show off a clearer picture of who He is.  He is both strength and beauty.  Warrior and lover.  Adventurer and safe harbor.  Justice and grace.  Thwarter and peace giver.
Being one is mysterious and profound and beautiful...and sometimes frustrating and sigh producing.  Because here's the deal:  if you are one with your husband, and he heads into a spiritual wilderness, you better pack your bags, because you are going with him...and the stay might be longer than you could have ever imagined.
So many things have driven Eric and I into wilderness experiences through our eighteen years of marriage.  Some of the time, we entered hand in hand, like after losing our baby.  Other times, like through the loss of various family members, depression, pride, health issues, work frustrations, running from God, and anxiety, we have run headlong into the barren land, barely leaving our spouse time to pack his/her bags and recognize the season that is about to unfold.
Sometimes, God allows us to enter the wilderness just to know what's in our hearts.  He wants our faith steeled; He wants evidence of obedience, not just lip service. 
Most of the time, when our spouse heads to the wilderness, we really don't want to go.  Who on earth wants to be thrown into a pit?  I think it's here where God whispers that this is one place where we can be faithful to Him, by standing right beside our husband as he wrestles with the hard stuff---as he wrestles with God Himself. Wasn't it Jacob that wrestled with God in a place called Peniel?  Peniel means the face of God.  We know the wrestling allows us to see God's we stand by our spouse faithfully, and pray eyes are opened to behold Him.
So, if your husband is in the wilderness, go dwell there alongside of him.  Love him well and surrender him over to God.  Let loose of your expectations of him.  Pray God is tender and that He will reveal Himself in a fresh way.  Surrender any preconceived notions of how long the experience will last, knowing full well, it could be years.
During this time, your well will run dry.  You are in the desert, after all.  Pray against attacks from the enemy.  Know that your living water is always available in the Word of God.  Spend extra time right there and ask to be content with God filling you, even if no one else is.  Look for the brief sparks of joy and praise Him a little extra in those moments.
Remember the times that your husband loved you well in your wilderness season and trust God that another "good" year of marriage is right around the bend.  And never forget that when you finally get to unpack and settle in the land of promise that you will continue to carry around the lessons learned while in the barren land.