Thursday, July 23, 2015


Trust is a tender thing. So tender that relationships find themselves irreparable when it is broken… and everyone understands. How can you go back on a thing like that? How can you put back the broken pieces so the cracks don’t show?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Proverbs makes it sound so simple. Like, “Trust God!” Oh, um, okay. But for some time, I felt like God broke our trust. I was hurt and hurt in a way I wasn’t sure could really be fixed. And while I never turned from the faith, while I never really even spoke that out loud, I held this small place in my heart captive. I didn’t want to walk away in pain; I knew I didn’t see clearly in the fog, in the confusion, and so I wasn’t sure I wanted to abandon ship. But I also didn’t want to let God have all of me because… well, I didn’t feel He’d earned it. I didn’t feel He kept up His end of all this. I trusted you, I felt myself thinking. I trusted you and you didn’t come through.

I’ve visited this before, but it bears repeating. Job has all the awfulness of life rain down on him unmercifully and when he cries out to God, he doesn’t get rationalizations. He doesn’t get explanations. He doesn’t get to see the “reason” for his suffering or the “good” that it will bring about in him or anything like that. He lashes out at God, finally unable to keep it all straight, and God says, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements -- surely you know!”

Do you see this? This is the non-answer of all non-answers. What God gives Job is not an answer to His question. What God gives Job is a new question. The right question. Instead of, “What could I have done to deserve this? Where did I go wrong? Why would you let this happen?... my question, Job’s question, should be, “Who are you, Lord?” Who are you and what are you about?

Unlike with this world, unlike with people and situations here, our trust with God cannot be broken. It isn’t possible. God Himself keeps the covenant with us. It doesn’t depend on us even a little bit. And when we feel like it has been broken? Our answer is in the Garden. Instead of hiding away, instead of locking pieces of ourselves aside, we cue from God and go looking for Him. God knew what His children had done and yet He sought them out. And while we may not understand what God is up to, while we may not see the full picture, while we may be squinting out there trying to make shapes out of blobs, when we run to God, when we search for Him and seek Him out, we will never fail to find Him. And when we find God? We have all we could ever look for.

We can hold back pieces of ourselves from each other so we are sure not to get hurt. We can hold back pieces of ourselves from God so we play it safe. We can hold back from taking bold steps because we want to be sure of ourselves or because we have stepped out before and fallen on our faces. But in all that protecting and hiding, we’re missing it. We’re missing it in those moments because when we stop protecting, stop hiding ourselves away, stop trying to save ourselves, and instead, step out trusting God, we find that the story is not what we thought it was. We find out that it is not OUR story. We find that all along, we’ve been asking the wrong questions and searching for the wrong things.

The trick, y’all, is that we are hard-wired for wrong. We come out looking the wrong way and we have to learn, be taught, how to turn and trust. There are as many wrong questions to ask and as many wrong things to chase as there are humans who have ever walked the earth. And your hangup will not be my hangup or her hangup or his. We all get our own. (Isn’t that nice?? ;) ) But for all of us, there is one right question and there is one right answer and it is all of everything forever and ever, amen.

“Who are you, Lord?” “I AM.”

[Ed. note: I'm back... or something. I don't exactly know yet. I do know that I have missed writing and I have missed this space in particular, so I'm dipping my toe back in the water and we'll see where this goes! :) Thanks for being here.]

Monday, October 20, 2014

He Is Found

I have an oddly visceral reaction to "coffee cup" Bible verses. You know the ones that everybody knows, even if they've never stepped in church, because people can't help themselves from knitting them on things and painting them on things and wearing them. I react to them the same way I do to Christian radio and Christian bookstores and inspirational messages on church signs. I feel vaguely nauseous and make my "stank face". These things aren't all bad; I've just been beaten by those Bibles and it was none too pleasant.

On Friday, I sat down to read the Bible for the first time in a month. I've been struggling lately, foggy, and while the issues I'm battling are drawing me into prayer, somewhere along the way, I left my Bible in the dust. Anyway, I opened up some brain space and took the opportunity to sit down and read. I've been reading in a One Year Bible, one of those handy ones that breaks the whole Bible down into daily readings for you to make it through the whole thing in a year. I told myself that if I skipped more than just one or two days that I would pick back up on the current date so I wouldn't feel defeated and not read at all. So I flipped to October 17th and started to read.

About a page in, what do I find but one of those tired, old verses, one that has been inscribed on more Hallmark cards than Jeremiah ever anticipated. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11 Immediately, I felt my stomach turn and I rolled my eyes so far back up into my head, I could practically see my babysitter from my childhood throwing me a disapproving glance. It's just, ugh. How annoying! (Yes, I just called the Bible annoying. Bear with me. I'm laying it all out there for you.)

"I know the plans I have for you." Well, that's great, God. I'm so super glad you have a plan. If you could, I don't know, shoot a little whisper my way about WHAT ON EARTH is going on, that'd be awesome. You know, just whenever. "Plans to prosper you and not harm you." Okay, so see, this is where the train derails further. Because, really, God? There's been a WHOLE lot of harm in this past year and a half. A whole lot of pain and medication and uprooting and harm. Physical harm, mental harm, emotional harm, spiritual harm -- it's been one giant ball of harm, and I don't see how this stupid phrase could possibly be true. "Plans to give you a hope and a future." Well, God, you have a seriously funny way of showing that.

As I stewed in my sarcasm and emotional response, I thought about how I could try to give this verse a fair shot. It is certainly no coincidence that this verse pops up on the precise day I sit down with my Bible after letting it collect dust for a month. Maybe, if instead of pulling this verse out of thin air like I'm drawing my pistol for a duel, I could read it in context. It comes after some stuff and before some other stuff, and like anything written down and especially like in the Word of the Living God, it certainly is connected to both what comes before it and what comes after it. So, okay, so let's give it a fair shot and see.

Before: Okay, so this little passage is being written to exiles, people God sent out from Jerusalem to Babylon. And here's what He says to them: "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." Jeremiah 29:5-7 Basically, God is saying, even though you are out here in this strange land and you feel separated from me, go on living your lives. Do your thing. Do your human thing, and invest in the place where you are because you will benefit from what benefits your place. Don't let go of yourself, don't let go of Me, just because things don't look like you expected they would.

And you can do this, this is possible, BECAUSE... "I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:10-11) Okay, so this is a little less annoying here because we know that these people need encouraging because they're in exile and all this stuff. BUT. But what about when after 60 years and God's still not back or whatever and things have ALL BEEN SHOT TO HELL? What about when things look 100% totally crappy? What about when there's an absence of "welfare" and a seeming abundance of "evil" and a gaping hole in what should be the "future" and put all together, that means "hope" is about as unlikely as tap-dancing unicorns? WHAT ABOUT WHEN LIFE??

And then I read after. And what came after made me cry. What came after was not at all what I expected for the after, and what came after made everything that came before make so, so, so, so, SO much more sense. Because, you see, what I realized, was that my definition of "welfare" and "future" and "hope" were totally wrong. I defined the terms totally wrong and so when I went to look for them, when I went to look for evidence of them, I couldn't find them anywhere. I couldn't see them because I didn't know what I was looking for. I was looking for physical health. I was looking for mental stability. I was looking for a thriving, pulsing, beating spiritual heart. And with all these things lacking, I logically concluded -- I have no welfare. I do not see God in this place "prospering" things. I see evil and wrong and confusion and difficulty and pain. So what comes after?

After: "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lordand I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." (Jeremiah 29:12-14) And I'm crying again. I'm sorry, but DID YOU READ THAT????? "I will be found by you." After the exile, after being sent out and separated and broken apart, when we seek for God, WE WILL FIND HIM.

I've been spinning around "looking" for God and waiting for Him to pop up like my genie. I've been taking all the troubling circumstances as signs that we're being "taught" something or "tested by fire" or something sadistic and terrible. I've been looking around to the physical things to see the spiritual meaning and I've been completely missing it. "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord." This "welfare" and "future" and "hope" that God promises in His plan, He's not dangling the promise in front of our noses to get us to just keep going one more step with Him. He's not holding our futures out in front of us like some prize that we have to run the race to earn. He's not keeping us in limbo to see how we will act or react or whether we will toe the line. HE IS THE PRIZE. He is the welfare. He is the future. He is the hope. HE IS THE PROMISE. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord... You will seek me and find me."

The "plans" God has for us are for us to find Him. To seek Him, to find Him, to be restored to Him. "I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." The plan isn't, "No bad thing will ever happen." The plan isn't, "You will always feel entirely emotionally and mentally stable." The plan isn't, "You will know exactly what is going to come tomorrow and it will be all entirely good things." The plan is... we are apart now. We are exiles. But we won't always be. And when we go seeking God, He WILL be found. It's a promise. We get God. That's the whole plan. Everything is all down the crapper, but who even cares, because WE GET GOD.

Y'all, the tears I have cried, you don't even know. This is not a life preserver to a drowning woman; this is a freaking rocket to the stars. I am an exile, trudging through a weary land, and while I sincerely hope the fog lifts, the panic subsides, the darkness is swiftly blown away, in the end, it doesn't really matter. Even in my fog and panic and darkness, God is with me. Even in my clarity and peace and joy, God is with me. Even while in exile, I can seek God and He promises He will be found and let me tell you my friend, He is found. He is found. Praise the Lord, the Lord is found.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Broken Offering

Well... it's back. The heart-pounding, the heavy chest, the surge of adrenaline for seemingly no reason. The weighty sense of doom and lack of oxygen. I've been waiting all through the last 14 months, anticipating the return, watching with nervous eyes. Of all the times in all the lives, this would be the time. This would be the life. But it's stayed at bay, I think possibly because my body knew I couldn't handle one more thing. And now that life has slowed, the crises have passed, the mountains have been scaled... now the panic comes. Now the anxiety returns. Now the attacks hit and wash over me rapid-fire.

Yes, I am seeing my doctor. Yes, I have told my people and they are both praying and reaching out, arms wide and welcoming, familiar, both with my struggles and with their own. You'd be amazed once you open your mouth to say, "This is where I am," how many people respond with, "Me too." Yes, I rest fully assured in the provision that God will provide for my family and how fiercely He will protect us. But the power of the mind? It isn't logical. The fears? They don't make sense. My triggers? The things that can send me into gasping fits? They don't add up. You can't talk yourself out of it. You can't reassure yourself through it. You just have to let it pass. You have to hold on, feel it, and let it move through you.

You might find this awkwardly personal, weird to share, to fling out into the ether for anyone to read. But this is my healing, my therapy, and I have neglected it lately. I talk it out and think it out and share it (albeit from the safety of my computer screen). But somehow that process heals me. It walks me through and teaches me and puts pieces back into place. So I'll tell you about where I am. And you have either been there and you will nod your head -- yes, yes -- or you have not and you will shake your head -- wow, gosh. But along the way, I hope you all see one thing shining very brightly in the distance: hope.

It feels like that moment when you realize you have made an incredible mistake. You have screwed up, and not just a little bit, but majorly. So majorly that you might actually lose everything. Every. Last. Thing. That sense of doom so powerful that you see no way past it, no way around it, no way to fix it. The only solution is to raise your hand and say, "Yes, I did mess every last thing up, and no, there is nothing I can do to fix it." That feeling, that sinking in the pit of your stomach -- that is what it feels like.

Or imagine you are trekking along a path in the woods, enjoying the light breezes wafting pine scent your way and the sweet songs of finches and sparrows. And you have your eyes fixed on the bend up ahead, fairly certain it is the last turn in the trail before you hit the summit. And as you come around that bend, instead of a bright open scape of mountain views, you come body-to-body with a grizzly bear. You cannot hide, and you cannot run. There he is and he has seen you. Your body smashes you with adrenaline and you know you will either fight or flee. Your heart speeds up and your stomach drops and you instantly feel sick and trapped and afraid -- that is what it feels like.

Except I haven't screwed up majorly and I haven't encountered a hungry bear on a remote trail. Instead, these feelings, these thoughts hit me while I'm, say, washing some dishes at my kitchen sink. Or sitting down to eat lunch. Or getting ready to leave for an appointment. It's not even anything specific, like being afraid of large groups or traffic or rainbows. It just hits and racks. It's chemical and hormonal and in no way based on my trust (or lack thereof) in God or my faith or how powerful or good I think He is. It is my body fighting an enemy that does not exist. And in so doing, creating a new enemy for me.

But it also creates a lot of cause of prayer and reflection. Appeals to God and appeals to others and I found myself in bed the other night thinking about being broken. And I thought to myself, Brokenness is not a barrier to the kingdom of heaven. Reassuring, I know my place before God is secure and cannot be knocked over by waves of anxiety and my inability to breathe. And I sat with that for a while. And it came to me. Brokenness is not a barrier to the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it is the only requirement.

"[Jesus] said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" (Mark 2:17) The Pharisees had wondered aloud why Jesus was hanging out with "sinful" people and this was His response to them. The added layer here is this: none of us are healthy. "No one is righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10) No a one of us in all the land or who has ever been in all the land is righteous. Not a single one. The Pharisees wonder why Jesus is hanging out with the "sick" (read: unrighteous) people when He could be hanging out with them (the healthy, righteous ones). Where they miss the mark is in not realizing that they too are sick. They've got it all together. They don't "need no doctor."

But Jesus said He came for the sick. He came for the "weary and heavy laden." He came to heal sores and stop bleeding and repair vision and make men walk. And every single time He performed a miracle like this, it was to draw attention to the power of God to heal the broken. The physical healing provided a platform to display the spiritual healing, the true reason for Jesus' ministry. And the only requirement to be healed by the Lord was to say, "Lord, I am sick." Several even had sick loved ones far away and asked the Lord to heal them and He did. Their faith was in His power to heal brokenness and their faith was well-placed.

So I raise my hand to the Lord, and I don't say, "Just hang in there with me God. I'll get this all sorted out soon." I don't say, "I know I was weak again, but next time I'll be strong." I say, "Lord, I am broken. I am broken and I cannot fix it. Have mercy on me, Lord." And not a one of us can know how the Lord will respond, whether He will chase away the fears and anxiety or whether they will accompany me until the end of my days. But I do know that the Doctor is in. I do know that my brokenness does not bar me entrance into His presence. I do know that all He requires of me is faith in Him.

And so here I am, frantic and panicked and scared and broken, but kneeling before the King. And the line that keeps ringing in my head is one I sang nearly weekly while in college and one that blew my little mind the first time I sang it and one that I will never, ever, not as long as I live, forget: "If you tarry til you're better, you will never come at all." If you wait until you get it all in line, until you get it figured out, until you feel like you are "fixed", you will never come. You will never approach the throne. You will never feel worthy to come before the King. "Not the righteous, not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call."

And so I do not let my brokenness bar me. I do not let my brokenness hold me away. I do not let my brokenness come between me and the King. Instead, I hold my brokenness out in my hands like an offering, like an offering of praise, as a way of saying, "Heal me, Healer." And when I offer it to Him, when I trust Him with it, when I lay down what would be my way and instead walk His, I find life. I find peace that stands secure. I find a hold in the storm. And I don't, not for one second, let go.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Build Your House

Soloman had to build the house of God. Not "a" house of God. Not a new church building in a town with seventeen other churches. THE house of God. The physical, material building that would hold the spirit of the living God. With men falling to their knees at the sight of an angel of the Lord, imagine the weight Solomon must have felt. With men falling dead for daring to touch the ark, even as it was falling to the ground, imagine the terror Solomon must have felt.

And so his dad encouraged him. And he says again and again, "Do not be afraid." It's hard to wrap our brains around because very little in our culture is sacred, but Solomon was being charged to provide a home for the Most Sacred of all sacred and his dad knew he needed to hear those words. So this is what David says to his son: "Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished." (1 Chronicles 28:20) He didn't say, "You can do it, son! I believe in you!" He didn't say, "Everyone will help you out. No worries!" He didn't say, "I'm sure you'll figure it out somehow. You're a smart kid." He said, "Do not fear, for God is with you, and He will build this house."

And David wasn't just throwing his confidence around, willy-nilly. He wasn't just saying happy, nice things to make his son not feel terrified at the prospect of doing one of the most important things for his people that had ever been done in the history of ever. David had a confidence in who God is that supported his faith in what God would do. "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name." (1 Chronicles 29:10-13) David could say to his son, "Do not be afraid", not because he knew he would be around to help or because he had some glimpse of the future or because he wanted to sound encouraging. He said it because he knew God. He knew the greatness and the power and the glory. He knew that whatever God said He would do, He would do. He knew God's power and His might and His reign. His faith in God was secure and He could tell his son, honestly, truthfully, "You can trust this God."

Now, God has never asked me to build a temple. He has never given me an army. He has never commanded me to war. He has never supplied me with stone tablets of His words to share with the people. But He has given me work. He has given me a husband, whom I am called to love and respect. He has given me children, whom I am called to train up in His ways. He has given me a church, a body that I am called to serve with and to serve. He has given me a community, that I am called to bless and to share the hope of Christ with.

And there is more, but even just stop there and the weight of all that responsibility can feel crushing. At the end of any given day, I mean, really, call me around 8 pm any night, and I will be the world's nastiest. I am tired. I am peopled out. I am D-O-N-E, done. I have washed dishes and wiped bottoms and given kisses and told stories and listened to stories and puzzled over money and prayed over hearts and listened to dreams and tried to care for the souls in my path. It takes it all from me, every last bit. It is not in me. It is not in me to build this house, and I simply cannot do it.

And so I wake up this morning, before the rest of my people, and I read David's words: "Do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you." And I kinda start to cry. Okay, David, if you can say that, maybe I can say that too. And that's comforting and all, but it's really the next part. "He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished." (my emphasis added) He will not leave you until all the work is done. You know your work. You see it piled high. He will not leave you until the work is done. All that God has given your hands to do, He will do. And David would tell you, hand cupping your cheeks, eyes honest, "Be strong and courageous and do it." And through a teary smile, you will nod, Okay, yes. Yes, Lord, I will do it.

This work does not end with our hands. It doesn't end with the child-rearing and the homeless-feeding and the church-nursery-working. This work digs deep down into our hearts. Because unless we are transformed by God, our work will fall to shambles all around us. And again, this work is not our own, but the Lord's. "As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:18-19) Our souls have cement galoshes, and they've been thrown into the lake. We're sunk, and we're stuck. We can thrash all over. We can try to scream. But we won't move an inch and not a soul will hear us.

But the same God who built His temple can make you a temple. The same God who gave Solomon every last piece to build His house has every last piece to repair your heart. And it's not about all the many things you can do for God, just like it wasn't about Solomon raising a building with the sheer force of his will. It is about trust. Solomon heard David's words and he trusted God. And maybe you don't have a dad who encouraged you in the Lord, but you do have a Father who speaks His word. And at the end of the day, at the 8 pm of your night, when you are tired and self-ed out and D-O-N-E, done, when you think it isn't possible for you to get any lower, for your soul to be any more tarnished, for you to screw it up any more than it already is, or when you are ministering to souls who look this dim and dark and dirtied... you need to hear David: "Do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you." And you need to hear Paul: "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Your heart is the work of the Lord. And He will not leave you until the house is built.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Raining Gifts

I went a whole week without counting gifts. I made it into July, faithfully naming  God's graces daily, all the way to #813. And I kinda fell off the wagon... I got busy and way distracted and some days it didn't even cross my mind.

The smell of rain always reminds me, though. And today, we got a summer rainstorm. I heard the fat drops smacking our metal AC window units and ran to let the dogs in before they got soaked. My son immediately asked for his rain coat and boots because when God gives us puddles, we splash in them. I dressed him and as I opened the door, I breathed in that damp earth smell. The smell of life. Immediately, I grabbed my book, my little book of gifts, scratched out and scrawled, day-by-day.

And I wrote:
  • Rain -- J in it, puddles, the sound and smell
  • Sliding down the wet slide -- "Clean shorts?"
  • The smell of coffee and rain that reminds me of honeymooning in Scotland
The first gifts I'd written in a whole week. I could hardly believe it. We played and cleaned up and as I finished my coffee, I thought: in one single moment, God gifts us immeasurably. I picked out the gifts from one moment and they could not be contained, not even in my mind.
  • The rain. God sends literal life-water over all the earth, growing crops, nourishing the creation. Rain is provision. It is our survival, our continuing. Today, it cooled and watered and allowed for growth.
  • My son. He sends out joy like rays of sunlight. He lives right in the moment, fully present and aware and so curious. He ushered me into motherhood which God has used as a mighty tool of sanctification in my life.
  • Our home. A summer rain is fun for us, an escape, a place to play. We come inside, dripping and muddy, and we have our shelter. The storm is not an inconvenience, not something to be hidden from, and it is not lost on me how very blessed we are.
  • Cleansing. No other water drenches quite like a downpour. The fat drops smack you and make even your bones feel wet. This is the closest we'll ever get to the physical feeling of redemption.
  • Play. Play requires time and freedom and space. It requires a clearing, and we have the luxury of that place. We have margin in our days and we spend it on joy.
This hardly scratches the surface. The more I think, the more I see. And I know, every moment I breathe is filled like this. Every moment my heart beats is bursting open with gifts from God.

I missed a whole week of moments, a whole week of gifts. And it's not that I didn't live them; I did! I was there. I drank joy. But I didn't take the time to slow and see. I didn't open my eyes to the presence of God in those moments. Mostly, I didn't take the time to say, "Thank you, Lord." The longer I go without remembering God in my moments, the more I start to think the moments are mine, of my own making and for my own design. But they aren't. They aren't when I remember and they aren't when I forget. All the moments are God's moments and all the gifts are God's gifts and they are all meant to point our eyes to the Giver, to remember and give thanks.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Parenting with Love

A friend shared this article recently, The important thing about yelling, and it was the next thing in a long line of conversations about yelling I've had recently. I'm not exactly sure why it keeps coming up, but I can't help but pay attention to those things that do, those issues life offers up again and again for your attention. Today gave me a little glimpse as to why.

My two-year-old straight out smacked me in the face earlier today. Yes, smacked me. Yes, right in the face. And yes, if you know him, my sweet little boy. In the split second before I reacted, I saw about ten different scenarios play out in my mind, several of them involving retaliation. What would your reaction be if someone smacked you in the face? Yeah, that. This is not the first time it has happened, and I doubt it will be the last, and I am thankful for the many conversations about parenting I've had recently and the few minutes I spent in prayer this morning because I know they shaped my response.

I felt my blood pressure spike, and I took a deep breath. As I picked up my son, I caught my husband's eye and his wide-open mouth, his face saying exactly what I was thinking. Did that just happen? And now what? I carried my son upstairs to his room, and as I sat down with him in the rocking chair where I spent many a night nursing him as a baby, I almost started to cry. Why? Because this was sin. His anger, the frustration that pent up and shot out of him before he could even think, it was sin, and in that moment, I knew we were both getting a very early glimpse at the burden that he would (that all of us do) carry for life.

I could have yelled at him. I could have smacked him across the face. Instead, I explained to him what was happening in his heart. "You were mad at mommy, and instead of acting in love, you acted in anger. You hit mommy because you were angry." As I said those words, I could hear the words of my prayer from just a few hours earlier: "Lord, help me, equip me to forgive those who sin against me, remembering the great debt of mine that you have already forgiven." Straight out of the Lord's prayer and here I was, needing to heed it. I could have responded in turn, dumped my anger at what he did right back on him, but instead, Jesus called me to show love to my son, to turn and let him smack my other cheek.

"This is called sin, son. We all have this in our hearts. We all sin, every day." I'm crying just to write this. It is so hard. He is only two and he doesn't know. He doesn't know that he will fight this battle every day, and it really never gets easier to choose the narrow path, to choose the way of love, to hear Jesus's words ringing loud, drowning out our own shouts. "God sent Jesus to us for this very thing. He sent Jesus to us because in our sin, we are separate from God. He sent Jesus to us to become sin for us so that we could become righteous and be with God." I know he's only two and he doesn't understand, but I don't ever want him to remember a time when I didn't tell him this truth.

"God requires love. He tells us to act in love and that love is patient and kind. And son, that is so hard. It is so hard for us because we are broken. But you know what? Jesus heals us. He heals even our most wicked hearts." By this point, my son had rested his head on my chest, doing that pitiful little residual sob that kids do to make you melt. I rubbed his back and told him how much I loved him, how much God loves him, how much love hung on that cross.

I don't share this to shame my child. I'm sure many of you could tell far "worse" stories, and that's not what I'm after. I don't share this to have you praise my superb parenting skills or grace under pressure. I've conveniently neglected to share all the times I've totally failed as a parent. (Or, well, I did share about my anger in this post...). I share this for two reasons.

Reason 1: Think about your goals. What is the point of your parenting? What do you want for your kids? Do you want them to be wickedly smart? Do you want them to obey you at the glare of an eye? Do you want them to fear you? The Word pushes us as parents to teach our children the way of the Lord. That's what the Bible says is our job. It tells kids to listen to their parents, to glean from their wisdom. The assumption behind this is that the parent is doling out wisdom, is pointing to Jesus, is clearing the path for their children to walk that narrow road. And every parenting decision you ever make requires that focus. It's not about you. It's not about righting some perceived wrong against you. It's not about establishing your tiny kingdom. It's about teaching your kids the love of Christ. And if we don't keep that narrow focus, if we don't keep our eyes fixed on the cross, we will parent in all sorts of crazy ways, ways that do not honor God or bless our children.

Reason 2: You can always be a better parent. Maybe every single day for the last year, you have yelled at your kid. You have yelled and screamed, not as a form of discipline (because, as my husband says, yelling isn't a punishment), but just to vent your anger or frustration or disappointment or whatever else. Maybe it's the single, solitary way you know how to communicate to your children. Well, guess what? Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a new day and if you place your faith in Jesus, the Word tells us that He gives us new hearts. You catch that? Maybe your old heart is an angry, yelling heart, but in Christ, you already have a new one. You don't have to wait for it. You don't have to ask God for it. It's already there. You just have to use it.

It may seem impossible, but I'll tell you, if God can fix me, He sure can fix you. If God can change my heart -- from one that would desire to retaliate or punish or "teach that kid a lesson" -- to one that truly desires to see my child come to know Christ, to one that knows that is the only way my child's actions will ever please God, He surely can change your heart. Maybe yelling isn't your thing. Maybe it's the silent treatment or verbal belittling or shaming. I'm sure there are any number of ways we can reduce our children to their behaviors instead of seeing their souls, but whatever they are, the love of Christ can overpower. The love of God can overflow out of you and wash your children in the water of forgiveness.

Your child, your children, they are sinners. And you should expect them to act accordingly. It shouldn't surprise you (though it will). It shouldn't shock you (though it might). Most of all, it shouldn't cause you to lose hope. Jesus is "the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2) Your kid falls into the "no one is righteous, no, not one" but he falls into the "whole world" too, the "whole world" that Jesus came to save. And guess what? So do you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

For Tomorrow

To my daughter on the eve of surgery:

Hey, Bitty.

We're standing right on the edge here, looking down the rock face, eyes wide and wholly unsure. Nothing about this is easy, but I'm pretty sure it's right. Before we take this plunge... before we start a whole new phase of your life, of our lives... there are a few things I want you to know.

1) We are not doing this to fix you, to make you whole.

Life with hearing loss looks different for every person, every family. I truly, honestly, 100% believe there is no "right" path with this, no way to go that is "the" way. It is personal and subjective. Every individual and family should weigh the decision carefully.

That said, your dad and I have weighed this. We have thought and read and prayed and sought counsel. We have examined our own hearts and plumbed our minds. We are doing the best with what we have. It feels so presumptuous of me to make this decision for you. You can communicate to me when you are tired or hungry or want to be held. But beyond that? How can I possibly know what you would want? What decision you would ask us to make? I can't. I'm stepping out here. We're making this call for you, and on some level, it feels wrong. It feels like a violation of you, a strike at you, at the way God made you.

It is so clear to me that God brought us you. Just-the-way-you-are you. Congenital-CMV you. Feisty-powerful-full-of-personality you. Deaf you. And no part of me is trying to change you. I love you! This is not about that. This choice isn't a way for us to make you into our own image. It isn't about wanting you to hear us tell you we love you. It isn't about wanting you to share our love of music. It isn't about wanting you to speak at your high school graduation. I will treasure all those things, should they be in our future, but that is not our motivation. That is not our "why".

We truly believe this is the best for you. We're your parents, and for some crazy reason, God has entrusted us with this big decision. We don't make it on our behalf; we make it on yours. And no matter how this goes, whether it works or not, whether you hate me in ten years for this or not, at the very least, I want you to know that this is for you. We want to equip you. We want to give you the best shot. We want to ease a small part of the burden life has put on you.

Please don't ever think this is about making you someone you aren't. Please don't ever think that you aren't enough for us just the way you are. Please don't ever think that we wouldn't love you if you never once heard our voices or spoke to us. I know how life can twist you up and make you doubt things you thought you knew. This is one thing I never, ever, EVER want you to doubt. You are you, and God gave us you, and we love you. Just you. All your ups and all your downs, we are right here, holding your hand, smiling through tears. Our love, our relationship, has no conditions, not one. We are bound forever, and nothing can change that, not even death (and certainly not deafness).

2) I'm afraid.

It's not natural to send your child into pain. And at least when offset with the benefit of saving your kid's life, choosing surgery can seem easy. Of course you'd allow your child to feel pain if it means they get to live. But this? Elective surgery? It scares me. We're choosing this for you when it's not something you need to live. You could live a full and happy life without this.

I also don't know how it will play out. Truly that is what frightens me most. I don't know how the surgery will go. I don't know how much pain you will be in. I don't know what recovery will look like. I don't even know if the stupid thing will work. It's so much not knowing that I can't think of it all at once or I start to hurt.

3) I trust the Lord.

But despite this fear, when balanced out with all the reasons in the "pro" column, with all the possible benefits, with how - if this works - it could completely change your life, we are taking the plunge. And when I weed through all my anxieties and fears, when I push them back and fix my eyes on the incredible world this will open you up to, a world of singing birds and your brother's infectious giggle and Pentatonix and the hum of a house full of friends, I get so excited and cannot wait for you, for what waits for you.

I could spend all day bouncing between my fears and my excitements, living in that horrid suspension of anticipation that makes my stomach knot. Instead, I want to picture God. "The Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard." (Isaiah 52:12) Instead of all the what-ifs, good or bad, I have in my mind this picture of God, stepping out before you, before us, and making the way, then circling back to come behind and ensure our safety. I see it almost like the tender watchfulness of a preschool teacher, leading her charges across the street and keeping them as they move, her arms directing them and moving with assurance, cupping around behind them to protect them, a gentle hand on the smalls of their backs as they pass.

It is love that fills our God, love for you whose days He has numbered and whose hairs He has counted. And whatever comes of this, I trust. I trust that He seeks our good and His glory. I trust that He wants desperately for us to share in the love He has for us. I trust that He continually seeks to make Himself known to us, showing His grace and mercy and love at every turn. I trust that for all the joy that fills my heart at the thought of you hearing my voice, your dad's voice, your brother, God's road for you is best, better than anything I could contrive.

Once again, your extreme circumstances have shown me a truth that is at the heart of all our days. Your life is like a magnifying glass, and the assumptions that might have just passed me by get blown up in full relief. We all could spend our days bouncing between fear and excitement. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow and none of us know how that tomorrow will play out, not even with the "best-laid plans."

We all enjoy the provision and protection of a God who goes before us and who comes behind us. And when we move into His story, when we seek to see Him in our lives, we don't gain some magical understanding or come to know the future. We don't cash in on some promise to have all the money we'd ever need and health for eighty years. When we move into His story, we get God. And instead of fear and worry and anxiety and stress, we get rest and peace and joy and goodness. And I can hold my fear out on the palm of my hand and offer it to God. I don't have to bear it. It's not mine to hold.

So tomorrow, when they wheel you back and put you to sleep, when they implant a device into your head, when they dose you and send you back home, I want you to know most of all that God is with you. He has gone before you, and He will come behind you. And accompanying Him will be the prayers of His people. Your family, your church, your family's churches, your church's families - you have no idea how many people will be whispering your name, bringing you before God and asking Him to care for you. Honestly, there is no place here for fear. Love has taken up all the room.