Thursday, October 31, 2013

When You Keep Looking

The muddled middle and the dusty ground scattered with leaves - have your eyes been caught there?

It's the last evening of October and our pumpkins are glowing out on the front step, the doorbell rung over and over, even after we ran out of candy. I am piled high with little ones while I read of Caspian and Lucy and Edmund. Eustace no longer whining and Reepicheep so brave. The Dawn Treader turned towards the End of the World before I closed those pages for goodnight kisses and I can hear the neighbours calling for their little girls to come inside.

The comfort of home settles in and everything that happens outside of these walls, as heavy and weight-filled as they are, lose their grip when we all come close together and the skin of those four that formed underneath my own and the hand of that man who promised his life to mine, we all press in close and for the few hours we have before we face another day, we are sure. We are safe. We are comforted.

The dark can press in close, but my eyes, they drift to find the light of home and I am anchored here to the ones I love most.

Morning can come bright and glaringly early - can shine a light on all that is uncertain and unsettled and all that is unknown can rudely invade to remind that control is but an illusion and humanity is really just fragments of fragile dust.

And the eyes drag down.

A friend, she posted all tongue-in-cheek about the weather here - how fall comes blowing in with the sun. Winter freezes white while the sun shines on. Spring and summer are rarely without the brightness of the sun and although the days are rare, my rain-loving self can't help but look for any evidence of heavy clouds building.

I keep lifting my eyes to find them pregnant with rain.

And my soul keeps longing for the One Coming on the Clouds.

James, he wrote those words while the Church was still so young, when the Voice of his half-Brother was still so fresh in his mind. When wearing the mantle of Christian was a risk and a gamble and life became uncertain. When death and persecution was a very real reality, he wrote to the dispersed Church around him:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds...
James 1:2

Don’t get over them. Don’t rush through them or past them. Rejoice –> IN <– them.
James tells us not to be too hasty to escape the faith-testing valleys, because it is those valleys which contain the fertile soil needed to produce steadfastness. And steadfastness – being immovable, unable to be shaken, deeply rooted  - is perhaps the true “wellness” we should be seeking. “Lacking in nothing,” as James says.... whenever you find yourself in a place of trial: do not minimize it or rush through it. And most of all, do not waste it! Instead, do it well.Let it have its full effect. This – as backwards as it may feel – THIS is the time to thank The Lord. This is a time to rejoice! Not because bad things happen. Not because this poor, fallen world is full of death and injustice and sorrow. Rejoice because the sovereign Lord calls you His own, and He loves you enough to descend with you into the dark-yet-mysteriously-fertile valleys (where even Christ Himself descended), to produce in you a steadfastness which cannot be shaken.   (#shereadstruth)

Autumn is settling in and air warmed by our lungs puffs out in frosty steam. The trees burn with the last of the season's passion and what is walked through in the valley, what is wrestled with in the quiet dark, what is held tenderly in opened hands is all meant to keep lifting these downcast eyes of mine, to remind an overwhelmed heart that those clouds I long for will one day hold The One Who will make all things right.

He is coming.

There is hope.

Just keep looking up.

The clouds sat on the edges of those mountains as I headed home into the glare of the setting sun and I thought of You and the moment when those clouds will hold You once again. Thoughts can rage wild at all the unknowns and the questions and my heart can become so troubled with what only my eyes can see. But You, the One Who is outside of all time and the One Who has all of time written and mapped out, You place those clouds on the edges of the mountains so that I will lift up my eyes and be reminded - You may not be coming in all of Your glory just yet, but I can lift my eyes up to the mountains and know where my Help comes from. My help come from You, Maker of heaven and earth and my soul can rest in Your sovereignty and hope for Your coming and rejoice in You in all of the ache of the in between spaces.

When God Does the Planting

It all started this morning with a question about God - 

it was one of the big ones.

Mama, if God created the whole world and space and everything else...who created Him?

I remember being seven and six and I remember laying in bed trying to imagine forever until my tummy hurt and my brain ached and never getting closer to an answer that seemed to satisfy.

Our longing to know God always leads us deeper...

if we let it. If we let time slow us instead of hurry us so that our hearts lean into the desire for Him...we may not find all the answers, but we will find Him in whom all the treasures of mystery dwells.  I am beginning to believe that knowing Him satisfies more than any answer could.

4:30 found me stirring together spices and sauce and meat and placing buttered bread under the coils of the broiler while trying to manage and contain the fighting siblings and the crying, teething baby and in the cacophony of noise I almost missed it,  I almost missed her quiet voice.

Lyla, my oldest who struggles the most with trust, was sitting beside Elias and in the pockets of peace that would pop up she would try and talk with him about God, urging him to love Him and to know Him so that one day we would all be together, with no fighting, no crying, no arguing. Instead of all the bad, she said, we would be all good and we would be with Jesus forever.

And then he asked how.

There is no greater privilege, I think, as a mama, then to kneel in front of your child and take their hands and explain that the way to God is The Way Himself and then pray those words that lead that child Home.

And a seed is planted and the way will be long and lonely and full of sacrifice and death to self, but it will be worth it - so worth it and I pray that Elias will know that, deep in his marrow as he walks out his faith in a world that will fight to destroy it.

God - He plants the Kingdom within us and we find that He is in our midst and today, in the chaos of hungry bellies and bubbling, steamy pots and a dog scratching at the door, He planted the Kingdom in the heart of my son.

Elias - His name means, "Yahweh is my God" and so He has become - God Himself has heard the cry of my heart for my son to desire Him and today He has made him His very own.

Father God, thank you. Thank you for pursuing after my son and for placing in him a desire to be Yours. Strengthen him with Your Love. Let him be a man marked with mercy, a man who walks humbly, a man who acts justly. In a world that will try to destroy him and his love for You, let his faith grow Daniel-strong - strong enough to rest in the face of a lion's jaw and praise you in the midst of the enemy's entrapment. 

Let him hear, at the end of his life, Your voice of blessing as you welcome him Home.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When You Walk into the Dark {A Birthday Post - that really is Happy}

I was born the month after my mom turned 30 and 10 years later, much to her horror, I announced to everyone we knew that she was about to turn 40.

Ages have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Not the concrete number, per se, but the age in relation to where a person is in their life.

He turned 39 this past Tuesday. The sun rose warm on the late October day and I crept quietly out of the house to bring him home a coffee - because a decade is almost over and the ending of something always needs to be held gently, celebrated quietly, thought on long.

And that's what I did as I stood line, dressed all in black and my hair hidden under the green of my cap. I thought of him and how that very first year - before he held my hand and before he lifted the veil...before he whispered he loved me back...he turned 26.

I boxed up a small, blue tupperware container full of chocolate chip cookies and even though I didn't know if I would ever know - I wondered what he would look like at 40.

And now we stand on the cusp of it.

And he is breathtakingly handsome.

I stand here now, thinking back on the man that he was already and realizing with shocking reality that 11 years will fly and he will be 50.

Lyla will be 18.

I'll be 45.

We'll be past the stage of babies and diapers and toys strewn everywhere...

It makes me catch my breath a little bit.

Not because I'm sad, though, I am feeling a tad nostalgic - but because the weight of time is heavy on the waiting end and a mere whisper of the moments already lived.

He is 39 and the pure black of his hair is becoming more peppered with grey - his beard touched with the soft shades of white. I know that the lines that are forming on his face give grief and laughter equal weight because I have held him through both.

I came across random words this evening, ones that brought Tony to mind because in the 13 years I have known him, in the four years that have been marked with deep sorrow, in the 1 year of finding ourselves in ministry again;  in the midst of it all, I have watched him enter into whatever God has allowed:
“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean.”
jerry sittser

And he didn't - he didn't know what it would mean. The whispered words of grief and pain - of a commitment to trusting and pursuing hard after God in the face of hard and broken trauma; to refuse to fight the pain of loss and bewilderment of a shattered life meant that he would come out stronger on the other side - that when the sunrise was finally burning the edges of the horizon, when the darkness was no longer consuming the air around us, he would be him, but more like Him. 

He's 39 and I love him and his crazy antics and deep soul strength. I love his heart for Jesus and his hope that never seems to fade.

This birthday post is late, but not really, because I'm savoring these first days of the last days in his thirties.  And they are good ones.  Because he is a good one. Because he trusts so strongly in the Only One Who is Good.

Happy birthday, sweet husband. I love you.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Daily Adoring: God of Heaven Above and the Earth Beneath

She hides them under stalks of flax -

When the threat of danger lies at her door, when her very life and theirs is pressed close to the heat of danger,

she acknowledges Him and her life is saved:

And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.  Joshua 2:11

The men above her on the roof of her house and the guards below her demanding questions at her door and as she stood in between the two, she recognized the truth - He is God of all that is beneath and God of all that is above and He is present with her in the middle of it all.

He still is.

Danger - it can come in all forms and attack from all sides and we can be hidden beneath His Blood and still the enemy prowls around us like a lion.

He is seeking to devour God's children.

And I can sit in a chair and join in on the conversations around me while the air is being pressed out of my lungs by anxiety and when I find my hands trembling and groping for something to hold on to, I reach into my pocket and grab hold of His truth:

You keep him in perfect peace

    whose mind is stayed on You,
    because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

The moon breaks through the dark above me tonight, I can see parts of that cratered face peeking through. The ground is covered by the yellow of autumn leaves and the odd car or two that Elias has left behind. And in the middle spaces that I walk through, He keeps me steady. When it is hard to breathe, He calls me to bend my will to His.  And His peace begins to replace my fear.

He is God of the heavens and God of the earth and He is the Father Who holds me fast in the in between.

Daily Adoring:
You keep me in perfect peace when I focus my mind on You. When I open my hands in surrender and trust in You, You are glorified.  And in the small spaces and the big places and in the middle ground I find my feet on, You meet me here. You meet me here and You show Yourself trustworthy and mighty to save and my heart and my breath slows. God of heaven above and earth beneath, You fill the air around me and I can find rest for the ache that threatens to break my heart.  You are holy and worthy.  Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When My Eyes Close - An Anniversary Post

I closed my eyes and opened them and I became his wife that fall afternoon and I promised and pledged my life to his own.

He cupped my face and my life with the sureness of his hands and his dad pronounced us husband and wife and that aisle wasn't the end point of our was only the beginning.

I closed my eyes and I opened them and I watched him become a daddy - I watched him cup his newborn daughter in his hands and the wonder on his face only deepened what I knew about his heart.

I closed my eyes and I opened them as he caught his second born daughter, my ears only catching the tail end of the words he prayed softly over the vernix covered skin that barely contains the wildness of her. He loved strong when I was lost in a world of depression - he loved strong enough for the both of us.

I closed my eyes and I opened them as he became the father of a son. As he wrapped his arms around the both of us and held me when I began to bleed out and he kept me focused on his breath when mine became faint.

I closed my eyes and I opened them and I can remember his voice, but not his face. I can't remember his face, but I remember his arms as he pulled me close to his chest - as he supported his wife and his sister-in-law after finding his father dead.

I closed my eyes and I opened them as we drove away from a home and a life shattered and broken - as the air froze our breath in misty clouds and -21 degree weather.  He held my hand as my tears fell and he whispered again the promise we had made,

No matter what, we will trust and praise God and we will get through this...together.

I closed my eyes and I opened them as he left coffee behind and began a new ministry and because of his trust, our lives and our family has grown.

I closed my eyes and I opened them and he told a joke and I laughed and our third daughter was born and he holds her swaddled form against the checkered shirt on his chest and my heart - it feels whole. It feels full.

I closed my eyes and this morning I opened them twelve years later to find him sleeping next to me in a city far away and the fireplace still glowing...

And so much has changed and so much hasn't and he has more grey in his hair but that same handsome face; more laugh lines around his eyes, but the same pull toward my heart.

Twelve years have flown by and will only fly faster and each time around the sun will etch those lines on faces deeper and I want to love well. I want to love my husband with Christ's love at the center and when Josva read those words of Paul's over us all those years ago, I had no idea. No idea how desperate I would become to live those words out. How desperate I would need Jesus to form my heart to His own.

I close my eyes and each morning they open to the new day we are given and the new year we have. And one day, my eyes will close and no longer open on this side of eternity, and for all the years I've been given here and all the timelessness that will be before me there, I want this to be my legacy. I want our life together to be marked by Love.

Twelve years and I long for more. Long for more time and more moments and for his hand on my face. I long for time to slow down just a little so I can savor this love we've been given just a little longer...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Daily Adoring: God Who Knew Me Before I Knew Him

She's burning up with a fever tonight - cheeks flushed because that front tooth is coming in and my skin aches with the heat of her.

That first flutter of her, before I ever saw her face, before I ever felt her breath on my skin, before I ever discovered that dimple below her lower lip - God knew her; right there, underneath my heart, in the dark of me, He was forming her, knitting her together. Her heart started to beat because He called her into existence and before I ever knew her, He did.

And not just her, not just the four that surround me and the one already in His presence, He knew me in the same way. Before I ever breathed earth's air He was forming my lungs and He knew me intimately. Before I ever knew of my need for Him, He was already in pursuit.

I think of those quiet thoughts, those flutterings of dreams and what could be? The wondering of what is changing and growing inside of me, what He is birthing out of the dark of me...How He is forming beauty out of the ashes of my sin and I don't see it fully quite yet.

Dreams that are still prenatal, still being knit together and hidden below the heartbeat of who He created me to be.  I am expanding with the unknown while He knows the outcome intimately.

I don't have to be carried by the waves of restlessness, turning green over the constant tossing of contentment and fear. The One Who calms the waters and the emotions cups the timing of the birth in His Hands.

He is God and the One Who touched stars and held the sun and hovered over the empty void and made everything out of nothing - He makes something out of the nothingness of me. Why? Why would the Holy come near to the unworthy and the unholy? Because of love. Because of grace. Because I needed a Rescuer and before I even knew what He had done, He had already rescued.

He knew me before I ever was, He knows each dream that is still fluttering new and hidden. Each space is sacred that He invites me into and I enter into Holy ground because He is there. And adoration becomes more than just words prayed back to Him - it becomes the song that winds through my days, drawing my heart closer to His - closer to the One Who formed me in the dark.

For You formed my inward parts, 
You knitted me together in my mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13