Saturday, December 31, 2016

Verses for the Wilderness

I wake up the last four mornings barely able to breathe.

Panic clings close and all the unknown things lurking in the future loom large.

Suddenly, time has moved too quickly, and it isn't slowing down and how can the oldest of my four be less than a year from middle school?

How can I be thisclose to 40?

Shouldn't there be more time?

I wake up this morning and think of his dad. As the second hand clicked closer to 10:30 a.m. the memories did too.

The sound of the door opening.

The sound of his voice.

Celia's breath catching.

Elias trying to roll over.

My frantic phone call to my best friend.

The story never changes, year after year.

These memories are solidified.

I wondered, as I ran last minute errands this afternoon, if I would still be grieving like this 50 years from now? Would the pain always feel this fresh?

This past week, the words for this year changed suddenly.

And I was okay with it, until I saw the verse that went along with it.

It's been a long battle for me to fall in love with the pages of scripture. For so long portions of it were associated with people and events connected with pain. It was easy to skim, rather than dig. Easier to rush through rather than to sit long and slow.

The battle was slow and unrushed, and my love has grown deep and true. But there are still prickles of pain that snake up my spine when certain verses or words brush too close.

This verse is one of those.

In my kitchen, the day after Christmas, seated at my desk with my pen and journal in hand, I gave into the pain.

A few years ago, the year was named New, all tucked in with the verse found in Isaiah 43:19,

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The verse for this year, while different, represents a portion of my life that is a wilderness - that has represented death and brokenness for so long. And so I wasn't really surprised when both verses of scripture were laid out on the same page of a book under my nose while I sat there wrestling with pain filled memories and emotions.

I rush through books.

Because I want to know how the story ends.

I run away from pain.

Because I don't want to live with the hurting.

I push against the unknown.

Because I want to know how it all turns out.

But that isn't my place.

It's Christ's.

As I prayed over this year ahead, all I've sensed was a call to Be still.

Not "being still" in the sense of doing nothing, giving up, and burying what little talents I have in the ground and just waiting.

No, the call to Be still is one with a purpose.

God, through the Psalmist, calls out clearly,

Be still and know that I am God...

Being still walks hand in hand with action. It's joined in with the action of knowing and this knowing has a very specific result - to know God is God in and over all things.

I don't know what this coming year will look like.

But I know what my role is to be.

In all my living, in all the moments given, 

my heart is to be in a posture of stillness, no matter how quickly everything around me spins.

The purpose of this life He has given me is to glorify and honor Him, yes. 


even if the only glimpse I ever see is here on 4th Street.

So, I stand here, on the edge of the end of the year of Grace, ready to walk through the unknown wilderness of this coming, whirling year learning to Be still.

May I know Him more deeply at the end of it all.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Year the Gifts Were Stolen {A Letter to My Four}

The snow started falling last Monday.

The flakes were small, hardly noticeable.

Really, it was barely a scattering compared to the heavy fall of Thursday.

But as your faces were lifted up in wonder in the parking lot of that church, trying to catch bits of white on your tongue,

your Christmas presents were being lifted out of their hiding place, unbeknownst to us, and the gifts we had purchased for you were now in the hands and homes that they were never intended for, security cameras capturing it all.

I remember telling a Sunday School teacher once how much I loved the nighttime, how my soul felt like it was reviving when the days started growing shorter and dark would settle earlier.

He didn't give me any time to explain why before he told me he questioned my faith. Questioned whether or not I had given my life to Jesus. Encouraged me to question my eternal state.

Only two of you have faint memories of living in the places where I spent my years growing up. You only remember the flatness of the Albertan prairies from pictures I show you. You have no concept of a town of less than 2000 people, of the nearest major stores being over an hour away, of an Arctic wind blowing from the north and freezing your skin in less than 30 seconds if you weren't properly covered.

Your memories of those things come from my own.

You don't remember the long drives from a trip in to the main cities in the black of night that had settled in just after 4pm on a highway that seemed to go on endlessly while a moon reflected off of the fields covered in a hard packing of snow.

But I do.

I loved those drives, not just for the quiet hush with only an occasional lone car passing us, lighting up the spaces around us for just a brief moment,

I loved it for the way light became a beacon.

Dotting the empty vastness of space around us, light would flicker bravely from farms and homesteads planted firmly in their places reminding us in our state of motion that we were not alone in our traveling.

I found that when the moon was new and gave no light, when the air dropped to -40 C and the cold around us was bitter, light would appear to be shooting straight up in to the dark whether it was from an approaching car or a single bulb hanging over the door of a barn.

The colder and darker the air, the straighter and bolder the light would appear.

I never got to tell my Sunday School Teacher that,

but I am telling it to you now.

Because last Thursday, when we had discovered your presents had been stolen, I tried to be brave and have hope.

But on Friday, once names and faces were known, I crumbled and felt like all I was doing was failing in this place where we live and work.

Failure can make air around one's soul grow dark and cold.

The four of you don't even know of this space that I sit down to write in yet. None of you are aware that I am trying to preserve memories for you in pictures and prose. None of you will know until you come across this specific post of this year: the year that your Christmas gifts were stolen.

I want to keep it that way.

Because tonight in the quiet hush of the dark, we will light the third candle for Advent and the space above our mantle will grow brighter, the other candles that I've placed around them waiting for the celebration of the day of Christ's birth, heightening our anticipation.

The name of this candle is Joy.

I want this to fill your memories of this season.

Yes. You saw me grieve on Friday, cry out my anger and my hurt and frustration. You saw loss in my tears without knowing the why behind them.

You bear witness to my wrestling, yes, but you will also bear witness to Christ's Joy ringing triumphant.

I know this.

In the moments before we discovered the theft and the loss of the things we had purchased and hidden away for you, we opened an envelope passed to us across a table at a dinner we had attended that same night.

Tucked in the folded crease of a Christmas card full of cheer was a reminder that God knew long before we did of the things that would be taken and had provided enough to cover what we had lost to the greed of another.

I love the dark and the cold of the winter because it is a continual reminder, every year, of the truth of who Christ is.

You who were so small and filled my arms now stretch tall and only the smallest of you can still curl up on my lap and I know that the days are coming when you will begin to know more fully the dark and the cold of the world around you.

The darkest days can seem like the most endless. And when it can't seem to get any darker, the fiercest winds can pick up and freeze you in your place.

But you must keep your eyes open.

You must wrap yourself in the truth of Who Jesus is.

Because Jesus, Emmanuel, He came into the darkness of our world.

Because Jesus, Light of the World, pierced the darkness of the world in the piercing of His own flesh.

Because Jesus, Risen and Conquering King, fills us with His light who believe in His name and place our faith in Him.

I long for the dark roads some days, my heart longing to see the flame of light stretching straight and true up through the dark.

But then I look at you, the four who love and laugh and live loud, and I can see it beginning, that flame flickering within you.

And should the sky grow darker around us as time spins with chaos all around us, I'll keep my eyes open and look,

Christ's Light is all around and within us, guiding like a beacon, pointing us Home.