Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Hand of God

In December, the Hand of God jarred me awake.

I wanted to keep sleeping...sleeping in the dark that I had made with my words and with my own hands, but He wouldn't let me.

It's time, He said.

But I kept begging for Him to leave me alone.

For two and a half months I begged Him to back off. To let sleeping giants lie and to move on.

But He didn't.

His Hand began to press hard and I dreaded the morning, that moment I woke up and He would be there, reminding me that He is God and I am not and that it. was. time.

He began to close doors - that house we were supposed to move into at the beginning of March? Two days before the lease signing a gentlemen walked up the steps of that house and offered to buy it.

And I knew...he came because I wasn't obeying and I had a choice.

So I continued to ignore the God I claimed to love.

Until every word I said burned in my mouth. Until every thought was consumed with all the wrong I had done, until every breath that left my lungs heaved with 15 years worth of regret...

Until I whispered back in complete surrender,

You are right...It's time.

And as I peeled back layers and began to deal with the shame I had hidden, uncovering all the covering up I had done, He was there.

He was there in the forgiveness offered and in the weeping out of the poison I had let in.

He was there in the broken, trembling admittance that I was wrong.

I have been silent - nearly crushed under the weight of my sin.

And then silent again because of undeserved grace.

The God Who names each star and forms each bud has interacted with me - in the most painful and yet beautiful of ways.

His grace carried me when I tried to forget for all those long years and His grace wouldn't let me stay in that dead space and His grace peeled back the curtain and pressed hard against my soul until my heart burned back to life with His words,

Two days after I submitted to the leading of Jesus? The buyer walked away from the house.

Five days after listing our own home? We found a renter.

We move to the inner city April 1st, but I am no fool anymore.

Jesus is living and real and active and my life is His, no questions asked.

His hesed surrounds my days and I am safe here, in the center of His will.

Monday, January 27, 2014

When the Cost is Counted

It's slated for the beginning of March.

That move that will take us closer to where our hearts are and his work is and my garage is starting to accumulate with boxes to fill.

Back in the summer, in the sweltering heat, my passion was ignited and waiting for the move felt eternally long...

but now that it's almost here?

There is a young woman, with beautiful eyes and a sweet spirit and every once in a while, across from those tables in the kitchen she'll ask me, Are you scared?

And for months I could look her in the eyes and truthfully say no.

But now, if He continues to open these doors over the next five weeks?

Yes, Yaz...I am feeling fear.

Proximity to something always seems to magnify it - the closer we get to the month of March, the reality of the area we are moving to seems a bit more obvious and we begin to count the cost and as I look at the lives of my children and husband, this decision feels weighty.

And it should.

Going against the pull of comfort always causes discomfort and when bullets and drugs and gangs will be the new reality, your eyes begin to see life a little differently.

Death has been a theme lately.

Not in a morbid sort of sense, no...though, I have wondered. Though I really have sat down in the middle of those moments and held them...because there is a cost to be counted when we say yes to the Lord.

I was driving home from somewhere last week, wrestling through the reality of the messes made and the brokenness of now and holding the thoughts of my own part and parcel of it all and wondering how it can all fit Jesus could work all of my mistakes out for good.

Because when Jesus calls out our name - when He says, Come, follow Me; When He comes near and speaks into a trembling soul, Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, do we truly understand what that means?

Have we really counted the cost?

There is a man here who has loved us like a father and this past Christmas placed a book in my hands that he knew I had wanted.

I crack open the pages through this month that has felt like a wrestling of Jacob's - all done in the dark and as though morning will never come.

It's these words that I read, when He lets His peace wash over me, gives me a day to breathe, and I feel the truth of them deeply,

It's kind of lengthy, but please, bear with me,

He was a righteous Jew, and had made his way back to
Jerusalem in order to celebrate Passover. He had no idea what
all the commotion was, but he obviously got close enough to
see what was happening.

As he stood at the edge of a rambunctious crowd, he saw
a man making his way up the hill, a cross on His shoulders
and a crown of thorns cutting into His sweaty skin...

...Simon was plucked from the masses and ordered to help
this guilty man as He continued to His place of execution.

There are only two times we are told that someone is "behind"
Jesus. The first is the woman with the issue of blood, and the
second is Simon of Cyrene, carrying the cross behind the King 
of all kings.

Carry the cross that would eventually bring His death and our

Simon wasn't a disciple of Christ's, and it's not likely he 
even knew who He was. He was just one man, in a crowd, who 
thought he might escape notice. And as his hands lifted the beam, 
I wonder if he saw himself as a victim. Wrong place at the wrong 
time and nothing more...

What a horrific responsibility. To walk in the bloody footprints
of a man about to be executed, all the while painstakingly trying 
to keep balance and not succumb to the intense physical agony. 
Step after step, seeing enough of the man ahead of you to know
there is life in Him now that will soon be snuffed out.

In what we can piece together in the remaining narrative of Scripture,
Simon carried the cross to the place where Jesus was crucified, and
while we don't know the specifics of what he saw, we know he saw 
enough to believe Christ was the Messiah. He returned to his tiny 
hometown, where he informed his family of what he had seen and 
they too believed. From there a church began in Cyrene, and one of 
the members from that church would eventually gather with others in
sending Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey years later...

So let me ask you this:

Was he randomly chosen from the crowd? Forced into submission
by an angry officer?

Or could it be that before there was time, God saw this town,
this crowd, and this moment?

~ Angie Smith Chasing God

I believe that God is doing something - and this thing He is doing requires a death of sorts. My hands tremble in time with the quaking of my soul as I type that out.

Take up your cross and Follow Me - His voice calls out from pages of my bible and I know that what He asks is necessary but sometimes, I just need to still under the weight of it to count out what it will mean.

In the middle of my fears, in the middle of that moment of now and the one where I will pick up one foot to set down in the footprints marked out by my Savior, my eyes fall to my wrist.

I don't know why the word for this year has felt the way it does - why I have felt the desperate need to have it wrapped around me - a still anchor of sorts for the uncertain days ahead.

I don't know why, and that scares me.

It does.

But Jesus - the Son of the Living God Who bled out on the road to Golgotha and gave up His last breath on that tree so that I could be found in Him alive and free - He remains steadfast. His love holds firm and faithful.

He doesn't give a map, He only gives a command spoken with love from a Heart that intimately knows that of what He asks,

Pick it up, child. That cross that feels so heavy and unwieldy that I have asked you to carry and die to yourself. Yes - it will be painful. But My yoke is easy...My burden is light. You won't do this alone.

 My Arms are carrying you the whole way.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When I am Done

The snow falls the day after the last Christmas gift arrives.

He sheepishly holds it behind his back, says, Shoot. I thought you were in the other room...I was going to wrap it. But since you're here...

And his smile pulls me in when he places the book in my hands and I don't need gifts from him because I have him, but I love that in the last minute list I sent him, he knew which one would speak to my heart the most.

Fear straddles the old year and this new one and as I make a nest of blankets for Olivia at the foot of our bed and hold her hair back at midnight and then every 45 minutes until sunrise, this fear whispers in my ear through all the dark watches of the night.

I've known Jesus since I was 4...probably longer since my first memories are of counting the tiles in the ceiling above me while the preacher preached. I've known Him for 30 years and I've pushed away from Him and ran back to Him, I've been unfaithful to Him and returned broken and spent. My faith for years was yo-yo like, always moving, always trying. Always trying to figure out how to love Him.

The snow fell in these big clumpy flakes and winter was finally heralded in. My older two, they danced in the street out front of our home long past bedtime, long past the point of staying warm and dry.  This winter was lazy and late and I was fully unprepared with toques and mittens and so I grabbed a mismatch of things and thankfully fashion flew out the window in newness of white and Elias and I hovered close at the window while they twirled and spun in the glory of heaven falling.

I realize I'm tired. So tired of trying to search out how to love Jesus. So tired of trying to fill up my head in hopes of finally filling up my heart.  I'm tired of just sitting at the window, I want to fall out into grace falling and I want to let His glory just fall, just cover, just rest...

In between holding a bowl for her heaving and rinsing it out, bleary eyed at the sink - washing my hands for the 100th time it seems - in between crawling weary under covers and knowing that sleep is pointless because she needs her mama, I open the pages.

And had I known - had the truth of Who He is been unpacked like this before...would I have ever been tired? Would there ever had been a need to be?

He begins to name the coming year for me in the hot heat of the summer, begins to open my weary eyes and I track His prints through the Scripture. He leads and I long and I plead, Please. Please show me how to love You.

He speaks it through His Word, that He is steadfast and loving, faithful and kind and I see all the ways that I am not.

Until I see Jesus. Until His Incarnation is unpacked and my union with Him is explained and I can feel it - joy and love filling up my exhausted soul. And I want Him. I want to stop all the running and just stand in the realization that I am loved and He is loving and The Holy God Who created me steadfastly loves me because I am in His Son.

The Abundant God - He hears the cries of His children. He sees the weariness and all the not-quite-enough tries. He sees it, but when we are in Christ - He sees what Jesus has done.

There is rest here - rest for my heart that is done with the how's. I just want the Who.

Now, my track record for follow through has been a bit sketchy at best - but this book by one of my favorite author's is just that good. It is what I wish I had had 15 years ago when I first began all this trying - I want to unpack it chapter by chapter because I'm falling in love like I never have before.

Thursdays? Thursdays here (hopefully consistently) will open pages and underline notes and discover the beauty that Jesus is; feel the love that He has for sinners and find rest in the mystery of union with Him.

Thursdays will find my soul soaking in this truth: that I have undeservedly, incredibly, overwhelmingly been Found in Him.

There is a line in The Greatest Gift that held me steady throughout the beautiful and hard days of December - and it was this:

The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.

A God Who has made Himself known in the face of Jesus. A God Who fills with The Holy Spirit...The God Who loves His own with an immovable love. A steady love.

We can know Him and in knowing Him we can find the deepest love.  And the deepest joy.

And we can stop incessantly searching because are already found,

we are found safe and whole in His Son.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dear Zeruiah {A Birthday Post}

You turn one today as the fog rolled in over the hills around us and the only fanfare you heard was the song of your brother and sisters.

You turn one only once and this mama's heart aches and that candle was blown out by the two sisters at your side.

I wanted today to last forever and I want tomorrow to stretch out long too.

You are the fourth and the youngest and wildly unique and the laughter you were born on is the laughter you bring and as you napped this afternoon I listened to the song that marked your transition and I long for you to know Jesus as holy and good.

The days will come, sure and steady - roll faster and faster one upon the other.  There will be days that seem sluggish and mundane and others that will leave you breathless and reaching to wring out just one. more. moment.

But my prayer for you, sweet Zeruiah, is that in all the days that He gives to you, you will offer each one back to Him. That He will give you eyes to see that what seems mundane and worthless to the world around you are actually sacred places for His glory to shine...through you.

You were created to be filled - may you be filled with the One Who created you.

You will be hurt and your heart broken - may those broken places be where He shines His light most brightly.

You will feel lost and unsure - may your feet always lead you back to the very feet of Jesus.

I think back to the moments between 2 pink lines and your heartbeat fluttering on that monitor...I was so unsure.

And then you, my precious girl whose very presence embodies the meaning of your name. You truly are a balm of God.

Tonight under clouds and stars you sleep, and tomorrow you will wake up and wave your hands until you have a banana on your plate, but know this little one - your mama loves you and the God Who planned out your very days is wooing you even now with a love faithful and strong.

I love you, sweet baby. Always.

~ Mama

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Naming of a Year

I sit in the middle of a pile of old and broken toys - the ones they've forgotten about and I just want to clear some new space.

As though cleaning out their mess will somehow clean out mine.

He has this week off and we have company coming and we slip out with the kids to run a few last errands. Sit on red benches as the little ones chew through drippy ketchup and steamy hot dogs and I can feel the heaviness press.

He notices as we begin the drive home - asks where the laughter went and where my thoughts are...and I don't know how to explain it, but the words are beating wildly against my heart as though they are caged and the key has been tossed and thrown away.

Four years ago today, he set out in the cold with two of his brothers - drove up that back canyon and found his dad frozen and hanging from a tree.

Four years ago today...

And I think that four years should make a difference, make the remembering less painful - but it doesn't. Still cuts just as sharp, just as joltingly cruel.

Four years ago today, I named my first year because in the days leading up to this day I had felt His prompting, Name this year and I will hold you close...

And He did.

Each year since, in the days or months leading up to the new, He has been faithful to open my eyes to His thoughts.

This year was no exception.

He can be subtle yet persistent and it was finally in August that I begin to catch on,

God kept leading me back to Himself, to Who He is - to the faithfulness and steadfastness of His love.

So I began to trace Him, follow where He was going, write down the scripture in the back of my Bible - desperate for just one more glimpse.

The week before Christmas, a dark doubt began creeping in - wound it's death grip around my heart.

I thought back to an afternoon conversation I had with a dear friend;

It was early fall and I confided in her what I thought the naming of this coming year would be and I told her I was scared - because what happens if? What happens if everything falls apart and He gave me this word because He needs me to know He is faithful, that His love is steadfast? What happens if?

I could feel the terror creep up my throat - since we lost his dad...nothing has been the same.

And I see where I fail so clearly - my faithlessness and the way my will bends so often to sin. His steadfastness only magnifies my shakiness and can I be reminded of this day in and day out, carry this weight of failure at all times?

He brings to mind that passage I memorized, that one in Romans 8 - right at the very beginning:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of Spirit Who gives
life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

And then, even before those words have a chance to re-sink in, He opens my eyes again, one last time before the old year closes out and the new one begins,

A Psalm.

                98 Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

His faithful and steadfast love, His Hesed, is not placed before me to magnify my shortcomings, but to open my eyes to Who He is in light of my lack. By seeing how magnificent and awe-inspiring He is, I find joy and feel joy and speak joy out of everything I am not.

So, before all the unknowns of 2014, even before the first day of January dawns cold and new, He has named this coming year and He has invited me along to know Him deeper, to trust Him more fully, to see with new eyes how faith in His faithfulness will draw out sweet joy.

As I let go of this old year and open my hands to the new, I say yes to my Jesus and to the year of Hesed...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

There is a Tree

Fire rages through the mountains in Idaho this past summer and we sit glued to our television screens.

It's in the back of both of our minds but neither of us says it right away,

but it's there,

that question.

You see, there is a tree.

A tree that started out, who knows when, a tiny seed that fell into soft dirt, growing into a slight sapling that kept reaching for the sun - stretching, reaching, growing stronger and steady and roots sink deep.

I only saw that tree once,

knelt down in the dirt underneath it and traced the footprint that bore witness to my husband's finding.

Only looked up once to see that strong and steady branch marked and marred by a rope that desperation and despair hung from.

That tree grew, ring upon ring, and became scarred by death, and as a summer fire raged up and down canyons and valleys, we couldn't help but wonder, was the tree gone too?

Four years have now passed since I looked up and saw his dad walk out the door. Four years since that first night we went to sleep wondering where he was...four years since he saw the face of Jesus for the very first time.

And all the emotions and grief come rushing in as Zeruiah cries and I know she'll never know the sound of her Papa's soft hush. 

Like that tree scarred by the grip of a rope, our lives are scarred by the grip of suicide.

But, in God's goodness, there is another tree.

Another tree where all pain and sin and shame was nailed. Where Christ's flesh ripped and blood oozed and the weight of it all boiled. 

That tree, cut down and formed into a cruel cross was where my Savior was hung. 

And this could be just another tree marked and scarred by death...

But the One Who died on that wood broke the curse of sin when He gave up His last breath.

And He lives. He lives still and a tree that brought death is now beauty that sings grace and I can grieve today. And I can hurt today, and I can miss him today...

But I do it all with hope. 

Our lives are scarred by the ripping of death, but oh,

they are held together by The One Who gives hope.

I miss you, Dad...

Friday, December 27, 2013

In the Silence

I love words.

I love to read them, love to type them out, love to put pen to paper and let the words flow.

I listen to my older daughters sound out words and read stories and learn to form words of their own.

Zeruiah, she babbles nonsensically and then claps three times when she is done.

Words tie hearts together and friendships and relationships are born and supported within the realm of what is spoken and written down and sent.

One of my daughters, she wept in my arms last night - so very terrified to get it all wrong. She curled herself up in the circle of my arms and whispered that she didn't pray.

She doesn't want to get the words wrong,

so tired of starting over every time she thinks she's messed up that she's just given up.

But she doesn't have to get the words right, how could I have never told her that? There is One Who has mined the depths of us and the words that seem to be lost on our tongues are found in His scars and He stands between us and Holy God and He intercedes for His own...

No, our words don't have to be perfect to be heard.

They squabble hard in long shadows of winter,

pick at each others hearts with barbed words that tear wounds into the tender places.

Their eyes are flint and arms crossed like shields and having never had a sister, I find myself lost.

But I know, though I wish I didn't, how words can destroy and lay waste and scar the landscape of a heart. I love words and their flow, but I also know intimately how destructive they can be.

Hardened eyes and protected hearts are only a ruse...

We want to be known and loved and cherished and when it's all threatened, when our greatest fears are realized, we go on the defensive instead of running to our Defender the words we love and cherish can turn into weapons that wreck havoc on the very heart we are trying to protect.

Over a kitchen sink and hot running water this morning, as words were boiling and churning deep inside - as I found myself restless over thoughts and questions I haven't found ways to voice, He spoke.

Not in loud audible ways, but in typed and printed out words that I have placed to the right of my window -

Life is hard and broken and it presses in and brings out the very worst.

But there is One...

There is One Who was beaten, broken, bruised, pierced for our every sin - He was smitten and rejected by His Father all because of the very humanity that was doing the breaking and the beating and the bruising...

And He didn't open His mouth.

I love words, the flow of them; the beauty of them.

I love how they sound and the perfect placement of each one.

But I am asked to love The Word Made Flesh more - to trust that His Words are the ones that can heal and restore.

The Lamb Who Kept Silent sings love over His own and there is healing there in the silence, in the rest.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment or in the silence of the aftermath or the calm of a day gone right, the only words I need to trace are the ones that He Is...