Sick Day Mercies

Up around 4, coughing, came downstairs for a while to sit upright in my office chair and wait for another dose of cough medicine to kick in. Put my headphones on for a while and jammed. Am discovering that I really like music by Matt Maher. I’ll add him to a playlist that includes Scottish metrical Psalms, Rich Mullins, Kari Jobe, and Dave Crowder .

Went back to bed at 6. Shane came to wake me before he left for work. I remember it vaguely. Something about Trevor being here for school. I must have fallen back to sleep, because it was 10:30 before I finally made it downstairs. When I did finally make my way to the kids, the house was clean. That was, like, amazing. I love my kiddos no matter what, but sometimes they really surprise me.

Spent most of the rest of the morning working on stuff for our home business, getting everything nearly caught up. Noticed an email about a ministry opportunity. I dismissed it-I’m sick, tired, and overwhelmed with work. Never mind the sheer joy at the very thought of jumping into the middle of this. Nope. Not answering that email. Details. There would be details that would have to line up. I’ve been looking into taking some online classes starting in the fall. I wouldn’t be able to do both. Would I? Our home business will be phasing out over the next 6 months or so-but still, I have my hands full with 5 kids, and they need me. Not answering that email.

After lunch, and joking about it a little with Shane, I answered the email. It’s an idea we’d been toying with on and off, but unsure of the timing. Giving the matter no further thought, I ran into town to pick up patterns. Still a little sick and loopy, but ableish enough to drive. Canceled piano lessons, as that would have just been too long without a nap. Headed right to bed when I got home, and slept for at least a couple solid hours. I woke with a start, and the words “I left the 99 for the 1,” blaring in my mind. When I got downstairs, there was another email. Tomorrow there will be a phone call. Tomorrow afternoon Shane and I will decide if this is God’s timing, or if we continue to wait.

I stood out on my front porch for a while taking in the wind, the blossoming trees, the vibrant greens of spring, the sweet smell of locust, the peach roses exploding on the bush Emily got me as an early Mother’s day gift. I am overwhelmingly blessed, and sometimes I don’t look up enough to realize it.

The day ended with soup from a dear friend, and some time, and a clear enough head, to write. I am not sure what tomorrow might bring, but today was good.

A Word to A Weary Heart

First, God sees. (Hebrews 6:10)

Second, He will restore the ruins and breathe life back into broken dreams. Not because I say so, but because He has. (Joel 2) Remember the Good Father who first called you His own.

Third, He never left. It may have felt like that at times, when you did the right thing and it didn’t turn out the way you hoped it would. When people spoke ill of you and spitefully mistreated you. Remember the story of Joseph. Not a sparrow falls from the sky that He does not know it, that He has not already seen to the outworking of His kindness in it. Those wounds and blows will be turned not only for your healing,but as a comfort and consolation to others. He knows your tears, and will turn them to joy at the appointed time (Psalm 55, Psalm 30).

You are His own, and He is Kind. He is Good. He is Love. Even when we are faithless, He is Faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Whole to Parts

I read: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and with all your mind.” I think: Love God with everything. Love God with my whole being. Got it.

Maybe I don’t. What if I read it: Love God with all my parts?

Love God with my “Mother heart” part, and my “praise tambourine in one hand bottle of Jim Beam in the other” part, and my “Willful Finisher/Manic Overachiever” part and my ” Hyper-rational, hyperventilating Overthinker” part.

What if Jesus Christ really lives in me with His Kindness, His Incarnation, His Power, and His Wisdom and He wants to hold the reigns on all these other parts? What if He wants to redeem them? What if He wants to express Himself through my own broken humanity?

What if the way to love Him wholly is learning to love Him in all my parts?

On the other hand, maybe I’m just a little crazy.

Some half finished thoughts on Praise

Today I’ve been thinking about how praise of often is often the “just right” remedy for a downcast heart. I remember a scripture song from my childhood, about “putting on a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness”. This actually comes from Isaiah 61, a familiar passage that Jesus quoted at the beginning of His ministry.

1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
8“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”
10I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 61

As I read this, a few things occur to me

Praise magnifies God and the work of Christ, proclaiming a reality that breaks through the storm clouds of our own despair to the unrelenting sun above.

Praise is a spiritual weapon of our warfare, raising a banner against any thought or principality that exalts itself against the truth. Praise weaponizes us to carry out God’s kingdom on the earth as it is in heaven

Praise changes us. It brings us into synch, into harmony with the truest truths and scatters the deception of our foes. It defies physical reality in favor of what is really real.

But what is it?
Praise is giving thanks and honor to the One who is worthy.

How?
According to the Psalms: skillfully, with music, with a variety of instruments, with dance

Why?
Because the Lord is good, His mercy endures forever, His truth–His reality–endures to all generations.

A Ramble on Love Stories, Egg Hunts, and Pearls

Today is my Beloved’s birthday.

This is a man whose kindness friends told me about long before I ever knew him. The first time I encountered my dear one was at an early morning Easter service. I’d hoped to meet him that day.

I skipped the lively charismatic services that I was used to, and, for the first time in my life, attended a liturgical church. I didn’t quite know how to juggle the psalm book, hymn book and bible. Compared to the sweet Reformed mothers, my skirt was self consciously too short. The worship was a bit…boring.

Then Shane got up to read Isaiah 40. “”Comfort, yes, comfort My people!,” says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her. That her warfare is ended. That her iniquity is pardoned…” He could barely get through the passage without weeping and I realized three things in quick succession: 1) this is a man who has been apprehended by the heart of God 2) the Holy Spirit doesn’t need a praise band to show up, He can come as a quiet whisper to a tender heart 3) This man was a kindred spirit and I wanted to know him better (or like, stalk him and marry him and stuff).

We never actually met that day. That came later, hilariously, after I became friends with his amazing, fiery mother, who asked me point blank one day if I would like to meet and marry her son. Eight months of me awkwardly and “accidentally” showing up at his parents house whenever he was there, one crashed wedding, and a funeral later, we were engaged.

A friend warned me to read about his medical condition. At the time Shane and I married, the best guess at it was Friedrich’s Ataxia (FA). That would have put his life expectancy at 10-15 years. God told me it would be ok, so we went ahead and got married. That diagnoses changed several times over the course of our marriage, extending hope a bit more each time. Just last month, technology finally caught up, and genetic testing revealed one of the mildest forms of ataxia, one that does not affect major organs or lifespan, but balance and vision.

I remember those early days of our marriage, though. The fellowship was so sweet, I would cry myself to sleep every night at the thought that we would ever be apart.

So fast forward 12 years, to another Easter…
Two battle hardened pilgrims lay in each other’s arms, planning the assault on the next day. Children have to be places at times. We are having a birthday party for Shane. The house is in desperate need of a good scrubbing before company arrives. A million details chase each other in my mind: deposits for our home business, library book due dates, meal plans, lesson plans, and the rest. I ask Shane if he will take the kids to tomorrow’s church activity so that I can stay home and take care of “bidness” Shane interrupts my reverie with a question: “Were you supposed to do a devotional for the egg hunt tomorrow?”

That feeling of juggling twelve balls and being thrown a flaming baton. I’m still not sure if I committed to do a devotional, I think I might have, and that is what I’ve sat down to write. I love kids ministry. I love talking about the love of Jesus. I hate forgetting shit that I am supposed to be doing. I hate that I overcommit then break vows cause I can’t remember where I am supposed to be, when. Shane watched my reaction for a few seconds and responded with: “The Lost Coin and the Pearl of Great Price.”

He watched my eyes dart back and forth for a moment as I tried to reconcile Easter eggs, the love of Jesus for the lost, and our love response to Christ in laying down everything to follow him. Really, it is all about Easter. Everything is about Easter, and this is where is comes together: God’s love is big enough to find us in any place our feet may wander. He finds us even when we weren’t looking for Him. His love is deep enough and wide enough and great enough to meet us in any place. Oh that we had hearts big enough to even begin to comprehend it! Our Savior, our Bridegroom who will never be parted from us, our Friend, HE loves us! He invites us to sweet fellowship with Himself. Then He invites us to love one another in the same way that He has loved us. We are the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep, but He is the Pearl of Great Price, the best egg of the hunt, if you will, and as He has loved us, we run after Him.

“As the Father loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in my love…This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant doe not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…”

So, now to tie lots of big thoughts into a little 3 minute object lesson involving a pearl and a plastic egg… and I still don’t actually remember if I’m supposed to be giving a devotion.

Trembling

I am filled with trembling. I pick up the my Bible, and the thoughts and intentions of my heart are revealed and all that is left is to cast myself and the tender mercies of Jesus. This is a good thing.

See,  often when I become conscious of my own sinfulness, I run away. As if there were something good dwelling in me apart from Christ, or that He required something of me other than His own work. When the mirror was held up, I was filled with self-loathing and condemnation, and I hardened my heart to the work of the Holy Spirit in order to protect myself.

(And what lie is this, that I cannot fully trust the One who knows me better then I even know myself, and He loves me anyway. He is good. He loves me and He is good.)

This leads me to a practice of religion and not faith where my goodness or sinfulness rests entirely on what others perceive of me or in me. If I can convince myself and everyone else that I am good enough, I can somehow outrun dealing with my own heart issues.

We read 1 Corinthians 13 last week with the kids, and Shane pointed out a verse that really stuck with me from our reading as well. It’s this one: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

Giving my all my goods to the poor, giving my body to be burned, those are things that look a lot like love. I could even convince myself that those things are love. Without the work of Christ, the only One who is love, they are nothing.

All I can do is throw myself of Christ’s mercy, to roll my works onto Him. Even when my heart is desperately wicked, and I cannot rightly discern it. God is greater than my heart. In me is death and no goodness at all. In him is Life. I cling to the promise that I will not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

Kept

Are there any greater, more comforting words then those uttered by the Psalmist when he said “The Lord is my Keeper”(Psalm 121)?

Meditating on this Psalm this evening. Tomorrow, my husband is going in for a routine, outpatient surgery and I am irrationally fearful. My fear is not logical, but I am thankful for it.  I would rather be anxious, and able to redirect a disquieted heart, than be in the place I was several years ago, frantically trying to impose some order or control on a situation which was  out of my hands.

Several years ago, Shane went in to the hospital for what was supposed to be a simple procedure (an appendectomy). He was supposed to be released the same day. Instead, he was hospitalized for weeks, gravely, mysteriously ill.

He just didn’t recover. Test after test did not reveal any good reason. I remember holding Shane’s hand in his hospital room after a CAT scan. He was so weak, on and off oxygen, and now recovering from a bout of C Diff after two weeks of hospitalization. The floor was quiet.It may have been a Sunday afternoon. A surgeon appeared, in street clothes, perplexed at yet another inconclusive scan. He took one look at Shane, and decided to reopen the incision, then and there, in the hospital room. He asked if I wanted to leave. I declined. Shane squeezed my hand and writhed in pain as the doctor reopened the surgical incision and pushed back intestines to reveal a pocket of infection.

Shane was rushed to surgery. I paced in the waiting room, so beyond anxious that all that was left was to coolly plan his funeral. (It seems a bit dramatic now, but at the time…he was just so sick, and weak, and not improving). I always knew that God would pull the rug out at some point, that I was not meant for happiness. How would I raise our two young daughters?

Shane, obviously, did not die, but recovered quickly after the infection was found and drained. I managed to “keep it together” the whole time he went through his illness, but had panicked nightmares of losing him for months afterward.

So today, I am thankful for fear. For  anxious thoughts that are not so overwhelming that I simply “shut down”. Even more, I am thankful for the God who preserved Shane then as He does today. Not only Shane, but me too, and our children.

My thoughts turn to many years before this incident, when a mentor asked me point blank “What are you so afraid of? Why won’t you trust God?” Why did I always have to be in control? When would I cede to the One who truly holds and keeps all that is?

I couldn’t even formulate a response. There was too much, it was too big. Too much heartache, too much disappointment, too many stories intersecting with my own. I still probably couldn’t formulate a coherent answer to any but the One was was always there, the One who already knows.

Today, I know that He is Good, and no matter what the circumstance, He will perfect all that concerns me. I do not hold the future, I cannot ensure the outcomes I want. I do not even know how many hairs are on my dear husbands head, but there is One who does. My only comfort in life and in death is my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He is enough, for me and those whom I love, and He loves them more then I ever could.