Saturday, September 27, 2014

long time traveller

Rest in peace, dear sister in Christ.





Kristie was called to her heavenly home this morning.


Her long journey has ended. Her years were not as long as we wished they could be, but her journey was long in the depths of its sufferings.

Now, she is swimming in the depths of His mercy, eternally alive, and her Baptism has been made complete.

The rest of us journey on.
Jesus, uphold all of us who grieve.



See a sweet tribute to Kristie here
https://d3jpgf0e8alwcn.cloudfront.net/a57f819dcbd35e92a60413dd06b88d15d5f29d0d_1411684304883.mp4


Friday, September 26, 2014

Commit.

Be not foolish, O my soul, 
and do not let the tumult of your vanity deafen the ear of your heart. 
Be attentive. 
The Word itself calls you to return, 
and with him is a place of unperturbed rest, 
where love is not forsaken unless it first forsakes. 

Behold, these things pass away that others may come to be in their place. 

Thus even this lowest level of unity may be made complete in all its parts. 
"But do I ever pass away?" asks the Word of God. 
Fix your habitation in him. O my soul, commit whatsoever you have to him. 
For at long last you are now becoming tired of deceit. 
Commit to truth whatever you have received from the truth, 
and you will lose nothing. 


What is decayed will flourish again; your diseases will be healed; 
your perishable parts shall be reshaped and renovated, 
and made whole again in you. 

And these perishable things will not carry you with them 
down to where they go when they perish, 
but shall stand and abide, 
and you with them, 
before God, who abides and continues forever.

Confessions, CHAPTER XI

Be still and hold tight (on children and grief)

The autumn breeze beckons us outside.  I force them to live, to breathe in the blessed cool air, to let the breeze fill their souls and lift their hearts.  But the little ones choose naps over fall joy- so be it.

I join the older children, and I brought pillows and books and blankets to help prolong our stay.
I am restless in the staying- shouldn't I be doing something more productive?

Sometimes the weight of it presses down and I don't know what to do with myself;
I want to fix it all,
but who can fix a week with three funerals?
who can help relieve the grief?
or uphold the weary pastor?
My hands prepare comfort food,
and then I don't know what to do next: shop, eat, nap?

I overestimate my role in these things, I think.

I content myself with gathering blankets and good books, with holding my loved ones close.

It is enough.
It is enough for you too, weary friend who wants to fix it all.
It is enough to hold your babies close, to hold tight to Jesus, and to wait in hope.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to spur one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

We wait, and while we wait we are given this task: encourage one another.

I almost missed it this weekend- my chance to encourage the ones that matter most to me. I almost missed it... because unscheduled time makes me restless.  I almost assigned a task to myself, filled the afternoon lull with one more productive thing. But for some reason, this time, I didn't.  And this time, it mattered.

Weary of books, we rested on pillows, and my big kids welcomed the snuggles. Do they struggle with the weight of this week like I do?  I see myself in one child, the one who keeps busy, and cries about minor things.  Does she think the emotions will suffocate if she sets them free? Oh my dear, I understand.

Hoping to nap, I put on some quiet piano music as I held them close. But I had forgotten the magic of music; what soothes a weary heart triggers a flood in a heavy heart. The flood came, with hot tears and questions and hiccuping, gasping grief, poured out in the arms of a mama who almost answered emails instead of being still.

I do not remember what I said.  I murmured words about Jesus, things they already know, and I held them close.

It is enough.

In the days to come, there will be more moments like this.
May God help us to be still and to be ready.

Oh parents- especially those in my local community, those with young children who do not understand this suffering we share right now... do not miss these moments. 

Your children need you to be still with them, even in grief, especially in grief. 
Be still, even without the answers. 
Be still, listen, 
Hold your loved ones close, and be comforted together. 


2 Peter 3:13
But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth,
in which righteousness dwells.

------
More posts on children and grief to come this week...
but what about you, friends? 
How do your children handle suffering?
Have you helped children through these horrible big things?


Thursday, September 25, 2014

surprise!


Eldon left his shoes outside last night, and a horrible thing happened- they were wet this morning. We had planned to go to town today, to Walmart, but he begged for us to have a “stay at home day.” It has been a long week, and Walmart is the last place I wanted to be anyway, so stay home we did. He and Peter and I started our stay-home day by putting on our mudboots (which they could have worn to Walmart, really, but I didn't mention that,) and we took a walk to the pond. Fall is just starting to show its colors around here, so every red leaf they noticed on the ground was a GLORIOUS surpise, worth SHOUTING about, and RUNNING to mom. In moments I had a beautiful boquet of colorful leafs.

It's glorious, isn't it? These shining moments with little ones in nature? Well it is, but let me zoom in for just a moment and show the gritty reality...

The mud looks like POOP!”
“ha, poop!”
“No, YOU'RE a butt-butt-BUTT.”
BOO! (belly laughs, surprise, more more mama more!)
Hey mom, you know what's funny? POOP!”

Oh, whatever, I think. I just don't even have the energy to try to squash the poop talk. I wanter away slowly with my coffee, letting them play in the poop mud, and I try to process some of the sad things on my heart. I pray for those people for whom we ache. I hum a hymn and look at the cows drinking from the pond and then--
BUTT!”
No you're a butt-butt.”

Enough, boys!”
I re-enter their world, and beg them to find me more pretty leaves.

Homeward, next (and not without more potty humor.)
I give them crayons and tell them to peel the wrapping off so we could do leaf rubbings.
But mom at church we did that and you said NO.”
Right, the wrappers on the pews, and under them, and put on my lap, I remember. But it's ok here. I have a broom, here.

And the brown crayon looks like (you guessed it!) but we move on to the leaf rubbings.

I wish I had a video camera for this next part.
My four and five year olds turned into babies again, for a moment.

The leaf goes under the paper, and then you use the crayon like this...”
Eldon tried, and guess what- a LEAF appeared! It was SHOCKING, and absolutely hilarious! Next, I put a leaf under Peter's paper, and you would not BELIEVE it... it happened AGAIN! Bahahahaha they were laughing, and delighted, every single time!!!

It made me think of when they were babies, and they'd play peek-a-boo.

Where's mommy? (they really didn't know!)
BOO! There she is! (surprise! Laughter! Again again!)
Where's mommy? (again, uncertainty...)

That sweet laughter rang in my ears all day.
(It drowned out some- but not all- of the potty jokes that were told later in the day. For the others, I gave them laps to run. Fine, boys, laugh about butts again, but it will cost you a workout.)

I pray a weird prayer:
God, bless these little butt-brains.


Dear friends who are suffering, I pray that God gives you comic relief today, and the eyes to see it, and the freedom to take joy in it even as we grieve. Christ is risen, after all. We can smile through our tears.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

plaster it everywhere.

I should be in bed, but I need silence more than sleep.

I need to sit heavy, to dwell in my Dwelling place. Has has been our dwelling place in all generations.  Surely he did not leave us as orphans in this place. Surely God is no stranger to suffering, and surely He is present in this place, even when I know it not, even when I forget or ignore Him.

He meets us where He promises: in His Word. I want to wrap myself up in it, to build a house made of Him, to take refuge under the shadow of His wings, and to pull everyone I love into safety with me.

And what I need has been commanded.  Where I want to go, I have been invited.  Truly, this is grace.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9)

These words of God: they are your life. Carry them with you, plaster them on your walls and keep them before your eyes and in your heart.

This morning, we added imperfect, papery decoration to our hallways, our mirrors, and even the front porch.  We will not win any Better Homes contenst.   But God will remain before our eyes in the days to come. When we walk from bathroom to bedroom and drop our hope along the way, His Word will fill us up again.

Plaster it everywhere, friends in Christ, and remember that you dwell in Him even as His word richly dwells in you.





 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:56-58)



Psalm 90 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

For more plastering inspiration visit
Pinterest Weakandloved
Pinterest Writing and Faith

In what Words do you like to dwell?
Share it in the comments or on my facebook page.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's happening, soon.

We have prayed for her for three years, and now it seems she is dying. Has God not heard us? Does he even care? What was the point of all the walking, and fundraising, and praying? How can it be OK if she is leaving her little children behind? 
Oh children, will you remember this struggle, this grief we share with the Wessel family as Kristie is taken by cancer?
Last night I began to prepare you, and you had so many questions.  “Does it hurt to die?” “What will the kids do?” “Why can’t the doctors help her?” “How did she even get sick?”   At bedtime, I held in my arms one child who was overcome with the thought, who could not fall asleep in a world where children loose mothers unless he was in the embrace of his very own mother.   And why does he get to be in my arms, when others… I needed him close to me, too.
Then it was church day, and how we needed it. How is our pastor-daddy still standing under the weight of this?  But he stands-- and he preaches Christ.  He stands because our God lives, and he upholds those who call on Him.
To my surprise, daddy threw out his sermon, and spoke to the church about what is happening. “We need to talk about this,” he said, and suddenly I felt strapped to the pew.  No, I’d rather not talk. I’d rather just keep moving, keep running from the grief and the questions. I’d rather distract myself, sleep, exercise, read a novel- anything else.  I’d rather do anything other than sit, here, still, while he tells us what we all fear. 

Kristie is dying.
I don’t want to hear it, don’t want to sit in it. I don’t want him to tell me how hard it is and I don’t want to see him cry. But he made us sit. And we all cried. And there he was, pastor, daddy, dear husband- standing in front of everyone, not hiding his heart, his grief, his questions. And he spoke to our heart, our grief, our questions.
Christ is risen, and therefore we have hope.
And now, it is time to "be church."
As God's forgiven children, let us walk together through this valley and let us suffer with those who suffer. Soon, very soon, we will be through the valley and on the other side.  

We have sorrow to go through yet, dear children.  
Let us cling to Him who has gone before, the One who even now carries us homeward.
Soon, he will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Yes, every single one.
No children, I don't know how that can be possible,
but if God can make you, if He can raise Jesus from the dead, than surely He can do this thing.
(Listen to the sermon, all of you who grieve, at this link )

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out ofthe great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
    and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
    the sun shall not strike them,
    nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
    and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
(Revelation 7:9-17)

Friday, September 19, 2014

all is blanket tent

The children are napping, and all is quiet except for the toll of the bell. Through my window I hear the slow, sad bell, and I know the people are leaving the church, and heading to the cemetery.

This is the third funeral this week for our church family. They gather, again, to give teary hugs, to feast, and to remember. They gather to lay a body to rest and pray for rest for their own souls.  Among them is the widow, walking wounded, upheld by her children and her God.

Earlier this week, with children upstairs, downstairs, and underfoot, I gathered with the women for our Bible study.  In this place so full of life it is hanging out the windows, we sat heavy under the weight of grief and death.

And the Scripture did what it does-- it forced us to zoom out, to trace the lines of the work of God from the beginning until now.  We saw the world made, and broken, and God broken for us to remake the world.  We sat together in my living room, in grief and questions, protected by God's faithfulness, nestled in the blood of Jesus, and sealed in the Spirit.

This world is passing away, but the Word of God will not pass away.
And with this Word He made us His own.
Let us cling to His Strong, Solid word,
even as all else crumbles.

By grace we have been saved, and by grace we draw near to God through Jesus,
when we are overwhelmed,
grief-stricken,
and heavy with life in this world-
we draw near.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

We are the baptized, drawn near.
We are washed, clean, and ready to see Him face to face.

But now, we must wait, and the waiting is hard.

All the world is an airport terminal,
and all the church in this world is waiting.

The little ones are restless, and I am restless, so we make a tent out of blankets.
We play while we wait, and we read and we eat and we love and are loved.

And we sleep in our blanket tent,
because in this place, everything is blanket tent.

In the meantime...
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
and let us consider how to spur one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 
(Hebrews 10:23-25)

The bell has stopped tolling, for now,
but its music rings in my ears, full of tears and hope.

The day is drawing near, and even now our plane approaches the gate.
Let us hold fast to Jesus, and each other, here in the meantime.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My dear pastor-husband...


You stood in the pulpit today, tears streaming down your face, and implored us all to be church, to hope in God, to lean on Christ as we walk with Kristie through the valley of the shadow of death. Afterwards, I wanted to hug you, to tell you how proud I am of you, the way your heart and your tears and your grief hang out in public, and you make no apology, only point the rest of us with hearts and tears and grief to Jesus. But I couldn’t hug you because I’d never let go; my knees would grow weak with tears and you’d have to coddle me like you do at home. The church sanctuary is not the place for that, so I snuck out the side door, saying quiet prayers of thanksgiving for you, and for God’s continued mercy on us all.

This weekend- two funerals, a wedding, and sad news from every corner- how are you still standing?

You stand because our God lives and upholds you. I see no other explanation.

Friday, September 12, 2014

consider this.



To the one who is exhausted
with the struggle of vocation,
trying to please God and others and it's never enough;

To the one
who feels the urgency to work,
and the guilt for the neglected things,
who wishes she could balance it all,
but there's never enough time...

To the one who is afraid
that she's failing those she loves,
that she fails her God.

To the sinner,
the child of God,
overwhelmed with the world,
and your own pathetic attempts to fix it all,
(like me);

Consider our Jesus.
Step away from all the things that will perish, and consider our Rock, our salvation:
God, who died for us, so that we will not perish eternally.

Consider Him who has called us by name.

Consider His passion,
consider His sufficiency,
for you.

Consider, and do not fear.


the passion of the Christ 8


I have sinned, Lord, and my sins are many and great beyond measure.  

I nevertheless refuse to commit that most atrocious sin whereby I would accuse you--you who testify by words and works and oath to have made satisfaction for my iniquities--of a lie. 

I do not fear my sins because you are my righteousness. 

I do not fear my ignorance because you are my wisdom (1 Cor 1:30). 

I do not fear death because you are my life. 

I do not fear errors because you are my truth (John 14:6). 

I do not fear corruption because you are my resurrection (John 11:25). 

I do not fear the pain of death because you are my joy. 

I do not fear the severity of the judgment because you are my
righteousness.

( Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, p. 35.  
If you are looking for rich, meaty food for your soul, get this book-
the digital version is free online!)

photo credit:just conservative

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

He didn't have to, but he did.

On gratitude...

“Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have.  This is expressed powerfully in the traditional African-American prayer of gratitude that the Lord “woke me up this morning clothed in my right mind. He didn’t have to do it, but he did.” 

(Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community)
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