Monday, July 21, 2014

this mission

I seldom feel like much of an adventurer--standing in this kitchen, pouring cereal into bowls, refilling them, handing out paper towels when the inevitable cry comes: "Uh oh. I spilled." But sometimes at night the thought will strike me: There are three small people here, breathing sweetly in their beds, whose lives are for the moment in our hands. I might as well be at the controls of a moon shot, the mission is so grave and vast."

(Mahoney, Feminine Appeal, 62)


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uncle Geek, the fixer-upper

Yesterday was a joyous occassion for the Cook family!

Uncle Geek-- I mean, Quinn, my husband's youngest brother, got married to a beautiful woman of God.  We couldn't be happier for the two of them!

When we got married, Quinn was ten. He surprised us at our wedding reception by singing us a song (his parents wrote the lyrics).  It was called "Emily and Josh" and it was to the tune of "Beauty and the Beast!"

His mom suggested that we return the blessing at his wedding.

Note: teasing IS his love language.

As you can see from the performance below, we love him very, very much!

(This is a dress rehearsal version. I may post the live version eventually, but it is harder to hear them then due to all the laughing and cheering!)





In honor of Uncle Geek's wedding day- a tribute to "Squinn!"

"When I was little, I couldn't say the word 'Quinn.'  But I found another word that fit better: 'Geek.' Geek has always been another kid to us."

"Now, we can hardly believe it- Uncle Geek is married!"

So- we have a few questions for Sara-

What's the issue dear? What do you SEE in such a man?

Is it the clumsy way he walks?
or the mumbly way he talks?
Or the pointy, goofy weirdness of his teeth?
And though we know he drives so well, his car ends up sorta smelly...
But you've never met a fella who's as hilarious as Geek!

Yes he's a bit of afixer upper
He's got a few quirks
His peculiar brain, dear, we just can't explain, dear
He called you a horse! That's how he flirts!?

Yes he's a bit of a fixer upper but this we're certain of
You'll be happy with this fixer upper with a little help from above!

How about the way that he runs scared
of all the birds in the air!
Or that a happy, clappy clown can make him weep?
Do you like his butt-shaped chin?
And the way they call you "Squinn?"
And the drool puddles every single time he sleeps?

He's just a bit of a fixer upper
He's a little weird
His hair is curly and his arms are girly
And we don't think he can grow a beard

So he's a bit of a fixer upper, but God knew what to do
He had mercy on this fixer upper when he fixed him up with you!

What about Sara? She's not perfect either!
Good point!

So she's a bit of a fixer upper
A bumble bee can make her FLIP!
She takes your Pepsi, when you complain, she
Smiles and says "I just want a sip!"

So she's a bit of a fixer upper
She reallly loves donuts!
And that gum snapping--that gum snapping
Is enough to drive you nuts!

We're not saying you should change, dears,
but as the seasons change
You might wake up and wonder why the other looks so strange
But we know you're in Jesus, and in Jesus Christ you're blessed!

God's love will keep you strong each day-- we wish for you  God's best!
May God grant you His best!

Everyone's a bit of a fixer upper
That's what it's all about
Father, sister, brother
We need each other
to fix us up and round us out

Everyone's a bit of a fixer upper
but when push comes to shove

The only fixer upper fixer that can fix a fixer upper is

God's
God's
God's
God's
God's
God's

LOVE!

God's blessings to you "Squinn!"

Lyrics by Emily Cook
Special thanks to all who helped prepare these girls: Pam and Larry Cook, Nikki Burkey, (Awesome) Tom Rozegnal and Amazing Jean, and the Heyboers for the use of their party room and microphones!

Monday, July 14, 2014

More than "Get well soon."

"Mommy! The pukes are coming!"

My son runs towards me yelling these words. Towards me, and away from the bathroom.

Few words get me moving so quickly as these. Immediately I switch from relaxing on the couch mode to super-ultra multi-tasking mode. I leap towards my son, scoop him up in my arms, and begin my lecture, "Honey! If you have to throw up---" toilet seat up, kid in position, "go to the bathroom first, don't---" Lysol, paper towels, "come running to me first--- Oh, honey." The lecture is silenced by compassion. The child looks up at me in between heaves. His world has utterly changed. He has come face to face with pure evil, and its name is "stomach flu."

One by one, the six children succumbed to stomach flu last month. Each one insisted that mommy be present and involved when the heaving was happening. So there I stood, time and again, next to the toilet, rubbing backs and murmuring words of compassion.

I hate sick eyes. Sad, sick eyes looking up at me, begging me to make it stop, or at the very least to explain why it is happening. I could do neither, so I sighed, prayed, and rubbed backs. My ineffective, weak hand could not stop the violence that attacked my babies' small bodies. I gently encouraged, patted, and assured the little ones that it would be over soon.

What was the point of that, really? Why in the world was it necessary for me to be there with them every time? Why did they want to hear those words that I could not fulfill, those mere wishes that they would get better soon? Why was it necessary for me to crawl from underneath my warm covers, stand with them through the heaving and the crying, and maintain some sort of hopeful and comforting attitude through it all? Why did they want my powerless hands to comfort them when they could not take away the sickness? Yet they insisted on it, adamantly, making clear that messy consequences would follow if I even hesitated for a moment.

It made me think of another situation I hate even more than I hate stomach flu: when evil, the kind worse than stomach flu, attacks me or people I know. I hate when I know of someone facing an enormous trial that I can do nothing about. I hate when my heart breaks with theirs, and when I feel so utterly powerless to do anything about it. I hate the helplessness so much that sometimes I am tempted to say nothing, do nothing, and ignore it if I can; to stay under my warm covers and simply comfort myself with denial.

I remember when my daughter's brain tumor was making her terribly sick and nobody knew what was going to happen. I hated being the person that reminded everyone of this huge, sad thing, the family that was suffering so much that anyone who knew about it couldn't help but wonder, "Where is God and why isn't He helping?"

Yet I also remember being comforted. I remember those who allowed their own hearts to be pierced as they shared the burden with us. Those who let themselves love my little girl, and us, even though it hurt. Those who were there with a meal or a hug or an offer of help. Those who dared speak a word of encouragement. I remember, through those seemingly small things, I was comforted.

I was comforted because what was given to me was not simply a cheerful pep-talk or unfounded optimism. I was encouraged by those actions that reminded me of Him, by the words of encouragement that were echoes of the Truth of God's love for us in Christ. It is all too easy to forget the love God has shown us in Jesus, the peace and forgiveness and grace we have in Him, when we are suffering. God knows this about us, and in His mercy, He sends people into our lives during times of suffering to remind us of these things.  He sends His Word, His Sacrament, and words that echo the love He gives there.

Mere words cannot take away the sadness of this life. They cannot turn heavy boulders into feathers, they cannot make the sun shine in the pit of hell. But God can do all of these things! In Christ we have a hope that will not put us to shame; even if the worst should happen, our God will be victorious, and we will be OK.

Because we are in Christ, we can join with those who are facing hardship that we cannot relieve. We join with them by bringing them in prayer to God, and bringing the encouragement we receive from God back to them. We can take the hands that tremble into our own, and look together to the God who
steadies them.

Even though we suffer, we are not forsaken. God is with us, and because of Christ, we will get well soon.

Come Lord Jesus.



(reblogged from 1/21/11)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

on being satisfied

Satisfaction:
This word has been on my mind lately. 

God forces me to let go of things that I think keep me happy, satisfied... and deep in the letting-go I find not deprivation but satisfaction, deeper and richer and sweeter than I expected.


“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


― C.S. LewisThe Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses


Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
 
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.



We live under an OPEN heaven. 
Lord, open our hands to receive your mercies!

Psalm 145:14-19

The Lord upholds all who are falling

    and raises up all who are bowed down.
 
The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.

You open your hand;
    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works.
 
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
    he also hears their cry and saves them.




Father, increase our hunger for that which truly satisfies: for you.
Tend to us, uphold us, refresh us, and feed us Lord. Amen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

as if life depends on it.

Life right now requires many words, many chores, and much hurried business. In my rare moments of quiet I have had to choose between listening and speaking, reading or writing.

Lately, I have been made so aware of my desperate need to receive, to breathe in, to cling to God and feed on His Word, that I have been listening as if my life depends on it.

(It does.)

So, I have little to say today, but what I do have to say is important:

God hears the cry of the needy.
He helps those who call on Him.
He knows how to sustain with a word the mama who is weary.

If you need some soul food, here are my most recent favorites:

Kleinig on Receptive Piety

A Hearing Heart

These are talks given by Dr. John Kleinig, author of Grace upon Grace. Whether you have read that most excellent book or not, you will be edified by the wisdom he delivers to us here.

(Note: Dr. Kleinig delivered these lectures at a pastor's conference- so if the pastor stuff doesn't apply to you... perhaps use those moments as reminders to pray for your pastor in his unique challenges.)



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lost

Lost.

(Five minute Friday- where we write like we used to run- for the joy of it. No editing.  Inspired by Lisajobaker)


I'm getting my bearings again, and it's not just summer's lack of routine that has me unsettled.   It's the reorganizing of my brain that happens in the midst of it, the questioning of who I am and what am I really supposed to be doing here?

Sitting under a child I am where I should be, unless I should be sitting next to that other child, or the neighbor, or doing the laundry, or finishing that 4h project, or writing, or studying, or making them turn off the TV and get outside for heavens' sake!

My speed is too slow for me- one thing at a time is not enough when there are so many things. And even while I do the things I feel the need to pull away from the things so I can assess the things and try to figure out which ones I should even be doing! But when can I find the time for that, when the cat has fleas and I can't even find her, and now I have ten extra loads of laundry?

I'd like to hide in a novel, and sometimes I do.  I emerge from that story as if it were a vacation, but always I return to the chaos and the feeling of being lost in the middle of it.

I try to write something but my brain is so scattered I have no idea where to begin.  Just a feeling of flailing.

But my fingers itch to write something, anything, despite the muddled brain.
Perhaps some words poured on the keyboard will help untangle and un-muddle. I stare at the blank page and find I need a writing prompt- and the word from Lisa Jo this week is perfect: Lost.

How does the gospel affect my to-do list? I've asked this question before, and tried to answer, but it's in the living out of the answer where everything gets tangled.

I've written longer than five minutes now, but I am writing now for the joy of it, for the clarity of it, and I cannot stop until I get somewhere a little more solid.

I miss my days as a student, when my to-do list was made for me by professors.  It was challenging, but it was clear, and doable. Now I feel like I stand in a field with no markers, in this broad expanse where I am a mother and a wife and a friend and I could go any and every way in those vocations. And I don't know where to start.

I am loved fully by God in Christ. There is no need to figure this out to earn his favor or secure my future, for my future is secure in His love. I live in freedom, and I am free to love as the wind blows.

Freedom - exhilarating and terrifying. What do I do first?  I sit in the middle of the field with my coffee and my Bible and my possibilities all spread out in the grass around me. What next, Lord?

I do not have the luxury of waiting in silence for an answer.  Here comes the child with sticky fingers, tromping through my piles, begging for a glass of milk.

I'll get him the milk, but what then, what next?  God does not answer from the sky.


Of course, he is not merely a God in the sky, but a God with me in the kitchen and in the vast expanse of my unclear vocation. He's not lost, and He knows just where I am.

I suppose, if one must feel lost, this is the place to be:

Feeling lost in the little things, but in all things that matter, found.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

awkward jumps and strong words

He feels like a "big kid," but the pool rules say he's  not allowed on the water slide.   How can they know he's not "big enough?"  You cannot measure a boy's courage in inches-tall.  It seems so unfair!

The baby slide is no fun. He is the smallest of the big kids, and the biggest of the littles. He shows them his swimming skills while they cling to me in life jackets.  But his eyes wander to the deep end, where the big kids play. 

Maybe he will just show them all. There is no inch requirement on the diving board.  "Mom, can I jump off the diving board with the big kids?" 

I say he can, and he hops in line, smiling at the big kids, proving he's one of them.
Inches do not make the man. 
The line moves, and he struts forward.
He looks up. It is almost his turn.
Suddenly, his eyes are wide and his feet will not move. 

I hold my breath. 
If he turns away, he will be miserable. 
If they tease him, they could crush him.



They could crush him, but they don't.

They gather around him, nodding, saying kind words.
They were scared, too, once.


They make him laugh.


And those words, they get into his heart.
He carries those words up the stairs, and all along the long walk to the end of the board.


He stares down at the eleven feet of water for only a moment before he jumps.


Those words help him fly.

I nod my approval, and tell him he can stay with his siblings while the little ones and I return to the little pool. He smiles, knowing he made it to the next level.

The nervous little guy, surrounded by encouragers--I carried this picture in my heart all day long. 

Like my son, I am a "words" person- I like to receive love best through the words of others.  And when I am up against a challenge, when I am feeling like the littlest kid in the big pool, those words are strong muscles for my heart.

My Father knows me, and so he sends me encouragers when I need them. He sends me others who listen and pray and wait for me as God stretches me.  The best kind of friends are the friends that I can be "little" around; those who see my smallness and point to the big grace of our Big God.

Sometimes, God brings me to the edge of new pools, and tells me to jump into deep and terrifying waters.  

Repent.
Let that sin go.
Say it out loud.
Learn this.
Love like that.
Be still. 
Rest.
Trust me. 
Let go of that.
Less of everything else- more Jesus.

Trust me.

Sometimes, I move forward with my hand gripped tight around my coffee mug, scared of what's next, and praying that God wouldn't let me drown.  I remember the words of others, and the Words of God that surround me like the shouts of big kids at the pool. 

And... jump.


It might be awkward, but it's still a jump.

Faith is hard. Obedience can be terrifying.  And I won't say it feels like flying, but it does feel like growing, and trusting, and being upheld by the water of grace in new and scary territory. 

Grace, here too. 
Of course!
What else could I expect from this God?


----------
Have you been led to any new diving boards lately?
Have you discovered any new pools of grace in your life?
Keep your eyes open!
God can bless us in the most unexpected of places!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Drained, but only for a season.

They wake me up too early. With sighs and wrinkled eyes, and I shuffle towards the coffee pot like an old lady. I wonder, “Why, oh why, are there so many of them, and why must they be so loud?”

They need me. But it will not always be this way.

They are like mosquitoes, loud squawking mosquitoes, attacking and fighting for the very life blood of their mommy-host. I flail and kick them away as I stagger to the coffee pot. I entice with cartoons and beg for a little bit of quiet, a little bit of space so I can ingest the caffeine and the grace I need for the day. Every Sunday in church I stand with my church family and confess that “I am by nature sinful and unclean.” What I confess with my mouth I experience in my heart each morning, when they wake me up before I am rested.

Oh, how they need me. But it will not always be this way.

I can’t imagine life in the next season, when I am not constantly needed. Doesn’t being needed define the very essence of motherhood? It feels that way. The constant demands, the constant needs that are presented me through my six children, these determine the course of my days.

Their needs often drain me like a parasite drains a host. Does parasite seem too strong a word? Yes, I see the way that one smiles so sweet, the sparkle in that one’s eyes that looks like daddy’s, the soft sweet kissable fat rolls on the baby. They are cute parasites, and I am sure none so cute have ever existed in this history of the world.

But they need me, down to my life-blood. But it will not always be so.

Even as I struggle under the weight of their needs, I know part of me likes to be needed. My need to be useful, to feel like I am doing something important, fits well with their needs to be cared-for, especially when they are tiny.

Someday, I will not be needed. That day is far off, I think. I am in my thirties, and I still need my mother, though I need her much differently than I needed her as a child. I need her as a friend, as an advice-giver, as a grandmother. As long as she lives, I will need her. And when she is gone, and I yet live, the need for her will ache tremendously.

I learn from her. I am to be needed in different ways in each season. It is happening already. I learned to give birth and breastmilk, and then, their needs changed. I learned to cut grapes and fill sippy cups, but now, those skills are outdated. These same children present me with ever-changing needs, and the duties of love must change with the seasons.

May what I have to give change with their changing needs, I pray, when I’d rather give snuggles than pitch baseballs. And it will, it can, in Christ. I could not force breastmilk to flow, and I cannot force my heart to change, but God gives growth.

And where are we growing? How does this end? 

I am needed by my children, but it will not always be this way.

Bear with me as I imagine. Someday, when all things are new, my children will not need me ,and I will not need to be needed by them. We will not seek in each other that which only God can give. Christ will be all in all, and we will be filled. My own dear children who pester me constantly will be filled, they will be content and truly satisfied, when Jesus brings them home to Him. I will learn to love my own mother (and all people!) without the constant pull of my own selfish heart getting in the way, my drive to suck from her what she cannot give, was not made to give.

I will be a mother, loved, but not needed in that parasitic way. I will be the one whom God used to give them life, an agent in the wonderful work He started and completed, a fellow child of God who rejoices with my children in His finished work, in each one of them (please, God!) and in me. I will be loved, fulfilled, and rejoicing, and I will not be needed. I will not be drained. I will be loved, and filled. I will be loved, not used, and they will be loved. Together we will be satisfied, healthy, whole, when we see Him face to face.

Now, is the season for serving and giving and feeling drained. Now, my love is tainted with selfishness, and my body grows weary. 

But this is only a season.

We shall be filled.



But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippains 2:17-18)

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:20-28)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Stand back (when everyone's crying)

It is not my job to make my children happy all the time.

Why is this lesson such a hard one for me?

I forgot this the other day, during our "fun" family outing to the park.  


It was fun, mostly, until the end when two were crying and one was injured and one was sulking because he wanted burgers instead of pizza, and the other two were sitting silently with huge eyes, afraid to say anything because mama was obviously about to lose it.

As we drove home, I lectured them about the way the enemy likes to trick us, by getting us to focus on the one tiny little thing that was bad about our day (our outing) and use that to help us completely forget the hundreds of good things. He tricks us into sulking, into ungratefulness.

And even as I spoke, I felt the "why-do-I-even-bother" pity party come over me. I could have just plopped them in front of a movie and had some time to myself. All this effort, and they're still not happy.

Really, self? Was that your goal today- to make them happy? Did you expect a trip to the park to make them happy, to keep them happy, to solve all of their personal conflicts, and to teach that one boy to stop wanting burgers all the time?

Well, maybe it was, but that sounds ridiculous when you put it that way. Fine then, what should my goal be, smarty-pants in my head?

And again, words from one of my favorite mothers returned to my memory:
"Just love 'em, and give 'em Jesus."

A simple, solid goal, indeed. Don't manage their feelings, and don't expect them to always like you! Love them- do what is best for them, what is good for them- and give them Jesus. Love them to the moon and back, and (what seems even farther right now) to the park and back, through the mud and back.

Give them an afternoon in the sunshine, feed their bodies, and apply the band-aids. Look at the flowers with them, and give thanks to God with them for all of it. Cheer for the big ones on the fast bikes, and lag behind to push the slower one, even if he's screaming in frustration because his little legs won't cooperate. Pray for him, and with him. Call upon the Lord for patience for the both of you.

Their field of vision is narrow. This is why they can have "the best day ever" playing in mud, and then, suddenly, the "worst day ever" being forced into a car seat. You cannot steady the ups and downs of childhood. Stand back- you with your adult perspective- stand back and smile when they are happy, feed them when they are hungry, comfort them when they are hurt. Learn to seek their good, not their good feelings, nor your own.

God's love for us is multi-colored, too. In accordance with our needs, He gives loving comfort, loving discipline, loving forgiveness. Lean on Him to give you the stillness to snuggle, or the strength to wrestle, as the moment requires. Receive both the sunny day and the pizza-in-the-dirt as blessings from His hand, for your good.

Remember, it's not God's job to make you happy all the time.




Perspective- 

If we had just stayed home in front of the tv, I would have missed...

This little guy's brave balancing act.

And even better, watching him with my older duaghter while we joked, 
"what could go wrong? I can't possibly think of one thing..."

I would have missed this snake...



It was pretty little, but still... a snake. Ew.

The littlest one with the biggest determination:



His bike may be slow, but he will NOT give up.  Don't you dare even suggest a stroller. He is NOT a baby.



I would have missed the way my noticer notices every little wonderful thing, and the way my "future police officer" skips rocks like a boss, and the way the thoughtful one takes time to himself by a tree to think thoughts while the others play in the mud.

So here's to the summer,
the very short and very long summer,
where I will not be happy all the time, and neither will my children. 
But we will have each other, and sunshine, and Jesus.

Father, help me to stand back, to look up, and to receive each moment as a gift from your hand.
Amen



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Compel me to look up

The grace alone of Christ's words cases aside every lie that hinders and the striving after the wind that so easily entangles. This grace is the promise that Jesus was broken for you, that He did it all in order to save you. This grace it the promise that the weight of the Me ever seeking to drag your chin back down to look inside yourself for answers cannot overcome the antidote of His words, which are constantly and totally true, doubly so because they are outside of you. This grace calls the devil's bluff for you, in your place, replacing it with a voice of guidance shouting out to you over and over again so that you don't have a chance to look down for long, but are compelled to look back up and there to see hte new man, the man who is outside of you, crucified for you, constantly giving you yet more grace alone. ( Broken by Johnathan Fisk, p. 275)

If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend that you add it to your summer reading list. (What? I'm not crazy. Theology on the beach is a taste of heaven!)

Our bible study group is finishing it up this week, and it has been a challenging and wonderful study.
This might not be your normal genre, but seriously, read it.

Read my full review here.



Father, in your mercy, compel us to look up,
to behold Jesus.
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