Friday, September 4, 2015

anxiety (a quote)

A demon explains how to bother a Christian in times of trial and anxiety:

Your patient will, of course, have picked up the notion that he must submit with patience to the Enemy's will.  What the Enemy means by this is primarily that he should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to him---the present anxiety and suspense.  It is about this that he is to say "Thy will be done," and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided.  It is your business to see that the patient never thinks of the present fear as his appointed cross, but only of the things he is afraid of.  Let him regard them as his crosses: let him forget that, since they are incompatible, they cannot all happen to him, and let him try to practice fortitude and patience to them all in advance.  For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible, and the Enemy does not greatly assist those who are trying to attain it: resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier, and is usually helped by this direct action.

(CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

steadily unsteady

Steadily unsteady we remain.

The gifts God freely gives continue to pour in and over us, and yet so many things remain unsteady.

Does God give gifts and let us love them and then request them back?  Which ones can we keep, and for how long? If He wants them back, will He replace them with others?  Will he accept my half-commending of myself and all things?  Will He care for the children? Will He equip us for the work He sends? Will my ankle heal? Will disappointed people say hard things? Will I fall apart in public?  Will He make it crystal clear? For us only, or for others?  Will we see snow this Christmas?
Will we stay or will we go?

Will He be faithful?

Were I to look within or around, there would be no reason for hope, nothing solid to grab. Yet, steady is His Word, steadfast is His love for us, even as He makes all other things sway unsteadily.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The heavy question: Update on the call process

Last week, we announced that pastor-daddy had a new call to consider. As we were traveling to visit that congregation, we got ANOTHER new call. The second church was able to arrange a last-minute visit for us, too. So this weekend, we gathered the family together, and we hopped on the call roller-coaster. 

We're still riding. 
And because I cope with life by writing, I'll tell you how it's going so far.  I was going to make a list of the good things and the bad things, but as I reflect, I see it is not so easy to separate them neatly. 
Here's a snapshot of the Big Feelings during the past few days.

A blessed flattening
You shall have no other gods before me. Not friends, not comfort, not roots, not place, not “security,” whatever that means.  Again, I see how small my love for God is, and how my heart seeks its happiness in the things that are passing away.  A little insecurity, a little reminder of the plain fact that in this life we control NOTHING that matters, is a hard and yet gracious invitation into the Father's arms, the only place true security is ever found.

A wider view
There are so many great ways to live as a child of God, to do this Christian life well!  We got to see His work in a tiny town in the middle of the Michigan thumb, and in the huge city of Detroit.  It looked so different in each place, and yet, the body of Christ was doing what it does, serving others in love.  The mulit-colored beauty of God is incredible!

A smaller view
Seeing the work of God all over the place reminded me of my own place. I am not the glue that holds the world together- nor is pastor-daddy.  It's easy to forget this, in our own family, even in our own community.  This is pride, and pride took a good hit during our travels. God is doing His Works all over the place through all kinds of people. He plants, and grows, and sustains. And we are tiny.  Oh, how we need Him to continue to guide, plant, and grow us as He wills!

Receiving hospitality
We had no choice but to receive hospitality from strangers. And we can never repay the debt, particularly to the church(es?) we will disappoint. Yet, they chose to give, to serve us as they could, knowing this. These small acts of love were grace to us: The thoughtfully chosen hotel rooms, the care for the wiggly kids during meetings, the well-tended parsonages, the kids that were kind to my kids, the questions answered honestly, the tours, the prayers, the patience in the decision making process- grace, all grace.

Receiving patience and love
From those who hurt. The support of the friend who, through tears, says "You know I'll always be there for you even if you do have to leave. And if I'm crying it's just because I love you guys so much." Loving people that could move, or could get sick, or could die, it hurts. And when suffering comes, it's easy to want to close a heart and kill the love for one's own protection. And yet, some keep on loving through the tears. This too, is grace.

Nighttime wrestling matches
I've heard Dr. Kleinig mention “the spiritual gift of insomnia,” and I thought, “Ugh, what's that? I don't want it.” Well, I got it anyway: nighttime wrestling matches with God, or nighttime coping with the physical effects of stress on the body (like arthritis flares for me, bronchitis for him).  I'm still not quite able to see this as a gift, but I have come to appreciate the nights of blessed, peaceful sleep all that much more!

The learning process
This is a new experience for us and many others. It's hard to know that some people just do not understand the position we are in. It is a strange one! For example, my husband did not ask to be on any call list, but that this is possible of anyone who commits to being a pastor, at any time. Second, though we can say no, he is a called servant of the Church (the big one!) and is absolutely obligated to give any call serious consideration.  I always took comfort in the idea that “we could always say no,” and that's true from one angle, but if God's got other ideas, well, to whom else shall we go? 

Then, add in the kids...All aboard!  
If dad and I are going on a stomach-lurching priority-changing life-rearranging roller coaster ride, we figure we might as well bring the kids along and let God change them too... and watch together how he takes care of us, rearranges us, and provides for us.

Fast Friends
Meeting new people is usually awkward, and this cannot be helped. And yet, God can quickly connect his children in friendship. Even my kids got to experience this, and it was wonderful.

Parenting in the spotlight
Six kids, after driving in a van for a million hours, now asked to behave in a new place while adults talk to strangers. They will fail. What will you do then, mom and dad? Because the strangers are watching!  But the strangers were kind and understanding, so it wasn't as bad as it sounds, though of course there were plenty of arm squeezes and whispered lectures!  They are so tired of hearing “Just be quiet and stop touching each other while daddy finishes his meeting!”

Kid grief
My heart aches just thinking about this morning's conversation with my son. “Mom, I just want to stay home and stay in bed until daddy makes a decision.” He's worried about crying in front of his friends. “I just don't feel like I'll ever be happy, again.” “I try to give the question mark to God but it just keeps running back and finding me again.”  I truly wish I could join him in that bed.  God uphold us!

Big Discussions
We have had so many Big discussions about the Biggest things in life with our kids lately. We've talked about priorities, decision making, praying, trusting God, the hard things about waiting, the freedom we have to just BE sad when we need to (or worried or whatever,) the blessing of seeing God's gifts even within a trial.  There is much good, solid food to share mixed in with this bitter meal.

The roots matter
The day before we told the kids, I sent them off to school knowing it was their last day of “normal” before we unsettled their worlds. I said to my husband, “this experience makes me so grateful for your insistence on regular family devotions. There's no last-minute preparation for this kind of thing. Either the roots are there, or they aren't.”  in the crazy mix of tears and excitement of the past few days, the roots have held, and all of us have come to appreciate them more. The Words we say all the time, they are true, and it matters.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth
In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.
Into You hands I commend myself, body and soul and all things...
those words become real in a hard but good way when you have to go to bed and that big heavy question mark is still on your heart.  

We're trying to function today with the big question mark heavy on our hearts, and it will be there for some time. But, God is faithful. We appreciate the support and prayers of our friends and family and church family!

And now, some actual snapshots from the journey...

The long, long journey!


Eastpointe, MI

And finally, back to the home we've made home for the last seven years. 

Our help is in the name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth
In the waters of your Baptism, Jesus has called you by name and promises to be with you always.
Into You hands I commend myself, body and soul and all things...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Big news, Big feelings

Big feelings happening in this place right now...

That feeling when you realize it's all gift, and sometimes He takes gifts back, or exchanges them for others;

That feeling when you realize (again) that you have control over nothing, nothing that truly matters;

That feeling when your heart bursts withboth grief and excitement, and they both just keep getting stronger;

That feeling when you have talked for ten hours and you still have to go to bed with a big decision unmade;

That feeling when you unsettle the world of the children, and some shoot off fireworks of questions with excitement, while others curl up on the ground in a ball of sadness and fear;

That feeling when you realize someone else might eat your future raspberries, and your future strawberries;

That feeling when you trust and pray and commend yourself to God and you still just can't fall asleep;

That feeling when you realize your future is only as steadfast as the love of the Father for His children;

That feeling when your husband gets a call. 

My husband has received a call to serve at another church. Please pray for us and with us as we deliberate and seek God's will; pray for this church and that church and all churches; that God Himself would be our anchor. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

A book to savor, from Anthony Esolen

Reflections on the Christian Life: How Our Story Is God's StoryReflections on the Christian Life: How Our Story Is God's Story by Anthony Esolen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book to savor. Highly recommended.

"The danger is that the things will stuff us full, and we will not be hungry for what really satisfies. The danger is that the things will be heaped so high that we will not see the vast homeland beyond. The danger is that the things will so distract us with their racket that we will not hear the still small voice that fairly broke the heart of the prophet Elijah."

"We are too ready to think that Jesus, being God in the flesh, would be protected from suffering, at least until the onset of His Passion and death. The exact reverse is true. Precisely because Jesus was God, He would feel with a keenness we cannot imagine all the wretchedness of sin, the stupidities that wreck our lives, the tearing of the heart at the moment of a loved one’s death, and even the ordinary demands of the feeble body and soul. He was a lone innocent man in a world of sinners, as if He were the only man who could see color in a world of black and white, or the only man who could still hear music beneath a world of shouting, blasphemy, sniggering laughter, idle gossip, sharp-eyed wheedling, and groans. His suffering with us and for us and on account of us began the day He was born."

"He was doing the will of His Father, and opening Himself out in the wound of love."

"Where is the pearl to be found? This is the moment that contains all moments. This is the day that the Lord has made. Look down at your feet, and see what God has placed in your path. Look to your neighbor, and see whom He has sent. Look up at the sky, and see the gleam of His glory."

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Unbuckled. (when the littlest one leaves for school.)

The lake spreads wide, and we ride along in our tiny fishing boat.

We are tiny, on the big lake.

My tiniest one is afraid. His life jacket does not comfort him like it comforts me. He climbs in my lap, and places my arms around his waist. “Mama, you be my seatbelt,” he says. He settles back into me, and watches the glory of the summer day pass by, in safety and confidence now; now that he is tucked in my arms, now that mama is his seatbelt.

Yes, dear, I will be your seatbelt, gladly, while I still can. I nuzzle into his hair, breathing in the summer, lake, life, and little boy. I hold the moment close to me while I can, while my arms still reach around his little waist; while he still fits here, on my lap.

My tiniest one is outgrowing his seatbelt.

The waves come from the front, and more waves from the side. The boat suddenly jerks, and I fly off my seat, tiny one smashes into the side of the boat. He shows me his bruise, angry with me. Mama's seatbelt didn't hold. I glare at my husband, angry with him. Where's my seatbelt?

The tiniest one climbs back on my lap, and we continue on, though not without prayers from my mother-heart. We speed along the miracle of the giant lake, upheld in our little boat. Where can we go, but forward? To Whom shall we cling as we fly along? Our Creator and Father shines the sun down upon us, as we consider His ways, meditate on His works. We ride on his works; we swim in them and float on them and watch them fly overhead and make them into castles and watch them destroy our castles.

Tomorrow, it will be time to unbuckle the last seatbelt.
Tomorrow, my youngest goes to kindergarten.

Mothers are not made to be seat belts forever. 
And so, we go forward, the children to school, and me, into the next season of life. We go forward, but not without many prayers from my mother-heart.

Take my children and all children into your loving hands as they begin a new school year.  Guard them from danger, bless them with good friends and kind teachers; grant them bodies full of health, and minds full of wonder and joy in learning.  As they outgrow their motherly seatbelts, grow them up in You, that your grace may be the air they breathe and the cool water in which they swim each day.  

Father, take this mother, and all mothers, into Your loving hands, too.  Grant us the grace to flex with the needs of our families, and the eyes to see your grace and blessings in each season of our lives.  Refresh us, Lord, and quench our thirst as we drink deeply from Your Word each day.  Be our anchor in the days of change, and fix our hearts where true joys are to be found: In Jesus, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

a sunset song (in loving memory of Uncle Tom)

Before we went to Lake Michigan for vacation this year, we spent a few days on the cliff, at edge of eternity.

In hospital waiting rooms, crying openly, embracing frequently, we journeyed to the end of life in this life with my uncle. He was taken from us with such speed, it seems; given only three days to three weeks to live from the moment they said “cancer.”

Family came, fresh from the beach, with burned skin and red eyes. The air was thick with their warmth, their love, like summer humidity. As that harsh light on the cliff of eternity burned away so much that doesn't matter, we talked more freely about the things that do.

His wife would not leave his side. Those who love them both kept vigil with her. My dad stood with his arms crossed at the end of the bed, wet eyes. I went up next to him and leaned in heavy, and my sister did the same on the other side. We watched the horrible sunset of a life, together.

His wife wet his lips with a sponge; she held his hand; she moved the tubes and climbed into bed and held him close while she still could. Whether he had the strength to return the embrace or not, it didn't matter; she was breaking, too, but she gave what she had to her broken husband. He loved her, and she loved him, and they loved until the end.

During the last evening of the last day of his life on this dying earth, when goodbyes had been spoken, and there was nothing to do but wait, my sister sat at his bedside and did something ridiculous: s
he sang. She sang a cheerful song, a song of victory, and it didn't match the oppressive sadness in that dark room, it didn't line up with the suffering there. It was not a song inspired by the grim scene unfolding there... it was a song from beyond the cliff.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Oh, the emotions I felt as I stood and watched the ridiculous concert, the nearly insane words of light spoken in one of the darkest rooms possible! “Victory in Jesus,” sung over one who was losing the battle to cancer! Victory? Really? If anything in this world is defeat, is it not this, a man taken in his strength down to nothing, cancer in every cell of his bone marrow? Even as she sang, he groaned, then fell into deep morphine snores, only to be woken again by more pain. How can this, even this, be made into victory? And yet my sister, there singing, declared by her presence itself exactly how. That sister, who for years sought her own death in the dark rooms of addiction and rebellion, is now made alive in Christ, and here, on a deathbed, declaring his works of light in the darkness. Here is a girl who knows the works of the Lord, and knows there is no hopeless situation if His hand is at work.

When she finished, he gave a faint smile and a weary “yaaaaay!” Not many hours later, he was finished, too; finished with all work on this earth, finished with the days he'd been given here. He is now finished with breath, finished with cancer, finished with his motorcycle and projects and mowing his own lawn.

But is God finished? Or is there reason for hope, even now, even when he is gone over the cliff and we see him no more? We will keep singing, in hope, as we live out our own days until our final sunset. We will sing of this God who makes dry bones live, whose Jesus died for us and rose for us, and who promises to raise us, too. And it will sound ridiculous, and our feelings will sometimes be unable to join the song, but what does it matter? Our feeble flesh and our fickle feelings will not stop His hand in its gracious work.

I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold
Beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing,
And the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there
The song of victory.

O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

Victory seems so far off, and it is hard to wait, hard to believe while we wait and do not see. Gently turn our eyes to Jesus as we grieve. Gently comfort us in Your Words of promise. Let the harsh light we feel at the edge of the cliff burn away all that does not please you, and those things that do not matter. Fill us with faith towards you, and fervent love for each other, as we wait in hope for your coming in victory.

Especially uphold my dear uncle's family as they continue life in this broken place, now with the hole where he once was. Gently, Lord, help and comfort them and all who grieve.

In Jesus' Name, Amen.
view from the edge of eternity
(hospital window)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

running commentary

So, you’re a silent prayer. I was too, before kids. I was a silent hair-brusher and laundry-starter and weed-puller, too. But now, I am a Narrator.

Read about it at Katie Luther Sisters, and keep talking!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

a morning with nets

The orange nets from the dollar store wake us early.  The boys hear them calling from the porch, promising bullfrogs, or at least a dragonfly or two.  

With coffee in one hand and a bucket in the other, I follow them to the pond.  It's not likely we will beat the storm, but we are not afraid, not even a little.  We are big and we have nets.

The boy sneaks and lunges, but it is just a stick. We tiptoe on. I gasp, make them pause, then we realize I'm pointing at dried mud. The little shirtless one is cold. He presses up against my leg as the wind increases.

It is getting darker. Perhaps the bullfrogs are afraid of the storm.

We head home, but we are not sad.
"Mom, you have to see this!" he points at the sky. God is playing with a clouds.
We will not go inside.

We watch the art change on the giant canvas.

We see dragons, and whales, and beds for the angels. Before long, we cannot even guess what God is drawing; we sit in silence and watch Him do a new thing, new to our small eyes.

We breathe in cool, wet oxygen, and we watch in awe.
We are standing inside a living painting, watching the work of our living God.

We watch until the drops are fat and the lightning is near.
We are chased inside.
We are small.
We are alive.
We have nets.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
(Psalm 29)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lutheran Labor Singers

Join me over at Sisters of Katie Luther for an onion-style piece, inspired by the women singing and growing babies everywhere I look these days.

"I grew up in the Lutheran church, and my mother plays the organ. I cannot think of my own childhood without hearing the comforting sounds of Lutheran hymns at church, at home, and even in the car. And yet, it seemed odd to me… never once did my mother or grandmother have a choir involved in the childbirth process. I think the faithful of today need to take the next step and make that happen."

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