Tuesday, September 29, 2015

on last times

On last times

One after another, last after last,
the lasts are coming in quick succession these days.
The lasts press down heavily on my heart,
But the weight is not only sadness.

These moments are heavy with significance,
filled with long embraces,
when words too awkward to say during the flow of normal days
                                                         fall from our lips,
                                         and we share gratitude,
                              and the flood of memories,
                            and our powerlessness
                   over the passing of time
and the love that has always been there comes bubbling to the surface and pours out our eyes
            and we cling tight to one another,
                                                and to our God
                                                       in with and under us
                                                                  and we give thanks to Him
                                                                     for friendships that will hold together
                                                                                         long after our embraces end.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The church's house, our home.

The church’s house, our home. The parsonage.

As a new pastor’s wife, I wondered what it would it be like to live in “the church’s house” Would it feel like a fishbowl, or would we be able to make it home? This parsonage in Indiana was where our family began to answer those questions.

The large windows in the front room seemed to amplify my fears of living in a “fishbowl” when we first moved in. Now, I love those windows because they allow me to watch the birds eat, and the tractors drive by, and the burning bushes turn bright red in the fall.

I vividly remember one early lecture from daddy to the little boys. They were not to play so rough, not to throw things at the ceiling fan; they were to respect this house becuase, after all, it is the church’s house.

The church’s house.
But will it ever feel like home, I wondered, if we always think of it that way?

It’s funny, how I once thought those ideas were at war with each other; how I didn’t understand that “the church’s house” can be made “home” just like a church family can be made into true family- by the grace of God and with His help.

So, we moved into this house, by the grace of God, this house given to us to use from our church family; generously prepared, painted, cleaned, and maintained for us by hands that eagerly served God, by those who loved us even before they knew us.

We received it as the gift that it was, and as we made our lives here, we tried to pass on the grace we had received. The church’s house had open doors, and extra seats, and plenty of room in the yard. The blessings in it flowed over us and through us and multiplied until they ran over everywhere, until the yard looked like the aftermath of a toddler frat party.

Here are some snapshots of grace from this house,
this church’s house,
And our temporary but much-loved home

We opened our house often, for babysitting and after school playdates and Christmas parties and Bible studies and children and their mamas and friends of all kinds. We had campfires, pool parties, sleepovers, scavenger hunts, and we did not lose even one kid in the woods or the swimming pool.

Weekly “Coffee, chaos, and comfy pants” at the parsonage, where the kids ran wild and the moms got to talk; where the toddlers got to learn to hold babies, and the big babies met the littlest babies, and the 4-year-olds got to be the "big kids" for once, and they all dressed up in wedding dresses or power ranger suits and flipped over every bucket in the house and covered all things in orange crumbs from the goldfish crackers; and we learned to make bread and laundry soap and how to wear a baby and where to buy cloth diapers and how to let some things go and how to say no; and we talked about husbands and jobs and bodily fluids and placentas and sports and sex and facebook and mom-shaming and we chose mom-encouraging instead. 

The price of adult conversation:

And Wednesdays, when we tried to add meat to the chaos, and the house filled with up to 30 kids, and we shut them in the basement with a movie while we shouted discussion over the heads of the babies on our laps and at our feet. We learned to love our hymnals, and we amazed the babies by joining our voices in song. We prayed awkward prayers, we read old books, and we grew together in God’s word.

I was given the gift of a garden, and advice to go with it. I couldn't wait to get my hands dirty, to see if I could be like my mom, and nurture things beautiful and good.

Little boys at my feet helped plant seeds. Later, they shouted about the sprouts that grew, they stared in awe at the budding plants; they harvested with such delight, I was witness to layer upon layer of miracle.

They painted rocks to label my precious plant, and I added the words of a hymn:
“Future needs in earth’s safe keeping, Thanks be to God.” 

And God granted the growth, nourishing my family and beyond, from these little beds, year after year.

A tiny boy walked with me, observing the words of the hymn, and the painted handprint on the rock beside it. He stops, horrified…“Wait, you’re growing fingers there?”

Our front porch received produce every fall, gifts of love from this farming commnity.

Four children came with us from Michigan when we moved here. We welcomed baby 5 and baby 6 home to the parsonage in the years to follow. This house has seen kid fragments from diapers and baby food to skateboards and algebra books.

Friends and strangers have cried in our living room, and the children have, too, but for different reasons. We have handed-out bandages and encouraged with the Word of God times without number, and we have received the same from our dear church family during our days of crying on couches.

The church's house,
the parsonage,
our temporary and much-loved home.
May it ever be a place of blessing.

dear White Creek church family,
for giving us a lovely home here.

May this place continue to keep open arms and doors
that it may be a blessing to many more.

We will take so much Indiana-flavored love with us to our new home,
thanks to the grace of God in this place, 
given through your hands.

He himself will be our home,
as He is yours, 
as we travel onward.

Pray for us please,
 as we set our roots down in our new home,
that we may receive it also as the gift that it is,
and that it, too, may be a blessing to many.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

If you are reading this, he said yes to the call.

If you are reading this, then my husband announced that he has officially accepted his new call. 

Our world has changed, irrevocably, and forever.

If you are reading this, you probably have questions for me, and I probably cannot give a satisfactory answer to many of them. God has called. We have answered.  The hard thing is, we think, the right thing. His faithfulness is our comfort. It is enough. It will have to be.

Words cannot convey the sadness I feel as I consider actually leaving this place. It was truly the perfect gift for our family during this season in our lives. My babies got to be preschool kids in the country, saying goodmorning to cows, riding on tractors, and hunting for frogs in the pond. They entered school under the gentle care of the best teachers I have ever known. The parsonage by the cornfield has been a place of celebration and study and learning to be community, even with a bazillion children underfoot. During the hardest time in our lives the church was truly CHURCH to us and helped and upheld us in every way in the love of Christ. Pastor has Baptized, married, and buried so many people here, people that we will never forget. Deep bonds with friends have grown over the years, and I can no longer imagine life without these dear friends that we have known in Indiana.

And yet, we must go.

Dear friends, please do not let it diminish what you know of our love for you when we say that we go in peace, confident in the Lord’s provision both for us and for you who must stay behind.

We must go, and we go with mixed emotions: sadness and excitement, grief and hope— but underlying all these emotions is a peace that passes understanding, His peace, the peace given to us in Baptism; the peace with God given in Jesus; the peace of the sinner reconciled to God; the peace that is free to trust that in all things God is FOR us, and works even the most painful things for the good of those who love Him and whom He loves.

And of all things we could wish for those who love us, especially for those who grieve, we wish you God’s peace.

If you are reading this, and you love us, you are probably trying hard to say and do the “right” thing, even as you grieve, question, worry, or even feel angry. When you don’t know what to say, or when you say what you don’t mean, or when emotions get in the way of saying anything at all, remember that we are together in this. We grieve together, and grief often means flailing. I’m flailing, too. Praise God: we flail under grace.

The best “right” thing you can do for us now is to pray: Pray for us in transition, pray for our new church, pray for the church here, and pray with eyes on Jesus. Pray with us, alongside us, as we have been and will continue to be- joined together in Christ, joined in peace under His grace, joined eternally as heirs of His grace. Though we must endure a temporary parting, geography cannot sever such a union as we have in Him.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Andthe peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Phil 4:6-9)

He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed inordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:14-22)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Held in Peace

 "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, 
will guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 4:7

Doesn’t it seem strange to talk about “peace” in this place where tornadoes destroy and babies die? What is this peace that we have in Christ? Does the peace of God somehow lift us above the fear and grief that is part of the human condition?
Christians suffer, in body and in spirit in this place.

We are not given the peace of the Stoic. We are not told smile when all is well, and smile when the cancer is terminal. We are not told to close our hearts to that which could disturb our peace. We do not experience a mystical inner collection with God that allows us to weather the storms of this life like immovable statues. No, we flip and fly with the winds, much like the rest of the world.

In our experience, we who have peace with Christ often do not feel very peaceful at all, not in this place.

Christians suffer, and yet there is peace in Christ.

Those who are not in Christ are like a kite unfettered; free-wheeling through the sky; vulnerable to the winds and the elements. The crash is inevitable. The flight is terrifying.

We who have Christ are like the kite held by the strong father.
We have peace with God, and yet we live in this fallen world for a little while longer. 
We are still assaulted by the winds.
The rain falls, and some of the turns make our stomachs lurch. 
We may even feel as if we are careening out of control, and we brace for impact. 
But even in the worst of storms, we are tethered to a Rock.
We are held fast by Him who loves us.

As we flip and fly in this life, we know that nothing that assaults us can force us out of his hands.
He will hold us fast.
And one day He will reel us in, to Himself. 
He will bring us to our home of forever peace, in perfect safety.
Until then, even as we flip and fly, His grip is our peace.

Kite Flying Pictures, Images and Photos

His grip is our peace.

You may also enjoy: Devotions by Emily and My Weakness/His Strength

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.)

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