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!

PORT HOPE, MI



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."





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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.

Father,
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.



Tiny. 
 Loved. 
Unbuckled.

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