Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I dare you to notice

Lord, open my eyes, I pray as if my life depends on it.

The eyes of my heart do not naturally see this place as God sees, and even when they do see, they tend to shut again.  I am prone to sleepiness, to forgetfulness, to blindness.

Father, help me to see.

She asked me to braid her hair before service, so I did, and it was not perfect but she loved it anyway.  She does that with everyone, everything, with the exception (sometimes) of herself. Lord, her eyes seem to see better than my own, but keep on opening them. Continue the work You have begun.  Beside me at church, she sings, "I know that my Redeemer lives."  Her voice always takes my breath away.  In it I hear such joy, and the joy has a way of highlighting the shadows. (Or is it the other way around?) She is grace, and her voice is grace, and this moment when I can see the grace in the gifts... that is grace, too.

Oh friends, there are so many things to be done!  It is no challenge to see the WORK in this place! And this seeing leads to doing, to conquering, or at least trying to conquer.   I excel at conquering. If fact, I can do it with my eyes closed.

I wouldn't recommend this.

The eyes of my heart: if they are not forced open, they see only the work that the children create, only the messes and the unchecked lists and the imperfections in this home.  They see ugliness, and proof of failure on my part, or theirs, or both.

Lord, open my eyes.

God gives me time-outs, and He forcibly pries open my eyes.  Sitting in a pew, or under a sick child, I am forced to SIT, to be still and open ears and eyes.  I fight the stillness, but not as hard as I once did. I know that stillness is soul medicine.

I am starting to learn when I need to give myself a time-out.  When I've been working blind and my head is sore from crashing into those things which I refuse to see... then, it is time be still.

Writing (and lately, painting) is a way for me to slow down and notice.  Making art is a way of collecting the gifts, tracing my fingers along the edges, savoring, and giving thanks.  My gratitude journal is open again.  There are too many gifts to record, but I capture a few, and they are precious to me.

Yet even creative expression can become narrow, if I merely look around me at the awful beautiful life in this world. Truly, I am surrounded by grace, but the greatest gifts give me by my lavish God are those I cannot see.

Paul prays for hearts unsatisfied and blind like mine:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe.  (Eph 1:18-19)

Our Jesus-- what He has done for us, what He is doing now, and what He plans for the future-- HE is what the eyes of our hearts so long to see.  He is the Gift to which all others point. He is the final proof that our God is a God of extravagant grace and boundless mercy.

There is often grief mixed in with the noticing, when I consider the flower or the daughter in bloom and remember the dust to which all things return.  The dust makes me afraid to notice, to open my heart to things that shall crumble.

But, stay with me. Look with me. Do not close your eyes.

Zoom out.

Consider the whole picture. Consider the God who created the world and entered the world and died for the world and is making all things new. Consider His Story, and our small place in it.  Consider your life given, by grace, and the new life we have in Christ, by grace, and the promises of life eternal that are ours, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

Suddenly, the shadows look smaller. And we see that they are temporary.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up in Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  (Ephesians 2:4-7)

What does God want to do with us?
He wants to use us.
To conquer the world? To overcome sin and death?
No, He has done that in Christ.

He wants to use us to show the world the surpassing riches of His grace. 

He wants us to live with open hands and open eyes, and to receive.
To see.
To take Him in.

He is the great gift, and each one of His other gifts are a drop from the same fountain.
Be still today, and notice.

Trace your fingers along the edges of the gifts.
Write, paint, sing, or knit about it if you like.
The laundry will be there when you're done.

My laundry was there yesterday, after the sick little boy finally fell asleep.  It is undone, because he just "really really needed mommy snuggles." I rested with him, on top of the covers, but he knows me too well. He knew I'd get up and run away the second he started snoring. So he moved closer, put my arm behind my head, and nestled into my breast.  He would not allow me to leave unnoticed.

I noticed his noticing, and I did not run away when I heard the sleepy snores.  I lingered in the noticing, staying close to the needy little one for just a little longer.  In my mind I saw him grow from baby to toddler in a blink.  I zoomed out, and saw God's hand forming him, taking care to give him that adorable pinky toe and those deep dimples.  I saw his spirit come alive in the waters of Baptism, the flood of grace waking his deepest parts.  I saw soul food in the form of a sunday school picture of Jesus, and I heard a little voice learning sing-song praises.  I saw God's sustaining care, from birth to the moment he needed "mommy snuggles," and I saw how God gave them to Him, granted him rest in this moment, in my imperfect arms.  I thought of our sabbath rest to come, and I rested then.

The tasks truly can wait while you let God restore your sight.

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished on us.  (Eph 1:7-8a)

Lord, open our eyes, we pray, because our lives truly do depend on it.

I dare you to notice.

originally posted 4/14

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why store moments?

Why store moments?

I am a writer, a gatherer of moments. I look for things that inspire, for drops of grace, for moments of beauty around me, so that I can capture them and pass them on.  I see them often in my children. My mind takes a snapshot with a “click,” and I return to it later and paint it with words.

And then I stop and wonder, why store moments?  Why keep my eyes and hands open? What am I collecting memories for?

When I knew my husband was leaving for Iraq, I feasted on every last second we had together. I think I tried to “stock up” on him somehow, as if I could fill myself up with moments to avoid future pain. As if I would miss him less if I just had more of him to keep with me. I feasted on him, and still, he carried my heart with him when he got on that plane.  Moments stored do not lessen future pain.

Also, I’ve been a mama long enough to know that not every moment can be a moment. There won’t be a “moment” every day, or every week for that matter!  Sometimes all I can say is, “well, we got through the day and nobody died” and I stagger through the dirty living room, kick aside the laundry, not even CARE to investigate the weird smell in the kitchen, pick the nerf darts out of my bed, and collapse in exhaustion.

Motherhood is not all moments, but there are some, and they are precious.

My children are fluttering through their days with no thought for gathering, so I gather for them. I collect a few bright spots from their childhoods and save them with the other keepsakes. I’d like them to be able to look back through my eyes and see that they were loved and blessed and cared-for by God. They already know that, but I hope to help them know it even more.  Moments stored may age like wine and bless us later. We will be glad to gaze again on the faded beauty, and we will thank God even for the days of re-living. We will remember and re-thank.

But I don’t really gather moments for later. In picking them up, I savor them right now.

Moments gathered water my soul and help me to love. Living with open hands and open eyes is a way of keeping my antenna tuned to what is important: to God and the people around me. When those precious moments come, free and beautiful, like grace, I drink them in.

And as I drink, I remember:

I remember that the noisy, dirty creatures messing up my house each day are people, beloved by God, wonderful works of His hand.
I remember that I am a child of God—weak, and loved.
I remember that my Father sees me, knows me, cares for me.
I remember that I am here to receive love and to love.

No automatic alt text available.And the grace swallowed down waters my heart and makes it soft and grateful, even when my hands are in the dish water again.

Thank you Jesus, for this moment.

A few recent moments:
- When the little one said his memory verse, "Ceasar Augustus issued a decree over the entire Ramen noodle.."
- Evening church, and it feels like midnight. I stop singing the hymn: the voice behind me is too beautiful. My heart worships louder when I listen in silence, marveling at the miracles God is still doing- in my very own daughter.
- We're listing things we're thankful for, and my littlest baby writes "marriage." This makes my older son squirm and blush, and I am doubly thankful.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Aspire to breathe

“I’m good, just busy, you know how it is.”

Yes, I know how it is. The never-ending rush from this thing to the next.  
It’s letting your house go and eating fast food and never stopping to take a breath or read a book so you can keep everyone moving, moving, moving. It’s the American way. Everybody’s doing it.  It’s feeling powerless, like someone else is filling up your calendar.  It’s never going to stop; we will never feel caught up.

Is this how it has to be?  What are we chasing after?
Our culture expects us to plan and schedule Important Things for every waking hour, for ourselves and for our children. But should we?

Imagine for a moment that your “How are you?” and was met not with the usual line about busy-but-good,
But something else, something like:

“I whittled down what’s on my schedule and suddenly I feel like I can breathe again. I have.. Free time. It’s wonderful.”

How would you react if you heard that? I posed this question to a group of women and they replied:

“I think I’d feel jealous.”
“I’d want to know their secret.”
“If I said that, someone would just say to me ‘Oh great, we’ve been looking for volunteers for ____.’”
“I wouldn’t know what to say.”

It is really that weird.  We’d hardly know what to say if someone told us they were NOT busy and had space in their schedule and lives. WHY is it this way, everybody? It has not always been this way in the history of the world. And I’m not convinced it HAS to be, even now.  Consider this with me: could it be that the pace of our lives is suffocating us?

My husband and I have begun to ask this question: Is the benefit of this commitment worth the busyness we feel as a family?  (Or in other words, why are we doing this to ourselves again?)
If we cannot come up with a good enough answer to this question, that’s it. We quit. It’s off the list.

It helps that we have so many children. We learned early on that if we say “yes” to every good thing offered to each child we will be running in too many different directions and the whole thing will come crashing down. We also realize that a “yes” to one thing necessarily means a “no” to something else.  Is that “something else” important? This question must be asked. It is important to receive God’s Word together.  Isn’t it also important to play outside, eat together, interact as a family, and have unstructured time to breathe and imagine and rest?

Imagine a world where we said more things like this:
“I just sat with my kids and enjoyed them today. We didn’t accomplish anything- we were just together.”

What are you doing this weekend?
“We’re sharing a meal with some friends and just spending time together.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing this weekend- there’s nothing scheduled!”
“Nothing much: Breathing in. Receiving from God. Feeding my spirit and resting my body.”

I’m not advocating laziness, but rather, discernment. If I let the expectations of others or the world fill my calendar, it might be full of fun experiences, and I will definitely be busy, but I will almost certainly be neglecting the things that matter.

I’ve been pondering this Scripture:
Love your neighbor and aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands… 2 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Did you catch that? Aspire to live quietly. ASPIRE to live quietly!
Love your neighbor, work with your hands, and live quietly, waiting with joyful expectation for the coming of the Lord.  Receive from your God and live.

It is by the grace of God alone that we are here with beating hearts and breathing lungs.  His grace has called us into fellowship with Him, we are to be set-apart, and to grow in His word.

We pray often that God helps us grow ”in faith towards you and in fervent love towards one another.”
How does He give that help? He feeds our faith with His Word. He teaches us to love by drawing us into community where we spend actual time together, sharing meals and lives together.  These things take time. But do we have the time?

“Aspire to live quietly.” I hear this as an invitation, permission to say no to the things that choke out what matters. Nobody is going to say no for me.

But what does saying yes to this invitation actually look like?  This is something I am really wrestling with, friends. How do we keep the busyness from crowding out what matters?  Share your thoughts with me, please!

This is a day that You have made- help us rejoice and be glad in it!  May we aspire to receive your good gifts and make good use of the time you have given us here. Grant us wisdom in what we say “yes” to, knowing that every “yes” is a “no” to something else. Help us not get distracted by mindless busyness, but instead say “yes” to those things that are good for our souls and our neighbor, and live confidently and peacefully in your grace. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

assorted passengers

Wind and whitecaps today, but we’re on the boat anyways. He steers us right into the stomach-dropping waves, and as we cruise along I observe the manifold reactions.

One asks me questions I can’t answer: “How big are these waves? What happens if this or that happens? Is this a good idea?” I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe because I trust his dad, and his dad is going forward (with a small smile, even.)

One snuggles close to me.  He puts my arms around him just so, and then he bows his head in prayer. He keeps his eyes closed, praying, fearing, enduring.

The youngest knows just how to cope: it’s time for a nap.  He pulls a blanket over his head and is asleep in an instant. I’m not sure if this is evidence of strong faith, or some kind of stress overload shutdown effect, but I watch his sleeping body bouncing all over with the waves and I am amazed.

A giant wave, a hard landing, and I let out an angry, “HUN!” Yes, I’m a little scared, and my anxiety can easily turn into anger at the one with the steering wheel.  He can’t control the waves, he says, and I can tell he’s trying not to laugh at me.

One child does much better if he can stand. He holds on loosely, and his knees are bent so he can sway with the boat and keep his balance. He’s not in control, and he’s not trying to be: he’s just keeping his eyes forward and accepting the waves as they come.

And then, there’s the group of crazies. They’re sitting in the very front, hollerin’ encouragement to the waves.  One keeps flying off his seat while his sister holds the tail of his life jacket.  Water sprays them and they scream-laugh; it pours down their faces and they greet it with wild-eyed excitement and screams for more, more, more!  When we get there, they will be the ones to talk excitedly about the ride to anyone who will listen for days to come. They will be exhausted but happy.  I admire them, but I do not sit with them.

And the captain simply keeps driving forward.

A wild one gets scared and comes back to snuggle me. The sleeping one gets brave and moves to the front. The standing one gets tired and sits down for a rest and a prayer. And still, the boat stays the course. The captain knows the seas, and he can keep his bearings even in rough weather.

The captain guides his boat with his assorted children, and eventually each one gets to land safely.  Because, you see, the success of the venture depends on the captain.

Father in heaven,
Captain of my ship! Guide me in rough seas and in calm. Thank you for your strong hand on the wheel, for your promise to carry your children to safety.  My own feelings toss me about so; thank you for staying the course even when your children aren’t handling it well.  Keep me in the boat that you are steering Lord: I am helpless out there without you!  In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 13, 2017

church bells

I quickly switch the laundry, get out the snacks, make sure there is a plan for dinner, know who has practice and who has memory and who forgot to do their chores this morning, take one more sip of coffee, and then dash out the door to pick up the kids from school. I’m multitasking at super-speed and I almost trip over the dog as I step outside. 

WHAM. The air is different out here, and it’s like running into a wall.  It’s the  smell of wet leaves and pine trees, the cool air, and the sound of church bells. I have been smacked in the face by Life: the sensory delights of fall combined with the music that lifts my soul straight to heaven. I slow my pace, no longer walking as if I have to conquer the world. I walk slowly, inhale, and look to the sky.  My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.

I am small.  My mountain of tasks set before me, they are small too, really, when I remember who I am and whose I am.  I walk this path daily, the one that leads me from my afternoon quiet to my evening of noisy vocation. And my transition is helped along by the songs of the church.

The bells ring and my soul is nudged to pray and to remember:

God is my Mighty Fortress and my helper.  
Abide with me Lord!
Amazing grace: it is in the very air we breathe. 
God Himself is present here!
God is not silent. He calls and gathers us, He sets us apart from this dog-eat-dog world into something new: a gathering of people loved by God who are learning to love one another.
I know that my redeemer lives, and this changes everything!

The youngest greets me with a running hug.  Another greets me with a pile of papers and a “Hi-mom-how-are-you-what’s-for-snack?”  There will be racing, probably falling, definitely arguments. One or more will be delayed by the excited dogs or the call of the trampoline.  The tasks continue their relentless demands. Yet in the background, the bells are still ringing their song of welcome and grace. 

Surely the Lord is in this place.

“An alarm summons nameless masses to their task. A church bell summons human beings to the worship of God. An alarm is a veiled threat. A church bell is a solemn welcome.” Anthony Esolen

Father welcomes all His children to His family through His Son
Father giving His salvation life forever has been won

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hurricane Relief

Lorraine (age 14) just returned from a trip to Florida with her grandparents and Samaritan’s Purse to help with Hurricane relief efforts. She was gone for almost two weeks (counting travel time) and was able to do her high school work on the road. She returned full of stories, thankfulness, and mementos from the beach.  Recently, I sat down with her for an interview.

I know you didn’t really know what to expect when you went, but was there anything that  surprised you?
How friendly everyone was (the volunteers and the leaders.)  I will never forget the people on my team!

Did it seem weird being the youngest there?
Most people were retirement age. There were three 17-yr-olds and one 14-yr-old. It wasn’t weird though. People don’t talk to me like I’m a kid (probably because I don’t talk like a kid.)

What was it like? Tell me about some of your experiences.
At one house we thought it was going to be a simple mud-out (throwing everything away that got water damage/mold) but when we got there we also had to take the whole kitchen out- we had to gut the whole thing. Even the cabinets were moldy. They had thought it would be a half hour job but it took us all day.
In one of the rooms an entire wall had blown out and they put blue tarp over it. We took everything out of that room (TV set, everything in the closet, etc) When we took the tarp down to help take down the wall we discovered it was ALL termites. I couldn’t believe the wall was still standing because it was paper thin. In another room we had to take down all the walls and insulation and even the ceiling!  Sometimes they had to let the insulation just hang form the ceiling for a while so that all the water would pour out onto the floor!  We also had to fix the roof- there were tons of holes and it just kept leaking into the house.
They were so thankful they ordered us pizza. They had to drag us away from the work to make us sit and eat with them.
Another house we went to was like a hoarder’s house. They had a bunch of pieces of metal just laying around their yard, and you could barely walk through the house. The girls cleaned up a patio.  Bump (grandpa) had to put on tyvek suit (it made him look like a sausage!) and wear a mask to deal with all the moldy insulation.

What was the hardest thing for you?
The work wasn’t bad because we were with everyone else while we worked and having fun kind of. It was hard to leave the people’s house when we could have talked a lot more.  Also, another team went out to work one day and discovered a suicide. I’m glad that wasn’t us.

How did you see God at work?

Sometimes people were quite rude at first but they usually softened up after we worked for awhile. I think it helped them to see us work hard but still be laughing and having fun too.  At the end of every job we would pray with the people and give them a  Bible at the end (that everyone in the group signed).Some people started crying when we prayed for them or when we gave them a Bible.

Well Lorraine, your family prayed for you the whole time you were gone. It is a lovely thing to see you going off into the world and using the gifts God has given you to bless others. What a joy it is to see you growing into a young woman with a heart for God and His people!  May He keep up his good work in you!  

What other questions do you have for Lorraine?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A gust of icy wind (on Depression)

I (re)learned something this week. Maybe if I write it down I will remember it forever.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
can vanish in an instant.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is not a given.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is precious when I have it.

The energy to clean my kitchen and smile at my children
is not the reason I am loved.

Fall. My favorite tree is bright red and I can see it out of our kitchen window.
Lovely, deep red predominates, but the second glance reveals orange, yellow, and even green toward the middle.   The blue October sky as a backdrop-- it is a breathtaking sight.

Today I sit in a lawnchair by this tree.
The wind is gentle, but a strong burst comes, and it begins.
The stripping.

Red leaves cascade around me. Lovely, for a moment, but I see what is happening.
The stripping.

I think of this stripping, and how I have felt it in my own heart.

My patience, my energy, my zeal for life-- it is shocking how it can all just vanish. When the cold hands of depression reach up and grab me by the ankles, what else can I do?  I fall on my face, and all of my beautiful leaves fell off into the grass. There in the pit, I am left with nothing but my own filthy rags.

I cannot get up and clean the kitchen. I have no sincere smile for my children.
They are unsettled, and I am unsettled, and bare.  And so very cold.

A leaf lands on my computer. What was glorious and red from a distance now reveals to me its imperfections. Rotting spots. Discoloration.  
The stripping continues.

Unlike the tree, I do not stand still and accept the gusts of wind.  It hurts too much, so I question God’s work, His presence. I do not know whether to repent or fight or cower or quit, so I try to do everything at once, until I collapse, exhausted.

And then, the seasons change, orchestrated by the loving hand of my Father.  
The climate changes, and suddenly, I can feel the sun again.

I did not make the season change again. I cannot call up the sun. But today, it shines, and as it shines God fills in the coldest parts of my heart, sending the truth of His love that I already know down deeper, deeper.

As for me, I am poor and needy
but the Lord takes thought for me
He is my help and my deliverer 
(Psalm 40:17)

He who directs the seasons also directs my ways, even when I do not understand them.
In this, I can rest.

Weak and Loved.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Hide us in Your Word, in Christ, that we may weather all seasons. Amen.

If you know exactly what I'm talking about, read all of Psalm 40.
Click here for more of my thoughts on depression

re-posted from 11/2013
re-lived often.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Come in, for He has gone out for you

It is hard to find safe places in these troubled times. Our enemy isolates us, and these days it is easy to curl up in distraction, in entertainment, or behind our own self-made walls.  How awful it is to bear burdens in secret, to sink quietly and alone when they become too much.  

“Do not neglect meeting together,” God tells His people.  Where two or three are gathered, there He is in the midst of us. Jesus invites us into community because we need community. It is not good for us to be alone- so Jesus goes out.

See Jesus’ heart for the outcast, for the one broken by sin! The sin that breaks the outcast- is it her own or just a result of the evil in this world? Does it matter?  Jesus does not wait for us to untangle these things. Simply, Jesus goes out.

Jesus goes out to speak life and grace and forgiveness.  Jesus goes out, He comes down, He enters into the lives of each broken person.  He lived and he died and He rose for this one and that one and each one, for you and for me. He goes out to speak life and grace and forgiveness.  He goes out to bring health, life, and community.

Jesus goes out with His Word, and His Word is life!
Without it, we suffocate and die and so do our relationships.

But with it-- with His Word, His grace-- our relationships take on new life!  We gather to receive from His hand, and we see that we have enough, truly enough to last for eternity.  We become eager to share, eager to pass the cup that is filled with the living water.  What a blessing, to be part of a community formed by God, fueled by His grace; when people gather together to be seen and to see one another, to love and forgive, to extend grace and encourage each other in the Lord.

Because Jesus goes out, the outcast is taken in, and the beggars are given daily bread.

Sometimes, this Jesus, He scares me.  His giant compassion is terrifying when I see it applied to others, even as I want that compassion for myself.  It scares me because, if I am to walk as He walks, where are my healthy boundaries? How do I know when I can say no? Where CAN I put up the fences and the keep out signs? What if I get too tired and my feet hurt and the people keep coming? How can I assure I will get some rest, have some space, reserve some part of me that is truly MINE, that doesn’t get poured out and remade by this God with this crazy love?

And Jesus doesn’t answer. He doesn’t draw the boundary lines.  He calls us into wide-open spaces, into the vast expanse that is His work in the world.  

But who is this God who calls us?

When the widow used up the flour each day, each day He restored it. When the storm was too much for the disciples, He spoke, and it was still. When Moses lost the strength to pray, He sent Aaron to hold up his hands. When our sin was too much for us, He took it upon Himself and bore it to the grave, burying it forever, that we may be free.

He calls us out, with no guarantees: only the gift of His presence.
Only! As if the provision of this Jesus who goes out and pours His very blood for us were not enough!  

He calls us out, not to BE Jesus, but to be WITH Jesus, to be filled up with and to pass on the grace that He gives.

It is not good for us to be alone, so Jesus gives us Himself, and then He plants us in church families where we can give and receive His gifts together. Do not neglect gathering together with His people!  Yes, those who join you are broken too, and dysfunctional at times. Life in any family is complicated.  Praise God that complicated messy sinners like you and I have a place here, where we are welcomed in, forgiven and fed.

Come in, sit alongside other sinners, and be fed.  Be brought in close by the One who goes out for you.

For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. Ezekiel 34:11-16

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

Worship times at St. Peter's Eastpointe
Wednesdays at 7pm
Sundays at 8am and 10:30pm

Saturday, November 4, 2017

meeting with grandma (creative writing exercise)

We’re at a kitchen table, but it’s not the one she always used. It could never seat all of them- grandpa, and their eight children. It’s the small table, in the condo, from the days when her life shrank down to smallness and the children were grown, after the neighborhood went bad and they moved where things were safer and someone else mowed the lawn.  It’s probably not her favorite table. How could it be?

Why did grandma choose to meet me here, of all places?  If I got to come back from heaven for a moment to visit a granddaughter, I imagine I’d meet her someplace wonderful, somewhere I’d made a great memory.  But here were are, meeting at the little kitchen table in the condo from the days when her life got small.

She has hair again, but it is gray, and her skin is a little wrinkled. Her smile is radiant, and I have the sense that she is merely wearing something like old age, but not quite; as if she is toning down her beauty for my sake.

Grandma has something for me inside a bag.  It’s just what I need, she says with a small smile. I cannot imagine what it could be. Can you put a nap inside a bag? Or patience, or courage?  She sets the bag on the table. It is so good to see her again.  

“I can’t carry anything from eternity to you, dear. If I could, I would give you the fruit that tastes like a sunrise, and the words to the songs that we sing around the throne, and you would eat and we would sing, and He would pour out so much healing and life that you would never grow old, never grieve, never ache in your soul ever again.  But the time for that is not yet.”

Her radiant face becomes serious, and something like sadness, but not quite, fills her eyes. “No, not yet. You have darkness to travel through yet, dear. And days of smallness.  And you will fight it and grieve the changes, but that is as it should be.  God will do His work in you and for you, and that is what matters.”

She opens the bag, and inside I see it: a flower.

“Do you remember when you were small and we would go for walks in the woods by the cottage? I loved the way you held my hand and chatted about every little thing. I remember teaching you to watch for this special flower: trillium. It was a rare flower, illegal to pick, but it grew in our little corner of the woods. I always liked to look for it, and to teach you little ones to appreciate it and respect it.”

I took the flower from her hand. That’s it? I thought.  A flower for a vase for a week, then the smell of rotting plant, then garbage and another dish to clean?

She read my thoughts. “Yes, the flower will die, it is not from the New World. But you will have the memory, and with it, the promise from our Lord: He is making all things new.  Trillium is rare in this life, and special... like those moments with your children as they grow, they bloom for a moment and then they are gone forever. I know you feel this way.” Tears came quickly to my eyes. “But it only seems to be this way, dear. He is making ALL things new!  I wish I could describe to you the trillium in the new place: our Father makes even this flower more beautiful, and somehow more unique and precious and abundant, all at once!”

She traced her fingers along the table. “It is ok to let go, dear, and to move on to the next season. No, it is not ‘safe,’ not in the way you think of it- there will be trials and dangers and real suffering.  The things that pass away are really gone… for a time. But Jesus!  He is there with your family around your noisy table, right in the thick of the the homework battles and the ‘do I really have to eat this?’  And daughter, when life changes again, when your table is small, He will be there with you and the quiet cup of coffee.”

“Don’t you see?  He gives all of this- it was all His idea! Each baby-bump, each first-day-of-school, each springtime and every trillium that blooms in this dying world: these are His good gifts, given for a time, given so that you could learn to love and trust the hands that give.  Trust the hands that give, the hands that bled for you. He knows what you need, and He is making all things new.”

And suddenly the moment was gone, and I was back in my kitchen, where the floors are crunchy and the counters are sticky and the table is huge.  

Wait! Grandma!? There are so many other things I wanted to ask! What did you do about tantrums and curfews and bad grades and sports?  Will the kids be ok? How did you survive the teen years? What would you have done differently? Does it all work out in the end? Will you hug grandpa for me?  

But the moment was gone.  And I was alone with the memory of a flower.

And Jesus.

(a writing exercise inspired by Voice and Vessel)
originally published 9/16

All saints day, a time for the church to remember those who have gone before, and to look forward to the day when God gathers all of His people together for eternity.  For a text file of my favorite Scriptures, quotes and articles related to this holiday,  click here.

Who are you remembering this week?
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Then, I'll randomly choose one of you to win a free copy of my book, Between Seasons: Devotions for those who wait for Spring.  It is also available for purchase on Amazon, along with my other books: Tend to Me: Devotions for Mothers, and Weak and Loved: A Mother-Daughter Love Story.

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