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PEACE

Around 7 p.m. I answered my portable landline phone resting beside the bathtub, because it was 2004 and I had a portable phone and time to take a bath. I chatted with my grandmother for a few minutes, probably about me, and then I asked her how she was. She told me the news. The news that makes you remember what you were doing at exactly the time you discovered that your world would never be the same.

She was dying.

The drugs that were helping her heart were hurting her liver, and she could no longer live with or without them. A heart surgery in 1978 had both extended her life and given her a terminable disease through the transfusion of contaminated blood. She had been living on borrowed time…for over twenty-five years.

“How can I pray for you, Grandmother?” I asked, swallowing my tears.

“Just pray that I keep my peace,” she responded, steady and sure.

She knew she was facing death and that there was nothing she could do to stop it, no medicine that would reverse the damage, no diet that would alter the prognosis. This was it.

And she had her peace.

Her words have never left me.

Before Michael left for military training, I was a wreck. I was dreading his absence and what that meant for all of us. You see, worriers worry that they might begin to worry, even if they aren’t worried now. So, I begged God to be my All in All. I begged Him to be my strength and portion forever. I begged God to make me lean into Him and Him alone. I’m still begging him. I’m completely aware that now that we’re in the Army, plans could change at any moment. While we may think we have one set of plans, new ones could swiftly replace them.

And -shocker- He has heard my prayer. It’s as if I can trust God’s promise that He will draw near to me when I draw near to Him (James 4:8). (Why do these things still surprise me???) These weeks without Michael have NOT been as difficult or unsettling as I had thought they’d be. I haven’t been worried or afraid or frustrated or helpless or hopeless or really even all that tired. I expected to be all those things. But even though my faith was smaller than a tiny little seed, God has heard my plea and given me total peace.

Honestly, it feels like a shiny new toy to me. For an anxious person, this sensation is almost completely foreign to my body. I’ve never really experienced anything like it. It’s almost like I want to put it on a shelf and not let anyone touch it or see it, so that it can be preserved. I just want to keep it…you know? I just want to keep this sense of peace.

So, when a dear, sweet friend asked how she could pray for me last week, my immediate response was:

“If I had one request, it would be that I keep my peace.”

As my grandmother’s words flowed from my mouth, I felt like I really understood her for the very first time. She knew her peace was something special, but she also knew her tendencies. This is where I am. I am in the tension between peace and potential worry. My plan (for the mere illusion of control) is to only manage this day. Why would I worry about tomorrow, doesn’t it have enough worries of its own?

Michael’s safety has always been a concern of mine. But amazingly, I do not worry about him any more now that he’s in the Army than I did when he was a civilian. He used to spend about 12-15 hours a week commuting and the other working hours <connecting? wiring? making? plugging in?> electric cords as big as his leg (details on that job are really unclear to me). My concern about his physical safety remains. But this peace that passes all understanding comes from the God who called him specifically to spend time muddying his boots in the trenches of life and war with our nation’s soldiers.

My mom once told me that there is no safer place to be than in God’s will. It’s not that we are assured physical safety, but perhaps it allows us to keep our sense of peace. The calling to make disciples of all nations is the same for each surrendered life.

For every single one of you stepping into your calling today in classrooms, in cubicles, in retail stores, in pulpits, in hospitals, in courtrooms, in firetrucks, in factories, in constructions sites, in big high rises, in sprawling fields, in trenches, and most especially in your homes, I pray you have your peace. I pray your peace in knowing that God is directing your steps gives you immeasurable strength, power, and purpose. I pray you don’t have to worry about tomorrow because you undoubtedly know Who holds it.

“…Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

Peace.

DAYENU!

It was quiet at my Granddaddy’s house today. Except for the few times my kids and husband barreled through the door to get a bite to eat or help me situate him, it was just the two of us. And since his dementia has taken over his mind, he’s content to sit quietly. So I had some time on my hands. As I read through several posts that seemed to ardently bid a hearty farewell to 2016, I found myself struggling to embrace the new year. Frankly, I loved 2016. It was a hard, good year, and I really didn’t want to see it end. This was the year that we camped together for the first time as a family (which was an actual near-death-come-to-Jesus experience). It was the year that I embraced new friendships and made significant headway in my schooling and finally read through the Bible in a year. It was the year that my kids learned to cook and made up new adventures in the woods with our puppy. It was the year I watched my husband become a pastor and love his flock with his whole heart. And it was the year, after all the preparation, that my husband was selected for active duty Army chaplaincy. And up until, and including, the very night he swore in, I have been nothing but unequivocally supportive of this joint ministry decision.

But since then…I’m pretty sure I’m completely failing at being an army wife. I read somewhere that before long separations you should try to keep things normal and calm and routine. So right in the midst of all the Christmas activities, I pulled the kids out of school, scheduled 2 trips, and guarded my man like a mama bear does her cubs. I’m over emotional, over sentimental, over zealous, and just plain overwhelmed. Last week I had to buy Michael a pair of tweezers, because we have just never needed two pairs, and I cried while I clicked on the ‘buy now’ button. Almost every time he looks me right in the eye, I cry. If he says something funny, and he always does, I cry in place of laughing. It is the oddest feeling to prepare for him to leave. I’m not sure I know exactly how to explain it, but I feel like I’m preparing to lose a leg. Or my writing hand. Or like I just found out that instead of driving everywhere, now I’ll have to walk. Up hill. While holding a bag of bricks. Barefoot. In the snow. You get the idea…

Thinking about being without my very best friend at the end of every single day is starting to take its toll on me. But once I settle down, and think it through, and move past my feelings and into my heart, I know we are ready for this. God has been preparing us for this ministry for the past 10 years. We likely haven’t been ready before exactly this moment. But I am not so naive to think that I will not struggle with every single available human emotion as I walk through 2017…

Today, my sweet friend came over to visit and asked how I was doing. More pointedly, she asked how I was going to do it…2017 that is.

And right out of my mouth (as if it had really been in my heart) I said, “Jesus is going to have to be enough for me.”

There is (at least) a thousand year old song that I learned at a Seder meal a few years ago called, Dayenu. It means in Hebrew “it would have been enough.” The stanzas go through the miracles God bestowed on Israel as he brought them out of slavery and led them to the promised land, and after each line the song calls out “Dayenu!” If He had only led them from captivity…Dayenu! If he had only carried out judgments…Dayenu! And so on it goes.

The first time I heard the song I obviously sobbed the rest of the night. This is not the first time God has had a talk with me about being my All in All. Before Michael proposed, and all I could think about was Michael proposing, God whispered to my soul, “Who do you desire more??” It was a haunting question that required an honest reflection. Isn’t He enough? If Michael never had proposed? Isn’t He enough? Isn’t He???

So that is my continual heart cry as I face the coming year and….the rest of my life. Because, honestly, if I receive not one more single blessing from God for the rest of my life….Dayenu! If I only had had fellowship with other believers…Dayenu! If I only had gotten to have loving parents…Dayenu! If I only had had a loving spouse…Dayenu! If I only had had three healthy kids…Dayenu!

If I only have Jesus…Dayenu! Dayenu! Dayenu!

Whatever hopes and challenges and blessings and fears you anticipate for 2017, when all is stripped away, let Him be enough for you too. He is big enough and able enough and strong enough to carry eternity, so 2017 should really not be any trouble. We’ll not take one step that will surprise or shake Him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, Immanuel, the Lamb of God, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Great I Am, the Word made flesh, the Light of the world, and the Hope of my heart. And He is enough. He is so enough. It is ridiculous how enough He is.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

 

A Confession of Violence

I am reposting my brother’s recent blog entry, because for every feeling he confesses, I confess I’ve had a million more. Lord have mercy, indeed. ‘I have to consider at least the possibility that somehow the increased supply of violence in our culture is suited precisely to meet the increase of a cultural demand, of which we are all complicit.’

Dim Reflections For Now

mathis-altare-di-isenheim.jpg

I have a confession of violence I need to make:

Despite arecent denouncement ofpaying too much heed to the headline news, I think it is necessarytoacknowledge a certain legitimacy to the increased level of angst over the pastweekin our nation’s cultural climate. At the same time, I am remindedof what Karl Barth wrote in his journal at a significant turning point in his life and thought during the First World War:

“It is not the war that disturbs our peace. The war is not even the cause of our unrest. It has merely brought to light the fact that our lives are all based on unrest. And where there is unrest there can be no peace”(Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts,Eberhard Busch).

As fingers continue to point, defenses continue to rise, and the wilderness is increasingly populated with a rapid influx of expatriated goats (Lev…

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AVAILABLE

God has taken me into a season of deep fellowship with Him. I have written only a little, and been listening a whole lot more. I have been studying His word with some amazing women and I’ve been falling more and more in love with Him along the way. You see, He’s been wanting me to love Him first so I can love others best.

 

For this reason, I’ve kept my formal volunteering to somewhat of a minimum, heeding God’s persistence with me: I need you only to be available. Not scheduled, not overcommitted. Available. So, that’s what I’ve been being. Available. And that is somewhat hard for a busybody to be….

 

Last weekend, I traveled with my mom to the great hot state of Texas to attend the wedding of a dear friend. We traveled by plane. And I did what everyone does at the departure gate. I looked around at my potential seatmates, and I saw immediately the person I hoped to avoid. It was the woman with 4 children. Listen, I have children, and they were having the time of their life with their dad, while my mom and I had a girls’ weekend all by ourselves, which never ever ever gets to happen. So, I was perfectly fine to not see children the entire weekend!

 

So you can probably guess what happened.

 

The very last people to book their flights get the very last seat on the plane. And you know how I like to procrastinate. As we walked all the way to the end of the plane, I saw her. She was talking to the flight attendant and she looked a bit frantic, and I immediately realized the problem. Her two toddlers were buckled in on one side, and my mom and I were to have the other two seats on the other side. She was going to have to sit half way up the plane, at least 10 rows away from her children.

 

Anticipating her request, I said, “Do you need one of us to trade so you can sit back here with your girls?”

 

“Oh, really? Could you?” she nearly teared up.

 

“Of course. No problem.”

 

So I directed my mom back up the aisle to a window seat, and took my seat next to the woman. She thanked me repeatedly and I sensed immediately that she was not quite herself…

 

You need only to be available…

 

So, I asked, “Are you okay?”

 

She wasn’t. She was on her way to a remote location in the mountains of Canada to a hospital where her father lay critically injured from a plane crash that had tragically killed her brother. And she was sitting next to me, taking the first breath she had taken since finding out the news less than 24 hours before. So, I kept my reading materials tucked away and I spent the next 2.5 hours giving her space to breathe and think and sleep and talk. And keeping one little girl from waking the other one when she discovered “THE SNACK CART IS HEEEERE!!! WE GET TO HAVE A SNAAAAAAACK!!!!” And I asked about her dad, and her mom, and her brother, and her sister. And then I prayed with her and for her precious grieving family.

 

And I thanked God for letting me sit next to her on the plane.

 

And I wondered how many similar opportunities I had missed by being too busy to avail myself to someone who only needed space to cry. How often have I not wanted to be bothered? How often have I tried to avoid a conversation that would be hard or uncomfortable or simply inconvenient?

 

Too many times.

 

Too many times I have ducked my head, turned my shoulder, looked the other way, kept my appointment, busied myself, not asked “are you really ok?”, not opened my doors, and not set my table for someone in need. In the moments I have had to reflect, God continues to whisper… I only need you to be available.

 

Lord,

Make me available. Make me approachable. Make my heart an open table, that others may find some comfort in You through me.

 

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

Take my moments and my days,

Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move

At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet and let them be

Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,

Always, only for my King.

Take my lips and let them be

Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,

Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my intellect and use

Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,

It shall be no longer mine.

Take my heart, it is Thine own,

It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour

At Thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself and I will be

Ever, only, all for Thee.

– Frances R. Havergal

Amen.

#witchinghour

There is a period in the day, which happens after school and before dinner/husband arrival, when otherwise cheerful and attentive mothers present with a twitch and the crazy eye and when children walk about like little monsters on a mission to terrorize tranquility.

It’s called the witching hour.

The witching hour occurs after the children have expended all their calm, sweet energy, eaten all the meals that they will eat before dinner (!*@), played everything they know to play, and have only tired, frustrated energy left to finish their homework, for which they need your undivided enthusiastic attention. However, you are trying to spiralize zucchini or julienne green onions for the new Thai Chicken Curry Internet recipe, because WE WILL HAVE HEALTH! AND VARIETY! AND CULTURE!

You know what I mean. It’s the time when you open your mouth to speak, but what comes out is a voice in a different octave that is hurling commands at the trolls who have overtaken your children’s bodies. It is when all things converge: homework, supper, QUESTIONS, and the limit of your patience. Parenting patience is rationed. For example, you say to your husband,

 

YOU: (in cheerful, supportive, doting wife voice) Hey babe, what time will you be home?

HUSBAND: 6 o’clock

YOU: Ok! Awesome, see you then!

 

But let’s say you get a text later on that reads: “ETA 6:30”

Then ALL PERDITION BREAKS LOOSE, because you had allotted patience for your people until 6 and now you have to have THIRTY MORE MINUTES of parenting, julienning, answering, cooking, sweeping, delegating, and mediating all by yourself. Your ration is gone. And parenting without patience during witching hour is the most dangerous thing.

 

THEM: “HE PEELED MY SKIN!!”

“HE KNOCKED ME OVER WHEN I WAS SLEEPING-BAG-DANCING!!”

“HE LICKED MY LIBRARY BOOK! THE LIBRARY ONE! WE’LL HAVE TO PAY FOR WATER DAMAGE NOW!”

“WHAT’S 7 TIMES 8 AGAIN?? AND HOW MANY CENTIMETERS ARE IN A METER??”

“WHAT ARE BOOGERS MADE OF????”

 

ME: <rocking on the closet floor listening to The Carpenters (Mondays only) or Snoop Dog (if it’s nearing Friday)>

If something is going to break in the house, it is going to happen during witching hour. As you are sweeping up the broken glass bowl full of oatmeal (wondering who even ate oatmeal at 4pm while dinner was ALREADY COOKING) a child approaches you with your phone, which he dug out of the bag of rice in which it had been drying due to having accidently dropped it in an unflushed toilet after your husband sent word that he would be arriving home 30 minutes late.

Your child extends his hand, “it’s for you”.

 

The TELEMARKETER on the other end begins with, “is this a bad time?”

 

You want to respond by calling him all the bad cursewords you know, but then you remember that you love Jesus and cannot say the those things to a perfect stranger who is trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner. Plus also you kind of need a vacuum cleaner since yours is now full of glass and oatmeal. So, you try to sanctify your response, but because it is witching hour your voice is shrill and infinitely sarcastic:

 

“A demonstration where you clean my floors? Sure!!! Come right over! Right now there’s broken glass smeared with oatmeal and also rice. Do you babysit? Because this vacuum will need to work with children jumping around it with scissors and super glue and also a barking, nervous dog.”

 

Upon being interrupted for the fourth time, you finally scream at a child, “PUT DOWN THE MATCHES AND SUPERGLUE!!!”

 

The salesman claims to be going through a tunnel and the call is dropped, which is perfect timing because husband is calling again. You switch over and the trepidation with which he approaches this next question is almost comical, except it’s witching hour, so you aren’t laughing: “How’s it going?” (Husbands know witching hour is a thing. They just never know the severity from day to day. And they need to prepare. Mine likes to survey the war zone before arriving, to be equipped with proper armor. Like chocolate.)

But then, somehow, when you gather round the table, with a full plate of food, your voice returns to its normal octave and your kids shed their troll personas. You sweep your hair behind your ear and pull out the last bit of hardened oatmeal. All is back to normal, whatever in the world that is, as witching hour draws to a close.

Mamas – you can make it. You’re almost there. Just a few hours til bedtime and then you can relax. In the meantime, how do you survive your witching hour??