TESTIFY

For me, the space between the years, the decades, the past few days has been chaotic. We turned everything upside down to update our kitchen, which left all other chores and responsibilities halted for the week. The New Year came and I wasn’t ready. My washing machine was in my coffee room and my silverware was on my back patio and my coffee maker was in the mud room. Laundry was mounting, my new Bible reading plan untouched, and we were living on fast food instead of greens and black-eyed peas. Not exactly the picture of preparedness for all things new.

Until today.

Today is the day when I stopped. I spent the day looking back and looking ahead. Michael sent me away to a place of serenity and told me not to rush home. He packed me a thermos of coffee and started my car and whisked the kids away on an all-day adventure, leaving me no other choice but to comply.

It wasn’t hard. I wanted and needed this day. Not only logistically to plan for my homeschool and upcoming trips, but also just to quiet my brain. Collect my thoughts. Perhaps even generate new ones…

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Looking back on 2019 floods me with gratitude. We had so much quality time together as a family. After years of planning, we took the kids on a loop around the American West and saw so much of God’s good and glorious creation. It was spectacular. A time we will treasure always. This was a year of togetherness.

Looking ahead to 2020 brings some trepidation. We are facing a deployment soon. The dread washes over me in waves, unexpectedly. Yesterday he simply walked by me in the kitchen and it made me cry. His nearness is a gift. Proximity is a treasure. The simple moments are those in which I miss him most when he’s gone.

But looking ahead also fills me with purpose.

I’ve been enraptured by stories the past few weeks. I have read seven novels over the holidays. I’ve not read too many novels as an adult; textbooks and journals always took the place of any reading for pleasure. It’s only been in the past year or two that it even occurred to me that I could read for fun. As a hobby and not an obligation. And oh! The power of a story! How the characters get into your heart and your mind! How you feel for them and wonder about them and hope and fear for them! It’s no wonder God communicated his plan and purpose through a Story.

And this is how God has been prompting me as of late. I’d been searching for clarity on what to share with a particular group I’ve been asked to speak to this summer. I’ve been overwhelmed and intimidated and a little nervous. I’ve been praying in earnest seeking direction, thinking God would reveal something wondrous and exciting and deep and profound. And He did.

Through His Word.

The power of a story.

Tell your story.

Is there really anything more compelling than a blind man who can now see? Or a lame man who can now walk? Or an anxious person at peace? An angry person full of joy? A bitter person forgiving? An obedient rebel? A gossip hold her tongue? A shy person proclaim Christ? A captive free?

So my word for the year (season? I’m not sure God follows our calendar system…) is TESTIFY. To give witness to, or an account of, that which God has done for me. In any capacity. Through any medium. Whenever I’m able. However I can.

And may my story always bring Him praise.

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” -Jesus

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CLEAN

I’m not sure what the obsession with Spring cleaning is. Spring is when we are busting at the seams to get outside and start exploring after feeling cooped up all winter.  Spring is when we are preparing for summer adventures and finishing all the year-end schooling STUFF and juggling all the sport schedules. Spring is when the sun starts to stick around longer, begging us to join all of creation. Spring is when flowers promise to bloom, the air feels warm around your legs, and trees awake from their temporary slumber.

No, spring cleaning just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

We just moved. It was, I thought, horrible timing. We had just started the school semester when the contract was signed, and sports revved up right as moving weekend approached. It’s the busy season. There are commitments every night of the week as well as lessons and clubs and CC during the day. Throw in a few study groups and laundry and socials and FEEDING MY PEOPLE and I have very little steam left.

But, oh the reward of purging. I sorted EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we own. I went through every homeschool drawer and trashed pens that don’t work and sold math manipulatives we no longer use. I got rid of all our crayons. I thought about every one of my kitchen tools and dishes and whether or not I actually use them. I sorted blankets and toys and – even my books. I parted with a multitude of dishes and gadgets and exactly 3 books.

Fall cleaning, you guys. Fall cleaning is where it’s at. Fall is when we’re drawing in and circling up. It’s when we are hosting our get togethers and holiday meals. It’s when we’re cooking and baking and simmering at rates like no other time of the year. It’s when friends come over and come in for coffee by the fire. Fall is when we are nestled in on those long nights, eating soup dinners and watching family movies. It’s when we are staying in.

But mostly it’s when we are preparing. It’s when we’re anticipating. It’s when we’re looking ahead.

Christmas is coming.

I’ve been preparing. Somewhere between kitchen utensils and The Blanket Pile, I realized all the clearing away of the external had me reflecting on what needed purged from the inside. Old Anxiety had begun to rear its chatty head, the ugly beast. My cluttered heart needed cleared away and thoughts taken captive to the obedience of Christ.

God is so faithful and His timing so perfect.

Who knew that moving at the worst possible time could be the best possible thing?

Order and peace are restored, and my heart yearns for the Season ahead. I’m ready to light up my home and open wide my doors. I’m ready to host in my heart and my home.

Come, oh come, Emmanuel.

(And if you could bring my potato peeler and rolling pin, that’d be awesome. Those things didn’t make the move. K, thanks. Amen.)

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

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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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