STILL

It’s still in my home right now.  Not a creature is stirring, not even my dog.  2 of my kids are sleeping, because I suggested it and they complied immediately, obviously relieved to give into their exhaustion.  My husband and oldest are on their ‘special day’, which has been in the works this entire summer.  I am getting ready to tackle my final VBS as a children’s pastor (for which I need to do much preparation)….but for the moment, I am going to relish the quiet and be still.

We just got home from Family Camp.  Where Michael and I were asked to be camp pastors/speakers, which aligned perfectly with our theme for the summer, ‘family’.  How could we say no?

Family Camp snuck up on us like a ninja.  We had it on the calendar, but it got here before we could get there fully.  We had spent time in conversation and prayer, but nothing was finalized until late late late the night before we left.  The day we left, all I had to do was pack for the family, and get the kids there by 5:30 (Michael would meet us there from work).

It took me 8 SOLID hours to pack.

I kept walking to my closet to get the suitcase down.  But it was so high, and heavy.  There are 4 suitcases in one….I just stared at it and tried to convince it to come down on its own.  There was bedding to pack, towels, shoes, clothes (for camp??? What in the world do I wear to camp??)  I was so irritated, sweaty, and rushed by the time we left our driveway at 5:17, I was convinced I should hand over the baton because there was nothing pastoral that I had to offer to AN-NE-BODY.

I silenced my kids on the way there.  If I could have just a moment of quiet….

Be still….

We arrived to camp, and because my husband knows me well (I forgot all the paperwork), he had begun the paperwork to sign us all in.  They run family camp just like regular camp.  Boys on one side of the lake, girls on the other.  Bummer.  Wait….  They run family camp just like regular camp.  Boys on one side….girls on the other….  Guess what?  I was in a cabin with 2 other moms of boys.   Thank you Jesus for knowing what I need. My cabin was quiet.  QUI-ET.  Except for the excited chatter of three moms reliving their own camp days, our conversations dragging waaay past ‘lights out’.  One of the moms even snuck out to meet her hubby (it was their anniversary).  Camp felt exactly like it did in 7th grade, when I came to know

….and know that I am God…

Growing up in a pastor’s family, faith has always been a part of my life.  Apparently, I asked Jesus into my heart when I was three.  But it wasn’t until I went to camp as a middle schooler, all on my own, that I remember having a decisive faith experience.  Where I encountered God in a way that was new and authentic.  I knew that He is.  I wish I had never wavered.  I wish I had stayed the course and never went off track.  But when I re-surrendered myself to Jesus 10 years later, I was transfixed back to that alter at camp, and I knew I had a fresh start.  My….how His grace abounds.

It wasn’t until the ride home today that I realized how much I slowed down, how still I was, while at camp.  I didn’t bring my computer, I didn’t check Faceboook or email, and I only texted Michael for logistical purposes.  Okay, and once to tell him I was still madly in love with him (because he set up our coffee maker in the camp kitchen and programmed it so I would have good coffee each morning). Okay and once to respond to a hilarious text from Kelly, and one from Adair.  But only swift responses…no conversations.  Geesh….get off my back.

But on the way home, I felt like I was going so fast.  I looked down at the speedometer and I was going 10 miles under the speed limit.  After 3 days of only walking from one location to the next, my minivan felt just like a rocket.  And I was in no rush to get home.

I didn’t speed up.

I just reflected, and still am, on my time at camp.  On appreciating his creation.  On walking.  On rain.  On walking in the rain. On singing with a guitar by a campfire. On humiliating myself in silly games for sheer fun.  On building a family pine car and racing it.  On meeting new people. On playing volleyball…(oh wait, I already mentioned humiliating myself.)  On stepping out of my comfort zone.  On going without (much) makeup (hey-I’m not a cavewoman). On letting my kids grow up a little.  On conquering fear (climbing that ridiculously high tower and ‘sliding off’ the edge…having to put all my trust in a thin rope/harness and a 20-year-old belayer). On a camp staff who work like mules without grumbling or complaining.  On joy. On Philippians 2. On becoming more like the servant Christ was.  On Michael and the boys washing my feet.  On me washing theirs. On Jesus washing Peter’s.  On Jesus.  On our new family mission statement.  On the importance of being still.

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It shouldn’t take camp to be still.  It should happen regularly, I don’t know, like maybe weekly?  What a brilliant idea.  It should only take the Sabbath to come for me to be still.  It should take me making an observation of something God commanded long ago.  Of course, this camp time corresponded with my finishing Jen Hatmaker’s book, ‘7’, and the final chapter which focuses on stress, and our call to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Originally, the Sabbath had to be planned for, food gathered a day in advance. It wasn’t handed to the Hebrews on a silver platter. This principle remains. I still have to plan for the Sabbath, tying up loose ends and gathering what we’ll need. I still have to prepare the family for rest, enforcing healthy boundaries and protecting our calendar. I still have to set work aside and trust in the wisdom of God’s design. “Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath” (Exod. 16: 29).

Hatmaker, Jen (2011-12-19). 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (p. 216). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What a gift is the Sabbath, to those who observe it.  How I need to heed this command.  O how I need to be still.  For 6 days will I work, and on the 7th, I shall take time to honor my God.  To ‘be still and know that I am.’  

I better get busy preparing.  Sabbath begins at sundown.

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REACHING

Michael started our garden inside this year.  We transformed our living room, temporarily, into a greenhouse (of sorts) to start all kinds of seedlings.  Tomatoes, squash, cucumber, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and all the veggies that you can’t get enough of in the summer.  My mouth waters just thinking about slathering a boatload of Duke’s mayonnaise on two slices of bread with salt and cracked pepper and a thick slice of a warm fresh-from-the-garden home-grown tomato.  There simply isn’t any better taste in the world.  I ate so many tomato sandwiches when I was pregnant, I thought I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them anymore. But I was wrong.  They are still the tastiest thing I will create from the garden this year….and I cannot wait.

Now, typically I don’t love living room projects, they annoy me.  I have a hard enough time just keeping the shoes that accumulate from the 10 feet running around this house picked up to allow other projects to clutter everything further.  But the seedlings, I have enjoyed.  One day in particular, we had a quiet moment in the house.  I went over to the little bright green plants and said to Michael,

‘Look how they’re reaching for the sun.’

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They were  seeking the sun so intently, they reached for it.  Daily, they sought the sun they so desperately need to survive.  They cannot grow without the sun, you see.  Through photosynthesis, plants use energy gained from the sun in order to grow.

Everyone knows that.

But maybe here is something that you didn’t remember from biology 101.  I didn’t remember before I looked it up on science.com.  At night the plant goes through a process called ‘respiration’.  Respiration can happen in the dark.  During periods of darkness the plant releases the energy gained while in the light.

In this world, you will have trouble…

There are times in our lives, in our Christian lives, that there will be trouble.  There will be darkness.  There will be suffering, shame, pain, guilt, death, fear, sin, evil himself.  At times, it feels so dark that it seems like there will never be light again…

But take heart…

But remember when you were in the light?  Remember it’s warmth?  Remember how intently you reached? Down deep, the light is in you.  It is stored deeply within, and is available to sustain you through the darkest night. It is already there.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). 

I have overcome the world….

There is hope.  The light will return. The Light will come again in it’s fullest glory.  There is such beauty, such joy, such comfort, such warmth, and such brilliant light that is coming.  Hope.  Hope even when you don’t feel like hoping. Because He overcame the world, there is always reason to hope.

My prayer for you is that whatever darkness you may be experiencing in this moment, that you are able to draw from the light within, and breathe.  There is no suffering, shame, pain, guilt, death, fear, sin, or evil himself he has not endured on your behalf.  He took it all on himself.  He knows your pain.  Your shame.  Your guilt, fear, sin.  He knows.  He knows and is with you even in the darkness (Matthew 28:20).  

One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning. Psalm 30:5

And when the Light comes, when the joy arrives, my prayer is that you, that I, will reach so intently for the Son that we will have an abundance of light stored within to propel swiftly through any darkness….and we will not have to tarry there long.  May the morning come swiftly.  And when it does, reach.  

God’s Son is the very source of life. (John 1:4, 11:25, 14:6)

Reach for the Son.

HELD

Yesterday I held my baby.  He’s getting big, almost 4.  He fell asleep on the way home from picking up his brother from school, and usually when he does that I just lay him down on my bed so he can get a little nap out.  But I couldn’t bring myself to put him down yesterday.  I just marched over to my mother’s house, let the bigger boys watch TV and sat and  held my baby for an entire hour and felt him, and watched him, and breathed with him.  Our breath was so in sync I had to stop breathing for a moment just to make sure he still was!  As I had done a million times before…

I just felt like I needed to treasure that moment.

They are so fleeting.

When my babies were small I was a mess.  I never put them down.  I held them as much as I could.  I had been told it was a good idea to let them sleep in another room.  I knew myself well enough to know that wouldn’t happen right away.  (I didn’t even let my puppy sleep in another room…) So I put a little old-timey wooden bassinet at the foot of our bed.  I laid Nolan in it that first night and laid down and stared in the darkness with my eyes as wide as saucers, thinking how barbaric and ridiculous it felt.  So I decided to situate the carseat right beside the bed, put him in it, and just rested my hand on his belly.  Making sure he was still breathing….

When he made a noise, I just finally scooped him up, went out on the couch, and positioned him in the crook of my elbow and was able to get some rest.  I stayed there for six weeks.  When I went to the doctor for my postpartum check-up I told him I was experiencing neck pain.  He felt my neck and told me I had 2 vertebrae out of place…from staring at him so much while I held him.  He had to realign my neck (only in my small town is the OB also a chiropractor).

When Josiah came along, I just went ahead and started on the couch.  I knew it was best for us.  But I felt like I didn’t get to hold him as much because I had 2 babies then.  My mom informed me that I never put him down.  I guess I didn’t.  I held my children.  I still hold them.  It’s mostly in the early morning, puffy-eyed moments when they forget that they are big and they nestle right in between my coffee and my Bible, into my side, and allow themselves to be held.

It’s in those moments I’m so overwhelmed with God’s love for me.  He loves me more than I love them.  He even loves them more than I do!  I cannot fathom that.  I really, really love them.  Like with a wild kind of love.  With a take-your-breath away kind of love.  With a love that holds them tight.

Have you ever been held by God?

I know I have.  I was deeply ministered to one time by a clown ministry, of all things.  It was really unbelievable.  I don’t have a feeling about clowns one way or the other.  I don’t fear them (I think it’s a weird phobia) or dislike them, but I don’t have much of an affinity towards them either.  They just are.  But this particular ministry, on this particular night, acted out the Gospel message, and then came  to each person in the room and hugged us.  That clown looked me directly in the eye and pointed up to the heavens, then to himself, then to me.  As if to say, ‘from God, to me, to you.’  Then he hugged me.  As much as I can figure his arms were transfigured into the very arms of Jesus.  As sure as I sit here today, I believe that hug came directly from my Savior.  That was nearly 10 years ago, and I can feel it like it was yesterday.  It was so comforting.

Sometimes in moments of desperation, I think back to that treasured gift.  I am reminded of being held by my Savior.  I wonder if he gazes at us.  I wonder if He is pleased when our breaths are so in sync with His that we really appear as belonging to Him when we are out and about in the world, trying to at least be a dim reflection of Him who holds us tight..

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Find comfort in your Savior today as he holds you tight.  Be held, sweet child of God.