Friday, May 31, 2013

in the middle of laughter


 ”She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25
The photograph above is us in the wind tunnel our local science center.  Wind raging, hair blowing, belly laughing.  Yea.  This is a metaphorical snapshot of my life, only too often without the goofy grin and laughter.
We’ve been struggling a bit this week.  I’ve had to deal with some less than desirable issues at work as the kids are adjusting to their new summer schedules, which apparently is going consist of about twelve hours of playtime between summer camp during the day and playing outside with the neighborhood kids until dark.  Chloe asked me yesterday morning if I could take the day off of work, which stabbed my heart a little bit, until I realized she was only asking because she wanted to sleep in a little more.
Yea.  Times are changing.  Literally.  Figuratively.
Even the slightest change induces pangs of anxiety for me that inevitably unleashes a disturbing montage of so many “if onlys” and “what ifs” that flood my brain.  I begin to worry about things I shouldn’t, which – if we’re going by scripture here – is pretty much everything.  I begin to find myself lamenting the circumstances of my life and longing for some ambiguous, unrealistic future place where I’ll have an adequate sense of control amidst the chaos, ample time to mother my children better – and I’ll be in the word more and exercise more and life will just be, you know, better.  And maybe, just maybe, my anxious heart will be calmed and then I’ll have peace in the place of all this worry and regret.
I know.  These worries are enough to wear even the strongest mama straight out – and straight down into a pit of despair.
He knows, too.  Our deepest thoughts.  Our darkest fears.  Our incessant worries.
This morning, I’m reminded of that day out on the boat.  Jesus slumbering peacefully on a cushion amidst a massive storm.  The disciples were clinging for their lives, beaten and battered by the waves washing over them.  The boat began to fill with water [and then]the disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38).
Oh, isn’t that just like us, too?  Waiting until the very middle of a raging storm within us to cry out to the only one who can calm both the outward skies and inward hearts.  Jesus was teaching the disciples something that He longs for us to know: even before the clouds form on the horizon of our lives or in the corners of our hearts, He is right there with us, offering us the comfort of His presence and the experience of His peace.
Why the heck do we wait so long?  Why haven’t we learned to preemptively seek Him instead of waiting until our boats are filling with water and crying out at the very moment we become fearful that we might actually drown…
Yesterday, I read this brilliant blog by Jen Hatmaker.  It resonated deeply with me, as it did with countless other mamas.  It undid me in a way I haven’t been undone in a long while.  With laughter.  Tears in eyes, head on desk, hard to breathe, laughter.  Other mamas may have found it comforting to know that it’s okay to be imperfect.  For me, I just found it comforting to be reminded that it’s okay for us to find, even look for, the humor in that imperfection.  And just like that, I realized, maybe I’ve been taking this whole life thing – and mothering thing - a bit too seriously at times.
Worry will wound an already weary heart, you know.
I desperately needed that reminder of the freedom that we have in this life in Christ.  It is the freedom to find the outright hilarity amidst the imperfection of our lives and yes, even amidst the storms.
He’s given us the anecdote: it’s Him.  It’s His Spirit.
This is what Paul meant when He wrote to the church at Galatia:
“My counsel is this: live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?” Galatians 5:13-17 MSG
One of my favorite quotes says, “Life is hard.  Laugh harder.”  In the presence of Christ, that is the freedom He offers; the freedom to experience both peace – and breathless laughter – right here, right now, in the middle of motherhood, and all the middles of our lives.
original post @ http://middleplaces.com/2013/05/31/in-the-middle-of-laughter/   

Monday, May 27, 2013

A beautiful story



I was at a wedding a few weeks ago, perfectly composed - jovial, even - when the music began to play a tune that felt familiar.  The soloist began to sing lyrics I'd long forgotten, but that had been etched into my heart from the very first time I heard them.  

It was late summer, 2009.  The song was written as an accompaniment to a study of the book of Ruth, which the Lord used to reaffirm His both His purpose and His promise of redemption in my life.  He'd whispered to my heart His story for my life and yet, I had struggled to believe and trust in it.  I had just surrendered my life to the Lord earlier that summer and I was, in many ways, still sorting through the rubble, and the consequences, of my former sin-wrecked life.  Although I'd had years of experience with religion, this relationship was new to me - and so was the concept of redemption, and restoration. 

In the years that followed, I would repeatedly struggle with whether or not I'd heard Him clearly.  I would find myself striving to move forward and yet always looking back, wondering if I was disobeying His call, abandoning His promise.  In my heart, I longed for God to restore what had been broken and redeem what had been lost.  Yet, I lacked the faith to trust Him completely with every area of my life.  I compromised.  I settled.  And ultimately, I ended up where I had began - broken and laid bare before Him.  

In the eyes of others, I realize I may have seemed as though I was lost in chaos and confusion during those years, but the truth is, I was lost and wandering in disobedience in so many ways, in the silent sin of faithlessness, so far from the place I knew He'd called me.  I was foolishly listening to the voice of so many others, sometimes even my own, above His. 

Like a Father, He bandaged my self-inflicted wounds and held me close.  His love for me hadn't changed.  His word hadn't changed and much to my both relief and disbelief, His promise hadn't changed.  He whispered His story and this time, I believed Him.  Wholeheartedly.  And by His grace, it unfolds before my eyes.

As the music played that perfect Spring evening, each chord, each word, were resounding in my heart.  The rows of guests faded away and in that moment, it was just me and the Lord.  And I remembered.  His promise.  I couldn't have imagined that four years later, I'd be sitting and listening to the same song - healed and whole - closing my eyes and sitting in silence, but my soul singing as loudly as possible within me... 

All is as it should be.  

Maybe for the first time ever. 

Unexpected mercy.  
Tears filling my eyes, my heart whispers back to Him, "Oh, thank you, for my story."

And my story - and oh my, what a beautiful story, indeed. 


............

I see your smile 

And it’s so much sweeter
After all that I’ve been through 

And when we laugh 
I get a glimpse of forever 
And I praise God that I found you 

And anytime someone asks me 
How it all unfolded 
I’ll tell them such incredible chances 
Make for marvelous love

Just like the sun lights up the moon 
This love is a reflection 
Of more than just me and you 
Our lives were less than ordinary 

And while I couldn’t see past tomorrow 
God was making history 
Oh my, what a beautiful story of love

Unexpected mercy 
Is the greatest thing to find 
When you’ve been broken many times 
My soul found joy 
And for the first time in a while
I felt singing

And anytime someone asks me 

How it all unfolded 

I’ll tell them such incredible chances 
Make for marvelous love

Love Story by Mandi Mapes




Friday, May 24, 2013

in the middle of rebuilding




 
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly trust in Jesus’ name.”
Hillsong lyrics, Cornerstone
 
This photo, taken amidst the ruins and rubble of a home in Moore, Oklahoma, went viral through the streams of social media this week, resonating with so many so deeply.

I don’t know what it is like to lose all of my belongings or a home in a deadly tornado, but I do know what it is like to stand amidst the rubble of your life. I know what it is like to lose a home you love and a family you adore and a life you dreamed of to something much darker and scarier. It would be years later before I would be able to see the truth in the photograph above. Standing in the midst of my own rubble, I was too lost and confused to weigh the gravity of what was lost.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-29

When Jesus spoke the words above, he was speaking to a crowd that was familiar with fierce windstorms known as Eastern tempests and, as one commentator describes, “the suddenness and completeness with which it sweeps everything unsteady before it”.

I constructed the first thirty-some-odd years of my life on sinking sand. Inevitably, the storms came, relentlessly and true to the words of scripture, it fell. With a great crash indeed. I know the shock of the suddenness and the depth of the completeness.

In so many ways, I am still in the rebuilding phase of my life. At times, I have been tempted to retreat back to my same shoddy construction methods, hastily throwing up walls at my will, forgoing His master plan for my own. Because, you know, it’s easier. Faster. Certainly less costly. But, by His grace, I have been constantly called back by His love, to rebuild my life with Him as the foundation, the solid bedrock beneath my feet. My home. My heart.

Isn’t this image that of the very beauty laid before us each day. The mercy that comes with the rising of the sun. In the midst of losing everything, He reveals Himself to us. Laid bare before Him, it was through the brokenness of my life, my home, my heart that His love was able to flow through.

If I have but one message to share, one lesson to teach my children, it is to construct your life, your home, your relationships on the only foundation that will outlast them all.

 He is our cornerstone.
 
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
 
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
~ Hillsong, Cornerstone

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain."
Psalm 127:1
 

Friday, May 10, 2013

finding the good

 
Every good and perfect gift is from above…
James 1:17
 
I’ve been in a bit of a funk this week, somewhat inexplicably. It’s just been one of those weeks where they busyness of life seems to blur the distance between the sunrises and you’re only certain of what day it is because of meetings and soccer practices. It’s one of those weeks that life has moved along at a pace I’m not particularly fond of and I am, being shuffled along with it, desperately trying to keep up.

For whatever reason, I woke up this morning – which happens to be Friday – thinking about Good Friday. Now we know that the events that took place on that day were not in and of themselves good, and yet the greatest good for all mankind was being woven together through every moment of that day.

Could it be, that two thousand years later, the same is true for the seemingly trite moments of our own days? That the truth of His word is being revealed daily for those who are called according to His purpose, that He is truly “working all things together for good” (Romans 8:28).
 
In early modern English, the word “good” actually had the connotation of “holy”. Christ Himself was the only good in that Friday. Apart from Christ, as Paul wrote, “I know good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.”

There is no good – no holy – in us, apart from Him. Not on Good Friday and not on this Friday, and all of those ordinary days in between.

But in Him, through Him, He gives us eyes to see beyond the busyness of this life, even beyond the depravity of the culture that surrounds us, to His good, His holy. Ann Voskamp refers to this as “finding the Holy Grail of Joy”. Because it’s there. It’s all around us. We just have to look for it. She encourages us to write them down daily and as much as I’m a fan of that – and her book and her blog – can I just tell you, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” It became another check-box on my to-do list, this finding joy thing. But I learned, eventually, that it was ok if I didn’t write it down. If only I’d look for it and pause long enough to breathe it in.
 
In the days following the Boston bombings, a famous quote from Mr. Rogers went viral. As a child, his mother had told him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In the wake of tragedy, these words shifted our focus and encouraged our hearts. We suddenly realized that even in the midst of unfathomable tragedy, there really is more good than there is bad. If only we’re willing to see.
 
That is the perspective that Christ offers us daily. Through Him, we can find the good, not just in the midst of suffering, but in the midst of all this ordinary. His word contains the only words that can permanently shift our focus, and “renew our minds” (Romans 12:2).

There’s another beautifully written book and blog from a mother’s perspective about cherishing the ordinary days of life. But, in all its loveliness, there is one thing missing from the content of those pages, the One who gave her the gift of those ordinary days, the One who filled those moments and her life with good things.

His word tells us that, “He fills our life with good things”. May we have the eyes to find those good things today, on this good Friday. May we look for the good – the holy – today. And praise Him all the more for it.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
Psalm 103:1-5