Friday, July 26, 2013

Perfect Timing

 

"He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things."
Psalm 103:4-5
 
When I was a little girl, I launched a full blown investigation to determine whether or not the Easter Bunny was real. When my mom was busy in another part of the house, I’d scour through closets and chest of drawers, desperate to find hidden clues. It was a successful mission. I still remember standing in front of her antique chifferobe, the door ajar, gazing through tear filled eyes at a stash of Easter goodies. Tears giving way to more tears and eventual, uncontrollable sobs.

Thinking back, that’s when it all started. This self-inflicted ruining of all things good by my own impatience.
 
I have memories of searching high and low for hidden birthday presents and Christmas presents – feeling pangs of anticipation as I searched and then pangs of disappointment when I found.
 
I couldn’t stand the knowing. I couldn’t stand the not knowing.
 
But really, thinking back, what I couldn’t stand was the waiting.

Thirty something years later, not much has changed…

Except that I am painfully aware that my tendency to yield to my own impatience is capable of ruining the present moment and the ones to come – and I’m learning [albeit slowly] to guard my heart against impatience – and trust.

Because His timing is perfect, even though I am not.

As I write this, we are all packed and primed for our big family summer vacation. We’ve all been counting down the days since Spring and truth be known, I think I’m more excited than the other three combined. For me, it’s so much more than a summer vacation. It’s both a bit of a miracle and a dream come true…

Raised by my maternal grandmother, I grew up as an only child and though my memories from childhood summers are filled with lazy, barefoot days spent next to my great-grandparents pond, it was an often lonely time. And so, I’d dream about adulthood, while piecing together a montage of my own idyllic future and family. I’d carefully trace out a perfectly symmetrical home and four smiling stick figures, a dog, a lone tree and always, sunshine and rainbows.

Truth be known, I’d dreamed about the family that I’m now a part of since I was a little girl. And it’s taken me thirty-some-odd years to realize, it’s so much more than a dream come true.

It is a gift.

One that I handled recklessly as young woman, and one that I almost ruined with my impatience in the years after that. And I find myself prodding my Heavenly Father, still so much the impatient child that can’t stand the not knowing, when instead – I need to trust that what He has for me is good.

Tonight, I packed surprise goodie bags for my kids. I wanted them to have a little treat when they wake up early in the morning to head to the airport. I was careful to keep everything hidden from their sight until they were in bed. I took time to carefully place each item in the pouch, all the while thinking of the delight that’s to come on their little faces. Oh, how my heart is for them, and for their good. I wasn’t withholding good things, but preparing them for the perfect moment -

and in that moment, I was reminded of His heart for me. For you. For us…

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” ~ Matthew 7:11

When we trust His heart, we trust His timing and we wait on Him: ”I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5).

original post: http://middleplaces.com/2013/07/26/in-the-middle-of-perfect-timing/

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In the Middle of a Daily Washing


"No matter the jarring,
a jar of fresh water can’t spill filthy water."
 ~ Ann Voskamp

Ann’s words so often play my heart like a string and the notes reverberate within me for days on end. As writers, whatever is within us is invariably what flows out of us – but then again, that’s true of all of us, isn’t it? When we’re shaken, whatever is within us will spill out of us and sometimes, it’s filthy.

What I want more than anything is, when I’m shaken, for living water to fall afresh to the ground around me. When the people around me are shaken, I want to be able to pour out living water onto them, too. Which means that I am going to have to be filled to the brim, washed with the cleansing water of His word… daily.

I wrote last week about compassion; stemming from my little boy making a careless mistake that cost him something that he loved dearly. The Lord taught me something through that seemingly trivial incident about intent; and about His mercy in the midst of our mistakes.

It is still fresh on my heart – and I have to believe that lesson; that mercy is poured out on us no matter how grave a mistake, no matter how priceless what we lose.

He fills us with mercy so that we may pour it on onto others when they need it the most.
Earlier this week, a local young mother made a tragic, fatal mistake by leaving her infant daughter in her vehicle. It wasn’t intentional. She was, like so many of us, hurried and heavy burdened, scurrying to work. It was a tragic misstep. Much has been written and discussed about it this week, in both media and social media. I don’t have any more words to form any more meaningful sentences to contemplate that kind of agony. As mamas, we can’t fathom the loss of a child, but losing a child by a preventable mistake of our own is a lifelong sentence of guilt and suffering that most of us would prefer our own death over. “I wish it had been me in that car seat” she said.

I was only a few miles away when the incident happened. It had popped up on a breaking local news alert. My heart grew tight in my chest and whispered a prayer for that mama and that baby. And then I read the alert… and then the comments pouring in.

People were obviously shaken, but what was pouring out was almost as disturbing and as tragic as the story itself: it was a display of merciless public backlash – immediate rush to judgment, calls for prosecution, outright heartless, compassionate-less vitriol. People were shaken – and what was spilled and spattered out was toxic.

The feeds on my social media slowly filled with the thoughts and comments of friends and acquaintances. I have been both surprised and disappointed by the number of people who are apparently reliant – and seemingly proud of - on their own self-sufficiency. They are the ones casting stones, hurling words of insult and accusation, pouring salt into the open and bleeding wounds of a mama who will bury her baby girl on the very day she’d planned for her first birthday party.
Heartache sinks in, and the truth comes with it: I am no better than them.

Any of them – not the ones holding the stones, not the one holding her lifeless child.
Standing before a holy God, the only thing flawless or good or sufficient in me is Christ Himself, the righteousness of God, who clothes me with the very essence of Himself.

He who poured Himself out so that we may be cleansed – and filled with His spirit so that we can pour it out onto others in this broken and lost and dying world.

Each day, His mercies are afresh. Each day, He offers us the gift of Himself and His spirit – if only we would open ourselves, acknowledging the fragility and inadequacy of these cracked basins of our hearts -

they we require filling and cleansing every day.

Oh Lord, cleanse our hearts, our mouths, our hands… Fill us to the brim with your spirit, your grace and your mercy. When we are shaken to our core, may it be you that freely flows from our depths.

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

original post: http://middleplaces.com/2013/07/19/in-the-middle-of-a-daily-washing/
  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

on the healing of the hurts...

RIP Bosco[e] - 2000-2013
 
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~ Psalm 147:3
My mom's beloved miniature schnauzer passed away last week.  Parker, the [much] more sensitive of my two, took the loss especially hard.  Even as old and as grumpy as Boscoe had become in his old age, he was still adored - especially by Parker. 
 

Days later, misty eyed, out of the blue he turns to me,  "Mommy, my heart is broken about Boscoe" he says, his voice barely above a whisper.  He's looking down, blinking back tears.  "It will heal", I tell him.  "What will?" he asks, "the sadness?"  I nod my head, "MmHm". 
 
He doesn't ask me how I know.  He just knows that I know.  That is enough for him...   
 
In a less tragic [albeit equally dramatic] event Chloe scalded her forearm recently trying to reach for a microwaved cup of mac n cheese.  She accidentally tipped the cup over and the water splashed onto her arm.  It took a couple of days for the burn mark to begin to appear, and then peel.  It wasn't pretty.  At first, she wanted to bandage it to keep others from seeing it.
 
"Sometimes, the only way for a wound to heal, is for it to remain open - even at the risk that others may see it" I tell her.
 
She doesn't ask me how I know.  She just knows that I know.  That is enough for her. 
 
Exemplifying the essense of childlike faith in trusting their mama's words, they each with their own different wounds, accept them as truth.
 
My words can't offer any real comfort.  They are, after all, just words.  But they can offer them each the hope that comfort will come, that healing will come and the promise of His word, the only words that actually have the power to heal.  I know.   

I know because I've experienced it time and time and time again. Physically.  Emotionally.  Spirtiually. 
 
I know because I know the One who heals all things wounded, mends all things broken, and makes all things new again.
 
Days pass and the damaged layer of skin on her arm slowly begins to disappear. The fresh pink layer begins to turn as golden brown as the rest of her arm.  It's only been a couple of weeks and already, the wound is almost unnoticable.

I hold her arm and run the palm of my hand across the place where the burn mark had been.  It's remarkable, His design, when you think about it.  This healing.  This regeneration. 

"Parker, do you see your sister's arm?"  He nods.  "This is what He does with our hearts - and our hurts - and that sadness."

It fades away into the glory of His grace by the holy mystery of His work that we can't comprehend - and if we study it closely, we can't even see. 

But I know it to be true.  Those words from my Father.  His promise that He alone is the one who "forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, and who restores you to health and heals your wounds". 

I don't ask Him how He does it.  I just know that He does it.  And that is enough for me. 

So I pray for childlike faith to trust His healing - and I pray.  Because I don't know how to heal the wounds of others, I only know to point them to the One that does - and give them the promise of His word.

He heals.

"He heals brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." ~  Psalm 147:3

Friday, July 12, 2013

longing for compassion


"The Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!"
Isaiah 30:18

As I sit to write, I was reminded of something Donald Miller had written recently.  He said:
"The hours before I write in the morning are often filled with dread. Will the words show up today? Do I still have what it takes?" ~ Donald Miller
Yea. My sentiments exactly. This is an excerpt from one of his recent blogs, but really - it could be an excerpt, or rather extract, directly from my heart. Pretty much every morning. Seriously... If Miller struggles with this same dread, what hope is there for the rest of us, right? Those of us who feel this ambiguous call to sit and allow that which is within us to seep out through our fingers and onto a screen. We often call this making words, and the making of the words is a lot like the making of a cake – from scratch – as in, without a box of mix and the nifty instructional label. You’re so utterly and ultimately dependent on having the right ingredients, and the instructions engraved within you. And so, it is sitting still in the predawn hours of the morning that I find myself begging God to give me the words – these ingredients – and the grace and wisdom to mix them together, to create something worthy of ingesting.

I am desperate for Him to move more than my hands and by His grace, He moves my heart. My fingers follow. I wait on Him and He is faithful to show me compassion and grace. Truly his mercies are new every morning – and I so need them to be.

I long for my Father’s compassion and in doing so, I remember His word that tells me how He longs to grant compassion to me.

And just like that, I remember that I write to remember - to recall and recount that which is is countless. His mercies anew morning by morning, the spiritual lessons in which He teaches me daily – in the middle of it all – if only I’ll allow myself to see it, it’s there. Over and underneath, and all the places in between, it’s there. Grace awaits, longing to show us compassion, to mend the fragmented pieces of our lives.

There are deep spiritual lessons to be learned in the midst of broken hearts and yes, even broken iPads…

Chloe called me at work late yesterday afternoon from the sitter’s cell phone. Her voice low and serious, she proceeded to tell me [with way too many words that took way too long] the story of how she and her brother had just discovered one of our iPads outside on the trampoline. Apparently, it had been laying there overnight. In the flash flood. “Parker left it out there, Mommy,” she whispered. ”Can you go ahead and call Daddy and let him know?”

Bless her heart. I recognized something in her voice that was somewhat unfamiliar. Her tone was not that of a big sister calling to tattle on her brother, but one of grave concern – and compassion. She’d made that call to stand in the gap on behalf of her brother, both willingly and intentionally taking on the role of “bearer of bad news” by stragetically placing time and space between the confession and the consequence.

I glimpsed a little bit of Jesus there in that moment, in the middle of her selfless sacrifice.
At nine, I certainly didn’t have that kind of compassion. And at thirty-six, can I just tell you in those first few moments my heart certainly wasn’t longing to be compassionate in response to such carelessness.

Earlier that afternoon, I’d read the verse in 1 Samuel that says, “man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” Driving home, the verse came to mind again - and with it, compassion to my heart. He knows our motivations, our intentions, our hidden agendas. My child had made a careless mistake for which there would be consequences, but the truth is I knew that he adored that iPad. We don’t intentionally destroy that which we adore. But sometimes, we destroy it nonetheless – and live with the consequences.

I felt such strange, strong pangs of empathy.

He’d lost something that he’d counted as precious to him simply because he hadn’t guarded it properly. He’d been reckless by taking it outside, careless by abandoning it in the rain.

Oh son, I know. I’ve been there. More times than I can count. With that which is priceless. With those whom I adore. 
 
I sit him down and look him square in those big brown eyes brimming with tears. I could feel his heart brimming with fear. “Listen to me: I love you so much. I’m not angry with you. I don’t want you to be afraid. You’ve made a very careless mistake and there are always consequences. But, we are going to show you mercy, because we know you’re heart. I know that this was a mistake. I forgive you.”

I hear those words coming out of my mouth and I hear the Father’s words ringing loudly in my heart.

They are one in the same.

And here’s the thing: It’s a whole lot easier to demonstrate grace and mercy towards our kids’ mistakes when you remember the Father’s grace and mercy towards your own.

Later, we talked to the daddy via FaceTime on the other, non-soaked iPad. Chloe was chattering away while Parker was quiet, trying to go unnoticed, still fearful that what had happened would be brought up again. Still waiting for harsh words, or lecturing or further punishment. At first, he was reluctant to even come into the room and into his father’s presence.

Oh, how often I do the same thing with my Heavenly Father. Lurking in the shadows with tears in my eyes and fear in my heart. Refusing His comfort in the midst of my own consequences, even as He whispers to my heart through His word, “I love you. You’re forgiven.”

He comforts us with His compassion even as we walk in the midst of the consequences of our carelessnesss.

My son is seven and still learning about his earthly father’s unconditional love. I’m thirty-six and still learning about the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

He teaches me more every single day, in every single thing. “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

And I write them down. These mercies. This compassion. To remember. To remind others along this journey through the middles, that yes – “the Lord longs to be gracious to you therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.”
 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sown with tears



Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy. 
Psalm 126:3-5


This past week, the week that we celebrate freedom, our pastor encouraged us to remember our moment of spiritual freedom; those moments in which we first began to encounter Christ and experience the freedom He offers us.  

I closed my eyes, trying hard to remember.  It is such a sketchy montage within my memory.  Years of inconsistency mixed with years of running.  So many moments of surrender and moments of reckless rebellion.  But in the middle of montage, there are moments etched permanently in my heart.  Over the years, even in the darkest moments of my life, the Lord prompted me, whispering to my heart, "write this down".  He knew.  That my memory would be sketchy and warped over time.  He knew that I'd need a record of His faithfulness and of His promises.

Jon Acuff wrote a brilliant blog this week about the prodigal son.  It resonated deeply with me, because, after all - I am the quintessential, prodigal daughter.  He wrote about how the son must have felt the day after the coming home party.  He basically wrote exactly how I have felt so many times - completely and utterly overwhelmed by the too-good-to-be-true grace and mercy of the Father's heart towards me.  Even after all that I've done.  After all that I am.  

I have found myself waiting for my punishment to come, to finally receive what I deserve.  Isn't that the essence of our human nature?  To reject that which seems illogical.  And isn't that the essence of the gospel?  That "God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."  

This human nature and this prodigal heart needs a constant reminding of the very crux of the gospel: Jesus took my punishment for me on the cross.
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.   Isaiah 53:5
Selah.  

I spent years of my life running from Him, knowing I was wholly unworthy of His pursuit of me.  This morning, He moved me to remember.  So very grateful for all of my years of [albeit inconsistent] journaling, I went searching for an old journal, the one where this all began.  Coffee and journals and highlighters and pens, I spread them all on my bedroom floor with a pillow and laid down, just like when it all began.  And I remembered as I turned each torn and tattered page, I remembered.  This is where my healing began.  This is where my freedom began. 

It was in the midst of my life and marriage falling apart in 2008 that the Lord began to pursue my heart and I began writing.  Pages and pages are filled with my words and His word.  When the marriage ended, I felt certain His pursuit of me would end with it.  And the writing stopped.  

I gave up, and desperately wanted Him to give up on me, too.  

And then I came across this entry and I remembered.  This moment:  The one where I began to write again.  The one where I began to realize that He had not given up on me - and that He never would.  It had been eight months since the divorce was final.  I was His broken prodigal daughter, laying at His feet. All that He'd given me, a husband and a home and two beautiful children, I'd squandered recklessly.
 
This was the moment he first nudged my heart towards believing Him for the restoration of my life - of my family - and of my marriage.  



My heart was overwhelmed reading these words again this morning, almost four years ago (to the day).     The years in between have been filled with such inconsistency, so many doubts and so much disobedience.  

And it wrecks me all over again.  The beauty of this hindsight.  

His promise was true.

I have sown for years with tears and now weep as I reap with songs of joy. 

In the midst of my faithlessness, He remained faithful.  
 
Again and again and again.

And I have no words to thank Him for this gift.  This grace.  How do I accept this life restored when all  I deserved was suffering?  

By remembering:  He is the Father who never tires of forgiving.  He is the One who sent His son to suffer in my place.  He is the one who never lets go and never gives up.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy. 
Psalm 126:3-5