Saturday, September 19, 2015

One Year Later

If I have my dates correct, tomorrow a year ago was a day that my face went white from shock and I could barely stomach my breakfast. I remember exactly where I was sitting, and my eyes well just thinking about that moment. A great man had suddenly and unexpectedly received his reward and had gone to be with Jesus. My heart still wrenches today for those who deeply love him. I remember sitting in church the next morning; I don't think anyone had a dry eye. We all felt the loss, all mourned.

                           Tragedy was faced today. It has a magnificent power
                              to break hearts in two, yet bring people together
                         in love and community. Sitting in church this morning  
                       listening to the sweet strains of "Nearer My God to Thee" 
                                 on a violin made tears spring to my eyes.

My heart is still filled with so many questions. I know that God is sovereign, faithful, and loving. I know that He saw all that pain, carried this great man's wife, children, and grandchildren through. I just don't understand why he had to go, why there will be so many things that he will miss.
                        In control He is, and sometimes I fight this, 
                                but grace, grace...incredible grace.

So a year later, I honor him again. This kind, gracious man who loved everyone well.

I remember this gentle man, full of wit. I treasure how he saw each person he spoke. I can't help but smile at remembering his grin, his laughs, his jokes. He was one of kind. I always admired the hard way that he worked, though I never thought to tell him. He always loved with his full heart, his smile lighting up each room or area that he was in. He teased a lot, but you always knew that you were loved by him.

I honor and lift up his family, this family who seemed to have never-ending turmoil, but how they persevered. How they held to the gloriously goodness of Jesus. And I can't wait to see him again. See him surrounded by his children and grandchildren. I might sit at the edge and listen as he shares hilarious stories. What a day that will be.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Water Bottles of Grace

I drank my coffee in silence this morning, wondering if maybe today something would sink into my heart and firmly take root. Opening my Bible, I came across my favorite book...Hosea. Yes, I could get lost in this story. Mostly because many times I feel like it was written about me. Thinking that I might read the entire book again this morning, I only made it to the second chapter, and stopped to mull over these verses.

"But then I will win her back once again. 
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble
into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
When that day comes," says the Lord,
"you will call me, 'my husband'
instead of 'my master.'"
[Hosea 2:14-16]

I saw the word desert and stopped. I know that place, know it well. I have fought anger over it, mourned over being in it, felt peace for knowing it ends, experienced desolation over want of what I thought I needed in it. As I thought for a moment, I remembered this long season of desert. To be honest, it's been a little over two years. I remembered all the times I thought there was no way that I would make it, especially not without the water He gives. No one can make it in the desert without water, nourishment. I kept looking over my memories, thinking I would not find anything. A thought kept running through my mind. "Bottles of water, He gave me bottles of water. That kept me going." 


So I looked again, and I saw those moments of blessing, those breaths of oxygen. Hidden as they were, they were always there. He was always there, always giving water, always beside me, sometimes even carrying me. I would cry out, and something would always happen, but in my anger at being in the desert, I couldn't see that it was His grace. Couldn't see His love flowing. But He is so patient, so kind, so gracious. His love is everlasting and faithful. 

Deserts will come and go; they'll always be a part of life. Darkness will come and go; it may leave you feeling like you are wounded, devastated, rejected beyond help. But, what I'm learning and relearning is that He is literally there. I don't know how or how to explain it. But, somewhere, somehow in the middle of every single thing that happens, He is the only thing that keeps any of us breathing. 

So if you are in that darkness, that desert, or coming out or going into won't always feel like Jesus is there. Reading this, you may fight anger or some other such emotion. Go ahead. I know what that's like. Just don't give up or into lies. I did. It's hard to fight out of those lies. The truth is that God is still sovereign even in the middle of the unknowns, the battles, the deserts and darknesses, the pains. He is still sovereign. Write it on your arm with a Sharpie if you have to. 

Just know.

God is still sovereign.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Honor and Restoration [a father's day moment]

How do you start writing a post to honor someone who you have known all your life?
How do you begin to share the story of your lives?
How do you expound on moments that were hard, yet turned out for good?

I suppose that is the wonderful thing about the [backspace] key. So here it goes.

I'm a couple days early for the next holiday, but it is never too early to honor. I don't honestly remember ever meeting this man, but my first memory of him was sitting on his lap at a neighbor's house on Sunday afternoons when we still lived in town. I remember I was wearing fuzzy pink pajamas with feet, sitting there happy and content eating M&M's on my daddy's lap.

The years until I was almost a teenager are blurry, smudged with good, normal memories. I had everything I ever needed, and to be honest, short of the silly things all young children want, I wanted nothing extra. I really had it all.

Then something shifted, and my daddy and I didn't just drift apart. There was a chasm separating us as far as the eye could see. Oh, we'd be in the same room together, but our hearts were far from together. Before you gather assumptions like flowers, read some more without presuming too much about what I am about to say. Life was simply dark and scary from shortly before I hit my teens until several years ago. I didn't realize how much I needed a daddy, wanted a daddy, but due to things neither he nor I knew or understood at the time, it was as if I could not go to him. It was easier to push him away because I felt he didn't understand me or want to. He might not have understood me, but I know he wanted to. I look back now at those years and see a greater enemy, intent on destroying not only me, but also my relationship with my dad.

It is incredible to me how God's timing took me away from my home for a year and a half. That season was the hardest, most painful season I had ever gone through. God blessed me with eyes of other people who saw Jesus in me. Yes, there was Jesus, but there were also areas of my heart that were rebellious and painful. Through the months that I was gone, I learned to sit at His feet, learning, albeit slowly, to take everything to Him. Slowly, conversation with my dad turned fun, warm even. I welcomed moments that I would get to talk with him. There were times when a package from home would arrive, and he had written me a note. (all of these I have kept, sweet reminders on the hard days). As my parents and I meandered through the wilderness of memories I had, things continued to change.

I moved home almost two years ago. I wish I could tell you that it has been simply perfect since then. But it hasn't. I don't live in a fairy tale, so I won't feed you one. What I will tell you is that there has been restoration. It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been fun, and it certainly isn't over. And truly, I'm glad it isn't over; it means I keep getting more chances to know my dad better, more chances for both hearts to heal, more chances for me to let him be my daddy. The truth is, we still argue; but even that has changed. Where once my heart would shut down and anger would take over, that is no longer. We may not always agree, but that is okay. We won't always agree; that's what makes me, me, and my dad, my dad. What I would highlight here is the need for honor and living in accordance with God's Word. God does ask me to honor my parents, and when I started doing that from my heart, it was incredible the things that happened. I am merely one, but I haven't shared a victory in a while, and this one is worthy as it is heading toward a decade and a half of a battle.

So, this all being said, I love my dad. And today, I honor him. This man who changes my oil, checks my tires, puts my washer fluid in (even though I know how), and reminds me to get my tires rotated and balanced. He's the man who drove with me two hours because we both had the gut instinct that the car I was looking at would be a good one. He's the man who will literally tell me the same story three or four times because he forgot he already told me (at least we know he's honest :) ). He's the man who makes sure I have plenty of firewood for the nights I just want to sit outside and make s'mores. He's the man that will buy that random frappe' for mom and me simply because. He's the man takes me to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He's the man who drove with me six hours (listening to hours and hours of Odyssey) to see if Chicago was worth my time. He's the man who just the other morning at 5:30, brought me coffee in bed because I asked him to. He's the man who keeps trying to understand me, and I am ever so grateful.

In closing, I write these things to point out that Satan truly is here to steal, kill, and destroy. But, by the grace of God that didn't happen to me and this situation. And by the grace of God, it can change not only my life, but everyone else' lives.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
-Ephesians 6:12

Monday, June 1, 2015

Weddings, Rainy Days, & Psalm 63

A recent wedding of a friend had me pondering life and the way God restores our brokenness. I have seen Him work His grace into heart after heart, including mine. Yet, there have been times when I questioned whether that same grace was restoring anything at all. Often looking the past is detrimental, but there are days like today that it is encouraging and fruitful. I had to look back for a moment and remember the person I was four years ago. I cringe when I remember her. I also took a moment to look at my present and my future, my thought processes then vs. my thought processes now, and my heart’s desires then and my heart’s desires now. The darkness of the past could not even begin to compare to even the smallest of changes that had started in my heart.

But God.

All that to point out the beautiful tears that were shed by my friend’s daddy, her fiancĂ© (now husband), and herself as her daddy gave her away to a man that had loved her like Christ loved. My own tears ran at the beauty of it all, reminding me of the things that are being restored in my own life. The pureness of this moment was only added to by a message straight from the heavenlies. The man who spoke shared much, but what stuck out the most to me was the grace and mercy and love Christ had toward us. How this extended into the beauty of this particular wedding and marriage.

So I pondered on my way home, pondered life and all that God is doing, and asking questions. Having gone to bed several hours after I flew in, I woke up hoping that some of my questions had vanished. But, no, they still lingered, poking my heart in agitating ways. Sharing them with Jesus, I got into my car and went to work, expecting to have to fight all day, forgetting for a moment how gracious He is. That moment came when I got a text from a dear friend asking me to stop by this week sometime. Time allowed me to do so today. I smile because Jesus is phenomenal at taking care of this heart of mine. Walking to my friend’s front door, I wondered what it was that she had brought me there for. As I saw what she had, I almost burst into tears. Her gift was a gift that spoke of the volumes of her heart for me (her heart mirrors what I know Jesus' heart is for me). And I was again reminded that the way I see myself is not necessarily how God sees me. We sat with cups of coffee and stopped for a brief but full moment to chat. Rain dropped lightly as she allowed me to share something woven deeply into my heart. Once again I was blessed to see that the things she said were things I had been bringing to Jesus.

Now, I don’t write this to write about myself, but to encourage those who have questions or are in a season of dryness or some other heavy moment. Maybe it’s your past creating chains that burden or maybe it’s a worry that you may never be fully healed from a painful experience or maybe it’s something else entirely. He is good and faithful to care for your heart in the middle of it all. The truth is this sweet friend of mine who got married, and my friend who listened to my heart today, and I, have tasted and seen that the Lord is good even in the middle of pain and crazy. His love is truly better than life. Jesus is the Redeemer, the Restorer, and the Healer, truly indescribable. His grace IS sufficient. His discipline is actually quite kind, though at times painful.

So, in summary, the things I’m learning are these: life is not about me but about the glory of God and who He is and what He has done for and is doing for us (hence this muddled post). I am also learning that God has many people who plant seeds and many who water those same seeds, but it is always, ALWAYS God who gives the growth and will someday (if not at the time) receive glory for what He has done. And finally, I am relearning His vast love for me and that I really do not have to have it all together before I fall at His feet. His graciousness is amazing.

 “O God, you are my God; earnestly I will seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you are long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”
 –Psalm 63:1-4

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Diamonds

What if all you felt like was a lump of coal? What if life has the qualities of that coal, dark, black and leaves smudge marks all over your soul? What if tears were all that came in the face of what seems like endless pain and pressure? What if I could tell you that even coal, when pressed under great pressure becomes something exquisite?

I have a friend, a dear, sweet friend. Actually make that several dear, sweet friends who I dedicate this post to. One of them prays daily for a simple gift, yet God has not bestowed her heart with it. I have cried silently with her though I am apart from her. I would honor her today because in the middle of this pain, this mourning she has for something she longs dearly for, I see a raw and rare beauty springing forth. Though there may be questions, I see her faith increasing; I see her love blossoming; and I see her heart becoming a welcome place for others who are in pain. She too like the coal is become a precious gem, one day to be fully polished, radiant.

Another friend, a twin at heart really, has seen much pain and struggle. Moments of insecurity brought tears and bouts of running away, yet I am still in awe of the strong woman in Christ that I see today. She has weathered hurricanes of inner turmoil, relationships, and questions; but the woman I see today has a heart that runs toward her Savior. This heart, this healing priceless heart, is being transformed into something only Jesus could have created.

My final honoree today was my initial inspiration. This woman is a colossal pillar in my life. I have seen her at her weakest, when in reality her strength had her firmly rooted in Christ. I have walked with her in moments of the battle and seen her war with the fierceness of a lioness. I cry with her today over the things that are on her heart, things she did not know He had in store for her. They are good things, but as humans the reality can, at times, seem daunting. Even in the middle of this latest battle, I know she is clinging tight to hands that will never let her fall; for she is following the One who will not lead her where He does not go. Grace is abounding.

All these women and so many more are under great pressure, with life at times seeming dark, endless night. Yet, underneath all this pressure, something beautiful is happening. God is creating gems that will not be cut, will not be broken.

God is creating diamonds.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

He Is Absolutely Good

Weeks have gone by, weeks full of waiting, wondering, and weariness. In the waiting, there was learning. In the wondering questions, there came a wonder of the Creator. In the weariness, there was always, always rest. An age-old and Biblical truth was reminded deep within my heart. <He [Jesus] is always good.> ALWAYS. My heart and mind may betray me, may tell me that He is not. But, He is. It is the one thing that has given me ground to stand on these last few crazy months. He is good. 

One tends to ponder His goodness when remembering ISIS or Pastor Saeed or the atrocities of bombing or the abuse of children/adults. We see so much brokenness today that it can seem easy to wonder if He is there. I am here to share an absolute. He IS here. It feels scary and a bit messy to try to explain my thoughts, but I have learned several things in the past few years. 

-I have learned that His divine plan for us was never how we are living in the world today (in essence, the sin and brokenness we see today was NEVER part of His divine plan). Sin entered this world because of human choices made, it was never God’s intention for sin to be in the world. So look around, the murders, the rapes, the racial discrimination, etc., those were not ever supposed to be a part of this world.
-I have learned that while these things occur, He is still God; and He is still good. He is sovereign. These things are being allowed, yes. We may not always understand them. Trust me when I say that from a human perspective I would have every right to be angry at things that have happened in my life (post of this one day maybe?), and to question God on the “whys”. But, I have seen Him turn broken pieces into beauty that was breathtaking. He is good to take our pains and turn them from a terror into a blessing.
-I have learned that I may never fully understand all that has happened, is happening, or will happen; but I know that as His Daughter, I can trust His heart for me. He knows the plans He has for me. They may have hardship, but they are plans for good, for a future, plans that eternally won’t harm me.
-I have learned that in the middle of the storm, He is closer than I think. In the darkness of that hurricane, He is the whispering that gives me grace and encouragement to go on in the middle of feeling so weak I can barely go on. He is the quiet strength that stirs deep in me when all I can see is questions that devastate. 

My absolute is this: that He is good. He is sovereign.